We know the main protagonist of the Harry Potter books didn’t have the easiest time of it in life, seeing as when we first properly met him he was sleeping in a cupboard. But while Harry grew older, made good friends and became a truly great wizard, it feels like these other poor characters definitely drew a short straw.
Although he was blessed with rugged handsomeness, a cool Animagus form and some great childhood friends (bar the not-so-great one), life didn’t end up being all that fun for Sirius. And the injustice of it all still stings.
First off, he grew up as a rare, lonely Gryffindor kid in his Slytherin-loving, pure-blood obsessed family household, which included décor decisions such as mounted house-elf heads. He was then subsequentally burnt out of the family tapestry for daring to be different.
Next up: he was imprisoned in Azkaban for over a decade for the murder of 12 Muggles and his former best friend Peter Pettigrew, who actually framed him and faked his own death. He then had to cope with the unbearable pain of the death of his best friend James Potter and his wife Lily, which everyone in the wizarding world believed was down to him betraying them.
When he finally escaped he was confined to a life of solitude, endlessly in hiding, living off scraps, and eventually ending up back at his loathed family home, where he must have lived with his despised childhood memories and a never-dying incarnation of his screaming, disapproving mother mounted on the wall.
Then, after finally finding a hopeful new life outside of Azkaban, working with the Order of the Phoenix, and forging a beautiful bond with his godson who reminded him so fondly of his old best friend James, he was killed by his very own deranged cousin, Bellatrix.
Those happy days of singing God Rest Ye, Merry Hippogriffs at Christmas didn’t last long.
Speaking of beautiful fictional wizards dying before their time, here’s another one. Poor Cedric Diggory had everything going for him: chiselled good looks, popularity, Hufflepuff pride, and enough wizarding talent to be chosen as Hogwarts champion at the Triwizard Tournament. All good so far.
Alas, this special time for Cedric got royally tainted when that Harry Potter kid also joined the tournament due to an elaborate secret plot by Lord Voldemort. Now the new ending of the Tournament led to a Triwizard cup-turned-Portkey that would lead Harry straight to the Dark Lord.
Cedric’s reward for getting to the cup first? Totally unfair, randomised murder. Pretty sure it was meant to be a cash prize and a fancy trophy.
Suffice to say, Cedric’s death remains one of the most shocking and hard-to-swallow losses of the entire series.
Poor, young Colin Creevey was simply a naive, Muggle-born Hogwarts student full of zest for magic and a passion for slightly Harry Potter-specific photography. He ended up drawing a very short straw as far as his Hogwarts life was concerned. In his first year, Colin was one of a handful of victims Petrified when the Chamber of Secrets was opened, his Muggle-born status making him ample bait for Salazar Slytherin’s Basilisk.
After that, things went all right for a while, with Colin getting to join Dumbledore’s Army and hang with his hero. Hurray!
However, upon Voldemort’s return, we got a horrible little snapshot of what life was like for Muggle-born wizards under the Dark Lord’s rule. In Deathly Hallows, while Harry was off hunting Horcruxes, poor Colin was expelled from Hogwarts for being Muggle-born, and then killed at the Battle of Hogwarts in one of the books’ saddest and most unexpected deaths.
The worst bit: Colin wasn’t even supposed to be there, but probably snuck back to support his idol, Harry.
Harry glanced down, and felt another dull blow to his stomach: Colin Creevey, though under-age, must have sneaked back just as Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle had done. He was tiny in death.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
She was sister to one of the wizarding world’s most beloved national treasures, but as it turned out, Ariana Dumbledore was one of the series’ most tragic characters. An attack from a group of Muggle boys at only six years old began a domino effect in the Dumbledore family, with Ariana’s father Percival sentenced to Azkaban for retaliating against those very boys. So far, so murky and terrible.
Sufficiently traumatised from these events, Ariana’s uncontrollable magic caused an explosion that killed her mother when she was 14, leaving Albus as her primary carer. In the end, she was killed during a three-way duel between her brothers, Albus and Aberforth, and Gellert Grindelwald, with none of the three young men ever knowing who was responsible for her death.
We loved Remus. And although he will always be a household favourite, his ‘furry little problem’ of being a werewolf seemed to hold him back his entire life. Attacked by Fenrir Greyback when he was only a child, he ended up spending his youth being moved from location to location never making friends or connections – so that his lycanthropy would not be discovered.
When he was allowed to attend Hogwarts, Remus finally made friends who accepted him for who he was – only to have two of them brutally killed thanks to the betrayal of another.
Although Remus picked himself up and bagged a gig as Hogwarts professor, his wolfish ways always served as a simmering source of anxiety for the poor guy. He ended up resigning from a job he was really good at, and dithered during his relationship with Tonks, spending half of the time worrying about being a werewolf rather than actually enjoying falling in love. After Remus finally seemed to have found peace, and his worries about his baby being a werewolf were unfounded, he and Tonks both fell at the Battle of Hogwarts. This one still hurts.
A special mention to Merope Gaunt, who had the spectacularly bad luck of being Voldemort’s mum. And life didn’t start off well either. She was born into the abusive Gaunt family, and her cruel dad Marvolo and her foul brother Morfin made life awful for her.
We only ever got small glimpses into Merope’s wretched little world, but from what we did see, Merope herself seemed very naive and ultimately harmless. When she finally discovered a scrap of happiness, her life ultimately descended into more tragedy. This was when she fell for a local Muggle called Tom Riddle, who only recipocrated the feeling when Merope magically intervened. He ran for the hills after the spell was ‘lifted’.
In the end, Merope was left pregnant with the eventual Lord Voldemort, and died following his birth, seemingly having given up on living.
Sorry to end on such a downer.