I know exactly how the seventh Harry Potter book ends. And how it begins. And everything in between. By this, I don't mean that I have an ironclad, alchemy-based theory about what will transpire at the conclusion of the saga, nor do I mean that I have glimpsed even one page of the yet-to-be-released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Who has time to become familiar enough with the finer points of alchemy to formulate an accurate theory? And I certainly wouldn't risk a jail sentence attempting to purloin a copy of Deathly Hallows stored in some clandestine warehouse; I don't look good in prison gray. So how, you ask, can I have in my possession the final Harry Potter book? The answer is obvious: I got tired of waiting and wrote it myself.
My seventh book is called Harry Potter and the Vanquishing of Lord Voldemort and His Incredibly Dangerous Horcruxes and Everything Else You Want to Happen, also known as VLVHIDHEEYWH for short. I know what you must be thinking: "Big deal! More fan fiction. Yawn." How very wrong you are. I have never written fan fiction, and my book does not slip easily into that category. At a whopping 1,593 pages of elegant Garamond font, replete with chapter illustrations and cover art that would knock Mary GrandprÃ©'s socks off, this tome surely transcends the bounds of mere fanfic. This is a novel ’ the novel, in fact. The one for which we've all been pining, lo these many years.
VLVHIDHEEYWH does not feature an ordinary girl (just like me!) who wakes up one day to find herself among wizards at Hogwarts, nor does it feature lengthy, un-Rowling-ish digressions about martial arts-type spells, beloved personalities who arise from the dead, or any characters named after my friends or family members. In every way it is the seventh Harry Potter book. Except for the tiny flaw that it's written by me and not J.K. Rowling. But when you've been waiting an entire decade for a satisfactory conclusion to the tale of our beloved Harry, isn't the author's name a minor detail by now?
I know you, jaded reader. First you will attempt to label my book seven "fan fiction' then when that fails you will roll your eyes to the heavens and proclaim: "Why not just wait for Jo's book seven? The release date is only a few months away." A few months? More like 110 days! Do you realize what could happen in 110 days? That's 2,640 hours, folks ’ an awful lot of time for an unforeseen circumstance to arise and prevent any one of us from ever getting our hands on that book. Though I loathe having to resort to grim statistics, it is a fact that approximately 130,000 people ’ just in England and Wales ’ will die before July 21st, 2007.1 These people will never get to see how the Harry Potter series ends! Just imagine that. As if dying isn't already frightening enough, but to die while Harry is still in danger of being murdered by Voldemort and Ron remains in denial of his true feelings for Hermione! That vaults beyond scary and into the realm of tragic.
"But I'm so young and healthy' I hear you counter. "What could possibly happen to me between now and then?" Unfortunately, it is a sad reality that over 500 people are killed yearly by tripping and falling in the United States alone.2 Even if you make it through April, May, June, and most of July whole and unscathed, the odds of tripping over your shoelace on the way to the bookstore, perishing instantly and never holding Deathly Hallows in your eager hands are a bit too high for my liking.
Barring any individual freak accidents or premature deaths, there are still the usual global-scale risks to worry about: nuclear bomb threats, hurricanes, terrorist plots, and the like. This is an uncertain age in which each second could be our last. And even if the human race is lucky enough to survive until mid-to-late July, what about the books? They could be stolen and held for ransom; they could all be accidentally shipped to Antarctica and succumb to a melting polar ice cap; Ms. Rowling could decide to retract them at the last second because of a minor error she has spotted; who knows? To sit around and passively wait for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to fall into your lap is to ask for catastrophe. That's why I penned Harry Potter and the Vanquishing of Lord Voldemort and His Incredibly Dangerous Horcruxes and Everything Else You Want to Happen. There's nothing like taking matters into your own hands.
Suppose the best case scenario occurs. We all survive, the books arrive intact, and on that warm, fateful, early Saturday morning in July every single one of us are found snuggled in our beds, clutching Deathly Hallows in one hand and a refreshing beverage of our choice in the other. Sounds nice, doesn't it? I hate to be the one to shatter this fantasy, but unfortunately there is no guarantee that this rosy arrangement will end happily either.
Let's say that the first few chapters start well enough: Bill and Fleur are enjoying a lovely honeymoon in Greece, Harry is successfully tracking down and destroying Voldemort's Horcruxes, and we've already learned exactly what the eponymous Hallows are and why they are so deathly. What if the beginning of the book goes just as we expect, lulls us into a false sense of security and then ’ wham! ’ disaster strikes? What if, around Chapter Twelve, Voldemort kills off everyone in Harry's life except for Grawp, and we are left with a poignant coming-of-age tale of a young wizard and his gruff but endearing giant?
Or worse yet, what if the big Deathly Hallows read goes along swimmingly until the very last chapter and then it all ends¦wrong? What if it doesn't turn out at all the way we want it to? I mean, Harry could die! Voldemort could take over the world! Ron could be hoodwinked into a loveless marriage with Lavender! Severus Snape could issue a gracious apology for killing Dumbledore, then quietly relocate to Toronto and leave behind a journal exposing the truth: that he is actually a dull, ordinary man who enjoys crossword puzzles and light beer! Personally, I place more faith in our brilliant Jo than that, but the fact is we just don't know what she might do. It's her world and we, as mere readers, have no control over how it will end. The whole Deathly Hallows experience is fraught with peril and may prove to be a bitter disappointment. The experience of reading VLVHIDHEEYWH, however, always leaves a smile on my face.
"So what exactly happens in your book seven?" you ask with a note of suppressed frenzy in your voice. Actually, "what doesn't happen?" would be a more appropriate question. I put a great deal of work into this book, and as I was writing I became increasingly aware of the difficulty in trying to please every single Harry Potter fan. My respect for Ms. Rowling grew immensely as I realized the impossibility of attempting this task. Suddenly one night ’ shortly after trying to drown my writer's angst with an entire bottle of blackberry flavored waffle syrup ’ I was stricken with the obvious solution: turn VLVHIDHEEYWH into a Choose Your Own AdventureÂ®-style book!3 Let the reader choose from different scenarios while reading, and offer multiple endings to the tale! Maybe it was the blackberry syrup talking, but the inspiration took hold and a seventh Harry Potter book was created to please many different readers.
For example, let's say you want Snape to kill Lord Voldemort, thereby allowing Harry's soul to remain intact. No problem! You just skip to page 1,434 and read this passage:
Voldemort's high-pitched cackle faded as Harry finished his explanation. "You see, I've known about the bits of soul you had stored away for over a year now, Voldemort¦and so did Dumbledore' Harry uttered in an exhausted yet triumphant voice as Voldemort's red eyes widened with fear.
"You've had a good run, but you're all washed up now' said Harry as he raised his wand and aimed right at Voldemort's head. "This is for my parents: Avada Ke”" Harry began, when a calm voice unexpectedly took over the curse Harry had started to speak.
"”davra' said the soothing voice almost lazily as Voldemort's lifeless body fell to the ground with a flash of green light. Snape had been standing behind Voldemort the whole time! Harry's mouth fell open in astonishment.
"What are you doing here, you¦you”" Harry sputtered. "No time for explanations, Potter' said Snape curtly. "The Death Eaters will be arriving shortly and I've set a trap for them. We must get you back home safely. Scone?" Snape inquired as he grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him away from the graveyard, meanwhile producing a freshly baked cinnamon scone from the pocket of his robes.
If this option fails to satisfy you, don't worry. There are countless other scenarios to appeal to even the pickiest readers. You'll find Voldemort murdered by a solo Harry on page 1,467; Voldemort tricked into destroying himself by the clever Hermione on page 1,302; Voldemort Avada Kedavra-ed by a heroic Ron on page 1,399; the Dark Lord even gets defeated by the force of love emanating from Dumbledore's portrait on page 1,418. In fact, Lord Voldemort is offed a total of 38 times in VLVHIDHEEYWH, by 38 different characters, in 38 different ways. I think the time when Lupin smothers him with BÃ©arnaise sauce and devours him during a full moon is my favorite, but I also enjoy it when he gets the remainder of his soul sucked out by a dementor that Luna has captured, tamed, and trained to kill You-Know-Who.
Maybe you're not as concerned with Voldemort, but have been hoping that the house-elves will break the spell that has bound them to their families for centuries and stage a massive revolt against their oppressors. You'll find your ideal scene played out on page 815:
[...] Dobby closed his giant eyes and murmured one or two ancient-sounding magical words. His and Winky's diminutive bodies were instantly endowed with a Herculean strength that surged through their tiny elfin veins.
"Noooo!" screamed Lucius as Winky pinned the wizard's arms before he could reach for his wand. "Have you no sense of propriety, you filthy little beasts?"
These would always be remembered as Lucius Malfoy's final words; Dobby gave a small grunt of disgust as he and Winky grabbed Lucius by his hair and thrust him through the highest window in the Malfoy castle.
What if you've simply been aching to read about a heartwarming reunion between Neville and his parents, and see Gilderoy Lockhart redeemed in the process? In this case, pop on over to page 680 and read to your heart's content:
"Mum, Dad' Neville gasped in a hoarse whisper. "Do you¦do you really know me?"
Alice Longbottom smiled and embraced her son as if she hadn't seen him in sixteen years, though he came to visit every Christmas.
Neville wiped the tears from his eyes. "But how”"
"It was that Lockhart chap' Neville's father said with a sigh of gratitude. "He regained his memory last week, recalled all of the horrible things he had done in his life, and decided he would be better off in a comatose state! So he performed a Reverso spell with us, giving us back our memories and sanity, and taking our babbling incoherence in exchange, bless him."
Perhaps your fondest desire is simply for the Weasley family to all make it through the saga unharmed and live happily ever after, growing wealthier and wealthier from Fred and George's joke shop profits. Page 1,071 is for you.
Or it could be that your secret wish has always been for George to confess a deep, hidden love for Fred's steady date Angelina Johnson, for the brothers to quarrel and then make amends, and finally for George and Angelina to elope to Texas and play for the Sweetwater All-Stars. Even this unique turn of events can be found on page 919.
On the other hand, if you want to see Harry destroyed by Voldemort and a Death Eater Fancy Dress Extravaganza to be held at Hogwarts in celebration of The Chosen One's death, you're out of luck. If you want Minerva McGonagall and Hermione Granger to team up and establish a private girls' school in Dundee that exclusively teaches knitting to young witches, well, I'm afraid you'll have to write your own book. If you're hankering for a tearful moment in which Harry must say goodbye to a dying Hagrid, forget it. In my book, no one dies except Voldemort and a handful of his most irredeemable cronies. Really, haven't Harry and all of his friends suffered enough?
As you can see, not each and every imaginable scenario is presented in VLVHIDHEEYWH, only a variety of popular endings that will make me ’ and the rest of the fans ’ happy. All of the loose ends and hints started by Jo herself find their resolution somewhere in my book; there isn't a single thread left dangling. The mysterious R.A.B., Lily's eyes, Harry's scar, Petunia's secret, Eileen Prince, time travel, Aberforth, the Veil at the Ministry, Snape's Patronus, Godric Gryffindor, the power of treacle, the importance of socks¦ it's all there in glorious black and white.
On the Edge
So let's review the options. You can pre-order Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, waste away for a few months, eventually trudge down to your local bookstore at eleven o'clock on July 20th, wait around until midnight, hope you end up with a book, and pray that the story turns out well. If you want to live on the edge. Or you can avoid all that discomfort and settle in with a copy of Harry Potter and the Vanquishing of Lord Voldemort and His Incredibly Dangerous Horcruxes and Everything Else You Want to Happen, as I myself have done many times. It's up to you.
Still, I know there are many die-hard Harry Potter fans who feel that nothing can replace the real thing. No matter what dangers or disappointments may lie ahead, come what may, you all will risk anything to paint lightning-bolt scars on your foreheads and stand in gargantuan lines at midnight to get your paws on those copies of Deathly Hallows. I know despite all my efforts (writing, drawing, paying hefty royalties to everyone from J.K. Rowling to the Choose Your Own AdventureÂ® corporation) nothing I can say or do will change that. I hope you all enjoy the release of your long-awaited book seven; I won't be there. I already have mine.
1. Office for National Statistics, “Death Registrations.”
2. Mongabay.com, “Causes of death due to injury.”
3. Chooseco LLC, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.
Chooseco LLC. “Choose Your Own Adventure” books http://www.cyoa.com/.
Mongabay.com. “The most common causes of death due to injury in the United States,” 2000. Data from the National Safety Council http://danger.mongabay.com/injury_death.htm.
UK Office for National Statistics. “Death Registrations,” 2005 http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?ID=952.