The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer brings fans back to the world of Harry Potter, and reveals a somewhat startling secret regarding everyone's beloved Hufflepuff and magizoology expert. A voiceover by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) reveals that Newton Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) was expelled from Hogwarts for endangering a muggle! But how can that be? We know that it is customary for a student's wand to be destroyed upon expulsion—as happened to Hagrid—but in the first Fantastic Beasts trailer, we clearly see Newt using a wand. Did J.K. Rowling get something wrong?
This revelation understandably has many a fan's knickers in a twist. After all, canon and consistency matters and, as far as we know, being expelled means your wand is taken. Or does it? To understand the possible reason why Newt managed to keep his wand (and Hagrid's was broken), we must not only delve into the character's backstory but also understand the British education system. We can also figure out who expelled the bright, young student from Hogwarts and approximately when it happened.
Newton Scamander's History At Hogwarts
Newton Artemis Fido Scamander, Order of Merlin (Second Class), was born in 1897. The young Scamander got his Hogwarts acceptance letter in 1908. According to the book The Tales of Beedle the Bard, this is around the time when Armando Dippet began his tenure as the school's headmaster. As headmaster, Dippet was responsible for hiring many teachers we know, some of whom include Horace Slughorn, Minerva McGonagall, and possibly Galatea Merrythought. More importantly, he was also responsible for hiring Albus Dumbledore.
Newt would enter his third year at Hogwarts in 1910, a time when he would have been eligible to take Care of Magical Creatures as an elective. The young Newt would have also had the recently hired Dumbledore as his Transfiguration teacher—transfiguration is one of the core courses at Hogwarts. Undoubtedly, it was around this time that Dumbledore, as his teacher, came to learn of this student's character and potential.
Assuming that Scamander's education progressed without incident (and most likely it did), he completed his Ordinary Wizarding Levels or O.W.L.s in 1912. We know that Scamander was an exceptional student and likely went on to do his Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests or N.E.W.T.s. This means his expulsion happened somewhere between 1912 and 1914. As Scamander obtained his O.W.L.s, not only did he graduate from Hogwarts, he was also a qualified wizard. This means he is able to keep his wand, even though he was an underage wizard.
This is quite different from Hagrid, who was expelled before he began his O.W.L.s. Having never attained that qualification, the Ministry was able to ban Hagrid from doing magic. It must be noted that a certain amount of bias could have played a part given Hagrid's half-giant status. Breaking a child's wand, thereby banning him from doing magic, effectively exiles a child from life within in the wizarding community. This makes for an unreasonably harsh punishment for Hagrid.
Education In The United Kingdom And Hogwarts
O.W.L.s are comparable to the General Certificate of Secondary Education or GCSE exams taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Standard Grade exams in Scotland. The exam that preceded the GCSE was the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Levels, known more colloquially as "O-Levels," or "O's," and were typically taken at the age of 15. The term O.W.L.s is a nod to that exam.
This is where the confusion may lie. In North American, a student typically graduates high school in the twelfth grade. In the UK, students do not have to return to school upon completing their GCSEs or O-Levels, and many do not. While still considered minors, they are considered to have graduated school, and can find fukk-time jobs.
Muggles who choose to return to school often go on to do their Advanced Levels or A-Levels. The content is more rigorous that O-Levels and is comparable to most first-year college or university courses in the US. In Hogwarts, the equivalent is the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test or N.E.W.T.s. "Nastily exhausting" is an apt description for A-Levels, as many students diligently study long hours to attain passes in their exams.
Wizards do not need to pass or take N.E.W.T.s to graduate, and can find jobs with their O.W.L.s in the same way muggle children can leave school with their GCSEs. Fred and George Weasley, for example, decided against completing their N.E.W.T.s and left Hogwarts to set up a joke shop. (OK, they left because of Dolores Umbridge, but you get the idea.)
Scamander Was Expelled By Dumbledore's Predecessor
While we may not know exactly why Rowling is so fond of Scamander, we can still speculate not only about when the young lad was expelled, but by whom.
While we may not know exactly why Rowling is so fond of Scamander, we can still speculate when the young lad was expelled, but by whom. The timeline suggests Scamander was expelled by Dumbledore's predecessor, Armando Dippet. This expulsion took place between Newt's sixth and seventh years — after he'd completed his O.W.L.s.
After being expelled from Hogwarts, Scamander joined the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry is a prestigious government entity, and it is likely to hire only the best graduates and we can assume this means young Newt had O.W.L.s of Exceeds Expectations or higher. It also means that, because he passed his exams and graduated, the Ministry was unlikely to confiscate his wand or permanently ban him from doing magic as they did with Hagrid. The timeline shows that Dumbledore, as a new hire, would not have had much (if any) influence over a student's expulsion.
While J.K. Rowling's responses to her fans on Twitter were somewhat cryptic, there were enough clues to figure out the character's backstory and see that there is no contradiction between the Fantastic Beasts book and the new trailer. This little unexpected tidbit of information does add some new insight to our favorite Hufflepuff. It shows that despite the terrible setback of being expelled, young Scamander carried on, remained undeterred and showed the dedication and perseverance that is characteristic of Hufflepuff. That is something to be admired.