TheThe wizarding world is a magical place indeed. But sometimes, you don’t need a hex or curse to make your point – here are some of our favourite witty retorts from the Harry Potter characters.
“The poor toilet”
Right from the very first book, a young Harry Potter was full of the cheek that had been a key trait of his father, James. And when it came to growing up with Dudley Dursley, Harry’s wit was the key weapon in his arsenal when it came to interacting with his cousin.
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‘They stuff people’s heads down the toilet first day at Stonewall,’ he told Harry. ‘Want to come upstairs and practise?’ ‘No thanks,’ said Harry. ‘The poor toilet’s never had anything as horrible as your head down it – it might be sick.’ Then he ran, before Dudley could work out what he’d said.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
“Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon”
Hermione and Ron had plenty of zingers that they threw at each other throughout the course of all the books. But this particular moment, as the trio discuss Harry’s budding relationship with Cho, gave Hermione the edge in this round.
A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, ‘One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.’ ‘Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have,’ said Hermione nastily, picking up her quill again.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“You asked us a question”
But Ron and Hermione weren’t always chiding each other – sometimes they were chiding others on their behalf. This moment with Severus Snape, after he had cruelly called Hermione a ‘insufferable know-it-all’, was enough to tip Ron over the edge – but he was making a very fair point!
‘That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger,’ said Snape coolly. ‘Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all.’ Hermione went very red, put down her hand and stared at the floor with her eyes full of tears. It was a mark of how much the class loathed Snape that they were all glaring at him, because every one of them had called Hermione a know-it-all at least once, and Ron, who told Hermione she was a know-it-all at least twice a week, said loudly, ‘You asked us a question and she knows the answer! Why ask if you don’t want to be told?’
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
“Ghosts are transparent”
Another day, another battle of the wits with Snape. After Harry tried to explain the differences between ghosts and Inferi, once again, Ron stepped in to give the Potions Master a schooling.
‘A five-year-old could have told us as much,’ sneered Snape. ‘The Inferius is a corpse that has been reanimated by a Dark wizard’s spells. It is not alive, it is merely used like a puppet to do the wizard’s bidding. A ghost, as I trust that you are all aware by now, is the imprint of a departed soul left upon the earth… and of course, as Potter so wisely tells us, transparent.’ ‘Well, what Harry said is the most useful if we’re trying to tell them apart!’ said Ron. ‘When we come face to face with one down a dark alley we’re going to be having a shufti to see if it’s solid, aren’t we, we’re not going to be asking, “Excuse me, are you the imprint of a departed soul?”’
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“It could catch the Snitch for you”
After years growing up with Dudley, Harry knew a thing or two about slinging a verbal comeback in the way of a bully. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Malfoy spent the vast majority of the book mocking Harry for the way Dementors affected him. But during this exchange, where Draco enviably examines Harry’s new Firebolt, Harry was ready with a response so cutting it was more deadly than any Dementor.
‘Got plenty of special features, hasn’t it?’ said Malfoy, eyes glittering maliciously. ‘Shame it doesn’t come with a parachute – in case you get too near a Dementor.’ Crabbe and Goyle sniggered. ‘Pity you can’t attach an extra arm to yours, Malfoy,’ said Harry. ‘Then it could catch the Snitch for you.’
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
“There’s no need to call me ‘sir’, Professor”
Perhaps the ultimate comeback in all of Harry Potter history: we still cannot believe Harry said this to Snape – the prime-giver of detentions and docker of many a house point! The audacity still shocks us to this very day.
‘Do you remember me telling you we are practising nonverbal spells, Potter?’ ‘Yes,’ said Harry stiffly. ‘Yes sir.’ ‘There’s no need to call me “sir”, Professor.’ The words had escaped him before he knew what he was saying. Several people gasped, including Hermione.
A bit of bedtime reading
Another Hermione vs. Ron moment now – and this time, Ron got the upper hand. Although he was clearly not confident enough to say this one too loudly…
‘No,’ said Hermione shortly. ‘Has either of you seen my copy of Numerology and Grammatica_?’ ‘Oh, yeah, I borrowed it for a bit of bedtime reading,’ said Ron, but very quietly.
“Listening to the news again?”
When it came to the Dursleys, Harry often used his intelligence to get one over on his ignorant family. During a particularly frustrating summer in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry was in no mood to deal with Uncle Vernon’s chagrin while he tried to watch the news.
‘Listening to the news,’ said Harry in a resigned voice. His aunt and uncle exchanged looks of outrage. ‘Listening to the news! Again?’ ‘Well, it changes every day, you see,’ said Harry.
“A quick word”
Rita Skeeter quickly became a big nuisance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in a year where Harry was already under immense stress being forced into the position of Hogwarts Champion. After completing his first task in the Triwizard Tournament with aplomb, he was able to take on the nosy journalist extremely easily after just facing off a dragon.
‘Congratulations, Harry!’ she said, beaming at him. ‘I wonder if you could give me a quick word? How you felt facing that dragon? How you feel now about the fairness of the scoring?’ ‘Yeah, you can have a word,’ said Harry savagely. ‘Goodbye.’
Not so much a comeback, but a moment of deadly subtlety from Professor McGonagall here. During the odd Christmas dinner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Transfiguration Professor was in no mood for Professor Trelawney’s paranoid behaviour – such as believing that if 13 people dined together, the first to rise, would be the first to die. Not one to suffer fools gladly, McGonagall settled with simply offering Trelawney some…
“I do not generally permit people to talk”
Have two McGonagall moments for the price of one. The reign of Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a joy for absolutely no one, but we did take great pleasure in seeing Professor McGonagall react to the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor on a number of occasions. During this moment, where Umbridge tasked herself with ‘sitting in’ on a number of Hogwarts lessons, it was only fair of McGonagall to treat Umbridge as one of her students. The results? Delicious.
‘Hem, hem.’ ‘I wonder,’ said Professor McGonagall in cold fury, turning on Professor Umbridge, ‘how you expect to gain an idea of my usual teaching methods if you continue to interrupt me? You see, I do not generally permit people to talk when I am talking.’ Professor Umbridge looked as though she had just been slapped in the face.
“What are Fred and I?”
Fred and George were, obviously, the joint kings of the one-liners. But George’s reaction to his mum momentarily forgetting that not ‘everyone in the family’ became a prefect, particularly amused us.
‘I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! Oh, Ron, how wonderful! A prefect! That’s everyone in the family!’ ‘What are Fred and I, next-door neighbours?’ said George indignantly, as his mother pushed him aside and flung her arms around her youngest son.
“Voldemort in a mobile library”
We end on one final Ron vs. Hermione moment, because the future-couple really couldn’t resist jibing each other all throughout the whole series, could they?
But we have to hand it to Ron here – this wisecrack is one of our ultimate favourites, just for the mental image.
‘Just trying to decide which ones to take with us,’ said Hermione. ‘When we’re looking for the Horcruxes.’ ‘Oh, of course,’ said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. ‘I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.’