What happens if a student can't get physically through the portrait hole or entrance to their common room?

For instance, there's a portrait "hole" in the Gryffindor common room. What if someone was just a bit too husky to fit inside?

I understand the part about Ravenclaw waiting outside if they can't get in because of a riddle, but what about physical limitations? Do the house elves automatically put you on a diet?

Getting through the portrait hole was simple; as he approached it, Ginny and Dean came through it and Harry was able to slip between them. As he did so, he brushed accidentally against Ginny. "Don't push me, please, Dean," she said, sounding annoyed. "You're always doing that, I can get through perfectly well on my own..."


"Well, it was a bad night for romance all round. Ginny and Dean split up too, Harry."

"How come?"

"Oh, something really silly ... she said he was always trying to help her through the portrait hole, like she couldn't climb in herself."

-Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

This would suggest that the portrait hole isn't the large size mentioned (and this is direct book canon). Why would she need to climb out if it was so large, and why would he think that she needed help in the first place?

  • 11
    There are no wheelchair users at Hogwarts. It is not a handi-capable venue, largely due to the vast number of staircases and lack of lifts.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:46
  • 1
    @Richard That's a good point, although a bit different than what I was thinking. It seems a bit insensitive that people in wheelchairs couldn't attend Hogwarts, but specifically I was wondering about...larger...people not being able to fit through the hole. Is Hogwarts incredibly discriminatory for those with disabilities or size?
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:50
  • Undetectable extension charm?
    – ThruGog
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 16:09
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    This would be a good question to Tweet to JKR as she has been keen to let fans know Hogwarts was inclusive of all types of wizards (gay and Jewish I know for sure).
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 16:22
  • 4
    I'm thinking wizards in wheelchairs are extremely rare, because almost all of the reasons why someone might be in a wheelchair are easily fixed with magic. Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 0:52

4 Answers 4


Assuming the original chapter illustrations seen in the first edition US Harry Potter novels (hand-chosen by JKR, but not illustrated by her) are considered to be a canon source of information, then there shouldn't be any problems getting into the common rooms.

The hole behind the portrait of the Fat Lady seems to be surprisingly large (6ft x 6ft?) and should accomodate the biggest of physiques.

enter image description here

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: The Midnight Duel

  • 3
    @Anoplexian - Dunno. Hand-chosen by JKR sounds pretty high to me.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:53
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    If we're talking fire safety, then the entire "moving staircase" bit is a bit difficult to imagine as well. I could see a second entrance, but there's no evidence of something like that, so I honestly wonder.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 15:59
  • 5
    I think part of the world JKR wanted to capture is an old-fashioned world in a thousand year old castle. I don't imagine it is up to fire regulation standards or wheelchair-friendly. I'm sure she'd think up ways around it if necessary.
    – ThruGog
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 16:04
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    I reckon that's an answer right there, Hagrid fit in somehow when he was 8 feet tall I don't think anyone else could have had a problem then.
    – Probst
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 16:42
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    @ibid - Then they'd use magic to make the hole bigger or themselves smaller.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 17:02

From the Pottermore illustration.

enter image description here

As can be seen, the hole is very large (like Richard said).

As per the various mentions in the book of "climbing" through the portrait hole (and as per the OP's quote) we can assume that the portrait hole isn't flush with the ground.

  • 8
    @Anoplexian: Is there any evidence of a 10 foot tall child attending a school for growing wizards? The issue I have with the "what if I'm X feet tall?" is that you could arbitrarily pick any height for your criticism. What if I'm 15 feet tall? 20 feet tall? 50 feet tall with a long neck and tail and breathe fire? How DARE Hogwarts discriminate against dragon wizards!
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 17:24
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    Hagrid went there, at least before getting expelled. Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 17:53
  • 3
    My answer is superior than Richard's because mine has a hand drawn circle. :)
    – ibid
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 18:28
  • 3
    I think Hagrid would certainly have been very tall (I believe he said he could pick his father up as a child?) but again it isn't a world where people go "Oh Lord, we've discriminated against a half-giant and we've got a lawsuit on our hands!" It's part of the charm. The awkward half-giant boy has to struggle at times.
    – ThruGog
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 18:48
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    @ibid - Touché, sir.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 19:10

Your own quote sabotages your question. :-)

Getting through the portrait hole was simple; as he approached it, Ginny and Dean came through it and Harry was able to slip between them.

If the hole is big enough for one fifth-year and two sixth-years to go through all at once, it is surely big enough for any one person, no matter how large.


If this were to happen to anyone, it would probably be Cormac McLaggen. In Half-Blood Prince in the Hospital Wing after the Quidditch match in which Cormac played, he is described as being the size of a troll:

"You don't want to get hold of him, he's the size of a troll," said Ron reasonably.

At the Gryffindor tryouts he is described as being wide enough to block all three goal posts:

"You didn't try out last year, did you?" asked Harry, taking note of the breadth of McLaggen and thinking that he would probably block all three goal hoops without even moving.

While these two descriptions are probably somewhat exaggerative, we can still assume that Cormac was massive. And in fact there is an explicit example of him having trouble fitting through an entranceway:

As they came into the castle they spotted Cormac McLaggen entering the Great Hall. It took him two attempts to get through the doors; he ricocheted off the frame on the first attempt.

The entrance to the Great Hall is presumably rather large (certainly relative to other rooms in the castle) and therefore it is reasonable that Cormac might have had trouble with other entranceways as well, including, perhaps, the Common Room. It doesn't look like there were any accommodations made for him to get into the Great Hall; he simply had to try again until he could fit himself through. Thus, it is quite possible that he would have to do the same to get into the Common Room.

Also, to address your last paragraph, the reason why people need to “climb” or be helped through is not necessarily because the opening is small. It may simply be (as the pictures show) that the opening starts well above the floor.

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