"Harry Potter" is arguably one of the biggest franchises of our generation, and it is rare to run into somebody who has not seen the movies or read the books. The novels are a staple of bookshelves everywhere, but they are so much more than just a story that people enjoy reading. "Harry Potter" has taught us how to face our fears, how important our friendships are and how good will always prevail over evil. The books cover loss, love, violence and abuse of power among many other topics, ultimately showing how we can adapt to even the most daring ordeals and how we come to terms with them and become better versions of ourselves.
One of the most prominent motifs throughout the series is happiness. Ron, Harry, Hermione and the rest of the Hogwarts students spend their school days taking classes like Defense Against the Dark Arts, where they learn both defense and offense against dark creatures, dark arts and other dark charms. In the third book, "The Prisoner of Azkaban," the students are introduced to a new way to fight against their greatest fears: the "Riddikulus" spell, which stymies a creature made of fear. There is also "expecto patronum," where the very memory of happiness has the ability to beat back the forces of depression.
The instance where positivity is used as a weapon does not stop there. Fred and George Weasley's inventions, meant to make people laugh, turn into weapons against Umbridge's regime. After they leave Hogwarts, their joke shop becomes one of the brightest spots in Diagon Alley (literally and figuratively) in addition to a place of defensive magic. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, the name of their shop, serves as a reminder that happiness can act as both a sword and a shield.
It is extremely empowering that happiness can be something tangible and usable. In a world where we all have days that seem to be filled with darkness and no light, and using happiness as a defense mechanism is all too familiar and relatable, because we find ourselves doing it all the time. The series has its share of darkness, but it revels most in the light. It emphasizes that the act of joy is not trivial or inconsequential. Happiness is something to be wielded, on your own behalf and on the behalves of the people around you. This is what "Harry Potter" teaches us, and we carry this knowledge with us every day.