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To find the FAQ poll on Jo’s site, locate the puddle of paperclips and a thumbtack on the Desktop and pass your cursor over them. They will turn into a question mark and become a FAQ link. Click it, Owl post delivers 3 pieces of mail and 2 feathers onto the desk.
Now the paperclips form an X when the cursor touches them, and becomes an Exit link. (The clips and tack will stay in the question mark or X shape until you pass the cursor over them again. )

Click on any of the 3 owl post letters to bring you to the FAQ letter, with a loose index sheet on the side. You can access the other letters from this tab and submit your vote in the poll. (Point your curser on it, it will pop out.)

To date there have been 5 polls and answers, according to the following schedule.

Poll #
Date posted Date answered Poll duration Days till
next poll
1st
Saturday May 15, 2004
(original when site launched)
Monday July 5, 2004 51 Days 14 Days
2nd
Monday July 19, 2004 Monday October 4, 2004 77 Days 67 Days
3rd
Friday December 10, 2004 Monday May 16, 2005 157 Days 15 Days
4th
Tuesday May 31, 2005 Friday July 15, 2005 46 Days 163 Days
5th
Sunday December 25, 2005 Tuesday February 21, 2006 58 days well over
1 year

 

First FAQ Poll

Posted when the site launched May15th, 2004
Answered July 5th, 2004 (about Mark Evans)
The second question was behind a Dark Mark spoiler warning

  • (12)% – “Is Severus Snape Lily Potter’s (long lost) brother?”
  • (42)% – “Is Sirius Black really dead?” 
  • (46)% – “What is the significance, if any, of Mark Evans?”

Rowling’s response:

I couldn’t answer the poll question before now, because I’ve been making arrangements to take my family into hiding. It takes time to arrange fake passports, one-way air tickets to Bolivia and twenty-four hour armed security. Why should I resort to such desperate measures? Because after you’ve heard this answer, I’ll have to disappear for my own safety.

Now before I get down to it (you can guess what’s coming, can’t you?) I am going to put up a feeble pre-emptive defence. Firstly, you were all spinning highly ingenious theories about Mark Evans, so I thought that you would welcome the chance to hear the truth about him. Secondly, I tried hard not to raise hopes or expectations by adding the crucial words ‘if any’ to the question. Thirdly… there is no thirdly. I’m just killing time.

(Takes deep breath)

Mark Evans is… nobody. He’s nobody in the sense that Mr. Prentice, Madam Marsh and Gordon-Dudley’s-gang-member are nobodies, just background people who need names, but who have no role other than the walk-on parts assigned to them. (Checks that Neil has immunized the dog and that Jessica has packed her Gameboy, and continues) I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. Sirius Black, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher were all mentioned in passing well before they burst onto the stage as fully-fledged characters, so now you’ve all become too clever, not for your own good, but for mine. The fact is that once you drew my attention to it, I realised that Mark Evans did indeed look like one of those ‘here he is, just a casual passer-by, nothing to worry about, bet you barely noticed him’ characters who would suddenly become, half way through book seven, ‘Ha ha! Yes, Mark Evans is back, suckers, and he’s the key to everything! He’s the Half Blood Prince, he’s Harry’s Great-Aunt, he’s the Heir of Gryffindor, he lives up the Pillar of Storgé and he owns the Mystic Kettle of Nackledirk!’ (Possible title of book seven there, must make a note of it).

Then why – WHY – (I hear you cry) – did I give him the surname “Evans”? Well, believe me, you can’t regret it more than I do right now. “Evans” is a common name; I didn’t give it much thought; I wasn’t even trying to set up another red herring. I could just as easily have called him ‘Smith’ or ‘Jones’ (or ‘Black’ or ‘Thomas’ or ‘Brown’, all of which would have got me into trouble too). What else can I say? Many of the theories you presented were highly plausible. If you knew how often I’ve checked the FAQ poll hoping that one of the other questions might edge into the lead… Well, that’s that. The car with false license plates is at the door and I’ve got to glue on my goatee. Goodbye.

Second FAQ Poll

Posted July 19, 2004 (the Mark Evans answer was moved to “About the books”)
Answered October 4, 2004 (the Aunt Petunia question)
October 5th a Post Script (P.S.) was added to the answer

  • (20)% – Is Percy working undercover for any secret organization/boss?
  • (21)% – Where has Peter Pettigrew (Wormtail) been since the end of ‘Goblet of Fire’?
  • (60)% – What did Dumbledore’s Howler to Aunt Petunia mean? (‘Remember my last’?)

Rowling’s response:

Well, it is a relief to move on after the Mark Evans fiasco. This time, two out of the three poll questions had interesting answers (or so I think) and thank goodness you chose one of them.

So: Dumbledore is referring to his last letter, which means, of course, the letter he left upon the Dursleys’ doorstep when Harry was one year old. But why then (you may well ask) did he not just say ‘remember my letter?’ Why did he say my last letter? Why, obviously because there were letters before that…

Now let the speculation begin, and mind you type clearly, I’ll be watching…

P.S. It has been suggested that I am wrong in saying that Dumbledore’s last letter was the one he left on the doorstep with baby Harry, and that he has sent a letter since then concerning Harry’s illegal flight to school. However, both Dumbledore and I differentiate between letters sent to the Dursleys as a couple, and messages directed to Petunia ALONE. And that’s my final word on the subject – though I doubt it will be yours 🙂

Third FAQ Poll

Posted December 10, 2004 (the Aunt Petunia answer was moved into About the Books above the Mark Evans answer)
Answered May 16, 2005

  • (7)% – How many chapters will Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince have? (Subject to editorial changes, of course)
  • (68)% – What is the significance of Neville being the other boy to whom the prophecy might have referred?
  • (25)% – Will Ron ever manage to become more than just good friends with a girl?

Rowling’s response:

Finally, I am answering the poll question! I am sorry it has taken so long, but let me start by saying how glad I am that this was the question that received the most votes, because this was the one that I most wanted to answer. Some of you might not like what I am going to say – but I’ll address that issue at the end of my response!

To recap: Neville was born on the 30th of July, the day before Harry, so he too was born ‘as the seventh month dies’. His parents, who were both famous Aurors, had ‘thrice defied’ Voldemort, just as Lily and James had. Voldemort was therefore presented with the choice of two baby boys to whom the prophecy might apply. However, he did not entirely realise what the implications of attacking them might be, because he had not heard the entire prophecy. As Dumbledore says: ‘He [the eavesdropper] only heard the beginning, the part foretelling the birth of a boy in July to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort. Consequently, he could not warn his master that to attack you would be to risk transferring power to you.’ In effect, the prophecy gave Voldemort the choice of two candidates for his possible nemesis.

In choosing which boy to murder, he was also (without realising it) choosing which boy to anoint as the Chosen One – to give him tools no other wizard possessed – the scar and the ability it conferred, a magical window into Voldemort’s mind. So what would have happened if Voldemort had decided that the pure-blood, not the half-blood, was the bigger threat? What would have happened if he had attacked Neville instead? Harry wonders this during the course of ‘Half-Blood Prince’ and concludes, rightly, that the answer hinges on whether or not one of Neville’s parents would have been able, or prepared, to die for their son in the way that Lily died for Harry. If they hadn’t, Neville would have been killed outright. Had Frank or Alice thrown themselves in front of Neville, however, the killing curse would have rebounded just as it did in Harry’s case, and Neville would have been the one who survived with the lightning scar.

What would this have meant? Would a Neville bearing the lightning scar have been as successful at evading Voldemort as Harry has been? Would Neville have had the qualities that have enabled Harry to remain strong and sane throughout all of his many ordeals? Although Dumbledore does not say as much, he does not believe so: he believes Voldemort did indeed choose the boy most likely to be able to topple him, for Harry’s survival has not depended wholly or even mainly upon his scar.

So where does this leave Neville, the boy who was so nearly King? Well, it does not give him either hidden powers or a mysterious destiny. He remains a ‘normal’ wizarding boy, albeit one with a past, in its way, as tragic as Harry’s. As you saw in ‘Order of the Phoenix,’ however, Neville is not without his own latent strengths. It remains to be seen how he will feel if he ever finds out how close he came to being the Chosen One.

Some of you, who have been convinced that the prophecy marked Neville, in some mystical fashion, for a fate intertwined with Harry’s, may find this answer rather dull. Yet I was making what I felt was a significant point about Harry and Voldemort, and about prophecies themselves, in showing Neville as the also-ran. If neither boy was ‘pre-ordained’ before Voldemort’s attack to become his possible vanquisher, then the prophecy (like the one the witches make to Macbeth, if anyone has read the play of the same name) becomes the catalyst for a situation that would never have occurred if it had not been made. Harry is propelled into a terrifying position he might never have sought, while Neville remains the tantalising ‘might-have-been’. Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.

Of course, none of this should be taken to mean that Neville does not have a significant part to play in the last two novels, or the fight against Voldemort. As for the prophecy itself, it remains ambiguous, not only to readers, but to my characters. Prophecies (think of Nostradamus!) are usually open to many different interpretations. That is both their strength and their weakness.

Fourth FAQ Poll

Posted May 31st, 2005 (the significance of Neville in the prophecy question was moved to About the Books above the Colin Creevey’s camera question)
Answered July 15, 2005

  • (35)% – Will Harry continue to learn Occlumency, whether with Snape or somebody else, in ‘Half-Blood Prince?’
  • (11)% – Is that the Pensieve on the U.S. cover, or something else?
  • (54)% – So how DO the members of the Order of the Phoenix communicate with each other?

Rowling’s response:

I was surprised that this particular question won the poll, because the answer (as I’ve already said) can be found in an already-published book (Goblet of Fire), whereas the other two questions related to book six. But perhaps I was influenced by the fact that I knew the other two questions had interesting answers – and, of course, you will shortly know the answers to those questions anyway!

Members of the Order use their Patronuses to communicate with each other. They are the only wizards who know how to use their spirit guardians in this way and they have been taught to do so by Dumbledore (he invented this method of communication). The Patronus is an immensely efficient messenger for several reasons: it is an anti-Dark Arts device, which makes it highly resilient to interference from Dark wizards; it is not hindered by physical barriers; each Patronus is unique and distinctive, so that there is never any doubt which Order member has sent it; nobody else can conjure another person’s Patronus, so there is no danger of false messages being passed between Order members; nothing conspicuous needs to be carried by the Order member to create a Patronus. And, as many of you have deduced, Dumbledore’s Patronus is indeed a phoenix.

Fifth FAQ Poll

Posted December 25th, 2005 (the Patronus as communication answer is moved to About the Books below the Pure blood families question)
All 3 options were behind Dark Mark Spoiler warnings.
Answered February 21, 2006 Answer is behind a Dark Mark spoiler warning, and currently appearing at the Result of F.A.Q. Poll link on the Text Only version.

  • (46)% – What happens to a secret when the Secret-Keeper dies?
  • (38)% – Does the destruction of a Horcrux involve more than the destruction of the object?
  • (16)% – Why did Voldemort want the Philosopher’s Stone if he already had his Horcruxes?

Rowling’s response:

I was surprised that this question won, because it is not the one that I’d have voted for… but hey, if this is what you want to know, this is what you want to know!
When a Secret-Keeper dies, their secret dies with them, or, to put it another way, the status of their secret will remain as it was at the moment of their death. Everybody in whom they confided will continue to know the hidden information, but nobody else.

Just in case you have forgotten exactly how the Fidelius Charm works, it is “an immensely complex spell involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find — unless, of course, the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

In other words, a secret (eg, the location of a family in hiding, like the Potters) is enchanted so that it is protected by a single Keeper (in our example, Peter Pettigrew, a.k.a. Wormtail). Thenceforth nobody else – not even the subjects of the secret themselves – can divulge the secret. Even if one of the Potters had been captured, force fed Veritaserum or placed under the Imperius Curse, they would not have been able to give away the whereabouts of the other two. The only people who ever knew their precise location were those whom Wormtail had told directly, but none of them would have been able to pass on the information.

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