Chapter 36: The Flaw In The Plan

Note: I apologize for the very long wait for this chapter read-through.

The final chapter starts off with Harry “lying facedown on the ground again” (724). The word “again” here relates to the start of the previous chapter where Harry “lay facedown, listening to the silence” (705). There is commotion around Voldemort because he seems to have passed out. What happened to the Dark Lord? This question relates to what exactly was that thing at King’s Cross that “had the form of a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking…” (706)? One theory is that it was the piece of Voldemort’s soul that was in Harry. This would make sense if not for the fact that Voldemort destroyed the Horcrux by using Avada Kedavra on Harry. Why would the soul fragment be at King’s Cross when it was destroyed? The other theory, one that is supported by the novel, is that it is actually Voldemort himself, de-souled and grotesque because of his dabbling in that dark, macabre magic of making Horcruxes. Consider J.K. Rowling’s thoughts on the matter:

It is the last piece of soul Voldemort possesses. When Voldemort attacks Harry, they both fall temporarily unconscious, and both their souls – Harry’s undamaged and healthy, Voldemort’s stunted and maimed – appear in the limbo where Harry meets Dumbledore.

Harry’s thoughts on page 725 support this:

The Death Eaters had been huddled around Voldemort, who seemed to have fallen to the ground. Something had happened when he had hit Harry with the Killing Curse. Had Voldemort too collapsed? It seemed like it. And both of them had fallen briefly unconscious and both of them had now returned….

Notice the part where it says “both of them had fallen briefly unconscious and both of them had now returned”. This suggests that both of their souls were in limbo at King’s Cross. This revelation (at least to Harry) brings up another question: why did Voldemort fall unconscious also when he “killed” Harry? How come the Elder Wand didn’t kill Voldemort then? The answer lies in Harry’s blood as Rowling wrote on her website:

Having taken Harry’s blood into himself, Voldemort is keeping alive Lily’s protective power over Harry. So Voldemort himself acts almost like a Horcrux for Harry – except that the power of Lily’s sacrifice is a positive force that not only continues to tether Harry to life, but gives Voldemort himself one last chance (Dumbledore refers to this last hope in chapter 35). Voldemort has unwittingly put a few drops of goodness back inside himself; if he had repented, he could have been healed more deeply than anyone would have supposed. But, of course, he refused to feel remorse.

Voldemort is also using the Elder Wand – the wand that is really Harry’s. It does not work properly against its true owner; no curse Voldemort casts on Harry functions properly; neither the Cruciatus curse nor the Killing Curse. The Avada Kedavra curse, however, is so powerful that it does hurt Harry, and also succeeds in killing the part of him that is not truly him, in other words, the fragment of Voldemort’s own soul still clinging to his. The curse also disables Harry severely enough that he could have succumbed to death if he had chosen that path (again, Dumbledore says he has a choice whether or not to wake up). But Harry does decide to struggle back to consciousness, capitalises on Lily’s ‘escape route’, and pulls himself back to the realm of the living.

When Bellatrix offers to help Voldemort, the Dark Lord says, “I do not require assistance” (725). This parallels once again the previous chapter where Dumbledore tells Harry “You cannot help” (707) and “There is no help possible” (709), and ultimately foreshadows Voldemort’s fate when he refuses to have any remorse for anything he’s done throughout his life. A temporarily weakened Voldemort contrasts greatly with a weakened Dumbledore who allows Harry to help him after he’s drunken the potion at the cave in Half-Blood Prince and places his full faith and trust in Harry to get the both of them back to Hogsmeade. Voldemort will not allow himself to be helped because he cannot feel or be vulnerable. Dark Lords do not require assistance especially in the triumph of the moment.

Narcissa Malfoy defies Voldemort once again. Before, Narcissa spoke of the Dark Lord’s plans to use her son Draco to murder Dumbledore to Severus Snape in the “Spinner’s End” chapter in Half-Blood Prince. This time around she is sent to investigate whether Harry is really dead. She knows he’s alive after feeling his heart beating. She whispers to him asking about her son, “Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?” (726). A mother’s love for her son (or daughter, as we are about to see) runs throughout the series. The primary example, of course, is Lily Potter. Just because Narcissa is a Slytherin and the wife of a prominent, albeit disgraced, Death Eater doesn’t mean she can’t love her son deeply and care about his well being. Perhaps this is a surprise because of Walburga Black, a Slytherin and mother of Sirius, who disinherited her son when he ran away from home to live with the Potter family. Walburga’s example serves as a parody to the motherly love shown by Narcissa here. Ron was more right than he would ever know when he says in Goblet of Fire, “Shame his mother likes him” (167).

Next we see “her nails pierced him” (726) before her hand withdraws from Harry’s chest and she finally declares him to be dead. For those looking for Christian symbolism here will be reminded of the nails in Jesus’ hand at the Crucifixion. A better example would be the spear that pierced Jesus’ side in order to confirm that he was dead before they took him off the cross (John 19.31-37). Of course Jesus was really dead at this point while Harry is pretending he is dead after he came back from limbo. Once again the novels are not meant to be allegory, but contain religious symbolism, especially from the Christian tradition (for more information on this chapter alone, see John Granger’s How Harry Cast His Spell, pp. 236-242). Harry is not Jesus, although he is a sort of messianic figure in the Wizarding World.

Voldemort, thinking himself victorious, subjects Harry’s body to further humiliation by using the Cruciatus Curse on a seemingly dead body. That Harry’s body doesn’t suffer pain owes to the fact that the Elder Wand doesn’t entirely work for Voldemort as the wand’s true allegiance is to Harry. It is interesting that Hagrid is chosen to carry the “dead” Harry. This harkens back to Sorcerer’s Stone where he was carrying the baby Harry in a “bundle of blankets” (14). There is a contrast though. In the first chapter of the first novel, Harry is sleeping, unaware of what he accomplished and unaware that he is the boy who lived. Now in the last chapter of the last novel, Harry feigns sleeping, fully aware of what he accomplished and fully aware that once again he is the Boy Who Lived.

Voldemort promises a “new world” (729), but already that new world is built on lies, namely the lie that the Wizarding World’s savior was killed while running for his life. The Dark Lord continues to perpetuate this lie to the survivors, but what is interesting is that Hagrid does not try to refute it. He was there in the Forest; he saw how Harry sacrificed himself. Perhaps he was so overcome with grief and had no fight left in him since the Good Hats were all outnumbered at this point. Voldemort continues to explain his plans for this new world, “There will be no more Sorting at Hogwarts School. There will be no more Houses. The emblem, shield, and colors of my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for everyone” (732). At first glance this seems to be a noble cause. Who wouldn’t want unity? It’s not so simple though. Unity here has a cost. They will be unified under the Slytherin banner. Not only that but going from what the Dark Lord told Neville: “you are a pureblood”, “you come of noble stock”, “We need your kind” (731); participation in this new world will most likely be based on magical ancestral origins. Muggle-borns will either be discriminated and regulated to second class status or expelled. We’ve seen this new world already. MAGIC IS MIGHT, anyone? This unity runs counter to the one shown in the founding of Hogwarts. There, four friends came together to found a school to train young witches and wizards in the midst of growing antagonism and fear toward magical people. It was only when Slytherin’s personal agenda started running counter to his three other friends that a falling out occurred. We shouldn’t expect any less from his Heir. True unity in the series has always been four houses coming together to expel an outside threat as the Sorting Hat has suggested twice (Order of the Phoenix, 204-207; Half-Blood Prince, 163). The survivors don’t want any part of Voldemort’s false new world or unity so it’s no wonder why they continue to fight.

All hell seems to break loose. Centaurs have joined the fight. Hagrid’s words earlier on page 728 (“Happy now, are yeh, that yeh didn’ fight, yeh cowardly bunch o’ nags? Are yeh happy Harry Potter’s – d-dead…?”) must have provoked them to enter the battle. A Voldemort in power would not be good for any magical creature so the proud Centaurs are fighting alongside wizards not to help as if they are subservient to humans, but because it would be mutually beneficial for both species, human and Centaur, to do so. This parallels Firenze’s words in the first novel, “I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane, yes, with humans alongside me if I must” (257). Then someone was slaying Unicorns; now Voldemort has returned. Perhaps they are fighting out of loyalty to Dumbledore and Harry Potter. The Centaurs’ actions here are interesting because usually they concern themselves with reading the stars and their movements; they don’t concern themselves with humans or set themselves against the heavens. But there they are fighting here nonetheless. Winged creatures such as Thestrals and Buckbeak the Hippogriff are helping Hagrid’s brother dispatch Voldemort’s giants. Even the house-elves of Hogwarts join in led by Kreacher, who shouts for them to fight in the name of the man who owned the locket on his chest, Regulus Black. We haven’t even counted the Order members and the defenders of Hogwarts, students, families and friends, Hogsmeade inhabitants, and others. Great battle indeed. Two people need to be singled out here: Neville Longbottom and Molly Weasley. Neville charged out against Voldemort and shown his loyalty to both Harry and Dumbledore. This loyalty led to him pulling out the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat, reminiscent of Harry in the Chamber of Secrets, and cutting off the head of Nagini, getting rid of Voldemort’s last Horcrux at Harry’s request two chapters ago. If that were not enough, he tag teams with Ron and battles Fenrir Greyback. And Mrs. Weasley? She sees her only daughter almost killed by Bellatrix Lestrange and yells out “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” (736) before running to duel her. Once again a mother’s love is shown here in a terribly awesome way here. She is protecting her daughter here. To put it in perspective, Death Eaters are adults and are trying to kill children. Mrs. Weasley’s actions and language are perfectly justified here. The battle seems to stop as onlookers from both sides are watching Voldemort duel Professors McGonagall and Slughorn, and Kingsley Shacklebolt as well as the Mrs. Weasley-Bellatrix duel. Bellatrix lives to offend people and she makes fun of now-dead Fred Weasley (“Freddie”) and threatens Mrs. Weasley’s remaining children. Mrs. Weasley says a great line, “You – will – never – touch – our – children – again!” before her curse hits Bellatrix, killing her.

Harry reveals himself to be alive and the conversation between him and Voldemort is on. Harry shows great poise and wisdom with no fear. He calls the Dark Lord by the name that he eschewed, along with his part muggle parentage, Tom Riddle. He is taking a page out of Dumbledore’s book. He also reveals that his sacrifice has protected him and his friends against the Dark Lord. Think of Lily’s sacrifice, but on a much grander scale. Nothing in the whole exchange though unnerved Voldemort as when Harry asked him to “Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle” (741). Like Rowling wrote on her website, if Voldemort would’ve shown remorse over his lifelong wrongs, he “could have been healed more deeply than anyone would have supposed.” He doesn’t go that route in the end, but why did Harry offer it to Voldemort in the first place? This is the man who killed his parents and who hasn’t stopped trying to kill him ever since. Harry knows what’s going to happen. He knows the Elder Wand’s true allegiance is to him. Revenge is not on display here. If it was then Harry would’ve used something different than a simple disarming charm. Why would Harry even tell Voldemort, “Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does…I am the true master of the Elder Wand” (743)? It’s as if Harry is continuing to warn Voldemort and force him to think about what he’s about to do. Harry has come a long way and his alchemical transformation is complete as the “red-gold glow” suggests. Voldemort in the end kills himself. He sent the killing curse, but the curse rebounds on himself, killing him. The flaw in the plan is really the flaw in two plans, Voldemort’s (become the Master of the Elder Wand and kill Harry) and Dumbledore’s (have Snape possess the Elder Wand), but Harry stands in the end. And to think it was all because he snatched Draco’s wand away from him at the Malfoy mansion.

What happens afterward is pure celebration and relief that it is all over. Families and friends are sitting together, irrespective of House, unified by their jubilation and comforting the bereaved. There is work to be done. The Wizarding World needs to heal and Harry, Ron, and Hermione will be a big part in making “a new world”, as Rowling told Meredith Vieira in an interview. For now, the Trio needs to break away and visit Dumbledore’s portrait in the Headmaster’s Office. The portraits applaud them and Phineas Nigellus pointed out “And let it be noted that Slytherin House played its part! Let our contribution not be forgotten!” (747). Of course, we need only look at Severus Snape, Horace Slughorn, Regulus Black, and others (don’t forget Narcissa Malfoy). All the Houses played a part in the second and final fall of Voldemort. While it wasn’t all unity and there’s some more work to be done, it was better than the one envisioned by the Dark Lord. Rowling’s next words here are poignant, “But Harry had eyes only for the man who stood in the largest portrait directly behind the headmaster’s chair. Tears were sliding down from behind the half-moon spectacles into the long silver beard, and the pride and gratitude emanating from him filled Harry with the same balm as phoenix song.” Harry shows that he is a true descendent of Ignotus Peverell by keeping the Invisibility Cloak and not going after the Resurrection Stone in the Forest or keeping the Elder Wand. He does however repair his Phoenix wand with the Elder Wand and decides to keep the Elder Wand with the dead Dumbledore. The power will be broken when Harry dies, and besides he says it best here, “I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime” (749).

25 thoughts on “Chapter 36: The Flaw In The Plan

  1. Wow, Behold a Phoenix–this is an awesome post! Definitely worth the wait; there’s so much in here!

    First, I appreciate your drawing attention to Narcissa’s actions, since her motherly love for Draco allows the crucial lie about Harry’s death to go forward, which helps the good guys turn the tide in the Battle of Hogwarts. It’s easy to write off Narcissa as a member of the Death Eater brigade, but this action largely redeems her.

    Second, I’m especially intrigued by your questions and comments about how willing Harry is to give Voldemort an out all the way to the bitter end. It does greatly reflect the fact that “Harry has come a long way and his alchemical transformation is complete.” It also seems to symbolize the fact that hatred, fear, bitterness, revenge all really kill (whether slowly from the inside or otherwise) those who hate, fear, etc. Such negativity ultimately cannot harm others in the most important ways (even though it kills some), but rather destroys its possessor. It’s hard for me to get my mind around the idea that some people would rather choose their own destruction than to let go of hate and fear, but there it is–Voldemorts do exist. And Harry realizes that holding on to hate or not is his choice, and he doesn’t want to end up like Voldemort. He does not need to let Voldemort’s attitude and actions poison his own character, and so providing him with an out is one of the most life-affirming and healthy things he can do.

  2. Thanks Behold a Phoenix, for a thorough job well done. Harry has given Tom Riddle every opportunity to make a better choice, a repentant (turning around) even down to last attempt to kill him (Harry) again for the third time. Voldemont’s death was his own fearful choice blinded by his greed/pride and hate.

  3. I always feel like this chapter is a whirlwind. even though I know what’s happening and I can explain Horcruxes to anyone, so much happens. Like Rowling had all of these loose ends to tie up very quickly. As a result, many of the characters we know and love have these adventures “off screen” and we only see the results: death for some, victory for others.

    I find Rowling’s treatment of Narcissa very interesting. It would be easy to say that Lily and Narcissa are the foils, like their sons are, and most people would say that throughout the series. But this chapter solidifies Bellatrix as the foil, as the one who, like Voldemort, cannot understand agape love, in part because she has no children.

    But really, the hero of this chapter is not Harry, because he has already won, in the previous chapter. The hero of this chapter is Neville. Though his leader is dead, he follows orders- a true disciple, if you will- and doesn’t even need an explanation, like Ron always did. He just does it, trusting Harry through the bitter and painful end. How can you not cheer?

    So many other thoughts, but I”ll stop for now.

  4. PotterMom05, you said that Bella did not experience selfless love “in part because she had no children”. Does that mean that you think she would have been more loving if she had had children? My understanding of the lady was that if she had had children, she would have been more than willing to sacrifice them for the sake of Master.

    Also, do you really want to start a discussion on whether one needs to be a mother to experience selfless love? Because a lot of people would challenge that conclusion. But perhaps what you actually meant is that having children is one of many ways people experience selfless love. Yes?

  5. I think PotterMom meant the latter – that having children can increase one’s awareness of agape love where it did not exist before. I don’t think she was dissing the childless. Mother Teresa – who never had children – had more agape love than a million mothers. Love is a strange thing. It can grow almost anywhere – but there needs to be a seed to begin with. I don’t think Bellatrix had that ability.

    This chapter is a whirlwind. Also – it was confusing. This is the only chapter in the entire series that I had to read over and over again to find out why Harry lived and Voldemort died. Even then I had to hear from Ms. Rowling’s own mouth in interviews what exactly happened.

    I remember being sad that Remus and Tonks died. Still am sad about that.

  6. In fact – I am still confused.

    A. Dumbledore had the Elder Wand
    B. Draco disarmed Albus so he was the Master of the Elder Wand
    C. The Elder Wand remained with Albus until LV took it.
    D. Harry disarmed Draco of Draco’s own personal wand, NOT the Elder Wand.
    E. Harry never disarmed Draco of the Elder Wand.

    So how does Harry become the Master of the Elder wand? If you disarm an opponent of one wand – does that make you the master of all the wands the wizard owns? Even if they don’t have it in their possession? Because technically Draco was then the owner of two wands – one that disarmed by Harry and the Elder Wand which he never took possession of.

    That was never discussed in the entire series. Not set up. Confusing and to tell you the truth – I felt a little cheated by that.

  7. Bennu, Yes you said it very confusing. In unraveling Wandlore this is where we could really use “J.K.’s Scottish Book” about now!
    We could start by looking at the books and what the author has commented about the “The Elder Wand”.
    I am the first one to say that I do NOT know everything concerning Wandlore, but here is a start.

    “The wand chooses the wizard. That much has always been clear to those of us who have studied wandlore…if you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where there is the strongest affinity between wizard and wand. These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.”
    —Mr. Ollivander

    J. K. Rowling has discussed how “The Elder Wand” behaves slightly different from other wands in its loyalty:
    “The Elder Wand is simply the most ruthless of wands in that it will only take into consideration strength. So one would expect a certain amount of loyalty from one’s wand. So even if you were disarmed while carrying it, even if you lost a fight while carrying it, it has developed an affinity with you that it will not give up easily. If, however, a wand is won, properly won in an adult duel, then a wand may switch allegiance… However, the Elder Wand knows no loyalty except to strength. So it’s completely unsentimental. It will only go where the power is. So if you win, then you’ve won the wand. So you don’t need to kill with it. But…almost inevitably, it attracts wizards who are prepared to kill and who will kill. And also it attracts wizards like Voldemort who confuse being prepared to murder with strength”. —24 December 2007 PotterCast Interviews with J.K. Rowling
    Lord Voldemort cast a Killing Curse on Harry using the Elder Wand. The wand seemingly worked because Harry intended to die at Voldemort’s hand, much as Dumbledore had planned his death with Snape. Harry had entered a limbo state, portrayed as King’s Cross Station, from which he could choose to return. When he did return, Voldemort cast the Cruciatus Curse on Harry’s “fane dead” body but caused no pain. At this point, Harry realized that he was, in fact, the master of The Elder Wand.


  8. I believe it was Alfred Hitchcock who spoke of the “McGuffin”. the McGuffin is the object that everyone in the story chases. What it is is essentially immaterial to the story; it provides the excsue for the story. The Indiana Jones movies, the Maltese Falcon, The Wrong Box are all examples of McGuffin stories; Tarantino went one step further in Pulp Fiction – we never saw what was in the McGuffin (briefcase).

    You can look at the Elder Wand as a type of McGuffin. What it is is not nearly as important as its function as a plot device: it introduces Grindelwald, it the reason why Snape dies, it is part of the mechanism by which Harry doesn’t die, as well as symbolizing what is right with him (and wrong with Voldemort)

    There is another way of looking at it. JKR came up with the plot of Deathly HAllows after she wrote HBP. Meaning that she had to work with what she’d already written, and make the Hallows storrline fit that. Draco had disarmed DD, Snape had actually killed him, and the wand was buried with him. Take all that, stir, knowing that the end result has to be Voldemort AK s Harry but can’t actually kill him, and you come up with the storyline we got.

  9. Yes, yes, yes – I know the Hallows are a plot device – all three of them – but it’s the mechanism I don’t understand. I never felt cheated by the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Because it didn’t figure in a twist at the end – and the briefcase did not not make sense.
    I don’t understand how Harry came to own the Elder Wand when he never disarmed anyone who held it. He disarmed Draco of a different wand – which now – all of a sudden is a rule of physics in the magical world that we never heard about before. That if one disarms one wand from a wizard, one disarms all the wands that the wizard owns. Essentially rendering a wizard completely wandless.

    This wand stuff is weird. I also never understood why witches and wizards didn’t have two or three wands in their arsenals. If I were a witch or wizard – especially going into battle – I would have two wands strapped to my hips like a gunslinger. That way in battle – I get more bang for the buck.

    But back to the chapter – it’s only in this chapter that we find out about this rule after the fact that has allowed Harry to become owner of the Elder Wand and that’s what saved him. This rule is not so much a MacGuffin as it is a Deus ex Machina that doesn’t make sense. It was never set up. It just popped out of nowhere and saved Harry. Now if Harry had specifically asked Ollivander about the transfer of ownership of wands – ie “If I disarm an opponent of one wand – do I disarm the opponent of all wands the opponent owns?” and Ollivander says “Yes.” – then that would have satisfied me. Almost. But we get nothing. Nowhere in the series does it say that if one disarms a wizard then one has disarmed all the wands the wizard owns.

  10. I think that the Elder Wand had its own set of rules. Disarming a wizard of one ordinary wand probably did not mean the transfer of his other ordinary wands. I’m not even sure I believe that the disarmed wand transfered ownership. I think that transfer rules had never been mentioned because they didn’t apply prior to the introduction of the Elder Wand. I think the Elder Wand was an exception with completely unique rules that applied to it, with ownership rules unlike any other.

  11. I knew I would get it with that “mother” comment. I certainly don’t think motherhood is the only way to agape love, but as has been brought up by some esteemed local authors, Rowling focuses much more on mother-love than father-love. She’s the author, and she’s allowed. Lily, Narcissa, Molly, Bellatrix, even Tonks- these are all powerful witches whose choices have powerful results. The men/fathers in the story- eh, not so much. The mean are the means by which Harry learns to deal with his failures and also learns to trust others. The men protect him but also let him down- James, Sirius, Lupin, Dumbledore- and that provides him with choices central to the story. I think it’s pretty clear that Rowling was making a pretty clear distinction in her telling of the story.

    As for wands- I agree and agree. I like your version Red – Rowling had an end in mind, but not the means. Suddenly there is a branch of magic called “Wandlore” that we, as readers, have not understood the power of before this book, even before this chapter really. And it is “neat” to have the Elder Wand be the exception to wand-rules, but that is the way it often happens with very powerful objects.

    And Bennu, I totally relate. I didn’t realize Nagini died until about two pages later. Complete chaos.

  12. Just to give a short definition to all the meanings regarding “Agape / Love”

    Agape Love selfless love that is self-sacrificing, sacrificial love
    In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true love”.
    The word comes from Classical Greek: agáp?; is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. Many have thought that this word represents divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. Although the word does not have specific religious connotation, the word has been used by a variety of contemporary and ancient sources, including Biblical authors and Christian authors. Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.” In his book, The Pilgrimage, author Paulo Coelho defines it as “the love that consumes,” i.e., the highest and purest form of love, one that surpasses all other types of affection. Contemporary philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to it as “political love”. Greek philosophers at the time of Plato and other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to philia (an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection) and eros, an affection of a sexual nature.

  13. Great writeup! Worth the wait. 😉

    I love your contrast between Voldemort and Dumbledore. It shows how two men, both of whom exhibited some dangerous tendencies early in life, took their lives two very different directions–the former by hardening his heart, the latter by repentance.

    Also, I love the way Neville’s valiant drawing and use of the sword parallels Harry’s.

    PotterMom05, interesting thoughts on the difference between the men and women in the story. I might be thinking on that for awhile. That’s probably true of the fathers–even Arthur Weasley is a little too mild-mannered to come off as strong.

    I’m glad we got to see Harry as a father at the end. His treatment of little Albus shows that he’s redeemed the failures of James and Dumbledore and Lupin in his own life.

  14. Voldy uses the Avada Kedavra curse on Harry three times. Once when he is a baby it doesn’t work, again only an hour ago in the forest and still Harry is alive and he thinks maybe three times is a charm? Such a clever wizard you’d think he might have tried something else? What was different the third time that the curse didn’t come closer to killing Voldemort in the forest? I know there was one Horcux still alive was that the only difference? The relationship between Harry and the wand doesn’t change from the time in the forest to the end in the castle.

    JKR must have had a such hard time trying to tie all this together. Life’s not neat and with what few faults we might find in HP there are few books I have thought about nearly as much as hers.

  15. Marian, Jo did say once that the Elder Wand was different from other wand in the way it chose its allegiance; and in particular, that the E.W. was only interested in power, in which wizard had overcome the other in combat.

  16. That’s interesting Steve – is it anywhere in the books? Because I sure don’t remember that. I mean – Ms. Rowling had to explain it after the fact because people were unsure as to what happened.

    I really love the Harry Potter series – it’s just in this book, in this chapter – at the climax – at the climax of the whole darn series, this thing hinges on Harry taking the other wand from Draco, not the Elder Wand, but Draco’s personal wand, and nothing is explained as to how it happened that the Elder Wand transfered its ownership to Harry. It had to be explained after the fact.

    Am I the only one in the whole wide world who was confused about this? It’s quite possible that I am because sometimes I’m dense. But really – did everyone read this and get it right away from the book – or did they have to hear explained by Ms. Rowling as to what exactly happened. It’s almost like – dare I say – a mistake? No, it can’t be. Because it’s so huge.

    I know, I know. I’m getting a little obsessive and nerdy about this. Forgive me. I’ll get over this once someone tells me the page and the paragraph that explains this in the book – not in an interview after the fact.

  17. Pub Post: Grindelwald as Lucifer, and the Elder Wand Transfer
    by Travis Prinzi on February 9, 2010
    Bennu,Please read what Ms Rolling says…very insteresting—
    With the moment that the transfer took effect with pub discussion. Tomorrow I will try if time permits to go into the book and find the page. Someone may have it already. I agree it is a bother trying to figure out this stuff with the wands, at least it was not as bad as LOST was.
    best regards.

  18. After posting about the uniqueness of the Elder Wand yesterday, I realized that all three of the Hallows were unique from all other similar objects. There was probably no comparison at all for the ring. And in the case of the invisibility cloak, other cloakes existed, but it was the only cloak that never stopped working but continued to work perfectly forever.

    The point is that the Hallows were completely unique objects with unique characteristics, and trying to apply the rules that make sense to other like objects doesn’t work. Goodness gracious, the One Ring was unlike any other with unique characteristics and rules for it. The Wardrobe was unlike any other with unique characteristics and rules for it. If I was more of a fantasy reader, I’m sure I could go on and on. So why can’t the Elder wand be the same way?

    And, you know, it’s Jo’s fictional world. She defines the parameters and rules for it. And it’s a fiction that bears no comparison to the real world (there aren’t any wands, either Elder or otherwise). So ultimately, you just have to go with it.

  19. Johnny, this is a terrific write-up and very thoughtful exploration of this chapter, with great contrasting throughout. You raise an excellent point about Dumbledore and Riddle and their willingness and unwillingness to be helped. Riddle thought he didn’t need help–but what could he have accomplished without his Death Eaters? Without Peter Pettigrew? It’s laughable that he thought he did this all on his own.

  20. I don’t think Rowling was saying mothers have some kind of edge on love not accessible to others. Harry, after all, is the symbol of agape love in the story.

    I think she was perhaps making a political statement about the importance of mothers regardless of circumstance, their unique and irreplaceable place in their childrens’ lives, and the value of their involvement in and sacrifices for them (contrasted with Bellatrix’s willingness to sacrifice her own and others’ children to the state, i.e., Voldemort), perhaps as a rebuke to the scornful criticism she and other single mothers needing state assistance endured under Thatcherism.

  21. Referencing #16 comment by Bennu, June 23, 2011 at 1:27 am
    “…But really – did everyone read this and get it right away from the book – or did they have to hear explained by Ms. Rowling as to what exactly happened…”

    All I can do is point to the portion of the HP Deathly Hallows book that addresses Harry when he physically “wrested” the three wands from Draco’s grasp… in Chapter 23, Malfoy Manor, page 474, in the hard cover U.S. edition.
    Lily Luna said in a previous posting in this read-through “Harry’s disarming of Draco is the key to Harry’s ownership of the Elder Wand (well, the second part of the key; the first part was Draco disarming Dumbledore atop the Astronomy Tower). Rowling has said in interviews that she deliberately made this confrontation between the two boys physical (rather than magical)…” —Lily-Luna, June 3, 2010 post: Chapter 23: Malfoy Manor in our Hog’s Head pub Deathly Hallows Read-Through.
    On page 481, 3rd paragraph: When marking Dobby’s gravestone he [Harry] chose the wand one of two, that felt “friendlier in his hand” Note: the sentence above, Harry remembering “wrenching them out of someone’s hand”.

    In this literature as in others not everything is always spelled out.

  22. This is really good. Both the original walk through the chapter and the commentary that follows. SO much to think about.
    I’d never thought of how Harry’s handling of the Hallows really marks him as Ignotus Peverell’s true descendent. The point about how he leaves the stone where it rested and returns the Elder Wand to its previous owner, keeping only the Cloak really excited me. Another example of the briliant subtlety of JKR’s writing.

    As for what’s at King’s Cross: I always wondered about this. On first reading I was confused, it took quite a few re-reads to get to understand what JKR means in the quote you used – it being the remaining piece of Voldemort’s soul rather than a piece of his soul contained in someone or something else (i.e Harry). As King’s Cross is the place at which you arrive to go “on” the Harry who arrives there with clean and unblemished hands arrives with his soul intact and completely your own. So he would be the whole Harry who then has the conversation with Dumbledore. Voldemort would arrive there with only that portion still in his body – a scarred disfigured piece, not complete at all. Reading this essay has certainly helped clarify my understanding of that.

    One of the things that helps me accept the transfer of ownership of the Elder Wand – with which I struggled for a long long time – was the realisation that there are four parts to the equation. There’s the disarming of Dumbledore by Draco, the wresting of Draco’s own wand itself from Draco by Harry, the theft without winning of the Elder Wand by Voldemort, and there is – as Harry points out – the fact that the wand chooses the wizard. (Something we’ve known since Harry first visited Ollivander’s shop in PS). If possession is, as they say, 9/10ths of the Law the wand choosing the wizard is perhaps the other 1/10th…is this the meaning behind Harry’s statement Possessing the wand isn’t enough!
    Is that final 1/10th the significant factor here?
    Does the Elder Wand, at the time of the showdown recognise ANY Master?
    Has it really recognised – as Harry thinks – that it’s true master was Draco?
    Is it waiting for a new master based on JKR’s criteria of strength – and exactly what does she mean by that word in this context?
    So here’s my working this through.
    Draco disarmed Dumbledore but did not claim ownership, (the 9/10ths): he does not “possess” the Elder Wand, even though Dumbledore has been dispossessed. Does it truly become Draco’s wand or is it’s new allegiance still to be determined?
    In wresting Draco’s wand from him Harry asserts his strength over Draco, meeting the strength criteria the Elder Wand would use to determine it’s allegiance. I was never convinced that ownership of the Elder Wand transferred in the scuffle at Malfoy Manor – despite JKR’s arguments! – because there was no basis at that time for “the wand choosing the wizard.” There was no passing of the Elder Wand from one wizard to another, but what there is is the basis for a claim to ownership based on Strength.
    When Harry and Voldemort finally face off in the Great Hall the allegiance of the Elder Wand has therefore not yet been determined, it has been in abeyance from the time Draco disarmed Dumbledore. Voldemort does not have true 10/10ths ownership of the wand, the wand has not chosen the wizard, something Voldemort has recognised himself:
    “The Elder Wand cannot serve me properly, Severus, because I am not its true master”
    And this is where the face-off betwen Harry and Voldemort becomes truly significant. Harry tells Voldemort that the Elder Wand had given Draco its allegiance. But had it? Draco did not claim ownership, he “never even laid a hand on it.” No, I think the transfer of allegiance hasn’t happenend yet. It comes a few moments later in the face-off.
    When Harry says “I overpowered Draco weeks ago. I took this wand from him.” he makes his claim for true ownership and gives Strength as the rationale. He provides evidence of the superiority of his claim to ownership using the criteria of strength.
    Does the Elder Wand understand this to be the case? It seems to me more likely that this is the moment when allegiance of the Elder Wand is determined and thus ownership can be transferred.
    And when the spells are finally cast what do we have?
    “…spinning through the air toward the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last.”
    Full possession. 10/10ths. The only wizard since Dumbledore to win and hold the Elder Wand. Truly the Master of the Elder Wand. The Elder Wand has in that moment chosen the Wizard.

    And in working through all that I’ve just had a realisation! Does it really matter with whom the allegiance lies at the beginning of the showdown? If the Elder Wand recognises a master by strength then Harry’s display of strength in this showdown, his courage in his telling of the unfolding events and his willingness to take on Voldemort, to recognise that he knows things Riddle does not, and to speak them is surely on its own enough for the Elder Wand to decide who of the two is truly stronger irrespective of the circumstances leading up to this duel. Just a thought.

  23. Darcy I love your reasoning here. I, like many, have had a hard time with the transfer of allegiance from Dumbledore to Draco, because Dumbledore knew it all along- it’s like reverse psychology- doesn’t the wand know that Dumbeldore is the more powerful wizard and willingly allowed Draco to beat him? Mayeb, maybe not, and maybe it doesn’t matter, because in the end, it recognized Harry as the claimant of Strength, as you say.

    I”m not being very eloquent, but I really appreciate your perspective on this- I think most thinking fans had a hard time with the Wand story, despite JKR’s assertions and logic to explain how it all fit together.

  24. Darcy, wow! I too appreciate your argument. The wand transference was a real head-scratcher. The Case of the Sentient Elder Wand–what did it know and when did it know it?

    Even if the truth is different, you’ve made an excellent case, and I admire such well laid out reasoning. Good one!

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