James Potter and co became un-registered Animagi 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 an 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 Animagi 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 Animagi; to avoid being accused of being unregistered during their school years.

  • Any particular reason for downvote? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 8 '14 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 '14 at 21:12
  • I wonder if being a registered animagus is a problem in its own right. Maybe it involves notifying the Ministry of your movements, being subject to surveillance spells, and other infringements of personal liberty. – Paul Johnson Mar 27 '16 at 11:33

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 '14 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-on-Ahch-To Apr 8 '14 at 22:07
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    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-on-Ahch-To Apr 8 '14 at 22:08
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    @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 '14 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 '14 at 10:22

I don't think registering as animagi would prevent them from spending full moons with Moony. After school they are adults, and it's nobody's business where they spend their time. The attitude "who cares about (Ministry) rules" might be a factor in their decision.

A good reason not to register might be that the registry is public. We know this because Hermione checked the registry.

"There have only been seven animagi this century and Pettigrew's name wasn't on the list." (Hermione, PoA)

They were in a time of war, so it may be useful to have abilities that are unknown to the enemy. This applies more to Sirius and Peter, they could use their forms to investigate or to escape. A stag is less useful because it is not inconspicuous, and in closed quarters might not even have enough room to transform.

What we see of the Wizengamot, the judicial court, is like a big jury. They are not accountable and vote however they want, be it to serve justice or their own interests. In OOTP Fudge thinks he can get Harry convicted, so facts don't seem that important in those decisions. James and Sirius are from old pureblood families, and in case they are caught after having won the war probably wouldn't get in serious trouble. If they get caught after having lost the war, being Animagi would be the least of their worries.

On the other hand, Rita used her animagus form to spy on people and publish their secrets. Because of this, she made a lot of enemies. Some of those enemies are members of the Wizengamot. So if it became known that Rita is an animagus, she would be punished not just for being unregistered, but also for having annoyed the judges.

Given the lack of predictability in those decisions, Hermione can't know that Rita would spend time in Azkaban, but on the other hand, Rita can't know that she would not.

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  • This seems largely speculative. – amflare Jul 6 '18 at 15:36
  • @amflare Of course it is speculative. As there is nothing in canon that says "The didn't register because ...", any answer is speculative. – Ralf Jul 9 '18 at 7:19
  • "Speculative" means you didn't use any quotes or sources to support what you are saying. Unless you can show in the books that registering would prevent them from spending full moons with Lupen, this answer is effectively a "well... maybe its because" – amflare Jul 9 '18 at 13:51
  • @amflare As I said that I do not think that registering would prevent them from spending full moons with Lupin, I don't see why I should search for a quote that contradicts me, especially as I'm sure there is no quote about that either way. If there was a quote about that, it would be a definitive answer and no speculation needed. – Ralf Jul 9 '18 at 15:49
  • @amflare What quotes would you like to see? That Hermione was able to look up the registry? That an animagus form may be more useful if it is not known? That Wizengamot decisions are unpredictable, unless you can throw enough money at them? – Ralf Jul 9 '18 at 15:53

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