- J.K. Rowling uses a lot of foreshadowing and callbacks into the “Harry Potter” book series.
- If you haven’t reread the books in a while, you may not have noticed many of these moments.
- From Snape’s early reference to Lily Potter to a hint about Malfoy’s vanishing cabinet and more, keep reading for a look at all the details you might have missed.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories
J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series contains brilliant threads of foreshadowing and smaller details about character backstories. If you’re a fan who hasn’t reread the books in a while, it’s possible that you overlooked many of Rowling’s planted hints and context clues.
Keep scrolling for a look at the best details in the “Harry Potter” books you might have missed.
The first words Snape speaks to Harry have a hidden reference to Lily Potter’s death.
When Harry attends his first potions lesson with Snape in “Sorcerer’s Stone,” the professor asks him a series of difficult questions. One of the questions is, “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
A Pottermore article detailing Rowling’s use of the Victorian language of flowers reveals how Snape’s question was really an expression of regret over Lily Potter’s death.
“Asphodel is a type of lily and means ‘remembered beyond the tomb’ or ‘my regrets follow you to the grave,’ while wormwood is often associated with regret or bitterness,” the Pottermore article explains.
When Fred and George Weasley bewitched snowballs to hit Professor Quirrell, they were really hitting Voldemort’s face.
In “Sorcerer’s Stone,” Rowling says the Weasley twins were “punished for bewitching several snowballs so that they followed Quirrell around, bouncing off the back of his turban.”
As several fans have pointed out in the “Harry Potter” Reddit community, Quirrell was sharing his body with Lord Voldemort at the time. Later in the book, Harry sees that Voldemort’s face is sticking out of the back of Quirrell’s head – which means Fred and George were actually hitting Voldemort in the face with snowballs.
Also in the first book, Harry thinks to himself that Snape might be able to read minds. Four books later, we learned that Snape was a Legilimens.
While fretting over whether or not Snape knew he, Ron, and Hermione had discovered who Nicolas Flamel was, Harry thinks to himself that Snape “could read minds.”
Later, in “Order of the Phoenix,” Rowling reveals that Snape is an accomplished Legilimens, meaning he sort of can read minds. Here’s how Snape describes Legilimency to Harry:
“Only Muggles talk of ‘mind reading.’ The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by any invader […] Those who have mastered Legilimency are able, under certain conditions, to delve into the minds of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly.”
Peeves was the one who broke the Vanishing Cabinet that Malfoy later repaired.
In “Chamber of Secrets,” Harry is about to be punished by Filch when Nearly Headless Nick persuades Peeves the Poltergeist to drop a cabinet right above the office.
Harry hears Filch talking to Mrs. Norris the cat saying that it was an extremely valuable Vanishing Cabinet. That cabinet later becomes a crucial part of the “Half-Blood Prince” plot. Malfoy has to repair the cabinet in order to sneak Death Eaters into Hogwarts.
When Harry wonders why Tom Riddle got an award from the school, Ron correctly (but jokingly) guesses the truth about him murdering Moaning Myrtle.
After discovering Tom Riddle’s diary, Ron tells Harry that Riddle received an award for special services to the school (Ron knows this because he had to clean the award in the trophy room during detention).
Ron jokingly says Riddle got the award for killing Moaning Myrtle.
“Maybe he got thirty O.W.L.s or saved a teacher from the giant squid,” Ron guesses. “Maybe he murdered Myrtle; that would have done everyone a favour.”
Little do they know at the time, but Riddle really was the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets 50 years ago and killed Myrtle. He recieved the award after framing Hagrid for the crime, though.
In “Prisoner of Azkaban,” Harry overhears a wizard saying Ireland are favourites for the Quidditch World Cup. In the next book, they win the Cup.
Towards the start of the third book, Harry spends time alone in Diagon Alley. While wondering the shops, he sees the Firebolt broomstick for the first time in a shop.
“Irish International Side’s just put in an order for seven of these beauties!” the proprietor of the shop told the crown. “And they’re favourites for the World Cup!”
The beginning of the next book, “Goblet of Fire,” is all about Harry journeying to the Quidditch World Cup and watching as the Irish team beats Bulgaria.
Dumbledore’s death was inadvertently predicted by Professor Trelawney during Christmas dinner in “Prisoner of Azkaban.”
When Trelawney enters the Great Hall and goes to join the table for dinner, she counts 12 people already sitting down.
“If I join the table, we shall be thirteen!” she says. “Nothing could be more unlucky! Never forget that when 13 dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die!”
But Trelawney (and the rest of the table) didn’t realise that 13 people were already dining. Peter Pettigrew, disguised as Scabbers the rat, was at the table.Dumbledore had stood up to greet Trelawney when she first entered the room, making him the real “first to rise” after 13 were dining.
He later becomes the first to die of all the people who were at that table.
At the end of “Prisoner of Azkaban,” Dumbledore hints at Professor Trelawney’s prophecy regarding Harry and Voldemort.
Harry experiences Trelawney making a prediction during his final Divination exam in his third year. When Harry asks Dumbledore if he thinks it was a real prediction, the headmaster says yes.
“Do you know, Harry, I think she might have been,” he said thoughtfully. “Who’d have thought it? That brings her total of real predictions up to two.”
The first real prediction Dumbledore is implicitly referring to is the one she made about Harry and Voldemort all those years ago (but we won’t learn about it until the fifth book).
At the beginning of “Goblet of Fire,” Voldemort tells Wormtail he’ll perform a task “many of [Voldemort’s] followers would give their right hand to perform” — and he meant it literally.
In the opening chapter of “Goblet of Fire,” the Muggle Frank Bryce overhears Voldemort discussing his plans with Wormtail.
“You will have your reward Wormtail,” Voldemort says. “I will allow you to perform an essential task for me, one that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform …”
Pettigrew doesn’t understand what Voldemort means by this until the end of the book. In order to bring Voldemort’s body back, Pettigrew needs to literally give his right hand to Voldemort, cutting it off and placing it in a potion (“flesh of the servant, willingly given”).
Professor Trelawney mistakenly guesses that Harry was born in “midwinter,” but she might have been picking up on the part of Voldemort inside him.
During one Divination lesson in “Goblet of Fire,” Trelawny tries to guess Harry’s birth month.
“Saturn was surely in a position of power in the heavens at the moment of your birth … Your dark hair,” she says. “Your mean stature … tragic losses so young in life … I think I am right in saying, my dear, that you were born in midwinter?”
We later learn, that Voldemort was born on December 31, precisely midwinter. Since Harry was a Horcrux, and contained a part of Voldemort’s soul, Trelawney might have just been interpreting the Voldemort part of Harry by mistake.
Even her description of “dark hair” and “tragic losses so young in life” match with Voldemort/Tom Riddle.
Harry and Ron made up fake predictions for Divination, but they all came true anyways.
While resorting to making up predictions for their Divination homework in “Goblet of Fire,” Harry and Ron take turns inventing tragedies.
“On Monday, I will be in danger of – er – burns,” Harry says.
Then he suggests that Ron can “lose a treasured possession.”
“Why don’t you get stabbed in the back by someone you thought was a friend?” Ron tells Harry.
Each of these actually comes true for Harry. He’s in danger of burns during the first task of the Triwizard tournament (when he faces a dragon), and then the second task is centered around him nearly losing his treasured friend, Ron.
As for being stabbed in the back, Ron’s temporary period of refusing to speak to Harry out of jealousy can be interpreted as being “stabbed in the back.”
The passcode to get into the Ministry of Magic spells out M-A-G-I-C on standard telephone buttons.
The Ministry of Magic visitor’s entrance is located in a London telephone booth. When Mr. Weasley takes Harry there, he dials the numbers six, two, four, four, and then two.
On a phone’s keypad, this also spells out the word “magic.”
In “The Half-Blood Prince,” Dumbledore mentions that he’s corresponded with Aunt Petunia, but we don’t learn about the letter she sent him until “The Deathly Hallows.”
When Dumbledore comes to the Dursley’s house to collect Harry and meeting Vernon and Petunia in person for the first time.
“We have corresponded, of course,” Dumbledore says to Petunia.
Harry thinks he’s referencing the Howler sent to Petunia by Dumbledore in “Order of the Phoenix,” but later we know he was speaking of a different letter.
When Harry sees Snape’s memories of young Petunia and Lily, we learn that Petunia sent Dumbledore a letter to ask if she could go to Hogwarts too. Dumbledore replied, kindly explaining why it was impossible because she wasn’t a witch, too.
Dumbledore explained Tonk’s struggles with her powers while discussing Merope Gaunt’s unrequited love for Tom Riddle.
Throughout “Half-Blood Prince,” Tonks is described as morose and having difficulty with her magical powers and ability to change her appearance at will. By the end of the book, we know this is because she is in love with Remus Lupin, but he wouldn’t be with her. But until then, Tonks’ behaviour is a mystery.
Halfway through the book, though, Rowling gave the reader a clue about what was going on. While telling Harry about Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle, he explained how magical powers can be hampered by heartbreak.
“It is also possible that her unrequited love and the attendant despair sapped her of her powers; that can happen,” Dumbledore tells Harry.
This explains Tonks’ predicament, even if readers don’t realise it at the time.
There are several clues leading up to the reveal that Aberforth Dumbledore is the barman at the Hog’s Head.
When Harry first enters the Hog’s Head in “Order of the Phoenix,” he mentions that it smells faintly of goats and that the bartender looks familiar. Aberforth is connected with goats through several anecdotes in the series.
Then, in “Half-Blood Prince,” we see Dumbledore’s memory of Voldemort coming to Hogwarts. When Dumbledore tells the young Voldemort that he knows the names of the Death Eaters waiting for him in Hogsmeade, Voldemort says he is “as omniscient as ever.”
“Oh no, merely friendly with the local barmen,” Dumbledore replies.
Later it becomes clear that Aberforth had tipped off his brother about the Death Eaters.
During the Battle of Hogwarts, Hermione repeats a line to Ron about forgetting he can do magic, and it’s a perfect callback to “Sorcerer’s Stone.”
As they dash to the Whomping Willow in order to find Voldemort, Harry, Ron, and Hermione come up short when they realise the tree’s branches are flailing. Ron spots the knot on the trunk that freezes when you press it.
“I can see the place,” Ron says. “If we just had Crookshanks again -“
“Crookshanks?” Hermione replies. “Are you a wizard, or what?”
This was a callback to the scene in “Sorcerer’s Stone” when Hermione needed fire in order to fight Devil’s Snare off Ron and Harry. She lamented that she doesn’t have any wood to start a fire.
“HAVE YOU GONE MAD?” Ron yelled at her. “ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?”
Last but not least, the dedication of “Deathly Hallows” is formatted into the shape of a lightning bolt.
If you’re like most “Harry Potter” readers, it was unlikely that you lingered on the dedication and table of contents when you first cracked open “Deathly Hallows.”
But as Redditor carsgobroom pointed out, Rowling organised her final dedication into the shape of Harry’s lightning bolt scar – a fitting final dedication to the hero of her story.
- Read more:
- 21 super difficult ‘Harry Potter’ trivia questions even die-hard fans have trouble with
- 16 actors you probably didn’t realise were in the ‘Harry Potter’ movies
- Here’s the real scientific meaning behind 13 ‘Harry Potter’ spells
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.