The wizarding world of Harry Potter has captivated fans around the globe. Hundreds have read of his adventures in the books, thousands have seen his story in the movies, and tens of thousands have done both. When J. K. Rowling first wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we wonder if she knew just what a lasting mark on literature and pop culture she was making. Harry Potter and his world have gotten so popular that if you haven’t read the books or gotten sorted into your House on Pottermore, you’re behind the times.
One of the reasons that J. K. Rowling’s literary world is so enduring is its uniqueness when compared to other stories. The history of the wizarding world is rich and diverse, and its rules are laid out for the reader to understand. We know (if you’ve read the books, that is) that wands have a magical, biological core with which to work magic. We know that Dementors suck the happiness out of you. We know that a potion gone wrong could have dire side effects. We know that if you catch the Snitch, the Quidditch match is over. Rowling so expertly laid across a foundation for her characters to exist upon that we can enjoy both the world and its people equally.
But as with most stories that involve a conflict with a “dark lord,” there can be quite a few disturbing qualities to the tale, whether these qualities are directly spoken of or not. Harry Potter’s story starts with the death of his parents, so it makes sense that the entire series is not filled with sunshine and daisies. Here we have a list of some of the darker things about Harry Potter’s world you may not have known.
25. Voldemort’s Fears
Lord Voldemort is the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, You-Know-Who, the wizard who threatened the entire wizarding world with his villainy. He is the terror that stalks the minds of every witch and wizard who endured his reign, and he is the nightmare that plagues Harry’s teenage years. What could a man of his power be afraid of? Voldemort’s evil plan that allowed him to stay alive at the cost of his soul’s unity was the creation of Horcruxes. He was willing to fracture his soul in order to prevent death. Voldemort fears death more than anything. So if a Boggart, a being that takes on the shape of its victim’s worst fear, were to appear before Lord Voldemort, he would see his own corpse.
24. Like Teacher, Like Snape
Severus Snape is not pleasantly described in the books. He is said to have sallow skin, a beaked nose, and long, oily black hair. He is not the villain of the series as Voldemort clearly is, but for many of the books, he is one of the antagonists that Harry must face throughout the school year. Apparently, J. K. Rowling took inspiration for the look of Snape’s character from her former Chemistry teacher. This may not seem like a favorable comparison, especially when you look back on the description we just gave for Snape, but there is something to be said for having someone base a character off of you in their book. Even though Snape is never said to be handsome, he has quite the noble character arc, and his fame alone in pop culture makes being his inspiration worth it.
23. Snowballs In Voldemort’s Face
This may have gone unnoticed in the first book, especially given how it’s buried in a chapter’s worth of text, but Fred and George Weasley have thrown snowballs at Voldemort’s face. The Weasley twins are known for wreaking havoc at Hogwarts; they’re practically famous for it. Their pranks grow in sophistication as they grow older. However, they played a prank on the Dark Lord during Harry’s first year at Hogwarts without even knowing it. At one point in the first book, they bewitched some snowballs to repeatedly hit Professor Quirrell in the back of his turban, in other words, the back of his head. Now, if you remember from the first book, Voldemort was residing on the back of Quirrell’s head. That means that the Weasley twins were chucking snowballs at Voldemort’s face!
22. A Doomed Love
J. K. Rowling has established that Dumbledore is a gay man. This does not hinder our belief in his greatness in any way whatsoever. His choice in loving Gellert Grindelwald, considered the second greatest Dark Wizard of all time, makes his life an ounce more tragic than it already was. The two boys met when they were young, before they both made names for themselves. They had lofty ideals and goals that they wished to achieve, and Albus Dumbledore was attracted to the charisma that Gellert Grindelwald naturally exuded. Albus’ love of Gellert was partially the reason why he did not see all the way through Gellert’s plans to subjugate Muggles in his pro-wizardry campaign. Albus was swayed by Gellert’s vision, and it was only until it was too late that he recognized the danger inherent in Grindelwald’s character.
21. Mutant Cat
One of the coolest aspects of the wizarding world are the pets that wizards get to keep. It would be so awesome to have your own personal owl to deliver letters for you and who just magically seems to know where you want your letters sent. That’s not to say that the more mundane option of having a pet cat is not pleasing, especially when you look at Hermione’s cat, Crookshanks. Crookshanks is practically the hero of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He helps Sirius out and tries to kill Scabbers, aka Peter Pettigrew, the traitorous “friend” or Harry’s parents. Crookshanks recognizes Scabbers as a man in disguise because he is half Kneazle. Kneazles are cat-like animals that can detect unsavory or untrustworthy characters.
20. Death Of A Dumbledore
References to Dumbledore’s longevity are made throughout the Harry Potter series. He is portrayed as an elderly man with long white hair complete with a beard. J. K. Rowling has stated that Dumbledore was 150 years old when he died, but looking at dates provided for when he was born (1881) and when he died (1997), he is seen to have been 116 years old when he finally passed away. Either way, he was old. He was past 100 and he was dealing with Dark Lords and curses. He seemed robust for his age. We can only hope that we’re still as sprightly when we reach the age of 116. Scratch that. We can only hope we’re still as sprightly when we reach the age of 80.
19. Hermione: Wizard Cop
From the moment we first met Hermione, we knew that she was destined for great things. She is clearly the smartest of the three main characters, and her sense of right and wrong is always spot on. After the final battle at Hogwarts, when Voldemort was gone and peace was spreading throughout the wizarding world, Hermione, as expected, went on to greater things. She worked with Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, looking to protect the rights of non-human species. Then, she became the Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She did not stop there. After that, she became the Minister of Magic!
18. Four-Year-Old Werewolf
Remus Lupin, without a doubt, was Harry Potter’s favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. The rest of them were just a list of inept professors or evil traitors. Professor Lupin, aside from being a kind person was a great teacher, skilled in his knowledge of the subject matter he taught. It is unfortunate that such a good-natured person was bitten by a werewolf when he was only four years of age. Luckily for Lupin, he had a phenomenal group of friends who were willing to learn the dangerous magic of becoming animagi in order to keep him company. Only animals could stay in the presence of a werewolf with a minimal amount of danger to themselves. James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew were Lupin’s best friends, and it was a sad fate that saw them torn apart by Voldemort’s plottings.
17. Magic Cores
Every wand needs to have a core that is made of a magical substance. The three most common core-types that we read about in the Harry Potter series are unicorn hairs, dragon heartstrings, and phoenix feathers. The Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in wizard history, was made with a special core, the hair of a Thestral’s tail. Thestrals are horse-like creatures with skeletal features and wings, and only people who have witnessed death can observe them. Such a core from such a being is unstable to place in a wand except under the hands of a most able wizard. That the Elder Wand was made with that as a core makes perfect sense.
16. Best At Sports
Quidditch is the best fictional sport ever created. I don’t care what others say. They might argue with me, but I say, let ’em. Quidditch is awesome, and the love that Harry and his friends show the sport made me love the sport too. Despite Ron and Harry and the others’ fandom of it, none of them pursued careers related to Quidditch. Ginny, the youngest of the Weasleys and the only girl, is the one who decided to become a professional Quidditch player for the Holyhead Harpies. When she first tried out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, she displayed a natural talent on the broomstick that Harry could plainly see. After leaving the Holyhead Harpies, Ginny became a sports writer.
15. Who Killed Who
Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin made a wonderful pair. If you read the books, you got to meet two characters that, while wildly different from each other, were both so good-hearted, you cried when they were killed in the final battle. Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. I was the one who cried. Extensively. But come on! They had Tonks and Lupin recently married, Tonks had just given birth to Teddy, and their killers were Dolohov and Bellatrix. J. K. Rowling set you up to weep. Bellatrix was distantly related to Tonks, and she murdered her during the final battle. And Dolohov was a torturer of Muggles. When Tonks and Lupin got killed, it felt as if the bad guys had won.
14. McGonagall On A Broomstick
Professor McGonagall presents herself as the strictest teacher in the school. She excels at her art and is a capable witch, but she usually comes across as a teacher who follows the rule book by the letter. Occasionally, she lets her true colors show, like when she makes allowances for Harry to play on the Gryffindor House Quidditch team even though he is only in his first year at Hogwarts. It turns out that when Minerva McGonagall attended Hogwarts as a student herself, she was quite the Quidditch player too. Unfortunately, she suffered an accident while playing, which gave her some broken ribs. This injury was suffered while playing a game against Slytherin.
13. No More Snakes
When Voldemort attempted to kill Harry, he failed and his soul shattered into pieces. One of those pieces latched itself onto Harry. It was this piece of Voldemort’s soul that created a connection between Harry and Voldemort. This connection allowed Harry to have access to Voldemort’s mind and vice versa. It also gave Harry the gift of Parseltongue. Parseltongue is the ability to speak to snakes. Many looked on Harry with suspicion after they found out he had this ability because it was a trait common to Salazar Slytherin’s heirs. Once Harry “died,” effectively killing Voldemort’s piece of soul inside of him, Harry lost the ability to communicate with snakes.
12. What About Mom?
At the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we got a quick glance at Harry and Ginny’s family. Their eldest boy is called James Sirius Potter, their middle boy is called Albus Severus Potter, and their youngest daughter is called Lily Luna Potter. As fans of the Harry Potter series can recognize, all of the names for Harry’s children come from people that influenced Harry strongly. His parents, his godfather, his headmaster, his friend, and the man who loved his mother more than anything all had their names live on. This begs the question: did Ginny have any say in naming her own children at all? All three of her kids are named after important figures in Harry’s past, which is fine, but Ginny’s relatives are left with nothing.
11. When Voldemort Died
Voldemort did everything he could to prevent his own death. He became the most powerful Dark Wizard in existence. He delved into the knowledge of Horcruxes, magical items in which to safe-keep his soul. He split his soul into seven pieces by murdering others. Voldemort did everything humanly possible (and even some Dark things that don’t seem humanly possible) to stave off death. But no one can dodge death forever, and Voldemort met his match when he battled Harry Potter for one last time. Born in 1926, Voldemort was 71-years old when he died. It is ironic that Voldemort, who was afraid of death, died at 71, when Dumbledore, who was not afraid to die, died at the ripe old age of 116.
10. In Love With A Muggle
When the straight-laced Minerva McGonagall was younger, she suffered a heartbreak that few would suspect. She fell in love with a Muggle, a charming farmer named Dougal McGregor. They loved each other very much, so much so that Dougal proposed to her and she accepted on the spot. After thinking on it though, she returned to him and had to break his heart. She did not want to lie to him about who she truly was as a witch. Since he was a Muggle, she couldn’t reveal to him the truth about her magical abilities. So she chose instead to end the engagement. One of the cool things about McGonagall is that she never lets these tragedies in her life show to her students. She remains stalwart and disciplined.
9. Without A Brother
Fred and George could always bring some much needed comedic relief to serious situations. They were always good for a laugh. In the final battle for Hogwarts, Fred was killed while George survived. Fred’s death was arguably more tragic than Tonks and Lupin’s since we had all known the Weasley twins from the very beginning. So not only could we understand George’s pain, we could feel it ourselves. After Fred died, George could no longer produce a Patronus. The Patronus Charm is a spell meant to protect you from Dementors. In order to cast it, you need to summon the happiest memory you have…and George can no longer do that.
8. Malfoy Foiled
We sometimes forget that the Patronus Charm is a difficult spell to learn. Harry taught the members of Dumbledore’s Army how to cast it, so a large group of students at Hogwarts can be seen producing Patronuses. We have to remember though, that the Patronus is an advanced bit of magic and is not usually taught to young students. Draco Malfoy’s Patronus, the animal form the the spell creates, is not known because he never learned to cast it while the books were being written. He may have learned how to cast it at a later date, but it is not known to Potter fans. Numerous theories exist as to what form Malfoy’s Patronus could take, but nothing official can be confirmed.
7. Saving Arthur Weasley
As we lamented before, Tonks and Lupin’s deaths were heartbreaking. They had just had a son, so they should have had many long years with him. They were the kind of people who deserved a lifetime with their child. And apparently, there was a possibility that they might have lived, if only at the expense of another character’s life. As far back as the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling debated killing off Arthur Weasley, but in the end decided not to. But because Arthur died, Rowling felt that someone else had to pay the price for his survival. It’s a tough choice to make. Who would you have picked to survive?
6. April Fool’s Babies
The Weasley twins are pranksters. That’s just who they are. There is no one we can think of who would utilize the Marauder’s Map better than Fred and George Weasley. They probably used the map better than the original Marauders, squeezing every last drop of potential from the passageways it revealed. We shudder to think of what they could have done if they’d had an Invisibility Cloak. Knowing them, it is not surprising to learn that they were born on April Fool’s Day. April Fool’s Day is a day for pranks and jokes. It would probably be their favorite holiday even if their birthdays didn’t fall on that date. If you really think about it though, every day was April Fool’s Day for them.
5. Death By Venomous Tentacula
The tragic tale of Minerva McGonagall continues. Her life was not an overly pleasant one. It seems peppered with tragic events. It’s amazing she never let any of this show. After giving up her first love because he was a Muggle and she did not want to have to keep secrets from him, McGonagall closed herself off to any other love. She began working at Hogwarts. Her old boss at the Ministry, Elphinstone Urquart, had a major thing for her, and he proposed to her. She refused, and he began a tradition of proposing to her and being rejected by her. One day, she accepted, and they moved in together. Their marriage was quite happy, but Elphinstone got bitten accidentally by a Venomous Tentacula and died. McGonagall cannot catch a break!
4. Staying In Character
When the third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, was about to be filmed, the director asked the three stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, to write essays about their characters as a kind of homework assignment. In a moment of pure coincidence (or maybe not), each actor responded to the assignment in exactly the same way their fictional counterparts would have. Emma Watson turned in a full sixteen pages, a classic Hermione move. Daniel Radcliffe turned in a solid single page, not performing beyond what was called for, but making a good showing. And Rupert Grint, like Ron would have done, turned in absolutely nothing.
3. School Motto
The Hogwarts school’s motto is “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus.” If you’re like me, you don’t know Latin, so I had to look up the meaning of this phrase. It means “Never tickle a sleeping dragon.” It is a sage bit of advice, as the odds are, if you tickle a sleeping dragon, you are going to be burnt to a crisp in a few quick moments. Beyond that, it also feels like a warning against stirring the might of the school against you. This is never more clear than in the final battle for Hogwarts. Most of the students rally to protect their school, and the teachers roll up their sleeves in order to fight off Voldemort’s forces. Even the statues and magical creatures around the castle take up arms against the invaders. Voldemort tickled the sleeping dragon.
2. The Deer Love Triangle
Harry Potter’s dad, James Potter, has a stag for a Patronus. The reason for this, some assume, is that James’ animagus form is also a stag. When Tonks fell in love with Remus Lupin, her Patronus turned into a wolf, mimicking his shape when he transforms into a werewolf. With that in mind, it makes sense that Lily’s Patronus might have changed itself to match her love for James, becoming a doe for his stag. An addition to this deer family would be Snape’s Patronus. Snape had a deep, abiding love for Lily, and his Patronus remained a doe, even after she had died. That no one in this triangle of deer Patronuses lived a full and happy life is a true tragedy.
1. Depression Of Dementors
J. K. Rowling has stated that the feelings that she describes the Dementors inspiring are similar to how depression feels. When the Dementors lean in next to a poor, hapless victim, the victim is overcome by feelings of dismay and darkness, as if all the happiness in the world has been taken away in one swoop and shows no signs of ever returning. Dementors are coldness and darkness given form. She believes that more than making someone feel sadness, Dementors take away the hope of happiness, which is an embodiment of what depression is. She has felt these feelings herself, when she was stuck in poverty and when her mother died. We are glad that she found hope and continued with her series, because if there are any books that promote happiness, it is the Harry Potter series.
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