Quick Look: Hidden Details in Harry Potter

Continuing my bout of rereading the Harry Potter series, I’ve noticed again the details that were invisible to me on m first trek through. Little things that not only make Rowling’s world rich and real, but prove that she wasn’t making this series up as she went — everything was planned.

Just finishing (re-finishing?) The Half-Blood Prince, the main thing that popped out was the Horcruxes, and the fact that Harry finds one without even realizing it when he tries to hide his book in the Room of Requirement.

Would he be able to find this spot again amidst all this junk? Seizing the chipped bust of an ugly old warlock from on top of a nearby crate, he stood it on top of the cupboard where the book was now hidden, perched a dusty old wig and a tarnished tiara on the statue’s head to make it more distinctive, then sprinted back through the alleyways of hidden junk as fast as he could go…

Rowling includes so much detail in this paragraph, so the mention of a “tarnished tiara” hardly stands out. But, we learn towards the end of the seventh book that this is Ravenclaw’s tiara, and one of the Horcruxes Harry has to destroy. She tucks the detail in there so perfectly that no one but Rowling knows its importance, and also grants it the delightful feeling of an Easter Egg when us readers return to the story with our future knowledge.

I’ve never written anything meant to be a series (my current manuscript has potential for a sequel, but that’s different) and it’s only the daunting anxiety I have with world-building that gives me an idea of the forethought and planning that goes into story elements like this, ones you can’t go back and retroactively insert once earlier segments are published. It’s one reason why Rowling is a master, and one reason why returning to her books is a delightful journey–and teaching experience–for me.