*Note: This post was written in 2018 before I knew about JK Rowling’s trans-exclusionary views and the harm her tweets, articles, etc. are bringing to trans people, their safety, and their rights. I no longer support or promote Rowling, but I’m leaving this post up as a discussion of a series that still means a lot to many people who have already read it. Leaving it up also gives me a chance to say all this and spread more awareness to anyone who may not know. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I encourage you to do some research about Rowling’s views and listen to trans people about why her views are so harmful. The links I provided might be good starting points. I also encourage you to find diverse works by diverse authors and perhaps support and promote those instead!*
I recently reread the Harry Potter series and shared a lot of thoughts on Goodreads and Twitter as I was reading, but those were mostly ponderings about how the HP world works, and I wanted to talk about some other things, and talk a little more in-depth, here. Especially since I have a massive book hangover and all I want to do right now is read and/or think about Harry Potter. This isn’t a review, just some of my thoughts on characters and whatnot. The post got really long, so I’m splitting it in two. This one will be about some general stuff and the younger characters who were students during the series. Next week I’ll talk about the older characters.
Oddly enough, I feel like a lot of this post relates to my discussions about imagining things from the POV of non-POV characters and why readers like characters who’ve done bad things, but anyway, let’s get to it!
*Note: I haven’t seen the movies, so this is based entirely on the books. I have no idea what differences the movies have.*
*Also note: The first two sections don’t contain spoilers, but the rest do.*
At the time of writing this post, I’ve read the Harry Potter series three times—once as a kid/teen as the books were coming out, once in my early-mid 20s (which was almost like reading it for the first time since I remembered almost nothing), and most recently in my mid-late 20s.
One thing I wonder is how different the series must be reading it for the first time as a kid versus as an adult. As I said, my second time reading it was almost like a first since I didn’t remember much, and I did notice quite a few issues in my rereads (lots of logic flaws with the world and the plots, lots of suspension of disbelief), but I did still have that nostalgic feeling toward the series regardless. Honestly, had I read this for the first time as an adult, and had it not been super popular, I probably wouldn’t have continued past the first book. Middle grade generally isn’t my thing, and the first book, while entertaining and funny, isn’t particularly amazing.
The beauty of this series though, I think, is in the unique and lovable characters and the complexity of the story. But both of those things take more than one book to realize. I mean, you don’t even meet Sirius or Remus until Book 3, and they’re some of the most loved characters in the series (or at least, they seem to be, from what I’ve seen online)! And as much as I do love that third book, it was the fifth and seventh books that gave me all the feels. And honestly I don’t think I’ve ever read a better battle scene than the one that takes place in the final book. But I can definitely understand why some people are not impressed at first, and I do still wonder if I might feel differently toward the series had I read it later in life.
I’ll tell you one thing I’m not sure I noticed the first time I read the books, the few (potentially?) adult jokes scattered throughout.
“My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat.”
-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Even his patronus was a goat. Honestly I’m concerned for all the goats Aberforth ever owned.
“Another one who thinks you’re barking,” said Ron, throwing a crumpled letter over his shoulder, “but this one says you’ve got her converted, and she now thinks you’re a real hero—she’s put in a photograph too—wow—”
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“How d’you spell ‘belligerent’?” said Ron, shaking his quill very hard while staring at his parchment. “It can’t be B-U-M—”
“No, it isn’t,” said Hermione, pulling Ron’s essay toward her. “And ‘augury’ doesn’t begin O-R-G either. What kind of quill are you using?”
-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
*The rest of this post contains SPOILERS for the entire Harry Potter series*
On a more serious note… So many of the deaths happen in such a sudden, matter-of-fact way, some of them are even off-screen, and I hate that because I feel like I never even got the chance to properly grieve for my favorite character (since his was an off-screen one). I will say, however, that the deaths were shockingly realistic in the sense that many of them just happened without preamble or dramatics. For example, when Harry and Cedric touched the portkey after the maze and ended up wherever they were, Voldemort was just like, “Kill the spare,” so Peter did. There was no monologuing or hesitation, and neither villain paid any attention to Cedric’s body after that because he was nothing to them.
But when it comes to deaths in books, it’s usually not the death itself but rather how the remaining characters feel that gets me. So when Sirius died, yes, I was sad. But it was Harry’s reaction and, even more so, Remus’s, that got to me. I remember in my first reread that I had actually put myself into Remus’s shoes. Sirius was Remus’s best friend. They’d known each other since they were kids. Remus had just gotten him back, and maybe their friendship (or relationship if you ship them) wasn’t the same as it had once been, but you know they had to have still cared about each other. He was horrified and grieving at that moment too, and Harry’s reaction probably made it hurt even more because it really drove home how terrible it was, but he couldn’t even let himself have a moment to get upset and had to be the rational one and drag Harry away.
Then, of course, there was Fred’s death, and in that case it was Percy’s and Ron’s reactions that got to me.
But I find it really sad that Sirius didn’t even get a funeral. I didn’t understand the logic that, just because they had no body, they couldn’t have some sort of funeral ceremony, a gathering to at least say some words about him or something.
Oddly enough, I don’t have many thoughts about Harry, even though he was the main character. He was so sassy though. Seriously, I don’t know why anyone tried to tease him because he was so good at comebacks.
“Not this brave at night, are you?” sneered Dudley.
“This *is* night, Diddykins. That’s what we call it when it goes all dark like this.”
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
[talking about broomsticks in the next quote]
“Shame is doesn’t come with a parachute—in case you get too near a dementor.”
Crabbe and Goyle sniggered.
“Pity you can’t attach an extra arm to yours, Malfoy,” said Harry. “Then it could catch the Snitch for you.”
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Whispers of, “Hey, Potty, I heard Warrington’s sworn to knock you off your broom on Saturday,” far from chilling his blood, made him laugh. “Warrington’s aim’s so pathetic I’d be more worried if he was aiming for the person next to me.”
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Draco is another character I know many people love, but I have mixed feelings.
All throughout the series he was a bully. He antagonized Harry and tried to get him in trouble. He insulted the Weasleys and Remus for not having a lot of money. He insulted Mrs. Weasley by calling her fat (not to her face, but to her kids). He called Hermione a Mudblood. He tried to get Hagrid fired. He tried to get Buckbeak, an innocent animal, killed.
I think part of that reason people sympathize with Draco is because how he was portrayed in Book 6. He was scared, crying in the bathroom, feeling alone, etc. But was I really supposed to feel bad for someone who did all those things I listed above? Who was excited and bragging about having a job from Voldemort because it would make him Voldemort’s new favorite? Who clearly didn’t care if other people died in the crossfire while he was trying to get to Dumbledore? Look, I get it. He was raised with parents who were Death Eaters, and he didn’t choose this job from Voldemort, and he was terrified to fail because Voldemort would kill him and his family, and he couldn’t bring himself to kill Dumbledore in the end. But I still don’t think that erases any of the other stuff. He was still a prejudiced jerk who was happy to be on Voldemort’s side because he felt pure-blood were superior. If he had been a nice person from the start, then yeah, I would’ve felt AWFUL for him being stuck in this terrible position of having to kill someone in order to keep his family safe.
However, we didn’t get to see much of his story after that, and we never got to see inside his head, so he may have eventually realized his mistakes and been truly remorseful. And he did pretend that he wasn’t sure if the captured people brought to his house were actually Harry, Ron, and Hermione (but he had to have recognized Ron and Hermione, even if he wasn’t sure about Harry’s face since it still had the stinging charm or whatever on it). And honestly? I do kind of like his character, or rather, I like the potential for who he could become. Despite his actions as a child/teen, he still has potential to change and be better. And in Cursed Child, he did seem to show some growth. And complex, flawed characters who’ve done bad things but are remorseful are often characters I love because they’re angsty and intriguing.
Percy is not the most-loved character in the series, I know. But… I can’t help but think that, if Percy’s family had been more respectful and supportive of him (well, I guess his parents were, but his siblings were always just making fun of him), he might not have turned against them and supported the Ministry. The more they teased him, the more he probably felt like he didn’t fit in and needed to prove himself in some way. So getting made prefect, Head Boy, assistant to Crouch and then Fudge (or whatever his job was), etc. were the praise and acceptance that he didn’t get from his family. Being a perfectionist, following rules, that was who he was. His family didn’t accept that about him, but the Ministry did, and then his dad was suddenly saying he only got the promotion because they wanted him to spy on the family (which, to Percy, felt like he was insinuating he wasn’t good enough to get the job on his own), so I can kind of understand why he sided with the Ministry. I’m not saying he was right, just that I feel like I understand what led him to it.
And you can’t say he didn’t love his family. During Book 2, he was the one who kept thinking of Ginny and trying to comfort her since she always seemed so scared. In Book 4, he ran out into the lake after the second event when Harry brought Ron up because he was so worried about Ron and wanted to make sure he was really ok. And yes, he turned on Harry too, but, before that, he always tried to help Harry out and give him advice. And anyway, he realized his mistakes in the end, apologized, and fought beside his family, and I’m glad. I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for him. He was annoyingly pompous sometimes, yes, but I too was that person who was usually trying to get my friends to follow the rules (aside from those few times when it was my idea to break them in the first place lol).
Fred & George
There there’s Fred and George. I know everyone loves them, and I like them too, but they weren’t perfect either. In fact, they were pretty much exactly the type of people I would’ve been annoyed with often had I gone to school with them. They were always pulling pranks, testing potentially dangerous products on unsuspecting people, and generally breaking a lot of rules. They could be a bit mean sometimes too, especially toward their siblings. But they were still lovable and funny and definitely brought a lot of fun to the series, and obviously I’m sad one of them had to die 🙁
I know there are lots more characters, and they’re great too (Ron and Hermione were amazing friends to Harry, Luna is super lovable, etc.), but that’s really all the ones I felt like talking about. (Remember, discussion about adult characters will be in Part 2!) But you can talk about the other young characters or thoughts on any non-character stuff in the comments if you want!