Anelli, Melissa, John Noe and Sue Upton. "PotterCast Interviews J.K. Rowling, part one." PotterCast #130, 17 December 2007.

Audio: (PotterCast) Direct download (22 MB) | Direct download low-bandwidth (6 MB)
Transcription by Meann Ortiz

[Sue and John argue about House-Elves. Melissa tries to referee and they phone the Hogwarts Muggle Liaison Office help line where John jokingly connected them to Snape's extension. Eventually, they reach JKR using a secret code number, and JKR answers the phone...]

J.K. Rowling (JKR): This had better not be about House-Elves.

Melissa Anelli (MA): Jo, it is! I'm sorry! It is.

Sue Upton (SU): Hey, Jo! Hello!

John Noe (JN): Hey, Jo!

MA: Hiiiii!

JKR: What? House-Elves? Go on then.

MA: Still. Still. They are still arguing about this, and I'm sick of it, and we need you to answer it so bad.

JN: What I'm telling Sue is that, if she remembered from when we talked about this in New York, Jo said that Helga Hufflepuff was a plantation owner of the House-Elves ....

SU: Yeah, but she gave them refuge! Refuge! R-E...

JKR: Refuge.

SU: She didn't enslave them.

JKR: Yeah, it's a complicated issue, you know? I would say that Hufflepuff gave... Hufflepuff did what was the most moral thing to do at that time, and we are talking about over a thousand years ago. So that would be to give them good conditions of work. There was no kind of activism there, so no one's gonna say, "Here's an idea. Let's, let's free them. Let's, uh, let's pay them." It was just "well, we'll bring them somewhere that they can work and not be abused."

SU: See? She did not go around with like a whip and say "Yaaah! You must work in the kitchens!" you know?

JKR: Definitely not, no. That would not be... No, no. Definitely not.

SU: See? Woohoo! Thank you, Jo.


MA: Well let's go into this further. Jo, we are about to get ready to start a recording here, we can talk about this for longer if you want. Would you like to join us for our show?

JKR: Well, I've got nothing better to do.

JN: Alright, you heard her, guys. Leaky and Pottercast are proud and excited to bring you a very special interview with the one and only, J.K. Rowling.

(Pottercast Intro)

JKR: Welcome to Pottercast, your number one source for news, theories, discussion, and interviews with people from the Potter books and films. I know a small amount myself, having written the books. My name is J.K. Rowling. I am now happy to introduce your hosts, Melissa, John, and Sue.

SU: Yay, Jo!

MA: Jo, I can't tell you how long we've joked in a total, like, outer space fashion, about you doing that intro one day.

JKR: D'you know what my favorite bit was? Melissa, when you posted the thing about, anyone got extra questions? What loose ends would you like tied up? And the very first comment was, "Yeah, that's a strange thing to ask us, Melissa. Almost like someone was coming on who could answer those questions." I really liked that.

MA: And I have to-- I'm glad you brought it up because I have to apologize to the reader of our site, called "nimbus_xl", who actually said that, and I actually came the closest to lying that I've ever done on Leaky when I told everybody, like, "Calm down! We'd tell you if it was Jo! Everybody relax!"

JKR: Melissa Anelli. You filthy, filthy liar.

MA: Yes. That's me. (laughs)

JKR: Previously respected webmistress...


MA: Yeah, no more. I hand it all in. I'm done. Oh, gosh, but we wanted to save the surprise. And Jo, that's what this hopefully is, a nice pre-Christmas surprise --

JKR: Cool.

MA: -- for everybody. So. I'm more excited than anything that John and Sue now have the chance to get and... to hear and... let's talk.

JN: We're gonna give it a shot. I was stunned silly the last time I saw her, I could hardly say anything, but...

JKR: Oh, you were completely lovely.

JN: I couldn't really see her right now, so...

JKR: You're missing nothing, I tell you. Yeah, I'm not looking good at the moment. A couple weeks of Christmas shopping and a lot of really hectic life has taken it out of me.

SU: And you've had quite a banner day already with the auction too, and everything, it's just been amazing for Mr. Beedle...

JKR: I feel kind of shell-shocked at the moment. We just watched the auction live. This is of Beedle the Bard, in case anyone doesn't know what the hell we're talking about, and, uh, yeah, it went for 1.95 million Pounds, and I can't tell you what that means. It's unbelievable, I'm really staggered, and I'm so excited. It's gonna mean-- it's just gonna make a really big difference to the charity, and it was a means of raising awareness of the charity, which was at least as important as the money, so it's really done that job. God, I'm so happy. I can't tell you.

SU: It's just brilliant, and you know, but we're all so curious! So, Jo, is there any little tidbits that you can reveal now?

JKR: What, about Beedle the Bard?

SU: Mm-hmmm...

JKR: The stories thereof?

SU: Mm-hmm...

JKR: Well, I can tell you I-- let's think. "Wizard and the Hopping Pot". It's kind of a--. the moral, really, is to teach young wizards and witches that they should be using their magic altruistically.

SU: Oh, okay.

JKR: Um, then, "Fountain of Fair Fortune" is my favorite one, and that's really about the qualities you need to achieve your heart's desire, and the moral being that magic ultimately is not the best weapon. "Warlock's Hairy Heart" is really... is quite gothic. It's quite dark, that one. And Voldemort would've done well to know that story before he set out on his campaign of terror. Uh, "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" is the stupidest title ever written by man or beast...


JKR: ... and of course, when I wrote it, I never-- I had not, at the point when I gave Ron that title, I didn't imagine for a second that I was actually gonna write the story. And I did have this, there was this kind of margin of time where I could've-- where I knew I was gonna write "Beedle the Bard", and the book wasn't published, we were still editing. I could've gone back and change the titles. And I really like the idea of keeping those titles then finding out what the stories were, so... But "Babbitty Rabbitty" was a challenge. But I did get there, and it's a story about revenge, one witch's sort of cunning way of revenging herself for persecution, for Muggle persecution. And then you know "The Tale of the Three Brothers", which is the last one in the book. So I've just given them to you chronologically as they appear in the book. I loved writing them. I really really loved writing them. But I have to say, that before I had the idea of producing the books to say "thank you" to these key people, I imagined there would be like, about thirty tales of Beedle the Bard. And after I had the idea of writing them out by hand seven times, turns out, there were just the five.


JN: And I can't thank you enough for that copy, Jo, I've been reading it to the girls here over the weeks, and...

JKR: Did they __?__ it? The diamond-encrusted version?

JN: It was amazing, and you know, the cover was beautiful!

JKR: You don't think it's a bit too bling?

JN: Oh no, I mean, I have a lot of that stuff on my wall already, so it just kind of fit right in perfectly.

JKR: John, it was my pleasure.

JN: So...

JKR: Thank you for the inspiration.

JN: It was a pleasure to read it. You know, I do what I could.

JKR: And did you like the dedication? "You were right all along about 'Horcri'?"

SU: Oh, no!

MA: Oh, Jo!

SU: There's that word!

JN: Nobody would believe me.

MA: Oh, he's never gonna let us--

JKR: So, I did write him a letter. And I did say that, actually, "horcri" is-- I mean, it occurred to me, you know, it really would've been, I think, a more correct plural, but I already had "inferi", and I didn't wanna have too many, umm, you know, Dark Arts weapons ending in "R I", so it was a kind of stylistic choice, really. I like "horcruxes" as a plural.

JN: It's grown on me, too.

JKR: As a linguist... Oh, thanks, John. (laughs) Oh, isn't he kind. See, this is why I gave him copies of Beedle the Bard, he's a generous man.

SU: Oh, Jo, but those "horcruxes", though, I tell you, they're so much to ask still about those, you know?... I mean, who, okay, we have to know. Who created the first Horcrux? Was it Grindelwald? Salazar? Who did that?

JKR: D'you know what, I've got a feeling it was Herpo, which is H-E-R-P-O.

SU: Herpo the Foul?

JKR: ... Herpo the Foul, exactly, yeah. Yeah. But you know wizards would've been looking for ways to do exactly what Voldemort did for years, and some of the ways they would've tried would've killed them, so I imagine it... well, there's huge parallels. Splitting the atom would be a very good parallel in our world. Something that people imagined might be able to be done, but couldn't quite bring it off, and then... and then people started doing it with sometimes catastrophic effects. So that's how I see the Horcrux.

SU: Right, because you said that Tom Riddle said there would've been, or Dumbledore did, somebody said that there was only one person--

MA: Slughorn.


JKR: Yeah, but I would imagine that other people, you know, other people are going to have tried. I think it would be naive not to think that people have been trying for a long time, and thought they succeeded and hadn't, or else, or else you know maim themselves or kill themselves in the attempt. It's such a dangerous thing to do.

SU: Oh. Evil thing. You know, just...

JKR: Yeah.

MA: What is the process? Do you-- Is there a spell? Is there a-- What do you have to do?

JKR: I see it as a series of things you would have to do. So you would have to perform a spell. But you would also-- I don't even know if I want to say it out loud, I know that sounds funny. But I did really think it through. There are two things that I think are too horrible, actually, to go into detail about. One of them is how Pettigrew brought Voldemort back into a rudimentary body. 'Cause I told my editor what I thought happened there, and she looked as though she was gonna vomit. And then-- and the other thing is, how you make a Horcrux. And I don't even like-- I don't know. Will it be in the Encyclopedia? I don't know if I can bring myself to, ummm... I don't know.

SU: Oh, Jo, you mentioned the "E" word! Encyclopedia!

JKR: Oh, God, yes I did. I just wish you'd call it something like (low voice)"The Scottish Book".

JN: "The Scottish Book"

MA: Oh, geez. You don't want to curse it now, Jo.

JKR: It must not be mentioned live on air.

MA: Yeah, exactly. We can't wait for that. We hope you get on that as soon as you feel comfortable doing so.

JKR: Yeah. But would it be okay if that's ten years? (long pause) No one laughed. (laughter) I absolutely do intend to do it but, you know, I can't pretend that I'm in a hurry right now. It's gonna be a hell of a lot of work, but I have-- You know, I've kept everything, and I know where things are, and yeah... at some point I will get myself together and do it.

JN: I was gonna offer, just in case you needed help on that particular chapter. Ummm, I've got a lot of baby pictures and childhood anecdotes for the Dawlish chapter that might just help fill things in a little bit.

JKR: You know what, again John, you're always there when I need you. That would be great.

SU: You know, Jo, he idolizes a man, an auror guy who got pwned by an old lady wearing a dead bird on her head, you know, on her hat. Now, come on!

JN: They don't understand this, Jo. I know we've talked about this. They don't understand the night that this-- They call it a duel. It wasn't a duel. At least in my mind anyway, I think it needs a little explaining of how somebody as, you know, as skillful as Dawlish, you know, could've got taken down like this.

JKR: John...

JN: And feel free to let all the air out of my sails, that's fine, if you'd like.

MA: John maintains she socker-punched him.

JN: Yeah, she socker-spelled him.

JKR: You know what, I find it so incredibly endearing that you like Dawlish, and that's why his name is now John Dawlish, as we know. In tribute to you. And that will indeed be a note in the Encyclopedia, or "The Scottish Book", as we are now calling it. Dawlish had to be good. He had to be good because he became an Auror. There's no denying that. But he has his weaknesses and Dumbledore knew how to exploit them. Let's face it. Anyone, anyone going up to Dumbledore pre-trying on the Horcrux, pre-maiming his hand, anyone is gonna be in trouble going up against Dumbledore. Even Voldemort didn't want to do it. So there's no dishonor to Dawlish.

JN: Well, certainly though, was Dumbledore involved in--

JKR: In weakening him?

JN: You said it was Mrs. Longbottom?

(laughter, overtalk)

JKR: By the time Augusta Longbottom got to him, he had been-- several people had attacked Dawlish. I mean, I think he was a bit punch-drunk by that point, you know. He had become a favorite punch-bag of the Order of the Phoenix by then. So I don't think he was firing on all cylinders. But I really saw Mrs. Longbottom as a powerful witch. So, um, sorry.

JN: I suppose...

JKR: Do you know, I went down to Leavesden recently and I saw Michael Gambon with his withered hand. That was quite exciting, yeah.

JN: Gosh.

MA: There was just a funny report about Michael Gambon and we're pretty sure he was joking. About how he was scandalized to learn that one of his lines was lifted directly from the book. He was railing around cursing and throwing things.

SU: How dare they use your words, Jo?

JKR: Listen. Michael has a very good, very good and very dry sense of humor. And you should really-- Yeah, he's a funny man. And you should bear that in mind and not take things as they may appear flat on the page.

MA: Yeah. Speaking of Dumbledore.

JKR: Bless his little heart.

MA: We wanna talk about Dumbledore so bad. We know that you've created worldwide intrigue when you said that he is gay. But I wanted to ask you about homosexuality in the Wizarding World in general. Is it a taboo?

JKR: Now, that's something I never thought of. I would think that that would be-- it would be exactly what it is in the Muggle World. But the greatest taboo in the Wizarding World is, well, for some wizards... I mean if we're talking about prejudiced people within the Wizarding World, what they care most about is your blood status. So I think you could be, um, gay, pure-blood, and totally without any kind of criticism from the Lucius Malfoys of the world. I don't think that would be something that would interest him in the slightest. But, you know, I can't answer for all witches and wizards because I think in matters of the heart, it would be directly parallel to our world.

MA: Hrmmm. Yeah. The reaction was so astronomical to that.

JKR: Well, I said it to you, Melissa, before I think, that to me, it's wrong not to answer a question honestly. I just think that's immoral. And I was asked that question by a young woman at Carnegie Hall who prefaced her question by saying "these books have helped me be more fully myself". Well, I mean, that's just one of the most wonderful things anyone has ever said to me about the books. And then she asked, "Has Dumbledore ever been in love?" So I was absolutely honest about how I saw the character: I always imagined that Dumbledore was gay. How relevant is that to the books? Well, it's only relevant if you considered that his feelings for Grindelwald, as revealed in the 7th book, were an infatuation rather than a straight-forward friendship. That's how I think-- In fact, I know that some, perhaps sensitive, adult readers had already seen that. I don't think that came as a big surprise to some adult readers. I think a child would see a friendship, and a very devoted friendship. But these things also occur. So I-- How relevant is it? Well to me, it was only relevant in as much as Dumbledore, who was the great defender of Love, and who sincerely believed that Love was the greatest, most powerful, force in the universe, was himself made a fool of by Love. That to me was the interesting point. That in his youth, he was-- he became infatuated with a man who was almost his dark twin. He was as brilliant, he was morally bankrupt, and Dumbledore lost his moral compass. He wanted to believe that Grindelwald was what he wanted him to be, which is what I think, particularly, a young person's love tends to do. We fill in the blanks in the beloved's personality with the virtues we would like them to have. So Dumbledore was wrong. And his judgment was entirely-- was very suspect at that time. And of course, it was more than being infatuated. Grindelwald appeared to be offering him a solution to this horrible dilemma. I mean, Dumbledore was not cut out, to his shame, to be a carer. He was cut out to go out on to the world stage and be a brilliant man. He knows that about himself, and he's ashamed of it. So it's a complicated issue, but, yeah, that's the way I always saw Dumbledore, it wasn't a particularly big deal to me. And I never, once before, been asked at an event, about Dumbledore's romantic life. I've been asked other things about him. But I have to say that until "Hallows" was published, people were mostly interested in the Trio's futures and Dumbledore's backstory. In fact, I remember, Melissa, when you and Emerson interviewed me after "Half-Blood Prince" was published, we were talking about what fans should be asking. And I said, "Dumbledore's family." I didn't want to say "Dumbledore's past", but you know, Dumbledore's family would be a profitable line of inquiry because I always knew that he had this tragic story from his late teens. There. That was a long answer.

SU: That was brilliant.

JKR: But it was a full answer.

MA: We love full answers.

JN: I guess, people are gonna yell at me.

JKR: Like you care. Come on.

JN: Okay.

MA: We love it when he starts sentences that way!

JN: Just trying to save a little face. I know a few people out there have been wondering if Madam Hooch had ever been in love.

JKR: (laughs) Do you know what? Madam Hooch really did not have any kind of romantic backstory. Well, not my invention, I don't know. We'd have to go and trawl the fanfic for that.

MA: I'm sure we'd find it, Jo.

JKR: Yeah. I bet we would.

JN: I think there's categories of it, actually.

SU: So we were talking about ships, though. Can we talk about romance, romance at all?

JKR: Yeah, we can talk about romance.

MA: I don't know. Last time we did this, Jo, quite a lot of hubbub followed.

JKR: Really?

SU: You know.

JN: But it's fun. It's fun hubbub.

JKR: Yeah, okay.

MA: But before we get into romance, I want to get something cleared up.

JKR: Okay.

MA: After we got back from Carnegie Hall, we brought back your message of how Harry is kind of not really a Horcrux. And I won't dwell too long on Horcruxes, but, I'd love to hear you talking about how he is or isn't, or wasn't.

JKR: Well, I tell you-- You know what, this will not end the discussion. I know that, and you know that. But here is the thing. For convenience, I had Dumbledore say to Harry, "You were the Horcrux he never meant to make." But I think, by definition, a Horcrux has to be made intentionally. So, because Voldemort never went through the grotesque process that I imagined creates a Horcrux, with Harry, it was just that he had destabilized his soul so much that it split when he was hit by the back-firing curse. And so this part of it flies off and attaches to the only living thing in the room. A part of it flees in the very close-to-death limbo state that Voldemort then goes on and exists in. I suppose it's very close to being a Horcrux. But Harry was not-- did not become an evil object. He wasn't-- he didn't have curses upon him that the other Horcruxes had. He himself was not contaminated by carrying this bit of parasitic soul. The only time he ever felt it stirring and moving was in "Order of the Phoenix", when he himself goes through a very dark time. And there's a moment where he's looking at Dumbledore and he feels something rear like a snake inside him. And of course at those times, it's because the piece of soul inside him is feeding off his emotions. He's going through a dark time and that piece of soul is enjoying it and making its presence felt. But he doesn't know what he's feeling, of course. Also I always imagined the Sorting Hat detected the presence of that piece of soul when Harry first tried it on. Because it was strongly tempted to put him in Slytherin. So that's how I see it. Now, I know that won't end the debate, but I do think that the strict definition of Horcrux, once I write The Scottish Book, will have to be given and that the definition will be: the receptacle is prepared by dark magic to become the receptacle of a fragmented piece of soul and that that piece of soul deliberately detached from the Master Soul to act as a future safeguard or anchor to life and to safeguard against death. So that doesn't clear anything up but it elucidates what I believe. But I don't think it's necessarily going to convince people who have a strong feeling, one way or the other, on the matter. You know what, that's been the case with most of "Harry Potter". I gave my explanation and it just fuels more debate.

JN: I was thinking, as you were talking about that, just a second ago. I've just been reading "Philosopher's Stone". There was a chapter when Harry goes to sleep for the first time, and he's in his dormitory, and he has this dream that he doesn't remember again, that he was being tempted to go to Slytherin. I thought maybe at that point, that might have also been that little piece of Voldemort in there, wreaking havoc on his dreams really early on.

JKR: Well, of course, the pain he feels whenever Voldemort is particularly active, is this piece of soul seeking to rejoin the Master Soul. When his scar is hurting him so much, that's not scar tissue hurting him. That's this piece of soul really wanting to get back out the way it entered. It really wants to-- It entered this boy's body through a wound and it wants to rejoin the Master Soul when Voldemort's near him, when he's particularly active, this connection-- it was always there. That's what I always imagined this pain was. Yes. So. There you go. There's a moment when Dumbledore casts a charm and you see a two-headed snake split--

SU: Yes.

JKR: Do you remember that?

JN: Yes.

SU: In essence divided?

MA: That's in his office, right? In essence divided?

JKR: It's in Dumbledore's office, and he suddenly does this strange-- he performs this strange piece of magic in which he watches images and these are his-- and this snake dividing and that's the way he sees Voldemort's soul dividing. He's playing through his own theory about what's happened and his theory, is of course, correct. That Voldemort, as summed up by the snake, divided. So Harry never understood what the two-headed snake was all about. But that's what it was.

SU: You know, you just answered a question that people have been asking about, talking about that "essence divided", what that meant, so, yes!

JKR: "In essence divided", exactly, and the essence being, the soul. So Dumbledore knew all along that he must have split-- he suspected until "Chamber of Secrets", and then at the point where he saw what was clearly the remains of a Horcrux, in other words, the diary, he thinks, okay, there you go. And not only has he definitely done it, but he's got to have more than one because he's treated this one very casually.

SU: So, can I ask this? This is kind of a random question but if Harry had this Horcrux in him, of course, sort of, would he have actually have died, like say when a dragon could've killed him, or when he was falling during Quidditch, or anything?

JKR: Well, you've got to-- if his body had been irreperably destroyed, he has to die to get rid of that piece of soul. His body has got to be irreperably damaged. So a lot of people asked, and I think I've answered this since... but a lot of people immediately said, having finished "Hallows", "(gasps) But then, that means, in Chamber of Secrets when he was pierced by the basilisk..." But no, no, no, no. He didn't die! He didn't die! That was stated right at the beginning with the Horcrux. The receptacle has got to be destroyed. His body wasn't destroyed. He got a bit poisoned, and then he got the antidote immediately. So, you know, that's not gonna drive out this piece of soul. Sorry if I sound frustrated but occassionally, (overtalk) occassionally, you feel some frustration. People, please, just read the book, because it's there! And then ask something that's not there! Which plenty of people do, don't get me wrong. But on that one I felt... there was a certain feeling of weariness. (laughs)

JN: Now I'm nervous.

JKR: No no no no. Don't be nervous. Because I was so careful with this stuff. I don't know if you've seen on my website, I recently did a small number of updates, and one of the things on there was... It's about the end, and how Harry survived right to the end. He doesn't fight and Voldemort uses the Killing Curse on him. It was important for me to say on the website, I never saw this, as in the finale, the deneouement, the moment when Harry faces Voldemort prepared to die and doesn't die-- that isn't like a scientific equation. Harry-- it's not guaranteed, there has to be space, to make Harry truly heroic, for free will. It has to be his choice. The whole thing's his choice. He chooses to sacrifice himself just as Lily chose to sacrifice herself. He chooses to pull himself back to life, and that's his own will and courage. So ultimately, those things, all of them were more important than the magic.

JN: Oh. My brain is firing in so many different directions right now, 'cause I got like a thousand questions...


MA: And I'm sitting here biting my tongue...

SU: 'Cause like, I wanna ask you about your website, and then I wanna ask you about love, and this is like...

JKR: Yeah, we were going to talk about romance, and we got sidetracked.

MA: Yeah, sorry.

SU: I'm no Ravenclaw, and I read these books just because I love them and I am just enamoured of the world that you've created and...

JKR: Thank you.

SU: ...the one character I do see in myself is someone named Neville Longbottom. And...

JKR: I love Neville. I love Neville so much. Always loved Neville. And I always had big plans for Neville, you know? And he really was The Boy It Could've Been, because as you know, as I made clear, he was born hours before Harry, he was born on the 30th of July, Voldemort singled him out as the other possibility. But the great thing about Neville's story for me, the over-arching story about Neville, is that he proves himself to be a boy who could've done it too. Yeah, Harry had the scar and arguably, Harry had an edge more talent because Harry-- he has an extraordinary instinct for the right thing to do. He's just got the right instinct, and that's what would make him, in due course, a phenomenal Auror. But Neville was, I think, amazing in the final battle, and proved himself a hundred times over worthy of being a Gryffindor, his parents' son, despite the very difficult childhood he had in the hands of his very pushy grandmother, and I know, she loves him and he loves her, but she's not an easy person to be raised by. So yeah, so that for me, was the big thing about Neville. He's not on the surface-- I suppose he's not as cool when it comes right down to it, although Harry, of course, made himself cool. He was a scrawny little kid in glasses, and he comes through, and he becomes the guy everyone wants to know.

SU: You've written so many brilliant scenes, but I personally think one of the most powerful...

JKR: Thank you.

SU: ...scenes was when Neville goes into St. Mungo's, and I understood, when I was listening to that scene, that Neville probably never had the love of his mom and understood, like hugs, you know, all he got were these wrappers.

JKR: He's got these elderly relatives who just wanted him to match up. "Why aren't you matching up?" The trouble is, I think, that they would be the kind of people who forget what being young is like and want him to be-- imagine themselves to have been prodigies and expect him to match up to really an impossible standard. So I felt so sorry for Neville from the word go, but I knew that he was gonna have a comparable journey to Harry's, and he does. And bizarrely, Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville, has undergone a bigger physical transformation than any other person who works on those films to the point that when I went to the read-through of "Half-Blood Prince"-- That we were all sitting in this great square-- They put all the tables from the Great Hall into this big square so everyone's facing inwards for the read-through. And facing me with Dan and Rupert and Emma and Evanna and Bonnie and, you know, the main lot. And there's this really big, cool guy, sitting there with a bit of stubble, and wearing this woolen hat and a leather jacket... and I didn't recognize him and my eyes passed on, and I sort of thought, that would be the guy they've got playing McLaggen, you know. And then I thought, where's Matthew? I looked back, and, my God! When did that happen? So he's really a very cool dude and... He and Devon and Evanna and Bonnie all came to my reception for Beedle the Bard last Monday, it was great to see them, it was so nice.

SU: Oh, that's so cool. Can we just ask kind of a sad thing, though. What did the Longbottoms do that they earned that wrath from Bellatrix? Such-- There's three times, like the Potters thrice defied the Dark Lord.

JKR: They were efficient! They were efficient. That's all they needed to do to earn her wrath. They were-- They had rounded up Death Eaters, they were very good Aurors, they knew what they were doing, they were responsible for a lot of captures and arrests and imprisonments. And-- So there you are.

MA: What about the three times-- The thrice-defying of Voldemort?

JKR: Of James and Lily?

MA: Of Neville's parents. Well, James and Lily, too.

JKR: It depends how you take defying, doesn't it. I mean, if you're counting, which I do, anytime you arrested one of his henchmen, anytime you escaped him, anytime you thwarted him, that's what he's looking for. And both couples qualified because they were both fighting. Also, James and Lily turned him down, that was established in "Philosopher's Stone". He wanted them, and they wouldn't come over, so that's one strike against them before they were even out of their teens.

SU: Rock. That's so cool. I was glad to hear more about them, the night of their murder, in "Deathly Hallows", but there's still a little bit of confusion about that 24 hours, Jo. How did Dumbledore find out what happened in Godric's Hollow?

MA: And what happened, there's this whole 24 hours that's like... People have been fantasizing about for years.

JKR: Yeah, I know. You know, I-- I've got a bit of a problem with this myself, because every time I think it straight in my head, I go back and look at what the fans are theorizing about, and I think, yeah, maybe they've got a point. There is an easy answer to "how would Dumbledore know?", because you can-- he... you can, one can... (laughs) Forgive me if I speak as though it's all real for a moment.

SU: It is real. What do you mean, it's not?

JN: We all do.

MA: That's how I feel as well, yeah, so. Okay. Obviously Dumbledore could cast a charm on a dwelling that would immediately alert him if something happened to it. So he can know instantaneously. That's not a problem at all. And then he could dispatch Hagrid, and so on. But I think The Scottish Book will have to answer that question. I'm gonna have to really go back through notes, and either admit I've lost 24 hours, or, I don't know, hurriedly come up with some back story to fill it. Either way, you either get to be right, or you get more story. So you can't complain.

MA: No.

JN: Now, I have to ask, and, oh, I don't know that it's something that you probably haven't even decided it yet, but, when you do go back and you do, in ten years, so be it, do The Scottish Book, are you thinking more in line of a, like an account of events or more like small stories for things.

JKR: To be honest, John, at the moment, I'm not gonna say "don't hold me to this", but you know, I'm just gonna say "this might change". But I imagined it as half of it, I mean maybe on facing pages, but that might be difficult to do just through layout. But the ideal would be, to have, say, on the left-hand side you've got a page showing all your back story, extra details on characters, or an entry on wands showing what every character's wand was, and all of this stuff. And then I think also, it might be interesting to have information about the actual writing and what I discarded. So on one side, it's acting as though the whole world is true and I'm giving you extra information on that real world, and on the other side, we're admitting that it's actually fiction and I'm showing discarded plots, characters that didn't make it, problems in the plot. I think both lots of information are interesting, so it would be nice to unite both of them.

JN: Absolutely. That sounds like a student's textbook...

JKR: Yeah! Yeah.

JN: ...where in the margins, they have, you know, fact tables and things and then there's also snippets of stories that they rescued from things and then...

JKR: Well, it's actually-- To be honest, I think the point of doing it, if I'm going to do it, it's about doing the absolute, definitive, giving-people-everything guide. Well, I mean everything, could I ever give everything? But everything that I've got, to put it that way. That's what I would aspire to, at the moment. It might, for practical reasons, not be possible to do both sets of information in that way, but I would like to. That would be the ideal.

JN: I think fans would wait ten years for something like that, to be honest.

JKR: Oh well, if that's the case, I'm delighted. Because I don't-- you know, what I really-- I mean, I don't want to get into, God knows I do not, this near Christmas, want to talk about legal stuff, it's just too depressing, but I think there's no point in me doing it unless it's amazing. I think there's no point in writing it unless it is everything. The last thing I want to do is to feel that I have to rush something out because-- do you know what I mean? My hand has been forced, or I've got to rush it out because there's demand and other people will fill it first. I wanna do it right or not do it at all, and I really do want to do it right.

SU: Well, I'll wait ten years if you give me a little bit of the history of Hufflepuff, and then I'll be just happy.

JKR: Yeah, well, I would definitely-- you know, that's-- all of it, yeah.

MA: Oh, Hufflepuff.

JN: It's been a hundred and thirty something weeks and we've managed to get you on the show, so I mean, ten years, what's it matter...

JKR: What does it matter? That's the spirit, John!

MA: I don't know, you guys are being very permissive about this whole ten years thing. (laughter) I don't know, man. Let's not expand it, no, I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Since you mentioned Hufflepuff, I just wanna ask a sort of specific question about Hannah.

JKR: Hannah Abbott?

MA: Yeah, there's a line in "Deathly Hallows" when Harry sees someone that he thinks might be Hannah Abbott's long-lost relatives, what's her deal? Is she a Muggleborn? Did she lose her family...

JKR: Oh, you mean the grave?

MA: Yeah.

JKR: Uh, no, she's not Muggleborn. No, I'm pretty sure Hannah's a pureblood. I know her mother died...

MA: In that old documentary, you showed a picture where they had like all the family associations and Hannah appeared to be Muggleblood in the fans' careful reconstruction of--

JKR: Did she? Because I'll tell you what, if that's the case-- and I've got that notebook and that's one of my cornerstone notebooks, in that case, then I've been misremembering that, because I thought she was pureblood. Interesting. I've certainly written about her, and thought about her for years now, as pureblood. So that's interesting. Maybe we'll just split the difference and call her halfblood. (laughter) Yeah, that's how decisions are taken in the fairly random world of J.K. Rowling. (laughter)

SU: I didn't care, though, because Hannah goes on to become landlady at The Leaky Cauldron, my favorite pub, and--

JKR: Damn right, she does, and I think that's a pretty cool career, and I think that makes Neville quite cool that he married her, don't you think?

MA: Yes it does, woohoo!

JKR: Thank you.

SU: Thank you, Jo! I like it.

JKR: My pleasure.

SU: You know, I love your website. You made Hufflepuff-- You know, when you did the Four Founders, and you had all that stuff, so we were really really grateful to learn about all those things.

JKR: Thank you.

SU: Bring it on.

JKR: I know that the website's been really quiet lately and I just said in my diary entry, people around me keep saying "oh, it's been really quiet now". They have no idea. The second half of 2007 has been insane and manic and strange and full of stuff that I'd really rather not deal with. I'm afraid to say the website's been one of the things that kind of went bye the bye. I hoped, by starting the website, which I've enjoyed so much, it's been a great way to directly communicate with fans and definitely the most effective way I could've found. I was getting a lot of pressure or a lot of requests to do a fan club. You know, from people who wanted to run it and people who wanted to have a fan club. And I really didn't want to do a fan club because I thought that it-- they're nearly never as good as they promise to be. And they're never free, you've got to pay, and then a lot of material need to be generated and so I thought doing the fan site, creating that, at least it would be free and people would feel that, you know, they were getting something. So if there was a quiet phase, then it wouldn't matter too much. I do need to update, and I will. I will.

SU: Yes, 'cause we're dying about those W.O.M.B.A.T.S.

JKR: Oh, God. Listen, I gotta tell you. The W.O.M.B.A.T.S. are done, I'm sorry. There are no more W.O.M.B.A.T.S.

SU: Okay.

JKR: I'm sorry. I worked really hard on those W.O.M.B.A.T.S.

SU: But what was the purpose of them, though? Just for fun? Just to do those? I mean, why would you-- we felt like, oh man, we're like--

JKR: I'll tell you what it was, and this is kind of sad. I was told that it would be very unwise to put hints about "Hallows" on my site because we've had enormous trouble in "Half-Blood Prince" because I had put hints about it, and it was argued in court by people who wanted to put the whole book on the internet, or press people who've got hold of it, and wanted to put it out early, and-- an argument would be "well you put it on your site, so we have the right to put it up as well." So I was told it would be very foolish to start putting chapter headings and so on, up. I would be weakening my own case against people who wanted to do spoilers. So then I started looking for something that I could give fans that wasn't foresha-- Although I hope you noticed-- Sorry, I'm going off on a slight tangent. I was going to say, to give fans stuff that wasn't foreshadowing Book 7. But in fact, if you were paying attention, W.O.M.B.A.T. 3 had loads of stuff from Book 7 in it. Hahahaha. And no one knew. and no one realized, including the lawyers, yay! So I win.

SU: Yay! And Jo wins! Yes you do, you go girl!

JKR: Thank you.


JKR: Actually, there was a whole lot of stuff in at W.O.M.B.A.T. 3 that was taken from Seven, and people picked up on some of it. I had some stuff in there about Gryffindor's sword and a few other things.

MA: Will you put up the answers so that people can kind of figure it out?

JKR: D'you know, I could. I could... would you like that?

SU: Yes, please.

MA: That would be fun.

JKR: Okay, that would be cool. It did amuse me. I can't remember, someone gave-- some site gave a guide to what you should be putting, and I think people who followed their advice were not getting the top marks, so....

JN: I mean, I got an "O" on all of my tests

SU: He did not!


JKR: Did you? Well, the embarrassing thing is my husband only got "Acceptable" and he was in the room while I was writing the questions and was listening to me telling him the answers. So, uh, what that says about how much my husband listens to me, I shudder to think.

JN: That sounds very much like a Hermione/Ron kind of thing.

JKR: Yeah, we have our moments, believe you me. Yeah, so, he got an "Acceptable" and then got discouraged and didn't take another one. (laughs)

MA: Oh, that's very Ron.

JKR: Yeah.

SU: Oh, speaking of Ron/Hermione--

JKR: Yeah, did they graduate from Hogwarts?

SU: Yes, did they?

JKR: Harry and Ron didn't go back, Hermione did. Did you bet right? You must've, I mean, come on. No one's gonna think Hermione wouldn't go back.

SU: I predicted, yeah.

JKR: Of course she'd go back. She has to get her N.E.W.T.s. Ron was really done with schooling. It would be kind of tempting to go back just to mess around for a year and have a break, but he goes into the Auror department. He's needed. Anyone. Anyone who was in that battle on the right side, Kingsley would want them to help clean up the-- I mean, anyone who's old enough to do it, who's over-age. But Kingsley would've wanted Ron, Neville, Harry and they would've all gone, and they would've all done the job. And I think that that would've been a good thing for them, too. Because to go through that battle and then be religated to the sidelines, I think they would've felt a need to keep going and finish the job. So that would've been rounding up, really, the corrupt people who were doing a Lucius Malfoy and trying to pretend that they weren't really involved.

JN: Wow. We had all been thinking of these big complicated-- We always over-complicate things.

JKR: Yeah, you do.

JN: Maybe they do this distance learning kind of thing where they were...

JKR: A Kwikspell Course!

JN: ...working on school from home. Yes, exactly.

MA: We were imagining Hermione on the back of the dragon on the deluxe edition doing her N.E.W.T.

JKR: No, she would definitely, definitely go back, and she would want to graduate. And I think that she was-- I mean, I love Hermione. She went with Ron and Harry because she has a really good heart. That's not about brain. Ultimately, she had a bigger heart than she had a brain, and that's saying something for Hermione. But was she naturally drawn to battle? No, she wasn't. She's not a Bellatrix. She's not a woman who actually wants to be hurting, fighting, killing. Not at all. She would be glad to go back to school, be glad to get back to study, and then would join them at the Ministry.

JN: You know, what I'm curious about now. What I think is one of the neatest things about the Hogwarts tradition is the entrance ceremony, from the whole riding the boats to the castle to the Sorting ceremony. What kind of traditions is there for graduation and leaving Hogwarts?

JKR: D'you know, John, I'm really glad you asked that, because I felt a huge sadness that I wouldn't write a graduation scene. You know, I really did. I knew-- I mean, I knew from early days that we would never see them graduate. I knew that he would-- well not he, they, all three of them, would not. We would not see them at school during what would've been their final year of education. But I really, during the final book, I kept thinking it would've been-- I felt sad that the book wasn't gonna end with that Feast scene, the graduation scene. But it couldn't, you know, it just couldn't. That's not the way it could've ended. It would've felt far too trite and-- you know, a lot of people felt the Epilogue was too sentimental, I think to have a graduation scene on top of what just happened would've been an absurd bit of anti-climax.

JN: Did you have ideas for what kind of traditions that they would do? Like ride the boats back out of Hogwarts, obviously, I think it's the cutest thing...

JKR: Oh yeah, definitely. No, I think the boats would've been the most poetic and beautiful way to get-- for them to leave. And symbolic in that they-- Harry wouldn't have seen the thestrals again, you know what I mean? It would've been a return to innocence, really. And passage over water is so symbolic, you know, in the history of magic, so, yeah. That would've been great.

MA: You've just-- Jo, you've just hit on something that happens all the time here on Pottercast. John says-- he throws out some nonsense thing that he just thought of at the top of his head...

JKR: It turns out to be accurate.

MA: ...then it's the perfect thing. And it turns out to be accurate. I can't tell you how much he got right in "Deathly Hallows".

JN: Well, I think I find that very interesting because it's often those things that just strike you like lightning that are the right things, you know. Sometimes you have to work very hard for something and finally something shifts in your brain, and you say "yes, of course, that's it". But I love it, there's no better feeling when it just comes out of nowhere and you think, "ah, perfect, thank you."

Original page date 28 Dec 2007; last updated 28 Dec 2007.