Punk Rock Potters: A Family History of Social Justice

We take a look at how the Potter family’s history of social justice molded James’ character and relationship with Lily, and how it would shape the son they left behind.

Whether or not Harry was the Chosen One, his family history suggests that he would have played a significant role in the revolution that was the Second Wizarding War. This conclusion could be well-reasoned based almost solely on Lily and James’ relationship and involvement in the Order of the Phoenix, but Pottermore’s expansion on the Potter line contributes a stronger foundation on which to base this argument.

According to J.K. Rowling’s writing on the matter, the Potters—despite their pureblood lineage—were denied addition to the Sacred Twenty-Eight due to their support of and liaisons with Muggles. Not that the Potters were particularly fussed, as the function of this pureblood directory served no purpose but to spread anti-Muggle sentiment in its creation of a superiority complex within the Wizarding community.

Indeed, the Potters’ rejection of the concept of blood purity can be traced back to the first of their name, a twelfth-century wizard called Linfred of Stinchcombe, who would pave the way for the Potters’ acceptance of non-magical people. Linfred was both well-known for his medicinal prowess and well-liked, due to his friendly nature and willingness to lend his antidotes to his Muggle neighbors, rather than hoarding those medicines for his own and other wizards’ use. To Linfred, it was a no-brainer to give help wherever it was needed, regardless of blood status.

The Potters’ rejection of the concept of blood purity can be traced back to the first of their name.

Linfred was succeeded by wizards who continued this trend in equality on larger platforms, such as Ralston Potter and Henry “Harry” Potter, both of whom served on the Wizengamot and voiced their pro-Muggle stance. Ralston upheld the Statute of Secrecy rather than “declaring war on the Muggles, as more militant members wished to do,” and Henry “caused a minor stir when he publicly condemned then Minister for Magic, Archer Evermonde, who had forbidden the magical community to help Muggles waging the First World War.”

As pointed out by W&W editor Ani, the Potters “were outspokenly pro-Muggle, and by the 1930s were actively working to raise awareness of Grindelwald.” Grindelwald’s rise to power during this time factored into World War I, and as such the Potters felt that the Wizarding world had a duty to overthrow him before he caused too much damage to both their community as well as the Muggles’. As we the readers see in the Harry Potter series, the strife that affects one world will affect the other, and the Potters never had any qualms with shouldering that responsibility.

While Henry’s son Fleamont is better known for his invention of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion (let us never forget that Harry Potter inherited the fortune of a hair care conglomerate) than any further cries for equality, it’s clear that he and his wife impressed the same moral code on their son, James. From the beginning, we know that James Potter openly fought against Voldemort’s reign, but the first details of James’ moral compass don’t appear until Order of the Phoenix, in “Snape’s Worst Memory.”

Now, all doodling of Lily’s initials aside, the chapter doesn’t paint the most flattering picture of James, since as foolish as it was for Snape to believe that Lily would be impressed by his Death Eater aspirations, it was equally as foolish for James to think that he would garner any positive attention from her by picking a fight with her then best friend (as is implied when James continually attempts to catch her eye).

Even in James’ most unflattering scene, he proves himself to be a man of strong morals.

This does, however, boil down to immature, schoolboy foolishness, which—while regrettable and at times even reprehensible—does not a bad man make. Even in James’ most unflattering scene, he proves himself to be a man of strong morals. After Snape calls Lily a Mudblood, James’ good-natured but juvenile attitude falls away to irrepressible anger. He is appalled at the suggestion that he would use a slur, so much so that he can’t even utter “Mudblood” in reference, let alone use it as a derogative against someone. While we in the business refer to this as “basic human decency,” it’s still notable that this privileged fifteen-year-old boy actively recognizes and stands up against social injustice.

“What?” yelped James. “I’d NEVER call you a — you-know-what!”

As I’ve explored before, James’ public displays of affection for Lily speak more volumes than first meets the eye. While the Potters did not make the Sacred Twenty-Eight, there was likely still a level of decorum expected of them, as is suggested throughout the series whenever someone expresses disgust at the Weasleys’ pro-Muggle attitude. As Ani points out in her study of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, it is both unthinkable and forbidden within those families to marry anyone less than pureblood, and that social pressure would touch any and all prominent Wizarding families.

And yet, this pressure not only fails to pop the bubble of affection that surrounds James and Lily, it doesn’t touch the bubble at all. The bubble remains, unaffected, stoic and unmoving as if it’s made of fortified steel rather than the ooey-gooey goodness of love. As far as James is concerned in this instance, his superior social status is irrelevant, and Lily’s birth only factors in when James defends her against Snape’s slur.

“Apologize to Evans!” James roared at Snape, his wand pointed threateningly at him.

Of course, it’s not only James’ feelings for Lily that urge him to respect her as a person, but his recognition that she is a talented, spitfire witch who’s not to be trifled with. We see countless times throughout the series that Muggle-borns—especially in Hermione’s case—are misjudged and underestimated based on their birth, and often those prejudices are expressed by purebloods or pureblood sympathizers. Namely, Horace Slughorn expressed surprise at Muggle-born talent in the case of Lily, one of his proclaimed favorite students, but her magical prowess goes unquestioned by James and even Sirius, both of whom “eyed [her wand] warily” when she was fully prepared to hex them into oblivion in SWM. Both boys recognized what she was capable of, and weren’t keen on staring down the end of her wand. (All hail Quick Draw McGraw’s mentor, Lily Evans.)

It’s certain that Lily and James would have continued the Potter family trend of social justice, as they prove in their alliance with the Order of the Phoenix during the First Wizarding War, and just as likely that they would have been a family much like the Weasleys we came to know and love. Arthur and Molly raised their children to be tolerant and open-minded at the detriment of their family’s financial well-being, as it’s made clear that Arthur is not taken as seriously as his less Muggle-enthused coworkers, and that he chooses to stay in a lowly position in order to make a difference in Muggle/wizard relations.

There is a subtle but meaningful line in Deathly Hallows, too, that suggests that James would have been a person and father much like Arthur. In “The Forest Again,” James is described as “wearing the clothes in which he had died, and his hair was untidy and ruffled, and his glasses were a little lopsided, like Mr. Weasley’s.”

This likening of the two men serves no other purpose, really, than to suggest that James was a man just as concerned with bettering the world and raising his son to do the same, as Arthur is. Furthermore, both families’ reputations abound with pro-Muggle action, a complete disregard for pureblood decorum, raising hell up in their respective public offices, and joining rebel causes to fight the power. Throw in their cheeky humor and great hair, and the Potter and Weasley clans are a force to be reckoned with; it’s a stroke of pure kismet that Harry and Ron ended up best friends.

Just as the Weasley children didn’t need a prophecy to tell them what action should be taken, nor did Harry; he just happened to have destiny thrust upon him as well. But had there been no prophecy or Voldemort’s knowledge of such, or had he chosen Neville as his nemesis rather than Harry, had Lily and James lived to raise their son, they would have raised a man much like the one Harry became without them: loud in the face of injustice, a condemner of intolerance, and—in a nutshell—a fighter for equality.

 

As profound as Harry’s many lessons in love are, he didn’t need the tragedy those lessons often accompanied to know their worth. Harry’s past as the Boy Who Lived and his fate as the Chosen One weren’t the sole contributing factors in his heroism—had Lily and James lived, they would have taught their son every lesson in love he needed to play a part in the revolution. As inspirational and quotable as they are, Dumbledore’s lectures on the importance of love, on the essential trait of an open mind and heart, would have been rendered irrelevant, as they would have been a constant in Harry’s life from the start.

Harry would have known his parents’ love story, and he would have learned that nothing is stronger or more unstoppable. He learns this lesson regardless, but actively seeing the way in which his parents loved each other, without regard or care for social responsibility, without succumbing to the pressures with which bigotry would try to break them, Harry would have grown up in an environment that bled love. He would have learned to love unconditionally—not because he craved it for himself, not because he knows what it’s like to live without it as he did with the Dursleys, but because he saw the good it creates in people, and how that goodness in people creates a goodness in the world.

That’s what social justice is all about, and it’s a revolution Harry would have embodied, great big punk rock gash in his forehead or not.

All art belongs to writer of the post, Katie Majka.

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