Harry Potter might be the hero of an epic series, but he’s not the brightest bulb in the box. The Boy Who Lived is also usually The Boy Who Almost Died. (He wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw for a reason.) Throughout the books, he makes some monumentally stupid decisions, and while some of them were just silly and resulted in cringe-worthy moments, others put the lives of Harry or his friends in danger. It’s a miracle that he survived long enough to defeat Voldemort.
Although some of his poor decisions can be attributed to his age -- he's just eleven when the books begin, after all -- others are a direct result of his personality. One of the traits of witches and wizards in Gryffindor is being both very brave and very stupid. He may have some Slytherin tendencies, but Harry is a Gryffindor through and through. Today, we’re counting down his worst decisions from the original seven books in the series. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the play that allows us to see Harry as an adult, isn’t included in this list.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Worst Decisions Harry Potter Ever Made.
15 Stealing and driving the Ford Anglia to go to Hogwarts
In Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron are ready to escape the watchful eyes of Mrs. Weasley and get back to Hogwarts. Everything seems normal until they actually try to access Platform 9 3/4, when they discover that somehow, the platform has been sealed off. In a panic, the two try in vain to get through, but the clock strikes eleven and the train leaves without them.
Instead of waiting for Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to come back (which presumably they would, seeing as they drove the car to the station to begin with), or looking for another adult, Harry and Ron decide to take matters into their own hands. They steal Mr. Weasley’s Ford Anglia and fly the car to Hogwarts, breaking the Statute of Secrecy and damaging the Whomping Willow as a result. They really couldn’t think of any other solution that didn’t involve potentially exposing the entire wizarding world?
14 Naming his child Albus Severus
The epilogue of Deathly Hallows is still a hotly contested passage, even nearly a decade after the book’s release. Fans debate everything from the characters’ marriages to...okay, most of the debates are shipping wars. But one detail that is still difficult to overlook is what Harry Potter decided to name his middle child.
While his oldest son is named James Sirius for Harry’s father and godfather, and his youngest is named Lily Luna, for Harry's mother and dear friend, his middle son is named Albus Severus. Harry’s rationale is that Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape were two of the bravest men he ever knew. However, given how famous Dumbledore is in magical Britain, naming a child Albus creates impossibly high standards for a kid to live up to. And honoring the man who tormented you because he can’t separate a father from his son is just bizarre. Snape may have saved Harry’s life, but he was still a grown man who was needlessly cruel to a child for years. Harry could have chosen a much different way to honor his sacrifice.
13 Procrastinating on Cedric's hint about the egg
Gryffindors are known for their pride, and Harry’s gets the best of him often throughout the books. A perfect example is in Goblet of Fire, when Harry is trying to figure out the clue hidden in the screaming golden egg. Cedric tries to repay Harry for telling him about the dragons in the first task. He doesn’t tell Harry outright how to solve the clue, but he does drop a heavy hint about listening to the egg underwater. Cedric even gives him the password to the prefects’ bathroom so that Harry can figure out the egg’s clue undisturbed.
Harry has everything he needs to figure out the clue and start researching with plenty of time. However, he chooses not to follow Cedric’s anvil-sized hint, still a little upset that most of the school (including Cho) seems to like Cedric more than him. Instead, he procrastinates until the very last second. He’s stuck pulling an all-nighter the night before the second task, trying to find a way to breathe underwater. Harry is only saved from his own dumb decision by Dobby, who wakes him up the next morning with the exact thing he needs to take on the task.
12 Refusing to talk about Cedric with Cho
This wasn’t exactly a life-threatening bad decision, but it did lead to a spectacularly cringe-worthy situation. During Harry and Cho’s short-lived relationship, Harry figures it’s a great idea to take her to Madam Puddifoot’s during a trip to Hogsmeade. The entire cafe is decked out for Valentine’s Day, and the two are surrounded by happier couples while trying to make conversation. The whole setup reeks of disaster.
To make matters worse, Harry tries to change the subject when Cho brings up Cedric -- her ex-boyfriend and the boy Harry saw murdered the year before. Cho wants to discuss him, but Harry deflects by saying he doesn’t want to talk about it...because he only talks to Ron and Hermione about that night. Although true, this immediately hurts Cho’s feelings, because she feels like Hermione is more important than her. Cedric is an understandably touchy subject for him, but Harry could have used some tact with his grieving girlfriend.
11 Saying 'Voldemort' when he knew there was a Taboo on the name
When Harry’s mind is put to something, he focuses on it to the exclusion of almost everything else. It might be easy to forget, since the Deathly Hallows film adaptation prioritizes the Horcruxes, but Harry was obsessed with the Hallows in the book. After learning about the Deathly Hallows from Xenophilius Lovegood, he becomes so consumed with the idea of uniting all three Hallows that Ron has to step up to lead the trio around the English countryside.
Listening to the resistance radio show Potterwatch helps to snap Harry out of his obsession for a moment. As soon as it ends, he eagerly says that the reports of Voldemort being abroad just prove that he's right about the Dark Lord going after the Elder Wand. The issue is that Harry uses Voldemort’s name, even though Ron had told him that the name was cursed with a Taboo. Snatchers find the trio and take them to Malfoy Manor, where Hermione is tortured and Bellatrix throws the knife that kills Dobby.
10 Lying to Griphook about the Sword of Gryffindor
After the trio escapes from Malfoy Manor to Shell Cottage, where Bill and Fleur live, Harry makes his final decision to pursue Voldemort’s Horcruxes instead of the Hallows. He realizes that one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes is hidden in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts. Harry enlists the help of Griphook to break into her vault, but Griphook will only agree on one condition -- he gets the sword of Gryffindor after he’s helped them.
This is bad news for the trio, since they need the sword of Gryffindor to destroy the Horcruxes. Griphook is adamant, so Harry decides to lie to him by omission. They’ll tell him that he can have the sword after he’s helped them...but won’t be specific about when that is. When Bill learns that Harry is working with Griphook, he warns him against making a deal like that. The history between goblins and wizards is strained, he says, and goblins don’t trust “wand-carriers.” Sure enough, Griphook knew that Harry was lying to him. He snatches the sword while they’re in the Lestrange vault, nearly loses the Horcrux in the process, and double-crosses Harry, Ron, and Hermione before they can do the same to him.
9 Taking the mermaid song 100% seriously
After Harry finally makes it to the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, his bad decisions keep on coming. He does manage to make his way through the lake to where the mermaids live, where he successfully ‘rescues’ Ron. But it isn't enough for him to just take Ron and go. He thinks he has to figure out a way to also save Fleur’s younger sister, Gabrielle, because Fleur was attacked in the middle of the task.
This is admirable, but as Ron and Hermione point out as soon as Harry surfaces, it's completely stupid. All of the adults involved with the Triwizard Tournament weren’t about to let a child drown because her older sister couldn’t get to her in time. Plus, Harry actually endangers himself by agonizing over the decision for so long. Dragging an extra person makes him slower, and the effects of the gillyweed -- which he needs to continue breathing -- are starting to wear off by the time he nears the surface.
8 Not asking Ginny for help
Sometimes Harry makes bad decisions not out of pride or recklessness, but because he just doesn’t take the time to think them through. (Since he’s a teenage boy for the majority of the series, this is just accurate characterization.) He could have saved himself a lot of angst throughout Order of the Phoenix if he had just taken a moment to think.
After he witnesses Mr. Weasley’s attack through the eyes of Nagini, Harry shuts himself away from everyone out of fear he’s being possessed by Voldemort. In doing so, though, he cuts himself off from the one person nearby who knew what it was like to be possessed by the Dark Lord -- Ginny. Ginny calls him out on it, forcing him to realize that he was being shortsighted. But Harry keeps repeating the same mistake throughout the next two books. Given how powerful the youngest Weasley is, it’s almost always a bad idea to pass on her help.
7 Not using the mirror Sirius gave him
Not long after Mr. Weasley is attacked by Nagini, Harry has to head back to Hogwarts for the start of the new term. Before he leaves, Sirius gives him a wrapped gift. He tells Harry that James and Sirius used it to communicate with each other back in their Hogwarts days and asks him to use it if he ever needs to get in contact with him. Harry agrees, but secretly resolves never to use it -- he’s too afraid that Sirius will do something reckless. He puts it in his trunk and never opens it to see what it is.
The package turns out to be a two-way mirror, which would have given Harry a direct link to Sirius. If he'd used the mirror instead of trying to contact Sirius via the Floo network in Umbridge’s office, he would have known for sure that Sirius was in Grimmauld Place and not the Department of Mysteries. In trying to prevent Sirius from doing something reckless, Harry himself makes a reckless decision to go to the Ministry -- and starts an awful chain of reactions (more on that in a bit).
6 Not taking Riddle’s diary to a professor
There are some decisions Harry makes that can be excused away by either his age or a lack of knowledge about the way the magical world works. Still, twelve years old is old enough to think to yourself, “Hey, there’s a mysterious magical object that seems to have secrets about whatever is almost killing my fellow students. Maybe I should tell an adult about this?” Of course, Harry does not tell anyone about the diary in Chamber of Secrets.
Ron -- the only member of the trio raised in the magical world -- even warns Harry about the dangers of trusting suspiciously sentient objects. Given the mysterious and potentially deadly occurrences surrounding them at Hogwarts, Harry should have at least entertained the idea of turning the diary in. If he had gone straight to McGonagall or Dumbledore with it, he could have prevented a few Petrifications. Because he didn’t, people like Hermione suffered. But curiosity killed the cat...or, in this case, just Petrified it.
5 Grabbing the prophecy off of the shelf
When Harry decides to rescue Sirius Black, his faithful pals Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, and Luna accompany him to the Department of Mysteries. Getting to the Hall of Prophecies is complicated, so when the group arrives to the row where Sirius is supposed to be, tensions and expectations are running high. To Harry’s dismay and confusion, no one is there. Harry is desperate, but something else catches his eye. One of the prophecies has his name on it.
Hermione has saved Harry from a lot of decisions that could have gone badly wrong, but she can’t prevent all of them. She warns Harry that taking the prophecy off of the shelf would be a bad idea. Of course, he doesn’t listen to her. He decides that since it has his name on it, it must be safe for him to take. As soon as he does so, Lucius Malfoy and his fellow Death Eaters emerge from the shadows to attack the group of friends. Only the people mentioned in the prophecy can remove it from the shelf, and if Harry had left it where it was, no one would have been able to touch it.
4 Using Expelliarmus during his escape to The Burrow
By the seventh book, Harry Potter has developed his own signature move. He’s known for casting the spell Expelliarmus -- that was the spell that connected with Voldemort’s back in the Goblet of Fire graveyard scene. It serves him well, but there’s a time and place to use a spell that you’re known for. It would make sense not to perform your signature spell if you’re supposed to be in disguise, right? Apparently, that never occurs to the Boy Who Lived.
When members of the Order of the Phoenix arrive to take him to the Burrow, seven of them take Polyjuice Potion so that the Death Eaters can’t tell which of them is the real Harry. The group is caught, and the real Harry finds himself forced to fight Death Eaters in the air. When he sees Stan Shunpike -- the former Knight Bus conductor seemingly under the Imperius Curse -- he doesn’t want to use Stupefy. Instead of using any of the hundreds of other spells he presumably knows, he goes for Expelliarmus. Voldemort quickly figures out who the real Harry is and heads straight for him. Nice going, Chosen One.
3 Using Sectumsempra without knowing what it does
While Harry used Expelliarmus in the case above to try and lessen harm, he's not always so deliberate about his spell choices. Throughout Half-Blood Prince, Harry tries out spells from his secondhand potions book. The only issue is that he doesn’t actually know what they do. For most of the year, the effects are minimal or just funny. But performing unknown spells like that is dangerous, which he soon learns.
When Harry encounters Draco crying in the bathroom, Malfoy lashes out and starts a duel. Harry, remembering a curse in his book labeled 'For Enemies,' decides that now is a perfect time to use that particular spell. He’s horrified when he sees that Sectumsempra leaves huge gashes in Malfoy’s face and chest. Malfoy’s only saved from certain death by Professor Snape, who heals his wounds. Another stroke of luck, given that Snape was the one who invented the spell in the first place. Malfoy may have been trying to hurt Harry, but Harry nearly killed him on accident.
2 Refusing to allow Remus and Sirius to kill Peter Pettigrew
Harry’s “saving people thing,” as dubbed by Hermione, is one of the traits that most clearly separates him from Voldemort. It’s admirable, but it also gets him in trouble. In Prisoner of Azkaban, after Harry has learned the truth about Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, Lupin and Sirius plan to kill Pettigrew as retribution for his betrayal. Harry stops them at the last second and convinces them to deliver Pettigrew to the Ministry instead. Of course, Pettigrew ends up escaping when Lupin transforms. He runs right to Voldemort the same summer and helps him rise again during the events of Goblet of Fire.
It’s worth noting that because Harry saved Pettigrew’s life that night, Pettigrew is unable to kill Harry when he is trapped in Malfoy Manor during Deathly Hallows. But had Pettigrew died in Harry’s third year, he never would have been able to scamper to Voldemort. The Dark Lord would not have risen again, there would be no Second Wizarding War, and Harry wouldn’t have been in Malfoy Manor to begin with.
1 Heading to the Ministry of Magic to save Sirius
Harry made a lot of bad decisions throughout Order of the Phoenix, but this one was by far the worst. After trying and failing to close his mind to Voldemort throughout the course of the school year, Harry is overwhelmed by a vision of Sirius being tortured. Panicked and convinced that his godfather is being tortured as he speaks, Harry is ready to leave for the Ministry immediately. He only pauses because Hermione forces him to take measures to try to figure out if his vision was true or not. Harry breaks into Umbridge’s office to use the Floo network to try to find Sirius at 12 Grimmauld Place, and when that fails, he speaks in code to Snape to get him to pass on a message.
Snape doesn’t give any indication that he understands -- which he can’t in front of Umbridge -- so Harry thinks that all is lost. He rides thestrals to the Ministry along with his friends to save Sirius, who of course is not there. It’s one of the most painful moments of the series. If Harry hadn’t gone to the Ministry, Sirius would not have arrived to save him...and Bellatrix would not have killed him.
Did we miss a bad decision from Harry Potter? Let us know in the comments!