J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, is arguably the most influential living author. She ushered in a new era of fantasy, accessible to children and parents alike. She created an entire world of magic that will be a part of our literary psyche for centuries to come. And, with a regular presence on social media, in interviews, and a continual expansion of the Harry Potter universe in movies such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Pottermore, and the two-part stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Rowling has done what few authors have done: she continually adds to the canon of her creations outside of the books themselves.
It’s unprecedented for the great fantasy authors of our time to do what Rowling does. George R. R. Martin is not even finished with his A Song of Ice and Fire series and he is the first to point out that the canon of the Game of Thrones show isn’t in line with the books. J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, Christopher, compiled his father’s notes, poems, and stories in The Silmarillion to help us suss out Middle Earth stories beyond The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Rowling, however, can change the plot of Harry Potter with a single tweet. She can make you rethink everything you felt and believed about her world with one casual comment in an interview. For lifelong fans, this can be either good or bad. We’ve ranked the theories that had the most impact here, from best to worst.
10. Hermione is black.
In the film version of the Harry Potter series, the character of Hermione Granger is played by the incredible Emma Watson. However, for the upcoming stage play and “eighth” story, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, an Olivier Award-winning actress named Noma Dumezweni will be playing the role of Hermione. She’s from Swaziland, and she’s black. However, as was the case with talk of a black James Bond, there were outcries of dissent. J.K. Rowling would have none of it, and declared that any of the haters were simply “racist.” Not only that, but she said that within the canon of her stories, Hermione could have easily been black.
Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione ? https://t.co/5fKX4InjTH
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 21, 2015
A beloved, intelligent, female literary character who happens to be black — confirmed (or at least accepted) by Rowling herself? There you have it. She has spoken!
9. Dumbledore is gay.
In 2007, Rowling made headlines and shocked the world with the announcement that she’d always thought of Dumbledore as gay, and said he’d harbored feelings for his friend Gellert Grindelwald — a powerful wizard who later turned to evil. This revelation is incredible for so many reasons. It was basically a big “screw you” to bigots by (perhaps) the most infamous modern author alive. Not only that, it showed that one of the most beloved characters in literature, and Harry’s personal hero, was gay. That’s huge, especially for any gay kids who might be reading the series… at least, it would have been, if there’d been any hint of it in the series themselves. C’est la vie, Rowling. There’s always Pottermore!
8. Dolores Umbridge went to jail.
Some Potterheads see Dolores Umbridge as a bigger villain than Voldemort. That’s disputable, but what’s true is that Dolores Umbridge DID end up getting arrested and jailed for her crimes against Muggleborn wizards. I wish I could tell you that she lived happily ever after, but I must not tell lies.
7. Hermione returned her parents’ memories.
In the movies, Hermione cast the spell “Obliviate” on her parents, making them forget they ever had a daughter. Since they were muggles, she wanted to keep them safe from Voldemort’s influence. “Obliviate” is permanent, so the tragedy is horrific. In the books, though, she instead seemed to only make her parents think they were different people and sent them overseas to travel, away from Voldemort’s influence. Either way — Rowling has promised us that Hermione was able to return the memories of her parents and that all is well in the Granger family now.
6. Neville became a herbology professor at Hogwarts.
Neville was always good at herbology, and when he became more confident in his abilities, he developed an excellent temperament for teaching. It was his dream, and it came true. Good for you, Neville.
5. Slytherins got nicer.
Do you like to Slyther-into some trouble every now and again? Do you have a taste for ambition, cunning, and loyalty? Do you have a slight preference for bad boys and girls? Then you might be a wee bit disappointed to find out that the Slytherins are, ahem, a little nicer these days.
Of Slytherin’s status after the Second Wizarding War, Rowling says:
Slytherin has become diluted. It is no longer the pureblood bastion it once was. Nevertheless, its dark reputation lingers, hence Albus Potter’s fears.
Poor little Albus Severus Potter! Harry’s youngest son, named for both Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, was terrified of being sorted into Slytherin at the exclusion of his Gryffindor-centric family. In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we’ll likely find out which house he was actually sorted into.
4. Hagrid never got married.
Hagrid is one of the most sincerely good characters in the entirely of the series. After a lifetime of bad luck, including losing his father as a teenager, getting expelled for false reasons, being abandoned by his mother at birth, and serving a stint in Azkaban after untrue accusations — surely the lovable half-giant deserves some love, right? Not according to Rowling. After the books ended, Hagrid’s romance with Beauxbatons Academy headmistress, Madame Olympe Maxime, crumbled. Very depressing. On the bright side, Hagrid is still alive and kicking as Hogwarts groundskeeper in his late 80s as the second generation of Potters, Weasleys, and Grangers head off to school.
3. Professor McGonagall’s childhood sucked.
Pottermore has given us incredible amounts of information, including a few bits about its current headmistress, Professor Minerva McGonagall. Thanks to Pottermore, we now know that McGonagall had a complicated history with a muggle father and a witch mother who did not reveal her magical status to her husband until Minerva received an acceptance letter to Hogwarts. She grew up in an unhappy home with parents who fought constantly. In addition, she herself fell in love with a muggle and became engaged to him. However, she grew fearful of repeating her parents’ mistakes, she abandoned the engagement and devoted her life to the study of magic. Her backstory is a beautifully deep and complex one and reveals a lot about her character. How much more powerful would it have been to reveal that in the books themselves, though? We got the intense histories of Professor Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape, and many members of the Black family in the books — if only we’d gotten to read some background about Professor McGonagall, too, it might have made her character more empathetic and understandable.
2. Neville Longbottom married Hannah Abbott.
One of the best things the movies got right that the books didn’t was the shipping of Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom. The two kind-hearted oddballs belong together. Who even IS Hannah Abbott? Nah, dude.
1. Hermione and Ron were incompatible.
What in the world is wrong with you, J.K. Rowling? In 2014, she had the audacity to say “in some ways Hermione and Harry are a better fit” than Hermione and Ron, and that the Granger-Weasleys seemed really incompatible. She hinted that the only reason she put the couple together was as a form of “wish fulfillment.” First of all, Jo — can I call you Jo? — Ron’s frustrating demeanor gives Hermione life. What would Harry do other than bore her to death? Ron would never succeed without someone like Hermione by his side, and Hermione would live her life undeservedly overshadowed by Harry. I don’t care if you DID write the books I’m obsessed with, you’re wrong! (Luckily, a week after she made that announcement, she assured fans that Hermione and Ron would be fine with a bit of relationship counseling.)