50

Chapter 14 of The Chamber of Secrets claims that

Harry had inherited just one thing from his father: a long and silvery Invisibility Cloak. It was their only chance of sneaking out of the school to visit Hagrid without anyone knowing about it...

Given how much family gold he had inherited from his father, why did the book claim this?

  • 16
    On a different track, I assumed from the question title that you would be asking about Harry's inherited Quidditch talent and (according to Severus) arrogance. – Dacio Aug 24 '17 at 15:36
  • @Dacio I suppose that you could argue that, in some sense, Harry "inherited" certain traits from his father (as evinced by the fact that they had the same Patronus). However, in context, the book seems to be referring to physical objects. – EJS Aug 24 '17 at 15:39
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    A coin, once spent, is no longer, and never really has been, "yours". It's just a token that's passed on. The cloak, even if Harry would no longer possess it by some twist of fortune, would still be "the cloak that Harry Potter inherited from his father". – DevSolar Aug 24 '17 at 19:31
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    As with all "Why is this error in the Harry Potter books?" questions, the only answer I have is that JK Rowling didn't read the Harry Potter books. – caird coinheringaahing Aug 24 '17 at 23:55
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    Note that Potter's wealth is mostly there as plausible explanation for people who wonder how main character could have all his clothes and other stuff. Also, it helps to build psychological description of Harry - he has all the reasons to hang out with people like Malfoy, but he values other things in life. It's almost as books had some message about importance of your choices or something. – Mirosław Zalewski Aug 25 '17 at 22:51
76

While it is true that Harry inherited a considerable amount of money, that isn't quite the same thing as inheriting an actual possession from your parents. I think that is what the line you quote means when it says he only inherited one "thing".

A possession, such as the invisibility cloak is a very personal thing while money (gold) is pretty impersonal.

Also, it is possible that most of Harry's parents possessions were damaged or destroyed when the house in Godric's Hollow was ruined during Voldemort's attack. When Harry and Hermione see it in Deathly Hallows we are told that:

The hedge had grown wild in the sixteen years since Hagrid had taken Harry from the rubble that lay scattered amongst the waist-high grass. Most of the cottage was still standing, though entirely covered in dark ivy and snow, but the right side if the top floor had been blown apart.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Chapter 17, Bathilda's Secret

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    No furniture, books, jewelry, journals etc. Just one keepsake. – Paul Draper Aug 24 '17 at 17:50
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    @PaulDraper Not according to the quote in the question. It's possible that most of their possessions were destroyed when the house in Godric's Hollow was ruined during Voldemort's attack on Harry and his family. – Blackwood Aug 24 '17 at 17:59
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    Blackwood, I agree. My point is that "thing" in this context could be more precisely rendered as "keepsake". – Paul Draper Aug 24 '17 at 21:17
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    Also the family gold would have belonged to both Harry's parents. – 8DX Aug 25 '17 at 11:28
57

The author seems to be driving at the fact that his gold is family money whereas the cloak was a specific bequest of his father, given to Dumbledore for safe keeping. It's the only object that he inherited from his father.

That being said, Harry did technically inherit his gold from his mother since his father pre-deceased her by a few minutes. I don't think that's what the author meant though.

  • Why doesn't the latter reasoning apply to the cloak as well? – jpmc26 Aug 24 '17 at 17:24
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    @jpmc26 - From a purely legal standpoint, on object held as a specific bequest wouldn't be considered part of someone's general estate. This obviously assumes that there's no will or just a general "my wife gets everything unless she dies first in which case my kid gets it" will in place – Valorum Aug 24 '17 at 17:35
  • +1 for the legal weaseling. Well played. Why not fold that comment into the answer? – The Nate Aug 27 '17 at 6:32
  • Wasn't the cloak in dumby's possession for investigation as a Hallow instead of safekeeping? – JohnP Aug 27 '17 at 17:22
  • @JohnP - Little of a, little of b – Valorum Aug 27 '17 at 17:53
17

I have three things to add to the existing answer set.

First, 'had inherited' is in the past perfect tense, which indicates that an action is completed, but Harry Potter hasn't yet completely inherited the gold from his father. There is no mention that he's even received the key that's necessary to access it, and the only time he accesses it is with adult supervision - let's remember that he's still a minor, even by wizarding standards.

Second, there's no indication at this point of the source of that gold. Hagrid left it at "It's all yours", so for all we know the gold came from his deceased maternal grandmother, not his father.

Third, it's possible that, since this statement is written from Harry's point of view, it could just be part of Harry's general indifference to money. Would Harry remember a pile of gold out in Gringotts when he's concerned with a risky venture in Hogwarts? Probably not.

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    Just a nitpick, Harry's maternal grandmother was a Muggle, so she probably didn't leave him any wizard gold. – Walt Aug 24 '17 at 17:50
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    @Walt True - although it's worth noting that Gringott's will apparently convert Muggle money (since Hermoine's parents are seen doing it). That being said, the Dursleys don't appear to be all that rich and are completely unaware that Harry has money, so it seems unlikely that the money came from that side of the family. – EJS Aug 25 '17 at 3:44
  • @Walt considering how little is revealed by this point in book 2, I don't think that you can rule her out – Jeutnarg Aug 25 '17 at 15:27
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    I think the POV point is important. At that point in that book, the narration is pretty much from Harry's POV, not an objective summary of all the facts. Even if it's not what Harry would say if you literally asked him what he inherited, this thought may have popped into his head as he's thinking about what's relevant for solving his immediate problem. – Peter Cordes Aug 26 '17 at 4:02

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