Being powerfully magical vs. being highly skilled

In the Harry Potter anthology, we just know a few examples for each, as mentioned by the author. I discovered it was fun to categorize the various characters. Did this during a recent family gathering (with relatives who know about the wizarding world.)

Being a powerful wizard as opposed to being skilled is analogous with an intellectually gifted muggle as opposed to a muggle who spent years of disciplined study. Or, still with muggles, one with considerable athletic talent fighting an opponent with a high level of conditioning, technical ability, and competitive exposure. A powerful wizard might be measured by his/her aptitude for magical training, strength of his/her spells and jinxes, and ability to resist them. A skilled wizard would have high intelligence, an encylcopaedic knowledge of spells, potions and magical objects, as well as their applications. Magical power seems to “spell” the difference during combat.

Here are the skilled wizards and witches under my qualified ranking:

  1. Severus Snape
  2. Alastor Moody
  3. Horace Slughorn
  4. Filius Flitwick
  5. Dolores Umbridge
  6. Pomona Sprout
  7. Kingsley Shacklebolt
  8. Lucius Malfoy
  9. Mr. & Mrs. Frank Longbottom

Cedric Diggory (had he lived), Hermoine Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ernie Macmillan, Michael Corner, and Percival Weasley might eventually be categorized as such.

The powerful witches wizards are given below. The qualifications and rankings get more fuzzy down the rank:

  1. Albus Dumbledore
  2. Gellert Grindelwald
  3. Minerva Macgonagall
  4. Father and son Crouch
  5. Bellatrix Lestrange
  6. Lily Evans
  7. Viktor Krum
  8. Amelia Bones
  9. Molly Weasley
  10. Grandma Longbottom
  11. Antonin Dolohov

Among the budding wizards, I would qualify Neville Longbottom here. His abilities were decidedly latent but began to cement as he grew older.

Now the two I purposely left out:

First, Voldemort. He had great power, yes, and like Lily Evans, he can do focused magic as a child despite a muggle upbringing. But his personality and eventual direction point more to superior intelligence and acquired skill, rather than natural magical ability. A skilled wizard tends to be more jealous of his abilities (Severus Snape being a supreme example.) A “natural” is more relaxed with his powers and seems more accommodating with less talented wizards and witches.

Harry had great power for one with average intelligence. His natural abilities may have been accidentally acquired, as a result of the actions of Voldemort and Lily. But more important to Harry was his courage and loyalty. Those two qualities, I’m almost sure, are regarded by wizards to be magical powers, and possessing them in great quantities constitutes great magical power.

I would put Dumbledore in the skilled category, not the powerful one, myself (though doubtless he had a fair measure of power as well). There’s very little we see Dumbledore doing that’s really a display of raw power that others lack, but he’s an avid student of magical theory, and is always using his power in new and innovative ways. His use of portraits for communication, for instance, is something that almost anyone could have done, but there’s no evidence that anyone else actually did it.

I believe some characters had access to greater power, and some had spells that were more powerful than cast by others. Also, those that could cast powerful spells had varying degrees of control over them. One thing missing in your analysis is possession of the Elder wand, which allowed access to more power and gave regular spells more potency. In the books, it was rare to see actually how much power anyone had because you didnt know what wand they were using and the death eaters were usually masked.

Yes, Dumbledore should be ranked amongst the most powerful/without boosters because he defeated an elder wand holder. It is not known, however, if he used trickery, as is very likely given his general demeanor. However, i believe his true power was in intelligence and magical theory, of which he would be the equivalent of say Einstein to magic.

Barty Crouch’s apprehension, the confrontation with Fudge, and the duel with Voldemort, all demonstrated Dumbly’s raw power. He likely outwitted Grindelwald (“I may have been a shade more skillful.”) But yes, his greatest weapons were his wit and sagacity.

Turning to the Tri-wizard tournament, the goblet assessed skill among the various candidates, based on the contest requirements: courage, ability to deal with the unknown, overall resourcefulness.

Remus Lupin should probably be in one of the groups, probably the “skilled” group although “powerful” might work too. He’s shown using nonverbal, wandless magic in PoA (to create the blue flame aboard the Hogwarts Express), and a nonverbal spell to lay the smackdown on Harry in DH. Both are considered rare abilities. Lupin is also the only person to come out of the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, the Battle of the Astronomy Tower and the Battle of the Seven Potters without a scratch (the latter with Snape’s assist, but still). Doholov, the only person finally able to stop him, was also responsible for killing Moody, so it’s not like Lupin went down to just any ol’ Death Eater. Clearly he must’ve been a pretty skilled fighter and a keen strategic mind (he survived spying for Dumbledore in the wolfpack as well).

He was also able to conjure a Patronus at least early enough after graduation to join the Order of the Phoenix, and could even obfuscate its true shape when necessary (Hermione doesn’t recognize the Patronus as a wolf when Lupin gets rid of the Dementors in PoA), and while he says he lacked the talent of Sirius and James I suspect that’s his natural diffidence/modesty rearing its head, since he managed to do well in school despite his obvious handicap of not being in his full capacities for at least one or two days each month. And of course he was the best DaDA teacher the students ever had, so not just intelligent but able to pass along knowledge as well.

So, yeah. I’d stick Lupin up there–just not sure which group he’d fall under.

I’m not sure that the distinction is meaningful. I don’t think it’s a continuum, but a two-dimensional measure. Using the example of muggle-athletics, some people are more “powerful” (that is, have natural abilities) than others. And (separately) some people train and some don’t. There are four categories, then:

  • Natural power and highly trained (Olympic champions, Dumbeldore)
  • Natural power and not highly trained (Street fighters, hired thugs; Harry in book 1 )
  • No/Low natural power but highly trained (Average guys who go to the gym a lot or run marathons but come in middle; Neville)
  • No/Low natural power and not highly trained (Couch potatoes; Ron in early books)

Each of the two axes are continuums, so Dumbeldore is more powerful than Snapes, though both are in the box of “Natural Power and Highly Trained”, etc.

Posticus restorus!

Crabbe and Goyle. Hagrid. I suspect the Patil sisters and Lavendar Brown. And, of course, Gilderoy Lockhart - whose biggest talents seem to be good looks and self promotion.

Hogwarts had its share of students of mediocre power who didn’t bother to study. I don’t know if they are mentioned too much in the books, but I suspect a lot of witches and wizards basically got good enough to pass through school and now sell books in Diagon Alley.

I agree that is orthogonal continua, but perhaps more than two. Some people seem to have a natural talent for particular types of magic. For instance, I think Snape must have had a great natural talent for devising potions. In Half-Blood Prince we learn he was inventing whole new, powerful potions recipes when he was still just a Hogwarts student, something that Harry and his friends (even Hermione, with all her meticulousness and study) never came close to being able to do. Harry and Ron were lucky enough to get a potion to work even following Snape’s detailed recipes and instructions. Hermione’s worked, but she showed no sign of being able to devise new ones.

I think it is also implied that being an animagus is just a talent that some wizards have and some do not. I do not think Peter Pettigrew is meant to be a very powerful wizard in general, but he is an animagus where many other powerful wizards are not. Divination may also be this sort of skill. A few wizards can do it (though even then it seems highly unreliable) but most are essentially unable to learn it at all.

I think it is quite likely that we are meant to infer that something similar applies to all branches of magic. Some may come easy to you, others may only come with long study, and some you may never be very good at, or even manage at all, no mater how much effort you put into studying and practicing them.

It’s explicitly stated that it took the Marauders a lot of hard work to become animagi, and also that Pettigrew required a lot of help from the others.

You’re right that divination appears to be a rare and unpredictable gift, though.

Well, even if we granted that, I highly doubt Snape just “happens” to have an unusual talent in mixing complicated potions. More likely, he has a quick and meticulous mind and looked very closely at how things interacted, and then used that to improve his potions. While natural talents are on display here and there, I think it’s noteworthy that at no point in the series were people shown to be good with magic just as a “talent”. Rather, they all had to work for it to fulfill their potential. And most spells seem to be less a matter of some inborn magic rating than lots of practice, concentration, and control.

Well, except Trelawny. But she had a wild ability with no control over it.

Better. I just wanted to make it simpler, like expressing something as a quotient, rather than a derivative. :wink: