In the course of writing the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling killed off many beloved characters from Sirius Black in Order of the Phoenix to Albus Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince. I remember where I was when I read Fred Weasley’s death, and I’m still not over it. The character she regrets killing off the most, however, is surprising to say the least.
Writing on her Pottermore website, Rowling said that the kidnapping and subsequent death of Florean Fortescue, owner of the Diagon Alley ice cream parlor, is still bothering her. “I originally planned Florean to be the conduit for clues that I needed to give Harry during his quest for the Hallows, which is why I established an acquaintance fairly early on,” she writes.
“The problem was that when I came to write the key parts of Deathly Hallows, I decided that Phineas Nigellus Black was a much more satisfactory means of conveying clues.”
“I seemed to have him kidnapped and killed for no good reason. 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,” she wrote.
In my experience, authors as popular and prominent as Rowling don’t typically discuss their regrets when it comes to character deaths. Some writers even joke about character deaths or wear them as a badge of honor, like George R.R. Martin, but it is interesting that Rowling shows empathy for this minor character. Fans of the films who haven’t read the books had probably never heard of Florean Fortescue before now, though his ice cream parlor is re-created in Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
This confession from Rowling makes me appreciate her more as a writer. She took such love and care in building the world of Harry Potter and the characters that live in these books, and while she was willing to kill off characters in the service of the story, she didn’t take any pleasure in it. Years later, the death of a kindly ice cream shop owner still worries her. I admire that.