How the Crises of the “Harry Potter” Series Give Us Hope for Our Own
by Miranda Blake
When the pandemic hit, many turned to escapism in the form of the Harry Potter novels. But for me, it wasn’t quite the distraction I expected. Yes, there were dragons, hippogriffs, and Dementors – well outside the realms of our own reality. Yet in almost all the books, I found myself reminded of the pandemic experience. And I’m not just talking about how J.K. Rowling weaves anxiety and depression into her stories either.
From lockdowns to anti-Voldemort believers, there are more parallels between the pandemic and the Harry Potter series than you’d think. Let me detail a few, along with how the novels ultimately give us hope during our very own crisis.
Chamber of Secrets: Lockdown
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there are attacks accompanied by uncertainty. No one knows the cause of them or when the terrifying time will end. And because of this, people are always at risk; with COVID-19, it feels like you’re essentially at its peril every time you step outside.
It gets to the point of a Hogwarts lockdown, something reminiscent of our own – though obviously nowhere near as severe.
All students will return to their House common rooms by six o’clock in the evening. No student is to leave the dormitories after that time. You will be escorted to each lesson by a teacher. No student is to use the bathroom unaccompanied by a teacher. All further Quidditch training and matches are to be postponed. There will be no more evening activities.” (CoS 257)
And what’s interesting is that Harry knew all along. Dobby warned him that terrible things would happen at Hogwarts. Much like Harry, we didn’t listen at the beginning either.
Prisoner of Azkaban: Shielding
Then, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, apparent killer Sirius Black is on the loose, and Hogwarts is specifically threatened – because of Harry. Whilst, yes, the rest of the school has to endure Dementors at the gates, they don’t suffer compared to him. He has to be very careful. Fudge requests he stay in Diagon Alley at the beginning of the book so they can keep an eye on him.
And then when Black manages to enter the castle, Harry is under their vigilant eye even more.
He was now being closely watched. Teachers found excuses to walk along corridors with him, and Percy Weasley (acting, Harry suspected, on his mother’s orders) was tailing him everywhere like an extremely pompous guard dog.” (PoA 167)
Everyone else gets to do pretty much what they want; Harry, on the other hand, has to do his own form of “shielding.” If you’re outside the UK and haven’t come across this term before, shielding is where those deemed more vulnerable are advised to stay home at all times. Only exercise and attending medical appointments are good enough reasons to step outside.
Akin to those who have to shield, Harry isn’t banned as such, more guided. Of course, he doesn’t follow this counsel – just like many people haven’t followed government advice surrounding COVID-19. Harry doesn’t perceive the risk the same way; he sneaks into Hogsmeade without so much as a thought to the potential peril. And then when a broom is sent to Harry, Hermione and Professor McGonagall think Black jinxed it, but he disagrees. Obviously, we learn Black is not a murderer in the end, but Hermione’s theory is grounded in pragmatism.
Order of the Phoenix: Disbelief
When Voldemort returns, the Minister of Magic’s first thought is that Harry must have made it up.
Fudge and so many others just didn’t want to accept that Voldemort could be back; they didn’t want things to return to like they were before: when he was last at power, when everyone feared for their lives, when they were at war.
Accepting that Voldemort’s back would mean trouble like the Ministry hasn’t had to cope with for nearly fourteen years.” (OotP 94)
It’s the same with COVID-19. People don’t want to believe that this horrible virus is out there. They don’t want to lose their normalcy. Fudge came up with his own reason as to why Dumbledore said Voldemort had returned: he must be trying to take the Minister of Magic job and form an army. In our world, people say the government is trying to restrict our movements. There are anti-maskers and far too many conspiracy theories to count.
Half-Blood Prince: Acceptance
When the entire wizarding world finally does acknowledge that Voldemort is at large, it all gets very real. Much like COVID-19 did on the day the WHO declared it a pandemic.
In the UK, it had gone from being “no worse than the flu” to a full-on crisis. Many were suddenly forced to accept their lives had to change drastically. A lot of people couldn’t stand the idea of a lockdown, but we now know that this wasn’t enough to resolve the situation. We don’t know when COVID-19 will end. We were waiting for a seeming magic bullet – in this case, a vaccine. What was the magic bullet for the magical world? Defeating Voldemort. Each is no mean feat…
Voldemort returning is a catastrophe. And how do people react to a crisis? They make big decisions.
It’s all this uncertainty with You-Know-Who coming back, people think they might be dead tomorrow, so they’re rushing all sorts of decisions they’d normally take time over. It was the same last time he was powerful, people eloping left, right, and center – .” (HBP 93)
And many have made life-changing decisions during the pandemic. Marriages, children, relocations, career moves, and breakups, to name just a few. Because when a disaster happens – whether it’s a pandemic or the darkest wizard of all time being in power again – your mindset changes.
Deathly Hallows: Normality
With Dumbledore dead and Harry losing his mother’s protection on his 17th birthday, his safety has a substantial question mark hanging over it. Following this, the Ministry falls. And then he is in real danger. Harry, Ron, and Hermione go into hiding. Of course, to work on defeating Voldemort, they have to venture outside occasionally. Going out is a real risk – just like with the coronavirus.
It’s the hardest time for them. They’re around each other 24/7, and this leads to fighting, which triggers Ron to leave (albeit temporarily). Relationships, of all forms, have ended up being strained by the pandemic.
We know how the story ends. Harry conquers Voldemort, and normality resumes – well, to an extent. People lost loved ones, and living in hiding or fear isn’t something you forget. The wizarding world faced its own catastrophe, but they did get through it.
So whilst re-reading the Harry Potter books this year has reminded me of the crisis we’re in, it also gave me hope. Voldemort was defeated. Eventually, COVID-19 will be. Yes, there have been and will continue to be bad situations and feelings as the pandemic continues – I can’t deny that. But just think to the last sentence of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
All was well.” (DH 759)
All will be well in the Muggle world too.