Turns out the Daily Prophet‘s Rita Skeeter is still peddling fake news of Harry Potter‘s wizarding world, this time sharing gossip about the romances between Hogwarts professors.
For the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known as the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States), U.K. publisher Bloomsbury Books reprinted the first novel in the series with commemorative Hogwarts House covers. Each cover showed off the individual crests of the four Houses, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. The anniversary editions also included pages of “fact files,” traced back to writings, interviews, and tweets of author J.K. Rowling.
However, one of these “facts” turned out to be just as fictional as the novels themselves. According to fan site the Rowling Library, Bloomsbury included a fake fact in the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw editions of the printing about professors that lead their respective assigned house, known as the “head of house.”
“Did you know? Professor Sprout had a long-term relationship with fellow teacher Professor Flitwick. Sadly, it didn’t work out but they remain friends,” the new books boast.
Nope, this tidbit is not canon in the Harry Potter universe. Not only was the “fact” not true, but it was fabricated by CollegeHumor, a site widely-known for its comedy and satire.
In a 2015 post from the site, titled “J.K. Rowling’s Twitter Is Out of Control,” CollegeHumor shared tens of fake “screenshots” from Rowling’s Twitter, answering the questions of fans, such as “Since wizards wear different clothes [from non-wizards] does that mean that they wear different kinds of underwear too?” and “Does Hogwarts have sex ed classes?” (The article was republished on the CollegeHumor site in 2016 with the headline “J.K. Rowling Knows Way Too Much About Her Characters.”)
“Have any of the Hogwarts teachers ever dated?” one fan appeared to ask Rowling.
“Of course! Sprout and Flitwick had a long term relationship!” Rowling replied in the fake tweet. “They broke up but remain friends.”
According to Quartz, someone even tweeted at Rowling IRL asking if one of the facts from the CollegeHumor piece was real. She set the record straight, calling it fake.
@airbearlerma No, that's fake.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) February 3, 2016
How did this clearly fake fact pass the publisher’s fact checkers?
The author of the fake Rowling tweet, Willie Muse, is taking the error in stride. In a new post on CollegeHumor, Muse wrote that he came to feel guilty for not being more clear that the tweets were jokes and not real Rowling tweets.
This is AMAZING thank you for telling me about this!!!— Willie Muse (@Williesillie2) November 29, 2017
“Once [the tweets] were removed from their home on a comedy website and placed on sites where weird but true social media screenshots were plentiful, the joke became less clear. As it spread, I began to feel just a bit guilty that I, a grown man who still needs to make an L with my finger in order to know left and right, had inadvertently put words into the mouth of one of our greatest living authors,” Muse wrote.
While Muse takes pride that he briefly made people think that Professors Sprout and Flitwick “had once had some very strange, enchanted sex,” he apologized to Bloomsbury in the post, writing that he wrestled with the idea that his “greatest accomplishment in life involved making some publisher’s life mildly difficult.”
It doesn’t seem that Muse will have to harbor that shame for long, however. Bloomsbury told the Rowling Library that it was aware of the error and made a correction for reprints of the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff editions of the commemorative novel.
We are aware of this error and it has already been corrected for reprints of relevant house editions.— Bloomsbury UK (@BloomsburyBooks) November 29, 2017
Perhaps that’s what publishers would call “mischief managed.”