Accio Deathly Hallows.

After 21 hours of reading (it takes longer when you read out loud, but the advantage is that we hear every single word and that if we get confused about something, there’s someone to consult), we finished Deathly Hallows at almost 2:00 on Sunday morning. At that time, we were both like, “We enjoyed it,” and we felt satisfied, but we agreed it wasn’t our favorite. After finally getting some sleep and some distance on the reading marathon, we both agreed that we liked it a little better. I was surprised at how many people loved it right away. It won’t ever be my favorite of the books, but it was very satisfying and had some great moments, which is quite a feat for something so anticipated. I am content. It wasn’t a perfect book. I thought it could have been tighter in some places. But I am satisfied with it and happy with the very moving story we were given.

I hated for it all to be over, though, so when Mike went to a concert Sunday night, I started the book again. (I didn’t make it very far before falling asleep around 9:30.) I read it more slowly this time, reading some other books in between and going back to check passages in previous books for clarification. That first post dealt primarily with the facts, what we got right and what we got wrong. Here are some of my thoughts and responses now that I am reading it again and now that it has sunk in a little more. Spoilers, obviously. And it’s a little long.

-I will go ahead and admit that the dedication made me cry. It was dedicated in part to us, the readers! Who stuck with Harry until the end! It’s been quite a journey, and it means a lot that she cares so much about the fans. It did not mean a lot that Mike tried to take a picture of me crying while reading the dedication. Poor form.

-As I said in our Eternal Glory post, we laughed our heads off when Lupin told Harry to stop using Expelliarmus. Learn some other spells, HARRY. (Of course it was beautiful that Expelliarmus was what he used in the end, and of course it was very admirable of Harry not to want to kill anyone. But it was still hilarious.)

-Hedwig dying was really sad and unexpected for both of us. We had thought she’d be used to help send messages back and forth (though, obviously, we hadn’t expected the Ministry to fall so soon or things to be quite so bad). It seemed, for a long time while reading the book, that I kept being the one to read the action-packed chapters, which are not my favorite. The escape from 4 Privet Drive nearly killed me. It would have been easier if I’d known the end, which is what I usually do when I read that kind of book, to take off the pressure. Mad-Eye’s death was more expected.

-When Snape cursed George, we were like, “There is no way he can be good.” We also wondered if Snape was the one who had cast Avada Kedavra on Charity Burbage.

-Ron’s romance advice book was hilarious.

-Kreacher’s story in this book was really great. I had suspected that Regulus had taken him to the cave, but I thought Regulus had made Kreacher drink the potion. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that wasn’t the case (I mean,he did inadvertently, but had a change of heart in the end). I really enjoyed watching Harry learn to treat Kreacher more kindly, and I loved that he led the charge in the end. I was so excited to see the house elves fight! That was one of my favorite bits, them charging out with their knives. And it was a nice touch that Ron thinking of the house elves is what finally drove Hermione into his arms.

-Not only was the escape from 4 Privet Drive a little much for me, the part in the Ministry was also a lot for my heart to handle. Good gravy. It was rough, how bad it was. I had just finished Suite Française, so the Nazi parallels were even more poignant. The chair of Muggles definitely counts as one of the most disturbing things in the whole series, up there with Voldemort/Quirrell drinking unicorn blood, the freaky baby Voldemort in the graveyard, and Umbridge in general (especially her evil quill).

-My three least favorite bits in the whole book were the scene in the Ministry, the scene at Bathilda Bagshot’s, and the scene at Gringotts. Or, as Mike said, all the action scenes. And, I will go ahead and say that I didn’t realize how much I missed Hogwart’s until we were back there. The school is a really important character, and I missed it as much as I was missing Neville, really.

-It really bugged me that Harry, Ron, and Hermione went to the Ministry and didn’t consider how it could affect innocent people. I really hope that the people they impersonated weren’t sent to Azkaban. Mike says JKR called him and told him they weren’t, so I shouldn’t worry. Also, do you think we should assume that the locket was affecting Umbridge?

-I think the way she writes the Fidelus Charm is really inconsistent . . . Dumbledore died and each of the people he told became Secret-Keepers. Okay. So, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are each Secret-Keepers. Okay. Yaxley grabbed Hermione when she was apparating, so she let him in on the secret. Okay. But . . . in OotP, Harry had been told the secret by Dumbledore, but he wouldn’t have been able to tell Neville because he wasn’t the Secret-Keeper. So how could Yaxley tell other people? He’s not a Secret-Keeper. See what I mean? Of course, it had to be something like that, because they had to be out in the woods camping. I expected more of the book to be like that, really. I thought it would be a bit more LotR, with Frodo and Sam trying to get to Mordor, and, in the end, the parts where they were camping did remind me of that.

-Speaking of LotR, I like how the locket (and, in retrospect, the diary) were reminiscent of The One Ring in the way that they affected people.

-On JKR’s website, she mentioned that Dean Thomas has more of a story than she’s been able to squeeze in, so I liked seeing bits of it when he was talking with the goblins.

-Although I have to say, this is around the time when I said, “Nothing is happening in this book.”

-While Bathilda Bagshot’s house creeped me out, I loved the scene in the graveyard. Both of the inscriptions on the tombstones were really moving – Dumbledore’s mother and sister’s read to me as a sort of apology, that they were his treasure and that his heart is with them. And when we read the Potters’ inscription, I felt pretty sure that Harry was going to die and come back (though I’d been saying that in general for a while).

-The notes on the inscription at the cottage were hard for me. I always cry at that sort of thing, inspirational letters or notes sent to encourage. Like the movie Miracle. It wasn’t a great movie. And yet, when they were running out on the ice past all the little cards and notes from American children, tears were pouring down my face. The notes for Harry were like that for me.

-It was nice to finally know for sure what happened and who was at Godric’s Hollow the night Harry’s parents were killed (though there are still questions, for me, about those missing 24 hours and how Voldemort got his wand back), but one thing that really struck me was that Voldemort thought killing that Muggle child was unnecessary. That doesn’t seem like the Voldemort we know and love, does it?

-Ron’s return and his defeat of the horcrux were really moving. I didn’t cry there, but I really appreciated the chance for him to finally face up to his nagging doubts and feelings of inferiority. I felt that in the epilogue, when he was able to joke about everyone looking at him, that we had evidence he’d finally put some of that behind him.

-One place I did want to cry (but I was reading, so I stayed strong!) was when they were in Luna’s house and saw the pictures she’d painted with “friends” written around them. Holy Moses, that was a nice touch, and really lined up with what we were told about Luna in book 5. I can’t really blame Xeno for wanting to protect his daughter. I am not mad at him. I feel more sorry for him than anything else. I hope he got out of Azkaban.

-At the time, Malfoy Manor seemed really pointless, another dangerous escapade. It was only at the very end, with the Elder Wand, that I realized how important it was. I liked that it ended up not being a throwaway scene just to find Ollivander and the goblin or whatever.

-Dobby’s death was the hardest for me in the whole book. That little bugger really grew on me. I was NOT a fan in Chamber of Secrets, but after he was free, he was much less annoying. I loved how he’d wear all Hermione’s hats, and how Ron gave him a sweater, and how Harry bought him all those socks. I was glad they all donated clothes for him at the end. Poor Dobby. “You must not harm Harry Potter.” So brave, standing up to the Malfoys. Reading it the second time, I noticed how the Malfoys were like, “You can’t treat your masters this way,” and he said, “Dobby is a free elf.” I was glad Harry remembered that for the tombstone.

-It was interesting that, after all this time, Wormtail’s debt wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean, it was clearly crucial to them getting out, but it wasn’t as important to the plot as many people believed it would be. I liked that, though.

-Obviously, the whole book turns on Harry’s decision about Hallows or Horcruxes. I loved that, seriously loved it. For one thing, if we’re seeing him as a Christ figure, it’s his temptation: pursue this glory or do the task set in front of him? For another, it was his chance to show how he is different than Voldemort (and even Dumbledore). Our choices show who we are, and Harry’s choice was obedience even without understanding rather than pursuing power/glory for himself. Cheryl Klein, the continuity editor on the book, has some great thoughts about that here. In retrospect, it is things like this that make me love the book more than I did at first.

-In contrast, I hated the bits with Griphook. I think we were supposed to feel discomfort with Harry’s double-crossing decision, and I certainly did. I know that they had to break into Gringotts to get the cup, but it was probably my least favorite passage in the whole book, not least because of Harry’s plan to screw Griphook over. When I reread it, it was much shorter than I’d remembered.

-It helped that, having seen the special edition cover, I figured they were getting out on the dragon. However, the fact that they were getting out on the dragon really worried me, because I’d convinced myself that was the end of the book, them flying on the dragon into the sunset, and . . . I was afraid that Ron or Hermione could still die (I still wasn’t really concerned about Harry).

-Just before Gringotts, we’d had a discussion about how many pages we were into the book, and I said, “500 pages and NO NEVILLE.” I was very put out.

-And, finally, Aberforth. We’d guessed that he was the barman at the Hog’s Head, but it was nice to finally meet him and get his story (and the truth). I cracked up when his patronus was a goat. Hilarious.

-I liked Harry’s information here, about the potion and what Dumbledore said. I had kind of wondered if the potion was . . . like a liquid boggart, sort of. And my theory had been that maybe some dark wizards (possibly Grindelwald – I had a feeling he’d be important in this one) had attacked Dumbledore’s family when he was a kid and he (and Aberforth) were the only survivors, which is why he fought so hard against the Dark Arts, and the potion was making him relive that experience. I feel like I was really close – it was Grindelwald who attacked, though I hadn’t counted on them being friends.

-Mike says that, for him, Neville coming out of the portrait is one of the defining scenes of this book. I prefer Neville as a true Gryffindor, pulling the sword out of the Sorting Hat, but I was SO HAPPY to finally get some Neville. I really missed him, and I missed Hogwarts in general, actually. I was more excited than I realized to get back. And it was so thrilling to have the final battle there.

-Now is a great time to say that the end of this book only increased my girl crush on Professor McGonagall. She is so awesome. I loved when Harry defended her after Carrow spit in her face. I loved her response to that, that he was foolish but gallant. And when she and Snape were dueling, I told Mike that it was the greatest duel of all time. It made more of an impression on me than Dumbledore vs. Voldemort, truly. I only wish it could have been longer.

-John Noe of PotterCast has been insisting that Hogwarts is going to fight back, that the suits of armor were, themselves, going to wake up and battle. Mike and I were very enamored of this theory, and cheered thusly when, indeed, McGonagall enchanted them to fight. That was a moment I will always remember about reading it – in the midst of the tension (I was clutching a pillow to my chest), a moment of laughter, excitement, and anticipation. (Speaking of PotterCast, I totally thought of them when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were listening to PotterWatch. Hilarious.)

-Percy’s return surprised both of us. It felt a little bit shoehorned in, to be honest. Sorry. That doesn’t mean we didn’t like it, just that it didn’t feel organic or have the emotional resonance we would have wanted for their reconciliation, I think. But I was glad it happened – I really thought he’d be too stubborn to admit he was wrong. Even if he helped them, gave them some important Ministry information, I didn’t think he’d admit his error. While I didn’t love Percy’s apology, I did love Lupin and Fleur’s LOUD CONVERSATION. hee.

-Another fantastic moment was everyone standing in the Great Hall to face the Slytherins rather than turning Harry over. It was little moments like this that got me, every time, rather than the big stuff.

-We kept hearing that we would hear the Grey Lady’s story, but I never would have guessed that it was entwined with the Bloody Baron’s story.

-Okay, so our Harry Potter saved Draco Malfoy. And I couldn’t believe it, even though, obviously, he’s a very compassionate person (here’s where we see Lily in him). I was proud of him . . . I’m not sure, in his shoes, I would have done the same. I thought the whole Malfoy story in this book (and especially at the end) was really fascinating, proof that they cared much more about themselves than Voldemort.

-The first time through, obviously, I wasn’t sure exactly what Snape was doing when he kept offering to bring Harry to Voldemort. That was a really nice touch. I still didn’t cry when he died, though. Mike said I will one day. I’m not so sure. And Mike and I both missed the, “Look . . . at . . . me,” and its significance the first time through. But that’s a pretty great scene.

-This is a good moment to talk about the castle itself . . . as Stephen Fry said, Hogwarts’ motto “Never tickle a sleeping dragon” turned out to be pretty important. Not only the suits of armor fought back, but also the ghosts, the portraits, the plants . . . I really enjoyed that, seeing so many bits of the castle that we’ve loved come back and fight.

-I did really enjoy Snape’s memories, though I think it caused the book to lose a little momentum (this is not a popular opinion, I am aware). I kept thinking, “Doesn’t he need to go face Voldemort? How long is this taking?” As I said, I would have really struggled if Snape had loved Lily from afar all that time, but having them be friends first made it much easier for me to swallow. And I’d always wondered whether or not James actually was the “awful boy” Petunia mentioned talking about the dementors, so it was nice to get that cleared up. I wish that somewhere in the series we were given one scene, just one scene of James not acting like a schmuck.

-As Harry walked to his death, I liked the acknowledgement that he, Voldemort, and Snape had found their true homes at Hogwarts. I would have liked to have seen Snape come out of the ring so that he and Harry could look at each other in understanding, but that wasn’t really the time to focus on anyone but his closest loved ones.

-A lot of people have mentioned completely losing it when Harry walks to his death, and I certainly sympathize with that, but it didn’t strike me that way, partly because I was so sure he was going to come back. I think the sacrifice bit gets to me a little more when we find out what it does . . . that Voldemort’s charms don’t work because Harry died to protect them. Just like that chapter in the first book where Dumbledore explains about Lily always gets me.

-Here is where all the information starts to get a little tricky. I am going to make sure I outline this the best I can. I think that Harry was saved not because he was the Master of Death, but because of his mother’s blood that kept him tied to life as long as Voldemort was around. Can we all agree on that? I know it’s been a contentious point in fandom this week. I think that Voldemort “died” because Harry also “died.” If Harry had not chosen to go back, though, Voldemort would still have been able to go back one day, because of Nagini still being a horcrux. How come the wand worked on Harry? Is it because it was destroying the horcrux? Was the blood the most important thing in this sequence? I think it was, and, additionally, the wand was destroying Harry-Horcrux, not Harry himself.

-Okay, next. What was the freaky baby? Was it the Harry-Horcrux, or was it Voldemort himself? I tend to think it was Voldemort, since Harry says later on that he has seen what Voldemort’s future is (or something like that) and Dumbledore said that the Harry-Horcrux was destroyed. When the other horcruxes were destroyed, they just sort of vanished (a la Professor McGonagall’s answer to the Ravenclaw door). I think that Harry was in King’s Cross with the piece of soul that was still in Voldemort.

-Now, let’s talk about King’s Cross. Besides the fact that John Granger has been going on and on about how King’s Cross, with its obvious Christian imagery, is an important clue (I think he believed that the battle would be there – he was wrong about that, but had the right idea about it being crucial to the story), I felt that the scene echoed The Great Divorce a bit, which I loved. Mike said that came to his mind as well.

-I liked that we saw a more human Dumbledore, as hard as that was. All of what was said made the Mirror of Erised more poignant, I think, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” In the interview two years ago, JKR said something about Dumbledore being smarter than everyone else, which meant that he didn’t have people to confide in, and that made him kind of . . . detached. I think that, more than anything, was his problem here. He saw the answer to the problem of Voldemort, and he did the “guy thing” and set things up so the problem could be solved. The error there is that he didn’t necessarily consider other people as he was doing so. I don’t think less of Dumbledore, and I’m glad that Harry found some forgiveness. It’s basically a step of growing up, to admit that the people around us make errors, even the people we look up to. I read somewhere in the past few days that Dumbledore’s acceptance of Snape made more sense in the light of Dumbledore’s own failings . . . after having so much to make up for in his own life, he understood and believed Snape’s similar desire to make amends for wrongdoing.

-The wand stuff seems very tricky. I had to go back and read the end of Half-Blood Prince to be sure I understood what had happened, but Draco did indeed disarm Dumbledore. The first hint that something was wrong with the Elder Wand was that there was no pain from the Crucio, next that the Silencing Charm doesn’t hold, and finally that Neville breaks free of the Body Bind.

-Speaking of Neville, have I mentioned lately that I heart him? Him pulling the sword out of the hat was my favorite moment of the whole book, no question. One day, Neville Longbottom will be Headmaster of Hogwarts. This I believe.

-And then we run into a bunch of things I loved that have been mentioned repeatedly: the house elves fighting, Mrs. Weasley, the final duel, “Tom RIddle,” the Expelliarmus. We joked so much about Expelliarmus, but it does say a lot about Harry’s character that he wants to disarm rather than kill. It’s kind of a micro for the whole Harry/Voldemort relationship . . . Voldemort can’t understand Harry’s soul, which is whole and pure. (I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that he had to resort to Unforgivable Curses, but I understand there aren’t a lot of options.) Even Dumbledore missed that the disarming was more important than the killing.

-And so we come, finally, to the end. The epilogue has been called both too cheesy and not informative enough. I have to say that I don’t mind a little cheese, especially when the book has been so grim and when it means I get my happy ending, so I am probably not qualified to speak on that. But the lack of information didn’t bother me, really. I liked what we got, and I like to imagine them going on with their normal lives, and I like to fill in the holes myself. In Cheryl Klein’s post that I mentioned above, she talked about how it gave closure to a lot of the themes in the series, and I agree with that (she says it better, so just read what she wrote and then come back). What I like best about what she said is that now Harry ISN’T anyone special. He has a normal life with friends and family he loves. He no longer has the burden of his fate or his quest. All is well. That doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, just that all the sacrifices were worth it.

I feel like I have said this a hundred times, but it has truly been a pleasure to read this series, to be a part of the group of people who read it without possibly knowing how it would end, waiting for each book with bated breath. I had to read the book again to try and stall the moment when it was really over. Farewell, Harry, and thanks for all the fun, the discussions, the theories, the midnight release parties. Thanks for letting us journey with you.

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