The J.K. Rowling Index

List of all J.K. Rowling's writings.

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Sybill Trelawney

Index ID: STPM — Publication date: October 31st, 2014

New from J.K. Rowling

Trait Description
Birthday 9th March
Wand Hazel and unicorn hair, 9 1/2 inches long, very flexible
Hogwarts house Ravenclaw
Special abilities A Seer, though the gift is unpredictable and unconscious
Parentage Muggle mother, wizard father
Family Early marriage ended in unforeseen rupture when she refused to adopt the surname ‘Higglebottom’. No children.
Hobbies Practising making doom-laden prophecies in front of the mirror, sherry

Sybill is the great-great granddaughter of a genuine Seer, Cassandra Trelawney. Cassandra’s gift has been much diluted over ensuing generations, although Sybill has inherited more than she knows. Half-believing in her own fibs about her talent (for she is at least ninety per cent fraud), Sybill has cultivated a dramatic manner and enjoys impressing her more gullible students with predictions of doom and disaster. She is gifted in the fortune teller’s tricks; she accurately reads Neville’s nervousness and suggestibility in his first class, and tells him he is about to break a cup, which he does. On other occasions, gullible students do her work for her. Professor Trelawney tells Lavender Brown that something she is dreading will happen to her on the sixteenth of October; when Lavender receives news on that day that her pet rabbit has died, she connects it instantly with the prediction. All of Hermione’s logic and good sense (Lavender was not dreading the death of the rabbit, which was very young; the rabbit did not die on the sixteenth, but the previous day) are lost: Lavender wants to believe her unhappiness was foretold. By the law of averages, Professor Trelawney’s rapid fire predictions sometimes hit the mark, but most of the time she is full of hot air and self-importance.

Nevertheless, Sybill does experience very rare flashes of genuine clairvoyance, which she can never remember afterwards. She secured her post at Hogwarts because she revealed, during her interview with Dumbledore, that she was the unconscious possessor of important knowledge. Dumbledore gave her sanctuary at the school, partly to protect her, partly in the hope that more genuine predictions would be forthcoming (he had to wait many years for the next).

Conscious of her low status on the staff, who are almost all more talented than she is, Sybill spends most of her time apart from her colleagues, up in her stuffy and overcrowded tower office. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, she has developed an over-reliance on alcohol.

Professors Trelawney and McGonagall are polar opposites; the one something of a charlatan, manipulative and grandiose, the other fiercely intelligent, stern and upright. I knew, however, that when the consummate outsider and non-Hogwartian Dolores Umbridge attempted to oust Sybill from the school, Minerva McGonagall, who has been critical of Trelawney on many occasions, would show the true kindness of her character and rally to her defence. There is a pathos about Professor Trelawney, infuriating though I would find her in real life, and I think that Minerva sensed her underlying feeling of inadequacy.

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

I created detailed histories for many of the Hogwarts staff (such as Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall and Rubeus Hagrid), some of which were used in the books, and some of which were not. It is in some ways fitting that I only ever had a vague idea of what had happened to the Divination teacher before she washed up at Hogwarts. I imagine that Sybill’s pre-Hogwarts existence consisted of drifting through the wizarding world, trying to trade on her ancestry to secure employment, but scorning any that did not offer what she feels is the status due to a Seer.

I love Cornish surnames, and had never used one until the third book in the series, so that is how Professor Trelawney got her family name. I did not want to call her anything comical, or which suggested chicanery, but something impressive and attractive. ‘Trelawney’ is a very old name, suggestive of Sybill’s over-reliance on her ancestry when seeking to impress. There is a beautiful old Cornish song featuring the name (‘The Song of the Western Men’). Sybill’s first name is a homonym of ‘Sibyl’, which was a female clairvoyant in ancient times. My American editor wanted me to use ‘Sibyl’, but I preferred my version, because while it keeps the reference to the august clairvoyants of old, it is really no more than a variant the unfashionable female name ‘Sybil’. Professor Trelawney, I felt, did not really qualify as a ‘Sibyl’.


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The Great Lake

Index ID: PMGRLAKE — Publication date: July 31st, 2014

New from J.K. Rowling

The grounds of Hogwarts function partly as a nature reserve for magical creatures which have difficulty existing in Muggle-inhabited areas.

The lake is full of creatures that would make a Muggle naturalist swoon with delight – if terror did not seize them first. There are Grindylows (vicious little water demons), merpeople (of a hardy Scottish strain) and a giant squid, which is semi-domesticated and permits students to tickle its tentacles on sunny days, when it basks in the shallows.

Giant squid genuinely exist, though they are most mysterious creatures. Although their extraordinary bodies have been washed up all over the world, it was not until 2006 that a live giant squid was captured on film by Muggles. I strongly suspect them of having magical powers.

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

The lake is the setting for the second task that the Triwizard competitors must face in Goblet of Fire, which is also my favourite task. I find it satisfyingly creepy; I like the diversity of the methods employed by the competitors to breathe underwater, and I enjoyed plumbing the depths of a part of the grounds that had never been seen before. In the original draft of Chamber of Secrets, I had Harry and Ron crash into the lake in Mr Weasley’s Ford Anglia, and meet the merpeople there for the first time. At that time I had a vague notion that the lake might lead to other places, and that the merpeople might play a larger role in the later books than they did, so I thought that Harry ought to be introduced to both at this stage. However, the Whomping Willow provided a more satisfying, less distracting crash, and served a later purpose in Prisoner of Azkaban, too. The Great Lake (which is really a Scottish loch, apparently freshwater and landlocked) never did develop as a portal to other seas or rivers, although the appearance of the Durmstrang ship from its depths in Goblet of Fire hints at the fact that if you are travelling by an enchanted craft, you might be able to take a magical shortcut to other waterways.


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Hogwarts Houses Welcome Messages

Index ID: PMHHWM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

Note: Welcome messages that appear in Pottermore after you are sorted into a Hogwarts House. They were written by J.K. Rowling.

Gryffindor

Congratulations! I’m Prefect Percy Weasley, and I’m delighted to welcome you to GRYFFINDOR HOUSE. Our emblem is the lion, the bravest of all creatures; our house colours are scarlet and gold, and our common room lies up in Gryffindor Tower.

This is, quite simply, the best house at Hogwarts. It’s where the bravest and boldest end up – for instance: Albus Dumbledore! Yes, Dumbledore himself, the greatest wizard of our time, was a Gryffindor! If that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what is.

I won’t keep you long, as all you need to do to find out more about your house is to follow Harry Potter and his friends as I lead them up to their dormitories. Enjoy your time at Hogwarts – but how could you fail to? You’ve become part of the best house in the school.

Ravenclaw

Congratulations! I’m Prefect Robert Hilliard, and I’m delighted to welcome you to RAVENCLAW HOUSE. Our emblem is the eagle, which soars where others cannot climb; our house colours are blue and bronze, and our common room is found at the top of Ravenclaw Tower, behind a door with an enchanted knocker. The arched windows set into the walls of our circular common room look down at the school grounds: the lake, the Forbidden Forest, the Quidditch pitch and the Herbology gardens. No other house in the school has such stunning views.

Without wishing to boast, this is the house where the cleverest witches and wizards live. Our founder, Rowena Ravenclaw, prized learning above all else – and so do we. Unlike the other houses, who all have concealed entrances to their common rooms, we don’t need one. The door to our common room lies at the top of a tall, winding staircase. It has no handle, but an enchanted bronze knocker in the shape of an eagle. When you rap on the door, this knocker will ask you a question, and if you can answer it correctly, you are allowed in. This simple barrier has kept out everyone but Ravenclaws for nearly a thousand years.

Some first-years are scared by having to answer the eagle’s questions, but don’t worry. Ravenclaws learn quickly, and you’ll soon enjoy the challenges the door sets. It’s not unusual to find twenty people standing outside the common room door, all trying to work out the answer to the day’s question together. This is a great way to meet fellow Ravenclaws from other years, and to learn from them – although it is a bit annoying if you’ve forgotten your Quidditch robes and need to get in and out in a hurry. In fact, I’d advise you to triple-check your bag for everything you need before leaving Ravenclaw Tower.

Another cool thing about Ravenclaw is that our people are the most individual – some might even call them eccentrics. But geniuses are often out of step with ordinary folk, and unlike some other houses we could mention, we think you’ve got the right to wear what you like, believe what you want, and say what you feel. We aren’t put off by people who march to a different tune; on the contrary, we value them!

Speaking of eccentrics, you’ll like our Head of house, Professor Filius Flitwick. People often underestimate him, because he’s really tiny (we think he’s part elf, but we’ve never been rude enough to ask) and he’s got a squeaky voice, but he’s the best and most knowledgeable Charms master alive in the world today. His office door is always open to any Ravenclaw with a problem, and if you’re in a real state he’ll get out these delicious little cupcakes he keeps in a tin in his desk drawer and make them do a little dance for you. In fact, it’s worth pretending you’re in a real state just to see them jive.

Ravenclaw house has an illustrious history. Most of the greatest wizarding inventors and innovators were in our house, including Perpetua Fancourt, the inventor of the lunascope, Laverne de Montmorency, a great pioneer of love potions, and Ignatia Wildsmith, the inventor of Floo powder. Famous Ravenclaw Ministers for Magic include Millicent Bagnold, who was in power on the night that Harry Potter survived the Dark Lord’s curse, and defended the wizarding celebrations all over Britain with the words, ‘I assert our inalienable right to party’. There was also Minister Lorcan McLaird, who was a quite brilliant wizard, but preferred to communicate by puffing smoke out of the end of his wand. Well, I did say we produce eccentrics. In fact, we are also the house that gave the wizarding world Uric the Oddball, who used a jellyfish for a hat. He’s the punch line of a lot of wizarding jokes.

As for our relationship with the other three houses: well, you’ve probably heard about the Slytherins. They’re not all bad, but you’d do well to be on your guard until you know them well. They’ve got a long house tradition of doing whatever it takes to win – so watch out, especially in Quidditch matches and exams.

The Gryffindors are OK. If I had a criticism, I’d say Gryffindors tend to be show-offs. They’re also much less tolerant than we are of people who are different; in fact, they’ve been known to make jokes about Ravenclaws who have developed an interest in levitation, or the possible magical uses of troll bogies, or ovomancy, which (as you probably know) is a method of divination using eggs. Gryffindors haven’t got our intellectual curiosity, whereas we’ve got no problem if you want to spend your days and nights cracking eggs in a corner of the common room and writing down your predictions according to the way the yolks fall. In fact, you’ll probably find a few people to help you.

As for the Hufflepuffs, well, nobody could say they’re not nice people. In fact, they’re some of the nicest people in the school. Let’s just say you needn’t worry too much about them when it comes to competition at exam time.

I think that’s nearly everything. Oh yes, our house ghost is the Grey Lady. The rest of the school thinks she never speaks, but she’ll talk to Ravenclaws. She’s particularly useful if you’re lost, or you’ve mislaid something.

I’m sure you’ll have a good night. Our dormitories are in turrets off the main tower; our four-poster beds are covered in sky blue silk eiderdowns and the sound of the wind whistling around the windows is very relaxing.

And once again: well done on becoming a member of the cleverest, quirkiest and most interesting house at Hogwarts.

Slytherin

Congratulations! I’m Prefect Gemma Farley, and I’m delighted to welcome you to SLYTHERIN HOUSE. Our emblem is the serpent, the wisest of creatures; our house colours are emerald green and silver, and our common room lies behind a concealed entrance down in the dungeons. As you’ll see, its windows look out into the depths of the Hogwarts lake. We often see the giant squid swooshing by – and sometimes more interesting creatures. We like to feel that our hangout has the aura of a mysterious, underwater shipwreck.

Now, there are a few things you should know about Slytherin – and a few you should forget. Firstly, let’s dispel a few myths. You might have heard rumours about Slytherin house – that we’re all into the Dark Arts, and will only talk to you if your great-grandfather was a famous wizard, and rubbish like that. Well, you don’t want to believe everything you hear from competing houses. I’m not denying that we’ve produced our share of Dark wizards, but so have the other three houses – they just don’t like admitting it. And yes, we have traditionally tended to take students who come from long lines of witches and wizards, but nowadays you’ll find plenty of people in Slytherin house who have at least one Muggle parent. Here’s a little-known fact that the other three houses don’t bring up much: Merlin was a Slytherin. Yes, Merlin himself, the most famous wizard in history! He learned all he knew in this very house! Do you want to follow in the footsteps of Merlin? Or would you rather sit at the old desk of that illustrious ex-Hufflepuff, Eglantine Puffett, inventor of the Self-Soaping Dishcloth? I didn’t think so.

But that’s enough about what we’re not. Let’s talk about what we are, which is the coolest and edgiest house in this school. We play to win, because we care about the honour and traditions of Slytherin.

We also get respect from our fellow students. Yes, some of that respect might be tinged with fear, because of our Dark reputation, but you know what? It can be fun, having a reputation for walking on the wild side. Chuck out a few hints that you’ve got access to a whole library of curses, and see whether anyone feels like nicking your pencil case.

But we’re not bad people. We’re like our emblem, the snake: sleek, powerful, and frequently misunderstood.

For instance, we Slytherins look after our own – which is more than you can say for Ravenclaw. Apart from being the biggest bunch of swots you ever met, Ravenclaws are famous for clambering over each other to get good marks, whereas we Slytherins are brothers. The corridors of Hogwarts can throw up surprises for the unwary, and you’ll be glad you’ve got the Serpents on your side as you move around the school. As far as we’re concerned, once you’ve become a snake, you’re one of ours – one of the elite.

Because you know what Salazar Slytherin looked for in his chosen students? The seeds of greatness. You’ve been chosen by this house because you’ve got the potential to be great, in the true sense of the word. All right, you might see a couple of people hanging around the common room whom you might not think are destined for anything special. Well, keep that to yourself. If the Sorting Hat put them in here, there’s something great about them, and don’t you forget it.

And talking of people who aren’t destined for greatness, I haven’t mentioned the Gryffindors. Now, a lot of people say that Slytherins and Gryffindors represent two sides of the same coin. Personally, I think Gryffindors are nothing more than wannabe Slytherins. Mind you, some people say that Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor prized the same kinds of students, so perhaps we are more similar than we like to think. But that doesn’t mean that we cosy up with Gryffindors. They like beating us only slightly less than we like beating them.

A few more things you might need to know: our house ghost is the Bloody Baron. If you get on the right side of him he’ll sometimes agree to frighten people for you. Just don’t ask him how he got bloodstained; he doesn’t like it.

The password to the common room changes every fortnight. Keep an eye on the noticeboard. Never bring anyone from another house into our common room or tell them our password. No outsider has entered it for more than seven centuries.

Well, I think that’s all for now. I’m sure you’ll like our dormitories. We sleep in ancient four-posters with green silk hangings, and bedspreads embroidered with silver thread. Medieval tapestries depicting the adventures of famous Slytherins cover the walls, and silver lanterns hang from the ceilings. You’ll sleep well; it’s very soothing, listening to the lake water lapping against the windows at night.

Hufflepuff

Congratulations! I’m Prefect Gabriel Truman, and I’m delighted to welcome you to HUFFLEPUFF HOUSE. Our emblem is the badger, an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself, including wolves. Our house colours are yellow and black, and our common room lies one floor below the ground, on the same corridor as the kitchens.

Now, there are a few things you should know about Hufflepuff house. First of all, let’s deal with a perennial myth about the place, which is that we’re the least clever house. WRONG. Hufflepuff is certainly the least boastful house, but we’ve produced just as many brilliant witches and wizards as any other. Want proof? Look up Grogan Stump, one of the most popular Ministers for Magic of all time. He was a Hufflepuff – as were the successful Ministers Artemesia Lufkin and Dugald McPhail. Then there’s the world authority on magical creatures, Newt Scamander; Bridget Wenlock, the famous thirteenth-century Arithmancer who first discovered the magical properties of the number seven, and Hengist of Woodcroft, who founded the all-wizarding village of Hogsmeade, which lies very near Hogwarts School. Hufflepuffs all.

So, as you can see, we’ve produced more than our fair share of powerful, brilliant and daring witches and wizards, but, just because we don’t shout about it, we don’t get the credit we deserve. Ravenclaws, in particular, assume that any outstanding achiever must have come from their house. I got into big trouble during my third year for duelling a Ravenclaw prefect who insisted that Bridget Wenlock had come from his house, not mine. I should have got a week of detentions, but Professor Sprout let me off with a warning and a box of coconut ice.

Hufflepuffs are trustworthy and loyal. We don’t shoot our mouths off, but cross us at your peril; like our emblem, the badger, we will protect ourselves, our friends and our families against all-comers. Nobody intimidates us.

However, it’s true that Hufflepuff is a bit lacking in one area. We’ve produced the fewest Dark wizards of any house in this school. Of course, you’d expect Slytherin to churn out evil-doers, seeing as they’ve never heard of fair play and prefer cheating over hard work any day, but even Gryffindor (the house we get on best with) has produced a few dodgy characters.

What else do you need to know? Oh yes, the entrance to the common room is concealed in a stack of large barrels in a nook on the right hand side of the kitchen corridor. Tap the barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row, in the rhythm of ‘Helga Hufflepuff’, and the lid will swing open. We are the only house at Hogwarts that also has a repelling device for would-be intruders. If the wrong lid is tapped, or if the rhythm of the tapping is wrong, the illegal entrant is doused in vinegar.

You will hear other houses boast of their security arrangements, but it so happens that in more than a thousand years, the Hufflepuff common room and dormitories have never been seen by outsiders. Like badgers, we know exactly how to lie low – and how to defend ourselves.

Once you’ve opened the barrel, crawl inside and along the passageway behind it, and you will emerge into the cosiest common room of them all. It is round and earthy and low-ceilinged; it always feels sunny, and its circular windows have a view of rippling grass and dandelions.

There is a lot of burnished copper about the place, and many plants, which either hang from the ceiling or sit on the windowsills. Our Head of house, Professor Pomona Sprout, is Head of Herbology, and she brings the most interesting specimens (some of which dance and talk) to decorate our room – one reason why Hufflepuffs are often very good at Herbology. Our overstuffed sofas and chairs are upholstered in yellow and black, and our dormitories are reached through round doors in the walls of the common room. Copper lamps cast a warm light over our four-posters, all of which are covered in patchwork quilts, and copper bed warmers hang on the walls, should you have cold feet.

Our house ghost is the friendliest of them all: the Fat Friar. You’ll recognise him easily enough; he’s plump and wears monk’s robes, and he’s very helpful if you get lost or are in any kind of trouble.

I think that’s nearly everything. I must say, I hope some of you are good Quidditch players. Hufflepuff hasn’t done as well as I’d like in the Quidditch tournament lately.

You should sleep comfortably. We’re protected from storms and wind down in our dormitories; we never have the disturbed nights those in the towers sometimes experience.

And once again: congratulations on becoming a member of the friendliest, most decent and most tenacious house of them all.


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The Original Forty

Index ID: OG40PM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

Two of my most prized possessions are a pair of small notebooks, which contain my very first scribblings about Harry Potter. Much of what is written in them was never used in the series, although it is startling to come across the odd line of dialogue that subsequently made it, verbatim, to publication.

In one of the books is a list of forty names of students in Harry’s year (including Harry, Ron and Hermione), all allocated houses, with small symbols beside each name depicting each boy or girl’s parentage.

While I imagined that there would be considerably more than forty students in each year at Hogwarts, I thought that it would be useful to know a proportion of Harry’s classmates, and to have names at my fingertips when action was taking place around the school.

As the stories evolved, I changed the parentage of some of the original forty. While some never appeared in the books at all, I always knew that they were there; some had surgery to their names after their first creation; a few emerged from the background to have their own secondary stories (Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbott, Justin Finch-Fletchley), and one, Neville Longbottom, developed into a very important character. It is very strange to look at the list in this tiny notebook now, slightly water-stained by some forgotten mishap, and covered in light pencil scribblings (undoubtedly the work of my then infant daughter, Jessica), and to think that while I was writing these names, and refining them, and sorting them into houses, I had no clue where they were going to go (or where they were going to take me).

Here, then, are the original forty:

  • Abbott, Hannah
  • Bones, Susan
  • Boot, Trevor
  • Brocklehurst, Mandy
  • Brown, Lavender
  • Bulstrode, Millicent
  • Corner, Michael
  • Cornfoot, Stephen
  • Crabbe, Vincent
  • Davis, Tracey
  • Entwhistle, Kevin
  • Finch-Fletchley, Justin
  • Finnigan, Seamus
  • Goldstein, Anthony
  • Goyle, Gregory
  • Granger, Hermione – inserted in pencil, see crossed-out entry, below
  • Greengrass, Queenie
  • Hopkins, Wayne
  • Jones, Megan
  • Li, Sue
  • Longbottom, Neville – inserted in ink, see crossed out entry, below
  • MacDougal, Isobel [original name Katrina crossed out]
  • Macmillan, Ernest
  • Malfoy, Draco – inserted in ink, see crossed-out entry, below
  • Malone, Roger
  • Moon, Lily [first intimation of Luna Lovegood, this name was never used, but gave me an idea for a fey, dreamy girl. She was named before I decided on Harry’s mother’s name.]
  • Nott, Theodore
  • Parkinson, Pansy
  • Patel, Madhari
  • Patel, Mati
  • Perks, Sally-Anne
  • Potter, Harry
  • [Puckle, Hermione – crossed out, name changed and reinserted, above]
  • [Puff, Neville – crossed out, name changed and reinserted, above]
  • [Quirrel], crossed out, subsequently used for teacher]
  • Rivers, Oliver
  • Roper, Sophie
  • [Sidebottom, Neville crossed out]
  • Smith, Sally [Georgina crossed out]
  • [Spungen, changed to Spinks, Draco, all crossed out, re-inserted above]
  • Thomas, Gary
  • Turpin, Lisa
  • Weasley, Ronald
  • Zabini, Blaise

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The Sorting Hat

Index ID: SHATPM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

New from J.K. Rowling

The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gives an account of its own genesis in a series of songs sung at the beginning of each school year. Legend has it that the hat once belonged to one of the four founders, Godric Gryffindor, and that it was jointly enchanted by all four founders to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder’s particular preferences in students. “The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet. It literally contains the intelligence of the four founders, can speak (through a rip near its brim) and is skilled at Legilimency, which enables it to look into the wearer’s head and divine his or her capabilities or mood. It can even respond to the thoughts of the wearer.

The Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behave altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunk all their exams, when Hufflepuffs prove lazy yet academically gifted and when Gryffindors exhibit cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work.

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

The Sorting Hat does not appear in my earliest plans for Hogwarts. 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). 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.


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Hatstall

Index ID: HATPM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

An archaic Hogwarts term for any new student whose Sorting takes longer than five minutes. This is an exceptionally long time for the Sorting Hat to deliberate, and occurs rarely, perhaps once every fifty years.

Of Harry Potter’s contemporaries, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom came closest to being Hatstalls. The Sorting Hat spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff. Their silent wrangling resulted in triumph for the Hat.

The only true Hatstalls known personally to Harry Potter were Minerva McGonagall and Peter Pettigrew. The former caused the hat to agonise for five and a half minutes as to whether Minerva ought to go to Ravenclaw or Gryffindor; the latter was placed in Gryffindor after a long deliberation between that house and Slytherin. The Sorting Hat, which is infamously stubborn, still refuses to accept that its decision in the case of the latter may have been erroneous, citing the manner in which Pettigrew died as (dubious) evidence.


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Professor McGonagall

Index ID: MMGPM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

Trait Description
Birthday 4th October
Wand Fir and dragon heartstring, nine and a half inches, stiff
Hogwarts House Gryffindor
Special Abilities Animagus (distinctively marked silver tabby cat)
Parentage Muggle father (Robert McGonagall), witch mother (Isobel Ross)
Family Husband Elphinstone Urquhart, deceased. No children. Brothers Malcolm and Robert Jr.
Hobbies Transfiguration Today, watching Quidditch, supporting the Montrose Magpies

Childhood

Minerva McGonagall was the first child, and only daughter, of a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a Hogwarts-educated witch. She grew up in the Highlands of Scotland in the early twentieth century, and only gradually became aware that there was something strange, both about her own abilities, and her parents’ marriage.

Minerva’s father, the Reverend Robert McGonagall, had become captivated by the high-spirited Isobel Ross, who lived in the same village. Like his neighbours, Robert believed that Isobel attended a secret ladies’ boarding school in England. In fact, when Isobel vanished from her home for months at a time, it was to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that she went.

Aware that her parents (a witch and wizard) would frown on a connection with the serious young Muggle, Isobel kept their burgeoning relationship a secret. By the time she was eighteen, she had fallen in love with Robert. Unfortunately, she had not found the courage to tell him what she was.

The couple eloped, to the fury of both sets of parents. Now estranged from her family, Isobel could not bring herself to mar the bliss of the honeymoon by telling her smitten new husband that she had graduated top of her class in Charms at Hogwarts, nor that she had been Captain of the school Quidditch team. Isobel and Robert moved into a manse (minister’s house) on the outskirts of Caithness, where the beautiful Isobel proved surprisingly adept at making the most of the minister’s tiny salary.

The birth of the young couple’s first child, Minerva, proved both a joy and a crisis. Missing her family, and the magical community she had given up for love, Isobel insisted on naming her newborn daughter after her own grandmother, an immensely talented witch. The outlandish name raised eyebrows in the community in which she lived, and the Reverend Robert MeGonagall found it difficult to explain his wife’s choice to his parishioners. Furthermore, he was alarmed by his wife’s moodiness. Friends assured him that women were often emotional after the birth of a baby, and that Isobel would soon be herself again.

Isobel, however, became more and more withdrawn, often secluding herself with Minerva for days at a time. Isobel later told her daughter that she had displayed small, but unmistakable, signs of magic from her earliest hours. Toys that had been left on upper shelves were found in her cot. The family cat appeared to do her bidding before she could talk. Her father’s bagpipes were occasionally heard to play themselves from distant rooms, a phenomenon that made the infant Minerva chuckle.

Isobel was torn between pride and fear. She knew that she must confess the truth to Robert before he witnessed something that would alarm him. At last, in response to Robert’s patient questioning, Isobel burst into tears, retrieved her wand from the locked box under her bed and showed him what she was.

Although Minerva was too young to remember that night, its aftermath left her with a bitter understanding of the complications of growing up with magic in a Muggle world. Although Robert McGonagall loved his wife no less upon discovering that she was a witch, he was profoundly shocked by her revelation, and by the fact that she had kept such a secret from him for so long. What was more, he, who prided himself on being an upright honest man, was now drawn into a life of secrecy that was quite foreign to his nature. Isobel explained, through her sobs, that she (and their daughter) were bound by the International Statute of Secrecy, and that they must conceal the truth about themselves, or face the fury of the Ministry of Magic. Robert also quailed at the thought of how the locals – in the main, an austere, straight-laced and conventional breed – would feel about having a witch as their Minister’s wife.

Love endured, but trust had been broken between her parents, and Minerva, a clever and observant child, saw this with sadness. Two more children, both sons, were born to the McGonagalls, and both, in due course, revealed magical ability. Minerva helped her mother explain to Malcolm and Robert Junior that they must not flaunt their magic, and aided her mother in concealing from their father the accidents and embarrassments their magic sometimes caused.

Minerva was very close to her Muggle father, whom in temperament she resembled more than her mother. She saw with pain how much he struggled with the family’s strange situation. She sensed too, how much of a strain it was on her mother to fit in with the all-Muggle village, and how much she missed the freedom of being with her own kind, and of not exercising her considerable talents. Minerva never forgot how much her mother cried, when the letter of admittance into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry arrived on Minerva’s eleventh birthday; she knew that Isobel was sobbing, not only out of pride, but also of envy.

School Career

As is often the case where the young witch or wizard comes from a family who has struggled with its magical identity, Hogwarts was, for Minerva McGonagall, a place of joyful release and freedom.

Minerva drew unusual attention to herself on the very first evening, when she was revealed to be a Hatstall. After five and a half minutes, the Sorting Hat, which had been vacillating between the houses of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, placed Minerva in the latter (in later years, this circumstance was a subject of gentle humour between Minerva and her colleague Filius Flitwick, over whom the Sorting Hat suffered the same confusion, but reached the opposite conclusion. The two Heads of house were amused to think that they might, but for those crucial moments in their youths, have exchanged positions).

Minerva was quickly recognised as the most outstanding student of her year, with a particular talent for Transfiguration, As she progressed through the school, she demonstrated that she had inherited both her mother’s talents and her father’s cast-iron moral sense. Minerva’s school career overlapped by two years with that by Pomona Sprout, later the Head of Hufflepuff House, and the two women enjoyed an excellent relationship both then, and in later years.

By the end of her education at Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall had achieved an impressive record: top grades in O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, Prefect, Head Girl, and winner of the Transfiguration Today Most Promising Newcomer award. Under the guidance of her inspirational Transfiguration teacher, Albus Dumbledore, she had managed to become an Animagus; her animal form, with its distinctive markings (tabby cat, square spectacles markings around the eyes) were duly logged into the Ministry of Magic’s Animagus Registry. Minerva was also, like her mother, a gifted Quidditch player although a nasty fall in her final year (a foul during the Gryffindor versus Slytherin game which would decide the Cup winner) left her with a concussion, several broken ribs and a lifelong desire to see Slytherin crushed on the Quidditch pitch. Though she gave up Quidditch on leaving Hogwarts, the innately competitive Professor McGonagall later took a keen interest in the fortunes of her house team, and retained a keen eye for Quidditch talent.

Early Heartbreak

Upon graduation from Hogwarts, Minerva returned to the manse to enjoy one last summer with her family before setting out for London, where she had been offered a position at the Ministry of Magic (Department of Magical Law Enforcement). These months were to prove some of the most difficult of Minerva’s life, for it was then, aged only eighteen, that she proved herself truly her mother’s daughter, by falling head-over-heels in love with a Muggle boy.

It was the first and only time in Minerva McGonagall’s life that she might have been said to lose her head. Dougal McGregor was the handsome, clever and funny son of a local farmer. Though less beautiful than Isobel, Minerva was clever and witty. Dougal and Minerva shared a sense of humour, argued fiercely, and suspected mysterious depths in each other. Before either of them knew it, Dougal was on one knee in a ploughed field, proposing, and Minerva was accepting him.

She went home, intending to tell her parents of her engagement, yet found herself unable to do so. All that night she lay awake, thinking about her future. Dougal did not know what she, Minerva, truly was, any more than her father had known the truth about Isobel before they had married. Minerva had witnessed at close quarters the kind of marriage she might have if she wed Dougal. It would be the end of all her ambitions; it would mean a wand locked away, and children taught to lie, perhaps even to their own father. She did not fool herself that Dougal McGregor would accompany her to London, while she went to work every day at the Ministry. He was looking forward to inheriting his father’s farm.

Early next morning, Minerva slipped from her parents’ house and went to tell Dougal that she had changed her mind, and could not marry him. Mindful of the fact that if she broke the International Statute of Secrecy she would lose the job at the Ministry for which she was giving him up, she could give him no good reason for her change of heart. She left him devastated, and set out for London three days later.

Ministry Career

Though undoubtedly her feelings for the Ministry of Magic were coloured by the fact that she had recently suffered an emotional crisis, Minerva McGonagall did not much enjoy her new home and workplace. Some of her co-workers had an engrained anti-Muggle bias which, given her adoration of her Muggle father, and her continuing love for Dougal McGregor, she deplored. Though a most efficient and gifted employee, and fond of her much older boss, Elphinstone Urquart, Minerva was unhappy in London, and found that she missed Scotland. Finally, after two years at the Ministry, she was offered a prestigious promotion, yet found herself turning it down. She sent an owl to Hogwarts, asking whether she might be considered for a teaching post. The owl returned within hours, offering her a job in the Transfiguration department, under Head of Department, Albus Dumbledore.

Friendship with Albus Dumbledore

The school greeted Minerva McGonagall’s return with delight. Minerva threw herself into her work, proving herself a strict but inspirational teacher. If she kept letters from Dougal McGregor locked in a box under her bed, this was (she told herself firmly) better than keeping her wand locked there. Nevertheless, it was a shock to learn from the oblivious Isobel (in the middle of a chatty letter of local news) that Dougal had married the daughter of another farmer.

Albus Dumbledore discovered Minerva in tears in her classroom late that evening, and she confessed the whole story to him. Albus Dumbledore offered both comfort and wisdom, and told Minerva some of his own family history, previously unknown to her. The confidences exchanged that night between two intensely private and reserved characters were to form the basis of a lasting mutual esteem and friendship.

Marriage

Through all her early years at Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall remained on terms of friendship with her old boss at the Ministry, Elphinstone Urquart. He came to visit her while on holiday to Scotland, and to her great surprise and embarrassment, proposed marriage in Madam Puddifoot’s teashop. Still in love with Dougal McGregor, Minerva turned him down.

Elphinstone, however, had never ceased to love her, nor to propose every now and then, even though she continued to refuse him. The death of Dougal McGregor, however, although traumatic, seemed to free Minerva. Shortly after Voldemort’s first defeat, Elphinstone, now white-haired, proposed again during a summertime stroll around the lake in the Hogwarts grounds. This time Minerva accepted. Elphinstone, now retired, was beside himself with joy, and purchased a small cottage in Hogsmeade for the pair of them, whence Minerva could travel easily to work every day.

Known to successive generations of students as ‘Professor McGonagall’, Minerva – always something of a feminist – announced that she would be keeping her own name upon marriage. Traditionalists sniffed – why was Minerva refusing to accept a pure-blood name, and keeping that of her Muggle father?

The marriage (cut tragically short, though it was destined to be) was a very happy one. Though they had no children of their own, Minerva’s nieces and nephews (children of her brothers Malcolm and Robert) were frequent visitors to their home. This was a period of great fulfillment for Minerva.

The accidental death of Elphinstone from a Venomous Tentacula bite, three years into their marriage, was an enormous sorrow to all who knew the couple. Minerva could not bear to remain alone in their cottage, but packed her things after Elphinstone’s funeral and returned to her sparse stone-floored bedroom in Hogwarts Castle, accessible through a concealed door in the wall of her first-floor study. Always a very brave and private person, she poured all her energies into her work, and few people – excepting perhaps Albus Dumbledore – ever realised how much she suffered.

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

Minerva was the Roman goddess of warriors and wisdom. William McGonagall is celebrated as the worst poet in British history. There was something irresistible to me about the name, and the idea that such a brilliant woman might be a distant relative of the buffoonish McGonagall.

A small sample of his work will give a flavour of its unintentional comedic value. The following was written as part of a poem commemorating a Victorian railway disaster:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!

Alas! I am very sorry to say

That ninety lives have been taken away

On the last Sabbath day of 1879,

Which will be remember’d for a very long time.


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Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Index ID: P934PM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

In choosing the number of the concealed platform that would take young witches and wizards to boarding school, I decided that it would have to be a number between those of the Muggle platforms – therefore, it was clearly a fraction. This raised the interesting question of how many other fractional platforms lay between the whole-numbered platforms at King’s Cross, and I concluded that were probably quite a few. Although these are never mentioned in the book, I like to think that it is possible to take a version of the Orient Express off to wizard-only villages in continental Europe (try platform seven and a half), and that other platforms may be opened on an as-required-basis, for instance for large, one-off events such as Celestina Warbeck concerts (see your ticket for details).

“The number nine and three-quarters presented itself without much conscious thought, and I liked it so much that I took it at once. It is the ‘three-quarters’ that makes it, of course.”


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The Hogwarts Express

Index ID: HEPM — Publication date: August 15th, 2011

As we know from early historical accounts, and from the evidence of early woodcuts and engravings, Hogwarts students used to arrive at school in any manner that caught their fancy. Some rode broomsticks (a difficult feat when carrying trunks and pets); others commandeered enchanted carts and, later, carriages; some attempted to Apparate (often with disastrous effects, as the castle and grounds have always been protected with Anti-Apparition Charms), others rode a variety of magical creatures.

In spite of the accidents attendant on these various modes of magical transport, not to mention the annual Muggle sightings of vast numbers of airborne wizards travelling northwards, it remained the responsibility of parents to convey their children to school, right up until the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692. At this point, it became a matter of urgency to find some more discreet method of transporting hundreds of wizarding children from all over Britain to their secret school in the Highlands of Scotland.

Portkeys were therefore arranged at collecting points all over Britain. The logistics caused problems from the start. Up to a third of students would fail to arrive every year, having missed their time slot, or been unable to find the unobtrusive enchanted object that would transport them to their school. There was also the unfortunate fact that many children were (and are) ‘Portkey-sick’, and the hospital wing was frequently full to bursting for the first few days of every year, while susceptible students overcame their hysterics and nausea.

While admitting that Portkeys were not an ideal solution to the problem of school transportation, the Ministry of Magic failed to find an acceptable alternative. A return to the unregulated travel of the past was impossible, and yet a more secure route into the school (for instance, permitting a fireplace that might be officially entered by Floo powder) was strongly resisted by successive Headmasters, who did not wish the security of the castle to be breached.

A daring and controversial solution to the thorny problem was finally suggested by Minister for Magic Ottaline Gambol, who was much intrigued by Muggle inventions and saw the potential in trains. Where exactly the Hogwarts Express came from has never been conclusively proven, although it is a fact that there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain. The morning after these alleged crimes, a gleaming scarlet steam engine and carriages astounded the villagers of Hogsmeade (who had also not realised they had a railway station), while several bemused Muggle railway workers down in Crewe spent the rest of the year grappling with the uncomfortable feeling that they had mislaid something important.

The Hogwarts Express underwent several magical modifications before the Ministry approved it for school use. Many pure-blood families were outraged at the idea of their children using Muggle transport, which they claimed was unsafe, insanitary and demeaning; however, as the Ministry decreed that students either rode the train or did not attend school, the objections were swiftly silenced.


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