The Battle of Hogwarts
chapter thirty-one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Hogwarts gathers in the Great Hall preparing for battle, and after Voldemort’s warning, the younger students and Slytherins evacuate while the rest stay to fight. Harry runs off and talks to the Grey Lady about the diadem, then soon realizes it’s in the Room of Requirement: there he meets Ron and Hermione, holding basilisk fangs and fresh from the Chamber of Secrets. They take a moment to kiss, then the trio searches for the diadem. They are nearly foiled by Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, and narrowly escape Crabbe’s Fiendfyre, but the diadem is destroyed – then several Weasleys come into view, fighting, and an enormous explosion hits them all, killing Fred.
“Evacuation will be overseen by Mr. Filch and Madam Pomrey. Prefects, when I give the word, you will organize your House and take your charges, in an orderly fashion, to the evacuation point.”
“Albania,” repeated Harry. Sense was emerging miraculously from confusion…. “You’ve already told someone this story, haven’t you? Another student?”
She closed her eyes and nodded. “I had… no idea…. He was… flattering. He seemed to… to understand… to sympathize….”
There was a clatter as basilisk fangs cascaded out of Hermione’s arms. Running at Ron, she flung them around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. Ron threw away the fangs and broomstick he was holding and responded with such enthusiasm that he lifted Hermione off her feet.
“Is this the moment?” Harry asked weakly…
…and when nothing happened except that Ron and Hermione gripped each other still more firmly and swayed on the spot, he raised his voice. “OI! There’s a war going on here!”
Ron and Hermione broke apart, their arms still around each other. “I know, mate,” said Ron, who looked as though he had recently been hit on the back of the head with a Bludger, “so it’s now or never, isn’t it?”
“That’s my wand you’re holding, Potter,” said Malfoy, pointing his own through the gap between Crabbe and Goyle…. Harry laughed, though there was nothing very humorous about the situation…. He could not believe that he was this close, and was going to be thwarted by Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle.
Malfoy grabbed the Stunned Goyle and dragged him along; Crabbe outstripped all of them, now looking terrified; Harry, Ron, and Hermione pelted along in his wake, and the fire pursued them.
And then he saw them: Malfoy with his arms around the unconscious Goyle, the pair of them perched on a fragile tower of charred desks, and Harry dived.
“The door, get to the door, the door!” screamed Malfoy in Harry’s ear, and Harry sped up… through the billowing black smoke, hardly able to breathe: and all around them the last few objects unburned by the devouring flames were flung into the air….
(by Emily Benson)
“What are you doing, what are you doing, the door’s that way!” screamed Malfoy, but Harry made a hairpin swerve and dived.
Harry looked around and his heart seemed to fail: Death Eaters had penetrated Hogwarts. Fred and Percy had just backed into view, both of them dueling masked and hooded men.
(by Emily Benson)
“You’re joking, Perce!” shouted Fred as the Death Eater he was battling collapsed under the weight of three separate Stunning Spells. Thicknesse had fallen to the ground with tiny spikes erupting all over him; he seemed to be turning into some form of sea urchin. Fred looked at Percy with glee. “You actually are joking, Perce… I don’t think I’ve heard you joke since you were –
The air exploded…. And then the world resolved itself into pain and semidarkness….
“No – no – no!” someone was shouting. “No! Fred! No!”
And Percy was shaking his brother, and Ron was kneeling beside them, and Fred’s eyes stared without seeing, the ghost of his last laugh still etched upon his face.
(by Julie Graham)
about the chapter
In the years leading up to the release of Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling worked hard to ensure that her fans felt anybody could be killed – after all, this is a war, and in real wars, people aren’t protected just because we like them, or because they’re a protagonist of a story. Yet while fans had plenty of conversations contemplating who might die, it’s safe to say no death shocked, and therefore saddened, readers more than that of Fred Weasley. He was someone we knew so intimately; who was so young; and who brought so much life and humor to the books (and to Harry’s life!). And his death is one many people have criticized Rowling for: “why did one of my favorite characters have to die for no reason?!?” But that’s just it, isn’t it? War is a terrible, evil thing, and it doesn’t stop to consider how good, or funny, or positive, a person is before he or she is killed. And Rowling knows that for us to truly see that, and truly understand it, and for the story to truly be real, we have to lose people we love. Needless death is perhaps the greatest tragedy of humankind, and for those of us lucky enough not to have experienced such a loss firsthand, Fred Weasley gives us a taste of just what that evil might be like. We’ll miss you, Fred.
Something You May Not Have Noticed
It’s sort of funny that Voldemort hid the diadem of Ravenclaw in the Room of Hidden Things – after all, when Ron walks into it for the first time, his first reaction is, “he never realized anyone could get in?” The room is packed to overflowing with stuff! And when you contrast this to the hiding places of, say, the locket and the ring – both with hoardes of magical spells in addition to their secluded locations – it seems a bit shoddy of Voldemort to just drop the diadem in the room and scamper off. But at the same time, he did have a limited amount of time in which to hide it, and it is true that the odds of Harry’s actually finding it there were pretty astronomically small, even if someone had told him it was in that room (luck was sure on his side the day he hid his Potions textbook and stumbled across the Horcrux).
Another possibility is that Riddle discovered the Room of Requirement while he was a student at Hogwarts, but had never actually been in it as the Room of Hidden Things. This way, when he came to hide the diadem, he would have had an experience similar to Harry’s the first time he went – thinking “I need a place to hide this!” and then being absolutely stunned at the enormity of the place. And in Riddle’s case, he has no fallback plan, as he has to leave the castle immediately; so he simply hides the diadem there anyway, even though it’s clearly not as secure as it could be. After all, it’s still pretty darn hard to find!
And one more thing: think how interesting it would have been if some Ravenclaw had come across it while hiding something of their own, and recognized what it was! “Um, Professor Dumbledore? I think I found the lost diadem of Ravenclaw….”
Something Else You May Not Have Noticed
My favorite thing about the fact that the diadem is destroyed by the Fiendfyre is the fact that each of Voldemort’s Horcruxes (thus far) has been destroyed by a different person. And even more specifically, the list of people who did it: Harry Potter – diary; Albus Dumbledore – ring; Ron Weasley – locket; Hermione Granger – cup; and… (drumroll please…) CRABBE! It’s like a hilariously perfect game of “which of these is not like the others,” and I laugh every time I think of it.
The Wizarding World
I wonder what must be going through the heads of most of the students at Hogwarts this night – especially the younger ones. It’s hard to say what they know, or at least believe, about Voldemort; it’s certainly common knowledge that he’s returned, yet the coup of the Ministry and the Daily Prophet were silent and apparently unnoticed by the masses. Most likely Hogwarts has been in a state like it was near the end of Umbridge’s time there: officially nobody would know that Voldemort is running the government, or that Snape or the Carrows work for him. And officially, they know that Harry is wanted for questioning in Dumbledore’s death. But I’d be willing to bet most students, talking amongst themselves, have at least some idea of what’s really going on.
Still, though, think about what’s happened to them tonight: the students have all been awakened in the middle of the night and ushered to the Great Hall, where the wizarding world’s most wanted criminal is standing along with them, clearly with the full support and backing of the entire staff of the school. And then just as they’re digesting this, Voldemort’s voice comes through, making an amplified announcement throughout the school. And then you’re ushered to a room you never knew existed (with hangings for three houses, but not Slytherin), and through a secret passage to a dodgy bar. Where… what happens? Are they all just sitting in the Hog’s Head for the rest of the night, without Aberforth even around? Either way, it’s a night none of the students will ever forget.
Life at Hogwarts
It’s a shame that the Slytherins are such a loathsome bunch; not only does Pansy Parkinson rush to hand Harry over to Voldemort, but when the Great Hall is evacuated, not a single Slytherin stays behind to battle the Dark Lord. Many people (fans and book characters alike – think of the Sorting Hat, or Nick) have wished for the Slytherins to redeem themselves in some way, and I did find it disappointing when the table had cleared completely. But when you think about it, it does make sense, in a way. After all, the overwhelming majority of Slytherin students who are of age (and therefore able to stay and fight) are in Harry’s own year; whatever their internal feelings about Voldemort, they’re unlikely to take Harry’s side in an overt war. And then there’s simply the risk involved. While the table of reckless Gryffindors has twelve-year-olds dying to take on Death Eaters, we’ve certainly heard before about Slytherins, and how “when given a choice, we will always choose to save our own necks.” Of course Crabbe and Goyle still stuck around unnoticed, so it’s possible others have too, and we haven’t heard what became of Slughorn yet. Still… just too bad.
While reading the scene between Harry, Crabbe, and Goyle, I can’t help but think of the first time those four met together, as eleven-year-olds on the Hogwarts Express. And especially these lines:
Draco… turned back to Harry. “You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”
He held out his hand to shake Harry’s, but Harry didn’t take it.
“I think I can tell who the wrong sort are for myself, thanks,” he said coolly.
Six and a half years after Draco quite literally extended a hand of friendship to Harry and Harry turned him down, the tables have been beautifully reversed: Draco and his friends are now trying to end Harry’s life, yet when they inadvertently put themselves in danger as well, Harry just as literally extends his hand, pulls Draco onto his broom, and saves his life. It’s a brilliant metaphor for these two characters: Draco offering, through a handshake, something entirely about image and prestige, which Harry doesn’t care for; and Harry, later, offering his hand for something so much more real – saving a life – despite Draco’s just having proven his disrespect for Harry’s. What a conclusion to years of a fascinating relationship.