I had a startling revelation recently about Harry Potter that completely changed how I view the series. It all happened when I was on vacation and bought Stephen King’s son Joe Hill’s most recent book, The Fireman. It’s been compared to his version of his father’s post-apocalyptic story The Stand. The Fireman is a tale about a world being burned down by a mysterious fungal spore that causes people to spontaneously combust. The main protagonist gets infected shortly after she gets pregnant. Her last dying wish is to somehow give birth to her child while staying alive amidst a world that is quickly burning down. If you have no idea how this relates to #HarryPotter, just give it a minute.
In the foreword, Joe Hill acknowledges J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series as a huge influence on the book. At first, this made absolutely no sense to me. How could a grim story about a world being washed in flame have anything to do with all of the fun and whimsy of Harry Potter? It made absolutely no sense to me, but then I got to the end of the book and it all clicked.
First, a bit of setup. There’s a camp filled with infected people who learn to control the spore so they don’t burn up. This is where the majority of the story takes place and the apocalyptic-ally grim rhetoric of the first half is replaced with a more subdued communal story of people having a merry old time at what’s basically Hogwarts for lepers. From there, the story builds into a mystery when the kindly, old patriarch of the summer camp is murdered. At the eleventh hour, an innocuous teenager is revealed to be the culprit. He’s the traitor who’d been conspiring with the camp’s religious leader to frame our hero and kill her father for control of the camp.
It was a reveal straight out of an episode of #ScoobyDoo. The real villain was unmasked, the mystery was solved, and he would probably have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky fire leper kids. And then it hit me. I finally understood how Harry Potter was such a big influence. J.K. Rowling has been using the old Scooby Doo trope and unmasking the real villain at the end of her books for nearly two decades! It’s kind of ridiculous when you break things down and realize nobody seems to have really noticed just how often she does it.
(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for multiple Harry Potter books, The Cursed Child stage play and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.)
It’s no wonder that her post-Harry Potter books were all mystery novels — it’s the only thing she really knows how to do. Even her Harry Potter play and movie spin-offs use the same trope. Harry Potter and his friends are basically the same as the Scooby Gang. Don’t believe me? Well I’ve gone through just about every Harry Potter book, play, and movie to break down every time she’s done this.
1. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone
- Book Release Date: 1997
- The Mystery: Who's trying to steal the Sorcerer's Stone?
- The Culprit: Professor Quirrell
At the climax of the story, Harry and his friends are trying to retrieve the Sorcerer’s Stone from a gauntlet of challenges in the hidden trap door. All the while, Harry believes that Snape wants to gain entry through said trap door to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone and revive Voldemort and that he is responsible for all the various incidents around Hogwarts.
However, when they finally get to the Sorcerer’s Stone they find that the real villain was actually professor Quirrell, who’d conveniently used his turban to hide the shade form of Voldemort. He was responsible for crashing Harry’s broom during the Quidditch match. He was responsible for releasing the troll into the bathroom. He would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those pesky Potter kids uncovering his dastardly plan.
2. Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets
- Release Date: 1998
- The Mystery: Who is controlling the Chamber of Secrets?
- The Culprit: Tom Riddle a.k.a. Voldemort
Much like the first book, we have Harry Potter attempting to enter into a secret chamber surrounded by dangers. This time, it’s the titular Chamber of Secrets, which houses an ancient curse. Guiding him to the chamber is the specter of a former student named Tom Riddle, who talks to Harry through to a magical diary. We eventually learn that Tom Riddle is actually VOLDEMORT! He might have even gotten his revenge too if it wasn’t for that damn Harry Potter and his meddlesome friends with their polyjuice potions and deus ex machina phoenix bringing them legendary powers.
3. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
- Release Date: 1999
- The Mystery: Who betrayed Harry Potter's parents?
- The Culprit: Peter Pettigrew
Harry Potter believes the Sirius Black was responsible for betraying his parents. Sirius escapes from Azkaban and the school is put on high alert thinking he wants to murder Harry Potter. In truth, he’s completely innocent. The real culprit is Peter Pettigrew, who’d been masquerading as Ron’s rat, Scabbers, for at least a decade. Peter is the true culprit who sold out Harry Potter’s parents to Voldemort and he would have gotten away with it, too.
Well, technically he kind of does get away with it given the fact he’s able to scurry away largely unpunished and unharmed, but his cover is blown. No more stalking around the Weasley house at 1 in the morning and stealing from their fridge. No more loading up Arthur Weasley’s coffee with little rat pellets either.
4. Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
- Release Date: 2000
- The Mystery: Who's manipulating the Tri Wizard Tournament?
- The Culprit: Crouch Jr.
Starting to see a pattern here? The Goblet of Fire is a pretty straightforward tournament storyline that feels like it shouldn’t have too big of a mystery. However, we learn at the very end that the badass auror Mad Eye Moody isn’t actually Mad Eye Moody. In the Harry Potter universe’s equivalent of the Scooby Doo rubber mask reveal, we find out that it was actually Crouch Jr. using the polyjuice potion to imitate Mad Eye Moody — because, of course, Crouch Jr. is responsible for everything. He’s the guy who got Harry placed into the tournament in the first place by submitting his name into the Goblet of Fire. Every time Harry found a clue helping him successfully complete the various trials, it was all thanks to Crouch Jr.
Just like Pettigrew, he did kind of get away with it. It was thanks to him that Voldemort was able to revive himself after Harry touches the port key. While Crouch Jr. is brought to justice, it was too little too late given how much havoc Voldemort would cause in the next few books. Guess the Scooby Gang didn’t quite make it in time.
5. Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
- Release Date: 2005
- The Mystery: Who is the Half-Blood Prince?
- The Culprit: Snape
This time the mystery guiding the narrative of the story is the identity of the Half-Blood prince. We eventually learn that it was Snape finally showing off his presumed villainous colors and unmasked as the Death Eater he’d always been suspected of being. It’s kind of funny. As Harry gets older, he and his gang get progressively worse at their detective work. They find the culprit and solve the mystery, but it’s too little too late in preventing a catastrophe.
This time it results in the death of Dumbledore. Of course, J.K. Rowling kind of retcons this by the series finale, where we learn that Snape was actually performing a mercy killing on Dumbledore's behalf, so he could continue his role as a double agent. It still counts as a Scooby Doo-style mystery.
6. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child
- Release Date: 2016
- The Mystery: Who is the dark presence looking to resurrect Voldemort?
- The Culprit: Delphini
You can never go back again. Most creatives always try to avoid revisiting their previous works. Most of the time it results and failure and disappointment (with a few exceptions). After trying her hand writing mysteries under a different pen name, Rowling returned to the Potterverse with this stage production that follows Harry Potter’s children and their adventures in Hogwarts.
The play was met with a mixed reception among fans. On one hand, some were happy to get more Potter adventures, even if their favorite hero had grown up into a middling bureaucrat working for the ministry of magic. On the other hand, the book kind of felt like overwrought fan fiction. The central mystery focuses on a dark child of prophecy who’s believed to be Albus.
However, in the Scooby Doo-esque reveal at the end of the story, it was actually Delphi who was the cursed child of darkness, because, in truth, she was (bum bum bum) Voldemort’s daughter! Basically, the entire play is kind of like a Scrappy Doo mystery, where the original progeny of the first trio goes on a wacky, time-traveling adventure only to unmask the real villain who would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for those accursed millennial kids!
7. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
- Release Date: 2016
- The Mystery: Who is hunting the Obscurus?
- The Culprit: Grindelwald
You might be wondering how this could possibly be on this list of Scooby Doo moments. The entire movie is basically about a wizard going around New York City and recapturing magical beasts. Well, there are two storylines at play here. The more lighthearted plot line focuses on what’s basically Harry Potter meets Pokémon, while the other focuses on the Obscurus and Second Salemers trying to uncover witches and wizard in New York.
Our band of adult adventurers eventually wind up uncovering that behind all of the weird shenanigans of the film, Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves is actually Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald. That’s right, the humble Ministry of Magic official was actually the infamous dark wizard — who's essentially the precursor for Voldemort — had been hiding out in America. Rip that rubber mask off.
It’s a weird unmasking as far as villain reveals go considering it’s a bit of very dramatic stunt casting that’s designed to build intrigue for the eventual followup sequels. But considering the fact that Rowling wrote both the script for this movie and laid out the story for The Cursed Child, it’s a tad disappointing to see her return to her old crutch.
That’s the list of just about every Scooby Doo-style reveal in Harry Potter. You’ll never be able to read or watch the movies the same way ever again. At least not without a craving for Scooby Snacks.
Agree with our assessment or want to tell us how we got it all wrong? Let us know in the comments below.