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The Marauders and Their Roles - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
The Marauders and Their Roles
Will be substantively cross-posted to Godric's Hat--I just like my little LJ entry boxes.

We had a thread like this on the Quill for awhile (I'm not sure where it went off to, and I can't get to it at any rate), but as a writer, the question of how the Marauders functioned as a group interests me. I also came from a high school group with large segments still connected, so it interests me on a RL level as well.

First, I don't "ship" any of the Marauders in the fandom sense of the word. Just getting that out front. But the relationships among them--as a full group, in dyads within the group, whatever--are what make them interesting for me to write about.

Meeting Up
I'm a Friend of Peter, I suppose--I believe that he has something important to do, and I feel quite sympathetic to him--but I can't quite get on the bandwagon with the "James and Sirius must have chosen him as a friend for some reason" school of thought.

Hogwarts is a boarding school with a strict and somewhat insular house system. Harry has five people in his dormitory, all the male Gryffindors of his year, as far as can be ascertained by the text. It seems to me quite likely that in the Marauders' year, there were only four in the dormitory--James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter. Unlike Harry, Sirius, at the very least, appears to be very outgoing and extraverted, and the implication of the text is that James is quite the same. Peter is shown to crave approval from such powerful people, and Remus wants to be liked. It's very unlikely that James and Sirius would have, Harry-like, allowed the other people in the room to just go about their business. They would have forged a group out of the material that they had, made it special to belong even though it started out as something arbitrary and value-less.

At first, this may have been nothing more than a run-of-the-mill group of high school friends, as likely as not to dissipate after school with the exception of chatty letters. But then, they learn a secret--Remus's lycanthropy. And they conspire to keep it and to take care of him. So now, they are four people with a shared committment and a vested interest in one another. Given group dynamics, it's probable that this was when they morphed from casual friends into an ur-family. What had been chance becomes choice.

James is too much of a question mark to make a guess at, as to his reaction to the group formation--it can be assumed that he wasn't averse to it, but that's really the only "read" I have on him--so I'll look at the others.

Given Sirius's home life (and his behavior bears this out), he's likely to have been the one who took this most passionately to heart. As Harry "adopted" the Weasleys to make up for his miserable life with the Dursleys, so Sirius "adopted" his brothers (and James's parents) to make up for life at Grimmauld Place. He might tease Peter, as we saw in the Pensieve, but if anyone else tried that, they'd have one short-tempered, quasi-unstable Marauder on their hands. I can also see him randomly buying gifts for the others, coming up with a lot of their secret codes, and so on. Each thing he did would bind the group more tightly. Over seven years, quite a feedback loop would have happened.

Remus has a great need to be liked and accepted, and the others gave him both in great measure, accepting his disease and even finding a way to help him bear it. (Even symbolically taking it on themselves, by also becoming beasts every month... though their animagus transformations aren't the same, and I wonder if Remus sometimes thought that they didn't really understand what they were accepting.) He must have been extremely grateful to be included. Given his behavior, though, it also seems that he wasn't sure it was permanent, that their acceptance could be withdrawn at any time, for any--or no--reason. (Blasphemy to Sirius, probably.) He seems to have a relatively strong personality, which he wouldn't have changed to suit them, but he doesn't have a strong will when it comes to crossing them, because he's afraid of losing them. He would also have been a favorite of the teachers--very bright, but not disruptive like James and Sirius. Unlike Percy, Remus has a strong sense of interpersonal dynamics, so he would deliberately not try to take charge within the group, or draw attention to his success with adults. (This would produce his later behavior of being pretty much at home with both students and colleagues... he's used to living in both worlds; he's just changed which one he's "officially" affiliated with.)

We're told repeatedly that Peter is drawn to people more powerful than he is, and nothing in the books so far leads me to doubt that. The other three are all powerful in different ways, and Peter was probably very excited to be counted in their number. While I doubt his Pensieve behavior was his everyday demeanor--he was nervous about his OWLs and in awe of James and Sirius for being so cool about it all--the way Sirius and James respond to him gives off a pretty strong "mascot" vibe. They are fond of him, and G-d help anyone else who messed with him... but he'd also be the one who would get their nasty streak most often. And yes, I mean "most often," even more than Snape--maybe not the spectacular stuff, but the little, almost unconcious cruelties that people inflict on one another. And because he wouldn't complain--would probably smile and laugh, unlike Remus, who really made them feel guilty from time to time--it would never even enter their minds that it was hurtful to him. (I had a friend in high school who spent four years calling me "Blarf" instead of "Barb." I knew he didn't mean anything by it, so I never said anything--why risk a big emotional confrontation over something that meant nothing?--but it really made me seethe.) So Peter would be the get-along guy... until, of course, he blew his wheels completely, and Sirius and James would be honestly puzzled by it, because, hey, he never said anything, and we'd have died for him.

In the various triads in the group (James-Remus-Peter, Sirius-Remus-Peter, James-Sirius-Remus, James-Sirius-Peter), any group of three that had only James or Sirius would be a default military unit under a commander, who thought up the ideas while the others thought up ways to make them happen. This isn't a negative--some people are natural leaders, and it looks like James and Sirius were in that category. Nor is it speaking poorly of Remus and Peter; neither would necessarily want to do those things alone, but in most cases, they probably also went along because they thought it was fun, not because they were blindly following a leader. There might be slight differences between James and Sirius in the matter of what they'd do, but the group dynamic would be the same. When they were both involved with only one of the other boys, though, the dynamic would be different.

We get to see (in retrospect) the James-Sirius-Peter dynamic in the memory of the animagus spell: James and Sirius did most of the work, and helped Peter along to follow them. It's important that they did not leave him behind or despair of him--I think it would have been unthinkable to them to leave him out. Did this carry over into adulthood, with James and Sirius working on the Fidelius charm, and Peter along essentially by habit, with Sirius's brilliant switch idea happening at the end of some bull session? I think it's possible. After all, it was this triad, not James-Sirius-Remus, that had already formed a conspiracy. (And it's probable that Peter rather skillfully led the conversation in this direction.)

James-Sirius-Remus would have a slightly different feel, because for the most part, Remus seems to have been more respected--he wasn't the little one who needed tutoring to go along with them, and he was the one that the others had conspired to protect. I have a feeling that this particular triad happened mainly when James and Sirius crossed a line and went too far with someone else (eg, Snape)--Peter, not wanting to be involved, would withdraw. Sirius said that Remus made them feel guilty from time to time, so I have a feeling that this triad could be somewhat uncomfortable: Remus, who doesn't face them down in public, dressing them down in private, hitting all of their emotional weak spots (as he does with Harry following the Hogsmeade visit). "Sirius, your mother would be proud of you today" or "James, yes--twenty generations of Potters are smiling on you now, aren't they?" Not that they wouldn't have fun with Remus as well, but I get the sense that when Peter was out of the picture, it was because they weren't in the process of having a good time.

There would be six different dyads in the group--James-Sirius, James-Remus, James-Peter, Sirius-Remus, Sirius-Peter, and Remus-Peter.

Everyone in the books agrees that the most visible and closest dyad was James-Sirius, and Sirius's behavior in OotP bears this out. They appear to have been like the Weasley twins to a lot of people--basically, two people functioning as a single entity. But the way Sirius talks leads me to believe that there was a fairly large inequality between them, at least as far as their needs went. Obviously, James loved and accepted Sirius. But, as with Harry needing Ron, Sirius needed James more than James needed Sirius. It is James who has the power to open his home to the unhappy Sirius, and James whose "cleaner" family could offer acceptance to the son of an enemy. There's no evidence that James got (or wanted) anything equivalent from the relationship--he gave, and Sirius gratefully received. What he was able to give in return was his total and eternal loyalty. That said, like Ron, it didn't look like James thought he was the one with the power. The dynamic Sirius, like the chosen-by-destiny Harry, would seem to automatically hold some sort of power in a friendship, so James sees him as an equal.

For James-Remus and James-Peter, again, the unknown parts of James's character make it hard to guess. Obviously, Peter hero-worshipped him more than Sirius (just judging from the Pensieve), and he didn't mind it, but that's about all we can guess. Remus doesn't talk that much about his friends individually (more as a group--a pack, if you like), so without the other half of the dyad, it's hard to tell what that might be like.

Although I think of Peter and Remus as being the same "level" in the full group--the warriors for the chiefs to assign--the Shrieking Shack scene suggests that Peter also sought Remus's approval, and that Remus felt much more free to be... well, Remus. In the Shrieking Shack, it's Remus who sits there making the logical arguments with Peter for pages, while Sirius interrupts frequently with emotionally charged outbursts. Now, this is obviously not the best time to see Peter, but extrapolating out from it, you could see him in the dormitory, maybe having trouble with is homework or having some burning question, and Remus taking the mantle of authority to counsel him. Because Peter is as craving of acceptance as Remus is, there's less a "threat" of him withdrawing his friendship if Remus behaves authoritatively (which appears to be his natural inclination).

(Poor Peter--he's just a regular Joe, and with other regular Joes, he might have done just fine.)

Sirius-Remus. This is the only one of the dyads we see in adulthood, and I have a feeling that it's shifted slightly due to Sirius's increasing instability--Lupin in OotP seems to have taken on a caretaker role that I doubt he had at Hogwarts. (In fact, he's probably subtly taken on some of James's authority.) But--at the risk of angering R/S shippers--I have to say that it doesn't seem to be a particularly strong dyad within the group. Sirius is probably a ringleader in being protective or Remus--Sirius seems to want to be the defender of people he deems in need of defense--and Remus is grateful for that, but again, Remus seems to look at his three friends as his pack, all equal to one another in one way or another. And Sirius's primary attachment is to James, with the other two as younger brothers. (If I were to make them into actual brothers, I think I'd make their birth order James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, just by the way the group behaves about authority.) For their specific dyad, it looks like Remus functioned--or tried to function--as Sirius's conscience, while Sirius and James, as a pair, got Remus out of his natural complacence.

Anyway... thoughts on the Marauders.

EDIT: Cross-posting to hp_essays
11 comments or Leave a comment
vytresna From: vytresna Date: August 29th, 2004 01:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah - a non-shipper and a believer in Piago! This is good - and your impression of Remus is exactly the same as mine. You haven't addressed Snape's Worst Memory too directly - but then, I tend to call it a snapshot of a bad time for the general attitude of Sirius and James and then blithely ignore it. Ye gods, but we do think alike.
chimbleysweep From: chimbleysweep Date: August 29th, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Finally, finally an essay I can stand behind. Even with being an S/R shipper I know that the James-Sirius dynamic was dominant within the group. And besides, even if Sirius was involved with Remus, they couldn't share that publically.

Anyway, I'm backing you 100%. Well done! *applauds*
gentlespirit From: gentlespirit Date: August 29th, 2004 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love hearing your thoughts on a lot of things like this. I've wondered before why I had trouble believing the stories where they do slowly drift apart after Hogwarts, like any highschool friends. I really think that you've pinpointed some vital differences between their group and others. Thank you for sharing this.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: August 29th, 2004 02:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very well put. :) I certainly agree with you that the original friendship was formed simply because they were roommates, and James'and Sirius' personalities were naturally extroverted and thus inclusive.

For the most part, I also agree with your interpretation of the various relationships among the four.

However, I do not think that the relationship of James-Sirius-Remus was mostly a "lecturing" one. As you say, Remus, James, and Sirius - unlike Peter - seem to have been on a pretty much even intellectual keel, and I get the feeling that whenever the topic was magical theory, or schoolwork, or some invention, it was the trio of James, Sirius and Remus that did most of the discussion, with Peter on the sidelines. I do think, therefore, that James, Sirius, and Remus had a dynamic of their own that didn't just (or even mostly just) consist of Remlus lecturing them.
From: imation23 Date: August 29th, 2004 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very interesting and articulate essay, but this is the point that struck me most:

But, as with Harry needing Ron, Sirius needed James more than James needed Sirius...That said, like Ron, it didn't look like James thought he was the one with the power. The dynamic Sirius, like the chosen-by-destiny Harry, would seem to automatically hold some sort of power in a friendship, so James sees him as an equal.

I never thought about it this way before. As a reader, *I* was also so aware of Harry's power, the way he is set apart from all the characters, and his apparent dominance, that I saw him as the bigger figure in the friendship - when it's probably true that Ron could get along better without Harry then Harry could without Ron. Come to think of it, we actually saw that in GoF. Ron being Ron, he is probably even less aware of this than James was. Which is one of the things I love about him.
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: August 29th, 2004 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great essay (I always love reading any thoughts about MWPP!)

Anyways, I find it interesting that you say: If I were to make them into actual brothers, I think I'd make their birth order James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, just by the way the group behaves about authority.

I agree to some extent, but in adulthood I think that Remus took a more authoritive role (at least post-PoA.) There isn't one particular thing that completely backs-up this thought, but it makes sense in my mind. It's clear in OotP that, as you said, Remus seems to take on a caregiver role for Sirius, and I think that this demonstrates Remus being an authority figure (the "older brother") as opposed to listening to Sirius' authority. However, I agree that for the majority of MWPP's friendship, the order you suggested makes sense.

On another note, while I agree that Remus did follow what James and Sirius did when they were younger, I don't know if if had to be that way. Remus' lecture in PoA, and the fact that Sirius said he sometimes "made them feel guilty," seem to demonstrate that while Remus doesn't always act like an authority figure, he is capable of it. Therefore, I think if he didn't have such a great need to be liked, he would have had more authority in the group-- IMO, it was never a matter of James and Sirius not listening to Remus, it was a matter of Remus rarely telling them to stop what they were doing.

From: inyron Date: August 29th, 2004 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yum, wonderful essay.

All the talk of dyads and tryads make me want to go out and find some mwpp fic, to watch some good examples in action. While I am a diehard R/S shipper, I do think it's a shame there aren't more gen fics out there, since shipper fics are neccesarily skewed to highlight certain relationships. Hyphen's my favorite gen author. You wouldn't happen to have any other recs, would you?
alkari From: alkari Date: August 29th, 2004 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fascinating thoughts, and have posted lengthy reply on Godric's Hat. I think we know too little about Peter to fully appreciate his role in the group. Just 'because' they were dorm-mates does not mean they had to include Peter: it is perfectly possible to exclude a kid from a group even with only four in a dormitory. I certainly don't think Peter was a complete no-hoper: the 'average Joe' comment is very apt, and I am sure that if Peter had been in a dorm with other average kids, he may have been perceived very differently.

If you are a 75 watt lightbulb, you shine pretty well in comparison with most other household lightbulbs: but if you suddenly turn on a couple of floodlights, then you pale into insignificance. I think that may well be what happened to Peter vis a vis James and Sirius: Peter admired them, James in particular, and undoubtedly got kudos and social standing from being part of the 'in' crowd. But being a part of that group may not have been the best thing for Peter himself socially and developmentally: yes, he was 'protected' from whatever may have been going on with student hexes, etc, but the MWPP relationship brought out the worst and weakest aspects of his personality. Perhaps Peter may never have become Peter the Voldemort Supporter if he had been allowed to accept himself as a 75 watt lightbulb, and not seen himself as somehow 'failing' against the floodlights.
digitalmeowmix2 From: digitalmeowmix2 Date: August 30th, 2004 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
added you, great essays!
mafdet From: mafdet Date: August 31st, 2004 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm a bit late to arrive here - but excellent essay. Well done!

I wonder if there really were only the four of them as Gryffindor boys that year? Certainly the dynamic between MWP and P makes the most sense in this light. It's just that we keep seeing awfully small classes in different time frames. Either few people go into Gryffindor, MWPP's year as well as Harry's is a freak year or Hogwarts is a smaller school than many assume.

Anyhow, you and alkari make an excellent point about Peter. He's not an incompetent dim-bulb, or even a Crabbe or Goyle. He's an "average Joe" who has to compare himself with two brilliant boys (James and Sirius) and one above-average (Remus). If he were just another average Joe amongst other average Joes he probably wouldn't have turned out as he had.

There's an essay on Red Hen Publications which talks about MWPP and comes to much the same conclusion you do. The author of this essay referred to MWPP as "a duo plus one plus one." James and Sirius are easily the close ones of MWPP and Remus and Peter a little to the side. I almost feel that of the four, we had James and Sirius, close as brothers; Peter, their adoring satellite; and Remus, definitely close but a little bit the outsider. Over on the Quill we were discussing the Myers-Briggs personality types of various of the characters, and the conclusion was that Remus was the lone "I" in this group of "E's." I see Remus as an INFP, and we INFP's often tend to hold ourselves a little apart even from our nearest and dearest. The other three boys - even Peter - are loud and bumptious. Remus is quiet, bookish and reflective. I'd say he's very much the odd one out of MWPP when it comes to temperament. (I also think Remus is really nothing like Hermione except in the "love books and treasure their friends" department. Remus is nowhere near as mouthy, bossy and self-righteous as Hermione. And Hermione does not hesitate to tell off her friends if she disagrees with them.)

The Remus/Sirius duo: From the POV of the non-R/S Shipper, I don't think Remus and Sirius were especially close. The two close-close ones were, as you and everyone has noted, Sirius and James. Remus and Sirius no doubt liked each other, but I doubt they sought each other out one-on-one without James' and Peter's company. Their closeness in PoA and after, I believe, came from the fact that they were the two survivors of their once-happy quartet. Sirius had no-one else in the world he could depend on, and Remus was poor and socially isolated. So they formed a closer and stronger friendship out of this than they had in their Hogwarts days out of nostalgia and need.

Finally, your remark that Sirius needed James but James didn't really need Sirius was spot-on, IMO. I think MWPP formed as much to nurture Sirius as to provide support to Remus in his transformations. James, for his part, I think really loved the role of "giver." I almost see Sirius as a proto-Harry, someone for James to nurture and support. For all his adolescent jerkiness, the fact that James sincerely loved Lily and married her at a very young age makes me surmise he was the kind of man who really wanted his own family. If he and Lily had lived, I bet Harry would have been the eldest of a large family, and spoilt quite rotten. Before Harry came along, I think James really liked the role of strong emotional anchor for MWPP and a sort of mentor/older brother substitute for Sirius.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 3rd, 2004 09:53 am (UTC) (Link)
11 comments or Leave a comment