The Virtues of Harry Potter: Equality

How could I possibly write this series of posts without talking about equality? One of the biggest common threads running through all seven Harry Potter books is the idea that everyone should be treated equally and given the same opportunities.

It’s there in the story of Hogwarts’ founding, when Helga Hufflepuff insists on accepting all magical children and personally takes it upon herself to teach those rejected by her co-founders. Her vision of Hogwarts as a welcoming and inclusive school persists to the present day, and Dumbledore is known for turning no child away from Hogwarts. He accepts not just those from Muggle families, but even those who are not fully human, such as werewolves and half-giants. This stands in stark contrast to the more selective Durmstrang, which is run by a former Death Eater and accepts only children from old magical families.

It’s there in the portrayal of non-human characters, too. Much time and care is spent telling Lupin’s story: how his parents were sure he would never even be allowed to attend Hogwarts, how he carefully hid his true nature from even his closest friends, and how he struggled to find work as an adult, all because he was a werewolf. While some werewolves, such as Fenrir Greyback, are in fact monsters, so are some humans, such as Voldemort and Bellatrix. Hermione equates the discrimination against werewolves with the oppression of house-elves, and she’s missing a few fine distinctions, but she’s not far off. Magical society tends to view any not-quite-humans, even those that are clearly intelligent and human-like, as their inferiors – and they are relentlessly condemned for doing so.

The themes of equality and inequality cut right through to the novel’s central conflict. Voldemort, although his own father was a muggle, uses the magical community’s distrust of muggle-born wizards to rally supporters to his side. Meanwhile, Harry himself grew up in the muggle world, one of his two best friends is muggle-born, and he constantly stands up against the Death Eaters’ bigoted views. Even the first time he meets Draco Malfoy, he has no patience for his offhand comments that Hogwarts should be only for the old magic families and shouldn’t let “the other sort” in.

He also has no patience for Malfoy’s scornful attitude toward Ron, who at that point he has just begun to become friends with. He doesn’t care about Ron’s hand-me-down clothes and lack of pocket money; he can already tell that Ron is a true friend, and that’s all that matters. The Weasleys have very little in comparison with the Malfoys, but they are happy to adopt Harry as an honorary family member and share with him everything they have.

Snobby, superior attitudes are not tolerated in the world of Harry Potter. Every character, whether magical or muggle, pure-blood or muggle-born, human or non-human, is treated with the respect they deserve by the series’ heroes. That’s not to say they’re Stepford children who are kind and respectful to everyone, but if they dislike certain professors or classmates, it’s because of who they are, not what. The villains, on the other hand, almost all display ignorance and prejudice, sometimes taken to a murderous extreme. It’s clear that the novels have a message to share here, and one that is perennially relevant.

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Christmas with the Weasleys

A dozen redheads gathered ‘round
Smiles on all their faces
Unwrapping simple homespun gifts
With thanks and warm embraces
Although their holiday is simple
Love fills every heart
And as the years pass, come what may
In times when they’re apart
These special meals and simple gifts
Beneath the Christmas tree
Will draw them back and bring them home
To be with family

Christmas Eve in the Graveyard

Christmas Eve, a quiet chapel graveyard
Music from the nearby church at midnight
Memories forgotten and uncovered
Questions burning in the winter night
Flowers laid in snow for those who lie here
And whose sacrifices saved his life
Through the chaos, bells and music bringing
This bittersweet moment of quiet
Then, another moment, peace is shattered
Teenage heroes drawn back to their fight
Leaving church and graveyard, snow and flowers
Just a memory bathed in Christmas light

A Deathly Hallows Christmas

Last Christmas there were parties and carols through the halls
Decorated Christmas trees and garlands on the walls
Last year our greatest worries were love potions and dates
Safe from the storm already brewing beyond the castle’s gates

This Christmas, nights are bitter; we wander in the cold
Searching for a glimpse of hope and missing days of old
Hiding from the looming shadows, trying to believe
Fighting for a life worth living on this Christmas Eve

Next Christmas, we will gather around the fireplace
With warm embraces, joyful smiles on each and every face
Next year this fight will only be a dusty memory
Singing Christmas carols, merry, bright, and free

Santa Claus: Hogwarts Graduate?

How does a fat man fit down a skinny chimney? How could one person deliver toys to every child in the world in just one night? For that matter, how do all those toys even fit in his sleigh? Hard questions to answer. But with a bit of Harry Potter-style magic, it just might all make sense.

Floo powder

Now, it’s totally possible that a wizard Santa Claus would have a flying sleigh and some kind of magical species of reindeer. After all, if broomsticks, magic carpets, and even cars can be enchanted to fly, surely a sleigh could, too. But a wizard Santa Claus wouldn’t need the flying sleigh, and I find it far more likely that he would simply travel by floo powder, hence why muggles claim to have spotted him sneaking in through the fireplace.

Undetectable Extension Charm

If Newt Scamander can fit a menagerie of magical creatures in a small suitcase, Santa Claus could surely carry toys for all the children of the world in his sack. All he would need is a little magic.

Time Turner

Even with an enchanted sack that’s larger than it appears, Santa Claus would still need one very important thing: time. Luckily, that’s something a wizard can have an unlimited supply of, as long as he has a time turner handy. But, you ask, how would Santa Claus keep from getting burned out and exhausted, just like Hermione? Simple: he uses the Time Turner only one night a year. After that, he takes a nice long nap and lives out his days in ordinary 24-hour cycles until the next Christmas Eve.

House Elves

Who did you think was making all those toys? But there are other bits of evidence, too. House elves are good at going unnoticed and can travel anywhere by apparating, much like wizards. Perhaps Santa’s house elves do more than toy making for him: perhaps they also keep tabs on the children of the world and let Santa know who belongs on the nice list and who deserves coal in their stocking. They might even help with the deliveries on Christmas Eve night, reducing the number of times Santa has to use his time turner.

Muggle-Repelling Charms

But how on earth has no one found Santa’s workshop yet? For the same reason no one’s found Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, or that field where the Quidditch World Cup was held. It’s specially enchanted to keep Muggles away. It’s also possible, of course, that Santa’s workshop is protected by a Fidelius charm, perhaps with Mrs. Claus as the Secret Keeper. It all depends how far Santa Claus is willing to go to keep his workshop hidden even from his fellow wizards.

What about his age?

Santa Claus has theoretically been delivering toys to children all around the world for generations, and an old man the whole time. Now, wizards tend to live longer than muggles anyway. Dumbledore and Grindelwald were both around 115 years old when they died, and not of old age. Bathilda Bagshot must have been even older, since she was already an adult when the Dumbledore siblings were children. Besides their already long lifespans, there are ways for wizards to extend their lives further, some living hundreds of years. I can’t see Santa Claus drinking unicorn blood or resorting to dark magic of the type Voldemort uses, so I’m guessing he’s using a sorcerer’s stone to create elixir of life.