Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Twenty Three Years Later: I Try and Write A Better Harry Potter Epilogue


So, we all know that the epilogue of the unbearably good final Harry Potter book is unbearably disappointing. I find it spectacularly unsatisfying, so this what I like to imagine happened; a satisfying conclusion that ties up loose ends, nods at the emotional aftermath of traumatic events and closes some character arcs, unlike the official ending. I like to believe that Harry played Quidditch for England and became a teacher at Hogwarts. It’s his home. Eventually he will become Headmaster and live happily there for most of his life. He gets married to Ginny, who becomes the business manager of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and makes it an astonishing success with George’s help as the inventor. Ron becomes a nurse and then a stay-at-home dad. It turns out he has a talent for domestic magic, which he never discovered before because he’d never tried. Hermione will become the first female Minister for Magic and is extremely popular, and never compromises her principles. She succeeds in liberating the house elves. When she retires from politics, she writes the next generation of Hogwarts textbooks. Neville goes to wizard university to get a wizard PhD and becomes a world expert in aquatic magical plants. Luna just carries on with her brilliant self. Teddy Lupin turns out a good hearted guy with a lot of girlfriends and a dragon leather jacket. He rides Sirius’s flying motorbike. Hagrid stays exactly the same. No one is named Albus Severus. 

Harry Potter looked out over the Great Hall of Hogwarts from the teachers’ table. It was the first day of term. Hundreds of bobbing heads spread out before him clattering their breakfast dishes and chattering loudly, bathed in the bright daylight falling from the bewitched ceiling. The four long banners of the Hogwarts houses still hung down, but no one sat according to house any more; scarlet, emerald, airy blue and sunny yellow mixed freely in the mass of black hats and robes that filled the room. Harry allowed the air of excitement to draw him in and found himself grinning down at the teenagers below as he scanned the hall for a few familiar faces. Next to him, ancient Professor Flitwick, now tinier than ever, happily piled bacon into his scrambled eggs.

A pang of pride as well as amusement swelled in Harry as his older son, James, swaggered into the Hall in his new red Quidditch robes, surrounded by friends. Harry himself had retired from professional Quidditch two years earlier when he was made Head of Gryffindor, but at sixteen James was turning out as good a Seeker as Harry had ever been, and as his coach, Harry pushed him ever harder. Harry trusted that the conceitedness which grew alongside his talent, fuelled by his good looks and the prestige of his famous father, would eventually fizzle out. This morning, James studiously pretended not to see Harry, who took great pleasure in waving to him as exuberantly as possible. Laughing at the half-hearted glare he received in return, Harry resumed watching for his timid younger son, whose first day it was, but saw him nowhere.

Albus had been sorted into Gryffindor only yesterday, to his own great surprise and relief. Watching him don the battered Sorting Hat had opened a floodgate of treasured, if painful memories for Harry, who in the few seconds it took for the hat to reach its decision had relived his own first night at school, drawing the ruby sword of Gryffindor from the hat in the Chamber of Secrets, almost drowning in a frozen forest pool, Dumbledore’s death, and the moment Neville had drawn the sword himself and dramatically slain Voldemort’s snake, precipitating the beginning of the end of the final battle at Hogwarts. Only a handful of people in the Great Hall now remembered it as it had been that night, with rubble torn from the walls, the long tables pushed away, and lines of bodies on the floor surrounded by weeping families. It startled Harry to think that none of the pupils now comfortably living their lives in front of him had even been born into a world where Voldemort existed. His own formative experiences were little more than a story or a history lesson to them. Now, when the bright eyes of excited first years performed the still-familiar flick up to the scar on his forehead, they wanted to hear about the World Cup. For several years after Voldemort’s final defeat so long ago, Harry, relieved of the burden of being a hero, had suffered intrusively vivid flashbacks, panic attacks and uncontrollable bursts of anger and fear. At one point he had thought he might never be able to return to Hogwarts, but time, talking and therapy had helped alleviate his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Feeling himself being sucked into a well of memories, Harry turned along the table to catch Neville’s eye. Now Professor Longbottom, Neville, already spattered in mud, was cheerily talking at the bemused new History of Magic teacher, and gave Harry the thumbs up. Comforted by his close friend’s good nature, Harry rose to head for his first lesson of the day. Practical Defensive Magic, once known as Defence Against the Dark Arts, was one of the most popular classes at Hogwarts, and Harry’s timetable was always heavy, but he had his own reason for looking forward to this particular lesson.

When he arrived at his classroom, his younger son beamed at him from the first row and chirruped “Hi, Dad!” Next to him, Ron and Hermione’s daughter Rose – Albus’s best friend and cousin, and a brand new Ravenclaw – looked up from her textbook. Both Harry’s sons looked like him rather than Ginny, but only Albus had inherited his distinctive green eyes. Their daughter Lily, now nine, favoured the Weasleys.

As he waited for the class to fill, Harry amused himself by flicking through The Quibbler, these days a well-respected if quirky publication employing a number of promising Hogwarts alumni and edited by Luna. He was proud to see Hermione feature prominently in a long article about international merpeople territory rights, and a garish full-page advert for Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes that flashed purple and green as he looked at it. When he looked up, Harry caught the eye of Scorpio Malfoy, a pale, round-faced little boy who had been made a Hufflepuff. Harry inwardly chuckled as he imagined how Draco might feel about that. He and Malfoy would never be friends, but they had achieved a relationship of mutual respect. After Lucius’s suicide, Draco had donated much of the Malfoy fortune to help the families of the victims – magical and Muggle – of the Death Eaters, and sat on the board of several organisations that worked to improve the infrastructure of wizarding society. Harry thought that Scorpio looked like he might turn out to be quite a nice boy. Hufflepuffs usually were. Still nobody wanted to be in Slytherin; although it was no longer the factory for Dark wizards that it once was, it still tended to collect the bullies and their supporters, but it had also produced a handful of Harry’s favourite students. Harry would never be able to forget Slytherin’s part in the events of his own schooldays, but he also tried never to forget that the Sorting Hat had suggested he become a Slytherin as well.

A spontaneous hush fell over the room, and Harry realised the seats had filled up with tiny eleven year olds all bursting for their first ever real lesson in magic. Sharing their excitement, he stood up grinning, and gave his favourite instruction, one that never failed to produce a shiver of anticipation in an eager class. Harry remembered how much he loved to teach.

“Put away your textbooks and take out your wands.”


*****


As dusk fell over the grounds of Hogwarts, Harry walked, as he did most days, down to the lakefront, staring out across the landscape. Dumbledore’s tomb and the tall marble cenotaph that stood next to it gleamed gently in the dark. Though he knew the long, long list of names inscribed upon it almost by heart, from Hannah Abbott all the way down to Fred Weasley, Harry stood by it for a moment. Time had taken away the sharp sting of pain that thinking of Fred or Sirius, Remus, Tonks or Dobby had once caused, but his heart was heavy as he briefly wondered how many more excited children there might be at school today if the many dead had survived. At forty, Harry sometimes felt very old. Trying to shake out a sadness that would never truly leave him, he lifted his eyes to the sky, drinking in the last glow of the sunset over the lake, the forest and mountains. He never tired of seeing Hogwarts’ beautiful surroundings, and stood there watching until it became too dark to see anything more. Wordlessly he conjured his Patronus and turned towards the castle, noticing Hagrid’s silhouette stomping around in the light of the fire outside his hut. A huge puppy skipped and rolled at his feet. Harry smiled, knowing that Hagrid was little changed but for the grey in his beard. He gave his affection as freely as ever, and loved Harry’s children like his own. Harry’s heart squeezed tightly at the thought of the people whom he loved so much, and how many of them he had lost, and he hurried quickly towards the castle, blinking away tears. The stag walked beside him.

Harry’s office at Hogwarts was cosy, warm and golden. Letters, books, snacks and newspapers were piled on every surface, and photographs covered the walls; in any direction he looked, Harry’s eyes would land on something to make him smile. On some bad days, this had been invaluable. This evening, he watched his small self and his teammates dancing and shaking their Quidditch World Cup for a few seconds, then turned to the group photo of his and Ron and Hermione’s families that they had taken on their holiday in Thailand the summer before. Lily and Molly Granger-Weasley sniggered together from behind Hermione’s mother’s legs, while Teddy Lupin wrestled Albus. After he had looked long enough, Harry collected his post from his huge eagle owl, Gretel. She had brought him a note from Dudley, with whom Harry was on surprisingly friendly terms, containing a photograph of his new and chubby baby. The baby would clearly take after Vernon, while Dudley’s second wife looked disconcertingly like Petunia. Gretel uh-hued impatiently as Harry read and ruffled her wings to draw his attention to the intruder in her corner; one of Pigwidgeon’s many tiny descendants was sleeping peacefully on top of the letter it had come to deliver. Harry recognised the luxurious Ministry for Magic parchment; it was from Hermione.

Harry –
Hope you’re all well and this reaches you in time for the first day of school! We’re so pleased about Rose getting into R. and sure you’re thrilled for Albus! Molly hasn’t talked of anything but the day she and Lily will get to be Sorted all week – think she will miss Rose terribly, would you ask Ginny if it’s possible for her to take L over to play soon? Molly would love it and sure Ron would as well. He and Arthur have been working on getting the flying car going again, did he tell you? George put something together last week that seems to have fixed it, but he says don’t tell Ginny or she’ll dock his salary from WWW! Perhaps visit Ron yourself if you get a chance – he misses talking to actual grown ups, but his cooking just gets better and better. We’re making plans to visit Bill and Fleur in Nice over Christmas, perhaps you’d all like to come too? And Teddy if you want, he’ll be delighted. Am suggesting him for an internship in Law Enforcement, though I know he was hoping for Mysteries. Work stressful as always but we are making great strides with the merpeople rights and hope we will have a real breakthrough with the Pan-Asian Committee for Magical Relations soon. Better go, have meeting with Cambodian delegation tomorrow. Send love to Ginny and kids and to you of course. Have a great term! Talk soon. H xxx

Hermione Granger
Head of the Department of International Magical Co-operation
Ministry of Magic

The rest of the page was filled with glitter and a large crayon drawing of a dragon. Harry longed for the day when Hagrid would teach Molly that they were not actually pink. Smiling over the Hermione-ish letter, he opened the door that led from his office back into the family apartment, and was greeted by the warm smell of roasting chicken and a shriek of “DADDY!!!”

Lily flung herself into Harry’s arms and he lifted her up to kiss her. Ginny, plump and beautiful, followed more sedately through the door, a stack of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes order forms in her hand. Harry felt the familiar thud of love in his stomach as he looked towards her. Lily’s and Ginny’s eyes were exactly the same shade of brown.
“Teddy’s coming for supper,” she said.
“And he’s bringing a girl,” Lily announced, crossly. She was hopelessly in love with Harry’s exuberant godson. Harry laughed, and strode towards Ginny, crushing his wife and daughter in a tight hug. Ginny, who always understood, squeezed Harry’s hand and allowed him to bury his face in her shoulder and kiss her hair, overcome by his happiness. He breathed in her soothing scent and noticed how her copper hair blended so precisely with Lily’s. As he began to drift into the comfort of the embrace, the quietest creaking of the door caught his attention. Harry lifted his head.

“Boys…” he began. There was a muffled giggle, and then the Invisibility Cloak fell to the floor, revealing Harry’s sons smirking proudly. Harry tried to look stern, but the memory of his own invisible ramblings floated unbidden into his mind and he just shook his head affectionately and waved James and Albus into the tight family hug. In private his sons were not too grown up to wrap their newly gangly arms around their parents and sister and have Harry ruffle their hair, overwhelmed with the love that filled his whole body. With his family pressed tightly in his arms and the heat of their aliveness spreading through him, tears began to trickle and then flow down Harry’s face. He cried for everything that he had lost, but even more for everything that he had now. They were tears of sadness, but also tears of joy, because Harry Potter was finally happy. Harry Potter was finally home.

19 comments:

  1. THIS WAS SO EXCELLENT!!! I wish JKR had talked to you before publishing, haha.

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  2. This is brilliant! I'm glad it's posted on a blog, so I can share it with others...

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  3. Very satisfying! A great epilogue!

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  4. Great! I love it! "He cried for everything that he had lost, but even more for everything that he had now."

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  5. This is dark and sad and happy and beautiful. Which is what the Harry Potter series was...up to the conclusion. Very nice.

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  6. Perfect. This just fits the tone of the books and the characters so much more!

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  7. I love this! Very beautiful job. I actually wasn't too disappointed with the finale, I thought it did leave the door open for more so I wasn't complaining. But this is lovely. Good job.

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  8. Anything to prolong Harry Potter saga is welcomed. This is very beautiful.

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  9. Overall I liked it immensely; however, a few things were either overkill, or just plain not part of harry potter: Post Traumatic Stress, Lucius' suicide... And also, I am sorry but taking out the name Severus from Albus' name also took away from the story.

    However, as I said, overall I loved it. I have always thought of Hermione going into politics and continuing her liberation work(s). I also had Harry pegged for headmaster at some point in his life, and having played quidditch professionally. However, I also thought of him as working in the ministry as either an auror, or something in law enforcement prior to going back to hogworts.

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  10. I do like this ending. I am such a fan

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  11. I loved this. I too was disappointed in the ending. Only one thing , keep the name Albus Severus.

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  12. "Only one thing , keep the name Albus Severus." Or perhaps a name for each son...

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  13. Woah! The way the pageviews keep stacking up on this post is blowing me away. I never expected more than a handful of interested friends to read it, and wrote it more for myself than anything else, but I appreciate you all coming to my mostly neglected blog amazingly and am so happy for your feedback! I really hope you all enjoyed it.

    Re: Albus Severus. I totally get why JK used both names and I like their significance, I just happened to think it's a pretty awful name to saddle a child with. Perhaps my Harry went with James Severus instead.

    Thanks! Ailsa

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  14. I don't know who you are but I love how you captured everyone in the Potter world. This was beautiful and tasteful and followed the story wonderfully. You truly compliment the story and deserve a thumbs up! Thank you for sharing.

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  15. Thank you for this ending. Quite amazing!

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  16. A much better conclusion to the series. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. An excellent piece of work Thank you!

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  18. Absolutely marvellous - Made me cry. Thanks Ailsa - maybe you need to turn to your novels now!
    Wonderfully uplifting finale. Thanks again

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