Harry Potter's Magic

The Potter controversy shows that the struggle between science and magic isn't entirely settled.

BY: Alan Jacobs


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After unusually long reflection, the Sorting Hat, to Harry's great relief, puts him in Gryffindor, but not before telling him that he could achieve real greatness in Slytherin. This comment haunts Harry; he often wonders whether Slytherin is where he truly belongs, among the pragmatists, the careerists, the manipulators and deceivers, the power-hungry, and the just plain nasty.

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Near the end of the second book, after a terrifying encounter with Voldemort--his third: Voldemort had tried to kill Harry, and succeeded in killing his parents, when Harry was a baby, and Voldemort had confronted Harry again in the first book--Harry confesses his doubts to Dumbledore:

"So I should be in Slytherin," Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore's face. "The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin's power in me, and it--"
"Put you in Gryffindor," said Dumbledore calmly. "Listen to me, Harry. You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students...Resourcefulness...determination...a certain disregard for rules," he added, his moustache quivering again. "Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think."
"It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin..."
"Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from [Voldemort]. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Harry sat motionless in his chair, stunned.

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