Professor Cuthbert Binns was the ghost of a bespectacled old wizard who lectured students on History of Magic at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He may have once attended the school as a student many years ago, achieving an O.W.L. and perhaps N.E.W.T. in the subject he went on to teach, History of Magic. Sometime after leaving the school, Binns became a professor there, owning an office in the main castle and Classroom 4F on the first floor to teach in. He taught until a very old age, when he fell asleep in the staff room and died in slumber. However, he continued to teach as a ghost, droning on about various Goblin Rebellions and Giant Wars to bored, sleeping students.
Professor Binns' lessons were regarded as some of the most boring at Hogwarts, and only once in known history did he talk about something not strictly factual. During the 1991–1992 school year, he gained the famous Harry Potter as a student, but, as he did not look up at the students from his notes, did not notice him. That year, he taught them about numerous characters such as Uric the Oddball and Emeric the Evil, whom the class always got confused with. The following academic year, he relayed the legend of the Chamber of Secrets to his second year class, but only after every student in the class showed complete and utter interest, despite initially stating the legend of the Chamber to be unimportant. He continued to teach Harry Potter and his class for three further years, until most, if not every, of his students dropped History of Magic. It is also possible that he took part in the Battle of Hogwarts, but, since he was non-corporeal, he may have just frightened the Death Eaters.
Cuthbert was born many, many decades ago to the Binns family, with Mr. Binns as his father. It was said that his father always used to say something to him, but Cuthbert fell asleep in the middle of his sentence before he could say what it was. He was educated in the magical arts at a wizarding school, likely Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry unless he was home-schooled by his father, and achieved high marks in History of Magic, probably earning an Ordinary Wizarding Level and perhaps even Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test in the subject. He graduated at some point in his sixth or seventh year, leaving briefly before his return to apply for the post as a professor. Before his return, however, it is possible that Cuthbert studied further into magical history, becoming a fully-fledged and educated historian before getting his career back at Hogwarts Castle.
Career at Hogwarts
- "Professor Binns opened his notes and began to read in a flat drone like an old vacuum cleaner until nearly everyone in the class was in a deep stupor, occasionally coming round long enough to copy down a name or date, then falling asleep again."
- —An average lesson with Professor Binns.[src]
At some point after his graduation, Cuthbert came to Hogwarts School and applied for the post of Professor of History of Magic, which he was granted. Cuthbert - now known as Professor Binns - was given Classroom 4F on the first floor near a mossy courtyard to teach in, as well as an office somewhere in the main castle.
His lessons were known to be the most boring in all of Hogwarts; he hovered an inch or so above his chair and read from his never-ending collection of notes. His students, whom he never payed any attention to, would fall asleep listening to his droning, reedy voice, eventually waking up to copy down a name or date, but falling asleep again.
Later Years and Death
- "Professor Binns had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff-room fire and got up next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him."
- —The story of Professor Binns' death.[src]
Professor Binns was still teaching well into his elderly years at Hogwarts, still lecturing students on History of Magic. Now so old that he looked like a wrinkled tortoise, Binns went down to the staff room on the ground floor and went to sleep in front of the fire. However, he died in his sleep and, when he got up to teach his next class, was a ghost. Regardless, he did not seem to notice, though he did begin to fly into his classroom through the blackboard, but his lessons were still just as boring as ever. His body was presumably buried outside of Hogwarts Castle, and he may have had a funeral, but it is unknown.
1991-1992 school year
During the 1991–1992 school year, Professor Binns gained the infamous Harry Potter as a student. However, Binns did not notice his legendary pupil, since he did not pay any attention to his class as he read through his notes, expecting them to copy down bullet points. That year, Binns taught his first years about historical figures such as Uric the Oddball and Emeric the Evil, whom his students always got confused with. Harry also said that he considered History of Magic to "easily [be] the most boring lesson" in the school.
1992-1993 school year
- Seamus Finnigan: "If the Chamber can only be opened by Slytherin's true heir, no one else would be able to find it, would they?"
- Binns: "Nonsense O'Flaherty. If a long succession of Hogwarts headmasters and headmistresses haven't found the thing-"
- Parvati Patil: "But, Professor, you'd probably have to use Dark Magic to open it-"
- Binns: "Just because a wizard doesn't use Dark Magic, doesn't mean he can't, Miss Pennyfeather. I repeat, if the likes of Dumbledore-"
- Dean Thomas: "But maybe you've got to be related to Slytherin, so Dumbledore couldn't -"
- Binns: "That will do. It is a myth! It does not exist! There is not a shred of evidence that Slytherin ever built so much as a secret broom cupboard!"
The following year, the Chamber of Secrets was reopened and Mrs. Norris, Argus Filch (the Caretaker's) cat, was Petrified by Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk. Regardless, the school ran as normal and one of Professor Binns' homework he gave out just after the attack was a three-foot essay on the The Medieval Assembly of European Wizards. While lecturing his second years on the International Warlocks' Convention of 1289, Hermione Granger raised her hand and asked about the legend of the Chamber. Despite initially refusing to grant her wish, he relayed the legend after seeing the unusual amount of interest and attention his class were giving him. After reciting the story, each of his pupils argued against his belief that there was no Chamber, but he put a stop to them and their theories and, within five minutes, had bored them to sleep with his lecture. Later on in the year, he was visited by the Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, who told him that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would be absent from his History of Magic class due to their visit to the Petrified Hermione Granger.
1993-1994 school year
During the 1993–1994 school year, Professor Binns continued to teach Harry Potter and his classmates. One night in the Winter Term, Binns allowed Professor Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, to teach Harry how to cast the Patronus Charm in Classroom 4F, the room where History of Magic lessons were held.
1994-1995 school year
The following academic year, Professor Binns gave his fourth years a huge workload of writing an entire composition every week, in preparation for their Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations in their next year. Since Harry Potter had been chosen as a champion for the Triwizard Tournament, he was exempt from the End-of-Term Exams, and so, payed less attention to Binns than usual and spent the time looking up fresh hexes for the Triwizard Tasks. It was known that one History of Magic lesson was two classes before the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament, followed by Transfiguration with Minerva McGonagall. Also, the History of Magic Fourth Year Exams were on the day of the Third and Final Task of the Tournament.
1995-1996 school year
- "Today, they suffered three quarters of an hour's droning on the subject of giant wars. Harry heard just enough within the first ten minutes to appreciate dimly that in another teacher's hands this subject might have been mildly interesting, but then his brain disengaged, and he spent the remaining thirty-five minutes playing hangman on a corner of his parchment with Ron, while Hermione shot them filthy looks out of the corner of her eye."
- —Professor Binns' first class of the new term.[src]
For one of his first classes of the 1995–1996 school year, known to be a Monday, Professor Binns lectured his fifth year students on wars caused and participated in by Giants, which would have been interesting had it been taught by a more competent teacher. After an hour of lecturing, Binns left the classroom through the blackboard. He had another History of Magic class the following Monday, just after Dolores Umbridge's appointment as the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts, which was noted to be just as boring, drowsy and depressing as the last. That year was the year of his students' Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations, and he made his students write down notes for them to revise from for their exams. It is possible that Umbridge inspected Binns' classes that year, but unlikely, since he taught a theoretical subject that would not help Professor Dumbledore form an army, which was the Ministry of Magic's idea of what was going on in the school.
1997-1998 school year
- "Professor Binns paused again, pursing his lips, looking like a wrinkled old tortoise."
- —A brief description of Professor Binns.[src]
Professor Binns, in his old age and as a ghost, was described as looking ancient and shrivelled, and looked a little like an old tortoise when he pursed his lips. He wore glasses, which were small and thick, and had a dry, reedy voice that sounded a lot like an old vacuum cleaner, droning on and on. As a ghost, he was pearly white or grey in colour and hovered a few inches over his chair while lecturing students.