40

One of the very first things we learn about the Weasley family is that not all of them are wizards:

‘Are all your family wizards?’ asked Harry, who found Ron just as interesting as Ron found him.
‘Er – yes, I think so,’ said Ron. ‘I think Mum’s got a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we never talk about him.’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 6, “The Journey from Platfrom Nine and Three-Quarters”, p. 75 (Bloomsbury Paperback)

Over the course of the seven books, we of course learn a whole lot more about this family, but absolutely everything we learn about them (at least that I can think of) goes very much against the sentiment underlying this statement.

In particular, we learn that:

  • The Weasleys are very family-oriented and put very high stock in the value of family—including family members they don’t particularly care for (like Aunt Muriel)
  • Although mostly pure-blood, the Weasleys are completely devoid of feelings of supremacy based on their blood status
  • At least one Weasley—Arthur—is in fact utterly fascinated and obsessed with all things non-magical, though the rest of his family (quite rightly) think he’s a bit barmy on that account (I mean, the man collects spark plugs…)

On the old ‘extra stuff’ section of JK Rowling’s website, there was a bit about Mafalda (Prewett?) who was, in an earlier draft of Goblet of Fire, meant to be this accountant1 cousin’s daughter (now gone from the website, but still findable on the Wayback Machine; link taken from this answer). That section mentions in a somewhat offhand way that,

This stockbroker had been very rude to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in the past, but now he and his (Muggle) wife had inconveniently produced a witch, they came back to the Weasleys asking for their help in introducing her to wizarding society before she starts at Hogwarts.

As we all know, this plot thread never came to be, so we never really hear more about the accountant cousin, and his daughter doesn’t exist at all. But even if it had not been binned, it wouldn’t quite have explained Ron’s statement. Molly’s aunt Muriel had also been very rude to the Weasleys in the past, and most likely continued to be so until her dying day, but she is always present as a part of the Weasley family. She is, in fact, talked about rather a lot perhaps exactly because she’s so unpopular, particularly with the children.

Of course, a second cousin is not as close a relation as an aunt—but that’s no reason to actively “never talk about him” the way Ron implies is the case.2 Ron’s statement rather implies that the cousin’s job as an accountant is the reason he’s not talked about. Accountant cousin’s Wiki article interprets this as fact and states that his profession embarrassed the entire Weasley family.

But considering the Weasley family’s sense of blood-is-thicker-than-water and lack of blood-supremacy, combined with Arthur’s obsession with everything Muggle, why would being a Squib/accountant be a reason not to be talked about in the Weasley family?

 


1 Or stockbroker cousin. Doesn’t seem like Rowling ever really made up her mind about which he was, or perhaps 11-year-old Ron just didn’t know the difference. I’ll just call him an accountant here for simplicity.

2 If Ron had said something like, “Mum’s got a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we don’t see him much, what with him living in the Muggle world and all”, that would have been much more understandable to me, and wouldn’t have implied that accountant cousin is persona non grata in the Weasley household.

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    I have several cousins my family doesn't talk about because there is just nothing to tell. Maybe he/she isn't that interesting. It probably doesn't have to do anything with the person being muggle, just too distant to talk about. – Zikato Sep 15 '15 at 12:06
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    @Zikato It could be—but I have always interpreted Ron’s statement (and whoever wrote the Wiki article clearly did so too) as displaying some level of hostility towards the cousin. “We never talk about him” seems much more categorical than “He doesn’t come up in conversation much”. I have several second cousins and great aunts and uncles that we rarely talk about in my family, too—but I at least know of their existence and names, and even if it’s not common, they are occasionally mentioned. Ron’s description sounds more like the Dursleys’ treatment of Lily and James. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '15 at 12:15
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    @Zikato Besides, the very fact that he lives in the Muggle world would be enough to make him highly interesting at least to Arthur, but he apparently never talks about him either. And as you yourself said, you have several cousins you don’t really talk about—Ron doesn’t even really seem to know for sure whether this second cousin exists or not, so any mention of him must be extremely rare. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 15 '15 at 12:18
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    I have a niece and nephew that were constantly in trouble with the law. We talked about them a lot. – Joe L. Sep 15 '15 at 12:19
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    Mum's second cousin isn't exactly a close relation. I don't know any of my second cousins not to mention my second cousins one removed. Family is important but it is significantly less so the more distant the relation. – kaine Sep 15 '15 at 12:54
14

We see two actual examples of squibs in the book:

Filch - he is not exactly a nice person, and (spoiler):

Arabella Figg - while she turns out to be much nicer than we see in the start, she's actually a bit weird and not the company that one will ask for in general.

We also have Neville who was treated like a squib for a bigger part of his childhood and it takes him years to recover his confidence.

The wizard community holds deep prejudices against squibs. Here what Muriel has to say about this:

“So you say, Elphias, but explain, then, why she never attended Hogwarts!” said Auntie Muriel. She turned back to Harry. “In our day, Squibs were often hushed up, though to take it to the extreme of actually imprisoning a little girl in the house and pretending she didn’t exist –”

(Muriel refers to the times two generations before Harry's and Ron's parents but such things don't go away for hundreds of years, especially in closed small communities like the wizards' one).

So being a squib means getting "hushed up" all the time - a terrible childhood. Behaving badly or becoming a very shy and cold person are the natural defences that a kid develops in such cases which often carries on as the kid grows up.

Being a squib does not always mean that one will become a not very pleasant person. It is just likely that it happens because of all the treatment that you get from the others.

Getting back to the original question - most probably on top of being quite a distant relative, the squib cousin is also not a very nice person. In such cases parents usually avoid any comments about him especially in front of an eleven year old kid.

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    @N_Soong what I meant that a squib is likely to develop bad personality BECAUSE of the treatment he/she gets from the wizard community. I updated the answer to make it more clear. – vap78 Sep 21 '15 at 8:06
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    @JanusBahsJacquet To be fair, if the other Weasley families are as big (or even bigger) as the one we know, it might very well be they have 30 different cousins or more. It's a wonder they even know they have a (possibly) squib cousin :D – Luaan Oct 13 '15 at 12:29
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    Don't forget Arabella Figg. Not a nice person at all, in fact, a (serial) cat lady who deliberately serves Harry stale cake. – davidbak Mar 18 '16 at 18:27
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    @davidbak I'd say she is—she does apologise to Harry for being awful to him, and she only puts on that act because it's the only way to keep tabs on him. If she'd been too nice to him, the Dursleys would never have let her babysit Harry to begin with. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 18 '16 at 22:26
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    @davidbak Do you really doubt her? Can you honestly see Vernon going, “Oh yeah, we'll send Harry over to Mrs Figg's, she's so nice and he loves it there”? Not likely. They consider sending him off to Marge's, after all, and they're very well aware of how atrociously she treats Harry. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 18 '16 at 22:31
7

Out-of-universe, I'm pretty sure it's done as a joke. In Privet Drive, Harry is an outcast for being unusual. Petunia and Vernon consistently look down on people who are different, and punish Harry for his strange background. However, when he enters the magical realm, it's the mundane people who are the black sheep. In muggle life, an accountant has a respectable (if dull) position. For Ron's family, a non-magical relative is too embarrassing to talk about.

The Weasleys aren't particularly bigots, and since we read about many muggles later in the books, their position has to be retconned a little. However, at the beginning of Harry's journey, the humor is too good to pass up.

In-universe, Ron is an 11-year-old boy with self-esteem issues. He might be insecure about admitting he's related to a squib, and his attitude changes as he develops.

3

I know this was asked a while ago and no-one has commented since October. But just thought I would mention it seems like if their child being a witch is so inconveniant it is more likely the accountant and his muggle wife didn't want anything to do with the weasley's and would much happier just be entirely muggle and treated the weasley's like The Dursley's treated Lily and James. This would also explain why the daughter would have no knowledge of the magical world. Then when the magical daughter came along the accountant was forced to admit that they would have to try and accept the magical world or not accept their daughter, and maybe a daughter proved a stronger reason than a cousin.

So Mrs Weasley is hardly going to be "yes Ron, I have a cousin who is an accoutant but he likes to pretend we don't exist." More likely she briefly mentioned one time the accoutant cousin and then changed the subject every time Ron tried to bring it up leaving him with the conclusion he mentioned.

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