Last day of July will forever remind me of Harry Potter, since that is the day he not only celebrates his birthday, but it was also the exact date when Hagrid told him the famous words – Yer a wizard, Harry.
In the introduction of the film, Minerva McGonagall tells Albus Dumbeldore “This boy will be famous. There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name.” And now, so many years later, it every word rings true. Irrespective of the fact that you have read or seen the movies or not, it really is true that everyone in this world knows who Harry Potter is. JK Rowling wrote the series during some of the worst moments of her life and with it, she felt at home. And that’s exactly what the series means to millions of us – home.
We won’t be discussing the plot this once because I presume everyone knows the story already. If you don’t, stop everything you are doing and pick up the books or go to Amazon Prime Video and start the movie marathon.
When we first see Harry, he is living with the Dursley’s, is 11 years old and sleeps in the cupboard under the stairs. He is treated like a slave and has never experienced love his entire life that he has been living with the Dursley’s (his aunt Petunia’s house). Harry obeys whatever chores they ask him to do and is far from the spoilt kid that his cousin Dudley is. He has no idea he is special since he has never felt like he was anyone more than an unwelcome permanent house-guest/servant for the Dursley family. They never gave him any iota of affection and all he knew of it, was how they were with each other and with Dudley. So when Hagrid tells Harry that he’s a wizard, the innocent boy just exclaims “No, I can’t be. I’m just Harry.”
On his ride to Hogwarts, Harry meets Ron and instantly forms a friendship with him. It was the same with Hagrid of whom Harry was never scared despite his unkempt appearance and large size. On the other hand, when he meets Draco, his arch-nemesis, there is an immediate animosity as he considers Draco to be a bully. Much like the Dursley family, whom he resents. One remarkable characteristic about Harry, is how despite never having friends or people treat him with any kindness in the muggle world, when everyone is fascinated by him in the wizarding world, Harry still maintains his personality and never tries to be a goody-two-shoes who makes friends with everyone. He still picks sides with his friend, Ron, and takes up coolness towards Draco instead of trying to befriend him out of feeling intimidated by Draco. Incidentally, Harry also forms a lot of his notions and mindset about the wizarding world out of Ron’s perception. For example, Harry detests the idea of being sorted in to Slytherin after Ron prompts him that there was no witch or wizard who went evil who did not belong to Slytherin.
Even when Draco tries to bully Neville by throwing away his remembrall, Harry strides to catch the ball and return it safely to his fellow Gryffindor. I imagine that Harry was so protective about Neville not out of some sort of friendship with him, not even out of some empathy he feels for his fellow house-mate, but because Harry himself had never known possessions that were his own. All his belongings were hand-me-downs from Dudley (another thing he had in common with Ron) and therefore he knew how valuable it can be to somebody. And he just wanted to make sure that someone else’s possessions don’t get treated poorly. Harry’s need to step in and save the day was a risky move since it could have gotten him expelled. Instead, the risk got him a position as a seeker for Gryffindor at an unprecedentedly early age.
Even in the case of the whole ordeal with the sorcerer’s stone, for the longest time, I felt that Harry was disobedient and nosy since he got involved in something that he clearly had no business in. However, after my most recent viewing, it is clear to see that Harry was concerned about his school and wanted it to remain a safe space since Hogwarts has been his first home that he has ever had. It is the place were he was happy and safe and it was the place where he met his friends. Of course initially it was only by chance that the trio encountered Fluffy and got involved in the whole situation in the first place. Additionally, Harry never had the luxury of being a kid while living with the Dursleys. So when he got himself entangled in this grown ups business, he felt a responsibility to do something about it. In fact, he was so inclined, that he was willing to give it his full attention and action despite the fact that it meant making an enemy out of his Potions Professor, Severus Snape.
Moving on to Ron, there is an incident wherein he talks about Hermione being an insufferable know-it-all which she overhears and feels bad about. However, having grown up with elder brothers, Ron does not know how to handle someone’s emotions and this character trait continues through the better part of the series. And in Hermione’s case, after the one mean incident, both the boys embrace her in the group with open arms. In the books, this friendship is written in a beautiful manner (one of my favourite quotes from the series) – From that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. Because there are somethings you can’t go through in life and become friends, and knocking out a twelve foot mountain troll is one of them. The boys are shocked when Hermione tells an open lie to the teachers to save them the trouble of explaining why they were in the girls’ lavatory, picking a fight with the mountain troll. They do not for once take it for granted that Hermione owes them that much for saving her life. Instead, they are deeply touched that she does something that they know goes against her very nature to save their backs. They know what a big deal is and they appreciate it.
Every Harry Potter story has a highlight scene towards the end which usually has Harry and Dumbledore engaging in a conversation, usually full of enlightening messages and lessons. One of the best moments of the Sorcerer’s Stone is when Dumbledore gives Harry the lesson “It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.” Dumbledore highlights to Harry the importance of love. As a power to heal anything, fight anything, save anything. Lily’s love for her son is what kept Harry alive all those years ago when Voldemort tried to kill him and it is what saved his life again when Quirrell tried to murder him in the room. In contrast, Voldemort, the ultimate bad guy, believes there is no good and evil. There is only power and those too weak to seek it. The movie shows us how love, for your family, for your friends, for your school, for your life, can overpower the evil. Because it is Harry who wins, and not Voldemort. The movie shows us how death (Harry’s parents’ and later Nicholas Flamels’), is not the worst or most scary thing in the world since they all willingly gave up their lives to save someone else’s. That their death was a nobility and not a tragedy. “To the well organised mind, death is nothing but the next great adventure.” And it shows us how “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies. But a great deal more to stand up to your friends.” And that as long as you provide the right track to your friends, standing up to them makes you a whole lot more loyal and nice than just blending into their shadows.
These are lessons that stay with us years later. These are the characters that we love even today. These are the stories that we will remember for a lifetime. Harry Potter is our cup of hot cocoa on a rainy day. Harry Potter is our comfort zone. It is our home. Just as Hogwarts and Ron and Hermione are to him.