Among the many story elements that turned Harry Potter into a juggernaut sensation, one aspect may have been more ingenious than any other: Harry Potter’s universe is our universe. The original book series required less imaginative effort than other, denser fantasy tomes, and presented audiences with convenient environmental analogs. A foggy, cobblestoned British alley is a foggy, cobblestoned British alley, whether it’s filled with wizards or muggles.
This may sound like a marginalization of J.K. Rowling’s world building skills or imagination. It’s not. The proximity to our real life – the idea that there could be fascinating secret world right under our noses – was an instant hook for readers, and stoked audience imagination in a way that might differ from more typical fantasy environments, but was no less captivating or rewarding. The trappings of our society are all present in Harry Potter, which makes the amazing features of the wizarding world so much more enticing. It would be tough to imagine a fantasy universe with more little details, devices, trinkets, or creatures that made audiences think, “I need those to be real.”
Since The Cursed Child will be out at the end of this month and Harry is set to reenter our lives, here are the fifteen best examples of that idea, with one caveat. Obviously the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter is powered by magic. We could just do a one item list, “1. Magic” and be done with it. Instead, we are curating the magic experience, because some features are cooler than others and there are some (Dementors, unforgivable curses) that we outright would not want. These are specifically the 15 Things From The Wizarding World We Wish Were Real.
15. Room of Requirement
Every muggle house needs a Room of Requirement. These rooms change their features to match the needs of the user at the moment, and they are undetectable to the naked eye. Think of a bomb shelter that shape-shifts depending on what is necessary. They can’t produce organic matter, but other than that they are for all intents and purposes infinitely useful.
Now, if Rooms of Requirement were to exist, they would most likely be used first and foremost as rooms of requirement – pardon the redundancy, it is there to emphasize the one most important word: “requirement”. A person could probably use their room as a bathroom, game room, etc., but that isn’t in the true spirit of the thing and also stretches the definition of the word requirement. Instead, they would be used in more practical ways – extra storage, an emergence medical treatment space, a workshop, a bomb shelter, a light room in a power outage, the possibilities are numerous.
14. Felix Felicis (Liquid Luck)
Felix Felicis is, like many components of the wizarding world, a smart analog to something that already exists in our universe and a fantastical, wonderful idea. The potion, also called liquid luck, basically ensures success in all its users endeavors for a period of time after ingestion. But like any easy option in the real world, it comes with a caveat.
First of all, Felix Felicis is extremely dangerous to create. It is a many-month process that sounds like walking a chemical high-wire, with an explosion due at any moment. Secondly, it has damaging side effects – users who become dependent on the potion slowly see their judgement erode, as they become more and more reckless. Finally, it is toxic if taken in high enough quantities. Like any performance enhancing drug worth its salt, Felix Felicis is strictly banned from all quidditch competitions.
It’s fun to imagine what would happen if Felix Felicis were real. We certainly want some, but the reality is we would probably have to procure it through some grey market – a shady gym, or a classmate with seemingly way too much money. Because it is blatantly a way to cheat the system – the system being life – it would no doubt be highly-regulated. Coupled with the danger of both producing and ingesting the potion, it might be illegal altogether. But you can bet we’d be looking for some the next time a big promotion comes around.
13. Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, or Weasley and Weasley, is a joke shop that Fred and George open in Diagon Alley. Imagine a regular magic or joke shop, only instead of fragile whoopee cushions, fart spray, and finger traps, the shop sells extendable ears and portable swamps. (Extendable ears and portable swamps are exactly what they sound like.)
This would be a treasure trove of adolescent mischief, and the perfect last shop to hit before the school year begins, or before the summer begins for that matter. In addition to their creative gags and pranks, the Weasleys also stock an impressive array of fireworks, including some that are resistant to suppressive magic.
There is no downside to a real life Weasley and Weasley, much like there is no downside to a real life Honeydukes (the candy shop on the same street). These are the kind of little imaginative additions to the wizarding world that gave the story such pull in the first place.
12. Expecto Patronum
Expecto Patronum is the Patronus charm. For the few people who don’t know what that means but are still reading this list (we appreciate it!), the charm summons something called a Patronus to ward off Dementors, which are non-living, soul-sucking, horrible entities. A Patronus is a blinding energy source shaped as an animal, which will then attack the caster’s attackers.
Of course, dementors don’t exist in the muggle world, so you may think Patronuses would be unnecessary. That underestimates two things about the Patronus. First, the fact is that a blast of energy shaped like a silver stag would probably be a sufficient defense against your average mugger. Maybe not a tenacious mugger who is familiar with the charm, but your run-of-the-mill mugger would most likely be freaked out by what is coming at them. Second, the Patronus is awe-inspiring to look at, and takes a tremendous amount of skill to conjure. There would be real possibilities for – if not a Patronus competition – then a Patronus pageant, not unlike the Westminster Dog Show.
We wanted to just write “Fantastic Beasts”, really. But that opens the door to a number of animals that would actually be quite frightening in the real world. We are all set without giant spiders, basilisks, and mermen. Frankly, even though dragons are awesome in general, probably not a great idea to introduce that species to our modern muggle world.
Thestrals were considered, but for as unique as they are, they lack a certain amount of personality. So it came down to Hippogriffs. Hippogriffs are essentially half-eagle, half-horse. For what it’s worth, the Hippogriff has existed as a mythical creature for hundreds of years before they showed up in Harry Potter. That doesn’t preclude us from choosing the Hippogriff as the one fantastic beast we would choose, if that were a realistic option.
Hippogriffs are extremely dangerous and proud. They must be handled with care, and training them is a highly skilled endeavor. However, they are unquestioningly loyal once that loyalty has been earned. On two separate occasions Buckbeak (the Hippogriff audiences are most familiar with in Harry Potter) endangered himself to fight for his friends. That’s a pet we can get behind.
10. Wizarding Food
Alright, so this one is a little bit of a cop-out, but we are still going to go ahead and wish that all food from the wizarding world existed. We aren’t that discerning when it comes to magical food and sweets, and the options are too countless to choose only one.
Wizarding food is also one item on this list that, in all likelihood, would not cause any major societal change where it was adopted, which means that you could enjoy it at your leisure without considering the broader effects. Most of the magical food mentioned in Harry Potter is described as fantastically interesting, but either gimmicky or unfit to consume in mass quantities (which is how food products become financially successful).
Even Butterbeer, which we would happily sip, is described as a “less-sickly-sweet butterscotch,” which sort of implies that it’s still somewhat sickly sweet. Chocolate frogs would be cool, chocolate is an attractive enough flavor for you to overlook eating a squirming, realistic frog. Fizzing Whizbees are hard candies that induce levitation, so they’re not exactly practical around the office.
We aren’t party pooping. Most of the food in Harry Potter sounds hilarious and somewhat delicious, which is why most muggle attempts at recreating it at theme parks pale in comparison to our imagination. It would just be best consumed in moderation.
For all the non-magical advancements we muggles have made in the sciences, we still have a remarkably limited understanding of the human brain – specifically, how things like dreams and memories work. Now, obviously, we know what a memory is; but why do we misremember things we have seen recently? Why do we remember some things and not others? These are still matters of some conjecture, evidenced by the fact that two people can have conflicting memories of an event they witnessed together or of a conversation they shared.
Combine everything above with the sad fact that memories fade, and you see why the pensieve could be a potentially earth-shattering discovery. In Harry Potter, a pensieve is essentially a container for memories, that can be reviewed by anyone at a later date. Memories are deposited into the device and can be called back at will.
Any arguments you would have with a friend about what really at some past event would be short and solvable – “here, just look at this.” Furthermore, you could catalog and organize your life in a way that is impossible now. There is always the potential downside of having your memories, even those embarrassing ones, reviewed after you depart the earthly plane – but just do what Harry Potter characters do, and have your pensieve buried next to you.
8. Living Portraits
The closest we have come to living portraits are probably GIFs, which are mostly used for unfunny reaction memes or other gags polluting Facebook feeds. The comparison itself is a joke. The portraits in Harry Potter aren’t only moving, they are sentient. They communicate with the outside world, and seem to be enjoying a type of existence in some separate plane. To be clear, we are operating with the model set by the portraits of Hogwarts headmasters, which are completely conscious representations of themselves. We have no interest in the other, more common portraits that are more shoddy facsimiles of their subjects, regardless of their sentience.
These need to be real for selfish reasons. Every single person on earth will, at one point, lose someone that they don’t want to lose. In this scenario, those who are mourned could maintain a presence in the life of the mourners. There is probably some arcane psychological concept theory stating that this would be ultimately a detriment, an obstacle to the healing process. When you consider the impact of portraits on the scale of history, though, it is clear that we would have to adopt them if possible. Barack Obama could consult a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. A portrait of Tupac could perform at Coachella. Want to know if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone? His portrait is over there, go ask it.
In the mid-90s, there was a series of young adult novels called Animorphs. It was the type of series you’d see at Scholastic book fairs next to Goosebumps or Bailey School Kids. It made a small impact, and it was awesome to imagine what you could do if you could turn into animals. In Animorphs, though, the kids had no connection to the animals they became; it was simple utility. Harry Potter takes the amazing concept of assuming animal form and lends some gravity by enhancing the relationship between human and animal vessel.
In Animorphs, kids can turn into any animal they have touched. In Harry Potter, a character has one animal that they become and this means that those characters eventually absorb some character traits from the animal through osmosis. Professor McGonagall is cat-like by association, and it’s impossible to imagine Sirius Black without his shaggy dog other half.
One thing we know about Animagus training is that it is difficult and dangerous, meaning that even if this ability were real, it might not be wide spread. But like anything difficult, it would be rewarding – there could be nothing more relaxing than laying in the park, in dog form, getting pet and lounging in the shade. This needs to be real.
6. Invisibility Cloaks
Invisibility Cloaks present a slight problem with the premise of this list. After all, of course we all want invisibility cloaks. The idea of others having an invisibility cloak, though, that is disconcerting. As with anything, it is a virtual certainty that a portion of the muggle population would use invisibility cloaks for nefarious purposes. The key phrase there though is “as with anything,” which sort of addresses the problem alluded to above.
If we acknowledge that muggles have consistently shown the ability to corrupt any technology should we please, then that shouldn’t preclude us from including any wizarding technology that isn’t inherently corrupt itself (like Veritaserum). Invisibility cloaks, as much as they would assist espionage and ill-intent, present a number of self-defensive uses that are common in today’s world. Cloaks would be a less confrontational or violent way to protect oneself from a threat. Imagining that we are teenagers again, cloaks would also be a fine way to sneak in and out of the house past curfew – the potential of an invisibility cloak to enable any number of adolescent hijinks demands its inclusion on this list.
5. The Marauder’s Map
This entry is titled “The Marauder’s Map,” but a more fitting, if less, catchy title would be “Marauder’s Map Technology.” A real-time map of Hogwarts and everyone in it would not be extremely practical for us to use in the real world. Imagine that you are a regular old high school-age muggle, however. There is no one who would turn down a map that revealed every nook and cranny of the school, as well as where every person in it was at any given time. That means friends, crushes, teachers, hall monitors, vice principals, etc.
There is an obvious flip side to muggle control of Marauder’s Map tech. That same map could fall into the hands of teachers, vice principals, and hall monitors. If you work in an office, your boss might have a map on his or her desk, monitoring just how much time you spend catching Pokemon on your “bathroom breaks.” In the spirit of the Marauders themselves, though, we will maintain that the hypothetical existence of such a map would remain in the hands of the trouble makers.
Obviously, flying brooms are a must. Recent crazes in our muggle world, such as hover boards and Segways, would immediately be supplanted by this faster and more exciting form of unconventional transport. The broom would become not only a practical form of rapid transportation, but one that brings with it a variety of leisure opportunities as well – think of how we now use bicycles, except brooms are faster and can fly.
The advent of brooms in our world would also cause a minor paradigm shift regarding how we move around. Many major cities are either installing or have already installed bike sharing systems, designed to curb emissions from traditional public transportation and provide more convenience to the consumer. With apologies to bikes, which are quickly being rendered obsolete by this entry, this system would be even more suited to the broom. As we become a more urban, more green society, brooms would lead the way into a brave new world of convenient, fast, and environmentally conscious transport. Plus, they would be super fun to ride, and they would bring Quidditch that much closer to reality.
3. Accio Spell
Most of these entries will either center on widespread societal ramifications of a magical item, or the personal convenience it would provide. The latter is why we need the Accio charm to exist in real life.
In short, Accio is a charm that makes a desired object fly into the arms of the person casting the charm. Think about how easy that would make your life. First, consider what we’ll call “couch convenience.” This is about becoming a part of your couch during a binge watching session, too comfortable and lazy to get up even for things that you want. That’s solved now – Accio Doritos! Accio Gatorade! Accio blanket! Accio slippers!
That’s the least consequential perk of Accio though. Imagine never again losing something. Just Accio the debit card you might have left in a bar last night– wherever it is, it will show up.The same can be said for car keys, remote controls, etc. Imagine the time you could save.
There may be no item in the wizarding world more desirable for practical usage than Time-Turners. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione uses a Time-Turner to extend her course load – she was trying to work for more hours than there are in a day. The Time-Turner allows its user to travel back in time. To be clear, we are just talking about a few hours here and there; anything greater than that would be unsafe. Still, the ramifications of such time travel would be limitless.
From a productivity standpoint, you could do exactly what Hermione does, by packing more work into a day. You could adopt a second (or third) income, just by using the device. Ratcheting up the gravity of the potential uses, think about what this would mean for your personal life. Words you wish you hadn’t said, personal mistakes, professional blunders, all become inconsequential with the time turner. Finally, the large-scale effect of the time turner. Not only would have the ability to undo any personal tragedies that may befall you, law enforcement would effectively be able to treat present crime as future crime simply by turning back the clock. Major tragedies could be avoided. Time-Turners, in short, would manipulate the very fabric of reality.
Earlier, the hypothesis was made that brooms would present a minor paradigm shift in how we get around. If Apparition were real, that shift would multiply exponentially. If you believe the environment needs saving, which has to one degree or another become widely accepted as fact, Apparition could do it. Goodbye planes, trains, and automobiles. This wouldn’t merely completely transform transportation, it would alsp completely transform the work rate of the entire economy. That meeting on Friday you have to drive 6 hours to? Let’s just move that up to, well, this very instant. How about those neighborhoods that have a few nice restaurants, but are such a pain to get to – who cares anymore?
Those are the broad spectrum positives of Apparition. The personal conveniences would also be impossible to overstate. Say goodbye to those car payments, and those Uber fees. Any time you’ve wanted something, but been too comfortable or lazy to get off the couch to go get it, now you can just Apparate. It would erase the idea of long-distance romantic relationships, because it would erase the distance in the first place.
If you are reading closely, Apparition – if it were widely adopted by muggles – just dismantled the transportation industry and rendered the entire infrastructure of civilization obsolete. We of course acknowledge that there would be an adjustment period. In the end, though, who wouldn’t make that trade?