Any proper Harry Potter fan will insist that the series didn’t truly end with the release of the seventh and final book in July 2007, nor did it end with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in theatres in July 2011. There’s no more obvious testament to the wizarding world’s enduring legacy than J.K. Rowling herself, the author who has so much left to give to fans who are always eager to hear more. She continues to release new material via the Pottermore website and has yet to quash rumors of a forthcoming authoritative Harry Potter encyclopedia (though she hesitates to use the e-word).
But some of Rowling's most surprising insights about the fates of Harry and friends have come straight from her own mouth in various interviews given since Deathly Hallows closed the book on their stories. Here are some of the most essential insights from those interviews—though if the past few years are any indication, they won’t be the last. Note: If you haven't read all the books or seen all the movies, spoilers abound!
1. Dumbledore was gay.
When a fan got the chance to ask Rowling whether beloved headmaster Dumbledore, with his twinkling blue eyes, had ever been in love, the answer must have been wildly unexpected: not only had Rowling “always thought” of Dumbledore as gay, but his one great love had been his former best friend and Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, whom he ultimately defeated in a duel the likes of which were never surpassed by any two wizards since. By Rowling’s account, Dumbledore’s infatuation with Grindelwald may have blinded him to the danger which his plans of benevolent-but-totalitarian wizarding domination posed to the entire magical world. Rowling never explicitly states whether or not Dumbledore’s affections were ever returned, but either way, there’s a wrenching sense of tragedy in Dumbledore’s love life that never was.
2. Ron and Hermione’s relationship may have been a mistake.
In an interview with Emma Watson, otherwise known as the real-life Hermione Granger, Rowling dropped one of the biggest bombshells of her career when she confessed her sense that pairing off Ron and Hermione had been a mistake. She admits that at the time, she had pushed a Ron/Hermione relationship for “very personal reasons” and as a form of “wish fulfillment” in service of her original ideas of where the books would go, not because the two were a particularly “credible” couple; in retrospect, she thinks it would have made sense for Hermione to marry Harry instead.
Rowling’s most recent statement contradicted not only her published work, but her previous interviews, in which she claimed that Harry and Ginny were true “soul mates,” whereas Ron and Hermione operated on an opposites-attract level: “[They] are drawn to each other because they balance each other out. Hermione's got the sensitivity and maturity that's been left out of Ron, and Ron loosens up Hermione a bit, gets her to have some fun. They love each other and they bicker a bit, but they enjoy bickering, so we shouldn't worry about it”—and yet she has now joked (unless she wasn’t joking) that Ron and Hermione would have needed to seek relationship counseling. Fans predictably erupted at what they saw as Rowling’s unwanted editorializing on books long gone to print, though early fans of a Harry/Hermione pairing were quietly vindicated; either way, the books have been written, and there’s always fanfiction for all the rest.
3. Tonks and Lupin almost lived, but Ron and Arthur Weasley almost died.
Authors are allowed to change their minds, but when it comes to matters of a character’s life or death, there’s a lot to consider. It seems inconceivable now, but Rowling admits that about halfway through the series, when she “wasn’t in a very happy place” in her own life, she considered going back on her previous commitment to herself to keep the Golden Trio alive, and almost killed off Ron Weasley. In retrospect, she now believes that she wouldn’t really have been able to do it, but at the time, she entertained the notion “out of sheer spite.” Luckily for Ron, Rowling’s fit of pique passed, and he was spared.
Arthur Weasley’s near-death was a subject of more serious deliberation: Rowling felt uncomfortable with the idea that the entire Weasley clan should survive (since purely on a statistical basis, that would have been hugely unrealistic), and she thought Mr. Weasley might be the one to go. She granted him a reprieve when she realized what a huge blow such a loss would deal not only to Harry, in whose life Mr. Weasley played the most stable father figure, but to Ron. As half an orphan—half of what Harry had been all his life—he would have lost his humor, and Rowling decided that she needed to keep Ron “intact,” thereby sparing Mr. Weasley. The honor of being the Weasley to die in battle therefore fell to Fred: Of the two twins, Rowling had always written George as the more sensitive one, and Fred as “the funnier, but also the crueler of the two.” Hoping to circumvent fans’ expectations that George, the more passive of the pair, should be the obvious choice to die, Rowling decreed that Fred had to go.
Rowling never intended for Lupin or Tonks to die in battle. Although she wanted to spare Ron the loss of a father, she did later decide that she needed a character to lose both parents as a means of bringing the orphan story full circle. Teddy Lupin, like both Harry and Neville, grows up without a mother or father, instead entrusted to the care of relatives; yet Rowling intended to show that unlike the two other boys who grew up without a traditional nuclear family, Teddy was able to grow up with loving caregivers in a world that, after Voldemort’s fall, was “a better place.” She also emphasizes that Teddy benefits from an even better godfather than Sirius: Harry becomes a true father figure to Lupin’s son, and despite his orphanhood, Teddy turns out okay.
4. Harry and Voldemort are blood relatives.
Clever fans may have sussed this out on their own simply by connecting some of the dots regarding ownership of two of the three Deathly Hallows, family heirlooms that were passed down from descendant to descendant before one reached Harry Potter and another, Lord Voldemort. When Albus Dumbledore gifted the Cloak of Invisibility to Harry on his first Christmas at Hogwarts, he had merely been keeping it safe on behalf of Harry’s father James, a direct descendant of Ignotus Peverell, its original owner and one of the “Three Brothers” whose story is fictionalized in an old wizarding fairy tale. The Resurrection Stone, having been set into a ring, passed similarly between generations from Cadmus Peverell to the Gaunt family and eventually to final surviving patriarch Marvolo Gaunt, Tom Riddle, Jr.’s maternal grandfather. When Marvolo died, his son Morfin inherited the ring, and it was from him that Lord Voldemort-to-be claimed the heirloom he believed to be his birthright. From there, it seems reasonable to assume that Harry and Voldemort might share a common ancestor through their pureblood connections, and Rowling confirmed that they are in fact distantly related through the Peverells. Then again, with the insular nature of wizarding lineage, Rowling notes, “nearly all wizarding families are related if you trace them back through the centuries.”
5. Harry and Dudley made amends.
The two cousins parted uneasily after a childhood of fearing, tormenting, and misunderstanding one another, with “I don’t think you’re a waste of space” remaining the kindest words Dudley ever spoke to Harry, yet in that brief instance offering some hope that the two might someday reconcile. Though Rowling sadly quashed the notion of Dudley appearing at King’s Cross in the Epilogue beside his own wizarding child, citing a conviction that “any latent wizarding genes would never survive contact with Uncle Vernon’s DNA,” she does say that he remains on “Christmas card terms” with Harry, who in turn makes an effort to drop in to see his cousin when in his neighborhood. Though their children manage to play together, Harry and Dudley merely “sit in silence” as they watch; some things never change.
6. Snape was remembered as Headmaster.
In the triumphant final scene after Voldemort’s defeat, Harry enters the Headmaster’s office to rousing applause from the moving portraits of Hogwarts’s former Headmasters and Headmistresses, but one figure is conspicuously absent: Severus Snape. Having abandoned his duties prior to dying, Snape would not have been considered worthy to take his place among the other, more revered Hogwarts heads. However, Rowling believes that Harry would later have insisted on Snape’s portrait being hung as deserved.
7. Neville’s parents never recover.
As if the slew of heartbreaking deaths during the Final Battle weren’t enough cause for fans to curse Rowling’s unwillingness to write too many happy endings, she also shared in an interview that Frank and Alice Longbottom never surfaced from their torture-induced madness. The long-time residents of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, placed in the incurable wing for continuing palliative treatment after overexposure to the Cruciatus Curse by Bellatrix Lestrange and her fellow Death Eaters, remained forever unaware of their son’s heroic role in avenging their fates.
8. Harry and Ron stayed Hogwarts dropouts.
After so many incidences of Harry and Ron shamelessly copying Hermione’s notes and each other’s homework, it wasn’t hard to see this one coming: Only Hermione bothered to go back and finish her final year of education after Voldemort so rudely interrupted everyone’s studies. She took her N.E.W.T.s—presumably scoring top marks across the board—and would have been the only one of the trio to participate in the Hogwarts graduation tradition of riding the boats back across the lake, reversing the process by which she and her fellow first-years arrived.
9. The Golden Trio became high-ranking government employees.
Luckily, Harry and Ron’s lack of formal qualifications didn’t stop them from realizing their dream of becoming Aurors, officers of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement’s elite branch dedicated to combating the use of the Dark Arts. At age 17, Harry became the youngest Auror ever employed by the Ministry of Magic, and ascended to a position as head of the department just nine years later, under his friend and fellow Order of the Phoenix member Kingsley Shacklebolt as Minister for Magic. Hermione took a more conventional path through the Ministry ranks: Starting off in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, she continued her crusade for house elves’ rights before transferring to a position high within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to help scrub wizarding law of its antiquated pureblood prejudices. Together, Kingsley and the Trio spearheaded a total reform of the Ministry from its old, corrupt ways. They were joined by Percy Weasley, whose change of heart suited him well as an official in the new Ministry.
10. Neville earned a reputation for being cool.
Awkward, fumbling Neville Longbottom has always had defenders, since the day he valiantly stood up to his own friends and begged them not to get into any more trouble (clearly not understanding what he’d gotten himself into by befriending Harry, Ron, and Hermione). He proved his mettle time and again, particularly as a member of both the original and reunited Dumbledore’s army, and not least when he beheaded Nagini with Godric Gryffindor’s own sword. After the Battle of Hogwarts, no one could deny that Neville was a great wizard in his own right, despite all those melted cauldrons in his youth. He earned his grandmother’s respect and a position as the new Hogwarts Herbology professor. Upon marrying Hannah Abbott, the new landlady at The Leaky Cauldron, he also gained some cachet with his students: they would’ve found it “very cool,” according to Rowling, that he lived above the pub.
11. Harry got a sweet new ride.
Though Sirius Black’s motorbike succumbed to damage during the mid-air battle between the Death Eaters and the Order of the Phoenix trying to transport Harry to safety, its broken bits found safe refuge in Arthur Weasley’s backyard tinkering shed. Mr. Weasley’s fascination with fixing all things magic and Muggle served him well, and he finally found time after the Second Wizarding War to repair the bike and return it to Harry.
12. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were immortalized on Chocolate Frog cards.
The three friends were all honored for their efforts in destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes and defeating “the most dangerous dark wizard of all time” with commemorative Chocolate Frog cards, to be distributed alongside the sweets as collectible items. Like Albus Dumbledore, Ron Weasley considered this the greatest achievement of his life.