Deathly Hallows coverAnyone paying close attention to the date of this post should know exactly which book I’m referring to without reading any further. As I mentioned previously, I pre-ordered Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows from Amazon and as promised it showed up on my doorstep on Saturday, July 21. I finished reading it last night. I’m sure I will have more to say about this in future posts as I continue to work through my reflections on how the series ended and what J. K. Rowling does with this final book, but my first impressions are very favorable. Not surprisingly in the battle between good and evil there are some tragic losses, particularly in chapter twenty-four, which reduced me to tears. There are a number of deaths in the climatic battle scene at the end of the novel, but interestingly these were less moving. As for the ending itself, Michiko Kakutani, writing for The New York Times Book Review claims that Rowling opts for a “good old-fashioned ending” that lays out the characters’ fates rather than settling for a more modern “equivocation.” On one level, this is a fair assessment, but after some reflection I wonder if the circumstances at the end of the novel are as tightly sewn up as they initially seem.

Spoiler alert! If you have not read the ending of the seventh book yet and do not wish to know the outcome, do not read any further!

Acting on the precept that neither could live and therefore neither must survive, Harry ostensibly sacrifices his own life in order to end Lord Voldemort’s. Yet after dying, in a deus ex machina-like plot twist, he finds himself in a liminal state at King’s Cross. (It turns out that this location is just a figment of his imagination, but according to Dumbledore, this makes it no less real. The relevance of this will become more evident below.) After killing him, Lord Voldemort takes Harry’s blood–believing that it will strengthen him–and in doing so creates the loophole allowing Harry to go on living. Since the two are inextricably linked together, Voldemort’s survival grants Harry the opportunity to rejoin life. He does and makes short work of Voldemort, proving himself the stronger wizard of the two.

So far, very cut and dry as Kakutani suggests. However, while at King’s Cross, Harry notices the presence of another creature, “a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat where it had been left, unwanted, stuffed out of sight, struggling for breath” (Rowling 706-7). When Harry asks Dumbledore if something can be done for the creature, Dumbledore intones several times that no help is possible. Rowling leaves it up to the reader to decide what the creature is, but given Harry’s link to Voldemort, one can only assume that this is the portion of Voldemort (and the seventh Horcrux) that has lived in Harry since their auspicious first meeting. Presumably, if Harry is able to rejoin the world of the living through Voldemort’s greed, then this creature is given an entryway back to life too. Rowling’s epilogue, “Nineteen Years Later,” depicts Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione seeing their children off to Hogwarts. Why nineteen years though? Without going back through the first six books, I can’t argue definitively about earlier parallels to Tom Riddle, but I wonder if just enough time has passed for the evil creature Harry saw at King’s Cross to have begun to establish himself again, suggesting a more complicated and equivocal ending to the fight between good and evil than first meets the eye.