Our main debate is who the hero really is in the Harry Potter series. I think that it’s Harry. While Snape and Dumbledore and really all of the other characters all helped him become the wizard he was, it was Harry who made the biggest choices. Saving Malfoy’s life when they’d hated each other for seven years. Approaching Snape as he was dying. But the biggest difference, what truly separates him from Voldemort, and what always separates good from evil, is what he decided to do with power once he had it.
At the end of the book, Harry is the owner of the Elder Wand. Voldemort spent the entire seventh book searching for the Wand, and when he got it he used it to kill. Harry, on the other hand, simply put the wand down, and repaired his own. To do that takes a lot. Harry was holding enormous power. The question is, before his own wand was broken, or even just before he defeated Voldemort, would he have done the same? Or would he have kept it?
If he had kept it, though, I don’t think he’d have gone the same way as Voldemort. And that is the difference between the two of them. Tom Riddle came from a place where he wasn’t loved, as did Harry. They were both fascinated by magic, and loved Hogwarts as the home they’d never had. They were both popular. But Tom, unlike Harry, never loved his friends, and being in Slytherin, he was cunning. He wanted power. His grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, was entirely anti-muggle, and his own father was prejudiced against wizards. This combined for a strong hate that his parents had left him in the orphanage.
Harry, on the other hand, though an orphan as well, loved his friends, and was a Gryffindor. He was brave. And his parents were unprejudiced, and loved him, unlike Riddle’s. He had good memories of them, unlike Riddle, who had none. As Dumbledore says, it’s our choices that make us who we really are. And choices are influenced by our experiences. Harry has a more positive past, and Riddle’s….well, thinking back to his life at the orphanage and his background, it’s not altogether surprising the way he turned out.