I’ve been thinking about degrees of magicalness in the Harry Potter world. It came about while I was fleshing out chapter ten of A Study in Magic: Application. So beware if you’re the type who hates spoilers.

From Great to Average to … Lockhart

This post calls for a Lockhart photo

Lockhart’s magic ability perplexes me. He excelled at memory Charms, but mediocre to bad at everything else. How? How?

Let’s suppose memory Charms are N.E.W.T. level magic. Hermione doesn’t even try to learn it until after book six, so the evidence seems to point to this direction. Based on this, one may think Lockhart had N.E.W.T. level Charms education. Neville Longbottom got an “Exceeds Expectations” for his Charms O.W.L.. Can we further assume Lockhart was at least as good as Neville in his fifth year?

Not necessarily. Neville improved leaps and bounds in his fifth year. He had the drive to excel, the correct equipment (wand), and a teacher who pushed him the right way. The thrust of the HP series implies Neville would’ve made a fine Chosen One if Voldemort hunted him instead of Harry. So: not a fair comparison.

Here comes my speculation on the matter: a magical handicap.

Magic Like Limbs and Senses

highly relevant image featuring light bulbs

Not everyone is born with all limbs, fingers, and toes, and all senses in working order. Some are born blind. Others are born deaf. Some cannot walk. What if there is the analogical-equivalent for magic ability?

Examples: Wizards who can only do charms and only a selected few at that. Battle mages who have magic-enhanced physiology and weak prescience, but can’t do any spells like their wizard/witch peers. Witches who can’t use wands, but can do magic just fine.

I created Moran and Julia because there wasn’t a suitable candidate in the original HP universe. I still don’t have an existing cast to explore all the permutations. At least I haven’t found them yet. More Original Characters may follow (I have a handful cooked up, but plot-relevancy remains to be seen).

But I digress. If I am to postulate a limitation, I have to consider a cause. Why do a small percentage of wizards and witches have limits? In the Harry Potter world, wizards and witches are born, not made. A gene-based limitation then? Or perhaps potions or curses induce defects in a person’s magic ability? Oh, what if there was a thalidomide equivalent potion that caused witches to give birth to functional squibs?? (Have magic genes, but defective ability to use it?) What if to be a full-fledged wizard, you need more than one gene? Something like:

gene description
SPL can harness internal magic (i.e. spells)
PTN can harness external magic (i.e. potions)
SPC can harness magic in special ways (Metamorphomagi and Seers fall here)

Hey, since I’m speculating, why just limit to magic genes? What if there are other superpower genes? What Happens When Magic Genes Combine With Other Superpower Genes?

Magic Superpower Gene Combinations

Comics tend to follow the 1 + 1 = 2 rule when it comes to inheriting abilities, but it’s not a hard rule. Some gene combinations may cancel each other out. Others may require two copies to make a child have the ability. Say, CFX gives you telepathy, but you need to get them from both parents. But if you combine CFX with MAGIC, you have a natural advantage when it comes learning Legilimancy and/or Occlumency…

The possibilities are immense and probably merits its own post. Also, this sort of “What If” is very much my jam and may result in another story. Dangerous.

Final Thoughts That Are Worrying

How does the Wizarding World test if a person can successfully perform a memory charm? Do they kidnap a Muggle? Or do they use an animal as a guinea pig? If the latter, it will have to be an animal of high levels of intelligence. I hope there’s a better alternative because both cases are making me queasy …


João Paulo Francisconi · 2017-05-23 at 2:48 am

You may be looking at it the wrong way. Yes, genetics may be a factor for magic in the Harry Potter universe, but Lockhart situation is obviusly a case of cultivating a certain set of abilities because of personality and enviromental situations. Lockhart was probably as strong in magic than the next wizard, but he was also lazy and a coward, wich played into him being so good at memory charms, because he had all the motivation to pursue that field of knowlodge.

Think about it, he WAS handsome, so everyone liked him at first glance because we just like handsome people when we see them. Since he was used to being liked without putting in any effort, he probably never really put much tought into becaming better at magic until people started to laught at him. What do you do when you feel shame? You *want* people to forget. And in magic, *intent* is probably the most important part of any spell.

So, is *because* Lockhart is so bad at everything else that he’s so good at memory charms, his awfulness makes his intent of making people forget more powerful than normal. The funny part of it is that it wouldn’t work if Lockhart wasn’t a fraud. Lets say that instead of stealing people’s credit and wanting to be a celebrity, he went on to work as an obliviator for the Ministry. At first, he would be good at it, but the more people recognize him for it, the less intent to make people forget he would get, and the less powerfull his memory charms would be.

    booksofchange · 2017-05-23 at 1:22 pm

    You make a solid point. Within HP Canon, it’s far more likely Lockhart’s skewed abilities are the result of him practicing the skills that are relevant to his ambitions — finding people, extracting information, self-promotion and making those who did the actual deed forget them, etc — and neglecting everything else. There’s writing merit in contrasting his character to Harry’s own “I wanna be normal and live a peaceful life” attitude, too.
    For my own purposes, I decided to go out of my way to pick the most outre explanation and have fun with it. 🙂

Adelle · 2017-04-24 at 5:56 pm

Your logic seems pretty good. It would be intersting if some of these unskilled, magical family people are being affected by actually having either too many genes that combine to get magic, or even extra copies/misprint from combination in the wrong place. It is really hard, though, to see where it may come from if it occurs in Muggle-borns (and I can’t remember if it does, though everyone’s reactions to Hermione does prove that they aren’t expected to be the best, I guess).

As for practicing/testing memory charms, there don’t seem to be many good, ethical options in the wizarding world, especially considering their transfiguring lessons usually either creating, drastically changing, or erasing animals.

    booksofchange · 2017-04-25 at 9:49 am

    Muggle-borns, from what we can tell from various JKR interview, inherit their magic from their Squib ancestors. That points to Squibs having the magic gene, but it being suppressed or deactivated. I have an idea wizards marrying other people with abilities (mutants?) and certain combinations turn the magic gene “off”. It’s all fascinating!
    I can imagine all too readily Hermione going on a warpath if or when she learns wizards learn to master Memory charms on Muggle and/or House Elf guinea pigs…

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