And then they all died. The end.

So, lnhammer recently pointed me to hamlet_ending, a community dedicated to guessing who will die by the end of the Harry Potter series.

As a reader, of course, I play these games all the time when I read. Ever since being heartbroken-yet-fascinated at fifteen by the death of one of the characters in Madeleine L’Engle’s Arm of the Starfish, I’ve been fascinated in the business of killing off characters properly–when it makes strategic sense, when it’s in line with the story being told, when it’s done to a purpose and when it’s merely cheap emotional manipulation.

I still credit lucy_anne with first teaching me how to kill off characters of my own, around the same time I think–until then, characters tended to live simply because I liked them. For a while after that I think characters died simply because I liked them. I like to imagine I’ve achieved some story-balance since then. 🙂

All of which got me to thinking about what really has been set up in the Harry Potter books, in terms of who will live and who will die. It actually seems pretty obvious: Harry lives (it’s in the contract with the reader), Voldemort dies (no prophecy needed to figure that out), Dumbledore also dies (inherent in the mythic structure of being the wise old teacher).

Nothing else is absolutely promised by the story, but other likely survivors include Ron, Hermione, Snape (because otherwise Harry can’t redeem his father’s cruelty), Neville (because he’s already taken his psychic hit), and Arthur Weasley (because he’s already had his close call). Possible additional casualties include one of the three oldest Weasley children; I’ll also go ahead and take longer-shot bets on one of Harry’s remaining roommates (Seamus or Dean), and on Lucius Malfoy (after either aiding Voldemort in some particularly treacherous way, or making his own attempt on Harry’s life after the death of same).

Now, whether any of these characters will be killed off well or to purpose (that is, better than the first two characters were killed off), I have no idea.

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