Scattered among the pages of the Harry Potter books are many secondary characters who complement the story of Harry and his life at Privet Drive with the Dursleys, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and his other adventures. While not inclusive of every significant supporting character, scenes with the following six are valuable to the plot and resolution of the series.

Arabella Figg: From Strange Old Lady to Protector

Arabella Figg, an old lady who lives with a bunch of cats, is mentioned in the second chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Scholastic Inc., 1999). Through four books, Harry is not exactly thrilled with interactions or visits with her. Unexpectedly, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Scholastic Press, 2003), Harry is shocked to discover her link to the magical world. Harry often wonders how people know the tiniest details about him and his life with the Dursleys; Mrs. Figg, living in his neighborhood since his first days at Privet Drive, is one of many who are keeping an eye on him.

Nearly Headless Nick: Wince-Inducing Appearance Yet a Good Friend

Among the more memorable background characters in Rowling’s books are the ghosts. One is Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, who was attacked with an axe in 1492. As a ghost, he is known as “Nearly Headless Nick.” He never passes up a moment to explain his murder, which left him improperly beheaded, thus the nickname. He often provides helpful information to Harry. In a moving scene in Order of the Phoenix, Nick explains to Harry why some people become ghosts and others move on. Nick’s appearances are accompanied by amusement, loyalty or sound advice.

Fawkes the Phoenix: Help in Times of Trouble

Harry first meets Fawkes the Phoenix in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Scholastic Inc., 2000). As his name implies, the bird goes through a perpetual cycle of burning into a pile of embers, being reborn as a strange-looking sickly thing, reaching magnificent feathery adulthood, and burning again. Fawkes provides help to Harry several times, at first with tangible weapons including his own tears; and later with the gift of his songs. Harry knows that help and comfort is imminent when Fawkes is present.

Oliver Wood: Obsessed But a Good Role Model

Harry meets Oliver Wood, a fellow Gryffindor student and captain of that house’s Quidditch team, in his first year. For several years, Oliver pushes Harry to do his best at Quidditch, the demanding, competitive sport at Hogwarts. Although Oliver’s participation borders on obsession, he is one of many positive male role models for Harry once he leaves Privet Drive. Harry is sometimes bored to the point of nodding off at Oliver’s endless lectures and strategies, yet the older boy means well and is a constant, friendly, encouraging presence in Harry’s life.

Narcissa Malfoy: A Mother Concerned For Her Son

Many mothers step between their children and death in the Harry Potter series. Of course, there is Lily Potter, Harry’s mother. There is also Narcissa Malfoy, whose concern for her son — Draco, who decides to work for Voldemort, but who finds the work more difficult than he anticipated — gradually changes her allegiance away from Voldemort, the dark wizard who intends to kill Harry Potter and rule the magical world. In one of the bravest moments in the series in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007), Narcissa ostensibly follows an order from Voldemort, only to surprise Harry with how she subtly disobeys it. Her love for her son has changed her mind; she, like Lily, is attempting to stand between her child and death.

Death: A Constant Presence in the Harry Potter Books

In an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 1, 2010, J.K. Rowling said that death is mentioned on almost every page in the series. Indeed, in either dialogue, subtle descriptions, chapter headings or specifically referred to, death is mentioned, sometimes even humorously: In Chamber of Secrets Harry is unnecessarily reminded by Professor McGonagall that if he should unexpectedly perish, he will not have to complete his homework. In most of the series, however, Death’s presence as an almost-sentient character is serious. Harry has lost his parents, and later loses beloved friends, one by one. His friends fear losing him to a wizard whose existence depends on killing Harry. Also, throughout the series, Death’s main goal is to get past mothers in order to attack their children. Most of the mothers win the battle with Death by fighting back. Some sacrifice themselves. They all exhibit the selfless love that good mothers have for their children by protecting them.