Even ten years after JK Rowling published the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, fans are still deeply in love with her magical world - and heartbroken over the deaths that she wrote into it. From the biggest, most heartbreaking losses (like Tonks and Remus, or Sirius Black) to the smallest details that she wove together into this complex world, the Harry Potter series continues to work its magic on readers and viewers alike.
It also continues to stir up controversy, especially as Rowling continues to produce stories and explanations through both her social media and the Pottermore website. As fans continue to work up theories, find new details in the books and on the site, and expand their exploration of the world with video games and even a new play and movie franchise, the debate around the wizarding world rages on. The deaths, in particular, have becoming increasingly talked over, especially since Rowling has made it something of an unofficial tradition to apologize for one death a year - which always sparks new discussion over which deaths were needless, which were gratuitous, which didn’t get enough screen time in the films… and which got a little too much. A decade on, these are the fifteen characters deaths that we still think are the most controversial - whether within the fictional world itself, or from the perspective of the readers in the muggle world.
15 Nearly Headless Nick
Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington dies long before the events of the Harry Potter series get underway, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t a major character in the series!
The Ghost of Gryffindor, Sir Nicholas is better known as Nearly Headless Nick - but we wouldn't recommend calling him that to his face. His death is controversial, not so much to fans of the series, but within the series itself, as his botched beheading leaves him technically disqualified from joining the Headless Hunt. It’s a thorn in the side of this Hogwarts ghoul, and he continues to try to convince Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore that he should be allowed to join, but ‘Sir Properly Decapitated-Podmore’ just won’t budge, much to his disappointment.
14 Barty Crouch
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is entered into the Triwizard tournament, as part of an elaborate scheme to kill him and to bring the Dark Lord back to life. Much of this is orchestrated by the escaped death eater Barty Crouch Jr, who poses as Mad-Eye Moody for the entire school year, keeping the real Moody locked in a trunk. When he is eventually discovered, Dumbledore is horrified when the Dementor’s Kiss is carried out almost instantly, leaving him a husk - and unable to confirm any part of the story, or Voldemort’s return.
While this isn’t a death in the strictest sense, fans were unimpressed when Barty’s final fate was left out of the movies. With Barty still functional, the general refusal to believe that Voldemort has returned just… doesn’t make sense.
13 Moody’s Tortured Spider
When ‘Moody’ was teaching Defense Against The Dark Arts at Hogwarts, he didn’t shy away from frightening, and even illegal, lesson plans. In one memorable class, Moody shows up with three spiders, and proceeds to use them to teach the class about the Unforgivable Curses. While one is put under the Imperious Curse and made to dance, another is enlarged and then tortured with the Cruciatous Curse… and the third dies after being hit with the Killing Curse.
This lesson was incredibly controversial at the school, especially as these curses are super illegal within the wizarding world. Spiders may not be the most sympathetic creatures, and ‘Moody’ wasn’t using the curses on humans (which happened later, when the Carrows began their brutal reign over the school), but there were plenty of wizarding parents shocked and horrified by this Hogwarts lesson.
12 The Youngest Montgomery
This death doesn’t even make an appearance in the films, but it was a shocking one in the books, and served to show just how brutal Fenrir Greyback (and the Death Eaters as a group) could be. In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, as Voldemort rises back to power, rumors filter in about the kinds of atrocities being committed… including the murder of a five year old boy.
Mentioned only as ‘the boy’, he is attacked by Fenrir Greyback because his mother allegedly refused to help the Death Eaters. Although he was taken to the hospital, he couldn’t be saved. The death of small children is always controversial, but this one even more so, as it was a targeted attack to hurt a mother, where the child is nothing more than a murdered pawn.
One of the most heartbreaking deaths in the series, Harry’s owl Hedwig is killed during the Battle of the Seven Potters, as she got in the way of a killing curse aimed at Hagrid’s motorcycle. Harry didn’t even get a chance to properly grieve, as he had to then destroy the sidecar (and her body in it) when escaping.
This death is controversial solely because it is so painful - and unnecessary. It’s an accepted reality that within film and TV, the death of an animal is considered more heinous than that of most human characters, and Hedwig was no exception. Her sudden demise was heartbreaking for children (and adult) readers everywhere, and many felt that she should have survived to the end.
Voldemort’s familiar and the last of his horcruxes, Nagini’s death was both expected and cheered on by most fans. Unlike Hedwig, this was not the death of an innocent animal, but the appropriate death of a snake that had killed many times for her master - and even tried to kill the golden trio themselves.
However, it caused some controversy after the film was released, and Nagini’s death was altered significantly from the way it happened in the books. Originally, Nagini is sicced on Neville, who should have been held immobile with a spell. However, Neville is able to break free and kill the snake with the sword of Gryffindor. In the film, however, Nagini spends much of the Battle of Hogwarts chasing after Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and Neville manages to come across her and kill her by simply being in the right place at the right time. Neville getting pushed aside, once again.
9 Peter Pettigrew
In the book series, this treacherous rat-turned-human meets a horrible end, and fans are left feeling gruesomely satisfied in the knowledge that he got what he deserved for betraying the Potters all those years ago. Originally, he was given a silver hand from Voldemort when his own was chopped off and used in the spell that resurrected the Dark Lord. This magical hand was enchanted, however, to watch out for any signs of betrayal by Pettigrew. When he had a moment of mercy for Potter, the hand considered it a betrayal, and he is killed off by his own appendage, which strangles him to death.
It’s a brutal way to go, and one that is entirely missing from the movies. Instead of dying, the film version of the character just kind of… disappears. He is last seen knocked out by Dobby, and no mention is made of him dying at all.
8 Florean Fortescue
Florean Fortescue is a particularly minor character in the series, the owner of an ice cream shop in Diagon Alley who used to give Harry free ice cream. After Voldemort’s return, he is mentioned as Harry is back in Diagon Alley, and sees his shop shuttered. It’s revealed that he was dragged away and killed by the Death Eaters - a horrible death, but not originally a controversial one.
Until, of course, J K Rowling apologized for his death on Pottermore in 2014, explaining that she had originally intended for him to have a bigger role. Eventually, she realized that he didn’t need to, and that he was kidnapped and killed for no real reason. It was an apology that outraged many of the fans, who were expecting an apology for some of the major deaths, like Hedwig, Fred, or Tonks and Lupin. Instead, the diehards got an apology for a dude who gave Harry frozen treats.
7 Lavender Brown
Unlike many of the other names on this list, Lavender’s death isn’t controversial because it was left out of the film adaptations, but because it was added in. In the books, it is revealed that during the Battle of Hogwarts, Lavender falls from a balcony, and is then attacked by Fenrir Greyback. Hermione knocks him off her with a blast from her wand, and the last that we hear of Lavender is that her body is "feebly stirring".
She certainly wasn’t going to survive unscathed, but in the books, it’s never outright stated that she dies. In the film, however, she is very clearly shown to be dead in this same battle. In most ways, the scene is the same - Greyback attacks her, and Hermione blasts him off. However, we then see her definitely no-longer-living body, something that angered fans who preferred to believe that she survived the attack.
Dumbledore has always been a controversial character for many reasons, and his death was no less controversial than his life. On the surface, Dumbledore’s fall from the Astronomy Tower was a brutal tragedy, orchestrated by him to save Draco when he knew that he was dying from injuries sustained in his search for the horcruxes. However, some fans have theorized that Dumbledore is not really dead at all - causing controversy among the fandom.
Thanks to a line that appears only in the US hardback edition of the books, where Dumbledore tells Draco “He cannot kill you if you are already dead”, fans have speculated that Dumbledore faked his death, and simply left the wizarding world to their fate. Given his fairly callous treatment of Harry himself, it’s not the most far-fetched possibility, and one that makes the Hogwarts Headmaster even more controversial than he was before.
In some ways, Buckbeak doesn’t belong on this list, as he didn’t actually die - at least, not the second time around. The hippogriff was sentenced to death after a Care of Magical Creatures lesson gone wrong, when he slashed Draco’s arm. The execution went off as planned, until Dumbledore led Harry and Hermione to use a time-turner to save him, and to free the innocent Sirius Black (and save him from a return to Azkaban). It was a wonderful moment, and fans cheered the escape of Sirius, but it also left many feeling cheated by the whole concept of saving a life by using a time turner.
Throughout the series, multiple major characters die, and we mourn their loss - yet only Buckbeak, a relatively unimportant hippogriff, is saved with the use of this incredible time-traveling technology.
4 Ariana Dumbledore
Ariana, the sister of Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore, has a long and complicated story in the books - yet is cut almost entirely out of the movies. In the series, she is kept largely hidden away by her family after a group of muggle children attacked her and left her unable to control her powers. She died too young, when Dumbledore was dueling with Grindlewald, and a stay spell hit the girl.
In the films, however, none of this is explained at all, and she gets only the briefest of appearances in a portrait, infuriating fans who felt that her story was vital to the characters of the surviving Dumbledore brothers. Her death is also controversial within the world of Harry Potter itself, where the magical community has long whispered about the mysterious circumstances in which she was ‘imprisoned’ and later died - rumors that dogged the family ever since her death.
No one was mourning when the Dark Lord finally met his long-anticipated end, but there were some very unimpressed fans after his death was shown in the film version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the book, Voldemort’s death is striking because at the moment he dies, there is no major fanfare. He doesn’t get a magical end, or one that is shocking and powerful. Instead, his own spell rebounds and kills him, and his body simply slumps to the ground as he dies. It was a vital moment, one that proved that at the end, the Dark Lord was simply a man like the others, with a death that is described as ‘mundane’… a point completely missed in the movie.
In the film, Voldemort’s death is as flashy and magical as they come, as he disintegrates into ashes and blows away on the wind.
2 Fred Weasley
Another one that enraged fans when the movies missed out some of the most important elements of the death scene was that of Fred Weasley. In the books, Harry witnesses Fred’s death at the hands of Voldemort’s followers, one of many that he sees as he desperately tries to save those that he loves. It is a heartbreaking moment, one that conveys the chaos of the battle, the shock of witnessing death after death, and that also serves to show Percy’s return to the Weasley clan, as he sobs over Fred’s body.
In the film, Fred’s death isn’t shown, only his family (sans Percy) sobbing over his body in the Great Hall after the battle. For some, this gave his death more gravitas, and a little more emphasis, but for others, it was an unforgivable deviation from the original text.
1 Severus Snape
Fittingly, the most controversial death of the series belongs to the most controversial character - Severus Snape. From the start, Harry believed Snape to be a villain, and it seemed that he was right. Although Snape was a member of the Order of the Pheonix, he was also revealed to be a Death Eater. He killed Dumbledore, he treated Harry abysmally, he took over the school and became one of Voldemort’s followers again, he failed to actually teach Harry the occlumency that could have made a difference… and then in his final moments, he leaves a memory that changed everything.
For some, the reveal that he loved Lily Potter and was acting on Dumbledore’s orders was enough to turn him from greasy-haired villain to unsung hero, acting on a lifetime’s worth of unrequited love. For others, however, his death just made him even more controversial, seeming to suggest that his terrible actions could be undone simply because the girl he loved didn’t love him back. Even in death, Snape remains one of the most divisive characters in the series.
Did we miss any insanely controversial deaths from Harry Potter? Let us know in the comments.
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