Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’: Chapter 16

In the sixteenth chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry deals with the extreme guilt he feels over causing Ron to leave. Hermione, however, finally warms to the idea of visiting Godric’s Hollow. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.


  • When Harry woke the following day it was several seconds before he remembered what had happened. Then he hoped childishly, that it had been a dream, that Ron was still there and had never left. Yet by turning his head on his pillow he could see Ron’s deserted bunk. It was like a dead body in the way it seems to draw his eyes. Harry jumped down from his own bed, keeping his eyes averted from Ron’s. Hermione, who was already busy in the kitchen, did not wish Harry good morning, but turned her face away quickly as he went by. He’s gone, Harry told himself. He’s gone. He had to keep thinking it as he washed and dressed as though repetition would dull the shock of it. He’s gone and he’s not coming back. And that was the simple truth of it, Harry knew, because their protective enchantments meant that it would be impossible, once they vacated this spot, for Ron to find them again.

“I’m going to miss you.”

He turned to me, his eyes glazed, mostly from the alcohol, but a part of me hoped that maybe he was feeling the same thing I was in his chest. He smiled briefly and reached over to my hand laying on the couch next to him. The black leather squeaked quietly as he pulled my hand over to his right leg and squeezed. “I won’t be gone long,” he said, taking another sip of the crimson wine in his left hand.

But twenty-five days was a long time to me. For twenty-five days, he wouldn’t be here on this journey with me, and for twenty-five days I’d have to do this alone. I shifted my weight to get closer to him and I heard my keychain jingle behind me. It was an instant reminder that there was an unoccupied room that was now mine, in a new neighborhood, in a new building, and when I went home that night, I would enter into a vacant space with beige walls and matching carpet, the front door echoing into the void as it shut, and I would be nothing more than another tenant in a building full of strangers, that I would sit on the floor, without furniture, without a bed, and I’d wish he was here with me, because we could make it work.

“You’ve moved into your new studio, yes?”

Well…”moved in” implies I have stuff to move. My records and books and clothes are there. I’ve never had much of anything else.

He laughed, but in that way that implied he was laughing at me. “Oh, Mark,” he said, giggling again. “How old are you? Twenty-three now? And you still don’t have any furniture?”

I had never been much of a blusher, but I felt the scarlet shame trickle into my cheeks and my throat constricted. He was going to do this again.

No, I don’t, I said. You know why I don’t. I don’t get why you have to bring this up over and over.

I let go of his hand, eyes stinging. “You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, Mark,” he said to me. He finished off his wine and got up. I heard dishes clinking together in the sink and the water running into the drain and I stared at the Christmas decorations still up, the tiny tree beginning to wilt down while sparkles danced in the glow of the tiny lights. It had only been one day, but I wondered how long he’d leave the tree here.

And the space in front of me seemed to stretch for miles as I fought back bitter tears; this room, full of leather furniture in an L-formation and glass coffee tables and that lopsided, oak desk in the corner overflowing with dog-eared papers, and that shitty electric fountain with stones stained with water spots that was never plugged in and the entertainment center that held an old TV with one of those units that played both DVDs and VHS tapes, it all seemed so pointless and worthless and lacking any sort of practicality. And this was what I was supposed to aim for? To collect things and objects and then he’d be happy with me?

This was not how love was supposed to be.

  • The muddy river beside them was rising rapidly and would soon spill over onto their bank. They had lingered a good hour after they would usually have departed their campsite. Finally having entirely repacked the beaded bag three times, Hermione seemed unable to find any more reasons to delay: She and Harry gasped hands and Disapparated, reappearing on a windswept heather-covered hillside. The instant they arrived, Hermione dropped Harry’s hand and walked away from him, finally sitting down on a large rock, her face on her knees, shaking with what he knew were sobs. He watched her, supposing that he ought to go and comfort her, but something kept him rooted to the spot. Everything inside him felt cold and tight: Again he saw the contemptuous expression on Ron’s face. Harry strode off through the heather, walking in a large circle with the distraught Hermione at its center, casting the spell she usually performed to ensure their protection.

    They did not discuss Ron at all over the next few days. Harry was determined never to mention his name again and Hermione seemed to know that it was no use forcing the issue, although sometimes at night when she thought he was sleeping, he would hear her crying. Meanwhile Harry had started bringing out the Marauder’s map and examining it by wandlight. He was waiting for the moment when Ron’s labeled dot would reappear in the corridors of Hogwarts, proving that he had returned to the comfortable castle, protected by his status of pureblood. However, Ron did not appear on the map and after a while Harry found himself taking it out simply to stare at Ginny’s name in the girl’s dormitory, wondering whether the intensity with which he gazed at it might break into her sleep, that she would somehow know he was thinking about her, hoping that she was all right.

The lobby was cramped by two elliptical-shaped couches, each facing other, providing the room with a rough symmetry. I shuffled past the couches and gazed up at the cheap chandelier hanging too low for comfort directly in the center of the room. There wasn’t an ounce of glass on it, it seemed, and the plastic adornments shook and rattled if you shut the lobby door too hard. My apartment was on the first floor, number 111, and I bounded up a small set of steps and there it stood, the door to the first place I ever rented by myself. My stomach fluttered as I unlocked the door and pushed it open. The carpet was a bit thick, so the bottom of the door resisted until I gave it a stronger shove. It was past midnight, now the twenty-seventh of December, and I let the black darkness settle in while I closed the door behind me.

I took a breath and turned the light on; it cast a yellowish shade on to the sandy carpet; the walls were painted with a thick, shiny coat. It was a shit job, but it was now mine. I dropped my messenger bag on to the floor and surveyed the space. It was a lot of room, even with boxes and boxes of books and vinyl records spread about towards my right. I walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, which was also empty. All of this was mine and all of this space was for me. It was the first time in my entire life that I had something that belonged entirely to me. But I couldn’t escape the sensation that something wasn’t right with all of this. Why did I want him to be here with me, sharing this experience? I knew the first thing he’d say: “There’s no furniture here. Where am I supposed to sit?” Or perhaps he’d say, “You don’t own a television. I don’t understand how you live without one.” Or maybe he’d return to his favorite refrain: “I hate taking the Metro, too many poor people. I can’t wait to get my license back.” My apartment had the bare minimum and I was okay with this. I’d been ok with being able to fit my whole life in the back of a car for years, ever since I ran away from home at sixteen. So why was it bothering me?

I walked across the room and grabbed the sleeping bag and pillow sitting on top of the vanity. I spread them out on the carpet that itched against my bare feet and turned off the light, swallowed by darkness again. I climbed inside the bag and remained there, wide awake, before I drifted to sleep, wishing I had someone here to sleep with on my first night in apartment 111. My thoughts wandered and even though I’d never been to D.C., I could somehow imagine him there and I wondered if he was thinking of me at that moment. But he probably wasn’t and nothing comforted me as I drifted off to sleep.

  • He was about to go home, about to return to the place where he had had a family. It was in Godric’s Hollow that, but for Voldemort, he would have grown up and spent every school holiday. He could have invited friends to his house. . . . He might even have had brothers and sisters. . . . It would have been his mother who had made his seventeenth birthday cake. The life he had lost had hardly ever seemed so real to him as at this moment, when he knew he was about to see the place where it had been taken from him. After Hermione had gone to bed that night, Harry quietly extracted his rucksack from Hermione’s beaded bag, and from inside it, the photograph album Hagrid had given him so long ago. For the first time in months, he perused the old pictures of his parents, smiling and waving up at him from the images, which were all he had left of them now.

I stood by the fireplace, the one we never used, as the Christmas tree next to me blinked persistently. My mom always made sure that the tree’s lights were plugged in if there was ever company and I suspected that she sometimes did it even when she was alone. I wasn’t look at the tree, though. I found myself staring at a photo of my father, one he’d taken from his final trip to Hawaii, after his mother passed away. He stood with his sister and two brothers; they looked happy and content. It was never hard for his side of the family to look like this; my father was notoriously laidback, sometimes even apathetic, so the idea that he could be in Hawaii and look happy wasn’t inconceivable to me.

My brother stepped up alongside me. “I miss him,” he said simply.

I know. Me too.

My brother knew not to say much more. I heard him walk away and when I turned around a couple minutes later, my head hurting and light, it didn’t seem entirely impossible to me that my dad could be sitting on the couch right now. He’d be wearing those same gray-blue Dockers shorts that he must have owned for years, with a frayed and aged polo shirt topping it off. I imagined him watching some terrible movie on TBS. He largely had no discernible taste in music or television, so he would have been shifting through channels before stopping in the middle of a movie he’d never seen before and leaving it there. I’d sit on the couch and we’d be silent for a few minutes, as my dad wasn’t a man of many words, and then he’d ask me how my job was going and if I was going to go back to school. They were always the same questions, a sort of familial small talk we had, but they didn’t feel irritating. They were comforting and I’d realize that in that moment and I’d smile at him. My mom would yell at him to help out with dinner and he’d turn to me and crack a joke about making her mad, then giggle and snort to himself, pleased with his humor, and then he’d lumber off to help.

Except none of this happened at all and none of this would ever happen again. I sat on the couch and stared at his recliner where it looked like his physical form had been pressed into it from years of sitting, and I wanted so badly for him to walk in the living room and tell me that it was time for me to set the table as he sat down and resumed flicking through channels.

But nothing happened. He was gone forever.

  • Harry felt a thrill of something that was beyond excitement, more like fear. Now that he was so near, he wondered whether he wanted to see after all. Perhaps Hermione knew how he was feeling, because she reached for his hand and took the lead for the first time, pulling him forward. Halfway across the square, however, she stopped dead.

    “Harry, look!”

    She was pointing at the war memorial. As they had passed it, it had transformed. Instead of an obelisk covered in names, there was a statue of three people: a man with untidy hair and glasses, a woman with long hair and a kind, pretty face, and a baby boy sitting in his mother’s arms. Snow lay upon all their heads, like fluffy white caps.

    Harry drew closer, gazing up into his parents’ faces. He had never imagined that there would be a statue. . . . How strange it was to see himself represented in stone, a happy baby without a scar on his forehead. . . .

    “C’mon,” said Harry, when he had looked his fill, and they turned again toward the church. As they crossed the road, he glanced over his shoulder; the statue had turned back into the war memorial.

“Did you get a bed yet?”

His voice was insistent, pointed. I wasn’t surprised that after nearly two weeks of no contact, this is what he was saying to me.

Not really. I just got an air mattress until I can save up for an actual bed.

He sighed and I heard him click his tongue. He did it when he was irritated. “Look, Mark, if you want to finally have sex, I am not going to do it on an air mattress on the floor. I’m not a fucking whore.”

I didn’t say anything at all. I didn’t know how to respond.

He took this as a cute that I understood. “Fine. Well, I’ve got to go. Love you.”

He hung up. He said those words but I knew, definitively, that he didn’t mean them. And it was the first time that, listening to his words, that I knew this. It was changing right in front of me.

  • So Rita Skeeter and Muriel had got some of their facts right. The Dumbledore family had indeed lived here, and part of it had died here.

    Seeing the grave was worse than hearing about it. Harry could not help thinking that he and Dumbledore both had deep roots in this graveyard, and that Dumbledore ought to have told him so, yet he had never thought to share the connection. They could have visited the place together; for a moment Harry imagined coming here with Dumbledore, of what a bond that would have been, of how much it would have meant to him. But it seemed that to Dumbledore, the fact that their families lay side by side in the same graveyard had been an unimportant coincidence, irrelevant, perhaps, to the job he wanted Harry to do.

I got an email telling me that I had a new message on MySpace. He was coming home in just a couple days and I felt that perhaps I had been overreacting. Distance made my mind wander to terrible places.

Hey Mark, good to hear your well and that you are still working out every day. you are making such progress! hopefully you can lose those love handles soon lol! anyway, everything is good here with my family. it’s really good to see my mom and my brothers everyday and be able to be close to my family. i know you know how important that is to me! i haven’t had the chance to go out much but i did go to a few clubs with some of my old friends lol i promise i wasn’t too crazy, not like last time. anyway how are you doing? hope you are well. oh by the way, i’m going to move to d.c. at the end of the month and move in with my mom and stuff. ok, talk to you soon! love you.

My heart collapsed in my chest. I read the message once, twice, over and over again. Did I just get dumped, casually dumped, over MySpace?

Oh god, oh fuck, this is horrible, I thought. This is not happening, this is not happening. Oh fuck, what the fuck.

  • But they were not living, thought Harry. They were gone. The empty words could not disguise the fact that his parents’ moldering remains lay beneath snow and stone, indifferent, unknowing. And tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off or pretending? He let them fall, his lips pressed hard together, looking down at the thick snow hiding from his eyes the place where the last of Lily and James lay, bones now, surely, or dust, not knowing or caring that their living son stood so near, his heart still beating, alive because of their sacrifice and close to wishing, at this moment, that he was sleeping under the snow with them.

    Hermione had taken his hand again and was gripping it tightly. He could not look at her, but returned the pressure, now taking deep, sharp gulps of the night air, trying to steady himself, trying to regain control. He should have brought something o give them, and he had not thought of it, and every plant in the graveyard was leafless and frozen. But Hermione raised her wand, moved it in a circle through the air, and a wreath of Christmas roses blossomed before them. Harry caught it and laid it on his parents’ grave.

    As soon as he stood up he wanted to leave: He did not think he could stand another moment there. He put his arm around Hermione’s shoulders, and she put hers around his waist, and they turned in silence and walked away through the snow, past Dumbledore’s mother and sister, back toward the dark church and the out-of-sight kissing gate.

I climbed out of his bed when the alarm clock nosily screamed for attention. I walked to his side of the bed and shut it off; he stirred beneath his navy blue duvet and I quickly left before the rising panic and terror got worse.

My clothes and green messenger bag were sitting on the leather couch and I could see that the goldenrod sunlight was already pouring through the vertical blinds, leaving straight lines of light refracting across the couch and the coffee table. For a brief second, the shadows left behind looked like prison bars jutting across the floor.

I pulled on some shorts and hesitated a moment before pulling my bag over my head and onto my shoulders. I didn’t know when I’d see this couch again, or if it would ever happen again. I didn’t know if I’d ever step foot in this apartment again.

But I could feel the fear and the uncertainty building inside of me and I knew every second I spent right in this spot, where he and I had spoke until three in the morning, me in tears and him trying his best to console me, that was one more second where I’d have to deny the inevitable: This was over and he was gone.

I walked towards the front door, slipping into my Vans on the way, and it was impossible not to see into his room, where he lay on top of the covers now, in those tiny briefs I liked so much, but they now reminded me that I never once got beyond them in the six months we were together.

What have I done? Why is this happening to me?

I couldn’t stay a second longer; the fact that he wasn’t bothering to wake up was like an extra slap in the face. He couldn’t even say goodbye.

As I walked to the door and pulled it open, I could feel the early morning Los Angeles air come rushing to meet my face, a crisp wind blowing up the narrow stairway. And as the door banged shut behind, I stopped trying to hold myself back, and the air felt so much colder on the streams pouring down my face. I sat down on that top step, my hand still on the door, feeling betrayed. I had just spent the last six months in a sexless relationship, giving a guy my entire heart, giving him money and objects and spending hours in the gym to lose weight so he would find me attractive and traveling between two homes just to make him happy. And he had just dumped me because he didn’t think he ever really loved me.

I ran my fingers over the grating on the storm door and strangely felt that if I let go, I would never see his face again and I wanted to hold on to the hope that he’d change his mind and he would need me and we could get back together and try it all over again. I wanted to fall asleep holding someone’s hand because I never got to do that growing up and I wanted to know I had someone to come home to because my apartment was so barren and empty.

All these thoughts made me sick to my stomach because I had never cared about wanting any of this. I had never cared about looking like I was in shape, I had never cared about filling my apartment with expensive furniture, and I had never cared about how I was always alone. And now I felt all of these about someone who had spent six months using me to feel better about himself.

I stood up and let go, my knees shaking as I descended the stairway. I had to face the stunning realization that I was single and that I had to press on, by myself, and that I had to love myself. As I walked down his driveway, refusing to look back, I thought about that first night I met him. It was the day before my father died and there was something exciting about meeting someone and staying up until three in the morning talking. He ended our relationship with the same sort of conversation and the poetry was not lost on me. But I couldn’t help but be reminded that I fell in love in the midst of the death of my father and all I wanted in that moment, walking down Afton Place, was to see him walking towards me, the rising sun shining off his aviator glasses that tinted in the sunlight, and give him a hug so he could calmly tell me that everything is ok and that it’s time for us to sit on the couch and watch re-runs of The X-Files again and I would feel all right.

But he was gone and no amount of wishing would ever bring him back.