Revisiting Harry Potter: Crying early and often

You guys. This book. How can everyone be so brave and good, and everything go so terribly wrong for them all the time? All through this readalong I’ve been excited to get to the final segment of Order of the Phoenix because, in my opinion, there is no finer set-piece throughout the entire series (and there are a lot of good set-pieces!) than the sequence in the Ministry. It is so fucking tense. Actually, this entire section of the book is fairly intense. Which is why this post is in a state of near-total incoherence and book quotes. Sorry. But, I don’t know what else could have been expected.

Like this? It is both scary and awesome.

Harry could see the tiny outline of Fang, attempting to defend Hagrid, leaping at the wizards surrounding him until a Stunning Spell caught him and he fell to the ground. Hagrid gave a howl of fury, lifted the culprit bodily from the ground, and threw him: The man flew what looked like ten feet and did not get up again.

RAWR. HAGRID. Really, as much as I hate the overarching Hagrid plotline in this book, it nevertheless shows everything that is good about Hagrid. How he is so loyal to his brother, even though it sucks for him, and how he is tough and scary in defense of the people he loves, and also at the end how good and kind and gentle and supportive he is with Harry over losing Sirius. Y’all, real talk, before the seventh book came out, I made a list of four people who absolutely must not die, and three of the four died, but the fourth was Hagrid, and if I’d had to choose only one of the people on my list to survive I’d have chosen Hagrid.

Exceptionally wonderfully, this section of the book brings up Harry’s “saving-people-thing”. Hermione, our emotional insight machine and frequent authorial voice, makes us all take a beat and address the fact that Harry, whom we love and admire for his heroism, is sometimes being heroic because he is very, very damaged.

“You…This isn’t a criticism, Harry! But you do…sort of…I mean — don’t you think you’ve got a bit of a — a — saving-people-thing?” she said.

What’s fantastic about this is that the books have never made you think about this — Harry’s been the archetypal hero, struggling along trying to do the right thing whenever he can — but once Hermione says it, you immediately recognize it as true. He exactly has a saving-people-thing. He lost his parents, he doesn’t want to lose anyone else — the kid’s got a saving-people thing. Everything Hermione says is right, and in this book, for the first time, it’s not serving Harry well. His saving-people thing is, cruelly, the reason Sirius dies. WHY, J.K. Rowling? WHY?

Anyway, this reread may have the record for how early on I started crying. Ordinarily I start crying when Harry’s facing the Death Eaters and he’s all alone, and Neville comes running down the aisle, all beat up and screaming that he’s still there to fight with Harry. (No lie, just writing that made me start crying.) But this time I started crying way sooner, viz., when:

“We were all in the D.A. together,” said Neville quietly. “It was all supposed to be about fighting You-Know-Who, wasn’t it? And this is the first chance we’ve had to do something real — or was that all just a game or something?”

Dammit Neville.

And look, I know y’all are maybe going to be angry at Harry for taking everyone to the Ministry and putting them in danger, but he had to — I mean, he had to, forget having a saving-people-thing, which he does, he had to go. He couldn’t not go. And once he’s there, and everything’s awful, I think he does a really good job of handling his shit. He figures out the leverage he has, and then he figures out a plan for getting them past all the Death Eaters, and he just does a really really good job with a shit hand of cards. I don’t care what you say, I AM PROUD OF HIM.

Oh how many tears did I cry? Many tears, friends.

But some part of him realized, even as he fought to break free from Lupin, that Sirius had never kept him waiting before…Sirius had risked everything, always, to see Harry, to help him…If Sirius was not reappearing out of that archway when Harry was yelling for him as though his life depended on it, the only possible explanation was that he could not come back.

GODDAMMIT. I don’t care about Ron! I wish Mr. Weasley had died and Sirius had lived and I do not care what you say! Ron has like sixteen thousand family members, and Harry has only exactly one. He needs his one family member, dammit! I wish Mr. Weasley had died! I wish it to infinity! I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t care!

In case you couldn’t tell, I am writing this post approximately two seconds after finishing the book, and I haven’t yet cycled all the way through the stages of grief over Sirius’s death. I cried all the way through Dumbledore telling Harry how it was his fault what happened (and like, yes, Snape had to pretend not to take Harry seriously, but don’t you feel like any other person, i.e., anyone with a scrap of mercy for Harry’s feelings, would have figured out a way to indicate to Harry that he was going to take care of it? The kid is fifteen years old and you’re talking about the death of his only family member), and I cried when Harry found the mirror and when he talked to Nearly Headless Nick and then I cried extra when he talked to Luna, and I cried when the members of the Order came and threatened the Dursleys for him. Oh Harry.

My favorite moment of the fifth movie: When Sirius has come to save Harry at the Ministry, and Harry’s saying he wants to stay and fight, and Sirius says, “You’ve done beautifully. Now let me take it from here.” Totally destroys me. I don’t love those movies, but each of them has moments that make them worthwhile — and weirdly, it’s usually moments they haven’t pulled from the books.

The moral of the fifth Harry Potter book is: Good intentions will lead you to misery and awfulness. Excuse me while I throw away a handful of snotty Kleenex and proceed onward to the sixth book, wherein good intentions frequently produce good outcomes.

Thanks as ever to Alice for hosting this readalong!

35 thoughts on “Revisiting Harry Potter: Crying early and often

  1. The last time I re-read Harry Potter, and the first time after having read the series as a whole – I pretty much started blubbering from the first page with Dumbledore and the mention of Sirius, and then meeting the Weaslys for the first time.

    You’re making me want to jump into another re-read, I keep holding it off. It’s been over a year but last time I re-read it I felt like an emotional wreck afterwards. I’m half scared that one day I’ll realise I’ve “out-grown” Harry Potter and also feel unprepared to have my emotions ripped raw once again.

    • Awww, that’s nice. I never cry until the fifth book comes along, and not much after that honestly, but I do have many many emotions.

      The raw emotions thing is totally fair, but I don’t think you’ll outgrow the books. My mum read them only as an adult and she loves them (almost) as much as I do. I think they hold up.

  2. Harry had to do SOMETHING, I agree, but if he (or at least Hermione) had thought calmly for a minute, they would have figured out some better options, like talking to Snape (obviously) or using the map to get to Hogsmeade and using a fire there or even flying the thestrals to Grimmauld Place first – it’s not too far from the Ministry. But yeah, Neville is AMAZING in this section. Up until this point, it was always so easy to dismiss him as this pathetic little nobody but now he comes to life and he’s brave and loyal and fierce and WHY didn’t I talk about him in my post?! Lol.

    • I am alive to your point for sure BUT, this morning? I dropped one of my very nice leather gloves as I was running to catch a subway, and I was barely able to shift away from “CATCH THE TRAIN GET ON IT QUICK RUN” to “You like those gloves and don’t want to lose them” in time to turn around and go back for the glove and resign myself to catching the next train. When you have your mind fixed on a thing (and “save dying father figure” is like way more important and stressful than “catch most convenient subway”), it’s sometimes hard to cycle through all your available options and select the best one. You know?

  3. I never know how to comment on your shit. It gives me too many feelings.

    OK, how about this: I really like that Hagrid is the one you’d choose over all others to stay alive. I like that a billion. Yes, Grawp is sort of lame and his “WHERE HAGGAR?” followed by arrows to the face makes me feel like I’m being a bit manipulated, emotionally (like when a stray dog is kicked. Or anything with Hodor in the first two books of the Song of Ice and Fire because that’s all I’ve read and DAMN Hodor), but you’re so right that the Grawp story line expresses Hagrid’s character really well.

  4. What I really really like of characters messing up in messed up situations is how sympathetic Rowling is to them. It’s like she’s constantly saying “see that crappy thing that I made sure to show in totally preventable way but it happened any way ’cause I want to make my characters suffer? Well, it happened ’cause they’re human (and I’m evil)”.

    I’m still not rereading the Order of the Phoenix, anyway. Need another nine years to deal with it properly.

  5. You made me cry…seriously-the part where he realizes Sirius is gone totally kills me. I remember sitting there sobbing and my husband turns and asks me who died now? I threw the book at his head. Now I really want a reread….

  6. Awwww, this is the awesomest- the bit that made me cry the most was when Bellatrix is like ‘I’ve met your parents!’ and Neville ROARS at her ‘I DOE YOU HAB!’ because that boy is FULLY prepared to fight her for his parents even though he knows full well what she’s capable of and OMG NEVILLE! You are amazing.

    I have to quickly defend Snape though- I mean, what COULD he say? Like ‘oh yeah Harry, don’t worry I’ll sort it’? Because Umbridge was RIGHT THERE and it’s not like they’ve learnt a code or anything and they’re so not on the same wavelength here. I genuinely think that he couldn’t have done any more than he did.

      • I’m going to go with yes just because I FEEL LIKE IT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED, OK? It shouldn’t have been that hard and OMG WHY DOES IT GO WRONG EVERY TIME I READ THIS BOOK. & Snape. I still have unresolved issues with Snape.

        jeez, now I’m having all the feels and I haven’t read this in YEARS.

  7. I just want to focus on the Hagrid thing with Grawp. Because I really love when Harry gives him the centaurs’ warning, and Hagrid knows good and well that the centaurs are wiser and more learned than he is. But he is such a decent man that he also knows that certain failure is not a reason not to love someone. When he stands there, all beaten up and bruised and dismisses the centaurs’ warning, he is not just being stubborn – he is expressing what his whole life has been: placing love and loyalty above every other thing, because he believes that that’s what his life is about. So f*** the centaurs.

    Also, I loved Neville in this book. And I am so, so glad he gets to do THAT THING in the 7th book.

    • THAT THING. I know exactly what you mean. THAT THING is so great. NEVILLE.

      I love it so much in the seventh book also, that thing with Hagrid and the centaurs in the seventh book, you know? I love that thing as well.

  8. Oh man, my Neville feels are out in full force today. All these posts are making me want to cuddle him and applaud him at the same time.

    And Harry finding the mirror after Sirius is dead is like the icing on the cruelest, most sob-inducing cake EVER. Because that stupid little mirror could have prevented a whole lot of misery/injury/death. Clearly Harry needs to learn to clean out his trunk more often in order to save the people he loves.

  9. NEVILLLLLLLLLE. Siriusly.

    Ok so Hermione’s comment made me more compassionate, because before that I was like, URGH HARRY STOP TRYING TO BE A FUCKING HERO but now I kind of see why he does. And I’m not mad that he brought everyone to the Ministry, I’m mad that he was like, Don’t come, everyone. This is all about me and only I am wizard enough to rescue Sirius, you should all just go home and wait by the phone. And I am like, DON’T BE SO PATRONIZING but I kind of get it now. Harry doesn’t want ANYONE he loves to EVER DIE AGAIN. So, extra sads on the rest of the scene, then.

    • And poor Harry, people he loves do die! Poor Harry. I feel so sad for him in the seventh book when everyone’s pretending to be him and he’s so upset that they’re taking this risk just for him. That would upset me too.

  10. I haven’t read these books, but I respect that you are so passionate about them and that their impact is real. Exhibit A for The Power of Literature. Love that.

  11. AHhhh I remember crying so hard the first time I read this portion that I had to take a break to calm down because I COULD NO LONGER SEE THE WORDS.

    Say what you want about J.K., any author that inspires that kind of love for her characters is amazing.

    I can’t even comment on this portion b/c there is too much. except I did have one feel that you didn’t mention, which was Fang trying to protect Hagrid, which is why I love dogs SO MUCH, and that kills me every time.

    • Oh, yes. Part of how great that first bit I quoted was exactly what you say, and I should have mentioned it. FANG. Of course he must protect Hagrid.

  12. I really wished Mr. Weasley had died in place in of Sirius (which isn’t a trade I would make except for the fact that JK said it was what she did). Because you’re right, Ron has 17 thousand family members to lean on and Harry has no one, and why can’t he just be a little happy, JK??

    I’m a wreck going into the next book because I’m still angry at this death. Not fair.

  13. Just to say that Neville pretty much always makes me cry. He only has to walk along a corridor and I’m welling up. What is it about him? He is SO touching. I just want to take him home and hug him for a long, long time. Just as well he’s a fictional character as there’s probably a law against that.

  14. Back when I read the first book for the very first time, I remember thinking how wonderful it was that Neville was the one who won them the House Cup. It seemed so fitting that the boy everyone kept saying wasn’t brave enough – the one who himself kept claiming that he didn’t belong among the “brave” – was the ultimate hero. At that moment, I knew Neville was the best. And maybe it took until book five to really see all his bravery in full-force (and book seven until that thing that’s my favorite scene in all of the books probably maybe definitely), but… Neville, volunteering, facing his enemies, fighting even when he can’t fight anymore… rips my heart out every time. Neville owns this book.

    • Absolutely agree. That’s a wonderful Neville moment and totally earned. And just, to see him come into his own and be even braver than we’ve seen him be all along, it’s wonderful.

  15. AAAAHHHH! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR POSTS MAKES ME WISH I’M READING HARRY POTTER TOO!!! And yes, I felt the need to capitalize all of it because I am way overdue on a Harry Potter reread. Enough is enough…I need to find my copy of the first book now! I cried when Sirius died too…and in the movie :)

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