The Opening Chapter of Book Six
I have come close to using a chapter very like this in ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ (it was one of the discarded first chapters), ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ and ‘Order of the Phoenix’ but here, finally, it works, so it’s staying. And that’s all I’m going to say, but when you read it, just know that it’s been about thirteen years in the brewing.
Opening Chapters of Philosopher’s Stone
There were many different versions of the first chapter of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ and the one I finally settled on is not the most popular thing I’ve ever written; lots of people have told me that they found it hard work compared with the rest of the book. The trouble with that chapter was (as so often in a Harry Potter book) I had to give a lot of information yet conceal even more. There were various versions of scenes in which you actually saw Voldemort entering Godric’s Hollow and killing the Potters and in early drafts of these, a Muggle betrayed their whereabouts. As the story evolved, however, and Pettigrew became the traitor, this horrible Muggle vanished.
Other drafts included a character by the name of ‘Pyrites’, whose name means ‘fool’s gold’. He was a servant of Voldemort’s and was meeting Sirius in front of the Potters’ house. Pyrites, too, had to be discarded, though I quite liked him as a character; he was a dandy and wore white silk gloves, which I thought I might stain artistically with blood from time to time.
The very, very earliest drafts of the first chapter of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ have the Potters living on a remote island, Hermione’s family living on the mainland, her father spotting something that resembles an explosion out at sea and sailing out in a storm to find their bodies in the ruins of their house. I can’t remember now why I thought this was a good idea, but I clearly recognised that it wasn’t fairly early on, because the Potters were re-located to Godric’s Hollow for all subsequent drafts.
Mopsy the dog-lover (Goblet of Fire)
When Padfoot returns in ‘Goblet of Fire’, I initially had him stay with a highly- eccentric, dog-loving old witch on the edge of Hogsmeade. She kept a pack of ill-assorted dogs, was on constant bad terms with her neighbours because of the barking and the mess, and had welcomed in Sirius, assuming him to be a stray.
I think my editor was quite right to ask me to get rid of Mopsy, because she added nothing to the plot. I just liked portraying a batty dog-lover (as opposed to batty cat-lover Mrs. Figg). However, it made more sense to stow Sirius in a nice simple cave to have Harry, Ron, Hermione and Sirius’s chat about Barty Crouch Jnr. without distractions.
Malfoy & Nott (Chamber of Secrets/Goblet of Fire)
I liked this scene so much I tried to use it twice; unfortunately, it didn’t work in either place so I finally laid it to rest in one of the cardboard boxes where I keep all my old drafts, notes, electricity bills and chewing gum wrappers.
As in the case of Dean Thomas, I know much more about Theodore Nott than has ever appeared in the books. Raised by a very elderly widower and Death Eater father, Theodore is a clever loner who does not feel the need to join gangs, including Malfoy’s.
However, in this scene Theodore’s father (the same Nott who was badly injured in the closing chapters of ‘Order of the Phoenix’) goes to visit Lucius Malfoy to discuss Voldemort-related business and we see Draco and Theodore alone in the garden having a talk of their own. I really liked the scene, firstly because it showed the Malfoys’ home, and the difference between the place where Draco has grown up and number four, Privet Drive; then because we rarely see Draco talking to anybody he considers a real equal, and he is forced to see Theodore as such, because Theodore is just as pure-blooded as he is, and somewhat cleverer. Together these two Death Eaters’ sons discuss Dumbledore’s regime at Hogwarts and Harry Potter, with all sorts of stories that the Death Eaters tell about how this baby boy survived the Dark Lord’s attack.
Mafalda (Goblet of Fire)
I have spoken before now about the Weasley cousin who made it quite a long way into ‘Goblet of Fire’ before I cut her. I really liked her as a character and did not want to sacrifice her, but she just wasn’t doing the job she was supposed to do so she had to go.
Mafalda was the daughter of the ‘second cousin who’s a stockbroker’ mentioned in ‘Philosopher’s Stone’. This stockbroker had been very rude to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in the past, but now he and his (Muggle) wife had inconveniently produced a witch, they came back to the Weasleys asking for their help in introducing her to wizarding society before she starts at Hogwarts. The Weasleys agreed to taking her for part of the Summer, including the Quidditch World Cup, but regretted this almost immediately. Mrs. Weasley suspected that Mafalda’s parents simply wanted to get rid of her for a while, because she turns out to be the most unpleasant child Mrs. Weasley has ever met.
Mafalda was supposed to convey certain information about the Death Eaters to Harry, Ron and Hermione, because as a nosy, eavesdropping Slytherin who likes to impress, she does not keep her mouth shut when she overhears their sons and daughters talking. Unfortunately, however bright I made her, there were obvious limitations to what an eleven year old closeted at school could discover, whereas Rita Skeeter, whom I subsequently built up to fulfil Mafalda’s function, was much more flexible.
The best thing about Mafalda was that she was a match for Hermione. To the latter’s horror, Mafalda was highly gifted and a real show-off, so that Hermione was torn between deploring the rule-breaking and longing to join in and beat her.
Dean Thomas’s background (Chamber of Secrets)
Anybody who has read both the American and British versions of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ will notice that Dean Thomas’s appearance is not mentioned in the British book, whereas in the American one there is a line describing him (in the chapter ‘The Sorting Hat’).
This was an editorial cut in the British version; my editor thought that chapter was too long and pruned everything that he thought was surplus to requirements. When it came to the casting on the film version of ‘Philosopher’s Stone’, however, I told the director, Chris, that Dean was a black Londoner. In fact, I think Chris was slightly taken aback by the amount of information I had on this peripheral character. I had a lot of background on Dean, though I had never found the right place to use it. His story was included in an early draft of ‘Chamber of Secrets’ but then cut by me, because it felt like an unnecessary digression. Now I don’t think his history will ever make it into the books.
Dean is from what he always thought was a pure Muggle background. He has been raised by his mother and his stepfather; his father walked out on the family when Dean was very young. He has a very happy home life, with a number of half-brothers and sisters.
Naturally when the letter came from Hogwarts Dean’s mother wondered whether his father might have been a wizard, but nobody has ever discovered the truth: that Dean’s father, who had never told his wife what he was because he wanted to protect her, got himself killed by Death Eaters when he refused to join them. The projected story had Dean discovering all this during his school career. I suppose in some ways I sacrificed Dean’s voyage of discovery for Neville’s, which is more important to the central plot.
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