It has almost been two weeks since Halloween. In the Wizarding World, readers of the Harry Potter series are informed of certain events that take place upon the 31st of October: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger become friends after defeating the Troll at Hogwarts their first year; Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington (known as Nearly-Headless Nick after his death) was 'nearly' beheaded and died. However, the event which occurred on Halloween that truly makes its presence known to readers, including Harry Potter himself, is the death of James and Lily Potter.
On All-Hallows Eve, the Dark Lord Himself, Lord Voldemort, traveled to Godric's Hollow and murdered James and Lily Potter. Additionally, as everyone knows within the Wizarding World (as well as most individuals in the Muggle World), the Dark Lord cast a Killing Curse upon baby Harry Potter. Yet, the curse rebounded, thus causing the Dark Lord to be destroyed (physically), marking the end of the First Wizarding War.
This is the story of The Boy Who Lived, a story that everyone in the Wizarding World knows very well. Nevertheless, not a single person was able to explain to Harry Potter (and readers of the series) of how this story of The Boy Who Lived was able to be possible; no one, except Albus Dumbledore.
Albus Dumbledore, considered to be the greatest sorcerer of the modern age, always knew of how Harry Potter survived that fateful night when the Dark Lord tried to kill him. In fact, during Harry's first year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore informed Harry of exactly how this was possible.
"Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing that Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us protection forever. It is in your very skin." - Dumbledore (HPSS - Chapter 17 - Pg. 299)
Ever since hearing these words, Harry Potter has kept this idea of his mother's love and her loving protection over him close to his heart. In fact, Harry has kept this idea so strongly that he has reminded others throughout his school years of how he survived. One such individual is none other than the Dark Lord himself.
During his second year at Hogwarts, when Harry Potter ventures into the Chamber of Secrets, it is there where he encounters Tom Marvolo Riddle, who is the younger version of Lord Voldemort. Within the Chamber, Tom Riddle asks Harry 'how he survived' that night when his future self tried to kill him. When Harry answers Tom Riddle, Harry makes reference of his mother's loving sacrifice.
"... I know why you couldn't kill me. Because my mother died to save me. My common Muggle-born mother. [...] She stopped you killing me." - Harry Potter (HPCoS - Chapter Seventeen - Pg. 316)
This is the first time that Voldemort Himself is hearing of how He had lost His powers all those years ago. Though the Dark Lord is said within the Wizarding World to be the 'darkest most dangerous wizard of all time,' Voldemort is well versed in the magical arts, and recognizes the magical mistake that He made.
"So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that's a powerful counter-charm." - Tom Riddle (HPCos - Chapter 17 - Pg. 317)
This 'powerful counter-charm' to which Tom Riddle is referring is considered old, or ancient magic.
Near the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore is in his office, along with Harry, immediately after the Battle at the Ministry. Along with discussing the death of Sirius Black, Dumbledore tells Harry of his priorities when Voldemort became powerless at the end of the First Wizarding War.
"[M]y priority was to keep you [Harry] alive. [...] I knew that Voldemort's knowledge of magic is perhaps more extensive than any wizard alive. I knew that even my most complex and powerful protective spells and charms were unlikely to be invincible if he ever returned to full power.
But I knew too where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated - to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows within your veins to this day." - Albus Dumbledore (HPOotP - Chapter 37 - Pg. 835 - 836)
It is during this point within the Harry Potter series when readers truly realize how powerful this protection is for Harry, as well as how important this aspect of the story will be come the final book. However, even after the series came to an end, readers of the series still did not fully understand of how this protection was possible that night at Godric's Hollow on Halloween. Eventually, J.K. Rowling herself was able to provide her reading audience the answer to this question on Pottermore.com. Her response was the concept of Sacrificial Protection.
According to J.K Rowling and her writings on Pottermore.com (before it was changed), there exists a specific definition, as well as a specific set of requirements, for a counter-charm of Sacrificial Protection to occur.
"Sacrificial Protection is an ancient, powerful, and long-lasting counter-charm that is endowed when one person [...] ultimately sacrifices his or her own life willingly and out of deep and pure love to strongly save the life of one or more people [...] When the person to make the sacrifice dies, the counter-charm is so powerful that the murderer can not touch the intended victim, as the protection lives on in their veins." - Harry Potter Wikia (from Pottermore.com)
This is the definition that J.K. Rowling herself gives for Sacrificial Protection. As a result of this powerful ancient magic, Harry Potter was able to survive the Killing Curse, and the Dark Lord was destroyed. Yet, some readers of the
series argued that this was not enough to save baby Harry Potter.
Some readers of the Harry Potter series argued that witches and wizards in the past have sacrificed themselves for their loved ones numerous times. Therefore, the question of these readers was why would this situation regarding baby Harry Potter be any different? To answer this particular question, both Pottermore.com, as well as Harry Potter Wikia, reminded readers of a particular interview that took place back in July 2005 between J.K. Rowling and The Leaky Cauldron, along with MuggleNet. Though this interview occurred prior to the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling specifically answers a question, asked by interviewers Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz, regarding the death of James and Lily Potter, and the unknowing affects of Lily's sacrifice over baby Harry.
ES: This is one of my burning questions since the third book - why did Voldemort offer Lily so many chances to live? Would he actually have let her live?
JKR: [silence] Can't tell you. But he did offer, you're absolutely right. Don't you want to ask me why James's death didn't protect Lily and Harry? There’s your answer, you've just answered your own question, because she could have lived and chose to die. James was going to be killed anyway. Do you see what I mean? I’m not saying James wasn't ready to; he died trying to protect his family but he was going to be murdered anyway. He had no - he wasn't given a choice, so he rushed into it in a kind of animal way, I think there are distinctions in courage. James was immensely brave. But the caliber of Lily's bravery was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself. Now any mother, any normal mother would have done what Lily did. So in that sense her courage too was of an animal quality but she was given time to choose. James wasn't. It's like an intruder entering your house, isn't it? You would instinctively rush them. But if in cold blood you were told, "Get out of the way," you know, what would you do? I mean, I don't think any mother would stand aside from their child. But does that answer it? She did very consciously lay down her life. She had a clear choice -
ES: And James didn't.
JKR: Did he clearly die to try and protect Harry specifically given a clear choice? No. It's a subtle distinction and there's slightly more to it than that but that's most of the answer.
MA: Did she know anything about the possible effect of standing in front of Harry?
JKR: No - because as I've tried to make clear in the series, it never happened before. No one ever survived before. And no one, therefore, knew that could happen.
MA: So no one - Voldemort or anyone using Avada Kedavra - ever gave someone a choice and then they took that option [to die] -
JKR: They may have been given a choice, but not in that particular way.
(Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part One," The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005) - http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2005/0705-tlc_mugglenet-anelli-1.htm
Whenever anyone in the Wizarding World, and in the Muggle World, asks of how Harry Potter survived that fateful night on Halloween all those years ago, the response is, "Because of his mother's love and her sacrifice for him." Whenever anyone in the Wizarding World, and in the Muggle World, asks of why Harry Potter survived, the response is, "Because of his mother's love and her sacrifice for him."
These two questions are completely different from one another. Yet, individuals, both in the Wizarding World and the Muggle World, are responding to these two different questions in the exact same way. The idea of Lily's love for Harry, as well as her sacrifice for him, do present themselves in both responses. However, there is much more in response to the question of why Harry Potter survived, and this distinction of 'why' is the purpose of this article: to establish a distinctive difference between the questions of 'how' and 'why' Harry Potter survived by means of providing evidence of the complex circumstances that caused the survival of baby Harry Potter to be possible.
According to the dictionary, there is a distinctive difference between the definitions of 'how' and 'why.' 'How' is defined as 'in what manner or way' whereas 'why' is defined as 'for what reason or purpose.' If there exists such clarity within these two definitions, then why are individuals presenting the same answer to both questions? The answer, simply, is because the same concept lies at the very heart of each question...Love.
However, one way of distinguishing the difference of 'how' and 'why' with regards to the survival of baby Harry Potter is not by asking "Why did Harry Potter survive," but rather by asking, "Why did Love allow Harry Potter to survive?" Through this particular question, the question of 'why' is being distinctive from the question of 'how,' as well as allowing individuals to explore how powerful the Love of this Sacrificial Protection truly is. And once again, J.K. Rowling has already answered this question.
From her interview with The Leaky Cauldron, along with MuggleNet, in response to the question of if anyone other than Lord Voldemort "ever gave someone a choice and then they took that option [to die]," J.K. Rowling stated that "they may have been given a choice, but not in that particular way." Based upon this answer given by Rowling, it is apparent that a certain set of circumstances existed so that the survival of baby Harry Potter was possible. Some circumstances have yet to be discussed whilst others have need of being discussed more thoroughly. One particular circumstance that has already been addressed is the love for Lily Potter from Severus Snape.
Severus Snape has loved, and continues to love, Lily Evans. Always. Though Snape had wanted to become a Death Eater ever since he himself went to Hogwarts, his love for Lily came first. And when the Dark Lord intended upon killing Harry Potter and his parents, killing Lily, the love that Severus Snape had for Lily Potter was more important to him than his loyalty to Lord Voldemort.
Therefore, Snape requested of the Dark Lord that He spare Lily Potter.
Dumbledore - "If she means so much to you, surely Lord Voldemort will spare her? Could you not ask for mercy for the mother, in exchange for the son?"
Snape - "I have - I have asked him -"
(HPDH - Chapter 33 - Pg. 677)
Once this 'tale' of Severus Snape was revealed, some readers began to theorize that because Lord Voldemort, the murderer, broke his promise to Snape, a promise derived from Love, Voldemort was able to be destroyed. And this is true. However, there also exist readers that have countered this argument by stating that others have made promises to murderers out of Love, and the murderer survived. And this is true. How is it that both of these theories are able to be true? It is because Severus Snape himself had also partaken in a Sacrificial Protection.
Obviously, Snape neither died before Lily, nor gave his life to protect Harry before her death. However, the circumstance in which Severus Snape found himself was one of life and death. Once he told Dumbledore of his love for Lily, as well as his willingness to do anything, Snape made the willing choice, out of his 'deep and pure love' for Lily, to return to Lord Voldemort whilst acting as a spy henceforth for Dumbledore. Because of the constant danger in which Snape is constantly, danger of death if his true intentions are discovered by the Dark Lord, Snape is willingly choosing a fate of death in order to ensure that Lily survives.
This is a really, really big deal!
Because of Snape requesting Lord Voldemort to spare Lily Potter, and Voldemort accepting his request, an oath forged from Love was made. Readers of the Harry Potter series understand this concept. However, this concept is a really, really big deal with regards to the survival of baby Harry Potter because what makes this oath so powerful is that the love used to forge this oath was not any Love but rather one of Sacrificial Protection; the sacrifice of Severus Snape being under constant fear of death so that Lily would be protected.
In other words, even before Lord Voldemort arrived at Godric's Hollow that Halloween night, a type of Sacrifical Protection had already existed, thus creating an additional specific circumstance that would lead to the survival of baby Harry Potter.
"If there is one thing that Voldemort cannot understand, it is love." Dumbledore reminds Harry, and readers, of this fact constantly throughout the entirety of the series. And in reality, Lord Voldemort truly cannot understand love. If he did, perhaps his actions, and words, at Godric's Hollow would have been different.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry and Hermione are fleeing the residence of Bathilda Bagshot, Harry is able to see the memory of Lord Voldemort the night He murdered Harry's parents. Not only is Harry able to see everything that happened that Halloween night, but Harry is also able to hear the dialogue between Voldemort and his mother, Lily.
Lily - "Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry"
Voldemort - Stand aside, you silly girl... stand aside, now."
Lily - "Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead -"
Voldemort - "This is my last warning -"
Lily - Not Harry! Please... have mercy... have mercy... Not Harry! Not Harry! Please - I'll do anything -"
Voldemort - "Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!"
(HPDH - Chapter Seventeen - Pg. 344)
Lord Voldemort did indeed give several chances to Lily for her to live. In fact, the Dark Lord gave Lily so many chances that He even went against his own word on when truly his 'last warning' would be. He clearly states to Lily that "this is [his] last warning." Yet, He still continues to offer her the choice to live.
Again, this is a really, really big deal!
When has Lord Voldemort, the 'darkest and most dangerous wizard to have ever lived,' ever gone against His own words?
If His 'last warning' was truly to be His 'last warning,' why did He continue to offer Lily an additional warning? Lord Voldemort is meeting the request of Snape, who had asked to spare the life of Lily Potter, and perhaps the reason why the Dark Lord offered an additional warning to Lily was because of the loyalty that Snape had for Him.
Whatever the reason may be for this additional warning, Voldemort is choosing this of His own will. And this concept is a really, really big deal with regards to the survival of baby Harry Potter because He is willingly, yet unknowingly, allowing Love to defeat His own words! Along with the type Sacrificial Protection that Snape forged, the constant refusal of Lily to accept life is allowing her 'deep and pure love' for baby Harry to become even stronger with each refusal to step aside.
In other words, when at Godric's Hollow that Halloween night, even before killing Lily Potter and her Sacrifical Protection to truly exist, at His own unknowing will, Lord Voldemort allowed Love to defeat His own words, thus creating an additional specific circumstance that would lead to the survival of baby Harry Potter.
The magic that was forged on Halloween night when James and Lily Potter were killed was indeed a magic of 'deep and pure love.' However, though a love and magic of Sacrificial Protection has been known to occur in the past, being that this is the first time when anyone has ever survived the Killing Curse, let alone a baby boy, what had happened on that night was a love and magic that was 'unknown and untested.' And this is not the first time that readers are aware of magic that has been 'unknown and untested.' This reference, of course, is made by Albus Dumbledore, and he is referring to Lord Voldemort's horcruxes.
During the King's Cross chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry asks Dumbledore questions of why certain things were able to occur between himself and Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore, the greatest sorcerer of the modern age, is not entirely certain himself of how such circumstances are able to be explained. However, rather than stating that he is uncertain, Dumbledore does provide Harry with an honest answer.
"What you must understand, Harry, is that you and Lord Voldemort have journeyed together into realms of magic hitherto unknown and untested." - Albus Dumbledore (HPDH - Chapter 35 - Pg. 710)
Part of this 'journey' between Harry and the Dark Lord is referring to Voldemort creating His horcruxes, which even to Dumbledore, is something that "no wizard had ever done more than tear his soul in two," (HPHBP - Chapter 23 - Pg. 500).
When readers of the Harry Potter series have made reference to how a murderer has survived in the past, even though a Sacrificial Protection has been made, what they state is indeed true. However, no murderer in the past "had ever done more than tear his soul in two," and this is what separates Voldemort Himself as a murderer from other wizarding murderers that came before Him.
Once again, this is a really, really big deal!
The night when Voldemort killed Harry's parents, not only was His soul split in more than two, His soul was severely damaged.
"[Voldemort] had rendered his soul so unstable that it broke apart when he committed those acts of unspeakable evil, the murder of your parents, the attempted killing of a child." - Albus Dumbledore (HPDH - Chapter 35 - Pg. 709)
And this concept is a really, really big deal with regards to the survival of baby Harry Potter because as a result of the severely shattered state in which the soul of Lord Voldemort existed during the time of the death of James and Lily Potter, the love and magic of the Sacrificial Protection that was forged, in comparison, would seem ever so powerful and indestructible. Furthermore, the soul of baby Harry Potter went untouched, because a fragment of Voldemort's soul latched itself onto Harry. With this fragment of soul now part of him, Harry could not be destroyed.
In other words, when Lord Voldemort finally cast the Killing Curse upon baby Harry Potter, the love and magic created by means of Sacrificial Protection severely overpowered the forever fragile soul of the Dark Lord and caused an unprecedented event to occur, thus creating an additional specific circumstance that would lead to the survival of baby Harry Potter.
For the Wizarding World, and even the Muggle world, on Halloween night, 31 October 1981, a miracle truly occurred, for Lord Voldemort was defeated by Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived. However, what was even more of a miracle was the nearly impossible set of circumstances that had need of being created in order for this miracle to even be possible.
By answering the question of 'why did Harry Potter survive,' 'why did Love allow Harry Potter to survive,' it has become even more clear that it was indeed Love that protected Harry, and that Love is truly a magic more powerful than anyone could ever entirely comprehend.