Five Ways to End Harry Potter

THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11/07/07

So here we are: at the end of the “Harry Potter” decade. The books have been printed and are under lock and key. (Presumably.) J. K. Rowling has made her choices. Harry is either going to live or die. Severus Snape is either evil or good — or maybe a little bit of both. Ginny will stick with Harry, and Ron will hook up with Hermione. Or not. Eager readers still have to wait a fortnight or so for answers to these questions. Which is why the Op-Ed page asked four writers and one artist to fill the void and draft “Harry Potter” endings of their own.

1) The Boy Who Died

By Damon Lindelof, the co-creator and head writer of the television series “Lost”

Harry Potter must die. We Americans like closure. No — we need closure.

The Brits have no such hang-ups. They demonstrate almost limitless patience (which explains cricket) when it comes to the rather touchy issue of “resolution.” We Yanks, however, do not want froufrou endings. We want things definitively tied up.

And by “things” I mean lots of people dead. And by “definitively tied up” I mean in excruciating ways that ideally involve lots of gratuitous explosions.

We really like gratuitous explosions. And we like it when characters have pithy catchphrases as the embers rain down on them in slow motion. Like, “You should quit smoking, McCorkle.”

Over here at the TV show “Lost,” we’ve announced our grand finale 48 short episodes from now. Shockingly, the pundits have already announced that they pre-hate it. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that our ending will be either too wacky to make sense or too anticlimactic to have justified the six seasons preceding it.

I am thrilled by this assessment as there is almost certainly nowhere to go but up.

J. K. Rowling finds herself with the opposite problem. Her story and writing have so captivated the world that expectations are through the roof. In fact, it shouldn’t matter how Ms. Rowling executes her final dive, but some people (O.K., I mean me) will judge all that preceded it based on how little splash there is when she hits the water.

Fair? No. But what do you expect from people who like unnecessary explosions and pithy catchphrases?

I read an article recently saying that 80 percent of American poll respondents said they thought Harry wouldn’t survive the final book. As is the case in many polls, there’s probably a degree of wish-fulfillment here. In other words, we want the little bugger to die.

O.K., it wasn’t an article. It was an inset in Us Weekly. This makes my point no less valid.

So why do we want Harry to go to the great Quidditch match in the sky?

The poor kid’s parents were brutally murdered, he spent his childhood in a closet, and every year one of his friends dies. Yet we do not offer him our sympathy. We offer him our bloodlust.

Do we feel sorry for Harry? No. We want him to take a dirt nap.

And that’s because we want to be surprised.

Because if there’s one thing we like more than explosions, it’s surprises. And even though 8 out of 10 of us want him to die, we know in our hearts that he won’t.

And that’s because Ms. Rowling wouldn’t dare.

She can’t whack Harry because there are rules that must be followed when it comes to how one ends a grand mythology. Good triumphs over evil. Hope overcomes despair. Paper covers rock. Harry wins. Voldemort loses. The Ewoks sing.

And this is precisely why Harry has to die.

Because it will be tragic. And emotional. And surprising. But most of all … it will be fair.

When Ms. Rowling first took us by the hand and led us down the path of her story (a brilliant one, I’ve neglected to mention), she boldly titled her first chapter “The Boy Who Lived.”

We come to learn later that Harry has survived an assassination attempt … both his parents had sacrificed their lives to spare his. The most rewarding ending would be one in which he performs a similar act of self-sacrifice. I would just about giggle with glee were I to get to the last chapter (I never peek ahead) and find it titled “The Boy Who Died.”

So yes. Sorry, kiddies. I hope Harry buys the farm. Even though I know he won’t.

However…

Maybe if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named tossed one final spell at Harry? Like a mega-Avada Kedavra curse that nobody had ever survived? And if Harry, like, did some kinda Matrix-slow-motion move and used his wand to deflect? And then his opponent like totally exploded everywhere into a thousand pieces of reptilian flesh? If, like, Harry blew on the end of his wand and said, “I told you not to curse, Voldemort.”

That’d be fine, too.

2) When Harry Met Davey

By Meg Cabot, the author of the “Princess Diaries” series. Her most recent book is “Queen of Babble in the Big City”

DAVID LETTERMAN: Hey, Paul, guess who we’re about to bring out. Harry Potter. Kid’s a wizard. Bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as wizards, did’ja Paul?

PAUL SHAFFER Sure. They hide under rocks and have little tongues that dart out, right?

DAVE I think you’re the one who’s been under a rock, Paul. Ladies and gentlemen, here he is … Harry Potter.

(Applause)

DAVE Harry, it’s an honor to meet you. Ever since you saved the earth by battling this Voldemort guy —

HARRY Well, I don’t know about saving the earth….

DAVE Don’t be modest, now. Or haven’t the polar ice caps stopped melting since you offed this guy?

HARRY Well … yeah, I guess that’s true.

DAVE Right. Not to mention, there’s been peace in the Middle East, an end to world hunger, and Paris Hilton hasn’t appeared on the cover of People again —

(Applause)

DAVE See, you should stop selling yourself short. You did save the earth. And by using a magic flying broom. That’s really something.

HARRY It was a killing curse, actually, not a broom.

DAVE The things they teach kids at wizard school these days.

(Laughter and applause)

HARRY And I didn’t defeat Voldemort on my own. I had help from my friends.

DAVE Right. Speaking of wizard school, that’s where your friends Hermione, Ron, Neville and this Draco fellow — who turned out to be merely misunderstood — are teaching now? They’ve taken over now that this Dumbledore guy is out celebrating his new aliveness at Sandals Jamaica?

HARRY Right. After Voldemort was defeated, everyone he foully murdered came alive again, including my classmates, my godfather and my parents.

DAVE Well, that’s a swell trick. And what’s this I hear about Voldemort turning out to be your grandpa?

HARRY Um … Yeah. Well ….

DAVE Boy, that must have been embarrassing for you, down at the wizard bar.

(Laughter and applause)

HARRY Well, yes, that was a bit of a surprise.

DAVE But still, defeating the Dark Lord, even if he did turn out to be your grandpa, is quite an accomplishment. I mean, you killed the bad guy —

HARRY Actually, he’s not dead. He will suffer in Azkaban for all eternity like the many souls he himself tormented.

DAVE Right. But you got the girl.

HARRY Yes, Ginny.

DAVE So that’s good, right? You defeated the bad guy. You got the girl. All the nice dead people came back to life. And you’re now head of the whole wizarding operation. So you’ve got yourself a completely happy ending, right?

HARRY No one was expecting that. But yes, exactly.

DAVE That’s fantastic! And you know, my son’s named Harry. So you should stick around. We’ve got animal expert Jack Hanna coming up next. I know you like snakes, so you two’ll get along. Hey, that owl of yours know any stupid pet tricks?

HARRY She’ll drink milk out of my mouth, actually.

DAVE We’re going to want to see that. Right, Paul?

PAUL Definitely!

DAVE Folks, we’ll be right back.

3) Made in Hogwarts

By Larry Doyle, a former writer for “The Simpsons” and now a screenwriter, is the author of “I Love You, Beth Cooper”

WHAT’LL y’have, then?”

The old bartender’s eyes glinted in the dark. He had a monstrous ruddy nose for such a thin, pale face, as if someone had stuck a gob of red putty on a skull.

“Ogden’s Old, all around,” said Ron. “No more butterbeer for this lot.”

“Where’s Tom?” Harry asked.

“’E’s unwell,” said the bartender. “I’m Marmot. Odd Orville Marmot they call me. You might try the eel. It’s the best in the alley.”

A vague fear stirred in Harry’s chest as Marmot shuffled away, long spidery fingers dangling from the sleeves of his coat.

“It’s over,” said Hermione quietly, placing her hand over Harry’s. “It’s ended.”

“And what an end,” said Ron. “That bit about You-Know-Who being your dad. Didn’t see that coming.”

Harry hadn’t seen any of it coming. Certainly not that he himself had been the final Horcrux, the host of Voldemort’s soul the whole time. He realized it only when Voldemort was on top of him, clawing the lightning bolt from his forehead, gobbling it greedily. At that moment, Voldemort became mortal, and the next, he was hit by a bus. Not even a magic bus at that.

Harry looked about the Leaky Cauldron. It seemed darker and shabbier than usual.

“I’ll tell you something,” Ron was prattling on. “I’ve had enough of wizarding after that.”

Two hooded men sat at a far table, not speaking to one another. Harry heard a scraping, and glanced down as a huge rat scabbered across his feet and disappeared.

“I’m going to Hollywood,” said Ron. “That’s where the real magic happens.”

Near the door, a lute player sang an old song:

Got to be good-looking

’cause he’s so hard to see …

“I’ve been meaning to ask you, Harry,” said Ron, “about your life rights.”

Where was Ginny?, Harry wondered.

“’Ere y’are,” the bartender said, laying the tray of three firewhiskeys on the table. “Cheers.” Something in his voice made Harry look up, and it was only then he noticed that Odd Orville’s slitty eyes were scar …

4) Hermione Tells All

By Polly Horvath, the author of “The Canning Season” and the forthcoming “The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane”

YOU’VE been coming in a lot lately, you and that little tyke, haven’t you, dearie?” asked the waitress, idly swishing her cloth across a neighboring table.

“Yeah, they turned off the heat again in my flat,” said the woman, writing in a notebook. A baby rested in a carrier on the chair next to her.

“You used to hang out a bit in town with them lot in robes. Haven’t seen them around lately.”

“Dead,” said Hermione briefly.

“What, all of them?”

“We had a bit of a dust-up,” said Hermione, biting on her pencil.

“I can’t believe it. How’d they die?”

“Which one?”

“Neville?”

“Blaze of glory.”

“Ron?”

“Blaze of glory.”

“Professor Merrythought?”

“Blaze of glory.”

“Potter?”

“Tripped.”

“No! But he’s O.K.?”

“He’s pretty much dead too. I admit I had a little something to do with it. But, you’re a woman, I ask you, how many times should you have to ask them to include a vegan alternative?”

“Crikey!”

“All right, I might have been a bit postpartumy but I’m all better now. Ruddy men!”

“Don’t I know it, dearie. Still,” the waitress said, looking at the baby, “I guess you had yourself a little romance. Which one was it? Potter? Ron? Percy, was it?”

“Probably,” said Hermione.

“And looking for a job now, are you?” asked the waitress, pointing at the newspapers with the circled ads on Hermione’s table.

“Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Once you graduate, oh, sure, you’ve got the ruddy degree in witchcraft and the dark arts but whatcha gonna do with it? Doesn’t half pay the rent. I got me a new tack now. I’m writing some books. Seven or so. Gonna sell them and make some money. I got the whole thing planned out.”

“So, writing a little fantasy, are you?”

“Not ruddy likely. Genre’s been overdone to death. Nope, just writing about my experiences with the Death Eaters and Dark Lords and Dementors. Write what you know.”

“Isn’t that clever, luv.”

“I dream about M.,” said Hermione, putting the baby carrier on the floor.

“Nightmares about them Dementors, eh?”

“Not ‘them.’ M.”

“Muggles?”

“Merchandising.”

“Isn’t it a bit tricky then, writing a bunch of books if you’ve never written anything before?”

“Nah, I got it beat. I figure it’s all in arranging words in some sort of order. Sentences they call it. Like this one I come up with this morning: ‘Started out, Could nutshell myself infinite were bad dreams God, I count, a king, oh, space bounded in not I have that and it of a be.’ Then I rearranged things a bit and got this: ‘Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams.’ Don’t know what it means.”

“That’s Shakespeare, that is,” said the waitress.

“DRATS! Not again. He hogged all the best word orders. Never mind, I got the whole day to reorder me words. Bring a piece of cake and keep them cups of tea coming. I plans to knock off three of these suckers by closing time.”

“Chapters, dearie?”

“Books. The kid’s gotta eat.”

The baby started to cry.

“Hush,” said Hermione, kicking the carrier to the other side of the room, “Mummy’s writing.”