Don’t trust everything you read on the Internet.
Especially if that’s where you found a purported copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix floating around. Come on, guys ― bookstores are for finding J.K. Rowling’s collected works; the Internet is for finding trippy fan fiction set at Hogwarts.
According to writer Shelley Zhang, her friend fell into exactly this trap while reading the series for the first time. His loss was Twitter’s gain, however; Zhang delighted legions of “Harry Potter” fans by tweeting screenshots of her conversation with the disillusioned reader.
Apparently, he first realized his mistake when he mentioned to a more experienced “Potter” reader that Dudley Dursley, Harry’s oafish cousin, jumped to his death at the end of Order of the Phoenix. When she didn’t remember this, he texted Zhang to double-check. “Are you serious?” she responded.
But he wasn’t done.
The version of the fifth “Potter” book he’d read also contained scenes of Harry and Hermione ― who never become romantically involved in Rowling’s version of the story ― getting “intimate.” Oh, and Ginny and Draco fake a rape, for some reason.
Don’t worry: in this fic, the wizarding age of consent is 15, making all this fifth-year student sex totally kosher!
The texts go on ― Harry got buff from running (which seems impossible as well as unlikely), a professor handed out birth control herbs, Snape and Harry’s mother had a romantic fling, Harry becomes an Animagus ― but Zhang’s friend slowly accepts that he’s been had.
Not that fan fiction is some sort of ruse. Some fans just want to experiment with how the books would play out if certain things had gone differently ― Harry and Hermione instead of Ron and Hermione, Sirius staying alive, Draco turning hero.
Even more commonly, alternative fanfic books proliferated in between book releases, when readers just couldn’t wait to find out what Harry, Hermione and Ron would be doing next. The creativity of the fandom always rises to fill that need, much like the popular book-length retellings of Fifty Shades of Grey from Christian Grey’s perspective. Though E.L. James was eventually convinced to write her own, official version, those unsanctioned stories assuaged the audience’s impatience.
In addition to the post-series fics and drabbles found on “Harry Potter” fanfic boards, there are still plenty of many-chapter fanfics that took place during the time of later books like Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. Some were fully compliant with the canon of the series at the time they were published ― only to be made very clearly alternative-universe when Rowling’s next book came out.
The story Zhang’s friend ended up reading, which appears to be called “Harry Potter and the Psychic Serpent” (and is very R-rated), came out in the years between the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, and the actual fifth book.
Though this problem won’t arise for readers who get “Harry Potter” the right way ― e.g., a legitimately published book or ebook ― Zhang leaves us with one very clear takeaway: If the characters are having sex with each other, it’s almost definitely fan fiction.
And if you want Harry and Hermione to fall in love while dealing with a fortune-telling snake, now you know where to find the story of your dreams.