by Andrew Mandata
Although it goes without saying that Dark Magic is not routinely taught at Hogwarts, we also know that advanced “good” magic is frequently overlooked. Take the Patronus Charm, for example. It is apparently not impossible to learn — all of the DA students managed to master it under controlled conditions. Yet, after six years at Hogwarts, there is no indication that it has ever been taught as a standard part of the curriculum. Clearly students can master it and it is very useful in a variety of situations. I intend to answer the question as to why some areas of magic, such as this, are ignored, and additionally seek to determine if there is any other advanced (good) magic that the Hogwarts staff has kept from us.
To answer the first question, I think the Hogwarts staff, Professor Dumbledore included, grossly underestimate the talent, drive, and dedication of the students to learn magic that is above their supposed skill level. Time and again, we see students willing to work long and hard to overcome a particularly difficult task, while, at the same time, ignoring work that would be much easier. It may not even be the staff’s fault. Perhaps there is a “No child left behind” policy at Hogwarts, which forces teachers to teach to the lowest common denominator (e.g. Neville Longbottom). This would mean that no one could teach magic above what Neville could master. I sincerely doubt this is the case, but I thought I’d throw it out there to expose how foolish the curriculum is. Another editorial tackled this topic recently, and therefore I refer you to Magical Education in Great Britain for more on this particular subject. Basically, the idea that I would like to emphasize is that the total amount of knowledge students in Harry’s year have about Defense Against the Dark Arts is appallingly small. There is a definite gap between what Sixth Year students are capable of doing and what a fully qualified wizard, such as Mr. Weasley, is capable of doing.
The bottom line is that Hogwarts doesn’t teach all magic — it doesn’t even teach all good magic. Therefore, there is most likely some powerful light-side magic that Harry isn’t even aware of yet. This leads me to the next part of my discussion. Recall the end of Harry’s third year, where Harry had just saved Sirius and Buckbeak, and talks with Professor Dumbledore about his experiences that evening.
“Pettigrew owes his life to you. You have sent Voldemort a deputy in your debt…. When one wizard saves another wizards’s life, it creates a certain bond between them… and I’m much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter.”“I don’t want a connection with Pettigrew!” said Harry. “He betrayed my parents!”
“This is magic at its deepest, its most impenetrable, Harry. But trust me… the time may come when you will be very gald you saved Pettigrew’s life.” [POA US, pg. 427]
Now, as readers, we can’t explain what value Wormtail might hold, especially because while supposedly in Harry’s debt, he rescues Voldemort. However, I don’t think Dumbledore would say something like that unless there was some powerfully magical reason.
Now stay with me, because I’m going to make a quick jump here. A Horcrux, as defined in HBP, uses killing to split the soul, thereby making it more difficult to completely destroy. Is it so hard to believe that saving a life could somehow reinforce the soul? This would explain how love could be such a powerful force. Consider how many people Harry has saved over the course of his life. Perhaps every time he rescues or spares someone from death, he is creating a reverse Horcrux, doubling the strength of his soul, rather than splitting it apart. Harry has saved Sirius, Hermione, Ron, Dudley, Wormtail, Buckbeak, Fleur’s little sister (although he didn’t realize that she wouldn’t actually die), and probably many others as well. Although we don’t know what kind of involvement Harry has to have to create this “Good Horcrux,” I think it is safe to say that sparing Wormtail counts as at least one. If saving/sparing a life does in fact reinforce one’s soul, then I conclude that at this point, Harry’s soul could be anywhere from 2 to 10+ times its original strength. Whereas Voldemort carries 1/7 of a soul in his body and other fractions are withering away in objects scattered throughout the Magical World.
When one looks at the situation from this standpoint it seems fairly clear that Harry has the upper hand in any one-on-one confrontation with Voldemort. Think of it this way, you have an army (representing the soul) that can either be magically split into two and divided, thereby ensuring that at least one half will survive, or you can magically double its strength while keeping it whole, but risk complete annihilation. Voldemort would completely ignore reinforcing his soul as an option because he fears death so greatly. No amount of strength makes one completely invincible (evidenced by Dumbledore’s fall) and Voldemort was seeking unequivocal immortality. This could be why Voldemort chose the path of the Dark Arts rather than trying to save people to reinforce his soul. Dumbledore, on the other hand, has repeatedly taught Harry that death is not as terrible as it may seem. In his very first year, Dumbledore explains to Harry that “to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” Harry receives many lessons such as this throughout his years at Hogwarts. He even learns from Luna Lovegood that the dead don’t really leave… they’re right behind the curtain. I think that Harry has subconsciously decided to reinforce his soul, risking death, rather than split it, in preparation for his final confrontation with Voldemort.
One evidence for this is Harry’s choice not to join Slytherin House. The Sorting Hat places you in the House best suited to your personality and character. Harry knew so little about any of the houses coming in that I doubt the Sorting Hat kept him out of Slytherin just because he asked it. Think of how silly that would be. Imagine that some First Year student overhears on the train that Harry Potter is insane. Would the Sorting Hat really keep him/her out of Gryffindor just because they asked to not be in Harry Potter’s House? I don’t think so. I do, however, think that the Sorting Hat understood what Harry wanted. Harry didn’t want to follow the Dark Arts, and the only way he could communicate this to the Sorting Hat was to tell it that he didn’t want to be in Slytherin. The Sorting Hat understood Harry’s subconscious desire to help people and realized that Harry would rather face death than see his soul ripped to pieces as Voldemort had done and therefore placed him in Gryffindor.
Now, think back to the final confrontation in OOTP. Voldemort possesses Harry, but cannot stand to be inside Harry’s body. Dumbledore attributes this to love, and he is not wrong. When Voldemort moved in, he was faced with Harry’s magically strengthened soul in direct competition with his own 1/7-soul. The result was excruciating for Voldemort, who promptly left Harry.
Ultimately, it is still unclear how this “soul” situation will impact the final battle between Harry and Voldemort. What is clear, however, is that Harry will have some strength that Voldemort will not.