Free Will and Fate

Throughout the series, we are called to reflect on free will and fate as Harry makes choices, wins battles, and becomes angry with what he sees as his fate. Dumbledore reminds Harry in book five that it is our choices that define us. In the Deathly Hallows, Harry chooses to deliver himself to Voldemort. His choice to end his life results in the saving of his life and others. Even Voldemort in his attempt to shape fate—causes his own demise. In interpreting the prophesy, he disregards Neville and goes after Harry. In not taking Neville seriously (even after Harry is believed to be dead), Neville is able to grow into the adversary that kills Nagini (the final Horcrux).

It is also intriguing in the final book to see how all of the previous lessons and battles prepare the characters for the final battle. Also, the characters must work together to win the battle against evil. Each character brings something to the victory. All of the choices and learned lessons were necessary. We also realize why Dumbledore had been absent at times or had not shared essential information. This reminds us that wisdom often needs to come in small degrees and that we must be patient. Our struggles may lead to something powerful and meaningful if we allow them to and are patient in waiting for understanding.

We also realize that all is not what it seems. Snape was never really evil—he was keeping a cover in order to protect Harry. Again, love saved Harry. Because Snape had loved Lily, he chose to protect the part of Lily that remained—Harry. He also chose to follow Dumbledore’s wishes and be the one who killed Dumbledore in order to be part of a bigger plan. All of these decisions, cause us to reflect on our own roles and choices? While it may seem at times that our fate has been determined (as Harry often felt), God gives us the ability to choose. And, we are not in our struggle alone.

This also brings up the question of Dumbledore. Is he intended to resemble God? I don’t believe so. I see him as fellow struggler with much wisdom—more like a prophet or saint. Remember, Dumbledore in his early years desired power and control. He sought the Deathly Hallows and as a result caused much pain and suffering for his sister and brother. God would never have these struggles, for he is perfect. In the end, Dumbledore learned what he inscribed on his sister’s head stone: “Where your treasure is . . . there will your heart be also” – a direct quote from Matthew 6:19-24. And in learning this lesson, like any good teacher or prophet, he passed it along to Harry and his friends. We see this when Harry is holding the Elderwood Wand and thus possessing the power and control sought by many. Remembering the lessons of Dumbledore and Voldemort, Harry chooses to break the wand and to turn his heart to other things—like love.

Death and Afterlife

Throughout the entire series, we are called to reflect on death and the afterlife. Harry mourns the loss of his parents and yearns for them in the Mirror of Erised. When Serius dies, he seeks him in a broken mirror and also wonders what is behind the curtain where dead people seem to be conversing. In the Deathly Hallows, Harry is surrounded by his deceased loved ones as he walks to hand himself over to Voldemort. His loved ones reveal that they have always been with him. After Harry dies, Harry goes to a cleaner Kings Crossing where he converses with Dumbledore and wonders if it is all in his head. Dumbledore tells Harry that of course it is in head—but that doesn’t make it any less true. And when it is announced that Harry has died, Neville (not knowing Harry is alive) pronounces that it does not matter because our loved ones never leave us when they die. They remain with us in our hearts. All of these moments give us a chance to reflect on our own questions about death and the afterlife—to mourn our losses and heal. As Christians, we can share our questions, experiences, and beliefs. And when we (like Harry), wonder if it is all in our head, we can remind each other that: “Of course it is in our heads. But that doesn’t make it any less true!”