The Gift of Family In Harry Potter
“I-don’t-want-“ said Percy thickly, as the twins forced the jumper over his head, knocking his glasses askew.
“And you’re not sitting with the prefects today, either,” said George, “Christmas is a time for family.”J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
I love the holiday season. Not only are the aesthetics and tastes of the season wonderful, but the spirit I feel during this time of the year is so uplifting.
Family and gathering are a big icon of the holiday. And seeing as it’s the most wonderful time of the year, I might share a bit of how important family is through one of my favorite mediums…Harry Potter.
From the Weasley’s to the Dursley’s to the Potter’s, families of all shapes and sizes appear in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Family is an important aspect of the Wizarding World and I would like to take the time to delve into why.
Harry Potter’s own family are gone. His mother and father died protecting him from Lord Voldemort. Just from this one example, so much context becomes available.
I feel like every reader will look at the Potter’s example of family and see the obvious – parents giving their life so that their son may live. But let me take the liberty of pointing out the maybe not-so-obvious; Voldemort’s lack of understanding of that love.
Think for a moment. Dumbledore knew exactly what Lily Potter’s sacrifice meant. He explains it all to Harry in the Philosopher’s Stone.
“Your mother died to save you. If there’s one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mothers for you leaves it’s own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who left us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.”J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Dumbledore knows this because he understands the magic of love and family.
Common wizards don’t know of this kind of magic. And that makes sense. But Dumbledore isn’t ordinary. He’s a great wizard. But Voldemort is a great wizard too. Dumbledore and Voldemort are two sides of the same coin, I often think. They are alike yet so very different.
Voldemort, who does not respect nor care for these values, dared to kill Lily and James. If he had any brains at all, he would have known that if he wanted to kill Harry, he couldn’t kill his parents. It’s that simple. If he had any knowledge of the magic of love, he would not risk such strong protection being transferred to his target.
But Voldemort is unable to recognize this. He does not know or understand what a family is and the love it can hold. He killed his own father and grandparents and tore apart countless families.
He corrupted himself into blindness.
Is this a metaphor for what so many people are doing every day? So many of us humans disregard family, friends, love, and ethics, slowly at first and then steadily on, until we know longer recognize what these aspects of life truly mean.
A large portion of this holiday spirit and season is meant to be shared with family. It’s one of the joys of Thanksgiving, Chanukah, and Christmas. However, I know a lot of people don’t feel this way. Many begrudgingly go to family Christmases and sit far away from their annoying relations as possible and stare at their phone in a shadowy corner.
A simple act like, say, not wanting to wear your Mum’s Christmas sweater could mean so much more.
Percy Weasley knew all the comforts of home. He had many brother’s and sisters, and a Mum and Dad who cared for him. But he became accustomed to these things. He lost sight of why they were important.
Before I get into this, there are two examples from the Goblet of Fire I’d like to quote. Remember, at this time, Bill and Charlie are home for the Quidditch World Cup and don’t come home often. Percy no longer sees Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny every day at Hogwarts either. It is a rare thing for the whole family to be home together at once.
Just then a door on the second landing opened, and a face poked out wearing hourn-rimmed glasses and a very annoyed expression.
“Hi, Percy,” said Harry.
“Oh hello, Harry,” said Percy. “ I was wondering who wad making all that noise. I’m trying to work in here, you know-I’ve got a report to finish for the office-and it’s rather difficult to concentrate when people keep thundering up and down the stairs.”
“We’re not thundering, said Ron irritably. “We’re walking. Sorry if we disturbed the top-secret workings of the Ministry of Magic.”
“What are you working on?” said Harry.
“A report for the Department of International Magical Cooperation,” said Percy smugly. “We’re trying to standardize cauldron thickness. Some of these foreign imports are just a shade too thin-leakages have been increasing at a rate of almost three percent a year-“
The second example comes a few pages later;
Bill and Charlie both had their wands out, and were making two battered old tables fly high above the lawn, smashing into each other, each attempting to knock the others out of air. Fred and George cheering, Ginny was laughing, and Hermione was hovering near the hedge apparently torn between amusement and anxiety.
Bills table caught Charlie’s with a huge bang and knocked one of its legs off. There was a clatter from overhead, and they all looked up to see Percy‘s head poking out of window on the second floor.
“Will you keep it down?!” he bellowed.
“Sorry, Percy,” said Bill, grinning. “How’re the cauldron bottoms coming on?”
“Very badly,” said Percy peevishly, and he slammed the window shut.
Percy had a disregard for family right from the start. It wasn’t so obvious in the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets but it is there. And it gets steadily worse as time advances.
The biggest red flag that a lot of people don’t recognize is in the Goblet of Fire. When Percy comes of age, he gets a job at the Ministry of Magic. Then he slowly starts disobeying his father and mother, spends time locked in his room, and comes home late. Ron puts it this way;
“I don’t think he’d come home if Dad didn’t make him.”
I’ve seen first hand how estrangement works and J.K. Rowling’s representation of it is uncanny. It makes me wonder if she hasn’t experienced it too.
Percy has turned of age and things appear to be alright to his parents. To Molly and Arthur, he is just ambitious and has big plans for his future. That may even be what Percy thinks too. But in reality he is just a child wanting to do what he wants, when he wants to, and doesn’t want any parental guidance, control, or authority. He uses the Ministry of Magic, Mr. Crouch, and his job as an excuse to exercise his new of-age privileges.
And then, in the next book, he is estranged. He breaks his parents trust, wanting to go his own way, and wastes years. Years that he will regret.
Percy eventually reconciled with his family, hours before his brother is murdered. Percy threw away time pursuing things that were unimportant and self indulgent, when he could have spent a little more time with his brother, Fred.
I wonder how many times after the Battle of Hogwarts that Percy cried over the time he lost with his brother? I can imagine his thoughts;
If only I came home from work a little earlier to eat dinner with him and the family.
If only I hadn’t shamed him and his practical jokes.
If only I had played Exploding Snap with him when he asked me that one time.
If only I hadn’t left him behind and come back too late.
Percy made a choice and he payed the price.
I know it seems like a bit of a jump from murderous Lord Voldemort to nerdy Percy Weasley but then again…it wasn’t that big a jump after all. If a thing like disrespecting family and misunderstanding love can take one person from being a Percy to being a Voldemort…why risk it?
Thus, we ask again, why is family so important? Because family in Harry Potter is often used synonymously with love. Love is the main theme in Harry Potter and Rowling repetitively uses family as a motif to demonstrate this theme.
And I understand it can be hard to love your family sometimes. We’re only human. Or maybe you’re not a Percy. Maybe you’re a Fred. Maybe you’re on the receiving end of of hate and disappointment. I cannot give any comfort or answer to such dilemmas than this;
Life is a story. Love is an adventure. Family is a home. To have all three at once is a gift. The greatest gift. A truly precious and fragile gift. Don’t waste what you have, what you’ve been given. See the value in the simple things. They may seem small but they’re not. Nothing simple is ever small. Life isn’t small, love isn’t small, and family isn’t small.
Care for these gifts and they will care for you in return.