10 of Our Favorite Moments From the Harry Potter Series
July is a big month for fans of the Harry Potter series: July 31st is both J.K. Rowling and Harry’s birthdays. So while we all eat pink cakes proclaiming “Happee Birthday” in green to celebrate, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on some of the series’ best moments.
This is no easy task, as the magical novels are packed with scenes that made us laugh, cry, reflect, cheer, sigh, and smile. But we think you’ll agree that the following moments are, above all, memorable.
And on the topic of misspelled confectionaries…
1) Hagrid’s Arrival
It’s the fantasy moment that many children (both pre and post-Harry Potter) grew up with: someone arrives to tell you about the legendary, heroic origin story you never knew you had, and lets you know that the world really is full of magic — magic you possess, nonetheless!
This moment is more than just the 10-minute hook that propels the rest of the narrative arc: it’s pure escapism. Harry escapes the Dursley’s and we escape the regularities of the Muggle world as we accompany Harry atop Hagrid’s motorcycle, and fly off into the night.
2) Ten Points to Neville Longbottom
The first book in the series sees poor Neville Longbottom go through a series of unfortunate events: melting Seamus’ cauldron in his first Potions lesson and breaking his wrist during his first flying lesson, to name a few.
Throughout this, Ron, Hermione, and Harry remain Neville’s closest friends. And yet, when he feels they are in the wrong and he can no longer be the unlucky victim of circumstance, he confronts them. Of course, he ends up in a full-body Binding Curse, courtesy of Hermione. Nevertheless, the bravery it takes an 11-year old boy to stand up to his friends in a brand-new school after a year of mishaps is great.
And, thank goodness, Neville finally has his moment in the sun when Dumbledore awards him 10 points for bravery, allowing Gryffindor to edge Slytherin out to win the House Cup. YOU GO, NEVILLE LONGBOTTOM!
‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.’
3) Ron’s Letter
Ron is so much more than a sidekick. He’s a partner in crime and a hero in his own right. (Hey, who destroys the locket with the sword of Gryffindor and comes up with the idea to destroy the Helga Hufflepuff's cup with the basilisk fang?) But more than anything, he’s a steadfast friend — as is displayed in the following letter that Harry receives at the start of The Goblet of Fire:
Harry - DAD GOT THE TICKETS - Ireland versus Bulgaria, Monday night. Mum's writing to the Muggles to ask you to stay. They might already have the letter, I don't know how fast Muggle post is. Thought I'd send this with Pig anyway.
We're coming for you whether the Muggles like it or not, you can't miss the World Cup, only Mum and Dad reckon it's better if we pretend to ask their permission first. If they say yes, send Pig back with your answer pronto, and we'll come and get you at five o'clock on Sunday. If they say no, send Pig back pronto and we'll come and get you at five o'clock on Sunday anyway.
Hermione's arriving this afternoon. Percy's started work - the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Don't mention anything about Abroad while you're here unless you want the pants bored off you.
See you soon –
4) Dobby’s Burial
From the beginning, Dobby is amazed at how Harry treats him like an equal. What’s perhaps lost on Dobby is that Harry is just as used to carrying out chores in order to make others’ lives better. They share this experience of hard work for zero appreciation, and are even further bonded by the mutual respect they have for one another: Dobby warns Harry about the Malfoys, Harry frees Dobby, and Dobby saves the lives of Harry and his friends.
In the midst of the very urgent, time-sensitive matter of solving the final mysteries of the Hallows and Horcruxes, Harry takes the time to put manual labor into burying Dobby — someone who had spent so much of his life doing things for others. At a loss for how he can repay his departed friend, he picks up a spade and he digs.
‘Such a beautiful place it is, to be with friends. Dobby is happy to be with his friend, Harry Potter.’
5) Bellatrix Goes Down
In case anyone else is welling up after that last Harry Potter moment, here’s one that can lift your spirits and make you pump your fist.
For the majority of the series, Molly plays the role of protector from behind the scenes. She’s fierce as hell and not one to be messed with (Ron’s ears are likely still ringing from the Howler he receives in his second year), but she doesn’t get much action on the frontline.
Which only makes this moment that much more satisfying: when Ginny is threatened by Bellatrix Lestrange during The Battle of Hogwarts, Molly steps up and takes down Voldemort’s ultimate fangirl with a ferocious flourish of her wand. Molly is an obvious bad-ass from the start, but this is her crowning moment — showing that hell hath no fury like a mother protecting her kin.
‘Not my daughter, you b--ch!’
6) Visiting Snape’s Past
The scene where Harry goes into the pensieve and visits Snape’s memories is the kind that requires a reader to close the book and reflect for a while after.
And after you do, you come to the realization that Snape has been a major behind-the-scenes driving force of the entire narrative: he’s the one who overheard the prophecy that would go on to shape the next few decades of Harry’s and Voldemort’s lives (and the rest of the wizarding world, too). Of course, it was also this prophecy that led to the death of his true love, Lily — and Snape would spend the rest of his life trying to make amends by protecting Harry (albeit in an outwardly misleading way).
While in Harry’s (and readers’) mind, Snape developed from a minor antagonist to a downright villain during the series. It’s these moments in the pensieve that reveal his life as a double agent — pulled from the good side to the bad, and his ultimate decision to do whatever it took to honor the memory of the girl he’d loved since childhood.
7) The Mirror of Erised
Harry first finds the mirror while avoiding Filch, and discovers that when he looks into the mirror, he sees his parents standing on either side of him. On his second visit, Harry brings Ron and expects him to also see Harry’s parents. Instead, Ron sees himself as head boy and Quidditch captain. On Harry’s third visit, Dumbledore is waiting for him to explain that: “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”
This explanation does indeed make Harry’s vision all the more heartbreaking. However, Dumbledore’s revelation also becomes a pillar that the whole story stands on: it foreshadows the reveal that what protected Harry and destroyed Voldemort during their first encounter was the sacrifice of Harry’s mother. In other words, love became Harry’s greatest weapon against and shield from Voldemort’s seemingly all-powerful dark magic — and is what ultimately allows Harry to defeat Voldemort. Because his heart stays true to that 11-year old boy, looking in the mirror and wishing above all for the love of his parents.
‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.’
8) The Portable Swamp
(TIme to lighten things up again!) “Good vs. evil” is a literary theme that pervades the Harry Potter series, culminating, of course, with Harry’s battle against Voldemort. However, it’s all the little moments of triumph that keep hope strong and hearts warm throughout the novels, even when Voldie and his band of Deatheaters feel unstoppable.
One of those such moments is undoubtedly when Fred and George Weasley depart Hogwarts — and the abominable Professor Umbridge and her Inquisitorial Squad — in a blaze of glory. And bog.
After setting off their entire stock of Weasleys' Wildfire Whiz-bangs, they unleash a Portable Swamp in the hall near Professor Umbridge's office. The best part: they leave no instructions on how to remove their marshy creation, driving Umbridge mad. The rest of the teachers pretend not to know any spells that will remove the swamp — their own quiet rebellion against Umbridge — until Charms Instructor, Professor Flitwick, is forced to do so. Still, he does leave a small patch of swamp as an homage to the twins.
‘Give her hell from us, Peeves.’
9) Hermione and Harry Go For a Walk
From the moment Hermione solves Snape’s security measure on the way to Fluffy the three-headed dog, to the wreath that she materializes on the graves of Harry’s parent in Godric’s Hollow, Hermione is always there for her friends, and she always seems to know what to do. (Which is part of what makes her such a badass).
One of the most touching — and perhaps more subtle — instances occurs after Harry is picked as the fourth champion in the Goblet of Fire. He nervously heads towards the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning, but doesn’t get far because waiting outside the Gryffindor common room door is Hermione with a piece of toast and an offer to go for a walk. What Harry needs most at that moment is a supportive ear, and, then, some tough-love advice on dealing with the matter at hand — all of which Hermione offers in spades as they wander around the lake.
It’s such a genuine moment of real friendship: Hermione sympathizes with Harry but doesn’t enable his moping. She shows how deeply she cares for and knows him. And while we all know how booksmart and talented Hermione is by this point, this scene really hits home how emotionally intelligent she is, as well.
‘I’m not telling him anything,’ Hermione said shortly. ‘Tell him yourself, it’s the only way to sort this out.’
10) The Shrieking Shack
The Prisoner of Azkaban is a rollercoaster ride from the midpoint on: Swinging from the joyful revelation that Harry still has family in the form of his godfather Sirius, to Sirius being taken away by the Dementor’s kiss mere moments later.
So when Harry and Hermione have the opportunity to change Sirius’ fate via the Time-Turner, the stakes feel unbelievably high. All of that tension finally breaks the moment that Harry conjures his patronus — a stag, his father’s animagi form — saving Sirius, Hermione, and his own life, and allowing BuckBeak and Sirius to fly away together to their freedom.
It’s such a powerful moment because Harry is so close to having family torn from him once more, but he summons the strength to change that tragic fate. (And as is usually the case, Hermione is there to help him).
‘Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.’
Bonus! 11) Platform 9 ¾
The first time Harry and Dumbledore chat one-on-one is when Dumbledore explains how the Mirror of Erised works. The last time is after Voldemort “kills” Harry, and Harry “wakes up” on Platform 9 ¾. It’s a touching and enlightening moment that provides answers to so many of the lingering questions. But it’s the following line — which almost feels like a wink-and-nod reminder from Rowling that you’re never too old for fantasy and magic — that makes this scene so special:
‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?’
What are your favorite moments from the series?
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