Source:Carnegie Hall

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Transcript

From LJ:

Did Neville ever find love?

(The audience: "Awwww"). Of course. I love Neville – of course Neville finds love. As you know from the Epilogue, that Neville ends up becoming the Herbology teacher at Hogwarts. But, to make him extra cool, he marries a woman who becomes – eventually – the new landlady at the Leaky Cauldron… which I think would make him very cool among the students, that he lived above a pub. He marries Hannah Abbott. (Screams of approval).

Bellatrix Lestrange killed so many people and had so many enemies. How did you decide that Molly Weasely would be the one to finish her off?

Well, in fact, I always knew that Molly was going to finish her off. I think that there was some speculation that Neville would do it because Neville obviously has a particular reason to hate her because she was the one who tortured his parents. So there were lots of options for Bellatrix. I wanted it to be Molly for two reasons. The first reason was, I always saw Molly as someone who was a very good Witch (she’s meaning skilled here), but someone who’s light is necessarily hidden under a bushel. She’s in the kitchen a lot and she had to raise, among others, Fred and George – which was quite enough (to handle). On a tangent: as Harry, Ron and Hermione find out when they go camping, magical cooking is harder than it looks. So all along, Molly was actually very skilled, doing it in the background, but she wasn’t doing it in a very flashy way. So that was one reason that I wanted to let Molly have her own moment and show that just because a woman has dedicated herself to her family does not mean that she doesn’t have a lot of other talents.

Part two of the reason why I wanted it to be Molly who made sure Bellatrix ‘got hers’ was.. it if you want to call what Bellatrix feels for Voldemort ‘love’, then I suppose we will call it that, but she has an obsession with him – it’s a very sick obsession. And he brings out in her the most evil parts of herself. It’s a very unpleasant symbiotic relationship. And I wanted to match that kind of obsession with maternal love. This is a big theme in the book: the power you give someone by loving them. So Molly is really an amazing exemplar of maternal love. She’s fallible, she makes her mistakes, but she really loves her children, and that what brings her forth to fight Bellatrix. There was something really satisfying by pitting those two women together.

How different would the last three books have been if you stuck to your original vision, when Arthur Weasley was killed?

It would have been very different and part of the reason why I changed my mind. The thing was that by turning Ron into ‘half’ a Harry, in other words, by turning Ron into someone who suffered bereavement, the loss of a parent, I was going to remove the Weasleys’ as a refuge for Harry. I was also going to remove Ron as a source of humor. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t kill Arthur: I wanted to keep Ron intact, as someone who right until the final moment, until the moment Ron has to confront his deepest insecurities… a lot of Ron’s humor comes from his insensitivity and his immaturity – to be honest about Ron – and Ron finally grows up in this book, he’s the last of the three to reach adulthood – he does it then when he faces those things and defeats them.

The other part of the reason why I didn’t kill Arthur was that I wanted to come full circle. We started with an orphan – someone who had lost his parents because of war, and I wanted to show that again… I wanted to show it happen. Because that’s one of the great evils of war, isn’t it? That children lose their families, and so that evil passes on to another generation. The effects are so far reaching. So that’s why Teddy lost his parents. We started off with an orphan and we ended with an orphan. And even though you don’t see Teddy, I wanted to see in the Epilogue that he gets an even better godfather than Harry had in Sirius. Sirius had his faults, as I must admit. He’s a risky guy to have as a godfather. He becomes a really great father figure to Teddy, as well as to his own children. It was a more satisfying arc. But I hasten to add that I didn’t kill Lupin or Tonks lightly. I loved them as characters – I always loved Lupin’s character, so that hurt… killing him did hurt.

(From a very cute 8 year old girl): In Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore said that his brother was prosecuted for practicing illegal charms against a goat. I was wondering what those charms were that he was practicing? (Audience is hysterical and Jo is biting her lips, stifling a laugh)

Um… how old are you?

Eight.

...He was trying to find ways to... keep a goat... clean? Curly horns? Um... that’s a joke that works on a couple of levels. As you know, Aberforth does have a strange fondness for goats, which, if you’ve read book 7, came in very useful to Harry later on. A goat.. a stag... if you’re a stupid Death Eater, what’s the difference? That is... my answer to you.

Did Dumbledore, who believed in the unfailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?

Well, my truthful answer to you is that I always saw Dumbledore as gay.

(This brings the house down for nearly a full minute.)

So, when you read book 7, what happened was that Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald. And that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent do we say we excuse Dumbledore because he was in love? Because falling in love can blind us. But he met someone who was a brilliant as he was and, rather like Bellatrix, he was drawn to this very brilliant person and horribly, terribly let down by him. So that was Dumbledore’s tragedy. So, yeah… that’s how I always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore say something to Harry early on in the script that “he had a girl once with long hair”… I had to write a note in the margin and slide it over to the scriptwriter: “Dumbledore’s gay!”(More cheers and applause) If I’d known it would have made you so happy, I would have announced it years ago! I can just see the fanfiction starting up now!

Since Ron was able to speak Parseltongue in the last book, does that mean that Parseltongue is a language that all witches and wizards can learn? Or must a person be born with an ability to speak Parseltongue?

I don’t see it really as a language you can learn. So few people can speak it – who would teach you? This is a trait, as you know that is passed down through the Slytherin blood line. However, Ron was with Harry when he said one word in Parseltongue – which I don’t know so I can’t duplicate it (laughter), but he heard him say ‘open’ and he was able to reproduce the sound, so he knows one word. Whether he could learn to speak to snakes properly is a different issue. I don’t think he could. But he was smart enough to duplicate one necessary sound.

What did Dumbledore write in the letter to the Dursleys to make them take Harry?

As you know, as you find out in book 7 that Petunia really wanted to belong to that world. And you discover that Dumbledore has written to her prior to the Howler that we know she received later. And prior to the letter you’re asking about, Dumbledore wrote to her very kindly explaining why he couldn’t let her come to Hogwarts to become a witch. So, Petunia, as much as she denies it afterwards, as much as she turns against that world when she met Uncle Vernon, who is the biggest ‘anti-wizard’ you could ever meet in your life, a tiny part of her – and that’s the part that almost wished Harry good luck when she said goodbye to him in this book, she just teeters on the verge of saying, “I do know what you’re up against, and I hope it will be okay.” But she couldn’t bring herself to say it. Years of pretending that she doesn’t care have hardened her. But, Dumbledore appealed – in the letter you’re asking about – to that part of Petunia that did remember wanting desperately to be part of that world, and he appealed to her sense of fair play to a sister that she hated because she had what she couldn’t have. So that’s how he persuaded Petunia to keep Harry.

(A hard to decipher question was asked about why the horcrux in Harry wasn’t destroyed when the basilisk bit him in the Chamber of Secrets – wouldn’t the venom have taken care of it?)

Harry was exceptionally fortunate in that he had Fawkes, so before he could be destroyed without repair – which is always necessary to destroy a Horcrux, he was mended. However, I made sure Fawkes wasn’t around the second time a Horcrux got stabbed by a basilisk fang, so the poison did its work and it was irreparable. I established early in the book when Hermione says, you destroy a Horcrux by using something so powerful that there is no remedy. But there is a remedy for basilisk poison, but of course it has to be administered immediately.

Why couldn’t Harry just talk to the portrait of Dumbledore throughout the 7th book instead of having to decode all the (garbled)?

There are two reasons – well three reasons actually. As to why he has to decode: as Dumbledore says to Harry when they meet at the end of this book: to tell Harry about the Hallows was to tempt him. And Harry, throughout all seven books has been incredibly impetuous and reckless. That’s one of Harry’s biggest flaws – he does tend to act without thinking. Dumbledore knows this about Harry. And he wants him to work it out slowly enough to gain wisdom along the way. That’s why he passes the information through Hermione, who’s the most cautious person in the books, as you know. Dumbledore says explicitly: “…so your good heart isn’t overcome by your hot head,” if I may paraphrase myself slightly, forgive me (she doesn’t even know her own books!) (laughter). He does say in this book that he is frightened by his decision not to race (Voldemort) for the (elder) wand because he had never before chosen ‘not’ to act. That is Harry’s big ‘coming of age’ moment: that he’s decided to hold back for the first time ever in his life.

So the other two reasons that I had for not speaking to Dumbledore’s portrait. First of all, I created a lot of rules for within this world and then later, had to navigate my way around them. Actually, this rule was always good. And the rule was that portraits could only move between portraits in the same building. So, if I’m a picture and you’re in a picture and we’re both in Carnegie Hall, then we can move into each other’s picture. Otherwise, we could only move to other places where we have a portrait. You can’t just go weaving through the Louvre, the Met, you know. You can’t do a world tour as a painted person. You are limited by geography.

And lastly, of course the third reason is that it really would have been too easy, then I wouldn’t have had a plot.

Many of us older readers have noticed a resemblance between the antics of the Death Eaters and the Nazis of the 1930s and 40s. Did you use that historical era as a model for Voldemort’s reign? And what were the lessons that you hoped to impart to the next generation from that thread of the story?

It was conscious. I think most of us, if we were asked to identify an evil regime, we would think Nazi Germany. There were parallels in the ideology. I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intentional hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of ‘purity,’ which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world. People might think themselves superior, but they pride themselves on that seed of ‘purity.’

It isn’t only exclusively that. I think you can see in the behavior Ministry, before it’s taken over, there are parallels with regimes that we all know of. So you asked of lessons. The books are a prolonged plea for tolerance and a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry. I think that it’s one of the reasons people don’t like the books, but I think it’s a very healthy message to pass on to younger people that you should question authority and you should not assume that the establishment or the press tells you the whole truth.

Harry saves Malfoy’s life a couple of times in Deathly Hallows. Does this mean Malfoy owes Harry a debt?

When Dumbledore says to Harry that Voldemort wouldn’t want a close associate to be in his (Harry’s) debt, it wasn’t in my mind that there was any kind of magical property (to a life debt). It was more that Dumbledore, in his extensive wisdom and knowledge of human nature, he knew, as Harry later finds out in book 7, he knew that Pettigrew would react in a certain way because Harry saved his life. He gets that Pettigrew wasn’t one hundred percent bad, that there was some remorse there. He’s weak. Fundamentally, Peter Pettigrew is a very weak character. He’s not someone I liked at all. But he’s a weak person and he likes to gravitate towards people who are stronger. And Dumbledore was quite right. Pettigrew had an impulse of mercy and he released the hand just long enough for Harry to live.

Would Malfoy be in Harry’s debt? You know, I think that the very worst burden that Harry could have put Malfoy under was this one; that Malfoy has to feel any kind of gratitude. So I tried to show that slightly in the epilogue, where they look sideways at each other: (She acts this out with awkward mumbling: ‘Hi.’ ‘Hi.’) “Thanks so much for saving my life and not ever let me forget it.” So does he owe him a debt? Probably not. I think that Malfoy would go back to being an improved version of himself, but we shouldn’t expect him to become a really great guy.

Harry often wondered about his parents' lives before they died. What were Lily, James, Sirius and Remus’ careers after they graduated from Hogwarts and why did you choose these professions?

I’ll take Remus first. Remus was unemployable because of his condition. Poor Lupin; prior to Dumbledore taking him in, led a really impoverished life. The other three were full time members of the Order of the Phoenix. You remember when Lily, James and co. were at school, the first war was raging. It never reached the heights the second war reached, because the Ministry was never infiltrated, but it was a very bad time. The same disappearances, the same deaths. So that’s what they did. They left school. James had gold – enough gold to support Sirius and Lily. So I suppose he had enough to keep them. But they were full time fighters, that’s what they did.

Did Hagrid ever get married?

(Jo puts on a sad, regretful face.) Did Hagrid ever get married….No.

Crowd does sad: “Awwwwww….”

No, Hagrid never did get married, actually. I’m sorry.

Realistically, Hagrid’s pool of potential girlfriends is extremely limited. With Giants killing each other constantly the number of Giantesses around is infinitesimal. And he met one of the only ones. And I’m afraid she though he was kind of cute, but she was a little more – how can I put it? – sophisticated than Hagrid. So no, bless him, no.

(More crowd moans)

I kept him alive! C’mon!

At the end of Deathly Hallows, we were left with a question. Following his death, is Severus Snape’s portrait hung in the Headmaster’s office? And if it is, has Harry ever come to speak to him?

I was asked, on a related note, why didn’t the portrait appear immediately after Snape died? And the reason is that the castle itself, and everyone in the castle, believed – because Snape kept the secret so well - that he had abandoned his post. So all the portraits you see in the Headmaster’s study, are of Headmasters and Headmistresses who died. It’s like British royalty. You only get a (?) If you die in office. Abdication is not acceptable. Particularly if you marry an American… but I digress.

I know, I thought this one through, because it was very important to me, I know that Harry would have insisted that Snape had his portrait on that wall.

As to whether Harry would have ever gone back to talk to him. You know… I think… I’m not sure he would have done. (She’s really struggling with this). I was really heartened, about a week after I’d finished the book, I went onto a fan site because I was looking for questions to put up on my website, which I sometimes do. And I was so heartened to see on the message boards that people were still arguing about Snape. The book was out, and they were still arguing about Snape! That was really wonderful for me because there is still a question there: was Snape good or not? And in many ways he really wasn’t. Because even though he did love – and he loved very deeply – and he was very brave, both qualities that I admire more than most anything else, he was vindictive and he was pretty mean in lots of ways to Harry. But right at the very, very end, I think he did achieve a kind of peace with Harry, and I tried to show that in the epilogue.

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