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Mama Deb
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Essay: Muggle-borns, Half-bloods and Mixed Marriages: How to maintain secrecy?


A sizeable percentage of the wizarding world are either half-bloods or Muggle-born, which means that much of the wizarding world has at least two Muggle grandparents. It also means that a substantial percentage are married to Muggles. I can't say how many because half-blood seems to mean "half pureblood," not "half-Muggle." I suspect that most half-bloods are the children of Muggle-borns, not Muggles, just because wizards don't mix with Muggles that often. Anyway, this produces a problem - wizards need or feel the need to remain secret from the Muggle world, but and at the same time, they have members of Muggle families right there with them. How does the wizarding world manage this contradiction? This essay will address the problems and the possible solutions.

We know that wizards have laws mandating secrecy, with whole government divisions dedicated to preserving this. We can even figure out why this would be so. The Founders established Hogwarts at a time when it was getting dangerous to be open about magic (so says Flitwick) and we know that there were witch hunts in last few centuries in Europe. While I don't believe in the "Burning Times", there is no doubt that thousands of people, largely old, female and outcast (and probably nonmagical even in Rowlings universe, and also probably the dominant religion, but that's immaterial) were killed as witches.

Were true wizards also killed? Depends if they had their wands on them, and could get away, like the rather fabulous Wenelda the Weird, with casting spells that would not harm them. Because I'd think the probable response to that would be something less than humorous and more deadly, unless Wenelda also had an invisibility cloak. On the other hand, they are more resiliant than Muggles, so we just don't know.

There have also been periods of time when witches were hunted more assudiously than others. In Britain, in recent history, there would be the reign of James I, who was historically paranoid about witches, and the Puritan regime under Cromwell. (I suspect that there were few Roundhead wizards, too.) All of this would only reinforce the need to keep underground even during less oppressive times, such as our own.

And yet, a full quarter of wizards come from Muggle families, and another quarter come from mixed ones. Plus, as we well know, Muggle governments know all about the Wizarding world, and how do you keep that lot totally silent? They have to do something, and Memory Charms have their limits.

And let's not forget the potential problems from the other side. In one of the rpgs I follow, among the other jobs that McGonagall has is fostering Muggle-born students who have been abandoned by their families (often taking the form of not meeting them at King's Cross.) This seems horribly plausible. Yet, none of the Muggle-born students we know in canon seem to have that problem. They keep in contact with their families and go home for Christmas (no one seems to go home for Easter.) And you'd think that Muggle spouses and their families would also be a major problem - even more, Muggle *former* spouses.

But there are solutions. These are dependent on wizards charming Muggles without permission, but that's perfectly canonical, if less than ethical - way less than ethical.

For the Muggle-borns, there are two problems. One is parental acceptance, whether it's because their ambitions for their children (Eton, for example, or whatever brilliant career Hermione would have had)would not happen or because magic is...weird. In other eras/places, "witchcraft" as sin might also be factor, although I doubt it for contemporary Britain. Contemporary US, on the other hand, is something else. There might also be exploitation of the child's abilities, but the laws against Underage Magic would protect against that. (And that might be the real reason behind those laws. Huh.) The other would be secrecy. One gossipy parent could hurt everyone, if that parent were believed - and there were and are times and places where that parent would be believed.

I propose that the families of Muggle-borns are placed under two different spells, both quite against their knowledge. The one would force them to *accept* the children as they are, so they would continue to care for them and not condemn them for their magic. They might even make them think it's wonderful, but that might be too much against true antipathy, and more than is necessary. Those families that *do* think it's wonderful would be charmed to keep that attitude, though. The other would prevent them from speaking about this around Muggles or others so spelled. They might even be charmed to not speak about magic at all - notice how difficult it is for the Dursleys to speak about it. Part is their natural antipathy, I'm sure, but I wonder if there's also a magical component.

They may even be given a believable cover story. "Justin? He's at St. Helga's, a very exclusive school for gifted children in Scotland." "Oh, Hermione is a prefect at St. Godric's. We're so proud of her." "That boy? St. Brutus'. It's just what he needs to straighten him out." Okay, Vernon could come up with that one on his own. An especially recalcitrant parent might even think the cover story is true.

This would also work for the government contacts. It would prevent them talking to their own families or anyone else about the wizarding world while permitting the wizarding world to feel safe about dealing with them.

It would be slightly more complicated for Muggle spouses. I'd think the wizarding partner would be given a choice, or seem to be. Choice one would be for the wizarding partner to not say anything to the spouse or inlaws. The wizarding partner would have to live as a Muggle, of course - they might even be monitored like underage wizards. This has several drawbacks - someone raised as a wizard would have difficulty adjusting to living without magic and may well be unemployable, for example. Another potential problem is children - there seems to be a good chance that at least one child will be magical. At this point, the secret is out - and that will put a major strain on the marriage. Witness the Finnegans.

The other solution is to treat the spouse and inlaws like Muggleborn parents - accepting the wizard's magic (and that of potential children) and not talking about it. Again, this would be up to the wizard, not the Muggles, officially.

I think this would solve a multitude of problems, explain things such as Lily's parents complete acceptance of her (Petunia, who is only a sister, would only get the geas against talking, since she couldn't abandon her sister, and seem sufficient for her to keep Harry.) and the government's compliance with the secrecy act. And the highhandedness is completely within the normal wizarding attitude towards Muggles.

Edited because I can't cite where I saw real numbers.

Comments

I find this completely bizarre. If that's actually true, who are the purebloods?

When/where did she say this?

I think I'll just keep in mind that she's not so hot at maths.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  

I believe that most of the "half-bloods" are, in fact, children of one pureblood and one muggle-born wizard, or else two muggle-born wizards. There is the occasional wizard/Muggle marriage like the Finnigans, but I believe that such a marriage would entail too much sacrifice (on behalf of one or both of the partners) for most marriages to be able to bear.

Seamus, the child of the one known Muggle/witch marriage, is a wizard, as are all other children of such marriages (if JKR is to be believed, and I see no reason why not). He also appears to have been raised in the Wizarding world, with a love of Quidditch and flying. So the Muggle partner is probably the one called upon to sacrifice. We don't know if the Finnigans are still married.

I believe that most of the "half-bloods" are, in fact, children of one pureblood and one muggle-born wizard, or else two muggle-born wizards. There is the occasional wizard/Muggle marriage like the Finnigans, but I believe that such a marriage would entail too much sacrifice (on behalf of one or both of the partners) for most marriages to be able to bear.

I do agree with that one, as I said in the essay, if only because it's more likely that they'll meet. There really aren't many opportunities for wizards to meet Muggles socially. Look how fascinated Arthur Weasley is, and his job is about Muggles.

Seamus' father apparently didn't know his wife was a witch for a long time, and we don't know, yes, if their marriage survived that news.

A great many men. . . . . - (Anonymous)   Expand  
slightly off topic, but related...

What about the parents who don't want to send their kids away to boarding school, where they may only see them for a few weeks a year? Do they get a choice? Are the children taken anyway? If the parents insist that the kids stay with them, and only go to day school, would the children have their magic forcibly taken from them (a magical lobotomy, perhaps), as kids couldn't be allowed to run around untrained, or are the parents 'persuaded' (much as you describe above), to 'allow' their children to be taken?

Re: slightly off topic, but related...

Reminds me of the Jedi... (although I don't know if it's ever been determined how exactly they got Force-strong kids, other than picking them up on Tattooine).

(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  

you are brilliant. i LOVE reading your harry potter stuff!

:)

Thank you, sweetie.

here via d_s

Just a thought on the government... I don't remember canon references to British muggle government getting involved with the wizarding world. (Not saying it didn't happen, just saying I don't remember it.) Even if it is true, though, I don't see it as being a MAJOR problem. There are issues of the information getting out, but I'm guessing that if these people really ARE working with the wizarding world, there's some sort of necessary security clearance. Like the CIA or the NSA or the DOD here in the States. I know that I had to fill out a nondisclosure agreement just to take a test in order to even apply for a job with the NSA. I'm sure that there would be similar precautions in order for any muggle government officials working with the wizarding world. They could get into HUGE trouble for breaching security like that.

I feel like I keep repeating myself, so I'm going to stop here. I'm sure there's a better way to state it, but... yeah. Ok. I'm going to shut up now. :-p

Re: here via d_s

There's a reference to the Muggle Prime Minster being informed about Sirius Black being on the loose in PoA.

You've done some very incisive thinking about a question I've asked many times. I would also point out that as far as we can tell, the Muggle parents of wizards don't even get to *visit* Hogwarts, and I can't imagine any conscientious parent sending a child off to a school they couldn't visit and had never heard of without some intense and really unethical magical intervention.

I really, really like the thought that the rule against underage use of magic might exist to protect Muggle-born students from either being exploited for their powers or, in certain settings, being lynched for them.

Oh, yeah. I mean, it's out of the way and all that, so that would also discourage visiting, but what would they find? A moldering old ruin, not a school.

I like your theories. I read a fic once where a witch married a Muggle, and when their daughter began showing signs of magic they began arguing about how she should be raised. After much shouting, the little girl began to wish she would disappear - and she nearly did, except she began changing colors and had to go to St. Mungo's. I think that helped the father see a bit more clearly.

I don't buy it -- Obviously Petunia was able to tell Vernon, and that before it became obvious that they were going to take Harry in. Unless it was Lily or James or some other wizard who told him, but then the whole theory is predicated on the discretion of wizards.

And if there were some sort of charm to make the guardians of young wizards accepting of them, why on earth wasn't it used on the Dursleys? Is the wizarding world going out of its way to make Harry miserable?

(Actually, I can answer that one: If the protection that is granted to Harry by living under Petunia's roof is dependent on her willing acceptance of him, it might be comprimised if she were under the influence of mind-altering spells.)

That's easily dealt with. When Petunia married Vernon, the geas was extended to him and to their children. There's no need for siblings to "accept" their brother or sister, so they wouldn't bother extending that. But one can reasonably expect that two sisters with children of a similar age to socialize and it would ensure that Dudley would not talk about his funny cousin to his friends.

And, yeah. Although Petunia isn't *willing*, is she?

Very interesting essay!

Here are a couple of ideas I've had for a while on this. One is that the wizarding world needs quite a lot in terms of goods-- fabric for robes, metal for cauldrons, food to be farmed, etc. Muggle family members or spouses of wizards could do these tasks, or act as go-betweens bridging the gap between the wizarding business world and the Muggle business world.

My other thought is that Muggles with a wizarding child or Muggles with wizarding family members probably spend a lot of time with each other, a loose networking federation, if you will. It's quite possible, although we don't see it in the unusual case of Harry, that the parents of Muggleborn wizards are given another set of Muggle parents as a contact, people who can come over and have brunch and explain how it all works, take some of the mystery and fear out of it. OTOH, I think that if the Muggle parents don't want the child trained, that really is the end of it. I don't think they can take the child or force the issue.

My other thought is that Muggles with a wizarding child or Muggles with wizarding family members probably spend a lot of time with each other, a loose networking federation, if you will. It's quite possible, although we don't see it in the unusual case of Harry, that the parents of Muggleborn wizards are given another set of Muggle parents as a contact, people who can come over and have brunch and explain how it all works, take some of the mystery and fear out of it

Yhat sounds quite plausible. If there was some sort of Old Boy Network or the like, the parents could get involoved with that. And when ackward questions get asked, they could point to the Old Boys and say eah, iy is a proper school.

Great discussion! And great distraction for my on-again-off-again migraine this last day.

I could easily see this: "Mr. and Mrs. Granger - as per our discussion for the need of absolute secrecy, we do require you to sign this privacy agreement in order for Hermione to attend Hogwarts..."

Of course, it's a magical conrtact, with various magical means (such as the geis you mentioned) to ensure it is kept. The Granger's seem delighted at the bookstore. No such thing needed for the Dursley's - Petunia is still under her family's original geis.

What I wonder is what about Squibs? Per book 5, the Ministry doesn't even keep a record of their existence.

Squibs are clearly not seen as a problem, because they seem to stay in the Wizarding world even if they can't do magic.

Maybe they get the same geas if they choose to join the Muggle world.

I like this theory. It could also explain what happens to the ones whose parents don't wish them to attend Hogwarts, or in the case that the child doesn't want to--they could have their magical powers restricted by means of a geas.

Quite a well thought-out theory :)

Thank you.

Yeah, it does explain a lot. And all you need is to be relentlessly unethical.