Five Times “Harry Potter” Characters Surprised Us
Harry Potter continues to astound me with its treatment of character. Even after the solid 12 years I’ve spent reading and rereading the series with an obsession some have called unhealthy (thanks, Mum), I am still amazed at its vivid realness. In a series that is absolute perfection, it may be hard sometimes to appreciate the subtle crafting of each small moment that creates that overall brilliance. Both the high points and the low points are important to shape characters that are not perfect, ones that might fail as much as they may succeed. They’re human, after all (well, most of them), and these small moments make them all the more real and alive inside our minds.
1. Hermione and the Time There Wasn’t Any Wood
Hermione is smart, Harry is brave, and Ron is hungry. Right? NO! One of the biggest criticisms I have against the Harry Potter movies is the way they take these gloriously multidimensional characters and reduce them to stereotypes of themselves. Yet in the books, our characters can surprise us with moments of pure genius, or in this case, the opposite.
‘So light a fire!’ Harry choked.
‘Yes – of course – but there’s no wood!’ Hermione cried, wringing her hands.
‘HAVE YOU GONE MAD?’ Ron bellowed. ‘ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?’ (SS 202)
Practicality and common sense can, at times, trump intelligence.
2. Hagrid and Being Right on the Money from the Start
Hagrid sometimes has a reputation of being a bit daft. Kind, courageous, and unfailingly loyal, yes, but sometimes he really shouldn’t have said that. However, right back at the beginning of the series, we see a moment of pure genius – and one that stays hidden until the end of the series.
Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. […] Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. (SS 46–47)
Hagrid, although not knowing what they are, calls Voldemort’s use of Horcruxes. Astounding.
3. Snape and the Time He Was Downright Unnecessarily and Casually Cruel
Severus Snape and the truth of his character is a slippery slope for any fan to walk down, regardless of how you view him. However, during the series, there are a few moments that capture just how unnecessarily vindictive Snape can be. His abuse of his teaching position to bully Neville is an ongoing and prominent example of this, but I wanted to look at another moment of casual cruelty, his snide remarks to Tonks about her new Patronus.
‘I think you were better off with the old one,’ said Snape, the malice in his voice unmistakable. ‘The new one looks weak.’ (HBP 153)
As we learn, this change represents very deep and personal emotions for Tonks, and to mock those feelings with such vindictiveness and utter lack of respect is completely unwarranted, Snape.
4. Ron the Seer
Much speculation has gone on as to whether or not Ron Weasley is actually a very gifted Seer. From predicting that Tom Riddle was the one who killed Myrtle (albeit jokingly) to anticipating that Percy will place his career above his family, Ron seems to be gifted with occasional gems of foresight. Even his predictions in Divination are often correct, although it is clear that he doesn’t take the subject seriously. Secret talent or no, there’s definitely something about Ron; he can be very observant and even wise when he wants to be.
5. Remus and the Road to Unintentionally Ruining Your Own Life
Remus is stereotyped as the calm, quiet one, overshadowed by the boisterous personalities of his school friends – James and Sirius, I am looking at you. And while we know that this is not Remus’s whole character – because nobody who dresses Snape up in the clothes of a student’s grandmother and shoots chewing gum up the nose of the Hogwarts poltergeist can be described as “quiet and calm” – it’s his moments of darkness that shock us. And I’m not talking about his furry alter ego. Remus constantly pushes away the people who are there for him, who want to be close to him, in a misguided effort to protect them. It’s tragically painful to realize this, especially since it comes with the cost of causing real pain to those around him.
As he voices his doubts about his growing family and even attacks Harry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we readers are seeing a side to Remus that shocks us. Luckily, Harry is there to set him straight. After all, the ones who love us never really leave us.
These moments – the good, the bad, and the ugly – all prove how important it is to create characters that defy their own stereotypes. It helps add complexity to the world and people you’re building, to make this universe seem larger and more layered. Human nature isn’t a one-way street, and we don’t always make sense even to ourselves, let alone others. And characters, I believe, should reflect this. It makes them interesting, makes them complicated, and above all, makes them feel alive.