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The most devastating deaths in the Harry Potter stories

It’s the measure of a very special story that its characters feel so real to you, it’s almost as if they’re your own friends.

A sketch of the Little Hangleton Graveyard
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

These are the characters you look forward to spending time with on the page or screen: they may intrigue you, inspire you, enrage you or make you laugh. So it’s hardly surprising that when any of these characters die, the impact is profound.

Supposedly, there are seven stages of grief. Here’s how we feel they relate to seven of the saddest moments in the Harry Potter books and films.

Sirius Black – Disbelief

Sirius’s death at the hands of his cruel Death Eater cousin Bellatrix was so sudden it didn’t seem real. One moment he was laughing at her and daring her to do better, the next he had disappeared behind the veil and that was it... he’d gone?

Harry’s disbelief mirrored our own. In the film adaptation of Order of the Phoenix, Harry’s scream was muted and he was held back by Lupin. It’s a moment that beautifully reflected our own feelings. How could this be? Hadn’t this boy been through enough? The closest connection to his parents was lost forever, and we’re left broken-hearted for him.

Sirius falls through the vail in the Department of Mysteries
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Albus Dumbledore – Denial

Maybe you slammed the book shut at the moment Snape uttered ‘Avada Kedavra!’, or paused the film to make a cup of tea, because there was absolutely no way you could handle Dumbledore dying. It couldn’t be real – as Harry thought on the next page: ‘...it could not have happened’.

Terror tore through Harry’s heart as it tore through your own. ‘Not Dumbledore, please not Dumbledore,’ you repeatedly muttered to yourself. For most of the next chapter, we clung to the hope that he wasn’t really dead. But then it hit us, and as Harry tried ‘to absorb the enormous and incomprehensible truth: that never again would Dumbledore speak to him, never again could he help’... so did we.

Dumbledore falls from Hogwarts' top tower after he is killed
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Dobby – Bargaining

Harry begged and bargained, pleading for Dobby’s life as the little house-elf lay dying in his arms. ‘Harry… Potter…’ Dobby said gently, for the last time.

And as those big, wide eyes glazed over, there was that devastating sentence from the book: ‘…his eyes were nothing more than great, glassy orbs sprinkled with light from the stars they could not see.’

It’s so terribly sad, and ‘Here lies Dobby, a Free Elf’ are six of the saddest words you’ll ever read.

Dobby's funeral at Shell Cottage.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Fred Weasley – Guilt

During the Battle of Hogwarts, it was almost too much for Harry to bear to look at the bodies of his fallen friends – Fred Weasley in particular. He was plagued with the thought that if he had given himself over to Voldemort, this might not have happened.

On the anniversary of the battle in 2015, J.K. Rowling tweeted how sorry she was at writing Fred’s death and all of the sadness came flooding back. Even now, many years on, his death is too much for words. His exciting young life cut short; the very notion of George without Fred; the dreadful effect on his parents and siblings. How could this possibly be?

Fred died with his ‘last laugh still etched upon his face’; we could barely see through our tears. In the film of Deathly Hallows, Ron broke down as we saw Molly stroking his forehead, desperately needing to comfort him. It was all kinds of devastating all at once.

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Remus Lupin – Anger

Remus Lupin: fondly remembered as a kind man with a slightly scruffy appearance and tatty old briefcase, who suffered an excruciating transformation every month. He had such a difficult life and just when he’d found love and acceptance – and become a father – he died.

It’s hard not to rage against something so tragic, and it was easy to understand Harry’s reaction: ‘… he yearned not to feel ... he wished he could rip out his heart, his innards, everything that was screaming inside him...’

Nymphadora Tonks – Depression

Clever, funny, and brave, Tonks was one-in-a-million, and not just because of her powers as a Metamorphmagus. She was loyal, capable and she fought for the person she wanted to be with. It was the strength of her love for Remus that brought her to Hogwarts for the final battle and ultimately, to her death.

All that promise and bravery was lost, and this character we grew to care so deeply for in just three books was suddenly gone.

And her son, just like Harry, was left alone – never knowing his kind, gentle and wonderful parents. We were left with the image of Tonks and Remus united in death, their bodies lying next to Fred, ‘pale and still and peaceful-looking, apparently asleep beneath the dark, enchanted ceiling’.

Severus Snape – Acceptance

At the moment of Severus’s terrible death, we did not truly know him. He was Dumbledore’s killer and the man Harry hated and who, by all accounts, had hated him since he first set foot in Hogwarts.

But then Harry was plunged into the Pensieve and we learnt the truth. It is so shocking and sad; everything we thought we knew changed. Severus placed himself in constant danger for the woman he always loved, Lily Potter. Learning the truth about Snape brought acceptance of him as a loyal, devoted man, and probably one of the bravest Harry Potter ever knew.

Snape calling Lupin into his fire
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.