Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies Read online
To become a werewolf, it is necessary to be bitten by a werewolf in their wolfish form at the time of the full moon. When the werewolf’s saliva mingles with the victim’s blood, contamination will occur.
The many Muggle myths and legends surrounding werewolves are, in the main, false, although some contain nuggets of truth. Silver bullets do not kill werewolves, but a mixture of powdered silver and dittany applied to a fresh bite will ‘seal’ the wound and prevent the victim bleeding to death (although tragic tales are told of victims who beg to be allowed to die rather than to live on as werewolves).
In the second half of the twentieth century, several potions were devised to soften the effects of lycanthropy. The most successful was the Wolfsbane Potion.
The monthly transformation of a werewolf is extremely painful if untreated and is usually preceded and succeeded by a few days of pallor and ill health. While in his or her wolfish form, the werewolf loses entirely its human sense of right or wrong. However, it is incorrect to state (as some authorities have, notably Professor Emerett Picardy in his book Lupine Lawlessness: Why Lycanthropes Don’t Deserve to Live) that they suffer from a permanent loss of moral sense. While human, the werewolf may be as good or kind as the next person. Alternatively, they may be dangerous even while human, as in the case of Fenrir Greyback, who attempts to bite and maim as a man and keeps his nails sharpened into claw-like points for the purpose.
If attacked by a werewolf that is still in human form, the victim may develop certain mild, wolfish characteristics such as a fondness for rare meat, but otherwise should not be troubled by long-term ill effects. However, any bite or scratch given by a werewolf will leave lasting scars, whether or not he or she was in a wolf’s form at the time of the attack.
While in its animal form, the werewolf is almost indistinguishable in appearance from the true wolf, although the snout may be slightly shorter and the pupils smaller (in both cases more ‘human’) and the tail tufted rather than full and bushy. The real difference is in behaviour. Genuine wolves are not very aggressive, and the vast number of folk tales representing them as mindless predators are now believed by wizarding authorities to refer to werewolves, not true wolves. A wolf is unlikely to attack a human except under exceptional circumstances. The werewolf, however, targets humans almost exclusively and poses very little danger to any other creature.
Werewolves generally reproduce by attacking non-werewolves. The stigma surrounding werewolves has been so extreme for centuries that very few have married and had children. However, where werewolves have married human partners, there has been no sign of their lycanthropy being passed to their offspring.
One curious feature of the condition is that if two werewolves meet and mate at the full moon (a highly unlikely contingency, which is known to have occurred only twice) the result of the mating will be wolf cubs which resemble true wolves in everything except their abnormally high intelligence. They are not more aggressive than normal wolves and do not single out humans for attack. Such a litter was once set free, under conditions of extreme secrecy, in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts, with the kind permission of Albus Dumbledore. The cubs grew into beautiful and unusually intelligent wolves and some of them live there still, which has given rise to the stories about ‘werewolves’ in the Forest – stories none of the teachers, or the gamekeeper, has done much to dispel because keeping students out of the Forest is, in their view, highly desirable.
From McGonagall’s grief to Lupin’s lifelong beastly affliction, we’ve heard about heroism and hardship. Now we head into different territory, riddled with ominous prophecies (only two of which are genuine), omens and dangerous hobbies.
Discover more about the Hogwarts Divination teacher and resident doomsayer Sybill Trelawney, the only professor likely to predict your grisly demise from a cup of tea.
BY J.K. ROWLING
Hazel and unicorn hair, nine and a half inches long, very flexible
A Seer, though the gift is unpredictable and unconscious
Muggle mother, wizard father
Early marriage ended in unforeseen rupture when she refused to adopt the surname ‘Higglebottom’, no children
Practising making doom-laden prophecies in front of the mirror, sherry
Sybill is the great-great granddaughter of a genuine Seer, Cassandra Trelawney. Cassandra’s gift had been much diluted over ensuing generations, although Sybill inherited more than she knew. Half-believing in her own fibs about her talent (for she is at least ninety per cent fraud), Sybill cultivated a dramatic manner and enjoys impressing her more gullible students with predictions of doom and disaster. She is gifted in the fortune teller’s tricks; she accurately reads Neville’s nervousness and suggestibility in his first class, and tells him he is about to break a cup, which he does. On other occasions, gullible students do her work for her. Professor Trelawney tells Lavender Brown that something she is dreading will happen to her on the sixteenth of October; when Lavender receives news on that day that her pet rabbit has died, she connects it instantly with the prediction. All of Hermione’s logic and good sense (Lavender was not dreading the death of the rabbit, which was very young; the rabbit did not die on the sixteenth, but the previous day) are lost: Lavender wants to believe her unhappiness was foretold. By the law of averages, Professor Trelawney’s rapid-fire predictions sometimes hit the mark, but most of the time she is full of hot air and self-importance.
Nevertheless, Sybill does experience very rare flashes of genuine clairvoyance, which she can never remember afterwards. She secured her post at Hogwarts because she revealed, during her interview with Dumbledore, that she was the unconscious possessor of important knowledge. Dumbledore gave her sanctuary at the school, partly to protect her, partly in the hope that more genuine predictions would be forthcoming (he had to wait many years for the next).
Conscious of her low status on the staff, who are almost all more talented than she is, Sybill spends most of her time apart from her colleagues, up in her stuffy and overcrowded tower office. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, she has developed an over-reliance on alcohol.
J.K. Rowling’s thoughts
Professors Trelawney and McGonagall are polar opposites; the one something of a charlatan, manipulative and grandiose, the other fiercely intelligent, stern and upright. I knew, however, that when the consummate outsider and non-Hogwartian Dolores Umbridge attempted to oust Sybill from the school, Minerva McGonagall, who had been critical of Trelawney on many occasions, would show the true kindness of her character and rally to her defence. There is a pathos about Professor Trelawney, infuriating though I would find her in real life, and I think that Minerva sensed her underlying feeling of inadequacy.
I created detailed histories for many of the Hogwarts staff (such as Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid), some of which were used in the books, and some of which were not. It is in some ways fitting that I only ever had a vague idea of what had happened to the Divination teacher before she washed up at Hogwarts. I imagine that Sybill’s pre-Hogwarts existence consisted of drifting through the wizarding world, trying to trade on her ancestry to secure employment, but scorning any that did not offer what she feels is the status due to a Seer.
I love Cornish surnames, and had never used one until the third book in the series, so that is how Professor Trelawney got her family name. I did not want to call her anything comical, or which suggested chicanery, but something impressive and attractive. ‘Trelawney’ is a very old name, suggestive of Sybill’s over-reliance on her ancestry when seeking to impress. There is a beautiful old Cornish song featuring the name (‘The Song of the Western Men’). Sybill’s first name is a homonym of ‘Sibyl’, whi