10 Life Lessons from Harry Potter You Only Understood As an Adult
Just like every other millennial out there, the wonderful world of Harry Potter was a large part of my childhood (Philosopher’s Stone was literally required reading for my first-grade class). But even though most of my Wizarding World memories happened before I was a teen, re-reading the books in my 20s was almost a completely different experience — filled with complicated themes, diverse characters and, yes, a fair share of heartbreak.
Now with the universe expanding to include a new play and movie series, we’re celebrating by taking a look back at all the adult themes in the original HP that we were too young to catch the first time around. Dust off your well-loved copies and accio yourself a butterbeer… you’re going to need it.
1. Racism and classism exist… and not always in the most obvious places. A running theme in both the Harry Potter novels and movies is the deep-rooted racism towards Muggleborn wizards. But while it’s easy to blame characters like Malfoy (AKA the blonde baby we all love to hate) for such nonsense, JK Rowling deliberately instilled some of our favorite characters with these backward ideals too. Yes, we’re talking about Ron. Once classist toward house-elves, Ron learns through his peers that everyone deserves a voice (and a sock).
2. Discrimination is still a thing, and it sucks. Being a werewolf isn’t as great as you may think. Not only do you lose complete control over your body, but the entire Wizarding World shuns you… and it can seriously limit your job opportunities. Lupin’s character is a nod to the millions of men and women living with an illness today. While his story may be heartbreaking, it’s certainly worthy to tell.
3. Dumbledore is gay *cue minds being blown.* Although it isn’t mentioned in the books or movies, at a 2007 fan event at Carnegie Hall, JK Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay and secretly loved his friend and rival Grindelwald (fingers crossed this comes up in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts series!). What happened next? The entire internet lost its mind, obvi. While we may never have thought twice about this as children, today we understand why JK Rowling left this factoid out of her bestselling novels… and how incredibly sad it is that she thought she had to.
4. It’s all about love, love and more love. It may seem a little mushy, but it’s hard to miss the theme of love in the Harry Potter universe. Sure, we may have skimmed over all of Dumbledore’s monologues as a kiddo, but today we understand how important some of his catchphrases truly are.
5. Your family isn’t always related by blood. After a traumatic upbringing that made all of our parents look like angels, Harry finds family in Hermione, Ron and the rest of the Weasleys. This may not have seemed like a big deal to us as kids (it’s hard to compete with three-headed dogs and leaping chocolate frogs, TBH), but as adults, we can truly comprehend how special it is to find a BFF or two who we know will always be there for us. Thanks, bestie!
6. People aren’t always who they appear to be. You guessed it — we’re talking about Professor Umbridge. Possibly one of the most hated characters in all of fiction, Umbridge isn’t quite the cutesy grandmother she leads people to believe she is. Care for a life lesson, anyone?
7. Friendships can have their ups and downs, but true friends are worth the struggle. From Ron and Harry’s tumultuous fight after the Goblet of Fire announcement to Ron’s rocky love triangle between Hermione and Lavender Brown, having true best friends takes work. But even though a fight with our bestie might have seemed like the end of the world as teens, as adults, we know it’s totally worth it in the end.
8. A good teacher can change the course of your life. Watching the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore grow was a powerful thing to behold as an adult (and one we totally skipped through as children).
9. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions to protect our loved ones. Everyone in JK Rowling’s fantastic series has to sacrifice something for the good of others — whether it’s Hermione having to obliviate her family or Harry having to sacrifice himself for the rest of the Wizarding World. Re-reading this as an adult makes us think about love in a more complicated way than we could possibly understand as children.
10. Always. “After all this time?” “Always.” Our younger selves may not have comprehended the significance of this declaration, but as adults (and diehard Potterheads), we can understand the weight and brevity of Snape’s loving goodbye. Messy, unrequited and entirely real, Snape’s love for Lily is powerful. And yes, it still makes us ugly cry.
Have you re-read the Harry Potter series as an adult? Tweet us your thoughts @BritandCo!
(Photos via Warner Bros. and Pottermore)