From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
First Tony Soprano, now Harry Potter. It's hard enough to bid farewell to a beloved series, but what happens if the main character gets killed off? That's the question on everyone's mind, from the bookworm down the block to bookies across the pond—at least one of whom is no longer accepting bets on the young wizard's fate in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, out July 21. "Over 90 percent of the bets coming in were for Harry dying," says Rupert Adams of the London bookmaker William Hill. "It got to the stage where we'd be giving out money for free." Just 30 percent of readers polled by the-leaky-cauldron.org, a Potter fan site, think Rowling's hero's a goner, but, says the site's webmaster Melissa Anelli, "The level of speculation is the highest it's ever been."

The doomsaying started in '03, when Rowling, asked what Harry would be like as a man, replied, "How do you know he'll still be alive?" Stoking the fears: her disclosure that two major characters will die in Hallows, the last book in the best-selling children's series. And when the book's coeditor Arthur Levine said on the Today show in March that he was "sobbing at points" while reading it, curtains for Harry seemed likelier than ever. (Note to tea-leaf readers: Levine now says he won't tell "exactly what made me cry, but you'd be surprised." Which could mean ... who knows?)

One thing's certain: No more Harry Potter books means sadness for longtime fans. Beyond that? "I trust J.K. Rowling," says Emerson Spartz, 20, who has run the mugglenet.com site since he was 12. "That's the bottom line."

  • Contributors:
  • Sean Scully/Philadelphia,
  • Liz Corcoran/London.