The last words we see characters say in the series are no different. Many of last words we hear the characters say show their attitudes and dedication to their aims. In ‘The Seven Potters,’ we hear Moody’s last words: ‘Good luck everyone. See you all in about an hour at the Burrow. On the count of three…One…Two…THREE.’ Moody’s no-nonsense attitude is revealed with these words, and the fact that he dies off-page means that they have added poignancy, particularly as Moody died protecting Harry in the way he knows best: in battle. Similarly, we do not see Lupin’s death on-page, and like Moody, speaks like a true leader, calmly mediating and resolving a dispute: ‘Why doesn’t Ginny stay here then at least she’ll be on the scene and know what’s going on, but she won’t be in the middle of the fighting?’ These final words do not seem particularly significant, but show that both Moody and Lupin died fighting for what they believed in, reflecting how strong they are as leaders under intense pressure.
Other characters reveal their inherent weaknesses. Pettigrew attempts to summon courage, ‘Stand back. Stand away from the door. I am coming in,’ yet his hesitation allows Harry to escape, perhaps indicating that Pettigrew was not fully dedicated to Voldemort and felt remorse towards abandoning his friends. Quirrell’s desperate plea: ‘Master-I cannot hold him- my hands’ shows sorrow and perhaps regret for his actions, as he realises that Voldemort does not care about his followers.
In contrast other deaths are far more sudden. Bellatrix, dies in the same way she killed Sirius, in the middle of taunting her opponent: ‘What will happen to your children when I’ve killed you?’ taunted Bellatrix, as mad as her master, capering as Molly’s curses danced around her. ‘When Mummy’s gone the same way as Freddie?’ meaning that it is Bellatrix’s overconfidence that ultimately leads to her downfall. Sirius is caught in the middle of battle, with his final cry, ‘Come on you can do better than that!’ reflecting his bravery as he desperately fights for what he believes in, yet also indicates a slight arrogance, as he also is overconfident in his abilities. It is fitting that the weakness Bellatrix exploited in Sirius is later exploited by Molly, signifying that weaknesses clearly play a major part in causing the downfall of a character, which is reflected in their last words.
One thing I believe is reflected in all of the Harry Potter books is the personalities and values of the characters. James Potter’s final shout of ‘Lily! Take Harry and go! It’s him! Run! I’ll hold him off,’ is exactly what you’d expect from a true Gryffindor; throwing himself in Voldemort’s way in an attempt to protect his family. Similarly, Cedric’s bravery is evident in the statement ‘Wands out d’you reckon?’ but also reflects his lack of experience, highlighting how significant his death actually was, as it is the first time we explicitly see Voldemort kill in the books, demonstrating how ruthless Voldemort can be. One of the most tragic deaths is also one of the most poignant. Fred Weasley dies laughing and joking with his brother, ‘You are actually joking Perce…I don’t think I’ve heard you joke since you were…’ The fact that Fred dies laughing reflects his personality, and how he values fun and happiness, never taking anything too seriously. Although Fred dies laughing-which arguably is a fitting end to a life riddled with mischief- it seems tragic that his final joke was not shared with his twin.
Other final words in the series are indicative of one of the major themes that runs throughout the series: the idea of love. Lily’s plea to Voldemort ‘Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy’ show the extent to which her love stretched for her son, and her sacrifice by shielding Harry clearly show the significance of his mother’s love. In a more romantic sense, Tonks’s final sentence ‘Have you seen Remus?’ is particularly poignant and moving, as the next we see of the couple is in the Great Hall, lying side by side, perhaps indicating to some extent their dedication to not only the war, but also to each other, as it is difficult to imagine them being split apart. Snape also reveals to Harry his deepest secret with his last words as he begs Harry to ‘look…at…[him]’ as his final wish is to look into the same eyes of the woman that he loved, and the significance of his plea is only revealed in the next chapter, suggesting that your loved ones are often the only ones you think about in your final moments, and this is clearly reflected by these character’s deaths.
Like love, friendship is another major theme. The lengths to which some are willing to go for their friends are considerable, and Dumbledore’s plea for Snape to fulfil his promise arguably reflect exactly that. On first reading his last words appear to be a cry for help from someone he placed his trust in, but the fact that Dumbledore trusts Snape to fulfil his promise indicates the extent of their bond. The bond of friendship is also keenly felt in the death of Dobby, whose final utterance of ‘Harry…Potter’ shows the extent to which he is dedicated to his friend, a point that is made even more tragic by the fact that Harry’s name is also the first thing we hear Dobby say, suggesting that Harry is particularly important to Dobby, and thus is deeply devoted to him, even going so far as to sacrifice himself in this final act of friendship.
Of course, an analysis of final words would not be complete without those of Lord Voldemort, who meets his end with the fitting sentence of ‘Avadra Kedavra.’ The fact that Voldemort attempts to use the killing curse on Harry for a third time suggests that for all of his magical abilities, all he really understands is murder, and it is this that ultimately costs him his life.
Each of the deaths in Harry Potter have a rather fitting end, whether on- or off-page, often portraying the true natures of the characters. Rowling uses these final words as a way of reminding the reader of the character’s personalities; their strengths, their weaknesses, their beliefs and actions, and reveal the most significant aspects of their character and motivations. Just like in the real world, Rowling shows that new secrets and truths can be revealed, as well as reaffirming known ones, merely by looking at a character’s final words.