Harry Potter — the boy, the books, the box-office phenomenon — has been getting us Muggles in a muddle. There’s so much speculation regarding the seventh and final book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” due July 21, that the theories can fill books of their own (and have: “What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7?,” “The Great Snape Debate”).
With that in mind, we assembled our own panel of Potter experts to help sort out some of the big questions — chiefly, will Harry die? Who else might be toast? Is Snape the true hero of the series? Would the forthcoming films or Harry Potter theme park affect the way J. K. Rowling would shape the final book? These questions and more provided ample fodder for our panelists, who include the Webmasters of some of the most popular Potter sites (Emerson Spartz of Mugglenet, Melissa Anelli of Leaky Cauldron, Matthew Vines of Veritaserum) as well as the librarian of a Potter-centric library (Caroline Bartels from Horace Mann School in the Bronx, New York — see “Harry Potter Fans Battle Over Theories At School-Sanctioned Sleepover” ), a wizard-rocker (Alex Carpenter of the Remus Lupins), and MTV News’ resident Potter expert Jennifer Vineyard. The panel was moderated by MTV News’ Kurt Loder.
MTV: Let’s get right to it. What has to happen?
Jennifer Vineyard (MTV News): There’s a lot we know, but more interesting are the things we don’t know. We know Harry’s decided by the end of “Half-Blood Prince” that he is going to hunt out the remaining Horcruxes and go after Voldemort. But what are the remaining Horcruxes? What’s going to happen with Snape? What about the house elves, who have this immense power we haven’t seen yet?
MTV: There could be a house-elf revolution.
Vineyard: And what about all the other peoples of that world — the Merpeople, the werewolves, the giants? If this is building toward a war, who is on what side? Who is going to live or die? Because it’s not just Harry we’re worried about here.
Emerson Spartz (Mugglenet): The way I’d like to see the seventh book ending is sort of like “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings,” where you have a huge battle with the armies clashing — you’ve got the Death Eaters and the giants hurling cars at people; and on the good side, the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic and the house elves doing their thing. And then: the U.S. military!
Alex Carpenter (Remus Lupin) : This is not “Transformers,” Emerson! [Laughter]
Spartz: I want to see them “Expelliarmus” a nuclear bomb. How sweet would that be?
Carpenter: Michael Bay is not directing the last movie!
MTV: Who would you like to see direct the last one?
Carpenter: Tim Burton, from 1991.
Melissa Anelli (Leaky Cauldron): That would be too much of Tim Burton, not enough J.K. Rowling.
Spartz: What about Peter Jackson?
Anelli: He erases himself from it — he knows it’s about the work, and that’s what I want.
Vineyard: What can we tell from the movies — things they take out, things they add in — that are clues about what’s to come in book seven? Especially since Rowling informs the directors and screenwriters about those changes for continuity’s sake. (see “Kreacher Comfort: MTV Solves A ’Harry Potter’ Mystery”).
Anelli: Norbert [the dragon Hagrid tried to raise] didn’t need to be in the first movie. You could have gotten the kids out of the castle another way. And it’s probably not Norbert on the cover of the deluxe edition [of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”], but there is a dragon there, so that’s going to be part of the story line.
Carpenter: The conversation between Remus and Harry in the third film about his parents …
Vineyard: And Lily’s eyes.
Carpenter: I think Lily Potter is an important character. She’s so central to all these people, and we see more about her in the movies than in the books. But if you look at the story, almost everyone has a hook into Harry because they cared about his mother, which shows this love that she had for Harry connected a lot of people.
Caroline Bartels (Horace Mann librarian): The movies might drive the seventh book more than they should, because she might think, “I can’t kill Harry because when it becomes a movie …”
Anelli: She wouldn’t change it.
Bartels: She wouldn’t change it, but maybe it made her rethink something.
Anelli: There’s a theme park coming, and it would be depressing if he dies.
MTV: We can all go and hang out in the [theme park’s] graveyard!
Bartels: I think she needs to kill Harry.
Bartels: If she has Harry survive, it’d be too sweet.
Matthew Vines (Veritaserum): If you invest 17 years of your life into a character and his story, you don’t want to kill him in the end.
Bartels: You do if you don’t want someone else to take him over.
Vineyard: Unless she’s building toward a climax where Harry has to sacrifice himself to save the world?
Anelli: He could choose to sacrifice himself, but there could be a twist of fate, where it doesn’t lead to his death. You can make that choice and not know something about the circumstances.
Vineyard: She’s set him up as the chosen one, and what do we know from literature, from mythology about chosen people?
MTV: Jesus came back, though. He had a sequel.
Anelli: It’s about being willing, about going into Mount Doom [in “Lord of the Rings”].
Bartels: Frodo was willing.
Vineyard: Frodo changed his mind at the last moment. Is there anything that can prevent Harry at the last moment?
Vines: If it was for love.
Carpenter: That’s a weak ending. He’s willing to do it, but the clouds part, “We were just testing you, Harry!” That’s a weaker ending than if he dies.
MTV: Can this book be totally dark and depressing and still work as a [mainstream] work?
Spartz: I hope so. It is dark and depressing, and there’s going to be a battle between good and evil. But the main character has done nothing but be a loyal and honest friend, and it would send a horribly contradicting moral message if he dies. Let’s go back in time: Your name is J.K. Rowling, and you have this flash of inspiration, it all comes to you — you’re going to write a story about a boy. And then you’re going to make his life miserable — and then you’re going to kill him? No.
Anelli: I don’t think he’s going to die either, but she could still kill him and have it be uplifting. The end of the fifth season of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comes to mind — the main character dies, and it’s OK.
Vineyard: She chose to, to save the world.
Anelli: It’s possible. At the end of the series, everybody could die, but Harry is going to survive it. He’s the hero.
MTV: Who else might die, then? Any thoughts?
Vines: People have been guessing that Hagrid would die since the very beginning.
MTV: That’s a horrible thought.
Vines: Actually, he’s not that significant, and that would be a good death in some ways. People would be upset about it, but it wouldn’t really affect anything. He’s not that great of a wizard.
Bartels: It would take a lot to kill him. He’s half giant. And when they tried to stun him, it took six people — [the spell] just bounces off of him. He’s great at protection.
Vines: And he does have that connection to the giants, who will hopefully come into play on the [good] side.
Vineyard: When Rowling said one character who was going to die got a reprieve, and two others who weren’t going to die now are — who might be the one who gets the reprieve, and who might be the ones to die?
Bartels: We’re all hoping Percy [a Weasley who’s being influenced by the bad side] bites it.
Carpenter: In a painful way.
Vines: Mrs. Weasley would be so depressed.
Vineyard: What about Draco Malfoy?
Anelli: I think he gets the reprieve. He’s in a predicament. If Voldemort sees him, if any of Voldemort’s people see him, he’s gone. And for Snape to do his job, to fulfill that unbreakable vow [to Draco’s mother to protect him], he has to protect him, so I think J.K. Rowling’s hand paused for him.
Bartels: There’s also the life debt, like with Peter Pettigrew — Wormtail — that once you do a wizard that favor, he owes you. That’s what Dumbledore realized: “OK, now that Draco’s been sent to kill me, we need to save him from that. It’s more important to let him grow up.” That’s why he asked Snape to kill him.
Vineyard: Did Dumbledore ask Snape to kill him, or is Snape playing both sides?
MTV: Where do we stand on Snape?
Vines: Snape is totally good. I think he’s one of the biggest heroes of the series.
Bartels: He’s driven by his love for Lily.
Vines: Throughout the whole series, Harry hates him more than anyone …
Carpenter: He hates him for good reason, though. It’s not like he’s an angel. He might have done the right thing, but he’s still a jerk …
Vines: … which is why he’s such a good double agent. Nobody trusts him. He does things on his own.
Anelli: In book four, he does something that seals his character to me. When Draco does that spell to Hermione and gives her beaver teeth, he looks at her and says, “I see no difference.” How could you say that to a 14-year-old girl?
Spartz: That was awesome!
Anelli: You’ve never been a 14-year-old girl.
Spartz: You’re right, Melissa, I’ve never been a 14-year-old girl!
Anelli: That just shows me he’s an irredeemable jerk.
Vineyard: Maybe he’s a jerk, but that doesn’t mean he’s evil.
Carpenter: I don’t know if you can justify him being a good person by saying, “Well, none of the good guys trust him, he’s a jerk to everyone we know …” That’s not a reason why somebody’s a good guy.
Vineyard: What about what he says to Harry at the end of book six? You can read it one of two ways, when he’s telling him, “Close your mind, don’t call me a coward” …
Anelli: He’s still trying to teach him.
Vineyard: He could have been doing something far worse …
Anelli: He could have taken him to Voldemort!
Carpenter: Or is he taunting him? Like, “You still can’t do this?”
Vineyard: It’s more like, “This is the last thing I could ever teach you — close your mind.” Because he still hadn’t learned that, and he needs to be able to do that if he’s ever going to be able to go against Voldemort.
Anelli: As a fan, you’re always asking why [Rowling] put in certain bits, and when Hagrid overhears Dumbledore talking with Snape, they’re arguing. If you’re playing double agent, if you’re trying to convince Dumbledore you’re his man, you don’t do that! You don’t argue.
Vines: I think Snape didn’t want to kill Dumbledore anymore.
Bartels: At that point, Dumbledore’s saying when it comes down to it, you need to do this.
Spartz: When Dumbledore says to him, “Severus, please,” he’s asking him to do what he already agreed to do.
Anelli: And then Snape gazes into his eyes with revulsion and hatred …
Vineyard: Which is the same expression Harry had on his face when he had to give Dumbledore the potion that almost killed him …
Carpenter: Is Dumbledore coming back?
Anelli: He’ll always be there as a portrait.
Spartz: The portrait is a faint imprint of his personality, so we’ll still get his awesome dry humor, but not his wisdom. Maybe through the Pensieve …
Vineyard: What about the two-way mirror? Is there another way to communicate with the dead besides the portrait?
Anelli: Rowling said that mirror is off the table when I asked her about it [Anelli and Spartz were handpicked by J.K. Rowling to interview her in 2005], which means it has something to do with the rest of the story. We also asked her who else was at Godric’s Hollow the night that Harry’s parents were killed, because somebody had to be — who got Voldemort’s wand, for instance? — and [the answer] was a big fat “no comment.” I think it might have been Harry.
Carpenter: No! Don’t start with the time-travel stuff again.
Spartz: That’s over and done with.
Anelli: She was asked about time travel and she said “no comment,” which is another classic shove-off. I think it could be Harry. It’s possible. It could also be Snape.
MTV: When you graduate from Hogwarts, where do you go?
Vines: There is no wizard university. But Rowling did say one of the students is coming back to teach, so I think that’s going to be Neville.
Vineyard: Teaching Herbology?
Carpenter: Unless he gets killed.
Anelli: Don’t even say that! That would hurt more than Harry dying in some ways, you know?
Check out everything we’ve got on “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
Visit Movies on MTV.com for more from Hollywood, including news, reviews, interviews and more.
Want trailers? Visit the Trailer Park for the newest, scariest and funniest coming attractions anywhere.