English author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter children’s literature series was a worldwide phenomenon the likes of which had scarcely been seen before. And even now, more than 20 years after the first novel was published, fans are still finding fascinating or touching little details tucked away in both the books and the subsequent movies. In 2016 some particularly smart Potterheads discovered a hither-to hidden connection between Harry Potter and his wizard comrade Neville Longbottom. And it was material evidence of the characters’ similar heritage and shared destiny.
No-one, not even J.K. Rowling herself, could have predicted the massive success of Harry Potter. The British writer, far from a billionaire back then, came up with the initial story while on a long train ride and, over the next few years, she embellished on it as she got it down on paper. And even as Rowling’s personal circumstances turned out to be less than magical at this point in her life, the would-be author persisted with the fantastical tale of the boy wizard.
And thank goodness she did. When the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997, it met with an amazing and immediate critical acclaim. Following a publishing sensation, the sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, did likewise, and in 1998 Rowling sold the film rights to the books to Warner Bros. The titles were turned into movies starring Daniel Radcliffe as the titular hero. The series built and built into an unstoppable film franchise, attracting some fanatical fans who were utterly devoted to the creation.
Harry Potter’s story eventually came to a temporary conclusion with the seventh novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. In the book – spoiler alert! – Harry defeats the evil Lord Voldemort with the help of young Neville Longbottom. Fans reveled in the Battle of Hogwarts, which saw many beloved characters die, before the final pages saw a happy ending achieved. Nevertheless, it was utterly devastating for Potterheads.
After the two-part film success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2010, Rowling set to work expanding the Potterverse. In 2016 she co-created a sequel for the theater, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which followed the adventure’s of Harry’s youngest son, Albus. And later that year, hot on the heels of the stage play, came the prequel movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
But as well as generating reams of content for stage and screen, Rowling nevertheless still found time for her obsessive fan base. She continued to take time out to answer Potterhead questions on her Twitter feed, every now and again revealing a new piece of lore from the magical universe she had conjured up. The author would even apologize on a frequent basis for killing off much-loved characters. Over the years, Rowling explained the finer aspects of wizarding society, such as how Hogwarts worked with regard to fees and whether Severus Snape was a vampire or not. Another spoiler alert – he was no such thing.
In fact, it was this sharing attitude which saw Rowling establish a wizard website called Pottermore in 2011. It was a massive resource dedicated to all things Harry Potter and featured new material and fun facts written by the author herself. By this point in the saga, it almost seemed like there was barely anything left to discover about the young wizard and his world. But of course there was, and it would be quite magical.
In 2016 a fan theory about an aspect of the movies began to spread around the internet. The online speculation involved Harry, his good friend Neville – played on screen by English actor Matthew Lewis – and their respective fathers, James Potter and Frank Longbottom. In the books, both dads had met dastardly fates. James and his wife, Lily Potter, were murdered by arch-villain Voldemort, while Frank and his spouse, Alice, were driven mad after being tortured by the Dark Lord’s horrible henchwoman, Bellatrix Lestrange.
Nonetheless, one theory had it that the deceased James and the deranged Frank were both present at the climactic Battle of Hogwarts, by way of the symbolic costume choices of their sons. In an earlier movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a picture was shown of the titular organization grouped together. And James Potter, portrayed by English actor Adrian Rawlins, and Frank Longbottom, played by fellow Englishman James Payton, were both in the line up.
Indeed, it is often mentioned in the books and films that Harry looks a lot like his father, but the resemblance between them is even more striking in the photograph. James is wearing a dark-colored coat over an open jacket and shirt, exactly like the outfit Harry is wearing when he faces down Lord Voldemort for the last time.
And this father-son similarity is echoed with Neville and Frank Longbottom. The two men appear very much alike in appearance – both a bit awkward and slightly nerdy. Also, in the Order picture, Frank is sporting a patterned sweater with a light-colored shirt underneath – an ensemble eerily similar to the one Neville wears when he displays true bravery during the Battle of Hogwarts.
The discovery of this particular “Easter egg” had many Potter fans worldwide reaching for the tissues. As if the devastating Battle of Hogwarts scenes had not been emotionally hard enough for them already. About the time of the relative-related revelation, in September 2016, online women’s magazine Bustle summed up he situation. Freelance writer Kristian Wilson declared, “The folks in the Warner Bros. wardrobe department should be ashamed at all the feelings we’re having right now.”
But if they were looking for someone specific to blame, the website should have pointed the finger at Jany Temime, the costume designer on the last six of the eight Potter films. The French wardrobe woman’s skills are much sought after in Hollywood – she has also worked on huge movie hits such as Gravity and Passengers. From 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban onwards, it has been Temime who has dressed Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all the witches and wizards of their universe.
In a 2017 interview with In Style fashion magazine, Temime talked a bit about how she had made the Potterverse plausible through apparel. “I thought that [the characters] should look normal, that they should look like normal kids. I wanted a real feel,” the designer said. That is probably why Harry, Neville and the gang look like people you could easily pass on the street. Temime added, “I wanted to make Harry Potter not a little story that you read in bed but something real.”
Temime was also asked by the magazine why she thought the Harry Potter film series was so beloved. “Because they are excellent,” she replied. “They have a mix of something magical but also something very grounded. And the films were extremely well made with a lot of attention to detail.” A statement which probably had Potterheads everywhere waving their wands in absolute agreement.
But the small detail about Harry and Neville dressing like their fathers adds something big to the story. Throughout the unfolding Potter saga, much is made of the two boys having a special connection. Both were targeted by Lord Voldemort, with Harry and not Neville ending up being the one chosen to defeat the Dark Lord.
In fact, the Harry and Neville characters also had plenty of other things in common. Both boys grew up without parents and were mistreated by the people who subsequently took them in. Both were bullied by Professor Snape and antagonist pupil Draco Malfoy, and each of the friends grew to doubt their own abilities more and more. But, nonetheless, both Harry and Neville became heroes and leaders, and with their combined skills they put an end to Lord Voldemort.
And Kristian Wilson at Bustle explained just why it was so important to see Harry and Neville looking so much like their fathers as they fought the final fight. “Only by refusing to back down or switch sides, and by defeating the Dark Lord once and for all, do the two boys successfully avenge their parents,” she wrote. “Dressing like their fathers is the visual representation of this, reminding us that things have come full circle, and that the fight is finally over.”
Of course, Daniel Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis do not look much like their fictional fathers anymore. Radcliffe is 28 now, and more likely to be sporting a beard than Harry Potter’s trademark glasses. And Lewis, who is the same age as his one-time co-star, has undergone an awesome transformation, turning from an extremely awkward teen into a very handsome man. But nevertheless, newcomers to the Potterverse should still have no trouble believing in the family links between their characters and those in the Order of the Phoenix photo.
But will there be more hidden Harry Potter revelations to come? – almost certainly. The sequel to the prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, will be The Crimes of Grindelwald, and the film should hit cinemas in time for Christmas 2018. And Potterheads will be gifted the opportunity to scour the big screen for more lurking lightening bolts to further illuminate their beloved franchise.