Who Will Survive Harry Potter Book 7? Theories on Who Rowling is Going to Kill Off and Why

With the 7th Harry Potter book likely to be released in 2007, speculation is already running high about which characters will die before the series’ conclusion. J.K. Rowling, with her recent statement that two Harry Potter characters she hadn’t originally expected to, die and that a third receives a reprieve, has only fueled that speculation. Here are my bets on who in the Harry Potter universe is likely to make it to the end and why.

First, let’s look closely at Rowling’s statement. She’s not telling us that only two Harry Potter characters die. Rather she’s telling us merely that two who weren’t in her original death plans die. It is also important that we examine the word “reprieve” and remember that it doesn’t necessarily mean redemption, which is critical to note when loyalties of a least one character remain seriously in question at the end of the sixth Harry Potter book..

One of the most interesting bits of speculation is that so many people think that Harry himself is likely to exit the Harry Potter universe in a coffin. Killing off the protagonist of a children’s book is a bit uncommon, but Rowling has always been incredibly brave about showcasing darkness in the Harry Potter universe. That said, I think that Rowling has publicly discussed the temptation to kill off Harry far too often for his demise to actually be likely. The eponymous hero of Harry Potter will no doubt live to see adulthood.

The rest of the Harry Potter trio aren’t nearly so safe. If one of the trio dies (and I think it’s likely, considering the Harry Potter series commitment to both love and tragedy), my bet is on Ron Weasley. After all, there are a lot of Weasleys and we can assume at least one will not survive the coming war. Additionally, it is unlikely that Hermione, the only female child in the Harry Potter universe who is portrayed with any depth at all (I have a real problem with how Rowling writes women), would die. It would be bad strategy on Rowling’s part as regards her fans, and it would also hamper the action of the 7th Harry Potter book, as we’ve already seen repeatedly that Ron and Harry, without Hermione’s help, can’t really strategize their way out of a paper bag.

The other big student life and death mystery for Harry Potter book 7 is that of Draco Malfoy. Many feel that Draco is one of the likeliest characters to be the subject of Rowling’s “reprieve,” and this is a theory on which I concur. Throughout the Harry Potter books Rowling keeps trying to tell us that not all Slytherins are evil, but with Snape’s loyalties shrouded in ambiguity and conflict, we’ve yet to see a single, clear-cut example of this (Slughorn’s self-involvement and social climbing don’t count). Could Draco survive to repudiate the actions of his family? Harry Potter book 6 has provided a perfect set-up for a major evolution from a character who has been little more than well-dressed, sniveling bigot.

If Rowling wants her readers to know that both the real world and the Harry Potter world is not black and white, Draco’s survival and possible redemption would be a tempting way to convey the message. That said, the other Malfoy family members are seriously at risk in Harry Potter book 7. Will Narcissa Malfoy survive to see if Snape succeeds in protecting her son? And will Lucius Malfoy even get out of prison for the final battle (which I suspect he is unlikely to survive if he bothers to participate in it – he might just cut and run).

Of more minor student characters in the Harry Potter universe, we can probably expect many deaths. Seamus strikes me as a likely possibility as do one or both of the Patil twins (to counter the likely survival of the Weasley twins). I think the only definite Harry Potter book 7 survivors likely to be found among the less written about students of Hogwarts are Neville, who has gone from an annoying character to a deeply beloved one in part thanks to his movie portrayal and in part because his courage is perhaps the easiest to identify with in the whole of the Harry Potter series; Neville will surely survive to learn to live courageously and independently in the day to day, not just in war.

I also have a suspicion that Blaise Zabini will survive Harry Potter book 7, if only because Rowling is no doubt annoyed at the way (American) fandom flipped out when they discovered both that Blaise is a boy (a fact which should have never been in question) and black (apparently some people think England or Harry Potter’s wizarding world is only full of white people).

Death will, no doubt, also come to visit the faculty and former faculty of Hogwarts in Harry Potter book 7. The only professor I think stands a greater than 90% chance of survival is McGonagall, for the sole fact that she’s in many ways the only actual adult on duty at this point in the Harry Potter series. Snape has fled (and was never that good at the grownup thing anyway); Dumbledore is dead; Sirius is dead; Lupin is too incapacitated by his condition, role as a spy and general grief to be of much use; Hagrid is neither the sharpest knife in the drawer nor a fully qualified magic user; and most of the other teachers are too underdeveloped to fill the void McGonagall’s death would create.

The only possibility for Harry Potter book 7 that allows a McGonagall death is one out of fanfiction, that I think is fairly implausible, but fanfiction and the canonical Harry Potter universe have intersected in other places nearly as shocking, so it’s worth mentioned. If Snape turns out to have been Dumbledore’s man all along and survives, a McGonagall death in the final battle that leads to a denouement where Snape becomes headmaster of Hogwarts is theoretically possible. That said, I’m a gambling woman, but would never lay odds on such a thing.

Severus Snape is perhaps the biggest mystery when it comes to potential deaths in Harry Potter book 7. He certainly has enough people who want him dead on both sides of the war. He also has an exceptional number of personal enemies who might be happy to see him depart this world regardless of the bigger picture. Finally, Snape has death hanging over him due to his unbreakable vow to Narcissa Malfoy. On the surface, Snape’s odds of survival are very low. Snape, however, does have several things working in his favor. First he’s smart – in the first Harry Potter book Rowling shows us that he is the creator of the logic puzzle that guards the sorcerer’s stone, and note is made that most wizards are terrible at logic; Snape, therefore, clearly has mental skill beyond the average wizard.

Snape’s mental powers and his magical powers are also highlighted in the fifth Harry Potter book when Dumbledore cajoles him into providing Harry with occulemency lessons. Could it be that Snape is even more skilled at this art than Dumbledore? Snape also has long practice at spying, war and survival, more so than any other character than perhaps Dumbledore (who defeated Grindenwald), who is, at this moment, as far as we know, dead. Finally, Snape is a character who has been constructed in a way that clearly indicates archetypes that are all about close contact with death without succumbing to it (check out CluneyCat’s brilliant essay on Snape and the Anubis archetype in Scribbulus over at The Leaky Cauldron). If anyone can survive the worst of what the Harry Potter world has to offer, it’s Severus Snape.

The issue of Snape’s potential survival in Harry Potter book 7 is oddly linked to the issue of Remus Lupin’s survival. With James, Lily and Sirius dead and Pettigrew hopelessly corrupted by his betrayal (and who actually thinks he has a chance of surviving Harry Potter book 7? Not I), the only two remaining figures of the Marauders’ era are Lupin and Snape, and as such, I strongly suspect their fates are linked. Parallels have been drawn between the two characters since we first meet Lupin in the third Harry Potter book. Lupin and Snape both share dangerous secrets (Lupin’s lycanthropy and Snape’s spying), a past history (the prank that almost got Snape killed and Lupin exposed, and which, despite Snape’s interpretation of events, it’s clear that Lupin was also an unwitting victim of), and a record of continued contact (thanks to the Wolfsbane potion). additionally both serve as wildly unqualified parental figures to Harry.

If Snape survives and is redeemed, how can that be achieved without a living Lupin to make peace with? Similarly, nearly everything from Lupin’s childhood that he ever loved is dead, gone or irredeemably corrupted. Lupin may not like Snape, but he is a link to that past where no other link continues to exist. Without Snape’s continued existence, Lupin’s past fades to a dream. I don’t believe that Rowling would moor either character in so strange a form of solitude, especially with Harry continuing to seek answers about his parents. Lupin is necessary to counteract Snape’s view and vice versa.

I think the other faculty member who is at major risk is Hagrid, as the last truly beloved adult character of the Harry Potter universe to not be dead. Sure characters like Pomfrey, Flitwick and Vector may go down in the cross-fire, but Hagrid would be a crippling and plausible blow to Harry Potter readers everywhere.

While J.K. Rowling has often been accused of being a sloppy writer, especially when it comes to chronology and cultural world building, she is very deliberate in her choices. Even if every prediction on my list is wrong, I guarantee you that upon review whoever dies in the seventh Harry Potter book will have gone with a great deal of foreshadowing hinting at their eventual demise. Largely, I hope not for reprieves for the characters I most love, but good, worthy deaths that measure up to the complexity, honor and courage that J.K. Rowling has built into nearly every character of the Harry Potter universe.

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