The most miserable of Harry’s birthdays has to be his twelfth. For Harry to have to return to Privet Drive, after he had spent a year at Hogwarts (where he had made new friends and gone on wonderful adventures), must have been a major shock to his system. And when his birthday arrived and no cards did, it must have felt terrible. Of course the Dursleys weren’t going to remember – but you would think Ron and Hermione would. Though it turned out that they hadn’t forgotten him, and it was Dobby that had been hiding his post, the day he turned twelve must have felt pretty awful and lonely.
Harry left through the back door. It was a brilliant, sunny day. He crossed the lawn, slumped down on the garden bench and sang under his breath, ‘Happy birthday to me ... happy birthday to me ...’
No cards, no presents, and he would be spending the evening pretending not to exist. He gazed miserably into the hedge. He had never felt so lonely. More than anything else at Hogwarts, more even than playing Quidditch, Harry missed his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They, however, didn’t seem to be missing him at all. Neither of them had written to him all summer, even though Ron had said he was going to ask Harry to come and stay.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry’s fifteenth birthday was not a joyous or fun occasion – and Harry didn’t help the situation. Again, being stuck at the Dursley’s meant Harry didn’t expect to have the best time. However, while his friends did try to improve things by sending him presents, Harry was feeling too jealous and bitter to appreciate their gesture. He thought his two best friends were together and having fun without him. So instead of being happy to receive their gifts – he threw them away. Which just resulted in him making an already wretched birthday even worse.
But when were they going to see him? Nobody seemed too bothered with a precise date. Hermione had scribbled I expect we’ll be seeing you quite soon inside his birthday card, but how soon was soon? As far as Harry could tell from the vague hints in their letters, Hermione and Ron were in the same place, presumably at Ron’s parents’ house. He could hardly bear to think of the pair of them having fun at The Burrow when he was stuck in Privet Drive. In fact, he was so angry with them he had thrown away, unopened, the two boxes of Honeydukes chocolates they’d sent him for his birthday. He’d regretted it later, after the wilted salad Aunt Petunia had provided for dinner that night.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Who doesn’t love cake? And what’s better than one birthday cake? Four birthday cakes! Harry’s fourteenth birthday was actually not the worst. Now that Harry had his godfather in his life, he had an extra person to help celebrate his birthday! While this one wasn’t fantastic, as he was still stuck at Privet Drive, it was better than some of his others. With Dudley on a diet, Harry could take extra pleasure in knowing that he had a delicious secret feast hidden under his floorboard… and for once it would be Dudley that went without.
And then on Harry’s birthday (which the Dursleys had completely ignored) he had received four superb birthday cakes, one each from Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and Sirius. Harry still had two of them left, and so, looking forward to a real breakfast when he got back upstairs, he started eating his grapefruit without complaint.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry’s thirteenth birthday was one of the very first times that he knew people were thinking of him. Although it is easy to assume that cards and gifts are a given on your birthday, that’s not the case for Harry. His thirteenth was when things changed. Harry realised he could enjoy his birthday, as there were people out there who cared about him and wanted to mark the occasion. And getting a brand-new Sneakoscope and Broomstick Servicing Kit would have been the icing on the cake.
Then he took off his glasses and lay down, eyes open, facing his three birthday cards.
Extremely unusual though he was, at that moment Harry Potter felt just like everyone else: glad, for the first time in his life, that it was his birthday.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Ok, so hear us out when it comes to this one. Yes, Harry’s sixteenth birthday was marred by awful news of disappearances and deaths, but it was one of the first birthdays that Harry got to spend with his favourite people. Yes, the birthday tea was gloomy, but at least he was with Ron, Hermione and all the other Weasleys. They had at least made an effort – which is more than the Dursleys ever did.
It would have been a happy, peaceful holiday had it not been for the stories of disappearances, odd accidents, even of deaths now appearing almost daily in the Prophet. Sometimes Bill and Mr Weasley brought home news before it even reached the paper. To Mrs Weasley’s displeasure, Harry’s sixteenth birthday celebrations were marred by grisly tidings brought to the party by Remus Lupin, who was looking gaunt and grim, his brown hair streaked liberally with grey, his clothes more ragged and patched than ever.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
There may have been the cloud of Voldemort’s return hanging over Harry’s seventeenth birthday – not to mention an impromptu visit from the Minister for Magic, but this was still up there with one of Harry’s very best celebrations. From the cake that was shaped like a Snitch, to the beautiful birthday feast conjured by Mrs Weasley, to spending it surrounded by loved ones, to the watch which meant everything to Harry – it certainly had its heart-warming and wonderful moments.
‘It’s traditional to give a wizard a watch when he comes of age,’ said Mrs Weasley, watching him anxiously from beside the cooker. ‘I’m afraid that one isn’t new like Ron’s, it was actually my brother Fabian’s and he wasn’t terribly careful with his possessions, it’s a bit dented on the back, but –’
The rest of her speech was lost; Harry had got up and hugged her. He tried to put a lot of unsaid things into the hug and perhaps she understood them, because she patted his cheek clumsily when he released her, then waved her wand in a slightly random way, causing half a pack of bacon to flop out of the frying pan on to the floor.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
How could the top spot be anything else? It’s not every day that you are told you are magical and belong to the wizarding world. In fact, we reckon it was one of the best moments of Harry’s entire life. This birthday included meeting Hagrid, getting his wand, being brought an ice cream, being given Hedwig and finding out that his parents had left him a small fortune – what’s not to love? Harry even said this was his very best birthday – when he found himself reminiscing while trying to break into Gringotts bank…
Harry looked up at it, and all of a sudden a knife-sharp memory came to him: standing on this very spot on the day that he had turned eleven, the most wonderful birthday of his life, and Hagrid standing beside him saying, ‘Like I said, yeh’d be mad ter try an’ rob it.’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry’s first birthday deserves to have a special mention. While he can’t remember it (which is why it isn’t on the list), it was the only one he got to spend with his parents (and Bathilda Bagshot). There was a birthday tea and a new toy broomstick, and he was surrounded by those who loved him the most in the world.