The Elder Wand
Chapter 32 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Elder Wand
The castle is under serious attack, and Harry cannot allow himself to grieve Fred's death. Harry, Ron, and Hermione dive to the floor to dodge curses as Percy covers Fred’s body with his own to protect it. He refuses to budge when Ron tries to pull him away. Hermione screams—one of Aragog's descendants is crawling through a hole in the castle's outer wall. Harry and Ron simultaneously blast the giant spider, but more spiders are climbing up the wall, and Harry fires stunning spells at them. As curses soar overhead, Ron and Hermione rush down the corridor as Harry helps Percy hide Fred's body in a wall niche. Harry then takes off after Ron and Hermione while Percy chases Rookwood. Hidden behind a tapestry, Ron, hysterical, wants to follow Percy and kill Death Eaters. Hermione is pleading with Ron, saying only they can end it; they must find and kill the snake.
Hermione asks Harry where Voldemort and Nagini are. Harry slips inside Voldemort’s mind and sees a shabby, but familiar room. Voldemort is thinking about the Diadem and the place only he knows exists. Nagini floats above Voldemort in a protective sphere. A battered Lucius Malfoy is asking about Draco. Voldemort tells him Draco is dead because he failed to join him with the other Slytherins. Malfoy urges him to halt the battle so the Dark Lord can be certain to kill Potter himself, but Voldemort knows Malfoy is only attempting to protect Draco. Malfoy is ordered to fetch Snape. Harry tells the others that Voldemort is in the Shrieking Shack. He knows his Horcruxes are being sought, and he is waiting for Harry to come to him.
The Trio throw on the Invisibility Cloak and head for the Shrieking Shack. Weaving through the fighting, they pass Draco Malfoy, who is pleading with a Death Eater that he is on their side; Harry stuns the Death Eater as Ron punches Draco in the face. Below, Fenrir Greyback, appearing to Harry as a blurry, four-legged gray animal as he rushes past, is about to bite Lavender Brown. Hermione's curse hurls him against the staircase as Professor Trelawney, leaning over the railing, drops a crystal ball onto his head. The spiders have forced their way into the entryway. As the fighters shoot curses at them, Hagrid charges down the stairs yelling, "Don't hurt 'em, don't hurt 'em!" As Hagrid disappears into the spider throng, Harry dashes out from under the Cloak chasing after him. His path is blocked by a massive, hairy leg belonging to a twenty-foot Giant. When Grawp appears calling for Hagrid, the bigger Giant launches itself at him, and the two furiously wrestle. Fighting is everywhere now and flashing curses streak through the air.
The Trio rush to the forest, but near its edge, a hundred Dementors glide towards them. Harry is too overcome by hopelessness to cast a Patronus, while Ron and Hermione's Patronuses quickly flicker out. Suddenly, three other Patronuses soar past as Luna, Ernie, and Seamus come running from the darkness. Luna encourages Harry to think of something happy, and after enormous effort, the silver stag bursts from his wand, scattering the Dementors. As another Giant lurches towards them, Harry shouts to Ron and Hermione to head for the Shrieking Shack.
At the Whomping Willow, the Trio crawls through the tunnel leading to the Shack. Inside, Snape is talking with Voldemort, nervously offering to find the boy so Voldemort can kill him himself. Voldemort declines, saying his Death Eaters have been ordered to capture Harry alive, and he believes the boy will come to him. He complains that the Elder Wand fails to perform the extraordinary magic he expected. Voldemort tells Snape he has been a valuable servant and regrets what he must do, believing that when Snape killed Dumbledore, Snape won the wand's allegiance. Unfortunately, Snape must die so Voldemort can become the Elder Wand's true master. With no remorse, Voldemort orders Nagini to kill Snape. When Voldemort leaves with Nagini, Harry and the others rush to Snape. Silvery-blue wisps are streaming from his mouth, ears, and eyes. Snape, barely alive, tells Harry, "Take . . . it . . . Take . . . it." A crystal flask appears in mid air, and Harry gathers the strands into the container. Snape asks to look into Harry's green eyes before his life ebbs away.
Two significant deaths have occurred: Fred Weasley and Severus Snape. While Fred's death is a tragic loss, Snape's demise is a crucial element leading to the book's climax. Snape, and also readers, may have expected that Voldemort would eventually kill him, possibly no longer considering him an asset or perceiving him as a potential threat. It is still unknown, however, whether Snape was serving Voldemort or Dumbledore, or even neither. Just as Dumbledore had, Voldemort appears to believe that Snape was always loyal to him, and even still useful, but Voldemort's quest to become the Elder Wand's master takes precedence over everything else, and he willingly sacrifices Snape to obtain that mastery. Whether hero or villain, Snape's final act is to hand over to Harry what appears to be his memories. These could be the key to understanding Dumbledore's cryptic plan. Snape's final request to look into Harry's eyes may also be significant: others have commented, throughout the series, that Harry has his mother's eyes.
Lucius Malfoy, having been severely punished for failing Voldemort, shows deathly fear for his son Draco's life. This is probably among the few times Lucius has ever demonstrated any real emotion for another person, and it shows that, unlike Voldemort, Lucius is capable of love and desperately wants to save his only child. Voldemort, however, shows no concern for Draco, and previously endangered his life only as a means to penalize Lucius for failing to capture Harry at the Ministry of Magic. Though Lucius probably remains with the Dark Lord mostly out of fear for his own and his family's safety, he may also be scheming to recapture his mater's favor and reward. He will likely retain his evil ways should Voldemort win, and he is well aware that having entered the Dark Lord's service, there is no leaving it alive; it is only now, having been relegated to the organization's lower order, that he begins to understand why one might actually want to exit that service.
It is also interesting to note Hermione's changing views regarding the connection between Harry's mind and Voldemort's. At this book's beginning, Hermione was deeply dismayed by Harry occasionally viewing Voldemort's thoughts and actions, as it was via that channel that Harry had been deluded into delivering himself and five students into a trap at the Department of Mysteries earlier. Harry continually resisted attempts to close this channel, feeling that any information about Voldemort is valuable. Over the course of this book, Hermione has gradually adopted the same point-of-view, but this is the first time she has actively asked Harry to visit Voldemort's thoughts. This would seem to indicate she now somewhat trusts Harry's ability to control and filter what he sees inside Voldemort's mind.
There is an interesting side note here. The book describes Fenrir Greyback as a gray blur on four legs that Harry took to be an animal. This could possibly suggest that he was transformed into his Werewolf form as he attempts to bite Lavender Brown. In that event, there would be a full moon, but there is no mention as to whether Remus Lupin, also a Werewolf, has been similarly transformed. Lupin is seen as a human when he arrives at Hogwarts, but it is possible it is still too early for the moon to rise. It may be that Greyback is simply acting wolf-like; as we have heard and seen, he does attack like a wolf even when in human form, as when he savaged Bill Weasley. However, being able to survive such a severe blow to the head from Trelawney's heavy crystal ball with almost no injuries could indicate that he was transformed. While it is never made absolutely clear what form he is in, it is true that Harry, who has never seen Fenrir transformed, recognizes him. As the author is careful about having every character properly named before Harry recognizes him or her, this does lend some weight that Fenrir is in human form, though it is curious as to why she would describe him in a manner suggesting his gray Werewolf form or that Harry would perceive him as a gray animal. Being as Fenrir is the Werewolf leader, and Remus Lupin had infiltrated Fenrir's pack, Order of the Phoenix members should know his transformed description, but there is no indication one way or the other as to whether Harry has been so briefed.
- Does Voldemort know that the Diadem Horcrux has been destroyed? If not, why?
- Why does Voldemort believe Snape is the Elder Wand's master? Is he? If not, who might be?
- Why does Hagrid try to protect the attacking giant spiders? Whose side are they on?
- Why didn't Draco leave with the other Slytherin students who joined Voldemort? What, if any, might his true allegiance be?
- Why is Voldemort so certain that Harry will come to him?
- Why does Voldemort kill Snape, a valuable servant, to win the Elder Wand's allegiance, rather than disarm him for it? Did Voldemort always intend to kill Snape?
- Why does Voldemort have Nagini kill Snape, rather than doing it himself with a killing curse?
- Why does Lucius Malfoy continue serving Voldemort, despite the Dark Lord having endangered his and his son's life?
- Why was Harry too overwhelmed with hopelessness to cast a Patronus at the Dementors? How did he overcome that?
- What are the silvery strands that Snape gave to Harry? Where have they been seen before? Why would he want Harry to have them?
- Why would Snape want to look into Harry's eyes just before he dies?
Voldemort here has fallen into the same misunderstanding about the Elder Wand's allegiance that so many have before him. It is not just by murder of its current holder that frees the wand to accept a new master, but the wand's forcible removal from its owner that also wins its allegiance. One might wonder why Voldemort failed to recognize this, despite knowing about Gregorovitch's continuing survival while Grindelwald commanded the wand, and Grindelwald's remaining alive during the sixty years that Dumbledore mastered it. However, we have seen that Voldemort tends to solve problems by killing people. It is unlikely that Voldemort enjoys killing; if he did, he likely would have stayed to watch Snape die. His walking out before Snape expired indicates that he sees killing Snape as simply the solution to the Elder Wand problem, and once the solution has been applied, it no longer concerns him.
In the next chapter, we discover why Snape, who knows he is dying, asked Harry to look into his eyes. He has already handed over to Harry the memories that Dumbledore charged Snape with providing Harry. They explain everything to Harry as well as provide Snape's own justification for his actions. These memories will show that Lily Potter was the only woman Snape ever loved, and it was for her that Snape allowed himself to promise to do all that he did for Harry, little as it may have seemed at the time. We have been told repeatedly that Harry has Lily's eyes, and, as he dies, Snape desires to gaze into those eyes one final time.