J.K. Rowling once said that children’s authors had to be ‘ruthless killers’ – and she wasn’t kidding. Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, Fred Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, Remus Lupin, poor little Hedwig... But it could have been a lot worse. For there are characters that survived all seven books who, had J.K. Rowling not changed her mind, wouldn’t have.
Here are a few characters J.K. Rowling saved, and the ones she’s since expressed regret at letting go.
Spoilers lie below...
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, our beloved Weasley patriarch Arthur suffered a brutal attack from Nagini – Lord Voldemort’s snake companion – while guarding the Department of Mysteries; an attack that seemed like it could be his end. After all, with Voldemort on the rise, it was only a matter of time before the fatalities started to build up. Thankfully, Arthur recovered at St Mungo’s (with no help from a few Muggle stitches…), but it could’ve gone a whole other way.
J.K. Rowling has said in interviews that she felt she had to ‘kill parents’ to amplify the fear Lord Voldemort brought upon the wizarding world. But she also couldn’t lose Arthur.
‘If there’s one character I couldn’t bear to part with, it’s Arthur Weasley,’ she told The Today Show back in 2007. ‘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.’
So Arthur survived. But at what cost? Well, Lupin’s cost, actually. But more on that later…
Merlin’s beard! From one Weasley to another? Yes, J.K. Rowling did indeed flirt with the idea of killing off Harry’s best friend, Ron. But the moment was fleeting, at least.
In an interview for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 DVD, J.K. Rowling joked to Daniel Radcliffe that midway through the series she started thinking she ‘might polish one of them off’ and even seriously considered killing Ron – but ultimately decided that Harry, Ron and Hermione would go all the way.
‘Funnily enough, I planned from the start that none of [the trio] would die. Then midway through, which I think is a reflection of the fact that I wasn’t in a very happy place, I started thinking I might polish one of them off. Out of sheer spite. “There, now you definitely can’t have him anymore.” But I think in my absolute heart of heart of hearts, although I did seriously consider killing Ron, [I wouldn’t have done it].’
Phew. Of course, there is that horrendous moment in Order of the Phoenix when we thought we had run into Ron’s corpse – but it was actually just Mrs Weasley’s Boggart. Maybe this was J.K. Rowling’s way of getting that ‘sheer spite’ out of her system. Now never scare us like that again!
While we’re grateful we got to keep the characters we did, we suffered a lot of bloodshed by the end of the Battle of Hogwarts. In fact, every year J.K. Rowling takes to Twitter to apologise for one of the fallen, from Severus Snape to Remus Lupin. Speaking of which...
So we mentioned earlier that Arthur Weasley’s survival came at the cost of Lupin. Indeed, J.K. Rowling explained that because Arthur got to stay, Lupin had to go. In a tweet, she explained…
‘Arthur lived, so Lupin had to die. I’m sorry. I didn’t enjoy doing it. The only time my editor ever saw me cry was over the fate of Teddy.’
Can’t we please have both?
While Arthur and Ron survived the chop, Fred wasn’t quite so lucky, getting hit by a curse only mere moments after sharing a rare moment of mirth with his estranged brother Percy. Rowling has since described Fred’s death as ‘the worst for me’. Incidentally, Fred was chosen to die over his twin George because he was the slightly more conspicuous brother.
‘Fred is normally the funnier but also the crueller of the two. So [readers] might have thought that George would be the more vulnerable one and, therefore, the one to die,’ she once said.
While Rowling continues to make her annual apologies for the deaths of major characters, one minor character also got under her skin: Florean Fortescue, the ice cream parlour owner of Diagon Alley. Why? Because originally, Fortescue was intended to be more connected to the Deathly Hallows, but the plot strand got snipped. During the book, we do see Fortescue mysteriously disappear – but while Rowling originally meant for Harry to discover him, she ended up having to kill him off for no reason.
‘He is not the first wizard whom Voldemort murdered because he knew too much (or too little), but he is the only one I feel guilty about, because it was all my fault,’ she said.
Of course, we understand her reasons for everyone’s deaths – that is simply the nature of war. But taking away the guy who made the ice cream during the dark days of Lord Voldemort’s reign? Unforgivable.