The spell has been broken, and author J.K. Rowling can now speak freely about all the things she could only hint at all these years — whether Harry would live or die, who else was on the chopping block, how to steal her millions. (OK, maybe not that last one.)
Still, in her first television interview since the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Rowling gave NBC's Meredith Vieira a few tidbits that should appease fans at least until the next book. (And yes, there could be a next book.) The interview airs Thursday and Friday on "Today" (7:00-10:00 a.m. ET) and Sunday on "Dateline" (7:00 p.m. ET); all three shows will differ from each other. (Spoiler alert: If you haven't finished "Deathly Hallows" yet, you might not want to read further!)
"I need to be off ... writing," Rowling admitted in the interview, which took place Tuesday in Edinburgh, Scotland. "I think I probably will [do a Harry Potter encyclopedia.] ... The raw material is all in my notes. ... But I'm not going to do it tomorrow, because I'd really like a break. I want to take a break from publishing for a little while. You know, I've still got a young family [her 4-year-old son David Gordon and 2-year-old daughter Mackenzie Jean]. So you may be waiting." (See "'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows': Sad And Satisfying").
Rowling promised the encyclopedia would include details about who would be headmaster at Hogwarts by the time we get to the epilogue. "It would be someone new," Rowling said, "since [Headmistress Minerva] McGonagall was really getting on a bit." It might also include what else has changed at Hogwarts, besides Neville Longbottom taking up the Herbology post. "I can well imagine Harry returning to give the odd talk on defense against the dark arts," Rowling said. "And of course, the jinx is broken now because Voldemort's gone. Now they can keep a good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from here on in. So that aspect of the wizarding education is now provided for."
The encyclopedia may or may not include back stories on some characters who were neglected for the sake of othes, such as Dean Thomas, whose story was sacrificed to make room for his Gryffindor classmate Neville, the Boy-Who-Almost-Was. "Dean Thomas has a much more interesting history than ever appeared in the books for me," Rowling said. "You just see glimpses of it. But to write it really would take us into prequel territory ... 'Star Wars' territory. And that's not really a place I'm planning to go."
While Rowling didn't answer every burning question fans had after reading "Deathly Hallows" — because, let's face it, there are more than a few loose ends — she did address some of the assumptions people had made based on her past hints, such as the character who was slated to die but got a reprieve. "Mr. Weasley, he was the person who got a reprieve," Rowling revealed. Everyone assumed that character was slated to die in "Deathly Hallows," but as it turns out, Rowling was referring to the overall arc of the story, not necessarily the last installment.
"Mr. Weasley was due to die in Book Five," Rowling said. "I swapped him for someone else, and I don't want to say who for the people who haven't read it. But I made a decision as I went into writing 'Phoenix' that I was going to reprieve Mr. Weasley and I was going to kill someone else. And if you finish the book, I expect you probably know it's someone else who is a father."
Saying goodbye to Harry, however, was the hardest thing to do. "Definitely the passage that I found hardest to write of all of them in all seven books and the one that made me cry the most is Chapter 34," Rowling said. She's not alone — her fans have been crying as Harry sets off into the forest to meet Voldemort as well (See "Harry Potter Pros Chime In On Series Finale: 'There's A Nice Bow' "). "And it's the part that when I finished writing, I didn't cry as I was writing, but when I finished writing, I had an enormous explosion of emotion and I cried and cried and cried." It's a climax that Rowling had planned for years, and had a rough sketch in her mind, but "to write the definitive version" finally made it real to her.
"I was hard to live with for about a week after I finished this book," Rowling said. "The end of 17 years' work. It's very much tied into things I've done in my life for 17 years that brought back a lot of memories. ... It forced me to look back at 17 years of my life and remember things. And it was very linked to my mother dying. ... I went through two serious bereavements. Breakup of a marriage, and then lots of happy memories, you know? ... I think it was that feeling more than any other that I wouldn't have that world to retreat into again that was painful.
"And then, after a week, suddenly I felt something different," she continued. "I woke up and felt actually quite lighthearted and thought, 'I can write whatever I like!' And the pressure's off. And it's not as though Harry's gone, because he'll always be in my life."