In China the number four is considered unlucky, presumably because the Chinese word for four is very similar to the word for death. This association with bad luck seems to have followed the number four into the wizarding world.
Four is sometimes seen as a source of stability and strength, as in the four sturdy legs of a table. But if one of those legs is weak, the whole structure is in danger. We see this mirrored in the four houses of Hogwarts, a system that should provide strength. But with the breaking away of Salazar Slytherin, the house system becomes a source of disunity and conflict.
Unlike our main trio, there are four Marauders, and that doesn’t end well for any of them, with Pettigrew being their weak link. Pettigrew betrays James, who is murdered by Voldemort; Sirius is murdered by Bellatrix; Pettigrew literally dies by his own hand; and Lupin is killed at the Battle of Hogwarts. That’s enough death to launch a Chinese superstition right there.
The Potters and the Longbottoms had both thrice defied Voldemort and the Death Eaters. It was their fateful fourth encounter that proved to be their downfall.
Harry lives with the Dursleys at number 4, Privet Drive, and we all know how unhappy Harry was there. He becomes the fourth Triwizard Champion, an event that almost ends in his death.
Multiply four by the friendlier number three, and you get 12, a much more auspicious number.
In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.