Harry Potter really drew the short straw for families when he got hidden away with the Dursleys. Fans have attributed the awful treatment of their wee nephew ‘Arry to everything from jealousy (Petunia’s feud with her magically talented sister), to a curse (the theory that Harry is a horcrux) to an ancient insult (the time James Potter acted like a total twat while meeting Vernon—J.K. Rowling’s official explanation). Whatever the reason, they made terrible role models for Harry over his first eleven years, and yet he turned out to be a true gem.
This is thanks to the substitute family he picked up along the way, who gave him all the love, wisdom, knit sweaters, and dad-son special time he had been missing. So clutch a blanket to your chin, and let’s see why is it that Harry didn’t end up as a noseless horcrux enthusiast, taking in the lessons his adoptive family gave him through the series. Bring a box of tissues.
Lesson 1: Don’t judge a book by its cover
The first time Harry Potter found himself in Kings Cross station, bleating like a lost lamb in search of Platform 93/4, he probably looked worse than any of the Weasleys. (Pretty bad.) But did Molly Weasley look down on the scrawny boy in banged-up glasses when he asked for her help? No. Being the honorary mom we all wish we had, she saw a boy who needed care and tended to him. We see that Harry learned his lesson when he chooses Ron over Draco before the Sorting ceremony, and when he meets Luna for the first time.
Lesson 2: A mother’s love is infinite and there’s always room for more at the table
If Harry didn’t give Mrs Weasley another thought after looking past Ron’s triple hand-me-downs, dirty nose and packed lunch, she certainly didn’t forget, and on Christmas Day, for the first time in his life, he found there was something especially for him. ಥ_ಥ Harry’s first Christmas present included a trademark Weasley jumper that Ron got rather embarrassed about, but for Harry symbolized an invitation into a real family—something he never had. I want a sweater knitted for me by Molly. We all do.
Despite having seven children of her own to worry about, Molly “Not my daughter, you b*tch!” Weasley found time and affection for Harry, because her heart is that big. Even though the Weasleys were cash-strapped and bulging at the seams, there was always a place for Harry in their home. When he arrived at the Burrow for the first time, when he accompanied the Weasley family to the final of the World Quidditch Cup, and during the wedding of Bill and Fleur, he was core member of the family. No wonder he married in. I’m not even going to get into the part where Harry turns 17 and receives a wizard watch (*uncontrollable sobbing*).
And of course the Weasley’s open invitation extended to Hermione, giving her the wizard childhood she missed out on. The Weasleys are just that cool, like you know you could borrow some undies if your forgot to bring some to the sleepover, nbd.
Lesson 3: No family member gets left behind
Not to veer too deep into Disney territory, but come on, the whole rescue mission at the start of Chamber of Secrets almost has you picturing Fred and George in floral dresses and leis. Ron tells the shellshocked Harry, “We’ve come to take you home with us!” like it’s his home, too—remember that Harry was used to getting left out of everything while growing up with the Dursleys. But he learns well from the Weasleys, and at the end of the year we see him rescue Ginny from the weirdest case of catfishing anyone has even seen.
Lesson 4: No family is without conflict, but you work through it
After three books of broom shenanigans and high fives, Goblet of Fire is high time for something to go wrong between Harry and Ron. I mean where’s the realism? So we see Ron throw a tantrum about what he believes to be Harry’s betrayal, but even when he’s angry, he is still concerned about his best friend’s life, which eventually leads to their very manly reconciliation. *cough hug cough* It could only be more manly if they resorted to grunting.
In Deathly Hallows, we get a taste of sibling rivalry in the bromance, and glimpse Ron’s insecurities as the horcrux in the Slytherin medallion beams out its negative vibes. That Rarry can overcome such powerful black magic says a lot about their bond as friends, and the fact they have given up a fair amount of heart space to each other.
Which brings us to…
Lesson 5: There’s no shame in straying—it takes strength to find the right path again
Like a roughed-up ginger tabby, Ron Weasley is the king of the strays, adorable and flawed and, sure, ginger. I really love the fan theory that Ron is somewhat of a racist (he’s some what species-ist, and accepts his place at the bottom of the social hierarchy, a theory explored by Jonathan Bradley here), because it takes the series from being a simple good-versus-evil hay ride to a more complex examination of how good people can buy into prejudices. The lesson isn’t to be right, to be good and golden, but to learn from what’s around you, to second-guess your thoughts, and to improve yourself. But acknowledging your flaws and reforming yourself takes incredible courage.
In the two conflicts between Harry and Ron mentioned above, Ron realizes the errors in his thinking, and makes amends. There’s an additional lesson to be learned here, and in Percy Weasley’s return in Deathly Hallows: even if you do stray, there are always people who love you enough to welcome you back with open arms (and jokes if you’re lucky enough to be a brother to twins like Fred and George. NO, WE’RE NOT GETTING INTO MATHEMATICAL DISCREPANCIES ABOUT HOW IT’S NOT TWINS IF THERE’S ONLY ONE OF THEM LEFT).
Lesson 6: Selflessness buys you more than money can
*firmly clutching a box of tissues* One of my favorite family scenes is at the end of Goblet of Fire, when Harry gives his Triwizard Tournament winnings to Fred and George, contributing to their dream of opening up a shop. It’s so deeply ingrained in the family ideology of “what’s mine is yours” and wanting to share in the happiness of your family that it melts your heart on the spot. I’m going to go lie in a little puddle of feels brb.
Lesson 7: Bros before hoes (and revenge)
Don’t put your blotting papers away just yet, because the award for teaching this vital lesson goes to the Marauders. My god, the headcanons. Look back at the first time Harry and Sirius talk properly in The Prisoner of Azkaban. For a man who did his waiting for justice (12 YEARS OF IT. IN AZKABAN.), the most important thing—before he even has the chance to fill what is certainly a very empty stomach with some butterbeer and pudding, and before he has a chance to nail Peter Pettigrew—is to fulfill the role of godfather to Harry, something he was unable to do for so long.
Sirius asks Harry if he’d like to move in with him and Harry agrees straight away (be honest you think of this all the time). Why? I mean he only found out Sirius didn’t actually want to kill him like ten minutes earlier. It’s because he saw Remus Lupin trust him; Lupin, who for the whole year was the closest thing Harry ever had to a father, who made sure he felt safe when facing the Dementors, and whose comparison of Harry’s eyes to his mother’s meant so much more because Remus knew them well. WHAT A SQUAD: Remus, for whom his friends illegally became animagi; Sirius, rejected by his family as a traitor of blood, welcomed with open arms by his friends. Move over Taylor Swift, the Marauders are it.
Lesson 8: You get a hug, and you get a hug, EVERYONE GETS A HUG!
Everyone deserves one totally loyal, transparently honest supporter, and Hagrid is the first person to walk into Harry’s life and show him that there is a world where he is important, and where he is loved. I will take 100 gigantic Hagrid hugs aqui, por favor. *points to self*
Lesson 9: You can be a better you
The award for highest bar for humanity goes to Hermione, who was fiercely loyal to her besties, and who demanded nothing but the most honorable behavior from them in return. She crusaded for the rights of elves, she walked the line between devotion to Harry and romantic love for Ron without treading on anyone’s heart, and she wasn’t afraid to tell either of them how it is at any point. Hermione, who may or may not be the embodiment of JK Rowling in the story, is there to demand more of the reader, and of Harry—to ask that we be the best we can be.