“Felix Felicis,” Professor Slughorn said in hushed tones, holding the amber bottle up to the light. “Liquid luck, they call it. Bottled fortune. Brewed correctly the drinker of this potion will be lucky in all their endeavours, but be warned…excessive consumption is highly toxic and can cause extreme recklessness.”
Harry knocked over his chair and stood on Hermione’s legs in order to be heard. His voice rumbled like a granite freight train. “Talent alone is helpless today. Any success requires both talent and luck. And the “luck” has to be helped along and provided by someone. Talent does not survive all obstacles. In fact, in the face of hardships, talent is the first one to perish; the rarest plants are usually the most fragile. Our present-day struggle for existence is the coarsest and ugliest phenomenon that has ever appeared on earth. It takes a tough skin to face it, a very tough one. Are talented people born with tough skins? Hardly. In fact, the more talent one possesses the more sensitive one is, as a rule. And if there is a more tragic figure than a sensitive, worthwhile person facing life without money – I don’t know where it can be found.”
“That’s – I suppose that’s a good point, Harry,” Professor Slughorn said slowly.
“Damn right it’s a good point,” Harry said, straightening his tie and stepping off of Hermione, who sighed with longing at the loss of his weight on her legs. “It’s also why I never water my plants in Herbology. They must learn to survive with or without me. Self-sufficiency is not just a human virtue. It is the highest virtue.”
“Kiss me, Harry,” Ginny begged.
Harry pushed her away from him with a fist made of self-determination and Bessemered steel. His jaw was as strong and as powerful as a quarry that employs 200 men. “How can I kiss you,” he said, “when you lack the ability to celebrate yourself as the highest culmination of your own values?”
“I don’t care about any of that,” Ginny said. “I just want to feel your lips on mine. Please.”
Harry shook his head, like a proud animal, or the stock market. “I could kiss your lips,” he said, “but I cannot kiss your self-esteem.”
“He accused me of being Dumbledore’s man through and through.”
“How very rude of him.”
“I told him I was my own man. Then I filled his mouth with quartz and shattered it with my fists, and took his woman. I took her right in the values.”
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Fawkes the phoenix let out a low, soft, musical cry. To Harry’s intense embarrassment, he suddenly realized that Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes looked rather watery, and stared hastily at his own knee. When Dumbledore spoke, however, his voice was quite steady.
“I am very touched, Harry.”
“That is of no consequence to me, Headmaster,” Harry said not unkindly. “Your feelings are your own. I could no more experience them than I could experience being a hippogriff.”
“No – no – Harry, I didn’t mean that!” she said hastily, looking around to check that they were not being overheard. “It’s just that I was right about Eileen Prince once owning the book. You see … she was Snape’s mother!”
“I thought she wasn’t much of a looker,” said Ron.
“Contribute, or keep silent, Ron,” said Harry. “Jokes are not useful to our aims at present.”
Hermione ignored Ron, eager to serve the only man worthwhile of her talents. “I was going through the rest of the old Prophets and there was a tiny announcement about Eileen Prince marrying a man called Tobias Snape, and then later an announcement saying that she’d given birth to a -“
“- murderer,” spat Ron.
“Well … yes,” said Hermione. “So … I was sort of right. Snape must have been proud of being “half a Prince”, you see? Tobias Snape was a Muggle from what it said in the Prophet.”
“What a misapplication of pride,” Harry said. “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political signiﬁcance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. The theory that holds “good blood” and “bad blood” as a moral-intellectual criterion, can lead to nothing but torrents of blood in practice. Brute force is the only avenue of action open to men who regard themselves as mindless aggregates of chemicals.”
Hermione flung herself at his feet in agreement.
“The only blood that counts,” Harry said, “is the blood of achievement. Ron, leave the room. Hermione and I are going to honor one another’s achievements through the physical act of love.”
“Don’t you see?” Dumbledore said. “Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one that rises against them and strikes back!”
“Of course,” Harry said calmly. “Tyranny is any political system (whether absolute monarchy or fascism or communism) that does not recognize individual rights (which necessarily include property rights). The overthrow of a political system by force is justified only when it is directed against tyranny: it is an act of self-defense against those who rule by force.”
Harry took up his wand. “First I’m going to kill Snape,” he said evenly, “and then I’m going to dissolve the estate tax.”
“But why -” Dumbledore began.
“Wealth must be earned, not kept,” Harry said. “A man who inherits wealth he does not deserve will lose it in a generations’ time. He has no inherent right to keep it if he cannot earn it, but it does not then stand that the government has a stronger right to it. It is his, to keep or to lose, as long as he is living.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.