Mercury Sphere

Hogwarts and Dante - Mercury Sphere

‘This little star is ornamented
with righteous spirits, whose those deeds were done
for the honor and the glory that would follow.
When such errant desires arise down there,
then the rays of the one true love
must rise with less intensity.
‘But noting how our merit equals our reward
Is part of our happiness,
Because we see them neither less nor more.
‘So much does living justice sweeten our affection
we cannot ever then take on
the wrap of wickedness.
Paradiso, Canto 6 Lines 112 – 123

On the smallest planet of our solar system that is often obscured by the sun Dante meets Justinian. Born a peasant and adopted by his uncle Justin, who was imperial guard by this time, he later rose to became Eastern Roman Emperor and one of the most important figures of late antiquity. In his lifetime he thought he was inspired by God to undertake a “high task”, the monumental codification of Roman Law (Corpus Iuris Civilis).

His spirit explains to Dante that all the souls on Mercury – and here he includes himself explicitly – were spurred on by hunger for earthly honor and fame when performing their virtuous deeds. Yet, the lucky fate of association with this small and often outshone planet gave them insight and allows them to rejoice in this inferior level of Paradiso.

In Gambol and Japes Wizarding Joke Shop, they met Fred, George and Lee Jordan, who were stocking up on ‘Dr Filibuster’s Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks’, and in a tiny junk shop full of broken wands, wonky brass scales and old cloaks covered in potion stains they found Percy, deeply immersed in a small and deeply boring book called Prefects Who Gained Power. 

‘A study of Hogwarts Prefects and their later careers,’ Ron read aloud off the back cover. ‘That sounds fascinating …’ 

‘Go away,’ Percy snapped. 

‘Course, he’s very ambitious, Percy, he’s got it all planned out … he wants to be Minister of Magic …’ Ron told Harry and Hermione in an undertone, as they left Percy to it.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4: At Flourish and Blotts

I am not sure if we can speak of virtuous deeds when it comes to Percy. We can perhaps count his 12 OWLs and becoming Head Boy. But in his following career he rather became a political football of higher powers until his glorious moment of return for the final battle at Hogwarts.

And still, Percy like Justinian is very ambitious as his brother Ron puts it. This makes Percy the candidate for Mercury of course. In this essay I will explore where to find the roots for Percy’s hunger for fame.

Percy is not alone driven by the wish not to drown in the stream of faceless mass but to stand out and be recognized. And here I am not looking very far but stay in the family:

Bill, constantly unconventionally dressed in ponytail and snake-tooth-earring for his job with a bank, was once attracted by this job description:

Are you seeking a challenging career involving travel, adventure and substantial, danger-related treasure bonuses? When consider a position with Gringotts Wizarding Bank, who are currently recruiting Curse-Breakers for thrilling opportunities abroad…
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 29: Careers Advice

Charlie was Quidditch captain and legendary seeker of the Gryffindors before Harry. After school he decided to make his name in the dangerous dragon breeding business as Dragon Keeper.

Fred and George?

At the front on the group stood Mr and Mrs Weasley , dressed in their Muggle best, and Fred and George, who were both wearing brand new jackets in some lurid green, scaly material.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38: The Second War Begins

You bet they too are out for fame and singularity. With a funny remark on their lips they feel best when all eyes are on them. Their need to be the center of attention is obvious.

Ron gave himself away when he looked into the Mirror of Erised in his first year at Hogwarts already.

‘Can you see all your family standing around you?’ 

‘No – I’m alone – but I’m different – I look older – and I’m Head Boy!’ 


‘I am – I am wearing the badge like Bill used to – and I’m holding the House Cup and Quidditch Cup – I’m Quidditch Captain too!’ 


‘It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

And little Ginny choose unerringly the most popular and most well-known person in the wizarding world of all England for her future ‘significant other’.

Looking at this list we can retain that all the Weasley children have the same urge to the limelight in them, it just shows differently. Therefore, this behavior must root in their upbringing. That makes me think of anxiety in terms of attachment theory.

By focusing on effects of the familial environment during one’s formative years, attachment theory provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for discussion of interpersonal relationships between human beings. Research, pioneered by John Bowlby and continued by of Mary Ainsworth and many others, shows that:

–         different people develop different attachment styles
–         we distinguish four attachment styles, namely secure, anxious, avoidant and disorganized/ disorientated
–         the attitude to attachment of the prime caregiver(s) mainly influences the attachment style of the child
–         the framework of ideas and feelings that establish the individual’s expectations about relationships, the behavior toward oneself, and the behavior appropriate for one to show others (internal working model) continues to develop and become more complex with age, yet basically the primary relationship determines the social behavior in adulthood.

Children are attributed an anxious attachment style once they show signs of stress already before the attachment figure leaves them. They fear an unknown situation even before it arises. They react like that because their caregiver is inconsistent in his/her care-giving. The constant change between supporting, sensitive, loving care and repellent, absent, distracted or simply unobserving behavior leads to a constant alert of the child.

I don’t want to deny Molly or Arthur their love for every single one of their children. They care for and guard them at least as good as the mother dragons guarded their golden eggs in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. However, they are challenged with their seven kids, something even 11-year-old Ron notices:

‘You don’t want this, it’s all dry,’ said Ron. ‘She hasn’t got much time,’ he added quickly, ‘you know, with the five of us.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 6: The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Arthur spends every moment of spare time with his family. But these times are rare as he is the one who needs to bring home the money to feed all nine. Plus, he lives in the constant dilemma that his job is it to prevent wizards from enchanting Muggle things what he loves to do himself.

Molly is occupied running the house (with next to no money) and keeping all her kids healthy and unhurt. Later on she even takes over the task of running the Headquarter of the Order. So, it happens that she prepares lunch packs for all but forgets that Ron doesn’t eat Corned Beef or that she knits them Christmas sweaters and buys new clothes but forgets that Ron hates Maroon.

Their children can be sure of their attention once they try to excel on their tasks and duties. Percy gets Hermes and a new set of robes for becoming Prefect. For the same thing Ron is awarded a new broomstick and a party. It’s nice for the moment but it doesn’t speak for quality time spent with the children and it puts all children under pressure to perform. Again, this is something eleven-year-old Ron already realizes:

‘Five,’ said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy. ‘I’m the sixth in our family to go to Hogwarts. You could say I’ve got a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie have already left – Bill was Head Boy and Charlie was Captain of Quidditch. Now Percy’s a Prefect. Fred and George mess around a lot, but they still get really good marks and everyone thinks they’re really funny. Everyone expects me to do as well as the others, but if I do, it’s no big deal, because they did it first.’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 6: The Journey From Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

In the long run, due to this lack of security in attachment and the lack of quality time, an anxious attachment style results in a child with low self esteem, a constant fear of rejection and an extreme need for closeness. But the central trait of such a person is a need for attention and a jealous tendency. And here we are: Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred & George, Ron and Ginny – textbook examples of anxious individuals on their unique paths to fame, honor and attention. But Percy and all, I am so with you. If I am ever granted access to Paradise – and I much doubt it – I will join you on Mercury.

Apropos Mercury, Justinian said that his existence on this planet has taught him if nothing else so one thing – that fame isn’t everything. Now I showed all along how similar the Weasley kids are in their desire. Yet, one thing made Percy of all the Weasleys so fit for the Mercury picture. It is not that he was involved in law and codifying like Justitian (alone). Percy gave up his high ranking position in the establishment in the end:

‘Hello, Minister!’ bellowed Percy, sending a neat jinx straight at Thicknesse, who dropped his wand  and crawled at the front of his robes, apparently in awful discomfort. ‘Did I mention I’m resigning?’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31: The Battle of Hogwarts

for something higher – his family, friends and the love of them. That sounds much like the message Justinian and the other spirits of Mercury have learnt too.

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