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Harry Potter: The final chapter

Author J.K. Rowling reveals her secrets -- and what you never knew about Harry Potter -- in an exclusive interview with NBC's Meredith Vieira.

In the historic great hall of Edinburgh Castle, home to Scottish royalty of old, the reigning queen of the publishing world sat down with me and 14 young fans.

J.K. Rowling: Has anyone finished it? Did you like it?Child’s voice: Yes. Meredith Vieira: It's-- it's finally done.J.K. Rowling: I know.Meredith Vieira: How does that feel?J.K. Rowling: Incredible.Meredith Vieira: Incredible good?  Incredible bad?  A little bit of both?J.K. Rowling: At the moment-- it feels great, to be honest with you.  It feels-- it's a really nice place to be.  Yeah.

For J.K. Rowling, known to friends and family as "Jo", “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and last book in the Harry Potter series, means that while the writing may be done, it is not exactly farewell.

Meredith Vieira: Do you feel like you've had to say "goodbye" to Harry?J.K. Rowling: Yes and no.  Because I … It sounds too corny for words, but I-- I feel as though I know what he's doing now.  And I-- so he'll always be a presence in my life really.

Always careful about keeping the plot under wraps, Jo was initially reluctant to say too much in front of the young fans who have not quite finished.

Meredith Vieira: Because I know how you feel about the spoilers and--  (OVERTALK) --have been many of them along the way.  Absolutely.J.K. Rowling: It's for people who have who've read six novels and really want to enjoy a seventh novel and get there on their own, I think it-- that's fair enough.  And no one has the right to take that away.

But now: fair warning. When we are about to discuss details of book seven, we will put up a spoiler alert signal.  If you haven't finished the book yet, turn down the sound and keep it down until the warning goes off screen.

Because Jo Rowling ultimately did open up on who lives, who dies, and her reasons for the decisions.

Meredith Vieira: You know, you left us hanging a little bit.J.K. Rowling: A little.  But I have to say that I-- it would have been humanly impossible to answer every single question that comes up.  Because I'm dealing with a level of obsession in some of my fans that will not rest until they know the middle names of Harry's great-great-grandparents.Meredith Vieira: (LAUGHTER) Well, yeah, people have gotten a little obsessive.J.K. Rowling: Yeah, I love it.  I'm all for that.  I'm delighted they feel that way. But, you know, this is-- it's a book.  You know?  Maybe one day there'll be an encyclopedia and that would be a different-- a different kettle of fish.  But within a novel, within a novel, you have to resist the urge to tell everythingMeredith Vieira: One thing some anxious readers -- including myself -- couldn't resist, though, was starting at the end of the book to find out the answer to the question everyone wanted answered: Does young wizard Harry Potter live or die?J.K. Rowling: Yeah. Had anyone skipped to the last page before-- reading? (GASP) (LAUGHTER)Meredith Vieira: I did.  I couldn't-- I could not wait.J.K. Rowling: But I hate that.  I hate that.Meredith Vieira: Really?J.K. Rowling: Yeah.  I should have published the last chapter separately. Forced you to read it.   Meredith Vieira: I went back.  It's not like we didn't go back.  But you built up-- you know it’s your fault.J.K. Rowling: You created a whole-- I mean, not just a world but a language.  You have Quidditch, you have Muggle, you have polyjuice.J.K. Rowling: Do you have a favorite of all of them?J.K. Rowling: I really like "Quidditch."Meredith Vieira: You guys do, too?Various voices: Yeah.J.K. Rowling: Quidditch probably still my favorite.Meredith Vieira: And how did you get that?J.K. Rowling: You know, I really don't know.  I-- I think I've still got the notebook where I kept scribbling it.  For some reason, I definitely wanted it to begin with a Q.  So there were a lot of Q words.  I think probably Quidditch because it-- it rhymes with "pitch."  You know, it felt-- that felt nice to be able to say Quidditch pitch.Did you ever want to or did you ever consider killing Harry or Hermione or Ron?J.K. Rowling: Yeah, definitely.Meredith Vieira: You did?J.K. Rowling: That was a-- it was felt to be a possibility that the hero would die.  And that's what I was aiming for, that you really felt that anyone was up for grabs.  And because that's how-- how it would be, you know?  If you've got a character like that who's determined to kill-- Voldemort I'm talking about, of course, not Harry-- then that's how it would be.  No one-- no one's safe.  It could come to anyone.Meredith Vieira: So what happened there?  Why did he get the reprieve?J.K. Rowling: Well, I swapped him for someone else, and I don't want to say who for the people who haven't-- read.  But I-- I made a decision as I went into writing Phoenix that I was going to reprieve Mr. Weasley and I was going to kill someone else.  And if you finish the book, I-- I expect you probably know and someone else who is a father.And I wanted there to be an echo of-- of Harry's loss of parents.  And you probably know who I'm talking about if you've finished the book.  But-- so there are two characters who are killed in (book) Seven.  So Mr. Weasley did get attacked, as you know, in Five.  But he would have died if I'd have stuck to the original plan.  But he survived.  I had to keep him alive partly-- partly because I couldn't bear to kill him.Meredith Vieira: But there were two that weren't supposed to die that did end up dying.J.K. Rowling: Yeah, yeah. I swapped them for Mr. Weasley.  But they didn't then die until Seven.Meredith Vieira: So as an author, then, there were certain characters you couldn't bear to part with?J.K. Rowling: Well, yeah.  If there's one character I couldn't bear to part with, it's Arthur Weasley.  And I think part of the reason for that is there were very few good fathers in the book.  In fact, you could make a very good case for Arthur Weasley being the only good father in the whole series.

Jo was especially reluctant to lose Mr. Weasley because Harry had already lost so many father figures, including his godfather Sirius Black and Hogwarts school headmaster Dumbledore. 

They were victims in the struggle against evil arch villain Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents when he was just a baby.

Meredith Vieira: But did you worry at all-- Jo, when you're writing the book, that you have so many fans, kids, writing and saying, "Please don't take Harry," that you might have--J.K. Rowling: Well-Meredith Vieira: --just devastated a lot of kids by taking Harry or Hermione or Ron?J.K. Rowling: Of course that affects you.  I can remember just before-- just before Phoenix came out-- no, yes.  Phoenix of course.  Meeting a boy who said to me, "Please, never ever, ever, ever, ever kill Hagrid, Dumbledore, or Sirius."  Oh, my god.  And he was a really nice boy.  And he-- who had some problems in his own past.  And he was out-- he was definitely saying, "Don't kill any of these people who have been fathers to Harry."  And I knew I'd already done it.  I'd already killed Sirius and I can't pretend that looking at him I didn't feel quite awful.Meredith Vieira: But it's got to be painful, as you said, when a young man comes up to you and-- and begs, "Please don't."J.K. Rowling: Well, it was. People have come up and really pleaded for their favorite characters.

And now, here comes a huge spoiler alert.


In book seven, Jo killed off Harry Potter's close friends Lupin and Tonks, and in doing so, left their newborn baby an orphan, just like Harry.

J.K. Rowling: I wanted there to be an echo of what happened to Harry just to show the absolute evil of what Voldemort's doing.  The fact that you leave orphans and you leave children who then have to make their way in the world uncared for and unprotected.  And-- so that's why I killed the two that, you know, you know about in this book.  Which I hated, hated doing because I love them both as characters.

Meredith Vieira: Ending this series for you, is it a relief, or is there a sense of mourning?  Or maybe a combination of the two?J.K. Rowling: Definitely both.Meredith Vieira: Yeah?J.K. Rowling: Whole bundle of emotions wrapped up into one. Immediately after finishing writing, I was very {upset}.  The first two days were terrible.  Terrible.Meredith Vieira: In what way?  Tell me what you did.J.K. Rowling: Just I was incredibly low. What is probably hard for people to imagine is how wrapped up the 17 years' work is with what was going on in my life at the time.

Her often-told life story sounds almost as magical as the books  she conjured up.

But what's not as well known is the magic was tempered by sorrow and loss, which played a key role in the creation of the Harry Potter books.

In a foreshadowing of events in her own life, her parents met and got engaged on a train traveling through the English countryside.

And Joanne Rowling was born in a village in the west of England 42 years ago this week.

Her father, Peter, was a factory manager; her mother, Ann, a lab technician.  

As a little girl, "Jo" amused herself and little sister "Di" with early attempts at hare-raising stories...

J.K. Rowling: I wrote this little book about a rabbit called Rabbit and His Adventures.  And I illustrated it myself, too, and showed it to my mother, who, as mothers do, was rhapsodized and said how wonderful it was.  And what's interesting to me is I was six years old.  And I thought, "Well, are we going to get it published?" And-- so I-- I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Fast-forward 20 years, to 1990, and Jo Rowling came up with a very different type of story. She had been visiting a boyfriend in Manchester, England and was traveling back to London on a train when inspiration struck.

J.K. Rowling: Absolutely true. Yeah. I was on the train from Manchester to London. And it came.  Just came.Meredith Vieira: Had something like that ever happened to you before?J.K. Rowling: Yes. Truthfully. (LAUGHTER) I mean, other ideas have just come to me because I think if you're a writer and that's what you spend a huge amount of time doing, you do-- ideas do come to you.  But nothing had ever come so-- with such a-- I had this, "God, I'd love to write that." When I got off the train I went home and started writing.

Then living in London, she kept her story about a boy wizard to herself.

Her mother was gravely ill, and then died six months after her daughter began writing the Potter story.

J.K. Rowling: One of my biggest regrets.  She never knew.  I never told her.Meredith Vieira: She had been sick for quite awhile.  She had battled MS for ten years.J.K. Rowling: Yeah.Meredith Vieira: How did her departure, her death affect this book?J.K. Rowling: Definitely Mom dying had a profound influence on the books because … in the first draft, his parents were disposed really in quite … in the most cavalier fashion.  I didn't really dwell on it.  Six months in my mother died and I simply {couldn't kill off the fictional} mother.  That callously.  Not-- it wasn't callous, but it's-- it wasn't what it became ... And I really think from that moment on, death became a central, if not the central, theme of the seven books.Meredith Vieira: You mean death in terms of loss, not just the killing of people but--J.K. Rowling: Yeah ... The theme of how we react to death, how much we fear it.  Of course, I think which is a key part of the book because Voldemort is someone who will do anything not to die.  He's terrified of death.  And in many ways, all of my characters are defined by their attitude to death and the possibility of death.

The loss of her mother affected Jo Rowling in another way.  It was time to move away -- to say goodbye to the British isles.

Meredith Vieira: You decide to leave.  Get rid of the-- the old boyfriend, move to Portugal.  In that time, married, have a new baby.  Jessica.J.K. Rowling: I have a baby.  Jessica.Meredith Vieira: Divorce.  And you come back.J.K. Rowling: Yeah.Meredith Vieira: To a kind of a different world.  You're on public assistance--J.K. Rowling: Really different.Meredith Vieira: --at that point?J.K. Rowling: That was-- yeah, that was a-- obviously a very, very tough time because I'd been working always up to that point. I never meant to live in Edinburgh … it was clearly because my sister was here and I was staying here for Christmas with her. 

She wrote about "Harry" at an Edinburgh cafe with baby Jessica napping by her side.  She lived in a small upstairs apartment. Then, after a publisher saw the first three chapters of the story and asked to see more, she rushed to finish it.

J.K. Rowling: I was determined to try because, frankly, my life was such a mess at this point, what-- what was the worst that could happen?  Everyone turn me down?  Big deal.

But the tough times were about to end.  "Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone," the U.K. title, was eventually bought by small British publisher Bloomsbury, for $4,000.

About a year later, in 1997, her agent called to say American publisher scholastic was bidding for "Harry Potter.”

J.K. Rowling: He phoned me and said, "There's an auction going on in New York."  And, again, I'm so clueless.  I thought, "Why's he telling me about that?" (LAUGHTER) I was like, you know, he had to be quite specific.  "An auction for your book.  Why would I be telling you about a furniture sale?"Meredith Vieira: God, you can be so dense-- Jo (OVERTALK)J.K. Rowling: You know, I always-- to be honest, life had battered me around so much in the previous two years that when you start receiving good news, you're quite distrustful. (LAUGHTER) And so--Meredith Vieira: It wasn't good news.  It was pretty great news. They'd never offered that kind of money for a children's book--over $1 million. J.K. Rowling: Unbelievable.  It was unbelievable … I started to think, "We can buy a house."  Now, it was all security for me.

Since then, her financial success has become legendary.  

Forbes estimated her fortune at more than $1 billion.

But publishing seven long books in such a short time took a toll.

J.K. Rowling: And that was my fault. 

But now her life is a lot less stressful and a lot less lonely.

After nine years as a single mom….

J.K. Rowling: Which I never in a million years expected.  I never (thought) I would marry again and-- I really didn't.  I (was) sometimes lonely. I hadn't met anyone that I wanted to be with long term … So I just thought, well, this is my life.  I'm not meant to have that.  And then, of course, the moment I'd accepted that comes Neil.

The couple has a son and daughter together.

Oh, and by the way: When Jo and Neil got engaged another train figured in the story, and it wasn’t the Hogwarts express...

J.K. Rowling: My husband proposed to me on a train.Meredith Vieira: You probably thought, "Oh, this is so romantic."J.K. Rowling: Well, I did.  It was the Orient Express.  I'd always wanted to go on the Orient Express.

Now she's devoting her time to her family and her favorite causes, such as helping single mothers and finding a cure for multiple sclerosis, the disease that took her mother's life.

And now she has a chance to reflect.

J.K. Rowling: Finishing has certainly made me look back a lot. It is almost incredible to me at times what's happened. And there are certainly moments when I imagine that I dreamt it all.

Author J.K. Rowling's long-awaited book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" sold a record-breaking 15 million copies worldwide in just 24 hours when it finally went on sale at 12:01 a.m. on July 21.

Two weeks earlier, this excitement was nearly matched when “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” -- the fifth and latest movie in the franchise – premiered.

While the Harry Potter movies have been one of Hollywood's most successful and well-loved movie franchises, Jo Rowling was initially reluctant to see her stories come to life on the big screen.

Meredith Vieira: When that first was presented to you, you said no.J.K. Rowling: Yeah.Meredith Vieira: You weren't interested.J.K. Rowling: Uh-huh (AFFIRM).Meredith Vieira: What changed your mind and-- J.K. Rowling: Well, the biggest thing by far was that I was looking for an agreement that said they would follow my story even though the rest of the books weren't written.  What I didn't want to do was sell the rights to the characters and enable them to do sequels that I haven't written. That was my worst nightmare.  So I was quite happy never to have Harry Potter filmed if that-- if that-- if I couldn't get that guarantee.  Meredith Vieira: And have you been happy with them?J.K. Rowling: I've been really happy with them.  I think that-- our nice-- I say this with no apology because I-- I know that-- I've yet to meet an American fan who doesn't feel the same way.  I think that to keep it an all British cast, given that they-- all the action happens in Britain and all the kids are British was-- was great and a real achievement.Meredith Vieira: But you watch it and you say, "That is the world I've envisioned."J.K. Rowling: Visually it's so close it's almost indistinguishable, particularly Hogwarts. They gave me a lot of input in how things look.  So we're visiting sets the first time and it's just downright creepy because it was like walking inside my own head to the Great Hall-- Diagon Alley (was) very, very close.

Of course, this summer with the premiere of the movie and the launch of book seven timed so closely together, Potter passion peaked.

Emma Watson: I mean, it's kind of Harry Potter mania.  I've never seen it quite this big. Daniel Radcliffe: You know, you get a sense of it at the premieres.  Because you see all the fans there.  And you think, "These guys really love it."  But equally, you think this stretches way beyond these guys.  Because it's not just a superficial thing.  Harry's a character that's worked his way into the collective consciousness of millions of people of all ages around the world.

For Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint -- who play Harry, Hermione and Ron -- their love for Harry Potter existed long before they were cast in the roles.

Daniel Radcliffe: I had read the first two, and after I got the part, I obviously thought well, I must read these, obviously. And-- and I did, and just loved them.  And, you know, I'm sort of a case in point, really, of somebody who didn't really read at all, and-- and read the Harry Potter books and then have now, from then on, been devouring as much literature as I possibly can-- which is, I think, the effect they've had on everybody.Rupert Grint: I was never really a massive reader.  And it was something about them that just-- I really sort of connected to it.  It was just really-- really cool …  This unique thing about it is that sort of children and adults can sort of enjoy them-- my parents read them and sort of everyone sort of loves them.Emma Watson: I was such a fan of the books before I even auditioned for the role. I think I was up to number three before I even did anything.  And my dad used to read them to me and brother before we went to bed every night. 

While some film franchises seem to run out of steam after the first movie, each Harry Potter film has been energized by the twists and turns and evolving characters of each book.

Daniel Radcliffe: It is a phenomenon.  I think it's partly to do with the character of Harry … It's just the most amazing kind of storytelling in that it just drags you in from the first page, you know.  It's one of the things where you just say, "All right.  Well, I'll-- I'll-- I'll read another chapter and then I'll stop."  And you-- you get to the last page of that chapter and think, "I'll go at-- okay, I'll just read the next one."  So, it's totally compulsive...Meredith Vieira: Daniel and Emma and Rupert, who play the three leads, how do you feel about them?  I mean, they're inhabiting your characters.J.K. Rowling: Yeah, it's a strange relationship ...  I feel like a godmother or something.  I feel, you know, they've all got perfectly good parents. So it's not true and I couldn't say I feel really parental.  But I-- they feel connected to me in a bizarre way because of what they've done.  They have grown up with these characters that I've created and they've inhabited  these characters.  And then we-- there's a personal relationship because I know them now.

And for Daniel, Emma and Rupert, the feeling is mutual.

Daniel Radcliffe: Jo's always been totally lovely to me and to all of us. She's really supportive.  And-- and if you ask for advice, she'll give it.  But she would never, you know, force it on you, because she has a-- a lo-- a-- a great understanding that the films are one thing and that the books are another.Rupert Grint: She's really cool.  She's so easy to talk to … the thing that I was sort of surprised about is just how sort of down to earth she is, and just really sort of normal really, and just really cool.

Did this relationship, though, mean that the actors got some inside information? Beware -- here comes another spoiler!


Meredith Vieira: Do they know what hap-- did they know before this book came out?J.K. Rowling: They knew certain things.  I mean, none of them knew the ending.  But-- I told all three of them stuff about their own characters.Meredith Vieira: Did any of them ask, "Are you going to off me?"J.K. Rowling: Yeah, Dan did, yeah.Meredith Vieira: Daniel did?  And did you tell him?J.K. Rowling: I took him out to dinner … And at one point during dinner, he leaned in and he said, "Look, I've got-- I've just got to ask you-- do I die?" And I thought quick and then I whispered, so no one else could hear, you-- you get a death scene.  But Dan is very smart.  And I'm pretty sure he would have walked away from that dinner thinking, "Yeah, I get a death scene, but what does that mean?"J.K. Rowling: --he dies.  So I hope he's happy.Meredith Vieira: Yeah, it is his career after all. (LAUGHTER)

And soon the Harry Potter franchise will come to life in a whole new way at a theme park in Florida owned by our parent company, NBC Universal.

Meredith Vieira: I don't think you're going to have to stand in line, do you?J.K. Rowling: I better not. (LAUGHTER)Meredith Vieira: --injustice.J.K. Rowling: No, it's going to be –- it will be amazing because it will be a place that I can take all three of my children actually.  Because they're planning one ride that's for younger kids.  So I'm looking forward to that.  It's great.

And Jo says that while she may be sad that her part in the Harry Potter journey may be over, the movies and theme park mean that the world of the boy who lived will live on in a very tangible way.

J.K. Rowling: For me it's wonderful to have these things to look forward to. I've got two more movies to look forward and I've got a theme park. And it just means that the world hasn't ended for me.  So even though the books are done, I feel like I still have a connection to Harry's world.  And that's probably eased the ending for me.Meredith Vieira: So you really don't want to let go of Harry.J.K. Rowling: Well, I do and I don't.  It's just great to think that if I need a Harry Potter fix I can go down and visit the set and annoy them. (LAUGHTER)

Meredith Vieira: What to you is the most satisfying part of the entire Harry Potter phenomenon?J.K. Rowling: This. Talking to people like you about the books definitely … I mean, I loved the writing.  But aside of the writing-- it staggers me that so many people have loved them and what's better than that?  Nothing's better than that.

So get ready Potter fans -- because Jo Rowling can finally dish.  Now that the final Harry Potter book is out there are no more secrets she needs to keep.

J.K. Rowling: This book has been under wraps for so long, much longer than-- than people would imagine.  So--Meredith Vieira: So is it a release then for you to be able to--J.K. Rowling: Yeah, oh, it's totally a release.  That's where the-- that's-- big lifting of pressure for me.  It's wonderful.

And we left it to the kids to ask all of the questions they just had to have answered.

Kid: Yeah.  Is Harry Potter based on anyone that you know?  And why did you choose the name Harry Potter?J.K. Rowling: He's not based on anyone I know.  So don't believe anyone who crawls out of the woodwork to claim to be Harry Potter. No, Harry is entirely imaginary … and the name … I was looking for a name that was really quite mundane in a way but a name that I liked. So he became Harry. And then I-- it took me a while to find Potter.  And Potter was the surname of a family I used to live near when I was growing up. And the son of that family then claimed to be Harry Potter, but he's not.  Yeah, I just took the name. (SIGH) J.K. Rowling: More than one have claimed to be Harry.  It's interesting that no one ever claims to be Hermione. (LAUGHTER) Although maybe that's because I'm quite open and I say that Hermione was at least partially based on me when I was younger.Meredith Vieira: least bits of her are like you-- (OVERTALK) --little girl.  In what way?J.K. Rowling: Annoy-- annoying.Meredith Vieira: Annoying?J.K. Rowling: Yeah. (LAUGHTER) But I loosened up quite a bit as I got older, and so does she through the books, under the healthy influence of Harry and Ron.  J.K. Rowling: Hermione's a bit of an exaggeration.  But I was deeply insecure, as is Hermione, I think who it's clear, if you read the book, she's covering up a lot of insecurities by trying to get good marks and so on.  That's the place she feels most secure is in the classroom with her hand up.Meredith Vieira: I'm sure for these children are looking at you probably think you're the coolest thing on earth to hear that you were insecure...J.K. Rowling: Well, everyone is-- everyone is insecure in some way, aren't they?  Very few people aren't anyway.Meredith Vieira: Why were you-- what made you insecure?J.K. Rowling: Well, I have to say it's very like Hermione.  I felt quite plain and I felt, you know, I definitely wasn't the consummate popular kid-- as most people aren't after all.  So that-- I think that's why people identify with Harry, Ron, and Hermione a lot because they're-- because all three of them, in some ways, are outsiders.

Remember those spoiler alerts? Now we are about to have a big one.


Meredith Vieira: A lot of people were worried that Hagrid would die.  Was that ever a plan?J.K. Rowling: Yes … Everyone was up for grabs. Everyone. But actually from very early on … I wanted Hagrid to be the one who carried Harry out of the forest. That had been planned for so long. And I wanted Hagrid to believe that …Meredith Vieira (to audience): Were any of you worried that Hagrid would die?J.K. Rowling: I think a lot of people were worried about-- (OVERTALK)Meredith Vieira: Yeah.  I think I was one of them.J.K. Rowling: Yeah? My sister.  The last thing she said to me before she opened the book was "If Hagrid dies, I will never forgive you."  But it wasn't because of her I kept him alive.  I should pretend it was. I might get a better Christmas present?Dumbledore knew what his weakness was and he learned it when he was 17.  He learned that he-- his weakness and his temptation was power. He recognized that he was not really to be trusted with power.And so he remained at Hogwarts.  And it was important to me to see that Dumbledore made that choice.  And Harry-- Harry I think admires him more for it.

Meanwhile, the seemingly villainous Severus Snape -- the wizard who killed Dumbledore before Harry's eyes -- shows a somewhat more heroic side in the final book.

J.K. Rowling: Snape is a complicated man.  He's bitter.  He's … spiteful.  He's a bully.  All these things are still true of Snape, even at the end of this book.  But was he brave?  Yes, immensely.Was he capable of love?  Very definitely.  So he's-- he's a very-- he was a flawed human being, like all of us.Harry forgives him--- as we know, from the epilogue, Harry-- Harry really sees the good in Snape ultimately. I wanted there to be redemption and I wanted there to be forgiveness.  And Harry forgives, even knowing that until the end Snape loathed him unjustifiably. it's totally, totally unfair that he loathes him so much but anyway.Jackson: Is there anything you wish you had or hadn't written in Harry Potter-- mainly deaths?J.K. Rowling: I-- no, the deaths were all very, very considered.  I don't kill even fictional characters lightly.  So I don't regret any of them.  There are minor plot things that I-- I would change going back.  I'd certainly-- edit Phoenix a bit better because it's-- I think it's too long.Female voice: Which death was the hardest for you?  Other than the seventh book?J.K. Rowling: Which death?Female voice: Yes.J.K. Rowling: Probably Dumbledore.  I didn't enjoy killing Sirius.J.K. Rowling: Just before Phoenix was published … It's the first time I ever went online and looked at the Harry Potter fan sites.  I'd just never done it before.  And one afternoon I did. And boy, that was a bit of a revelation.  I had no idea how much stuff was out there.  And one of the fan sites I-- I found was-- dedicated entirely to Sirius Black.J.K. Rowling: I had no idea he had his own fan site, his own fan club, started by these teenage girls, I think.  They all loved Sirius.  And I knew that he had about three--J.K. Rowling: --to live. It was terrible....

And some young readers had some very grown-up questions.

Young voice: Voldemort's killing of Muggle-borns, it sounds a lot like ethnic cleansing.  How much of the series is a political metaphor?J.K. Rowling: Well, it is a political metaphor.  But … I didn't sit down and think, "I want to recreate Nazi Germany," in the-- in the wizarding world.  Because-- although there are-- quite consciously overtones of Nazi Germany, there are also associations with other political situations.  So I can't really single one out.Young voice: Harry's also referred to as the chosen one.  So are there religious--J.K. Rowling: Well, there-- there clearly is a religious-- undertone.  And-- it's always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming.  So … yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book.Meredith Vieira: And what is the struggle?J.K. Rowling: Well my struggle really is to keep believing.Meredith Vieira: To keep believing?J.K. Rowling: Yes.


So turn down that sound if you don't want to know.

Jo Rowling fills in some of the blanks in the epilogue for her fans.

Chelsea: In the end … you tell us that Neville is a professor at Hogwarts. What do-- Harry, Hermione, and Ron do?J.K. Rowling: Harry and Ron utterly revolutionized the Auror Department in-- at the Ministry of Magic.  So they-- I mean, they are now the consummate-- they are experts.  It doesn't matter how old they are or what else they've done.So Harry and Ron lead the way in recreating the new Auror Department.  And by the time-- 19 years later -- I would imagine that Harry is heading up that department, which is not corrupt in any way.  It's-- it's a really good place to be.  And Hermione …  I think she's now pretty high up in the Department for Magical Law Enforcement.Where I would imagine that her brainpower and-- and her knowledge of how the dark arts operate would really give her a, you know, a sound grounding.  So they're all at the ministry but it's a very new ministry.  They made a new world.

Meredith Vieira: You did leave it open for the possibility because in the epilogue there's Harry and Hermione and Ron and they have their children and--J.K. Rowling: But not-- I didn't really leave it open for that reason.  I didn't write the epilogue thinking, "Right.  Let's set the stage for another set of books for the next generation."  It-- it was just-- I wanted to show that life went on.  And that even where there had been deaths, you know, there would be life and so on.

In fact, she says dead Professor Lupin's son Teddy is one of the main reasons she wanted to write the epilogue.

J.K. Rowling: To hear that Teddy Lupin -- Lupin's son is obviously okay.  That he has an ongoing relationship with Harry and that he's-- he must be quite happy and he's got a very good-looking girlfriend because I think he's kissing in the epilogue his-- Bill and Fleur's eldest daughter.Meredith Vieira: And why is that important?J.K. Rowling: Because he's been orphaned.  And I want-- I want to show that he's okay.And I want to show that because the world is a better place, he's having a happier-- and then I started to cry.  So obviously Teddy Lupin's very important to me.  I just-- yeah.  I-- having killed both his parents, I really wanted him to be okay.

Then she dished about the life and death choice she made between the Weasley twins -- Fred and George -- brothers of Harry's best friend Ron.

J.K. Rowling: Well, I don't know why because I always knew it was going to be Fred.  I suppose looking back from it, I think that most people would have expected it to be George I think. Because that's the ringleader.  He's always been the instigator.  He's slightly harder than George.  George is slightly gentler.  Fred is normally the funnier but also the crueler of the two.  So they might have thought that George would be the more vulnerable one and, therefore, the one to die.Meredith Vieira: But was it easier for you to kill Fred than George?J.K. Rowling: It wasn't easier.Meredith Vieira: No?J.K. Rowling: It wasn't easier. Either one of them would have been terrible to kill. (LAUGHTER) It was awful killing Fred.  I hated that.

But the toughest time for her came during the writing of another chapter.

J.K. Rowling: I really, really, really cried after writing Chapter 34, which is where Harry walks back into the forest for what he thinks will be the last time … It was because I had to live that with Harry and feel the weight of his disillusionment and his fear because he believes he's being sent to his death by Dumbledore who he saw wanted to keep him alive.  So that was massively moving to me to write. Meredith Vieira: Why was it important to you, Jo, to write about the cruelty and inhumanity?J.K. Rowling: I'm not sure why. (LAUGHTER) But it was what I wanted to write about most.  And it's about choice.  And you are shown that Voldemort. I mean, it-- I suppose we're going to call him a psychopath.  But he's so, in many ways, he is what he is and he's beyond redemption. Although this being Harry Potter and because I can take liberties because I have magic in my world, it is shown at the very end of the book that he did have a chance for redemption because he had taken into his body this drop of hope or love--Meredith Vieira: Harry's blood.J.K. Rowling: Right.  So that meant that if he could have mastered the courage to repent, he would have been okay.  But, of course, he wouldn't.  And that's his choice.  But the people around him, that's what's more interesting in a way. The people who were drawn to him for protection, for power, sadism.  But people who do have a choice, did make a choice, like the Malfoys of this world.  And I think that's always worth examining why people choose to make those decisions.

But one point she wanted to make had nothing to do with book seven. It was about her gratitude to the readers who've stuck with her and Harry for ten years now.

Meredith Vieira: It's got to be humbling in some ways, too.J.K. Rowling: Yeah, totally.  Funnily enough, just before Seven came out, I met two or three fans -- all who said the same thing to me.  "I read the first one when I was ten.  I read the first one when I was 11." And I'm now looking at 20-year-old men and women.Meredith Vieira: What do you say to those fans?  Because there are many who--J.K. Rowling: I just say you can't imagine what that means to me.  And they can't. They can't.Meredith Vieira: Did you feel, in writing the seventh book, or any-- actually any one of them, but particularly the seventh-- a sense of responsibility to those fans?J.K. Rowling: You know, it always-- well, yes.  I definitely felt a sense of responsibility in that I wanted to make it the very, very, very best book I could.  Because they were waiting for it and there was so much expectation. I am often asked, "Well, don't you feel guilty killing people, characters that kids love?"  And-- it sounds horrible and heartless to say "no."  But the truth is that when you're writing, you have to think only of what you're writing … You must not sit there and think, "Well, I was going to kill Hagrid but, you know, people love him."

And now that Harry Potter’s story has been told, Jo Rowling gets a chance to work on her personal story.

Meredith Vieira: What's next for you?J.K. Rowling: I'm going to take a break definitely.  And I'm just going to savor for a while the feeling that I don't have a deadline.Meredith Vieira: Do you want to write another book?J.K. Rowling: Of course.  Of course.  I'm not saying I won't be writing.  I'm just saying I'm going to be enjoying writing without having to publish or having to think about that.  And it's-- that's a privilege, you know? … I'm immensely privileged.

And she saved one last inside tidbit to the end.

That means it's also time for one last spoiler alert.


Meredith Vieira: The end of the book: I had read that the last word was supposed to be "scar."  But the last--J.K. Rowling: And it was for a long, long time.  For a long time the last line was something like:  "Only those who he loved could see the lightning scar."  And that was in reference to the fact that as they were on the platform, people were milling around.  And that Harry was kind of flanked by, you know, his loved ones.  So they were the only ones who were really near enough to see it, even though peo-- other people were looking. And it also had a kind of ambiguity.  So it was-- is the scar still really there?  But I changed it because I wanted a more-- when I came to write it, I wanted a very concrete statement that Harry won.  And that the scar, although it's still there, it's now just a scar.  And I wanted to say it's over.  It's done.  And maybe a tiny bit of that was to say to people, "No, Voldemort's not rising again.  We're not going to have Part Two.  Harry's job is done."  So that's why I changed it.Meredith Vieira: To "all is well." And you knew when you came up with that line, that was it.J.K. Rowling: It just felt ... I felt a kind of (SIGH).  And that's-- that felt right.  And I really wanted Harry to have some (peace).Meredith Vieira: So, in 17 years and seven books, what do you hope that people take away from this?J.K. Rowling: The most flattering thing that I've ever been told -- and I have been told it quite a lot -- is that the Harry Potter books were the first that made people interested in reading.  And there's nothing better than that.  If that's what Harry did, then that's the best thing I could possibly, possibly hear.Meredith Vieira: And as you would put it:  “All is well.”J.K. Rowling: Exactly.