Fatherhood and Legacies in the ‘Harry Potter’ Series

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Jun 17, 2018

Posted by: Emma Pocock | Comments

Books, Fun, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, News

What better day than Father’s Day to discuss the complex world of legacy and fatherhood in the Harry Potter series? From James Potter to Xenophilius Lovegood, we take a look at fathers and Harry’s father figures in Harry Potter, and Harry’s own experience of fatherhood in Cursed Child.

From the lovable Mr Weasley encouraging mischief in the Weasley household (much to Molly’s annoyance) to the tragedy of Teddy Lupin never knowing his brave and kindhearted father, J.K. Rowling embedded messages of parenthood, fatherhood and legacies throughout the Harry Potter series. Though Harry never got to know his own father, he had plenty of father figures throughout his life, many of them found during his time at Hogwarts:

Vernon Dursley

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The least paternal of all of Harry’s guardians, Vernon showed Harry no love, no respect and made no attempt to give him a bright future. To think there are children in the world who experience this (and worse) and have no Hogwarts to escape to is heartbreaking – support Lumos’s work with orphans here to be in with the chance of attending the Crimes of Grindelwald premiere in New York, London or Paris!

Thankfully Harry escaped the Dursleys, and learned from their vices the value of an open mind!

“You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.” (Albus Dumbledore)

Remus Lupin

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From teaching Harry how to defend himself against Dementors to comforting him moments before death in the Forbidden Forest, Remus Lupin did his best friend James Potter proud. He comforted Harry in moments of despair, gave him the tools he needed to make a difference in the world (and the inspiration for Dumbledore’s Army), and shared his memories of James openly, nourishing Harry’s sense of self.

Tragically Lupin never fully experienced life as a father himself, but voiced his hopes that Teddy would have a better life as a result of his role in the Battle of Hogwarts:

“—right after you’d had your son . . . Remus, I’m sorry—” “I am sorry too,” said Lupin. “Sorry I will never know him . . . but he will know why I died and I hope he will understand. I was trying to make a world in which he could live a happier life.” (Remus Lupin)

Xenophilius Lovegood

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Known to the world (pre-Deathly Hallows) as the crazy Editor of The Quibbler, and as Luna ferociously defended her father’s honor to those who berated him at Hogwarts for his conspiracy features, he turned out to be a key player in the revolution against Voldemort. He taught Luna to value her authentic self, and deep, meaningful conversations with others, and drove her to stand up for what she believes in.

When Death Eaters storm their house and take Luna away, Xenophilius proves he’ll do anything to save her, and we forgive him for putting his child first!

They took my Luna because of what I’ve been writing. They took my Luna and I don’t know where she is, what they’ve done to her. But they might give her back to me if I — if I… They will be here any moment. I must save Luna. I cannot lose Luna.

Sirius Black

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Though he wasn’t a father himself, he was an excellent godfather to Harry in the time they spent together. Though they never managed to live together in peace as they’d imagined in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he gave Harry his utter commitment, and sought to spend as much time getting to know him as humanly possible. He, too, comforted him in what he thought were his last moments,  and proved that the ones that love us never really leave us.

“”The person Sirius cared for the most about in the world was you,” said Dumbledore quietly.””

Albus Dumbledore

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“”Yes, Harry, you can love”, said Dumbledore, who looked as though he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying. “Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing.””

Guiding Harry – for better or worse – through treacherous situations, dark emotions and utter heartbreak, Dumbledore’s love for Harry is obvious to anybody reading the series. As a paternal figure in Harry’s life, Dumbledore proved that those who shape us are by no means perfect, and Dumbledore himself, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, admitted his mistakes in leading Harry to danger (even death) one too many times, even if it was all for The Greater Good:

“You ask me, of all people, how to protect a boy in terrible danger? We cannot protect the young from harm. Pain must and will come.””

“Of course I loved you . . . and I knew that it would happen all over again . . . that where I loved, I would cause irreparable damage. I am no fit person to love . . . I have never loved without causing harm.”

Despite his scheming and secrecy, Dumbledore mentored Harry and cared for Harry in a way others could not possibly understand. The torture of knowing Harry’s fate combined with wanting to protect him and see him grow into everything he’d become after the wizarding war was over (which Dumbledore knew it would be, eventually) must have been a heavy burden on his soul. From his heartbreak at seeing (and feeding) Harry’s loneliness and anguish throughout Order of the Phoenix to his openness in the in-between place at King’s Cross in Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore showed throughout the series that though he was committed to ending Voldemort’s reign, he was also hugely invested in Harry’s life, and loved him perhaps not as a son, but certainly as one of his own.

“You may, perhaps, have wondered why I never chose you as a prefect? I must confess…that I rather thought…you had enough reponsibility to be going on with.” Harry looked up at him and saw a tear trickling down Dumbledore’s face into his long silver beard.”

Mr Weasley

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The Weasleys welcomed Harry into their home like their own son (little did they know he’d become their Son-in-Law someday!), and Mr Weasley took it upon himself to offer Harry advice and protection, from advising him against going after Sirius Black to escorting him to the Ministry of Magic for his hearing, Arthur Weasley was a hugely caring father with love to spare.

“Half our family does seem to owe you their lives, now I stop and think about it,” Mr. Weasley said in a constricted voice. “Well, all I can say is that it was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry.”

Hagrid

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Hagrid was never afraid to show his emotions, making it clear just how much Harry meant to him. From rescuing him from the ruins of his house in Godric’s Hollow after Voldemort killed his parents, to sharing his Rock cakes with the trio, Hagrid was there for Harry until the very end, and is often overlooked as a central influence shaping his life.

“What’s comin’ will come, an’ we’ll meet it when it does.”

Continuing and Creating Legacies: From James to Harry to Albus

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Throughout the series, Harry bases his choices on his desire to keep James Potter’s legacy alive:

“Get off me,” Harry spat, throwing Pettigrew’s hands off him in disgust. “I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it because — I don’t reckon my dad would’ve wanted them to become killers — just for you.”

His desire to keep the memory and legacy of his father clean is seen most clearly when facing Snape’s insistence that his father was an obnoxious bully. Telling him “My father was a great man!” whilst readers are made to question his greatness with a history of bullying and taunting. Harry’s pride in being compared to his father (for instance, when he’s told he plays Quidditch “as good as [his] father did”), emphasises Harry’s desire to live as his father would have, and eventually – when seeing James Potter’s flaws – he realises that his aim should be to create a new legacy, and keep his father’s memory alive through his own talents and virtues:

“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.”

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And what was most plain was James’ determination, commitment and willingness to change. Though Snape made James’ poor past choices painfully clear to Harry, we also know that James must have gone to great lengths to grow in character and maturity. If he had not, Lily Evans would not have given him the time of day. James must have proven his worth to her eventually, and that truth, even if Snape couldn’t acknowledge it, is worth remembering and holding onto.

Dumbledore told Harry that it is our choices which reveal who we truly are, far more than our abilities, and James strove to make better choices, day by day, than he had as an immature and arrogant young man. This is what Harry carries with him as he establishes his own legacy as a father, explored in Cursed Child. This is what he carries with him when he needs it most–when he has no idea what he’s doing and seems to make mistake after mistake with his son Albus Severus. Though Harry genuinely loves and cares for his son, Albus continues to struggle with the desire to separate himself from The Boy Who Lived *Twice*, telling others “I didn’t choose to be his son”. 

And so it is that both carry burdens that neither should have to bear.

What Harry does know is that he must set aside the legacy of greatness thrust upon him by destiny in order to pick up the one that matters most. Like James before him, Harry doesn’t give up trying to prove himself a better man, and a better father, than he was. That takes humility. That takes understanding his own flaws. That takes choosing not to be content with them or to hide behind them.

And Albus learns to appreciate his father’s struggle with his past, his complexity and his own responsibility to create a legacy separate from that of “The Son of Harry Potter”. Harry’s own realisation of the pressure he puts on his son to avoid his mistakes not only highlights the long-lasting influence of being something of a pawn in what was, for him, a life-long war, but also demonstrates that parents in J.K. Rowling’s series – whether they’re The Boy Who Lived or the seemingly innocent Xenophilous Lovegood – were not perfect role models, which is a truthful characterization, as none are. But, nevertheless, they had a huge influence on their children, or those they treated as their own, making every effort to impart the best of themselves to the next generation even as they watched them come into their own.

Who do you think had the greatest influence on Harry’s life? Let us know in the comments!





The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.