Art by Simon Kabab, used with permission
Art by Simon Kabab, used with permission

A few weeks ago, I woke up to the news that actor Alan Rickman had passed away. Like many Harry Potter fans, I had admired the way that he had brought the character of Snape to life in the movies. In my opinion, he truly did justice and even enhanced the character written by Jo Rowling.

When I was a young avid reader (now I’m an old avid reader), there would be moments when in the course of the story unfolding, a character would say one line or the author would share one sentence or weave in one beat that would strike me to the core.

I called these heart-piercing moments.

One much-loved scene in Harry Potter is when Dumbledore asks Snape one question:

(Don’t worry, no spoilers. It will only smite your heart if you know its meaning in the story.)

“After all this time?”


For some reason I got to thinking about fictional deaths and other heart-piercing moments. I started a list of these small beats that moved me to tears as a young reader. For many of these, I can still remember the one-line verbatim, even now, even if I have not reread the book since I was a child.

I’m reluctant to share my actual list here since inevitably it will be rife with spoilers. I do wonder…how many other people are book criers? And what are some of the most heart-piercing moments in fictional lives? What would make your top ten list?