The seventh and final installment in J.K. Rowling's phenomenally successful "Harry Potter" books series does not hit book stores until July, but TODAY viewers got a sneak peak at the jacket on Wednesday.
The colorful cover for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" suggests a confrontation between the teenaged wizard-in-training and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort, but Rowling's American editor, Arthur A. Levine, refused to shed light on speculation that Harry dies at the end.
"It doesn't look good for Harry," TODAY host Meredith Vieira commented as the jacket of the book was unveiled publicly for the first time.
"We're seeing Harry in a very interesting situation. Readers will find out exactly what the situation is," said Levine, who admitted he cried as he read the book.
"We know that someone's going to die, right?" Vieira pressed.
Levine held his ground, saying only, "We do know that someone's going to die."
The cover jacket depicts Harry Potter on the front, looking skyward with his left palm open and raised above his head. The jacket wraps around to the back, where Lord Voldemort — a dark wizard who is so evil that characters refer to him only as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" — glares at Harry menacingly with his thin, bony fingers reaching for the popular protagonist.
"As the guy who brought it here [to the U.S.], do you have mixed emotions about this series being brought to an end?" TODAY host Matt Lauer asked.
"Oh, yeah, sure," Levine said. "When I was reading it, I had both the excitement and the power of the book, and the plot, driving me forward. But I was also feeling a little sad. It's the last time."
When Levine admitted he "sobbed and sobbed" while reading the book, Vieira made a valiant-but-failed final effort to get Levine to disclose whether Harry Potter is finally done in by Lord Voldemort.
"That means someone we like dies, doesn't it?" Vieira prodded.
"Well, it means it is a very, very emotional book," Levine said.
For British author J.K. Rowling, the final book in the series caps a remarkable run of success that began with the publication of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" in 1997 (retitled "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," in the U.S.). The stories, which led to six movies that have either been released or are in production, have been mostly set in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
It is there that Harry Potter honed his skills and used them to fight against the evil Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents.
Rowling rarely gives interviews, but she told a British talk show host last year that she understands the logic that she might be tempted to kill off Harry Potter in the final book to deter other writers from picking up the torch after she's dead herself.
"I can completely understand the mentality of an author who thinks I'm going to kill him off because then there can be no non-author-written sequels, so they call it," Rowling said at the time.
"I'm not going to commit myself. I don't want the hate mail apart from anything else," Rowling said.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is scheduled to be released July 21. The first printing will be 12 million copies, a publishing industry first.
-- John Springer, TODAYShow.com contributor