The 83 Most Devastating 'Harry Potter' Chapters, Ranked

Step right up and feel your magical feelings.

Emotions are a complicated thing. Have you ever been so happy or so, so sad that you feel like you just might barf?

I have, and a lot of the times that I was sitting there trying not to emo-barf, I was reading "Harry Potter."

Author J.K. Rowling played me and millions of other fans hot and cold throughout the seven book series. I was so mad sometimes I wanted to throw the book down, and so sad that I shed many a tear. A few times I was so happy for Harry and his pals that I got choked up there too. (I'm a happy crier, so sue me.)

Rowling recently tweeted that her favorite chapter in the entire series is the totally devastating "The Forest Again," from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and it got me thinking. It's pretty much impossible for me to choose a favorite chapter, but I definitely have strong feelings about many, many chapters.

With that in mind, here are the 83 most gut-wrenching chapters in the "Harry Potter" series, happy, sad, mad and everything in between, ranked.

"The Very Secret Diary," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


Poor Ginny. Nobody liked your singing Valentine. Definitely not Harry.

"The Slug Club," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


Harry, don't you ever learn that spying doesn't pay off? (No.) This is mostly just a depressing way to start the school year: in a Full-Body Bind, literally invisible and with your face stomped in. Sigh.

"The Unexpected Task," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


This one hurts because of the pangs of adolescence. Harry and Ron have to find dates to the Yule Ball, and everyone's already taken. So awkward, so cringey.

"Felix Felicis," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


Oh, Hermione. Ron's a big dummo. He deserved those birds. YOU ARE A CATCH.

"The Four Champions," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Ugh, Ron, why can't you just see that this nonsense isn't Harry's fault? Won-Won goes into a violent sulk because he thinks Harry put his name into the Goblet himself and didn't include Ron in his plans. This is upsetting, but more in an eyerolly way.

"The Lion and the Serpent," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


A nasty game of Quidditch against Slytherin, Ron being Such A Teen and Umbridge doling out lifelong Quidditch bans for Harry and the Weasley twins. I'm smoking at the ears.

"Rita Skeeter's Scoop," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Poor Hagrid. His secret of being half-giant is exposed to the world, he's humiliated and everyone likes substitute teacher Professor Grubbly-Plank's lesson better. Not the best day.

"The Riddle House," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


RIP Frank Bryce. RIP me not having chills because Voldemort is spooky.

"The House-Elf Liberation Front," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"

Poor, poor Winky. Poor, rejected Winky. It's OK, Winky! It'll all be OK in the end.

"The Other Minister," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


It's creepy, creepy, creepy to hear about the havoc the Death Eaters have unleashed on the Muggle world, and that the issue has become big enough for the non-wizards to be informed, but to be at something of a remove lessens the impact somewhat. I rate it two spine-tingling chills out of five.

"Kreacher's Tale," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


When the trio go to 12 Grimmauld Place to hide, they get the story of the Horcrux and Regulus' mission to destroy it from Kreacher, who was loyal to his old master. There's a glimmer of hope that the locket is still out there somewhere, but it's a killer on so many levels: Kreacher's love for Regulus, the reminder that Dumbledore's death was over costume jewelry and the sense of injustice at how poorly Sirius treated Kreacher in contrast.

"The House of Gaunt," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


They say that everyone has a secret that'll break your heart, and this holds true even when that "everyone" is Voldemort.

"Spinner's End," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


A very unhappy Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow with an equally unhappy Narcissa Malfoy. We don't totally know what Draco Malfoy's duty is, but we're pretty sure we don't want Snape to fulfill it...or anyone, for that matter.

"The Hogwarts High Inquisitor," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Gather round and you will hear the sad ballad of Sybil Trelawney. She's constantly bullied by Professor Umbridge, who doesn't understand that you can't simply order an artist to make art, or a Seer to See. Let's just make this clear: pretty much any chapter involving Umbridge (so, like, all of this book) gives me an instant rage blackout.

"The Muggle-Born Registration Commission," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Hands off Mad-Eye Moody's eye, Umbridge. Not OK.

"The Hearing," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Dumbledore, why you gotta be like that? Harry is terrified, the court is cold and Dumbledore's emotionally unavailable. A bad situation, to say the least.

"Dudley Demented," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Again, magic is going where magic shouldn't go, and Dementors are going where they definitely shouldn't go. Spooky, spooky.

"Number 12, Grimmauld Place," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


I don't blame Harry for getting all all-caps. Nobody tells him anything, and everyone's concerned about what he can handle. Um, dude has beaten evil a whole bunch. He can probably take it, honestly.

"The Bribe," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Remember the time Lupin wanted to abandon his unborn child and new wife because he was afraid he wasn't good enough for his family? This is a real grown-up moment for Harry, even if he's not nice about it. It's hard lesson to watch Harry learn: mentors can falter and heroes can fail, and even the best people in your life can let you down.

"The Prince's Tale," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


A Snape apologist I am not. Unrequited love and a bad hairdo do NOT give you license to be a jerk your whole life. It doesn't matter that he was watching out for Harry all that time, he was shady as hell about it and had an intense side gig with the Dark Lord going on all the while. That said, his devastating "always" answer utterly destroys me.

"Snape Victorious," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


We can just call this one The Chapter of Professorly Feels: A. WHY DOES SNAPE ALWAYS WIN SOMEHOW and B. Ohhhh, Hagrid. So sorry. Oh God. Ohhhhh no. Harry feels a real turd, and we feel uncomfortable on his behalf after we realize how hurt Hagrid's feelings are that Harry and Co. have dropped out of Care of Magical Creatures.


"Fallen Warrior," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Mad-Eye is killed by Voldemort and George is down an ear after the Battle of the Seven Potters. This is one of the first moments where it really does feel like the wizarding world is actually at war, something bigger than the personal vendetta Voldemort has against Harry. That's not to mention the ugly laugh-cry that I got out of George and Fred exchanging ear puns to try and lighten the mood.

"The Dursleys Departing," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Sure, more emotional words than "I don't think you're a waste of space" have been spoken, but it was still a surprising and touching moment as Dudley saw Harry for the last time.

"A Very Frosty Christmas," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


There's so much dark nonsense going down by this point in book six, but Harry's realization that Scrimgeour and the Ministry want to use him as a pawn is truly chilling.

"The Pensieve," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


I realize that the Crouch family is not the most lovable, but this is family devastation in motion here. It's hard not to be moved by what Harry sees in Dumbledore's Pensieve.

"The Secret Riddle," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Remember that thing about heart-breaking secrets? Reading a story of young Tom Riddle is fascinating in that you get to see how a murderous leader is made, but it's also unforgettably sad.

"Flight of the Fat Lady," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Ooooh, dread in the pit of my stomach. The Fat Lady is ripped to shreds and she says it was (murderer! lunatic!) Sirius Black. When is it OK to stop freaking out? Never? OK.

"The Chamber of Secrets," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"

Her Skeleton Will lie in the Chamber forever

Uh-oh, things are getting real for Ginny.

"The Dark Lord Ascending," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Voldemort has zero chill while discussing how he's going to murder Harry once and for all, and neither do we.

"Talons and Tea Leaves," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Remember that dog you saw, Harry? Means you're gonna die. Not a great moment for our boy hero! Feeling a little nervous for the Chosen One.

"The Writing On the Wall," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


What, have you no sympathy for poor Mrs. Norris?

"Aunt Marge's Big Mistake," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Another book, another garbage summer for Harry. This time, featuring the threat of the Dursleys actually stopping him from having fun while at his magical school, plus the very real issue of him exploding his aunt.

"The Unforgivable Curses," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Sure, it's just a spider, but Professor Moody demonstrating the Unforgivable Curses on it was creepy to the max. It's about at this point that the darkness of the outside world is permeating Hogwarts, and it's unsettling as anything.

"At Flourish and Blotts," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


It's not in your face, but this chapter isn't a sunshiney one. Harry realizes how little the Weasleys have, and then there's a Dad Fight between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley. It's uncomfortable to realize that Mr. Weasley has been humiliated in front of his family and a crowd full of strangers, in addition to the public spectacle of the fight. A different kind of discomfort is watching Harry confront his fame for basically the first time and Gilderoy Lockhart totally misunderstanding him.

"The Centaur and the Sneak," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


After an entire year of ignoring Harry, Dumbledore finally speaks directly to him. And, of course, all this is in the midst of the headmaster making a heroic sacrifice and fleeing the school in a blaze of glory. Of course.

"Gryffindor Versus Ravenclaw," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


This is in the post-"I'm pretty sure your nutso cat ate my cherished pet rat Scabbers" phase of Ron and Hermione's friendship, with Harry trying to be pals with both of them. I hate it when Mom and Dad fight.

"Sectumsempra," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


That moment when we catch Harry thinking both "didn't mean to do that" and "oh, snap, does that mean I'm an evil wizard?" at the same time after accidentally attacking Draco Malfoy.

"St. Mungo's Hospital," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


If I didn't like Mr. Weasley being humiliated, how about Mr. Weasley being attacked, and Harry being nervous that it's maybe his fault? Weasley family, just stay well! You're important!

"Detention with Dolores," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


This. This is infuriating and sad and makes me physically tense up and scowl when I read it. Need proof that Dolores Umbridge is petty and evil? Here it is.

"Dobby's Warning," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


Imagine: your friends haven't talked to you all summer, you have no idea what's going on, and you have to do backbreaking chores then pretend like you don't exist. As if that wasn't enough, it's your birthday, and all you get is a weird creature who smashes a cake in front of important strangers and really screws things up for you. Harry doesn't have to imagine, and it's a real bummer.

"Mudbloods and Murmurs," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


Racism: not good! This is the first time we hear the word "Mudblood," and it's a double-whammy of intolerance and humiliation, as Ron, in trying to defend his pal Hermione, accidentally curses himself to barf up gastropods all day. I don't like this feeling.

"The Beginning," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Three words: "Remember Cedric Diggory."

"Grim Defeat," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


This is Harry first-ever Quidditch loss, and he feels like he's let his team down. Poor, poor Harry. Add to this that he's beating himself up because he passed out from the hundreds of Dementors forcing him to replay his parents' murder and, well, you have our sympathies.

"The Tale of the Three Brothers," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


"They took my Luna." SOB.

"The Phoenix Lament," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


Fawkes' final tribute to Dumbledore, singing all night before leaving the school forever, is small and gorgeous and unforgettable.

"The Seven Potters," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Hedwig was Harry's first gift and the most steadfast presence in his life since he found out he was a wizard. Amid the stress of the Battle of the Seven Potters, Hedwig's random death was a punch to the gut.

"Snape's Worst Memory," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


I'm firmly in the "Snape isn't a good dude" camp, no matter what some of you apologists say, but even I can admit that Harry accidentally seeing all of Snape's traumatic memories is straight up heartbreaking.

"The Dementor," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Welcome back to school, Harry! Here, have a vision of your dead parents hand-delivered by a ghost as a special gift. Not even chocolate can make me feel better about this one.

"The Dark Mark," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Here's where the evil really gets rolling, y'all. This is the first appearance of the Dark Mark, and the puppet-Muggles suspended over the Quidditch World Cup are really a creepy something else. Terror, mayhem and sporting events: has there ever been a worse combo for your state of mind?

"The Servant of Lord Voldemort," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Ugh, Harry sparing the life of Peter Pettigrew? Right in the heart. Right there.

"The Lost Prophecy," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Finally, Dumbledore explains everything to a grief-stricken Harry. This has been his fate all along -- or it could have been someone else's. It's a thorough explanation, but still so, so unsatisfying.

"King's Cross," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Harry dies, kind of. He visits heaven/King's Cross, where he has a chat with Dumbledore and realizes that given the choice, he'd like to live.

"Horcruxes," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


Harry finally nabs the elusive final memory from Slughorn that proves to be key to the Voldemort puzzle, and things are starting to get real. The realization that Voldemort has -- surprise! -- hidden his soul in various objects and stashed them in secret locations is a horrifying one, and it's with a mixture of satisfaction and total dread that we see Harry will finally get to be a Boy Hero with Dumbledore, at long last.

"Christmas on the Closed Ward," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Oh, Neville. The scene of him with his grandmother, proud of his parents but ashamed at the same time, is just heartbreaking.

"Veritaserum," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Welp, this is too much, on top of the reveal of Moody's true identity.

"The Man With Two Faces," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"


In this action-packed chapter, Harry faces off with Quirrell/Voldemort (who lives on the back of Quirrell's head). It's not the fight that gets us, though, it's what comes after: Dumbledore explains to a convalescing Harry that his mother died protecting him, and that he's protected by her love. Talk about a gut-punch of sadness, right? That's not even to mention a weeping Hagrid who's blaming himself, plus Ron and Hermione, who are just relieved their pal is OK.

"The Silver Doe," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


There's so much to unpack and uglycry over in this chapter, I'm having a hard time typing because I need those hands to clutch at my heart. Hero Ron! Horrowshow Harry and Hermione making out in the Horcrux! Harry's explanation that Hermione cried for weeks when Ron left, and Hermione's fury (and ultimate relief) at Ron's reappearance! So much happens, and all of it is twisting my heart and stomach and squeezing and squeezing. Gotta take a break after this one.

"The Boy Who Lived," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"


So, surprisingly, this chapter focuses mostly on the Dursleys and their mean Muggle ways, but it just couldn't be any more heartbreaking. Poor baby Harry. He just has not a damn clue.

"The Heir of Slytherin," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


I have a lot of feels about Fawkes in this one. He saves Harry! Twice! Plus, try not to heave a sob or nine when Harry gets all tender with that "Fawkes, you were brilliant, I just wasn't quick enough" nonsense. He thinks he's dying! I find this very upsetting. I, too, would shed phoenix tears.

"Professor Trelawney's Prediction," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Poor, poor Buckbeak. As if that wasn't sad enough, Professor Trelawney actually making a prediction is spooky as heck and thoroughly freaked me out. "The servant will break free," PARDON?

"Flesh, Blood and Bone," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


This one's a gut-punch: Cedric's death. It's so sudden and without fanfare, which makes it all the worse. Oh, plus Voldemort coming back to full power. That too.

"Bathilda's Secret," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


You haven't had a hard enough day, Harry. How about you fight Nagini, snap your wand and have a really graphic and thorough vision of your parents' death, all while getting blown through a wall?

"Godric's Hollow," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Harry and Hermione finally to to Godric's Hollow, the village where the Potters once lived. Harry sees his parents' graves for the first time, and it just slays me. Then, he sees the memorial that now stands where his family's home once was. Sob.

"The White Tomb," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


After Dumbledore's funeral, a show of magical unity and respect for the departed headmaster, Harry decides he's not going back to Hogwarts next year. Hermione and Ron, of course, say they'll help him. It's a sense of so many things ending, all at once, and new beginnings too.

"Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Holy suspense, Harry! Between all the sudden appearances (Snape, Pettigrew) and revelations (the Marauders!), this chapter is constant chills and surprise. Also: really upsetting. Man, Sirius wasn't a murderer after all! They were all best friends! It gets me on so many levels.

"Cornelius Fudge," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"



"The Dementor's Kiss," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Harry seems to have found family at last as Sirius asks him if he'd like to come live with him once his name is cleared. Then, just as suddenly as that hope appeared, it dies as the Dementors swoop in. Sob.

"The Marauders' Map," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"


Merry Christmas, Harry! Your parents' best friend murdered them and a bunch of innocent people. My, isn't Hogsmeade lovely at the holidays? I'm not crying, you're crying.

"The Wandmaker," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Harry digging Dobby's grave without magic, to me, shows that he's become a man. It's a touching tribute, and his internal monologue, reflecting on Dumbledore's death and his responsibilities to the wizarding world as he digs, really drive this home. Everyone's a mess and trying to pull themselves together at this point, and the quiet sadness and resolve of this chapter really gets me.

"Flight of the Prince," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


All that, and the locket wasn't even the real thing? This is less a gut-wrench and more a knife-twist, just to be clear.

"Priori Incatatem," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire"


Well, I'm broken. When Harry fights Voldemort and Cedric's ghost begs him to take his body back to his family, then Harry's parents appear? That's it, I'm shattered, call it a day.

"Dobby's Reward," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"


"Master has given Dobby a sock." Cue the happycry.

"The Elder Wand," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


As the death toll gets higher and higher during the Battle of Hogwarts, never does it hit you more that in this chapter. So many of our favorite characters have been knocked out, including Fred, who died with a smile on his face. Remus and Tonks, Colin Creevey (Harry's biggest fan!)...I just want to be clear: this sadness rating is not for Snape.

"The Lost Diadem," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Harry, Hermione and Ron return to Hogwarts via a secret passageway and find that Neville and the remaining Dumbledore's Army members have been waiting for them and keeping up a fight of resistance in their absence. Don't even pretend like your heart didn't lurch in a painfully happy way when you read them all gathered in the Room of Requirement and heard them all talk about their extracurricular evil-fighting activities.

"The Second War Begins," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


In the wake of Sirius' death, Harry grapples with his grief. He asks Nearly Headless Nick about how ghosts work, tries to communicate with Sirius through a two-way mirror to no avail and then has the most quietly heartbreaking conversation with Luna we've ever heard. This is how the school year ends: not with a bang, but a quiet sob.

"The Flaw in the Plan," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


So, so, so much happens in this chapter, including, oh yeah, Harry defeating Voldemort once and for all. What really gets me about the final battle, even more than Hagrid carrying what he thinks is Harry's corpse and sobbing over it, is Neville stepping up. Have you ever wondered what the "Harry Potter" series would be like if Neville had been the one Voldemort picked? A lot like this, with really touching speeches and surprising heroism. If you didn't cheer and totally lose it when Neville beheaded that damn snake, you might not have a heart beating in your chest.

"The Lightning-Struck Tower," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


I...I can't believe they killed Dumbledore. It was mostly the shock of this that hurt, since it was so sudden that we don't yet have a chance to process, just like Harry. But...I still can't believe they killed Dumbledore.

"Mrs. Weasley's Woes," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


Talk about melancholy. The whole of this chapter is a dull ache, from Sirius' moody sadness that Harry will have to go back to school instead of living with him, to the reveal of the picture of the original Order, one big happy (mostly dead now) family. There's the stab of Ron and Hermione being chosen as Prefects while Harry is left in the dust, and the final, fatal blow of Mrs. Weasley fighting a Boggart that flashes the dead faces of her family before her, one by one. It's chapters like these that show the emotional struggle at the core of the "Harry Potter" series. Even when there isn't a big battle, day to day life is heartbreaking for these characters, and every moment is a fight.

"The Mirror of Erised," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"


How did this break my heart? Let me count the ways: he doesn't have a home to go to during Christmas. The only thing he wants to see is his DEAD FAMILY. I could stop there, but no, let's go on: Dumbledore then takes away his dead family. You know what Dumbledore wants? Just some socks. I want a tissue.

"Beyond the Veil," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"


There are exactly zero words for how this chapter makes me feel. It's honestly hard for me to say which caught me harder as I read it, Sirius falling through the veil or his earlier, "Nice one, James!" muscle memory tricking him into thinking that he was fighting alongside his long-dead best friend. It's a double-stab in the heart in the midst of an action-packed battle, and it smarts more than anything we'd seen in the series thus far.

"The Cave," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"


I could talk about how Harry force-feeding Dumbledore poison (on Dumbledore's orders) is so incredibly painful to read, and the emotions running through Harry's head while his mentor begs for death, but all I really need to say to capture how terribly, horribly, unforgettably devastating this chapter is, is "I am not worried, Harry. I'm with you." It's a beautiful, awful moment of role reversal, a strong man made weak. Not even pretending to not be weeping right now.

"Malfoy Manor," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


Here is a fun thing about this chapter: Dobby's death is so upsetting to me that upon rereading the series, I mist up every time Dobby does something great for Harry. (My mom had the same problem with "Where the Red Fern Grows." Not with Dobby, but you know what I mean.) Dobby started out as a weird little creature, but his devotion to Harry -- and Harry's genuine affection for him -- made his death a terrible blow. Add to that he was disobeying Bellatrix, of his former master's family, and that he saved the trio's life...I can't. I literally can't.

"The Forest Again," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"


J.K. Rowling has listed this as her favorite chapter in the entire series, to which I bellow, "WHAT." It's devastating. Harry, who has been through so much and has given up everything -- a normal life, his family, his safety -- to fight Voldemort, realizes the final sacrifice required of him: his life. I held it together (somewhat) when he walked through the castle and told Neville that it was time for him to be a hero now, and hid himself as he went to the forest alone. When he reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest, however, preparing to go in, and used the Resurrection Stone to summon the spirits of his parents, Sirius and Lupin, holding it together was not an option. The first time I read this chapter, I was literally paralyzed by grief when Harry asks the specter of his mother, "Does it hurt?" This is the saddest thing that has ever been written, no arguing. Ever.

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