I kept a running list of dead significant characters as I went through. There were between 2 and 4, depending on who you count, in the first 500 pages. Another half-dozen or so in the last hundred pages. That's not bad, when you consider there was a Final Battle and all.
Of the potentially cliche-due-to-fanfic plot elements in the last hundred pages, I think only one failed to improve on the fanfic, and that's the epilogue. Gee, Harry and Ginny name their children after Harry's parents (and Dumbledore), and Tonks and Lupin's kid ends up with one of the Weasleys of the next generation. Who could have guessed? Oh, that's right, only about 50 fanfic writers a day... I have always taken issue with the number of wizarding couples we see who marry the person they dated at Hogwarts. In this day and age - remember Harry & co. are only a few years younger than me - how many of us end up with the person we were dating when we were 16 or 17?
However, some things I really did like: Numerous little details all through the series which became or continued to be relevant. Victor Krum, paraphrased: "What's the point of being a famous Quidditch star if all the pretty girls are taken?" Raiding Gringotts - which, incidentally, is the cover art for the UK edition. That whole sequence was completely a surprise, and enjoyable. Ron got to destroy a Horcrux. Neville killed the freakin' snake!
That's by no means exhaustive.
My predictions turned out mostly right, but then, some of them were less predictions than non-committal weighing of options. I never did get around to posting them up, but I did discuss them with oidhche and daernhelm who can corroborate I'm not just making them up now to make myself look good. Bold type is copied from my conversation with daernhelm:
1) Will Voldemort die? Yes. I don't see his side winning this no matter what.
True, if obvious.
2) Will Harry die? Don't know. I can see it going either way.
No commitment on my part, so no points, but I'd note that for a little while, Harry didn't know whether he had died or not. Of course, I never bought into the "Harry is a Horcrux" theory, so I lose points there. I think that segment was very well executed.
3) Who else will die? I believe at least one Weasley will die. Bad things have already happened to Arthur and Bill. Molly needs to survive to be upset and distraught. Percy's an easy answer, but not emotional enough. Ginny's the only girl, and kick-ass, so I think she's safe. Charlie's in danger. I think the most emotional thing they could possibly do is to kill off one, and only one, of the twins.
Got that one. (And I'd discussed Ron earlier in the conversation, I hadn't forgotten him.) I was a little surprised that it wasn't drawn out a little more; I have seen it handled very emotionally. However, given the timing, it had to be quick to not interrupt the pace.
As for other characters, I don't think anyone's safe, I think we'll lose a couple of people whose names we know, but I don't think it's going to be a total bloodbath.
It all depends on who you count, of course. My final list of bodies totaled ten people including Voldemort. That's counting several minor characters.
I was really hoping for at least one that would really make me cry. I don't know whether it was poor writing, or whether I had detached from too many of the characters because I knew they were at risk, but I just didn't really feel any of it.
4) Whose side is Snape really on? I see three distinct possibilities here:
4a) He's really on Voldemort's side. This is the easy, Gryffindorish approach to good and evil answer. I fear this will be the one Rowling has written, because she's a bloody Gryffindor.
Glad it didn't work out that way. Also, I'd like to throw out a pre-emptive disclaimer and apology, since I know there are Gryffindors on my friendslist. I am aware that not all Gryffindors are impetuous, headstrong and prejudiced, just as not all Slytherins are evil, and not all Ravenclaws are Vulcans. However, as a distinctly non-Gryffindor, I get awfully sick of the party line on a lot of subjects, all through the series. I just don't think like that.
4b) He's really on Dumbledore's side. This would make a lot of fans happy. I think it would make a better story. I think it doesn't do justice to the character. I could live with this one.
4c) He's really on Snape's side. He is a true double agent, and has been playing both sides so that whoever wins, he'll be secure and survive. That's the true Slytherin way. I would love to see that. I don't think Rowling's clever enough to write it that way, and I don't think Snape has a chance in hell of actually surviving if she does write it that way, because she couldn't let a Slytherin win.
I think I get points for both B and C here - he did turn out to be on Dumbledore's side, and he didn't get to survive.
I really am disappointed that it turned out to all be for love of Lily, though. OK, I think we all knew that Snape was still - twenty years later - pining after Lily, and that it provided motivation for many of his actions. Having it be his sole motivation, in my opinion, is a cruel flattening of arguably the most three-dimensional character of the series. It's also kind of sick. Love fades, normally. Sixteen years after someone has died, and longer since they were on good terms, and it's still the Only Thing That Matters? That's not sweet, that's obsession.
And yet, we finally get to flesh out Dumbledore's character. He has complex motivations, he's not pure good (no kidding), he did some foolish, even evil, things in his youth but truly repented and did his best to make amends, even when he didn't do it right. Why, oh why, couldn't the reason Dumbledore trusted Snape have been the very strong parallels between their choices in their respective youths? Why did it have to be "because he loves her" and nothing more? Or was it treated with more depth, and I just missed the details at the speed I was reading?
I claim partial prediction points for the return of Dumbledore. He didn't rise from the dead (although some others did), but he did sort of come back to have his say, more than just through memories and his portrait.
I'm sure I'll have more thoughts later, but that's a start.