Title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Author: J. K. Rowling.
Genre: Literature, Bildungsroman, fiction, adventure, fantasy, war lit.
Publication Date: July 21st, 2007.
Summary: The Wizarding World has fallen into war and chaos. The Ministry and Hogwarts have been taken over by Death Eaters, and Harry and his friends become fugitives in a world filled with fear and murder. The Order of the Phonix has gone underground, into hiding. It is up to Harry to finish the job Dumbledore left for him - to find Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes and destroy them, and then destroy Voldemort himself. But the longer Harry looks, the more he realizes that there are many things he doesn't know, both about Dumbledore's past, and the quest that he left behind. As Harry, Ron, and Hermione desperately search everywhere Voldemort had ever gone, the final confrontation - The Battle of Hogwarts - draws closer. And before he faces him, Harry has a few secrets to uncover, starting with the legacy of Severus Snape, the old tale of three magical artifacts that can make one the master of death - the Deathly Hallows, and ending with a shocking revelation of the part he is truly expected to play in the war.
My rating: 9/10
♥ Albus Dumbledore was never proud or vain; he could find something to value in anyone, however apparently insignificant or wretched, and I believe that his early losses endowed him with great humanity and sympathy. I shall miss his friendship more than I can say, but my loss is as nothing compared to the wizarding world's. That he was the most inspiring and the best loved of all Hogwarts headmasters cannot be in question. He died as he lived: working always for the greater good and, to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy with dragon pox as he was on the day that I met him.
♥ "They think I'm a waste of space, actually, but I'm used to-"
"I don't think you're a waste of space."
If Harry had not seen Dudley's lips move, he might not have believed it. As it was, he stared at Dudley for several seconds before accepting that it must have been his cousins who had spoken; for one thing, Dudley had turned red. Harry was embarrassed and astonished himself.
"Well... er... thanks, Dudley."
Again, Dudley appeared to grapple with thoughts too unwieldy for expression before mumbling, "You saved my life."
"Not really," said Harry. "It was your soul the Dementor would have taken..."
He looked curiously at his cousin. They had had virtually no contact during this summer or last, as Harry had come back to Privet Drive so briefly and kept to his room so much. It now dawned on Harry, however, that the cup of cold tea on which he had trodden that morning might not have been a booby trap at all. Although rather touched, he was nevertheless quite relieved that Dudley appeared to have exhausted his ability to express his feelings.
...Dudley gently released himself from his mother's clutches and walked towards Harry, who had to repress an urge to threaten him with magic. Then Dudley held out his large, pink hand.
"Blimey, Dudley," said Harry, over Aunt Perunia's renewed sobs, "did the Dementors blow a different personality into you?"
"Dunno," muttered Dudley. "See you soon, Harry."
"Yeah..." said Harry, taking Dudley's hand and shaking it. "Maybe. Take care, Big D."
Dudley nearly smiled, then lumbered from the room.
♥ Harry led them all back into the kichen where, laughing and chattering, they settled on chairs, sat themselves upon Aunt Petunia's gleaming work-surfaces or leaned up against her spotless appliances: Ron, long and lanky; Hermione, her bushy hair tied back in a long plait; Fred and George, grinning identically; Bill, badly scarred and long-haired; Mr Weasley, kind-faced, balding, his spectacles a little awry; Mad-Eye, battle-worn, one-legged, his bright blue magical eye whizzing in its socket; Tonks, whose short hair was her favourite shade of bright pink; Lupin, greyer, more lined; Fleur, slender and beautiful, with her long, silvery blonde hair; Kingsley, bald, black, broad-shouldered; Hagrid, with his wild hair and beard, standing hunchbacked to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling, and Mundungus Fletcher, small, dirty and hangdog, with his droopy, basset hound's eyes and matted hair. Harry's heart seemed to expand and glow at the sight: he felt incredibly fond of all of them, even Mundungus, whom he had tried to strangle the last time they had met.
♥ "This is different, pretending to be me-"
"Well, none of us really fancy it, Harry," said Fred earnestly. "Imagine if something went wrong and we were stuck as specky, scrawny gits forever."
♥ ...when he straightened up again, there were six Harry Potters gasping and panting in front of him.
Fred and George turned to each other and said together, "Wow - we're identical!"
"I dunno, though, I think I'm still better-looking," said Fred, examining his reflection in the kettle.
"Bah," said Fleur, checking herself in the microwave door, "Bill, don't look at me - I'm 'ideous."
♥ He watched as his six doppelgängers rummaged in the sacks, pulling out sets of clothes, putting on glasses, stuffing their own things away. He felt like asking them to show a little more respect for his privacy as they all began stripping off with impunity, clearly much more at ease with displaying his body than they would have been with their own.
"I knew Ginny was lying about that tattoo," said Ron, looking down at his bare chest.
♥ There was silence in the room, broken only by gentle thuds, as Hermione continued to throw books on to one pile or the other. Ron sat watching her, and Harry looked from one to the other, unable to say anything. The measures they had taken to protect their families made him realise, more than anything else could have done, that they really were going to come with him and that they knew exactly how dangerous that would be. He wanted to tell them what that meant to him, but he simply could not find words important enough.
♥ "This isn't your average book," said Ron. "It's pure gold: Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches. Explains everything you need to know about girls. If only I'd had this last year, I'd have known exactly how to get rid of Lavender and I would've known how to get going with... well, Fred and George gave me a copy, and I've learned a lot. You'd be surprised, it's not all about wandwork, either."
♥ "That law was created to stop wizards passing on Dark artefacts," said Hermone, "and the Ministry us supposed to have powerful evidence that the deceased's possessions are illegal before seizing them! Are you telling me that you thought Dumbledore was trying to pass us something cursed?"
"Are you planning to follow a career in Magical Law, Miss Granger?" asked Srimgeour.
"No I'm not," retorted Hermione. "I'm hoping to do some good in the world!"
♥ "All the same, we should get to bed," whispered Hermione. "It wouldn't do to oversleep tomorrow."
"No," agreed Ron. "A brutal triple murder by the bridegroom's mother might put a bit of a damper on the wedding."
♥ As she drifted off after her father, Ron reappeared with an elderly witch clutching his arm. Her beaky nose, red-rimmed eyes, and feathery pink hat gave her the look of a bad-tempered flamingo.
"...and your hair's much too long, Ronald, for a moment I thought you were Ginerva."
♥ "Sirius was horrible to Kreacher, Harry, and its no good looking like that, you know it's true. Kreacher had been alone for a long time when Sirius came to live here, and he was probably starving for a bit of affection. I'm sure "Miss Cissy" and "Miss Bella" were perfectly lovely to Kreacher when he turned up, so he did them a favour and told them everything they wanted to know. I've said all along that wizards would pay for how they treat house-elves. Well, Voldemort did... and so did Sirius."
Harry had no retort. As he watched Kreacher sobbing on the floor, he remembered what Dumbledore had said to him, mere hours after Sirius's death: I do not think Sirius ever saw Kreacher as a being with feelings as acute as a human's...
♥ "Snape, Headmaster! Snape in Dumbledore's study - Merlin's pants!" she shrieked, making both Harry and Ron jump. She leapt up from the table and hurtled from the room, shouting as she went, "I'll be back in a minute!"
"'Merlin's pants'?" repeated Ron, looking amused. "She must be upset. ... Oh, here she is," Ron added, craning round in his seat to watch Hermione re-entering the kitchen. "And what in the name of Merlin's baggy Y-fronts was that about?"
♥ At the foot of the platform a bright silver, long-haired cat prowled up and down, up and down, and Harry realised that it was there to protect the prosecutors from the despair that emanated from the Dementors: that was for the accused to feel. not the accusers.
♥ "Blimey, I hope they escaped," said Ron, leaning back on his pillows. The tea seemed to be doing him good; a little of his colour had returned. "I didn't get the feeling Reg Cattermole was all that quick-witted, though, the way everyone was talking to me when I was him. God, I hope they made it... if they both end up in Azkaban because of us..."
Harry looked over at Hermione and the question he had been about to ask - about whether Mrs Cattermole's lack of wand would prevent her Apparating alongside her husband - died in his throat. Hermione was watching Ron fret over the fate of the Cattermoles, and there was such tenderness in her expression that Harry felt almost as if he had surprised her in the act of kissing him.
♥ The rain was pounding the tent, tears were pouring down Hermione's face, and the excitement of a few minutes before had vanished as if it had never been, a short-lived firework that had flared and died, leaving everything dark, wet and cold. The sword of Gryffindor was hidden they knew not where, and they were three teenagers in a tent whose only achievement was not, yet, to be dead.
Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Harry read the words slowly, as though he would have only one chance to take in their meaning, and he read the last of them aloud.
"'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' ..." A horrible thought came to him, an with it a kind of panic. "Isn't that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?"
"It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry," said Hermione, her voice gentle. "It means... you know... living beyond death. Living after death."
But they were not living, thought Harry: they were gone. The empty words could not disguise the fact that his parents' mouldering remains lay beneath snow and stone, indifferent, unknowing. And tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off, or pretending? He let them fall, his lips pressed hard together, looking down at the thick snow hiding from his eyes the place where the last of Lily and James lay, bones now, surely, or dust, not knowing or caring that their living son stood so near, his heart still beating, alive because of their sacrifice and close to wishing, at this moment, that he was sleeping under the snow with them.
♥ "Harry, I'm sorry, but I think the real reason you're so angry is that Dumbledore never told you any of this himself."
"Maybe I am!" Harry bellowed, and he flung his arms over his head, hardly knowing whether he was trying to hold in his anger or protect himself from the weight of his own disillusionment. "Look what he asked from me, Hermione! Risk your life, Harry! And again! And again! And don't expect me to explain everything, just trust me blindly, trust that I know what I'm doing, trust me even though I don't trust you! Never the whole truth! Never!"
His voice cracked with the strain, and they stood looking at each other in the whiteness and the emptiness, and Harry felt they were as insignificant as insets beneath that wide sky.
"He loved you," Hermione whispered. "I know he loved you."
Harry dropped his arms.
"I don't know who he loved, Hermione, but it was never me. This isn't love, the mess he's left me in. He shared a damn sight more of what he was really thinking with Gellert Grindelwald than he ever shared with me."
Harry picked up Hermione's wand, which he had dropped in the snow, and sat back down in the entrance of the tent.
"Thanks for the tea. I'll finish the watch. You get back in the warm."
She hesitated, but recognised the dismissal. She picked up the book and then walked back past him into the tent, but as she did so, she brushed the top of his head lightly with her hand. He closed his eyes at her touch, and hated himself for wishing that what she said was true: that Dumbledore had really cared.
♥ And then the source of the light stepped out from behind an oak. It was a silver-white doe, moon-bright and dazzling, picking her way over the ground, still silent, and leaving no hoof prints in the fine powdering of snow. She stepped towards him, her beautiful head with its wide, long-lashed eyes held high.
Harry stared at the creature, filled with wonder, not at her strangeness, but at her inexplicable familiarity. He felt that he had been waiting for her to come, but that he had forgotten, until this moment, that they had arranged to meet. His impulse to shout for Hermione, which had been so strong a moment ago, had gone. He knew, he would have staked his life on it, that she had come for him, and him alone.
♥ "Well, I've - you know - I've come back. If -" He cleared his throat. "You know. You still want me."
There was a pause, in which the subject of Ron's departure seemed to rise like a wall between them. Yet he was here. He had returned. He had just saved Harry's life.
♥ "Come here," he said, and he led the way, brushed snow from the rock's surface and held out his hand for the Horcrux. When Ron offered the sword, however, Harry shook her head.
"No, you shouldn't do it."
"Me?" said Ron, looking shocked. "Why?"
"Because you got the sword out of the pool. I think it's supposed to be you."
He was not being kind or generous. As certainly as he had known that the doe was benign, he knew that Ron had to be the one to wield the sword. Dumbledore had at least taught Harry something about certain kinds of magic, of the incalculable power of certain acts.
♥ "I'm sorry," he said in a thick voice. "I'm sorry I left. I know I was a - a -"
He looked around at the darkness, as if hoping a bad enough word would swoop down upon him and claim him.
"You've sort of made up for it tonight," said Harry. "Getting the sword. Finishing off the Horcruxes. Saving my life."
"That makes me sound a lot cooler than I was," Ron mumbled.
"Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was," said Harry. "I've been trying to tell you that for years."
♥ "He knew what he was doing when he gave me the Deluminator, didn't he? He - well," Ron's ears turned bright red and he became engrossed in a tuft of grass at his feet, which he prodded with his toe, "he must've known I'd run out on you."
"No," Harry corrected him. "He must've known you'd always want to come back."
♥ When Hermione had returned to her bunk, Harry lowered his voice.
"You only agreed to try and get back in her good books."
"All's fair in love and war," said Ron brightly, "and this is a bit of both."
♥ He turned away from the window and his gaze fell upon another peculiar object, standing upon the cluttered, curved sideboard: a stone bust of a beautiful but austere-looking headdress. Two objects that resembled golden ear-trumpets curved out from the sides. A tiny pair of glittering blue wings was stuck to a leather strap that ran over the top of her head, while one of the orange radishes had been stuck to a second strap around her forehead.
"Look at this," said Harry.
"Fetching," said Ron. "Surprised he didn't wear that to the wedding."
♥ "You will stay for dinner?" he called, as he vanished downstairs again. "Everybody always requests out recipe for Freshwater Plimpy soup."
"Probably to show the poisoning Department at St Mungo's," said Ron under his breath.
♥ Harry wished his scar would burn and show him Voldemort's thoughts, because for the first time ever, he and Voldemort were united in wanting the very same thing... Hermione would not like that idea, of course... but then, she did not believe... Xenophilius had been right, in a way... Limited. Narrow. Close-minded.
♥ "And what would you say, Royal, to those listeners who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be 'wizards first'?" asked Lee.
"I'd say that it's one short step from 'wizards first' to 'purebloods first', and then to 'Death Eaters'," replied Kingsley. "We're all human, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving."
♥ They were no match for her, even though there were four of them against one of her: she was a witch, as Harry knew, with prodigious skill and no conscience.
♥ Harry could barely breathe.
"You're going to kill me?" Harry choked, attempting to prise off the metal fingers. "After I saved your life? You owe me, Wormtail!"
The silver fingers slackened. Harry had not expected it: he wrenched himself free, astonished, keeping his hand over Wormtail's mouth. He saw the rat-like man's small, watery eyes widen with fear and surprise: he seemed just as shocked as Harry at what his hand had done, at the tiny, merciful impulse it had betrayed, and he continued to struggle more powerfully, as though to undo that moment of weakness.
...Wandless, helpless, Pettigrew's pupils dilated in terror. His eyes had slid from Harry's face to something else. His own silver finger were moving inexorably towards his own throat.
Without pausing to think, Harry tried to drag back the hand, but there was no stopping it. The silver tool that Voldemort had given his most cowardly servant had turned upon its Disarmed and useless owner; Pettigrew was reaping his reward for his hesitation, his moment of pity; he was being strangled before their eyes.
♥ The elf's eyes found him, and his lips trembled with the effort to form words.
And then with a little shudder the elf became quite still, and his eyes were noting more than great, glassy orbs sprinkled with light from the stars they could not see.
♥ "I want to do it properly," were the first words which Harry was fully conscious of speaking. "Not by magic. Have you got a spade?"
And shortly afterwards he had set to work, alone, digging the grave in the place that Bill had shown him at the end of the garden, between bushes. He dug with a kind of fury, relishing the manual work, glorying in the non-magic of it, for every drop of his sweat and every blister felt like a gift to the elf who had saved their lives.
His scar burned, but he was master of the pain; he felt it, yet was apart from it. He had learned control at last, learned to shut his mind to Voldemort, the very thing Dumbledore had wanted him to learn from Snape. Just as Voldemort had not been able to possess Harry while Harry was consumed with grief for Sirius, so his thoughts could not penetrate Harry now, while he mourned Dobby. Grief, it seemed, drove Voldemort out.. though Dumbledore, of course, would have said that it was love...
♥ Harry placed the elf into the grave, arranged his tiny limbs so that he might have been resting, then climbed out and gazed for the last time upon the little body. He forced himself not to break down as he remembered Dumbledore's funeral, and the rows and rows of golden chairs, and the Minister for Magic in the front row, the recitation of Dumbledore's achievements, the stateliness of the white marble tomb. He felt that Dobby deserved just as grand a funeral, and yet there the elf lay between bushes in a roughly dug hole.
♥ He looked out over the ocean and felt closer, this dawn, than ever before, closer to the heart of it all.
And still his scar prickled, and he knew that Voldemort was getting there too. Harry understood, and yet did not understand. His instinct was telling him one thing, his brain quite another. The Dumbledore in Harry's head smiled, surveying Harry over the tops of his fingers, pressed together as if in prayer.
You gave Ron the Deluminator. You understood him... you gave him a way back...
And you understood Wormtail too... you knew there was a bit of regret there, somewhere...
And if you knew them... what did you know about me, Dumbledore?
Am I meant to know, but not to seek? Did you know how hard I'd find that? Is that why you made it this difficult? So I'd have time to work that out?
♥ As he followed Bill back to the others, a wry thought came to him, born no doubt of the wine he had drunk. He seemed set on course to become just as reckless a godfather to Teddy Lupin as Sirius Black had been to him.
♥ Two goblins stood before the inner doors, which were made of silver and which carried the poem warning of dire retribution to potential thieves. Harry looked up at it, and all of a sudden a knife-sharp memory came to him: standing on this very spot on the day that he had turned eleven, the most wonderful birthday of his life, and Hagrid standing beside him saying, "Like I said, yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob it" Gringotts had seemed a place of wonder that day, the enchanted repository of a trove of gold he had never known he possessed, and never for an instant could he have dreamed that he would return to steal...
♥ "Because," said Harry, before Hermione could answer, "sometimes you've got to think about more than your own safety! Sometimes you've got to think about the greater good! This is war!"
"You're seventeen, boy!"
"I'm of age, and I'm going to keep fighting even if you've given up!"
"Who says I've given up?"
"'The Order of the Phoenix is finished,'" Harry repeated. "'You-Know-Who's won, it's over, and anyone's who's pretending different's kidding themselves.'"
"I don't say I like it, but it's the truth!"
"No, it isn't," said Harry. "Your brother knew how to finish You-Know-Who and he passed the knowledge on to me. I'm going to keep going until I succeed - or I die. Don't think I don't know how this might end. I've known it for years."
♥ She knocked once, and in the silence it sounded to Harry like a cannon blast. At once the beak of the eagle opened, but instead of a bird's call, a soft, musical voice said, "Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?"
"Hm... what do you think, Harry?" said Luna, looking thoughtful.
"What? Isn't there just a password?"
"Oh, no, you've got to answer a question," said Luna.
"What if you get it wrong?"
"Well, you have to wait for somebody who gets it right," said Luna. "That way you learn, you see?"
"Yeah... trouble is, we can't really afford to wait for anyone else, Luna."
"No, I see what you mean," said Luna seriously. "Well then, I think the answer is that a circle has no beginning."
"Well reasoned," said the voice, and the door swung open.
♥ "We can push it off on the kids," said Amycus, his pig-like face suddenly crafty. "Yeah, that's what we'll do. We'll say Alecto was ambushed by the kids, them kids up there," he looked up at the starry ceiling towards the dormitories, "and we'll say they forced her to press her Mark, and that's why he got a false alarm... he can punish them. Couple of kids more or less, what's the difference?"
"Only the difference between truth and lies, courage and cowardice," said Professor McGonagall, who had turned pale, "a difference, in short, which you and your sister seem unable to appreciate. But let me make one thing very clear. You are not going to pass off your many ineptitudes on the students of Hogwarts. I shall not permit it."
Amycus moved forwards until he was offensively close to Professor McGonagall, his face within inches of hers. She refused to back away, but looked down at him as if he were something disgusting she had found stuck to a lavatory seat.
"It's not a case of what you'll permit, Minerva McGonagall. Your time's over. It's us what's in charge here now, and you'll back me up or you'll pay the price."
And he spat in her face.
Harry pulled the Cloak off himself, raised his wand and said, "You shouldn't have done that."
As Amycus spun around, Harry shouted, "Crucio!"
The Death Eater was lifted off his feet. He writhed through the air like a drowning man, thrashing and howling in pain, and then, with a crunch and a shattering of glass, he smashed into the front of a bookcase and crumpled, insensible, to the floor.
"I see what Bellatrix meant," said Harry, the blood thundering through his brain, "you need to really mean it."
"Potter!" whispered Professor McGonagall, clutching at her heart. "Potter - you're here! What - ? How - ?" She struggled to pull herself together. "Potter, that was foolish!"
"He spat at you," said Harry.
♥ "I shall expect you and the Slytherins in the Great Hall in twenty minutes, also," said Professor McGonagall. "If you wish to leave with your students, we shall not stop you. But if any of you attempt to sabotage our resistance, or take up arms against us within the castle, then, Horace, we duel to kill."
"Minerva!" he said, aghast.
"The time has come for Slytherin House to decide upon its loyalties," interrupted Professor McGonagall. "Go and wake your students, Horace."
♥ "I was a fool!" Percy roared, so loudly that Lupin nearly dropped his photograph. "I was an idiot, I was a pompous prat, I was a - a - "
"Ministry-loving, family-disowning, power-hungry moron," said Fred.
"Well, you can't say it fairer than that," said Fred, holding out his hand to Percy.
Mrs Weasley burst into tears. She ran forwards, pushed Fred aside and pulled Percy into a strangling hug, while he patted her on the back, his eyes on his father.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Percy said.
Mr Weasley blinked rapidly, then he, too, hurried to hug his son.
♥ "Hang on a moment!" said Ron sharply. "We've forgotten someone!"
"Who?" asked Hermione.
"The house-elves, they'll all be down in the kitchen, won't they?"
"You mean we ought to get them fighting?" asked Harry.
"No," said Ron seriously, "I mean we should tell them to get out. We don't want any more Dobbys, do we? We can't order them to die for us - "
There was a clatter as the Basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermione's arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broomstick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.
"Is this the moment?" Harry asked weakly, and when nothing happened except that Ron and Hermione gripped each other still more firmly and swayed on the spot, he raised his voice. "OI! There's a war going on here!"
Ron and Hermione broke apart, their arms still around each other.
"I know, mate," said Ron, who looked as though he had recently been hit on the back of the head with a Bludger, "so it's now or never, isn't it?"
♥ And Percy was shaking his brother, and Ron was kneeling beside them, and Fred's eyes stared without seeing, the ghost of his last laugh still etched upon his face.
♥ "That's right," said Luna encouragingly, as if they were back in the Room of Requirement and this was simply spell practice for the DA. "That's right, Harry... come on, think of something happy..."
"Something happy?" he said, his voice cracked.
"We're all still here," she whispered, "we're still fighting. Come on, now..."
♥ When the flask was full to the brim, and Snape looking as though there was no blood left in him, his grip on Harry's robes slackened.
"Look... at... me..." he whispered.
The green eyes found the black, but after a second something in the depths of the dark pair seemed to vanish, leaving them fixed, blank and empty. The hand holding Harry thudded to the floor, and Snape moved no more.
♥ Snape said nothing, but merely looked up at Dumbledore.
"Hide them all, then," he croaked. "Keep her - them - safe. Please."
"And what will you give me in return, Severus?"
"In - in return?" Snape gaped at Dumbledore, and Harry expected him to protest, but after a long moment he said, "Anything."
♥ "If you loved Lily Evans, if you truly loved her, then your way forward is clear."
Snape seemed to peer through a haze of pain, and Dumbledore's words appeared to take a long time to reach him.
"What - what do you mean?"
"You know how and why she died. Make sure it was not in vain. Help me protect Lily's son."
"He does not need protection. The Dark Lord is gone - "
" - the Dark Lord will return, and Harry Potter will be in terrible danger when he does."
There was a long pause, and slowly Snape regained control of himself, mastered his own breathing. At last he said, "Very well. Very well. But never - never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear... especially Potter's son... I want your word!"
"My word, Severus, that I shall never reveal the best of you?" Dumbledore sighed, looking down into Snape's ferocious, anguished face. "If you insist..."
♥ Snape looked sideways at Dumbledore's crooked-nosed profile. "Karkaroff intends to flee if the Mark burns."
"Does he?" said Dumbledore softly, as Fleur Delacour and Roger Davies came giggling in from the grounds. "And are you tempted to join him?"
"No," said Snape, his black eyes on Fleur and Roger's retreating figures. "I am not such a coward."
"No," agreed Dumbledore. "You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff. You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon..."
♥ Dumbledore opened his eyes. Snape looked horrified.
"You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?"
"Don't be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?"
"Lately, only those whom I could not save," said Snape. He stood up. "You have used me."
"I have spied for you, and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to be to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter - "
"But this is touching, Severus," said Dumbledore seriously. "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"
"For him?" shouted Snape. "Expecto patronum!"
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as the silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
"After all this time?"
"Always," said Snape.
♥ Ripples of cold undulated over Harry's skin. He wanted to shout out to the night, he wanted Ginny to know that he was there, he wanted her to know where he was going. He wanted to be stopped, to be dragged back, to be sent back home...
But he was home. Hogwarts was the first and best home he had known. He and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys, had all found home here...
♥ "But..." Harry raised his hand instinctively towards the lighting scar. It did not seem to be there. "But I should have died - I didn't defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!"
"And that," said Dumbledore, "will, I think, have made all the difference."
♥ "That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped."
♥ "Without meaning to, as you know, Lord Voldemort doubled the bond between you when he returned to a human form. A part of his soul was still attached to yours, and, thinking to strengthen himself, he took a part of your mother's sacrifice into himself. If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your blood... but then, if he had been able to understand, he could not be Lord Voldemort, and might never have murdered at all."
♥ "I, meanwhile, was offered the post of Minister for Magic, not once, but several times. Naturally, I refused. I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power."
"But you'd have been better, much better, than Fudge or Scrimgeour!" burst out Harry.
"Would I?" asked Dumbledore heavily. "I am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well."
♥ "Grindelwald tried to stop Voldemort going after the wand. He lied, you know, pretended he had never had it."
Dumbledore nodded, looking down at his lap, tears still glittering on the crooked nose.
"They say he showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that it is true. I would like to think he did feel the horror and shame of what he had done. Perhaps that lie to Voldemort was his attempt to make amends... to prevent Voldemort from taking the Hallow..."
"...or maybe from breaking into your tomb?" suggested Harry, and Dumbledore dabbed his eyes.
♥ "Maybe a man in a million could unite the Hallows, Harry. I was fit only to possess the meanest of them, the least extraordinary. I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it. I was permitted to tame and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it.
"But the Cloak, I took out of vain curiosity, and so it could never have worked for me as it works for you, its true owner. The stone I would have used in an attempt to drag back those who are at peace, rather than to enable my self-sacrifice, as you did. You are the worthy possessor of the Hallows. ... You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying."
♥ "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love."
♥ "Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry's ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
"Of course it is happening inside you head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not for real?"
♥ Hands, softer than he had been expecting, touched Harry's face, puled back an eyelid, crept beneath his shirt, down to his chest and felt his heart. He could hear the woman's fast breathing, her long hair tickled his face. He knew that she could feel the steady pounding of life against his ribs.
"Is Draco alive? Is he in the castle?"
The whisper was barely audible, her lips were an inch from his ear, her head bent so low that her long hair shielded his face from the onlookers.
"Yes," he breathed back.
He felt the hand on his chest contract; her nails pierced him. Then it was withdrawn. She had sat up.
"He is dead!" Narcissa Malfoy called to the watchers.
♥ Bellatrix was still fighting too, fifty yards away from Voldemort, and like her master she duelled three at once: Hermione, Ginny and Luna, all battling their hardest, but Bellatrix was equal to them, and Harry's attention was diverted as a Killing Curse shot so close to Ginny that she missed death by an inch -
He changed course, running at Bellatrix rather than Voldemort, but before he had gone a few steps he was knocked sideways.
"NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!"
Mrs Weasley threw off her cloak as she ran, freeing her arms. Bellatrix spun on the spot, roaring with laughter at the sight of her new challenger.
"OUT OF MY WAY!" shouted Mrs Weasley to the three girls, and with a swipe of her wand she began to duel. Harry watched with terror and elation as Molly Weasley's wand slashed and twirled, and Bellatrix Lestrange's smile faltered, and became a snarl. Jets of light flew from both wands, the floor around the witches' feet became hot and cracked; both women were fighting to kill.
..."What will happen to your children when I've killed you?" taunted Bellatrix, as mad as her master, capering as Molly's curses danced around her. "When Mummy's gone the same way as Freddie?"
"You - will - never - touch - our - children - again!" screamed Mrs Weasley.
Bellatrix laughed, the same exhilarated laugh her cousin Sirius had given as he toppled backwards through the veil, and suddenly Harry knew what was going to happen before it did.
Molly's curse soared beneath Bellatrix's outstretched arm and his her squarely in the chest, directly over her heart.
Bellatrix's gloating smile froze, her eyes seemed to bulge: for the tiniest space of time she knew what had happened, and then she toppled, and the watching crowd roared, and Voldemort screamed.
♥ "Avada Kedavra!"
The bang was like a cannon-blast and the golden flames that erupted between them, at the dead centre of the circle they had been treading, marked the point where the spells collided. Harry saw Voldemort's green jet meet his own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling like the head of Nagini, spinning through the air towards the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last. And Harry, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in his free hand as Voldemort fell backwards, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upwards. Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snake-like face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy's shell.
♥ Back on the platform, they found Lily and Hugo, Rose's younger brother, having an animated discussion about which house they would be sorted into when they finally went to Hogwarts.
"If you're not in Gryffindor, we'll disinherit you," said Ron, "but no pressure."
♥ "What if I'm in Slytherin?"
The whisper was for his father alone, and Harry knew that only the moment of departure could have forced Albus to reveal how great and sincere that fear was.
Harry crouched down so that Albus's face was slightly above his own. Alone of Harry's three children, Albus had inherited Lily's eyes.
"Albus Severus," Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was not on the train, "you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."
"But just say - "
" - then Slytherin house will have gained an excellent pupil, won't it? It doesn't matter to us, Al. But if it matters to you, you'll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account."
"It did for me," said Harry.
♥ The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.