We all think of J.K. Rowling as the benevolent ruler of our hearts and kind-hearted steward of our childhoods, but in fact, she is really a MASS MURDERER. According to (infallible) Wikipedia, over 158 characters died over the course of the Harry Potter books, and while that number includes deaths as insignificant as the spider Mad Eye Moody Avada Kedavra’d (NOT THAT ITS LIFE WAS NOT PRECIOUS), that still leaves us with a pretty significant body count. To help sort through the carnage, please refer to the following list, ranking HP deaths from “the ones we forgot about” to “the ones that will haunt us forever.”
33. Nearly Headless Nick: If anything, derived his entire sense of self from beheading. The one death to actually give laughs, rather than tears.
32. Bellatrix Lestrange: Just thinking about it makes me want to stand up and repeat Molly Weasley’s immortal words.
31. Quirinus Quirrell: Hands up if the first time you read Philosopher’s Stone, you didn’t even realize he had died.
30. Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel: They were cool with it.
29. Hagrid’s Flobberworms: Fed too much, loved too little.
28. Moaning Myrtle: Sure, she was cut down before her time, but she was also kind of the worst.
27. The Gaunt Family: Okay, Merope was kind of sad, but Marvolo and Morfin weren’t exactly contributing to the net good of the universe.
26. Binky the Rabbit: I mean, the real casualty here was Hermione’s friendship with Lavender and Parvati. The girls’ dormitory must have been a real tough place for her, post-Binky.
25. Lily and James: Yes it’s very sad, Batman, but maybe we could take a break from the YA trope that the only interesting people on earth are orphans?
24. Aragog: He wasn’t the nicest monster living in the Forbidden Forest, but he wasn’t the meanest, either.
23. Bertha Jorkins: Tortured and killed by Voldemort is a rough way to go, but even Dumbledore was like, “meh, she had it coming.”
22. The Riddle Family: While it was hard to muster much sympathy for these snobs, their deaths signaled a turning point in Voldemort inflicting his anger on the world.
21. Peter Pettigrew: Though I don’t know if anyone was “sad” on this one, I think we were all “shaken” at the prospect of a man strangled to death by his own magical hand. There’s a powerful lesson there, and it’s not just “don’t resurrect the most evil person of all time using your body parts.”
20. Hepzibah Smith: Though she was rather an awful soul, one can’t help but feel for anyone foolish enough to fall for the charms of young Tom Riddle.
19. Grindelwald: Okay yes, he was a fascist determined to take over the world, but he was also Dumbledore’s first (and maybe only) love, and you’ve got to have a soft spot for a doomed affair.
18. Dumbledore’s Actual Little Sister, Ariana: I KNOW I SHOULD BE SADDER ABOUT THIS ONE, BUT I JUST CAN’T GET THERE FOR SOME REASON, OKAY?
17. Rufus Scrimgeour: Worse than Fudge without even the delightful little bowler hat, plus died at a point when we were all getting numb to it.
16. Pandora Lovegood: Though we never met Luna’s mother, her death left a deeply-felt mark on her daughter.
15. Florean Fortescue: He doesn’t even have any lines, but I love ice cream and I love his name, so this one really hits home for me.
14. Crabbe: Died horribly, leaving behind his deeply bereaved fellow henchman (and probable lover) Goyle.
13. Everyone killed offscreen during Voldemort’s rise to power: There are too many to list individually, but we lost a lot of good witches and wizards, and you could just feel the world go greyer every time.
12. Dobby: Look, yes, the “free elf” thing is very touching. But did anyone else find a Dobby a little one-note? A trifle irritating?
11. Lord Voldemort: Perhaps this is an odd placement, and Voldy certainly would have ranked much lower on this list if we only had to contend with his death in the forest. But the scene in which he reappears as a malformed baby in the platform between life and death casts a different light on the whole business. It reveals the tragedy of Tom Riddle’s incomplete soul that, despite the best efforts of the world, could never be saved.
10. Hedwig: Sometimes I forget Hedwig died and then I remember all over again and then the whole day is ruined.
9. Alastor Moody: A huge loss, especially since we were only just getting to know the real him. Still, it’s how he would have wanted to go.
8. Cedric Diggory: Despite the fact that we had already lost a host of other characters, this one still felt like the first, and was still appalling in the way that it made you realized that the rules of the books were forever changed.
7. The Creeveys: WE ARE NOW AT THE POINT IN THE LIST WHERE I AM CRYING REAL TEARS. OH GOD THEIR TINY LITTLE WORSHIPFUL BODIES.
6. Sirius Black: The bad boy of the wizarding world took a big part of Harry with him behind the veil. I still keep expecting him to come back.
5. Remus Lupin: One of the most richly textured adults in Harry’s world, Lupin’s death hurts all the more because of the life he had ahead of him.
4. Albus Dumbledore: If you were an avidly literary kid, you realized a long time in advance that Dumbledore had to die in order for Harry to face Voldemort on his own, without the benefit of any of his mentors (AKA universal story of adulthood). Still an absolute heartbreak though, especially having to see him reduced to a senile state while he drank that potion.
3. Nymphadora Tonks: Okay, I know this is a very high placement hear me out: Tonks’ death is SIGNIFICANTLY SADDER than Lupin’s because while I can appreciate that all of Moody, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs had to die for the sake of completeness, killing the cheeky big sister of the wizarding world was cruel. Why did we have to lose the weird, funny, kind-of-coded-as-queer one? That’s just twisting the knife.
2. Fred Weasley: Hands up if you are dreading The Cursed Child because you just can’t bear to know what became of George without his other half. Like a joke hanging in the air, waiting for a punchline forever.
1. Severus Snape: The absolute perfect storm of mind-blowing and gut-wrenching. J.K. Rowling’s piece de resistance brought home the best possible message of Deathly Hallows: to keep looking for the humanity even in your enemies. Always.