How Harry Potter Really Does Money
When I was writing my fictional “How Wizards Do Money” series for The Billfold, I pretty much elided over how Harry Potter got his fortune. Do we really know? We get the feeling that James Potter was a rich kid, in addition to being popular and handsome and clever, but Rowling never specifies where the piles of gold that Harry inherits in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone came from.
A new Pottermore post tells us everything we need to know about how Harry Potter (and his ancestors) do money:
In the Muggle world ‘Potter’ is an occupational surname, meaning a man who creates pottery. The wizarding family of Potters descends from the twelfth-century wizard Linfred of Stinchcombe, a locally well-beloved and eccentric man, whose nickname, ‘the Potterer’, became corrupted in time to ‘Potter’.
Got it. I’m pretty sure none of us assumed Harry was heir to a pottery empire (unless it was some kind of wizarding-world Le Creuset), but it’s great to see some retconning as to how the Potters got their name.
His reputation as a well-meaning eccentric served Linfred well, for behind closed doors he was able to continue the series of experiments that laid the foundation of the Potter family’s fortune. Historians credit Linfred as the originator of a number of remedies that evolved into potions still used to this day, including Skele-gro and Pepperup Potion. His sales of such cures to fellow witches and wizards enabled him to leave a significant pile of gold to each of his seven children upon his death.
Wait, doesn’t Harry Potter take Skele-gro at some point? After some kind of terrible Quidditch accident? (I’m being rhetorical here; I know exactly when Harry Potter takes Skele-gro. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, page 174.)
Why doesn’t anyone say “hey, this fantastic curative was invented by your twelfth-century grandfather?” It literally regrows bones. This should be Jonas Salk-level common knowledge, except I’m not sure Hogwarts students are ever taught anything that could be considered “common knowledge.”
The Potters continued to marry their neighbours, occasionally Muggles, and to live in the West of England, for several generations, each one adding to the family coffers by their hard work and, it must be said, by the quiet brand of ingenuity that had characterised their forebear, Linfred.
So they’re building their fortune solely through hard work, without any kind of investments. Fine. I guess that’s possible in the wizarding world.
It was [Harry’s grandfather] Fleamont who took the family gold and quadrupled it, by creating magical Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion (‘two drops tames even the most bothersome barnet’ ).
Harry is heir to a hair fortune! We know that Rowling likes to use Dickensian-level descriptive names (see: naming a man who eventually becomes a werewolf “Remus Lupin”) but this is beyond delightful.
We see Hermione use Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion in Goblet of Fire, when she prepares to attend the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum. So we know it works; Harry’s grandfather isn’t selling snake oil here. (Not that he would; he’s a Gryffindor.)
I’m curious how much bottles of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion cost, if it was enough to quadruple the family gold. Was Fleamont pulling a Martin Shkreli and jacking up the price? I guess it had to be cheap enough for a teenager to buy it for a school dance, which must mean a low cost of production and a lot of sales.
Still. Harry’s grandfather Fleamont quadrupled the family fortune. He’s the one who gave us this:
I don’t know how much money that is but I know that it is supposed to represent a lot of money, and now we all know that 75 percent of this wealth was generated after 1950. (That must be the best hair potion ever created.)
That means Fleamont was the first generation of the true Potter fortune, his son James was the second generation, and Harry is the third. As Ester recently reported for The Atlantic: “90 percent of all rich families, from the Astors to the Ziffs, lose their fortunes by the third generation.”
I should rewrite “How Wizards Do Money” to make sure Harry hires a financial planner.