At long last, J.K. Rowling's surprise has been revealed! As expected, Rowling did release the Umbridge story she promised us earlier this month, but with unexpected additions! Pottermore has also added extra writing pieces concerning the mystery of Thestrals, the history of the Ministers, and the secrets of Azkaban. For those of you already signed up with Pottermore, you can easily unlock these treats in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix section! If not, being the super nice person I am, I have attached the stories below for easy access! :D
Enjoy! Let me know what you think about these new stories by commenting below.
P.S. If you want to see all of the clues that led up to this big surprise, click here!
Dolores Jane Umbridge
This story in particular is pretty lengthy, so click here instead!
Manifesting as black, skeletal, bat-winged horses, but invisible to all who have never been truly touched by death, Thestrals have a somewhat macabre reputation. In centuries past the sight of them was regarded as unlucky; they have been hunted and ill treated for many years, their true nature (which is kindly and gentle) being widely misunderstood. Thestrals are not marks of ill omen, nor (their spooky appearance notwithstanding) are they in any way threatening to humans, always allowing for the fright that the first sight of them tends to give the observer.
Being able to see Thestrals is a sign that the beholder has witnessed death, and gained an emotional understanding of what death means. It is unsurprising that it took a long time for their significance to be properly understood, because the precise moment when such knowledge dawns varies greatly from person to person. Harry Potter was unable to see Thestrals for years after his mother was killed in front of him, because he was barely out of babyhood when the murder happened, and he had been unable to comprehend his own loss. Even after the death of Cedric Diggory, weeks elapsed before the full import of death’s finality was borne upon him. Only at this point did the Thestrals that pull the carriages from Hogsmeade Station to Hogwarts castle become visible to him. On the other hand, Luna Lovegood, who lost her own mother when she was young, saw Thestrals very soon afterwards because she is intuitive, spiritual and unafraid of the afterlife.
While somewhat intimidating in appearance, these carnivorous horses are emblematic of a journey to another dimension, and reward all who trust them with faithfulness and obedience. Thestrals are native to the British Isles and Ireland, though they have been spotted in parts of France and the Iberian Peninsula; they seem to have an association with wizards who descend from the horse-loving Celtic peoples. Other parts of the world have their own equivalent to Thestrals.
Azkaban has existed since the fifteenth century and was not originally a prison at all. The island in the North Sea upon which the first fortress was built never appeared on any map, Muggle or wizarding, and is believed to have been created, or enlarged, by magical means.
The fortress upon it was originally home to a little-known sorcerer who called himself Ekrizdis. Evidently extremely powerful, but of unknown nationality, Ekrizdis, who is believed to have been insane, was a practitioner of the worst kinds of Dark Arts. Alone in the middle of the ocean, he lured, tortured, and killed Muggle sailors, apparently for pleasure, and only when he died, and the concealment charms he had cast faded away, did the Ministry of Magic realize that either island or building existed. Those who entered to investigate refused afterwards to talk of what they had found inside, but the least frightening part of it was that the place was infested with Dementors.
Many in authority thought Azkaban an evil place that was best destroyed. Others were afraid of what might happen to the Dementors infesting the building if they deprived them of their home. The creatures were already strong and impossible to kill; many feared a horrible revenge if they took away a habitat where they appeared to thrive. The very walls of the building seemed steeped in misery and pain, and the Dementors were determined to cling to it. Experts who had studied buildings built with and around Dark magic contended that Azkaban might wreak its own revenge upon anybody attempting to destroy it. The fortress was therefore left abandoned for many years, a home to continually breeding Dementors.
Once the International Statute of Secrecy had been imposed, the Ministry of Magic felt that the small wizarding prisons that existed up and down the country in various towns and villages posed a security risk, because attempts by incarcerated witches and wizards to break out often led to undesirable bangs, smells, and light shows. A purpose-built prison, located on some remote Hebridean island, was preferred, and plans had been drawn up when Damocles Rowle became Minister of Magic.
Rowle was an authoritarian who had risen to power on an anti-Muggle agenda, capitalizing on the anger felt by much of the wizarding community at being forced to go underground. Sadistic by nature, Rowle scrapped the plans for the new prison at once and insisted on using Azkaban. He claimed that the Dementors living there were an advantage: they could be harnessed as guards, saving the Ministry time, trouble, and expense.
In spite of opposition from many wizards, among them experts on both Dementors and buildings with Azkaban’s kind of Dark history, Rowle carried out his plan and soon a steady trickle of prisoners had been placed there. None ever emerged. If they were not mad and dangerous before being placed in Azkaban, they swiftly became so.
Rowle was succeeded by Perseus Parkinson, who was likewise pro-Azkaban. By the time that Eldritch Diggory took over as Minister of Magic, the prison had been operating for fifteen years. There had been no breakouts and no breaches of security. The new prison seemed to be working well. It was only when Diggory went to visit that he realized what conditions inside were like. Prisoners were mostly insane and a graveyard had been established to accommodate those that died of despair.
Back in London, Diggory had been so horrified by what he had seen inside Azkaban that he pressed the committee to find alternatives. Before they could reach any decision, however, Diggory caught dragon pox and died. From that time until the appointment of Kingsley Shacklebolt, no Minister ever seriously considered closing Azkaban. They turned a blind eye to the inhumane conditions inside the fortress, permitted to be magically enlarged and expanded and rarely visited due to the awful effects of entering a building populated by thousands of Dementors. Most justified their attitude by pointing to the prison’s perfect record at keeping prisoners locked up.
Nearly three centuries passed before that record was broken. A young man was successfully smuggled out of the prison when his visiting mother changed places with him, something that the blind and loveless Dementors could not detect and would have never expected. This escape was followed by another, still more ingenious and impressive, when Sirius Black managed to evade the Dementors single-handedly.
The weakness of the prison was demonstrated amply over the next few years, when two mass breakouts occurred, both involving Death Eaters. By this time the Dementors had given their allegiance to Lord Voldemort, who could guarantee them scope and freedom hitherto un-tasted. Albus Dumbledore was one who had long disapproved of the use of Dementors as guards, not only because of the inhumane treatment of the prisoners in their power, but because he foresaw the possible shift in loyalties of such Dark creatures.
Under Kingsley Shacklebot, Azkaban was purged of Dementors. While it remains in use as a prison, the guards are now Aurors, who are regularly rotated from the mainland. There have been no breakouts since this new system was introduced.
J.K. Rowling’s thoughts
The name ‘Azkaban’ derives from a mixture of the prison ‘Alcatraz,’ which is its closest Muggle equivalent, being set on an island, and ‘Abaddon,’ which is a Hebrew word meaning ‘place of destruction’ or ‘depths of hell.'
Ministers of Magic
The Minister of Magic is the leader of the wizarding community in a particular country, and is the head of the Ministry of Magic.
The Ministry of Magic was formally established in 1707 with the appointment of the very first man to hold the title ‘Minister for Magic,' Ulick Gamp.* The Minister of Magic is democratically elected, although there have been times of crisis in which the post has simply been offered to an individual without a public vote (Albus Dumbledore was made such an offer, and turned it down repeatedly). There is no fixed limit to a Minister’s term in office, but he or she is obliged to hold regular elections at a maximum interval of seven years. Ministers of Magic tend to last much longer than Muggle ministers. Generally speaking, and despite many a moan and grumble, their community is behind them in a way that is rarely seen in the Muggle world. This is perhaps due to a feeling, on the part of wizards, that unless they are seen to manage themselves competently, the Muggles might try to interfere.
The Muggle Prime Minister has no part in appointing the Minister of Magic, whose election is a matter only for the magical community themselves. All matters relating to the magical community in Britain are managed solely by the Minister of Magic, and she or he has sole jurisdiction over the Ministry. Emergency visits to the Muggle Prime Minister by the Minister of Magic are announced by a portrait of Ulick Gamp (first Minister of Magic) that hangs in the Muggle Prime Minister’s study in number 10 Downing Street.
No Muggle Prime Minister has ever set foot in the Ministry of Magic, for reasons most succinctly summed up by ex-Minister Dugald McPhail (term of office 1858-1865): ‘their puir wee braines couldnae cope wi’it.’
Chronological List of Past Ministers
• Ulick Gamp (1707-1718)
Previously head of the Wizengamot, Gamp had the onerous job of policing a fractious and frightened community adjusting to the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy. His greatest legacy was to found the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
• Damocles Rowle (1718-1786)
Rowle was elected on a platform of being ‘tough on Muggles.' Censured by the International Confederation of Wizards, he was eventually forced to step down.
• Perseus Parkinson (1726-1733)
Attempted to pass a bill making it illegal to marry a Muggle. Misread the public mood; the wizarding community, tired of anti-Muggle sentiment and wanting peace, voted him out at the first opportunity.
• Eldritch Diggory (1733-1747)
Popular Minister who first established an Auror recruitment program. Died in office (dragon pox).
• Albert Boot (1747-1752)
Likeable, but inept. Resigned after a mismanaged goblin rebellion.
• Basil Flack (1752-1752)
Shortest serving Minister. Lasted two months; resigned after the goblins joined forces with werewolves.
• Hesphaestus Gore (1752-1770)
Gore was one of the earliest Aurors. Successfully put down a number of revolts by magical beings, although historians feel his refusal to contemplate rehabilitation programs for werewolves ultimately led to more attacks. Renovated and reinforced the prison of Azkaban.
• Maximilian Crowdy (1770-1781)
Father of nine, Crowdy was a charismatic leader who routed out several extremist pure-blood groups planning Muggle attacks. His mysterious death in office has been the subject of numerous books and conspiracy theories.
• Porteus Knatchbull (1781-1789)
Was called in confidentially in 1782 by the Muggle Prime Minister of the day, Lord North, to see whether he could help with King George III’s emerging mental instability. Word leaked out that Lord North believed in wizards, and he was forced to resign after a motion of no confidence.
• Unctuous Osbert (1789-1798)
Widely seen as too influenced by pure-bloods of wealth and status.
• Artemisia Lufkin (1798-1811)
First female Minister of Magic. Established Department of International Magical Cooperation and lobbied hard and successfully to have a Quidditch World Cup tournament held in Britain during her term.
• Grogan Stump (1811-1819)
Very popular Minister of Magic, a passionate Quidditch fan (Tutshill Tornados), established Department of Magical Games and Sports, and managed to steer through legislation on magical beasts and beings that had long been a source of contention.
• Josephina Flint (1819-1827)
Revealed an unhealthy anti-Muggle bias in office; disliked new Muggle technology such as the telegraph, which she claimed interfered with proper wand function.
• Ottaline Gambol (1827-1835)
A much more forward-looking Minister, Gambol established committees to investigate Muggle brainpower which seemed, during this period of the British Empire, to be greater than some wizards credited.
• Radolphus Lestrange (1835-1841)
Reactionary who attempted to close down the Department of Mysteries, which ignored him. Eventually resigned due to ill health, which was widely rumored to be inability to cope with the strains of office.
• Hortensia Milliphutt (1841-1849)
Introduced more legislation than any other sitting Minister, much of it useful, but some wearisome (hat pointiness and so on), which ultimately resulted in her political downfall.
• Evangeline Orpington (1849-1855)
A good friend of Queen Victoria’s, who never realized she was a witch, let alone Minister of Magic. Orpington is believed to have intervened magically (and illegally) in the Crimean War.
• Priscilla Dupont (1855-1858)
Conceived an irrational loathing of the Muggle Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, to an extent that caused such trouble (coins turning to frogspawn in his coat pockets, etc.) that she was forced to step down. Ironically, Palmerston was forced to resign by the Muggles two days later.
• Dugald McPhail (1858-1865)
A safe pair of hands. While the Muggle parliament underwent a period of marked upheaval, the Ministry of Magic knew a period of welcome calm.
• Faris “Spout-hole” Spavin (1865-1903)
Longest-ever serving Minister of Magic, and also the most long-winded, he survived an ‘assassination attempt’ (kicking) from a centaur who resented the punchline of Spavin’s infamous ‘a centaur, a ghost and a dwarf walk into a bar’ joke. Attended Queen Victoria’s funeral in an admiral’s hat and spats, at which point the Wizengamot suggested gently that it was time he move aside (Spavin was 147 when he left office).
• Venusia Crickerly (1903-1912)
Second ex-Auror to take office and considered both competent and likable, Crickerly died in a freak gardening accident (mandrake related).
• Archer Evermonde (1912-1923)
In post during the Muggle First World War, Evermond passed emergency legislation forbidding witches and wizards to get involved, lest they risk mass infractions of the International Statute of Secrecy. Thousands defied him, aiding Muggles where they could.
• Lorcan McLair (1923-1925)
A gifted wizard, but an unlikely politician, McLaird was an exceptionally taciturn man who preferred to communicate in monosyllables and expressive puffs of smoke that he produced through the end of his wand. Forced from office out of sheer irritation at his eccentricities.
• Hector Fawley (1925-1939)
Undoubtedly voted in because of his marked difference to McLaird, the ebullient and flamboyant Fawley did not take sufficiently seriously the threat presented to the world wizarding community by Gellert Grindelwald. He paid with his job.
• Leonard Spencer-Moon (1939-1948)
A sound Minister who rose through the ranks from being tea-boy in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. Oversaw a great period of international wizarding and Muggle conflict. Enjoyed a good working relationship with Winston Churchill.
• Wilhelmina Tuft (1948-1959)
Cheery witch who presided over a period of welcome peace and prosperity. Died in office after discovering, too late, her allergy to Alihotsy-flavored fudge.
• Ignatius Tuft (1959-1962)
Son of the above. A hard liner who capitalized on his mother’s popularity to be elected. Promised to institute a controversial and dangerous Dementor breeding program and was forced from office.
• Nobby Leach (1962-1968)
First Muggle-born Minister of Magic, his appointment caused consternation among the old (pure-blood) population, many of whom resigned government posts in protest. Has always denied having anything to do with England’s 1966 World Cup Win. Left office after contracting a mysterious illness (conspiracy theories abound).
• Eugenia Jenkins (1968-1975)
Jenkins dealt competently with pure-blood riots during Squib Rights marches in the late sixties, but was soon confronted with the first rise of Lord Voldemort. Jenkins was soon ousted from office as inadequately prepared for the challenge.
• Harold Minchum (1975-1980)
Seen as a hard-liner, he placed even more Dementors around Azkaban, but was unable to contain what looked like Voldemort’s unstoppable rise to power.
• Millicent Bagnold (1980-1990)
A highly able Minister. Had to answer to the International Confederation of Wizards for the number of breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy on the day and night following Harry Potter’s survival of Lord Voldemort’s attack. Acquitted herself magnificently with the now infamous words: "I assert our inalienable right to party," which drew cheers from all present.
• Cornelius Fudge (1990-1996)
A career politician overly-fond of the old guard. Persistent denial of the continuing threat of Lord Voldemort ultimately cost him his job.
• Rufus Scrimgeour (1996-1997)
The third ex-Auror to gain office, Scrimgeour died in office at the hands of Lord Voldemort.
• Pius Thicknesse (1997-1998)
Omitted from most official records, as he was under the Imperius Curse for his entire term of office, and unconscious of anything that he was doing.
• Kingsley Shacklebolt (1998-present)
Oversaw the capture of Death Eaters and Voldemort supporters following the death of Lord Voldemort. Initially named as ‘caretaker Minister,’ Shacklebolt was subsequently elected to the office.
Prior to 1707, the Wizards’ Council was the longest serving (though not the only) body to govern the magical community in Britain. After the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692, however, the wizarding community needed a more highly structured, organized and more complex governing structure than they had hitherto used, to support, regulate and communicate with a community in hiding. Only witches and wizards who enjoyed the title of ‘Minister of Magic’ are included in this entry.
Weren't these fantastic?! It's so great that Rowling loves her fans enough to continue broadening the Harry Potter world for all of us to enjoy!
Comment below with your thoughts :D