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We all remember the trauma that went with watching Arthur Weasley subjected to a vicious attack from Voldemort’s snake Nagini. His death was prevented thanks to Harry’s dream of the serpent’s attack – but author JK Rowling has since revealed she seriously toyed with the idea of finishing poor Arthur off altogether. In the end she was too attached, admitting that “there were very few good fathers in the book”. Instead it was Lupin and Tonks who met their maker, leaving behind their newborn son, because Rowling “wanted there to be an echo of what happened to Harry just to show the absolute evil of what Voldemort’s doing.”
In retrospect it seems absurd that Rowling would dare kill off any of her ‘big three’, but the author has admitted she “seriously considered” doing away with Ron Weasley half way through writing the series. “Funnily enough, I planned from the start that none of them would die,” she said. “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 any more.’ But I think in my absolute heart of heart of hearts, although I did seriously consider killing Ron, [I wouldn’t have done it].” How would Hermione have coped?
Draco Malfoy. Possibly the coolest name in the Potterverse, but it could have been so underwhelming. In her original drafts for her Potter books, Rowling’s name for Harry’s nemesis was… Draco Spungen. Distinctly un-cool, we think you’ll agree. The author went through a range of surnames – including Smart and Spinks – before she finally hit upon Malfoy.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about poor old Florean Fortescue – the ice cream parlour owner who fell victim to Voldemort’s evil whims. But Rowling hasn’t. In fact, his is the death she feels most guilty about, chiefly because he was killed off for no apparent reason.
You see, Florean was originally intended to convey crucial clues about the Elder Wand and diadem of Ravenclaw to Harry. He was to be kidnapped and rescued by our trio – but when Rowling came to write the scenes, she decided Phineas Nigellus Black and the Grey Lady were better communicators of the information and poor Florean was sacrificed at the hands of the Dark Lord.
There have long been whisperings that Professor Snape was secretly a vampire – rumours that Rowling herself has sternly refuted – but the author did toy with the idea of introducing another character at Hogwarts, Professor Trocar, who WAS a bloodsucker. Of course, Trocar’s name comes with its own meaning – a “sharply pointed shaft inserted into arteries or cavities to extract bodily fluids.” Delightful.
Malfoy always enjoyed ruling over his fellow purebloods, but did you know he wasn’t always intended to be so comfortable in his position as leader of the pack. In Rowling’s original plans, she conceived a character called Theodore Nott, the pureblood son of a Death Eater, who was to pay a visit to Malfoy Manor – an opportunity to give the reader a full blown tour of the opulent pad. We’d have also got to see Malfoy interacting with someone he viewed as his equal.
“Theodore is just as pure-blooded as he is, and somewhat cleverer,” Rowling has since said. “Together these two Death Eaters’ sons discuss Dumbledore’s regime at Hogwarts and Harry Potter, with all sorts of stories that the Death Eaters tell about how this baby boy survived the Dark Lord’s attack.”
Yes, you read that right. Back in the Potter planning stages, Rowling conceived a red-headed cousin to Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron and Ginny. But instead of joining her relatives in Gryffindor, Mafalda Weasley was sorted into Slytherin – and was to become a mouthpiece delivering the evil plans of the Death Eaters from their children to the ears of Harry, Ron and Hermione.
She never materialised in the finished product because, according to Rowling, “however bright I made her, there were obvious limitations to what an eleven year old closeted at school could discover, whereas Rita Skeeter, whom I subsequently built up to fulfill Mafalda’s function, was much more flexible.”
She added: “The best thing about Mafalda was that she was a match for Hermione. To the latter’s horror, Mafalda was highly gifted and a real show-off, so that Hermione was torn between deploring the rule-breaking and longing to join in and beat her.”
We know very little of Hermione’s parents, but Mr Granger was originally intended to play a far greater role in the events of the first Harry Potter book. In early drafts of The Philosopher’s Stone, Lily and James were living on an island, with the Grangers residing on the shore nearby. On the night of their murder, Hermione’s father was to notice an explosion, get in his boat and row to the island to see what had happened. It was there that he would have found baby Harry – although, as we now know, it is Hagrid who retrieves the infant and delivers him to 4 Privet Drive in the finished books.
Incidentally Hermione Granger was nearly named Hermione Puckle before Rowling decided to change it to something less sour.
We never discovered all that much about Dean Thomas, the Gryffindor wizard whom Harry and Ron shared a dorm with. But if not for an economical editor working on The Chamber of Secrets, there would have been far more information on the West Ham supporter. “My editor thought that chapter was too long and pruned everything that he thought was surplus to requirements,” explained Rowling. “When it came to the casting on the film version of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’, however, I told the director, Chris, that Dean was a black Londoner. In fact, I think Chris was slightly taken aback by the amount of information I had on this peripheral character.” Unfortunately for poor Dean the extra information never found its way into the books.
Another Chamber of Secrets casualty was a ballad authored by Nearly Headless Nick to explain the manner of his execution. Rowling has since admitted it was a “wrench” to omit the song but said it was “superfluous to requirements”. Luckily for us, a version has since appeared online – which includes a full retelling of the moment his head was nearly severed by an inept executioner:
“This may sting a bit” said the cack-handed twit,
As he swung the axe up in the air,
But oh the blunt blade! No difference it made,
My head was still definitely there.”
Of the seven Horcruxes created by Lord Voldemort, one was Helga Hufflepuff’s cup – the symbol of the Hogwarts house which Harry, Ron and Hermione destroyed with a basilisk fang during the Battle of Hogwarts. But their job may have been trickier had the Horcrux been a cauldron as Rowling had originally intended…
For much of the writing process, the final word in the Harry Potter books was to be “scar”, but as Rowling came to write the last chapters, she changed her mind, switching her final sentence to “all is well”.
“When I came to it, I wanted a very concrete statement that Harry won,” the author has since explained. “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.”