• Poll badge

Here's The One Thing I've Never Understood About Harry Potter

It's been 20 years, and I'm finally speaking out on this issue.

HELLO. My name's Ellie and I'm obsessed with Harry Potter to the point that it's actually a bit ridiculous.

I pride myself on my Harry Potter knowledge. When a friend or colleague has a question about Harry Potter, they come to me for the answer. I am, to be honest, an insufferable know-it-all.

But I just finished my millionth* reread of the entire series and I am truly ashamed to say that there's one element of Harry Potter that I JUST. DON'T. UNDERSTAND.


I understand that we're supposed to accept the portraits move, but my issue begins with the fact that the subjects of the portraits are able to move between pictures.

Basically: I have questions.

So, we're accepting that the subjects of Hogwarts' portraits are able to move into other portraits. But what on earth does that look like from their point of view?

And what's to stop the people in the portraits just leaving their frame empty for good, and completely moving into another landscape they like better?

When the Fat Lady's portrait gets slashed in Prisoner of Azkaban, she runs to another portrait for safety, but what if she hadn't? Would she have died? Or been injured?

Would she have had to go to a painting of a hospital to be fixed? IS THERE A PORTRAIT HOSPITAL WING? And did she just chill in a different painting while Filch patched up her canvas?

Then, when we get to Order of the Phoenix, we learn that not only can the subjects of the portraits move between pictures, but they can move between portraits of THEMSELVES in DIFFERENT BUILDINGS.

I have so many questions about this that I'm going to have to put them in a list, otherwise I'll explode.

We all know that after a Hogwarts headteacher dies, they have a portrait placed on the wall of their former office. But how ~exactly~ does this work?

If you can communicate with someone via a portrait even after they're dead, why doesn't everyone just paint portraits of their loved ones? Is it a case of them ~choosing~ that life, like ghosts?

Does the portrait have to be painted before the person dies for them to be able to move and speak within it? Or do you have to be a special ~kind~ of person for your presence to live on through a painting?

Look, I know what you're going to say. It's fiction! It's a children's book that is literally about a magic boy and his magic friends! Just deal with the inconsistencies!

But everything else in this world has a well thought-out explanation behind it, so I feel like THIS MUST TOO.

If you are J.K. Rowling and you have answers to any or all of these questions, please help me. I need to know. Thank you.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: According to some info on Pottermore dot com, portraits are only reflections of their subjects' dominant personality traits, and their ability to interact with people outside of the portrait depends on their magical skill.