Featured in the October 2019 issue of The Rowling Library Magazine.

Harry’s Halloweens: A History

1660 words.
By Demi Schwartz.

Throughout the seven books of the Harry Potter series, a handful of similarities are seen between the Muggle and Magical worlds. One of these is Halloween. Rowling’s Wizarding World is sprinkled with many things that come to mind when Muggles think of Halloween, from witches and wizards on broomsticks to the ghosts that roam the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The students even have a ghost to teach them History of Magic, Professor Binns. All it takes is a trip to Hogsmeade to visit the Shrieking Shack on a hill, which is believed to be haunted by those in the village. Truth is, this belief began when Remus Lupin escaped to the Shrieking Shack every month at the full moon to transform into a werewolf when he was a student at Hogwarts. Both haunted places and werewolves have deep roots in Halloween, and let’s not forget about some other creatures associated with the holiday. Goblins have their place in the Wizarding World. You can catch them in the heart of Diagon Alley at Gringotts. When Muggles are out Trick or Treating, they can hear owls hooting from treetops, and for the wizards, owls are among the most valuable magical creatures. Aside from delivering mail, looking at Harry’s relationship with Hedwig shows that owls can also be great companions.

For Harry Potter, Halloween is a much more significant holiday than just a fun time to eat lots of candy and go to the amazing Halloween feast. In fact, it was on one Halloween night that started it all for Harry. So, if you’re ready to explore Harry’s Halloween journey, grab your bag of Honeydukes sweets. It’s been said that all the Time-Turners were destroyed when Harry and his friends fought the Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries, but one is still out there somewhere because it’s time to travel back in time to the night it all started, October 31, 1981.

The night is wet and windy. Children are all around in Godric’s Hollow, getting in the Halloween spirit. On a night where everyone is dressed up in costumes, Lord Voldemort makes his appearance. At first glance, he doesn’t seem out of place, even when he comes upon two children dressed as pumpkins. One of them even compliments Voldemort’s costume, having no way of knowing they are face to face with the most powerful dark wizard. Instead of raising his wand on the children, Voldemort lets them go. He has something much more important on his mind. He’s here to kill baby Harry. Because Peter Pettigrew betrayed the Potters after they trusted him as their Secret Keeper, the Fidelius Charm is no longer placed over the Potter’s house. Voldemort stands at the gate, looking in at the Potters through their open window. The gate creeks in the still night when Voldemort pushes it open. Mercilessly, he enters the house and immediately kills a wandless James Potter. Moving up to the second floor, Voldemort finds Lily in front of Harry’s crib, trying to protect her son, but one flash of green light takes her life. Voldemort looks at Harry and raises his wand to do what he came to Godric’s Hollow for, acting on the lines of the prophecy he knows, but instead of killing Harry, Voldemort’s own curse backfires. Harry survives with a scar on his forehead, but this isn’t his only horrible Halloween. It’s believed that Voldemort cursed the Defense Against the Dark Arts job at Hogwarts after Dumbledore turned him away, but that doesn’t seem to be the only thing he cursed. Who knows? Maybe, Ludo Bagman even bet a Galleon or two that Voldemort cursed Halloween as well because Harry’s first four Halloweens at Hogwarts probably didn’t make his list of favorite days.

Harry’s first Halloween at Hogwarts in 1991 starts off pretty great. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to the smell of pumpkin in the castle? To make the day even better, the first years are finally getting the chance to make feathers fly in Charms class. Tiny Professor Flitwick stands on his usual pile of books and reminds the students about the swish and flick movement they’ve been practicing. The class becomes eventful very quickly. Seamus even sets his feather on fire. A great moment follows when Hermione and Ron start to argue, something that happens often. It’s no surprise to anyone when Hermione says, “Wingardium Leviosa,” and her feather rises into the air. Ron complains to Harry about Hermione, and she gets extremely upset because she overhears. Still, Harry and Ron are in a good mood because the Halloween feast turns out to be a real sight to see. With Hagrid’s carved pumpkins, floating candles, and thousands of live bats flying around the Great Hall, the students dig into the food that appears on their plates. All is fun and festive until the night takes a turn for the worse. Professor Quirrell rushes in and faints after telling Dumbledore that a troll is in the dungeons. Making it their first dangerous adventure as the Golden Trio, Harry and Ron go to find Hermione and accidentally lock the troll in the bathroom with her where she’d been crying all day. The tension builds when Harry jumps on the trolls back, his wand going up the troll’s nose. Ron, finally getting the incantation right, yells, “Wingardium Leviosa,” and the troll gets knocked out by its own club. To Harry and Ron’s complete surprise, Hermione lies to Professor McGonagall about taking on the troll because she’d read about them in books. Despite this Halloween disaster, something incredible comes out of it. Harry, Ron, and Hermione become friends, but they have no way of knowing that they’re about to face much darker things together in the future.

It rains pretty much all October during Harry’s second year at Hogwarts. The dismal weather reflects the wet and windy night when his parents died, so it looks like Harry is in for another rough Halloween. Nearly Headless Nick invites Harry to his 500th Deathday Party. Interestingly enough, Nearly Headless Nick died on October 31, 1492. Hermione is fascinated to go, but Ron definitely isn’t as thrilled. The trio make their way into the dungeons, moving further away from the Halloween feast with every step, and follow black candles with blue flickering flames to the party. Ghosts are everywhere and some of them dance to the musical saws. Ron spots food on a table covered with black velvet. Feeling hungry, the trio makes their way over. They quickly turn away when they see rotting fish and moldy cheese, along with other food they’d never put their hands on. As if missing out on the fabulous feast up in the Great Hall isn’t bad enough, Harry hears the hissing of the Basilisk when he and the others leave the party. Harry runs up the marble staircase, and the trio finds themselves on the second floor where they see Mrs. Norris hanging by her tail. Even spookier, there is a message on the wall written in blood, saying the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. This haunting Halloween kicks off the rest of Harry’s year, leading to his fight against Tom Riddle and the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry’s Halloween the following year is gloomy from the start. Because his Hogsmeade form isn’t signed, he can’t go on the trip with Ron and Hermione. Ron tries to cheer him up by telling him that he still gets to go to the feast later that night. When the others are in Hogsmeade, Harry doesn’t spend his day completely alone. He stops for some tea with Professor Lupin in his office. Though he doesn’t know it at the time, spending the day with a werewolf is perfect for Halloween. Proving to be the best friends ever, Ron and Hermione bring Harry lots of sweets back from Honeydukes. The night seems to end on a high note when the Hogwarts ghosts wrap up the feast with some entertainment, but the mood shifts when Harry goes back to Gryffindor Tower to find the painting of the Fat Lady slashed. Leave it to Peeves to fill everyone in on the fact that Sirius Black tried to get in. As Halloween nights usually are, this one ends in terror as the students gather in the Great Hall. Still, the last eventful Halloween Harry experiences at Hogwarts in his fourth year is eeriest of all.

It’s time for the Triwizard Tournament to kick off at Hogwarts in 1994. Harry and the others are eager to find out who the Goblet of Fire will choose as the Triwizard champions. They wish the Halloween feast would end, and eventually, it does. Dumbledore places the Goblet of Fire for all to see, and each time the flames turn red, a piece of parchment comes out. Viktor Crum is selected for Durmstrang, Fleur Delacour for Beauxbatons, and Sedric Diggory for Hogwarts. It’s then when Harry’s name comes out as well. Bound to the contract of the tournament, he must compete. This Halloween night is the starting point of the dangers Harry soon faces, reaching the climax when he and Sedric grab the Triwizard Cup together, which takes them out of the maze. Harry witnesses Sedric’s death and Voldemort’s rebirth, sparking the new level of darkness that awaits him.

Harry’s Halloweens aren’t the best. Each of them marks a significant moment that lays a path for him to follow to the end, whether it’s finding the Sorcerer’s Stone, saving Ginny in the Chamber of Secrets, coming face to face with Sirius Black, or fighting Voldemort after he’s reborn. Still, it’s his first dark Halloween in 1981 that holds most significance for Harry’s story. If you’re out and about this Halloween, keep your eyes open. Harry defeats Voldemort once and for all at the Battle of Hogwarts, but who’s to say something even darker isn’t lurking in the Wizarding World?