Literature Study GuidesHarry Potter SeriesHarry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Summary

Harry Potter (Series) | Study Guide

J.K. Rowling

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Harry Potter (Series) | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | Summary


About the Title

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry learns about three magical objects known as the Deathly Hallows, and he must choose to either pursue the power they confer or continue to seek Voldemort's destruction.


From the Dursleys to the Burrow

Harry has magical protection as long as he calls the Dursleys' house "home." This protection will end when he becomes a legal adult at age 17. The Order of the Phoenix plans to move him to a secure location. Harry and the Dursleys say goodbye. Dudley unexpectedly thanks Harry for saving him from the Dementors, and they part on amicable terms. Several members of the Order arrive, but their plans have been betrayed, and there is a full-scale attack in which Hedwig and Mad-Eye die, and George loses an ear.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione make plans for their Horcrux hunt. Harry turns 17, and at his birthday dinner, Rufus Scrimgeour arrives to inform Harry, Ron, and Hermione they have been left items in Dumbledore's will. Harry receives the Snitch he caught in his first Quidditch match. Ron receives Dumbledore's Deluminator. Hermione receives a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a book of wizarding fairy tales.

Harry attends Bill and Fleur's wedding, and throughout the evening, he learns more about Dumbledore's life: he had lived in the same village as Harry's parents, and they had shared a neighbor named Bathilda Bagshot. Harry also runs into old acquaintances like Viktor Krum and new ones such as Luna's father, Xenophilius. Krum is bothered by a necklace Xenophilius is wearing; he says it is Grindelwald's symbol. The wedding is interrupted by a message that Scrimgeour is dead and the Ministry has fallen.

On the Run

Death Eaters invade the wedding, and Hermione, Harry, and Ron apparate—travel instantly—to a random location in London, then to Grimmauld Place. Harry investigates the house, and they discover Sirius's brother, Regulus, had the initials R.A.B. They learn from Kreacher that Regulus had taken Kreacher with him to steal the locket. Regulus died after drinking the potion in the cave, but Kreacher escaped with the real locket. Unfortunately, the locket has been stolen from Grimmauld Place and sold to Dolores Umbridge at the Ministry of Magic.

They infiltrate the Ministry, which is in the midst of a systematic persecution of Muggle-born wizards. They escape with the locket and then camp all across the countryside, switching locations daily to avoid detection. Their limited resources for food and comfort create tension, which is exacerbated by the evil presence of the Horcrux. Outside of learning Dumbledore used Gryffindor's sword to destroy the ring Horcrux, they make little progress. Tensions increase, and after a huge argument, Ron leaves.

Harry and Hermione visit Godric's Hollow and see Bathilda Bagshot as Hermione theorizes Dumbledore may have entrusted Gryffindor's sword to her. They travel to Godric's Hollow on Christmas Eve, and Harry has the opportunity to visit his parents' graves and the house they died in. Unfortunately, the visit to Bathilda ends up more dangerous than they had anticipated, as Bathilda is already dead; Voldemort has created a trap for Harry from which they narrowly escape.

One night, when Harry is on watch, he spots a silver doe Patronus in the forest. He follows it to a frozen-over pond with Gryffindor's Sword at the very bottom. He dives in, but he is wearing the locket, which tries to choke him. He is pulled out of the pond by Ron, who has suddenly appeared. Ron retrieves the sword and destroys the locket with it. Then he explains Dumbledore's Deluminator guided him back.

The three friends visit Xenophilius Lovegood to find out more about the symbol on his necklace. Harry notices this same symbol in a photograph of a letter Dumbledore wrote to Grindelwald. Xenophilius explains the symbol is the sign of the three Deathly Hallows, which are described in a story found in The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It relates a story of three brothers who meet Death. Each asks him for a gift. One is given a wand more powerful than Death (the Elder Wand), another is given a stone with the power to recall people from Death (the Resurrection Stone), and the last is given a cloak to hide him from Death (the Cloak of Invisibility).

Xenophilius has secretly betrayed them to the Death Eaters, so Harry, Ron, and Hermione have another narrow escape. Later, they speculate about the significance of the Deathly Hallows. Harry believes his Invisibility Cloak is the one from the story and Dumbledore has left him the Resurrection Stone inside the Snitch. He surmises Voldemort must be after the Elder Wand to be able to finally kill Harry.


Suddenly, the trio is captured and taken to Malfoy Manor where Death Eaters send for Voldemort. Harry and Ron are locked up in the catacombs of the manor where Dean Thomas, Luna Lovegood, Ollivander the wandmaker, and Griphook the goblin are also being kept. Hermione is tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange to find out how they got the Sword of Gryffindor, which Bellatrix thinks had been in her Gringotts vault. Dobby arrives and transports them all magically out of the manor though he dies in the effort. Harry deduces other items of value might be hidden in Bellatrix Lestrange's Gringotts vault, such as another Horcrux. He asks Griphook to help them break into Gringotts, and Griphook reluctantly agrees. Harry also asks Ollivander about wands, and Ollivander explains while wands choose the wizard, they will switch loyalties if their previous owner is overpowered by another wizard.

Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Griphook break into Gringotts with Hermione disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange. Their plan goes awry when they reach the deeper levels of Gringotts security, and though they manage to take Helga Hufflepuff's cup—a likely Horcrux—from the Lestrange vault, they have another narrow escape.

As in the past, Harry continues to have visions or dreams of what Voldemort is doing. His visions show him Voldemort intends to rob Dumbledore's tomb as Dumbledore had possessed the Elder Wand. They also show Voldemort finding out what they stole from the vault. Harry realizes Voldemort intends to visit all his Horcruxes to ensure they are safe, and one of them is located at Hogwarts. The trio travel immediately to Hogwarts.

The Battle of Hogwarts

Once there, they discover Neville has been leading many of the students of Hogwarts in resisting the current Hogwarts regime (headed by Snape). Harry explains he is looking for an artifact that used to belong to Rowena Ravenclaw, and he is alerted to the existence of Ravenclaw's diadem. As Harry searches for this object, thinking it must be in the Room of Requirement, Death Eaters are alerted to his presence. During the chaos that follows, Snape flees as McGonagall orders the school to prepare for Voldemort's inevitable arrival. Reinforcements from the Order arrive.

Ron and Hermione have been in the Chamber of Secrets collecting basilisk fangs to destroy the final Horcruxes. Ron and Hermione have a now-or-never moment, finally resolving years of romantic tension, and head to the Room of Requirement to help Harry find and destroy the diadem Horcrux. There they run into Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. In the ensuing conflict, the Room of Requirement is engulfed in magical fire, destroying the Horcrux and killing Crabbe.

The Battle of Hogwarts continues to rage, and Harry sets his sights on the final Horcrux: Nagini, Voldemort's snake. From under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry witnesses Voldemort complaining to Snape the Elder Wand will not work for him because he did not actually overpower Dumbledore and win its loyalty—Snape did. Voldemort kills Snape to control the Elder Wand, and then he leaves. Harry reveals himself, and Snape gives him a memory before he dies.

The Final Confrontation

Voldemort issues an ultimatum: Harry Potter will be handed over within the hour or everyone dies. Harry goes into Snape's memory and realizes Snape had been loyal to Dumbledore because he loved Harry's mother Lily and felt remorse for helping to cause her death. He killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore's own request to ensure Voldemort continued to trust him and to spare Draco from becoming a killer. Snape had kept tabs on Harry's hunt for the Horcruxes and had left the Sword of Gryffindor in the icy pond for him to find. Through Snape's memory, Harry learns Dumbledore had always known Harry would need to die to defeat Voldemort.

Understanding far more clearly his role in Voldemort's destruction, Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to summon his parents, Sirius, and Lupin. Together, they go to the Forbidden Forest, where Harry lets Voldemort kill him without a struggle. However, he finds himself in a pristine place that looks like King's Cross Station. There he encounters Dumbledore, and they have a conversation during which Harry learns he was an unintentional Horcrux, made the night Voldemort killed his mother. By killing Harry Voldemort has actually killed the part of his soul that was inside Harry. Because Harry had two pieces of soul inside him, but only suffered one death, he is given the choice to go on into death or go back. Harry chooses to return to his life instead of moving on.

Harry plays dead, and his body is brought back to Hogwarts by a triumphant Voldemort. Neville kills Nagini, the final Horcrux, and Harry reveals himself to be alive. Voldemort assumes because he has the Elder Wand, he can now kill Harry. However, as Harry informs him, Snape was not the Elder Wand's true owner because Draco had disarmed Dumbledore before Snape killed him, and Harry disarmed Draco weeks ago at Malfoy Manor as they escaped. Because Harry is the rightful owner of the Elder Wand, he is able to finally defeat Voldemort.

In the epilogue, which occurs 19 years later, Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, and others are all seeing their children off to Hogwarts at King's Cross Station. Life has gone on. Harry is at peace.


Harry Grows Up

In this final installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry comes of age, both technically and in maturity. He no longer has any of his various mentors to guide him; both Sirius and Dumbledore are dead. Even his family's magical protection disappears after he turns 17. He has enormous responsibility and all of the normal protections he has relied on are gone. For a series a decade in the making, with a readership that grew from childhood to adulthood with Harry as a companion, this coming-of-age seems appropriate. Will he be able to manage without the support and protection of parental figures? Many of Harry's fans may have been asking this same question of themselves.

Importance of Wands

Wands as magical objects become very important in this book. Wandlore takes center stage as the allegiance of wands becomes a crucial factor in the final conflict between Voldemort and Harry. Ollivander explains most wands choose their owners, although they can switch allegiance if the owner is overpowered. At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Draco disarms Dumbledore just before Snape kills Dumbledore. So the Elder Wand, which Dumbledore owned, switches its allegiance to Draco, even though Draco does not claim the wand he has won. The Elder Wand remains true to Draco until Harry takes his regular wand away at Malfoy Manor. By disarming Draco, Harry gains the allegiance of both Draco's wands—Draco's own wand and the Elder Wand he has won from Dumbledore. Even after Voldemort claims the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave, its true allegiance remains with Harry because Voldemort doesn't overpower Dumbledore to get it.

The other important aspect of wands is they have been used as tools of oppression. Wizards and witches maintain the right to own wands while other magical beings, such as goblins and house-elves, are not allowed to have them. As Griphook explains to Harry: "The right to carry a wand ... has long been contested between wizards and goblins. ... Wizards refuse to share the secrets of wand-lore with other magical beings, they deny us the possibility of extending our powers!"

Repentance and Redemption

Snape is flawed and bitter, but his remorse for causing the death of Lily Potter is real. Dumbledore believes Snape's repentance and his quest for redemption to be authentic because his own life experience includes a similar story. Dumbledore's pride and ambition inadvertently caused his sister's death. As a result, he is qualified to evaluate Snape's sincerity. His belief that Snape's repentance is real and lasting comes not from blind trust or hoping for the best but from his own tragic and shameful experience as a young man.

Developing Themes

The themes of power and self-sacrifice versus self-preservation are evident in the difficult choices Harry must make. First, he must choose between searching for the Deathly Hallows and searching for Voldemort's Horcruxes. This decision is a choice between empowering himself by obtaining the Elder Wand in hopes of overpowering Voldemort, and weakening Voldemort by destroying his Horcruxes. He does not have time to do both. He chooses to destroy Horcruxes, partially out of loyalty to Dumbledore's plan and partially because he understands it is terribly risky to go after the Elder Wand. After all, Voldemort is racing to obtain it, and several Horcruxes still remain. So Harry chooses the less impulsive course—unusual for him! In doing so he also chooses the path that rejects the quest for power. Instead of consolidating his own power, he decides to undermine Voldemort's.

The theme of death, resurrection, and immortality is pervasive in this book. The Tale of the Three Brothers is about three brothers who meet Death personified. The elder two brothers are arrogant and crave power, and they ask Death for magical items to bring them power over others (Elder Wand) and over Death itself (Resurrection Stone). The third brother "was the humblest and also the wisest of the brothers." He simply wants to go on his way without Death following him. After a long life, he greets Death as a friend. The book draws a parallel between this third brother, the original owner of the Invisibility Cloak, and Harry, its present owner. Both show humility—Dumbledore notes that Harry has never sought power—and willingly greet Death. The message of both stories, and of the various forms of resurrection seen at the end of the book, is that Death is not to be feared.

The theme of discrimination and oppression is very apparent in the Ministry of Magic's persecution of Muggle-born wizards and witches. A "Muggle-born Registration Commission" forms, clearly evoking the Nazi practice of forcing Jewish people to register. The Ministry tracks and monitors those suspected of having Muggle-born connections. Those who are identified as Muggle-born undergo interrogation and are denied wands and rights.

The theme of fate and free will develops as Harry makes several very difficult choices of his own free will, yet his ultimate showdown with Voldemort is fated to happen. Harry chooses to pursue Horcruxes rather than Hallows. He chooses to go to his own death once he realizes he must die to bring down Voldemort. He then chooses to go back to life even though he has the option of continuing beyond death. Despite all these choices, the prophecy still comes true. As always, fate and free will seem to be equally at work in Harry's life.

Repeated Structures

While this book seems to veer from the typical structure, it still includes a scene with the Dursleys, Harry's birthday, and a conversation with Dumbledore. The conversation is, however, with a dead Dumbledore, lending poignancy to the ending. Instead of following the normal school calendar, Harry camps during most of the school year. However, the events circle back with the climax culminating at Hogwarts.

Instead of repeating the structures present in other books, this one uses elements from the entire series, as if wrapping up all its loose ends. The Invisibility Cloak Harry received in the first book emerges as the actual one of the Deathly Hallows. The Snitch Harry caught in his first Quidditch game (also in the first book) holds the Resurrection Stone he uses to summon his loved ones at "the close." King's Cross Station, where Harry crosses the border between magical and Muggle worlds, emerges as a border between life and death. Harry's loss of his parents in the original resistance against Voldemort is echoed tragically in Teddy Lupin's loss of his parents, Tonks and Remus Lupin.

In addition, certain memorable lines from the series garner new meaning in this book. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore asks Harry, "You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?" and in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Luna notes (of her belongings), "They'll come back, they always do in the end." These lines foreshadow Harry's fateful journey to the Forbidden Forest where the dead he loves show they are with him, even as he approaches his own death. Even Dumbledore himself meets Harry in whatever place exists between life and death.

Neville also shows the courage that was only hinted at in the beginning of the series when Dumbledore notes, "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends" (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). In this final book Neville is the leader of the remaining members of Dumbledore's Army at Hogwarts. In killing Nagini he is crucial to the ultimate defeat of Voldemort.

The final conversation between Dumbledore and Harry is important not only because it explains why Dumbledore has been so secretive, resolving the tension between Harry and Dumbledore, but because it occurs after Dumbledore's death.

Since it is the final installment of the series, this book has a special feature: an epilogue. The epilogue shows Harry, after all his suffering and sacrifice, is able to find peace and normalcy. The message of the epilogue is life goes on. Heroes come back from war and have families; bad people reform; children grow up. J.K. Rowling may have written a series about frightening events, tragedy, and suffering, but she ends on this hopeful note. Ultimately, evil falls and love wins.

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