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Harry was most terrified of Dementors in his 3rd year since he ran into them while defenseless, it is understandable why he feared them so much. But by end of the third year it is clear that he had acquired the confidence to deal with them better than most other wizards (for his age his Patronus is fairly strong compared to other older wizards).

So by the 4th year, should his most feared thing be changed to something else? Why does the Boggart in the maze still change into a Dementor?

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9  
You can't chose what you fear. You can learn to deal with it but that doesn't mean it wont be scary any more. Example, when someone is afraid of spiders he can learn to spray them and kill them but he will still have fear of them. Plus he is not afraid of Dementor as being, he is afraid of their effect on him. He is afraid of fear itself – Vanja Vasiljevic Jan 27 at 13:04
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I believe this question has been answered before.It's not not the Dementor itself which Harry fears, but what it represents - which is fear itself. Lupin said this when he initially found out that Harry would have been more afraid of a Dementor than of Voldemort. In this way, Dementors can represent abstract concepts. The same way, Lupin's Boggart transforms into the Moon. Lupin is not afraid of the Moon itself, but of what it represents for him - i.e. transformation into a werewolf. JKR mentioned that Voldemort's Boggart would be his own corpse, because what he fears most is his own death. – Serpentotia Jan 27 at 13:20
    
DVK-in-exile's answer is the one I was referring to. While it was not the accepted answer for the question, I believe it addresses your question fairly well. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/45369/… – Serpentotia Jan 27 at 13:34
    
People fear flying, even though it is one of the safest ways to travel. People fear heights, even though the bridge they are on is rated to carry at least 10x it's maximum expected carrying capacity. Fears don't make any sense. – Scott Jan 27 at 21:50
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Dementor's were used by the Ministry to administer punishment. In their presence you are influenced into a depressed state, however when used as punishment, a "Dementor's Kiss" sucks the soul from a prisoner's body, leaving them in a state of perpetual unhappiness (an understatement):

"Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life."

Harry explicitly remembers the effect the Dementors had on him:

‘I did think of Voldemort first,’ said Harry honestly. ‘But then I – I remembered those Dementors.’

‘I see,’ said Lupin thoughtfully. ‘Well, well ... I’m impressed.’ He smiled slightly at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. ‘That suggests that what you fear most of all is – fear. Very wise, Harry.’

I can imagine that the worst possible fear he had was losing the feelings and memories he had of his friends and his mother and father. As we see later on, he doesn't fear the idea of death itself, it's the fear of eternal despair that most troubles him.

Much like a convicted murderer, I'm sure the very act itself would haunt you unless you were completely heartless, and sitting in a jail cell for possibly the remaining days of your life would eat away at you relentlessly. It's a common thing to hear when people talk of someone that has done something terrible, they say "Death would be too kind for them, let them rot in a jail cell and think about what they've done".

It's the fear of this that takes the heart of Harry. Eternal hell.

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Clarification - the Demontors do not suck the soul from the victims body in the situations you describe. They only do this during the Dementors Kiss, which removes the victims soul and causes a very different set of symptoms. Could you change the second sentence to be more clear or add a section describing the Kiss? – DavidS Jan 27 at 14:23
    
Edited the post. I thought it was pretty self explanatory to be honest. Anyone reading the books or watching the films would know this is one of the first properties of a Dementor explained. Any-who, changed. – John Bell Jan 27 at 17:17
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I appreciate the edit, but I think you're mixed up with the Kiss and the normal effect of Dementors. The Kiss doesn't leave you in "a perpetual state of unhappiness" - it leaves you unable to feel, full stop. No happiness, sadness, no love or hate. No memories, no personality. – DavidS Jan 27 at 17:28

Harry's biggest fear didn't change because what he genuinely feared was fear itself. Harry witnessed and had many incredibly scary and fear inducing experiences so he was pretty used to these type of things. In fact, Voldemort coming to power was Harry's first thought:

Harry first thought Voldemort coming to power, and then thought of a scabby, slimy, hand.

Harry already experienced:

  • No parents
  • Going through all of the tasks to get to Quirrel.
  • Confronting Quirrel alone.
  • Having one of his best friends petrified.
  • Killing a Basilisk.
  • Confronting the memory of Tom Riddle.

As you can see these weren't so uncommon so instead he feared actual fear. Even Professor Lupin quoted:

Lupin: "Fearing fear itself; very wise, Harry."

To sum it all up: Harry witnessed many scary things so the thing he feared the most is fearing.

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Good ol' Churchill – Wayne Werner Jan 27 at 19:29

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