Warning! This article has a few mild spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
The saying goes that some are born great, some achieve greatness and that others have greatness thrust upon them. In the case of Harry Potter and Newt Scamander, all three have some truth in them.
Harry was marked for fame from birth: literally. When he was left at the home of the Dursleys at number four Privet Drive by Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid, the infant Harry’s lightning-shaped scar was still fresh on his forehead. Even then, McGonagall knew he was destined for greatness.
‘He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
But Harry certainly had fame thrust upon him. The death of his parents weighed heavily on him throughout the stories, and it didn’t help when people like Gilderoy Lockhart tried to capitalise on it for superficial reasons. When Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge started to manipulate Harry’s celebrity to his own political ends in the press, Harry was full of a righteous fury which propelled him throughout much of Order of the Phoenix:
‘I didn’t ask – I didn’t want – Voldemort killed my parents!’ Harry spluttered. ‘I got famous because he murdered my family but couldn’t kill me! Who wants to be famous for that? Don’t they think I’d rather it’d never –’ ‘We know, Harry,’ said Ginny earnestly.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Few people pushed Harry’s buttons as hard as Daily Prophet ‘journalist’ and gossip-monger Rita Skeeter. Before the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire, she dug up the trauma of his past to press him about whether that’s why he had entered himself into the tournament. But before she could finish the question, Harry jumped in to remind her that he didn’t enter the tournament: he had been entered without his knowledge.
It’s a constant throughout the books that Harry feels beholden to fate, a kind of unwitting pawn in a broader scheme. His reluctance to accept his own agency in events is, of course, overturned by his actions on several occasions, and – ultimately – during the final battle with Voldemort.
Newt Scamander also fell foul of Rita’s Quick-Quotes Quill, as he noted in the foreword of the most recent edition of his Hogwarts Library book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Skeeter had written a scurrilous biography of Newt called Man or Monster? The TRUTH About Newt Scamander. He used the foreword to debunk any idea that he was a Dumbledore spy sent to infiltrate the Magical Congress of the United States of America in 1926. Clearly frustrated, he remonstrated that it would ‘take months to contradict every wild assertion in Miss Skeeter’s book’.
In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Newt also got himself in a love tangle thanks to misreporting in the gutter press, as Queenie showed him a copy of a celebrity magazine with a photo of Leta, Theseus and Newt – which misidentified Newt and Leta as the engaged couple: ‘Beast Tamer Newt To Wed!’ Newt’s greater celebrity probably led to the mix-up but it managed to drive a wedge between Newt and Tina.
Knotted affairs of the heart are one thing, but Newt’s reluctant celebrity also cost him financially too. In the film, when Newt and Jacob travelled to the white cliffs of Dover and met a Portkey tout, the tout demanded fifty Galleons for the use of the Portkey, having previously agreed to do it for thirty. He explained the reason for the mark-up: ‘Thirty to go to France, twenty not to tell anyone I seen Newt Scamander leaving the country illegally.’ As Newt angrily paid up, the tout spelt it out for him: ‘Price of fame, pal.’
If you’re saddled with fame, sometimes it pays to use it as well. Harry found the burden of being ‘The Chosen One’ could drive him to manipulative lengths himself. One example is the night in Hagrid’s hut in Half-Blood Prince, where a decent dose of Felix Felicis and even more wine enabled Harry to get his memory of a prior conversation with Tom Riddle out of Slughorn, which he in turn passed to Dumbledore.
‘I am the Chosen One. I have to kill him. I need that memory.’ Slughorn turned paler than ever; his shiny forehead gleamed with sweat. ‘You are the Chosen One?’ ‘Of course I am,’ said Harry calmly. ‘But then … my dear boy … you’re asking a great deal … you’re asking me, in fact, to aid you in your attempt to destroy –’ ‘You don’t want to get rid of the wizard who killed Lily Evans?’
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry is reluctant in his mission, but when pushed can be very forceful in service to getting the job done.
Like Newt, he might not have enjoyed the spotlight a lot of the time, but he often excelled in its glare. There is no doubt the good things they managed to achieve with their high profiles. As burdensome as it was, perhaps it was almost certainly better to have been famous for a reason, than for seemingly nothing.