JKRowling.com FAQ Poll Archive
Jo likes to interact with the fans, and what better way than having visitors of her site vote on a certain question to be answered?
FAQ Poll #4Date Started / Ended:
December 24th, 2005 / February 21st, 2006Runner-up questions:
- Does the destruction of a Horcrux involve more than the destruction of the object?
- Why did Voldemort want the Philosopher's Stone if he already had his Horcruxes?
Winning question & answer (with 46% of the vote):What happens to a secret when the Secret-Keeper dies?
I was surprised that this question won, because it is not the one that I'd have voted for... but hey, if this is what you want to know, this is what you want to know!
When a Secret-Keeper dies, their secret dies with them, or, to put it another way, the status of their secret will remain as it was at the moment of their death. Everybody in whom they confided will continue to know the hidden information, but nobody else.
Just in case you have forgotten exactly how the Fidelius Charm works, it is
"an immensely complex spell involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find -- unless, of course, the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it" (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
In other words, a secret (eg, the location of a family in hiding, like the Potters) is enchanted so that it is protected by a single Keeper (in our example, Peter Pettigrew, a.k.a. Wormtail). Thenceforth nobody else - not even the subjects of the secret themselves - can divulge the secret. Even if one of the Potters had been captured, force fed Veritaserum or placed under the Imperius Curse, they would not have been able to give away the whereabouts of the other two. The only people who ever knew their precise location were those whom Wormtail had told directly, but none of them would have been able to pass on the information.
FAQ Poll #3Date Started / Ended:
December 10th, 2004 / May 15th, 2005Runner-up questions:
- How many chapters will Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince have? (Subject to editorial changes, of course) - 7%
- Will Ron ever manage to become more than just good friends with a girl? - 25%Winning question & answer (with 68% of the vote):What is the significance of Neville being the other boy to whom the prophecy might have referred?
Finally, I am answering the poll question! I am sorry it has taken so long, but let me start by saying how glad I am that this was the question that received the most votes, because this was the one that I most wanted to answer. Some of you might not like what I am going to say - but I'll address that issue at the end of my response!
To recap: Neville was born on the 30th of July, the day before Harry, so he too was born 'as the seventh month dies'. His parents, who were both famous Aurors, had 'thrice defied' Voldemort, just as Lily and James had. Voldemort was therefore presented with the choice of two baby boys to whom the prophecy might apply. However, he did not entirely realise what the implications of attacking them might be, because he had not heard the entire prophecy. As Dumbledore says:
'He [the eavesdropper] only heard the beginning, the part foretelling the birth of a boy in July to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort. Consequently, he could not warn his master that to attack you would be to risk transferring power to you.'
In effect, the prophecy gave Voldemort the choice of two candidates for his possible nemesis. In choosing which boy to murder, he was also (without realising it) choosing which boy to anoint as the Chosen One - to give him tools no other wizard possessed - the scar and the ability it conferred, a magical window into Voldemort's mind.
So what would have happened if Voldemort had decided that the pure-blood, not the half-blood, was the bigger threat? What would have happened if he had attacked Neville instead? Harry wonders this during the course of 'Half-Blood Prince' and concludes, rightly, that the answer hinges on whether or not one of Neville's parents would have been able, or prepared, to die for their son in the way that Lily died for Harry. If they hadn't, Neville would have been killed outright. Had Frank or Alice thrown themselves in front of Neville, however, the killing curse would have rebounded just as it did in Harry's case, and Neville would have been the one who survived with the lightning scar. What would this have meant? Would a Neville bearing the lightning scar have been as successful at evading Voldemort as Harry has been? Would Neville have had the qualities that have enabled Harry to remain strong and sane throughout all of his many ordeals? Although Dumbledore does not say as much, he does not believe so: he believes Voldemort did indeed choose the boy most likely to be able to topple him, for Harry's survival has not depended wholly or even mainly upon his scar.
So where does this leave Neville, the boy who was so nearly King? Well, it does not give him either hidden powers or a mysterious destiny. He remains a 'normal' wizarding boy, albeit one with a past, in its way, as tragic as Harry's. As you saw in 'Order of the Phoenix,' however, Neville is not without his own latent strengths. It remains to be seen how he will feel if he ever finds out how close he came to being the Chosen One.
Some of you, who have been convinced that the prophecy marked Neville, in some mystical fashion, for a fate intertwined with Harry's, may find this answer rather dull. Yet I was making what I felt was a significant point about Harry and Voldemort, and about prophecies themselves, in showing Neville as the also-ran. If neither boy was 'pre-ordained' before Voldemort's attack to become his possible vanquisher, then the prophecy (like the one the witches make to Macbeth, if anyone has read the play of the same name) becomes the catalyst for a situation that would never have occurred if it had not been made. Harry is propelled into a terrifying position he might never have sought, while Neville remains the tantalising 'might-have-been'. Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.
Of course, none of this should be taken to mean that Neville does not have a significant part to play in the last two novels, or the fight against Voldemort. As for the prophecy itself, it remains ambiguous, not only to readers, but to my characters. Prophecies (think of Nostradamus!) are usually open to many different interpretations. That is both their strength and their weakness.
FAQ Poll #2Date Started / Ended:
July 19th, 2004 / October 4th, 2004Runner-up questions:
- Is Percy working undercover for any secret organization/boss? - 20%
- Where has Peter Pettigrew been since the end of 'Goblet of Fire'? - 20%Winning question & answer (with 60% of the vote):What did Dumbledore's Howler to Aunt Petunia mean? ('Remember my last'?)
Well, it is a relief to move on after the Mark Evans fiasco. This time, two out of the three poll questions had interesting answers (or so I think) and thank goodness you chose one of them.
So: Dumbledore is referring to his last letter, which means, of course, the letter he left upon the Dursleys' doorstep when Harry was one year old. But why then (you may well ask) did he not just say 'remember my letter?' Why did he say my last letter? Why, obviously because there were letters before that
Now let the speculation begin, and mind you type clearly, I'll be watching
P.S. It has been suggested that I am wrong in saying that Dumbledore's last letter was the one he left on the doorstep with baby Harry, and that he has sent a letter since then concerning Harry's illegal flight to school. However, both Dumbledore and I differentiate between letters sent to the Dursleys as a couple, and messages directed to Petunia ALONE. And that's my final word on the subject - though I doubt it will be yours :)
FAQ Poll #1Date Started / Ended:
May 15th, 2004 / July 6th, 2004Runner-up questions:
- Is Severus Snape Lily Potter's (long-lost) brother? - 12%
- Is Sirius Black really dead? - 42%Winning question & answer (with 46% of the vote):What is the significance, if any, of Mark Evans?
"I couldn't answer the poll question before now, because I've been making arrangements to take my family into hiding. It takes time to arrange fake passports, one-way air tickets to Bolivia and twenty-four hour armed security.
Why should I resort to such desperate measures? Because after you've heard this answer, I'll have to disappear for my own safety.
Now before I get down to it (you can guess what's coming, can't you?) I am going to put up a feeble pre-emptive defence. Firstly, you were all spinning highly ingenious theories about Mark Evans, so I thought that you would welcome the chance to hear the truth about him. Secondly, I tried hard not to raise hopes or expectations by adding the crucial words 'if any' to the question. Thirdly... there is no thirdly. I'm just killing time.
(Takes deep breath)
Mark Evans is... nobody. He's nobody in the sense that Mr. Prentice, Madam Marsh and Gordon-Dudley's-gang-member are nobodies, just background people who need names, but who have no role other than the walk-on parts assigned to them.
(Checks that Neil has immunized the dog and that Jessica has packed her Gameboy, and continues)
I've got nobody to blame but myself. Sirius Black, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher were all mentioned in passing well before they burst onto the stage as fully-fledged characters, so now you've all become too clever, not for your own good, but for mine. The fact is that once you drew my attention to it, I realised that Mark Evans did indeed look like one of those 'here he is, just a casual passer-by, nothing to worry about, bet you barely noticed him' characters who would suddenly become, half way through book seven, 'Ha ha! Yes, Mark Evans is back, suckers, and he's the key to everything! He's the Half Blood Prince, he's Harry's Great-Aunt, he's the Heir of Gryffindor, he lives up the Pillar of Storgé and he owns the Mystic Kettle of Nackledirk!' (Possible title of book seven there, must make a note of it).
Then why WHY (I hear you cry) did I give him the surname Evans? Well, believe me, you can't regret it more than I do right now. Evans is a common name; I didn't give it much thought; I wasn't even trying to set up another red herring. I could just as easily have called him 'Smith' or 'Jones' (or 'Black' or 'Thomas' or 'Brown', all of which would have got me into trouble too).
What else can I say? Many of the theories you presented were highly plausible. If you knew how often I've checked the FAQ poll hoping that one of the other questions might edge into the lead...
"Well, that's that. The car with false license plates is at the door and I've got to glue on my goatee. Goodbye."
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