May 19, 2024

Interesting Things to Know About the Professors

  • The Hogwarts professors are a big part of “Harry Potter,” but fans don’t know much about them. 
  • Facts about their childhoods and personal lives have been revealed since the books were published.
  • Some of the characters, like Hagrid and Gilderoy Lockhart, were inspired by real people.

The professors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are an exceptionally eccentric cast of characters.

But readers and viewers of the “Harry Potter” series don’t learn much about their lives.

Prior to using her platform to spread transphobic messages, the series’ controversial author J.K. Rowling was known to use Twitter, interviews, and the official Wizarding World website to expand the “Harry Potter” canon by sharing new information about characters and plotlines beyond the seven books. 

With all of that content in mind, here are some little-known facts about the Hogwarts professors.

Umbridge and McGonagall are both half-bloods

mcgonagall umbridge harry potter

Both professors have a parent who wasn’t a witch or wizard.

Warner Bros.

Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration professor, and Dolores Umbridge, one of the Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, are both half-bloods.

McGonagall is the daughter of a Muggle minister, who knew nothing of his wife’s abilities until their daughter started showing magical signs of her own.

Umbridge is also a half-blood, but she was embarrassed and enraged by that fact.

She grew to hate her Muggle mother — and all other Muggles — which led to some of her crueler behavior as an adult. 

The Sorting Hat didn’t know where to put McGonagall

Harry Potter Minerva McGonagall

Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall.

Warner Bros. Pictures

First years at Hogwarts are separated into one of four houses — Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin — by an enchanted Sorting Hat.

Every once in a while, however, the seemingly omniscient hat gets stumped.

When McGonagall was being sorted as a child, the hat took more than five minutes to determine her house — which is known as a “Hatstall,” according to Wizarding World. 

Eventually, McGonagall was sorted into Gryffindor, where she would later become a prefect, head girl, and head of house. The Sorting Hat almost placed her in Ravenclaw. 

Outside of Hogwarts, McGonagall’s life was full of heartbreak

McGonagall harry potter

Professor McGonagall had a life outside of Hogwarts.

Warner Bros.

In 2015, Rowling elaborated on McGonagall’s life outside of school in a feature on Pottermore (now Wizarding World).

Her first love was a Muggle boy named Dougal McGregor. He proposed to her at 18, but the marriage never came to be, even though she never truly stopped loving him. 

Later, she married her much older, former boss from the Ministry of Magic, Elphinstone Urquart.

This relationship was also doomed to fail, as Elphinstone died tragically only three years into the marriage.

McGonagall never remarried or found love again that we know of. 

Multiple Hogwarts professors received the Order of Merlin honorary

The Order of Merlin (O.M.) is awarded to witches or wizards who’ve performed extraordinary acts of bravery.

At least three different Hogwarts professors received the award: McGonagall, Remus Lupin, and Gilderoy Lockhart.

Rowling revealed in “Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies” that Professor McGonagall received an O.M. First Class, the highest honor, for her allegiance to the Order of the Phoenix and bravery during the Battle of Hogwarts. 

Remus Lupin was posthumously given the same award after his death during the Battle of Hogwarts. He was notably the first werewolf to be given the honor. 

Fans also learned in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” that Gilderoy Lockhart received an O.M. Third Class for his supposed work battling dark creatures.

It was later uncovered that he lied about all of his achievements. 

Professor Flitwick was a dueling champion in his youth

Flitwick Harry Potter Warwick Davis

Professor Flitwick had two different looks throughout the film series.

Warner Bros.

Fans know Filius Flitwick as the endearing Charms professor at Hogwarts. But in “Chamber of Secrets,” Hermione pointed out that he was a champion dueler in his youth.

The Battle of Hogwarts was the first time in the series that those skills were really put to the test, and Flitwick successfully defeated multiple Death Eaters, including Yaxley and Dolohov.

The Charms professor was also a distant descendant of goblins

flitwick harry potter

Warwick Davis as Professor Flitwick.

Warner Bros.

Throughout the books, there are several references to Professor Flitwick’s short stature, but the reason for his lack of height was never revealed.

On her official website, Rowling later wrote that Flitwick had a “dash of goblin ancestry — something like a great, great, great grandfather.”

Flitwick was played by renowned actor Warwick Davis in the films, who coincidentally also played Griphook the Goblin for part of the series. 

The one creature Hagrid can’t care for is a cat


Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid.

Warner Bros. Pictures

From giant spiders to fire-breathing dragons, it may seem as though there isn’t a creature alive Hagrid can’t love. But it turns out there’s one fairly common animal he simply can’t be around: cats. 

In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Hagrid explained in Diagon Alley that he chose an owl for Harry’s pet because cats “make him sneeze.”

Wizarding World confirmed on Twitter in 2018 that the half-giant is allergic to the feline animal, which may also explain his particular disdain for Argus Filch’s cat, Mrs. Norris.

Hagrid can’t cast a Patronus

Hagrid has many magical skills — most notably, caring for magical creatures — but Rowling shared on Twitter in 2015 that Hagrid could never cast a Patronus.

This may be due to the fact that he was expelled from Hogwarts during his third year, after being wrongly blamed for the death of Myrtle Warren.

Trelawney and McGonagall were purposefully polar opposites

trelawney and mcgonagall

Emma Thompson and Maggie Smith in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

Warner Bros.

According to Wizarding World, Divination professor Sybill Trelawney is “manipulative and grandiose,” whereas McGonagall is “fiercely intelligent, stern and upright.”

In that way, Rowling created the characters as polar opposites of each other, which the books focused on more than the films.

The only thing able to bring them both together was a united fight against Dolores Umbridge, who tried to ruin the school they cared so much about.

Professor Trelawney’s name came from an old song

Trelwaney Harry Potter

Emma Thompson in “Harry Potter.”

Warner Bros. Pictures

According to Rowling, the name Trelawney comes from the old Cornish tune “The Song of the Western Men.”

Additionally, Sybill is a take on the name “Sibyl,” an ancient clairvoyant.

Professor Binns died at Hogwarts

Though never seen in the films, Cuthbert Binns was the History of Magic professor at Hogwarts.

After dying in the staff room at the school, Binns’ ghost continued right on teaching (supposedly boring) lessons to his students. 

The Hogwarts community never got the chance to morn for Charity Burbage 

Charity Burbage was a Muggle Studies professor who was murdered by Lord Voldemort for her sympathetic views of non-wizards. 

In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” she was kidnapped and brought to Malfoy Manor where Voldemort tortured and killed her.

But since the Death Eaters had control over Hogwarts and the Ministry at the time, the public was told that she abruptly resigned and was in hiding.

The community never got the chance to mourn the loss of the professor in the lead up to the great Battle of Hogwarts. 

Professors Sprout and McGonagall were close friends as students

It can be hard to imagine the Hogwarts professors in their youth, but thanks to some of the author’s additional writing on Pottermore, we know that McGonagall and Sprout were at Hogwarts at the same time. 

They overlapped for two years of school and formed a great friendship — which continued when they both returned to the school to teach.  

Professor Sprout got crafty to take care of her plants

professor sprout harry potter

Miriam Margolyes as Professor Sprout.

Warner Bros.

Fans know that Pomona Sprout was patient and encouraging with struggling students like Neville Longbottom, but she was also attentive to the many plants she kept in the greenhouse at Hogwarts. 

The Herbology professor went so far as to fashion little scarves and socks for the mandrakes — magical plants that start out looking like human babies — so they wouldn’t freeze in the long winter months. 

Before teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, Quirinus Quirrell was the Muggle Studies professor

Professor Quirrell Harry Potter

Ian Hart as Professor Quirrell.

Warner Bros. Pictures

When readers first encounter Quirinus Quirrell in “Sorcerer’s Stone,” he’s introduced as Harry’s Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. But before that year, he actually taught Muggle Studies. 

Having always been fascinated with the Dark Arts, Quirrell took a sabbatical from Hogwarts to search Albania for the remains of Voldemort.

When he found him, the Dark Lord used his body as a host in order to get into Hogwarts and successfully lobbied for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position.

Dumbledore hired Lockhart because he wanted to expose him as a fraud

Gilderoy Lockhart

Kenneth Branagh played Professor Lockhart.

Warner Bros.

Although certainly one of the worse Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, Gilderoy Lockhart was at least entertaining, with countless (stolen) stories of his heroic acts. 

Fans may wonder why Dumbledore hired him in the first place. And according to a feature written for Pottermore in 2015, the headmaster was hoping that he would be able to expose Lockhart as the charlatan he was.

The attack that turned Remus Lupin into a werewolf was a revenge plot

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David Thewlis as Professor Lupin.

Warner Bros.

Remus Lupin, one of the most competent and beloved Defense Against the Dark Arts professors at Hogwarts, was revealed to be a werewolf during the climax of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

In a 2015 feature on Pottermore, Rowling wrote that the attack that turned him was actually part of a revenge plot against his father, Lyall. 

When Remus was a child, Lyall attempted to prove to the Ministry of Magic that Fenrir Greyback was a werewolf.

The wizard wasn’t able to convince the governing body, but Greyback still sought revenge by breaking into the Lupin residence and attacking Lyall’s 5-year-old son.

Lupin was cautious to reveal his corporeal Patronus

Because of the stigma around werewolves, Lupin went to great lengths to hide what he referred to as his “condition.”

Remus even hid his Patronus, which naturally took the form of a wolf, whenever he could. 

Fans may recall that each time he cast a Patronus in “Prisoner of Azkaban,” it was described only as a non-corporeal beam of light. 

Alastor Moody lost an eye and a leg for the cause

mad eye lastor moody

Brendan Gleeson played Professor Moody.

Warner Bros.

Although the real Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody was never a professor — Barty Crouch Jr. merely impersonated him throughout Harry’s fourth year — his physical form still intimidated many Hogwarts students.

Throughout his time as a member of the Order of the Phoenix during the First Wizarding War and as an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, the fearless wizard lost both an eye and a leg.

By the time Harry met him, he replaced the former with a magical eye and the latter with a wooden peg. 

The Dementor attack on Harry and Dudley was orchestrated by Umbridge

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” opens with a Dementor attack on Harry and Dudley near the Dursley residence in Surrey, forcing Harry to cast a Patronus spell outside of school.

It’s highly illegal to use underage magic outside of Hogwarts, so Harry was subjected to a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic. 

Umbridge, who would soon be named Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, accused Harry of lying about the incident. But fans later found out that it was Umbridge herself who sent the Dementors to attack the young wizard.

Madam Hooch and Professor Quirrell weren’t given first names in the books

The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and the flying instructor/quidditch referee were referred to several times, primarily in the first half of the series.

But readers won’t find their first names in the books. 

The forenames Quirinus and Rolanda, respectively, first appeared in 2001 as part of the Harry Potter Trading Card Game, which wasn’t officially canon. 

Rowling later confirmed Quirrell’s first name on Pottermore, but Madam Hooch’s name remains unconfirmed, with some other sources referring to her as Xiomara.

Umbridge, Hagrid, and Lockhart were all loosely based on real people 


Imelda Staunton as Professor Umbridge.

Warner Bros.

Rowling drew inspiration from a variety of sources when naming and creating the characters for “Harry Potter” — including her own life.

In 2015, she wrote on Pottermore that Dolores Umbridge was inspired by a teacher she had “intensely disliked on sight.” She particularly thought of this teacher when writing Umbridge’s interest in girly, pink accessories. 

In a 2004 interview with the Edinburgh Book Festival, the author shared that Gilderoy Lockhart was also based on a real person, though she was careful not to give specifics.

Hagrid, too, was supposedly inspired by a Hell’s Angel biker Rowling knew, according to “Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey.”

This story was originally published on February 13, 2021, and most recently updated on August 1, 2023. 

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