The fantastic world of Harry Potter is, without a doubt, absolutely incredible. It’s beautifully crafted, charming, engaging, and generally just the best thing to come to children's fantasy books in a long, long time. However, as much as we love it, it’s definitely not perfect. J.K. Rowling is known for her meticulous planning and research (she spent years planning out the Harry Potter books before writing them, as well as creating character sketches and developing the rules and customs of the wizarding world), and it shows. However, Rowling is not perfect, by any means, and questions have been raised about some fairly major plot holes in her work. Some of these are oversights on her part, and others are issues with the movies, but all of them have left us wondering… what exactly is going on there?!
Here are 15 Massive Plot Holes In Harry Potter That Were Never Explained.
15 Voldemort’s Knack For Timing
This particular plot ‘hole’ is very clearly a structural element to the books, but we’re including it anyway, because Lord Voldemort is bizarrely predictable with his timing – always attacking at the end of the school year. The Dark Lord attacks Harry Potter directly at the end of Years 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7… and we’re guessing that he’s not just concerned about disruption for the students. Why wouldn’t Voldemort make more than one attempt on the Philosopher’s Stone during the school year? Why did it take exactly a school year for Tom Marvolo’s spirit to taunt students about the Chamber of Secrets? Oh, and (more on this in another entry) why construct such a gloriously convoluted plot to get Harry into the Triwizard Tournament? It often seems as though these nefarious plans are designed specifically to take an entire school year.
Of course they are! Rowling obviously wrote her villain this way in order to create engaging stories for her readers, as a more straightforward evil plot that happened mid-way through the summer holidays just wouldn’t be the same. But within this fictional world, his timing doesn’t make sense.
14 Food Scarcity During The Final Books
When Harry, Hermione, and Ron are on the run in the final books, they struggle to find food. It’s one of many sources of frustration and conflict in their lives (along with not making progress, carrying around a Horcrux, and always wondering whose name they would hear on the radio next), and hunger may have been part of the reason that Ron left the way he did. But having enough food shouldn’t have been a problem for the three, thanks to magic.
It’s not possible to create food out of nothing using magic, as it’s one of the five exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Transfiguration. We know this because it’s explicitly stated more than once in the books (and it’s explained that this is why the Room of Requirement doesn’t create food). However, it’s still possible to magic existing food by transforming it, increasing it, or summoning it if you know where it is. In short, they could have just increased their existing food easily.
13 Sirius Could Have Used Polyjuice Potion
Although Sirius Black was able to clear his name with the Order of the Phoenix by revealing Pettigrew’s secret, he was unable to prove his innocence to the wider wizarding world. As a result, he was shut up at Grimmauld Place, chafing at his inability to get out there and fight alongside the other wizards in the Order. He was so frustrated by this incarceration that he even broke the rules of his confinement to take on his dog form in order to see Harry and get out of the house. Sirius was reminded that the Ministry knew what his dog form looked like, and that he had to be more careful to avoid being sent back to Azkaban.
It’s a sensible precaution, except that he should have been easily able to brew up some polyjuice potion and waltz out of the house whenever he felt like it. Polyjuice appears to be relatively easy to make (even barely-trained students can manage it), and capable of fooling any other wizard. So why didn’t Sirius whip up a batch? He could even have used the hair of another Order member, and effectively taken their place for an afternoon without anyone noticing.
12 How Was Snape Guarding The Philosopher’s Stone?
In the books, this isn’t a plot hole at all. Each of the teachers who are helping to guard the Stone at Hogwarts set up a test to keep it safe, including Snape, who creates a potions puzzle. On entering his room on the way to the Stone, flames leap up ahead and behind, and the seeker is confronted by a line of potions bottles and a riddle about the contents. The seeker must solve the riddle to continue, or risk consuming poison. In the book, it’s Hermione who solves this one, working through the puzzle logically and quickly, and it’s a great moment for the frizzy-haired bookworm.
In the films, however, this is noticeably absent – and that presents an issue. The trio are told that Snape couldn’t be after the Stone because he is one of the teachers helping to guard it, but we never learn how, exactly, he is helping guard it, though. There’s no potions test, or any other evidence that Snape is part of the plan to protect the Stone at all.
11 Gryffindor Wizards Gone Bad
There is a clear judgement of Slytherin in the books. They are generally accepted to be an "evil" house, with various famous witches and wizards from Slytherin becoming the worst of the worst. Voldemort, obviously, was a Slytherin, as were most of his followers, and the odious Malfoy family. Harry is even told that there isn’t a witch or wizard who went bad that wasn’t in Slytherin… a statement that is demonstrably false. At the time that Harry was told this, Sirius Black was locked up in Azkaban for betraying the Potters and murdering twelve other witches and wizards. In short, he went very, very, "bad". Yet he was in Gryffindor, not Slytherin. Peter Pettigrew, who was actually guilty of the crimes that Sirius was blamed for was also in Gryffindor, proving that there are some bad eggs in other houses.
However, this could be explained by considering who told Harry that “all” bad witches and wizards came from Slytherin: Hagrid. The groundskeeper may have a lot of redeeming qualities, but he’s not the most reliable source, and he’s very emotional. He’s also a Gryffindor with a less than perfect memory, and it’s very likely that his hatred of Voldemort and pride in his own house led to a statement that was more hyperbolic opinion than pure truth.
10 Do Portkeys Run On A Timetable?
When Harry and the Weasleys are going to watch the Quidditch World Cup, they take a Portkey (an old boot) to the campground for the event. There are apparently multiple Portkeys set up around the country for wizards, and they have to rush in order to be "on time" to "catch" the Portkey. From this, it seems like they are set up like trains or buses, and are only active at specific times. However, the Portkey that Voldemort uses to transport Harry to him at the end of the Triwizard Tournament couldn’t have been timed this way. It must have been enchanted to work only when in the maze (otherwise, the wizards who put it there would have been transported), but Voldemort couldn’t have known exactly what time Harry would reach the cup – so how did he ensure that the Portkey was active at precisely the right time?
It’s possible that some Portkeys have a wider window than others, of course. In this case, the World Cup Portkeys had a very small window to prevent an unsuspecting Muggle from using it, and the Triwizard Cup would have had a wider window to cover the entire time that the contestants were in the maze. It’s more likely, however, that this is just another useful element to Voldemort’s ridiculously convoluted plot to capture Harry. Really, he could have just mailed him a Portkey in disguise on the day that the Disapparating ban was lifted for the competition… but that wouldn’t have been such a good story!
9 Why Did No one Notice Peter Pettigrew on the Maurader’s Map?
This is one of the biggest plot holes in the franchise, and we aren’t the first to wonder about it. Before Ron’s rat Scabbers is revealed to be Peter Pettigrew, he slept with his pet every night, and carried him around much of the time. This would have shown up on the Maurader’s Map, which was in the possession of Fred and George Weasley (before they passed it on to Harry). Yet the twins never once mentioned to anyone that Ron was sleeping with a man named Peter. They may even have known the name, seeing as the Weasley family appears to be intimately familiar with the details of the Potter family and their betrayal – and at the very least, they would have known that there was no Peter Pettigrew in Gryffindor at that time.
Seeing this would have been a game-changer, and it just doesn’t make sense. Some argue that Fred and George wouldn’t have noticed every single name on the map, as they would have been more focused on secret passages and mischief (not spying). However, given the pranks that they loved to play on their family, we have to assume they would have checked on Ron’s location a few times – at least enough to notice his invisible friend Peter.
8 The Troll In The Dungeons
In the very first book, Professor Quirrell lets a troll loose in the dungeons as a distraction, so that he can go after the Philosopher’s Stone. Of course, it doesn’t stay there, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione have their first experience of doing something wildly dangerous and miraculously succeeding (setting the pattern for the entire franchise). Harry and Ron knew that Hermione was crying in the bathroom, and went to get her when the alarm was raised – despite the fact that they had been told to go straight to their dormitories. The slightly disturbing part of that command, of course, is that all students were told to return to their dorms… and we know from the books that the Slytherin dorms were in the dungeons. Where the troll was. Slytherin might have something of a bad rep, but it seems a little ridiculous (even for Hogwarts) to just send them directly into the path of a murderous troll.
Another question raised by this scene is why Hermione lied about their presence in the bathroom when they were found there with an unconscious troll. She tells the professors that she intentionally went after the troll in order to take the blame from Ron and Harry, but could have easily told the truth. The two went to make sure she was safe, and she was allowed to be in the bathrooms, so why lie at all?
7 Hermione’s Bad Memory
After the Death Eaters crash the wedding at the Burrow, Harry, Ron, and Hermione fled together, Apparating to Central London. While there, two Death Eaters track them down at a café where they are deciding what to do next. After a brief battle, the trio wins and decide that they must modify the Death Eaters’ memories to cover their tracks – and Hermione says that she has never done a memory modification before. However, one of the most heartbreaking scenes before that was when Hermione was forced to wipe her parents’ memory of her in order to keep them safe. She claims that she enchanted them to forget that they ever had a daughter, and to move to Australia, which sounds like a memory modification to us!
Some have argued that this is a case of two charms that are similar, but not identical. One to wipe memories, and one to simply alter memory in a reversible manner. However, a close reading of the books shows "obliviate" being used for multiple different memory modifications, suggesting that this was a continuity error on Rowling’s part.
6 Harry And The Thestrals
The thestrals are winged, horse-like beasts that pull the Hogwarts carriages, and they can only be seen by those who have "seen death". Harry first sees them at the start of his fourth year, after Cedric Diggory was killed. However, many people have pointed out that he should have seen these creatures before. At the end of The Goblet of Fire, Harry sees the “horseless carriages” when the tournament is over, and Diggory is already dead. Theoretically, he should have been able to see the Thestrals then, but they remain invisible until the start of the next book. However, Rowling herself has said that she “sneaks past” this one because a person has to have fully internalized the death in order to see the Thestrals.
That still doesn’t quite explain it, though. At the very beginning of the series, Harry has already seen his parents die – his mother was killed in front of him. Although he was only a baby, he has some memory of the event (as we see in his interactions with the Dementors, when he remembers hearing her scream), which should be enough to make the Thestrals visible. It’s certainly impossible to suggest that he hadn’t fully internalized their loss after eleven years!
5 Neville And The Dementors
While we are on the subject of Harry’s terrible loss, there’s a second plot hole related to his memories of his past. When these floating guardians of Azkaban first appear on the Hogwarts train, the majority of the children feel cold and miserable – but Harry can hear someone screaming, collapses, and needs Professor Lupin to drive the Dementor away from him. It is explained that Harry is more strongly affected by the creatures because he has “seen true horrors in his past”, and that the screaming he heard was a memory of the night his mother died.
Which makes sense, but if a tragic event in childhood is enough for the Dementors to have this kind of effect, why wasn’t Neville twitching on the floor of the train as well? His parents were tortured into insanity through the Cruciatous Curse when he was sixteen months old – almost the exact same age that Harry was when his parents died. He was then raised by his grandmother, but still visited his parents at St. Mungos. Presumably seeing them in this state, and knowing what happened, would be sufficient horror for the Dementors?
4 The Secret Keeper Problem
When Lily and James Potter were forced to go into hiding during the First Wizarding War, their fatal mistake was their choice of Secret Keeper. The Secret Keeper is one who becomes the living embodiment of a secret – after they are told, no one else can pass on the secret they hold, not even those who gave it to them. A dwelling protected by the Fidelus Charm in this way becomes absolutely hidden, keeping the occupants safe. Lily and James Potter chose their friend Peter Pettigrew, who betrayed them to Voldemort. It was this mistake that cost them their lives, and which set in motion the events of the Harry Potter series. However, it should have been possible for one of the couple to become Secret Keeper for them both, which would have left Pettigrew out of it and kept them safe. So why did they choose a third?
From a practical perspective, this plot hole exists because if Lily or James had been a Secret Keeper, they would have survived, wizarding history would have been entirely different, and we wouldn’t have the books! This would also be the problem with designating Dumbledore or Remus as Secret Keeper; the secret needed to be betrayed for the plot to work. But within the fiction itself, there seems to be no reason that Lily and James couldn’t have held the secret themselves, and lived to raise Harry happily.
3 Why Didn't Harry Contact Sirius Instead Of Going To The Ministry?
Harry and his uncle Sirius make contact in several secret ways over the course of the series, but when Harry is afraid that Sirius is in trouble, he doesn’t use any of them. In The Order of the Phoenix, Harry has a vision of Sirius in the Ministry, and (fearing that it is as true as his earlier vision of Mr. Weasley being attacked) rushes off to try and save him. This rash decision takes him straight into the arms of the Death Eaters, and leads to the death of Sirius… and it could all have been prevented. He wasn't able to use the floo network again, courtesy of the evil Umbridge, but he did have something else that would have worked.
Earlier in the series, Sirius gave Harry a two-way mirror that Sirius and James (Harry’s dad) used to use in school. The mirror comes in handy much later, after Harry smashes it and uses a piece to contact Aberforth, but it would have been much more useful if Harry had used it to check on his godfather before running off into danger. The books do state that Harry, in his panic, forgot all about the mirror – but given the effort it took to get to the ministry, and the number of people with him, it seems difficult to believe that not one person would have thought of it at any time.
2 So Many Wand-Related Plot Holes
There are a lot of ways that wands don’t make sense in the Harry Potter universe. For one thing, the price of wands compared to the price given to some of the ingredients used to make wands (like unicorn hair or phoenix feathers) don’t add up. Ollivander would have to be taking a loss on every wand he sells – or having various ingredients donated to him for performing such a vital service, perhaps? He does imply that at least one Pheonix gave him her feathers willingly, and directly, which suggests he might not have to buy everything he uses.
In addition, any characters who have lost their wands get them back without explanation, especially those who have been imprisoned in Azkaban. We know that wands are very distinctive in appearance, and it’s rare for a witch or wizard to have more than one wand in their lifetime, so how did Bellatrix or Sirius get their original wands back after escaping the wizard prison?
Finally, Harry was able to use multiple wands at one time to cast an extra-powerful spell against Greyback in The Deathly Hallows – yet no other witch or wizard seems to use this trick. If multiple wands increased power, it would make sense for people to use multiple wands in battle, but it doesn’t happen.
1 Who Does The Elder Wand Really Belong To?
The provenance of the Elder Wand is a long and complicated one, and the question of its true master is a key component of the books – but leaves us with some questions. In recent history, the wand belonged to Gregorovitch (the wandmaker), but was stolen by Grindlewald. Grindlewald was then defeated by Dumbledore in a duel, and Dumbledore kept the wand until he was killed. Although Snape killed Dumbledore, Dumbledore was disarmed by Draco Malfoy, leading to some confusion over who the true master of the wand would be. Voldemort thought it would be Snape, and killed him to try and become its master himself,. In reality, the wand actually belonged to Malfoy, who was disarmed by Harry, leaving The Chosen One the master of the wand at the end of the series.
As if that wasn’t complex enough, this chain of ownership seems to contradict itself, as well as established wand lore at several points. Grindlewald was able to win the wand only by stunning Gregorovich, which would cause havoc in the wizarding world if every spell led to a transfer of a wand’s loyalty. It would also mean that Dumbledore would know that a wand can be won by other means than duel or death, and everybody would have known that Malfoy was the wand’s master. Or, if Grindlewald was never the true master of the wand (as he didn’t defeat him in a duel, battle, kill him, or directly lead to his death), its allegiance would have stayed to Gregorovich – who was killed by Voldemort, thus giving the wand to him. All of which is neatly bypassed with the helpful line “the wand chooses the wizard”… handy, but not that satisfactory!
Check out more unexplained magic in the Harry Potter series here, and please comment with your theories on how these plot holes can be explained!