It’s been a decade since the release of the final Harry Potter book, but the expansion of the Potterverse is not slowing down any time soon. Last year saw the debut of the much anticipated Fantastic Beasts franchise, while The Cursed Child continues to draw media attention, and Pottermore is thriving like never before.
Launched in 2011 by JK Rowling herself, Pottermore is a place for fans to delve deeper into the extensive history of Harry Potter. The majority of its several million users have checked in to determine their Hogwarts house allegiance and the form of their patronus, but those who have stuck around for a while longer may have just learned a thing or two about the wizarding world.
To this day, Rowling regularly updates the site with fresh information regarding the fate of her characters, the origins of your favorite locations, and famous wizards in history, as well as all the background you’ll ever need on the new movies.
Here are the 15 Craziest Things We Have Learned on Pottermore.
15. The Former Ministers for Magic
Following the Battle of Hogwarts, Kingsley Shacklebolt continues to uphold the mantle of Minister for Magic, but he was preceded by a long line of shady figures. For example, the sixth and shortest-serving Minister, Basil Flack, resigned when the goblins and werewolves joined forces to overthrow him, while the third, Perseus Parkinson, tried to pass a law making it illegal to marry muggles.
Parkinson was directly succeeded by two Ministers also sharing familiar surnames. Eldritch Diggory contracted a nasty case of dragon pox and died on the job, while Albert Boot was forced to overlook another goblin rebellion. Flint and Lestrange are among the other names you might recognize from the books, all leading to Cornelius Fudge in 1990.
Fudge lasted six years as Minister, and spent the latter two denying Voldemort’s existence. Coincidentally, Fudge awarded himself the Order of Merlin: First Class (the highest wizarding honor) during his time in office.
14. The Leaky Cauldron is the Oldest Pub in London
Meanwhile, the longest-serving Minister for Magic, Faris “Spout-hole” Spavin (who once survived an assassination attempt from a centaur), gave a seven-hour long speech in reference to the Leaky Cauldron. Upon the creation of Charing Cross Road, it was thought that London’s most famous wizarding pub would be demolished, but a mass of memory charms and (unconfirmed) Imperius curses on unsuspecting muggles (all performed in the time Spavin delivered his speech) saved the Cauldron from extinction.
The Leaky Cauldron had existed for almost 400 years before Charing Cross Road, even before the International Statute of Secrecy had been put in place. This allowed muggles free access to the pub, and though they were never turned away, a few untoward pets caused several to vacate the premises early.
13. Bulgaria Finally Won the Quidditch World Cup
Rita Skeeter took Pottermore by storm in 2014, as Bulgaria faced Brazil in the final of the Quidditch World Cup. Twenty years after their infamous defeat versus Ireland, Bulgaria were this time spurred on by the return of Viktor Krum (who came out of retirement to finally achieve his dream), and ran home 170-60 winners.
But the accompanying report, as written by Skeeter and correspondent Ginny Potter, focuses very little on the match in question. In true Skeeter fashion, she chooses to report instead on the various goings on in the crowd, where Harry Potter reunites with old friends to make an unexpected appearance.
Scrolling down Skeeter’s tabloid-style text, we catch up with Ron, Hermione and Neville, who is described as “resentful” for not achieving a similar level of attention to Harry. Luna remains “delightfully eccentric”, Teddy Lupin is elegantly detailed as “a lanky half-werewolf” and Hermione as “the femme fatale of the group.”
12. McGonagall and Pettigrew Are “Hatstalls”
The term “Hatstall” refers to a witch or wizard whose sorting takes upwards of five minutes. The meaning of the word is self-explanatory, referring to a witch or wizard with characteristics so divisive that the Sorting Hat stalls for time before making its final decision.
While the Hat deliberated strongly over the likes of Harry and Hermione – who were almost placed into Slytherin and Ravenclaw respectively – neither sorting actually crosses the five-minute mark. In fact, there are only two Hatstalls to appear in the Harry Potter books (though there have been several in history).
During Professor McGonagall’s sorting, the Hat wavered between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw for almost six full minutes before it settled on the former. Peter Pettigrew, understandably, just missed out on becoming a Slytherin. The Hat vehemently defends its decision to place Pettigrew in Gryffindor to this day, citing his final sacrifice as proof of his bravery, although Rowling herself finds this explanation “dubious”.
11. The Fate of Florean Fortescue
Book readers may remember that Florean Fortescue, owner of Diagon Alley’s infamous ice-cream parlor, was kidnapped and murdered by the Death Eaters in a briefly-mentioned subplot of The Half-Blood Prince. Florean’s death long remained a mystery, with Bill Weasley only speculating that he might have done something to anger Voldemort, but Rowling has since taken to Pottermore to clear up the issue.
It turns out that Fortescue’s kidnapping was originally intended to play a major role in Harry’s hunt for Ravenclaw’s diadem. Established in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Fortescue’s extensive knowledge of medieval wizardry was not thrown in by accident. Rowling suggests that he might have had a “smattering of information on matters as diverse as the Elder Wand and the diadem of Ravenclaw” – information that was easier relayed by Phineas Nigellus and the Grey Lady as the plot unfolded.
10. Harry Was One of the First to Own a Firebolt
The Nimbus Racing Brooms were all the rage during Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, with the soon-to-be seeker picking up a Nimbus Two Thousand as a gift for breaking the rules. By The Chamber of Secrets, Lucius Malfoy had forked out a whopping amount of gold for seven Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones – one for each member of the Slytherin team – but at the same time, Randolph Spudmore was developing a special top-secret project that would blow the Nimbus out of the water.
Spudmore had a history in racing brooms, producing the Tinderblast and Swiftstick models in the mid-twentieth century, both achieving a decent reception. But the son of Able Spudmore was experimenting with goblin-made ironwork to manufacture his latest creation – the Firebolt.
Unfortunately, the Firebolt is made only in small quantities, due largely to the goblins’ tendency to go on strike, and it remains one of the priciest brooms around. As such, the Firebolt first seen in Diagon Alley at the beginning of Azkaban is one of the first to go on sale to the general public, and not long after, Harry becomes one of the first owners of a Firebolt Racing Broom.
9. Ilvermorny: A History
Rowling released information on Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in preparation for Fantastic Beasts, since its American characters would most likely have attended the school. Very little of its history is explained through the film, despite some of its magical creatures pertaining to Ilvermorny houses, and so this is information still exclusive to Pottermore.
The school was founded by Irish orphan Isolt Sayre, who was taken in by her aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt, following the death of her parents. Like her descendants, Gormlaith was a pure-blood fanatic, and Isolt was 17 before she could escape. She fled the country, eventually settling in America, where she befriended a stubborn Pukwudgie named William before finding a family of her own.
Isolt frequently told her muggle husband James and two adopted sons Chadwick and Webster second-hand stories of Hogwarts, and they each named an Ilvermorny house for the magical creatures with whom they most identified. Isolt, a descendant of Slytherin (and therefore a distant relative of Harry Potter himself), chose the Horned Serpent, James the Pukwudgie (having heard stories of William), and the boys Thunderbird and Wampus. All four creatures appear in Newt Scamander’s famous book – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
8. Umbridge is a Half-Blood
The title of the most evil character in Harry Potter is hotly contested between Umbridge and Voldemort, and funnily enough – neither is a pure-blood. Though she claims to be descended from noble wizarding stock, it should come as no surprise that Umbridge is basically lying through her teeth.
Not only does she have a muggle mother, but her brother is a squib. She was deeply ashamed of the pair of them, but Dolores also managed to find a way to resent her wizard father. Orford Umbridge worked in the Department of Magical Maintenance, and his lack of ambition within the Ministry drove Dolores to despise him, according to Rowling.
Still, she remained with her father when her parents divorced, while her brother vanished into the muggle world with their mother. She disowned her mother and brother, never to see them again, and was able to convince the world she was a pure-blood.
7. Before the Hogwarts Express
Prior to the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692, young witches and wizards would travel to Hogwarts in any way they saw fit. Some would fly, others rode magical creatures, and a select few would attempt to apparate, despite the anti-apparition charms having always been in place.
The Ministry decreed that Portkeys would best keep school-goers hidden following the Statute of Secrecy, but this method caused several students to miss their time slot, and still more to suffer “Portkey-sickness.” Floo powder was also offered as an option, but succeeded only in risking the castle’s security.
This left the Ministry to search the muggle world for alternatives. Minister Ottaline Gambol settled on trains, having been intrigued by the invention, and so began the largest ever mass concealment charm performed in Great Britain. Pure-blood families naturally maligned the use of muggle transportation, but it soon became wizarding law that all students take the Hogwarts Express.
6. Why Harry Couldn’t See Thestrals Pre-Phoenix
As revealed in The Order of the Phoenix, the “invisible horses” pulling the Hogwarts carriages are, in fact, thestrals – skeletal, winged creatures visible only to those who have witnessed death. Harry becomes aware of the thestrals early on in Phoenix, following Cedric’s death at the end of the last book, but fans were quick to point out that Harry bore witness to his mother’s death when he was just one year old.
According to Rowling and Pottermore, you must have an emotional understanding of what death means for thestrals to become visible. Harry could never quite comprehend the loss of his mother, having never known her. Even Cedric’s death took weeks for Harry to fully accept, which is why he doesn’t register the thestrals at the end of Goblet.
5. No One Knows How to Make Floo Powder
For what is essentially magical dust, there is an alarming amount of mystery behind Floo powder. The only producer of Floo powder is based in Diagon Alley, though they are known for never answering their front door. Not since the thirteenth century, when Ignatia Wildsmith first invented Floo powder as a means of transportation, has a member of the public known anyone who makes it.
Despite the relative cheapness of Floo powder (two sickles a scoop), curious witches and wizards have tried to recreate the formula, but most have ended up in St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries with severe burns. As recently as 2010, Rutherford Poke, spokeswizard and healer at St Mungo’s, was forced to release a statement on the dangers of Floo powder: “It’s two sickles a scoop, people, so stop being so cheap! If one more wizard comes in here with a burned backside, I swear I won’t treat him. It’s two sickles a scoop!”
4. Rowling Dug Herself a (Plot) Hole with the Time-Turners
Hermione’s time-turner plays a pivotal role in the finale of Azkaban, but Rowling has since claimed that she did not foresee the implications of taking time-travel so lightly. “Because after all, if wizards could go back and undo problems, where were my future plots?” she asked the readers of Pottermore.
In answer to her own question, the author explains step-by-step how she went about combatting potential plot holes. First, she had Dumbledore and Hermione stress the dangers of being seen by anyone in the past, and second, made sure Hermione returned the only time-turner to ever infiltrate Hogwarts. She took her opportunity to rid the world of time-turners in Phoenix, making a point to destroy them all in the battle at the Department of Mysteries.
3. How Lupin Became a Werewolf
It’s stated in the series that Remus Lupin received his werewolf bite from one Fenrir Greyback, but the backstory behind the attack is both extensive and completely devastating. A four-year-old Remus was sound asleep in his bed when Greyback broke into the house and attacked him, not out of a hatred for Remus, but as revenge on his father.
Lyall Lupin was an expert in the field on poltergeists and (appropriately enough) boggarts. He was recruited by the Ministry during Voldemort’s original uprising to provide information on dark creatures, when he sat in on a hearing. Greyback was on trial for murder, but released almost instantly, despite Lyall’s protests that Greyback was clearly a werewolf.
Lyall described werewolves as “soulless, evil, deserving nothing but death”, which was met with condescending jeers from the committee members, but which Greyback took entirely seriously. The quote would come back to haunt Lyall for the rest of his life.
2. McGonagall’s Love Life
McGonagall may be an extraordinary witch, but her love life has been anything but extraordinary. At 18-years-old, following her graduation, McGonagall met Dougal McGregor. The muggle son of a local farmer, McGregor proposed later that same summer. McGonagall initially accepted, but cancelled the marriage the next morning so as to uphold the Statute of Secrecy.
McGonagall left to pursue her career, but found out some years later that the love of her life had been killed by the Death Eaters in an anti-muggle attack. She never quite recovered from McGregor’s death, though she did eventually marry Elphinstone Urquart, a Ministry official who had become obsessed with Minerva during their time working together.
The pair were happily married for three years, before he too was killed, in this case by a Venomous Tentacula bite. McGonagall abandoned their Hogsmeade cottage and returned to her Hogwarts chambers, where she would see out the rest of her life.
1. The First Time the Potters Met the Dursleys
When Vernon Dursley first told his fiancée that he wouldn’t hold it against her for having a “freak” sister, Petunia threw herself upon him so forcefully that he dropped his battered sausage. True story.
But there was still the small matter of meeting the Potters, which went down about as well as you’d expect. James found Vernon rather funny, and made no effort to hide his amusement, responding to Vernon’s patronizing question about whether or not he owned a car by describing his own racing broom. The Dursleys had quite about enough when James innocently told them of Gringotts, and stormed from the restaurant, leaving Lily in tears and James feeling guilty.
James promised to make things right with Vernon when they next met, but Vernon refused to talk to James during his own wedding reception, and the Dursleys flat out refused to attend the Potters’ wedding. James and Lily’s final correspondence with the Dursleys was by way of a letter, announcing the birth of their son, which Petunia glanced at only briefly before throwing away.
Registered to Pottermore? Let us know what Harry Potter secrets we missed in the comments!