On the Headmaster's Wall -- Chapter 3: Epilogue
And here is Chapter Three, an epilogue that takes on a still more different narrative style and voice.
Chapter Three: Epilogue
The following excerpt comprises Appendix A of Love’s Weapons: Reflections on Primary Sources in the Dark Wars by Linda Norfolk-Howard (Diagon Alley Publishers, London, 2328):
First, an explanation:
It is regrettably well-known that I was discharged from my position as a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as the result of “an act of vandalism in the Headmaster’s office.” I have never publicly disputed that assessment of the events, but because they are directly connected with the document that comprises most of this Appendix, I feel that an explanation is needed.
While conducting the lengthy research that eventually led to this book, I visited the Archives and Museum of the Ministry of Magic to examine various artifacts from the period of the Dark Wars. Preserved in a glass case in one of the less frequently visited portions of the Museum I found a set of robes owned by Harry Potter in 1998, the year the Dark Wars ended. Astonishingly, it appeared that no one had previously performed a rudimentary concealment survey charm or artifact assessment on the robes, and I obtained permission to do so. To my great surprise and delight, I found that an envelope had been concealed to act as a part of the robe.
The envelope was addressed simply, Ginny. Anyone familiar with the biography of Harry Potter would have inferred that it was intended for Ginevra M. Weasley, whose pivotal (and even now somewhat unexplained) role in the ending of the Dark Wars is detailed at length in the main body of this book. The concealment charm was so designed that the envelope would have revealed itself instantly upon near proximity to Weasley; however, since she predeceased Potter, she never received it and evidently it had not been seen by a soul for the 319 years preceding my visit to the Museum.
Contained in that envelope was the letter whose full text appears below. It is, to my knowledge, the only surviving sample of Harry Potter’s writing, and the internal evidence strongly suggests that it is among the last things – perhaps the very last thing – he wrote. As such it is priceless, and the original is now displayed prominently in the Archives and Museum with appropriate scholarly commentary.
At the time, however, I needed verification of the letter’s authenticity. With no other samples with which to compare it, I resorted to the only reliable sources available, which were the portraits of persons who knew Harry Potter in his lifetime. (I was, of course, aware of the controversies that rage among historians concerning the veracity of portrait-based testimony, but the information I was seeking was relatively straightforward and I had, as indicated, nowhere else to turn.) I knew that at least three of the Headmasters and Headmistresses of Hogwarts School were personally acquainted with Potter: Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, and Hermione Granger-Weasley. I obtained permission of Headmaster Alvaric to visit the portraits in his office, as I had done once before, and showed them the letter. The portrait of McGonagall, who had had six years of what she called “the frequently ambiguous pleasure” of reading Potter’s school essays, positively confirmed that the handwriting was his. The portrait of Dumbledore confirmed this view. The portrait of Granger-Weasley, who had been among Potter’s closest friends, also recognized his hand, and identified certain elements in the opening paragraphs as being things that “only Harry would have known or written.”
But after this, the portrait of Granger-Weasley insisted on reading the contents of the entire letter. The effect was terrible. I was shocked to find Hermione as despondent over the deaths of her friends as when I had visited her as a student ten years before. The letter, moreover, triggered the deepest part of her agonized grief, and she was inconsolable.
(On reflection I realized that I should have known that a portrait would not be able to “resolve” or “come to terms with” events in its past; portraits are incapable of true learning or growth. As a girl of seventeen, however, I had wanted to believe that the calmer, smiling Hermione had been comforted by the wise words of Albus Dumbledore, and so had allowed myself not to think about it logically – a mistake the living Hermione Granger-Weasley would never have made. In my own defense, I do not think that anyone has previously interacted with a wizard portrait that permanently captured an individual who was sick with loss and longing; such people normally do not sit for portraits and only the enchantments placed on Hogwarts Castle itself caused the portrait of Granger-Weasley to appear upon her death.)
Hermione begged me to take away her pain; existing as a portrait, she said, was never-ending agony because she could never escape the sense of loss and emptiness that apparently had dominated her later years. She had endured it for over two centuries and could not bear the thought of millennia stretching before her, with no hope of balm or comfort. Here was the last remaining shred of one of the heroes who saved our world from torture and terror that might have lasted for an age, and her reward was eternity in a Hell of our making. I determined to pay part of the debt owed by nine generations.
I spent the next several months studying the very subtle and complicated complex of charms, curses and transfigurations that would allow me to destroy one portrait, but not others, in the Headmaster’s office. Such a thing is horrendously difficult because it is the magic of the castle itself that creates the portraits; to thwart this magic permanently is no small feat. I returned to the office on the pretext of obtaining more information and, after receiving Hermione’s thanks and her blessing, sent her to the rest she craved. The rest of the story is, as I have said, too well-known for my liking.
I do not intend, here, to debate issues of euthanasia. They are inapplicable; portraits are not alive. I destroyed a magical artifact that had the disturbing tendency to remind me of a soul in torment. As to those who would say that such a declaration is inconsistent with my claim to have pitied and paid a debt to this portrait, let them hear with their ears what I have heard with mine and see whether they can make the same critique.
Some historians (who do not reflexively distrust portrait-based testimony) have suggested that, having obtained crucial information from a rare source, I then eliminated the source and “conveniently” made it impossible for anyone to challenge my data. Of course it is true that I did this. For the assertion that such was not my purpose, you have only my word.
As to the letter itself, I have argued at length in the main body of this book as to its significance and meaning. Here, let me just say that this document, when read in light of the other evidence concerning the final defeat of Voldemort, adds weight to the proposition that the personal affections and passions of individuals may be as important, or even more important, than social, economic and political forces in determining the outcome of great events. To say this is to say nothing even remotely new. To say, as the vanished portrait did, that “it was all done for love”, seems fitting, if less than conventionally scholarly. One thing seems nearly certain, though: The reign of the Dark Lord would have been considerably longer and more terrible had it not been for what these two felt. We are all the children of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley.
11 August 2328
19 June 1998
We learned yesterday that the last Horcrux (or second-to-last, I guess, if you count the bloody snake) is hidden at Hogwarts itself. Leave it to Voldemort to hide something right under our noses, in what we thought was the place safest from him. (I know you probably don’t know what I’m talking about – but Ron or Hermione can explain if I’m not available.) So tomorrow we’ll return to the Castle and try to destroy it. It looks like we’re going to need all the teachers (or at least the heavy-hitters like McGonagall and Flitwick) as well as Bill and some of his mates, to tear down the wards and such that are probably protecting the cursed thing. It’s going to be some party.
Once we destroy this one, something tells me Voldemort will be after us – or probably after me – very soon afterwards. I’m not sure how I know this, but the fact that it’s at the School makes me think of Muggle burglar alarms. I think he’ll know we’ve taken it, and then he’ll attack. So one way or another I think this war will be over very soon. Dumbledore was certain that I could kill this ghoul, and I hope he was right.
But there’s the chance that we’ll lose, or that we’ll win but that I won’t make it. And there are things that I need to say to you, and if I don’t get to say them in person then I want you to have them here, in writing. I know it’s not as good as speaking it to your face, and that I should have said these things when we were together last year, but I blew it and this is the best I can do now. I really hope that this letter becomes unnecessary and that I can say all this to your face. Won’t that be a relief?
I need you to understand that I didn’t leave you behind because I thought you were too young, or too weak, or needed protecting. Far from it – I know you’re probably tougher than I am. I went without you because I realized that I couldn’t stand the idea of your being in danger, and that I’d be completely useless if I saw you at risk. I’d spend all my time worrying. I know it’s stupid, and, yes, I know that you’re in danger everywhere, just like everyone else in Britain until he’s gone. But I can’t help it.
Here’s the thing – Much as I know how much depends on finishing Voldemort, I still think that if I had to choose between your life and victory I wouldn’t be able to stop myself – I’d sacrifice the victory. I’ve tried to be strong, and I think I’m stronger than I used to be, but I don’t think I’m strong enough to watch you die. I think it would kill me. I’ve had some bad moments this year when I’ve imagined him killing you, and it feels like I’m going to fall apart. Do you remember what it was like to do accidental magic, when we were younger? It felt like that, only it hurt, and it felt like I would pop like a balloon. If you were with me the only thing I’d want to do is watch your back. I hate this, I hate this war, I hate Voldemort, but most of all I hate that it drives me away from you. If I get out of this, I’m never leaving your side again.
So here’s the main thing – I love you.
I’ve never said that to you before. I’ve never said it to anyone before. (I’ve never written it before, either – it looks funny sitting on the parchment like that.) I tried whispering it a couple of times to see how it felt to say it – “I love you, Ginny.” (Can’t say it too loud or Ron will laugh at me and Hermione will get all moony.) I get a little choked up. Ron tells Hermione he loves her all the time, and he doesn’t get choked up. Maybe it gets easier when you say it more often.
I’m not really good at this, but when I say “I love you”, I mean that I want to spend my life trying to see how many ways there are to make you smile. You have the best smile. I mean that I want to be the shoulder you cry on when you get upset. I think I want you to be the shoulder I cry on, too – do you remember how Ron and Hermione held each other at the funeral? (Yes, Ginny, I know that you would have held me at the funeral if I’d asked for it or even looked like I wanted you to. I couldn’t ask. Not then.) You know, there’s a sound you make when you’re really happy, it’s like laughter but it’s – more, I guess. I don’t exactly know how to describe it – but I want to hear that sound every day.
(That paragraph looks like it came out of Witch Weekly. I really mean all those things, so why do they all look so clumsy on the parchment?)
It’s at this moment that I most hate what I have to do. I never, never wanted to be any kind of hero. It’s true that I want to kill Tom Riddle for what he did to my parents, and to you, and to Sirius and everybody. But what I want more than anything, right now, is to find a house in the country (something like the Burrow, only smaller), throw a Fidelius Charm over it with Hermione as the Secret Keeper, and find out just how much fun it can be for two people to live a nice, boring life. To see you every day and have nothing important to do. (To hell with being an Auror.) If I get out of this and I can talk you into it, that’s what we’ll do.
But if I don’t get out of this, you have a whole life in front of you. Don’t roll your brown eyes and talk about my being “noble.” I’m not being noble. If I’m gone then there’ll be nothing more anyone can do for me, you included. But I can’t stand the thought of your unhappiness. I need to know you’ll be happy.
I realize I’m not being consistent. I’m telling you that I can’t survive your death, but I’m asking you to make sure that you prosper after mine. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? But somehow I expect you to be stronger than I am that way. When I think about Ron and Hermione, it seems to me that Hermione would survive Ron’s death better than he would survive hers. (What a thing to be thinking about!) I don’t know why I think that – I mean, I know Hermione isn’t made of granite or anything, but she seems so in charge of her own mind and her own feelings most of the time that I feel that, given enough time, she could manage just about anything. (Might take a really long time, though.) Ron, on the other hand, sometimes goes about in a fog, not really knowing what he’s feeling – well, I suppose I don’t have to tell you that.
Please, Ginny, for me, to honor my memory, please be happy. Find something you can love to do, someone you can love, and make a perfect life for yourself. Tell all your children and grandchildren about your friend Harry, about what a prat he was but how much he cared for you. Tell them about that silly Valentine you sent me. Tell them how I got jealous of Dean Thomas. Tell them how it took more than five years for me to realize what you mean to me.
But Ginny, if there is a way (other than leaving behind a ruddy ghost or a portrait) for those who have died to tell those who still live how much they love them, then I will find it. And if Luna is right, and there really is something beyond, then I’ll be waiting there for you, to say all the things I was too scared, or too thick, or too bloody “noble” to say. Maybe we’ll be lucky and meet again. I hope so.
I’m getting tears in my eyes, which is stupid. If Hermione sees me she’ll worm out the reason, and then we’ll both be wrecks. And she’ll tell Ron, and he’ll be more of a wreck. I’m going to seal this letter up in a place where only you can find it. I hope I haven’t upset you too much. I needed you to know. With hopes that you’ll never need to read this, I am