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)
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.
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.
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.
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.