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12 Intriguing (and Occasionally Bizarre) Harry Potter Fan Theories

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After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published in July 2007, author J.K. Rowling was adamant that the seventh book was the last. She has since continued to engage with fans regarding questions about the wizarding world, and has released exclusive snippets of canonical information via Pottermore, but she remains true to her word: no more Potter books (but we are getting a play!).

Instead, fans have had to make their own magic, filling in holes in the narrative with their own imagined solutions, based on a combination of careful research, close reading, critical analysis, and occasionally, a dash of wishful thinking. Some of these conjectures seem shockingly plausible, fitting perfectly within the events of the seven-book series and providing answers where Rowling’s original text has not; others are, to be blunt, totally bonkers—but fun all the same.

1. THERE'S A REASON HARRY'S CLASS SIZE IS SO SMALL.

In a chat with fans hosted by Scholastic.com in 2000, Rowling told an inquisitive reader that "there are about a thousand students at Hogwarts." Since then, fans have tried to puzzle out how that adds up: If there are 1000 students at Hogwarts, there should be roughly 35 students in each house each year. And yet, there only appear to be 10 Gryffindors in Harry's year. Is this just an oversight by Rowling, and there are other, unnamed members of Harry's class going about their business? One imaginative fan thinks not.

Tumblr user marauders4evr writes:

What if there were less students in the Hogwarts Class of 1998 because the period when the other kids would have been conceived (1979-1981) was when Voldemort’s reign of power was at its peak? Between the dozens of adults who joined the Order, the dozens of civilians who were killed in Death Eater raids, and the dozens of adults that didn’t want to bring a child into the world, just then…It’s actually entirely possible that there was a baby drought for a few years in the wizarding world, leading to a smaller class size a decade later.

While intriguing and logically plausible, Rowling most likely didn't think this one all the way through.

2. RON WEASLEY IS ACTUALLY A TIME-TRAVELING DUMBLEDORE.

One of the most persistently farfetched Potter theories is that idea that legendary wizard Albus Dumbledore is none other than freckle-faced Ron Weasley, grown up and gone back in time. The idea first surfaced in 2004, known memorably as the “Knight2King theory,” in which the authors extrapolated from a truly impressive amount of circumstantial evidence that Ron/Dumbledore are two sides of the same person. The idea was inspired by the Wizard’s Chess scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer's Stone in which Ron plays as both a knight and the king—the symbolic roles that Ron and Dumbledore, respectively, play in the greater wizarding war to come. While these seeds of a theory seem rational enough, the follow-through is less than convincing, relying on such superficial similarities as Ron/Dumbledore’s red hair, long nose, and fondness for sweets to build a case.

The theorists speculate wildly about how Dumbledore became so prescient and wise (by living two lives and traveling through time to witness certain events twice, of course) and determine that Dumbledore’s ideal Christmas gift of warm socks stems from his youthful (as Ron) ingratitude for his mother’s hand-knitted sweaters. It’s a wild ride, to say the least; luckily, the authors’ full list of meticulously cited claims is still available to read here.

Adherents to the Ron = Dumbledore theory resurface periodically, whether in earnest (no doubt enthralled by the sheer volume of so-called evidence the K2K originators compiled) or in jest (as in a recent series of tongue-in-cheek articles by Mallory Ortberg, in which she coins the name “Ronbledore” for the unlikely time traveler), but all of them seem to have missed the final word on the subject, which Rowling issued as far back as 2005 in response to the growing tide of Ronbledore truthers: “These theories open up exhilarating new vistas of possibility… but they’re wrong. Could it be that by speculating that Harry/Ron becomes Dumbledore, you are seeking reassurance that neither dies young?”

3. NEVILLE WASN'T BAD AT MAGIC—HE WAS JUST USING THE WRONG WAND. 

Hapless, fumbling Neville Longbottom spent his early years at Hogwarts botching spells left and right, and, despite coming from two powerful magical parents, considered himself “almost a Squib.” But his friendship with Harry, and the increasing danger to the wizarding world, provided ample opportunity for him to prove himself: He mastered the difficult Shield Charm second only to “brightest witch of her age” Hermione, and held his own during multiple duels with Death Eaters. Much of this can surely be attributed to the natural process of maturation and personal growth, but some fans think there was one pivotal change that made all the difference: Neville’s wand

Both Rowling’s original text and the Warner Bros. film adaptations make clear one basic tenet of wand lore: the wand chooses the wizard. For a witch or wizard, a visit to Ollivanders Wand Shop is the ultimate personality test, as the otherwise inert wands “choose” whether or not the person wielding them is destined to be its master. When the unique magical artifact’s potential aligns with the right witch or wizard, sparks literally fly, and the wand commits itself to a single master.

The corollary to such an enigmatic matching process is that a wizard using a wand that has not chosen him will never wield its full potential. A wizard may adopt another’s wand out of necessity, such as Ron Weasley inheriting his brother Charlie’s old wand to save the expense of a new one; in such instances, the wand will function sufficiently, but not excellently.

Unlike Ron, who begrudgingly accepted a family hand-me-down as simply the way things had to be in an impoverished household, Neville chose to adopt his father’s wand. Frank Longbottom had used the wand to do powerful magic during his time as an Auror, up to and including his final altercation with the Death Eaters who would ultimately torture him to the point of insanity. Knowing that the wand would otherwise go unused during his father’s interminable stay in the wizarding equivalent of the psych ward, St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Neville took it as his own—and thus began his early years of bungled spells and constant struggle to make magic “work” with a wand that was never meant for him. 

Though there is no way to separate truth from coincidence, thus landing this particular theory squarely in the realm of “sounds right, but we may never know,” some fans believe that Death Eater Antonin Dolohov did Neville a huge favor by breaking his—or rather, his father’s—wand at the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. Neville was thus forced to go through the wand-choosing process for the first time, finally securing for himself a wand that he could truly call his own. In the years following, his magical prowess increased tremendously, fitting him to lead Dumbledore's Army in Harry’s absence, duel the most powerful Dark wizards at the Battle of Hogwarts, and even become an Auror, thereby following in his mother’s and father’s footsteps and making even his infamously disapproving grandmother proud. It would downplay Neville’s tremendous personal journey to attribute such drastic changes simply to his wand, but it certainly looks like that 13-inch cherry and unicorn hair from Ollivanders didn’t hurt. 

4. DUMBLEDORE IS DEATH.

In "The Tale of the Three Brothers"—from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, sort of the wizarding world's version of Mother Goose—three unnamed siblings come face to face with the personification of Death, who offers them their choice of gifts. The first brother, convinced of his own superiority, chooses the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in existence; the second brother requests the ability to resurrect loved ones from the dead, made possible by the Resurrection Stone; the third brother, humbly, asks only for Death not to pursue him, and is given the Cloak of Invisibility under which to hide. The three artifacts thus comprised the Deathly Hallows: real magical objects possessed by the Peverell brothers, and sought after for centuries after their deaths.

As if the lines between fact and fiction were not already blurred enough, some readers have astutely noticed parallels between the original brothers and another set of three “brothers”: Harry, Snape, and Voldemort. By their reckoning, Voldemort represents the first brother, lusting for power and seeking possession of the Elder Wand at all costs; Snape is the second brother, driven only by the desire to recapture his lost love; Harry is the third brother, ready to face Death and thus accepted as “an old friend.” 

Moreover, this interpretation posits that there’s a fourth character from whom all the Hallows originate: Death, otherwise known as Dumbledore. The Headmaster is the only one, prior to Harry, to possess each of the Hallows: he presents Harry first with the Cloak, then with the Stone, and is stripped of the Elder Wand by Draco Malfoy, who then loses it in a duel to Harry. He is, however indirectly, responsible for the deaths of both Snape and Voldemort, and when Harry “dies,” who is there to greet him? Dumbledore, welcoming him like an old friend.

The theory identifies some skillfully crafted parallels, drawing connections between what is merely the stuff of wizarding legend and the real-life events of the Second Wizarding War, but is it literally true? Not really. Though "The Tale of the Three Brothers" was a magical folk story, in Rowling's magical universe, the Peverell brothers themselves really did live and die, with the historical records to prove it. Cadmus and Ignotus both had children and passed on the Peverell lineage, such that Harry and Voldemort are both actual blood descendants of the brothers—so no, they are not literally their own many-times-great-grandfathers, which means Dumbledore isn’t literally Death, either. In the end, some things really are just symbolism.

5. HARRY'S LOVE FOR GINNY IS A DRUG-INDUCED ILLUSION.

This is a difficult theory to treat delicately, so it’s best to be blunt: certain readers (perhaps still-disgruntled supporters of a Harry/Hermione romance) claim that Ginny Weasley must have administered a love potion to Harry in order to induce his infatuation with her. They’re skeptical of the accelerated courtship between Harry and Ginny, who have been acquainted since Harry first encountered the Weasleys on Platform 9 ¾ en route to Hogwarts for the first time, when Ginny was childishly starstruck and Harry youthfully indifferent. In their view, romance should have bloomed sooner between the two, given Harry’s frequent presence at the Burrow and all their subsequent interactions at school, and the only explanation for its sudden onset during the events of Half-Blood Prince is an unnatural one: love potion. 

There was certainly a precedent set for the abuse of love potions within the sixth book: Merope Gaunt drugged handsome Muggle Tom Riddle to make him fall in “love” with her, thereby setting the course for Lord Voldemort’s loveless birth and orphan childhood; Romilda Vane tries to get her hands on The Chosen One with a sneakily dosed box of chocolates, but accidentally ensnares Ron instead. Ginny certainly would have had access to one of love potions the other girls are seen giggling over in her brothers’ joke shop, as well as possessing the wherewithal to brew up her own if necessary.

That’s means and perhaps motive, but what the theory fails to acknowledge is the implicit accusation that Ginny Weasley committed a very serious crime, the magical equivalent of giving someone roofies. While some fans may be perfectly content to accept this version of events, others argue that it undermines one of the story’s core themes: the triumph of love over darkness—the mother’s love that made Harry Potter into the Boy Who Lived, and the absence of it that turned Tom Marvolo Riddle towards evil. All things considered, that’s a harder pill to swallow than a teenage boy suddenly developing a crush on his best friend’s sister.

Rowling put the matter to rest in February 2014, when she confirmed while speaking at Exeter University that “Harry did love Ginny.”

6. HARRY AND SIRIUS ARE RELATED BY BLOOD.

Within the wizarding world, Harry enjoys a particular sort of social privilege: not only is he The Boy Who Lived, he is also the son of James Potter, of the pure-blood Potter family. Due to his Muggle upbringing, Harry pays little notice to his own blood status, let alone anyone else’s. However, wizarding genealogy indicates that the son of Muggle-born Lily Evans and nephew of decidedly unmagical Petunia may belong to an ancestral chain that goes back generations into pure-blood history. Though Rowling mentions James Potter’s parents only in passing as a wealthy couple who had a child quite late in life, some clever fans have connected the dots and think they might know exactly who Mr. and Mrs. Potter are.

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black exemplifies the most rabid sort of pure-blood family, the kind which kept an elaborate family tree of their exclusively magical lineage dating back to the Middle Ages, and disowned any sons or daughters considered to be “blood traitors.” With their family motto of Toujours pur (“Always/Still pure”), the Blacks took cruel pride in burning off the names of such blood traitors from their family tree, preferring singed holes in the tapestry to acknowledgment of any impurity. Just as the tree links the Black family to the Malfoys, the Weasleys, the Prewetts, and other pure-blood families by marriage, it may also provide a link to Harry Potter himself, by way of Dorea Black’s marriage to Charlus Potter. These two, fans believe, are none other than James Potter’s elderly parents—Harry Potter’s grandparents.

Secondary to this is the possibility that Charlus and Dorea’s unnamed son was James’s father, thereby making Dorea Black Harry’s great-grandmother. Either of these possibilities suggest direct familial relationships between Harry and many of his loved ones: his wife Ginny may be his third cousin; his godfather Sirius his second cousin, twice removed; and Arthur Weasley, Andromeda Tonks, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Draco Malfoy various other forms of cousins. The third possibility is that Charlus Potter was a more distant relative of James Potter, leaving Harry as unentangled with the Noble House of Black as before—but without additional canonical information, each option is as likely as the next. 

7. THE HORCRUX IN HARRY IS WHAT MADE THE DURSLEYS HATE HIM.

As much of a burden as a baby suddenly dropped on your doorstep might be, the Dursleys’ antipathy toward the orphan in their care has always seemed unusually virulent. And while Harry may be an unwanted responsibility thrust upon them, there seems to be no justification for treating him as sub-human—unless some sort of external force were warping their own humanity.

Tumblr user graphicnerdity has proposed a rationale for the Dursley’s horrible behavior that, like all things in the wizarding world, has magical origins: namely, that the Horcrux within Harry is such a powerful negative influence that exposure to it over an extended period of time—say, the entire decade of Harry’s upbringing at Privet Drive—could naturally drive a good person to unkindness, and turn “your garden variety insufferable human beings into horrible, heartless monsters.” If the Horcrux contained in Slytherin’s locket could drive Ron to such jealousy that he would abandon his best friend in the middle of the woods while his life was in constant, immediate danger, it seems entirely plausible that such concentrated Dark Magic could steer the Dursleys to all sorts of atrocities. 

Alas, there’s a more mundane explanation as to why the Dursleys are such terrible people: They just really, really hate Harry. Petunia’s aversion to her nephew clearly stems from resentment of his mother, the magically gifted one of the two Evans sisters, the golden girl who left her dull Muggle sister behind. In Harry, Petunia has a reminder of the fascinating other world she was never permitted to join, staring back at her from green eyes identical to those of the sister she could never compete with.

Vernon, on the other hand, sees in Harry echoes not of his mother, but his father: charming but arrogant James Potter, who managed to offend Vernon once and never had the chance to make up for it, as Rowling revealed in a story published on Pottermore. At an optimistic meet-the-family dinner, Petunia introduced her new fiance to her sister and her sister’s boyfriend, and it all went terribly wrong. Vernon’s attempt to patronize James by asking what car he drove and assuming that all wizards had to live off unemployment benefits led to James’s flippant description of his top-of-the-line racing broom and the family inheritance of solid gold pieces piled up in Gringotts. Unable to win this game of one-upmanship, Vernon and Petunia left in a rage. Though James promised to a tearful Lily that he would make things right, their untimely deaths prevented any sort of reconciliation between the two couples, and so Harry was doomed to a truly terrible childhood. 

8. HARRY IS IMMORTAL.

This theory can be attributed to a level of close reading that would make any college English professor proud. Sybil Trelawney’s prophecy regarding the relationship between Harry and Voldemort, stored deep in the Department of Mysteries due to its potentially world-changing impact, is very particularly worded, with the relevant portion declaring that “either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.” The obvious interpretation, and the one borne out by the ending of the series, is that Harry is destined to kill or be killed by Voldemort; there is no other way.

There is, however, another way to interpret the prophecy, which Imgur user HPWombat identified: If either Harry or Voldemort must die at the hand of the other, it is conceivable that the one to survive remains immune to death through any other means. Harry vanquished Voldemort, thereby satisfying the condition of the prophecy that indicated he could—but it may be that Harry himself is now effectively immortal. Those familiar with the Greek myth of Tithonus and Eos will immediately recognize the tragedy of such a fate, but there’s an additional twist for Harry: By sacrificing his death, he will never have the opportunity to see his family, even in death. That’s the darkest possible ending by far. 

9. GILDEROY LOCKHART GOT HIRED AT HOGWARTS BECAUSE DUMBLEDORE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUNNY. 

For all his machinations and questionable morality, Dumbledore unquestionably possessed a fine sense of humor. As fans cast about for a way to justify the Headmaster’s completely uncharacteristic decision to hire flamboyant, self-aggrandizing, preening, insufferable celebrity author Gilderoy Lockhart as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, some of them concluded that he must have done it just for a laugh

It’s a fairly innocuous belief to hold, though it does leave the question open of how responsible it was for Dumbledore to hire a joke candidate for a real teaching position; however, Rowling has stepped in once again to patch up the hole. A character profile of Lockhart on Pottermore reveals the real reason Dumbledore gave such a bumbling fraud a position of authority. He was well aware that Lockhart had been faking his tales of defeating dangerous Dark creatures in far-off lands. Dumbledore had been personally acquainted both with two of the wizards whose accomplishments Lockhart had falsely claimed as his own, and Lockhart’s own failings as a former student at Hogwarts. Rather than attempting to expose him directly, risking the disbelief and knee-jerk support Lockhart’s adoring fanbase would undoubtedly have offered, Dumbledore led Lockhart back to the very same school environment that had once proved him mediocre and waited him to trip over his own feet. 

10. DRACO MALFOY IS A WEREWOLF.

One rather bonkers theory drastically reinterprets Draco Malfoy’s role in the sixth and seventh books, “Brittany & Nick” claim that Draco Malfoy is a werewolf, and they feel so strongly that this must be true that they’ve bought the domain name to share their theory with everyone.

The first step to convincing other Harry Potter fans of the Werewolf Draco is to debunk a common assumption, or rather, a common misconception: Draco Malfoy is not a Death Eater. Not once is he shown to have the Dark Mark with which the Dark Lord brands all his followers, and although he threateningly reveals “something on his arm” to the shady proprietor of Borgin & Burkes, the explicit omission of what this “something” is indicates that isn’t the first thing to come to mind.

If Draco isn’t a Death Eater, then what physical marking could he have that would scare a hardened proprietor of Dark artifacts into doing his bidding? Brittany and Nick think it's a werewolf bite. In that same interaction with Borgin, Draco even name-drops Fenrir Greyback, “a family friend” and one of Voldemort’s most loyal supporters, who happens to be a bloodthirsty werewolf. That’s not to say that Draco is proud of his new werewolf status, which would account for his unusually sickly appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; more likely, he was bitten by Fenrir under Voldemort’s orders, as the ultimate form of punishment for Lucius Malfoy’s repeated failures. (Keep in mind that the elder Malfoy’s mishandling of Tom Riddle’s diary led to the destruction of one-seventh of Voldemort’s very soul, and it seems ludicrous that his only punishment at the Dark Lord’s hands would be house arrest. Rather than punish Lucius directly and lose his unwavering support, it seems rational that Voldemort would instead inflict a horrible fate on Draco, who was more expendable.)

Brittany and Nick's final evidence pointing to the truth of Werewolf Draco is Narcissa Malfoy’s inexplicable decision to turn on the Dark Lord at the final moment, proclaiming Harry Potter to be dead while fully aware that he was yet capable of fighting back. A pure-blood mother to a pure-blood son would have little reason to turn on the leader promising a world built to cater to those just like them—unless her beloved child was somehow tainted, and no longer welcome in the new pure-blood order.

Fans of the films, of course, can easily throw a wrench in this theory by pointing out that on screen, Draco does in fact have the Dark Mark emblazoned on his right inner forearm, as he demonstrates to Dumbledore in the Astronomy Tower. (It's worth noting that the sixth film came out a couple of years after the release of the last book, which is presumably when Brittany and Nick were doing their theorizing.) If the films are considered canon—and, being approved by J.K. Rowling, there is no reason they shouldn’t be—then that single cinematic moment neatly debunks what was once a promising theory. Furthermore, a December 2014 Pottermore update provided some long-awaited backstory for the teenage antagonist, and confirmed that Draco did in fact accept “full membership of the Death Eaters,” determined to return the Malfoy name to its former glory in Voldemort’s regime.

Dark Mark notwithstanding, the events of the war did change Draco: if not from human to werewolf, then from a pureblood elitist to a better man than his father. Though his familial love never wavers, his hatred for Muggles fades, and he marries a fellow Slytherin with similarly reformed views (to his parents’ disappointment). Rowling ultimately expresses “high hopes that he will raise [his son] Scorpius to be a much kinder and tolerant Malfoy than he was in his own youth.” Unlike the werewolf theory, this transformation is for the better.

11. HERMIONE'S CAT, CROOKSHANKS, IS HALF-KNEAZLE. 

To the delight of most fans and the smug satisfaction of a select few, Rowling herself has verified a few suspicions over the years. Not the most urgent mystery, but a mystery nonetheless, the true nature of Hermione’s funny-looking orange cat Crookshanks may have frustrated readers who were convinced from the start that Hermione’s pet wasn’t any normal cat. With the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and an explicit follow-up on her personal website, Rowling confirmed that Crookshanks was, in fact, half Kneazle: a breed of highly intelligent magical feline with a plumed tail like a lion, capable of breeding with the usual garden-variety, non-magical cat. This explains Harry and Ron’s alarmed reaction upon first seeing Hermione’s fluffy new friend, as it appears to them to be “either a very big cat or quite a small tiger.” Crookshanks’s Kneazle heritage also accounts for his odd behavior, particularly toward Scabbers, Ron’s pet rat, later found to be Peter Pettigrew in his Animagus form; rather than the usual cat-and-mouse rivalry, Crookshanks demonstrated violent intent toward Scabbers because he sensed that he was a fraud. However, still being part cat, Crookshanks mostly occupied himself chasing gnomes, catching spiders, and being petted. Typical.

12. PROFESSOR MCGONAGALL IS A DEATH EATER.

Much like the Ronbledore theory, the conviction that Minerva McGonagall—Head of Gryffindor House and one of Dumbledore’s most trusted colleagues—is a traitorous Death Eater in disguise deserves some attention not for its validity, but for the sheer audacity of the conclusions it draws from a mountain of minor details. From the very first chapter of Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, Professor McGonagall’s latent “pureblood elitist ideals” are allegedly evident in her dismissal of Muggles as “not completely stupid.” Though uncharitable, a belief in the inherent superiority of wizards over non-wizards is standard within the magical community, and is not necessarily synonymous with the desire to eradicate the entire Muggle population.

Likewise, the theorist finds McGonagall’s taste for Quidditch, a divisive source of house rivalry and ill will, evidence of her latent maliciousness—although her fellow Quidditch fans include the likes of the Weasleys, Madam Hooch, and Oliver Wood, none of whom seem particularly inclined to evil.

Her chosen subject, Transfiguration, the theorist paints as the realm of the “shape shifting and manipulative”—again discounting the fact that Albus Dumbledore began his own illustrious Hogwarts teaching career as the Transfiguration professor. 

The greatest apparent argument that McGonagall must be trafficking with the forces of evil is her seeming disregard for Harry’s safety, as demonstrated by her conscripting him to the Gryffindor Quidditch team, even going so far as to provide him with a top-of-the-line racing broom; failing to prevent the basilisk attacks threatening the school during Chamber of Secrets; and allowing Harry to participate in the potentially fatal Triwizard Tournament. It’s clear that this author has some serious misconceptions about the violence associated with sports, which the overwhelming majority of athletes—both wizard and Muggle—manage to survive largely unscathed on a day-to-day basis, but also about the influence one professor could conceivably have against 1) a deadly magical creature that is, even by magical standards, nearly mythical, and 2) a binding magical contract that not even Dumbledore, a much more accomplished wizard, does not dare attempt to broach. It’s true, then, that she didn’t protect Harry from certain dangers, but it was neither within her purview nor her ability to do so.

Were Professor McGonagall truly the most successful double agent in Hogwarts, she would have to be a terrific actress. While Dame Maggie Smith certainly plays the aged witch with aplomb in the films, the Death Eater theory suggests that there are obvious cracks in McGonagall’s façade in the books. Her emotions are inconsistent with what one might expect at certain major events: while keeping vigil outside the Dursleys’ house immediately after the Potters’ death, she demonstrates few signs of grief, instead appraising the situation bluntly as “all very sad.” She sheds no tears for Cedric Diggory, and moves briskly about moving into Dumbledore’s office and assuming the position of Headmistress after his death. She could simply be called stoic, but she demonstrates deep feeling at other times, as when Harry, Ginny, and Ron emerge from the Chamber: she takes “great, steadying gasps, clutching her chest”—a dramatic reaction, but then again, these three children were covered in blood. At other such horrifying events, she “instantly turns on the waterworks. She turns into a blubbering ball of emotion.”

What, then, to make of this inconsistency? The Death Eater McGonagall theory suggests that it’s all an act, a calculated distraction to hide evil McGonagall’s true depth of disappointment whenever one of the Dark Lord’s murderous plots are thwarted (for instance, when Harry, Ginny, and Ron emerged from the Chamber, it was after destroying one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes—which may have explained why she was gasping). After all, “the other characters […] show their deep emotion in much more simple ways,” in their tone of voice or the touch of a hand or a shedding of a single tear, as opposed to McGonagall “turning into an emotional basket case.” How dare one individual express feelings differently than another? She must be a Death Eater! That, or a human being with a complicated, outwardly unfathomable inner life.

Death Eater McGonagall’s “true” emotions seem to surface in her interactions with one other character: Sybill Trelawney, Professor of Divination and the Seer who conveyed the prophecy that linked Harry’s fate with Voldemort’s. For this reason, the author posits, McGonagall openly demonstrates an extreme dislike for Trelawney, with a “childish” contempt for her colleague that can’t otherwise be explained—except as disdain for her ineptitude as a teacher, disgust for such useless practices being taught in an educational setting, and an irreconcilable clash of personalities. Disliking someone, after all, doesn’t make you a Death Eater, and as the events of Deathly Hallows prove, Minerva McGonagall was the furthest thing from one.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

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19 Surprising Facts About The Dark Knight
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Christopher Nolan didn’t set out to make sequels. As the director of hit thrillers like Memento and Insomnia, his personal style never seemed to mesh with the idea of helming a mega-franchise. After reenvisioning the Caped Crusader with 2005’s Batman Begins, though, Nolan couldn’t stop thinking about how his version of Batman would respond to the introduction of The Joker. The result was The Dark Knight, a hyper-real exploration of how chaos shakes up the mission of the righteous, complete with huge stars, incredible stunts, and an Oscar-winning performance by the late Heath Ledger. To revisit this landmark movie, which was released 10 years ago, here are 19 fascinating facts about The Dark Knight.

1. IT HAS MANY COMIC BOOK INSPIRATIONS.

While it doesn’t adapt any one specific story to the screen, The Dark Knight did draw inspiration from several specific Batman stories in the pages of DC Comics. When researching and writing the film, director Christopher Nolan and his brother, co-writer Jonathan Nolan, specifically went back to The Joker’s very first appearance in 1940’s Batman #1 in search of how best to introduce the character. Co-writer David S. Goyer, himself a DC Comics contributor, also cites the classic stories The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Killing Joke as keys to his research, with elements from each making their way into the film.

2. THE JOKER ALSO HAD DIVERSE INSPIRATIONS.

Heath Ledger in 'The Dark Knight' (2008)
© TM & DC Comics/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In addition to classic Joker stories like The Killing Joke, Nolan and star Heath Ledger drew on a diverse array of influences both in and out of comics to craft the film’s version of the Clown Prince of Crime. Before attempting to write the character, the Nolan brothers revisited Fritz Lang’s classic film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse as a study in how to write supervillains. Visually, Nolan also specifically cited the work of painter Francis Bacon as a touchstone for Joker’s distorted view of the world.

As for Ledger, he famously locked himself away in a hotel room for weeks, experimenting with voices and mannerisms until he developed something he was satisfied with. Among his inspirations: Sex Pistols icons Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious and the anarchist character Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s classic film A Clockwork Orange.

3. NOLAN WAS INITIALLY RELUCTANT TO MAKE A SEQUEL.

The Dark Knight is the first Christopher Nolan film to be a sequel, and though Batman Begins ends with Gordon handing Batman the Joker card as a kind of setup for the next film, the director wasn't exactly determined to return to Gotham City. Nolan and Goyer had ideas for how a trilogy of films would happen, of course, but after Batman Begins hit big, Nolan instead went off to make magician drama The Prestige. Ultimately, the lure of telling a Joker story proved too enticing for Nolan to pass up, and he eventually re-teamed with Goyer to begin mapping out the story that would become The Dark Knight

“I didn’t have any intention of making a sequel to Batman Begins and I was quite surprised to find myself wanting to do it,” Nolan told Empire Magazine. “I just got caught up in the process of imagining how you would see a character like The Joker through the prism of what we did in the first film.”

4. HEATH LEDGER WAS THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY THE JOKER.

Though other stars like Adrien Brody expressed an interest in playing the film’s key villain, Heath Ledger was the only name on Nolan’s wish list.

“When I heard he was interested in the Joker, there was never any doubt. You could just see it in his eyes,” Nolan told Newsweek. “People were a little baffled by the choice, it's true, but I've never had such a simple decision as a director.” 

5. YES, HEATH LEDGER REALLY DID KEEP A JOKER DIARY.

Because of the actor’s untimely death in January 2008, at the age of just 28, Ledger's performance as The Joker has been somewhat mythologized by fans, so the idea that he kept a secret “Joker diary” while getting into character might sound apocryphal. In fact, Ledger really did make a diary while preparing to play the character. It included various clipped art (Alex from A Clockwork Orange figures heavily), stylized notes, and even lines from the script recopied in his own handwriting. In 2013, Ledger’s father Kim revealed the diary in a documentary, and noted that his son did immersive work like this for every role but “really took it up a notch” for The Joker.

6. MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL WASN’T THE ONLY ACTRESS CONSIDERED FOR RACHEL DAWES.

For the role of Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and current Gotham City assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, Nolan had to look for a replacement. Katie Holmes played the role in 2005’s Batman Begins, but opted out of the sequel ostensibly so she could act in the comedy Mad Money. So Nolan went in search of other actresses and ultimately decided on Maggie Gyllenhaal for the role. Gyllenhaal was the final choice, but she wasn’t the only one. Other actresses up for the role included Rachel McAdams and Emily Blunt.

7. GYLLENHAAL TOOK THE ROLE BASED ON NOLAN’S PRESENCE ALONE.

For many actors, the prospect of starring in a sequel to a hit film is a major draw. For others, the prospect of finally being a part of a Batman film would do the trick. For Gyllenhaal, who stepped in as Rachel Dawes, there was only one key reason to say yes: Christopher Nolan.

“When Chris approached me about the film, it was almost incidental that it was about Batman,” Gyllenhaal said. “I was lured into becoming intrigued by the character through the process of making the movie. From the very beginning, Chris was so interesting and engaging—and so interested in me and my ideas about Rachel—that I wanted to be a part of it.”

8. AARON ECKHART WASN’T THE ONLY STAR CONSIDERED FOR HARVEY DENT.

Though The Dark Knight is unquestionably a Batman movie, Nolan and company didn’t consider the Caped Crusader to be the film’s main character.

“Bruce Wayne was the protagonist of the first film,” Goyer said, “but we decided early on that he would not be the protagonist of the second film—that, in fact, Harvey Dent would be.”

To that end, finding the right actor to play Gotham’s district attorney was crucial. Nolan ultimately chose Aaron Eckhart, who reminded him of Robert Redford, to play the part, but Eckhart wasn’t the only star considered. Other potential Harvey Dents included Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Ryan Phillippe.

9. MICHAEL CAINE DIDN’T THINK THE FILM WOULD WORK ... UNTIL LEDGER WAS CAST.

Batman fans weren’t the only skeptics when it came to Nolan’s decision to deliver a new cinematic Joker. Michael Caine, who played Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred, was very apprehensive when  Nolan told him The Dark Knight’s villain would indeed be the Clown Prince of Crime, namely because Jack Nicholson’s performance as the character in 1989’s Batman still cast a very large shadow.

“You don’t try and top Jack,” Caine said.

When Nolan informed Caine that Ledger had been cast in the role, though, the film legend came around.

“I thought: ‘Now that’s the one guy that could do it!’ [laughs] My confidence came back. And then when I did this sequence with Heath, I knew we were in for some really good stuff.

10. THE JOKER’S SCARS WERE INSPIRED BY A REAL PERSON.

Nolan deliberately resisted the idea of giving The Joker an origin story in the film, opting instead to portray him as a force of pure anarchy with no discernible motivation other than chaos. For this reason, the character’s scarred face—as opposed to the chemically-induced frozen grin given to the character’s previous movie incarnation—had no clear source. In fact, the character deliberately tells different stories to different characters to explain where the scars came from. As a result, prosthetics supervisor Conor O’Sullivan was driven to take inspiration for the scars from real life. So, he used an actual man on the street as a reference.

“I immediately thought of the punk and skinhead era and some unsavory characters I had come across during this time,” O'Sullivan recalled. “The terminology for this type of wound is a ‘Glasgow’ or ‘Chelsea smile.’ My references had to be real. A delivery of fruit machines was made to the estate near my workshop and the man delivering them had a ‘Chelsea smile.' I plucked up the courage to ask him for a photo and he told me the story of how he had got his scars while being involved with “a dog fight”; needless to say I didn't pursue the matter, but the photos proved to be very useful reference.”

11. LEDGER LICKED HIS LIPS BECAUSE OF THE JOKER PROSTHETICS.

One of the most identifiable characteristics of Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker is the way he almost constantly licks his lips inside and out, probing his scars with his tongue over and over again. It adds energy to the character as well as a certain menacing quality, but it apparently was not planned. According to dialect coach Gerry Grennell, who worked with Ledger on the film, that tic arose because the scar prosthetics—which extended into Ledger’s mouth—would loosen as he performed. So, he licked his lips repeatedly in an effort to keep them in place.

"The last thing that Heath wanted to do was go back and spend another 20 minutes or half hour trying to get the lips glued back again, so he licked his lips. A lot,” Grennell recalled. “And then slowly, that became a part of the character.

12. THE MOVIE MADE IMAX HISTORY.

Though IMAX cameras are now on the verge of being used to shoot entire feature films, at the time The Dark Knight was made, the format was primarily used for documentary films to showcase things like the wondrous detail of nature. Nolan had longed for years to bring the format to features, and opted to use the ultra-heavy, ultra-expensive cameras to film several major sequences in The Dark Knight. Most famously, the film’s prologue—featuring The Joker’s bank robbery—was filmed on IMAX and released early, in its entirety, as a teaser.

13. THE JOKER FREAKED CAINE OUT SO MUCH, HE FORGOT HIS LINES.

For the scene in which Bruce Wayne is hosting a fundraiser for Harvey Dent in his elegant Gotham City townhouse, Ledger and a group of Joker goons were meant to burst into the party via the elevator. Caine, as Alfred, was supposed to be there waiting to greet guests as the elevator doors opened, only to be frightened by the appearance of The Joker. Caine was there waiting, the elevator doors opened, and he was apparently so frightened by what he saw that any lines he was meant to deliver during the scene completely left his mind.

"I was waiting for Batman's guests, but (the Joker) had taken over the elevator with—he has seven dwarfs and ... oh! wait until you see them,” he said while promoting the film. “So, I'd never seen any of it and the elevator door opened and they came out and I forgot every bloody line. They frightened the bloody life out of me.”

14. THE TRUCK FLIPPING SEQUENCE WAS DONE FOR REAL.

Embracing the hyperrealism of his version of Batman, Nolan opted to do many of The Dark Knight’s biggest stunts practically rather than relying on CGI. That includes arguably the biggest and most visually staggering stunt in the film: When Batman uses steel cables to flip The Joker’s 18-wheeler trailer over cab in the middle of a Gotham street. While another filmmaker might have opted to recreate the moment with computers or models, Nolan wanted to do it for real, on a real Chicago street. The task of pulling it off fell to special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, who ran tests in a more isolated area to ensure the flip wouldn’t harm any member of the crew or any neighboring buildings. With the tests successful, the production was primed to film the stunt … though Corbould still tried to talk Nolan into scaling it down.

“It was a funny thing—and this is always the way working with Chris—where he kept trying to talk me into a smaller vehicle,” Nolan said. “He said, ‘Can't it be one of those SWAT vans, not an articulated truck?!’ I kind of went along with that for a while and we storyboarded it that way and kept talking about it. And I finally just went to him and said, ‘Chris, you can do this, you're fine. It's gotta be a huge truck, it's gotta be a big 18-wheeler,’ and he went ‘Oh, all right,’ in that way he does, and he figured out a way to do it. Nobody had ever done it before and it was really a pretty amazing thing to watch."

15. CHRISTIAN BALE PERCHED ON SKYSCRAPERS HIMSELF AS BATMAN.

One of the most beautiful shots in the film finds Batman, cape billowing around him, perched atop Chicago’s Sears Tower as he surveys his city. It’s a gorgeous image, but also one that easily could have been carried out by a stuntman so Bale didn’t have to take the risk. The star was having none of that. When he found out his stuntman Buster Reeves was preparing to perform the perch, Bale rushed to convince Nolan that he should be the one to stand 110 stories above Chicago for the helicopter shot. 

“It was important for me to do that shot,” Bale explained, “because I wanted to be able to say I did it. 

Bale also opted to perform a similar stunt in which Batman stands on a ledge of the IFC2 building in Hong Kong. By then, he was quite comfortable with the height. 

16. BALE COULDN’T MANAGE THE BATPOD. 

One of the great visual hallmarks of Nolan’s Batman films is the introduction of the Batpod, The Dark Knight’s sleek motorcycle. While it may look like an oversized version of any other bike, the pod didn’t handle the same way, so a specially trained stunt driver was required. Jean-Pierre Goy was the man. He took to the vehicle immediately and trained for months to master the high-speed sequences required for the film. Bale, who was more than willing to volunteer to drive the Batpod, was ultimately only able to ride it when it was attached to camera rigs.

“Jean-Pierre was the only one who could master it,” Bale admitted. “Everybody else just fell off instantly.”

17. THE FILM INCLUDES A SMALL TRIBUTE TO LEDGER’S DAUGHTER.

For the scene in which The Joker sneaks into a panicked Gotham hospital to see Harvey Dent, Ledger dressed up in a nurse’s uniform. If you look closely, you’ll see that the nurse’s name tag reads “Matilda.” Matilda is Ledger’s daughter, who was born in 2005.

18. A SITTING U.S. SENATOR MADE A CAMEO.

When The Joker and his goons crash Bruce Wayne’s fundraising party, almost everyone in the room is intimidated into silence. One man, though, is not. He tells The Joker “we’re not intimidated by thugs,” and The Joker then grabs him and holds a knife to his mouth. That man is Patrick Leahy, the Democratic U.S. Senator from Vermont. A lifelong comic book fan, Leahy has appeared in five Batman films to date, including 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where he sat alongside actress Holly Hunter in a congressional hearing.

19. THE MAYOR OF A CITY CALLED “BATMAN” SUED THE PRODUCTION.

Weird lawsuits surrounding major motion pictures are nothing new, but The Dark Knight inspired a particularly strange one. In late 2008, after the film had opened to rapturous critical acclaim and enormous box office success, Huseyin Kalkan—the mayor of Batman, Turkey—sued Nolan and Warner Brothers for what he deemed a negative impact the film had caused on his city.

"There is only one Batman in the world. The American producers used the name of our city without informing us."

Needless to say, given that Batman is still as popular as ever, the suit didn’t go anywhere.

Additional Source:
The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy, by Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy

10 Things That Went Disastrously Wrong on Disneyland’s Opening Day

Disneyland is commonly known as the “Happiest Place on Earth,” but when the park opened on July 17, 1955, it didn’t live up to its now-ubiquitous nickname. In fact, Disney employees who survived the day refer to it as “Black Sunday.” Here are 10 of the most disastrous things that went wrong.

1. FAKE TICKETS FLOODED THE PARK.

Disneyland’s opening day was “invite only” and not for public consumption. Tickets were mailed out and only reserved for special guests, including friends and family of employees, the press, and celebrities, such as Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra. However, scores of counterfeit tickets were widespread on opening day. Disneyland was only expecting about 15,000 guests in total, but more than 28,000 people entered the park.

In addition, there were two sets of tickets with designated times: one for the morning and one for the afternoon. The time to leave Disneyland was printed on each ticket, so if it read 2:30 p.m., you were supposed to leave the park at that time to make way for the afternoon ticket holders to come in. Unfortunately, the morning ticket crowd didn’t leave, so attendance ballooned when the afternoon attendees were admitted.

There was even some money to be made from Disney's woes: one man set up a ladder outside one of the park's fences and charged $5 per person to climb it and sneak in.

2. TRAFFIC WAS BACKED UP FOR MILES.

Sukarno riding mini car with Walt Disney
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Since Disneyland and the city of Anaheim were not prepared for the amount of people that showed up, California's Santa Ana Freeway that led into the park was backed up for seven miles. The traffic essentially shut down the freeway for hours. In fact, people were in their cars for so long that when they finally made it to Disneyland, there were reports of families taking restroom breaks in the parking lot and on the side of the freeway.

3. THE PARK WAS COVERED WITH WET PAINT AND WEEDS.

Completing Disneyland was a race to the finish. Walt Disney wanted a quick turnaround, and it took exactly one year and one day from announcement to opening day, with construction crews working around-the-clock to meet their deadlines. 

However, once the doors opened, guests could easily see that it was not completely finished. Workers were still painting structures and planting trees all over the park. Along the Canal Boats of the World (now the Storybook Land Canal Boats), weeds had yet to be removed from the riverbanks. And instead of landscaping the area, Walt Disney simply added signs with Latin plant names printed on them to make it look like they were meant to be there.

In addition, a number of rides were still under construction like Tomorrowland’s Rocket to the Moon, which showed a glimpse of what routine space travel would look like in the distant future of ... 1986.

4. NO FOOD, NO DRINK, NO FUN.

For the lucky people who made it into Disneyland on opening day, they experienced a shortage of food and beverages in every restaurant and concession stand in the park. Because of the unexpected influx of guests, virtually all food and drink inventory was wiped out within hours.

5. THERE WAS A PLUMBERS' STRIKE.

Entrance to Disneyland circa 1957
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

While there were plenty of water fountains on site, many of them were not working because of a plumbers’ strike during construction. Walt Disney had to choose between working water fountains or working restrooms for Disneyland on opening day, so he picked the latter because he felt the toilets were more important.

“A few weeks before the opening, there was a major meeting,” Dick Nunis, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, explained to WIRED. “There was a plumbing strike. I’ll never forget this. I happened to be in the meeting. So the contractor was telling Walt, ‘Walt, there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish the restrooms and to finish all the drinking fountains.’ And this is classic Walt. He said, ‘Well, you know they could drink Coke and Pepsi, but they can’t pee in the streets. Finish the restrooms.’”

6. THE WEATHER WAS SCORCHING.

Although Walt Disney had no control over the weather, it contributed to the disastrous opening day experience at Disneyland. Temperatures reached an intense 100 degrees, which must have been unbearable in a park without working water fountains. The day was so hot that the fresh asphalt became like a sticky tar, with guests complaining that they were getting their shoes and high heels stuck in the pavement of Main Street, U.S.A.

7. THE RIDES WERE BREAKING DOWN.

Like so many of the other workers toiling to make Walt Disney's one-year deadline, both Disney Imagineers and construction workers rushed to complete the theme park. As a result, a number of rides—including Peter Pan’s Flight, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland—broke down or were closed altogether because they simply were not finished yet.

The growing pains didn’t stop on opening day. During the first few weeks after opening, the stagecoach ride in Frontierland permanently closed when it was discovered it would flip over if it was too top-heavy; 36 cars in Autopia crashed due to aggressive driving (ironically the ride was designed to help children learn respectful rules of the road); and a tiger and a panther escaped from the circus attraction, which resulted in a “furious death struggle” between the animals on Main Street, U.S.A.

8. THE MARK TWAIN RIVERBOAT SANK.

The iconic Mark Twain Riverboat in Frontierland was filled way over capacity on opening day, with about 500 people cramming into the attraction. This caused the boat to go off its track and sink in the mud, but the ordeal was far from over.

"It took about 20 to 30 minutes to get it fixed and back on the rail and it came chugging in," Terry O'Brien, who was working the ride on opening day, later recalled in an interview. "As soon as it pulled up to the landing, all the people rushed to the side to get off, and the boat tipped into the water again, so they all had to wade off through the water, and some of them were pretty mad."

9. SLEEPING BEAUTY’S CASTLE ALMOST CAUGHT FIRE.

A gas leak in the park prompted the closing of Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland for a few hours, while flames from the leak were seen trying to engulf Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Walt Disney was so busy during opening day that he didn’t learn about the fire until the following day.

10. ABC'S LIVE SHOW FROM DISNEYLAND WAS A TRAIN WRECK.

Walt Disney had a partnership with the broadcast network ABC, which helped finance Disneyland with an investment of $5 million of the park’s $17 million price tag. In return, Walt Disney would host a weekly TV show about what people could expect to see in Disneyland, a full year before it was set to open its doors.

On opening day, Walt Disney hosted a 90-minute live TV special with co-hosts Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and future president Ronald Reagan. Over 90 million viewers tuned in to see the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And while the cameras showed the fun and excitement of Disneyland, the TV special obscured the numerous disasters described above.

However, the live broadcast itself was riddled with technical difficulties, such as guests tripping over camera cables all over the park, faulty miscues, on-air flubs, hot mics, and unexpected moments that were caught on camera—namely Bob Cummings caught making out with a dancer just before going on air.

“This is not so much a show, as it is a special event,” Art Linklater said during the live broadcast from Disneyland. “The rehearsal went about the way you'd expect a rehearsal to go if you were covering three volcanoes all erupting at the same time, and you didn't expect any of them. So, from time to time, if I say, ‘We take you now by camera to the snapping crocodiles in Adventureland,’ and instead, somebody pushes the wrong button, and we catch Irene Dunne adjusting her bustle on the Mark Twain, don't be too surprised.”

The live broadcast also featured the debut of the original Mouseketeers from The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, which premiered a few months later in 1955 on ABC. So at least something positive came out of all of it.

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