Because I'm a dirty cheater, I'm rereading the Harry Potter series in order to meet my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for this year. (Too lazy to hit the library for new books!) I reread the novels every year, but this is the first time I've really been reading with a critical eye. I sped through both Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets but as a Muggle fan of this amazing work of fiction, I still have questions about the mechanics of this universe. Here is a greatly condensed version of my running tally of enquiries for the first two novels:
Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone
1. Why don't we don't hear about Sirius Black until book three? In this novel, we see Harry be introduced to his magical roots, and Hagrid has to hastily give him the story of what made him famous. He gets the Sparknotes version: Lord Voldemort, the greatest dark wizard of all time, killed his parents and tried to kill him when he was only an infant, and inexplicably, he could not. Dirty old Voldy was reduced to a shell of his former self, and Harry was left with his scar. This is Harry's origin story. But, shouldn't the fact that his parent's very best friend betrayed them factor into that some how? Doesn't that little bit of information have a profound effect on the mythology of this story?
2. What happens to wizards who get expelled? We know that Hagrid was expelled in his third year, and that Dumbledore allowed him to stay on as Gamekeeper, but how does a situation like this play out for other expelled wizards? Hagrid's wand is snapped and he is forbidden to perform magic. Does that include other forms of magic like potion making or divination? Since getting expelled is essentially like flunking out of school, are there adult remedial classes for wizards who never finished school? Or are they forbidden from magic forever and encouraged to join the muggle world like squibs?
3. How is there is no faster magical way to find information than the library? Throughout the novel, we see Hermione sprinting to the library to research information. I understand that the magical world has largely shunned technology, but there must be a magical shortcut that works as the equivalent to a search engine. Not even an "Accio books about Nicholas Flamel" spell? That seems strangely archaic. I just feel like "because magic" should be a reasonable explanation. Why isn't it?
4. How do muggles get to Diagon Alley? Do muggle-borns' parents get an extra letter with instructions on how to get access the wizarding world so they can buy their newly minted magical child's school supplies? How does that affect the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy? Are they allowed to roam Diagon Alley during the term? Do their minds get wiped each year so that they can't go blabbing about their witch and wizard children?
5. How does this moving between portraits business work exactly? Is it limited to portraits in the same building? Or is it any portrait of the same person regardless of location? Since we find out later that the portraits can be used to deliver information, does that mean that all portraits of a particular person have all the knowledge of every other incarnation of that person? What happens when a new portrait is made? Can different portraits of the same person interact or does that rip a hole in the space-time continuum?
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
6. Who does the laundry at Hogwarts? If giving clothing to house elves sets them free, does that mean they aren't allowed to do the laundry? Dobby was set free when he was given a sock accidentally. Does that mean the children do their own laundry, or that there's an unnamed laundry witch or wizard who does it for them?
7. Do the petrified students have to repeat the year? The first attacks from the Chamber happen well before Christmas. That means that Justin Finch-Fletchey at the least missed two terms of classes. Considering that exams are cancelled at the end of the year, how is any of the students' magical knowledge tested to see whether or not they should be promoted? Do students ever get held back at Hogwarts?
8. How is enrollment in Hogwarts so low? Working with the numbers we know, there are only about 280 students at Hogwarts at any given time. (10 students per year, by 7 years, by 4 houses). If Hogwarts is meant to be the best of the wizarding schools and the only one in the UK, why aren't there more students? Does that mean there's competition to get in, hence the acceptance letters? Does it just mean that the wizard population of the UK is just very small? How is it that they conveniently produce no more children than can be accepted into Hogwarts? Or, since Hogwarts isn't mandatory, is it that acceptance is first-come first-serve?
9. Why didn't Dumbledore fix Ron's broken wand? In the final novel, Harry uses the Elder Wand to repair his broken wand. Why didn't Dumbledore use it fix Ron's wand instead of letting him run around with a defective and possibly dangerous one all year, especially since he knew the Weasley's were poor and likely couldn't afford another? Was is simply so that he wouldn't reveal his wand has super special death cheating powers? Or is Dumbledore just a dick? Why does Dumbledore continue to reward rule breaking (200 points apiece to Ron and Harry for rescuing Ginny) and steal the House Cup from Slytherin (again)?
10. Why is Ginny's PTSD from being possessed and nearly murdered by the greatest dark wizard of the age never addressed again? An 11 year old girl spend an entire year pouring her soul into a dark artifact that possessed her, used her to attack her classmates and tried to kill her. Why doesn't anyone think to get her some counseling? How come none of the other students ever seem ask her what happened in the Chamber? Are they just criminally dull and not at all curious?
Some of these questions are tongue in cheek, since realistically the only explanation I'll ever get is "because magic" but I enjoy thinking way too hard about these things. Harry Potter is my fandom of choice and I'll never outgrow it. Obviously, I don't expect that J.K. Rowling fleshed out every minute aspect of this amazing world that she built, but it's fun to think about and pose the questions for the fun of it. What about you? Are there any questions that the first two novels raised for you that you wish you could have answered? Let's get our nerdy fandom on!