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James Potter and co became un-registered Animagii in their school years. Presumably they didn't say anything about it for 2 reasons: first, it would prevent them from spending full moons with Moony; and second, it went against their rebel-without-a-cluecause nature.

It seems that being unregistered Animagus is dangerous (Hermione implied in OotP that Rita Skeeter would go to Azkaban, as her blackmail).

"Otherwise, as you very well know, I will inform the authorities that you are an unregistered Animagus. Of course, the Prophet might give you rather a lot for an insider’s account of life in Azkaban.”

So, why didn't they register as Animagii after graduation, when James went "respectable" under Lily's influence and they no longer needed to hide their spending time with Lupin?

They could simply say they JUST learned to become Animagii; to avoid being accused of being un-registered during school years.

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Any particular reason for downvote? –  DVK Apr 8 at 21:06
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Upvoted to make it up :) it's a good question. Did they join the Order of the Phoenix right away after school? If so, they may have kept their animagus powers secret to keep it from the Ministry (and, if Voldemort had infiltrated it, the Dark Lord). –  Mac Cooper Apr 8 at 21:12

1 Answer 1

Your father and Sirius here were the cleverest students in the school, and lucky they were, because the Animagus transformation can go horribly wrong — one reason the Ministry keeps a close watch on those attempting to do it.

From that it sounds like it may be like learning to drive in the real world. You have to apply for a license/permit so that you can actually begin the process of learning (under the supervision of somebody who is already qualified), then later on pass a test to prove that you're capable of doing it safely.

In that case it likely wouldn't be an option to just turn up one day claiming that you've suddenly learnt to be an Animagus. It's a particularly difficult bit of magic, not something anybody (except perhaps Dumbledore) is going to master overnight. To do so would have raised a lot of suspicion and resulted in some uncomfortable questions from the Ministry.

Lupin also shares his personal reasoning for not telling Dumbledore about the others' abilities at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban:

Lupin’s face had hardened, and there was self-disgust in his voice.

“All this year, I have been battling with myself, wondering whether I should tell Dumbledore that Sirius was an Animagus. But I didn’t do it. Why? Because I was too cowardly. It would have meant admitting that I’d betrayed his trust while I was at school, admitting that I’d led others along with me… and Dumbledore’s trust has meant everything to me. He let me into Hogwarts as a boy, and he gave me a job when I have been shunned all my adult life, unable to find paid work because of what I am. ..."

Even if the other three Marauders had "gone legit" I think Dumbledore would have seen through it, even if nobody else had, knowing those four as well as he did. Lupin may still have had reservations about implicitly admitting that he'd betrayed that trust.

And one final consideration: It appears they went almost straight from Hogwarts to joining the Order of the Phoenix, so becoming registered Animagi likely wasn't a major concern for them at any point prior to James' death.

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That kills my comment about it being useful for the Order, if Dumbledore didn't know. –  Mac Cooper Apr 8 at 21:17
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Good answer, but I am afraid I disagree with the last paragraph. Ministry wasnt an enemy of OotP (the way they were in Harry's time); so I am unsure that joining OotP would be a good reason to risk being "illegal" and thrown in Azkaban should someone find out. –  DVK Apr 8 at 22:07
    
Also, you show why Lupin never told Dumbledore... but I am pretty sure James would have been less concerned (as Dumbledore didn't do him as special favor as he did to Lupin). +1 anyway :) –  DVK Apr 8 at 22:08
    
@DVK Dumbledore (obviously) isn't a stupid man. I think he'd be capable of making the connection between James being an Animagus and Lupin without needing to be explicitly told. James might not care about it, but I think he would have cared that Lupin did. He seems like the kind of friend who would respect Lupin's wish not to betray Dumbledore's trust. –  Anthony Grist Apr 9 at 10:19
    
As for the Ministry not being an enemy, you're correct. But they're probably also willing to overlook some things when it comes to a war with Voldemort. They might be unhappy that the three Marauders are unregistered Animagi, but they'd probably ignore that as long as they're helping to fight against Voldemort. Not to mention that they're reckless, they probably enjoyed the thrill associated with breaking the law, they may even have liked the prospect of Azkaban if somebody did find out. –  Anthony Grist Apr 9 at 10:22

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