Things we read and accept quite happily as kids are different when read again a little older and wiser. Here are the things we realised about the series after we’d developed some worry lines…
We know that Dumbledore was preparing Harry to eventually defeat Voldemort: he wasn’t there to make friends or to become a father figure (although, of course, he became both). But when it came down to it, he was still a teacher in charge of a student. There’s testing Harry and helping him to grow, then there’s letting him face mortal peril repeatedly. This is what a school board of governors is for, for goodness’ sake!
‘You rose magnificently to the challenge that faced you and sooner – much sooner – than I had anticipated, you found yourself face to face with Voldemort. You survived again. You did more. You delayed his return to full power and strength. You fought a man’s fight. I was... prouder of you than I can say.’
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
When we were children, still waiting for our Hogwarts letter to be posted, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the idea that three kids could make their way through tasks designed to keep the most Dark and evil wizards away from the Philosopher’s Stone. But they were, of course, only 11 and 12. Someone needed to fetch Harry, Hermione and Ron a copy of The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle comic book, put them to bed, and tell them that they didn’t need to worry about saving the wizarding world.
She eyed him with a mixture of shock and suspicion. ‘Professor Dumbledore will be back tomorrow,’ she said finally. ‘I don’t know how you found out about the Stone, but rest assured, no one can possibly steal it, it’s too well protected.’
‘But Professor –’
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Once again, it fell to Harry and his friends to do what apparently none of the older, more qualified witches and wizards could fathom, and save the day. As much as we loved seeing Harry face off against Voldemort once more (this time in the form of his younger, student self, Tom Riddle) we have to ask what the teachers were doing while they let the kids do all the work, especially when they had none other than Quirrell and Lockhart responsible for their entire Defence Against the Dark Arts knowledge up to that point.
Okay, you get it.
We know that Hogwarts was the safest place for the Philosopher’s Stone, so it was brought there before someone tried to steal it from Gringotts, which seemed wise at the time. However, on reflection, there was something a little off with the idea of placing a much-coveted magical object, which clearly someone would go to deadly lengths to find, in a place filled with students. Not the best idea, that, was it?
There nothing more indicative of becoming an adult than agreeing with the older generation in the Harry Potter novels and yet here we are, nodding firmly along with Molly’s Howler directed at Ron after he and Harry flew the family’s Ford Anglia to Hogwarts. As fun a trip as it was for them, what made the two 12-year-olds think they could fly a car to Scotland? They wouldn’t drive one there! And they left Molly and Arthur with no way of getting home, too. Of all of Ron and Harry’s stunts, this one was probably the most misguided.
Harry was whisked away from the Dursleys without their permission. As brilliant a move as it was when you know Hagrid and Harry’s story, it could also most definitely be classed as a kidnapping – particularly since the plan was to take Harry to a place expressly forbidden by his guardians. With this in mind, it was interesting that Harry wasn’t allowed to visit Hogsmeade without a written consent form as, really, he was attending Hogwarts without any consent whatsoever!
While we’re on the subject of Hagrid, his kindness towards his students and animals in general can’t be called into question. But he had something of a blindspot when the two were brought together. First there was the incident where Draco Malfoy was badly gashed by Buckbeak’s talons after he had insulted Hagrid’s favourite Hippogriff. And then there are the vile Blast-Ended Skrewts, looking like ‘deformed, shell-less lobsters’, smelling of rotting fish and capable of emitting sparks. Dean Thomas suffered a nasty burn when he tried to feed one at Hagrid’s request. Yes, Draco was a git towards Buckbeak – but combining easily-offended magical creatures with a bunch of teenagers was all on Hagrid.
‘Ah, some of ’em have got stings,’ said Hagrid enthusiastically (Lavender quickly withdrew her hand from the box). ‘I reckon they’re the males … the females’ve got sorta sucker things on their bellies … I think they might be ter suck blood.’ ‘Well, I can certainly see why we’re trying to keep them alive,’ said Malfoy sarcastically. ‘Who wouldn’t want pets that can burn, sting and bite all at once?’
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
You don’t just poison someone’s toad to make a point, Snape! When Neville was struggling with a potion, his professor threatened to make Trevor taste it at the end of the session, and it probably would have been the end of that slippery master of hide-and-seek if it wasn’t for Hermione’s help in getting Neville’s potion back on track. What was Snape thinking? Did he have a grudge against toads in general, or did Trevor offend him in some inexplicably amphibian way? The other time we saw casual animal cruelty in a lesson was seeing Mad-Eye Moody demonstrate Unforgiveable Curses on a spider – but seeing as that turned out to be one of the most heinous Death Eaters in disguise…
So there you have it. Hogwarts, the wizarding world and, indeed, the Muggle world, were filled with irresponsible adults who always got away with letting our heroes do whatever they wanted. And, frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way, even when reading the saga again as adults.