All new information from Pottermore: "New from J.K. Rowling" & "J.K. Rowling's thoughts". For reference use only.
New from J.K. Rowling
Birthday: 5th June
Wand: Hawthorn and Unicorn hair, Ten inches, Springy
Hogwarts house: Slytherin
Parentage: Witch mother, wizard father
Draco Malfoy grew up as an only child at Malfoy Manor, the magnificent mansion in Wiltshire which had been in his family’s possession for many centuries. From the time when he could talk, it was made clear to him that he was triply special: firstly as a wizard, secondly as a pure-blood, and thirdly as a member of the Malfoy family.
Draco was raised in an atmosphere of regret that the Dark Lord had not succeeded in taking command of the wizarding community, although he was prudently reminded that such sentiments ought not to be expressed outside the small circle of the family and their close friends ‘or Daddy might get into trouble’. In childhood, Draco associated mainly with the pure-blood children of his father’s ex-Death Eater cronies, and therefore arrived at Hogwarts with a small gang of friends already made, including Theodore Nott and Vincent Crabbe.
Like every other child of Harry Potter’s age, Draco heard stories of the Boy Who Lived through his youth. Many different theories had been in circulation for years as to how Harry survived what should have been a lethal attack, and one of the most persistent was that Harry himself was a great Dark wizard. The fact that he had been removed from the wizarding community seemed (to wishful thinkers) to support this view, and Draco’s father, wily Lucius Malfoy, was one of those who subscribed most eagerly to the theory. It was comforting to think that he, Lucius, might be in for a second chance of world domination, should this Potter boy prove to be another, and greater, pure-blood champion. It was, therefore, in the knowledge that he was doing nothing of which his father would disapprove, and in the hope that he might be able to relay some interesting news home, that Draco Malfoy offered Harry Potter his hand when he realised who he was on the Hogwarts Express. Harry’s refusal of Draco’s friendly overtures, and the fact that he had already formed allegiance to Ron Weasley, whose family is anathema to the Malfoys, turns Malfoy against him at once. Draco realised, correctly, that the wild hopes of the ex-Death Eaters – that Harry Potter was another, and better, Voldemort – are completely unfounded, and their mutual enmity is assured from that point.
Draco’s feelings for Harry were always based, in a great part, on envy. Though he never sought fame, Harry was unquestionably the most talked-about and admired person at school, and this naturally jarred with a boy who had been brought up to believe that he occupied an almost royal position within the wizarding community. What was more, Harry was most talented at flying, the one skill at which Malfoy had been confident he would outshine all the other first-years. The fact that the Potions master, Snape, had a soft spot for Malfoy, and despised Harry, was only slight compensation.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Draco had many surnames before I settled on ‘Malfoy’. At various times in the earliest drafts he is Smart, Spinks or Spungen. His Christian name comes from a constellation - the dragon - and yet his wand core is of unicorn.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
This is a personal expression, which has nothing to do with tales of the dead.
Over the seventeen years that I planned and wrote the seven Harry Potter books (not to mention Quidditch through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard), I generated a mass of information about the magical world that never appeared in the books. I liked knowing these things (which was fortunate, given that I couldn't stop my imagination spewing it all out) and often, when I needed a throwaway detail, I had it ready because of the background I had developed.
I also found myself developing storylines for secondary (or even tertiary) characters that were superfluous to requirements. More of a wrench were the plots I worked out for some much more important characters that had to be sacrificed for the bigger story. All of these I inwardly termed 'ghost plots', my private expression for all the untold stories that sometimes seemed quite as real to me as the 'final cut'. I have occasionally been in conversation with a reader and made mention of part of a ghost plot; looks of consternation cross their faces as, for a split second, they ask themselves whether they have accidentally skipped twenty pages somewhere. I apologise to anyone I might have accidentally wrong-footed in this way; the problem is, literally, all in my head.
New from J.K. Rowling
Hogwarts is the most heavily haunted dwelling place in Britain (and this is against stiff competition, as there are more reported ghost sightings/sensings on these damp islands than anywhere else in the world). The castle is a congenial place for ghosts, because the living inhabitants treat their dead friends with tolerance and even affection, no matter how many times they have heard the same old reminiscences.
Each of the four Hogwarts houses has its own ghost. Slytherin boasts the Bloody Baron, who is covered in silver bloodstains. The least talkative of the house ghosts is the Grey Lady, who is long-haired and beautiful.
Hufflepuff house is haunted by the Fat Friar, who was executed because senior churchmen grew suspicious of his ability to cure the pox merely by poking peasants with a stick, and his ill-advised habit of pulling rabbits out of the communion cup. Though a genial character in general, the Fat Friar still resents the fact that he was never made a cardinal.
Gryffindor house is home to Nearly Headless Nick, who in life was Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington. Something of a snob, and a less accomplished wizard than he believed, Sir Nicholas lounged around the court of Henry VII in life, until his foolish attempt to beautify a lady-in-waiting by magic caused the unfortunate woman to sprout tusks. Sir Nicholas was stripped of his wand and inexpertly executed, leaving his head hanging off by a single flap of skin and sinew. He retains a feeling of inadequacy with regard to truly headless ghosts.
Another notable Hogwarts ghost is Moaning Myrtle, who haunts an unpopular girls' toilet. Myrtle was a student at Hogwarts when she died, and she chose to return to school in perpetuity, with the short-term aim of haunting her arch-rival and bully, Olive Hornby. As the decades have rolled by, Myrtle has made a name for herself as the most miserable ghost in school, usually to be found lurking inside one of the toilets and filling the tiled space with her moans and howls.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
The inspiration for Moaning Myrtle was the frequent presence of a crying girl in communal bathrooms, especially at the parties and discos of my youth. This does not seem to happen in male bathrooms, so I enjoyed placing Harry and Ron in such uncomfortable and unfamiliar territory in HARRY POTTER and the Chamber of Secrets and HARRY POTTER and the Half-Blood Prince).
The most productive ghost at Hogwarts is, of course, Professor Binns, the old History of Magic teacher who fell asleep in front of the staff-room fire one day and simply got up to give his next class, leaving his body behind. There is some debate as to whether or not Professor Binns realises he is dead. While his entrance to lessons through the blackboard is vaguely amusing the first time students see it, he is not the most stimulating teacher.
The inspiration for Professor Binns was an old professor at my university, who gave every lecture with his eyes closed, rocking backwards and forwards slightly on his toes. While he was a brilliant man, who disgorged an immense amount of valuable information at every lecture, his disconnect with his students was total. Professor Binns is only dimly aware of his living students, and is astonished when they begin asking him questions.
In the very earliest list of ghosts I ever wrote for Hogwarts, I included Myrtle (initially named 'Wailing Wanda'), Professor Binns, the Grey Lady (then called 'the Whispering Lady') and the Bloody Baron. There was also a Black Knight, The Toad (which left ectoplasm all over its classroom), and a ghost I rather regret not using: his name was Edmund Grubb, and the notes beside his name say: Expired in the doorway of the Dining Hall. Sometimes stops people getting in, out of spite. Fat Victorian ghost. (Ate poisonous berries).
New from J.K. Rowling
Marjorie Eileen Dursley is the older sister of Vernon Dursley. Although no blood relation of Harry Potter, he has been taught to call her ‘Aunt Marge’.
Marge is a large and unpleasant woman whose main interest in life is breeding bulldogs. She believes in corporal punishment and plain speaking, which is what she calls being offensive. Marge is secretly in love with a neighbour called Colonel Fubster, who looks after her dogs when she is away. He will never marry her, due to her truly horrible personality. This unrequited passion fuels a lot of her nasty behaviour to other people.
Marge dotes on Dudley, her only nephew. She does not know that Harry Potter, who lives with her relatives, is a wizard. She believes him to be the offspring of two unemployed layabouts who dumped their son on their hardworking relatives, Vernon and Petunia. The latter, who are terrified of the prejudiced and outspoken Marge finding out the truth, have fostered this impression over many years.
When Harry becomes angry with Aunt Marge, who has been insulting his parents, and loses control over his magical abilities, she is blown up like a barrage balloon. Two members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad must be dispatched from the Ministry of Magic to deal with this incident and modify Aunt Marge’s memory. From that time forward, the Dursleys do not invite Marge to stay while Harry is in residence and he never sees her again.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
I regret making Aunt Marge a breeder of bulldogs, as I now know them to be a non-aggressive breed. My sister owns one and he’s the most loveable, affectionate dog you could hope to meet. On the other hand, they do look grumpy, and on appearance alone seemed to suit Aunt Marge.
New from J.K. Rowling
Birthday: 25th September
Wand: Hornbeam and dragon heartstring, twelve and three-quarter inches, slightly bendy
Hogwarts house: Ravenclaw
Special abilities: An incomparable understanding of wandcraft
Parentage: Wizard father, Muggle-born mother
Family: Married, one son, one daughter (deceased)
Hobbies: None; his profession is his obsession
The family of Ollivander has long been associated with the mysterious profession of wandcraft. It is said that the name means 'he who owns the olive wand', which suggests that the original Ollivander arrived in Britain from a Mediterranean country (olive trees not being native to the UK). Mr Ollivander himself believes that his earliest forebears in this country arrived with the Romans, and set up stall (subsequently shop) to sell to ancient British wizards whose wands were crude of construction and unreliable in performance.
Mr Ollivander is arguably the finest maker of wands in the world, and many foreigners travel to London to purchase one of his wands in preference to those on offer in their native lands. Mr Ollivander grew up in the family business, in which he showed precocious talent. He had the ambition of improving upon the cores and wand woods hitherto used and from his earliest days conceived a single-minded, even fanatical, determination in his pursuit of the ideal wand.
Prior to Mr Ollivander's proprietorship of the family business, wizards used a wide variety of wand cores. A customer would often present the wandmaker with a magical substance to which they were attached, or had inherited, or by which their family swore (hinted at by the core of Fleur Delacour's wand). Mr Ollivander, however, was a purist who insisted that the best wands would never be produced merely by encasing the whiskers of a favourite Kneazle (or the stalk of a Dittany plant that once saved a wizard's father from poisoning, or the mane of a kelpie a witch had once met on holiday in Scotland) in the customer's favourite wood. The best wands, he believed, had cores of immensely powerful magical substances, which were expertly enclosed in specially selected and complementary wandwoods, the result to be matched to an owner with whom the wand itself felt the most affinity. While there was initially substantial resistance to this revolutionary way of crafting wands, it swiftly became clear that Ollivander wands were infinitely superior to anything that had come before. His methods of locating wand woods and core substances marrying them together and matching them to ideal owners are all jealously guarded secrets that were coveted by rival wandmakers.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Nicolas Flamel was a real person. I read about him in my early twenties when I came across one of the versions of his life story. It told how he had bought a mysterious book called The Book of Abraham the Jew, which was full of strange symbols and which Flamel realised were instructions on alchemy. The story went that he subsequently made it his life's work to produce the Philosopher's Stone.
The real Flamel was a wealthy businessman and a noted philanthropist. There are streets in Paris named after him and his wife, Perenelle.
I remember having a highly detailed and exceptionally vivid dream about Flamel, several months into the writing of Philosopher's Stone, which was like a renaissance painting come to life. Flamel was leading me around his cluttered laboratory, which was bathed in golden light, and showing me exactly how to make the Stone (I wish I could remember how to do it).
New from J.K. Rowling
The name 'poltergeist' is German in origin, and roughly translates as 'noisy ghost', although it is not, strictly speaking, a ghost at all. The poltergeist is an invisible entity that moves objects, slams doors and creates other audible, kinetic disturbances. It has been reported in many cultures and there is a strong association with the places where young people, especially adolescents, are living. Explanations for the phenomenon vary all the way from supernatural to scientific.
It was inevitable that, in a building bursting with teenage witches and wizards, a poltergeist would be generated; it was likewise to be expected that such a poltergeist would be noisier, more destructive and harder to expel than those that occasionally frequent Muggle houses. Sure enough, Peeves is the most notorious and troublesome poltergeist in British history. Unlike the overwhelming majority of his colleagues, Peeves has a physical form, though he is able to become invisible at will. His looks reflect his nature, which those who know him would agree is a seamless blend of humour and malice.
Peeves is well-named, for he has been a pet peeve of every Hogwarts caretaker from Hankerton Humble (appointed by the four founders) onwards. Though many students and even teachers have a somewhat perverse fondness for Peeves (he undoubtedly adds a certain zest to school life), he is incurably disruptive, and it generally falls to the caretaker of the day to clean up his many deliberate messes: vases smashed, potions upended, bookcases toppled and so on. Those with weak nerves deplore Peeves' fondness for suddenly materialising an inch from the end of their noses, hiding in suits of armour or dropping solid objects on their heads as they move between classes.
Several concerted efforts to remove Peeves from the castle have resulted in failure. The last and most disastrous was made in 1876 by caretaker Rancorous Carpe, who devised an elaborate trap, baited with an assortment of weapons he believed would be irresistible to Peeves, and a vast enchanted bell jar, reinforced by various Containment Charms, which he intended to drop over the poltergeist once he was in place. Not only did Peeves break easily through the giant bell jar, showering an entire corridor with broken glass, he also escaped the trap armed with several cutlasses, crossbows, a blunderbuss and a miniature cannon. The castle was evacuated while Peeves amused himself by firing randomly out of the windows and threatening all and sundry with death. A three-day standoff was ended when the Headmistress of the day, Eupraxia Mole, agreed to sign a contract allowing Peeves additional privileges, such as a once-weekly swim in the boys' toilets on the ground floor, first refusal on stale bread from the kitchen for throwing purposes, and a new hat – to be custom-made by Madame Bonhabille of Paris. Rancorous Carpe took early retirement for health reasons, and no subsequent attempt has ever been made to rid the castle of its most ill-disciplined inhabitant.
Peeves does recognise authority of a sort. Though generally unimpressed by titles and badges, he is generally amenable to the strictures of the teachers, agreeing to stay out of their classrooms while they teach. He has also been known to show an affinity for rare students (notably Fred and George Weasley), and is certainly afraid of the ghost of Slytherin, the Bloody Baron.
New from J.K. Rowling
Birthday: 22nd November
Wand: Chestnut and phoenix feather, eleven and a half inches, whippy
Hogwarts house: Hufflepuff
Special abilities: Encyclopedic knowledge of magical creatures, fearlessness
Parentage: Magical father, magical mother
Family: No wife, no children
Hobbies: Dangerous creatures are both his work and his hobby
Silvanus Kettleburn was the Care of Magical Creatures teacher at Hogwarts until Harry’s third year, when he was replaced by Rubeus Hagrid.
Kettleburn was an enthusiastic and occasionally reckless man whose great love of the often dangerous creatures he studied and looked after led to serious injuries to himself and, occasionally, others. This fact led to no fewer than sixty-two periods of probation during his time of employment at the school (a record that still stands). Like Hagrid after him, he was prone to underestimating the risks involved in caring for creatures such as Occamys, Grindylows and Fire Crabs, and once famously caused the Great Hall to catch fire after enchanting an Ashwinder to play the Worm in a play of ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune’.
Kettleburn was a loveable if eccentric man and his continuing employment at the school was evidence of the great affection in which staff and students held him. He finished his career with only one arm and half a leg. Albus Dumbledore presented him with a full set of enchanted wooden limbs on his retirement, a gift that had to be replaced regularly since, because Kettleburn’s habit of visiting dragon sanctuaries in his spare time meant that his prosthetics were frequently set on fire.
New from J.K. Rowling
Birthday: 4th October
Wand: Fir and dragon heartstring, nine and a half inches, stiff
Hogwarts house: Gryffindor
Special abilities: Animagus (distinctively marked silver tabby cat)
Parentage: Muggle father, witch mother
Family: Husband Elphinstone Urquart, deceased. No children
Hobbies: Needlework, correcting articles in Transfiguration Today, watching Quidditch, supporting the Montrose Magpies
Minerva McGonagall was the first child, and only daughter, of a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a Hogwarts-educated witch. She grew up in the Highlands of Scotland in the early twentieth century, and only gradually became aware that there was something strange, both about her own abilities, and her parents’ marriage.
Minerva’s father, the Reverend Robert McGonagall, had become captivated by the high-spirited Isobel Ross, who lived in the same village. Like his neighbours, Robert believed that Isobel attended a select ladies’ boarding school in England. In fact, when Isobel vanished from her home for months at a time, it was to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that she went.
Aware that her parents (a witch and wizard) would frown on a connection with the serious young Muggle, Isobel kept their burgeoning relationship a secret. By the time she was eighteen, she had fallen in love with Robert. Unfortunately, she had not found the courage to tell him what she was.
The couple eloped, to the fury of both sets of parents. Now estranged from her family, Isobel could not bring herself to mar the bliss of the honeymoon by telling her smitten new husband that she had graduated top of her class in Charms at Hogwarts, nor that she had been Captain of the school Quidditch team. Isobel and Robert moved into a manse (minister’s house) on the outskirts of Caithness, where the beautiful Isobel proved surprisingly adept at making the most of the minister’s tiny salary.
The birth of the young couple’s first child, Minerva, proved both a joy and a crisis. Missing her family, and the magical community she had given up for love, Isobel insisted on naming her newborn daughter after her own grandmother, an immensely talented witch. The outlandish name raised eyebrows in the community in which she lived, and the Reverend Robert McGonagall found it difficult to explain his wife’s choice to his parishioners. Furthermore, he was alarmed by his wife’s moodiness. Friends assured him that women were often emotional after the birth of a baby, and that Isobel would soon be herself again.
Isobel, however, became more and more withdrawn, often secluding herself with Minerva for days at a time. Isobel later told her daughter that she had displayed small, but unmistakable, signs of magic from her earliest hours. Toys that had been left on upper shelves were found in her cot. The family cat appeared to do her bidding before she could talk. Her father’s bagpipes were occasionally heard to play themselves from distant rooms, a phenomenon that made the infant Minerva chuckle.
Isobel was torn between pride and fear. She knew that she must confess the truth to Robert before he witnessed something that would alarm him. At last, in response to Robert’s patient questioning, Isobel burst into tears, retrieved her wand from the locked box under her bed and showed him what she was.
Although Minerva was too young to remember that night, its aftermath left her with a bitter understanding of the complications of growing up with magic in a Muggle world. Although Robert McGonagall loved his wife no less upon discovering that she was a witch, he was profoundly shocked by her revelation, and by the fact that she had kept such a secret from him for so long. What was more, he, who prided himself on being an upright and honest man, was now drawn into a life of secrecy that was quite foreign to his nature. Isobel explained, through her sobs, that she (and their daughter) were bound by the International Statute of Secrecy, and that they must conceal the truth about themselves, or face the fury of the Ministry of Magic. Robert also quailed at the thought of how the locals - in the main, an austere, straight-laced and conventional breed - would feel about having a witch as their Minister’s wife.
Love endured, but trust had been broken between her parents, and Minerva, a clever and observant child, saw this with sadness. Two more children, both sons, were born to the McGonagalls, and both, in due course, revealed magical ability. Minerva helped her mother explain to Malcolm and Robert Junior that they must not flaunt their magic, and aided her mother in concealing from their father the accidents and embarrassments their magic sometimes caused.
Minerva was very close to her Muggle father, whom in temperament she resembled more than her mother. She saw with pain how much he struggled with the family’s strange situation. She sensed, too, how much of a strain it was for her mother to fit in with the all-Muggle village, and how much she missed the freedom of being with her kind, and of exercising her considerable talents. Minerva never forgot how much her mother cried, when the letter of admittance into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry arrived on Minerva’s eleventh birthday; she knew that Isobel was sobbing, not only out of pride, but also out of envy.
As is often the case where the young witch or wizard comes from a family who has struggled with its magical identity, Hogwarts was, for Minerva McGonagall, a place of joyful release and freedom.
Minerva drew unusual attention to herself on her very first evening, when she was revealed to be a Hatstall. After five and a half minutes, the Sorting Hat, which had been vacillating between the houses of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, placed Minerva in the latter. (In later years, this circumstance was a subject of gentle humour between Minerva and her colleague Filius Flitwick, over whom the Sorting Hat suffered the same confusion, but reached the opposite conclusion. The two Heads of house were amused to think that they might, but for those crucial moments in their youths, have exchanged positions).
Minerva was quickly recognised as the most outstanding student of her year, with a particular talent for Transfiguration. As she progressed through the school, she demonstrated that she had inherited both her mother’s talents and her father’s cast-iron moral sense. Minerva’s school career overlapped by two years with that of Pomona Sprout, later Head of Hufflepuff House, and the two women enjoyed an excellent relationship both then, and in later years.
By the end of her education at Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall had achieved an impressive record: top grades in O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, Prefect, Head Girl, and winner of the Transfiguration Today Most Promising Newcomer award. Under the guidance of her inspirational Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore, she had managed to become an Animagus; her animal form, with its distinctive markings (tabby cat, square spectacles markings around eyes) were duly logged in the Ministry of Magic’s Animagus Registry. Minerva was also, like her mother, a gifted Quidditch player, although a nasty fall in her final year (a foul during the Gryffindor versus Slytherin game which would decide the Cup winner) left her with concussion, several broken ribs and a lifelong desire to see Slytherin crushed on the Quidditch pitch. Though she gave up Quidditch on leaving Hogwarts, the innately competitive Professor McGonagall later took a keen interest in the fortunes of her house team, and retained a keen eye for Quidditch talent.
Upon graduation from Hogwarts, Minerva returned to the manse to enjoy one last summer with her family before setting out for London, where she had been offered a position at the Ministry of Magic (Department of Magical Law Enforcement). These months were to prove some of the most difficult of Minerva’s life, for it was then, aged only eighteen, that she proved herself truly her mother’s daughter, by falling head-over-heels in love with a Muggle boy.
It was the first and only time in Minerva McGonagall’s life that she might have been said to lose her head. Dougal McGregor was the handsome, clever and funny son of a local farmer. Though less beautiful than Isobel, Minerva was clever and witty. Dougal and Minerva shared a sense of humour, argued fiercely, and suspected mysterious depths in each other. Before either of them knew it, Dougal was on one knee in a ploughed field, proposing, and Minerva was accepting him.
She went home, intending to tell her parents of her engagement, yet found herself unable to do so. All that night she lay awake, thinking about her future. Dougal did not know what she, Minerva, truly was, any more than her father had known the truth about Isobel before they had married. Minerva had witnessed at close quarters the kind of marriage she might have if she wed Dougal. It would be the end of all her ambitions; it would mean a wand locked away, and children taught to lie, perhaps even to their own father. She did not fool herself that Dougal McGregor would accompany her to London, while she went to work every day at the Ministry. He was looking forward to inheriting his father’s farm.
Early next morning, Minerva slipped from her parents’ house and went to tell Dougal that she had changed her mind, and could not marry him. Mindful of the fact that if she broke the International Statute of Secrecy she would lose the job at the Ministry for which she was giving him up, she could give him no good reason for her change of heart. She left him devastated, and set out for London three days later.
Though undoubtedly her feelings for the Ministry of Magic were coloured by the fact that she had recently suffered an emotional crisis, Minerva McGonagall did not much enjoy her new home and workplace. Some of her co-workers had an engrained anti-Muggle bias which, given her adoration of her Muggle father, and her continuing love for Dougal McGregor, she deplored. Though a most efficient and gifted employee, and fond of her much older boss, Elphinstone Urquart, Minerva was unhappy in London, and found that she missed Scotland. Finally, after two years at the Ministry, she was offered a prestigious promotion, yet found herself turning it down. She sent an owl to Hogwarts, asking whether she might be considered for a teaching post. The owl returned within hours, offering her a job in the Transfiguration department, under Head of Department, Albus Dumbledore.
Friendship with Albus Dumbledore
The school greeted Minerva McGonagall’s return with delight. Minerva threw herself into her work, proving herself a strict but inspirational teacher. If she kept letters from Dougal McGregor locked in a box under her bed, this was (she told herself firmly) better than keeping her wand locked there. Nevertheless, it was a shock to learn from the oblivious Isobel (in the middle of a chatty letter of local news) that Dougal had married the daughter of another farmer.
Albus Dumbledore discovered Minerva in tears in her classroom late that evening, and she confessed the whole story to him. Albus Dumbledore offered both comfort and wisdom, and told Minerva some of his own family history, previously unknown to her. The confidences exchanged that night between two intensely private and reserved characters were to form the basis of a lasting mutual esteem and friendship.
Through all her early years at Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall remained on terms of friendship with her old boss at the Ministry, Elphinstone Urquart. He came to visit her while on holiday to Scotland, and to her great surprise and embarrassment, proposed marriage in Madam Puddifoot’s teashop. Still in love with Dougal McGregor, Minerva turned him down.
Elphinstone, however, had never ceased to love her, nor to propose every now and then, even though she continued to refuse him. The death of Dougal McGregor, however, although traumatic, seemed to free Minerva. Shortly after Voldemort’s first defeat, Elphinstone, now white-haired, proposed again during a summertime stroll around the lake in the Hogwarts grounds. This time Minerva accepted. Elphinstone, now retired, was beside himself with joy, and purchased a small cottage in Hogsmeade for the pair of them, whence Minerva could travel easily to work every day.
Known to successive generations of students as ‘Professor McGonagall,’ Minerva - always something of a feminist - announced that she would be keeping her own name upon marriage. Traditionalists sniffed - why was Minerva refusing to accept a pure-blood name, and keeping that of her Muggle father?
The marriage (cut tragically short, though it was destined to be) was a very happy one. Though they had no children of their own, Minerva’s nieces and nephews (children of her brothers Malcolm and Robert) were frequent visitors to their home. This was a period of great fulfillment for Minerva.
The accidental death of Elphinstone from a Venomous Tentacula bite, three years into their marriage, was an enormous sorrow to all who knew the couple. Minerva could not bear to remain alone in their cottage, but packed her things after Elphinstone’s funeral and returned to her sparse stone-floored bedroom in Hogwarts Castle, accessible through a concealed door in the wall of her first-floor study. Always a very brave and private person, she poured all her energies into her work, and few people - excepting perhaps Albus Dumbledore - ever realised how much she suffered.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.
A small sample of his work will give a flavour of its unintentional comedic value. The following was written as part of a poem commemorating a Victorian railway disaster:
- Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
- Alas! I am very sorry to say
- That ninety lives have been taken away
- On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
- Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
New from J.K. Rowling
Birthday: 26th September
Wand: Alder and unicorn hair, nine inches long, bendy
Hogwarts house: Ravenclaw
Special abilities: Learned in the theory of Defensive Magic, less adept in the practise
Family: Unmarried, no children
Hobbies: Travel, pressing wild flowers
Harry’s first Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher is a clever young wizard who took a ‘Grand Tour’ around the world before taking up his teaching post at Hogwarts. When Harry first meets Quirrell, he has adopted a turban for everyday wear. His nerves, expressed most obviously in his stammer, are so pronounced that it is rumoured the turban is stuffed full of garlic, to ward off vampires.
I saw Quirrell as a gifted but delicate boy, who would probably have been teased for his timidity and nerves during his school life. Feeling inadequate and wishing to prove himself, he developed an (initially theoretical) interest in the Dark Arts. Like many people who feel themselves to be insignificant, even laughable, Quirrell had a latent desire to make the world sit up and notice him.
Quirrell set out deliberately to find whatever remained of the Dark wizard, partly out of curiosity, partly out of that unacknowledged desire for importance. At the very least, Quirrell fantasised that he could be the man who tracked Voldemort down, but at best, might learn skills from Voldemort that would ensure he was never laughed at again.
Though Hagrid was correct in saying that Quirrell had a ‘brilliant mind,’ the Hogwarts teacher was both naive and arrogant in thinking that he would be able to control an encounter with Voldemort, even in the Dark wizard's weakened state. When Voldemort realised that the young man had a position at Hogwarts, he took immediate possession of Quirrell, who was incapable of resisting.
While Quirrell did not lose his soul, he became completely subjugated by Voldemort, who caused a frightful mutation of Quirrell's body: now Voldemort looked out of the back of Quirrell's head and directed his movements, even forcing him to attempt murder. Quirrell tried to put up feeble resistance on occasion, but Voldemort was far too strong for him.
Quirrell is, in effect, turned into a temporary Horcrux by Voldemort. He is greatly depleted by the physical strain of fighting the far stronger, evil soul inside him. Quirrell’s body manifests burns and blisters during his fight with Harry due to the protective power Harry's mother left in his skin when she died for him. When the body Voldemort and Quirrell are sharing is horribly burned by contact with Harry, the former flees just in time to save himself, leaving the damaged and enfeebled Quirrell to collapse and die.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Quirinus was a Roman God about whom there is not much information, although he is commonly associated with war - a clue that Quirrell is not quite as meek as he appears. ‘Quirrell,’ which is so nearly ‘squirrel’ - small, cute and harmless - also suggested ‘quiver,’ a nod to the character's innate nervousness.
New from J.K. Rowling
The term 'pure-blood' refers to a family or individual without Muggle (non-magic) blood. The concept is generally associated with Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, whose aversion to teaching anybody of Muggle parentage eventually led to a breach with his three fellow founders, and his resignation from the school.
Slytherin's discrimination on the basis of parentage was considered an unusual and misguided view by the majority of wizards at the time. Contemporary literature suggests that Muggle-borns were not only accepted, but often considered to be particularly gifted. They went by the affectionate name of 'Magbobs' (there has been much debate about the origin of the term, but it seems most likely to be that in such a case, magic 'bobbed up' out of nowhere).
Magical opinion underwent something of a shift after the International Statute of Secrecy became effective in 1692, when the magical community went into voluntary hiding following persecution by Muggles. This was a traumatic time for witches and wizards, and marriages with Muggles dropped to their lowest level ever known, mainly because of fears that intermarriage would lead inevitably to discovery, and, consequently, to a serious infraction of wizarding law.*
Under such conditions of uncertainty, fear and resentment, the pure-blood doctrine began to gain followers. As a general rule, those who adopted it were also those who had most strenuously opposed the International Statute of Secrecy, advocating instead outright war on the Muggles. Increasing numbers of wizards now preached that marriage with a Muggle did not merely risk a possible breach of the new Statute, but that it was shameful, unnatural and would lead to 'contamination' of magical blood.**
As Muggle/wizard marriage had been common for centuries, those now self-describing as pure-bloods were unlikely to have any higher proportion of wizarding ancestors than those who did not. To call oneself a pure-blood was more accurately a declaration of political or social intent ('I will not marry a Muggle and I consider Muggle/wizard marriage reprehensible') than a statement of biological fact.
Several works of dubious scholarship, published around the early eighteenth century and drawing partly on the writings of Salazar Slytherin himself, make reference to supposed indicators of pure-blood status, aside from the family tree. The most commonly cited signs were: onset of magical ability before the age of three, early (before aged seven) prowess on a broomstick, dislike or fear of pigs and those who tend them (the pig is often considered a particularly non-magical animal and is notoriously difficult to charm), resistance to common childhood illnesses, outstanding physical attractiveness and an aversion to Muggles observable even in the pure-blood baby, which supposedly shows signs of fear and disgust in their presence.
Successive studies produced by the Department of Mysteries have proven that these supposed hallmarks of pure-blood status have no basis in fact. Nevertheless, many pure-bloods continue to cite them as evidence of their own higher status within the wizarding community.
In the early 1930s, a 'Pure-Blood Directory' was published anonymously in Britain, which listed the twenty-eight truly pure-blood families, as judged by the unknown authority who had written the book***, with 'the aim of helping such families maintain the purity of their bloodlines'. The so-called 'Sacred Twenty-Eight' comprised the families of:
A minority of these families publicly deplored their inclusion on the list, declaring that their ancestors certainly included Muggles, a fact of which they were not ashamed. Most vocally indignant was the numerous Weasley family, which, in spite of its connections with almost every old wizarding family in Britain, was proud of its ancestral ties to many interesting Muggles. Their protests earned these families the opprobrium of advocates of the pure-blood doctrine, and the epithet 'blood traitor'. Meanwhile, a larger number of families were protesting that they were not on the pure-blood list.
* Over subsequent decades and centuries, the number of mixed marriages began to climb again until the healthy levels of today, and this has not led to widespread discovery of the hidden magical community. Professor Mordicus Egg, author of The Philosophy of the Mundane: Why the Muggles Prefer Not to Know, points out that Muggles in love generally do not betray their husbands or wives, and Muggles who fall out of love are jeered at by their own community when they assert that their estranged partner is a witch or wizard.
** In fact, the reverse appears to be true. Where families adhered consistently to the practice of marrying within a very small group of fellow witches and wizards, mental and physical instability and weakness seems to result.
*** Widely believed to be Cantankerus Nott.
New from J.K. Rowling
Wand: (according to legend) Blackthorn and troll whisker, nine inches, combustible
Hogwarts house: Gryffindor
Special abilities: Insane bravery
Parentage: Wizard father, witch mother
Family: Three wives are believed to have left him, rumoured to have had seventeen known children
Before the wizarding community was forced into hiding, it was not unusual for a wizard to live in the Muggle community and hold down what we would now think of as a Muggle job.
It is widely believed in wizarding circles that Sir Cadogan was one of the famous Knights of the Round Table, albeit a little-known one, and that he achieved this position through his friendship with Merlin. He has certainly been excised from all Muggle volumes of King Arthur’s story, but wizarding versions of the tales include Sir Cadogan alongside Sir Lancelot, Sir Bedivere and Sir Percivale. These tales reveal him to be hot-headed and peppery, and brave to the point of foolhardiness, but a good man in a corner.
Sir Cadogan’s most famous encounter was with the Wyvern of Wye, a dragonish creature that was terrorizing the West Country. At their first encounter, the beast ate Sir Cadogan’s handsome steed, bit his wand in half and melted his sword and visor. Unable to see through the steam rising from his melting helmet, Sir Cadogan barely escaped with his life. However, rather than running away, he staggered into a nearby meadow, grabbed a small, fat pony grazing there, leapt upon it and galloped back towards the wyvern with nothing but his broken wand in his hand, prepared to meet a valiant death. The creature lowered its fearsome head to swallow Sir Cadogan and the pony whole, but the splintered and misfiring wand pierced its tongue, igniting the gassy fumes rising from its stomach and causing the wyvern to explode.
Elderly witches and wizards still use the saying ‘I’ll take Cadogan’s pony’ to mean, ‘I’ll salvage the best I can from a tricky situation’.
Sir Cadogan’s portrait, which hangs on the seventh floor of Hogwarts Castle, shows him with the pony he rode forever more (which, understandably perhaps, never much liked him) and accurately depicts his hot temper, his love of a foolhardy challenge and his determination to beat the enemy, come what may.
The Malfoy Family
New from J.K. Rowling
The Malfoy name comes from old French and translates as 'bad faith'. Like many other progenitors of noble English families, the wizard Armand Malfoy arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror as part of the invading Norman army. Having rendered unknown, shady (and almost certainly magical) services to King William I, Malfoy was given a prime piece of land in Wiltshire, seized from local landowners, upon which his descendants have lived for ten consecutive centuries.
Their wily ancestor Armand encapsulated many of the qualities that have distinguished the Malfoy family to the present day. The Malfoys have always had the reputation, hinted at by their not altogether complimentary surname, of being a slippery bunch, to be found courting power and riches wherever they might be found. In spite of their espousal of pure-blood values and their undoubtedly genuine belief in wizards' superiority over Muggles, the Malfoys have never been above ingratiating themselves with the non-magical community when it suits them. The result is that they are one of the richest wizarding families in Britain, and it has been rumoured for many years (though never proven) that over the centuries the family has dabbled successfully in Muggle currency and assets. Over hundreds of years, they have managed to add to their lands in Wiltshire by annexing those of neighbouring Muggles, and the favour they curried with royalty added Muggle treasures and works of art to an ever-expanding collection.
Historically, the Malfoys drew a sharp distinction between poor Muggles and those with wealth and authority. Until the imposition of the Statute of Secrecy in 1692, the Malfoy family was active within high-born Muggle circles, and it is said that their fervent opposition to the imposition of the Statute was due, in part, to the fact that they would have to withdraw from this enjoyable sphere of social life. Though hotly denied by subsequent generations, there is ample evidence to suggest that the first Lucius Malfoy was an unsuccessful aspirant to the hand of Elizabeth I, and some wizarding historians allege that the Queen's subsequent opposition to marriage was due to a jinx placed upon her by the thwarted Malfoy.
With that healthy degree of self-preservation that has characterised most of their actions over the centuries, once the Statute of Secrecy had passed into law the Malfoys ceased fraternising with Muggles, however well-born, and accepted that further opposition and protests could only distance them from the new heart of power: the newly created Ministry of Magic. They performed an abrupt volte-face, and became as vocally supportive of the Statute as any of those who had championed it from the beginning, hastening to deny that they had ever been on speaking (or marrying) terms with Muggles.
The substantial wealth at their disposal ensured them considerable (and much resented) influence at the Ministry for generations to come, though no Malfoy has ever aspired to the role of Minister for Magic. It is often said of the Malfoy family that you will never find one at the scene of the crime, though their fingerprints might be all over the guilty wand. Independently wealthy, with no need to work for a living, they have generally preferred the role of power behind the throne, happy for others to do the donkey work and to take the responsibility for failure. They have helped finance many of their preferred candidates’ election campaigns, which have (it is alleged) included paying for dirty work such as hexing the opposition.
The Malfoys' unfeigned contempt for all Muggles who could not offer them jewels or influence, and for the majority of their fellow wizards, drew them naturally towards the pure-blood doctrine, which seemed for several years in the twentieth century to be their likeliest source of untrammelled power. From the imposition of the Statute of Secrecy onwards, no Malfoy has married a Muggle or Muggle-born. The family has, however, eschewed the somewhat dangerous practice of inter-marrying within such a small pool of pure-bloods that they become enfeebled or unstable, unlike a small minority of fanatic families such as the Gaunts and Lestranges, and many a half-blood appears on the Malfoy family tree.
Notable Malfoys of past generations include the fourteenth-century Nicholas Malfoy, who is believed to have dispatched many a fractious Muggle tenant under the guise of the Black Death, though escaping censure by the Wizards' Council; Septimus Malfoy, who was greatly influential at the Ministry in the late eighteenth century, many claiming that Minister for Magic Unctuous Osbert was little more than his puppet; and Abraxas Malfoy, who was widely believed to be part of the shady plot that saw the first Muggle-born Minister (Nobby Leach) leave his post prematurely in 1968 (nothing was ever proven against Malfoy).
Abraxas’s son, Lucius, achieved notoriety as one of Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters, though he successfully evaded prison after both Lord Voldemort's attempted coups. On the first occasion, he claimed to have been acting under the Imperius Curse (though many claimed he called in favours from high-placed Ministry officials); on the second occasion, he provided evidence against fellow Death Eaters and helped ensure the capture of many of Lord Voldemort's followers who had fled into hiding. His son, Draco, was saved by Harry Potter during the Battle of Hogwarts, and currently resides at the family estate in Wiltshire.
The Original Forty
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Two of my most prized possessions are a pair of small notebooks, which contain my very first scribblings about Harry Potter. Much of what is written in them was never used in the series, although it is startling to come across the odd line of dialogue that subsequently made it, verbatim, to publication.
In one of the books is a list of forty names of students in Harry's year (including Harry, Ron and Hermione), all allocated houses, with small symbols beside each name depicting each boy or girl's parentage.
While I imagined that there would be considerably more than forty students in each year at Hogwarts, I thought that it would be useful to know a proportion of Harry's classmates, and to have names at my fingertips when action was taking place around the school.
As the stories evolved, I changed the parentage of some of the original forty. While some never appeared in the books at all, I always knew that they were there; some had surgery to their names after their first creation; a few emerged from the background to have their own secondary stories (Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbott, Justin Finch-Fletchley), and one, Neville Longbottom, developed into a very important character. It is very strange to look at the list in this tiny notebook now, slightly water-stained by some forgotten mishap, and covered in light pencil scribblings (undoubtedly the work of my then infant daughter, Jessica), and to think that while I was writing these names, and refining them, and sorting them into houses, I had no clue where they were going to go (or where they were going to take me).
Here, then, are the original forty:
Granger, Hermione - inserted in pencil, see crossed-out entry, below
Longbottom, Neville - inserted in ink, see crossed out entry, below
MacDougal, Isobel (original name Katrina crossed out)
Malfoy, Draco - inserted in ink, see crossed-out entry, below
Moon, Lily (first intimation of Luna Lovegood, this name was never used, but gave me an idea for a fey, dreamy girl. She was named before I decided on Harry's mother's name.)
(Puckle, Hermione - crossed out, name changed and reinserted, above)
(Puff, Neville - crossed out, name changed and reinserted, above)
(Quirrel, crossed out, subsequently used for teacher)
(Sidebottom, Neville crossed out)
Smith, Sally (Georgina crossed out)
(Spungen, changed to Spinks, Draco, all crossed out, re-inserted above)
Vernon & Petunia Dursley
New from J.K. Rowling
Harry's aunt and uncle met at work. Petunia Evans, forever embittered by the fact that her parents seemed to value her witch sister more than they valued her, left Cokeworth forever to pursue a typing course in London. This led to an office job, where she met the extremely unmagical, opinionated and materialistic Vernon Dursley. Large and neckless, this junior executive seemed a model of manliness to young Petunia. He not only returned her romantic interest, but was deliciously normal. He had a perfectly correct car, and wanted to do completely ordinary things, and by the time he had taken her on a series of dull dates, during which he talked mainly about himself and his predictable ideas on the world, Petunia was dreaming of the moment when he would place a ring on her finger.
When, in due course, Vernon Dursley proposed marriage, very correctly, on one knee in his mother's sitting room, Petunia accepted at once. The one fly in her delicious ointment was the fear of what her new fiancé would make of her sister, who was now in her final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Vernon was apt to despise even people who wore brown shoes with black suits; what he would make of a young woman who spent most of her time wearing long robes and casting spells, Petunia could hardly bear to think.
She confessed the truth during a tear-stained date, in Vernon's dark car as they sat overlooking the chip shop where Vernon had just bought them a post-cinema snack. Vernon, as Petunia had expected, was deeply shocked; however, he told Petunia solemnly that he would never hold it against her that she had a freak for a sister, and Petunia threw herself upon him in such violent gratitude that he dropped his battered sausage.
The first meeting between Lily, her boyfriend James Potter, and the engaged couple, went badly, and the relationship nose-dived from there. James was amused by Vernon, and made the mistake of showing it. Vernon tried to patronise James, asking what car he drove. James described his racing broom. Vernon supposed out loud that wizards had to live on unemployment benefit. James explained about Gringotts, and the fortune his parents had saved there, in solid gold. Vernon could not tell whether he was being made fun of or not, and grew angry. The evening ended with Vernon and Petunia storming out of the restaurant, while Lily burst into tears and James (a little ashamed of himself) promised to make things up with Vernon at the earliest opportunity.
This never happened. Petunia did not want Lily as a bridesmaid, because she was tired of being overshadowed; Lily was hurt. Vernon refused to speak to James at the reception, but described him, within James' earshot, as 'some kind of amateur magician'. Once married, Petunia grew ever more like Vernon. She loved their neat square house at number four, Privet Drive. She was secure, now, from objects that behaved strangely, from teapots that suddenly piped tunes as she passed, or long conversations about things she did not understand, with names like 'Quidditch' and 'Transfiguration'. She and Vernon chose not to attend Lily and James' wedding. The very last piece of correspondence she received from Lily and James was the announcement of Harry's birth, and after one contemptuous look, Petunia threw it in the bin.
Even though Petunia was raised alongside a witch, she is remarkably ignorant about magic. She and Vernon share a confused idea that they will somehow be able to squash the magic out of Harry, and in an attempt to throw off the letters that arrive from Hogwarts on Harry's eleventh birthday, she and Vernon fall back on the old superstition that witches cannot cross water. As she had frequently seen Lily jump streams and run across stepping stones in their childhood, she ought not to have been surprised when Hagrid had no difficulty making his way over the stormy sea to the hut on the rock.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Vernon and Petunia were so-called from their creation, and never went through a number of trial names, as so many other characters did. ‘Vernon’ is simply a name I never much cared for. ‘Petunia’ is the name that I always gave unpleasant female characters in games of make believe I played with my sister, Di, when we were very young. Where I got it, I was never sure, until recently a friend of mine played me a series of public information films that were shown on television when we were young (he collects such things and puts them on his laptop to enjoy at leisure). One of them was an animation in which a married couple sat on a cliff enjoying a picnic and watching a man drowning in the sea below (the thrust of the film was, don’t wave back - call the lifeguard). The husband called his wife Petunia, and I suddenly wondered whether that wasn’t where I had got this most unlikely name, because I have never met anybody called Petunia, or, to my knowledge, read about them. The subconscious is a very odd thing. The cartoon Petunia was a fat, cheery character, so all I seem to have taken is her name.
The surname ‘Dursley’ was taken from the eponymous town in Gloucestershire, which is not very far from where I was born. I have never visited Dursley, and I expect that it is full of charming people. It was the sound of the word that appealed, rather than any association with the place.
New from J.K. Rowling
A Boggart is a shape-shifting creature that will assume the form of whatever most frightens the person who encounters it. Nobody knows what a Boggart looks like if nobody is there to see it, although it continues to exist, usually giving evidence of its presence by rattling, shaking or scratching the object in which it is hiding. Boggarts particularly like confined spaces, but may also be found lurking in woods and around shadowy corners.
The more generally fearful a person is, the more susceptible they will be to Boggarts. Muggles, too, feel their presence and may even glimpse them, although they seem less capable of seeing them plainly and are usually easily convinced that the Boggart was a figment of their imagination.
Like a poltergeist, a Boggart is not and never has been truly alive. It is one of the strange non-beings that populate the magical world, for which there is no equivalent in the Muggle realm. Boggarts can be made to disappear, but more Boggarts will inevitably arise to take their place. Like poltergeists and the more sinister Dementors, they seem to be generated and sustained by human emotions.
The spell that defeats a Boggart can be tricky, because it involves making the creature into a figure of fun, so that fear can be dispelled in amusement. If the caster is able to laugh aloud at the Boggart, it will disappear at once. The incantation is ‘Riddikulus’, and the intention is to force the Boggart to assume a less-threatening and hopefully comical form.
Famous Boggarts include the Old Boggle of Canterbury (believed by local Muggles to be a mad, cannibalistic hermit that lived in a cave; in reality a particularly small Boggart that had learnt how to make the most of echos); the Bludgeoning Boggart of Old London Town (a Boggart that had taken on the form of a murderous thug that prowled the back streets of nineteenth-century London, but which could be reduced to a hamster with one simple incantation); and the Screaming Bogey of Strathtully (a Scottish Boggart that had fed on the fears of local Muggles to the point that it had become an elephantine black shadow with glowing white eyes, but which Lyall Lupin of the Ministry of Magic eventually trapped in a matchbox).
New from J.K. Rowling
The concept of 'familiars' has existed in British folklore for many hundreds of years. Familiars are animals (some say animal-shaped spirits) that serve a witch in various ways, whether as servants, messengers or even spies. Historical accounts of witchcraft make mention of familiars; such animals have been credited with supernatural gifts, and even believed to be demons (or the devil himself) in disguise.
Familiars, in the strictest sense, do not exist within the world of Harry Potter. Although Hogwarts students are permitted to bring animals to school with them, the cats and rats we see there are, broadly speaking, pets. Ironically, the animal that acts most like a traditional familiar in the entire series is Mrs Norris, who belongs to the castle's only non-magical inhabitant, Argus Filch. It is true that owls are sent as messengers within the series, but this is in the context of a highly organised postal service, not unlike Muggle pigeon post.
New from J.K. Rowling
In the world of Harry Potter, a ghost is the transparent, three-dimensional imprint of a deceased witch or wizard, which continues to exist in the mortal world. Muggles cannot come back as ghosts, and the wisest witches and wizards choose not to. It is those with 'unfinished business', whether in the form of fear, guilt, regrets or overt attachment to the material world who refuse to move on to the next dimension.
Having chosen a feeble simulacrum of mortal life, ghosts are limited in what they can experience. No physical pleasure remains to them, and their knowledge and outlook remains at the level it had attained during life, so that old resentments (for instance, at having an incompletely severed neck) continue to rankle after several centuries. For this reason, ghosts tend to be poor company, on the whole. They are especially disappointing on the one subject that fascinates most people: ghosts cannot return a very sensible answer on what it is like to die, because they have chosen an impoverished version of life instead.
Ghosts can pass through solid objects without causing damage to themselves or the material, but create disturbances in water, fire and air. The temperature drops in the immediate vicinity of a ghost, an effect intensified if many congregate in the same place. Their appearance can also turn flames blue. Should part or all of a ghost pass through a living creature, the latter will experience a freezing sensation as though they have been plunged into ice-cold water.
Witches and wizards are much more susceptible to what Muggles call paranormal activity, and will see (and hear) ghosts plainly where a Muggle might only feel that a haunted place is cold or 'creepy'. Muggles who insist that they see ghosts in perfect focus are either a) lying or b) wizards showing off - and in flagrant breach of the International Statute of Secrecy.
New from J.K. Rowling
Of the three approved animals permitted to students as pets at Hogwarts, the toad is, and has been for many years now, by far the least popular. Centuries ago, in blood-thirstier times, when young witches and wizards were expected to personally pop out the newt eyes they were using in potions, they routinely brought boxes of toads to school for use in potions and in other charms. Over time, as the Ministry of Magic introduced legislation regarding animal cruelty (sub-sections 13-29 inclusive relate to potion ingredients and their production) such practices were gradually outlawed. The toad, never much appreciated for its own personal appeal, gradually appeared (alive) less and less frequently at Hogwarts, unless hopping and swimming wild in the grounds.
By the time Harry arrived at Hogwarts, possession of a pet toad conveyed neither cool nor status; indeed, it was something of an embarrassment. Trevor, Neville's toad, had nothing to commend him except a propensity for getting lost, and when he finally slipped off to join his brethren in the Hogwarts lake, both owner and pet felt a sense of relief.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
The toad has a long association with witchcraft, and was often believed to be a familiar. It occupies a special place in old folk cures, particularly (perhaps on the homeopathic principle of curing like with like) in the curing of warts. In the Dark Ages, a British toad could think itself lucky if it died of natural causes, because it was in constant danger of being boiled, powdered, skinned or tied around a sick human's neck in a bag.
A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration
New from J.K. Rowling
When Transfiguring, it is important to make firm and decisive wand movements. Do not wiggle or twirl your wand unnecessarily, or the Transfiguration will certainly be unsuccessful.
Form a clear mental picture of the object you are hoping to create before attempting a Transfiguring spell.
Beginners should say the spell clearly. More advanced wizards do not need to say the spell aloud.
Incomplete Transfigurations are difficult to put right, but you must attempt to do so. Leaving the head of a rabbit on a footstool is irresponsible and dangerous. Say ‘Reparifarge!’ and the object or creature should return to its natural state.
Larger creatures are difficult to Transfigure except by skilled and powerful wizards. Know your limits.
New from J.K. Rowling
Wizards at large in the Muggle community may reveal themselves to each other by wearing the colours of purple and green, often in combination. However, this is no more than an unwritten code, and there is no obligation to conform to it. Plenty of members of the magical community prefer to wear their favourite colours when out and about in the Muggle world, or adopt black as a practical colour, especially when travelling by night.
The International Statute of Secrecy laid down clear guidelines on dress for witches and wizards when they are out in public.
- When mingling with Muggles, wizards and witches will adopt an entirely Muggle standard of dress, which will conform as closely as possible to the fashion of the day. Clothing must be appropriate to the climate, the geographical region and the occasion. Nothing self-altering or adjusting is to be worn in front of Muggles.
In spite of these clear instructions, clothing misdemeanours have been one of the most common infractions of the International Statute of Secrecy since its inception. Younger generations have always tended to be better informed about Muggle culture in general; as children, they mingle freely with their Muggle counterparts; later, when they enter magical careers, it becomes more difficult to keep in touch with normal Muggle dress. Older witches and wizards are often hopelessly out of touch with how quickly fashions in the Muggle world change; having purchased a pair of psychedelic loon pants in their youth, they are indignant to be hauled up in front of the Wizengamot fifty years later for arousing widespread offence at a Muggle funeral.
The Ministry of Magic is not always so strict. A one-day amnesty was announced on the day that news broke of Lord Voldemort's disappearance following Harry Potter's survival of the Killing Curse. Such was the excitement that witches and wizards took to the streets in their traditional clothes, which they had either forgotten or adopted as a mark of celebration.
Some members of the magical community go out of their way to break the clothing clause in the Statute of Secrecy. A fringe movement calling itself Fresh Air Refreshes Totally (F.A.R.T.)* insists that Muggle trousers 'stem the magical flow at source' and insist on wearing robes in public, in spite of repeated warnings and fines.** More unusually, wizards deliberately adopt laughable Muggle confections, such as a crinoline worn with a sombrero and football boots.***
By and large, wizard clothing has remained outside of fashion, although small alterations have been made to such garments as dress robes. Standard wizard clothing comprises plain robes, worn with or without the traditional pointed hat, and will always be worn on such formal occasions as christenings, weddings and funerals. Women's dresses tend to be long. Wizard clothing might be said to be frozen in time, harking back to the seventeenth century, when they went into hiding. Their nostalgic adherence to this old-fashioned form of dress may be seen as a clinging to old ways and old times; a matter of cultural pride.
Day to day, however, even those who detest Muggles wear a version of Muggle clothing, which is undeniably practical compared with robes. Anti-Muggles will often attempt to demonstrate their superiority by adopting a deliberately flamboyant, out-of-date or dandyish style in public.
* President Archie Aymslowe
** To date, they appear to have been taken as cult members by Muggles.
*** These are generally taken by Muggles to be students on a dare.
Curses and Counter-Curses
New from J.K. Rowling
The Tickling Spell: Point your wand directly at your enemy and shout ‘Titillando!’
The Leg-Locker Curse: Point your wand directly at your enemy and shout ‘Locomotor Mortis!’
The Full Body-Bind: Point your wand directly at your enemy and shout ‘Petrificus Totalus!’
Tongue-Tying Spell: Point your wand directly at your enemy and shout ‘Mimble wimble!’
Jelly-Legs Curse: Point your wand directly at your enemy and shout ‘Locomotor Wibbly!’
New from J.K. Rowling
An archaic Hogwarts term for any new student whose Sorting takes longer than five minutes. This is an exceptionally long time for the Sorting Hat to deliberate, and occurs rarely, perhaps once every fifty years.
Of Harry Potter’s contemporaries, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom came closest to being Hatstalls. The Sorting Hat spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. In Neville's case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff. Their silent wrangling resulted in triumph for the Hat.
New from J.K. Rowling
Floo powder was invented by Ignatia Wildsmith in the thirteenth century. Its manufacture is strictly controlled. The only licensed producer in Britain is Floo-Pow, a company whose Headquarters is in Diagon Alley, and who never answer their front door.
No shortage of Floo powder has ever been reported, nor does anybody know anyone who makes it. Its price has remained constant for one hundred years: two Sickles a scoop. Every wizard household carries a stock of Floo powder, usually conveniently located in a box or vase on the mantelpiece.
The precise composition of Floo powder is a closely guarded secret. Those who have tried to ‘make their own’ have been universally unsuccessful. At least once a year, St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries reports what they call a ‘Faux Floo’ injury – in other words, somebody has thrown a homemade powder onto a fire and suffered the consequences. As irate Healer and St Mungo’s spokeswizard, Rutherford Poke, said in 2010: ‘It’s two Sickles a scoop, people, so stop being cheap, stop throwing powdered Runespoor fangs on the fire and stop blowing yourselves out of the chimney! If one more wizard comes in here with a burned backside, I swear I won’t treat him. It’s two Sickles a scoop!’
New from J.K. Rowling
Just as British witches and wizards do not use electricity or computers, they have never turned metric. They are not governed by the decisions of the Muggle government, so when the process of metrication (switching to metric measurements) began in 1965, witches and wizards simply ignored the change.
Witches and wizards are not averse to laborious calculations, which they can, after all, do magically, so they do not find it inconvenient to weigh in ounces, pounds and stones; measure in inches, feet and miles; or pay for goods in Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
When the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was first accepted for publication in Britain, the copy editor advised me that all weights and measures would be changed to metric, which was the publisher's standard practise. I refused to allow the change because, for the reasons stated above, there was no logic to the thing. However, this ought not to be taken as any kind of political statement on the part of the author. I am not anti-European; on the contrary, I am all for Britain being part of Europe, and I am part French myself. Nor do I have anything against the metric system, which is much more logical than the imperial, and which certainly makes baking much easier. However, I do find the old system much more picturesque, much quirkier, and therefore more appropriate to the kind of society I was describing.
The decision to keep the imperial system in the book had an unexpected sequel, which was an invitation to join the British Weights and Measures Association. As I do not agree that Britain ought to refuse to use the metric system (as many of this society's members do), I was about to throw this invitation in the bin when I was struck by a sudden thought, and changed my mind. I know that what I am about to say does not reveal very good things about my character, but I had realised in a flash how much it would enrage my sister, Di, if I signed up. Di is never funnier than when infuriated, and among her many pet hates is the old-bufferish adherence to the old ways just for the sake of them, or because-by-God-it's-British-and-no-Johnny-Foreigner-is-Going-To-Tell-Me-How-To-Measure-Suet-ness that such an organisation represents.
When my membership came out in the press, she exploded in a really satisfying outpouring of rage. I could hardly stop laughing long enough to tell her that I'd only joined to annoy her. This rendered her almost incoherent with indignation, which was possibly even funnier. Frankly, I doubt whether anyone has ever had as much fun for the price of a postage stamp.
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
New from J.K. Rowling
Dittany is a powerful healing herb and restorative and may be eaten raw to cure shallow wounds.
Flobberworm mucus is a popular potion thickener.
Aconite is sometimes called monkshood or wolfsbane.
Moly is a powerful plant that can be eaten to counteract enchantments. It is a black-stemmed plant with white flowers.
The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it.
The Wiggentree is a magical rowan that will protect anyone touching its trunk from the attack of Dark creatures.
Never eat the leaves of the Alihotsy tree (also known as the Hyena tree). These leaves cause uncontrollable laughter.
New from J.K. Rowling
When you can summon any book, instrument or animal with a wave of the wand and the word 'Accio!'; when you can communicate with friends and acquaintances by means of owl, fire, Patronus, Howler, enchanted objects such as coins, or Apparate to visit them in person; when your newspaper has moving pictures and everyday objects sometimes talk to you, then the internet does not seem a particularly exciting place. This is not to say that you will never find a witch or wizard surfing the net; merely that they will generally be doing so out of slightly condescending curiosity, or else doing research in the field of Muggle Studies.
While they have no need of mundane domestic objects such as dishwashers or vacuum cleaners, some members of the magical community are amused by Muggle television, and a few firebrand wizards even went so far, in the early eighties, as to start a British Wizarding Broadcasting Corporation, in the hope that they would be able to have their own television channel. The project foundered at an early stage, as the Ministry of Magic refused to countenance the broadcasting of wizarding material on a Muggle device, which would (it was felt) almost guarantee serious breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy.
Some felt, and with justification, that this decision was inconsistent and unfair, as many radios have been legally modified by the wizarding community for their own use, which broadcast regular wizarding programmes. The Ministry conceded that Muggles frequently catch snippets of advice on, for instance, how to prune a Venomous Tentacula, or how best to remove gnomes from a cabbage bed, but argued that the radio-listening Muggle population seems altogether more tolerant, gullible, or less convinced of their own good sense, than Muggle TV viewers. Reasons for this anomaly are examined at length in Professor Mordicus Egg's The Philosophy of the Mundane: Why the Muggles Prefer Not to Know. Professor Egg argues cogently that Muggles are much more likely to believe they have misheard something than that they are hallucinating.
There is another reason for most wizards' avoidance of Muggle devices, and that is cultural. The magical community prides itself on the fact that it does not need the many (admittedly ingenious) devices that Muggles have created to enable them to do what can be so easily done by magic. To fill one's house with tumble dryers and telephones would be seen as an admission of magical inadequacy.
There is one major exception to the general magical aversion to Muggle technology, and that is the car (and, to a lesser extent, motorbikes and trains). Prior to the introduction of the International Statute of Secrecy, wizards and Muggles used the same kind of everyday transport: horse-drawn carts and sailing ships among them. The magical community was forced to abandon horse-drawn vehicles when they became glaringly outmoded. It is pointless to deny that wizardkind looked with great envy upon the speedy and comfortable automobiles that began filling the roads in the twentieth century, and eventually even the Ministry of Magic bought a fleet of cars, modifying them with various useful charms and enjoying them very much indeed. Many wizards love cars with a child-like passion, and there have been cases of pure-bloods who claim never to touch a Muggle artefact, and yet are discovered to have a flying Rolls Royce in their garage. However, the most extreme anti-Muggles eschew all motorised transport; Sirius Black's love of motorbikes incensed his hard-line parents.
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection
New from J.K. Rowling
Werewolf bites should be thoroughly and magically cleaned, as the werewolf’s fangs are venomous. However, there is no cure once you have become a werewolf, so try and avoid being bitten at all costs.
Avoid the Red Cap, a Dark dwarfish creature that lurks in places where blood has been shed and will attempt to bludgeon the unwary to death.
The Zombie dwells only in the Southern part of America. It is an example, like the Vampire, of the Living Dead and may be recognised by its greyish colour and its rotten smell.
The hag is a child-eating creature of human appearance, though likely to have more warts than the average witch.
The Hogwarts Express
New from J.K. Rowling
As we know from early historical accounts, and from the evidence of early woodcuts and engravings, Hogwarts students used to arrive at school in any manner that caught their fancy. Some rode broomsticks (a difficult feat when carrying trunks and pets); others commandeered enchanted carts and, later, carriages; some attempted to Apparate (often with disastrous effects, as the castle and grounds have always been protected with Anti-Apparition Charms), others rode a variety of magical creatures.
In spite of the accidents attendant on these various modes of magical transport, not to mention the annual Muggle sightings of vast numbers of airborne wizards travelling northwards, it remained the responsibility of parents to convey their children to school, right up until the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692. At this point, it became a matter of urgency to find some more discreet method of transporting hundreds of wizarding children from all over Britain to their secret school in the Highlands of Scotland.
Portkeys were therefore arranged at collecting points all over Britain. The logistics caused problems from the start. Up to a third of students would fail to arrive every year, having missed their time slot, or been unable to find the unobtrusive enchanted object that would transport them to their school. There was also the unfortunate fact that many children were (and are) 'Portkey-sick', and the hospital wing was frequently full to bursting for the first few days of every year, while susceptible students overcame their hysterics and nausea.
While admitting that Portkeys were not an ideal solution to the problem of school transportation, the Ministry of Magic failed to find an acceptable alternative. A return to the unregulated travel of the past was impossible, and yet a more secure route into the school (for instance, permitting a fireplace that might be officially entered by Floo powder) was strongly resisted by successive Headmasters, who did not wish the security of the castle to be breached.
A daring and controversial solution to the thorny problem was finally suggested by Minister for Magic Ottaline Gambol, who was much intrigued by Muggle inventions and saw the potential in trains. Where exactly the Hogwarts Express came from has never been conclusively proven, although it is a fact that there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain. The morning after these alleged crimes, a gleaming scarlet steam engine and carriages astounded the villagers of Hogsmeade (who had also not realised they had a railway station), while several bemused Muggle railway workers down in Crewe spent the rest of the year grappling with the uncomfortable feeling that they had mislaid something important.
The Hogwarts Express underwent several magical modifications before the Ministry approved it for school use. Many pure-blood families were outraged at the idea of their children using Muggle transport, which they claimed was unsafe, insanitary and demeaning; however, as the Ministry decreed that students either rode the train or did not attend school, the objections were swiftly silenced.
The Knight Bus
New from J.K. Rowling
For witches and wizards who are Floo-sick, whose Apparition is unreliable, who hate heights or who feel frightened or queasy taking Portkeys, there is always the Knight Bus, which appears whenever a witch or wizard in urgent need of transportation sticks out their wand arm at the kerb.
A purple, triple-decker bus, it has seats during the day and beds at night. It is not particularly comfortable, and I would advise against ordering hot drinks even if offered, because the bus’s habit of leaping from one destination to another at a moment’s notice can result in a lot of spillage.
The Knight Bus is a relatively modern invention in wizarding society, which sometimes (though it will rarely admit it) takes ideas from the Muggle world. The need for some form of transportation that could be used safely and discreetly by the underage or the infirm had been felt for a while and many suggestions had been made (sidecars on taxi-style broomsticks, carrying baskets slung under Thestrals) all of them vetoed by the Ministry. Finally, Minister for Magic Dugald McPhail hit upon the idea of imitating the Muggles’ relatively new ‘bus service’ and in 1865, the Knight Bus hit the streets.
While some wizards (mainly pureblood fanatics) announced their intention of boycotting what was dubbed ‘this Muggle-esque outrage’ in the letters page of the Daily Prophet, the Knight Bus proved hugely popular with most of the community and remains busy to this day.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
The Knight Bus was so-named because, firstly, knight is a homonym of night, and there are night buses running all over Britain after normal transport stops. Secondly, ‘knight’ has the connotation of coming to the rescue, of protection, and this seemed appropriate for a vehicle that is often the conveyance of last resort.
The driver and conductor of the Knight Bus in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ are named after my two grandfathers, Ernest and Stanley.
The Mirror of Erised
New from J.K. Rowling
The Mirror of Erised is a very old device. Nobody knows who created it, or how it came to be at Hogwarts School. A succession of teachers have brought back interesting artefacts from their travels, so it might have arrived at the castle in this casual manner, either because the teacher knew how it worked and was intrigued by it, or because they did not understand it and wished to ask their colleagues' opinions.
The Mirror of Erised is one of those magical artefacts that seems to have been created in a spirit of fun (whether innocent or malevolent is a matter of opinion), because while it is much more revealing than a normal mirror, it is interesting rather than useful. Only after Professor Dumbledore makes key modifications to the mirror (which has been languishing in the Room of Requirement for a century or so before he brings it out and puts it to work) does it become a superb hiding place, and the final test for the impure of heart.
The mirror's inscription ('erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi') must be read backwards to show its true purpose.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
Albus Dumbledore's words of caution to Harry when discussing the Mirror of Erised express my own views. The advice to 'hold on to your dreams' is all well and good, but there comes a point when holding on to your dreams becomes unhelpful and even unhealthy. Dumbledore knows that life can pass you by while you are clinging on to a wish that can never be - or ought never to be - fulfilled. Harry's deepest yearning is for something impossible: the return of his parents. Desperately sad though it is that he has been deprived of his family, Dumbledore knows that to sit gazing on a vision of what he can never have, will only damage Harry. The mirror is bewitching and tantalising, but it does not necessarily bring happiness.
The Philosopher's Stone
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
I did not invent the concept of the Philosopher's Stone, which is a legendary substance that was once believed to be real, and the true goal of alchemy.
The properties of 'my' Philosopher's Stone conform to most of the attributes the ancients ascribed to it. The Stone was believed to turn base metals into gold, and also to produce the Elixir of Life, which could make you immortal. 'Genuine' alchemists - the forerunners of chemists and physicists - such as Sir Isaac Newton and (the real) Nicolas Flamel, sought, sometimes over lifetimes, to discover the secret of its creation.
The Stone is variously described as red and white in the many old texts in which it appears. These colours are important in most accounts of alchemy, and are often interpreted as having symbolic meaning.
The Sorting Hat
New from J.K. Rowling
The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gives an account of its own genesis in a series of songs sung at the beginning of each school year. Legend has it that the hat once belonged to one of the four founders, Godric Gryffindor, and that it was jointly enchanted by all four founders to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder's particular preferences in students.
The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet. It literally contains the intelligence of the four founders, can speak (through a rip near its brim) and is skilled at Legilimency, which enables it to look into the wearer's head and divine his or her capabilities or mood. It can even respond to the thoughts of the wearer.
The Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behave altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunk all their exams, when Hufflepuffs prove lazy yet academically gifted and when Gryffindors exhibit cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
The Sorting Hat does not appear in my earliest plans for Hogwarts. I debated several different methods for sorting students (because I knew from early on that there would be four houses, all with very different qualities). The first was an elaborate, Heath Robinson-ish machine that did all kinds of magical things before reaching a decision, but I did not like it: it felt at once too complicated, and too easy. Next I placed four statues of the four founders in the Entrance Hall, which came alive and selected students from the throng in front of them while the school watched. This was better, but still not quite right. Finally, I wrote a list of the ways in which people can be chosen: eeny meeny miny mo, short straws, chosen by team captains, names out of a hat - names out of a talking hat - putting on a hat - the Sorting Hat.
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)
New from J.K. Rowling
Charms differ from Transfiguring Spells in the following manner: a charm adds certain properties to an object or creature, whereas a transfiguring spell will change it into something utterly different.
The lesser charms are not very difficult to break and many of those that you learn as a young wizard will wear off in a matter of days or even hours.
Dark charms are known as jinxes, hexes and curses. This book does not deal with such spells.
Lapses in concentration while charming can result in painful side effects – remember Wizard Baruffio, who said ‘s’ instead of ‘f’ and found himself lying on the floor with a buffalo on his chest.
Some charms will be ineffective on large creatures such as trolls, whose hides repel all but the more powerful spells.
The Sword of Gryffindor
New from J.K. Rowling
The sword of Gryffindor was made a thousand years ago by goblins, the magical world's most skilled metalworkers, and is therefore enchanted. Fashioned from pure silver, it is inset with rubies, the stone that represents Gryffindor in the hour-glasses that count the house points at Hogwarts. Godric Gryffindor's name is engraved just beneath the hilt.
The sword was made to Godric Gryffindor's specifications by Ragnuk the First, finest of the goblin silversmiths, and therefore King (in goblin culture, the ruler does not work less than the others, but more skillfully). When it was finished, Ragnuk coveted it so much that he pretended that Gryffindor had stolen it from him, and sent minions to steal it back. Gryffindor defended himself with his wand, but did not kill his attackers. Instead he sent them back to their king bewitched, to deliver the threat that if he ever tried to steal from Gryffindor again, Gryffindor would unsheathe the sword against them all.
The goblin king took the threat seriously and left Gryffindor in possession of his rightful property, but remained resentful until he died. This was the foundation for the false legend of Gryffindor's theft that persists, in some sections of the goblin community, to this day.
The question of why a wizard would need a sword, though often asked, is easily answered. In the days before the International Statute of Secrecy, when wizards mingled freely with Muggles, they would use swords to defend themselves just as often as wands. Indeed, it was considered unsporting to use a wand against a Muggle sword (which is not to say it was never done). Many gifted wizards were also accomplished duellists in the conventional sense, Gryffindor among them.
There have been many enchanted swords in folklore. The Sword of Nuadu, part of the four legendary treasures of Tuatha Dé Danann, was invincible when drawn. Gryffindor's sword owes something to the legend of Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur, which in some legends must be drawn from a stone by the rightful king. The idea of fitness to carry the sword is echoed in the sword of Gryffindor's return to worthy members of its true owner's house.
New from J.K. Rowling
The following description of the powers and properties of the three main wand cores used by Mr Garrick Ollivander are taken from his own notes.
- Early in my career, as I watched my wandmaker father wrestling with substandard wand core materials such as kelpie hair, I conceived the ambition to discover the finest cores and to work only with those when my time came to take over the family business. This I have done. After much experimentation and research, I concluded that only three substances produce wands of the quality to which I am happy to give the illustrious name of Ollivander: unicorn hair, dragon heartstring and phoenix feather. Each of these costly and rare materials has its own distinct properties. The following represents a short summary of my researches into each of the three Supreme Cores. Readers should bear in mind that each wand is the composite of its wood, its core and the experience and nature of its owner; that tendencies of each may counterbalance or outweigh the other; so this can only be a very general overview of an immensely complex subject.
Unicorn hair generally produces the most consistent magic, and is least subject to fluctuations and blockages. Wands with unicorn cores are generally the most difficult to turn to the Dark Arts. They are the most faithful of all wands, and usually remain strongly attached to their first owner, irrespective of whether he or she was an accomplished witch or wizard.
Minor disadvantages of unicorn hair are that they do not make the most powerful wands (although the wand wood may compensate) and that they are prone to melancholy if seriously mishandled, meaning that the hair may 'die' and need replacing.
As a rule, dragon heartstrings produce wands with the most power, and which are capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn more quickly than other types. While they can change allegiance if won from their original master, they always bond strongly with the current owner.
The dragon wand tends to be easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord. It is also the most prone of the three cores to accidents, being somewhat temperamental.
This is the rarest core type. Phoenix feathers are capable of the greatest range of magic, though they may take longer than either unicorn or dragon cores to reveal this. They show the most initiative, sometimes acting of their own accord, a quality that many witches and wizards dislike.
Phoenix feather wands are always the pickiest when it comes to potential owners, for the creature from which they are taken is one of the most independent and detached in the world. These wands are the hardest to tame and to personalise, and their allegiance is usually hard won.
Wand Lengths & Flexibility
New from J.K. Rowling
The following notes on wand length and flexibility are taken from notes on the subject by Mr Garrick Ollivander, wandmaker.
- Many wandmakers simply match the wand length to the size of the witch or wizard who will use it, but this is a crude measure, and fails to take into account many other, important considerations. In my experience, longer wands might suit taller wizards, but they tend to be drawn to bigger personalities, and those of a more spacious and dramatic style of magic. Neater wands favour more elegant and refined spell-casting. However, no single aspect of wand composition should be considered in isolation of all the others, and the type of wood, the core and the flexibility may either counterbalance or enhance the attributes of the wand’s length.
- Most wands will be in the range of between nine and fourteen inches. While I have sold extremely short wands (eight inches and under) and very long wands (over fifteen inches), these are exceptionally rare. In the latter case, a physical peculiarity demanded the excessive wand length. However, abnormally short wands usually select those in whose character something is lacking, rather than because they are physically undersized (many small witches and wizards are chosen by longer wands).
- Wand flexibility or rigidity denotes the degree of adaptability and willingness to change possessed by the wand-and-owner pair - although, again, this factor ought not to be considered separately from the wand wood, core and length, nor of the owner’s life experience and style of magic, all of which will combine to make the wand in question unique.
New from J.K. Rowling
The following description of the powers and properties of various wand woods are taken from notes made, over a long career, by Mr Garrick Ollivander, widely considered the best wandmaker in the world. As will be seen, Mr Ollivander believes that wand wood has almost human powers of perception and preferences.
Mr Ollivander introduces his notes on wand woods thus:
- Every single wand is unique and will depend for its character on the particular tree and magical creature from which it derives its materials. Moreover, each wand, from the moment it finds its ideal owner, will begin to learn from and teach its human partner. Therefore, the following must be seen as general notes on each of the wood types I like to work with best, and ought not to be taken to describe any individual wand.
- Only a minority of trees can produce wand quality wood (just as a minority of humans can produce magic). It takes years of experience to tell which ones have the gift, although the job is made easier if Bowtruckles are found nesting in the leaves, as they never inhabit mundane trees. The following notes on various wand woods should be regarded very much as a starting point, for this is the study of a lifetime, and I continue to learn with every wand I make and match.
A very unusual wand wood, which I have found creates tricky wands that often refuse to produce magic for any but their owner, and also withhold their best effects from all but those most gifted. This sensitivity renders them difficult to place, and I keep only a small stock for those witches or wizards of sufficient subtlety, for acacia is not suited to what is commonly known as 'bangs-and-smells' magic. When well-matched, an acacia wand matches any for power, though it is often underrated due to the peculiarity of its temperament.
Alder is an unyielding wood, yet I have discovered that its ideal owner is not stubborn or obstinate, but often helpful, considerate and most likeable. Whereas most wand woods seek similarity in the characters of those they will best serve, alder is unusual in that it seems to desire a nature that is, if not precisely opposite to its own, then certainly of a markedly different type. When an alder wand is happily placed, it becomes a magnificent, loyal helpmate. Of all wand types, alder is best suited to non-verbal spell work, whence comes its reputation for being suitable only for the most advanced witches and wizards.
Applewood wands are not made in great numbers. They are powerful and best suited to an owner of high aims and ideals, as this wood mixes poorly with Dark magic. It is said that the possessor of an apple wand will be well-loved and long-lived, and I have often noticed that customers of great personal charm find their perfect match in an applewood wand. An unusual ability to converse with other magical beings in their native tongues is often found among apple wand owners, who include the celebrated author of Merpeople: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Language and Customs, Dylan Marwood.
The ash wand cleaves to its one true master and ought not to be passed on or gifted from the original owner, because it will lose power and skill. This tendency is extreme if the core is of unicorn. Old superstitions regarding wands rarely bear close examination, but I find that the old rhyme regarding rowan, chestnut, ash and hazel wands (rowan gossips, chestnut drones, ash is stubborn, hazel moans) contains a small nugget of truth. Those witches and wizards best suited to ash wands are not, in my experience, lightly swayed from their beliefs or purposes. However, the brash or over-confident witch or wizard, who often insists on trying wands of this prestigious wood, will be disappointed by its effects. The ideal owner may be stubborn, and will certainly be courageous, but never crass or arrogant.
Wand-quality aspen wood is white and fine-grained, and highly prized by all wand-makers for its stylish resemblance to ivory and its usually outstanding charmwork. The proper owner of the aspen wand is often an accomplished duellist, or destined to be so, for the aspen wand is one of those particularly suited to martial magic. An infamous and secretive eighteenth-century duelling club, which called itself The Silver Spears, was reputed to admit only those who owned aspen wands. In my experience, aspen wand owners are generally strong-minded and determined, more likely than most to be attracted by quests and new orders; this is a wand for revolutionaries.
The true match for a beech wand will be, if young, wise beyond his or her years, and if full-grown, rich in understanding and experience. Beech wands perform very weakly for the narrow-minded and intolerant. Such wizards and witches, having obtained a beech wand without having been suitably matched (yet coveting this most desirable, richly hued and highly prized wand wood), have often presented themselves at the homes of learned wandmakers such as myself, demanding to know the reason for their handsome wand’s lack of power. When properly matched, the beech wand is capable of a subtlety and artistry rarely seen in any other wood, hence its lustrous reputation.
Blackthorn, which is a very unusual wand wood, has the reputation, in my view well-merited, of being best suited to a warrior. This does not necessarily mean that its owner practises the Dark Arts (although it is undeniable that those who do so will enjoy the blackthorn wand’s prodigious power); one finds blackthorn wands among the Aurors as well as among the denizens of Azkaban. It is a curious feature of the blackthorn bush, which sports wicked thorns, that it produces its sweetest berries after the hardest frosts, and the wands made from this wood appear to need to pass through danger or hardship with their owners to become truly bonded. Given this condition, the blackthorn wand will become as loyal and faithful a servant as one could wish.
Less common than the standard walnut wand, that of black walnut seeks a master of good instincts and powerful insight. Black walnut is a very handsome wood, but not the easiest to master. It has one pronounced quirk, which is that it is abnormally attuned to inner conflict, and loses power dramatically if its possessor practises any form of self-deception. If the witch or wizard is unable or unwilling to be honest with themselves or others, the wand often fails to perform adequately and must be matched with a new owner if it is to regain its former prowess. Paired with a sincere, self-aware owner, however, it becomes one of the most loyal and impressive wands of all, with a particular flair in all kinds of charmwork.
Whenever I meet one who carries a cedar wand, I find strength of character and unusual loyalty. My father, Gervaise Ollivander, used always to say, ‘you will never fool the cedar carrier,’ and I agree: the cedar wand finds its perfect home where there is perspicacity and perception. I would go further than my father, however, in saying that I have never yet met the owner of a cedar wand whom I would care to cross, especially if harm is done to those of whom they are fond. The witch or wizard who is well-matched with cedar carries the potential to be a frightening adversary, which often comes as a shock to those who have thoughtlessly challenged them.
This very rare wand wood creates a wand of strange power, most highly prized by the wizarding students of the school of Mahoutokoro in Japan, where those who own cherry wands have special prestige. The Western wand-purchaser should dispel from their minds any notion that the pink blossom of the living tree makes for a frivolous or merely ornamental wand, for cherry wood often makes a wand that possesses truly lethal power, whatever the core, but if teamed with dragon heartstring, the wand ought never to be teamed with a wizard without exceptional self-control and strength of mind.
This is a most curious, multi-faceted wood, which varies greatly in its character depending on the wand core, and takes a great deal of colour from the personality that possesses it. The wand of chestnut is attracted to witches and wizards who are skilled tamers of magical beasts, those who possess great gifts in Herbology, and those who are natural fliers. However, when paired with dragon heartstring, it may find its best match among those who are overfond of luxury and material things, and less scrupulous than they should be about how they are obtained. Conversely, three successive heads of the Wizengamot have possessed chestnut and unicorn wands, for this combination shows a predilection for those concerned with all manner of justice.
Cypress wands are associated with nobility. The great medieval wandmaker, Geraint Ollivander, wrote that he was always honoured to match a cypress wand, for he knew he was meeting a witch or wizard who would die a heroic death. Fortunately, in these less blood-thirsty times, the possessors of cypress wands are rarely called upon to lay down their lives, though doubtless many of them would do so if required. Wands of cypress find their soul mates among the brave, the bold and the self-sacrificing: those who are unafraid to confront the shadows in their own and others’ natures.
Dogwood is one of my own personal favourites, and I have found that matching a dogwood wand with its ideal owner is always entertaining. Dogwood wands are quirky and mischievous; they have playful natures and insist upon partners who can provide them with scope for excitement and fun. It would be quite wrong, however, to deduce from this that dogwood wands are not capable of serious magic when called upon to do so; they have been known to perform outstanding spells under difficult conditions, and when paired with a suitably clever and ingenious witch or wizard, can produce dazzling enchantments. An interesting foible of many dogwood wands is that they refuse to perform non-verbal spells and they are often rather noisy.
This jet-black wand wood has an impressive appearance and reputation, being highly suited to all manner of combative magic, and to Transfiguration. Ebony is happiest in the hand of those with the courage to be themselves. Frequently non-conformist, highly individual or comfortable with the status of outsider, ebony wand owners have been found both among the ranks of the Order of the Phoenix and among the Death Eaters. In my experience the ebony wand’s perfect match is one who will hold fast to his or her beliefs, no matter what the external pressure, and will not be swayed lightly from their purpose.
The rarest wand wood of all, and reputed to be deeply unlucky, the elder wand is trickier to master than any other. It contains powerful magic, but scorns to remain with any owner who is not the superior of his or her company; it takes a remarkable wizard to keep the elder wand for any length of time. The old superstition, ‘wand of elder, never prosper,’ has its basis in this fear of the wand, but in fact, the superstition is baseless, and those foolish wandmakers who refuse to work with elder do so more because they doubt they will be able to sell their products than from fear of working with this wood. The truth is that only a highly unusual person will find their perfect match in elder, and on the rare occasion when such a pairing occurs, I take it as certain that the witch or wizard in question is marked out for a special destiny. An additional fact that I have unearthed during my long years of study is that the owners of elder wands almost always feel a powerful affinity with those chosen by rowan.
The unfounded belief that only pure-bloods can produce magic from elm wands was undoubtedly started by some elm wand owner seeking to prove his own blood credentials, for I have known perfect matches of elm wands who are Muggle-borns. The truth is that elm wands prefer owners with presence, magical dexterity and a certain native dignity. Of all wand woods, elm, in my experience, produces the fewest accidents, the least foolish errors, and the most elegant charms and spells; these are sophisticated wands, capable of highly advanced magic in the right hands (which, again, makes it highly desirable to those who espouse the pure-blood philosophy).
A wand for good times and bad, this is a friend as loyal as the wizard who deserves it. Wands of English oak demand partners of strength, courage and fidelity. Less well-known is the propensity for owners of English oak wands to have powerful intuition, and, often, an affinity with the magic of the natural world, with the creatures and plants that are necessary to wizardkind for both magic and pleasure. The oak tree is called King of the Forest from the winter solstice up until the summer solstice, and its wood should only be collected during that time (holly becomes King as the days begin to shorten again, and so holly should only be gathered as the year wanes. This divide is believed to be the origin of the old superstition, “when his wand’s oak and hers is holly, then to marry would be folly,” a superstition that I have found baseless). It is said that Merlin’s wand was of English oak (though his grave has never been found, so this cannot be proven).
My august grandfather, Gerbold Octavius Ollivander, always called wands of this wood ‘the survivor’s wand,’ because he had sold it to three wizards who subsequently passed through mortal peril unscathed. There is no doubt that this wood, coming as it does from the most resilient of trees, produces wands that demand staying power and strength of purpose in their true owners, and that they are poor tools in the hands of the changeable and indecisive. Fir wands are particularly suited to Transfiguration, and favour owners of focused, strong-minded and, occasionally, intimidating demeanour.
The wandmaker Gregorovitch wrote that hawthorn ‘makes a strange, contradictory wand, as full of paradoxes as the tree that gave it birth, whose leaves and blossoms heal, and yet whose cut branches smell of death.’ While I disagree with many of Gregorovitch’s conclusions, we concur about hawthorn wands, which are complex and intriguing in their natures, just like the owners who best suit them. Hawthorn wands may be particularly suited to healing magic, but they are also adept at curses, and I have generally observed that the hawthorn wand seems most at home with a conflicted nature, or with a witch or wizard passing through a period of turmoil. Hawthorn is not easy to master, however, and I would only ever consider placing a hawthorn wand in the hands of a witch or wizard of proven talent, or the consequences might be dangerous. Hawthorn wands have a notable peculiarity: their spells can, when badly handled, backfire.
A sensitive wand, hazel often reflects its owner’s emotional state, and works best for a master who understands and can manage their own feelings. Others should be very careful handling a hazel wand if its owner has recently lost their temper, or suffered a serious disappointment, because the wand will absorb such energy and discharge it unpredictably. The positive aspect of a hazel wand more than makes up for such minor discomforts, however, for it is capable of outstanding magic in the hands of the skillful, and is so devoted to its owner that it often ‘wilts’ (which is to say, it expels all its magic and refuses to perform, often necessitating the extraction of the core and its insertion into another casing, if the wand is still required) at the end of its master’s life (if the core is unicorn hair, however, there is no hope; the wand will almost certainly have ‘died’). Hazel wands also have the unique ability to detect water underground, and will emit silvery, tear-shaped puffs of smoke if passing over concealed springs and wells.
Holly is one of the rarer kinds of wand woods; traditionally considered protective, it works most happily for those who may need help overcoming a tendency to anger and impetuosity. At the same time, holly wands often choose owners who are engaged in some dangerous and often spiritual quest. Holly is one of those woods that varies most dramatically in performance depending on the wand core, and it is a notoriously difficult wood to team with phoenix feather, as the wood's volatility conflicts strangely with the phoenix's detachment. In the unusual event of such a pairing finding its ideal match, however, nothing and nobody should stand in their way.
My own wand is made of hornbeam, and so it is with all due modesty that I state that hornbeam selects for its life mate the talented witch or wizard with a single, pure passion, which some might call obsession (though I prefer the term ‘vision’), which will almost always be realised. Hornbeam wands adapt more quickly than almost any other to their owner’s style of magic, and will become so personalised, so quickly, that other people will find them extremely difficult to use even for the most simple of spells. Hornbeam wands likewise absorb their owner’s code of honour, whatever that might be, and will refuse to perform acts - whether for good or ill - that do not tally with their master’s principles. A particularly fine-tuned and sentient wand.
Strong, durable and warm in colour, larch has long been valued as an attractive and powerful wand wood. Its reputation for instilling courage and confidence in the user has ensured that demand has always outstripped supply. This much sought-after wand is, however, hard to please in the matter of ideal owners, and trickier to handle than many imagine. I find that it always creates wands of hidden talents and unexpected effects, which likewise describes the master who deserves it. It is often the case that the witch or wizard who belongs to the larch wand may never realise the full extent of their considerable talents until paired with it, but that they will then make an exceptional match.
It is said that a laurel wand cannot perform a dishonourable act, although in the quest for glory (a not uncommon goal for those best suited to these wands), I have known laurel wands perform powerful and sometimes lethal magic. Laurel wands are sometimes called fickle, but this is unfair. The laurel wand seems unable to tolerate laziness in a possessor, and it is in such conditions that it is most easily and willingly won away. Otherwise, it will cleave happily to its first match forever, and indeed has the unusual and engaging attribute of issuing a spontaneous lightning strike if another witch or wizard attempts to steal it.
I have often found that those chosen by maple wands are by nature travellers and explorers; they are not stay-at-home wands, and prefer ambition in their witch or wizard, otherwise their magic grows heavy and lacklustre. Fresh challenges and regular changes of scene cause this wand to literally shine, burnishing itself as it grows, with its partner, in ability and status. This is a beautiful and desirable wood, and wand quality maple has been among the most costly for centuries. Possession of a maple wand has long been a mark of status, because of its reputation as the wand of high achievers.
This golden-toned wood produces wands of splendid magical powers, which give of their best in the hands of the warm-hearted, the generous and the wise. Possessors of pear wands are, in my experience, usually popular and well-respected. I do not know of a single instance where a pear wand has been discovered in the possession of a Dark witch or wizard. Pear wands are among the most resilient, and I have often observed that they may still present a remarkable appearance of newness, even after many years of hard use.
The straight-grained pine wand always chooses an independent, individual master who may be perceived as a loner, intriguing and perhaps mysterious. Pine wands enjoy being used creatively, and unlike some others, will adapt unprotestingly to new methods and spells. Many wandmakers insist that pine wands are able to detect, and perform best for, owners who are destined for long lives, and I can confirm this in as much as I have never personally known the master of a pine wand to die young. The pine wand is one of those that is most sensitive to non-verbal magic.
“If you seek integrity, search first among the poplars,” was a great maxim of my grandfather, Gerbold Ollivander, and my own experience of poplar wands and their owners tallies exactly with his. Here is a wand to rely upon, of consistency, strength and uniform power, always happiest when working with a witch or wizard of clear moral vision. There is a tired old joke among lesser wandmakers that no poplar wand has ever chosen a politician, but here they show their lamentable ignorance: two of the Ministry’s most accomplished Ministers for Magic, Eldritch Diggory and Evangeline Orpington, were the possessors of fine, Ollivander-made poplar wands.
You will often hear the ignorant say that red oak is an infallible sign of its owner’s hot temper. In fact, the true match for a red oak wand is possessed of unusually fast reactions, making it a perfect duelling wand. Less common than English oak, I have found that its ideal master is light of touch, quick-witted and adaptable, often the creator of distinctive, trademark spells, and a good man or woman to have beside one in a fight. Red oak wands are, in my opinion, among the most handsome.
Wand-quality redwood is in short supply, yet constant demand, due to its reputation for bringing good fortune to its owner. As is usually the case with wandlore, the general populace have the truth back to front: redwood wands are not themselves lucky, but are strongly attracted to witches and wizards who already possess the admirable ability to fall on their feet, to make the right choice, to snatch advantage from catastrophe. The combination of such a witch or wizard with a redwood wand is always intriguing, and I generally expect to hear of exciting exploits when I send this special pairing out from my workshop.
Rowan wood has always been much-favoured for wands, because it is reputed to be more protective than any other, and in my experience renders all manner of defensive charms especially strong and difficult to break. It is commonly stated that no Dark witch or wizard ever owned a rowan wand, and I cannot recall a single instance where one of my own rowan wands has gone on to do evil in the world. Rowan is most happily placed with the clear-headed and the pure-hearted, but this reputation for virtue ought not to fool anyone - these wands are the equal of any, often the better, and frequently out-perform others in duels.
This unusual and highly attractive wand wood was greatly in vogue in the nineteenth century. Demand outstripped supply, and unscrupulous wandmakers dyed substandard woods in an effort to fool purchasers into believing that they had purchased silver lime. The reasons for these wands’ desirability lay not only in their unusually handsome appearance, but also because they had a reputation for performing best for Seers and those skilled in Legilimency, mysterious arts both, which consequently gave the possessor of a silver lime wand considerable status. When demand was at its height, wandmaker Arturo Cephalopos claimed that the association between silver lime and clairvoyance was ‘a falsehood circulated by merchants like Gerbold Ollivander (my own grandfather), who have overstocked their workshops with silver lime and hope to shift their surplus.’ But Cephalopos was a slipshod wandmaker and an ignoramus, and nobody, Seer or not, was surprised when he went out of business.
Unskilled wandmakers call spruce a difficult wood, but in doing so they reveal their own ineptitude. It is quite true that it requires particular deftness to work with spruce, which produces wands that are ill-matched with cautious or nervous natures, and become positively dangerous in fumbling fingers. The spruce wand requires a firm hand, because it often appears to have its own ideas about what magic it ought to be called upon to produce. However, when a spruce wand meets its match - which, in my experience, is a bold spell-caster with a good sense of humour - it becomes a superb helper, intensely loyal to their owners and capable of producing particularly flamboyant and dramatic effects.
The sycamore makes a questing wand, eager for new experience and losing brilliance if engaged in mundane activities. It is a quirk of these handsome wands that they may combust if allowed to become ‘bored,’ and many witches and wizards, settling down into middle age, are disconcerted to find their trusty wand bursting into flame in their hand as they ask it, one more time, to fetch their slippers. As may be deduced, the sycamore’s ideal owner is curious, vital and adventurous, and when paired with such an owner, it demonstrates a capacity to learn and adapt that earns it a rightful place among the world's most highly-prized wand woods.
The druids considered anything with a woody stem as a tree, and vine makes wands of such a special nature that I have been happy to continue their ancient tradition. Vine wands are among the less common types, and I have been intrigued to notice that their owners are nearly always those witches or wizards who seek a greater purpose, who have a vision beyond the ordinary and who frequently astound those who think they know them best. Vine wands seem strongly attracted by personalities with hidden depths, and I have found them more sensitive than any other when it comes to instantly detecting a prospective match. Reliable sources claim that these wands can emit magical effects upon the mere entrance into their room of a suitable owner, and I have twice observed the phenomenon in my own shop.
Highly intelligent witches and wizards ought to be offered a walnut wand for trial first, because in nine cases out of ten, the two will find in each other their ideal mate. Walnut wands are often found in the hands of magical innovators and inventors; this is a handsome wood possessed of unusual versatility and adaptability. A note of caution, however: while some woods are difficult to dominate, and may resist the performance of spells that are foreign to their natures, the walnut wand will, once subjugated, perform any task its owner desires, provided that the user is of sufficient brilliance. This makes for a truly lethal weapon in the hands of a witch or wizard of no conscience, for the wand and the wizard may feed from each other in a particularly unhealthy manner.
Willow is an uncommon wand wood with healing power, and I have noted that the ideal owner for a willow wand often has some (usually unwarranted) insecurity, however well they may try and hide it. While many confident customers insist on trying a willow wand (attracted by their handsome appearance and well-founded reputation for enabling advanced, non-verbal magic) my willow wands have consistently selected those of greatest potential, rather than those who feel they have little to learn. It has always been a proverb in my family that he who has furthest to travel will go fastest with willow.
Yew wands are among the rarer kinds, and their ideal matches are likewise unusual, and occasionally notorious. The wand of yew is reputed to endow its possessor with the power of life and death, which might, of course, be said of all wands; and yet yew retains a particularly dark and fearsome reputation in the spheres of duelling and all curses. However, it is untrue to say (as those unlearned in wandlore often do) that those who use yew wands are more likely to be attracted to the Dark Arts than another. The witch or wizard best suited to a yew wand might equally prove a fierce protector of others. Wands hewn from these most long-lived trees have been found in the possession of heroes quite as often as of villains. Where wizards have been buried with wands of yew, the wand generally sprouts into a tree guarding the dead owner’s grave. What is certain, in my experience, is that the yew wand never chooses either a mediocre or a timid owner.
Chamber of Secrets
New from J.K. Rowling
The existence of the Chamber was known to Slytherin’s descendants and those with whom they chose to share the information. Thus the rumour stayed alive through the centuries.
There is clear evidence that the Chamber was opened more than once between the death of Slytherin and the entrance of Tom Riddle in the twentieth century. When first created, the Chamber was accessed through a concealed trapdoor and a series of magical tunnels. However, when Hogwarts’ plumbing became more elaborate in the eighteenth century (this was a rare instance of wizards copying Muggles, because hitherto they simply relieved themselves wherever they stood, and vanished the evidence), the entrance to the Chamber was threatened, being located on the site of a proposed bathroom. The presence in school at the time of a student called Corvinus Gaunt – direct descendant of Slytherin, and antecedent of Tom Riddle – explains how the simple trapdoor was secretly protected, so that those who knew how could still access the entrance to the Chamber even after newfangled plumbing had been placed on top of it.
Whispers that a monster lived in the depths of the castle were also prevalent for centuries. Again, this is because those who could hear and speak to it were not always as discreet as they might have been: the Gaunt family could not resist boasting of their knowledge. As nobody else could hear the creature sliding beneath floorboards or, latterly, through the plumbing, they did not have many believers, and none, until Riddle, dared unleash the monster on the castle.
Successive headmasters and mistresses, not to mention a number of historians, searched the castle thoroughly many times over the centuries, each time concluding that the chamber was a myth. The reason for their failure was simple: none of them was a Parselmouth.
Hogwarts School Subjects
New from J.K. Rowling
All first-years at Hogwarts must take seven subjects: Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy and Herbology. Flying lessons (on broomsticks) are also compulsory.
At the end of their second year at Hogwarts, students are required to choose a minimum of two more subjects from the following list: Arithmancy, Muggle Studies, Divination, Study of Ancient Runes and Care of Magical Creatures.
Very specialised subjects such as Alchemy are sometimes offered in the final two years, if there is sufficient demand.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
A slightly different list of school subjects appears in my earliest notes. Herbology is called 'Herbalism', Divination is compulsory from the first year, as are Alchemy and a subject called simply 'Beasts', whereas Transfiguration is called 'Transfiguration/Metamorphosis'.
Hufflepuff Common Room
New from J.K. Rowling
The Hufflepuff common room is entered from the same corridor as the Hogwarts kitchens. Proceeding past the large still life that forms the entrance to the latter, a pile of large barrels is to be found stacked in a shadowy stone recess on the right-hand side of the corridor. The barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row, will open if tapped in the rhythm of 'Helga Hufflepuff'.* As a security device to repel non-Hufflepuffs, tapping on the wrong barrel, or tapping the incorrect number of times, results in one of the other lids bursting off and drenching the interloper in vinegar.
A sloping, earthy passage inside the barrel travels upwards a little way until a cosy, round, low-ceilinged room is revealed, reminiscent of a badger's set. The room is decorated in the cheerful, bee-like colours of yellow and black, emphasised by the use of highly polished, honey-coloured wood for the tables and the round doors which lead to the boys' and girls' dormitories (furnished with comfortable wooden bedsteads, all covered in patchwork quilts).
A colourful profusion of plants and flowers seem to relish the atmosphere of the Hufflepuff common room: various cactii stand on wooden circular shelves (curved to fit the walls), many of them waving and dancing at passers-by, while copper-bottomed plant holders dangling amid the ceiling cause tendrils of ferns and ivies to brush your hair as you pass under them.
A portrait over the wooden mantelpiece (carved all over with decorative dancing badgers) shows Helga Hufflepuff, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School, toasting her students with a tiny, two-handled golden cup. Small, round windows just level with the ground at the foot of the castle show a pleasant view of rippling grass and dandelions, and, occasionally, passing feet. These low windows notwithstanding, the room feels perennially sunny.
* The complexity or otherwise of the entrance to the common rooms might be said to give a very rough idea of the intellectual reputation of each house: Hufflepuff has an unchanging portal and requires rhythmic tapping; Slytherin and Gryffindor have doorways that challenge the would-be entrant about equally, the former having an almost imperceptible hidden entrance and a varying password, the latter having a capricious guardian and frequently changing passwords. In keeping with its reputation as the house of the most agile minds at Hogwarts, the door to the Ravenclaw common room presents a fresh intellectual or philosophical challenge every time a person knocks on it.
Nevertheless, it ought not to be concluded from the above that Hufflepuffs are dimwits or duffers, though they have been cruelly caricatured that way on occasion. Several outstanding brains have emerged from Hufflepuff house over the centuries; these fine minds simply happened to be allied to outstanding qualities of patience, a strong work ethic and constancy, all traditional hallmarks of Hufflepuff House.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
When I first planned the series, I expected Harry to visit all four house common rooms during his time at Hogwarts. There came a point when I realised that there was never going to be a valid reason to enter the Hufflepuff room. Nevertheless, it is quite as real to me as the other three, and I always knew exactly where those Hufflepuffs were going when they headed off towards the kitchens after lessons.
King's Cross Station
New from J.K. Rowling
When Ottaline Gambol commandeered a Muggle train to serve as the new mode of transport for Hogwarts students, she also had constructed a small station in the wizarding village of Hogsmeade: a necessary adjunct to the train. The Ministry of Magic felt strongly, however, that to construct an additional wizarding station in the middle of London would stretch even the Muggles' notorious determination not to notice magic when it was exploding in front of their faces.
It was Evangeline Orpington, Minister from 1849-1855, who hit upon the solution of adding a concealed platform at the newly (Muggle) built King's Cross station, which would be accessible only to witches and wizards. On the whole, this has worked well, although there have been minor problems over the ensuing years, such as witches and wizards who have dropped suitcases full of biting spellbooks or newt spleens all over the polished station floor, or else disappeared through the solid barrier a little too loudly. There are usually a number of plain-clothed Ministry of Magic employees on hand to deal with any inconvenient Muggle memories that may need altering at the start and end of each Hogwarts term.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
King's Cross, which is one of London's main railway stations, has a very personal significance for me, because my parents met on a train to Scotland which departed from King’s Cross Station. For this reason, and because it has such an evocative and symbolic name, and because it is actually the right station to leave from if you were heading to Caledonia, I never knew the slightest indecision about the location of the portal that would take Harry to Hogwarts, or the means of transport that would take him there.
It is said (though where the story originated I could not tell you; it is suspiciously vague) that King's Cross Station was built either on the site of Boudicca's last battle (Boudicca was an ancient British queen who led a rebellion against the Romans) or on the site of her tomb. Legend has it that her grave is situated somewhere in the region of platforms eight to ten. I did not know this when I gave the wizards' platform its number. King’s Cross Station takes its name from a now-demolished monument to King George IV.
There is a real trolley stuck halfway out of a wall in King's Cross now, and it makes me beam proudly every time I pass.
Number Four, Privet Drive
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
The name of the street where the Dursleys live is a reference to that most suburban plant, the privet bush, which makes neat hedges around many English gardens. I liked the associations with both suburbia and enclosure, the Dursleys being so smugly middle class, and so determinedly separate from the wizarding world. The name of their area is 'Little Whinging', which again sounds appropriately parochial and sniffy, 'whinging' being a colloquial term for 'complaining or whining' in British English.
Although I describe the Dursleys' house as big and square, as befitted Uncle Vernon's status as a company director, whenever I wrote about it I was unconsciously visualising the second house I lived in as a child, which on the contrary was a rather small three-bedroomed house in the suburb of Winterbourne, near Bristol. I first became conscious of this when I entered the number four Privet Drive that had been built at Leavesden Studios, and found myself in an exact replica of my old house, down to the position of the cupboard under the stairs and the precise location of each room. As I had never described my old home to the set designer, director or producer, this was yet another of the unsettling experiences that filming the Potter books has brought me.
For no very good reason, I have never been fond of the number four, which has always struck me as a rather hard and unforgiving number, which is why I slapped it on the Dursleys' front door.
Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
In choosing the number of the concealed platform that would take young witches and wizards to boarding school, I decided that it would have to be a number between those of the Muggle platforms - therefore, it was clearly a fraction. This raised the interesting question of how many other fractional platforms lay between the whole-numbered platforms at King's Cross, and I concluded that were probably quite a few. Although these are never mentioned in the book, I like to think that it is possible to take a version of the Orient Express off to wizard-only villages in continental Europe (try platform seven and a half), and that other platforms may be opened on an as-required-basis, for instance for large, one-off events such as Celestina Warbeck concerts (see your ticket for details).
The number nine and three-quarters presented itself without much conscious thought, and I liked it so much that I took it at once. It is the 'three-quarters' that makes it, of course.
New from J.K. Rowling
The Polyjuice Potion, which is a complex and time-consuming concoction, is best left to highly skilled witches and wizards. It enables the consumer to assume the physical appearance of another person, as long as they have first procured part of that individual's body to add to the brew (this may be anything - toenail clippings, dandruff or worse - but it is most usual to use hair). The idea that a witch or wizard might make evil use of parts of the body is an ancient one, and exists in the folklore and superstitions of many cultures.
The effect of the potion is only temporary, and depending on how well it has been brewed, may last anything from between ten minutes and twelve hours. You can change age, sex and race by taking the Polyjuice Potion, but not species.
The fact that Hermione is able to make a competent Polyjuice Potion at the age of twelve is testimony to her outstanding magical ability, because it is a potion that many adult witches and wizards fear to attempt.
J.K. Rowling's thoughts
I remember creating the full list of ingredients for the Polyjuice Potion. Each one was carefully selected. Lacewing flies (the first part of the name suggested an intertwining or binding together of two identities); leeches (to suck the essence out of one and into the other); horn of a Bicorn (the idea of duality); knotgrass (another hint of being tied to another person); fluxweed (the mutability of the body as it changed into another) and Boomslang skin (a shedded outer body and a new inner).
Congratulations! I’m Prefect Percy Weasley, and I’m delighted to welcome you to GRYFFINDOR HOUSE. Our emblem is the lion, the bravest of all creatures; our house colors are scarlet and gold, and our common room lies up in Gryffindor Tower. This is, quite simply, the best house at Hogwarts. It’s where the bravest and boldest end up – for instance: Albus Dumbledore! Yes, Dumbledore himself, the greatest wizard of our time, was a Gryffindor! If that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what is. I won’t keep you long, as all you need to do to find out more about your house is to follow Harry Potter and his friends as I lead them up to their dormitories. Enjoy your time at Hogwarts – but how could you fail to? You’ve become part of the best house in the school. Follow for more!
Congratulations! I’m Prefect Gabriel Truman, and I’m delighted to welcome you to HUFFLEPUFF HOUSE. Our emblem is the badger, an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself, including wolves. Our house colours are yellow and black, and our common room lies one floor below the ground, on the same corridor as the kitchens. Now, there are a few things you should know about Hufflepuff house. First of all, let’s deal with a perennial myth about the place, which is that we’re the least clever house. WRONG. Hufflepuff is certainly the least boastful house, but we’ve produced just as many brilliant witches and wizards as any other. Want proof? Look up Grogan Stump, one of the most popular Ministers for Magic of all time. He was a Hufflepuff – as were the successful Ministers Artemesia Lufkin and Dugald McPhail. Then there’s the world authority on magical creatures, Newt Scamander; Bridget Wenlock, the famous thirteenth-century Arithmancer who first discovered the magical properties of the number seven, and Hengist of Woodcroft, who founded the all-wizarding village of Hogsmeade, which lies very near Hogwarts School. Hufflepuffs all. So, as you can see, we’ve produced more than our fair share of powerful, brilliant and daring witches and wizards, but, just because we don’t shout about it, we don’t get the credit we deserve. Ravenclaws, in particular, assume that any outstanding achiever must have come from their house. I got into big trouble during my third year for duelling a Ravenclaw prefect who insisted that Bridget Wenlock had come from his house, not mine. I should have got a week of detentions, but Professor Sprout let me off with a warning and a box of coconut ice. Hufflepuffs are trustworthy and loyal. We don’t shoot our mouths off, but cross us at your peril; like our emblem, the badger, we will protect ourselves, our friends and our families against all-comers. Nobody intimidates us. However, it’s true that Hufflepuff is a bit lacking in one area. We’ve produced the fewest Dark wizards of any house in this school. Of course, you’d expect Slytherin to churn out evil-doers, seeing as they’ve never heard of fair play and prefer cheating over hard work any day, but even Gryffindor (the house we get on best with) has produced a few dodgy characters. What else do you need to know? Oh yes, the entrance to the common room is concealed in a stack of large barrels in a nook on the right hand side of the kitchen corridor. Tap the barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row, in the rhythm of ‘Helga Hufflepuff’, and the lid will swing open. We are the only house at Hogwarts that also has a repelling device for would-be intruders. If the wrong lid is tapped, or if the rhythm of the tapping is wrong, the illegal entrant is doused in vinegar. You will hear other houses boast of their security arrangements, but it so happens that in more than a thousand years, the Hufflepuff common room and dormitories have never been seen by outsiders. Like badgers, we know exactly how to lie low – and how to defend ourselves. Once you’ve opened the barrel, crawl inside and along the passageway behind it, and you will emerge into the cosiest common room of them all. It is round and earthy and low-ceilinged; it always feels sunny, and its circular windows have a view of rippling grass and dandelions. There is a lot of burnished copper about the place, and many plants, which either hang from the ceiling or sit on the windowsills. Our Head of house, Professor Pomona Sprout, is Head of Herbology, and she brings the most interesting specimens (some of which dance and talk) to decorate our room – one reason why Hufflepuffs are often very good at Herbology. Our overstuffed sofas and chairs are upholstered in yellow and black, and our dormitories are reached through round doors in the walls of the common room. Copper lamps cast a warm light over our four-posters, all of which are covered in patchwork quilts, and copper bed warmers hang on the walls, should you have cold feet. Our house ghost is the friendliest of them all: the Fat Friar. You’ll recognise him easily enough; he’s plump and wears monk’s robes, and he’s very helpful if you get lost or are in any kind of trouble. I think that’s nearly everything. I must say, I hope some of you are good Quidditch players. Hufflepuff hasn’t done as well as I’d like in the Quidditch tournament lately. You should sleep comfortably. We’re protected from storms and wind down in our dormitories; we never have the disturbed nights those in the towers sometimes experience. And once again: congratulations on becoming a member of the friendliest, most decent and most tenacious house of them all. For more, make sure to follow.
Congratulations! I’m Prefect Robert Hilliard, and I’m delighted to welcome you to RAVENCLAW HOUSE. Our emblem is the eagle, which soars where others cannot climb; our house colors are blue and bronze, and our common room is found at the top of Ravenclaw Tower, behind a door with an enchanted knocker. The arched windows set into the walls of our circular common room look down at the school grounds: the lake, the Forbidden Forest, the Quidditch pitch and the Herbology gardens. No other house in the school has such stunning views. Without wishing to boast, this is the house where the cleverest witches and wizards live. Our founder, Rowena Ravenclaw, prized learning above all else – and so do we. Unlike the other houses, who all have concealed entrances to their common rooms, we don’t need one. The door to our common room lies at the top of a tall, winding staircase. It has no handle, but an enchanted bronze knocker in the shape of an eagle. When you rap on the door, this knocker will ask you a question, and if you can answer it correctly, you are allowed in. This simple barrier has kept out everyone but Ravenclaws for nearly a thousand years. Some first-years are scared by having to answer the eagle’s questions, but don’t worry. Ravenclaws learn quickly, and you’ll soon enjoy the challenges the door sets. It’s not unusual to find twenty people standing outside the common room door, all trying to work out the answer to the day’s question together. This is a great way to meet fellow Ravenclaws from other years, and to learn from them – although it is a bit annoying if you’ve forgotten your Quidditch robes and need to get in and out in a hurry. In fact, I’d advise you to triple-check your bag for everything you need before leaving Ravenclaw Tower. Another cool thing about Ravenclaw is that our people are the most individual – some might even call them eccentrics. But geniuses are often out of step with ordinary folk, and unlike some other houses we could mention, we think you’ve got the right to wear what you like, believe what you want, and say what you feel. We aren’t put off by people who march to a different tune; on the contrary, we value them! Speaking of eccentrics, you’ll like our Head of house, Professor Filius Flitwick. People often underestimate him, because he’s really tiny (we think he’s part elf, but we’ve never been rude enough to ask) and he’s got a squeaky voice, but he’s the best and most knowledgeable Charms master alive in the world today. His office door is always open to any Ravenclaw with a problem, and if you’re in a real state he’ll get out these delicious little cupcakes he keeps in a tin in his desk drawer and make them do a little dance for you. In fact, it’s worth pretending you’re in a real state just to see them jive. Ravenclaw house has an illustrious history. Most of the greatest wizarding inventors and innovators were in our house, including Perpetua Fancourt, the inventor of the lunascope, Laverne de Montmorency, a great pioneer of love potions, and Ignatia Wildsmith, the inventor of Floo powder. Famous Ravenclaw Ministers for Magic include Millicent Bagnold, who was in power on the night that Harry Potter survived the Dark Lord’s curse, and defended the wizarding celebrations all over Britain with the words, ‘I assert our inalienable right to party. There was also Minister Lorcan McLaird, who was a quite brilliant wizard, but preferred to communicate by puffing smoke out of the end of his wand. Well, I did say we produce eccentrics. In fact, we are also the house that gave the wizarding world Uric the Oddball, who used a jellyfish for a hat. He’s the punch line of a lot of wizarding jokes. As for our relationship with the other three houses: well, you’ve probably heard about the Slytherins. They’re not all bad, but you’d do well to be on your guard until you know them well. They’ve got a long house tradition of doing whatever it takes to win – so watch out, especially in Quidditch matches and exams. The Gryffindors are OK. If I had a criticism, I’d say Gryffindors tend to be show-offs. They’re also much less tolerant than we are of people who are different; in fact, they’ve been known to make jokes about Ravenclaws who have developed an interest in levitation, or the possible magical uses of troll bogies, or ovomancy, which (as you probably know) is a method of divination using eggs. Gryffindors haven’t got our intellectual curiosity, whereas we’ve got no problem if you want to spend your days and nights cracking eggs in a corner of the common room and writing down your predictions according to the way the yolks fall. In fact, you’ll probably find a few people to help you. As for the Hufflepuffs, well, nobody could say they’re not nice people. In fact, they’re some of the nicest people in the school. Let’s just say you needn’t worry too much about them when it comes to competition at exam time. I think that’s nearly everything. Oh yes, our house ghost is the Gray Lady. The rest of the school thinks she never speaks, but she’ll talk to Ravenclaws. She’s particularly useful if you’re lost, or you’ve mislaid something. I’m sure you’ll have a good night. Our dormitories are in turrets off the main tower; our four-poster beds are covered in sky blue silk eiderdowns and the sound of the wind whistling around the windows is very relaxing. And once again: well done on becoming a member of the cleverest, quirkiest and most interesting house at Hogwarts. Follow for more.
Congratulations! I’m Prefect Gemma Farley, and I’m delighted to welcome you to SLYTHERIN HOUSE. Our emblem is the serpent, the wisest of creatures; our house colours are emerald green and silver, and our common room lies behind a concealed entrance down in the dungeons. As you’ll see, its windows look out into the depths of the Hogwarts lake. We often see the giant squid swooshing by – and sometimes more interesting creatures. We like to feel that our hangout has the aura of a mysterious, underwater shipwreck. Now, there are a few things you should know about Slytherin – and a few you should forget. Firstly, let’s dispel a few myths. You might have heard rumours about Slytherin house – that we’re all into the Dark Arts, and will only talk to you if your great-grandfather was a famous wizard, and rubbish like that. Well, you don’t want to believe everything you hear from competing houses. I’m not denying that we’ve produced our share of Dark wizards, but so have the other three houses – they just don’t like admitting it. And yes, we have traditionally tended to take students who come from long lines of witches and wizards, but nowadays you’ll find plenty of people in Slytherin house who have at least one Muggle parent. Here’s a little-known fact that the other three houses don’t bring up much: Merlin was a Slytherin. Yes, Merlin himself, the most famous wizard in history! He learned all he knew in this very house! Do you want to follow in the footsteps of Merlin? Or would you rather sit at the old desk of that illustrious ex-Hufflepuff, Eglantine Puffett, inventor of the Self-Soaping Dishcloth? I didn’t think so. But that’s enough about what we’re not. Let’s talk about what we are, which is the coolest and edgiest house in this school. We play to win, because we care about the honour and traditions of Slytherin. We also get respect from our fellow students. Yes, some of that respect might be tinged with fear, because of our Dark reputation, but you know what? It can be fun, having a reputation for walking on the wild side. Chuck out a few hints that you’ve got access to a whole library of curses, and see whether anyone feels like nicking your pencil case. But we’re not bad people. We’re like our emblem, the snake: sleek, powerful, and frequently misunderstood. For instance, we Slytherins look after our own – which is more than you can say for Ravenclaw. Apart from being the biggest bunch of swots you ever met, Ravenclaws are famous for clambering over each other to get good marks, whereas we Slytherins are brothers. The corridors of Hogwarts can throw up surprises for the unwary, and you’ll be glad you’ve got the Serpents on your side as you move around the school. As far as we’re concerned, once you’ve become a snake, you’re one of ours – one of the elite. Because you know what Salazar Slytherin looked for in his chosen students? The seeds of greatness. You’ve been chosen by this house because you’ve got the potential to be great, in the true sense of the word. All right, you might see a couple of people hanging around the common room whom you might not think are destined for anything special. Well, keep that to yourself. If the Sorting Hat put them in here, there’s something great about them, and don’t you forget it. And talking of people who aren’t destined for greatness, I haven’t mentioned the Gryffindors. Now, a lot of people say that Slytherins and Gryffindors represent two sides of the same coin. Personally, I think Gryffindors are nothing more than wannabe Slytherins. Mind you, some people say that Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor prized the same kinds of students, so perhaps we are more similar than we like to think. But that doesn’t mean that we cosy up with Gryffindors. They like beating us only slightly less than we like beating them. A few more things you might need to know: our house ghost is the Bloody Baron. If you get on the right side of him he’ll sometimes agree to frighten people for you. Just don’t ask him how he got bloodstained; he doesn’t like it. The password to the common room changes every fortnight. Keep an eye on the noticeboard. Never bring anyone from another house into our common room or tell them our password. No outsider has entered it for more than seven centuries. Well, I think that’s all for now. I’m sure you’ll like our dormitories. We sleep in ancient four-posters with green silk hangings, and bedspreads embroidered with silver thread. Medieval tapestries depicting the adventures of famous Slytherins cover the walls, and silver lanterns hang from the ceilings. You’ll sleep well; it’s very soothing, listening to the lake water lapping against the windows at night. Follow me for more info and screencaps.