One fun thing about the Harry Potter books is that, in each one, Hogwarts gets a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Except it’s not so fun for the teachers themselves. Ever since Voldemort jinxed the position, each new teacher has met with some grave misfortune at the end of the school year, resulting in their resignation, sacking, or death. Of course, a lot of them deserved what they got, but some didn’t. Here’s a short list of the seven Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, listing the virtues, faults, and fates of each. Warning: A few spoilers ahead.
1. Professor Quirrell
Distinguishing features: Turban and stutter
Teaching skills: Fair. While he didn’t generate as many classroom nightmares as some of his successors, Harry doesn’t seem to have learned much that year. And frankly, listening to that stutter for an hour every day would probably drive me crazy.
Fate: Burned to death after touching Harry while possessed by Voldemort.
Did he deserve it? Yes. As pathetic as he was, he was whole-heartedly on the bad side. Of course, it was still pretty treacherous of Voldemort to abandon him like that after depending on him for so long, but hey, that’s how Voldemort rolls. Why have his subordinates not figured this out yet?
2. Gilderoy Lockhart
Distinguishing features: Good looks and lots of books.
Teaching skills: Poor. He doesn’t actually know anything about the Dark Arts, so he can turn even a class about Cornish Pixies into unbridled chaos.
Fate: Lost all his memories after his Obliviate charm backfired.
Did he deserve it? Yes! When his charm backfired, he was trying to use it to erase Harry and Ron’s memories. That’s a pretty dirty way for a teacher to treat his students, not to mention all the other times he used it to take the credit for other wizards’ achievements. Plus, if it had worked, we wouldn’t have books three through seven at all.
3. Remus Lupin
Distinguishing features: Mysterious disappearances and early aging.
Teaching Skills: Excellent. He teaches all the kids at Hogwarts, and especially Harry, very useful things that they’ll use to defend themselves against the Dark Arts for the rest of the series. And he does it in a fairly safe, fun way. He’s also a very wise, humble person who genuinely cares about his students. Everyone should have a teacher like Lupin at some point in their lives.
Fate: Resigned after word leaked out that he was a werewolf.
Did he deserve it? No. See above. *sniff* I was so mad at the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban. Lupin will always be my favourite werewolf.
4. Barty Crouch, Jr. (a.k.a. Mad-Eye Moody)
Distinguishing features: Magical eye, one leg, insane homicidal streak.
Teaching Skills: Good. He actually does teach some very useful things. How many times do Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to deal with the Unforgivable Curses after this book? They probably would have been toast by the end of Order of the Phoenix if Crouch hadn’t prepared them. Of course, he traumatized Neville in the process, and he was only doing it to send Harry to Voldemort, but still.
Fate: Kissed by a dementor after his identity was revealed.
Did he deserve it? Yes. He killed his own father, he tried to kill Harry, and he was instrumental in bringing Voldemort back to power. Teaching skills aside, this is not a guy we want to be running loose through the magical world. Still, though, that’s a nasty way to go.
5. Dolores Umbridge
Distinguishing features: Pink and toad-like.
Teaching Skills: Horrible. Her main goal is to make sure the students don’t learn anything at all.
Fate: Went into shock after a run-in with angry centaurs, and left by mutual agreement.
Did she deserve it? No. She deserved worse. Umbridge is the most thoroughly despicable character in the entire Harry Potter series, and yes, that includes Voldemort. She tortures children, enforces terrible rules without mercy, and spouts political nonsense all the while. She doesn’t even have the Death Eaters’ racial superiority to justify her actions–she’s just out to grab as much power as she can. Add in the annoying little cough, the hideous pink, and the creepy cat fetish, and this is one character no Potterhead can stand.
6. Severus Snape
Distinguishing features: Greasy hair, hooked nose, secrets.
Teaching Skills: Fair. He always acts rude and condescending toward his students, and he often plays favourites (especially in the sixth book, in fact), but he still manages to teach some useful things. His lesson on the Inferi, for example, comes in handy for Harry at the end of the book. And his old potions textbook is endlessly helpful.
Fate: Joined the Death Eaters after killing Dumbledore.
Did he deserve it? From everyone at Hogwarts’ perspective at the time, yes. In light of the seventh book…it’s complicated.
7. Amycus Carrow
Distinguishing features: Ugly Death Eater.
Teaching Skills: Probably good–at teaching the Dark Arts, that is.
Fate: Died in the Battle of Hogwarts.
Did he deserve it? Yes. We don’t get to know the Carrows very well, since Harry and company aren’t at Hogwarts during their reign, but we see enough of them to know that they’re cruel, bloodthirsty, and not at all respectful of others. I mean, Amycus spat in McGonagall’s face! That alone should rank him among the worst Death Eaters in the books.
It should also be noted that Harry made a pretty good unofficial Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for one year. But overall, I’d say Lupin was the best person to take the job during his time at Hogwarts. After him would be Snape…not because of his teaching skills, but just because he’s such a great character.