Joanne Rowling, better known to us all as "J.K." and to a few as "Robert Galbraith," came into the world exactly five decades ago this Friday. In her time on Earth, she's inspired a generation with a magical universe unlike anything we've had since the days of Tolkien.
Initially, this world was merely a series of books — each Harry Potter installment was impressive in its own right, and even more so as a group. Still, it was a story with a beginning and an end. Since that end, however, Rowling has made all sorts of additions to the Potter universe. She's written spin-off books, created Pottermore and slipped small bits of information to fans in interviews and on Twitter.
All told, the wizarding world looks far different now than it did when the book series ended in 2007. Here's how Rowling has changed the game — and expanded the universe further than we could have predicted when the first book debuted in 1997.
1. "Dumbledore is gay."
Rowling's biggest (or at least her most famous) off-the-cuff addendum was outing the Hogwarts headmaster as a gay man. "Dumbledore is gay," she said in 2007. This has been confusing to some fans who didn't think there was evidence in the book supporting his sexuality. Luckily, Rowling knows how to respond to that kind of thinking.
2. Hermione was, at one point, supposed to end up with Harry.
Did Hogwarts' top mind follow her heart to the wrong love? In an interview with Hermione herself, actress Emma Watson, Rowling revealed the witch winding up with Ron was "wish fulfillment," not because it made sense. "That's how it was conceived, really," she said at the time. "For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron."
3. We learned more about a wizarding world songstress.
Celestina Warbeck is the Shirley Bassey of the wizarding world, as Rowling envisioned her, but very little about her is mentioned in the Harry Potter books. Rowling gave her more of a biography on Pottermore in August 2014. Of particular note: Her mother was a Muggle and she was married twice, making her tabloid "fodder," according to Rowling.
4. There was a lot of background on Hogwarts' worst headmistress.
One of the big benefits of Rowling's post-series codas has been fleshing out the more villainous characters in the series. Such was the case when the author wrote a Pottermore story all about Order of the Phoenix antagonist Dolores Umbridge. That doesn't mean she was made warm and fuzzy, of course. "She is an immensely controlling person, and all who challenge her authority and world-view must, in her opinion, be punished," Rowling wrote at the time.
5. There's a lot more life story of Draco Malfoy.
Harry Potter's Hogwarts rival got a bit kinder treatment in his Pottermore story, mostly chalking up his antagonism to his father and his general privilege. Luckily, it seems he learned something, if not much. "I imagine that Draco grew up to lead a modified version of his father's existence; independently wealthy, without any need to work, Draco inhabits Malfoy Manor with his wife and son," she wrote.
6. Rowling clarified massive Hogwarts mysteries.
At times, Rowling has acted as something of a MythBusters just for Harry Potter. If fans tweet her mysteries about the wizarding world, she's happy to answer. Why wasn't the Horcrux inside Harry killed when the basilisk bit him in Chamber of Secrets? Because Harry wasn't destroyed! What happened to Fluffy, the three-headed dog from Sorcerer's Stone? He went to Greece! She's a walking encyclopedia — which makes sense, since she's the creator.
7. And she told us Hogwarts had gay students.
Dumbledore wasn't alone at Hogwarts! When asked if there were LGBT students at the school, Rowling's response was a simple "of course." She even threw in a fun meme to boot.
8. There's a lot more to the Dursleys.
The Dursleys were never fan-favorite characters in the Harry Potter books, but that didn't stop Rowling from fleshing them out a bit in recent Pottermore posts. Vernon Dursley, Harry's uncle, was never a fan of the boy's father. Petunia, his aunt, was supposed to have a change of heart, but Rowling reconsidered. Speaking of, why was Petunia named that? It's what Rowling used to name the "unpleasant characters" in games of imaginary characters with her childhood friends.
9. Hogwarts is free.
This one is a recent revelation — and one directly tied to Mic as well after we posted a piece calculating how much it would cost to go to Hogwarts for one's first year. Plenty of questions were raised about whether or not Hogwarts was free, and luckily, Rowling provided an explanation. "The Ministry of Magic covers the cost of all magical education!" she tweeted. We're thrilled to have given this week's birthday celebrant a chance to clarify.