I’ve read through the Harry Potter series at least a dozen times over the years. In fact, I just started my annual read-through early because quarantine is stressful and I needed some cheering up. (Normally, I wait until July 31st. Obviously.)
And because I don’t want to think about the crushing avalanche of responsibilities threatening to envelope me every waking moment, I’ve decided to forgo a real-world blog post this month and instead offer my thoughts on the moms of the Harry Potter universe. With Mother’s Day right around the corner and no end in sight to sheltering in place (at least for my household), I needed a break. Don’t we all?
Borrowing (okay, stealing) an idea from humorist The Dad, I’ve given these Harry Potter mothers a grade based on the school system of A to F. If you’re not into Harry Potter, then you can just leave right now. Kidding. Kind of.
But seriously, check it out — the books, not the movies. You need to love the books first. Sorry. I don’t make the rules. But Warner Bros. didn’t exactly stick to the source material, so in this case, books > movies. My rating system is based on book context.
Without further waffling, here are the moms of the Harry Potter universe, graded by yours truly. Note: lots of spoilers if you haven’t read the series.
Lily Potter (A+)
Maybe it’s an obvious grade, but Lily Potter gets top marks for the whole sacrifice-yourself-for-your-kid thing. Without Lily’s literal and magical protection, The Boy Who Lived might not have, well, lived. That magical blood protection ensures Harry’s safety for 17 years. We don’t know enough about Lily Potter to say whether that makes her a good mother in terms of creature comforts, but the letter she sends Sirius when Harry is a toddler — shortly before she dies — offers some evidence that she was delighted with her only offspring. Plus, she doesn’t think twice about dying for her child at age 21.
Molly Weasley (A)
Molly Weasley gets a lot of justified praise for being mother extraordinaire in the HP universe. She raises seven children and unofficially adopts Harry into her fold, no questions asked. But I’ve knocked a point off of Mrs. Weasley’s score for one big reason: her refusal to acknowledge who her kids actually are as opposed to who she wants them to be. Her name is Molly, and that’s no coincidence. “Mollycoddling” means overprotective indulgence. She consistently scorns the twins for their “ridiculous” career choice — despite the obvious talent that her middle sons have — and constantly treats all of her children (including Harry) like they’re children no matter how old they get. I don’t disagree that Molly is amazing. But she’s a tad suffocating in her approach. (Oh, and her treatment of Fleur when Bill and Fleur are engaged is downright awful.)
Augusta Longbottom (B-)
Neville’s grandmother raises him because his parents were driven insane by Bellatrix Lestrange. And for the most part, she does an okay job in preparing Neville for the real world. But she loses some points for confusing Neville with Neville’s father. You might argue that she sees who Neville could be, just as the Sorting Hat does, but her remarks to Harry and his pals during the scene at St. Mungo’s in Order of the Phoenix say otherwise. Neville lacks confidence partly because he’s trying to live up to the ideal that Augusta has instilled in him. She wants her own son back and is raising Neville in that image. When Neville finally reaches his potential, she’s proud of him. But perhaps a little less criticism along the way might have helped him blossom sooner.
Nymphadora Tonks (C-)
Tonks started out as a fun character. But somewhere along the way, J.K. Rowling decided to throw away her character development and make her a needy, lovestruck teenager dependent on her man. And as much as I loved Lupin, it was hard to read. Tonks delivers her baby sometime in April. A month or so later, she abandons him to find Lupin at the Battle of Hogwarts. She’s so distraught over the idea of losing her husband in battle that she abandons her newborn to go find him. I still get upset about this every time I read it. But I won’t fail her completely because the postpartum period is rough, and she probably wasn’t thinking straight. So she doesn’t fail, but it’s close.
Narcissa Malfoy (D-)
The only reason Draco’s mom doesn’t fail outright is because she, like Lily Potter, does everything in her power to protect her son. Make no mistake: she is on the wrong side of the wizarding war and lets her scumbag husband do whatever he likes pretty much unchecked. But she gets a couple points for essentially saving Harry’s life — even while selfishly motivated — and doing whatever it takes to make sure Draco makes it out alive. Otherwise, she’s a terrible mother. She raises a spoiled, selfish son in an environment filled with racist propaganda.
Petunia Dursley (F-)
You probably figured this was coming, right? Petunia fails as a mom for so many reasons. Her cruelty to Harry alone would fail her, but it’s her overindulgence with her own natural-born son that really pushes her over the edge. The only reason that she doesn’t score a “T” for Troll is that she genuinely cares about Dudley, even if her approach to parenting would put her in the same mommy playdate group as Narcissa. She raises Dudley to be self-centered and cruel, just as she is, and mistreats Harry so thoroughly that it’s almost impressive — in a horrific car accident kind of way. Abusive, critical, short-tempered and mean, Petunia Dursley is the exact opposite of her sister as both a person and mother.
Minerva McGonagall (B+)
Professor McGonagall is Harry’s first introduction to the kind of authority that comes from being fair and just instead of tyrannical. Where his adoptive parents are cruel and abusive, McGonagall is firm but kind. Throughout Harry’s tenure at Hogwarts, he comes to trust McGonagall more than most other adults he’s known, evidenced by the fact that she’s often the first adult he tells about all the crazy things happening to him — even more so than Dumbledore. She might not be an actual mother, but McGonagall deserves a spot on a list of good surrogate moms for Harry.
Rubeus Hagrid (A-)
Hagrid isn’t a woman, but that doesn’t mean he’s not kind of a mother figure to Harry. I saw some commentary once arguing that Hagrid is a mother figure, and I agree. He’s the one who brings Harry back from the wreckage of his house after it’s destroyed, the first one to explain to Harry who Harry really is and where he comes from, and a constant champion of Harry throughout the series. He’s also naturally maternalistic, caring for magical creatures (read: terrifying monsters) in a way only a mother would, even hatching his own dragon egg right in the first book. Well before Harry officially gets to know Mrs. Weasley, Hagrid first embodies the things Harry never had in a mother: unwavering support, genuine affection, and a willingness to believe that all the best things are possible for him. He gets an A- because, like Mrs. Weasley, Hagrid tends to overindulge Harry and treat him as a young child.