The Harry Potter novels and film adaptations were a gripping series filled with surprise twists and turns throughout. Some were flaunted in the face of readers and, when revealed, still managed to shock audiences, while others were entirely unpredictable and unprecedented. Thanks to strong writing and a well-developed cast of characters, these twists had a strong emotional impact and continue to resonate with the public almost a decade after author J.K. Rowling published the final entry in the series. The following are the 10 most surprising twists that Rowling presented in the Harry Potter series. Needless to say: MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.
10. The Time-Turner
The third entry in the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban, included several scenes of confusion featuring Hermione Granger being in two places at once. Hermione was taking multiple classes with time conflicts, but was somehow able to attend every single class. This mystery proved agitating for readers as the knowledge that something peculiar was occurring was clear, yet the solution definitely was not. When the discovery of the Time-Turner is made, the events of Hermione’s whereabouts are revealed. The audience had not seen time manipulation up to that point in the series, and therefore nobody was expecting a time-travelling component to be the mystery’s solution. This hour-reversal necklace was given to Hermione in private prior to the commencement of the school year as a tool to attend all of her classes. She was instructed not to share this information with anyone, leaving Harry as much in the dark as readers were. To be fair, the Time Turner did open up a number of gigantic plot holes, but that’s a conversation for another day!
9. Tom Riddle Is Lord Voldemort
Tom Riddle’s first appearance came during The Chamber of Secrets, the second installment in the series. Here, Harry discovers the history of Hagrid’s expulsion through the use of a diary containing the memories of Tom Riddle. This diary would eventually prove to be a Horcrux — a portion of somebody’s soul — and was used to open the Chamber of Secrets. When Harry infiltrates the Chamber in an attempt to rescue a captured Ginny Weasley, he sees a healthy Tom Riddle who appears to be the same age as he was during his memories from decades ago. The shock then occurs when Riddle spells out “Tom Marvolo Riddle = I Am Lord Voldemort.” The notion of Voldemort’s past or Voldemort having used a different name in the past was entirely foreign, and therefore this twist came as a massive shock to readers. The idea that Riddle was a dark wizard had hardly even occurred to most readers, as it had been assumed that he had simply made a mistake regarding Hagrid. After all, Riddle was a model student, having received several awards and was a school prefect.
8. Sirius Black’s True Nature
Several major surprises centered around the character of Sirius Black, who was first introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Firstly, that he was an Animagus (a man who could transform into an animal) was a major surprise, revealing that the shaggy black dog that had been following Harry that year was in fact Sirius. This dog was perceived to be “The Grim,” an imminent omen of death. However, it was simply Sirius in disguise. The greater surprise was the twist that Sirius Black was on Harry’s side rather than being a cruel Death Eater as the wizarding world was led to believe. It was believed that Sirius had directly led to the death of Harry’s parents, had murdered Peter Pettigrew, and was Lord Voldemort’s closest Death Eater. He had been imprisoned in Azkaban, the wizarding jail, ever since the death of Harry’s parents. Discovering that Sirius was Harry’s godfather and had always had Harry’s best interests in mind came as a shock, since Sirius had only been portrayed as a villain up until that point.
7. The Shrieking Shack
The rumor of The Shrieking Shack — an abandoned house in the village of Hogsmeade — being the most haunted building in Britain persisted for several years in the Harry Potter universe. However, it turned out that the building had only been built specifically to conceal Remus Lupin’s werewolf transformations. The major surprise contained here is that the shack, seemingly only accessible from the town of Hogsmeade, had a secret entrance from the Hogwarts grounds. The entrance to the shack was through The Whomping Willow, a violent tree that had been planted specifically to safeguard this entrance. Harry and Ron had encountered the Whomping Willow in The Chamber of Secrets and had never imagined it to be hiding anything more than a violent temper. However, Harry, Ron, and Hermione later discover that the Willow can be temporarily frozen and entered into, proving that the Shrieking Shack was never actually haunted in the process.
6. Professor Quirrell and the Philosopher’s Stone
The reveal of the seemingly innocent Professor Quirrel’s true intentions was the first big twist of the series, as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone frequently presented Severus Snape as the villain attempting to steal the titular Stone. When Harry briefly sees a man in a hood deep within the Forbidden Forest, he believes Lord Voldemort himself is after the Philosopher’s Stone. Tackling multiple obstacles in order to attain the Stone, Harry enters the final dungeon expecting to see a combination of Snape and Voldemort only to be shocked when he finds Professor Quirrell waiting for him. The shy, mumbling professor had never been viewed as sinister and was the first of many major surprises that readers would discover. Quirrell was in fact acting under the direct guidance of Lord Voldemort, who occupied the back of his head and shared his turban. The novels would continue the tradition of grand surprises at the conclusion of each year, yet it is this iconic moment that started it all.
5. The Triwizard Cup Is A Portkey
The fourth Harry Potter installment, The Goblet of Fire, is filled with multiple twists and surprises which mostly revolve around the inclusion of the infamous Triwizard Tournament. This dangerous tournament was reopened and hosted at Hogwarts for the first time in centuries, where Harry’s inclusion presented a large source of mystery. The entirety of the tournament led into the final task, where the first person to touch the Triwizard Cup in the center of a giant maze would officially win the tournament. After a hotly-contested event in which Harry and Cedric Diggory decide to share the title, the two young adults touch the Cup together only to be transported away from Hogwarts. The cup was in fact a portkey, as someone within Hogwarts had sabotaged the tournament and had been plotting Harry’s demise the entire way through. The portkey led to a graveyard where Harry would be forced to watch Cedric be murdered and come face-to-face with Lord Voldemort.
4. Snape Kills Dumbledore
Had the series concluded with The Half-Blood Prince, this entry would surely top the list of Harry Potter’s greatest surprises. Although the later revelation of Snape’s true intentions makes this moment less shocking in hindsight, the impact it made upon readers initially cements its inclusion here. Harry had always doubted Snape’s intentions and constantly warned Dumbledore not to trust the man. During this novel in particular, Harry becomes increasingly worried that Snape is aiding Draco Malfoy with a Death Eater task. With Dumbledore constantly dismissing any doubt placed upon Snape, readers themselves became comforted and began to relax regarding Snape’s intentions. In addition, Dumbledore himself, always seen as practically immortal due to his genius wit and comforting aura, was never portrayed as an old frail man. When Dumbledore dies, the surprise is two-fold as the possibility of Dumbledore’s death had never really been considered a possibility and his death at the hands of Snape seemed far too brutal. This emotional surprise left many readers angry, tearful, and filled with sorrow.
3. Barty Crouch Jr.
When Mad-Eye Moody arrives on the scene to teach at Hogwarts during The Goblet of Fire, his eccentricities are presented in an endearing fashion and the character grows close to Harry. He comes to Harry’s aid on multiple occasions and even helps intimidate Harry’s rival Draco Malfoy, who had been planning to assault Harry. Moody is a soothing force that is viewed as a strong and powerful presence. The ultimate reveal that Moody had actually been impersonated by a Death Eater named Barty Crouch Jr. the entire time ranks among the greatest twists the series has ever produced. Firstly, Crouch Jr. was presented as a deceased character. Secondly, the impersonation having taken place with the aid of polyjuice potion is fitting as Harry, Ron, and Hermione had experimented with the shape-distorting potion two years prior. The reveal made sense entirely, yet was so intricate and well-hidden that nobody saw it coming.
2. Harry is a Horcrux
All the strange connections between Harry and Voldemort were explained with this seemingly-obvious final twist at the conclusion of The Deathly Hallows. However, few were able to piece it together ahead of time, as the revelation was simply too shocking to be processed properly. Lord Voldemort had separated his soul into several pieces (called horcruxes) with his final piece residing in Harry as the accidental horcrux he never knew existed. When his killing curse backfired on the baby Harry, a piece of Voldemort’s soul latched onto the only living thing in the room. This event would give Harry the ability to talk to snakes and forge the intricate connection between the two. This would cause Harry to realize he must destroy himself, which allows him to cheat death one last time during his quest to take down Voldemort. Sure, the whole thing edges a bit too far into deus ex machina territory, but it’s still one of the biggest surprises in the entire series.
1. Snape’s Love for Lily Potter
The most shocking reveal of all is without a doubt the fact that Severus Snape was a hero all along. Excuses were made along the way regarding his behavior and attitude; however at the conclusion of the sixth novel, with his murder of Albus Dumbledore, Snape seemingly would never be forgiven. During a series of memories presented to Harry as Snape is dying, it is learned that Snape had an undying love for Harry’s mother, Lily, and had been protecting Harry throughout his life. Snape had known Lily prior to their admittance to Hogwarts, had remained close friends despite residing in rival houses, and he had always loved her. His path to join the Death Eaters and his revolting treatment of muggles and mudbloods caused Lily to shun him late in their school years, but Snape always loved her and continued to protect her only son. Snape was in fact a hero who killed Dumbledore on the latter’s own orders. Snape had fooled Voldemort into believing he was his most trusting servant and had also fooled readers in the process.