The climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 brings us, at long last, to the final confrontation between the forces of Voldemort, and the forces of Hogwarts, led by Harry Potter. It is a clash as epic as it is heart-wrenching, for we know that however this battle resolves itself, many young kids will be hurt or killed along the way. This film saga comes to a spectacular end with a destructive siege upon Hogwarts by Voldemort and his minions that manages to tear down a setting that over the course of eight films, we have come to regard as a kind of home away from home. Just seeing the damage done to the school grounds is hard enough—even in a world where repairing aid damage can probably be done in just a few days’ time. But after the first day’s battle, and seeing an entire room filled with dead and dying students—and the adults who stood with them—we can hardly blame Harry Potter for taking Voldemort’s cynical offer to meet him in single combat to decide the war, even knowing that he really is no match for Voldemort.
Harry goes out because he would truly rather die than see his friends and loved ones take any more injury. And so, off he goes to a certain doom that turns out to be not so certain, after all. After Voldemort kills Harry, he gets the rare privilege of deciding, from beyond the grave, if he’d like to return and finish his business with Voldemort. A Slytherin would have said yes because of the power that comes with cheating death. A Ravenclaw would have needed time to think it over. A Hufflepuff would decline, unwilling to make friends and family grieve twice over the same body. But Harry is a Gryffindor, and he goes back because he cannot turn his back on people in need. He loves Ron and Hermione, and all his friends. But he loves Hogwarts, too, for the home it gave him when he truly had none. And he loves this Wizarding World for being a place where the Boy Who Lived Under the Stairs found himself. Harry fights on for love.
And so do his friends. Earlier, we see Remus Lupin and Tonks give their lives for this struggle, and are laid to rest next to each other, their hands reaching out for one another’s even in death. We see Neville Longbottom draw the sword of Godric Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat to fight on, in one of the most badass moments of the entire saga. He too, does it for love of his friends and his school, but above all for the love of his parents, whom he lost to the same evil that orphaned Harry. And we see Molly Weasley avenge her one fallen son and prevent the further slaughter of her children by annihilating Bellatrix LeStrange in a moment of righteous fury that underscores why it is never, ever wise to get between a momma and her cubs.
Elsewhere in the story, we are given a fuller account of the backstory between Lily Potter and Severus Snape in one of the most touching passages in the saga. There, we truly understand how Lily opened her heart to Severus, and gave him perhaps the brightest ray of light in his life. His anguish as he holds her lifeless body in Harry Potter’s bedroom is a moment s pure that later, when he issues his immortal last word, we don’t doubt it for a moment. That word echoes in our hearts like the tolling of the world’s deepest bell. Severus, too, fights for love. He has been doing it the entire saga.
And even on the side of villainy, in the very beginning of this chapter, we see a worried Narcissa Malfoy make sure that whatever happens, her son Draco will be kept safe. She is not a good person. But she is a mother who loves her son, and she is willing not only to seek a separate bargain to protect her boy, she’s willing to lie to the Dark Lord himself to seal the deal. Only her love protects her in that moment. And in the end, only her love matters.
Harry ultimately wins by turning Voldemort’s evil against him, guided by the spirits of those who have meant the most to him all along. Before that point, he seeks the counsel and strength of those whom he has loved most in this world and lost. And even separated by so much distance between this world and the next, they all give Harry what they can. Not even death can stay the power of their love.
This movie is one great, big moment of truth, but if I have to pick a particular moment that matters most to me, it is the epilogue. Nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts, we see an older Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley bringing their middle child, Albus Severus, to King’s Cross station to send him off to Hogwarts for his first year. (Their son James Sirius has already been for a year, and their daughter Lily Luna is still too young to go.) Ron and Hermione are there too, to send off their daughter Rose (while their younger son Hugo, must wait, as Lily must). Even Draco Malfoy is there with his son Scorpius, and there is a moment when Harry and Draco acknowledge each other. They are not friends, but after Harry saves Draco at the Battle of Hogwarts, they are no longer enemies. All the parents are a little teary to see their kids go off, and we see that for all of the drama and danger of this saga, it ends with the genesis of families, the honoring of lost friends and allies, and the promise of new bonds yet to be made. This is a world whose very existence is anathema to anything Voldemort sought to create. With each passing year, we can imagine that other dangers will surely arise to trouble the Wizarding World, but in whatever battles are to be fought in the future, love shall be the ultimate weapon. Because by the powers, love wins. Love always wins.