Deathly Hallows, I fell even more in love with the characters and story, and appreciated Rowling's talent so much more than when I read these as a kid. The movies are great (I love the look of all of them), but nothing compares to the magic of the books.
This book is definitely darker than the others. Harry succeeds in using two of the unforgivable curses multiple times throughout the books. Beloved characters die (Lupin, Tonks, Fred, Snape!). But mostly, we learn about what it means to really love, really live, and really be human.
Ron abandons Harry and Hermione, but he grows from the experience and seeing him destroy the horcux and be the hero for once is a long time coming. Characters like Neville and Luna come into their own. I love when Neville tells Harry about the letter from his grandmother saying that he is truly his father's son. He's deserved that since book one and finally, like Ron, gets some credit.
We see people being put into terrible positions, like Mr. Lovegood who supports Harry, but wants nothing more than to save his daughter. This happens again and again on both sides of the war. The Malfoy's allow Harry's plan to succeed because they want to reach Draco and make sure he is okay. They may be terrible death eaters who have done terrible things, but they can feel remorse and they love their son. Voldemort sees it as weakness, but then again, he doesn't survive this book.
Seeing the characters transform before our eyes is probably one of my favorite parts of this book. Snape's transformation is one that only occurs in the mind of Harry and the reader. The constant villain becoming the hero is probably my favorite part of this book. Kreacher literally transforms before our eyes from an insane, dirty, hateful thing to a hero among humans and house elves. It is the power of kindness and, again, love. And that is a power that exists beyond the page as well.
Even though the story is constantly life-or-death and more often than not at a low point, the book is surprisingly light at points. I love sitting with Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they listen to Potterwatch and even in the midst of the final battle, Mrs. Weasley taking on Bellatrix makes me laugh. She's so fierce with her sons and we finally get to see that same spirit fighting our most hated death eater.
It's been a long time since I read the books one after the other and I can't believe I waited as long as I did. I love these books and they just get better and better. The epilogue, I feel, is an attempt by Rowling to satisfy her reader's curiosity and avoid us clamoring for more books. I'm not sure if that works. I was left with nothing more than a desire to know more about Harry, how he got back with Ginny, how they set their world back in order, what he is doing now that he is no longer "the chosen one". And I want to know about Teddy and who Victoire is and what their relationship is. I want a whole series about the new generation and more about the characters we already love. I just don't think I can ever get enough of the beautiful, magical wizarding world that sometimes feels more real than our own.