Friday, 12 August 2016

6 Lessons Harry Potter Taught Me

A photo of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling stacked in a pile at angles, so the top right corners of the last two books show, too.

Over the past several weeks, I've been re-reading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I was having a bit of a rough time, and Harry Potter is like a comfort blanket to me, and so I eagerly dived in and immersed myself in this incredible world. This re-read, there were a number of things - events or actions - that really struck a chord with me, and I realised, as well as being such an entertaining fantasy series, there's so much to learn from Harry Potter.

Never underestimate the power of friendship.

Without Ron and Hermione, I really don't think Harry would have got through half the things he did. It's not just Hermione's intelligence and book smarts and Ron's knowledge of the wizarding world, it's their encouragement, support, and whole-hearted belief in him. Even when there are blips in the road, the three always make it back to each other, and their bond is strong. It's thinking of Ron and Hermione, and the love he has for them, that causes Voldemort so much agony when he possesses Harry in Order of the Phoenix.

Friendship isn't just a big deal for Harry with all he goes through. We have to remember Luna. Luna, who is a little odd and has hardly any friends. Luna, who is over the moon to be asked by Harry to attend Slughorn's Christmas party with him as a friend. Luna who - like Neville - enjoyed the Dumbledore's Army meetings, because it "felt like having friends". Luna who painted a mural on the ceiling of her bedroom of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Neville, with the "friends" repeated in a chain, swirling around the painting. The kindness and compassion those five show to Luna mean the world to her. And it's for her friends that she goes with the trio to the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix and comes to fight in Half-Blood Prince. Friendship is everything.

Dobby should be your spirit animal. 

There's so much to say about Dobby, he needs his own category. We all love Dobby, and were heartbroken by his death in Deathly Hallows, but it took this re-read for me to realise just how incredible he is. Dobby risks severe punishment to try and stop Harry from going to school in Chamber of Secrets, in an attempt to save his life. Dobby relishes in his freedom, and demands pay and time off work (even if not that much), despite all other House Elves looking down on him. He sticks to his guns, and goes for what he wants and deserves. He gets the Gillyweed for Harry in Goblet of Fire, he tails Draco Malfoy for Harry in Half-Blood Prince, and in Deathly Hallows, he goes to the house of his former masters, despite being absolutely terrified, in order to save Harry and his friends, and in doing so, makes the ultimate sacrifice.

Dobby is incredibly brave. Dobby is selfless. Dobby does what he believes to be right. Dobby values his friends. There is so much we could learn from this incredible little House Elf.

Always stand up for what you believe is right.

In every other reading of Goblet of Fire, I always found Hermione's fixation on Elf Rights to be really annoying. But this time round, I was in so much awe of her.

Of course, she's right; it's disgusting how House Elves are treated by their masters, but I felt she went on about it a bit too much - in regards to the story, I just wanted to get to the exciting stuff. This time round, I just felt so incredibly proud of her. At every turn Hermione came up against people who told her she was wrong, that this is what House Elves want, that they weren't going to help her, but she didn't give up. She kept on trying to make a difference in her own way, despite the naysayers. She wouldn't be shut up or shut down. She spoke up and she tried. It wouldn't surprise me if she became a campaigner for the rights of magical creatures after the books ended. We'd all do well to try and emulate her doggedness and determination to fight for what she believes in.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Your past doesn't dictate your future.

Isn't Neville just brilliant? The underdog who isn't very bright, is quiet and nervous, who is bullied and quite often afraid. But then he gets involved in the DA, and with support and encouragement, he gets better at jinxes and charms, and his confidence grows. And with that confidence comes bravery - enough bravery to join Harry, Ron and Hermione at the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix, enough bravery to join the fray at the school in Half-Blood Prince, and enough bravery to lead the DA in a rebellion against Snape and the Carrows in Deathly Hallows. I remember when first reading about the prophecy in Order of the Phoenix, and how it could have been Neville Voldemort went after instead of Harry, I thought it was a bloody good job he did go after Harry, because everyone would have been screwed if it was Neville. But after Deathly Hallows, I don't think they would have been. When it comes down to it, Neville steps up to the plate with grit and determination, and he fights, when before he always cowered. Who Neville once was doesn't stop him from becoming the person Hogwarts needs when the Carrows are there. He didn't let his fear prevent him from growing.

Bravery comes in all forms.

Harry's the guy who deals with most of the danger in this series, but he isn't the only one. Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna and Ginny all do too, even more in Deathly Hallows, all in the fight against evil. But you don't have to be in a life-threatening or dangerous situation to be brave.

Neville stands up to Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Philosopher's Stone when they try to sneak out of the Gryffindor common room. Lupin faces the terrifying ordeal of having a child he might have passed on werewolf genes to (after a kick up the bum from Harry) in Deathly Hallows. As I've said, Dobby risks punishment to try and keep Harry safe in Chamber of Secrets. Hagrid fights for the life of Buckbeak at a trial in Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape quietly watches and protects the son of a man he despised, for the sake of his mother; he has to see those green eyes every day, a constant reminder of the woman he loved and the part he played in her death.

There is so much more to being brave than risking your life. Bravery is present in every act that's taken despite of fear, pain, or discomfort.

Magic is real.

Maybe not in the same way as in the books, but there is definitely one form of magic that exists in our world. There's one thing that Dumbledore talks about over and over again: the power of love. It's love as magic that saved Harry as a baby, that helped Voldemort gain his new body in Goblet of Fire, that saved Harry when he faces Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, knowing he must die. But it's love as emotion that spearns Harry on throughout the series - familial and platonic love. He wants to go after Voldemort because he killed his parents. It's love for his best friend's sister - and the safety of others - that has him go into the Chamber of Secrets. It's love for his parents that has him go after Sirius in Prisoner of Azkaban, believing he sold them to Voldemort. In the same book, it's love that helps him produce a Patronus against the Dementors. It's the love for his parents that keeps him running in Goblet of Fire, after the echos of those killed by Voldemort come out of his wand during Priori Incantatem. It's love that has him racing to the Ministry to save Sirius in Order of the Phoenix. It's love for Dumbledore that has him chasing after Snape after killing Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince.

But, as with bravery, love comes in many forms. It's to stop Voldemort's return and keep everyone safe that he goes after Quirrell in Philosopher's Stone. In Deathly Hallows, it's to save others that Harry tries to find and destroy the Horcruxes, to defeat Voldemort. It's to save others that he walks to his death, knowing his death will lead to the end of Voldemort; his sacrifice is an act of love.

As Dumbledore would say, kindness, compassion, and selflessness are all forms of love, and love can make a whole world of difference, as is the case of Luna. Love is magical. Magic is real.

What do you think of the power of Harry Potter? What lessons has the series taught you?

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