When you think about the Harry Potter series, the only reason there is even a story to tell over the course of seven books is because of the actions of mothers. The very fact that Harry lives at all to eventually attend Hogwarts and defeat Voldemort is because of Lily Potter — but she's not the only one whose actions left a lasting impact on The Boy Who Lived.
It's not just Harry who had influential mothers in his life, though. Looking beyond the titular character, there are other mothers in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds whose actions shouldn't be ignored. They left an impression through actions; some good, some bad. Not all of Harry Potter's mothers were shown to be without fault and some we only know about through what others told us.
That's why this Mother’s Day we wanted to highlight a few of the mothers in J.K. Rowling's series, from the good to the bad to the outright complicated. Here's a look at nine important mothers from Harry Potter.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Black family tree
Like a few of the other mothers on this list, we never meet Sirius Black’s mother Walburga, as she died well before the series started. Her influence is clear, though, in her house and her son. We learn about her from Sirius Black and how her portrait behaves (in the books) in the old family home. She was a pure-blood who may not have been a Death Eater, but still believed in Voldemort’s ideas according to Sirius, who called it “pure-blood mania.” The fact that her portrait likes to scream about "filth," "mudbloods," "half-breeds," and similar names seems to confirm this.
When Sirius didn’t share her ideas, Walburga was far from pleased. It seems she was not accepting of anything that deviated from her beliefs and she blasted Sirius off the Black family tree when he ran away at 16. Kreacher says in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that she hated Sirius, the family disappointment who broke her heart.
Considering what we know of certain other members of the Black family, it’s not hard to picture what Sirius’ mother was like, even via secondhand knowledge. She wasn’t accepting of her son and believed the Black family was better than everyone else due to their pure-blood status. Sirius is so unhappy in the home when the Order is at 12 Grimmauld Place that it’s hard to believe there was much good in his life growing up. Unfortunately, part of that was thanks to Walburga.
We learn about Albus Dumbledore’s mother Kendra in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s once again all second-hand information that we hear from different people who knew her, including Albus.
Most of what we know about Kendra is in regards to Dumbledore's sister Ariana. From what we hear, it sounds like everything that happened with Ariana was hard on the Dumbledore family and Kendra tried to do what she thought was right for them. Her husband ended up in Azkaban after attacking the muggles who hurt their daughter and Kendra was left with their three kids. She moved everyone from Mould-On-The-Wold to Godric’s Hollow where she kept Ariana hidden away from others.
Harry is told by Auntie Muriel at Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding that Kendra was “proud and very domineering” and kept her daughter locked up because she was a Squib. These are claims Albus’s friend Elphias Doge denies and he calls Kendra “a fine woman.” In an excerpt from Rita Skeeter’s biography of Albus, Skeeter calls Kendra “proud and haughty” and uses the word “imprison” when discussing her treatment of Ariana.
We know Ariana wasn't a Squib. Was it the right move to keep her so isolated? Albus tells Harry his mother "gave up her own life to care for Ariana.” All Kendra did was watch over her and, in the end, she died doing so when Ariana went into a rage and accidentally killed her. We might not know enough to be sure if something else could have been done, but it seems Kendra believed this was the best way to protect her daughter from others — and to protect others from her daughter. She took the responsibility upon herself and let her sons leave to attend Hogwarts and live their lives. It appears Kendra did what she did because of how much she loved her family and her daughter.
Voldemort's mother was Merope Gaunt, a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. Merope is another character we mainly learn about through stories told by others.
Merope had a far from easy life before giving birth to her son Tom Marvolo Riddle. She was abused by her father and brother and wasn't the best at using magic. In love with the muggle Tom Riddle, Merope found a way to use magic to make him love her for a time until she became pregnant. No one is sure what exactly happened next, but Dumbledore tells Harry in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that he thinks Merope decided she could no longer keep him with her by using magic and lifted the spell, hoping he would love her or stay for the baby. He didn't.
Suddenly she found herself alone and pregnant, and sold what she could to try and survive. In the end, she headed to an orphanage to give birth, but she wouldn't be a mother for long. She died only an hour after giving birth.
There are a few assumptions Dumbledore makes about why this happens, such as Merope deciding to not use magic ever again after what happened with Tom or perhaps she just couldn't because "her unrequited love and the attendant despair sapped her of her powers." To Dumbledore, "Merope refused to raise her wand even to save her own life" and "chose death in spite of a son who needed her." He tells Harry not to judge her too harshly because she had been through a lot and didn't have Lily Potter's courage.
On Pottermore, Merope's death is described by: "it seems that when Merope lost her husband she also lost the will to live." We don't have enough details to really know what happened or what Merope could have done to live, and it sounds a bit too much like a Padmé in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith situation. Voldemort not growing up with a loving mother may have contributed to what he ultimately became. But perhaps Merope was strong enough to do one thing for her son by heading to the orphanage so he wouldn't be completely alone when she was gone.
Tonks' time as a mother was sadly also cut short. Not long after her son Teddy was born, she and her husband Remus Lupin were killed in the Battle of Hogwarts. Tonks stayed behind at first, but she couldn’t stay there knowing what was going on. We don't know what she would have been like as a mother as Teddy grew older, but from what we know about Tonks it doesn't seem like a big stretch to believe she would have been a loving, kind, and fun mom. She loved her family, believed in standing up for what was right, and wanted her child to grow up in a better world. She gave her life so her son could have that future.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 - Narcissa Malfoy
Narcissa Malfoy was definitely a Black. Like Walburga, she was a pure-blood and not a Death Eater, but didn't see a problem with serving Voldemort. Her husband, Lucius, was a Death Eater and soon even her son, Draco, was being asked to step up and support the cause. However, that was where Narcissa drew the line. She certainly shared beliefs with those in Voldemort's ranks and wouldn't have had a problem if everyone in the Order of the Phoenix along with those who shared their views was killed. But there was a problem when her family was in danger, especially Draco.
When Lucius was in Azkaban and Draco was asked to kill Dumbledore, Narcissa turned to Severus Snape for help. During the Battle of Hogwarts, Narcissa checks to see if Harry is really dead and asks him if her son is alive. When Harry confirms he is, Narcissa finally chooses her family over Voldemort and lies to him, telling him Harry is dead. The priority during the battle then becomes finding Draco over everything else. Narcissa may not have been good, but she loved her son. In the end, her choice to save her son ended up helping save the entire wizarding world from evil.
Dudley's Birthday - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Petunia Dursley was part of Harry's terrible childhood. She was devoted to and loved her son, Dudley, but was mean and neglectful to Harry. Everything about her relationship with her sister Lily was turned on Harry for the most part, including her fear, hatred, and jealousy of magic.
Still, she did take Harry in so that Lily's sacrifice would continue to protect him. Maybe that was somehow the only way she could show any kindness to her nephew or maybe it was done out of some kind of guilt about her sister. Nevertheless, she was not a good aunt or mother figure to Harry and spoiled Dudley, unwilling to see his faults as much as she was unwilling to see the best in Harry.
Lily and Baby Harry Potter
Lily received a mention right at the beginning of the piece, but let’s take a minute to look back at her as a mother again. Lily was a brave and kind woman who left an impression on everyone who met her. She loved her son and, like the other members of the Order, believed in fighting for what was right despite the danger. She and James went into hiding when it became clear Voldemort thought a prophecy was talking about Harry. It was only because of Peter Pettigrew's betrayal that the dark wizard found and killed them.
In Lily's final moments, she tried her best to protect her son. She stood between Harry and Voldemort, ignoring Voldemort's warnings to stand aside. Lily died, but her sacrifice and love protected Harry and continued to do so once she was gone, demonstrating the power of a mother’s love.
Molly Weasley dueling Bellatrix Lestrange - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Molly Weasley is a fan favorite character for many reasons, one of which being she's an amazing mother. The talented witch loves her family and successfully raised seven, fantastically individualistic kids. She was a pure-blood but didn’t share any of the bigoted beliefs of the Black family or others. To her, the fact that they were pure-blood didn’t make the Weasleys better than anyone else and she raised her children to believe the same. There are too many ways in which Molly showed her love for her children to list here, and that's not even including her children who weren't really hers.
After meeting Harry, he becomes a member of the Weasley family and Molly cares for him and treats him like another son. She was firm with her children when she needed to be, but always kind and understanding. They didn't have a lot of money, but she spent time making gifts for them and making the best of what they did have. After losing Fred in the Battle of Hogwarts, Molly's fierce love and protectiveness of her children, as well as her skills as a witch, allowed her to face down Bellatrix Lestrange in a duel to the death and win. Molly was a kind, gifted witch with many talents, and a great mother to her children.