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J.K. Rowling recently admitted that she feels particularly guilty for killing off one of the characters in her beloved Harry Potter series. It isn't Sirius Black, nor any of the other more prominent figures lost throughout the series. It's Florean Fortescue, owner of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. In the Harry Potter books, he was kidnapped by Death Eaters and later killed by Lord Voldemort. Originally, Harry and his friends were supposed to rescue him at some point, but circumstances changed, which resulted in the character being killed off.
J.K. Rowling offered up this particular scoop herself. (sorry.) The Harry Potter author shared a small bit of information about the character at Pottermore, in one of the recently unlocked essays of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince section of the website. In addition to noting that Florean Fortescue was the subject of a ghost plot that never made it into the final books, Rowling later went on to admit that she feels guilty about having killed him off, "because it was all my fault."
As Rowling explains it, she set Florean Fortescue up as a character with an appreciation for history. You may recall that Florean offered Harry lots of assistance on his History of Magic homework, in addition to free ice cream, during Harry Potter an the Prisoner of Azkaban. Rowling's intention was to use the character later on as a conduit for clues about the Elder Wand and the diadem of Ravenclaw. These two items -- and their history -- were crucial to the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Rowling set Florean up to be kidnapped, with the intention of Harry and his friends later finding him. Except that when she started writing the relevant scenes in Deathly Hallows, she ended up using Phineas Nigellus Black -- Sirius's ancestor, captured in portrait form -- and the Grey Lady to relay the necessary information, rendering Florean Fortescue and his wealth of history of magic knowledge useless. "All in all, I seemed to have had him kidnapped and killed for no reason," Rowling admitted. "He is not the first wizard whom Voldemort murdered because he knew too much (or too little), but he is the only one I feel guilty about, because it was all my fault."
It's hard not to smile at that, considering the implication that she's absolved herself of blame in the loss of so many other characters. From a writer's perspective, it makes sense though. Rowling set the course for other characters, and things played out more or less as they were meant to, all of it designed to serve the characters and the story. For example, J.K. Rowling didn't kill Sirius Black, Bellatrix Lestrange did. That's how it was meant to happen. But in the case of Florean Fortescue, J.K. Rowling made specific choices that inevitably resulted in him dying, not because he was meant to die or to serve some greater purposes, but -- from the sound of it -- because he'd outlived his usefulness to the plot.
Death has always been a huge part of the Harry Potter series, and in the case of Florean Fortescue's, while his departure may not have been planned from the start, it wasn't meaningless. Florean wasn't a major character. We never got to know him well, as he was mainly a referenced character, and many of us probably associate him best with Diagon Alley and Ice Cream than we do with who he was as a person. But Harry had fond associations with Florean Fortescue, and the character was most definitely part of the fabric of the magical world Rowling created. Beyond that, he falls alongside the likes of Charity Burbage, Bathilda Bagshot and Amelia Bones, in being a recognizable name, who ended up a casualty of Lord Voldemort's hunger for power and immortality. His absence was surely felt in the magical community in the years that followed his kidnapping and death. RIP Florean Fortescue.
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