Is Harry Potter a Squib?

Hear me out on this.

In Chamber of Secrets, we learn that Harry can speak  parseltongue  because Voldemort can speak parseltongue.  Dumbledore believes the former Tom Riddle transferred some of his power to Harry Potter when he attacked the Potters 12 years prior. Later, of course, we learn there’s more to it than that (classic Albus), as Harry is actually a horcrux.

But what if all of Harry’s considerable powers actually came from Voldemort? What if Harry were born a squib, and can only do magical things because of his first brush with the Death-Eater-In-Chief?

I know Harry does magical things after the horcux within him is destroyed, but we could certainly imagine a sentence or two of exposition dealing with residual magic and so on. It’s not necessarily elegant, but it’s no midichlorians.

And it makes for a more ironic, tragic, and better story in the end.  Had Voldemort failed to attack the Potters when Harry was an infant, Harry never would have been able to defeat Voldemort in the late 90s.  Voldemort would have risen to power unchecked.  This makes James’ and Lily’s deaths absolutely necessary to the story and to the survival of the entire wizarding world, putting even more weight on Harry to ensure they didn’t die in vain.

Doesn’t that make a better story?

 

8 thoughts on “Is Harry Potter a Squib?”

  1. Aside from just NO –

    Harry’s greatest power (love)–one that affects both his life and his magic–comes from his parents. That’s essential to the story. He could never have beaten Voldemort if his foundational magic wasn’t Good.

    Voldemort gave him some additional tools, sure. If that was the basis of his power, though, at the very least we have to acknowledge that Lily too transferred some of her powers to him when she died…after all, her death was what allowed for the horcrux to latch on; he wouldn’t have lived to be a horcrux if not for his mother’s power “in his very skin.”

    But even if we allow for that, if Harry was a squib and ALL his powers came from the horcrux and his mother’s death, he still couldn’t have, for example, a stag for his Patronus. I think you’re forgetting that the nature of Voldemort’s power is evil. Harry’s is good. If Harry was a squib with his mother’s power and Voldemort’s battling within him, he would have been more conflicted. How would Voldemort’s power–or his mother’s–have allowed him to get the stone, to call for Fawkes, to kill the basilisk? I’m not sure if you’re saying his power comes from the horcrux or if Voldemort somehow transferred powers aside from the horcrux, but in either situation you just don’t end up with Harry using his power for good and despising the dark arts. I can’t see any way past that. Love will always make a better story than tragedy or irony.

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    1. Great comment. Especially the last sentence. I think what I’m imagining could allow for a transfer of power from Voldemort as well as Lily. Like you said, we know that it’s nothing short of Lily’s tremendous love that protects Harry and allows him to be the boy who lived. I think we do see a good deal of conflict in Harry. Certainly not the kind of conflict we get in Tolkien’s ring-bearers, but still conflict. And just because he’d have two opposite sources of power doesn’t necessarily mean, I don’t think, that those two sources would pull on him in a more profound way. Maybe they would. But yes, I was thinking a transfer from Voldemort beyond the horcrux. Since we could plot-hole away any of these suggestions, I think your overall point is sound. I asked if more irony and tragedy wouldn’t make the story better, and, regardless of the source of Harry’s power, you’ve responded, quite profoundly, that it wouldn’t. I can dig that.

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      1. Thinking a bit more about this. If Harry were a squib, would it necessarily mean the story was no longer about love? If Lily still does the saving act through her loving sacrifice (I know I’m allegorizing there, but still), I don’t think it takes away from the idea that love is the most powerful thing in the story.

        If we allow that, it would be interesting to think about what’s at stake if we let Harry be a squib. What, if anything, does the story lose? What does it stand to gain? I think there is some latent power in the idea of the world being saved by a squib. We already have Ron (marginalized for poverty) and Hermione (marginalized by descent) undermining the hatred of Voldemort and his followers. The idea of Voldemort being ultimately undone by a squib appeals to me on that level, too.

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        1. Well, first, I realized something else on a mechanical level besides the Patronus–horcruxes aren’t portkeys…horcruxes are already powerful magical objects before they become horcruxes. So there’s that.

          But as a story: I don’t think it works either. Harry wouldn’t be Harry the Wizard–he would be Harry the Horcrux, and then the story is that Voldemort’s own soul turned against him. That’s a morality tale in which Voldemort is the main character. Harry is a tool, a device, not a character. The whole thing becomes a fable. The flip side of that is, of course, that Harry as a squib is able to take Voldemort’s dark powers from the Horcrux and turn them to good. A squib has the power to transform magic. That’s not bad. And it also develops the would-be story of Neville, which I have always wished existed. I’ve always been disappointed that his story wasn’t more developed–the unchosen chosen one, who “was practically a squib.” The answer is there somewhere. If Neville had been the chosen one, what part would Harry play in the story? What would Neville have done differently as the chosen one? It’s an interesting line of thought.

          But I think there’s something to Harry being innately powerful that seems important, though I can’t put my finger on why. I hear what you’re saying about the marginalized defeating evil–except–it does take away from the story. Then the story is about power, not about love. That holds true when applied to my prior paragraph–a squib transforming magic is a story about power differential, about manipulating power. It’s the opposite of the story being about love–it’s Harry using the existing power structure to defeat it…that’s the sort of thing that leads to regime change, not societal change. We do see hints of that in the story as is–the whispers about whether Harry would become a powerful dark wizard because of the attack.

          I see the inherent contradiction in what I’m saying–that Harry has to have innate power for the story to be about love. And it’s not as if Rowling doesn’t contemplate power differentials and make them part of the story–in the ways you said, and also in the the way that everyone is always underestimating the power of underage wizards.

          But. If Harry was a squib–if love was the only inherent power he had–then we couldn’t have seen him choose love over power (“horcruxes, not hallows” and “It’s someone’s choices, rather than their abilities, that shows who they are”). I think for the story to work and to be about love, Harry has to be able to choose love over his powers, not have it be the only innate thing at his disposal. There’s a parallel there in the choice to disarm instead of kill being what brings the elder wand (the alleged ultimate source of power) under his power. If Harry gets his power from Voldemort, it’s power killing power. If Harry is as he is written–he fights power with love, and that’s the point.

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  2. Love this. Much of it resonates for me. On the other hand, though, I guess I’m not seeing a Harry imbued with powers from Lily and powers from Voldemort meaning that Harry is only an object or a vessel (in short, only a horcrux). I’m not interested in turning HP into Star Wars, however, no one ever doubts that Luke is the hero of the original trilogy. He may be whiny and young and everything, but, pulled by the light and the dark, he is actively making the choice to follow the light. I bring him up because I don’t actually like Harry the way I like Hermione or even Neville. I know there are many compelling arguments on both sides of this, but I’m in the camp that thinks the role of hero and focal point is honestly up for grabs. Harry’s story as such isn’t for me the point, although it obviously is for Rowling, and for most readers. And that’s fine, Rowling’s intentions certainly aren’t a *wrong* read of the Potterverse. But I’m really influenced by Straussian reads (in general). I’m not finally convinced that Dumbledore, though fighting for the side of good, was actually a good person. I have serious doubts about Atticus Finch. With Strauss, it’s all about what the author *really* intended and willfully hid. Stanley Fish’s “reader response” is more a propos what it comes to Rowling or Lee. On top of that, I’m fascinated by the idea that writers (myself included) don’t always know what they’re writing. So maybe Rowling intends for the story to be X, but the same subconscious activity that strings symbols together almost organically when the act of writing is moving along in sublime fits is also creating characters and situations and questions and bringing them to the surface in ways the writer isn’t intending. (At this point, I will own the fact that I’ve only referenced Rowling and Lee, and that I, a man, am saying that there are things in the texts they maybe didn’t intend. I realize that’s problematic, so let me say clearly and categorically that male writers do this, too. George Lucas did it a lot. Like, the Jedi are sketchy. Really, really sketchy. Also, the Beast may have loved Belle, but he never really learned to love humanity.)

    As far as power versus love, I’d say that it’s possible that love (not power) motivated Hermione to liberate the house elves, just like it was Harry’s love of Dobby (and not just his disdain for Malfoy) that brought Dobby his freedom.

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