Re-Reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Chapters 33-36, Epilogue and Final Thoughts

Chapter 33 – The Prince’s Tale

  • The deaths of Remus and Tonks feel quite understated considering what significant characters they were. Still, it would be unrealistic for Harry to be present for every major character death.
  • Well, I can honestly say that I did not see the Snape-Lily twist coming, and this chapter definitely provides much food for thought.
  • As a boy, Snape already doesn’t respect Muggles – a feeling which sadly spreads easily within wizard society, but is exacerbated in this case by his dislike of his Muggle father. He seems to assume that Lily would feel the same – that she would automatically view herself as ‘better’ than the rest of her family. When he tells Lily that being a Muggleborn doesn’t make any difference with regards to magical ability, it’s unclear how much he really believes it.
  • It’s certainly interesting to learn that Petunia’s feelings towards wizards were bred out of resentment that she could never use magic herself. It’s not dwelt upon, given that Petunia made her last appearance towards the beginning of the book, but it doesn’t need to be.
  • It is good that Snape having a difficult home life is not presented as a justifiable excuse for his behaviour throughout the books.
  • It feels almost sad that the Sorting Hat immediately places Lily in Gryffindor – the same way that Tom Riddle and Draco Malfoy were immediately placed in Slytherin: it’s a recognition of the great virtue that will ultimately seal her fate.
  • So despite Lily showing him a different way to live and behave, Snape was still sorted into Slytherin. Given what Sirius said in Goblet of Fire about him knowing a lot about the Dark Arts when he first arrived at Hogwarts, it would seem that he still placed the most value in that path and the qualities associated with it.  In the later years, he is apparently already planning to join Voldemort before he leaves school, and he doesn’t really care what Lily thinks of his more questionable friends.
  • It is striking that for all the trust Dumbledore placed in Snape in later years, he tells him “You disgust me” in the first one-to-one meeting we see – Dumbledore expresses disgust just as rarely as anger.
  • The one scene between Dumbledore and Snape immediately following Lily’s death explains so much all on its own.
  • “You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon.” It’s not often we see the flaws of the Sorting system being openly addressed by the characters – makes sense we’d hear something like this in the last, most adult book.
  • Among the many fan theories circulating by the time the book was published, the idea that Dumbledore intended for Snape to kill him was certainly there – but the fact that Dumbledore was already dying definitely came out of the blue.
  • Given that Voldemort already had plans to control Hogwarts just over a year after his return, he was certainly moving much more quickly than the first time round.
  • The later flashbacks really show how expertly Dumbledore played his two most important pieces, Harry and Snape, in the game against Voldemort – right down to using Harry to destroy the Horcruxes before he would inevitably have to let Voldemort kill him (though Dumbledore’s reaction to Snape’s Patronus indicates he really does regret this) and setting up how Voldemort’s inevitable attack on Harry when he leaves Privet Drive must unfold.
  • So now the connection between Harry and Voldemort’s minds has a full explanation as well.

Chapter 34 – The Forest Again

  • When first reading this, even though I suspected that Harry might not actually die with the amount of pages remaining, I was still shocked at how things looked.
  • This chapter again is brilliantly written, as Harry consciously faces his death – remaining calm and in control, but struggling to do so – and accepts that there is really no need to be afraid.
  • So presumably after how often it’s been reinforced that no magic can reawaken the dead, the Resurrection Stone doesn’t count because it doesn’t properly bring the dead back? And do the spirits Harry speaks to know that he may not actually die? If not, do they accept it, seeing Harry as fulfilling his destiny?

Chapter 35 – King’s Cross

  • Look at that – it’s not over!
  • The description of what’s left of Voldemort’s soul is both horrific and pitiable. He’s going to spend the whole afterlife like that, and it’s all his own fault.
  • I’d probably forgotten about the “gleam of triumph” in Goblet of Fire at that point when first reading the book, but even thinking about it beforehand, I wasn’t expecting it to pay off in this exact way – essentially turning Voldemort into a Horcrux for Harry.
  • This chapter feels more like an info dump than The Prince’s Tale, given the contrasting ways in which they are presented. Yet it still feels like a very powerful and significant scene, helped by the chosen setting of King’s Cross, the place where Harry steps from the Muggle world into the magical every year.
  • Dumbledore’s explanation of how Harry’s wand reacted to Voldemort is new and strange magic, but still not so outside the realms of possibility in this universe that I can’t buy it. Likewise for the Peverell brothers being able to create their unique Hallows – it was a very long time ago.
  • Since neither Harry nor Dumbledore ever possesses all three Hallows simultaneously, we never do find out what would really happen if they were all brought together. Perhaps nothing at all.
  • It’s good to hear the explanations of Dumbledore’s backstory from his own mouth: how he recognises his own brilliance made him flawed, and how he wasn’t totally onboard with Grindelwald – it was just a bad time in his life.
  • One of Dumbledore’s most insightful quotes is in this chapter: “It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.” And that is one of the biggest problems with the world today.
  • So the trio’s only explanation for Dumbledore’s cryptic clues – that Harry had to find out himself – turns out to be true after all. The gradual, hands-on approach has generally been Dumbledore’s style; Harry needed to know about the Hallows eventually, but he needed to gain that knowledge in a certain way.
  • I really like this mature message about accepting the inevitability of death, which encourages you not only to not fear death, but to make the most of the time you have.
  • It’s a sad feeling that Harry needs to go back to the physical world and the fight that he is by no means guaranteed to win. Oh, he technically has a choice, but you know he wouldn’t turn his back on the world while there was still something he could do.
  • “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Chapter 36 – The Flaw in the Plan

  • In his apparent final victory, Voldemort still feels the need to lie by claiming that Harry died while running away. Having destroyed Harry, he still wants to destroy the idea of him.
  • “…and you will join me in the new world that we shall build together.” Even though Voldemort has spent most of this book building a new world, he could never have complete control and complete his plans while Harry remained alive – hence why the prophecy says that “neither can live while the other survives”.
  • But even with Harry’s apparent death, it wasn’t really over. The good guys still try to resist; an army comes rushing in even before it is revealed that Harry lives; and as Lupin suggested back in Grimmauld Place, Voldemort openly revealing himself has provoked it.
  • I love that image of the house elves running to join the fight, screaming and brandishing kitchen utensils.
  • “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” Oh, yes. With the characters no longer afraid to openly swear, somebody had to call Bellatrix Lestrange a bitch.
  • It feels satisfying for Harry and Voldemort to be having a proper conversation in their final one-to-one, speaking as equals with Harry even disrespecting Voldemort by calling him Tom Riddle. For these last few minutes, Harry is in charge, with nobody helping him.
  • And I really like how the sun rises at the last moment of the conflict – and how Harry still sticks to his tried and tested Expelliarmus.
  • When I first read the book, I found the final death of Voldemort to be rather anti-climactic; I was expecting more. But it really doesn’t seem so bad now. There’s no ambiguity, no grand exit for the darkest wizard of all time – he’s just there, dead on the floor, which is really the point.
  • Then we get a nice scene of everyone jumbled together for the immediate aftermath; Harry imagining his future with Ginny, even though we don’t see him actually speaking to her; Peeves actually referring to Voldemort as ‘Voldy’ (can’t believe that was actually in the book); and acknowledgements that it’s not a totally happy ending with all the losses sustained. And when it’s all said and done, Harry just wants to go to bed and relax with a sandwich.
  • With the final lines of this chapter, my main thought was: I don’t want it to be over.

Epilogue – Nineteen Years Later

  • So, the Epilogue. A great many people don’t like it. Personally, I had hoped for a bit more information, but a bullet-point list of what every character got up to in the future would feel out of place, and what we have is certainly more satisfying than ending on that last chapter would have been. Really, I consider it a good snapshot to end on, and it does manage to reveal quite a lot while still in prose format. As for calling it ‘fanfiction-esque’ – e.g. Harry naming his children after deceased characters – well, given that Harry Potter has more stories on Fanfiction.Net than any other category, surely just about any possibility would have already been covered in fanfiction?

Final Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows feels different from the other books in so many ways. A series that could have just continued its pattern of having the heroes at Hogwarts every year, instead shakes things up and increases the danger by throwing them into the adult world and having them fend for themselves. The prose is definitely more adult and detailed, reflecting how Rowling has acknowledged the advancing age of her readers in her style of writing. The themes and the character development are as complex as they’ve ever been. And while even the first book knew how to tug at the heartstrings, this one strikes real emotional hammer blows.

It’s not flawless; as discussed, there are some plot contrivances throughout. But at its best, it presents some of the best writing in the entire Harry Potter series, while still retaining the magic, action, humour, characters and other qualities that made the previous books unique and engaging. If I was originally a little dissatisfied with Deathly Hallows, perhaps that was just because of built-up expectations. It ties up all the major loose ends; it gives the ending that I was hoping for, while still producing subversions and surprises; and it is a worthy conclusion to the journey. In my eyes, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is enjoyable but is still really an add-on – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the true ending.

I didn’t want to finish Deathly Hallows; sometimes during the re-read, I would put it down and be hesitant to get back into it. But that’s that for my 2016 Harry Potter re-read – well, not quite. I still need to review the film Deathly Hallows Part 2, do a post on my overall thoughts, and complete the podcasts I’ve been doing with Rachel, Jeremy and Abby. And by then, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be out!

It never really ends.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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