Acts of Love in ‘Deathly Hallows’

Sam,

Don’t be fooled by the title of this article. You won’t find sappy romance or a fairy tale ending here. This is the hard love, the kind that isn’t afraid to bleed for others. The Battle of Hogwarts has no white knights, no damsels in distress. J. K. Rowling isn’t shy about “love wins” as the theme of the series. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, she shows us how versatile acts of love can be. How, sometimes, they can mean life or death for someone.

From Hagrid’s defense of Norbert, Aragog, Buckbeak, Blast-Ended Skrewts, and Grawp (Hagrid just has to be difficult), Luna Lovegood’s cherished memories of the D.A., to Ron and Lavender’s PDA in the Gryffindor Common Room, one can hardly turn an eye on the various forms love takes. So how can Hallows be so special to this topic when there are so many other themes in the book I could talk about, AND when love is shown throughout Harry’s story? Because in this book a majority of the series-long acts of love come to a head and are put to their fullest effect.

If the sacrifice of Lilly and James Potter did not pop into your mind at some point in the first two paragraphs, then you haven’t been paying attention. In the very first novel we see evidence of the power of love as Harry survives his second encounter with Voldemort to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone. That magic endures all the way to “all was well” and beyond these pages. Call this shield convenient storytelling; dismiss it all you like as sappy, deus ex machina, or Jo writing herself into a corner. The power of instinctual, parental protection for their child gets its best moments in Hallows during the Battle of Hogwarts.

Consider Molly Weasley, whose family are among those who suffer more than most in the dark times of Lord Voldemort. “Not my daughter, you bitch!” She cries before leaping in front of Ginny and resuming the duel against Bellatrix Lestrange. Does she win out of pure talent or because she’s a better witch? Perhaps. Another could argue that coming to the defense of her daughter is akin to a parent finding unnatural strength to lift a car off a trapped child. Think too of the tragic off-page loss of Remus and Tonks, who just had baby Teddy. They could have stayed away from the fray to keep their new family in-tact. They didn’t, not when they could do something to help the greater good. I have no doubt Harry made sure Teddy knows exactly why he was orphaned as he was. How proud he must be of his parents’ sacrifice to make a better world for him.

But it’s not only members of Gryffindor or Hufflepuff house who express love for their offspring. As equally significant as Molly or Remus and Tonks is the compassion Narcissa Malfoy has for her son.

When questioned about the vital state of Harry in the Dark Forest, Narcissa risks her life and lies to the Dark Lord standing right behind her. She doesn’t care that Voldemort believes he won. She doesn’t care about the countless other lives in jeopardy or already taken by her cause. She taps into the fathomless depths of maternal instinct and asks about the safety of Draco. Remember, she partnered with Snape to ensure Draco’s success in killing Dumbledore via an Unbreakable Vow and defended him at Madam Malkin’s against Harry in Half-Blood Prince. Jo shows us that love can be as nuclear and isolating as it can be inclusive and empathetic with the contrast between mothers like Narcissa and Molly. Some would put themselves out there for another in need, while others stay close to their blood or those they deem worthy of their attention. And speaking of putting themselves out there for another, there’s another example of a Slytherin doing just that.

In the epilogue of Hallows, Harry tells his son (Albus Severus) about his namesakes. “He was the bravest man I ever knew.” Now think about why Snape was the bravest man to the champion of Gryffindor. . . . His bravery was motivated by his abiding love for Lily Potter. It’s the pivot point of all Snape’s actions throughout the series. When Voldemort reaps the Potters, Snape begs for Lilly to be spared. Again, we see a trend with Slytherin love being exclusive only to those they directly care about. Despite this, Snape’s love fuels his need for revenge in spying for the Order of the Phoenix, ultimately paying for his love in Hallows when Voldemort believes he is the master of the Elder Wand. This final installment to Harry’s story shows us the frequency those who love endanger themselves selflessly or selfishly when others are in need. On this day – the anniversary of the duel that finished it all – let’s remember love as a potent motivator for character decisions in the Harry Potter series and the consequences that result because of those decisions.

Cheers.

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***This post is part of my Perusing Potter – a series of exploring the known and not-so-known aspects of the Harry Potter Series***

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