It has been 25 years since the first Harry Potter book came out, yet the Wizarding World continues to grow with each new installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. It’s hard to imagine a world where nobody knew their Hogwarts houses, where socks didn’t immediately prompt thoughts of Dobby, and where children’s books only had a small impact on the world.
Yet there was a time when things were uncertain. As shows like Game of Thrones demonstrated, it’s possible for a global sensation to die out thanks to an unsatisfying final chapter. Fans on Reddit came up with the worst possible ways the Harry Potter series could have ended, ways that would have killed its impact, and Ranker pulled them all together for fans to decide which would have been the worst.
Note: Ranker lists are live and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.
After Voldemort’s resurrection, Harry became darker, both due to the influence of the Horcrux inside of him and the trauma he went through. Redditor oridol suggests that this could have led to a world where Harry “embraced dark magic and become ‘evil’ so to speak. He spent seven books fighting off the scariest dark wizard of all time just to turn into him.”
While heroes going dark can be an interesting twist, it would be out of character in the world of Harry Potter. Harry wanted nothing more than a world where fighting wasn’t necessary. It would take a lot to change that, and while some fanfictions have done it well, it would have been confusing in the books themselves.
Umbridge is the most hated character in the Harry Potter series, so it would have crushed fans to see Voldemort be defeated, only for Umbridge to rise. That being said, it would fit the narrative of the government working against the public good. This bad ending suggests that Umbridge becomes Minister for Magic and fines Harry for public disturbance and vandalism.
What’s most upsetting about this potential ending is how realistic it actually is. While the Ministry wasn’t under Voldemort’s control until Deathly Hallows, they were complicit in his rise to power. However, the idea of defeating one Dark Lord only for another to rise through political scheming was done best by The Hunger Games and should probably stay in that universe.
Some fans pointed out that the importance of love in Harry Potter could have led to a redemption arc for Voldemort, and fans pretty universally agreed that they would hate that. As Redditor babu-you_792 pointed out, it would be deeply unsatisfying to see a redeemed Voldemort given a happy ending alongside the people whose lives he ruined.
It’s possible to be sympathetic to a villain’s background without redeeming them, and thankfully that is the route the Harry Potter series went. The Death Eaters are Nazi stand-ins, and nobody wants to see Hitler get a redemption arc. There are Death Eaters who can be redeemed, but Voldemort is not and should not be one of them.
While some fans have dark fan theories about the Gryffindors, this idea is just cringe-worthy. The possible ending would reveal that the entire Harry Potter saga was a creative dramatization written by Colin Creevey. The real Harry Potter would have lived a relatively boring life, and Voldemort would have stayed dead.
Colin Creevey did take hero worship too far in the actual Harry Potter universe, but to be fair to him, eleven-year-old Harry did just disintegrate Quirrelmort with his bare hands. It would have been disrespectful to Colin’s character, who had grown into his own person, not to mention making the entire series pointless, if it was revealed to be a story all along.
Horcruxes were portrayed as the worst possible versions of dark magic in the Harry Potter universe, so fans naturally considered what would happen if a force of good used them. Whether there was some reveal that there were “good versions of Horcruxes,” or Dumbledore turned evil, it would have been a terrible way to end the series.
Dumbledore had one of the Harry Potter series’ most brutal deaths, but it was a necessary one. Had Dumbledore found a way to come back, it would have taken away from Harry’s seven-book-long character development, not to mention destroying the idea that the good side had lines they were unwilling to cross.
One of the worst ways any good story could end was with the reveal that it was all a dream, and it would be a terrible end to the Harry Potter franchise. It could be spun one of two ways: with Harry waking up in his cupboard, having made the entire Wizarding World up, or with Harry waking up at his parents’ house, having imagined Voldemort had managed to kill them.
Either option would be incredibly frustrating. While there have been a few stories that could pull off ending the show by going back to how it started, those require little hints along the way and a significant message to come from the dream. In this case, it would just cheapen everything that did happen, making it an ending fans have to be grateful they avoided.
One potential ending to the series was that the Weasley’s magic car might have returned from the Forbidden Forest to run Voldemort down. While the Redditors who came up with this idea had some fun thoughts on what might happen next, including the car getting an official Ministry pardon and having a child named after it, the idea really only works in jest.
While this plotline technically could have happened, it would certainly be anticlimactic after seven books (and eight movies) building up Harry as the only one who could defeat Voldemort. Shows like Merlin and How I Met Your Mother prove that throwing away character development at the last minute only makes for a a ruinous series finale.
In an alternate universe where Harry didn’t find out about the Horcrux inside himself, fans suggest that Voldemort could have lived on through him. He would easily find power again in the Wizarding World, being in the body of the savior, and Ron and Hermione might have to kill their best friend to stop him.
This is an ending that, while horrifying, could actually make for an interesting fanfiction. Seeing Voldemort using Harry’s body and status as a weapon would destroy the fans who thought Harry was so close to making a better world. Even so, it would be a poor ending to the actual series, since it would be a massive tonal shift from the rest of the franchise.
Many fans don’t know that J. K. Rowling originally planned on killing Ron (per WizardingWorld), but he was nearly another casualty in the Battle of Hogwarts. Fans can see a few ways that could have gone, including chlorinecrown‘s idea that Ron making the “coldly calculated decision to sacrifice himself so Harry can defeat Voldemort would have been a beautiful parallel to the chess game in Book 1.”
While the parallel could have been interesting, fans are generally very happy that the Golden Trio survived the final battle. Fans may take issue with some of his actions in the books and movies, but Ron was still one of the best wizards in the Harry Potter universe.
For a series that inspired a generation of readers to embrace their imaginations, there would be nothing more disastrous than destroying the magical world they had come to love. Ranker’s readers agree, by a margin of over a thousand votes, that the worst possible ending for the Harry Potter series would be that Harry made it all up.
In this potential ending, Redditor DukeInterior suggests that his parents’ deaths and his relatives’ abusive behavior “gave [Harry] severe mental illness, delusions of grandeur and hallucinations.” While fans may dislike the series’s epilogue, they can all agree that this would be the worst ending J. K. Rowling could have come up with.
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