Why is it that the ones we hold dearest to our hearts eventually get ripped away from us in the blink of an eye? It’s shocking, unpredictable and leaves us stunned for hours or days after the initial shock. The impact of the loss, however, stays with us for a much longer time afterward. Memories and thoughts of that person taste bittersweet and you know no matter what you do there’s no way to get it back to the way it was or change the course of events.
Some authors have a mysterious way of pulling on all the right (and sometimes very wrong) heartstrings when they cast their words out into the world to their readers. J.K. Rowling, as every Harry Potter fan and otherwise knows, allows the reader fall in love with her characters. As most of us grew up with Potter and his friends, we also witnessed them grow. We were there with them for the Quidditch matches, studying for O.W.L.S., dealing with professors and family members, and the relationship drama. We saw firsthand what true friendship looks like which makes it almost impossible not to become friends with the characters themselves. It creates a bond that’s strengthened by every chapter and book. The character’s joys are our joys; their sadness becomes ours. For people like me, who fully put themselves in the character’s shoes, it can drain you emotionally dealing with your own life and feeling the effects and moods of the character. It is perhaps for this reason that readers become so obsessed with novels and the world in which the setting takes place. Even more so, it is the reason why you will find an avid reader crying desperately in the corner after a loved character has just been killed off at the hands of the author (who you love but can’t help but hate at the moment of emotional turmoil). Death of any sort has different effects but of the many deaths in Harry Potter, significant ones universally impacted plot and ultimately the reading world.
For the sake of all readers, and my own sanity, I am putting these seven deaths (seven books, seven names) in chronological order and not by importance.
Right as we were getting accustomed to Harry being on his own, Sirius is introduced as his godfather. Sirius had a rough start as Harry’s only wizarding family member then beloved character. We feel Harry’s appreciation for finally having someone to count on, who took Harry in with open arms. Then, much to our alarm, is ripped away from us all in one fell swoop by Bellatrix.
Ideas of this greatest wizard might have some mixed feelings but the significance of his death must be noted. Although the integrity of Dumbledore may be occasionally in question but his death (especially at Snape’s hand but also under Dumbledore’s orders) seemed almost impossible. His character was complex and intelligent and, although selfish at points, truly cared for Harry and the outcome of the wizarding world.
Perhaps a death we all shed a tear over. Just as the group escaped the Malfoy manor, we realized Dobby’s fatal wound. No one can forget Dobby’s childlike demeanor and unmatched loyalty to Harry. We, as readers, loved the faithful devotion and bravery one small elf had to stand up against evil powers far greater than him. Dobby acted selflessly in every way and was honored respectively by the manually dug grave and memorial to him.
Snape was the ultimate “love-to-hate” villain. As much as we despised him being around every corner and putting an immense amount of pressure on Harry, we realized just how much he really cared for Harry (but really Lily).. But all too late for us to appreciate him. He gave his memories and the truth in the final moments before his death. Snape reminds us that people are never what they appear to be but most importantly that the love we have for others transcends all other actions.
When I discovered Fred was killed, I was that unfortunate reader crying in a corner. His death hit home for me the moment George realized he had lost his brother and best friend forever. Personally, I’m close with my two younger sisters both in age and in friendship. I thought of how devastated George must’ve been and thought what it would be like to lose a close sibling.
We all hated Bellatrix for her evil deeds but no one can deny her fierce personality and even admire her dedication to the Dark Lord. When Mrs. Weasley cast that fateful curse into her heart, it even caused Voldemort to pause and cry out in shock and hurt. I can’t help but feel that readers felt the same way. She had such control and power that her death seemed almost impossible.
A complete revelation. Disbelieving and shock filled the air around the very words that describe his demise. I couldn’t believe that after seven novels the war was finally at an end. The sense of peace made it certain that the deaths suffered throughout the series were all validated for the cause.
Hugs are certainly in order but take comfort in knowing that reliving those moments up until the final seconds is a simple as turning a page.