The Flaw in the Plan

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Chapter 36 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Flaw in the Plan← Chapter 35 | Epilogue →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Returning to the living world, Harry lies limp, pretending to be dead. Hearing the Death Eaters surrounding Voldemort, he deduces that Voldemort also was knocked unconscious. Voldemort, reviving, orders Narcissa Malfoy to confirm that Harry is dead. Feeling a heartbeat, she softly asks if Draco is alive. Harry whispers, "Yes"; Narcissa, knowing she can only enter the castle with the conquering Death Eaters, lies and pronounces Harry dead. To "prove" that Harry is indeed a corpse, Voldemort uses the Cruciatus curse to toss his body around in the air; Harry carefully remains limp, feeling no pain from Voldemort's spell. Voldemort forces the weeping Hagrid to carry Harry as the entire group leaves the dark Forest. Hagrid, as he passes the watching Centaurs, accuses them of sitting idly by and letting evil win.

Voldemort calls out the fighters from Hogwarts to see their fallen hero. The Dark Lord announces that Hogwarts will be united under a single house, Slytherin. He entices Neville, a pureblood, to join him. Neville refuses and charges, only to be caught in a Full-body bind. Voldemort summons the Sorting Hat from the Headmaster's office and places it on Neville's head, setting it afire.

Several things happen simultaneously. The families of students sent home arrive, howling war cries as they climb the outer walls. The Centaurs, ending their neutrality, charge the Death Eaters. Grawp reappears around the corner, headed for Hagrid. Neville frees himself from the body-bind curse. Seizing the Sword of Gryffindor that has appeared in the Sorting Hat, he withdraws it and hacks off Nagini's head, destroying the final Horcrux. Harry, hiding himself under his Invisibility Cloak, leaps up and casts a Shield Charm between Voldemort and Neville.

As the battle erupts again, the Death Eaters, retreating from the new threat that now includes Thestrals and Buckbeak, enter the castle. Harry, under the Cloak, heads for the Entrance Hall, searching for Voldemort. Inside, House-elves, led by Kreacher, are hacking the Death Eaters' ankles with kitchen knives. Voldemort is simultaneously dueling McGonagall, Slughorn, and Kingsley. Bellatrix is likewise fighting Hermione, Ginny, and Luna. When Bellatrix's curse barely misses Ginny, an enraged Molly Weasley pushes the three girls aside and challenges Bellatrix directly. As they fiercely duel, Molly proclaims that another Weasley will never be harmed and casts a powerful curse directly to Bellatrix's chest, killing her. Voldemort's fury over losing his most devoted follower blasts McGonagall, Kingsley, and Slughorn backwards. As Voldemort turns to Molly, Harry casts a shield charm between them, then pulls off his Invisibility Cloak, revealing himself to the audibly stunned crowd.

Harry warns everyone to stay back - the battle is between him and Voldemort now. They circle each other warily. Voldemort claims that Harry continually survives by hiding behind better wizards who sacrifice themselves for him. Harry urges Voldemort, who he boldly addresses as Tom Riddle, to feel remorse for his evil deeds. He then tells Voldemort that Dumbledore outsmarted him, planning his own death, and that Snape was never the Elder Wand's master. The true master was Draco Malfoy, who unknowingly won the wand's allegiance when he disarmed Dumbledore, just before Snape killed him on the Astronomy Tower. When Harry overpowered Draco at Malfoy Manor and took his wand, the Elder Wand gave its allegiance to him; Harry reminds Voldemort that, "The wand chooses the Wizard". Because Harry willingly sacrificed himself to Voldemort, the same magic that Lily Potter's death protected Harry with, now protects the fighters.

The rising sun suddenly illuminates the two duelers. Voldemort casts Avada Kedavra as Harry simultaneously conjures Expelliarmus. But Voldemort's killing curse rebounds, reflected by Harry's blood protection and the Elder Wand's allegiance to him, while Harry's Disarming charm wrenches the Elder Wand from Voldemort's hand to his. With all his Horcruxes destroyed, Voldemort dies instantly.

A joyous victory celebration erupts in the Great Hall, but there is also tremendous sorrow for those killed in battle, including Lupin, Tonks, Fred Weasley, and Colin Creevey. Craving solitude, Harry slips away with Ron and Hermione and tells them everything that transpired after he left them. They enter the Headmaster's chamber where the portraits greet them with roaring applause. Harry tells Dumbledore's portrait that he will never search for the dropped Resurrection Stone in the Forbidden Forest. He will keep the Invisibility Cloak as a family heirloom, and the Elder Wand will be secretly returned to Dumbledore's tomb in hopes that the wand's power will eventually die with Harry. Dumbledore nods his approval. Harry then uses the Elder Wand to repair his own broken wand.

Although Ron is disappointed that the Elder Wand is being returned to Dumbledore's tomb, Harry prefers his old wand's familiarity. He concludes that the Elder Wand would be more trouble than it is worth, and that he has "had enough trouble for a lifetime."

Analysis[edit]

The long, intricate story concludes with each puzzle piece set in place and Harry's questions finally answered; Voldemort has been defeated and Harry now knows that Dumbledore truly loved him. And though Dumbledore had tasked Harry with locating and dispatching the remaining Horcruxes, he knew Harry needed help. Ultimately, each soul shard was slain by a different person: Dumbledore destroyed Gaunt's Ring; Slytherin's Locket was impaled by Ron; Hermione shattered Hufflepuff's Cup; and Neville beheaded Nagini. Even Harry's enemies unintentionally helped. Voldemort (unknowingly) slayed the soul shard within Harry with his own deadly curse, and Ravenclaw's Diadem was scorched by the Fiendfyre that Crabbe conjured. In the end, Harry dispensed only one, Riddle's Diary. However, he was instrumental in identifying and locating the Cup and the Diadem, though it was Luna Lovegood who suggested the latter. Harry intended to destroy the remaining Horcruxes alone, an act that could have taken years and in which he likely would have failed. Instead, he learns to rely on and trust in others. By having each Horcrux destroyed by a different person, Rowling shows that Harry is the sum of all his parts, with those parts including his friends' support, loyalty, love, and companionship, especially Ron and Hermione's. Draco Malfoy also played a crucial role—his refusal to positively identify Harry and the others at Malfoy Manor aided their escape. Although Draco is hardly redeemed, his soul remains intact, giving him an opportunity to become a better person than most in his family. And just as Lily sacrificed her own life to protect Harry against Voldemort, Harry's willingness to meet death protected those who were battling Voldemort and his Death Eaters. This became evident when all the charms, hexes, and curses that Voldemort and his followers were hurling in the final battle seemed remarkably ineffective.

Also, Voldemort's tossing Harry about with the Cruciatus curse without it inflicting any pain is a subtle clue to readers that the Elder Wand's allegiance actually belongs to Harry—it will not harm its true master. Harry had been continually criticized by his mentors for acting too predictably to his enemies, particularly in using the Expelliarmus defensive charm. During his final confrontation with Voldemort, Harry knew he (Harry) was the Elder Wand's true master. He again cast Expelliarmus, ejecting the wand from Voldemort's hand into his own as the Killing Curse rebounded off his body, fatally striking Voldemort. By doing the predictable, Harry acted unpredictably and defeated Voldemort, not by killing him, but allowing the Dark Lord's evil nature to be his own undoing, unintentionally slaying himself. Harry is victorious through his cunning, patience, persistence, and by building alliances, rather than executing his enemies. Throughout the entire series, Harry never kills anyone.

Harry has also learned that death, grief, and loss are essential and inevitable parts of living; escaping them is impossible, and confronting them only makes one stronger. When Harry promises Dumbledore that the Resurrection Stone will be left in the Forbidden Forest, it shows that he has not only accepted death's finality, but embraced it, making him its true master. He resolves to never again summon his parents' spirits, understanding that it was never a true resurrection and that the dead must be left in peace. Seeing that James, Lily, Sirius, and Lupin have a serene and happy existence, Harry is content, knowing they will someday be reunited. Now Harry can move forward and live his own satisfying and productive life, even though it will always be tinged with lingering sadness. And while Harry accepts that the people and things he has loved and lost can never truly be retrieved with or without magic, there is one exception: his wand.

Some readers, like Ron, may disagree with Harry's decision to return the Elder Wand to Dumbledore's tomb, but Harry realizes that it is too powerful and coveted a weapon for him to safely wield. If it should ever become openly known that he commands the wand, he would need to be constantly vigilant against potential attackers seeking it, who would need only to disarm him during a single, ungaurded moment. Harry also prefers his own wand, though if he is ever disarmed while using it, the Elder Wand's power conceivably could transfer to his opponent, even while it remains entombed.

If any reader still believes after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that Neville Longbottom should have been sorted into Hufflepuff House rather than Gryffindor, they need only to remember Dumbledore's words to Harry in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that, "only a true Gryffindor could pull that (the Sword of Gryffindor) out of the Hat". The Sword's role in the series comes full circle here, and it is fitting that Neville should wield it just as Harry did when he killed the Basilisk in the "Chamber of Secrets". Harry killing the Basilisk empowered the Sword with Basilisk venom. Dumbledore then used the Sword to destroy the Ring Horcrux, and Ron slayed Slytherin's Locket with it. Now, as it had earlier with Harry, the Sorting Hat presents the blade to Neville, among the worthiest of Gryffindors, who beheads Nagini, the final Horcrux, thus allowing Voldemort to be slain by his own evil hand. A sword is often considered a hero's weapon, and Neville's act is truly heroic. It will further bond him and Harry, who never lost faith that Neville would succeed if he, Ron, or Hermione failed to kill Nagini. Neville is a favorite among fans, and many will be pleased that he, in the end, receives his fair share of victory.

Lupin and Tonks' deaths, a tragic loss of two beloved characters, have not only saddened Harry, but left their only child an orphan. It is, therefore, no coincidence that Harry, their son's godfather, is also an orphan. Both Lupin and Tonks knew there was a high probability that they could both be killed, leaving their son, Teddy, to be raised without parents. While both loved and admired Harry and believed he would be a caring and responsible godfather, they also knew that his own experience growing up without his mother and father would enable him to guide and mentor young Teddy in a way few others could. This understanding about Harry's nature may have been sparked or confirmed by Harry's outburst at Lupin earlier. Both Harry and Teddy having lost their parents to Voldemort, and Lupin and James Potter once being close and loyal friends will probably create a particularly strong bond between godfather and godson, much like Harry shared with Sirius Black.

Hagrid's shouting at the Centaurs, who refused to engage in battle because they disdained interfering in human affairs, seems to have shamed them enough that they finally joined forces against the Death Eaters. Also, Hogwarts' House-elves, who Ron wanted to protect before the battle, show that wizards' underestimation of them is incorrect: rather than cowering with fear, as most wizards would probably expect, the Elves strike at the Death Eaters. In this, they are led by Kreacher, a character who started the series as a spiteful, hateful House-elf opposing the Order of the Phoenix and despising Harry, but was eventually won over by Harry's respect and kindness, which Kreacher returned to him as loyalty and gratitude.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why was Draco (briefly and unknowingly) the Elder Wand's master?
  2. How did Harry become the Elder Wand's new master?
  3. Who had Dumbledore intended to become the Elder Wand's master, and why?
  4. Why does Narcissa Malfoy inform Voldemort that Harry is dead, knowing he is alive?
  5. Why does Harry feel justified keeping the Invisibility Cloak, but not the other Hallows?
  6. Why doesn't Harry feel any pain when Voldemort uses the Cruciatus Curse on him?
  7. Why did Voldemort's Avada Kedavra curse rebound and kill him instead of Harry?
  8. Why did Harry's sacrifice protect those who were fighting the Death Eaters, but not Lupin, Tonks, and Fred?

Further Study[edit]

  1. Why do the Centaurs end their neutrality and join the battle against Voldemort?
  2. Why would Voldemort trust Narcissa Malfoy to confirm whether or not Harry was dead?
  3. How is Molly Weasley able to defeat Bellatrix Lestrange, an extremely powerful and evil witch? Are Molly's actions an act of war or personal revenge?
  4. Were the "shades" Harry invoked from the Resurrection Stone actually the souls of his loved ones? If not, what could they have been?
  5. Why does Harry choose his signature Expelliarmus disarming spell rather than another curse to attack Voldemort in their final duel?
  6. What might the final outcome have been if Harry, the Elder Wand's true master, had been wielding it rather than Voldemort?
  7. Why was Dumbledore, the Elder Wand's former master, unable to defeat Voldemort with it during the battle at the Ministry of Magic?
  8. Why does Harry, now the Elder Wand's true master, choose to secretly return it to Dumbledore's tomb? What does Harry say about it, and what does he mean by that?
  9. Is it possible that another wizard could win the Elder Wand's allegiance? If so, how?
  10. What could prompt Harry to retrieve the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's tomb in the future?
  11. What will prevent the wand from being stolen from Dumbledore's tomb?
  12. What circumstances might compel Harry to find and use the Resurrection Stone?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Harry's decision to secretly return the Elder Wand to Dumbledore's tomb poses an interesting problem; it is never specified just how the tomb will be protected from some other Dark wizard. According to Mr. Ollivander, despite the Elder Wand's power, its master is always vulnerable to attack. Voldemort was able to trace the wand's history and follow it to Hogwarts where he easily breached the tomb. Without adequate protections, the wand could once again be retrieved from Dumbledore's tomb. And even though it seems Voldemort closed off the trail by killing most who knew it existed, another Dark wizard could possibly retrace that path. And though Harry is now the wand's master, and it will perform poorly for anyone else, if Harry is ever disarmed during an unguarded moment, even while wielding his own wand, just as Harry did with Draco, and as Draco did to Dumbledore, the Elder Wand's allegiance could be transferred to an attacker who conceivably could also steal it. Harry will need to be especially vigilant in protecting himself and the Elder Wand, a difficult task considering his future profession as an Auror.

Fred's death creates an intriguing possibility. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Weasley twins were able to precisely predict the Quidditch World Cup outcome. Just how they did this was never explained, but some readers have speculated that they may have used time travel to obtain the game's final results. It is known that the Ministry of Magic possessed Time Turners, and it has also been speculated that Bill or Percy were allowed to use Time-Turners, as Hermione did, to achieve their exceptionally good O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. scores. In that case, the Twins might have borrowed one and determined its method of operation. Although all known Time Turners in England were reportedly destroyed in the battle at the Department of Mysteries (in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), it is credible that George would be tempted to locate another Time Turner to attempt to save his twin brother. That this would be a highly risky and strictly illegal act would be unlikely to deter George. Even if it was at all possible that Fred could be rescued from his fate, he would probably have to remain in hiding or assume another identity. This leaves open the slight possibility that two major characters could return in future novels: Mad Eye Moody, whose body was never recovered after the attack and who Ron speculates could be in hiding, and Fred Weasley. If, in any hypothetical future novels, George Weasley appears to have regrown his severed ear, readers should probably be suspicious that this could be Fred.