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Chapter Thirty-Six: The Flaw in the Plan
Harry awakens at the scene where he expected to be killed by Voldemort, though he does not show that he’s alive. He listens and watches, and gathers that Voldemort also collapsed and was unconscious, much like Harry. Voldemort sends Narcissa to see if Harry is alive, and Narcissa feels Harry’s beating heart, but instead of betraying him, asks in a whisper if Draco is alive and in the castle. Harry whispers yes, and Narcissa announces that Harry is dead.
Voldemort’s followers celebrate, and Voldemort casts a Cruciatus Curse on Harry, lifting him in the air and toying with his body, though Harry does not feel the pain from the curse as he should. Voldemort orders Hagrid to carry Harry to Hogwarts with them.
At Hogwarts, Voldemort announces that Harry was killed while running away, and orders everyone inside to kneel before him or die. The crowds resist, somehow shaking off the silencing curse Voldemort throws at them, and McGonagall, Ron, and Hermione all shout defiantly at Voldemort.
Neville Longbottom comes forward to confront Voldemort, who tries to win Neville over with promises of a senior position as a Death Eater. Neville rejects Voldemort.
Voldemort summons the Sorting Hat, saying that it won’t be needed anymore and that all of Hogwarts will be in Slytherin. He puts the hat on Neville and lights him on fire.
Neville pulls the Gryffindor Sword out of the hat and kills Nagini, as all of Harry’s supporters and all of Voldemort’s erupt in a fresh battle.
Harry slips on his Cloak in the confusion and sends curses at the Death Eaters. Voldemort holds McGonagall, Kingsley, and Slughorn at bay, while Bellatrix faces off against Hermione, Ginny, and Luna. Mrs. Weasley steps in, duels Bellatrix by herself, and kills her, infuriating Voldemort. Harry casts a Shield charm to protect Mrs. Weasley from Voldemort, then takes off his cloak, revealing himself to be alive for the first time.
The room goes silent as Harry and Voldemort circle each other. Voldemort tries to insist that Harry has only ever succeeded against him by accident or because greater men and women were shielding him and pulling the strings. In reply, Harry observes that by laying down his life for all those at Hogwarts, Harry has put a protective charm on them like the one his mother put on him, so that all of Voldemort’s curses keep sliding off of them. He tells Voldemort that he knows many important things Voldemort does not know.
Harry informs Voldemort that Voldemort actually did not have Dumbledore killed, because Dumbledore had planned and orchestrated his own death months before. Harry tells Voldemort that Snape was Dumbledore’s spy almost his entire career, having loved Lily Potter since he was a child. Most important, Voldemort is not the master of the Elder Wand because he still hasn’t defeated the Wand’s most recent master. That master was not Snape, because Snape did not defeat Dumbledore but merely helped him die. The one who defeated Dumbledore, without ever knowing it, was Draco (in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). The Elder Wand had recognized Draco as its master, though Draco never knew this or took possession of the Wand, and the Wand was buried with Dumbledore. Harry recalls that he himself disarmed Draco weeks before, and that if the Elder Wand is aware of this fact, Harry is the Wand’s true master. He invites Voldemort to help him test this hypothesis.
Voldemort fires his Killing Curse, and Harry simultaneously sends a Disarming Curse, and the two curses meet in the middle, with Voldemort’s rebounding and killing him and the Wand coming to Harry’s hand.
All of Hogwarts erupts in victory and begins to celebrate. At the first opportunity, Harry puts on his Cloak and takes Ron and Hermione with him to the headmaster’s office, where the portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses applaud him. Harry speaks to the portrait of Dumbledore, announcing his intentions to leave the Stone where it fell in the forest, to return the Wand to Dumbledore’s grave in the hope that Harry will die a natural death and end its power, and to keep his Cloak. Dumbledore approves.
Epilogue: Nineteen Years Later
Nineteen years later, Harry stands at the train station, waiting to send his younger son to Hogwarts for his first year. Harry is married to Ginny, and they have three children: James, who attends Hogwarts already; Albus Severus, who is just starting; and Lily, who is still two years away from going. James is taunting Albus that he might be selected for Slytherin House.
The Potter family meets Ron and Hermione, who are married and who have two children. Rose, the elder, is starting her first year at Hogwarts, and Hugo is younger.
Draco is on the platform as well, with his own wife and son, Scorpius. Draco nods curtly to Harry and looks away.
James reports that Lupin and Tonks’s son, Teddy Lupin, is kissing their cousin Victoire, the daughter of Bill and Fleur Weasley.
Ginny tells James to send Neville Longbottom, now the Hogwarts Professor of Herbology, her love.
Harry offers some final words of comfort to Albus Severus, noting that one of the headmasters he was named for, Severus Snape, was a Slytherin and was the bravest man Harry ever knew.
The train departs. Harry gives a final wave, confers with Ginny, then touches his scar. It has not hurt for nineteen years, and all is well.
The final chapter ties up all of the loose ends. If the climactic moment of the novel was Harry’s self-sacrifice, and the biggest emotional reward came with Harry’s recovery of Dumbledore’s love, now we need to see Voldemort defeated and his followers disposed of. The resolution of Harry and Voldemort’s duel and of the wand subplot that has run through this novel (and that really began three novels before, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is very carefully explained and worked out. As with the revelations regarding Snape, we can see that the author knew where she was going years before and laid all of the groundwork in earlier novels, leading up to this payoff. Still, the explanation of why Harry’s wand kept beating Voldemort, why Harry is now the master of the Elder Wand, and why Harry’s blood inside Voldemort kept Harry alive while Voldemort was alive, yet Harry can kill Voldemort now (or allow him to kill himself) is all extremely complicated and will take most readers several careful re-readings to figure out. The meeting with Dumbledore is a resolution that affects readers in a much more visceral and emotional way, and most will simply be glad to see Voldemort finally die.
Because of the intricacy with which the final battle with Voldemort is plotted out and resolved, the Epilogue is a welcome addition, as it too speaks more directly to our emotions. Harry gets his reward in the form of the girl he loves, Ginny, and gets to be part of a family for the first time, as he has always longed to. After hating him for seven years, Harry has finally come to love and revere Snape, giving his name to Harry’s younger son, Albus Severus.