Hell, name any two of the Loads and Loads of Characters in the series, and likely as not they'll be foils to each other in some way.
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Harry & Voldemort
Dumbledore specifically comments that the two are very similar, except that Harry always chooses good while Voldemort chooses to only care about himself
- They're both half-bloods, with one side of the family having ancient, pure-blood linage, and the other side muggle.
- They were both orphaned as babies.
- They both grow up with nobody who loves them.
- They both grow up in muggle circumstances where they're supposed to stifle their magic.
- They both love Hogwarts when they get there - it's the first place they've truly felt at home.
- They both have wands with phoenix feathers from the very same bird.
- They're both pale, dark-haired, and skinny. (At least, Voldemort was before he got all weird.)
Snape & Voldemort
Both had witch mothers and muggle fathers; both had pretty terrible childhoods; both became ambitious Slytherins; the main difference is that Snape cared about someone at one point while Voldemort only cared about himself.
Harry & Ron
Ron is poor, has a loving family of six siblings, knows a lot about the wizarding world growing up in it since birth. He had a life like Harry would've if it weren't for Voldemort. Ron is also rather down-to-earth most of the time, almost never jumping to wild conclusions. Highlighted in the Mirror of Erised
scene in the first book
: when looking into the Mirror, Ron (who has spent his whole life being overshadowed by his more accomplished siblings) sees himself alone, being honored with prestigious awards and titles, while Harry (who is considered a celebrity) just sees himself surrounded by a loving family.
Harry & Draco
Draco has grown up with a rich family, has loving (and alive) parents, is arrogant and selfish and cold, all striking contrast. Even their physical appearances are opposites: Harry's scruffy black hair vs. Draco's perfectly combed white-blond hair, Harry's warm green eyes (from his mother Lily) vs. Draco's steely gray eyes (from his father Lucius).
Harry & Neville
Neville has all of Harry's troubled past with none of his fame or respect, he has to overcome being treated like a joke
before coming into his own as a wizard, and he would have been the Chosen One if Voldemort had attacked him as an infant instead of Harry, and could have been Voldemort's equal in the prophecy
Hermione & Luna
J.K. Rowling has commented on Luna being Hermione's foil, even describing her as "The Anti-Hermione". Luna has all of Hermione's intelligence with none of her pragmatism or social skills, she relies on faith where Hermione relies on cold logic, and she comes from a family whose insatiable curiosity about magic put their safety and sanity at risk. They don't get along... at first, anyway. Hermione derides Luna's father's magazine The Quibbler as a sensationalist publication who'll print anything if it's interesting enough, never mind if it's actually completely true or not, whereas Luna is frustrated with Hermione needing to almost literally have proof staring her in the face before she can accept things as real.
Hermione & Lavender
Lavender and Hermione are this in terms of being Ron's girlfriend in Half-Blood Prince. Lavender is extremely clingy, failing to notice that nothing but kissing and hugging just drives Ron away. When Ron and Hermione finally hook up, they share a few intimate moments, but there is a decided lack of endless snogging. According to Rowling, she deliberately wrote Ron's relationship with Lavender so that he could realize what he didn't want in a relationship, namely for it to be purely physical.
Harry/Ron/Hermione & Neville/Ginny/Luna
For a multiple-character example, the later books in the series actually frame Neville, Ginny and Luna into a secondary trio of heroes to the primary Power Trio
, with each of them subtly contrasting Harry, Ron and Hermione, respectively.
Ron & Draco
Both are the sons of old pure-blood families, but while Ron's family is poor and rejects notions of blood purity, Draco's family is rich and believes in blood purity. Moreover, Ron is the sixth of seven children
and feels like he is The Unfavorite
, while Draco is a spoiled only-child
who receives all of his parents attention. Also, both of them compare themselves to, and, in a way, define themselves by Harry. They are his Best Friend
respectively, but are both bitterly jealous of the attention he receives. While Ron resists the urge to become The Resenter
and gets over his issues in Deathly Hallows
, it takes Draco 20 years
to come around.
Snape & James
While both are tall, thin, and have black hair, Snape is Slytherin, poor, and Lily's best friend; James is Gryffindor, wealthy, and initially disliked by Lily. James gets better; Snape gets a lot worse.
Snape & Peter Pettigrew
They have opposite arcs, as well as opposite personalities. Snape is a brave Slytherin whose undying love for Lily caused his remorse and subsequent HeelFace Turn, leading to his role as a spy for the Order in the ranks of the Death Eaters. Pettigrew is a cowardly Gryffindor, who backstabbed Lily and James as their Secret Keeper, and then joined the Death Eaters for real.
Snape & Sirius
who went to Hogwarts together who ironically are also two sides of the same coin. Sirius Black is a pure-blood wizard who becomes a Cultural Rebel
against his family and the Dark Arts. Snape is a half-blood who develops an fascination with pure-bloods and the Dark Arts. They both share the same Fatal Flaw
, never growing past their preconceived prejudices from their childhood, leading them to lash out at others.
James & Sirius
James was a proud descendant of the legendary Wizard hero Ignotus Peverell, and he relished the chance to prove himself as a hero through brave deeds; Sirius was a scion of the infamous House of Black
—an aristocratic family filled with Dark Wizards and Pureblood supremacists - and he defied
his family lineage by getting sorted into Gryffindor and joining the Order of the Phoenix. James sacrificed himself in the Wizarding War, and was remembered as a hero; Sirius lived, and was wrongly remembered as a murderous traitor. James started a family with the love of his life, Sirius remained a tormented loner
even after he escaped from Azkaban.
James & Remus
James was an impulsive hothead who craved the limelight, and he was remembered as a Head Boy and a Quidditch star; Remus was a more restrained, bookish boy who grew up to be a teacher, and he learned to keep a low profile because of the inherent risks of living as a Werewolf. James apparently came from a wealthy family
, and managed to leave his son Harry with a small fortune; Remus struggled with poverty through his entire adult life because of the prejudice against Werewolves. James was the quintessential family man; Remus is very
insecure about being a father, and seriously considers leaving his son Teddy because he doesn't believe he's fit to raise a child.
James & Pettigrew:
James was a beloved leader figure; Pettigrew was a follower who latched onto anyone who could shelter him. James died in the line of duty in the fight against Voldemort; Pettigrew sold the Potters out to save himself.
Snape & McGonagall
Both are incredibly strict teachers, very competent in their respective fields, and are very close to Dumbledore. However, while McGonagall is a fair teacher who is actually a big 'ole softie
beneath her strict attitude, Snape is a Sadist Teacher
, especially to Harry and Neville. Though he does have a heart; it's just buried under decades of angst and the fact that Harry is basically the embodiment of his biggest regret.
McGonagall & Umbridge
The both are strict, opinionated, ambitious women, who serve a number two position to men in the two most important organizations in Wizarding Britain. In the fifth book
they were both in line to become headmistress of Hogwarts. However McGonagall is deeply loyal to Dumbledore, while Umbridge's loyalty to Fudge is questionable (even going behind his back to torture students while interrogating them about the location of Sirius Black, because "what Fudge doesn't know won't hurt him"
). And while McGonagall is indeed strict, she is normally also fair and well-meaning. Umbridge though is a total sadist, who doesn't actually care for the well being of the students.
Dumbledore and Snape
Both are halfbloods but different kinds. Dumbledore's mother was a muggleborn witch and Snape's father was a Muggle. Snape is an only child and had a neglectful mother and abusive father but Dumbledore has two younger siblings and had a good family life until his sister was attacked. Both were brilliant students but in the opposite houses, Gryffindor and Slytherin. Both fell in with bad guy(s) out of Pride
as teenagers but there is a bit of Freudian Excuse
on the former's end since what happened to his family/sister whereas Snape was just an asshole. Both of these dalliance got someone they loved killed and affected them for the rest of their lives and were never able to forgive themselves. The former turned this youthful catastrophe into being a an empathetic person
, the latter never learned his lesson and stayed a bitter adult who takes his issues out on two innocent children.
Dumbledore & Aberforth
The brothers sharply contrast each other: Albus is a sophisticated child prodigy, has an exemplary reputation and is the headmaster of Hogwarts, while Aberforth is maybe not even literate, did some magical experimentation on a goat
, and tends a bar on the seedier side of Hogsmeade.
Umbridge & Percy
Ambitious children of Ministry of Magic worker fathers who are described as "unambitious" (Mr. Umbridge was a janitor who never got a raise or a promotion and didn't seem to care about it, Mr. Weasley refused to toe the line and lie about his opinions resulting in his regularly being passed over for promotions) and do their best to rise above their fathers' reputations and their embarrassing families (after he retires, Dolores basically bribes her father with a nice cottage and small allowance to stay out of her life forever, Percy on the other hand realizes the error of his ways and reconciles with his father and family).
Umbridge & Voldemort
They are both wizard supremacists, who hid their half-blood parentage. Voldemort murdered his father and grandparents and blamed his maternal uncle for the crime; Umbridge's mother "melted back into the Muggle world" with her Squib son after leaving Mr. Umbridge, who had always blamed their son's powerlessness on her, and later on, Dolores was only glad to persecute Muggle-borns.
Harry's friends & The Marauders
Harry and James were the leaders of their respective groups. Ron and Sirius were the best friends and stuck by their sides at everything they did. Hermione and Remus were the smart ones who often tried to keep them in line (with mixed success). To a lesser extent, Neville also fits with Peter as the "hanger on" friend who everyone tends to underestimate and showed more potential than everyone gave him credit for. Harry doesn't like being the center of attention while James liked to be a showoff. Ron loves and is loved by his family dearly despite some minor issues, unlike Sirius who hated them to the point of running away from home and got blasted out of the family tree for it. Hermione is more than willing to call Harry and Ron out if she thinks they're overstepping the line, unlike Remus who often refused to rein James and Sirius in on their bullying. Finally, Neville eventually learns to stand up for himself and remains a loyal friend to the trio through thick and thin, while Peter never outgrows his Dirty Coward
nature and pays the price for it.
Snape and Ron
They're both poor and unpopular in their school years. They're both friends with and in love with a talented Muggleborn witch. They're both taunted by a group headed by a rich Pureblood. They're both feeling overshadowed by a Potter boy (Ron for his comparatively lacking ability, Snape for his attitude and company). Snape, however, hates James Potter and is a Pureblood supremacist, while Ron is Harry's best friend and gets over his envy, and is a staunch opponent of Pureblood supremacy. Snape's bigotry was the chief reason he had a falling out with Lily, while Hermione was drawn by Ron's compassion for those weaker than him.
The Dursleys and the Malfoys
Both families hate the other's kind and consist of a bigoted father, a similarly bigoted but somewhat softer mother (named after flowers which symbolize negative mindsets - Petunia for envy and Narcissa for... well, narcissism), and a privileged son who heads a Gang of Bullies
to torment Harry at school. The sons eventually mellow out, though they never become friends with Harry. Both families also hate the Weasleys.
Lily Potter and Narcissa Malfoy
Both are witches named after flowers who love their sons above all else, which eventually fails Voldemort's plans. Lily is a Muggleborn, while Narcissa is a Pureblood.
Regulus Black and Draco Malfoy
Both are members of prominent pureblood families that support Voldemort and have certain expectations for them. They both become Deatheaters roughly around the same age, but are put off by the cruel realities of Voldemorts cause and his methods. However, while Regulus actively does something to weaken Voldemort, and his note in the fake!horcrux is basically the equivalent of giving him the finger
, Draco folds: His only act of resistance is pretending not to recognize Harry, but that is undermined by his identification of Ron and Hermione, and later he even tries to capture Harry and hand him to Voldemort.