[source: Warner Brothers]
The next time you complain about having a terrible birthday, whether forgotten or not going according to plan, please stop and think: is this birthday better or worse than a Harry Potter birthday? Unless you too are dealing with an all-powerful Dark Lord trying to kill you at every turn, your answer will be “oh, so much better, I can’t believe I was complaining, accio cake, please.” As if The Boy Who Lived wasn’t already dealing with enough, he couldn’t even look forward to July 31st, the one day a year that was supposed to be celebratory. Once at Hogwarts, not all of his birthdays were completely terrible, since you know, people actually remembered them, but even the best ones were filled with some sense of doom and/or gloom. But of the seven birthdays readers got to celebrate with Harry, which was the worst? From merely not terrible to angsty to his life was in mortal danger, here’s all of Harry Potter’s birthdays ranked from best to worst. Happy Birthday, Harry...we guess?
7. His 14th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Has a boy wizard ever had such a great birthday? Well, yes. But if you’re Harry Potter, a birthday in which you get to have all of your belongings kept out in the open instead of locked away, and you have four separate cakes (one each from Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, and Sirius) sent by owl, is truly a thing to celebrate. Harry has a lot going for him as he turns 14. Not only has he discovered he has a godfather who loves him very much, but he has also realized that the Dursleys are extremely scared of Harry’s godfather (because of all that mass murderer stuff). That power comes in very handy for a relatively Dursley-free summer and a birthday he can actually enjoy. If only Harry knew what was coming for him, he’d savor every bite of those four cakes.
6. His 15th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Can an angsty teenager ever truly enjoy his birthday? Here’s the thing about Harry’s 15th birthday: it’s only terrible because he makes it terrible. Yeah, there’s all the Cedric nightmares, his friends are seemingly ignoring him, and the Dark Lord has risen, etcetera, etcetera, but Harry didn’t have to throw out the Honeydukes chocolates Ron and Hermione sent, now did he?
5. His 11th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
It was the best of birthdays, it was the worst of birthdays. It starts out about as tragic as you can get: Harry is being rowed out into the middle of the sea by his horrible uncle and aunt to stay in a disgusting, freezing hut, where he has to sleep on the floor, and he has no idea what’s really going on. If he wasn’t already terrified, then a gigantic, hairy man comes crashing through the door, gives Dudley a pig tail, and tells him that his entire life is a complete lie. Also, wizards are real and he is one. It says a lot about how terrible the Dursley’s are that Harry welcomes this strange visitor. Of course, this, his 11th birthday, is the day his entire life changes and Harry starts on his journey toward his destiny. So maybe, in the end, it was worth all the dramatics.
4. His 13th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
The most bittersweet of young Harry’s birthdays. The saddest birthday boy in both the muggle and wizarding world is finally, in his 13th year, actually happy to have a birthday. The boy who has never once received a birthday card (if that doesn’t shatter your heart into a million pieces, check your pulse) gets not just cards but three birthday gifts: a pocket sneakoscope from Ron (it comes in handy), a broomstick servicing kit from Hermione (always the practical one), and The Monster Book of Monsters from Hagrid. Okay, that last one is alive and terrifying, but it’s the thought that counts...maybe? The only thing that spoils this wonderful birthday is a visit from horrible Aunt Marge, and we all know how that ends. She inflates, Harry ends up on the Knight Bus careening toward London and assuming he’ll be expelled from Hogwarts, as one does.
3. His 17th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
Considering the state of the wizarding world during the time Harry turns 17—Death Eaters abound—this birthday is pretty okay. Harry is prepping for his big Horcrux Hunting journey, but for one day he puts all of that aside and is showered with gifts. Highlights include Ron’s very pointed Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm a Witch pick-up book and Ginny’s hardcore makeout session—plus, he loses the trace and comes of age as a wizard. Prime Minister Scrimgeour also pops by to inform Harry, Ron, and Hermione that Dumbledore has bequeathed them some peculiar yet important items in his will. So sure, Harry may be facing imminent death, but he also gets a birthday cake in the shape of a golden snitch—let’s call this one even.
2. His 16th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
Harry’s sweet sixteen is a tricky one because although he spends it, and most of his summer, at the Burrow with the Weasleys, there is a looming sense of dread hanging over everything. With confirmation that Voldemort is indeed back, there’s news every day of a wizard gone missing. Things are bleak. On a personal level, Harry is also still dealing with the death of his godfather Sirius Black. So, sure, you want to eat cake, but only to stuff your feelings down, ya know? Still, relatively speaking, this birthday is not The Worst: Harry is not with the Dursleys, Harry’s life is not being threatened on that exact day, and everyone remembers it. The bar is very low, but that’s Harry Potter’s birthday for you.
1. His 12th Birthday (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
If you’re an optimist, you’ll remember this as the “Flying Car” birthday; a pessimist might refer to it as the “Dobby Drops a Cake on Uncle Vernon’s Client and Almost Ruins Everything” birthday. As wonderful as Dobby turns out to be (R.I.P., sir), seeing a house elf for the first time in your own bedroom must be a little traumatizing. Not to mention, that house elf keeps blabbing about never returning to Hogwarts again—the one good thing Harry’s got going for him. To have his life as a wizard taken away is the worst fate Harry can conjure up at this moment in time (hold on to your butt, Harry!). Dobby causes a very high amount of stress in a very short period of time. Eventually, Dobby makes up for his transgressions, and Harry gets to go on a true joy ride when the Weasley boys rescue him from the barred fortress that is Number 4 Privet Drive, but as far as birthdays go there’s a reason J.K Rowling titled the first chapter of this novel “The Worst Birthday.”