I don’t know about you, but I’m often consumed by thinking about ‘what if’. I know it’s unhealthy, but with my mind being the overactive place that it is I often I can’t help it. It could be as big as wondering about the directions my life would be going if I made slightly different decisions (existential much?) to something as simple as thinking about how the plots of my favorite books would change if the slightest thing was altered. I once again began thinking about different ‘what ifs’ as I was scrolling aimlessly through Facebook. I came upon a Harry Potter meme (which is not altogether uncommon) that presented the question of what if Harry was actually raised by Professor McGonagall. This got me thinking of even more ‘what if’ scenarios so hence this article was born! In order to figure out how the wizarding world we all know and love could have been oh-so different (in the books and the films), we will be going over four scenarios all starting with the question what if…?
…. Ron actually did die
Starting off strong with the one that would probably have had the most impact on the rest of the series. When the series concluded, J.K. Rowling addressed different plot points she thought of but ultimately did not pursue including the idea that Ron Weasley would die early on in the series. From bonding over candy galore on the Hogwarts Express to hunting down all of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, Ron has been there for Harry since the beginning. If Harry had had to watch his first and best friend die right in front of him, it would lead him down a very dark path and even possibly ended the series much sooner. Being the extremely loyal person that he is, what would Harry have been willing to do to avenge Ron? Would Harry and Hermione have ended up together as many fans wanted? This is making me sad just thinking about a world without Ron. The series just wouldn’t be the same without the Golden Trio and facial expressions such as this.
…. Neville was the chosen one
Once I finally read the books (when I was in college no less… don’t hate me), perhaps the most shocking thing I discovered was that Neville could have been the Chosen One if Voldemort had interpreted the prophecy just a little differently. This could have been an epic plot twist if we went through several books thinking Harry was the Chosen One, but towards the end, it was revealed that it was actually Neville’s story all along?! Before anyone starts pulling Game of Thrones comparisons saying this would be just like Bran being named King of the Seven Kingdoms, I disagree. Aside from being the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran was not used for anything that would seemingly have long-term importance. He was even absent for an entire season and did anyone really miss him? Didn’t think so. Neville, however, has been important from the beginning. While unfortunately being the butt of many jokes, Neville’s bravery (he is a Gryffindor after all) has been on display several times from standing up against peer pressure to destroying the last Horcrux. He even co-led Dumbledore’s Army during his last year at school and endured physical punishment over and over again all in the name of protecting others. All this is to say that Neville should not be doubted. Neville Longbottom and the Sorcerer’s Stone anyone?
… Sirius was lily and james’ secret keeper
This one hurts to think about because if Voldemort went after the Potter’s with Sirius “I would rather die than betray my friends” Black as the secret keeper, then we would have never known our favorite godfather. Yes, Harry would have had a happy childhood and grown up knowing all about magic presuming his parents lived. He deserved this, but how would this have affected the series? As he didn’t grow up with magic, Harry served as the audience character in the books as the audience was learning about this new world at the same time as him. I’m all for diving right into fantasy novels and learning as I go, but I feel this would have changed the reading experience because when magical things happened our excitement was reflected through Harry. If he was all like ‘yeah I’ve seen staircases move before’, then readers probably wouldn’t have been as excited or taken to the time to really marvel at how cool this really was.
…Snape’s true allegiance was revealed sooner
From the beginning, Harry (and by extension the reader) had Snape pegged as a bad guy. I mean who would look at the man walking around in flowing black robes and think this guy is going to save my life? No one. Aside from his questionable wardrobe, his behavior towards Harry didn’t do him any favors as he constantly bullied him in class and tried to punish him whenever possible. Due to the consistency of this treatment, it would only make sense that whenever something bad happened Harry would immediately think Snape was involved. I know Harry reminded Snape so much of his father, James, (who frequently bullied Snape during their time as students), but that isn’t an excuse. But what if Snape made it clearer from the start that he was truly working with Dumbledore to protect Harry? Although they still would not have liked each other much, Harry and co. could have gone to Snape more when they needed help instead of trying to do everything themselves. While Harry would try to avoid this whenever possible, Hermione would persuade him that it was a good idea. I feel like half of the mess Harry and his friends found themselves in could have been avoided if Snape was there to help more directly.
While it’s not good to dwell on the ‘what ifs’ in your life, it can be sort of fun when it comes to literature. No matter how happy Harry’s childhood could have been or how beneficial it would have been to have adult supervision, I’m glad none of these alternate versions came to life. But if you really want to explore different ways of how Harry Potter could have played out, then there’s always fanfiction.
featured images via Wikipedia and wizarding world