20 Unsolved Mysteries From The Harry Potter Canon

20 Unsolved Mysteries From The Harry Potter Canon

The Harry Potter universe is known for its fantastic mysteries. Reading those books was like traveling down an endless dungeon, with new twists and shadows around every corner. However, most of those mysteries were answered at the end of Deathly Hallows. Or were they?

Despite the many questions that J.K. Rowling did answer at the end of her series, there were still a few mysteries that never got resolved. Some might be small things only die-hard fan notice, while others are major puzzles that could be considered plot holes. Still, they all contribute to the lore of Harry Potter.


Updated on December 14th, 2022, by David Caballero: As talk of a new installment in the Harry Potter series grows stronger, fans might feel in the mood to revisit the magical and life-changing series. Re-reading the books is just as incredible as the first time, but fans might notice some questions that never received a proper answer. And although more information about the Wizarding World comes out every day, these mysteries seem doomed to go unanswered forever.

Where Does Magic Come From?

Perhaps the biggest mystery of them all is the origin of the magic that permeates the Potter universe. The books never bother to explain the history of magic. They occasionally mention a famous legendary wizard and sometimes name-drop a significant historical figure; however, they never go into detail about the origins of magic.

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In fact, no character seems interested in discovering more about the birth of their power, not even Hermione. It’s a shame because the origin of magic is arguably a far more intriguing and compelling story than yet another wizarding war against another evil wizard. Now that the Fantastic Beasts franchise is dead, perhaps a future Potter spin-off can focus on solving this question.

Why Is Professor McGonagall In Fantastic Beasts?

Minerva McGonagall outside a door meeting someone in Fantastic Beasts 3

Minerva McGonagall is one of the wisest characters in Harry Potter. Tough as nails and powerful, McGonagall is arguably the best teacher in Hogwarts and a crucial mentor for Harry and his friends. McGonagall is among the most popular characters in the series, which might explain why Warner Bros. would want to include her in the Hogwarts scenes during The Crimes of Grindelwald.

However, the dates don’t add up. In Order of the Phoenix, McGonagall says she’s been teaching at Hogwarts for 39 years, meaning she started working at the school in 1956, nearly thirty years after the events of The Crimes of Grindelwald. Seems like Jo messes up pretty badly on this one.

What’s The Wizarding World Stance On Monarchy?

Cornelius Fudge presiding over a trial in Harry Potter.

The Harry Potter series is a pretty straightforward reflection of modern Britain. It has a Minister of Magic, a thinly-veiled reference to the Prime Minister, and Hogwarts is an adaptation of many boarding British schools. However, there’s no mention of what the Wizarding World thinks of the monarchy, nor is there an equivalent of the Royal Family in the series.

If the Minister of Magic introduces himself to the PM, shouldn’t he do the same with the senior members of the Royal Family? At least the Queen should know about the existence of magic. So why doesn’t she? And why does the series ignore such a crucial part of British culture?

How Does The Deluminator Work?

Harry, Ron and Hermione with the Prime Minister at Dumbledore's Will Reading

Ron is a misunderstood character. The movies ruined his character by turning him into comic relief, but the books do a fine job portraying him as an insecure young man struggling to find himself. Ron receives the Deluminator from Dumbledore, presumably because Dumbledore understood Ron’s jealousy and insecurity.

However, the Deluminator’s nature is vague and overly convenient. There’s never any explanation of how it works or its purpose. It’s unclear if it only works with Ron or can help others. In short, it feels more like a plot device than a genuinely clever magical tool.

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Why Do The Other Magical Schools Never Get Mentioned?

A map showing the different wizarding schools in Harry Potter.

For such an impressive story, the worldbuilding in Harry Potter feels surprisingly limited and small-scale. Rowling goes into detail about the UK but never bothers to mention how magic operates in other parts of the world. Beauxbattons and Durmstrang arrive in the fourth book, but they never feel like true institutions on par with Hogwarts.

Why are the other wizarding schools never mentioned? Why is there only one school for South America and one for Africa? Is magic more powerful in Europe? The wizarding world is supposed to be vast and inclusive, yet the books never show these qualities.

Why On Earth Didn’t Dumbledore Take Better Care Of Harry?

Vernon Dursley in harry Potter

Dumbledore’s decision to send Harry with the Dursleys is understandable. As cruel as it may have seemed, the headmaster did it to keep Harry safe from Voldemort. The Boy Who Lived had to reside somewhere where his mother’s blood still lived. But why on earth didn’t he ensure the Dursleys were nicer to Harry?

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Dumbledore didn’t have to hide his magic from the family; they knew who he was, and Petunia was clearly afraid of him. Had Dumbledore threatened to check on Harry now and then, it should have frightened them enough to be kinder, especially as they wouldn’t want the neighbors to see Dumbledore show up on their doorstep.

What Was The Backstory Between Dumbledore And Fawkes

Fawkes the phoenix became an essential part of the Harry Potter series in ways few people could have guessed when he was first introduced. Not only was he Dumbeldore’s beloved pet, but he saved Harry’s life, delivered warnings, and his tail feathers were even used in the twin cores of Harry and Voldemort’s wands.

Yet Dumbledore and Fawkes’ history is never explored or even hinted at in the books. Fawkes may be a pet, but he’s important, as most named animals in the series are. It seems strange that he was one of the only ones who never had a backstory.

Why Weren’t James And Lily Each Other’s Secret Keepers?

The Fidelius Charm kickstarted the events of the entire series. Voldemort was hunting James and Lily, so Dumbledore suggested they use a Fidelius Charm to keep them safe. They would choose a Secret Keeper, and if that person didn’t reveal the Potter’s location, Voldemort would never find them.

Obviously, Peter becomes the Secret Keeper and betrays them, but why didn’t James and Lily serve as each other’s Secret Keepers instead? Wouldn’t that have been the safest option?

Snape’s Favoritism Of Draco Malfoy Doesn’t Make Any Sense

Severus Snape is not a fan of Harry Potter. He has a strong distaste for the Boy Who Lived due to his similarities to his father. The massive reveal about Snape’s love for Lily and his fight to keep Harry alive was a game-changer, but the professor’s dislike for Harry never changed.

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In Snape’s eyes, Harry is as arrogant and cocky as his dad was, even though that is really not true at all. But why would he play favorites with Draco, who shares many of the traits Snape claimed to hate in James than Harry ever had? Draco was the loathsome and arrogant prat, not Harry.

What Did Magical Children Do Until They Turned 11?

The Weasleys in Harry Potter

Young witches and wizards receive their letters to Hogwarts upon their eleventh birthday, and then their magical journeys truly begin. But what do those kids do before they turn 11? Harry went to a muggle public school, which makes sense since the Dursleys wanted to squash the magic out of him.

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Most Muggle-born kids probably have a normal upbringing at a Muggle school, too. But what about pure-bred families? Did the Weasley children go to a muggle school? Did they just sit around all day for years until their Hogwarts letter arrived?

Where Were American Wizards During Voldemort’s First Rise?

The Fantastic Beasts franchise brought the wizarding world of Harry Potter across the ocean to the United States. For the first time, audiences saw American and British wizards working together to stop a great threat. So why are the Americans nowhere to be seen during the war against Voldemort?

The danger that Voldemort posed stretched far beyond Hogwarts and the UK, so why didn’t American wizards help to stop him? On the flip side, where were Voldemort’s American agents? Grindelwald set his ambitions for world domination, whereas Voldemort seemed focused on the UK; perhaps Grindelwald is the superior Wizarding World villain, after all.

What’s The Deal With The Brains In Jars?

The scene in the “Department of Mysteries” room at the Ministry of Magic remains puzzling. There’s plenty to wonder about — the Department of Mysteries lives up to its name –, but those brains in jars stand out above all other questions.

According to the book, the brains were there “to study thought,” but how was the Ministry studying thought? And who the heck did those brains belong to? J.K. Rowling had a lot of inspiration for Harry Potter, from Norse mythology to Arthurian legend. But Young Frankenstein isn’t an IP that comes to mind when thinking about the Wizarding World.

Where Did The Basilisk Come From?

Horcrux Basilisk

Speaking of ominously names rooms, there’s a lot of mystery still to the Chamber of Secrets. What was Salazar Slytherin doing in there? For that matter, what was Tom Riddle? But even if we can guess at those, we still don’t have the answer to one of the biggest (literally) mysteries about that place: the origin of the basilisk.

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We know the basilisk is a rare and terrible creature in the wizarding world, so how did Salazar get his hands on one? Did he hatch one himself? And if so, why did he keep it in the Chamber? The mystery surrounding the basilisk makes it all the more terrifying.

How Does Colin Creevey’s Camera Work?

Colin Creevey in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Chamber of Secrets is full of unanswered questions. Take Colin Creevey’s camera, seemingly a muggle device. However, readers learn that muggle devices don’t work in Hogwarts two books later.

So how does annoying Colin’s camera take the pictures it does? Is it somehow enchanted, able to bend the spells around Hogwarts? Or is something more ominous at play; is Colin Creevey actually one of the most powerful wizards in the Harry Potter universe, able to disrupt Magics that even Voldemort and Dumbledore themselves can’t evade?

How Can Voldemort Curse The Defense Against the Dark Arts Teaching Position?

Things don’t go well for the Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. Eventually, the books reveal it’s because of a literal curse Voldemort placed on the position. But how could he do that? How could Voldemort curse not just a person or an object but a job title?

The reveal seems more like Rowling trying to be clever and making it seem like the plot was always in the works. However, it’s likely that she saw a chance to tie everything with a neat bow and didn’t care about the minutiae of how the curse would work.

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Why Does Harry Potter Need Glasses?

Harry Potter can talk to snakes. He can walk around without being seen in an invisibility cloak and can even fly. So why, in the name of all that is magic, does he not fix his vision?? Harry, in Hermione’s words, has an “awful” sight. Yet he seems content with his glasses, to the point where he uses magic to fix his old specs.

Why, then, can he not just take some of his magic and cure his astigmatism? Is it just because Daniel Radcliffe looks good in glasses? Harry doesn’t seem to have an overt attachment to the specs, making the mystery of their presence even greater.

What Ever Happened To Sally-Anne Perks?

Harry Potter Hogwart's Mystery Trailer

Harry’s classmates made pretty regular appearances throughout the series, albeit in small, sometimes barely-noticeable roles. Except for Sally-Anne Perks. Sally-Anne was sorted right before Harry Potter, and then she just… disappears. She’s never called on again for any Hogwarts activities, nor does Rowling mention her after the first book.

So where did Sally-Anne go? The best case is that she went off to a different school, maybe in a wizard exchange program. Worst case? Well, maybe the jokes about kids disappearing during Quidditch were not just jokes. Hogwarts’ students also enjoyed getting into trouble, so perhaps Sally-Anne bit more than he could chew.

What’s The Secret Behind Moody’s Eye?

Mad-Eye at class raising his wand in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Mad-Eye Moody was one of the most visual characters in the Harry Potter canon, not just because of his distinct look. Moody literally had a magic eye in place of one he lost in his job as an Auror, and the replacement is one of the most mysterious objects in Harry Potter lore.

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It can see Harry even under his invisibility cloak, a feat other magicians, including Death himself, could not pull off. What’s the story behind this mystic optical object? Where did it come from, and what were its true capabilities? Moody died taking those secrets to his grave.

What Is The Veil?

One of the most tragic deaths in the Harry Potter lore happens within the Department of Mysteries: Sirius Black. But right after this scarring, tragic event also comes one of the strangest moments in the Potterverse as Sirius passes through a kind of doorframe, a curtained window into another world.

This passageway is only referred to as “the veil,” with the book suggesting it’s some kind of bridge between the mortal and spiritual worlds. But what is the connection? The Veil is fatal to anyone who passes through it, but why is it there? Is it the gateway between life and death? If so, how do some souls not pass through it? Like death itself, the Veil is a dark and convoluted question.

How Do You Make A Horcrux?

Horcrux Tom Riddle Diary

Horcruxes are the nastiest and evilest artifacts in the Wizarding World. Their creation remains a mystery, and it will never get an answer. The books suggest murder needs to happen to break a person’s soul; however, the details of the process are still under wraps.

According to an interview with PotterCast, Rowling admitted that she knew how Horcruxes were made, even hinting that she wanted to include the explanation in the books. However, her editors claimed it was too dark. What was so dark that it couldn’t be included in a book about limb-severing, child-murdering, psychopathic wizard Nazis? Whatever the answer, it must have been pretty bad.

NEXT: 10 Worst Harry Potter Movie Plot Holes That Were Explained In The Books


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