After reading the Harry Potter books, we all patiently waited years and years for our own Hogwarts letter to come tumbling out of the fireplace. So far, we’re still waiting.
But even if you had somehow managed to swing an invite, there’s no guarantee you would have survived your time at Hogwarts anyway – and we’re not saying that because of Lord Voldemort.
Hogwarts was just SO dangerous!
Not even taking into consideration the fact that every student at Hogwarts was carrying an actual weapon at all times, the school itself was a bit of a deathtrap.
Here are the weirdest things a bunch of first-years had to deal with in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, specifically. (We don’t even need to get into the fact that a signed permission slip was needed for a visit to Hogsmeade in the third year, but competition in the Triwizard Tournament has a fallible magical vetting process…)
An almost-sentient building that seemed to find joy in confusing the student populace
Even the things that were considered to be a normal part of student life at Hogwarts were, shall we say, design flaws.
There were the staircases that led somewhere different on a Friday, or featured dangerous vanishing steps that students had to remember to jump. Solid walls pretended to be doors, and entrances were guarded by belligerent talking paintings that you had to sometimes negotiate with just to get through.
And then there were the ghosts. While Nearly Headless Nick was polite to first-years, and the Bloody Baron imperiously avoided non-Slytherin students, some – like Peeves the poltergeist – were a downright menace. Peeves went around throwing things at students and pulling rugs from under their feet, for crying out loud. Meanwhile, Muggle children get scared of ghost stories. Kids, you have no idea.
Detention was hunting a unicorn-killing beast in a malevolent forest
The Forbidden Forest was pretty self-explanatory, and lived up to its name. This was probably because it was filled with a range of hostile and incredibly dangerous creatures, such as giant spiders, centaurs and werewolves. Thank goodness it was forbidden, right guys?
Forbidden, that is, unless you were ordered to go into the Forbidden Forest after dark – for detention. For detention. PS: there were people out there drinking the blood of dead unicorns. Better try harder in class next time, kids!
Vicious, magical cannonballs that wanted to whack you in the face
While first years didn’t usually play for their house Quidditch team (Harry being a notable exception, and the youngest player in a century), they still had Quidditch lessons with Madam Hooch to familiarise themselves with broomsticks. And, as Neville proved in his first lesson, not every student has the necessary skillset to keep control of a broom, and could fly off into oblivion at a moment’s notice.
Harry, who did get to play actual Quidditch, got the added danger bonus of trying to avoid vicious Bludgers whizzing around trying to whack people in the face. Yeah, yeah, we know Muggle footballers can end up with a few scrapes too, but need we remind you that in this circumstance, people were approximately 50 feet in the air on a pile of twigs magicked together?
A giant three-headed dog hung around school property
When Dumbledore said to the first-years: ‘The third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death,’ Harry thought the Headmaster was joking.
Because, you know, it seemed like a really safe idea to keep a giant, famished, three-headed dog on campus where pre-teens might stumble into its gaping maw(s). Fun fact: three heads means three times as many mouths to eat students with.
Given that this was a school where staircases frequently changed direction, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that students might have found themselves accidentally wandering to the third-floor corridor – which is exactly what Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville did.
The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher with a Dark wizard in the back of his head
On the one hand, nobody knew that Professor Quirrell had Voldemort hanging out on the back of his head.
On the larger, more significant hand – perhaps a hand that has been hit with an Engorgement Charm – maybe there should have been some sort of vetting process to make sure that this didn’t happen? Even if it was just a quick, ‘Hey, have you been feeling particularly Voldemort-ish recently?’ question during the job interview.
And let’s not forget about everything else, such as a giant troll set loose on school property, for example. Or a tree on school grounds that whomps students. And we’ve not even got to Chamber of Secrets yet, where a giant, murderous snake was set loose inside the school’s pipes. Not horrifically scarring in the slightest!
It’s a miracle any of the first-years survived in Philosopher’s Stone, really. Particularly Seamus Finnigan.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, every Friday Pottermore will explore themes, moments, characters and much more from the very first Harry Potter story. Next week we look at how Philosopher's Stone tackled bullying.