The End of Harry Potter

The other day I put out a call on Twitter, asking people if they had any questions I could answer for a blog post. I’d just been tweeting all day about my marathon reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and my friend B. asked:

Were you disappointed by the ending of the Harry Potter series? I wanted a finale that would have revealed magic to the muggles.

My dream ending: a duel between Harry and Voldemort in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, forever changing the world of magic.

I have to admit, this was something I’d never thought of before. For one thing, I don’t think I ever really tried to envision an ending to the Harry Potter story beyond the final face-off between Harry and Voldemort (with, of course, Harry winning in the end). I was looking forward to that major confrontation and wherever it happened, I probably would have been satisfied. For another thing, the idea of magic being revealed to the muggle word on a large scale also just never occurred to me as a possibility. The necessity to keep magic a secret from muggles and the conflicts that secret entails are certainly central to the series, but that set of conflicts generally stayed in the background for me. The secrecy added allure to Rowling’s world, and beyond that, I didn’t think about it as much of a plot element. But then, it could be a huge one.

As I sat and reflected on my friend’s vision of the ending he imagined, I was an easy sell. I think it sounds like a potentially AWESOME way to end the story — it would be spectacular and exciting and would leave the series with the sense that things were going to be forever different, not just because Voldemort had been defeated but also because muggles would never be able to see things the same way again.

But, to get back to B’s original question — had I been disappointed in the way J.K. Rowling ended the series? had there been a particular ending scenario I’d wanted to see, but hadn’t? — I have to say no. I found the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to be quite satisfying. And that may be in some small part to do with how I read. I think I generally don’t tend to imagine or forecast the endings of stories. I may have guesses about where something is going, but my imagination just rarely ever writes an ending for me before it happens. Forecasting and prediction almost never enter into my way of thinking. With some exceptions, of course. It’s a fun thought exercise or conversation topic, for example. What if Buffy dies? What kind of job will Rory get? What if Dexter gets caught? (Speaking of endings that pissed me off, Dexter‘s ending was the actual worst.)

It’s not that I don’t wonder about endings; I suppose it’s just that I don’t often imagine an ending that I decide I really want to see. I don’t invest in an ending I’ve imagined. In fact, if I find myself thinking too much about where something is going or how it will end, that in itself tends to detract fom my enjoyment of the story (and I think that kind of forecasting happens for me most often with writing that telegraphs too much ayway). At any rate, I think I just like to watch the story unfold.

So yes, I was happy with how the Harry Potter story unfolded. The setting Rowling chose for the final showdown, rather than being a public or muggle space, like Picadilly Circus, was the Hogwarts Great Hall, the same room where Harry and Tom Riddle were sorted, where they ate every meal during their time as students, where they took their OWLs. I loved that.

I loved that the entire final battle takes place at Hogwarts. For one thing, I missed Hogwarts in book seven. I was tired of wandering around the woods with Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I missed the school and the people in its walls. Hogwarts is the heart of the story in a lot of ways. It’s Harry’s home; it was Tom Riddle’s home, too. It signifies love and belonging for Harry and — for the rest of the wizarding population of the UK — it signifies hope for the future.

To have Voldemort and the Death Eaters breach the notoriously strong defenses of Hogwarts was significant. It was scary. When they could enter the grounds of Hogwarts, it meant that shit was getting real. It brought the fight home. The professors and students were there, able to take part in the fight and, on the other side of that coin, vulnerable to attack. Hogwarts makes a perfect backdrop for confrontations between the Death Eaters and beloved characters like Neville, Luna, Ginny, Professor McGonagall, and all the Weasleys.

I loved the way the final fight worked — that it mirrored the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort in the graveyard in Little Hangleton. Voldemort uses an unforgivable curse; Harry uses a defensive disarming spell. The callback to their first duel was nice, structurally. And Voldemort, dead, is “vacant and unknowing,” “a shell.” Just as he was in life, in the end.

On another note, one of my favorite things in the ending of the Harry Potter series is the trip through Snape’s memories. Oh, man. That chapter of the story makes me well up every single time. Severus and Lily as children, before ever coming to Hogwarts. Petunia writing to Dubledore, begging to come to school with her sister. (Tuney!) Snape vowing to do anything to help protect Lily’s son. The doe patronus. Y’all. It’s so good.

I imagine this might be an interesting topic, though, and I know lot of you are Harry Potter fans. What do y’all think of the ending?


  1. Wow, that was a pretty fantastic blog posts. Thanks for putting all of that together and for answering my question. I only read the first, fifth and final book in the Harry Potter series but I’ve seen all the films. I remember my sister, at some point, telling me about a scene in # 6 when….the details are hazy…an official from the Ministry of Magic shows up at the Prime Minister of the UK’s house to explain that shit is hitting the fan in the world of magic. The battle has leaked into the muggle world and, if memory serves, a bridge had been destroyed or something.

    I can’t recall now if that scene made it into the films but it sent my imagination into overdrive and convinced me to wait in line for hours with my sister at Powell’s City of Books in Portland for the midnight roll out of Deathly Hallows. I trucked home with a hardbound copy signed by Dumbledore himself (er, an actor playing Dumbledore next to a stuffed phoenix) and started reading in the middle of the night. I figured the hints Rowling had been dropping was alluding to an epic finale that would involve the muggles on a possibly crazy scale. I pictured the Piccadilly Circus showdown, complete with London police and the military frantically rushing to the scene and trying to not only process what was going on but quell it as Deatheaters, wizards, centaurs, griffins and all sorts of other magical beings are running rampant through the streets of central London. Dragons frying stockbrokers on pub crawls, Tower Bridge crumbling under the weight of giants rushing to the scene, the queen’s corgis fleeing in terror as the chaos stretches into the halls of Buckingham Palace, etc.

    Instead, I wound up with a finale that made perfect sense and was appropriate for all the reasons you’ve outlined. It fit well but it wasn’t what I was hoping for and even expecting. All that aside, it looked fantastic on the big screen.


    1. OOOH, I loved that scene between the muggle prime minister and the minster of magic. Such a good moment. And reading your description of the ending you envisioned — well, I think that would’ve been so fun to see, especially on the big screen.


  2. My brain went off on a bit of a rabbit-trail as I tried to imagine that ending. However, I think part of the magic about HP is that the final scene maintained the secrecy; it wasn’t all revealed. It means that we Muggles who have been fortunate enough to read Books #1-7 can go on believing that the world of magic exists just outside of our grasp.


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