One perk of being friends with J.K. Rowling? According to British investigative journalist Greg Palast, who claims to have struck up an unlikely friendship with the Harry Potter author, Rowling's pals get exclusive insight into the best-selling author's creative mind. Palast insists that Rowling told him about an alternate ending she considered for the series, one that she ditched in favor of the more cinematic final showdown at Hogwarts. Palast posted the account on his blog, but many Potter fans aren't buying it. How might the series have ended? Here, a brief guide. (Warning: Many spoilers lie ahead.)
How was the series supposedly going to end?
The most shocking twist in the alternate ending is that Lord Voldemort lives. There's no, as Palast describes it, "second-rate 'Show Down at the OK Corral'" at Hogwarts. Instead, the final battle between Harry and Voldemort takes place in the Forbidden Forest, where the Dark Lord is surrounded by soul-sucking Dementors. Voldemort has each Dementor kiss his wand, creating a "horrific" curse to kill Harry with. But then, somehow, the spirits of Voldemort's dead parents show up to unexpectedly comfort Harry. Their very presence causes Voldemort to grow younger. The now-youthful villain's curse rebounds off Harry's scar, just like it had when Potter was a mere infant, and strikes Voldemort, freezing him as a statue, living for eternity as a child in his parents' loving embrace. "Never able to leave. And never wanting to."
And the epilogue?
The final Potter book, The Deathly Hallows, ends with a a rather precious flash-forward to now-married couples Harry and Ginny, and Ron and Hermione, sending off their own broods of young wizards to Hogwarts for the first time. The alternate ending supposedly peeks even further into the future, to the year 2130. Harry is (a very old) headmaster at Hogwarts, Ginny has turned herself into a bird who doesn't grow old, and Harry has wiped all memory of Voldemort and his dark days from the minds of the wizarding world — though the statue of the young Dark Lord and his parents stands on Hogwarts' grounds. The story ends with allusions that Harry's great, great grandson may be the next great dark wizard.
How did Palast come by this tale?
The two writers had books on the bestsellers list at the same time, Palast says, and he became "buds" with Rowling after he told her that his twins were fans of her work. They often engaged in writerly conversations about drafts and edits, which led Rowling to share her original idea for an ending. He says he wrote down every detail of their conversation, and decided to publish it because "that's the danger of befriending an investigative reporter."
What are fans saying?
Palast is a respected writer for Britain's Guardian, so many say it's hard to believe he'd make this up. Still, "we aren't sure we buy it," says Andrea Reiher at Zap2it. Even with all the caveats that Palast presents ("Keep in mind that I'm working from mental notes," for example), there's "more than a couple of problems" with this "ridiculous" alternate version, says Emma Mustich at Salon.
What's so implausible about it?
For starters, Rowling was diligent about teasing twists that would play into later moments in her series. So it's unlikely that, at the last moment, she'd introduce a curse "we had never heard of," says Reiher. Plus, it's unlikely — and not very poignant — that Voldemort's parents would protect him, says Mustich, given that he killed his father and, growing up in an orphanage, has no emotional history with them. The epilogue is problematic, too. Given what we know about Harry, it's almost certain that he'd want his fellow wizards to remember the dark days, "so as not to become complacent in the tranquility of the present." Read Palast's account here, and judge for yourself.