It’s no secret to hardcore Potterheads that the magical world of Harry Potter is full of more than whimsy and wonder. Sure, there are spells, dragons, invisible skeleton horses, infatuation potions, socialized vampires, and plenty of Peeves. But that’s not all. There are bitter adults who never got over childhood disappointments, sentimental teachers who put happiness over functionality, and confused teens who are truly terrible at communicating.
We thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the most dysfunctional relationships in the Potterverse. This list will not be a collection of characters who don’t get along. These might be familial relationships in conflict, romances that didn’t (or shouldn’t) work out, terrible coworkers or bosses, and even close friendships that weren’t all they seemed. What these relationships have in common is the idea that they should work. Mothers aren’t supposed to magic their kid’s names out of the family tree, sisters should care if their sibling’s son is facing an early death, and by Merlin’s beard—you should be able to tell someone you’re a witch or wizard BEFORE you marry them.
Note: This list contains spoilers for all existing Potterverse movies, books, tie-ins, stage plays, and anything else that is canon, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
20. Ron & Hermione (the early years)
Readers who accept “19 Years Later” as canon, (we’re aware that some don’t) know that Ron and Hermione eventually get married and have a couple of kids. They get along so well that the couple uses a blended name. The Granger-Weasley family gets on famously now. But that was very much not the case when they were students.
Before Hermione was Ron’s friend, he called her a “nightmare” and opined that her habit of correcting people is why she “hasn’t got any friends.” Jumping ahead to 4th year, it doesn’t seem to occur to Ron that Hermione is a girl, let alone a viable date to the Yule Ball—until he’s totally desperate. By that time, Hermione had been asked at least twice. Then Ron had the nerve to tell Harry that Hermione must have been lying about having a date at all. At the same time, Hermione’s jealousy when Ron was dating Lavender Brown was the stuff of legend. You can’t claim the moral high ground after you send a flock of birds at someone’s head. Dating Cormac to make Ron envious? Ew! We’ll forgive Ron for his disappearance during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, mostly because the ball of light in his heart entranced us.
19. Mr. & Mrs. Hagrid
We at Screen Rant debated about whether to include Hagrid’s parents here or Seamus Finnegan’s. After all, Seamus’ mom kept her magical abilities from her husband until after they were married. Pretty big secret, no? Maybe the Statute of Secrecy requires this, but…damn. Ultimately, we decided that Fridwulfa’s actions earned Hagrid’s parents a place on our list.
Hagrid’s father, who is never given a first name, is short even by human standards. Nevertheless, he married and fathered a child with the giantess, who left little Rubeus and his father shortly after his birth. Giants have violent impulses, so we could argue that she left her family to keep from hurting them. At the same time, how could she expect her tiny husband to raise a child who was twice his size by the time he was six? We can’t answer that, but what we do know is that before she died, Fridwulfa had another son with a giant. Hagrid’s half-brother, Grawp, has a docile side that makes us curious about what kind of woman Fridwulfa was. Regardless, it seems that the Hagrid’s relationship was doomed to failure even before they could agree on a bed.
18. Sirius & Walburga Black
One thing you notice about pureblood wizard families is that a lot of their members are…kinda nuts. Inbreeding will do that. Both of Sirius Black’s parents, Walburga and Orion, have the same great, great grandfather—Phineas Nigellus Black. So they are also Sirius’s second cousins. That means that Sirius’s brother Regulus is also his third cousin. Not everyone from the family is horrible and insane, though. We know this from Sirius, and his Uncle Alphard–the guy who helped support Sirius financially after his mother threw him out of the house.
Sirius and Walburga make our list largely because this mother’s banishment of her son is arguably worse than Petunia’s treatment of Harry (which we’ll get to later). Walburga didn’t just throw her son out of the house. Tons of bigots evict or disown their kids for embracing what they’ve chosen to hate. But Sirius’ mom burned her son’s face off the family tapestry, erasing any evidence that he was ever part of the family. That is some serious commitment to anti-muggle sentiment. And as we know from her portrait at 12 Grimmauld Place, Walburga’s hatred for muggles and blood-traitors did not die with her.
17. Bellatrix & Narcissa Black
We know that Voldemort’s minions, called Death Eaters, have an intense hatred for muggles. They also have a strong dislike for so-called blood-traitors, half-bloods, and non-wizard magical creatures like giants or house elves. With so much hate, you might think they’d be extra loving and respectful to pureblood wizards—the only kind they think have value. But you’d be wrong. If Bella and Narcissa Black are any indication, pure blood wizards lack basic humanity even when it comes to their closest relatives.
Bellatrix’s only loyalty is to the Dark Lord (more on that later). So when her only sister was overwrought with worry at the danger her son was in, Bella basically told her sister that she should feel pride at watching her son die for no good reason. That pales in comparison to the burn Cissy gave Bella on their way to Snape’s. Narcissa, despite her many flaws, is not a Death Eater. Her loyalty is to her son and husband, even when her husband makes one terrible, power-hungry choice after another. Narcissa may be a devoted mother, but neither woman is particularly devoted to her sister.
16. Cornelius Fudge & Arthur Weasley
For a minor character in the Potterverse, Cornelius Fudge has a long and sweeping character arc. We like him when we meet him, because he’s bending the rules for Harry. He seems more intractable later on, disbelieving Harry’s account of the events regarding a certain Prisoner of Azkaban. But by the end of book four, Fudge is clearly outed as a frightened tyrant who values order over truth or justice. Oh, and he’s an anti-muggle racist who seems to think that’s okay so long as he’s not a Death Eater.
Molly Weasley has stated that it’s Arthur’s fondness for muggles that’s kept him from rising at the Ministry of Magic. Once Fudge chooses Delores Umbridge to represent him on the Hogwarts staff, it’s clear what kind of person he is, and what his real goals are. Imagine having a boss who held you back because you stood up for what was just, and refused to adopt his prejudices? Besides, anyone who can’t see Arthur Weasley’s value is too stupid to be Minister of Magic.
15. Harry Potter & Petunia Dursley
To many readers, Petunia Dursley is the meanest and worst person in the Potterverse. Okay, she’s not a murderous villain. But Petunia spends a decade being deliberately cruel to a person she should be showering with love: her murdered sister’s orphaned son. Instead, she treats him like a slave. She and her husband literally lock Harry in a closet every night, occasionally starving him for kicks. If this wasn’t a YA book, it would be a Criminal Minds episode!
What makes Petunia a truly dysfunctional person, though, is her reasoning. After years of saying that magic was “dangerous” and “abnormal“—we learn that her real problem was jealousy. After her sister Lily got her Hogwarts letter, Petunia wrote Albus Dumbledore a tearful note begging him to please let her come too. Of course, he had to say no to her. This denial was probably supposed to make us feel pity for Petunia. Instead, many readers just came to hate her even more.
14. Firenze & Bane
Even outside the world of Harry Potter, centaurs have a lot going on. They’re known for being stunning, intelligent creatures who occasionally sneak into nearby towns to find local women and carry them off. In the Dark Forest around Hogwarts school, the lone centaur herd was led by Magorian, an older centaur with a deep distrust for humans. On his side in anti-human sentiment was Bane, only Bane was more aggressive, even violent in his beliefs that centaurs should never carry humans on their backs, or meddle in human affairs at all. Like the Black sisters, we have to wonder why a race that thinks so highly of itself would treat other members so shamefully.
Firenze takes a more welcoming stance on humans, especially good ones like Hagrid and Harry Potter. Firenze is banished from the centaur herd, and winds up with Bane’s hoof print on his chest. We know that the herd eventually chilled out and accepted Firenze back into the Forbidden Forest herd, but what we don’t know for sure is whether he and Bane ever worked through their personal animosity.
13. Percy & Arthur Weasley
There are several points in the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when readers had to pause for emotion. Molly and the Bogart, for one. A certain death for another. But the scene where Ron explains why Percy and the rest of the family aren’t speaking is probably the most infuriating. In short, it’s because Percy is a petulant child despite being of age.
Percy had always been a pompous lickspittle, but when he had the choice to give his loyalty to his family, and Dumbledore, he chose instead to continue working for a guy who disowned his troubled son, and another who thwarted the Order of the Phoenix and hid the return of Voldemort because he thought it might protect his job. Turns out, Percy thought it was Arthur’s love of muggles that had caused the family to be poor. Not to be indelicate, but maybe it was Arthur’s apparent allergy to latex. Seven kids is an awful lot, even in the wizarding world. Luckily, it’s also a magical number. Percy eventually saw the error of his ways, but we don’t know if we can forgive the things he said to Arthur, or the rest of his family.
12. Neville & Augusta Longbottom
Few characters have had as difficult a life as Neville Longbottom. The un-chosen one wasn’t orphaned, but we could argue that his situation is worse. When someone dies, the living who loved them eventually learn to move forward. But when your loved ones were tortured into madness rather than killed? And you see them in their confused anguish at least annually? It’s a horrible fate, and something no kid deserves. It makes sense that Neville might enter the world unsure and bulldozed by his grandmother—who was not really of a temperament to raise another child. We applaud her for stepping up, even as we wish she could have been kinder to Neville. Few things are more embarrassing for a kid than getting a Howler.
Neville Longbottom needed someone to validate and encourage him. Instead, Augusta constantly scolded and judged him, underrated his efforts and accomplishments, and even accused him of being ashamed of his parents. That had to sting. But you know, when Neville fought Death Eaters at Harry Potter’s side, Augusta couldn’t shout that from the rooftops loudly enough. Neville grew up to be a brave wizard and beloved teacher, so we must concede that Augusta did a good job.
11. Severus Snape & Lily Evans
Whether you think Snape is a hero, a complete tool, or something in between, it can’t be denied that he spent far too long grieving his first crush. Aside from Lily Evans (eventually Lily Potter) just not being that into him, Snape called her a racial slur during an argument. No matter how dark and mysteriously attractive you are, you can’t expect any woman to be your girlfriend after that.
It may seem romantic to spend decades pining after someone who has told you flatly that they don’t want you around. But it’s not. It’s creepy. Let’s not forget that it was ultimately Snape who got James and Lily killed. Sure, he was sad about it—so sad that he treated Harry like crap for his entire Hogwarts career. Snape fans argue that he treated Harry badly because the Boy Who Lived looked so much like James. But that doesn’t really explain his treatment of Neville though, does it? After all, it’s not Neville’s fault he wasn’t the Chosen One.
10. Remus Lupin & Nymphadora Tonks
We like Remus Lupin, and we certainly feel for any little boy who got mauled by a werewolf. We also like Nymphadora Tonks, even if she has a silly name. But as a couple? This pairing is not so good. When they first got together…they didn’t actually get together. Tonks loved Lupin, but he decided that she’d be better off with someone else. Seems like that should be her choice, right? Even after they got married, Lupin wanted to get away from his family at every opportunity. The Lupins had a son to raise, and Remus still asked to hunt Horcruxes with Harry et al. This led to Harry dressing Lupin down, saying he should respect his own life enough not to leave his child fatherless.
We all know what ultimately becomes of these two at the Battle of Hogwarts after both of them go back on their promise to not put themselves in harm’s way. Given everything we know about these characters, it’s disappointing that Remus often makes unilateral decisions that affect his whole family, and more disappointing that someone as smart and capable as Tonks would stand for it. RIP.
9. Ron & Scabbers
The relationship between Ron Weasley and Scabbers the rat leaves a few questions unanswered. How did the Weasleys not notice that the common garden rat they kept remained alive for over a decade? Why did Fred and George never see via the Marauder’s Map that Ron never went anywhere without Peter Pettigrew? Is it possible that the twins didn’t recognize the name? Why didn’t Pettigrew just run for it while the family was in Egypt? Seriously, the whole Scabbers things was pretty odd.
What we do know is that Ron loved his pet. He let him sleep on his pillow, which is awful once you realize that Peter was not just an adult, but a traitor and a killer in league with the archenemy of his best friend. That’s a lot for any relationship to make it through. The friendship between Ron and Scabbers ended immediately when the feisty pet rat was revealed to be an evil old man. Isn’t that always the way?
8. Bellatrix & Rodolphus Lestrange
If you’ve never read the Harry Potter books in full, you might not have known that evil Voldemort cheerleader Bellatrix Lestrange was born Bellatrix Black, or that she was married. In fact, she and Narcissa are first cousins of Sirius and Regulus Black. Her husband is pureblood wizard Rodolphus Lestrange—another enthusiastic muggle-hater and Voldemort supporter. The Lestranges are, along with Barty Crouch Jr, among those who sought Voldemort even after his downfall. Even when the two married, it was common knowledge that Bella’s true love was Lord Voldemort. Rod and Bella married mainly to uphold their familial obligation to marry purebloods.
If you accept the storyline of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, (and we’re not necessarily saying you should) you know that Bella and Voldemort had a child. Ridiculous as that seems, it does indicate that the Lestranges’ marriage was devoid of love, children of their own, or lasting commitment. They did work well together as Death Eaters, a job where loving violence and hating muggles is usually enough, so there’s that.
7. Dumbledore & Grindelwald
You know how sometimes you and your bestie think less of people due to the circumstances of their birth? What about when you realize you merely wanted to rule pver those people, whereas your friend wants to enslave and/or kill them? Misunderstandings like that can bring havoc into what was once a close friendship. Dumbledore learned the hard way that terms like “revolution,” and “the greater good” mean different things to different people. Readers know that the love between sweethearts Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald ended in a duel that became the stuff of legend (one we’ll soon see play out on the big screen).
Being a gay wizard in the early 1900s was probably already difficult. But when your boyfriend becomes a dark wizard and you and your brother actually have to fight him physically? That’s awful. The death of Ariana had to be the last straw in a dissolving alliance that ended in a bitter rivalry. Dumbledore didn’t end up killing Grindelwald, but he made sure he was imprisoned…until Voldemort murdered him in jail. We don’t think Albus ever got over it.
6. Barty Crouch Sr. & Barty Jr.
Father and son relationships can be difficult, even in the wizarding world. Children rebel against even the best of parents in ways that can lead to tragedy. Even considering the tumultuous nature of fathers and sons, the relationship between Barty Crouch Junior and Senior is unusually toxic. It’s not known how the boy fell under Voldemort’s spell, but Barty Jr. was a loyal and sadistic death eater. He participated in the torture that ruined Frank and Alice Longbottom’s lives.
Movie fans know that Barty Sr. disavowed his son when he learned that the boy was in league with Death Eaters. In the books, though, it’s less clear at Barty’s trial that he’s guilty. We don’t know for sure until “Moody’s” polyjuice potion wears off.
It seems out of character for Barty Sr. to free his son from Azkaban, so his wife must have had a lot of influence. The elder Crouch’s plan to keep his son under control fell apart, and began a chain of events that ended with Barty Jr. murdering his father and leaving him transfigured in a shallow grave. That’s gonna make Father’s Day pretty awkward.
5. Grindelwald/Percival Graves & Credence Barebones
If you were to encounter a family where the children were named Credence, Chastity, and Modesty, it would be safe to assume that they’re religious types. If the kids are all miserable and show signs of abuse, you can presume they’re the bad kind. Credence Barebone was a nice kid and a secret wizard. He was forced to hide his magical abilities after being adopted by a whackadoo named Mary Lou. He became an obscurial, which is basically a violent impulse come to life.
When Credence met Percival Graves in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he thought he’d found a friend and helper. He hadn’t. Not only was Graves a terrible person using Credence and his adoptive sisters to meet his own ends—but he was both Grindelwald and Johnny Depp—forming a conglomerate of evil Albus Dumbledore himself would have difficulty taking down. Credence was a nice kid trapped in a bad situation, who both needed and deserved real help. Instead, he met one of the worst villains in the history of magic. Despite, or maybe because of, hints from the film—we think we’ll see Credence Barebone and his sisters again.
4. Peter Pettigrew & The Marauders
You might look at that header and think, ‘But Peter IS a Marauder…” Well, he was at one time. But we have to think that his marauding card was revoked after he handed James and his family to Voldemort and then framed Sirius for multiple murders. The legendary double-cross perpetrated by this rat set in motion the events that became an entire series. You’d think someone might have written a book about what could have happened if only Sirius had remained the Secret Keeper, or Wormtail had had any loyalty at all.
Sure, Pettigrew was a weak, grasping, frightened person who was probably terrified of being killed by Voldemort (or Snape, or Rosier, etc.). But as Sirius pointed out, Pettigrew should have accepted death. It’s a far better choice than betraying your best friends, and by extension, the entire wizarding world. Eventually, Wormtail does find his spine and commits one small heroic act before his new hand turns on him. But we wouldn’t go so far as to say that Peter Pettigrew died a hero. In fact, we’d say he’s the only marauder who didn’t.
3. Cadmus Peverell & his fiancée
Story-wise, we don’t see much of the Peverell brothers in the Potterverse, but their contribution is enormous all the same. These three brothers are at the origin of an epic magical legend surrounding the most powerful enchanted (or cursed, depending) objects known to wizardkind. You’ll recall that there are three Peverell brothers, Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus, and that each was given an object by Death, ostensibly as a reward for thwarting Him. We know these objects as the legendary Deathly Hallows.
Cadmus, the second brother, sought to humiliate death by asking for the power to bring the dead back. Rather than causing the expected zombie outbreak, Cadmus brought back his unnamed fiancée, who had died before they could marry. Of course, the dead have no place on Earth, so the girl became morose and disconnected—something Cadmus didn’t seem to have considered at all. The couple ended up insane, then dead. The Resurrection Stone was then put into a hideous ring, and you all know the rest.
2. Merope Gaunt & Tom Riddle Sr.
We’re going to say some harsh words about Merope Gaunt here, even as we recognize that she had a terrible life. Merope grew up in squalor, terrorized by a father and brother who treated her even worse than the Dursleys treated Harry. The Gaunts were also more hateful. Meanwhile, Tom Riddle Sr. was rich and powerful, handsome and dashing. We can’t blame Merope for becoming infatuated with the muggle, or for leaving her family home to be with him.
The problem? Tom Riddle didn’t love Merope back. Rather than accept this and find a new life away from Marvolo and Morfin, she decided to brew a magical potion that would make Tom act as if he were in love with her. They married and conceived a child. That may sound romantic, but when muggles do what Merope did, that’s called “drugging and repeatedly raping” someone. This is another one of those events that if it didn’t happen in the Potterverse, it would make for a particularly offputting Criminal Minds episode. Dumbledore once said that Voldemort didn’t understand love because his parents didn’t love each other. We suspect that neither of Voldie’s parents understood love, either.
1. Dumbledore and Harry
We imagine some of you are surprised to find this as our top entry. Dumbledore obviously cared a lot about Harry, and vice versa. They’re also related via the Peverells. But let’s look at just a few things the Headmaster did (and failed to do) for the Boy Who Lived. For starters, he dumped him with the Dursleys, who he already knew they were awful people. Albus says later that he “hoped they’d treat Harry as a son.” What could he possibly have been basing that on? It was clear by the time Harry was 5 that he’d always be miserable there, yet Dumbledore didn’t even explore other places for the boy to live.
Later, he does nothing to protect Harry (or Neville) from Snape, lets Harry go off into the Dark Forest when he knows how dangerous it is, and gives 11-year old Harry one of the Deathly Hallows with no warning about what it is or that bad wizards might want it. Even though Albus knew he had less than a year of life left, he didn’t tell Harry how to find the Horcruxes. There was one right in Hogwarts castle! But the most dysfunctional part of their relationships is that Dumbledore spent more than 15 years orchestrating a situation wherein Harry would willingly walk into his own death. A heads up might have been nice, right?
Is there a more dysfunctional relationship in the Potterverse that we missed? Got any disagreements you’d like to share? Tell us all about it in the comments!