The new year brings the promise of a new best seller, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, due to arrive on bookshelves soon. Along with Muggles and magic, this installment features a morbid resolution: Harry's creator, J. K. Rowling, kills off another character. The Internet is abuzz with Potter fans' worried speculation about who will be sent to that great Sorting Hat in the sky. One suspects, though, that for weary parents of those rosy-cheeked millions who demand the latest book or movie and the Potter-themed underwear available on eBay, this plot twist is not entirely unwelcome. Perhaps it is they who are flocking, as if spellbound, to the British betting site BlueSquare.com, which is offering odds on who will die. So where should your Galleon gold go? Early action favored Hagrid, Harry's bushy-bearded half-giant pal, though Harry's love interest, Cho Chang, is also the object of heavy betting. Here is the latest action on which Harry Potter character will die. —John Sellers
6:4 Rubeus Hagrid. Has Rowling simply run out of alliterative exclamations for this loyal brute, who spews nonsense like "Gallopin' Gorgons!" and "Gulpin' gargoyles!"?
2:1 Professor Albus Dumbledore. Old-as-the-hills flowing-robed Hogwarts headmaster might die of natural causes. Possible last words: "I was just a Gandalf wannabe!"
2:1 Professor Minerva McGonagall. Severe-looking assistant headmistress is an all-around bummer.
3:1 Cho Chang. Hogwarts hottie could be a target for bad vibes owing to Harry's recent moony-eyed lust for her. Is there such a thing as a restraining-order spell?
4:1 Fred/George Weasley. The prankery of the incorrigible redheaded twins could get the better of them when they accidentally morph Harry's tapioca into a hungry basilisk.
5:1 Ron Weasley. Harry's gangly sidekick could be pecked to death by his over-enthusiastic pet owl, Pigwidgeon.
5:1 Hermione Granger. Buck-toothed know-it-all might finally be due for her comeuppance.
5:1 Ginny Weasley. A nice Deletrius spell on Ron's little sister, too minor for anyone to miss if she died, would thin the Weasleys' roachlike brood.
5:1 Professor Severus Snape. If the hooked-nose potions master, who detests Harry Potter, gets offed, there goes the only enjoyable part of the films: Alan Rickman.
5:1 Molly Weasley. Like the death of Bambi's mother, the Weasley matriarch's demise would cause searing emotional scars. Great for young readers!
6:1 Neville Longbottom. Loser of pet toads, sniffler, and klutz extraordinaire, Harry's Gryffindor classmate could be done in by his own sad Neville-ness.
10:1 Dobby. Like Scrappy-Doo and Jar Jar Binks before him, this annoying elfin meddler deserves the slow, horrible death owed to such characters everywhere.
12:1 Oliver Wood. Odds are long on Harry's former Quidditch pal because he's as interesting as a plateful of boiled ham.
14:1 Draco Malfoy. Who will readers love to hate if Harry's scowling albino nemesis kicks it?
16:1 Harry Potter. Admit it, parents, it's your dream scenario: finally realizing his horrible taste in eyewear and scarves, Harry turns his wand on himself and says, "Reducto!"