The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling is, in my opinion, the best young adult series ever written. A blend of humor, exciting action, and the daily pangs of adolescence gives way to one of the most creative, beautiful stories ever conceived. Scenes flow from one to the next effortlessly, with one story melting into the next, coming alive before your eyes. The characters are people everyone knows, or wishes they knew. And most importantly, amidst the hilarious wit, the pain of war and loss, and the courage of conviction, is an eternal, ubiquitous message: love is the greatest power of all.
From the very first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it is love that saves Harry Potter from the horrors of Lord Voldemort, the darkest wizard of all time. Harry’s parents, Lily and James, give their lives to save their son. Lily stands in front of Harry’s crib, refusing to yield, though Lord Voldemort tells her that she need not die; he only wants Harry. She sacrifices her life, and that act of sacrifice prevents Voldemort from touching her son. When he attempts to kill the innocent child, the curse rebounds, and Lord Voldemort himself is cast from the building, reduced to a creature in a state near death. Harry Potter, marked with a lightning-shaped scar, forever bears the mark of his mother’s ultimate act of love.
Lily’s sacrifice provides a protection for Harry greater than any other. Albus Dumbledore, knowing that Lord Voldemort will come back one day, puts Harry in the care of his only living relatives – the Dursleys. Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and their spoiled son Dudley are horrible in every way imaginable, strongly detesting magic in every form. Yet, they take Harry, because, as Dumbledore explains, as long as he remains in their care, where his mother’s blood lives on, he will be safe from Voldemort. They do not treat him as a son, nor as an equal, but they, grudgingly, allow him houseroom, and in doing so, they seal Lily’s act of love.
Ten years later, during Harry’s first year of Hogwarts, Lily’s sacrifice would lead to the defeat of Voldemort once more. In Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, Voldemort, in his ruined state, attaches himself to Professor Quirrell and attempts to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone, which would restore his strength and make him immortal. Yet, Harry, only eleven years old, goes to stop him. Quirrell, marred by the spirit of Lord Voldemort, cannot touch Harry without suffering serious agony. Harry, pure, innocent, and marked by love, cannot come in contact with a man who has allowed himself to succumb to such evil. Lily’s love protects Harry, allowing him to defeat Quirrell and stop Voldemort from returning to power.
Three years later, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Lord Voldemort comes back to life, restored to full power through a combination of dark magic, the work of faithful old servants, and murder. But, in order to regain his body, he captures Harry and takes his blood, in the hopes that he will gain Lily’s protection, allowing him to touch Harry without suffering pain. He succeeds, but Harry still bears the protection of love, this time his own. And Harry, though hopelessly outmatched in skill, escapes Voldemort through his own courage and the traces of his lost loved ones, and returns to Hogwarts to warn the wizarding world of Voldemort’s rebirth.
In Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, Harry endures countless attacks on his character by the government, most of the public, and even those he thought were friends, because, out of fear, the Ministry of Magic does not want to accept the truth of Voldemort’s return. Yet, Harry sticks to the story he knows to be true, supported by those true friends who accept his word unquestioningly. Among them is Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather and the closest thing to a parent he has ever known. When he witnesses a vision of Sirius being tortured by Voldemort, Harry rushes to his rescue, accompanied by his friends. Yet, the vision was a trap, and in the ensuing battle, Sirius, who ironically has come to rescue Harry, is killed. Moments later, Harry comes face to face with Voldemort, and watches Dumbledore duel him. Once they have fought to a stalemate, Voldemort attempts to possess Harry, hoping that Dumbledore will sacrifice him in the hopes of destroying Voldemort. But Harry, in his agony, welcomes death, in the hopes of seeing Sirius again. And as his heart fills with love, Voldemort is cast from his body.
Barely an hour after Sirius’s death, Professor Dumbledore finally tells a grief-stricken Harry the real reason Voldemort tried to kill Harry when he was a baby. In a scene filled with raw emotion, he shows Harry a prophecy made just after his birth – one that speaks of a newborn boy who will be the only one who can destroy Voldemort. This fateful prophecy that comes to define Harry’s life speaks of a power “the Dark Lord knows not.” Although Harry at first thinks of advanced defensive magic, Dumbledore tells him that in fact the power the prophecy speaks of is love. “There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is kept locked at all times,” he tells Harry, “It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”
Harry now knows that his life must end in, or include, murder. Yet, still, his strength comes from his friendships. In Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, when he tells his best friends Ron and Hermione of his destiny, “the mere fact that they were still on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous, was worth more than he could ever tell them.” As Voldemort and his followers grow even stronger, seemingly on the brink of taking over the entire wizarding world, Harry knows that his destiny will soon be upon him. Then, suddenly, the unthinkable happens. Dumbledore, Harry’s greatest protector, dies, leaving Harry more alone than ever before.
On the bank of the lake in Hogwarts, moments after Dumbledore’s funeral, Harry realizes that he has “to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated. And he saw very clearly as he sat there under the hot sun how people who cared about him had stood before him one by one, his mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore, all determined to protect him; but now that was over. He could not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort; he must abandon the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one, that the shelter of a parent’s arm meant that nothing could hurt him. There was no waking from his nightmare, no comforting whisper in the dark that he was safe really, that it was all in his imagination; the last and greatest of his protectors had died, and he was more alone than ever before.” Yet, just as this resolve and determination fills his soul, his closest friends, Ron and Hermione, pledge that they will go with him on his journey and that they will be with him every step of the way, helping him.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave the relative safety of Hogwarts and embark on a treacherous journey to defeat Voldemort, just as Voldemort himself seizes control of the wizarding world. Their journey ultimately takes them back to Hogwarts, where all the teachers and students, Harry’s friends and colleagues, young and old, arm themselves against Voldemort, ready to stand behind Harry. Yet, as the battle is fought, Harry discovers the truth at last: in order for Voldemort to be defeated, he must die.
Harry walks through the forest, preparing to meet his death. In his last moments, he uses the Resurrection Stone to speak briefly with his lost loved ones, enabling his self-sacrifice. He stands in front of Voldemort and does not raise his wand to defend himself.
Harry awakens to find himself in a white, vast world that one can identify only vaguely as the in-between. He turns around to see Albus Dumbledore, whole and radiant, coming towards him.
Dumbledore’s love for Harry shines through every crevice of this heart-warming scene and the reader and Harry alike are assured that no man loved Harry more than he did. Harry is not dead, Dumbledore tells him, but the part of Voldemort’s soul inside him is gone. He has a choice: he can return to life, to more pain and loss, in the hopes of defeating Voldemort for good, or he can go on.
Harry, an incredibly selfless person, decides to return to life, to grief, and to love. As he prepares to leave, Dumbledore tells him, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.” Now, it is time for Harry to meet his destiny: to defeat the man who knows only hatred, and nothing of love. Harry, whom Voldemort believes to be dead, is taken back to the castle, where Voldemort announces that a new world regime, one where magic is might, is about to begin.
Yet, Voldemort cannot silence or stifle the surviving defenders of Hogwarts. They keep breaking free of his curses, resisting at every moment. Harry was willing to sacrifice his life for them, and that love protects them the way Lily’s sacrifice protected Harry. The defenders of Hogwarts, Harry’s friends and comrades, break through and take up the battle once more. Harry reveals himself, alive, and prepares to fight Voldemort for the final time. Yet, this time, there is no one to help him or save him – not Sirius, not his parents, not Dumbledore. As he circles Voldemort, he dares to taunt him for his mistakes, calling him by his real name, Tom Riddle. When Voldemort casts the final killing curse, Harry casts a disarming spell and it rebounds, killing Voldemort for good. Harry is embraced by all the survivors, his friends, and swept up in a crowd of joy, relief, and love. The series ends with a brief glimpse of Harry’s future – of a happy, fulfilling life with family and friends.
What makes Harry so remarkable is not just his courage in the face of evil, or his willingness to put his friends’ safety before his own. It is his purity of heart. It is his everlasting love for James and Lily, Sirius, Ron and Hermione, Dumbledore, Ginny, Luna, and Neville, and everyone else who stands with him against evil. It is the fact that, “in spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart, just as pure as you were at the age of eleven, when you stared into a mirror that reflected your heart’s desire, and it showed you the only way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches.” As Dumbledore so rightly tells Harry in The Half-Blood Prince, being able to see his parents, his loved ones, in the Mirror of Erised is what makes him so different from the evil he seeks to destroy.
Throughout the series, the characters, including Harry, frequently lament Dumbledore’s characteristic trust – his willingness to give people second chances. At times, Harry sees that these choices are acts of kindness, marks of a great man, like his support of Hagrid, his trust of Lupin, and his gift to Ron. However, some of his choices seem less wise, reckless even, like his trust in Snape, whom Harry and Ron refuse to believe has reformed. Ultimately, however, Dumbledore is correct, and his faith in love is what makes him such a great man. He knows that the capacity for love exists in everyone, even those who are seemingly evil. Even the sniveling, perfidious Peter Pettrigrew, who, after betraying all his friends, is killed for demonstrating a single impulse of mercy. Even the bitter and vicious Malfoys, who turn from Voldemort when they are desperate to find and save their only son. Even the cruel and seemingly hard-hearted Severus Snape, whose love for Lily turns him to goodness.
As Rowling frequently reminds the reader throughout the series, love transcends death. Although his parents have been dead since before he can remember, Harry loves them, and knows that they loved him. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, shortly after learning more about who his father really was, he thinks that he sees his father across the lake, when, in reality, he is only seeing his own future self. “You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?” Dumbledore asks him. In The Deathly Hallows, Harry begins to doubt Dumbledore – his beliefs, his mission, and his love for Harry. Harry’s loved ones – Lily, James, Sirius, and eventually Dumbledore – are all gone from his world, and he must survive without them. Meanwhile, any of his cherished friends – Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, and Luna – could join the ranks of the dead at any time. At the beginning of The Deathly Hallows, Rowling quotes the words of William Penn: “…[friends] may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.” Ultimately, love lasts far beyond death, as we see when the love that Dumbledore, James, Lily, and Sirius felt for Harry guides him through his life and his mission.
Lord Voldemort, despite being immensely powerful and seemingly omniscient, is ultimately far weaker than Harry, a mere student, and far, far weaker than Dumbledore. As Dumbledore tells Harry in The Deathly Hallows, “Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.” Voldemort, having no use for love, friendship, or goodness, never troubles to learn their value. Thus, he never gains true power, or discovers what ruling the world really means. But Harry and Dumbledore know that true power is love, and thus truly lead the world, by living in harmony with it.
J.K. Rowling weaves this powerful message amidst exciting action, statements about courage and friendship, corruption and inequality, witty humor, and ordinary people living extraordinary lives. In the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling has created seven masterpieces, works equal to the treasured literary classics. Those who read Harry Potter will forever be engrained not only with the beautifully woven words that shape the story millions have come to treasure, but also with the timeless, universal lessons of courage, friendship, and love that Rowling so subtly and powerfully strives to teach. Never forget the message of Harry Potter: the truth that love is the greatest power, and that those who love will always persevere.
 J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2003) 843-844.
 J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. (New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2005) 99.
 Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 645.
 J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2007) 722.
 Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 511.
 J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1999) 427.
 Rowling, Deathly Hallows xi.
 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 709-710.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2007.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2000.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2005.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2003.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1999.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1997.