One of the reasons the Harry Potter series is so popular is that its characters are human. Even though the Wizarding World is (sadly) a fantasy creation, the people who populate it are recognizable. That gives us as readers something to relate to, even though we’ve never flown on broomsticks or waved a wand to get laundry to do itself.
Harry Potter himself is one of the most well-rounded characters. On the one hand, he earns the title of hero more times than we can count before he even turns fifteen. He has an amazing capacity to love despite everything he’s been through. On the other, he’s still human -- and he messes up pretty frequently.
Even the great Harry Potter isn’t perfect, and he did some pretty awful things over the course of the series. These mistakes are part of his characterization -- a teenager is bound to mess up at some point -- and they help to drive the story and keep it interesting. But they’re still questionable actions, and we’re counting down the worst of them here. These are the 20 Worst Things Harry Potter Has Ever Done.
Warning -- Cursed Child spoilers ahead!
20 Blowing up Aunt Marge
To be fair, Aunt Marge did have something coming to her. She had been consistently awful to Harry throughout his childhood, purposefully making him feel inferior to Dudley and treating him like an unwelcome intruder instead of family. The day that Harry finally lost his temper, she’d been insulting his parents with gleeful abandon. She picked on Harry almost more than Dudley did, a spoiled brat whose character revolved around tormenting his cousin.
We’re not exactly sorry that Harry lost his temper and basically turned her body into a hot air balloon, but just because the person it happened to was awful doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bad thing to do. It was technically illegal underage magic, he broke the Statute of Secrecy, and the Ministry had to get involved to fix the whole mess. Since she kind of brought it on herself, though, blowing up Aunt Marge is the lowest on our list at #20.
19 Neglecting Buckbeak’s appeal
Although it seems as though Buckbeak’s death sentence is cut and dry in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, in the book, he has a second shot at life. Although the hippogriff is initially set to be punished, Hagrid has the opportunity to put together an appeal to prove why Buckbeak should live free. Harry, Ron, and Hermione agree to help him out.
However, after Harry and Ron fight with Hermione over the Firebolt, they stop speaking to her. (More on that later.) Without Hermione as his conscience, Harry also forgets he is supposed to be helping Hagrid save both his pet and his job. He doesn’t even realize his mistake until Hagrid calls him out on it. Harry may have wanted to keep the Firebolt to himself, but Hagrid also really wanted to keep his pet’s head attached to its body. That seems to be more important, but Harry apparently disagreed.
18 Ditching Parvati Patil at the Yule Ball
As the books progressed, J.K. Rowling made sure to show that even the Chosen One isn’t immune from the struggles of being a teenager. Like many young boys, Harry is still trying to figure out how to formulate coherent sentences around the opposite sex. He wasn’t able to conquer his nerves in time to ask Cho Chang to the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire, so he and Ron take the Patil twins instead so that they don’t show up without dates.
Parvati was happy to be going with Harry, and even though she wasn’t his first choice, he could have at least been nice to her. It’s not like he hated her -- she just wasn’t Cho. Instead, he sulks with Ron on the sidelines and refuses to dance or even acknowledge his partner outside of a few words. Just because Harry couldn’t dance with Cho didn’t mean he had to ruin the experience for his date.
17 Sneaking into Hogsmeade
In Prisoner of Azkaban, the third-year students are allowed to visit the village of Hogsmeade for the first time. While everyone else has had their permission slips signed by guardians, the Dursleys weren’t too eager to sign Harry’s after family dinner ended with Aunt Marge on the ceiling. On the advice from Fred and George, and with the Marauders’ Map, Harry takes matters into his own hands and sneaks in anyway. It doesn’t matter that there are dementors patrolling the village or that he believes there’s a murderer out to get him, because chocolate.
Sneaking out of Hogwarts doesn’t seem too bad until Lupin puts it into context for both Harry and the reader. When he finds out that Harry has been sneaking into Hogsmeade without permission, we get one of the rare moments when Lupin is actually disappointed in him. He tells him, “Your parents gave their lives to keep you alive, Harry. A poor way to repay them — gambling their sacrifice for a bag of magic tricks.”
Ouch. When you put it that way...
16 Stealing a lollipop from Neville
We don’t get the speech above from Lupin in the movie adaptation, but we do get another jerk moment from Harry related to being in Hogsmeade.
The first time that he sneaks into the village, he uses a passage that takes him right into the storeroom of Honeydukes, one of the candy stores in the village. Under the Invisibility Cloak, he stealthily makes his way through the crowd of students to the door, probably in search of Ron and Hermione. Before he leaves Honeydukes, though, he swipes a lollipop from Neville.
Poor Neville just wanted to enjoy his candy, only for it to be swiped out of his hand by something or someone he can’t see. We know that Harry couldn’t exactly go up to the counter and buy something, since he wasn’t supposed to be there, but Ron and Hermione had been bringing him back treats every visit. We hope you enjoyed that stolen, already licked lollipop, Harry.
15 Blaming Hermione for Cormac being a jerk
Half-Blood Prince had its fair share of dark moments -- after all, this was the book in which Dumbledore died -- but it also managed to keep a lighter tone as it followed the Hogwarts students trying to navigate teenage problems. It’s like the drama you probably saw in your own high school. Ron really likes Hermione but goes out with Lavender Brown to spite her, Harry realizes that he has a crush on Ginny but Ginny is dating Dean Thomas…you get it.
In the midst of all this drama, Hermione takes Cormac McLaggen to Slughorn’s Christmas party to make Ron jealous. Harry takes Luna, but is more focused on why Malfoy was caught sneaking around in the castle after hours. He is only jolted from his Malfoy obsession when he comes across Hermione, looking disheveled and saying she just “escaped” from Cormac. With his mind still on Malfoy, he tells Hermione that it was her fault for bringing him. He doesn’t spend time asking if she’s okay or trying to figure out what on earth Cormac did for her to have to get away from him. Even though he knows Cormac is a jerk, he doesn't try to support his friend at all.
14 Insulting Lupin in Deathly Hallows
Before Harry, Ron, and Hermione started on the never ending camping trip that encompassed a large portion of Deathly Hallows, they set up shop in 12 Grimmauld Place. Eventually, Lupin comes to fill them in on what’s been happening in the world and find out what they’re up to.
Even though Harry won’t tell him what the trio’s mission is, Lupin still asks if he can come with them. He reluctantly admits that Tonks is pregnant after Harry questions him further. Harry is understandably angry that Lupin has ditched her, but in his anger, he goes too far. He accuses him of being a daredevil and wanting to step into Sirius’ shoes before calling him a coward.
Calm, rational Lupin is so furious that he blasts Harry into the wall before Disapparating. Harry immediately regrets what he said, and Ron and Hermione admonish him for being out of line. He tries to tell himself that it will be worth it if Lupin goes back to Tonks, but he still wishes he could take back what he said.
13 Ignoring Hermione in Prisoner of Azkaban
We mentioned above that Harry let Hagrid down in his third year by forgetting about Buckbeak’s appeal. Before that, he had started his streak of being a bad friend by cutting Hermione out of his life...just for trying to help.
When a Firebolt addressed to Harry mysteriously arrives, Harry and Ron don’t want to question his good luck. His Nimbus 2000 was just destroyed, a Firebolt was the best broom in the world, and the two were just kids -- so of course they were excited. Hermione is the one who has to be rational, reminding them that brooms don’t just appear out of nowhere. She (correctly) guesses that Sirius Black sent it, though she didn’t yet know that Sirius cared for Harry.
Even though she knew it would upset him, Hermione tells McGonagall about the broom because she wants to make sure Harry is safe. To thank her for her concern, Harry refuses to speak to or acknowledge her.
12 Not taking Snape’s Occlumency lessons seriously
In Order of the Phoenix, Harry is tasked with learning how to close his mind from Voldemort. This is more important than ever now that the Dark Lord has truly returned and is slowly beginning to sow discord in the Wizarding World. Dumbledore accurately predicts that Voldemort will try to use their connection against Harry, and so he sets up Occlumency lessons with Snape.
As everyone knows, however, Snape and Harry can’t stand each other. Harry is so convinced that Snape is trying to do more harm than good that he refuses to take the lessons seriously. He doesn’t practice in between lessons and doesn’t get any better about closing his mind. Harry sees the connection as something he can use to his advantage, especially after he is able to save Mr. Weasley.
However, the tragic death at the end of OOTP could have been avoided if Harry had just focused and put a little bit of effort into the lessons meant to help him.
11 Lashing out at Ron during Deathly Hallows
With as much as his friends do for him over the course of the series, Harry certainly lashes out at them a lot. By far the worst of these instances was in Deathly Hallows, when he and Ron get into a massive fight that causes his best friend to leave.
Ron, with Slytherin’s locket exacerbating all of his flaws and insecurities, tells Harry that he thought he had a real plan, instead of running around the English countryside trying to figure out where the next Horcrux was. Harry is having none of it, and instead of waiting until Ron takes off the locket to reason with him, just tells him to go home if he’s so miserable.
Both of them crossed the line during their argument, but telling Ron to leave did way more harm than good -- not a great thing to have to deal with on top of everything else.
10 Neglecting a grieving Cho
As Hermione accurately sums up, Harry and Ron sometimes have “the emotional range of a teaspoon.” That is especially on display in Order of the Phoenix, when Harry is attempting to navigate his new relationship with Cho.
Cho, who had dated Cedric Diggory the year before, is understandably still grieving. She’s also very confused, because she likes Harry, who was actually with Cedric when he died. On the one hand, she wants to make something with Harry work. On the other, she’s feeling guilty because she’s not sure if she can like someone else while she’s still mourning. That would be hard for anyone, let alone a sixteen-year-old girl.
Harry doesn’t get it, though, and instead just complains that she cries all the time. He also doesn’t understand that her way of trying to sort through her feelings means talking about Cedric with someone else who might understand her pain. Instead, he just gets mad at her. Have some compassion for your girlfriend, man.
9 Forgetting that Ginny was possessed by Voldemort
Since the list of “people close to Harry who have been possessed by Voldemort” is pretty miniscule, you’d think he would remember the one person likely to understand his mental turmoil in Order of the Phoenix. Of course, this is Harry Potter we’re talking about here. So he completely forgets that Ginny Weasley, who he fought a basilisk to save from Voldemort, was possessed by the Dark Lord throughout her first year of Hogwarts.
Harry. Come on.
It only comes to his attention when he hides himself away over the Christmas holidays, convinced that he is being possessed and staying away from everyone in an attempt to save them. Ginny bluntly tells him to cut it out and just ask her what being possessed by Voldemort felt like, since she’d actually be able to help him figure it out. Harry was so wrapped up in his own problems that he forgot about a traumatic experience that marked an entire school year.
8 Trashing Dumbledore's office
Later on in the same book, Harry has just returned from the fight at the Ministry of Magic. The world is beginning to realize that Voldemort really is back, and Harry and Dumbledore are vindicated in the court of public opinion. None of that matters to Harry, though, because he is still grieving the recent loss of Sirius.
Of course, Harry is angry and devastated all at once, unable to sort through the turmoil of emotions he feels. When Dumbledore calls him into his office to explain the prophecy and what is expected of him, everything bubbles over the edge. Harry goes on a rampage through Dumbledore’s office, smashing and breaking everything within reach.
No one expected Harry to be calm in this situation, especially since he had just heard the words "Neither can live while the other survives." However, that doesn’t mean he had to destroy the priceless belongings Dumbledore had in his office.
7 Berating Ron and Hermione
In keeping with the rest of his moody teenager behavior throughout Order of the Phoenix, Harry seemed to make it his mission to constantly yell at Ron and Hermione. The two of them are two of the only students in Hogwarts who are at his side and believe him when he says that Voldemort is back. However, that doesn’t stop Harry from taking out his frustrations at the rest of the world on the two of them.
He yells at them for the Order leaving him out at the beginning of the book, he yells at them about Umbridge, he gripes when either tries to give him advice. We don’t want to minimize what he was going through during the school year -- after all, he was still coping with the after-effects of the graveyard, the public believed he was a crazy liar, and Umbridge was terrorizing the school. That’s a lot to deal with. But his friends shouldn’t have borne the brunt of his frustrations.
6 Letting Wormtail escape
As Hermione dubbed it in Order of the Phoenix, Harry has a bit of a “saving people thing.” This is on full display at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban, when Sirius and Lupin are about to kill Wormtail for betraying James, Lily, and the rest of the Order.
Instead of allowing them to kill him, Harry says that he didn’t think his dad would have wanted his two friends to become killers on his behalf. He convinces Sirius and Lupin to capture Pettigrew instead to prove Sirius’ innocence and hand Pettigrew over to the dementors.
Of course, this plan goes terribly wrong when they realize that it’s a full moon. Lupin transforms into a werewolf, Wormtail escapes, and Sirius is forced to go into hiding with Buckbeak. Wormtail, of course, runs straight to Voldemort that summer and helps to bring him back to power. Sirius may have still had to go into hiding again after killing Pettigrew, but Voldemort wouldn’t have had his favorite rat to help bring him back to power.
5 Looking into Snape’s Pensieve
Although the Sorting Hat wanted to put him in Slytherin, Harry fits the description of a Gryffindor to a T. He is headstrong and reckless, jumping into situations without stopping to think about the possible consequences. In Order of the Phoenix, this leads him to an egregious and totally unnecessary breach of privacy.
When Snape leaves the room, Harry realizes he has an opportunity to see what memories Snape has been removing before each one of their lessons. Without regard for the fact that Snape was removing the memories because he didn’t want Harry to see them, Harry plunges headfirst into Snape’s worst memory. He watches his father humiliating Snape in front of a circle of onlookers before a furious Severus yanks him back out of the Pensieve.
After Snape kicks him out of his office and ends their Occlumency lessons, Harry realizes how wrong he was, and feels “horrified and unhappy.” He should.
4 Using Sectumsempra
By his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry should have learned a few of the most important rules of practicing magic. One of those rules is not to perform a spell on someone else if you don’t know what it does, especially if you only found it scribbled in the margins of a used book.
However, this is Harry Potter we’re speaking of, and he wouldn’t be the character we know and love if he weren’t a bit of an idiot sometimes.
Harry decides that the best moment to use a mysterious curse marked “For Enemies” is during a duel with Malfoy in Half-Blood Prince. He doesn’t know what the spell does, and so he's shocked to see that it opens up humongous gashes in Malfoy’s chest and face, causing him to begin to bleed out on the floor. Malfoy is only saved by Snape, who (unbeknownst to Harry) invented both the curse and the countercurse. If Snape hadn’t come across them, or if Harry had used a spell no one at Hogwarts knew about, Malfoy would have died.
3 Using Unforgivable Curses
One of the best things about the Harry Potter series is that J.K. Rowling isn’t afraid to have her characters operate in moral grey areas. It makes it all the more believable, especially during the whirlwind that is the end of Deathly Hallows. When is it okay to use Unforgivable Curses? If you’re in pursuit of the “Greater Good,” do you get a pass?
Harry might want to ask himself those questions, since he starts using Unforgivable Curses more frequently in Deathly Hallows. He first tried to cast the Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange after she killed Sirius, but isn’t able to muster up enough hate to cast it correctly. In the seventh book, though, he casts the Imperius Curse on Gringotts workers to get to the Horcrux in the Lestrange’s vault. And when he returns to Hogwarts for the final battle, he successfully casts the Cruciatus Curse on Amycus Carrow after he spits on Professor McGonagall.
An argument could be made that Harry was justified because it was war, and he was fighting on the right side...or you could say that Unforgivable Curses are unforgivable for a reason.
2 Falling into Voldemort's trap
After failing to close his mind to Voldemort throughout OOTP, Harry gets a vision of Sirius being tortured. Panicked and convinced that his godfather is in danger, Harry is ready to take off for the Ministry immediately. Hermione is the only voice of reason. She convinces him to try and take measures to find out if his vision was actually true or if Voldemort was using their connection to lure him into a trap.
Hermione was right, of course -- the vision was a fake, meant to lure Harry into danger in the Department of Mysteries. Sirius does end up in the Ministry, but only to save his godson. It was, of course, the last thing that he would ever do. If Harry had taken the time to learn Occlumency instead of blowing it off, he could have saved Sirius’ life and saved himself a lot of heartache.
1 Telling Albus he wished he wasn't his son
In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we see Harry as a married husband with three children. The play follows his middle son, Albus, who is struggling with his identity after being sorted into Slytherin and befriending Scorpius Malfoy. Harry is having difficulty connecting to his son, a conflict that is at the center of the play.
The two of them fight constantly, which doesn’t do anything to bring them closer to an understanding. In the middle of one particularly nasty fight, Harry goes so far as to tell Albus he wished that he wasn’t his son. Out of all of the people in Harry Potter, the titular character should have understood how painful it is to feel unwanted. Harry regrets saying it immediately, but his son is already deeply hurt.
Those aren’t words that he can take back, and it caused the rift between the two to deepen even further.
Did we leave out one of Harry Potter's worst moments? Let us know in the comments.