While I have my issues with the epilogue (WTF? did she bring in a fangirl to write it?) and there were a couple minor things with which I have issues (I wanted Remus to make up for his douchebaggery and at least have a heroic and public death, the odd pacing and confused action of the Gringotts robbery was irritating, the Snape-revealing memory was rarely revealing and mostly hokey...again, fangirl much?), it was overall very well done.
Things I loved:
- The Malfoys. Draco, terrified and uncertain. Narcissa, oddly motherly despite the air of coldness. The contempt and discomfort they all had for the Death Eaters setting up camp in their home
- The excruciating pacing while they were getting nowhere (and popping from abandoned field to abandoned forest in a tent). It was almost excruciating to read, but conveys the frustration and the "getting nowhere" essence wonderfully
- The fact that I maintained Snape's innocence while reading and found loopholes in his evilness (the ear thing was totally and accident...I knew it, though I do have some issue with him letting the Death Eater teachers use Unforgivable Curses on students...though it's probably hard to justify forbidding punishment when you supposedly want to squelch the rebellion)
- That I figured out the final horcrux so early (though I'm pretty sure it was obvious...it still took the trio 150 pages to figure that one)
- That Albus was flawed
- The Remus' "on air" personality was called "Romulus" (seriously, was there anyone out there who didn't pick up on that one before they heard his voice?)
- The scene when Harry is walking from the Headmaster's Office after watching Snape's memories and is walking under the Invisibility Cloak to sacrifice himself -- this was by far the most amazing and powerful moment for me
- Neville Longbottom. Words cannot express. His leadership of the Hogwart's Rebellion, his determination to follow Harry's request and kill the snake...he was flawless and wonderful
- Hermione's purse of awesomeness
- The Room of Requirement dorm with the ship-like hammocks (Neville totally called squatter's rights)
- Harry saving Draco from the fire and Draco cluching him so tightly that it hurt :-)
- The "King's Cross" limbo scene...most of what Albus said was unnecessary, but I thought it was interesting, especially the whole "is it real or in my head" thing...because who's to say what's in your head isn't real?
- The Hallows vs. Horcruxes thing (I tried to explain it to my mother earlier, but she hasn't read most of the books...I was super excited about it, though)
- The applause of the Headmasters' portraits when Harry walked into the Office
The only major thing I was pissed off about was the epilogue. LAME.
I am quite certain I could outline a better ending (I most certainly couldn't write it, but I would love to confer with JK on how it could be improved). First off? Lose the "19 years later" thing. Second? Family reunion at the Weasleys (Percy needs to go home, they need to return to normalcy). Third? Give allusions to the fact that Harry and Ginny will wind up together and Hermione and Ron will end up together...don't marry them and give them kids with stupid names (though I quite liked Draco's kid "Scorpius" and Harry giving one of the boys "Severus" as a middle name). Fourth? Explain what happens to the Ministry, the remaining Death Eaters, and Hogwarts (does Kinsley stay on as Minister? I like to think he does. Who becomes Headmaster at Hogwarts? How do the students who haven't taken OWLs or NEWTs (aka - 3/7th of the school) advance to the next levels or find jobs?). Fifth? Tell what Harry's planning to do next (go to Disney World, clearly) but don't make it stupid, hokey, or obvious...give him an ambition (perhaps he'd like to visit the Dursleys, give Petunia a small token or peace offering, and then look into Auror training or teaching at Hogwarts). Sixth? What the fuck happened to Remus and Tonks' baby?????? Technically, Harry gets custody, but he's 17 and clearly not old enough to raise a child...yet "19 years later" he's grown up, well-adjusted, not living with Harry, and snogging what is presumably Bill and Fleur's kid (Zoe pointed out the distinctly french name).
I just really have trouble seeing all of their lives ending up so perfect and cookie cutter. Aside from Bill and George, no one even has lasting, scarring damage. They all went through something so extraordinary and at least Harry, Ron and Hermione seem meant for extraordinary things...I care less about them settling and having kids than discovering (or better yet...surmising!) was brilliant and extraordinary careers they've chosen and how their hectic lives have never slowed down. They aren't supposed to be normal, boring people (for one thing, they're wizards).
Open ended is not bad as long as they are on a road to a positive future (the Malfoys could have been left at their table in the Great Hall...they didn't need to be explained any further. It was practically perfect, actually. They were rather alienated from both sides, but went toward the light and were still going to be able to live out their lives). That said, I am definitely shocked that Lucius wasn't killed at any point throughout the story, especially considering the impressive deathtoll (seriously, I had considered going back through and making a list...I lost count around 7).
Ah, oh well. The good most definitely out numbered the bad. And I'll just make up my own spectacular ending and shall never set eyes on the epilogue again (my book need only be 749 pages).
I breathe a sigh of relief in your general direction.
PS - It still hasn't really hit me that this is the last book. It's entirely possible that I'm in denial.