Revisiting Harry Potter: Goddammit, feelings!

Seriously, I’d have said that by this time, thirteen years since I read Goblet of Fire for the first time, I would be inured to how heartbreaking the last couple of chapters are. But here I am, thirteen years older and still wiping away tears when Harry tries to give his winnings to Mrs. Diggory. Why does Harry always try so hard to do the right thing?

Goblet of Fire is my second-to-least favorite of the seven books, my least favorite still being Chamber of Secrets. However, unlike in Chamber of Secrets, everyone in Goblet of Fire appears to be knocking themselves out to remind me why and how much I love them. Even people I don’t love that much. Like Percy! Don’t y’all love the part where Percy splashes out in the water to get Ron? It’s the nicest thing we ever see Percy do. This is the moment I would always point to when the Family and I would discuss, from the fifth book onward, whether Percy was irredeemable. We all knew Percy was going to turn out okay, didn’t we?

Or Hagrid. Oh Hagrid. When Rita Skeeter turns her evil green eyes on Hagrid, I want to put her in a cage with twelve Blast-Ended Skrewts and then set off a firecracker. You back off, lady. I know Hagrid makes people’s lives a little hard in this book with the Blast-Ended Skrewts, but honestly — and I hope Future Jenny remembers it this time, because I tend to remember them as being a major plot point in the book, which they really are not — they’re hardly a problem for anyone at all. When set against the awesomeness of the moment where Hagrid throws Karkaroff up against a tree for disrespecting Dumbledore, they aren’t even a blip on the radar. I do love those rare occasions when J.K. Rowling reminds us that Hagrid is a dangerous guy. That side of him never makes an appearance around Harry, whom he loves, but man. You would not want to be Karkaroff right then, amirite?

You know how later on in the series, Harry discovers that he’s destined to kill Voldemort? And he has a lot of talks about it with Dumbledore and eventually he realizes that because of what his life has made him, he wouldn’t back away from that even if he could? You know how Dumbledore sort of steers him around to realizing that this is true of him? I think if you had to pinpoint a time when it became true of him — like the day that it became inevitable that he was going to kill Voldemort — it would be this evening right here:

Lying in the darkness, Harry felt a rush of anger and hate toward the people who had tortured Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom…He understood how they had felt…Then he remembered the milk-white face of the screaming boy and remembered with a jolt that he had died a year later…

It was Voldemort, Harry thought, staring up at the canopy of his bed in the darkness, it all came back to Voldemort…He was the one who had torn those families apart, who had ruined all those lives…

And Harry is so brave and decent in this book. He and Cedric do not deserve the brutal consequences of their decency. They deserve a shiny prize and a big pile of Galleons. I got chills so intense I had to put on a sweatshirt when they were arguing about who got to take the cup. It’s such a good scene because the maze has felt very high-stakes the entire time, and all of a sudden they get Portkeyed to the graveyard, and that is JK Rowling’s way of telling us, You think you’ve seen stakes? You don’t know from stakes.

Finally, credit where credit is due, even though I never want to give Snape credit for anything because he is terrible, it’s insanely brave what Snape does at the end of this book. The way Voldemort so casually says He will be killed, of course — it’s not like Snape doesn’t know that’s what Voldemort would have said — but still Snape doesn’t even blink when Dumbledore sends him off to, for all he knows, die. Damn, Snape. I don’t want to praise you ever. This should be the only time it’s really necessary. I’ll have some sad things to say, but nothing else praisey.

Parenting Harry, Molly Weasley edition: Molly damn Weasley. I love her enormously. She’s so great. She shows up for Harry as a surprise before the third task, and, and, she refuses to badmouth the Dursleys in front of him even though they are obviously terrible. But mainly, she comes sit by Harry after he’s been through hell, and she tells him it wasn’t his fault, and she hugs him like a mother. I teared all up. What, what, what would we do without Mrs. Weasley? She sometimes tries to shelter Harry too much, but she is good and well-intentioned.

Parenting Harry, Sirius Black edition: Sirius is eating Rats. Rats. He is living on rats so he can be on hand to keep an eye on Harry. That must be maddening because Harry is a dope and always wants to go investigate crimes instead of staying put in Hogwarts and keeping his grades up. All of Sirius’s letters to Harry make me happy. Slash sad. Because Harry is a dope who doesn’t take his own safety seriously.

Sirius was sending daily owls now…He reminded Harry in every letter that whatever might be going on outside the walls of Hogwarts was not Harry’s responsibility, nor was it within his power to influence it.

If Voldemort is really getting stronger again, [he wrote,] my priority is to ensure your safety. He cannot hope to lay hands on you while you are under Dumbledore’s protection, but all the same, take no risks.

Aw, Sirius. I know that if you had your way, you’d be taking Harry out for awesome, like, wizardy expeditions every school holiday. Instead you are living as a dog, eating rats, and Harry is in near-constant danger, and you have to always be telling him to just stay focused on his own stuff and not go wandering off to address the ongoing problems of the wizarding world. Sirius is also, as Dumbledore mentions to Harry at some point in the book, a regular correspondent of Dumbledore’s. In my imagination, that means that Sirius has a big stack of copies of the same letter, which he sends to Dumbledore every Monday:

Dear Professor Dumbledore:

It looks like once again Harry has been placed in mortal danger on your watch. You are awful at keeping him out of mortal danger. Please try harder.

Best,
Sirius Black

P.S. He is all I have in the world.

Damn, y’all. It wrecks me when Harry comes back from Voldemort, and absolutely everyone is being careful and kind with him because they want so badly to help, but there is nothing they can do because the unimaginable trauma they wanted to protect him from has already occurred. Poor Dumbledore. Poor Sirius. Poor Mrs. Weasley. And everyone. It is heartbreaking.

Incidentally, if you are fixing to complain about Harry’s behavior in the fifth book, you are wrong. If you have any posts in the drafts folder right now where you get mad at Harry for shouting at people in the fifth book, please do the following: 1) remember your own adolescence; 2) reread the last few chapters of Goblet of Fire in which Harry goes through a super-horrific ordeal; and then 3) reconsider your position.

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44 thoughts on “Revisiting Harry Potter: Goddammit, feelings!

  1. I love the moment at the Yule Ball when Hermione comes in with the famous sports star who has asked her to be his date and is revealed to Ron as a person other guys admire. He has been going along not fully realizing his good fortune and it’s time for him to wake up. This may be petty of me, but I enjoy the heck out of it.
    Walker was reading your post over my shoulder while Ron finished making him a lunch and he liked it and said he didn’t want to quit reading but he was going to be late.

    • Hahaha, me too! I agree with that! And how she yells at him to ask her early on instead of as a last resort. Go Hermione!

      Aw, I’m touched. Hi Walker!

  2. This is always my second-to-least fav book in the series as well, but this ending is so good. And sad. And good. And dammit I LOVE both Molly and Sirius who are able to give Harry some moments of having a parent. When Dumbledore tells Sirius he needs to round up people and Harry is so upset that Sirius has to leave. HEARTBREAKING.

    I love Order BUT there will be complaining about Harry’s angst. It doesn’t matter how understandable it is between what he’s gone through and also just being a teenager. That doesn’t make it less annoying. I’m not going to say he’s wrong, but I will say that I still want to smack him a little. And then hug him, cos that boy needs more hugs.

    • Yeah! Oh! Why is it SO DAMN SAD? It crushes my heart.

      Okay, you do the complaining about Harry’s angst, and I will be defending him in my post. I am completely on Harry’s side — even though he’s plainly being annoying, I don’t get annoyed by it. I only want to give the hugs.

  3. Now I have to read the whole series-again! I think I have lost count of how many times I have reread it- whenever I don’t have a new book I think. I love the last chapters also-sniff…..
    And I do not get mad at Harry in 5-I have two teens going through the same thing right now 😦

  4. Harry’s anger in book 5 has always been one of the elements of the story that I thought was really very realistic. He’s like 15 and he’s had a horrible life and people are always trying to kill him–of course he’s mad!

    (While I appreciate it from a realism POV, my kids have wanted to read books 5-7 so young that I am not always happy about their dark tone. Everyone seems to have survived without nightmares, though, so it’s all good.)

    • Yes! God! Thank you! OF COURSE he’s mad.

      How old did they want to start reading those books? That’s something I’ve thought about for putative future kids of mine — I didn’t start reading the books at all until I was thirteen, and that was a fine age to read all of them, but if I’d started at, say, six, that would be less true.

      • My older girl was only about 7 or 8. She was, and is, a book addict and I knew if I let her start the series she would be tormented until she could read them all–preferably all in the same week. I was therefore hesitant to let her start, because I had to think about whether she was ready for the last 3. As it turned out, she was maybe late 8/early 9 when she read them and was perfectly OK.

        My younger daughter I was more relaxed with, because I knew it would take her forever to get around to reading them all–and indeed she stuck with the first two for a long time. She is now almost 10 and only just read 5-7.

  5. Oh, I have NOTHING to say against Harry’s behavior in the fifth book. All I remember is that odious, awful Umbridge and it gives me the creeps. The Order is my least favorite book from the whole series, only because of her. I can’t even enjoy her evilness, all I feel this strong sense of wrongness and hate and… eek. (Funny I never felt that way about Snape.)

    But I’m getting ahead. I remember disliking Harry as a character until the task with the dragons. Don’t know what happened to make me change my mind about him, though. Probably took me four books to find my empathy button…

    I’m finally reading the first book, and the first chapter made me tear up. “Young Sirius” lending Hagrid the flying bike, the people going crazy on the streets, the small wizard hugging Mr Dursley because he was so happy ;_;

    • I don’t have the same sense of terror with Snape, I guess because he’s less of a loose cannon. He’s still under Dumbledore’s control in a sense, so the worst power he can bring to bear against Harry and Harry’s friends is the power of a teacher in a school. Umbridge can basically do whatever the hell she wants and feel certain that the government will back her up.

      I definitely got fonder of Harry as the books went on. He tried so hard to be good. It made my heart ache.

  6. I so agree with Nat, above. Umbridge truly disturbed me, far more than Snape ever did. With Snape, I am never not conscious of his essential loneliness and isolation and pain; with Umbridge, all I can feel is her utterly flawless self-absorption and the way she uses everyone for her own needs, without any feeling at all for their humanity. Can’t wait to see what you have to say about HER. That TOAD.

    Also, may I say that I take as a big-time compliment the high esteem in which you hold sensible parenting. (I promise you, I would totally have dueled Bellatrix to bits if she came anywhere near you girls.)

    • You may take it as a compliment. I don’t know why you accept that as a compliment but shy away from my claims that you are the greatest mother in the world. Who have you ever met that’s better at it? NOBODY. NOBODY.

  7. Snape is INCREDIBLY brave. I always think I only like him because of that one thing, but then I remember how very very loyal and wonderful he is to Dumbledore and I like him extra. Ohhhhh Snape…

    I feel like OotP has always been MY second least favourite (CoS always wins) but this time I’m all like ‘oooh, the political terribleness of it all’ and I think I’m ready. It just FRUSTRATES me a lot of the time. I blame Umbridge.

    • CoS totally wins. I really love Order of the Phoenix. There are a ton of awesome character notes, which is fun for me, and the sequence at the Ministry gives me all the chills. Forever. Oh it’s so scary.

  8. I have never read GoF and OotP back to back, and so I’ve always been SO frustrated with Harry’s angst. But this time through, I think being a real amount older than Harry finally let me realize how freaking ridiculous what he went through in GoF was, so hopefully I can ease up a bit in OotP.

    Sirius! Mrs. Weasley! My heart.

  9. Your weekly Sirius letter is so spot-on. I don’t know if I would be able to live on rats, even to protect someone I love… But maybe I’m just dead inside? Eeek.

    Snape is so unfathomable to me as a character — so deeply unpleasant but with some very key redeemable qualities. I can’t wait to get to Deathly Hallows so we can all discuss his plotline (and the flashbacks)!

  10. I was pretty okay reading these to Z until now but I feel totally stuck with #4 and don’t know how long we should wait to read it. I’m sure that he’s not ready for it yet but when will he be? When will I be ready to say “remember that kid that played quidditch and dated girls and had fun?” He’s dead. So sad and then it just gets worse from here.

  11. That letter To Dumbledore, From Sirius is absolutely what he would have written. Especially the PS. And the ‘on your watch’ thing too. Oh Dumbledore, I love you, but you are not good at keeping them in any kind of line.

    I can see we’re going to have issues with Book 5. I absolutely understand why Harry gets all angsty and shouty but I do *not* like reading it. It’s the worst book in the series for me, and that sucks because I like the Ministry/Umbridge invasion into Hogwarts side of things and the DA parts but they get overshadowed by the ‘everyone’s yelling at everyone’ stuff.

  12. A resounding YES to not disliking Harry in OotP. I think I was more or less the same age as Harry when I read it and I was shouting every angst filled word along with him in the shouty scenes. It was such a beautiful purging for adolescent me as well as being a sort of mental refugee to think back upon when Umbridge went ballistic. Shouting is not a particularly productive way to handle life’s problems, especially when one has to tiptoe around Umbridge and like situations but it was like a dam bursting and it brought me so much blessed peace.

    • Hahahahaha, love it. Yeah, I mean — it wasn’t that I wanted him to be shouting, but I can understand how every day of his life would be absolutely maddening in the fifth book. Not just going through this horrific ordeal but then being told by his world that he’s just made it up for attention — awful. I wouldn’t be able to handle that now with grace, let alone at fifteen.

  13. Ok so I forgot to mention Molly and Bill showing up, but I did mark the part where Harry doesn’t want to go in to the room where all the champions families are because he hasn’t got any. It makes my chest all tight and hurty. Molly, you are the best of mums.

  14. Mrs. Weasley is the BEST! I love her. Also, OMG, your Sirius form letter is hilarious and true. LOVE IT. As for what’s coming in book five…yeah, I get it, but it still makes me want to punch Harry a lot and not particularly like the book as a whole.

    • I think we’re reminded of it exactly the right amount, but I always do love it. I equal parts like it and am angry when — oo. You haven’t gotten there yet. Well. Suffice it to say, without spoilers, Hagrid gets a very bad-ass moment in the fifth book. You have never been so reminded that he can stomp people.

  15. Every single one of your posts about Harry Potter make me want to drop everything and just reread them. Again. I just adore this series. Heck, even commenting about it is making me want to reread them so I just may have to indulge myself 🙂 I’m glad that you are enjoying your reread so much!!

  16. So on the one hand this post is incredible (incredible), except then I go back and I reread that sentence where you degrade this to second-least-favorite and I want to… react strongly. Because first of all: even if one loves all of Harry Potter (and indeed, I struggle to understand how anyone can not love all of Harry Potter, but that is a whole other issue…), and therefore the official “favorites” slots are meaningless, how can you claim that a book like Goblet of Fire, with all its drama and power and relevance to the overall plot and… yes, all of the character development and emotional punch… how can you claim that this is lesser than the early books, which despite being wonderful and magical and a million other amazing things, are not exactly of the same caliber?

    Okay, I know that I could go on talking about Harry Potter extensively so I’ll stop myself here before I completely clog up the comments space. But I’m really wondering why you rank the books as you rank them… I have a feeling your final list will be a bit different from mine.

  17. Goblet of Fire is my heart. The only moment from the books that I think the movie did a stellar job on was hearing Amos Diggory’s yells near the end. Ack.

    • Oh my God, yes. That moment is the reason I own the movie on DVD. I thought that bit — when Harry comes back and the grounds erupt into cheers and music and then it all turns to screaming and freaking out — was so, so effective.

  18. Pingback: Where Were You When Dumbledore Died? | Wordsmithing Ain't Easy

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