Before Hagrid arrived in the doorway of the Hut on the Rock, with pockets full of treats and a Hogwarts letter Harry could actually open, it seems the best Harry could hope for was a cheap lemon ice lolly during a day at the zoo. So the moment he finally learned he was a wizard, that he’d be leaving the Dursley’s, and that he’d be going to school to immerse himself in all things Witchcraft and Wizardry – well, there’s no other word for it. It was magic. Hagrid bought Harry more than a squashed birthday cake and a yellowish envelope. He represented Harry’s chance at an entirely new life.
Harry’s miserable childhood might have made his first Hogwarts experiences especially meaningful, but the beginning of a school year signified a new start for every new Hogwarts student. As each gaggle of new 11-year-olds arrived at the castle by boat, they’d witness the Great Hall doors slowly open to reveal an enchanted ceiling, hundreds of other students, and a patched, frayed hat that would determine where they’d spend the next few years of their lives. Of course, the Sorting Hat sometimes caused consternation with its selections (Harry’s son Albus, for example), but whatever house a student ended up in, we’re sure those first awe-struck moments were pretty special.
The days – and, indeed, the months – leading up to Harry and Ginny’s first kiss were not particularly happy. Harry had lost his godfather, Sirius, the summer before, and had spent most of the school year learning about Voldemort’s early life and obsession with Horcruxes, witnessing several near-death experiences (Katie Bell and the necklace, Ron and the poison), and suspecting Draco Malfoy of being a Death Eater. You could not call these good times, so when Harry unexpectedly kissed Ginny (in front of everyone, we may add) and finally experienced a moment of joy, it was a rare thing. Their initial relationship might not have lasted very long – you know, because Dumbledore died, and then Harry had to go off and find Horcruxes – but seeing Harry relaxed and happy made for a refreshing change.
Harry and Ginny may have given us a few months of ‘will they, won’t they’ tension, but that was obviously nothing compared to the years-long slow-burn of Ron and Hermione’s relationship. From that moment in Chamber of Secrets when Ron attempted to curse Draco whilst defending Hermione, to the clumsy way he (sort of) asked her to the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire, to Hermione’s obvious jealousy of Ron and Lavender’s relationship in Half Blood Prince – well, we won’t go on: there were a lot of moments. There was also a real friendship there, so we can understand why it took them a while to act on their feelings. We do still wonder slightly at the timing, though. As Harry himself asked, when Ron and Hermione broke apart after a first dizzying kiss as the Battle of Hogwarts raged on around them: ‘“is this the moment?’”
Timing aside, the minute they finally kissed each other did mark a definite shift in their relationship, so we can forgive the fact that it happened in front of a disbelieving Harry, and as they were surrounded by Basilisk fangs.
Bill and Fleur’s summertime wedding was another romantic moment sandwiched between terrible times (again: Dumbledore’s death and that Horcrux hunt). Which almost made it even more special, as Harry himself identified:
Many weddings are full of optimism for the future, but taking time to celebrate love during dark times is somehow even more special. In Fantastic Beasts, Queenie and Jacob’s wedding had much the same feel, given that it wasn’t technically allowed due to the American law that prevented Muggles from marrying witches or wizards, and that it happened as Gellert Grindelwald was attempting to take over the wizarding world. Aw, we do love all these romantic moments that also manage to be wonderfully defiant.
You might think this an odd one to end on, but Dudley’s lukewarm peace offerings represented a considerably significant attempt to turn over a new leaf by possibly the last person Harry would ever expect it of (even if Harry didn’t recognise them as peace offerings at the time.)
After years of bullying Harry – years of subjecting him to numerous nasty insults, copying his parents’ sneers, and fearing Harry’s magical abilities – all it took was one Dementor attack and a few months of reflection and then, bam, Dudley was being nice to Harry. Or at least telling him he wasn’t a waste of space which, in Dursley terms, amounts to the same thing.
So there you go. If even Dudley Dursley had the capacity to turn over a new leaf, there’s hope for us all.