2:00 pm EDT, July 20, 2014

7 incredible ‘Harry Potter’ theories we wish had come true

After countless years of theorizing and speculating on the fate of Harry and his friends, J.K. Rowling somehow still managed to surprise us when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on July 21, 2007. We pick out the seven best fan theories that never came true.

The betting game was so mainstream that actual bookmakers had released official odds on the likelihood of Harry’s survival (it wasn’t great), and even had stats on who would be the one to kill him (Voldemort was the clear favorite, with Snape coming in at 5-2).

A lot of people’s general theories came true – Harry was a Horcrux, Ron and Hermione got together, Snape was in love with Lily – but some twists took fans completely by surprise. Bookmaker careers were ruined when Rowling had the nerve to simultaneously kill Harry off and having him survive till the end, and we don’t think anyone saw Dumbledore’s extensive and complicated backstory coming.

And of course, a lot of supposed clues ended up being meaningless. Leading up to the release of the final novels, dedicated fans had combed through the previous six books looking for tiny hints to big developments, and developed outlandish theories (which were also generally quite awesome).

In the end, we got a pretty straightforward story – a new and final adventure for Harry, Ron and Hermione, and a clear-cut end to the epic saga.

But what about those complicated, mind-bending theories that were left in the dust? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest could-have-beens:

7. The Department of Mysteries would be revisited (and actually mean something)

department of mysteries

The theories:

We’ve gathered all the major Department of Mysteries theories in one, because they all tie together – and perhaps make up the major source of fan disappointment.

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When the DoM was introduced in Order of the Phoenix, it seemed to come with a big fat promise that the department, with all of its mysteries, would have some kind of major significance later on in the story.

And when we did not return there in Half-Blood Prince (which overall seemed a bit like a distraction, a false calm before the storm that would be book seven), it seemed logical to conclude that the final confrontation with Voldemort, and/or the key to his defeat, would be found underneath the Ministry of Magic.

The Love Room

When a piece of fiction introduces a door that can’t be opened, convention has taught us that eventually, we will actually open the door.

It seemed an intentionally placed clue when, in OotP, Harry briefly tries to open a locked door (and loses the knife given to him by Sirius in the process). Later, Dumbledore explains the room:

There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all.

It is love, of course, which just so happens to be the thing which Dumbledore keeps claiming will be the key to defeating Voldemort. Could the Love Room perhaps be used to kill Voldemort, or to reconcile him with his humanity? It to heal a fatally wounded main character? Well… no. But it’s a cool thought.

The Veil

A lot of studies of Harry Potter have used The Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell) to plot the story, and in some cases to attempt to predict the outcome.

In the Hero’s Journey (which is also used in most major screenplays), the hero must approach the innermost cave towards the end of his journey; this place is where he faces his symbolic death, and where he either rises or falls.

the veil

In some classic tales (Hercules, His Dark Materials, Lord of the Rings, etc.), the innermost cave is an actual journey to the land of the dead. And seeing as the veil seems to work pretty much as a direct passage between life and death, that would be the way for Harry to follow this literary convention.

And of course, it would make sense for the story. Harry had a lot of unfinished business with dead people, and a lot of answers he still needed to get before knowing how to defeat Voldemort. Going back to the Ministry and exploring the world beyond the veil (and finding out what actually happened to Sirius) would have been super interesting.

Instead, Harry’s innermost cave was the Forbidden Forest, and his encounter with the dead came through the Resurrection Stone. Which also works, we guess.

Why it didn’t happen:

While J.K. Rowling’s saga does follow the Hero’s Journey pretty closely, and hits all the beats, maybe in retrospect an actual journey to the underworld would have been a little too on-the-nose (plus, Phillip Pullman had done something very similar in The Amber Spyglass, published only seven (!) years earlier).

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

Really, the Department of Mysteries ended up meaning nothing?! We know, there was a lot to tie up and with the whole Deathly Hallows thing we kind of had enough plot as it was… but we know that the DoM scenes were a lot of people’s favourite parts of Phoenix, and sadly our enjoyment of all the supposed clues and foreshadowing has kind of been lessened by the fact that, well, it was just kind of a filler backdrop to another fight scene.

It’s always a big debate among book series fans whether something should be judged by first read impressions, or by re-readability. We’d say the DoM’s lack of overall story significance has lessened our re-read enjoyment of Phoenix – but if J.K. Rowling had chosen to make this place a big part of Deathly Hallows, perhaps the story would have suffered in other ways. It’s hard to say, but the whole thing still sits as a bit of a disappointment.

6. Neville Longbottom’s parents were communicating using gum wrappers

honeydukes candy

The theory:

Remember that heart-wrenching scene in book five when Harry discovered Neville visiting his catatonic parents in St. Mungo’s? Remember how Alice Longbottom pressed old gum wrappers into his hands and how he kept every single one?

So according to this theory, all these wrappers that Neville kept would turn out to be of tantamount importance when it came to defeating Voldemort. Because while Frank and Alice’s minds might be broken, there were still fragments of information from two once very powerful Aurors tucked away in there – and Alice was desperately trying to pass this information on to her son.

Why it didn’t happen:

Clearly, some plot points are standalone, as much as we might have liked for every tiny thing to mean something. There are a lot of moments throughout the series that are there for no other reason than to give us further insight into the characters and their world, and this was one of them.

Rowling has even admitted in an interview that this scene was inspired by a real-life event, where she witnessed an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s form a connection to her forgotten son through the sweets he’d bring her every time he visited.

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

Maybe it’s just the idea of Neville’s parents being able to play some kind of role, despite their terrible fate – or maybe it’s because these sweets wrappers represent all the scattered, obscure clues we were looking for while combing through the series.

It also would have been a nice way to give Neville some significance; even if he was not the chosen one, these gum wrappers might still prove the key to the series, and if Neville was the one to piece it all together he would, in his own way, prove integral to the defeat of Voldemort – and arguably even be the one to cause his downfall.

5. Harry Potter was the Heir of Gryffindor

harry heir of gryffindor

The theory:

Pretty self-explanatory; it would be revealed in book seven that the Potters were direct descendants of Godric Gryffindor – and therefore, the Harry-Voldemort conflict would hark back to the days of the Hogwarts Founders, making it the ultimate showdown between House Gryffindor and House Slytherin (Game of Thrones-style).

It was also assumed that like Slytherin, the other three Founders would have secret Chambers that might house weapons their descendants could use. This theory required the final book to be very Hogwarts-centric, which was a pretty safe bet considering that the previous six books had taken place there.

Some theorists even took the theory so far as to suggest that both Harry and Godric were also linked to the legendary King Arthur, and that Harry might even be Arthur born again to save Britain – proven by the fact that he was the first Gryffindor in a long time to be able to pull the sword out of the stone hat.

Of course Harry did end up being the heir of someone – the youngest and wisest of the Peverell brothers – but this was something which fans had no possible way of figuring out, since the Deathly Hallows lore was only introduced in the final book.

Why it didn’t happen:

Obviously, Rowling chose to take the final book in a direction no one could have predicted. While the individual Deathly Hallows had all been introduced in earlier books, there was no logical reason for assuming that they’d be tied together, and linked to some deeper mythology.

The Founders really didn’t matter, in the large scale of things; the only thing revealed about them in the final book was that Rowena had a daughter, and that both she and her murderer (the Bloody Baron) had been haunting the castle for centuries. A nice piece of backstory, but ultimately insignificant.

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

For a lot of people, the Harry Potter series was about a lot more than Harry and his friends’ adventures. While Harry’s years at Hogwarts served as the framework for the series, what fueled most of the in-depth theories and fanfic epics was the backstory; the origin stories of the world and its major historical figures.

And Hogwarts, being one of the central “characters” in the story, had a big backstory which deserved to be told. Fans wanted to know more about the four people who founded the school and lent their names to the Houses, whose personalities clashed so epically and whose sorting system destined the British Wizarding World to be forever divided.

If Harry and Voldemort’s bloodlines had been tied to the Founders (who we knew) as opposed to the Peverells (who we as readers had no attachment to), it might have been more of an emotional oomph. The final book could have been devoted to learning the history of Hogwarts, and we could have spent more time at the school as opposed to randomly hopping around the English countryside… which, let’s face it, some people might have preferred.

4. James Potter and Remus Lupin secretly switched bodies

lupin and harry

The theory:

Before James Potter died, he and Remus Lupin switched bodies – most likely using a Switching Spell performed by Lily – as one last precaution to protect the Potters.

While naysayers might immediately question why James and Lily would allow their friends to put themselves in danger, remember that they were already willing to use Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew as secret keepers, thus putting them at great risk – but likely the group had already accepted that they’d all be willing to die for each other, and the cause.

And remember that before the release of Deathly Hallows, James and Lily’s professions were still a great source of speculation. If James had turned out to be some all-important Unspeakable or an Auror, it might have been imperative that he was able to move around freely – but he’d still want to keep someone he trusted around to help Lily protect their baby. Who better than Remus, disguised as James?

Then, when Voldemort attacked and the Potters were killed, what was James to do? As much as he might have wanted to reveal himself, it might have been smarter to keep his identity a secret – to let the world assume that James Potter was dead, in order to let him continue his work.

We don’t imagine that James would easily accept letting Harry grow up with Lily’s horrible relatives, but what was the alternative? A life on the run, with a man who was stuck in another (werewolf) body? Dumbledore surely would have painted a very convincing picture of all this to James, who would finally have agreed to let Harry go.

Why it didn’t happen:

Yeah, okay, it would have been super cheesy. It would just be much too convenient if Harry, whose biggest wish is to have a family, suddenly had one of his parents back.

Plus, despite his tragic demise in Deathly Hallows, Remus Lupin remains a fan favourite character. And as much as Harry worshiped the idea of his father, James Potter was not presented as being particularly sympathetic. Perhaps having him back would not bring Harry the pleasure he might have imagined it would, but instead become a great source of disappointment (which might actually have been interesting).

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

We love when stories present huge twists that totally change the meaning of previous events. When you re-read or re-watch from the beginning, you think the clues are so obvious, yet there’s no way to know until you get the full picture.

If Remus and James had switched bodies, all of Harry’s interactions with Remus would have been given completely new meaning. Remus Lupin – a relatively vague background character on paper (albeit not in fanfiction) – would suddenly have become one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.

And yet, it wouldn’t have diverted from the central conflict: Harry vs Voldemort. Even with James back, Harry would still have to fight this war on his own, and having had to grow up as an orphan, James/Remus would have no more sway over Harry’s decisions than any of the other adults in his life.

3. Harry used a Time Turner, and witnessed his parents’ murder in 1981

harry at deathly hallows

The theory:

Like the Department of Mysteries, the Time Turner was another story element we expected would have greater significance later on in the series.

First introduced in Prisoner of Azkaban, the Time Turner is revealed to be an actual time travelling device – and yet its only use it to allow Hermione to take more classes. What?! Well, it’s Ministry regulated, you see.

This is a prime example of why J.K. Rowling’s laws of the Wizarding World need to be so strict and rigid: if she’s going to introduce huge things like time travelling, she has to make damn sure she’s closed all possible loopholes to limit the influx of nosy fans saying stupid things like, “But then why didn’t Dumbledore just go back in time and kill Voldemort when he was a baby?”

Somehow the answer of, “Because then there’d be no story, dumbass” just doesn’t seem to cut it (though we’d accept it, cause it’s true). Instead, Rowling made one clear rule: the time traveller cannot change the past because the past has already happened. We see this when Harry, Ron and Hermione use the Time Turner to save Buckbeak and Sirius: it was their time-traveller-selves’ presence which allowed the events to unfold as they did in the first place, and nothing changed the second time around; we simply saw the other side of every mysterious situation.

Thus, Voldemort could not have been killed by a time traveller, because he was not killed. Nor could Harry’s parents have been saved, because they did die. But what could have happened was that someone could have tried to save them, and instead ending up causing (or at least witnessing) their murder.

scumbag dumbledore

J.K. Rowling revealed in a 2006 interview that someone besides Voldemort was at Godric’s Hollow the night of the Potters’ murder. We now know it was Snape, but there was a lot of speculation that it could have been a time-travelling Harry.

He might have gone back to try to save his parents, or to learn something important about Voldemort which would help him win the present-day war; in the process he could get to speak to his parents, too, and perhaps make some kind of peace with them. It’d change nothing, but it would be a very nice full-circle moment for the character.

Why it didn’t happen:

Well, with Snape there too, the Potters’ house might have started to feel a bit crowded with Harry (and let’s face it, Ron and Hermione) there too. And we still got Harry’s return to Godric’s Hollow and his reunion with his parents, just in different ways.

While most of the theories presented here might have added something interesting to the plot, it’s also worth remembering that Deathly Hallows was already a very long book, and if Rowling didn’t abandon any other plot elements for these, it just would have been way too complicated.

Finally, there’s also the simple question of whether the Time Turners can even be used to travel that far back in time.

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

Aside from the fact that it’d have brought back the Time Turner and given it a worthy use, it’d just have been so damn cool. Harry would almost be of an age with his parents, and would be allowed to show them (their real, living selves) the kind of man he’d grow up to be. Lily and James would die knowing that their son would be okay.

Plus, the fact that Snape was there would only be an added bonus: imagine if we’d learned that the true source of his anger towards Harry didn’t stem from something as petty as Harry looking like James, but from the fact that Snape knew that Harry came from the future and knew exactly what was going to happen to his parents – and despite logically knowing that it was inevitable, Snape would still hold Harry responsible for Lily’s death. Ouch.

2. Neville Longbottom was the real chosen one

neville longbottom

The theory:

The prophecy as spoken by Sybill Trelawney in Order of the Phoenix goes like this:

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …

As all Potter fans know, this prophecy can apply to two people: Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. However, Dumbledore quickly clears up any doubt: Voldemort marked Harry as his equal when he chose to attack the Potters rather than the Longbottoms, therefore Voldemort himself chose his opponent.

But, the skepticists thought, isn’t that just… too easy? Is it really as simple as that to unequivocally rule out the possibility that perhaps the biggest plot twist of all is still to come? That perhaps the entire book series has been following the “wrong” person?

Somehow, in the end, Harry would try to kill Voldemort and fail – and just when all hope seemed lost, Neville would rise from the dust and perform the heroic act which vanquished the Dark Lord. We would realise that he’d been the chosen one all along, and that all eyes had been turned the wrong way.

The real kicker? Dumbledore had known the truth all along, and allowed the world to believe that Harry was the real threat to Voldemort, all in order to protect Neville. And considering what we learn about the old Headmaster in both books six and seven, this is actually pretty plausible.

This, of course, is another example of a theory that is simply reaching too far, and trying to make the Harry Potter series into something much bigger and more complicated than it is. But is that a good or a bad thing?

Why it didn’t happen:

Let’s get this straight: Harry Potter is an amazing book series. The world J.K. Rowling has crafted is fantastic; the level of detail and consistency in her universe is almost unparalleled, and the characters she has created are always going to be role models and sources of inspiration for people who read the books.

It didn’t need to be bigger. It didn’t need that huge, ground-shaking plot twist that those of us who’d read the books (literally) hundreds of times had come to expect. There’s such a thing as too much, and sometimes a thing is as simple as it appears – Neville could have been the chosen one, but Voldemort chose Harry, so it was Harry. Neville was still awesome. End of story.

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

All of the above is true. And yet. Can we really deny that a small part of us hoped – and is now a tiny bit disappointed – that the story would be bigger than it was? That there was some giant, completely unexpected shake-up in the 11th hour that’d invalidate everything we thought we knew?

For all his human faults and weaknesses, there is no doubt that Harry Potter is the hero of Harry Potter. He is the chosen one, the boy who lives, the one who saves the world. And for readers who’ve read his thoughts for the last seven years of his life, that fact is hugely satisfying. He fulfills the prophecy, he survives, he gets the girl, and with the words “All was well,” we’re left breathing a big sigh of relief and ready to move on with our lives.

But the real challenge, the way the Harry Potter series could have somehow transcended what it had already transcended, would have been if it turned out that our character, the eyes through which we saw the story, was actually a side-figure. If both the wizarding world and the readers had been misled into thinking that Harry was the hero, but in fact it turned out to be the awkward, clutzy boy next door.

Harry would still play a big role in the final battle of course, but ultimately it was the other one, the less important one, who saved the day. Wow. We loved the real ending, but we’re not going to lie: this would’ve been a kickass way to finish off the series.

1. Ron Weasley and Albus Dumbledore were the same person

Ron time turner

The theory:

This was a wild, completely insane, wonderful theory which circulated on the message boards for a long time back in the good old Potter fandom days. And although we really can’t imagine Rowling actually writing it into her canon, we have to admit that the clues were all there.

It takes root in the much-debated chess game sequence in Philosopher’s Stone, in which Ron gets his moment to shine. The problem, the theory points out, is that Ron is not only the knight (and the sacrifice – another supposed clue which fans used to “prove” that he would die in the final book), but also the director of the game. Weasley was (our) King, just like Dumbledore proved to be through most of the series.

ron is dumbledore

Ron and Dumbledore, it was discovered, also looked a lot alike. They were both tall, with red hair and long noses, and if Albus Dumbledore’s name used to be Ron Weasley, the impressive scar on his left knee might have been acquired when that same leg was broken and mauled in Prisoner of Azkaban.

They both like sweets, they both like Harry… and then there’s the fact that Dumbledore seems pretty much omniscient where Harry’s life is concerned. Perhaps because he was there, dun dun dunnn!

So basically for this to happen, Ron would have to at some point be sent back in time, get stuck in the past, and live out the rest of his life under a fake name. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore – it’s only missing a Y and an S before it can spell out “Crap, I Murder Ronald Bilius Weasley” (and those two letters probably stand for “You Suck” because that is a terrible acronym and we’ve still got some letters left over).

Why it didn’t happen:

Er, well… because it’s crazy? Ron is Ron, and Dumbledore is Dumbledore, and obviously we learned in Deathly Hallows that the latter had his own very traumatic backstory.

Ron’s overall significance wasn’t anything greater than Harry’s best friend and Hermione’s love interest (and a flawed hero in his own right, of course), and it didn’t need to be. Like most other resolutions, what we actually got was enough.

Why we’d want to see it anyway:

Because although most people who read this theory before book seven came out realised how unlikely it was, it still became hugely popular in the fandom. The evidence was so extensive and clearly laid out, and despite sounding outlandish at first, the fact that the whole thing was actually plausible was a little bit exhilarating.

And come on, let’s face it. If handled right (which J.K. Rowling was certainly capable of doing), it would have been SO cool to find out that two of the main characters in this giant, sweeping saga turned out to be the same person. That never happens (Ocarina of Time game aside, spoiler alert), and is just one of the ways in which JKR could have completely turned the tables on us in the final book.

Everything Dumbledore ever did or said would have to be re-evaluated and analysed, every interaction he ever had with Harry (and more importantly, Ron) would be picked apart piece by piece… and we would have been given the best possible gift following the end of the series: a reason to keep speculating.

And when all has been said and done, isn’t that what we miss the most? The neat bow-wrapped ending we got left us relieved and able to sleep at night, but it also tied everything up much too neatly, in this writer’s opinion. The individual books were full of moments that changed everything we thought we knew, but that didn’t really happen at the end of the series.

…And there you have it.

These are our personal favourite theories which may or may not have made for pretty good alternate storylines in the final Harry Potter book.

Ultimately J.K. Rowling wrote the only version of Deathly Hallows that could ever have been possible (because it’s already written, and Time Turner logic has taught us that this makes its existence irrevocable), but it’s still fun to consider the alternatives.

Do you agree with our picks? Do you have alternate, better theories? Do you think the Harry Potter saga was 100% perfect and beyond reproach, and how dare we even suggest otherwise?

Voice your thoughts in the comments!

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