The Boy Who Loved
Loving people is hard. They make mistakes. They hurt us. Sometimes worse. I, personally, can often be heard saying I don't like people. But Harry Potter, a boy with more reason to hate the world than most, doesn’t. The fandom often treats Harry as replaceable because Neville could have also been the Chosen One and to be clear, Neville is great. But it would be a mistake to not acknowledge what makes Harry unique. Despite a horrifying childhood of starvation, neglect, and abuse he has a staggering capacity to love. Something we could all learn from.
In the Deathly Hallows, Harry is confronted with Albus Dumbledore’s deep betrayals. It quickly becomes obvious he is missing key information to succeed on his horcrux hunt. Meanwhile, entire unknown sections of Dumbledore’s life come to light. Finally, and by far the worst, Harry discovers that Dumbledore knew for quite some time that Harry needed to die. Being betrayed by enemies is to be expected. Albus, however, was no enemy. He was a father figure, mentor, and trusted friend. Betrayal from him meant an entirely different thing. And yet, when Dumbledore asks with tears in his eyes if he can ever be forgiven, Harry is confused. It never even occurred to Harry to not. Harry takes that moment to assure Albus his worst fear is not true — he’s nothing like Voldemort. Because Harry doesn't just forgive Albus, he still loves and sees the best in him.
Perhaps even harder than forgiving someone you already love, Harry forgives his arch enemy. From the first potion class, Harry and Snape hate one another. The word hate might even be an understatement. They detest each other. Harry takes this loathing so far, he always assumes Snape's up to something. Despite being proven not only wrong but that he was being protected in Philosopher's Stone, Harry continues to blame Severus first throughout the series. Now we’re not going to have the Severus argument right now. (Though if you are wanting that, read here.) But the important thing is, despite this loathing, when Severus lay dying, Harry tore off the invisibility cloak. He couldn’t explain why, but I’d imagine that Harry couldn't see even the man he hated most die alone. Most of us would not do the same. When confronted with Severus’s pensieve memories, Harry softens. He doesn't just trust Snape's intentions and information. He goes on to name his son Albus Severus and refers to Snape as “one of the bravest men he’s ever known.” Harry admitted he was wrong. A tough feat in itself. He heard someone else’s side out and gave them empathy and love.
Harry’s deep ability to love is nigh unparalleled in real life. There are very few we love unconditionally, much less in the circumstances he does. It is that very quality that allows him to be selfless enough to save the wizarding world. Instead of running away, Harry “accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far worse things in the living world than dying.” He sacrifices again and again in the series. From book one to the end he wields objects of great power not for any gain to himself, but to save those around him. The desire to save others? Was about loving them enough to do so. We all applaud Harry for dying so the world could live. We assume we could do the same. And yet, are we willing to do the work to get there? Actively choosing love is hard. Empathy, forgiveness, understanding are all skills and as such have to be practiced.
Harry has every reason to be an embittered sass. And while he is sassy, he certainly isn’t embittered. He was asked to do too much, too young, and yet he consistently and actively chooses to love. May we all find a bit more of that in our own lives. Both from us and for us. We’ll always fall short. That’s the point of savior stories. But we can try. We can get better. That’s the important part anyway.