Warning: Harry Potter spoilers throughout.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favorite book of the series. It has the wonder and light-hearted charm of the early books while transitioning seamlessly into the series’ darker elements. Plus, there’s a ball and romance and people dress all fancy.
Also, Cedric Diggory dies.
It wasn’t until the movie came out that my friends cared about him.
They sobbed. For days. The pages describing his death are streaked with their mascara.
I don’t share their grief.
It’s always sad when someone dies, whether that person was connected to you or not. Harry and Cedric weren’t close, but that doesn’t make the Diggorys’ grief less valid.
As far as characters go, though, Cedric was sort of a nothing. It’s not like he was someone Harry knew and loved and wanted to spend his life with, right?
I hate this death. I’m still angry about Fred Weasley and Hedwig and Dumbledore, but Sirius’ is my least favorite death in the series. When it happens, Harry has a hard time processing:
But some part of him realized, even as he fought to break free from Lupin, that Sirius had never kept him waiting before. . . . Sirius had risked everything, always, to see Harry, to help him. . . . If Sirius was not reappearing out of that archway when Harry was yelling for him as though his life depended on it, the only possible explanation was that he could not come back. . . . That he really was . . .
I have hazy memories of exactly when I read each of the Harry Potter books, but I remember Order of the Phoenix clearly:
In sixth grade, I was finishing the last few chapters of OOTP in my room before my mom drove me to school. In chapter 37, following Sirius’ death, Harry meets with Dumbledore to discuss the prophecy and ends up tearing apart Dumbledore’s office:
“There is no shame in what you are feelings, Harry,” said Dumbledore’s voice. “On the contrary…the fact that you can feel pain like this is your greatest strength.”
Harry felt white-hot anger lick his insides, blazing in the terrible emptiness, filling him with the desire to hurt Dumbledore for his calmness and his empty words.
“My greatest strength, is it?” said Harry, his voice shaking as he stared out at the Quidditch stadium, no longer seeing it. “You haven’t got a clue… You don’t know…”
“What don’t I know?” asked Dumbledore calmly.
It was too much. Harry turned around, shaking with rage.
“I don’t want to talk about how I feel, all right?”
“Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man! This pain is part of being human–”
“THEN–I–DON’T–WANT–TO–BE–HUMAN!” Harry roared, and he seized one of the delicate silver instruments from the spindle-legged table beside him and flung it across the room. It shattered into a hundred tiny pieces against the wall. Several of the pictures let out yells of anger and fright, and the portrait of Armando Dippet said, “Really!”
“I DON’T CARE!” Harry yelled at them, snatching up the lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE–”
He seized the table on which the silver instrument had stood and threw that, too. It broke apart on the floor and the legs rolled in a hundred different directions.
“You do care,” said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
“I–DON’T!” Harry screamed, so loudly that he felt his throat might tear, and for a second he wanted to rush at Dumbledore and break him too; shatter that old calm face, shake him, hurt him, make him feel some tiny part of the horror inside Harry.
“Oh yes, you do,” said Dumbledore, still more calmly. “You have lost your mother, your father, and the closest thing to a parent you have ever known. Of course you care.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW HOW I FEEL!” Harry roared. “YOU–STAND THERE–YOU–”
But words were no longer enough, smashing things was no more help. He wanted to run, he wanted to keep running and never look back, he wanted to be somewhere he could no see the clear blue eyes staring at him, that hatefully calm old face.
I started sobbing on the floor of my bedroom. My mom knew I was upset when I got in the car, but she made me go to school anyway. (Author filibuster: book hangovers are a real phenomenon that are deserving of sympathy.)
Well-meaning people trying to cheer me up have said the same things to me that Dumbledore said to Harry. Caring about someone doesn’t feel like a benefit when that someone is dead, or hurting, or doesn’t care about you. I’ve said, “I don’t care,” many times only for people to respond, “But see, you do care.”
That doesn’t help because I don’t mean, “I don’t care,” and Harry doesn’t either. When I say I don’t care, I’m trying to say, “I can’t do this anymore. I feel too much and I want it to stop and if that means not being here anymore, then fine. Please, God, I want this to end.”
This is the first book I ever read that nailed how it feels to feel too much. Even talking about it breaks my heart. Harry should have been with his godfather and they were separated and it’s not fair and I hate it.
If you ever need a book that understands grief, this is it.
Need cheering up?
What if I told you there’s a Harry Potter musical starring Darren Criss that’s an affectionate send-up of the series’ more ridiculous elements?
WELL, THERE IS. And it’s really funny.
If you don’t have three hours to watch the musical, listen to this song instead, ‘cuz, baby, you’re not alone.