Hogwarts Is Home: Family, Friendship, and Belonging in “Harry Potter”

Harry’s reentry into the wizarding world in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is inaugurated with a visit to Gringotts. The stark contrast between the “mounds of gold coins” inside Harry’s vault and his lack of currency in the Muggle world represents the wealth that comes from having a family (SS 5). In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry realizes that Voldemort hid Hufflepuff’s cup inside Bellatrix’s vault because he saw the bank “as a real symbol of belonging to the wizarding world” (24). Voldemort’s lack of a Gringotts vault represents his lack of family more so than it does his lack of wealth. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Weasleys, who are “extremely poor” (PoA 1), are described as “Harry’s favorite family in the world” (2).

In Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore tells McGonagall that the Dursleys are “the only family [Harry] has left now” (1). However, this isn’t true. The Dursleys are Harry’s only living blood relatives, but the concept of family extends beyond shared blood. When McGonagall welcomes the first years to Hogwarts, she tells them that “the Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your House will be something like your family within Hogwarts” (7). Two months into his first year at Hogwarts, “the castle felt more like home than Privet Drive ever had” (10). Belonging to a family shapes our sense of identity and Harry was never treated as being part of the Dursley family. Despite Harry living at Privet Drive, the Dursleys’ living room “held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too” (SS 2). At the start of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry is instructed by Uncle Vernon to pretend not to exist. Also in Chamber of Secrets, Harry tells Dobby that he doesn’t belong at Privet Drive, saying, “I belong in your world – at Hogwarts” (2).

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore says, “Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one” (13). Harry didn’t have any friends in the Muggle world because “no one wanted Dudley to think they liked him” (SS 7). In the wizarding world, Harry draws his strength from his friendships. In Dumbledore’s end-of-term speech in Goblet of Fire, he says that “Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity” can only be fought “by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust” (37). Harry’s love for his friends was just as important to his defeat of Voldemort as his mother’s sacrifice – and just like his mother died for him, Harry “dies” for his friends.

At the end of Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry faces Voldemort alone, urging Hermione to go back through the purple flames but not before Hermione states that “there are more important things – friendship and bravery” (16). In Deathly Hallows, this lesson comes full circle. When Harry learns that he “must die,” he tells Neville, who first stood up to his friends six years ago, to kill the snake (33). In Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore tells Harry that he needs his friends. Despite Harry’s tendency to want to work alone, he would not have defeated Voldemort if it weren’t for his friends – and that extends beyond Ron and Hermione. When the trio returns to Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows, they are greeted by Dumbledore’s Army in the Room of Requirement. Ron asks Harry, “Why can’t they help?” (29). Harry’s reluctance to confide in others is a constant pattern throughout the series and his decision to accept Luna’s help in finding Ravenclaw’s diadem is in contrast to his reluctance for Neville, Ginny, and Luna to accompany the trio to the Department of Mysteries in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The modifications made from the book in the film adaptations of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in relation to the ideas described in the previous paragraph are among the least egregious in the film series. In Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Ron delivers the message that Harry isn’t fighting the war against Voldemort alone when Harry tries to leave the Burrow in the middle of the night.

Harry: ‘Nobody else is going to die. Not for me.’
Ron: ‘For you? You think Mad-Eye died for you? You think Fred took that curse for you? You may be the Chosen One, mate, but this is a whole lot bigger than that. It’s always been bigger than that.’

Similarly, Deathly Hallows – Part 2 contains one of my favorite scenes from the entire series (the other being “Buckbeak’s Flight”). In the book, the narrator says, “There would be no goodbyes and no explanations, [Harry] was determined of that” (34). However, in the film, Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he was going to walk into the forest. The emotional exchange between Harry and Hermione mirrors their exchange at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry voluntarily faces Voldemort for the first time.

Harry: ‘There’s a reason I can hear them – the Horcruxes. I think I’ve known for a while and I think you have too.’
Hermione: ‘I’ll go with you.’

In Deathly Hallows, as Harry walks into the forest, under his Invisibility Cloak, to greet Death “as an old friend” like Ignotus Peverell had done centuries ago (22), he reflects that “Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known. He and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here” (34).

Ultimately, Harry’s greatest strength is not being a prodigiously skilled wizard or even his reliance on the Disarming Charm, but his ability to love, and that’s what sets him apart from Voldemort and Snape. In Half-Blood Prince, Harry thinks “big deal” when Dumbledore says that he has “a power that Voldemort has never had” (23). However, a year earlier, Voldemort was unable to possess Harry in the Department of Mysteries “because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests” (OotP 37). This idea returns in Deathly Hallows when Harry mourns Dobby’s death.

His scar burned, but he was master of the pain; he felt it, yet was apart from it. He had learned control at last, learned to shut his mind to Voldemort, the very thing Dumbledore had wanted him to learn from Snape. Just as Voldemort had not been able to possess Harry while Harry was consumed with grief for Sirius, so his thoughts could not penetrate Harry now, while he mourned Dobby. Grief, it seemed, drove Voldemort out… though Dumbledore, of course, would have said that it was love…” (24)