Returning to this series after a long hiatus of not reading anything at all, was like catching up with an old friend. If that old friend was constantly being hunted down and surrounded by death.
Before diving into this final installment of the Harry Potter books, let’s recap what The Boy Who Lived has lived through and what has brought him to where he is now. By now, his story is well known. His parents, James and Lily Potter were part of an organization known as The Order of the Phoenix whose only goal was to bring the demise of You-Know-Who. They are betrayed by someone they considered family, Peter Pettigrew, and the location of their home is revealed to the Dark Lord, who wastes no time getting there and killing them both. He is thwarted in his efforts to snuff out the Potter line entirely because his killing curse rebounds off of Harry and hits him instead. Shortly afterwards, he is left at the Dursley’s home on Privet Drive, where he spends the next 11 years being mistreated and ignored.
Upon his 11th birthday, a giant by the name of Hagrid shows up and takes him to Hogwarts, a magical school for witchcraft and wizardry where Harry would now spend most of the year. Each year coincides with a book, and each year we go along with Harry as he and his friends, the two most notable being Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, as they deal with various foes. It is in Goblet of Fire that Harry watches as Cedric Diggory is killed by Voldemort, and this acts as a climax for the rest of the story. Along the way the team faces many losses, the one that sticks out to me being Sirius Black; Harry’s godfather who is killed by his own cousin Bellatrix Lestrange. Not to mention Dumbledore’s murder by none other than Severus Snape. There’s a lot to unpack in the first 6 books, but now let’s turn our attention to the finale; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Dumbledore is dead. Laid to rest in a tomb on Hogwarts grounds, the headmaster is no longer there to help guide Harry, rather the opposite it seems. Upon his death, infamous reporter Rita Skeeter, has written a biography about Dumbledore titled The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore that recounts his time being friends with Grindelwald, the mysterious deaths of both his mother and his aunt, practically poking holes in everything that Harry believed about his mentor. Harry, Hermione and Ron are on a quest to find and destroy all the Horcruxes so that they may in the end destroy You-Know-Who.
In this novel, we are able to take more glimpses into the Dark Lord’s mind, watching as he tortures and kills various people; both magic and muggle, for the sake of his own agenda. Harry begins to welcome the visions, knowing that they will help keep him in the loop when it comes to his rival’s plans, but they come with a cost. They cause him immense pain and he is often shown crying out in pain due to them. The ministry falls and the death eaters take over, two of them even working as professors at Hogwarts, as a way to keep the school in line. Harry and his friends do not return to Hogwarts because now he is a Undesirable Number One, and there is a bounty for his head.
When he does finally return to Hogwarts, the day of the battle, it is to search for Ravenclaw’s diadem, planning to go after Nagini next. Chaos ensues as You-Know-Who and his followers have arrived, and are ready for all-out war if Harry is not surrendered, but the of-age students of Hogwarts and the professors are all ready to lay down their lives to fight the evil. A huge battle takes place, where too many notable characters lives are lost. Fred Weasley dies early on, and we later learn that Tonks and Remus have died as well. It’s really sad in a way that the movie almost manages to note, but misses the mark just slightly. (More on this when I write my reviews of the movies.)
Dumbledore’s entire plan from the beginning is revealed through Snape’s memories as it was his dying wish for Harry to take them and view them in a pensieve. This reveals Snape’s loyalty to Dumbledore from the moment that You-Know-Who states his plan to kill Lily and her family. It explains everything, from Dumbledore telling Snape to keep an eye on Professor Quirrel, to Dumbledore telling Snape that he needed to kill him so that Draco didn’t. The last few years of Harry’s life is explained through this pensieve and how everything is connected; even Harry’s own death.
Harry learns that the only way to destroy You-Know-Who is to allow himself to be killed, and so he walks into the Forbidden Forest with that in mind. He is joined by the not-quite-ghosts of Sirius, Remus, and his parents as he makes the trek under his invisibility cloak to his death, where he does not even try to defend himself against the killing curse. He then wakes up in what appears to be Kings Cross and he has a long talk with Dumbledore, where the old wizard asks for his forgiveness and even cries because he knows he has made many errors. They discuss the deathly hallows, another quest that Harry and his friends have been venturing on; speaking of the elder wand, invisibility cloak, and the resurrection stone.
It’s surprisingly Narcissa Malfoy who saves all wizards because she lies to You-Know-Who about Harry being dead, so that they would go back to the castle and she could find her son, Draco. Hagrid is forced to carry what he believes to be Harry’s dead corpse to the grounds, where the people in the castle come out and see in horror, his limp body. All is not as it seems, and using a distraction, he slips under his cloak and manages to enter into the final battle with You-Know-Who which ends with Harry’s victory as he reveals that he is the true owner of the elder wand. The book ends with a flash forward 19 years later when Harry, who is now married to Ginny is joined by Hermione and Ron, who are now married, and all of the kids who are getting ready to go to Hogwarts. We hear that Neville is now the professor of Herbology, and that Harry’s scar hadn’t burned in 19 years and all is well.
- Mad-Eye and Hedwigs deaths, not because I liked the fact they died, but because I paid more attention to how it happened in the books than I did in the movie. The same goes for Fred, because we got to know more about Fred’s death.
- Molly Weasley killing Bellatrix Lestrange because Lestrange made the mistake of going after Ginny.
- Kreacher charging into battle for the honor of Regulus Black.
- All of the Bill moments, I just think he’s such a cool character and we see a lot of more of him and Fleur in the books. Not to mention we see Percy come to his senses and join his family in battle, at this moment I can’t recall if we see this in the movie.
- Harry repeatedly mentions Ginny in this book, which is something we don’t get to see in the movie, which is why their relationship in the movie seems very forced whereas in the book, it makes a lot of sense.
- Harry using the crucio curse on a death eater who spat on McGonagall’s face.
- Neville Longbottom being the one to kill Nagini. This is brilliant, I love it.
Book reviews are tricky because there’s so much that happens, and I know I left some parts out, but if I listed everything that happened, this would be so much longer. All in all, I think it is fair to say that this final installment ended up being my favorite of the books. I love the amount of detail we get, not just in every day events that unfold but in the narrative. We learn a lot more about Dumbledore’s family, and we see a lot more motivation behind Narcissa’s actions. If you’ve read the books, which one was your favorite and why?