ByJess Goodwin, writer at
social media coordinator at Nickelodeon's '90s Nostalgia brand NickSplat :: on Twitter @thejessgoodwin
Jess Goodwin

One of the best things about Harry Potter is that, much like Voldemort had he kept his horcruxes in check, it will never die. Despite the last book being released nearly a decade ago and the last movie four years after that, it remains in our public consciousness, enjoying occasional bursts (such as the recent Twitter trend).

The staying power of Harry Potter is in large part thanks to J.K. Rowling's site Pottermore, on which she (somewhat) regularly posts new information about characters, places, events — basically all things Potter.

Here are a few things Rowling has shared with us on Pottermore over the years:

1. Azkaban's Sinister Backstory

It turns out that Azkaban, the wizard's prison, originated as the island of a Dark wizard who spent a good chunk of his time luring, torturing, and murdering sailers for fun. The Ministry of Magic didn't even realize the island was there until the Dark wizard died and his enchantments to hide the place wore off.

When Ministry officials went to investigate, they discovered the island was overtaken by Dementors — who would later go on to serve as guards once it was converted into the prison, at the behest of Damocles Rowle, a "sadistic" anti-Muggle wizard. (It's pretty ironic, then, that so many anti-Muggle wizards and witches ended up imprisoned within Azkaban, eh?)

2. Naming the Knight Bus Staff

Wondering where the names of the Knight Bus staff came from? It turns out that Ern Prang, the elderly driver, and Stan Shunpike, the conductor, were named after Rowling's grandfathers Ernest and Stanley.

3. Sybill Trelawney Is an Alcoholic

It had already been implied that Divination Professor Trelawney was fond of sherry (which she started hiding in the Room of Requirement during Dolores Umbridge's reign of terror in Order of the Phoenix). Trelawney's love of the bottle wasn't limited to the events of the fifth book, though — she had "developed an over-reliance" on the stuff, due in large part to her "underlying feeling of inadequacy." (Considering she spent her life trying to live up to her great-great-grandmother Cassandra's actually proven powers, I'm not all that surprised.)

4. Why Potions Was Such a Nightmare

Rowling wrote Potions to be such an unenjoyable class because of its similarities to Chemistry — her "least favorite subject in school." (I'd be interested to know whether Rowling ever talked back to her teachers the way Harry did to Snape.)

5. Umbridge Was Always Pretty Terrible

Speaking of Professor Umbridge, it turns out she had few if any redeeming qualities, even as a kid. Her mother was a muggle, which Dolores assumed was the reason her brother was born a squib. Though her father was a wizard, Dolores didn't have much respect for him either — she went so far as to bribe him into quitting his job as a janitor at the Ministry of Magic so she could apply for a job.

Incidentally, Umbridge was based in part on a woman from Rowling's past.

"The woman in question returned my antipathy with interest," said the author. "Why we took against each other so instantly, heartily and (on my side, at least) irrationally, I honestly cannot say.”

6. Aunt Marge's Dogs

Readers will remember Aunt Marge and her bulldogs from Prisoner of Azkaban. Rowling regretted using bulldogs after learning the breed is actually nonaggressive. I get it though — as Rowling points out, bulldogs are quite "grumpy looking," just like Aunt Marge.

7. Minerva McGonagall's Sad Childhood

The esteemed Professor had a rough start to life — though she and her father were very close, there was resentment in their family because Minerva's mother didn't tell him about her magical roots until after Minerva was born.

Her parents' damaged relationship had a major effect on Minerva's own love life later on. She abandoned the man she loved because he was a Muggle and she thought their relationship would turn out like her parents'.

8. Petunia and Vernon Dursley's Courtship

According to Rowling, this unpleasant pair met at work and were attracted to each other mainly because they were both exceedingly "normal" and boring and enjoyed things and people that were also exceedingly "normal" and boring. Petunia worried that Vernon would disapprove of her "freak" sister, and she was right — but everything turned out fine, as they were able to disapprove of Lily (and James) together.

9. Florean Fortescue Died for Nothing

The ice cream parlor owner was kidnapped by Voldemort and the Death Eaters in Half-Blood Prince... and then never heard from again. Rowling revealed on Pottermore that originally, Florean and Harry were supposed to reconnect in Deathly Hallows, at which point Florean would reveal crucial information about the Elder Wand and Ravenclaw's diadem.

“The problem was that when I came to write the key parts of Deathly Hallows I decided that Phineas Nigellus Black was a much more satisfactory means of conveying clues," Rowling wrote. "Florean’s information on the diadem also felt redundant, as I could give the reader everything he or she needed by interviewing the Grey Lady."

Rowling said she felt guilty about killing off Florean (as she should, since no one who provides people with ice cream for a living deserves to die).

10. The Leaky Cauldron's Origins

It turns out the Leaky Cauldron wasn't always a Muggle-free zone — prior to International Statute of Secrecy, Muggles were more than welcome to grab a pint at the pub, "though some of the conversations, not to mention pets, caused many an unwary drinker to leave without finishing his mead."

Muggles might not be welcome at the Leaky Cauldron in the books and movies, but real-life Muggles can head to Universal Studios' version of the pub in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

11. The Vampire Teacher That Wasn't

Vampires are present in the Harry Potter universe but, apart from an appearance at Slughorn's Christmas party in Half-Blood Prince, they don't play a large role. Apparently though, Harry, Ron, and Hermione could have been learning from one at Hogwarts.

"Looking back thought my earliest notebooks, however, I found that on my very earliest list of staff, there was a subjectless vampire teacher I had forgotten, called 'Trocar'," Rowling revealed. "A Trocar is sharply pointed shaft inserted into arteries or cavities to extract bodily fluids, so I think it is a rather good name for a vampire. Evidently I did not think much of him as a character, though, because he disappears fairly early on in my notes."

It's probably for the best, considering how over-saturated pop culture was becoming with vampires.

12. Wizards' TV

Back in the early '80s, several "firebrand" wizards created a British Wizarding Broadcasting Corporation to appeal to wizards and witches "amused by Muggle television."

The project was quickly shut down by the Ministry of Magic, who didn't want to risk Muggles stumbling upon a magical TV show. (Little did the Ministry of Magic officials know, Muggles were already well-acquainted with "Bewitched".)

13. The Moving Paintings

Enchanted paint is to thank for the magical moving paintings littering Hogwarts' walls, but have you ever wondered why the paintings' subjects act the way they do?

"The portrait will be able to use some of the subject's favorite phrases and imitate their general demeanor," Rowling explained.

This means that when Sir Cadogan (the feisty little knight who took the Fat Lady's place as the guard to Gryffindor's tower in Prisoner of Azkaban) sat for his painting, he was loud and confrontational. Bet the artist loved that...

14. The Great Lake

Originally, the Great Lake and the mer-people within were going to play a fairly large role in the franchise. Rowling had Harry and Ron crashing the Ford Anglia into the lake and meeting the mer-people in Chamber of Secrets, but their introduction got pushed back to Goblet of Fire.

15. The Sorting Hat Alternative

The Sorting Hat was something else that went through major changes in the draft process. In fact, it didn't even exist until a few drafts in.

"I debated several different methods for sorting students (because I knew from early on that there would be four houses, all with very different qualities)," Rowling writes. "The first was an elaborate, Heath Robinson-ish machine that did all kinds of magical things before reaching a decision, but I did not like it: it felt at once too complicated, and too easy."

Next I placed four statues of the four founders in the Entrance Hall, which came alive and selected students from the throng in front of them while the school watched. This was better, but still not quite right. Finally, I wrote a list of the ways in which people can be chosen: 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 — the Sorting Hat."

What's your favorite tidbit Rowling has revealed on Pottermore?


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