Things You Didn't Know About Famous Wizarding Families From 'Harry Potter'
Magical families are no different from Muggle ones: messy, complex, beloved, and perhaps a bit dysfunctional. In the Harry Potter books and films, wizarding families with histories that in some cases go back centuries are a key part of J.K. Rowling's fictional world. Whether they are Voldemort devotees obsessed with power and "pure" blood (i.e., sans Muggle DNA) or fierce defenders of what is right, the famed wizarding families of Harry Potter stick together in their cruelty or kindness.
Although through seven books and eight movies, fans learn a great deal about the Weasleys, Malfoys, Blacks, Lestranges, Gaunts, Longbottoms, and other wizarding clans, those who haven't read the books might be missing out on some fascinating family facts, and even those who have read the books might be surprised to learn some of the additional details Rowling has shared over the years.
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The Longbottoms Were A Pure-Blood Family With A Ton Of Heart And CouragePhoto: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 / Warner Bros. Pictures
Throughout the Harry Potter film series, and to some extent in the books, Neville Longbottom is at first a source of laughter, a bumbling, forgetful, simple-minded young wizard often made fun of by other students. He eventually proves himself a true Gryffindor: incredibly brave as he stands up to Voldemort's followers after they take over Hogwarts, and again when he defiantly faces the Dark Lord at the end and slays Nagini the snake.
Although the rest of Neville's family members are mentioned in the films, the books feature more details about them - and they are a truly courageous, good-hearted bunch. The Longbottoms are among the "Sacred Twenty-Eight" wizarding families labeled "pure-bloods," but unlike the many Voldemort followers who are part of this same group, they don't have contempt for Muggles or Half-bloods.
Neville's parents, Frank and Alice Longbottom, were well-respected Aurors when Bellatrix Lestrange and her cohorts used the Cruciatus Curse to make them go insane. Not shown in the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie is the visit to St. Mungo's Hospital where Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys run into Neville visiting his parents on Christmas with his grandmother, who raised him. Neville is awkward and embarrassed, but his grandmother, Augusta Longbottom (mostly made fun of in the films as a formidable disciplinarian with fussy clothing), shows her fierce dignity and loyalty when she tells him:
Well, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and their sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!
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The Malfoy Family Was Rich In Part Because Of Money Obtained From MugglesPhoto: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 / Warner Bros. Pictures
The contemporary batches of Malfoys disdain anything or anyone related to Muggles, but their early ancestors wouldn't have become wealthy without access to Muggle land, currency, art, and other shiny, expensive, income-generating assets. The land where Malfoy Manor stands, for example, belonged to Muggles before William the Conqueror plundered it and gave it to Armand Malfoy as a prize for helping him out.
The Malfoys continued to generate riches by courting royals and acquiring more Muggle lands over the years, along with cash and other treasures. They eventually turned on Muggles and preached pure-blood supremacy, but by then they had amassed a fortune.
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Some Black Family Members Are Named After ConstellationsPhoto: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban / Warner Bros. Pictures
Several members of the House of Black have fitting names inspired by the stars.
Sirius Black's name has a double meaning. "Sirius" is the brightest star in the night sky, with a luminosity 25.4 times greater than the sun's. The name is derived from the Greek "Seirios," which translates to "scorching" or "the scorcher." Sirius Black indeed had a fiery personality, but was filled with light as well because he fought for the greater good. Sirius (the star) is also called the "Dog Star," which is appropriate for Sirius (the wizard) because his animagus was a dog.
Sirius's brother is named after the brightest star in the Leo constellation, Regulus, also known as Alpha Leonis, associated with lions. In Arabic, the star is Qalb al-Asad, which translates to "lion's heart." Regulus, who started out as a Voldemort follower but eventually defied him, then drank poison and saved the life of a house-elf, could be described as having the heart and courage of a lion.
Bellatrix Lestrange (born Bellatrix Black) is named for the third brightest star in the Orion constellation; the name means "female warrior" in Latin. Bellatrix (the star) is part of Orion's shoulder, which fits Bellatrix (the witch) because she's one of Voldemort's top supporters. The star also varies in size and brightness; Bellatrix too is extremely mentally unstable.
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J.K. Rowling Gave The Weasleys Red Hair And Named Them After Weasels Because Those Two Things Are Associated With Bad LuckPhoto: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix / Warner Bros. Pictures
Weasels, of the mammal family Mustelidae, are metaphorically considered treacherous creatures, which doesn't seem to fit the Weasley family. J.K. Rowling wrote on her personal website that the family's name indeed comes from the weasel, but more so because of the animal's association with bad luck, which the Weasleys seem to run into often.
Redheads are associated with bad luck as well, and although Rowling dismisses that notion as a fallacy, it made sense to give the unlucky Weasleys red hair to go with their name. But in the end, she's partial to both weasels and fiery hair:
In Britain and Ireland the weasel has a bad reputation as an unfortunate, even malevolent, animal. However, since childhood I have had a great fondness for the family mustelidae; not so much malignant as maligned, in my opinion. There are also many superstitions associated with redheaded people and most state that they are in some way unlucky (Judas Escariot was supposedly red-haired), but this is nonsense; I happen to like red hair as well as weasels.
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Ginny Weasley Was The First Girl In Many Generations To Be Born In Her FamilyPhoto: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets / Warner Bros. Pictures
The Y chromosome is strong in the Weasley family lineage. Ginny, the youngest of seven Weasley children, is the only girl sibling. According to J.K. Rowling, she is also “the first girl to be born into the Weasley clan for several generations.”
Ginny’s father, Arthur Weasley, was one of three brothers. The male dominance ended, however, in the next generation. Ginny and her siblings, when they married, had several girls, including Ginny and Harry's daughter Lily.
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The Malfoys Avoided Prison After Voldemort’s DefeatPhoto: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 / Warner Bros. Pictures
In the films, right after Voldemort's defeat at Hogwarts, Draco, Lucius, and Narcissa Malfoy slink off together looking worn and weary. In the books, Harry sees them "huddled together as though unsure whether or not they were supposed to be there, but nobody was paying them any attention." So what actually happened to them? Did they land in Azkaban for their misdeeds?
According to J.K. Rowling in a 2007 Bloomsbury.com online chat, they managed to escape such a punishing fate: "The Malfoys weaseled their way out of trouble (again) due to the fact that they colluded (albeit out of self-interest) with Harry at the end of the battle," she said, referring to Narcissa's lie to Voldemort about Harry not being alive in the forest so she could save Draco.
Lucius, not nearly so parentally noble, might still seem like a candidate for lockdown, but according to Rowling, he "evaded prison by providing evidence against fellow Death Eaters."