Being a fan of Harry Potter truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only has the fantasy series has provided Potterheads with nearly two decades of entertainment, but because J.K. Rowling consistently publishes new writings that give deeper insight and understanding into the world we love so much.
Most recently, the prolific author released three new ebooks through Pottermore, the online home of all things Harry Potter. The three works are titled: Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies and Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists.
Before spending any money of your own, let me first state that much of this content already exists on Pottermore, and there aren't a ton of revelatory "a-ha!" moments. However, if you want to have all of the Pottermore stories included in a concise and easy-to-read format, plus some new insights from Rowling herself, the $9 is money well spent. Besides, you can never know too much about Harry Potter, right?
As a devout Potterhead and lover of all things Harry Potter, I happily shelled out the $2.99 per book and read through them to bring you some of the best pieces of trivia. So, for those of you who don't feel the need to read, here are 30 of the best pieces of information (new and not-so-new) included in J.K. Rowling's three new ebooks:
1. King's Cross Station Is Personally Significant To Rowling
In Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, Rowling shares that King's Cross Station means a lot to her as it's where her parents first met. In a sense, it's the beginning of her journey, so it only makes sense that it would also mark the beginning of Harry's.
2. Platform Nine And Three-Quarters
Although not explored fully, Rowling believes that there would be more magical platforms hidden within King’s Cross station that act as an Orient Express of sorts that exclusively shuttles its patrons to wizard-only villages or one-off wizarding events like Celestina Warbeck concerts.
3. Before The Hogwarts Express, Students Could Travel To Hogwarts By Any Means
Prior to the invention of the Hogwarts Express, students could travel to the school in whatever way suited their fancy. From broomsticks to enchanted carts and carriages, to riding magical creatures, students would appear in any number of ways. In fact, some believe that the Thestrals that live in the Forbidden Forest are the descendants of the ones students used to ride to school.
4. The Sorting Hat Was Not Included In Early Plans For Hogwarts
Rowling's first mode of sorting students into houses was a “Heath Robinson-ish machine that did all kinds of magical things before reaching a decision,” but it seemed both overly complicated and far too simple. The second option was placing four statues of the founders in the Entrance Hall. Upon the arrival of first years, the statues would come alive and choose the students that belonged in their house.
It wasn’t until Rowling wrote out a list of ways that decisions can be made “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,” that she landed on the Sorting Hat.
5. Skills Of The Sorting Hat
As one of the wizarding world’s most intelligent enchanted objects, the Sorting Hat possesses the clever minds of Hogwarts’ four founders, can speak, and is an expert at Legilimency — this is how the hat communicates with the wearer and sees their potential. As we saw twice in the series, the Sorting Hat also acts as a portal from which the possessions of Godric Gryffindor can be accessed.
6. Hatstalls Defined
A Hatstall is “any student whose Sorting takes longer than five minutes,” which happens about once every 50 years. Hermione and Neville were two near Hatstalls. The Sorting Hat struggled with placing Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, and took nearly four minutes to decide.
On the other hand, the Sorting Hat was certain about placing Neville in Gryffindor, but Neville, who was intimidated by its reputation, argued with the Hat that he should be sorted into Hufflepuff. In the end, the Sorting Hat won out.
7. We've Already Met Two Hatstalls
Two known Hatstalls were Professor Minerva McGonagall, who was deliberated upon for five and a half minutes between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, and Peter Pettigrew, for whom the Hat was torn between Gryffindor and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat famously denies making mistakes, but it has been known to make the rare error in judgement. This was proven by how Peter Pettigrew chose to live the end of his life and the way that he died.
8. During The First Wizarding War, McGonagall Acted As A Ministry Spy
Before the Ministry became so obviously corrupt in Harry's lifetime, McGonagall spied on Death Eaters on behalf of the wizarding government. Unlike her brother Robert, she couldn't bring herself to join the Order of the Phoenix, and tried to stop Voldemort through the government instead of going rogue.
As we all know, when the Ministry was infiltrated during the Second Wizarding War, McGonagall played an integral role in the Order of the Phoenix.
9. McGonagall Suffered A Number Of Losses In Her Youth
Like many at the time, many of McGonagall's close friends and family died during Voldemort's first ascension to power. This included her younger brother Robert, two of her all-time favorite students, Lily Evans and James Potter, as well as her first love, a Muggle named Dougal McGregor along with his wife and children, who were killed during an anti-Muggle Death Eater attack.
10. McGonagall Is A Widow
After leaving her Ministry job to be the Transfiguration Professor at Hogwarts, McGonagall married her former boss, Elphinstone Urquart, who had become smitten with her. At first she rejected him in Madam Puddifoot's teashop, but after his second proposal she agreed. Sadly, their marriage was short lived. After three happy years together, Urquart died after suffering an accidental Venomous Tentacula bite.
11. McGonagall Was Named After A Goddess And A Notoriously Bad Poet
She was named after Minerva, the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom and William McGonagall, who is celebrated as “the worst poet in British history.” Rowling found there was “something irresistible [to her] about his name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.”
12. Dumbledore Taught McGonagall Transfiguration
Not only was Dumbledore her Transfiguration professor, but he also taught a young Minerva how to become an Animagus, "a wizard who elects to turn into an animal." Which is, as we come to learn, a far more involved and difficult task than previously thought.
13. Becoming An Animagus Is Even More Difficult Than I Ever Believed
The books make it clear that learning to seamlessly transform into an animal at will is no easy task, but the long and arduous process is mapped out in Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies.
The 10 very difficult steps include tasks like the witch or wizard having to carry around a single Mandrake leaf in their mouth for a whole month, (one whole full moon cycle, to be precise) without swallowing or taking it out of their mouths at any point. If it is removed at any point, the month-long process must start over. Keep in mind, that's just step one!
14. It's Also Incredibly Dangerous To Become An Animagus
Those who are impatient during the process of becoming an Animagus oftentimes manifest themselves as “horrible half-human, half-animal mutations” for which there is no cure.
In my opinion, this makes the fact that James, Sirus and Peter were able to achieve Animagi status without the guidance of a professor, or even an adult, even more impressive. It also proves their commitment to helping their friend, Remus Lupin through his werewolf transitions.
15. We Learned How Lupin And Tonks Fell In Love
Given his werewolf state, Remus never saw himself as deserving of love. So when he fell in love with Nymphadora Tonks, he tried his best to ignore his feelings for her. But while staking out a Death Eater's house together, she proudly proclaimed her feelings for him:
“[A]fter a year of increasingly warm friendship, Tonks made an idle remark about one of their fellow Order members (‘ He’s still handsome, isn’t he, even after Azkaban?’). Before he could stop himself, Remus had replied bitterly that he supposed she had fallen for his old friend (‘ He always got the women.’). At this, Tonks became suddenly angry. ‘You’d know perfectly well who I’ve fallen for, if you weren’t too busy feeling sorry for yourself to notice.’”
He reluctantly admitted his feelings for her, and was equally elated that she loved him back and scared for their future. The pair was married in the North of Scotland with witnesses they grabbed from a nearby tavern.
16. Lupin Was Posthumously Awarded The Order Of Merlin, First Class
During the Battle of Hogwarts, Lupin found himself overpowered by Antonin Dolohov. In the months preceding the battle, Lupin had spent his time with Tonks and their newborn son, Teddy, and his dueling skills were a little rusty.
Remus Lupin was posthumously awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, and was the first werewolf to be granted the title. His life and death helped lift the existing stigma around werewolves.
17. Lupin's Patronus Finally Revealed
Despite teaching Harry how to conjure a Patronus, the shape of Lupin’s Patronus was never revealed in the series. Unsurprisingly, it takes the shape of a wolf, but Rowling was clear to distinguish that it's not a werewolf.
Out of shame, Lupin often produced a non-corporeal Patronus when others were around so as to not give any hints about his affliction.
18. Rowling Still Cries Over Killing Lupin
In the ebook, Rowling admits that Lupin was one of her favorite characters of the entire series. The author even cried while writing this latest entry about his death because she hated killing him so much. I feel you, J.K., I feel you.
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19. Time-Turners Can Cause Dramatic Consequence
Those who read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are already well aware of how dangerous Time-Turners can be.
This is elaborated on further in the new ebook with the story of Eloise Mintumble who, in 1899, spent five days in 1409. Her brief experiment caused her to age five centuries upon her return, irreparably changing the life paths of those she met in the past and erasing no fewer than 25 people from existence.
20. Rowling Confesses She Jumped Into Time Travel A Little Too Quickly
In retrospect, she agrees with critics who state she delved into the concept of time travel in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban without fully considering how it would affect her future plots. While she doesn’t regret it, Rowling did have to amend the potential plot holes she created by destroying all of the Ministry’s Time Turners in The Order of the Phoenix.
“This is just one example of the ways in which, when writing fantasy novels, one must be careful what one invents. For every benefit, there is usually a drawback.”
21. The Death Of The Fat Friar
We already knew how the Bloody Baron, Grey Lady and vaguely how Nearly Headless Nick died, but we finally know more about the death of the Hufflepuff House Ghost, the Fat Friar.
The portly wizard was executed by a senior churchmen who was skeptical of his ability to cure the pox by simply poking people with “a stick.” Not to mention the fact that he had a tendency to pull rabbits out of the communion cup.
22. The Ballad Of Nearly Headless Nick
Although it had already been shared on Pottermore, the new ebooks include the hilarious and tragic Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick. I won't include the whole poem, but it explains how he accidentally gave a woman tusks instead of straightening her teeth. This small magical misstep led to his (almost) beheading and death.
23. Three Ghosts Who Never Made It To The Books
A few of the ghosts who didn’t make it into final drafts of the books include a Black Knight and The Toad (a Slimer-like ghost who leaves ectoplasm all over classrooms). The one ghost Rowling says she regrets not including was Edmund Grubb, a fat Victorian ghost who “expired in the doorway of the Dining Hall” after eating poisonous berries and, “sometimes stops people getting in, out of spite.”
24. Sir Cadogan, More Than Just A Portrait
Prior to the Statute of Secrecy, it was common that witches and wizards would live in Muggle communities. It is rumored that in his life, Sir Cadogan was one of the lesser-known Knights of the Round Table, a position he earned thanks to his friendship with Merlin. Despite being hot-headed and brave to a fault, he was still considered a good man and a somewhat skilled knight.
25. Two Cases Of Wizards Stealing Muggle Technology
The Hogwarts Express is widely believed to have been stolen by Minister for Magic Ottaline Gambol. Supposedly, a secret operation took place and with the help of over 160 Memory Charms and Concealment Charms, the Ministry came to possess the famed red locomotive.
Another, more surprising, case of Wizards adapting Muggle ways is plumbing. Prior to the 18th century, magical folk would just use the bathroom where they stood and use magic to vanish the evidence. Gross.
26. The Chamber Of Secrets Was Opened Before Tom Riddle Came To Hogwarts
While rumors were always present about Slytherin's secret lair, only his direct descendants — and who those who had the power of Parseltongue — could access it. When the Chamber was threatened by the aforementioned plumbing systems, Slytherin descendant and Hogwarts student Corvinus Gaunt protected the trap door that hid the entrance to the Chamber.
27. Dolores Umbridge Was Based On One Of Rowling's Teachers
Dolores Umbridge was based on a teacher J.K. Rowling disliked intensely. Much like her malicious character in the books, the woman shared some physical attributes: a stocky frame and short, curly hair, and an intense love of girly accessories.
While Umbridge's character was based on a real person, Rowling admits that she grossly exaggerated the character to create “the real Dolores Umbridge.” However, Rowling concedes that her real-life model did not look like a toad, nor did she act sadistically toward her students.
28. Azkaban Was Originally A Secret Magical Murder Castle
Azkaban was erected in the 15th century, and in its earliest years of existence, it wasn’t a prison — but a house of torture. An insane sorcerer named Ekrizdis used the island in the North Sea to practice the Dark Arts and torture and kill Muggle sailors. It wasn’t until his death that the concealment charms vanished and the Ministry found out what had gone on there.
Upon its discovery, the Ministry realized Azkaban was infested with Dementors. In fear of unleashing their dark magic on the world, they established the small but effective wizarding prison with the Dementors as guards.
29. Harry Hated Potions Because Rowling Hated Chemistry
Chemistry was decidedly J.K. Rowling’s least favorite subject in school. When coming up with Harry’s most hated subject and arch-enemy, it only made sense that he would struggle with Potions and the Hogwarts Potions Master.
30. Ingredients Of Polyjuice Potion Explained
Rowling shared her research and reasoning behind the ingredients used to create the powerful Polyjuice Potion:
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).
While there might not have been anything monumental revealed in these new ebooks, they're still a delight to read. Personally, I'll read anything that briefly transports me back to the world of Harry Potter.
At the very least, they make great reading material as fans eagerly await our next venture into the wizarding world with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which will be released in theaters on November 18th.
Do you plan on reading these three new Harry Potter ebooks?
[Sources: Pottermore, Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies and Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists]