The Forest Again
Chapter 34 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Forest Again
Sprawled on the Headmaster's office floor, Harry now understands his own destiny. Under his Invisibility Cloak, he proceeds to the Entrance Hall, almost bumping into Neville, who is returning from the grounds with Oliver Wood. They are carrying Colin Creevey's body into the castle. Oliver says he can handle this on his own, and Neville returns to the grounds to search for more casualties. Harry follows and reveals himself to Neville. Harry tells Neville that Nagini must be killed to defeat Voldemort. He says that Ron and Hermione also know, but if for some reason they are unable to, then Neville must kill Nagini. Neville says he will, and Harry puts the cloak back on and proceeds to the Forbidden Forest. Noticing Ginny helping a fallen girl along the way, he is tempted to stop and speak with her, but knowing it would be impossible for him to continue if he did, he goes on, past Hagrid's hut and to the Forest.
Dementors gliding around the forest's edge block Harry's path, and he lacks the strength to conjure another Patronus. Harry pulls the Snitch from his pouch. Remembering its inscription, "I open at the close," he realizes it refers to death. Pressing the Snitch to his lips, he whispers, "I am about to die." The Snitch breaks open and reveals the Peverell ring, which Harry realizes holds the cracked Resurrection Stone. He turns the stone three times and the shades of James, Lily, Lupin, and Sirius appear. All seem ghostly but are more solid-looking than just spirits. Lupin and Sirius both appear younger and each looks happy. His mother and father speak to Harry, telling him how proud they are of his bravery, and their presence is a comfort as he prepares to die. Harry asks if dying hurts, but Sirius says it is painless and easier than falling asleep. Harry tells Remus that he is sorry that he had to die so soon after his son's birth. Although Remus regrets that he cannot be there for his son, he is also glad that Teddy will grow up in a better world that his father's death helped to make possible, and he hopes that Teddy will understand why his father died when he is told. All four promise to stay with Harry and protect him as he passes through the Dementors, acting as Patronuses. Sirius also assures him that they will be invisible to Voldemort, since their memories are part of Harry. Harry is able to force himself to go on only because the spirits remain with him.
Harry makes his way through the thick, tangled woods, unaware just where he is heading: the spirits, remaining close to his side, appear to guide him. As he nears Voldemort's camp, Yaxley and Dolohov think they hear something, but suspect it is probably an animal. The hour Voldemort has given Harry is nearly up, and it appears that Harry Potter will not appear. Still cloaked, Harry enters a clearing where he sees two Giants and Voldemort's Death Eaters, including Bellatrix. Fenrir Greyback is skulking nearby, while Lucius Malfoy and his wife, Narcissa are also there, both appearing defeated and apprehensive. Harry recognizes the camp site as Aragog's old lair, his descendants forced out by Death Eaters to fight for their cause.
Voldemort says aloud he thought Harry would come, but no one responds to his words. Harry pulls off the Cloak and tucks it, and his wand, under his robes. The Resurrection Stone slips from his fingers, and the spirits vanish. Voldemort speaks again. "I was, it seems... mistaken."
Harry loudly replies, "You weren't."
As Harry's final thoughts turn to Ginny, Voldemort casts the Killing Curse at him.
Snape's memories have answered many questions, and the truth is not what Harry or the reader expected. Not only are Harry's doubts and fears about Dumbledore seemingly justified, but Dumbledore was apparently protecting him all these years only to fulfill his ultimate plan, involving sacrificing Harry to defeat Voldemort. Surprisingly, Harry accepts this, and he willingly goes to face Voldemort and meet his fate in order to save others. Snape is also vindicated, and his heroism and sacrifice are finally revealed. Even though this does not fully exonerate Snape's behavior, if Harry survives, he will eventually have to reconcile his long-held hatred for his belligerent teacher with new-found gratitude to the tragic man who protected him and aided his quest, losing his own life in the process.
Harry's brief discussion with Neville about Nagini needing to be killed highlights Harry's increasing awareness that he is not alone in this battle, nor is it even limited to himself, Ron, and Hermione. He sees that the battle at Hogwarts is joined not on his behalf, but under his banner, and he has witnessed the sacrifices others are willing to make to defeat the Dark Lord. Perhaps his new awareness about Snape's sacrifices has assisted him in this understanding. In any event, while he still withholds details about his mission, he now shows more willingness to ask others for help when needed.
Harry's one comfort before facing death is being reunited with his parents, though, unlike the brother in the tale, he realizes that the boundary between the living and the dead can be crossed permanently only in one direction. By understanding and accepting this, Harry becomes death's master. He feels justified in summoning James and Lily's spirits only so they can escort him to the Netherworld, rather than resurrect them from the grave. Meeting his parents and hearing their words completes his emotional need for their love and approval, and for closure. They also provide comfort and guidance as he is about to encounter his own death.
Harry's deep love for Ginny is seen here. First, as Harry spots Ginny as he leaves Hogwarts, he longs to bid her farewell, but fearing he will be unable to continue prevents him from doing so. Also, and perhaps most telling, as Harry faces his death, it is only Ginny's kiss he recalls, rather than his parents, or even Cho Chang, showing that Ginny has provided the most comfort and joy in his life. On Ginny's part, as Harry passes near her, he believes she sensed him, despite being hidden by the Invisibility Cloak. While he cannot know this for certain, as he never looks back, this indicates his trust in Ginny's love.
We note that Harry tasks Neville with killing Nagini in the event that he, Ron, or Hermione are unable to (or are all killed). Although Harry fully trusts Neville to follow through on his request, Harry, probably overcome with his impending demise, has neglected to instruct Neville on just how to kill a Horcrux. If that is indeed what Nagini is, then she will likely need to be slain by one of the same methods that destroyed the other Horcruxes, though Neville apparently knows nothing about that. If Neville should attempt to kill Nagini by more conventional means, his own life will likely be lost.
- Unlike the brother in the Deathly Hallows tale, why does Harry feels he is justified in summoning his parents' spirits?
- What does, "I open at the close" mean? Why does Harry only now understand its meaning?
- When Harry summons the spirits of his parents, Sirius, and Lupin, why doesn't he also call for Cedric Diggory, "Mad Eye" Moody, Dumbledore, or Fred Weasley?
- Why does Harry drop the Resurrection Stone just as he confronts Voldemort?
- Was Dumbledore justified in protecting Harry only so his life will be sacrificed to defeat Voldemort?
- Why does Harry so readily accept the fate that Dumbledore apparently intended for him?
Harry's death, as we can surmise from the two large remaining chapters, does not occur at this juncture. Dumbledore's actual intent is revealed in the next chapter. There, it is learned that Dumbledore knew that Voldemort, by his own actions, had unintentionally extended Harry's protection against anything Voldemort could inflict on him. Harry was unaware that this extension of his protection had occurred, and had expected that he could die when he faced Voldemort.
There is a faint suggestion that Harry knows some aspects of Dumbledore's plan. Note that Harry carefully hides Draco Malfoy's captured wand under his shirt, along with the Invisibility Cloak. It is uncertain why he does this, if he was expecting to die. He may believe, or at least hope, he is protected from the Elder Wand, as that wand may now recognize whoever wields Draco's wand as its master; Harry may simply wish to prevent Voldemort from using the Invisibility Cloak and capturing Draco's wand, which might grant him the Elder Wand's full power. Alternately, it may be that Harry is simply removing any temptation to duel Voldemort with Draco's wand and the cloak, believing that this is necessary for the protection of those at Hogwarts. In any event, Harry's concealing the wand and Invisibility Cloak, rather than discarding them, may indicate he holds some hope, however slim, that he will survive the encounter. As he has no knowledge that he retains the blood protection, this faint hope seems to hinge on the Elder Wand and its current allegiance.
From the conversations with Snape in the previous chapter, we know why Harry must face Voldemort. In that chapter, it is revealed that Harry is carrying a fragment of Voldemort's soul, and that must be destroyed to end Voldemort's immortality. It may be worth mentioning that while this performs the same function as a Horcrux, it is not a true Horcrux; the soul fragment is merely sticking to Harry's soul, it has not been bound to him by the necessary magic to make Harry a Horcrux. As such, destruction of the soul fragment does not require destruction of its container (Harry). It is because of this that Harry is able to survive the encounter with Voldemort. There is more information on this in the Greater Picture section of the article on Horcruxes.
The final chapter reveals that one reason Harry so willingly, if fearfully, goes to what he suspects will be his death is because he knows about the charm that protected him following his mother's death. Harry believes, correctly, that his death will likewise protect Hogwarts, the place he loves, and everyone in it, from Voldemort's magic. While he cannot know whether this will work, and is likely too distracted by his impending demise to clearly consider the matter, he must see that this is the best, last hope for Hogwarts and its defenders.
Harry's dropping the Resurrection Stone, rather than being unplanned, is actually a conscious decision. It is uncertain how many times it was used, as, historically, it was apparently only collected as a Peverell relic. But Harry has seen that its effects can be fatal; Dumbledore was tempted to try and recall his dead family with it, and the stone's original owner, by legend, killed himself upon realizing he could never truly rejoin his lost love on this side of the Veil. Harry, as noted above, has not used the stone to recall his lost loved ones back to life, or a pale imitation of life; rather, he recalls them partly for reassurance that there is an existence beyond death, and partly as comfort in what he believes will be his final moments. Harry is mature enough to know that these summoned shades are not, and never can be, the people he remembers, and feels, correctly, that the ability to summon the dead does not belong in the living world. The Stone, now somewhere underfoot in the Forbidden Forest's dark depths, is unlikely to ever be found again, as Harry has no intention of saying where he dropped it.