Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. The Chosen One. Everyone wanted to be him, even his best friend Ron Weasley — although I'm pretty sure Won-Won just wanted the Galleons — but did anyone ever stop to think what being Harry Potter actually meant? Sure, there was plenty of attention lavished on him by the entire wizarding world, but that didn't negate the fact that The Boy Who Lived had a pretty shitty life.
His parents died, and his aunt and uncle were despicable people. He had the burden of fighting the most powerful dark wizard in the world dumped on him as a baby. And everywhere he went, death seemed to follow. Honestly, there's a reason Harry could only think up at most two happy thoughts — one of which was winning the Inter-House Quidditch Cup — to summon his Patronus. For Harry, happiness was fleeting and life was a chasm of suck. So in honor of Harry's 36th birthday on Sunday, July 31, let's revisit the many times you definitely did not want to be Harry Potter.
When his parents died.
No one wants to grow up an orphan, but thanks to Lord Voldemort, that's sadly what happened to poor baby Harry. When their Secret Keeper, Peter Pettigrew, betrayed them and ratted them out to the Dark Lord, James and Lily were ruthlessly murdered by He Who Must Not Be Named — but not before Lily's unconditional love for her young son was able to protect him from Voldemort's Killing Curse. (Sniff.)
When he spent a decade of his life sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive.
Technically, Harry finally got a bedroom (the smallest room in the house) during the summer of 1991, but he still spent the first 10 years of his life in a cupboard that was barely big enough for a small cot. Does that sound like a good time? Because it wasn't. His aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, were awful trolls — and this wasn't even their worst offense.
When he didn’t receive any birthday presents for the first 10 years of his life.
Reason No. 3,573 why the Dursleys were garbage people: They never gave Harry a proper birthday present. These people never even gave him a cake! (In fact, Hagrid gave Harry his first-ever "birthdae" cake in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.) And Christmases weren't any better; the best Christmas present he ever received from the Dursleys was a 50-pence piece. I bet your aunt's annual gift of socks and Bath & Body Works bath soap is looking pretty good right about now.
When he had to endure the Dursleys every summer holiday.
Let's not forget that Vernon and Petunia (his own flesh and blood) also verbally and emotionally abused him — sometimes even depriving him of meals and locking him inside of his room — whenever something "unusual" happened. Meanwhile, they egregiously spoiled their terrible son, Dudley. I don't blame Harry for dreading the end of term every year.
When he sees his parents, and the family he would have had, in the Mirror of Erised.
Oh. My. God. Imagine looking into this old-ass mirror and seeing the faces of your dead parents — and the extended family you would have had — staring back at you. He was not prepared for the wave of emotions that hit him (nor was I!). According to Albus Dumbledore, the Mirror of Erised shows "deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts." And in that moment, all Harry wanted, more than anything in the world, was a family — his family. Poor kid.
When he (and Ron and Hermione) lost 150 points for Gryffindor and everyone hated him.
One second you're the most beloved Quidditch star at Hogwarts, and one midnight stroll through the corridors later and you're the most despised. You never, ever want to be the person responsible for losing your House 150 points.
When he had to literally regrow all of the bones in his arm.
There's nothing a healthy dose of Skele-Gro can't fix, but man, did this look painful. As Madam Pomfrey would say, repairing bones is easy, but regrowing them from scratch is a notably slow and painful process. Harry compared it to having a million splinters lodged in his arm at once — which is decidedly not a fun time.
When everyone thought he was the heir of Slytherin.
Throughout most of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the majority of Hogwarts students believed that Harry was responsible for petrifying Muggle-borns inside of the castle. Everywhere he went, whispers and stares followed. That doesn't sound very fun at all.
When he had to face the Basilisk all by himself in the Chamber of Secrets.
If there's one thing we've learned about Harry Potter over the years, it's that the guy has a bit of a hero complex. Case in point: The Chamber of Secrets. In order to save Ginny Weasley from certain death, Harry had to kill the Basilisk with Gryffindor's sword — and if it weren't for Fawkes, he would surely be a goner.
When he fainted and (gasp) lost the Quidditch match against Hufflepuff.
One, Harry nearly died when he fell off his broom and plummeted into the cold, wet ground, and two, you definitely do not want to face the Wrath of Oliver Wood.
When Mr. Dursley refused to sign his Hogsmeade permission form.
Harry's third year at Hogwarts was notably terrible for several reasons: He thought Sirius Black was trying to kill him, the Dementors were trying to suck the soul out of him every chance they got, and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, weren't talking to each other for the majority of the year. However, by far the worst thing to happen to Harry was that he couldn't go to Hogsmeade with everyone else because Uncle Vernon was a major dick who wouldn't sign his permission form.
When he thought he was going to spend the summer with his godfather Sirius Black, only to have that dream ripped away from him when he let Peter Pettigrew escape.
For roughly five seconds, Harry's life outside of Hogwarts seemed to be on the up and up when Sirius told his godson that he could live with him once they cleared his name of all wrongdoing — that is, until the Full Moon spoiled their happy plans and everything was terrible again. What could have been a fresh start for Harry and Sirius turned out to be a painful reminder of what could have been.
When he had to take on 100 Dementors at once.
When out of all of the dragons available, he drew the Hungarian Horntail for the First Task.
Damn, dude. That is some horrible luck. Even dragon tamer Charlie Weasley — a man who gets paid to take care of dragons — was not down with this Horntail: "I don't envy the one who gets the Horntail. Vicious thing. Its back end's as dangerous as its front."
When Cho Chang told him she was going to the Yule Ball with Hufflepuff Champion Cedric Diggory.
Tough break, Harry. Not only was this a humiliating experience for The Boy Who Lived, but it also led to one of the most awkward "dates" ever for Harry and Parvati Patil. She wanted to dance, but he was too busy making googly-eyes at Cho to care.
When Cedric Diggory was murdered by Voldemort right in front of him.
What's worse than having the girl of your dreams shut you down? Watching her boyfriend, who happened to be a pretty stand-up guy, get murdered by the Dark Lord right in front of you. And there was nothing Harry could do to stop it. Avada Kedavra is unforgivable and unblockable. Cedric's death marked a turning point for Harry Potter; in that moment, Harry grew up — and the state of the wizarding world never seemed more bleak.
When he was briefly expelled from Hogwarts.
Hogwarts was literally the only thing distracting Harry from his shitty life. So for those brief few seconds when he thought the Ministry of Magic had expelled him from his happy place, things got dark. And we couldn't even blame Harry for falling into a chasm of despair and teen angst.
When no one told him anything about the Order of the Phoenix.
Harry spent a large part of his fifth year feeling VERY ANGRY and sorry for himself, but as much as we want to fault Harry for getting mad at Ron and Hermione for not telling him about the Order over the summer, we can't imagine we wouldn't do the same. The FOMO was real, especially with his life literally at stake.
When Dumbledore straight-up ignored him all year.
Everyone knew Harry was Dumbledore's favorite student, so when he ignored him throughout his fifth year, it was hard not to feel a little bad for The Boy Who Lived. Then again, the wizarding world was on the brink of war, and while Dumbledore was busy recruiting wizards and creatures for the Order, Harry was all like, "BUT DUMBLEDORE, PAY ATTENTION TO ME. YOU LOVE ME, REMEMBER? ME ME ME."
When Ron and Hermione were made Gryffindor prefects.
On one hand, Harry wanted to be happy for his best friend Ron for being made Prefect, but on the other, he was more than a little salty that it wasn't him. After all, his marks were a tiny bit better. (Although it's not like Harry and Ron ever did their own homework with Hermione around to help them.) As much as it sucked to feel left out and excluded, Dumbledore was right: Harry had slightly larger problems to deal with, like — oh, I don't know — LORD VOLDEMORT.
When he kissed Cho Chang and she cried.
OK, so maybe she was already crying over Cedric when they kissed. Either way, the snog could have been better.
When that evil troll Dolores Umbridge gave him a week’s worth of detentions.
Harry could have spent his evenings practicing his Occlumency (fat chance), or hanging out by the Great Lake with Ron and Hermione. But nope. Instead he had to spend every night with Umbridge in her shockingly pink office with her stupid Frolicsome Feline plates. We'd rather babysit a Blast-Ended Skrewt than spend any time alone with that wretched woman.
When she made him write the words “I must not tell lies” into his own flesh.
And he's got the permanent scars to prove it.
When she permanently banned him from playing Quidditch.
The only thing worse than the wrath of Oliver Wood was the wrath of Angelina Johnson, who had zero chill during her seventh year. Still, Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup without Harry (and Fred and George, who were also banned) — the first of two Gryffindor Cup wins without their star Seeker. To be honest, Quidditch was never really the same for Harry after he was banned, since he spent most of his sixth year putting together a new team and dealing with that pompous idiot Cormac McLaggen.
When he had to take 1:1 Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape.
Harry tried (and failed) to learn the skill of Occlumency from Professor Snape in his fifth year in order to protect his mind from Lord Voldemort. Embarrassingly, Snape's lessons were given under the guise of Remedial Potions, which made excellent fodder for Malfoy and the Slytherins.
When Cho asked him if Cedric had mentioned her name before he died — on their first date in Hogsmeade.
To be fair, Cho was hurt that Harry mentioned meeting up with Hermione at the Three Broomsticks later that day. (Harry could be incredibly daft when it came to women.) Still, bringing up her dead boyfriend during a Valentine's Day date with her new boyfriend was an odd choice. It was an uncomfortable moment for Harry, made even worse by Cho's proclivity for sporadically bursting into tears during her sixth year.
When Sirius died right in front of him and there was nothing he could do about it.
Sirius Black was never long for this world; he was far too reckless, too freewheeling. But he had so much to live for — Harry, mostly — which only made his death more excruciating. As for Harry, watching his godfather fall through an archway to the afterlife had to be an extremely traumatizing experience. In many ways, Sirius was Harry's last connection to his father, and after he died, Harry lost a little part of himself too. Curse you, Bellatrix Lestrange!
When Dumbledore died and Harry had to watch the entire thing unfold while in a Full Body-Bind Curse.
At the time of his death, Dumbledore was holding the wizarding world together with his bare (and badly burned) hands. And yet, even in death, Dumbledore had a tendency to be infuriatingly vague. Throughout Harry's time at Hogwarts, Dumbledore was his mentor, so it made sense that his demise would have a profound effect on the boy wizard.
When he discovered that Dumbledore had risked his life for a false Horcrux.
In the hours leading up to Dumbledore's death, he and Harry had located one of Voldemort's Horcruxes in a small cave off the coast. In order to retrieve Slytherin's locket, Dumbledore had to drink a sketchy green potion that severely weakened him — and they had to face a horde of Inferi. After narrowly escaping the cave, they traveled back to Hogwarts, where Dumbledore eventually met his grim end. To add insult to injury, Harry later found out that the locket wasn't even the Horcrux they were looking for and that a mysterious person with the initials "R.A.B." had stolen the real locket with plans to destroy it. Oy. All that work for nothing!
When he broke things off with Ginny for her own good.
Just when he found a girl who didn't burst into tears when he snogged her, Harry decided to break things off with Ginny in order to "protect her." (Again, this man-boy had a major hero complex.) What he didn't realize, however, was that Ginny Weasley didn't need protecting, and if she really wanted to, she could have hexed him all the way to Godric's Hollow.
When he became “The Chosen One.”
Harry was just trying to live his life, but Sybil's prophecy really messed things up. Not only did it put a target on his parents' backs, but it also sealed his fate as The Chosen One — the one who could destroy Lord Voldemort. However, there's a possibility the prophecy was never even about Harry; Neville Longbottom could have been The Boy Who Lived, as he and Harry both had birthdays at the end of July and both had parents in the Order. But Voldemort made a choice — and he chose Harry. Tough break, Potter.
When Dobby died in his arms.
Bellatrix!!! That evil cow. At this point in the Harry Potter saga, the deaths never really stopped. But Dobby's death really fucked Harry up. After all, all Dobby ever wanted to do was protect and serve Harry, so it wasn't a surprise when his final words were, "Harry... Potter."
When he took a dying Snape’s memories and reviewed them in the Pensieve.
While at Hogwarts, Harry hated Snape. He hated everything about him — his beady eyes, his greasy hair, his penchant for punishing Gryffindors — and when Snape killed Dumbledore, he had an even greater reason to loathe the former Potions master. However, upon reviewing the memories Snape gave to him near death, Harry realized that Snape had been working for Dumbledore the entire time. Why? Because Snape loved Lily, so he took it as his responsibility to watch over Harry. (Although he certainly had a funny way of showing it.) This crushing realization made Snape's death all the more devastating for Harry.
When he had to watch his friends die during the Battle of Hogwarts.
Fred. Tonks. Lupin. These were just a few of the soul-crushing deaths at the Battle of Hogwarts, and they all weighed heavily on Harry's conscious during his final showdown with Voldemort. (None more so than Lupin, who had sadly been the last of the Marauders.)
When he realized little Teddy Lupin was an orphan — just like him.
Given Harry Potter's unfortunate track record of losing father figures — James Potter, Sirius Black, and Albus Dumbledore — his only remaining link to his father had to die. However, Remus wasn't alone. His wife Nymphadora Tonks also perished in the battle, while their infant son Teddy was left an orphan. The heartbreaking event mirrored Harry's own tragic past. But at least Teddy, who was raised by his grandmother Andromeda, would always have his godfather Harry to count on. (Being partially responsible for a baby at age 17 is no joke, Harry.)
When a part of himself died.
At least it was the evil part. Still, dying sucks.