On a rainy Saturday night, I find myself taking part in one of my favorite pastimes. Over the past few months, I’ve slowly been revisiting some of the novels that have impacted my life more than probably anything else (save the Bible, of course). That’s right, I’m talking about Harry Potter. I could honestly gush for hours about my love for these novels, discussing character development, themes, plot structure, etc. But if I did that, would you read it? Probably not. In lieu of this, I thought I’d share the most poignant (in my opinion) moment in the series. It comes from the beginning of the final novel, Deathly Hallows, in chapter 34, just after Harry views Snape’s memories in the pensieve during the final battle.
Finally, the truth. Lying with his face pressed into the dusty carpet of the office where he had once thought he was learning the secrets of victory, Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms. Along the way, he was to dispose of Voldemort’s remaining links to life, so that when at last he flung himself across Voldemort’s path, and did not raise a wand to defend himself, the end would be clean, and the job that ought to have been done in Godric’s Hollow would be finished. Neither would live, neither could survive.
He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. How many would there be time for, as he rose and walked through the castle for the last time, out into the grounds and into the forest?
Terror washed over him as he lay on the floor, with that funeral drum pounding inside him. Would it hurt to die? All those times he had thought that it was about to happen and escaped, he had never really thought of the thing itself: His will to live had always been so much stronger than his fear of death. Yet it did not occur to him now to try to escape, to outrun Voldemort. It was over, he knew it, and all that was left was the thing itself: dying.
If he could only have died on that summer’s night when he had left number four, Privet Drive, for the last time, when the noble phoenix feather wand had saved him! If he could only have died like Hedwig, so quickly he would not have known it had happened! Or if he could have launched himself in front of a wand to save someone he loved… He envied even his parents’ deaths now. This cold-blooded walk to his own destruction would require a different kind of bravery. He felt his fingers trembling slightly and made an effort to control them, although no one could see him; the portraits on the walls were all empty.
Slowly, very slowly, he sat up, and as he did so he felt more alive and more aware of his own living body than ever before. Why had he never appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart? It would all be gone… or at least, he would be gone from it. His breath came slow and deep, and his mouth and throat were completely dry, but so were his eyes.
Dumbledore’s betrayal was almost nothing. Of course there had been a bigger plan: Harry had simply been too foolish to see it, he realized that now. He had never questioned his own assumption that Dumbledore wanted him alive. Now he saw that his life span had always been determined by how long it took to eliminate all the Horcruxes. Dumbledore had passed the job of destroying them to him, and obediently he had continued to chip away at the bonds tying not only Voldemort, but himself, to life! How neat, how elegant, not to waste any more lives, but to give the dangerous task to the boy who had already been marked for slaughter, and whose death would not be a calamity, but another blow against Voldemort.
And Dumbledore had known that Harry would not duck out, that he would keep going to the end, even though it was his end, because he had taken trouble to get to know him, hadn’t he? Dumbledore knew, as Voldemort knew, that Harry would not let anyone else die for him now that he had discovered it was in his power to stop it. The images of Fred, Lupin, and Tonks lying dead in the Great Hall forced their way back into his mind’s eye, and for a moment he could hardly breathe. Death was impatient…
But Dumbledore had overestimated him. He had failed: The snake survived. One Horcrux remained to bind Voldemort to the earth, even after Harry had been killed. True, that would mean an easier job for somebody. He wondered who would do it… Ron and Hermione would know what needed to be done, of course… That would have been why Dumbledore wanted him to confide in two others… so that if he fulfilled his true destiny a little early, they could carry on…
Like rain on a cold window, these thoughts pattered against the hard surface of the incontrovertible truth, which was that he must die. I must die. It must end.
My other favorite moment in the series goes all the way back to the first book–when little Harry stumbles upon the Mirror of Erised and sees the images of his parents for the first time. But that’s for another time.
P.S. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually put efforts into coming up with a deep, insightful, intelligent, moving, (insert more adjectives here) post. But until then, you’re going to have to settle for Harry Potter quotes. You’re welcome.