I’ve only been to one midnight release of Harry Potter, and this was the one. I left that Barnes & Noble feeling both excited and a little sad. In just a little while I would be turning new pages for the last time. Sure, there’s always rereads, and sometimes I even forget things and can be surprised again. But that initial reaction as you read a book for the first time is so special. After hanging out with my friends in glow-in-the-dark Harry Potter glasses, taking covert pictures of the guy dressed up as Hedwig, and grabbing my precious book, I promised myself one chapter before going to bed. The next morning felt like Christmas: I set my alarm for 6am and had set aside the entire day for reading. I’d had this planned right down to food and work schedule. And apparently this was back when I only needed a couple hours of sleep to function? Ah, to be twenty-one!
Honestly, I’m surprised that I didn’t cry through the entire thing, but I remember being so emotionally drained by the end. I’d had this decade-long relationship with these characters and here was the end of our journey together. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m an incredibly sentimental person who hates endings, whether in books, TV shows, or life, but reading this book felt so important and so devastating.
Anyway, thank God I’ve only got ONE chapter this time, because this one is a doozy. It’s enormous. Everything happens and it’s simultaneously thrilling and soul-smashing.
So, please forgive me for the following. I’m late and not so great at action scenes. Plus, the end of this chapter just hurts.
CHAPTER 31: THE BATTLE OF HOGWARTS
There are three things you need to know about this chapter: they find a horcrux, Hermione and Ron make out, and Fred dies. I mean, way to go Rowling. You give us things we’ve been waiting for much of the book or the series and we’re all happy and things might have a happy ending and lalala and WHAM. We are punched in the gut. Who freaking saw THAT one coming? If you did, I kind of envy you, because this shit hurts.
We start out in the Great Hall. Slytherins are getting antsy, all the other students want to fight. McGonagall says that all underage wizards must get the hell out of the castle. And then Voldemort sends a message that if they hand over Harry Potter, no one gets hurt. Pansy and the Slytherins make a pass for Harry, but McGonagall kicks them out first, followed by the younger students of Hogwarts.
Almost having forgotten about the final Horcrux, Harry tracks down Nearly Headless Nick and the Gray Lady, who happens to be Helena Ravenclaw. She’d stolen the diadem from her mother, and the Bloody Baron stowed it away…in Albania. Good thing Tom Riddle found it and put it back in Hogwarts to retrieve later. So where would someone stow something they’d want to remain hidden for later while on site for a job interview? Hmmm…maybe the Room of Requirement?
Ron and Hermione show up after visiting the Chamber of Secrets to grab a bunch of basilisk fangs. Somehow Ron with his steal trap of a memory was able to get them into the Chamber with Parseltongue, and Hermione had the honors of destroying Hufflepuff’s cup.
They’re all getting ready to go to the Room, but Ron remembers the House Elves. OH EM GEE WE HAVE TO EVACUATE THE HOUSE ELVES. And Hermione drops the fangs and starts full-on making out with Ron. As much as I squeal during the movie version of this scene, I much prefer the book’s way. “Is this the moment?” Harry asks, as if he’s expected this for years. “OI! There’s a war going on here!” Finally! How can Rowling regret putting these two together?
Once they are in the Room, they get to searching for the diadem. Too bad Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle show up to ruin the party just as Harry had found it. It seems Crabbe has become an even bigger doofus in his later teens. He goes on and on about the “die-rum” and that he’s going to kill Harry for Voldemort and Malfoy is starting to regret his decision to bring his with him to the Room. And then the asshole starts the Room on fire, with a spell that no one can stop. They grab the broomsticks, Malfoy and Goyle, and the diadem and they fly the hell out. Crabbe is trapped and dead, Malfoy is screaming and clinging to Harry (a visual I really kind of love), but they’d made it out with the horcrux, which had been destroyed by the Fiendfyre. Hooray! One more horcrux down.
They join the battle once more as Percy duels the minister, telling him that he’s resigning. “You’re joking Perce!” shouts Fred. “You actually are joking, Perce…I don’t think I’ve heard you joke since you were-”
There is an explosion and when the dust and rubble settles we see Fred Weasley dead on the floor. And millions of hearts, both fictional and real, break.
So, with that, I’d like to make a toast to Fred Weasley, beloved twin, brother, son, and friend. He showed us that life is lived far too seriously! Death comes too soon for us all, but Fred knew the secret: it is our one and only opportunity to have fun, to love, and do what we enjoy. He would not want us to mourn his untimely death, but to celebrate his short, hilarious life. To Fred! Who always made us laugh in the darkest of moments!