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Who Did and Who Didn’t Deserve a Redemption Arc in Harry Potter? 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Harry Potter has captivated audiences for over 20 years. With seven books, eight movies, three amusement parks, one play, and the spinoff series “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them”, it is no secret that Harry Potter is one of the biggest franchises in the world. And with such a large audience comes having many different opinions on characters and plot points; one of the biggest arguments between Potterheads has been on the topic of redemption arcs, and who did and didn’t deserve them. 

As someone who has been a Harry Potter fan for the better part of my 19 years, I have a lot of opinions on this. There are lots of characters in Harry Potter, many of them taking part in the dark side. And whether or not they apologized, or helped the “good side” in the end, not all of them deserve forgiveness in my eyes. This article will be mostly based on the books and will only include the most controversial redemption arc characters. 

  1. Severus Snape 

Probably the most controversial and talked about redemption arc in the entirety of Harry Potter is that of Severus Snape. He is a very complex character, and while reading the books, his personality and his alliances seemed to be in constant fluidity. 

Personally, I don’t like Snape and feel like there was nothing that he did that would grant his forgiveness for his terrible actions. For starters, his love for Lily is very… weird. I understand the whole crush thing when they’re younger but for those who didn’t read the books, the reason why Lily never loved Snape back in a romantic way was due to Snape’s involvement in the Dark Arts. Their falling out as friends was due to Snape calling Lily a “mudblood” which is a very nasty term for muggle-born wizards. 

But even after Lily says that she is done with him and that later on falls in love with James, gets married, and has Harry, Snape doesn’t get the hint and continues to believe like  one day they will be together. While Lily is trying to be happy with her husband and child, Snape is a high-ranking Death Eater, helping Voldemort during the First Wizarding War. The only thing that gets Snape to see how awful his actions are is when the Prophecy comes out and Voldemort decides he needs to kill the Potters to ensure his reign. Instead of going to the Potters and helping him, Snape goes to Dumbledore and begs for his help. When Dumbledore asks why Snape wants to help the Potters so much, Snape reveals his patronus, a doe like Lily’s, and Dumbledore understands that this means that Snape is still in love with Lily… like I said, weird. 

Snape’s plea for help didn’t work and Lily ended up dying. For the next 11 years, who does Snape blame for this? Not Voldemort, not Dumbledore, not himself: he decides to blame baby Harry for the death of his “true love”. What the h*ll? Snape despises Harry because he lived and Lily didn’t and he uses that as an excuse to be a terror to Harry while Harry is at Hogwarts. But it isn’t just Harry whom Snape terrorizes, Neville is quite literally abused by him. The reasoning for Snape’s malice towards Neville is the same: he is upset that Voldemort chose the Potters when the Longbottoms could’ve also been who the prophecy was talking about, and if Neville and his parents were killed, Lily would’ve been alive. Snape terrorizes Neville so viciously that during his third year while learning about Boggarts (magical shapeshifters that turn into the worst fear of their opponent) Neville’s is Snape. I’m sorry but if you terrorize a student so horribly that you become their biggest fear when their parents were tortured into insanity, you are evil. 

The argument that Snape deserves redemption is the fact that he worked as a double agent for Dumbledore: giving information on the Death Eaters and Voldemort’s actions during the latter half of the series. While this information was useful, he only really helped while Dumbledore was in the picture. While under the orders of Dumbledore’s portrait, Snape tells Voldemort the true date that Harry is being transported in the final book, leading to the death of Hedwig and Mad-eye Moody. Once again, not help the Order of the Phoenix at all and instead listens to what a portrait tells him. While yes portraits are magical in Harry Potter, they can walk and interact with people, readers are told that they are not the people that they are painted to be, i.e. Dumbledore’s portrait is not Dumbledore, but Snape still decides to listen to the portrait. 

Finally, I truly believe that Snape is only “redeemed” because of his death. Nagini (Voldemort’s snake) brutally kills him, and during his last moments, he sheds a couple of tears filled with his memories in Harry’s arms. Snape was useful at times but when looking at his actions during the entire series, his “help” isn’t enough to excuse his past. He deserves to be left out of the heroes of Harry Potter and instead displayed as the villain that he truly is. 

  1. Draco Malfoy 

Draco Malfoy is also a very talked about character and his “redemption” is constantly questioned among Harry Potter fans. Draco, like Snape, is a very complex character and his development throughout the story is very important when it comes to his redemption. 

First of all, we have to consider the Malfoy family. They have been a part of the “dark side” for as long as anyone can remember, which is vital to who Draco is as a character. I am a firm believer that no one is inherently evil but instead is turned evil by the circumstances that surround them. In Draco’s case, he grew up around constant evil–most of his family including his father and aunt are Death Eaters– and while his mother isn’t technically a Death Eater she did agree with their actions and with the philosophy of “pure-blood” wizards being superior. This is the circumstances in which Draco grew up, so it was no surprise that he grew up to be just as malicious as the rest of his family. 

Draco’s evilness starts out just as any other bully. He treats Harry, Ron, Hermione, and their friends horribly just because he can. It’s honestly really simple bully tactics but this increases as the story goes on. In the “Half-Blood Prince”, Harry is convinced that Draco has become a Death Eater but no one else believes him. Meanwhile, the reader sees Narcissa ask Snape to help Draco during his mission given to him by Voldemort, clearly a sign that Draco has in fact become a Death Eater. But it is important to note that Draco had only become a Death Eater because, at the end of the previous book, “Order of the Phoenix”, his father is arrested – meaning Draco now has the responsibility to step up as the “man of the house”. It is expected of him, not just by his mother and father but by Voldemort who wants him to take the empty seat of his father. 

When the reader comes to find out that Draco’s mission is to kill Dumbledore, we begin to see a deeper side of Draco and what he has been put through. Draco tells Dumbledore that if he doesn’t kill him Voldemort is going to kill Draco instead. This adds to Draco’s turmoil in trying to decide whether or not to fulfill the mission: showing the reader who he is behind the mask of the Malfoy family. Draco only ever followed and believed what he was surrounded by while he was growing up. 

At the very end of the series, while everyone believes Harry to be dead, the reader sees Draco also be taken aback by seeing Harry ‘dead’. Then Voldemort calls for Draco, and the hesitation is very clear in Draco’s demeanor. The only reason Draco goes back over to Voldemort is because his mother calls for him, and as much as Draco wants to help Harry, he loves his parents and wants to be with them, there is nothing wrong with that. 

Draco unfortunately doesn’t get a break and in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, not only has both of his parents died but so has his wife and he is in constant fear of losing his child, Scorpius, as well. The audience sees Draco go through more hardships to prove that he is more than the dark mark on his arm and that he actually wants to make some good in the world. I find it really unfortunate that it took 18 years for the other characters to see that Draco actually has some good intentions. Since much of Draco’s “evilness” is just a desire to make his family proud, he deserved redemption for a  long time and is one of the few characters who actually deserve to be forgiven of their past. 

  1. Kreacher 

For my friends reading this who have only seen the Harry Potter movies and not read the books, you might remember Kreacher as the Black family’s house elf who has a very small role in the movies. In the books, Kreacher is a much more important character that tells us a lot about not only the Black family but about the passage of loyalty in Harry Potter.

The first very important thing to know about Kreacher is that he is extremely loyal, as most house-elves are. When the reader is first introduced to Kreacher, he is loyal to the Blacks: the family who produced characters like Bellatrix, and Narcissa, but also Sirius and his brother Regulus. But Kreacher had spent so many years under the command of Mrs. Black, Sirius’ mother, therefore isn’t exactly the warmest elf to exist. He is standoffish, hates muggleborns, and is very rude but Sirius cannot free him because he knows too much about the Order and would be a liability if set free. 

After Sirius dies and leaves everything to Harry, Kreacher becomes Harry’s elf. When the trio stays at 12 Grimmauld Place, Kreacher gives them very vital information about Regulus Black and the locket Horcrux. This is where the reader learns that Kreacher had helped Regulus get the locket from the super secret Voldy cave and Regulus gave Kreacher orders to destroy it. However, when all attempts failed, Kreacher instead just hid the locket in 12 Grimmauld Place, where it stayed for years until it was taken by Mundungus Fletcher after Sirius’ death. It is implied that much of Kreacher’s hostility was caused due to having the locket in his possession for so many years and once it was gone he began to become warmer. This tells the reader a lot about who Kreacher is behind the large bouts of loyalty to Mrs. Black. After giving this very helpful information, Kreacher then goes to work at the Hogwarts kitchens with Dobby and even helps during the Battle at Hogwarts, leading the house elves with a chant of “Fight! Fight for my master, the defender of the house elves! Fight the Dark Lord, in the name of brave Regulus! Fight!” 

This, once again, is another case of evilness due to proximity to evilness. Kreacher helped when he was needed and gave guidance to Harry multiple times. Just like any house elf, Kreacher did his duty to his masters. His leadership during the Battle at Hogwarts shows that he was more than the standoffish and cruel elf that readers were first introduced to. I would say that Kreacher definitely deserves his redemption. 

  1. Argus Filch 

Although he isn’t a very major character, Argus Filch is definitely a very ambiguous person when it comes to good versus evil. As Hogwarts’ caretaker, Flich wanders the halls of the school until he finds a student who’s stepping a toe out of line. He also has a cat– Mrs. Norris – who is always on the prowl as well. Filch is mean, cruel, and bitter with a deep hatred for all the students at Hogwarts. At first, it seemed like his hatred was just like any other old person hates young people stereotype but in the Chamber of Secrets Harry finds a “Kwikspell” letter, discovering that Filch is a squib. A squib is a child of wizard parents who is unable to perform magic.

At first, this seems like just a characterization tool for Filch but then the reader finds out that his bitterness is actually just the stem of Filch’s hatred towards the students: in reality, he is mad because they can perform magic and he can’t. Due to this, Filch not only punishes students even when they haven’t done anything punishable but he is known to have abused students, both during Harry’s time at Hogwarts and in previous years. The reader sees his abusive tendencies more during the “Order of the Phoenix” when Dolores Umbridge (who isn’t on this list because nothing she can do will give her redemption) takes over Hogwarts and gives him more authority to punish students using more brutal/old-fashioned methods. Some people argue that he only sides with Umbridge because he had a massive crush on her but I personally do not think that was his only reason and even if it was, it does not excuse the literal abuse of Hogwarts students. 

During the Battle of Hogwarts, Filch helped evacuate the younger students of Hogwarts but couldn’t really help in battle due to his inability to perform magic. Ultimately, he is very loyal to Hogwarts and while I don’t think he is anywhere near to the most evil characters in Harry Potter, I think we need to see his actions when asking if he deserves redemption. He doesn’t deserve to be labeled as a “villain” in my eyes but he doesn’t deserve to be redeemed either, he is in a space between the two. 

  1. The Dursleys 

I credit the Dursleys for being the first “bad guys” the reader is introduced to in Harry Potter. Harry’s last living relatives are some of the worst people to ever exist in this universe. Not only are they pretentious and believe themselves to be better than everyone else, but they also abused Harry for years. And I don’t just mean abuse as in an “oh they’re mean to him”, I mean in a refusing to give him food, physically abusing him, emotionally abusing him, making him live in a tiny cupboard while Dudley had two bedrooms, lying to him about his parents, and refusing to let him go to Hogwarts more than once. Honestly, I personally believe that giving Harry to the Dursleys was a huge misjudgment on Dumbledore’s part but you know the whole Harry needs to be near his mother’s family to keep the protection spell on him so I guess it was inevitable for the Dursleys to raise Harry. 

The Dursleys never cared for Harry, they didn’t even care about his parents, but at the end of the day, Harry was just a baby, newly orphaned, when he arrived at Number 4 Privet Drive. He was small, alone, and probably afraid and the Durselys made him continue to feel like that for the remainder of their time with him. They acted as though they deserved some award for taking him in but in fact, Harry probably would’ve been better off without the Dursleys. At the end of the series, when the Dursleys are leaving there isn’t really any apology given for their actions. Petunia tells Harry that the night his mother died, she had also lost her sister. While this interaction is sweet, it isn’t an apology for the way that she and her family treated him for over a decade, and kinda feels kinda guilt-trippy. It feels like she is really saying, “Well your mother was my family too so when she died I had an excuse to treat you that way”. 

And that was it for the Dursleys: they never return to the series, and they never appear again in any part of Harry’s life. I feel like that leaves a gaping hole in who Harry is. He deserved to be apologized to for all of the terrible things that Dursleys subjected him to in his youth. There is a headcanon that Dudley had a child who turned out to be a wizard, and after receiving the Hogwarts letter, Dudley attempts to make amends with Harry for the sake of his child, but once again that doesn’t really feel like an apology. Overall, I think the Durselys were such an important part of Harry’s character development but that doesn’t give them the right to treat him like that and then never apologize. All three, Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley do not deserve redemption in my eyes. 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for listening to my very opinionated stance on this discussion amongst Harry Potter fans. Whether you agree with me or not, I think it is safe to say that these characters were most likely written this way to promote such conversations, which is an amazing promotional tactic. Since we are still having these conversations after over 20 years since the publication of “The Sorcerer’s Stone”, I think it’s safe to say that these conversations will continue for a very long time.

Adamari Ruelas

CU Boulder '26

Adamari Ruelas is a contributing writer for the Her Campus chapter at CU Boulder. Her job within Her Campus is to write at least two articles a month, one contributing to a theme week. Outside of Her Campus, Adamari is a first-generation college student who is currently a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in English Creative Writing. During her spring semester of freshman year, Adamari studied abroad in London, wanting to learn about different cultures while also being able to study in a Literature-rich city. Adamari also interned at the Aurora Public Schools Communications Department during her senior year of High School, where she learned how to write articles, interview subjects, and create social media posts for the department under the guidance of multiple professionals. In her free time, Adamari enjoys reading and writing, at least when she isn’t hanging out with her friends or playing Overwatch with her little siblings. She is a very proud Mexican-American who loves sharing her culture as long as Mexican history with anyone who lends an ear. Adamari is also a massive nerd, especially with Harry Potter (she’s a Ravenclaw btw) and Marvel. In the future, Adamari hopes to become a published author, sharing her works with the world and hoping they help people the way books have helped her.