Exactly one month from last Thursday, the last volume of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter epic will hit bookstores worldwide. In our number one story in the Countdown, the author has revealed how it all turns out—to her husband mind you. She hasn’t told anybody else. That has not stopped others from insisting they have found out. A much hyped online story claims somebody hacked into a computer containing the manuscript.
If you go and read the almost unintelligible posting, you will gather rather quickly the guy sure does not sound like he has a clue what a Harry Potter is, let alone access to the greatest literary secret of the moment. But you do not need access. You need to find somebody who has read the first six books.
So here is the ultimate spoiler alert. I think I know how the series turns out. It is just my opinion, but I think I am right. Let’s start with the inescapable conclusions based on the first six.
There is this prophecy. Harry Potter and his arch nemesis, the darkest wizard of them all, Lord Voldemort; one of them must kill the other. The prophecy was the essence of the fifth novel and was repeated so often in the sixth that some readers were probably reciting it in their sleep.
Theoretically, Voldemort and Potter could kill one another, like those two boxers from the Golden Gloves 20 years ago, who connected simultaneously and knocked each other out. But this would be too cheesy to fool even the most devoted Potterians. And they would not like Harry’s death much either.
Consider it from the marketing standpoint. Book number seven, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows ,” reaches sweaty palms on July 21st. But the movie reaching theaters July 13th, “The Order of the Phoenix” is only the fifth film. What is the box office going be like for that one if eight days later Potter is killed off?
And the sixth movie and seventh? Who is going to go see them if the world has already known for a couple of years that hero has been offed via the Cruciatus curse?
What about the generations of buyers to come? A Harry Potter emerging alive and well after seven books and 70,000 brushes with death and snakes and curses and stuff; he will become an immortal character of fiction. And fictional immortality means sales of books, DVDs, even film remakes that’s longer than Professor Dumbledore’s beard.
Ask Sherlock Homes. So suffice it to say, if Harry Potter dies in the “Deathly Hallows,” J.K. Rowling and her descendants will lose millions of dollars. Since we already know either Potter or Voldemort will croak, it’s got to be so long, Voldy.
But how? Will the simple vanquishing of the evil foe be sufficient pay off for a decade of reading? I mean, when Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Holmes’ Voldemort, Professor Moriarty, he did it with panache. He made the reader think Holmes and Moriarty went toppling arm and arm into the raging waters of the Reichenbach Falls.
So Rowling has to have something pretty spectacular for the end of her series. So what could she do? Kill off Harry’s buddies Ron and Hermione? That is what that hacker who claims to have accessed the novel, and who claims to be doing the work of the pope in destroying the suspense, has forecast. But isn’t that a little trite?
In book number six, “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince ,” Rowling already killed off Dumbledore, the popular headmaster at the wizarding school Hogwarts, and got such a bad vibe and so many nightmares out of it that much of those Potty over Potter are almost demanding the headmaster be reincarnated for the finale.
So sacrificing more of Harry’s pals and heroes would again seem to be just bad business.
But one hint, publicly offered in the advertising for the last book, asks the question whether the greasy Professor Snape, Dumbledore’s murderer, was a friend to Harry or his worst enemy. Snape has finally, after years of trying, ascended to his dream job, teaching Harry and the others Defense Against the Dark Arts.
In Snape, and in Defense Against the Dark Arts, may rest the explanation of how this series ends.
The most recent book went into excruciating detail about the concept of a horcrux, perhaps the darkest art in wizardry. In “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” we are told that while in the act of murdering someone, a dark wizard can divide his soul so that he might live on in part, even if his corporeal body expires. He can store the parts of the soul in objects, or, as seen in an earlier book, in a living thing, the big snake in the basement.
Dumbledore has painstakingly explained to Harry that Voldemort has divided his soul six times, rendering him with a lot less soul than, say, James Brown, but a lot longer shelf life than, say, Donald Trump’s hair.
To kill Voldemort, Harry has to locate and destroy the remaining horcruxes, the places Voldemort packed himself away like so many boxes in a storage vault.
But what about that scar on Harry’s face? What is it really, the one seared into him in childhood when Voldemort tried to kill him and did kill his parents, the one that could register Voldemort’s emotions, even sense when Voldemort is physically near. It’s got be a horcrux, no? It’s got to be a part of Voldemort carried on Harry Potter’s very flesh?
Well, you could kill the last part of Voldemort by killing Harry Potter. The British book makers William Hill have stopped taking wagers on the outcome of the series, in fact, because they report stacks of mail claiming that has to be how the series ends. But that brings us back to our financial concerns and the peeved, if not down right angry revenge that fans, maybe riotous fans, would take against the sixth and seventh films if Harry Potter does not survive them.
So let’s put this all together. Harry or Voldemort must die. There are pieces of Voldemort’s soul scattered around on objects and living things. Harry’s scar has always acted like an early warning detection system. And the dubious Professor Snape, master of Protection Against the Dark Arts, is being advertised as the potential savior in the big wow finish to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
So why not this ending? Harry eliminates all but one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. The dark lord’s life is now reduced to this undulating welt on Harry’s own forehead. To kill Voldemort, Harry must kill himself and is about to, as millions of readers recoil in horror and anger, when who steps out of the shadows but Snape to explain to Harry that there is another way that the last horcrux, Harry’s scar, can be removed, but at one dreadful price.
Harry can survive it, but his magical skills cannot. To finally vanquish Voldemort, save Hogwarts and Hermione and Ron, and, in fact the magical world, to say nothing of the J.K. Rowling franchise for decades and generations to come, Harry Potter must give up being a wizard.
Not bad, huh? The series ends up with self-sacrifice. Uplifting self-sacrifice, but not the commercially disastrous death of the hero. And readers 100 years from now will still be buying the Potter books or getting the Potter chips injected into their brains, or however people read come that day.
Of course, there is one other option for that big finish.
Harry, Ron and Hermione enter a diner. They order Butter Beer and onion rings. Voldemort is sitting at the lunch counter, marking time. Outside, Ron’s sister, Ginny, is having a hell of a time parallel parking, even though she’s using her wand. And just then the door to the diner opens and Harry Potter looks up and—the last 11 pages of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” are freaking blank.
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