Need proof that it’s been 20 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit theaters? Rupert Grint has got you covered: “I have had kidney stones and a baby, so time has definitely passed.” Yep, we’re all a little older, a little wiser, and a lot more nostalgic for the days when lining up for a midnight screening of a new Harry Potter movie was the highlight of the year. Enter HBO Max’s Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts special, which reunited producers, directors, and actors for a trip down memory lane.
The special premiered Saturday, but in case you had too much of a New Year’s Eve hangover to watch it, here are all the major moments and revelations from the Harry Potter reunion you need to know about.
Emma Watson had a crush on Tom Felton.
Dramione shippers, this one’s for you. At one point in the special, Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) opened up about the massive crush she had on Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) when they first met as kids. According to Watson, she fell totally head over heels during an on-set tutoring session in which they were asked to draw God. “Tom had drawn a girl with a backward cap on a skateboard,” she recalled. “And I just don’t know how to say it — I just fell in love with him.” At the time Watson was 10 and Felton was 12 or 13. Nothing ever happened between them (despite rumors that the two have dated as adults), but Felton said they always had a special relationship. “I’ve always had a soft spot for her, and that continues to this day. There’s always been something that’s like, I don’t know, a kinship.”
Daniel Radcliffe wrote Helena Bonham Carter a love letter.
After they finished filming the series in 2011, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) decided to put pen to paper and send his longtime co-star Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) a love letter. Keep in mind that Radcliffe would have first started working with Bonham Carter on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which filmed in 2004, when he was about 15. “I do love you and I wish I’d just been born 10 years earlier so I might’ve been in with a chance,” he wrote in part, which is actually kind of sweet. And he definitely deserves props for waiting until after they were done working together to declare his love.
Watson and Radcliffe helped each other text crushes.
When they weren’t goofing off between takes, Watson and Radcliffe were reportedly helping each other craft the perfect texts to their crushes. “The amount of prep and coaching Emma and I would give each other on texting to the opposite sex,” Radcliffe recalled. “Like if she was texting a boy or if I was texting a girl, I would be like, ‘She sent me this many kisses back, what do I do? This is a nightmare.’”
As for on-set crushes, according to Matthew Lewis (Neville), there were many. “There was crushes and people went out with each other and broke up just like you’d do at school. It was exactly the same environment, but it was just in a Defense Against the Dark Arts class,” he said. Speaking specifically about the shift behind the scenes on the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Radcliffe described it as “peak hormone.”
Watson seriously thought about quitting.
While overnight global stardom was tough on all the young stars, Watson was one who seriously thought about quitting to leave Harry Potter behind. According to Order of the Phoenix director David Yates, one of the first things he was told when he signed on for the movie was Watson was considering not coming back. “I can see that at times, I was lonely,” Watson said on the show. That loneliness coupled with the overwhelming realization that Harry Potter fame would follow her forever seems to have given Watson pause. “The fame thing had finally hit home in a big way,” she added. But she never actually quit. “No one had to convince me to see it through. The fans genuinely wanted you to succeed, and we all genuinely had each other’s backs. How great is that?”
That time Hermione and Ron finally kissed.
Watson may have always been in love with Felton, but she was definitely not in love with Grint (Ron), especially when the time came for them to film Hermione and Ron’s first kiss for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. “Kissing Rupert is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It just felt wrong, so wrong on every level! Because Dan, Rupert, and I are so much siblings,” Watson recalled.
In her group interview with the boys, Watson joked, “Obviously, us kissing was the most horrifying thing either of us have ever had to go through.” Apparently, the scene was very hard to get through for many reasons, the first being that they just couldn’t get to the kiss. “We just kept laughing, and I was just really scared we were never going to get it because we just couldn’t take it seriously.” As for Grint, his memory of the scene is a bit more fuzzy. “I kind of think I blacked out. I just remember your face getting closer and closer to mine,” he said.
The buildup to the scene on set didn’t help, either. The special features footage of the exact moment director Yates told Watson and Grint they would be filming the kiss that week, and you can practically see the dread forming. Among those who made the kiss scene particularly nerve wracking: Radcliffe himself. “I did not make this better because I’ve been told significantly that I was just being an absolute dick about this and was like, ‘I’m gonna come on set and watch you guys kiss!’” he said. “I’m sorry about that, guys.”
The on-set hamster funeral.
During her group interview with Radcliffe and Grint, Watson recalled her pet hamster, Millie, who died on set and was given a “custom-made wooden coffin that had velvet on the inside of it, and it had her name engraved, because I was beside myself.” RIP Millie!
Justice for Harry and Hermione’s dance scene.
Ask any HP fan, and they’ll tell you the Harry and Hermione dance scene in The Deathly Hallows is one of the most controversial scenes in the franchise. But to Watson, it’s one of the most beloved. “The scene that I thought was going to be really awkward, and I wasn’t sure about at all, was our dance. Now that’s one of my favorite scenes from the whole of the series,” she revealed in the special. “So much said in the scene that was unspoken, and I love that. And also, in the same way that our characters got to have a moment of fun, I feel like we got to have a moment of fun, which we also needed.” (For the record: She is correct. The dancing scene is very underrated, and I will die on this Harry Potter hill.)
The end of Harry Potter.
As much as Grint, Watson, and Radcliffe struggled sometimes with being in the Harry Potter franchise, the end was bittersweet and difficult. “I feel like I lost track of who I was and who the character was and didn’t really know where they ended or began,” Grunt recalled, noting how scary it was to think of life beyond Potter. “Weird things — even my name didn’t feel like my name. I felt I really only knew how to do one thing: I knew how to play Ron.” Watson agreed, noting, “It’s almost like we did the most extreme form of Method acting.” And Radcliffe added, “Every part of my life is connected to Potter.”
“We’re family. We always will be,” Grint added in a one-on-one interview with Watson. “Even though we don’t see each other all the time, yeah, it’s a strong bond that we’ll always have, and we will always be part of each other’s lives.”
If that doesn’t make you tear up, the footage of Grint, Radcliffe, and Watson crying on their last day on set definitely will.
P.S. Yes, J.K. Rowling is in the special.
If you want to check out the special for yourself, just know that series author J.K. Rowling does appear — albeit briefly — a bit at the beginning and again toward the end. Despite her absence from any and every promotion for the reunion special, she pops up at around the eight-minute mark to talk about the challenge of casting Harry for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Her interview was reportedly filmed in 2019, the year before her now infamous “people who menstruate” tweet put her at odds with many LGBTQ+ fans and a good portion of the cast of the films. She appears briefly a bit later, but other than those brief interview clips and a few mentions from the actors and filmmakers, her presence is minimal.