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Confused by Potter? Author sets record straight

/ Source: TODAY contributor

With the seemingly endless number of characters, plotlines and inventive words spread out across the seven Harry Potter novels, even the most avid Potter fan may have had a hard time keeping everything straight in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”  But who better to clear up any confusion than the woman who wrote the story herself?

In an exclusive interview, TODAY’s Meredith Vieira asked J.K. Rowling questions submitted by viewers about “Deathly Hallows.”  Below you will find Rowling’s explanations of some of the finer points of her final Potter novel.

Why was Draco the true owner of the Elder Wand?

Voldemort thinks that he becomes the true owner of the Elder Wand by stealing it from Dumbledore’s grave, but in the end we learn that the true owner was really Draco Malfoy, that is until Harry defeated him and allegiance transferred to Harry. How did Draco become the true owner of the Elder Wand?

“To truly own the Elder Wand, which means to receive the full benefits, double-edged though it is, of all its power, you have to have conquered the previous owner,” explained Rowling.

At the end of Book 6, “Half-Blood Prince,” Draco disarmed Dumbledore before Snape killed Dumbledore. 

“And that meant he conquered him, even though Dumbledore was very weak at the time, he was very ill. He was on the point of collapse when it happened,” Rowling said. “Dumbledore didn’t want to lose his wand at that point and Draco disarmed him. So that meant that the wand gave Draco its allegiance, even though Draco never knew it, even though Draco never touched it. 

“From that moment on, that wand gave its allegiance to Draco, and it wouldn’t work as well for anyone but Draco.”

When Harry wrestles Draco’s “everyday” wand out of his hand at the Malfoy’s mansion, he conquers Draco, and therefore the Elder Wand — hidden in Dumbledore’s tomb at the time — transfers its allegiance to Harry.

Rowling said her American editor suggested the moment when Harry conquers Draco should be more dramatic.

“But, no, I really wanted, very consciously, for the history of the wizarding world to hinge on this moment where two teenage boys have a physical [fight]. They don’t even do it by magic,” Rowling said. 

“That sort of puts all of Voldemort’s and Dumbledore’s grandiose plans in their place, doesn’t it? You just can’t plan that well, that something can go wrong and it went wrong … It went wrong because Harry managed to pull this wand out of Draco’s grip.

How did Neville get the Sword of Gryffindor?

In “Deathly Hallows,” Griphook the goblin claims that Godric Gryffindor stole his sword from the goblins and Griphook, in turn, steals the sword from Harry, Ron and Hermione in Gringotts. So how does Neville pull the sword from the Sorting Hat during the Battle of Hogwarts?

“Now we can reveal that Griphook was wrong,” Rowling said. The sword was truly Gryffindor’s and he didn’t steal it … Its first allegiance always was to a worthy Gryffindor, and it was going to come back when someone really, really needed it. And it came back to Neville.”

Is Snape good or evil?

After seven years at Hogwarts, we finally learn that Severus Snape, albeit somewhat grudgingly, has always been working to protect Harry. But is he really a good person?

“I don’t really see him as a hero,” Rowling said. “He’s not an unequivocally good character … He’s a complicated man.”

Rowling said Snape is bitter, spiteful and a bully, but he is also immensely brave and capable of love.

“As we know from the epilogue, Harry really sees the good in Snape ultimately … there’s redemption,” Rowling said. “I wanted there to be redemption and I wanted there to be forgiveness. And Harry forgives, even knowing that till the end Snape loathes him unjustifiably.”

Why 19 years later?

Of all the time in the Harry’s life that you could have chosen to set the epilogue, why 19 years later?

“I didn’t want some people to have children too young because I don’t think that’s good,” Rowling said. “So 19 years was just enough time for the next generation to have reached the point I wanted them to reach when the Hogwarts Express is departing.”

There is no significance to the number, no magical explanation. At the Battle of Hogwarts Ron and Hermione are 18 and Harry is 17, and Rowling said she wanted them to have some peaceful time before they started having children.

“I don’t want to encourage teenage pregnancies,” Rowling said, laughing. “It couldn’t be much earlier than 19.”