The Epilogue. The much discussed, much dissected, semi-loathed Epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Are you pro or con? I haven’t seen any official polls, but from the little I’ve read and the people I’ve talked to, people seem split about 50-50 on it, and they either love it or hate it. Nobody has said “meh”.
My gut reaction at 3:35 a.m. last Sunday was, “What?! That’s it? That can’t be it!” I had just left Harry and Ron and Hermione in Hogwarts, the school still shaking and grieving and covered in death and victory. The bodies weren’t even cold yet. I had just barely started to breath normally again, my heart still pounding, and then I turned the page and saw there was nothing there. They were gone. Poof. Like magic.
I’m telling you, I felt a cold dread spread over me as my old abandonment issues came back for a visit. How could they just leave me like that? Didn’t they know what I’d been through?
But when I saw more words peeking through the next page my mood swung all the way back to where I thought, “Ah ha! I knew Jo couldn’t just leave it like that. All the last answers must be right here!” But then, those dreaded words… “Nineteen Years Later.” And again, “What the hell? What do you mean 19 years later? Go back, go back! I need to know how George is and if Harry is going to swoop Ginny up in his arms right there in front of everyone and who is going to tell Mrs. Tonks what happened?”
But it wasn’t there.
The Epilogue did give us some nice bits. The fact that Harry considered Dumbledore and Snape equals was touching. We learned that Neville is still at Hogwarts. The rest, well, I think we all kind of guessed there would be a Happy Ever After in there as far as Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny went. But there were just so many other things we wanted to ask, and no answers.
But the more I grumbled, the guiltier I felt. Jo Rowling created an entire world for us – people, places, languages, lore, laws, government, animals, relationships, history. She spent 17 years putting it all together, and I have the nerve to whine that I want more? It’s like those obnoxious snots that go to Jason Mraz concerts and rather than appreciating the stellar set he always puts together, they use every quiet moment to scream, “Rand McNally!” Shut up already and let the boy play!
Besides, after all the little details Rowling managed to weave together, can we honestly believe that she missed the mark because she wasn’t smart enough to know what we wanted? What we expected? Do we really think it had no purpose, or that she threw it together carelessly? I’ve seen a few good theories on the Epilogue, and they go something like this:
1. All Harry ever wanted was a normal life and a family. We had to go into the future to give him that, his final reward. It’s true. He deserves it. And while I don’t really like to think of our gang all grown up, seeing them this way gives us the definintive answer that it all worked out. Voldemort really did die. The world became safe and happy again.
2. Rowling wanted to make sure nobody would expect her to write any more Harry Potter books. By saying that nothing happened for 19 years, we see that there’s no more story for her to tell. Fair enough.
3. Showing us all those kids could be a way of introducing us to the next generation of the Order of the Phoenix. And who knows what they might get into, should Rowling ever decide to go back to that world. The Epilogue works as an ending, but it could also be a new beginning. It’s not a bad thought. Rowling is a clever cookie. I can see where even if she promised herself she would never go back to the wizarding world, that she might still leave herself a little loophole, just in case she feels differently in another ten years or so. I would like to know more about Teddy Lupin. Half warewolf, half metamorph sounds like an awesome combination.
Do any of those explanations make me feel better? Not really. It’s still over, innit? Having someone hand me 100 more pages stolen from some kind of secret stash of Rowling’s with a bunch of post-battle details might help, but at the end of that I’d still feel the same way. Now that it’s all out there Rowling does seem very happy to spill the beans and fill in the holes, but even that’s unsatisfying. I don’t want to just hear, “Oh yeah, Harry and Ron are aurors. The Ministry is completely transformed.” I want to read it. I want to see all the little details. I want to go back to the Burrow and see what Hogwarts looks like and find out if Ollivander opened up shop again in Diagon Alley and knock on the door of Privet Drive one more time.
And I think therein lies our dilemma. Many people have compared finishing the last book to a death, but it’s really more like a break-up, one that you really didn’t want to happen, even though you knew it had to. Because with a death, you tend to look back at a person’s life. With a break-up, you can’t help but look ahead and wonder what might have been, or what the other person is doing now, without you.
We all spent years together, and going into it we knew it wouldn’t last forever, but we couldn’t not fall in love with these characters along the way. We shared things, we fought side-by-side, we were in on all the jokes, we knew who was in love with who long before they realized it themselves. And now we still carry around all those feelings, but there’s nowhere to put them.
One of the things I most clearly remember learning in college was said during a workshop I had to attend to be an RA. The school’s head counselor was giving a seminar on dealing with relationships and break-ups, and the way he defined heartbreak has stayed with me to this day. He said that when a relationship ends, you don’t miss the other person so much as you miss the part of yourself that you gave them. And that feels exactly right.
Sure, we miss Harry and Ron and Hermione and Neville and the others, but we miss our own characters too. We were in those books, right with them through all of their adventures. And when the last page of the last book was turned, that part of us got left there on Platform 9 3/4 next to them.
The experiences we had and the emotions we felt have to stay there; they can’t be carried on to another book, or film, or even a blog, no matter how many words I… er, we, write. We can go back to the beginning and start again, but it won’t be quite the same. So what do we do with those bits of us that got left in the books? Where do they go? What happens to us next? That’s the hole that’s the most difficult to fill.
Thank goodness there’s always the Simpsons, dark chocolate, and J.D. Salinger – a triple threat of warm, comfortable, soul-nurturing goodness.