As with any fandom, there are many misconceptions about things that occur within the HP series. Often this can be due to concepts exclusive to the movie adaptations of the seven books but more often that not, this is due to conflating one’s own headcanon and the ideas within various fanfiction with the canon of the books, Pottermore, and the Fantastic Beasts movie(s).
This means that certain headcanon or outright fanon are mistakenly considered canon, or alternatively, where something from canon is mistakenly assumed to be someone’s headcanon or a fanon cliche. While there are many more misconceptions, here are just a selection of some misconceptions I decided to discuss regarding the Harry Potter series.
1. “A man with a shotgun can kill a wizard”
The most obnoxious misconception is this fake quote that a muggle with a gun can kill a wizard, which is always attributed to Rowling. The thing is that not only is that statement outright false by book canon alone, but Rowling never even said that. People just parrot that quote around like it’s actually a real thing Rowling said, and yet when people are asked to cite when Rowling ever said that, nobody can do it.
Why? Because she never said a muggle can defeat a wizard. It’s a quote made up by people who want to twist canon to insist that muggles can defeat wizards and that magic is limited.What Rowling said on Pottermore:
“I decided that, broadly speaking, wizards would have the power to correct or override ‘mundane’ nature, but not ‘magical’ nature.”
– J.K. Rowling, Pottermore (Illness and Disability)
In other words, wizards can counter and overrule all things muggle-related, but magical threats are still an issue for them. By contrast, muggles can’t counter anything magical related, hence why magical creatures (especially the dangerous ones) are kept far away from the muggles. Which brings me to everyone’s favourite fanon misconception…
2. Magical cores
Quite possibly one of the most despised fanon clichés of the HP series, and for good reason. The magical cores are terrible not simply for defying the canon magic system of the series, but also for completely ignoring the ultimate message of the HP series: “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!”
By accepting into magical cores, you are basically implying that talent in the HP series is determined by genetics and the purity of blood. If magical cores existed in Harry Potter, then muggle-borns would be inherently inferior to every half-blood and pure-blood in the story when it comes to magical ability. If magical cores actually existed, then it doesn’t explain why Harry Potter, whose parents are magically talented, is outclassed by the muggle-born Hermione Granger. It does not help that Voldemort, the main antagonist and arguably the most powerful wizard in the entire series, was born to an average witch and a mere muggle. Excluding Salazar Slytherin, none of Voldemort’s magical relatives were actually all that talented at magic.
If magical cores existed, they wouldn’t explain the talent of some muggle-borns, nor would they explain how an untalented witch or wizard could be born to talented parents. As a result, magical cores are a sign of laziness used by fanfiction writers for trying to nerf magic in a whole slew of ways because it doesn’t fit normality. It doesn’t help that all magical cores are ever used for is to make their portrayal of Harry, Hermione, or their (often self-insert) OC look far superior to everyone else. Which brings me to a related point…
3. Magical exhaustion
The cousin of magical cores, the cliché of magical exhaustion is far more obnoxious to me since the only reason magical exhaustion exists is to nerf magic. Some would argue that magic being infinite makes no logical sense… except that magic in the HP series doesn’t make sense, that is the point. It is the same series were job positions can be cursed simply to spite the person who never gave you the job you desired.
A common argument is Harry’s exhaustion while practicing the Patronus Charm in Prisoner of Azkaban. The problem is that people who use that argument are, in my opinion at least, unable to comprehend the text they read. If their comprehension skills were at least decent, they would have noticed that Harry’s initial exhaustion after using the Patronus is because of the Boggart!Dementor, and has nothing to with the Patronus Charm. There isn’t a single spell in the entire series that causes its caster exhaustion to cast.
4. Transfiguration is not permanent
Like many on this list, it is an example of trying to nerf magic because the person wishes to rationalise magic. Transfiguration is literally transforming one thing into another in its entirety. That desk that McGonagall transfigures into a Pig?
The Quintaped, a magical creature that was created by transfiguring a human family being into a five-legged monstrosity, is an example of permanent Transfiguration which is featured in the initial Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book. Its existence years after the initial transfiguration clearly demonstrates permanent Transfiguration.
Thankfully, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie further destroyed this cliché by showing Grindelwald make use of Human Transfiguration to change his appearance to take on the persona of ‘Percival Graves’. If Newt had not undone Grindelwald’s Human Transfiguration, then Grindelwald’s disguise as ‘Percival Graves’ wouldn’t have simple faded away. Grindelwald would have reverted to his normal self only when the Transfiguration was undone by himself or by another wizard (i.e. Newt), and his Transfiguration was not a temporary thing.
5. Food and drinks cannot be duplicated and/or duplicated food and drinks lack the original’s nutritional value
Like with magical exhaustion, this is an example of people reading the text without understanding the words. As Hermione tells Ron:
“It’s impossible to make good food out of nothing! You can Summon it if you know where it is, you can transform it, you can increase the quantity if you’ve already got some…”
– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (The Goblin’s Revenge)
Notice that Hermione only mentions food, as Harry proved in Half-Blood Prince that alcoholic drinks can be refilled either from a single drop of liquid (reinforcing the fact that you can increase the quantity of food/drink that you already have) or from nothing (which would imply that food, but not water or any other non-magical liquid, is limited by Gamp’s Laws of Elemental Transfiguration). The very existence of Aguamenti (Water-Making Charm) in HBP supports the latter of the two points, since Aguamenti conjures water out of nothing which is completely identical to regular drinking water.
6. Translation spells
Admittedly, the concept of translation spells are a common headcanon. It is assumed that wizards must use a spell (or less commonly, a potion) to either automatically learn languages, or to make learning languages vastly easier.
Goblet of Fire pretty much shatters this misconception. If translation spells actually existed, Fudge wouldn’t be gesturing to the Bulgarian Minister for Magic but would simply translate everything he wanted to say into Bulgarian. Likewise, Bagman would also translate everything he wanted to say into the needed foreign language if translation spells existed, rather than relying on Barty Crouch Sr (who knows over 150 languages). This isn’t even getting into the fact that nobody would cite Crouch Sr’s status as a polyglot as an achievement if translation spells existed.
7. The Unforgivable Curses cannot be performed non-verbally
I feel like this misconception is far more common than it seems. There is this massive assumption that the Unforgivable Curses, especially the Killing Curse, must be verbally cast and cannot be cast non-verbally. There are two problems with this assumption.
It ignores the fact that the Unforgivable Curses are not special. They are not a special trinity of spells. In fact, if they weren’t classified as ‘unforgivable’, then those three spells would have nothing in common with each other aside.
Secondly, it ignores the fact that the Killing Curse has been cast non-verbally a bare minimum of twice. In Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort attempts a non-verbal Killing Curse against Dumbledore. In Half-Blood Prince, Bellatrix non-verbally uses it to kill a fox. In Deathly Hallows, if you choose to assume that Molly killed Bellatrix with the Killing Curse, then both would have been using non-verbal Killing Curses. It’s heavily implied that Lucius’ and Draco’s uses of the Imperius Curse were non-verbal given the environment they were used in, where verbally casting them would be an absurd thing to do.
8. Wandless magic is supremely difficult
On a related note, there is this other assumption that wandless magic is the stuff that only Dumbledore/Voldemort/Grindelwald-tier wizards are capable of, and that actually doing wandless magic intentionally (i.e. not counting accidental magic) is apparently borderline impossible. Except this is wrong.
Even if we go by the books alone, Quirrell uses Incarcerous without a wand in Philosopher’s Stone. Lupin conjures Bluebell Flames wandlessly in Prisoner of Azkaban. Snape casts Incarcerous wandlessly with a snap of his fingers in Prisoner of Azkaban. Riddle was in full control of his wandless, underage magic in Half-Blood Prince long even before he entered Hogwarts. Adding movies into the mix, Hermione’s Confundus Charm on Cormac McLaggan was wandless. All that is excluding the wandless magic usage of Dumbledore, post-Hogwarts Voldemort, and Grindelwald. Especially since Grindelwald uses wandless magic for most of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Dumbledore uses wandless magic several times across the books and movies.
Furthermore, when explaining Uagadou on Pottermore, Rowling wrote:
“The wand is a European invention, and while African witches and wizards have adopted it as a useful tool in the last century, many spells are cast simply by pointing the finger or through hand gestures. This gives Uagadou students a sturdy line of defence when accused of breaking the International Statute of Secrecy (‘I was only waving, I never meant his chin to fall off’)”
– J.K. Rowling, Pottermore (Uagadou)
Unless one really wants to argue that every Uagadou student is Dumbledore tier, it must be accepted as objective fact that wandless magic is nowhere near as difficult as fanon makes it out to be. Its certainly more difficult than using a wand, and would be harder to control magic without a wand (something important for spells like the Patronus or Fiendfyre in particular), but its not a mark of a legendary or world-class wizard. Nowhere was wandless magic said to be limited to basic spells either, since “many spells are cast simply by pointing the finger or through hand gestures”, nor is wandless magic reserved only for the most powerful wizards.
9. The Imperius Curse cannot be chained
Of all the things on the list, this is potentially one of the most cringe-worthy since the moment anyone says that the Imperius Curse cannot be used while under the Imperius Curse has clearly never read Half-Blood Prince, either that or they refuse to acknowledge canon.
There is this desire among certain people to nerf certain spells and potions in fanfiction to make them more ‘rational’. The Imperius Curse is arguably the most prominent example, whether people argue that the Imperius has a time-limit (it doesn’t, canon already proved this wrong with Crouch Jr), or that you can only control once person at a time (false, especially since the Imperius Defence shatters that assumption), or even assuming that muggles can resist the Imperius Curse (no non-magical being can resist Imperius, especially not muggles).
10. Hogwarts are not taught reading, writing, or maths
Some fans of the HP series on the wizard bashing side argue that Hogwarts doesn’t teach reading, writing or maths. Better yet, they assume that every witch and wizard is only as knowledgeable as a year 7 kid. Except that most of the people who think that are the same types of people who unironically think that muggles can defeat wizards at all.
What many seem to forget is that basically every single subject at Hogwarts, except Flying (a first-year only subject), requires some degree of written homework and essays. I don’t understand why people still think that Hogwarts doesn’t teach reading, writing, and math. Its been doing it since the series began.
Every subject in Hogwarts can be directly compared to a muggle subject, some share more similarities than others:
- Alchemy = Chemistry
- Ancient Runes = Latin
- Arithmancy = Statistics + Economics
- Astronomy = Astronomy
- Care of Magical Creatures = Zoology
- Charms = Maths (not for content but for having comparable usefulness in society)
- Defence Against the Dark Arts = Physical Education
- Divination = Theology
- Herbology = Botany + Geography
- History of Magic = History + Politics + International Relations
- Muggle Studies = Sociology
- Potions = Medicine
- Transfiguration = Physics
“Where is English?”, you may be asking. Its simple: English is embedded into basically every subject. Unless people actually think that the likes of McGonagall or Snape would tolerate bad grammar or poorly written work.
Most adult wizards are clearly very literate and thus have the understanding of the English language one would expect from average adults (i.e. people who didn’t study A-Level English and did not study English at university). Wizards who are dumb and barely literate (if not outright illiterate) are rare enough to be notable such as Crabbe, Goyle, Marvolo Gaunt, and Morfin Gaunt. In their cases, it can be argued that generations of inbreeding could be the cause for their mental conditions (its true for the Gaunts at least).
11. The wizarding world discriminates against muggleborns
A common theme in fanfiction is presenting the wizarding world as being discriminatory against muggle-borns without Voldemort or his Death Eaters’ influencing anything. It seems to be commonplace for people to assume that muggle-borns are discriminated against in the wizarding world and struggle to get decent jobs, or that they are institutional discriminated against in some other way.
Except that just isn’t true. In fact, the wizarding world has always been accepting of muggle-borns. The only time the wizarding world ever discriminated against muggle-borns was when Voldemort took over Britain and had his Death Eaters infiltrate the Ministry. As far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t even count since any discrimination against muggle-borns in Deathly Hallows would have been a result of the Death Eaters.
Hermione isn’t even the first Minister for Magic either, since Nobby Leach was Minister for Magic from 1962-1968. Not even at Hogwarts have muggle-born ever been discriminated against. There is no pure-blood conspiracy keeping them down and oppressing them. The muggle-borns have been treated equally to half-blood and pure-bloods since the very beginning, and anti-muggle-born sentiments were a clear minority among wizard.
12. “The Ancient and Noble House of [Surname]”
When people use ‘The Ancient and Noble House of Black’ unironically to refer to the Blacks being deemed by the wider wizarding world to be elite and noble families with institutional power in the fanon-only realm of pure-blood aristocracies, I can’t help but laugh.
It’s worth noting that Sirius is the one who called the Blacks by that title, and given his view of his family, it was clearly intended to be a mocking, sarcastic title to reflect how Sirius believed the Black family saw itself. Which brings me to a related topic…
13. Seats on the Wizengamot are inherited
A common trope is for Harry to inherit a wizengamot seat, or in particularly bad fanfiction, he’d inherit multiple. Often coming with an absurd name like Harry Potter-Gryffindor-Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff-Slytherin-Peverell, or a comparably dumb name. Bonus points is Harry is named “Hadrian” or something similar, Apparently, like Vernon Dursley, they believe Harry is too common a name for a pseudo-aristocrat (nevermind that Amelia Bones’ first name is one of the most popular names for girls, at least in the UK).
I don’t know why people actually think the Wizengamot is a pseudo-aristocracy where purebloods from far and wide inherit noble seats. Order of the Phoenix confirmed that the Malfoys don’t have any seat in the Wizengamot, since Lucius was waiting outside the courtroom and was nowhere inside that courtroom during Harry’s trial.
Similarly, both Dumbledore and Umbridge are on the Wizengamot and neither are pure-blood at all. Both are half-bloods. In fact, if anything, the Wizengamot has absolutely nothing to do with pure-bloods, or blood status, or any perceived status in society. It’s just a glorified House of Commons.
14. Muggleborns cannot be sorted into Slytherin
While this misconception is an understandable one, given that the Sorting Hat states in Order of the Phoenix that Salazar Slytherin valued students whose “ancestry was purest.”
The Sorting Hat isn’t saying that muggle-borns cannot be in Slytherin, but is suggesting that blood status and/or holding anti-muggle beliefs is the tie-breaker. That if the Sorting Hat is trying to sort a student whose values and traits are 50% Slytherin and 50% of a different house (e.g. Ravenclaw), the student’s blood status and/or attitude towards muggles/muggle-borns would be the tie-breaking factor. If that same pure-blood supremacist student learned 60% Ravenclaw and 40% Slytherin, the Sorting Hat would just put them in Ravenclaw.
In fact, in Deathly Hallows, Scabior heavily implies that muggle-borns have been sorted into Slytherin in previous years. At the very least, there was at least one muggle-born Slytherin in Scabior’s time, or that Scabior had heard about from someone else. Which brings me to another related topic…
15. All Slytherins are pure-blood supremacists and/or hate muggles and/or are scumbags
This comes from the canonical fact that every Slytherin except Andromeda ‘Irrelevant’ Tonks was anti-muggle, a pure-blood supremacist, a general scumbag, or some combination of those things.
What isn’t canonical is the idea that literally every single Slytherin hated muggles and/or was a pure-blood supremacist. Andromeda was sorted into Slytherin, however I assume she was either a darker person before she met Ted Tonks, or she begged the Sorting Hat to put her in Slytherin to not disappoint her parents. Andromeda has no Slytherin qualities aside from being a pure-blood and being apart of the Black family.
Slughorn, to a lesser extent, further destroys the misconception. I say lesser extent because I personally think Slughorn showed unrivalled favouritism to students from certain families, a subconscious pure-blood supremacist, and generally just a worse Potions professor than Snape ever was.
All that is ignoring The-Play-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named where Albus and Scorpius are both in Slytherin, even if neither of them actually fit the house (Rose acted like more of a Slytherin than either Albus or Scorpius were).
16. Pure-bloods and half-bloods are ignorant about the muggle world
Another common cliché is the notion that wizards are ignorant of all things muggle-related.
Except that Draco Malfoy of all people knows about muggle technology:
“Malfoy certainly did talk about flying a lot. He complained loudly about first-years never getting in the house Quidditch teams and told long, boastful stories which always seemed to end with him narrowly escaping Muggles in helicopters.”
– Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone (The Midnight Duel)
Even if he was exaggerating or even outright lying about ‘narrowly escaping muggles in helicopters’, it doesn’t change the fact that Draco knows what a helicopter is, and if he knows what a helicopter is then just about every pure-blood and half-blood would know what a helicopter is.
Pottermore further shatters this common misconception:
“This is not to say that you will never find a witch or wizard surfing the net; merely that they will generally be doing so out of slightly condescending curiosity, or else doing research in the field of Muggle Studies…”
– J.K. Rowling, Pottermore (Technology)
“Some members of the magical community are amused by Muggle television, and a few firebrand wizards even went so far, in the early eighties, as to start a British Wizarding Broadcasting Corporation, in the hope that they would be able to have their own television channel.”
– J.K. Rowling, Pottermore (Technology)
and also here too
“The magical community prides itself on the fact that it does not need the many (admittedly ingenious) devices that Muggles have created to enable them to do what can be so easily done by magic.”
– J.K. Rowling, Pottermore (Technology)
It doesn’t help that Voldemort, the face of pure-blood supremacy during the latter 20th century, was a half-blood raised in a muggle orphanage during the Second World War. To assume that Voldemort knows nothing about the muggle world would be downplaying his knowledge. If anything, Voldemort would actually know more about the muggle world than someone like Arthur Weasley, and certainly more than the average muggle-born.
17. It is impossible to apparate across a body of water, and/or it is impossible to apparate from one country to another
This seems to come from the fact that Voldemort flew from Nurmengard (which, given its name and Voldemort killing a German family on his way to find Grindelwald, is implied to be near Germany or Eastern Europe).
What people believe is that wizards cannot apparate across water, and/or cannot apparate cross-country. Except for all intents and purposes, Harry side-along apparated with Dumbledore from South England up to Hogsmeade when coming back from dealing with the Inferi in HBP.
Harry, while a little bit above average in Defence Against the Dark Arts, is ultimately an average wizard overall (especially given his parent’s superior feats at the same/younger age, and given Hermione’s existence too). If Harry can Apparate from Southern England up to Hogsmeade in Scotland, then a superior wizard can easily do cross-country apparition.
It’s also implied that Voldemort not apparating back was due to the anti-disapparition jinxes on Nurmengard, like what exist on Hogwarts or Azkaban.
18. Magical children get their Hogwarts letter on their eleventh birthday
Because Harry’s birthday falls near the end of the deadline for Hogwarts letters, it is assumed by some fans that all Hogwarts students get their letters on their eleventh birthday. This may be done to explain Hermione being ahead of her peers since she would have several months of reading to do before she ever went to Hogwarts.
This isn’t true. In fact, Harry was receiving letters a while prior to his birthday. The only reason he got his letter on his birthday was due to the Dursleys preventing Harry from getting his letter earlier. Therefore, all Hogwarts students would have about a week to respond to their Hogwarts letter and therefore they would all be on an equal playing field when it comes to reading pre-Hogwarts.
19. Snape had committed murder prior to killing Dumbledore
Naturally in the HP fandom, there are three types of fans: those who love Snape, those who absolutely hate him, and those who haven’t made up their mind but will absolutely love or hate him once they made up their mind.
As a result, it is commonly assumed that Snape had committed murder prior to killing Dumbledore, the so-called logic being that Snape was former Death Eater; the Death Eaters commit murder; therefore Snape must have killed someone.
This is actually rejected both in HBP and DH, with Bellatrix pretty much accusing Snape of being a coward who always slithered out of responsibilities and more specirfically, Bellatrix implies that Snape never committed murder or torture for the Death Eaters. This makes sense given Snape’s role as a spy. If Snape was murdering and torturing Voldemort’s enemies, it only increased the risk of someone realising that Snape was a Death Eater. Voldemort’s entire plan was for Snape to be a spy sent to spy on Dumbledore, and anything that could compromise that plan (i.e. Snape committing murder) is to be avoided.
In DH, Snape asks about his soul and whether it will be damaged if he killed Dumbledore.
“And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?”
– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (The Prince’s Tale)
This reinforces Bellatrix’s accusations, both her explicit and subtle ones, and reminds the reader the Snape hasn’t killed prior to Dumbledore.
When asked whether Snape see Thestrals, Rowling answered:
“He can see Thestrals, but in my imagination, most of the older people at Hogwarts would be able to see them because, obviously, as you go through life you do lose people and understand what death is. But you must not forget that Snape was a Death Eater. He will have seen things” – J.K. Rowling, Edinburgh Book Festival (2004)
This implies that Snape’s ability to see Thestrals is not because he killed anyone but because he watched someone get killed by a Death Eater, possibly by Voldemort himself.
20. Voldemort was basically Wizard Hitler
Admittedly, this one largely stems from Rowling admitting that Voldemort was just like Hitler. The misconception is that Voldemort is not Wizard Hitler. You could argue he is Wizard Stalin, given the fact that fascism was closer to western ideals than communism ever was. However, to compare Voldemort to the likes of Stalin, and to a greater extent Hitler, would be too generous to Voldemort. It would imply that he was important on the international stage.
If anything, Voldemort and his Death Eaters could basically be considered the Wizard IRA. Both the Death Eaters and IRA were terrorist groups that only affected Britain, and whose actual significance was far beneath dictators like Hitler and Stalin.
Grindelwald? Now that guy is Wizard Hitler, at least when looking at him as a metaphor for Hitler. Grindelwald, when compared directly to Voldemort, is far less radical than him, more charismatic and manipulative, and more sympathetic in-universe and within the fanbase. Grindelwald has some seemingly legitimate points (e.g. regarding the Statute of Secrecy and how it negatively harms wizards) whereas Voldemort is just a power-hungry, apathetic, loveless being who craved immortality and wanted to kill all muggles and muggle-borns.
Voldemort’s lust for power was like Hitler, however Grindelwald actually impacted the Wizarding World in a manner comparable to how Hitler affected our world. The reason that the Nazis have the legacy they have is because of how efficient and effective their methods were (e.g. the Holocaust, Hitler’s speeches, Goebbel’s propaganda, the Hitler Youth, etc). People who act like Hitler aren’t uncommon across history, but those people are ineffective when it comes to reality. The Death Eaters probably didn’t even kill more than 2,000 wizards at most across 1970-1998 whereas the Nazis killed 11 million people within 1933-1945 years just with the Holocaust alone. That isn’t even counting stuff like Night of the Long Knives, Kristalnacht, and most importantly, World War Two.
Thus, comparing Voldemort to Hitler would be like saying the KKK were just as powerful as the Nazis. Sure they had the same ideals, but only an fool would say the KKK were just as powerful as the Nazis. The KKK were an incompetent group who were unable to get their leader to become President of the United States, meanwhile the Nazis got to rule Germany for 12 years and kill 11 million people from a single genocide. I’m not a car person, but it’s really like saying a Peel P50 and a Lamborghini Gallardo are equally valuable just because both are cars.