I first read Harry Potter in August or maybe late July of 1999. I joined the Harry Potter fandom by signing up for a now-defunct mailing list on e-groups called HarryPotterAnonymous (I think) in May of 2000, a month before Goblet of Fire came out. I read my first fanfic, Paradigm of Uncertainty, on the same day, and have considered myself a canon Harry/Hermione shipper ever since, even though I didn’t really enjoy fanfic.
I discovered H/D slash in November 2001, and it was like the universe colliding and fitting into place just for me.
As I sit here thinking about the last eight years of my life, and how much of it, perhaps too much of it, has been devoted to the HP fandom, it really does feel like the end of an era. But that’s the emotion talking, the overwhelming wonder that this book left me with from start to finish – that it was actually happening, that JKR was actually giving us the 7th book she’d promised in so many ways. This review will probably be punctuated by a lot of bawling and incoherence, but I want to get the important part out of the way first.
Harry Potter will never be over. Never.
When you love something as much as all of us together have collectively loved this series, no ending can ever be completely, perfectly satisfactory, because it is still, by necessity, an ending, and thus inherently disappointing. But paradoxically, our sorrow at the series ending, here in fandom, means that we will never stop reviving the story, reliving and accessing and interpreting it. The beautiful, remarkable thing about great literature and the power of the fandom collective is that the two combined produce immortality, one by being timeless and the other by being inherently cyclical. There will always be new fans. There will always be new fanfic. There will always be people reading HP for the first time, coming here and discovering millions of fics and millions of fans, either past or present. There will always be a boundless source of inspiration and love here in this fandom for anyone who cares to tap into it.
HP will never be finished. Book 7 will never be the final word. Not while we still love it. And we do.
I’m not really good listing specifics. I always like to talk in sweeping generalities, and Book 7 is no exception. I loved, essentially, everything about this book. I loved the backstories, I loved the character dynamics, I loved the Dursleys oh my god :( (, I loved Petunia being jealous of Lily and Snape and Lily being best friends from childhood, I loved the fucking terrifying Nagini possession, I loved the Polyjuice scene and the 7 Harrys and George and Fred being all, “we’re identical!” (FRED :( (((((((((((( ).
I loved Kreacher’s Tale SO MUCH, I mean, it made me so incredibly happy that I cried for hours and hours, and then Dobby, oh my god. As I read the bootlegged version of this book last week, I went through all of Tuesday night and Wednesday just weeping on and off the entire day for Dobby and his death. I was so completely unprepared and heartbroken by that, and Harry’s grief as he buried him was – and is – my grief as well.
Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf – I think this is the saddest line in the entire series.
But Kreacher’s transformation, the fluffy white towel and his “Just once more, Master Harry, for luck?” was the most hilariously wonderful and tear-jerking counterbalance to it, and I am going on and on about house elves because I think they meet in the middle of what was beautiful about this book for me: that I cared more about things in this final chapter that I didn’t realize I had grown to love so much, like house elves and sisterhood and Harry’s need to believe in Dumbledore; and that the most shocking and unforeseen turn of events somehow melded with the events I had foreseen all along, but never like this, never like this – until I was gasping and my jaw was hanging open literally every third page or so, throughout this book.
I got so annoyed during the week when everyone was complaining about the epilogue or about spoilers. Because judging this book by its spoilers is such a craptastic way to deal with this book. I was so caught up in the plot, from start to finish. The moments of jigsaw-like clues fitting into place, of things like THE PUTTER-OUTER!!! playing significant roles in book 7 when they’d been inserted in BOOK ONE ahhhhhh and the countless little details like Phineas’s portrait and Abe’s goats and Spattergroit! and I ALWAYS KNEW THAT STATUE IN THE VANISHING ROOM WOULD BE IMPORTANT AND. Just EVERYTHING ABOUT IT WAS SO FABULOUS. The WAND THEORY WHICH I HAVE PREVIOUSLY DISCUSSED ON MY SPOILER FILTER, AND HOLY SHIT WHO SAW THAT COMING ABOUT DRACO BEING THE ELDER WAND MASTER? SURE AS FUCK NOT ME. THE BIT WITH NAGINI AS FUCKING BATHILDA BAGSHOT, AND THE ELPHIAS/ALBUS/GRINDELWALD OT3 OF LOVE AND ANGST, AND RON FUCKING LEAVING BECAUSE CARRYING AROUND tHE oNE rING WAS A BIT TOO HEADY, AND NEVILLE KILLING NAGINI AND MOLLY CALLING BELLATRIX A BITCH AND SYBILL DEFEATING EVIL WITH TENNIS! AND BUSTING INTO GRINGOTTS WITH A GOBLIN AND BUSTING OUT WITH A FUCKING DRAGON HOLY SHIT THIS BOOK IS SO BADASS.
I loved the plot SO MUCH. It was so fabulously paced and the twists were SO TWISTY and there were so many HOLY SHIT MOMENTS and even more than the HOLY SHIT PLOT moments were the HOLY SHIT CHARACTER o.O moments. Remus’s passivity and fear of exposure coming to a head – I have many issues with the way this was handled, but that it was handled, that it was dealt with and not just brushed aside, was important, I think. Narcissa bending low to ask Harry if Draco was okay – that just twisted my gut on such a primal level, and Draco clinging to Harry with all his might and then rolling weakly over to ask if Crabbe, who’d nearly just gotten them all killed, was still alive. Dumbledore being seduced by power, needing something so horrifying to shake him out of it – it’s not emphasized, but that says so much about why he kept Harry away all those years, why he minimized Harry’s contact with his own power as soon as he could.
And all the moments in this book that people have justly been skeptical or confused about – Harry yelling at Remus about Tonks, Snape’s apparently lackluster and wholly offstage efforts at continuing to fight against Voldemort, Draco’s sheer cowardice along with his parents – all of these moments were revealing on purpose. They weren’t supposed to be about redemption.
Remember: JKR warned us that it was a bloodbath. She didn’t mean only in terms of death. There are so many whose actions and choices during the war have stained them permanently: whether it be Draco’s sticking around for the battle, not to fight against the man who threatened his family but to attempt to capture Harry;
whether it be Harry casting Crucio, not because his godfather just died, but because someone insulted his favorite teacher (who apparently saw nothing wrong with his choice of punishment);
whether it be Remus’s choice to run away from his family, and Percy’s choice to run away from his – and both of their choices to return to them – just in time to fight, and yet too late (FRED :( ((((((((((((((( );
whether it be Slughorn’s choice to leave the Great Hall with all of Slytherin;
whether it be Snape’s choice to allow students to suffer Cruciatus in detentions;
whether it be Ginny’s choice to make Harry’s return to Hogwarts be about staking a claim to his affections over Cho;
whether it be Harry’s choice to deceive Griphook and Hermione’s choice, Ron’s choice, to go along with it;
whether it be the DA’s choice to decorate the Room of Requirement with every house flag except Slytherin’s.
None of these are pretty. None of these are settling and comforting and reassuring. Very, very few people get off lightly in this book. The ones who do, the ones who are redeemed, are no less apt to suffer: Pettigrew, alias Bruce Campbell, strangled by his own hand. Grindelwald, able to regret his past, able to lie about Voldemort, yet still dying in vain. Dumbledore, never able to regain his own brother’s trust and confidence. Lupin and Percy, able to make the choices to return at last to their families, but not able to stopper death. Regalus Black, redeemed at the cost of his own death.
Then there are the ambiguities – the many, many moments of things not being as they seem, the double-takes: Lily caustically commenting about the ugly Christmas gift Petunia sends to her after her marriage to James, which shows us that no matter what they may have fought about, Petunia still kept in contact with Lily, even if Lily scorned the contact. James saying “I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?” to Sirius, echoing Draco in the robe shop word for word. The similarities across generations that aren’t what you’d expect – so startling and satisfying in their turn. So many small things throughout these books that prove that JKR has always listened to her fans, has always known where we were uncertain.
And finally, she gives us the resolution to all our uncertainties, with a giant lack thereof.
Unlike many Draco champions, I have never wanted to see Draco redeemed. What I wanted most of all was to see him choose, and choose honestly. What we got in Book 6 was that choice; what we got from Book 7 was seeing exactly where that choice led. Specifically where it led was to Harry’s possession of the Elder Wand.
One can make the argument that that choice is Draco’s redemption. Just as Gollum’s greed and cowardice and obsession with the Ring in the Return of the King led him to seize and destroy it once and for all after all hope was lost, Draco’s seizing of Dumbledore’s wand was the catalyst for Harry’s defeat of Voldemort in the final hour.
One can make the equally strong argument that Draco’s final scene, huddling alone with his parents, “unsure whether or not they were supposed to be there.” That is such a desolate image.
The image that I’ve always envisioned for Slytherins, post-Book 7, was that of a false acceptance – much like the ending of The Merchant of Venice, where Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity, but everybody knows it’s a token conversion, that underneath his robes he’s still just a dirty, socially maligned Jew. Shylock can’t ever be incorporated into the pure blissful society of Venice; his daughter Jessica can’t either, though she marry a Christian and don new robes. If Snape is Harry Potter’s Shylock, Draco is its Jessica: he is allowed to sit at the table, allowed to issue a polite nod to the respectables, but everyone knows that he’s still just a Slytherin.
While I’m talking about Shakespeare, I want to say that Harry, just as the NY Times Review mentioned (no love to them), was so beautifully King Henry V here – redeeming time when men least thought he would in Book 5, his growth throughout book 6 and ability to trust his instincts was so powerful in this book. His choice to use Occlumency to his advantage, to get to Voldemort, had such a raw power behind it, the choice of a king who has accepted his sword and is finally choosing to wield it. His voice, his authority, his growing self-reliance and his belief in belief itself were (if arguably over-the-top in their Christian symbolism) beautiful and compelling to watch.
The symbolism of kissing the Snitch, the first thing that he had ever truly gained for himself on his own in the wizarding world, and accepting his fate, his choice to die – nearly took my breath away, even though you knew it was coming. JKR’s power in this book was the ability to floor you with the emotional impact of things that were incredibly simple, which you knew all along would be incredibly simple – and yet were horribly, painfully overpowering and complex all at once.
“Look at me.”
I wanted more Snape in this book. I wanted so, so much more Snape in this book; and while I know that book 6 was JKR’s gift to us, to Slytherin fans of Snape and Draco because she knew that she would end it this way, that Draco would be largely offscreen and especially that Snape would not be present in this book except as a shadow, it doesn’t make the ache to see more of him, to know more of him, hurt any less.
Severus Snape was the most fascinating, the most larger-than-life fictional character that has been created in all of literature throughout the past 30 years at least. He was a phenomenon even above the HP phenomenon itself; a character that both polarized and united everyone who read him.
“Look at me.”
We H/D shippers have written hundreds of thoughts over the years, probably half of them alone by me and Erica and Kara and Reena and Sister M all by ourselves, about how Harry just needs to see Draco, not just as a Malfoy or as a Slytherin, but as Draco, the boy he finally begins to pity and understand at the end of Book 6 (a shadow of the level of understanding he ultimately develops of Tom Riddle himself). It’s not just a fanciful shipper plea; it is a recognition of the great divide between Slytherin and the other 4 houses, most noticeably portrayed in Harry’s dynamics with Snape and Draco.
Snape’s last line is not just about Lily’s eyes. It is symbolic on all levels: Look at me. See me as I truly am. Snape, the character who divided readers into bitter camps for ten years, is more than a Slytherin, a Death Eater, a spy, a “deeply troubled human being.” He is more than his love for Lily and his hatred for Harry; and even as he is dying, his last line echoes the mystery and the complexity of everything that he is. It isn’t an apology, a protestation of innocence, a plea, a justification, or a defense. It is ever Snape – a command and a demand, and a bitter ultimatum.
It is a perfect last line. It is everything I did not know that I wanted Snape’s death to be – everything I feared it would be, ignominious and ignoble, washed away by three words. Look at me. See me as I am. Not good, nor bad, nor wise, nor pure – but human, all too human.
It is the only lack of resolution that I could ever have been satisfied with. It is the only denouement suitable for Snape.
Not only that, but Snape’s ambiguous resolution throws the horrible and confusing, contradictory and disturbing choices made by everyone else throughout this book into sharp relief: they are choices. not moral valedictions; and the best we can say about everyone and anyone in this book is that they all are human, all too human. Snape, Dumbledore, Harry, Tom – each the most human of all.
The Damnation of Slytherin. (And Ginny.)
There were two aspects of this book that I seriously did not like, and by “did not like,” I mean “found extremely troubling.” They should all be obvious to anybody who knows me, and since I assume that’s most of you reading this I’ll just come right out and say that they are 1) the treatment of Slytherin and the double moral standards applied to Gryffindor/Slytherin, and 2) Ginny. See? Predictable.
After Book 5 I made a post called “The Damnation of Slytherin, and the right of fans to be upset.” I expended all my outrage quite eloquently in that post. After book 6 I almost edited it and scratched the whole thing out with a “Sorry, Jo. Will never doubt you again.” Except apparently Book 6 was window dressing, after all, because, well.
Nothing changed, did it?
The Sorting Hat song was continually ignored.
The Room of Requirement happily let the DA ostracize Slytherin.
Slytherin continued to possess not one single house member Harry’s age who was willing to fight against Voldemort.
Slughorn’s loyalty was shown to be malleable.
Snape’s loyalty was shown to be bought at the price of selfish love for Lily and manipulated by Dumbledore so that ultimately we were never sure whether he was fighting for good for good’s sake or out of bitter and purely selfish regret.
Phineas, THE ONE CLEARLY GOOD GUY, was quick to say immediately in the ensuing celebrations post-Defeat, “in his high, reedy voice, ‘And let it be noted that Slytherin House played its part! Let our contribution not be forgotten!’ “ <—- in a context which seems purely self-aggrandizing and opportunistic rather than genuinely good, a note which totally undermines all the services he has rendered the Trio and Dumbledore throughout the last two books.
There was one thing above all these other incidents that really, truly stung me, shocked and dismayed me. Because by this point I really have been well-inured to the alienation of Slytherin, but even up through countless examples of Slytherin alienation by the other 3 houses, I really, genuinely thought that JKR was going to stand all of that on its ear at the last minute.
And then. And then.
In the Snape pensieve scenes, Dumbledore tells Snape:
“You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff. You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon…”
And that’s it, isn’t it? I was so surprised and shocked by this that I nearly put the book down. Because it’s not enough for Dumbledore to acknowledge Snape’s bravery, it’s not enough to acknowledge his trust; it’s too much to ask that Snape, as a Slytherin, is good enough. “We Sort too soon” is the crux of everything that has plagued this series at its core for the last decade: because how can you tell people that it is our choices, not our abilities, that determine who we truly are, when the natural ability to be sorted into Slytherin automatically lowers you in the estimation of 75% of the wizarding world? Hermione fights for halfblood rights, elf rights, goblin rights, but never once stops to question whether the Fourth House of Hogwarts should be permitted into the DA. Slytherin, produce bravery? What an anomaly. We Sort too soon.
Because clearly Sorting is more of an edge up, in the quest to survive and succeed in JKR’s world, than choice. If I’d been in Dumbledore’s Hogwarts as a Slytherin, I would have walked out too – because Dumbledore, because Hogwarts itself, had left me no real choice. Stay and be used by people who are going to alienate me as soon as the fighting stops? Don’t think so.
I’ve always read the books this way, as I have said so many times, for so many years. But I always thought that reading would be proven wrong, would be undermined by something. It wasn’t. Instead, the reverse happened: the Sorting Hat song was not only ignored but totally thrown out in favor of Dumbledore suggesting that Snape was really a Gryffindor at heart – by the Sorting Hat triumphantly siding with Gryffindor in the final Battle by konking Neville on the head with Godric’s sword.
(I bet the bloody Hat’s never konked anyone on the head with, say, Salazar’s original edition of How to Hex Your Way Into Power (Without Really Trying).)
What makes Severus’s bravery worthy of Gryffindor? It can’t be bravery for its own sake, can it? Surely not, because Lupin, even after being labeled a coward, doesn’t get the opposite treatment. The most he gets is a scathing comparison to ZACH SMITH, hahaha. A Slytherin being brave gets you bumped into Gryffindor status; a Gryffindor being cowardly just gets you demoted to HUFFLEPUFF. Slytherins can’t be good without being opportunistic – they aren’t even brave in this universe for purely idealistic reasons, but for selfish ones. Whereas Gryffindors are allowed to do all, even the unspeakable, in the name of righteous causes. Someone hit your teacher? Cruciate them! (Garland, I did that just for you.) Someone annoying you by existing? Lead them into a tunnel and feed them to a werewolf! It’s okay because you’re the good guy, and they’re the bad guy, and it will all work out right in the end! No worries, pal. You don’t even have to be particularly remorseful because they’re Slytherin, which means you know they were awful anyway!
I don’t think I can really articulate the seriousness of Harry’s Crucio, of his casting it with impunity, and for a relatively minor reason. You can argue that just as Frodo remains forever tainted, his soul tarnished by the weight of the Ring, Harry’s soul has also been tarnished through his connection with Voldemort, to the point where he can cast it with just a certain amount of anger.
But you will NEVER EVER get me to be anything but shocked and appalled that McGonagall at least didn’t reprimand him for it, or register anything but satisfaction that it was her student casting that spell, especially when there were so many other spells available in that particular context. It makes no sense, it’s disturbing, and it gives the impression that the Cruciatus curse isn’t really all that painful, maybe – DEs dishing them out right and left, maybe it’s just like getting punched in the face. :-J I mean, Neville’s parents went mad from it but he doesn’t seem to care much, right? Everybody else is throwing it around, why can’t Harry!
I remain seriously disturbed.
And if Harry telling, ahem, Albus Severus, ahem, that it would be okay to be sorted in Slytherin was supposed to be some kind of grand gesture to make up for all this, IT WASN’T.
Because if you really want to, little Al, YOU CAN ALWAYS CHOOSE NOT TO BE PUT IN THE NASTY MEAN HOUSE THAT NO ONE LIKES.
ARGH. JO, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING.
Argh, nevermind, I know what she was thinking. She was blindsided at that point by her own happy fantasy of Harry’s Gryffindor House of Dreams. Which brings me to Ginny.
After Book 6 a few people got mad at me for talking about how much I hate Ginny. Well, I’m sorry. I’ve made my peace with it. I don’t hate Ginny because she’s Draco lite and it annoys me; I don’t hate Ginny because I’m sexist against women, lol; I don’t hate Ginny because I hate any ship that contradicts H/D (Harry could fall in love with Luna and I’d send up the loudest cheer this side of the Atlantic).
No, no, I’ve come to terms with it. I hate Ginny because she is a completely and utterly selfish, vapid, possessive, self-centered and self-seeking, emotionally manipulative and obsessive bitch.
(ETA, 2012: okay, years later, i still agree with every bit of this review except this part. I've been too hard on Ginny for years, and I still feel that her characterization was troubling throughout the series, especially in the last book, but that is not her fault as a female character, and I've come to the point where I would never take that frustration out on the character, rather than the social contexts she's written in. I will never love Ginny, but I don't hate her, and I cringe whenever I hear my past self writing about her and dropping insults right and left. Not cool. Not cool at all. Right, carry on.)
In every scene Ginny Weasley was in during this book, she was attempting to strengthen and rekindle Harry’s emotional ties to her, confusing him and troubling him, even though she knew that he was attempting to focus on his mission and that by distancing himself from her he was attempting to protect not just her but her entire family. None of this mattered to her. What mattered to her was stringing him along and roping him back in. What mattered to her was not “we need to fight Voldemort and there’s very little time left and every minute counts” – what mattered to her was “no matter what, don’t let Harry be alone with that chick he kissed once two years ago, even though there’s no time to waste and even though he’s not my boyfriend any longer“.
Ginny is not a nice person. She’s catty and jealous and she’s never once shown real compassion or even a real understanding of the journey Harry has been on. If she ever had, then she would never, ever have manipulated him the way she did at Christmas, and she would not have made Harry’s return to Hogwarts and his reunion about his friends be all about her. She’s not nice and she’s not good for Harry; and just as Ron/Hermione is sort of always there but never ever explained, Harry/Ginny is also presented but never explained, except it’s so much worse as a dynamic because of Ginny’s moral failings as a character. She persists in seeing only what she wants to see in Harry, in trying to make him only what she wants to make him. Whereas Luna can recognize Harry at a glance even when he’s Polyjuiced (Harry/Luna 4ever omg!!!), Ginny never truly sees the Harry in front of her – just the Harry she wants to fall in love with.
Ginny is perfect for the Harry who cruciates without thought, not the Harry who needs to survive and rebiuld the wizarding world and bring the 4 houses together and teach tolerance (not that there was much room for those last bits in the new world order, from what we see). (And yes, I know that Draco, the way he is shown in his final moments in the castle, is even more ill-suited for him than Ginny – I’m not in shipper mode here.) But I would have liked to have seen Harry end up alone, or with someone who at least can bring out the best parts in him – his aptitude for tolerance and open-mindedness (Luna!!!! or Hermione!!!!) rather than the person who can help teach his children how to perfect their bat bogey hexes on passing Slytherins.
All these things said – I loved the book so much, as I have said over and over again. I just keep thinking of all the absolutely wonderful moments – the Polyjuice scene, which JKR was having SO MUCH fun with, it was so delightfully obvious; Ron being all “THE FIVE EXCEPTIONS TO GAMP’S LAW” ahahaha because you KNOW he just sat in the tent every day they were camping out in the woods being all “BLOODY GAMP AND HIS BLOODY EXCEPTIONS, CAN’T EVEN CONJURE UP ANY TOP RAMEN”. Percy’s reunion, ahhhhhh, Dumbledore and Harry beyond the veil and Harry not needing his glasses!!!!!! And “See you around, Big D.” !!!!! OH MAN AND LUNA LUNA LUNA. I was so happy we got to meet Luna’s father finally, even if he was all traitory, and I burst into tears at Luna’s fanart of her friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think Luna somewhere became my favorite female student character. She’s not ambitious or nerdy or mean, and all she is is herself, but it’s everything she and the people around her need, and it’s just so wonderful.
I loved the fairytale of the Deathly Hallows. I loved the Peverells!!!!! I loved that we finally got to see Godric’s Hollow (even if I was completely flummoxed by Harry’s total lack of interest in his grandparents, WTF HARRY), and I loved that his invisibility cloak turned out to be his ONE SECRET WEAPON. I hope the wand/ring/cloak symbol becomes some sort of cult icon. Tattoos and bathroom graffiti for all time. *____* (ETA: 2012, OMG PROPHETIC WORDS <3)
oh man and RITA SKEETER. LOVE LOVE LOVE that she returned, and i loved everyone returning to fight for harry, I loved the room just filling up with people, Angelina and Oliver and the Patils and Seamus and Dean, oh, Dean, and LEE THOMAS AND THE MOBILIZED RADIO BROADCAST, OH MY GOD. Kingsley Shacklebolt, I will vote for you as Minister of Magic FOR ALL TIME. :((((((((((( The whole Battle of Hogwarts was just so thrilling, god, and I was totally shocked at Harry not even really registering that all this time he’d been wrong about Snape (though I know he was all o.O at the realization that he had to go DIE NOW), until he just whipped that out to needle Voldemort with it, with the knowledge that his favorite spy had never been on his side – a purely Slytherin, purely triumphant stroke that I feel certain Snape would have approved.
HAVE I MENTIONED HOW FUCKSHITINSANE THE NAGINI BAGSHOT SCENE WAS? HOLY CHRIST. THE RACING ON BROOMSTICKS CRAZY WAND FIGHT SCENE, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL WAS HAPPENING, BUT OH MAN RIP HEDWIG. :( ( RIP MOODY. and oh, Moony. I was utterly shocked, completely flabberghasted, that Remus and Tonks both died, presumably together and presumably offstage. I feel like Fred’s death should have gutted me, but really Dobby’s death already had, oh, man – as well as being spoiled for Colin’s death early on. Oh, man, Colin. I can’t believe you died. :((((( You were such a good egg, and I will miss you, and I will think of you in every post-canon story where someone shows up with a camera and blackmail pictures of Harry and Draco in flagrante.
I do think that JKR really did do the books a disservice by the miracle of all three members of the Trio making it through unscathed; however, she also spared Draco, and spared Ginny, and really spared so many of her fans, especially younger ones, a lot of true pain in the process. Also, I honestly understand why she did allow the OBHWF (minus Fred – FRED :(((((((( ) to survive, which I’ll discuss in a second.
Finally: did I mention the DEFEATING EVIL WITH TENNIS? JUST THOUGHT I’D MENTION THAT AGAIN. :D :D :D :D
And oh, oh.
We did it, we bashed them, wee Potter’s the one,
And Voldy’s gone moldy, so now let’s have fun!
I love you, Peeves. I love you, J.K.R. :( ( I love you, Harry Potter. I love you, fandom.
And now, the Epilogue.
It’s – well.
It is what it is, right? Like so many of you, I read it early and thought it was a total joke. But I also had an entire week to read the book, and digest it, and think about what it meant.
And honestly, I don’t hate the epilogue. I don’t hate it because I know what it meant to JKR. And I’m going to quote starsthatguide, because she has articulated (http://starsthatguide.livejournal.com/5673.html) what I wanted to say perfectly. This is why the epilogue, on a fundamental level, is exactly what JKR should have written:
Harry was able to build what he wanted most of all — what couldn’t be bought or won with money or power or fame or all the dark magic in the world — a family…. I think it was immensely important that, after all of the messages of these books about choosing what is right over what is easy, about love triumphing over fear and death, and about our choices determining who we grow to be every single moment, it was vitally necessary to remember Harry Potter not as a sacrificial Hero who vanquished the Dark Lord, not as the misunderstood Boy Who Lived, not as Dumbledore’s Chosen One, but as a boy who grew up to be a man who loved.
I’ve made my peace with it. Not with Ginny, never with Ginny, but with JKR’s need for the epilogue. I can even understand why she wanted Harry to name his kid after Severus, because it’s not only Harry’s homage to Snape’s bravery, but his way of honoring Snape’s love for Lily.
Is it over the top? Yes, of course. But here, for what it’s worth, is how I see the Epilogue.
Harry Potter fandom is a place where we ask the question: what happens next? Harry Potter, Books One through Seven, have been duly brilliant and creative attempts to introduce and guide us down the paths we have willingly gone in fanfic of our own volition. so many of you have commented that the book read so much like the voice of fandom over the years being echoed back to us, only louder and more beautifully than any of us could have asked for. I agree, and I completely second those of you who have said you could not ask for more. I could not either.
We have had seven wonderful books, seven wonderful volumes of canon. To me, the Epilogue is JKR’s way of turning the tables. Now she gets to tell us what happens next, just as we have been telling her all these years.
And that’s okay. Because the Epilogue is JKR’s take on the question: “then what?” It’s a valuable take.
But it’s not the only take, nor should it be. It’s not fanfic – of course not – but it is no more, ultimately, than fanfic can be in its quest to look beyond the resolution of a plot and say what happens next. All of us, in the months and years to come, will have our own takes on the Beyond after the book ends in chapter 36. There will be Epilogueverse fic and there will be Postwar fic without it.
And after having read and reread the Epilogue, along with the rest of this wonderful, incredibly satisfying gift of love from JKR to her fans everywhere, my one real question is only this:
Dear Scorpius/Al fans, did you have to dub this ship “ASS?”
As if they didn’t have enough loss of dignity with names like “Albus” and “Scorpius” already. Have you motherfuckers no shame? WAY TO COMPLETELY PREVENT A SHIP FROM EVER BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
Looks like it’s H/D for me, then, for good. ;)
Addendum: on the subject of Draco Malfoy
i wish to say something about Draco, which is pretty much that I disagree with every post I have seen on this subject.
Draco’s lack of resolution (in terms of his moral ambiguity), as I said in my previous post, is a deliberate choice on JKR’s part. Frankly, in terms of the actual plot of Book 7, the Malfoys don’t even need to be there. The only reason they are there is to further humanize them, to round out their story. They are not there to be props for the plot because they don’t actually contribute to the plot. But they are given far more air time, Draco especially, than we could have reasonably expected, especially given that if anybody really deserved more air time in this book, it wasn’t Draco, but Snape.
Instead we got Harry saving Draco’s life, i mean, literally turning around and going back to save Draco’s life, for no other reason than pure will. Draco’s hand slips, he goes back again. Yes, Draco is still a coward after it’s over; yes, Harry still dislikes and distrusts him; but this is a resolution, folks. And a damn good one.
We not only got an extension of the ‘drop of pity’ Harry felt for Draco in book 6, we got a very strong look at Harry’s pity for Draco when he sees what uses Voldemort is putting him to while watching him torture people at the Dark Lord’s command. (OH MAN I FORGOT TO TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH I LOVED/HATED/WAS APPALLED BY VOLDEMORT’S MUGGLE PURIFICATION. HOLY SHIT. just everything about the muggle persecution – the registry, the homeless wizards in the street, the throne made out of human bones. oh my god. just. everything. </tangent>)
And at the end we got a polite nod – nothing more, nothing less. And no, it was not redemption, but it was tolerance of a sort, and JKR, given her attitude toward Slytherin throughout the book, did not even have to give us that much.
Instead she went out of her way to show Draco as not being Hitler Youth. She showed us that his family was, if pathetic, loyal to each other, a quality that creates a great deal of sympathy for Draco and Narcissa at least, and allowing the Malfoys to at least be present in the Great Hall says all that she can say at that point about their acceptance into the wizarding world.
the fact that 19 years later Draco has a receding hairline should not detract at all from the fact that 19 years later he is able to exchange eye contact and gestures of politeness with Harry. Considering the relationships between everyone from the previous generations of their families, that in itself is huge.
I am completely satisfied with Draco’s treatment in book 7. It’s not perfect, but then again, I don’t think redemption would be perfect for his character – because, again, as I’ve always said: redeemed from what? He’s made his choices, but they have never been motivated by evil. His staying behind to fight in order to defeat Harry and redeem the Malfoy name once and for all is exactly what i think we can expect of him given what he’s done so far to protect his family and attempt to look good to all and sundry. And when Harry chooses to save his life, he is motivated by yet a greater understanding of what Draco has been through than he has shown for anyone else under similar circumstances – to Luna’s father, to Ollivander, he has shown a cold tolerance; to Draco he shows sympathy, and forgiveness. He saves Draco from immolation, literally and figuratively.
If that’s not a satisfactory conclusion to the greatest rivalry Hogwarts has ever seen, then I don’t know what could be, unless you were waiting for “19 Years Later… Harry stirred and rolled over, snuggling closer to Draco, who was still asleep.”