I recently read the first Harry Potter novel to my six-year-old son Brendan, then watched the film with him. It was all the fun I hoped it would be: he is just the right age for it — excitedly asking what is going to happen next and jumping and cheering at the end.
As typically happens, I can’t stop at just the first one, so I’ve been watching the rest of the films with my wife Kelly. (I may read the second book to Brendan, but beyond that they become YA books instead of children’s books, so he may need to wait a few years for the others.)
Watching the films, I was reminded of a tiny detail left out. No film can capture every aspect of a novel — nor should it try to — and this is hardly the sort of detail that makes or breaks the series, which I think is high quality overall and generally better as it goes along.
To give a little background, at the end of the fourth story, The Goblet of Fire, Harry wins the Triwizard Tournament. This win is marked by the tragic death of Cedric Diggory and the return of the evil Lord Voldemort, and so it makes sense that the films omit the fact that the winner also won a hefty cash prize.
The Weasley twins, Fred and George, had bet all their savings on Harry to win the tournament, but since he technically tied with Cedric Diggory, they lost it all. They had hoped the winnings would be enough for them to start their own joke and gag business, but now that dream seemed unattainable. Which is where Harry saved the day by becoming a venture capitalist:
“Fred — George — wait a moment.”
The twins turned. Harry pulled open his trunk and drew out his Triwizard winnings.
“Take it,” he said, and he thrust the sack into George’s hands.
“What?” said Fred, looking flabbergasted.
“Take it,” Harry repeated firmly. “I don’t want it.”
“You’re mental,” said George, trying to push it back at Harry.
“No, I’m not,” said Harry. “You take it, and get inventing. It’s for the joke shop.”
“He is mental,” Fred said in an almost awed voice.
“Listen,” said Harry firmly. “If you don’t take it, I’m throwing it down the drain. I don’t want it and I don’t need it. But I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.”
“Harry,” said George weakly, weighing the money bag in his hands, “there’s got to be a thousand Galleons in here.”
“Yeah,” said Harry, grinning. “Think how many Canary Creams that is.”
I say Harry was a venture capitalist because this is what they do. They invest their capital in upstart ventures (or expansions of already existing ones) with the hope of a future return if the entrepreneurs are successful. To be fair, technically Harry simply gave the money away, expecting no monetary return, but it is also clear that he expected returns of a different, far richer sort: laughter in a time of growing darkness.
Not only do the Weasleys deliver on the laughter, in the next story, The Order of the Phoenix, they use their antics to create a much-needed diversion for Harry and his friends as the twins stage the greatest high school drop out in Hogwarts history.
Like many real-life business ventures, the people with the capital to take a shot on an enterprising dream are not always — if often — the same people who have that dream. Sometimes a person with a great idea lacks the funds, education, or other resources they need to get started. In this way, the rich can help the poor without belittling them or trapping them in cycles of dependency. All one needs is to see the potential in someone else waiting to happen.
I don’t write this to glamorize: of course, what sort of venture one invests in and how one does so matters quite a lot. One cannot make a moral evaluation without proper attention to moral contexts. But one must also understand the nature of investment in the first place, which is what the example of Harry Potter does so well, in a way that transcends our ideologies and partisanship through the medium of fantasy fiction.
It is easy to lose the personal side of each entrepreneurial venture when they are reduced to scrolling numbers on a ticker along the bottom of 24-hour news stations. It is easy to dismiss investors for being wealthy. But in the real world, just as in Harry Potter’s, each investment has a story. Many of them are innocuous. Some are even inspiring.