Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.

Now Harry Potter being the cultural touchstone that it is, it’s easy to look back and see how everything all fits together so neatly. But I have to wonder, what if things had gone slightly differently? In a fictional sense, rather than ‘the writer chose to do something else’ sense. What if the characters had made slightly different decisions? What would happen then? Well join me as I take a look at 7 “What Ifs” moments and see how things might have played out differently per book.

#1: Harry Joins Slytherin

It has to be noted that the biggest reason why Harry chose not to be in Slytherin was kinda two-fold: One, Hagrid told him that all bad wizards and witches were in Slytherin, prejudicing the kid. Two, he met Draco and decided that he didn’t like him. But lets imagine these two actors never occurred. For whatever reason, Hagrid didn’t say something so offensive, and he never bumped into Malfoy. Now, when the hat offered him Slytherin, why would Harry choose differently? He hasn’t seen Ron sorted yet, so he doesn’t yet understand that he can’t be with his friend. He gets put into Slytherin and… well, I’ve explored the concept before, but Harry either gets depressed, cunning, or straight up evil. But it’s a little thing that ends up pushing Harry into joining Gryffindor, something he’s not quite aware of at the time. Oh sure, he doesn’t want to be in Slytherin, but he doesn’t really understand the inter-house rivalry at this point. He’s still too naive. So had destiny taking a slightly different course, it’d have been a very different story.

#2: Lucius Doesn’t Give the Diary to Ginny Weasly

It’s easy to look back in hindsight and wonder why Lucius Malfoy would do something so blatantly absurd. Of course it’s easy to look back at Book 2 and realize that Harry is a horocrux after reading Book 6 (meaning I called the twist ending about three years before the last book, and was kinda disappointed that most people had seemingly missed the obvious). But lets presume Lucius decides not to get rid of this valuable artefact and instead hangs onto it. As far as the school year goes, Harry has a rather relaxing one. As far the overall plot goes… Given how the diary goes against Tom Riddle’s usual preference for making really fancy Horocruxes, Dumbledore would have been hard-pressed to find it. Especially if Voldermort made sure to hide it. Had Harry not found it in his second year, there’s every possibility that Harry could never find it. They might not even know about it. And with Dumbledore dead, they’d really have no hope of figuring out what the hell happened.

#3: Draco Never Upsets Buckbeak

Now the big climax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is that Harry uses Buckbeak (who is scheduled to be executed) to go off and save Sirius Black. It’s a clever way of the narrative tying everything together. But what if, what if, Draco hadn’t been attacked by Buckbeak? If, for example, Draco had wisely said nothing, or had missed class, or whatever. Well then, how does the story play out? I mean how do they rescue Sirius if Buckbeak isn’t a factor of the plan? Do they just use the hippogriff anyway? It’s a little thing, but one wonders how things would have played out if one little thing had gone differently on that one day.

#4: The Qudditch World Cup Goes On For Weeks

Now Qudditch ain’t over till the Snitch gets caught… which would suck if you brought tickets to a big game, only to find out that it was over in a matter of minutes. How they organize something like this I don’t know, since there’s no set amount of time for how long a game could realistically last. But lets presume that, for whatever reason, the two teams just couldn’t find the Snitch. Despite all their skills, the game goes on for weeks and weeks. Granted, this probably doesn’t have as much of an impact on the main story, but it’s interesting to see how the magical world would cope with such a problem. I mean people would have to go back to work at some point, but is there a subsection of the ministry that deals solely with the world cup during its duration? Now lets imagine this game, inexplicable, goes on the entire year. Would the Death Eaters attack during the game, or would they have held off? Would Hermione set up S.P.E.W when Winky never got fired? Would it be something that went on in the background of the books? It’d be interesting to see at what point most people packed up and left the stadium, and how long play could keep going for.

(Though the longest record was 3 months, so having it take place over an entire year would be a bit of a stretch).

#5: The Ministry Believed Harry

The big push of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is that no one believes Harry or Dumbledore when they both argue that Voldermort has returned. But what if they did? Rather than being caught with their pants down, they took a more proactive fight at trying to take down this menace before it starts. A bit out of character (especially since the real world subtext is how people ignore a problem rather than deal with it), but lets presume that this is the case. Well, that pretty much changes everything. Rather than Voldermort slowly but surely amassing his power behind the scenes, he’s confronted right away and more likely than not stopped dead in his tracks. I mean why wouldn’t the ministry devote all of their resources to finding down and locking up all the Death Eaters Harry named? It’d certainly make the books more interesting, to have Voldermort be the one on the back foot the entire time.

#6: Dumbledore Never Touches The Ring (And Snape Never Makes the Vow)

The big twist of the sixth book is that Snape kills Dumbledore. It’s a decent enough twist that works pretty well. Now I was gonna wonder what would happen if Harry had never found Snape’s old potion handbook, but this is slightly more interesting. If Dumbledore hadn’t died and didn’t want to die, how much would Book 7 have changed? I mean would Harry and Co still go back to Hogwarts, where it’s safest, or would they go camping? How much would Dumbledore have helped them out? Would Draco’s parents be killed because of Draco’s failures? Dumbledore’s death is a rather key element in the series, but if it never happened, the last book would have been drastically different. Whether it’d have been easier for Harry or not… it’s a bit harder to say.

#7: Harry Doesn’t Say Voldermort’s Name Out Loud

At some point in the last book Harry (or Hermione, I honestly don’t remember which) says Voldermort’s name out loud, causing the Snatchers to catch them and take them to Malfoy Manor. From there they figure out where the last of the Horocruxes are and pretty much resolve the plot. But what if they hadn’t? What if Harry had listen to Ron and not said Voldermort’s name? Well they’d probably keep wandering around with a clue, unable to get into Bellatrix’s vault without the help of Griphook the Goblin. They’d well and truly be up the creek as Voldermort amassed more and more power. And honestly, what would Britain under Voldermort be like? Well, if we take the ‘Voldermort is Hitler’ allegory literally, chances are he’d run the place into the ground before the rest of the Wizarding World went all World War 3 on him. He’d probably eventually be forced out via strength rather than by subtly. A lot of people would have probably died, and it might have sparked off World War 3 between the muggles, but he’d eventually lose some way. It’d just take a hell of a lot longer.

So there you have it. My look at the “What Ifs” of the Harry Potter franchise. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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