It’s easy enough to pick a favorite Harry Potter book (if yours isn’t Prisoner of Azkaban, then you’re wrong and I can’t help you), but it’s not so easy to pick a favorite chapter. There are 198 of them in the whole series, after all. Through great feats of possibly magical discernment, we’ve narrowed it down to our top 15.
15. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 7: “The Boggart in the Wardrobe”
There are a number of iconic moments in Harry Potter (“There’s no need to call me sir, Professor”), but perhaps none more so than when Lupin gives us Snape dressed like Neville’s grandma within five minutes of his first-ever class.
14. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 1: “The Other Minister”
This offers a cool look at the wizarding world from a uniquely Muggle perspective, as the Minister of Magic makes an unexpected appointment (using a painted figure as his secretary) with the Muggle Prime Minister in his office. As a bonus, we learn Minister Cornelius Fudge has been fired for reasons including but not limited to “a wizard dictator came to power and my strategy was basically to just ignore him.” That was nice.
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36: “The Only One He Ever Feared”
Here, Voldemort shows up in the flesh at the Ministry of Magic and duels Dumbledore, right as it seems Harry will never convince the wider wizarding world of the dark wizard’s return. We spend most of the series watching preteens turn mice into teacups; never before had we seen two powerful wizards duking it out in a seemingly deathless battle for supremacy.
12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 12: “The Mirror of Erised”
During his first year at Hogwarts, an 11-year-old boy looks in a mirror that shows viewers what they want most, and what he sees is his long-dead family? Ouch. Way to hit us where it hurts, J.K. Rowling. This was our first clue as to what we were in for, I think. J.K. Rowling tried to warn us her books would transcend the designation of a children’s series, and we didn’t listen.
11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19: “The Servant of Lord Voldemort”
Snape shows up to crash the party in the Shrieking Shack. Reunited friends Sirius and Lupin hash out some petty differences with the traitorous Wormtail (he’s just the reason Sirius spent 12 years in Azkaban, no big deal). But what’s most notable is that Sirius Black goes from “antagonist” to “everyone’s favorite character” in the space of about three pages, which sets us up for some pretty serious anguish a few books later.
10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 28: “Snape’s Worst Memory”
Using Dumbledore’s Pensieve, Harry gets a glimpse at the source of Snape’s enduring hatred of both him and his father, James, Snape’s one-time Hogwarts classmate. The cruel memory complicates Harry’s perception of his dad, but it also gives us just enough of a peek at the Marauders era that we’re still begging J.K. Rowling for a prequel 12 years later.
9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 22: “After the Burial”
Harry finally secures a memory from Professor Slughorn that’s crucial in the fight against Voldemort—which sounds super important, but he does it using a quick swig of lucky potion and a can-do attitude, which is hilarious. For once in his life, Harry is chipper. And it may just be the Felix Felicis talking, but I gotta say, it’s a good look for him.
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36: “The Parting of the Ways”
This is, perhaps, the most pivotal chapter in the entire series. Harry has just returned from the graveyard with news of Voldemort’s return. But Fudge, the Minister of Magic, refuses to believe him, which sets the stage for the Second Wizarding War and many trials to come.
7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 29: “Career Advice”
Order of the Phoenix was the one book in which Hogwarts doesn’t really feel like Hogwarts, what with the interim Headmistress Umbridge taking over for Dumbledore. That’s why it’s so nice to see Fred and George throwing fireworks at her for a couple of pages before the make their grand escape from school forever.
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 5: “Diagon Alley”
I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando a few years ago, and the second I stepped foot in Diagon Alley, it was like I was 7 years old again, reading my new favorite book and watching it come to life. But this time it was real, right down to the goblins at Gringotts and the potions bubbling in shop windows. Basically, this chapter is world-building at its finest.
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31: “The Battle of Hogwarts”
Voldemort declares war on Hogwarts. The professors, the older students, and various magical creatures answer the call to arms; the time to fight back is now. Turns out the time to mourn everyone’s favorite Weasley twin is also now. (I’m using humor as a coping mechanism; this ruined me, and I’m still not over it.)
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Chapter 1: “The Boy Who Lived”
I couldn’t very well forget about the chapter that started it all. I’m betting I don’t even need to rehash this one; you probably know it by heart. “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much…”
3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37: “The Lost Prophecy”
It was during this chapter that we all just collectively got up and threw our books out the window, correct? It was bad enough that Sirius had to die, but Harry’s grief in Dumbledore’s office is epic. This was the most emotionally charged thing I have ever experienced, and that’s coming from someone who watches a lot of YouTube videos of dogs reuniting with their owners who have spent months deployed overseas.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33: “The Prince’s Tale”
You knew this was coming. You knew. With Voldemort at the gates of Hogwarts and beloved characters dying left and right, we didn’t think things could get much worse—but that was before we realized, too late, that Snape was on our side, that he’d loved Lily since childhood, and that Harry had been fated to die from the very beginning.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 34: “The Forest Again”
Harry finally learns he was never supposed to survive the war—that the only way Voldemort can die is if he dies, too. And to give him the strength to do what needs to be done, he uses the Resurrection Stone to bring back the people he’s lost. I mean, JEEZ. I don’t want to exaggerate, but I’m pretty sure this chapter ripped my still-beating heart out of my chest cavity and threw it to the wolves.