Here’s Why Dobby Had The Saddest Harry Potter Death
Sit down, son. We’re about to have a very difficult conversation.
(Unless you’re one of the four people on the earth who isn’t a Harry Potter fan. If you’re one of those four people, you’re excused. See yourself out.)
We’re here to talk about who died the second-saddest death in the bestselling children’s series, which is arguably the saddest series of books in the world, making this death the second-saddest death in the history of ever. (The saddest death is, of course, Hedwig, but I’d like to talk about characters who can express their opinions in words, rather than hoots. Disclaimer: done.)
It’s only appropriate that on the occasion of the anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One, we acknowledge that Dobby’s death was sadder than the death of Sirius Black.
Don’t get me wrong: I totally fell apart when both of these characters died. I’m not a monster. It’s just that I hold the somewhat unpopular opinion that Dobby’s death was more heartwrenching than Sirius’ fall through the veil.
Allow me to explain myself. It’s about the possibility of Sirius’ relationship with Harry versus the reality of Dobby’s relationship with him. I’m more saddened by the loss of a real thing than by what could have been.
Dobby appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as an annoying little creature, messing with Harry’s transit options and academic excellence seemingly just because he could. Eventually, we learn that he’s an abused slave, and that he’s had Harry’s best interests at heart the whole year, even if he had to destroy a few pastries along the way. He’s not just a help to Harry in second year, either. During the Triwizard Tournament, it’s Dobby who brings Harry a wad of Gillyweed, and later, it’s Dobby who helps Harry spy on Draco Malfoy. That’s not to mention Dobby’s ultimate sacrifice, rescuing Harry, Ron and Hermione from Malfoy Manor, and taking a knife to the chest in the process.
It’s not just about what Dobby did for Harry. They were actually friends, and Harry changed Dobby’s life for the better as well. He freed the house elf on a whim, gave him presents through the years, got him a job at Hogwarts, and generally gave him a purpose in life. They were truly friends, and there was love between them.
There was love between Sirius and Harry as well, but of a different sort. The two were never on the same page. For Sirius, wrongfully imprisoned and accused for 12 years of literally the worst thing he could imagine in life—murdering his best friend and betraying the only family he chose to recognize—Harry was a chance to reconnect with his fallen bestie, James. Through their short relationship, this was clear, but never clearer than his heartbreaking “nice one, James!” tossed Harry’s way while the duo dueled Bellatrix LeStrange in the Department of Mysteries. All he wanted was his best friend back, and that’s something that Harry could never be to him.
Because for Harry, Sirius represented family. If he couldn’t have his parents, he could have the next best thing: their best friend. The happiest moment in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is probably the few pages between Sirius asking Harry if he’d like to live with him when his name is cleared and Sirius being captured by the Dementors. Sirius is a connection to his past and family, and maybe the only real home he’s ever had within his grasp, suddenly taken from him.
When Sirius stumbles backwards through the veil, the thing that’s sadder than the death of a beloved character is the death of a possibility that would probably never even come to pass given all the time in the world, since Sirius and Harry wanted such different things from each other.
Death of a real thing always trumps the death of possibility, in my (seven) books.