Twenty years ago, Bloomsbury published J.K. Rowling’s debut novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first installment in a saga that would go on to span seven books, eight movies, and numerous spinoffs and extensions — in the process, becoming one of the defining stories of a generation. Since Dumbledore isn’t here to help us pull any celebratory crackers, we’re marking the occasion by toasting Rowling’s magical creation and the two decades of euphoria that it’s brought us. We solemnly swear that we are up to no good.
Alex Crockford doesn’t have a credit in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The now-33-year-old actor auditioned in the series’ first casting call to play Percy Weasley, Hogwarts prefect and Ron Weasley’s obnoxious older brother, but he didn’t get the part because, he said, he "overacted shamelessly." Despite that over-eagerness matching Percy’s character perfectly, Chris Rankin was cast instead, and Crockford went on with his life. He was surprised when, three years after his audition, his agency called him again about the series.
"[They] asked me if I wanted to play another Weasley," Crockford told RupertGrint.net in November 2004, a few months after the third film was released. Crockford said yes. He enjoyed his time on set, and when asked if he was excited for the fourth installment, he said he was, but clarified: "I’m not actually going to be in it, I was only hired as an extra for film three and they’ve cut me out of the script."
Charlie is the second-oldest brother of the Weasley clan, falling just after Bill and just ahead of Percy, and if you’re not a Potterhead, you’d be forgiven for not immediately recognizing his name. In the books, he’s a mysterious character: We learn about him in passing, reading occasional tales of his great achievement at Hogwarts and exciting life abroad, but we don’t properly meet him until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and from there, the intrigue only grows. When it came time to trim the books down to feature-film size, however, Charlie didn’t make the cut.
He is shown once in Prisoner of Azkaban, in the very back of a Weasley family photo from a trip to Egypt, and that’s all.
The Harry Potter series is full of underrated characters. Besides the main trio (Harry, Ron, and Hermione), the influential professors (Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, Hagrid), the notable dark and twisty characters (Voldemort, the Malfoys, the Death Eaters, the Dursleys), and the prominent Ministry folk, there are important extended family members and friends, Quidditch teammates, other Hogwarts students, students from other wizarding schools, house elves, shop venders, goblins, and on and on into the canon. You’d need a Time-Turner to dig through the books and supplemental texts in order to determine who the most underrated of them all is. But any list of the most underrated Harry Potter characters, no matter the criteria, should have Charlie Weasley near the top.
Charlie comes from a pure-blood, influential wizarding family, and is one of seven kids. Each of the Weasley children gets his or her own story line in the books: Bill as a member of the Order of the Phoenix; Percy as a prefect and then turn-cloak; Fred and George as high jinks purveyors, both inside and outside of Hogwarts; Ron in virtually every portion of the entire series; and Ginny as a brilliant wizard and eventually as Harry’s significant other. All except Charlie. We learn details of Charlie’s life through letters and stories shared by his siblings and parents and from Harry’s fleeting in-person interactions, but Charlie is never around long enough to fully satisfy our curiosities.
We find out he’s the Cool Older Brother, willing to help Ron and Co. rescue Hagrid’s illegal pet Norwegian Ridgeback dragon after Draco Malfoy discovers it. He helps his father and the Ministry fight off the Death Eaters when they show up at the World Cup, and he materializes at Hogwarts during Harry and Ron’s fourth year as a dragon trainer helping with the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. But those scraps of information only increase our appetite for a clearer picture of the full man. Thankfully, J.K. Rowling’s expansive wizarding website Pottermore posted an ode to sir Charlie, and even there admitted "[W]e’re pretty sure we know exactly what he’s like. Okay, fairly sure."
The coolest thing about Charlie — and one of the few things we hear Charlie explain about himself — is that he studies and works with dragons. The rest we learn from other characters. He’s a favorite former student of Hagrid, who tells Ron in The Sorcerer’s Stone that Charlie was great with animals. Oliver Wood, Harry’s first Gryffindor Quidditch captain, says that Charlie (a former Gryffindor captain himself) could’ve played professionally for England. Molly Weasley tells us that Charlie was a prefect at Hogwarts, and he’s clearly a skilled wizard judging by his side-saving performance in the Battle of Hogwarts. Plus, Rowling’s description of him in Goblet of Fire makes him out to be quite the looker: "Charlie was built like the twins, shorter and stockier than Percy and Ron, who were both long and lanky. He had a broad, good-natured face, which was weather-beaten and so freckly that he looked almost tanned; his arms were muscly, and one of them had a large, shiny burn on it."
It’s a shame, then, that a character so universally admired and possessing such diverse interests enjoyed so little time in the spotlight in this story. The online Potter community has taken up the task of honoring Charlie by creating a Potter Wiki page devoted to detailing his life from birth until the last we know of him (still studying dragons and enjoying extended bachelorhood); writing odes to him on Pinterest; and publishing every quote he has throughout the seven books (for the inquiring, Charlie references dragons in six of his 21 total book quotes, his most discussed topic).
Despite all this, Charlie will forever remain a bit of a mystery to Potter fans — a curiosity in the generally open-book Weasley family. Crockford said after his role in Prisoner of Azkaban that "strangely enough, I don’t get recognised on the street all that often, possibly because even I almost missed me when I saw the film in the cinema." Charlie Weasley — the man who trains dragons — did not play a role in the Harry Potter films, and the taste we got of him in the books was not nearly enough. He’s one of the most intriguing characters in the series, and he deserves to be a mainstay, not a footnote.