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8 times the ‘good guys’ were surprisingly bad

Being ‘bad’ isn’t always black and white. In fact, there are many shades of grey in between.

Draco lying on the bathroom floor after Harry's curse
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

No one is 100 per cent good or bad, but here are eight times Harry Potter characters made bad choices despite good intentions.

Sectumsempra

Harry may have been the The Boy Who Lived, but he wasn’t immune to bad decisions or dangerous impulses. In Half-Blood Prince, Harry pushed his luck after acquiring a dusty old Potions textbook that had been heavily annotated with notes and homemade spells — spells Harry decided to try out.

This backfired horrifically when he tried Sectumsempra out on Malfoy during an angry confrontation. Noted as being ‘for enemies’, the spell was clearly not friendly, and turned out to be a hex that slashed Malfoy, seriously hurting him. Harry and Malfoy had never been bosom buddies, but the magnitude of the attack was huge, leaving Harry to question himself and his trust in the anonymous Prince’s scribblings.

Attacking the Fat Lady’s Portrait

Student and teachers find the slashed Fat lady
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

When we were first introduced to Sirius Black, he was a wanted fugitive on the run from Azkaban, convicted of the murder of Peter Pettigrew and of betraying Harry’s parents. Not a good start. Sirius didn’t exactly improve matters when he tried to sneak into the Gryffindor dormitory by slashing the Fat Lady’s portrait.

We later discovered that Sirius wasn’t a bloodthirsty murderer at all, and simply wanted to get revenge on the real villain of the piece – the not-at-all-dead Peter Pettigrew. But taking it out on the Fat Lady wasn’t so heroic. Firstly, the entirety of Hogwarts was panic-stricken, including his own godson. Secondly, paintings have feelings too.

Dumbledore and Grindelwald

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

It’s difficult to disagree with the fact that Albus Dumbledore was a marvellous man, lauded and respected by many. However, as Rita Skeeter so distastefully revealed, his past was a little more complicated.

Albus was once friends with Gellert Grindelwald, a wizard who we knew would succumb to true darkness in his later years. During their youth, Gellert was enamoured with his a plan ‘for the greater good’ that would see wizards rise up and take their rightful place above Muggles.

Their friendship ended after Dumbledore’s sister Ariana was killed by a stray curse cast during a heated three-way argument between the pair and Albus’s brother, Aberforth.

This all sounds very unlike Dumbledore the wise teacher, but we shouldn’t forget that he was young once too. Dumbledore bested Grindelwald in a legendary duel many years later, but probably not without a shadow of guilt for Ariana, and the tragedy that his old friend had descended so far into darkness.

Hermione setting birds on Ron

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Hermione was one of the greatest witches of her generation, and a strong advocate for using magic for good. But despite her incredible acumen, she was also once a teenager with hormones. This came into play when Ron started his relationship with Lavender Brown, and very publicly, might we add, in the Gryffindor common room.

When Hermione tried to get away, the new couple blundered into the exact room she was in, just to rub the salt extra-thoroughly into the wound. It was the last straw for Hermione, who promptly snapped and charmed a flock of birds to attack Ron. It wasn’t very Hermione-like to maim one of her best friends, but to be fair, Ron didn’t exactly break the news to her sensitively...

James bullying Snape

A close up of the pensieve from the Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Lily and James Potter were well-known figures in the wizarding world, both for their talents and their tragic, early deaths. So it was only natural that Harry, having lost his parents so young, had perhaps a rather rose-tinted view of them both.

As such, it was a shock when he saw the way his father treated Snape when they were teenagers at Hogwarts. Having always wondered why the Potions Master treated him with such withering contempt, the reason became all too clear to Harry when he realised James used to embarrass him in front of students, perfecting the nickname ‘Snivellus’.

Of course, James grew out of this and became the man that Harry believed him to be, but the revelation also taught Harry that while his parents may have died heroes, they were sometimes just as flawed as the rest of us.

Xenophilius and the Death Eaters

Harry, Ron and Hermione in Xenophilius LoveGood's House from The Deathly Hallows.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

At first glance, Luna’s father Xenophilius seemed as harmlessly eccentric as his daughter. Xenophilius even used his infamously bonkers publication, The Quibbler, to openly support Harry, when the Daily Prophet would not. This loyalty didn’t last long.

When Harry, Ron and Hermione visited Xenophilius for help in their quest for Horcruxes, Xenophilius alerted the Death Eaters of their location immediately. But Hermione was quick to realise why: Luna had been kidnapped, and he simply wanted to get her back at whatever the cost. A lesson that sometimes we do things for love that we would never even consider normally.

Bartemius Crouch and his son

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Bartemius Crouch seemed like an upstanding member of the Ministry of Magic: a straight up, law-abiding wizard who banished his own son to Azkaban when he joined Voldemort’s ranks. Or so it seemed.

Actually, Barty had been breaking the rules for a while, sneaking Barty Crouch Jr out of prison, which led to him being reunited with Voldemort. Barty Crouch Jr then stole the identity of Mad-Eye Moody, botched the Triwizard Tournament, and used Harry to bring Voldemort back to full strength. Not the sort of stuff you get promotions for.

The sad truth of the matter, however, was that it was his dying wife’s final wish that she replace their son in prison, so he might have another chance at life. Barty Crouch Sr did what he did for love, while his wife would never know that her sacrifice would mark terrible things were to come.

Snape killing Dumbledore

Dumbledore's funeral
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

This one is rather complicated, obviously.

Snape doing arguably bad things is nothing new to us, but when he used Avada Kedavra against Albus Dumbledore at the top of the Astronomy Tower, he went from annoying Potions Master to a truly Dark wizard.

How could he do it? How could he turn on the man who had given him a second chance? Harry couldn’t understand it and neither could we; had Dumbledore really misjudged him so much? As it turned out, no.

Snape killed Dumbledore at the request of the great wizard himself, to spare the terrified Draco Malfoy from scarring his soul irreparably with murder. Snape was also trying to atone for divulging the prophecy to Voldemort – an action that led to the death of the love of Snape’s life, Lily Potter. When examining what it is to be good, and what it is to be bad, we feel Snape will always lie somewhere in those shades of grey.