Blood Ties and Ancient Magic (Or the Harry-Voldemort Connection)
So, the big question that has been on everyone’s minds since the Edinburgh International Book Festival is the one that Jo herself told us we should be asking:
“Why didn’t Voldemort die?”
Not, why did Harry live, but why didn’t Voldemort die? And, in connection to the first question, we will be moving in the right direction if we also ask ourselves:
“Why didn’t Dumbledore kill or try to kill Voldemort during the scene in the ministry?”
Before I get into the first question concerning why Voldemort didn’t die, let us first look at the question concerning Dumbledore.
We are told that the reason Dumbledore gives during the battle sequence is not the real reason. So what is it that Dumbledore said to Tom in the MoM? I think the reason we should be looking at, which JKR has told us is not the real reason, is that merely taking Voldemort’s life would not satisfy Dumbledore. I think that taking Voldemort’s life would satisfy Dumbledore; after all, death is the thing that Voldemort fears the most, so why not give it to him? The problem is that Dumbledore cannot take Voldemort’s life, as we know from the end of the prophecy.
But this is the key: as we know from the end of the prophecy, because Voldemort does not. The entire book of OotP (and perhaps longer) was spent keeping that prophecy out of Voldemort’s hands because it would be a disaster of gargantuan proportions for him to learn that he is all but invincible. Think about it: Voldemort and his cronies are arrogant enough to think that Voldemort is stronger than everyone else, but to thinkand to know are two different things. I would suggest that this kind of knowledge would be so disastrous in the hands of Voldemort that no one would be safe. He would never need fear losing a battle (unless, of course, it was against Harry) because he would know that only Harry can kill him. So, of course Dumbledore doesn’t kill (or, as JKR so sneakily adds, try to kill) Voldemort in the MoM because he can’t kill him.
On the surface level, Voldemort probably would not make a huge reaction to the fact that a killing curse from Dumbledore would not work. He would have to, by order of his arrogance, show a face to the world that says he is not afraid of Dumbledore and that Dumbledore isn’t wise enough, quick enough, powerful enough to kill him. But inside Voldemort thinks he is fallible – everyone does, really – and would surely be spending the next several months (or however long it would take) to find out exactly why Dumbledore couldn’t kill him. And then the Order would be back to square one, trying to keep the contents of the prophecy secret from Voldemort.
So, that settles that for me – for now. But now to the real question: “Why didn’t Voldemort die?”
Well, this brings us back to the prophecy because, for the theory that I’m about to use to work, there first must be no doubt that the prophecy is indeed speaking about Harry (for all those of you who still believe that Neville could be the one).
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have powers the Dark Lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”
(OotP, pg. 841)
Let’s break down the prophecy to see why Harry must be the one.
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…”
Here we know the Prophecy could be referencing either Harry or Neville.
“…and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal…”
Here is where things get a little tricky. I will agree with what most everyone has said, that the scar on Harry’s forehead is evidence of Harry being marked. But is this what marks him as the Dark Lord’s equal? My stance is that the scar is only an external manifestation of Harry being marked as Voldemort’s equal. The things that are more likely be considered marks are left on Harry’s life itself and aren’t visible on the surface level: a childhood full of enough pain and frustration to equal that of the Dark Lord’s childhood; bringing about the death of Harry’s parents, ensuring that Harry would grow up without knowing them, the same way Riddle grew up (and, yes, Neville grew up without knowing his parents either, and to some degree he had a painful childhood, but these things were the result of the Death Eater’s actions, not Voldemort’s); powers equal to those the Dark Lord possesses (the ability to speak Parseltongue); the ability to rise to difficult challenges and meet those challenges head on; the ability to use needed resources to his advantage; the list goes on and on.
There is one more thing which I think marks Harry as Voldemort’s equal, but as it relies on the theory I am about to present, I will add it to this list later in the editorial.
“…but he will have powers the Dark Lord knows not…”
These “power[s] the Dark Lord knows not” could be referencing Harry in more than one way.
- Literally, powers the Dark Lord doesn’t know Harry possesses (i.e. the ability to speak Parseltongue – Tom Riddle’s “shadow” may know of this ability from CoS, but does Voldemort?); or
- Powers the Dark Lord doesn’t know because it is impossible for him to know them [i.e. “It is the powers held within this room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all…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.” (OotP, pgs. 843-844)].
“…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…”
This is linked to Harry in my theory, and I will explain it later.
“…The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”
This is the restatement that the one has not yet (at the time of the Prophecy) been born, to further clarify the original statement using the word “approaches.”
Now, can any of you give me clear cut evidence to show that Neville is the one rather than Harry? If you have any, I’d most certainly like to hear it.
So, now that we have that out of the way (and hopefully I will be able to show why that process was necessary), why didn’t Voldemort die? “You should be wondering what he did to make sure that he did not die.” Well, what were those steps to which Voldemort was referring at the end of GoF?
My first thought, as I can imagine was the first thought of many (as evidenced by an editorial entitled Potions and Death written by Susan F. in October’s The Burrow), went all the way back to PS/SS in Harry’s first class with Snape.
“…I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death…”
PS/SS, pg. 137
I agree with the author of this editorial, that it was likely Snape who would brew such a potion for Voldemort, but I do not think it was as easy as charging Snape with the job and then taking the potion. The potion might have been part of what kept Voldemort from biting the dust, but I do not think it was as simple as that. JKR reminds us that Voldemort says that one or more of the steps he took enabled him to survive. This tells us a couple of things actually. First, it tells us that Voldemort definitely took more than one step (so our job of searching for an answer does not end with Snape’s clever potion), and, second, it tells us that Voldemort either does not know exactly which step saved him from death, or that he knows and just isn’t sharing that information (for good reason – he may not want his Death Eaters to know, or, more importantly, he has Harry Potter present, and he’s certainly not going to tell him what he did to survive death, when he’s about to kill Harry).
So, what did Voldemort do, that JKR does not think is guessable. The theory I’m about to present has been in the brewing for several months now. I went from one idea to the next, and this theory developed fairly quickly. The more I searched for an answer in the books, the more evidence I found to support it; I feel it is a theory that is truly worthy of JKR (I’m treading on thin ground with that statement, I know). I also know that it could be (and probably is) completely wrong. But that’s not the point of the editorial; the point is to get as many unique ideas out there as possible. So, let the speculation begin!
The theme of blood ties is ever present throughout the Harry Potter series. It is discussed casually in reference to different characters’ lineage (pure-blood, half-blood, Muggle-born, etc.); it is discussed over the tapestry in OotP which shows the Black family line; it is also discussed in relation to an ancient magic we have been speculating about, ever since the end of GoF.
(Another question I want answered – Harry doesn’t find out what this ancient magic is until the end of OotP, even though Voldemort talks about it right in front of him in GoF. Why doesn’t Harry ever ask Dumbledore what this ancient magic is? Wouldn’t you want to know?)
So, let us review what we know about this ancient magic.
“But how to get at Harry Potter? For he has been better protected than I think even he knows, protected in ways devised by Dumbledore, long ago, when it fell to him to arrange the boy’s future. (Side note: when exactly did it fall upon Dumbledore to arrange Harry’s future? Wouldn’t that be a twist if it was even before the death of Harry’s parents and it also has something to do with those letters he was writing to Petunia?) Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy’s protection as long as he is in his relations’ care. Not even I can touch him there…”
(GoF, pg. 657)
“You were in more danger than perhaps anyone but myself realized. Voldemort had been vanquished (side note: interesting choice of words: vanquished) hours before, but his supporters – and many of them are almost as terrible as he – were still at large, angry, desperate, and violent…
“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 in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother’s blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative…
“…she took you…and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother’s sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you…
“While you can still call home the place where your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, there he cannot hurt you…”
(OotP, pg. 836)
These are the two passages in the series that explain more clearly than any others what this ancient magic is. We are told that Voldemort knows it, despises it and therefore has underestimated it. We know he underestimated it that night in Godric’s Hollow (or as Voldemort said “miscalculated”) because he cast the Avada Kedavra curse on Harry. But could Voldemort have vested his faith in a similar power, a connected magic; just as ancient, but say, dark? On page 648 of GoF, Voldemort says that he took these steps long ago – how long ago? Maybe not long after he left Hogwarts.
In the opening chapter of GoF, we learn that the Riddles and their son Tom died of mysterious causes. They appeared to be in perfect health, except for the fact that they were all dead. We know that Voldemort, then Tom Riddle to most, entered the home of his father and grandparents and cursed the three of them with Avada Kedavra; they were probably dead before they even realized what was happening. But why would Voldemort do this? If you were Tom Riddle and had lived a horrible childhood because of the actions of one person – had your whole lifetime ruined – and then took the time and effort to search for that person – to find out who they were and where they were – would you just kill them without even giving them the chance to feel it? I would suggest that a more appropriate curse to use would have been the Cruciatus curse, to give his father and grandparents the opportunity to really feel the pain that he had experienced in his short life. But we know that they were in perfect health, and that is not the sign of someone who has undergone the Cruciatus curse. In the least, their brains would have been damaged, as is evidenced by Neville’s parents.
For these reasons, I would suggest that the same hate that took Voldemort to Godric’s Hollow the night he killed Harry’s parents was not the same hate that took him to Little Hangleton the night he killed his father and grandparents. There was still hate (because, of course, there was no love), but not the same kind of hate; there was a different kind of motivation behind it. When Voldemort went to Godric’s Hollow, he was motivated by a hate strong enough to kill Harry Potter, as an end in itself. I would suggest that the murder of Voldemort’s father and grandparents, however, was not an end, but a means to a further end.
“You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father,” he hissed softly. “A muggle and a fool…very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child…and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself in death…”
(GoF, pg. 646, emphasis added)
Voldemort used his father and grandparents as tools, the same way he uses his Death Eaters and the greater wizarding community. Tools for what, you might ask? Why, immortality of course; the very counter to the charm of ancient magic placed as a protection on Harry Potter.
What is it that makes us mortal? It is, of course, the very blood that runs through our veins. The loss of blood is the loss of life – the blood that sustains us is our very lifeline. By killing his father and grandparents, Voldemort, in effect, rid the earth of the blood ties, mortal ties, which bound him to it.
Consider this: Rowling has had us dwelling on the power of blood magic for several years now. In the world she has created for us to enjoy, if a blood pact is strong enough to sustain life – to keep it mortally-bound to this earth – does it not reason well that a counter blood pact would be strong enough to sever mortal ties with this earth?
Now consider this: Voldemort goes to Godric’s Hollow that night as the last living descendant of Salazar Slytherin (and given that he is Slytherin’s last living descendent, he is alone in that bloodline). He takes the lives of both Harry’s parents and then curses Harry. The curse backfires and does not kill him – it kills his body, but his spirit is still there. With the spilling of his blood and the subsequent death of his body, he can no longer be considered mortal (what exactly he can be considered, I have no idea – I’m not sure that immortal fits him at this point either). With this act, the bloodline of Salazar Slytherin forever perishes.
Years pass. Voldemort lives off of snakes and other small animals in dark forests. Quirrell comes across him and he eventually takes over the professor’s body. He drinks unicorn blood and obtains a half life. He is thwarted with the death of Quirrell and must remain in spirit form; Malfoy’s plan with Tom Riddle’s Diary is also thwarted. But, eventually, Voldemort regains the help of Crouch, Jr. and Wormtail, and their plan is successful enough to maintain an audience with Harry Potter himself. At this point, the one goal Voldemort has focused on for thirteen years is finally achieved – he is successful at returning to corporeal status.
So, what was the potion that brought Voldemort’s body back?
“Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son…
“…Flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master…
“…Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe.”
(GoF, pgs. 641-642)
The only blood now flowing in the veins of Voldemort’s regenerated body is that of Harry Potter. This is important! It is not Harry’s blood mixed with Voldemort’s blood – it is purely Harry’s blood. It enables Voldemort that same protection provided by Lily. They are the only two living beings with that same blood and protection (yes, Harry is still connected to Petunia by blood, but she does not share the protection of Lily’s charm). Voldemort may still be the only living descendant of Salazar Slytherin, but he no longer shares his blood.
This is the other way I think Voldemort has marked Harry as his equal. To wizards like Lord Voldemort, blood plays such an important role in the wizarding world. But who gets to choose their own blood? The fact that Harry and Voldemort share the same blood by Voldemort’s own choosing is no small thing. Even the idea that he chose Harry’s blood because of the protection it provides is no small thing, because that protection comes from a powerful charm placed on Harry by his mother, the Muggle-born in his bloodline who, according to Voldemort’s philosophy, is of very little worth. So, Lord Voldemort, the half-blood hater of half-bloods, has the opportunity to choose the very blood that will flow through his veins. Yet, instead of choosing a respectable pure-blood line, he once again chooses a half-blood line, similar to way he chose Harry as a greater threat to him than Neville.
But this takes us, once again, back to that blasted prophecy. Remember, I said that the line “…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…” is related to this theory as well? Going along with the idea of equal and opposite forces (Harry is marked by his mother’s love, strong enough to protect him from death; he is also marked by Lord Voldemort’s hate, equally strong but opposite), as both Harry and Voldemort share the protection provided by Lily’s charm, I think each of them also carries with them the power to overcome the protection provided to the other. Either must die at the hand of the other, because no one else can kill them.
There is another quote that I think adds weight to this theory. I must thank Scottie R. for his editorial Pettigrew’s Debt Part II because he reminded me of the quote I am about to use, and it has helped me to add so much more weight to my theory.
Like this ancient magic, we have also been speculating about Dumbledore’s “look of triumph” since the end of GoF. Many have brought up similar points to mine, and I think if we tie in all these theories together, we might come pretty darn close to the truth.
When Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger, however, Sirius let out a vehement exclamation and Dumbledore stood up so quickly that Harry started. Dumbledore walked around the desk and told Harry to stretch out his arm. Harry showed them both the place where his robes were torn and the cut beneath them.
“He said my blood would make him stronger than if he used someone else’,” Harry told Dumbledore. He said the protection my – my mother left me – he’d have it too. And he was right – he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.”
For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat behind the desk, he looked as old and weary as Harry had ever seen him.
“Very well,” he said, sitting down again. “Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier. Harry continue please.”
(GoF, pg. 695-696, emphasis added)
I do not think that Harry imagined the look of triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. However, Dumbledore realized that he couldn’t reveal to anyone else why this was actually reason to celebrate (as this would force him to explain about the prophecy an entire book early), and so the look disappeared almost as quickly as it came. Voldemort using Harry’s blood makes Voldemort fallible – it makes him fallible to Harry Potter!
They share the bond of blood, they share the protective charm. Being the only two protected by the charm, I believe they are also the only two with the power to overcome it as well – and here’s where things gets really interesting.
Think about it: Voldemort fights so hard to make sure that Harry’s blood is used in the regeneration potion because it affords him the protection provided by Harry’s mother. But wouldn’t it be very interesting if the prophecy continued to be fulfilled because of Voldemort’s actions? Harry became the one by virtue of Voldemort’s choice; Voldemort marked him as his equal – a part of the prophecy Voldemort knew nothing about. Equally stunning, “…either must die at the hand of the other…” because Voldemort used Harry’s blood in the regeneration potion, and now Harry and Voldemort are literally the only ones with the power to kill the other; Voldemort doesn’t know about this part of the prophecy either. Doesn’t this just sound like a twist worthy of JKR?
“But I was willing to embrace mortal life again, before chasing immortality. I set my sights lower…I would settle for my old body back again, and my old strength.”
(GoF, pg. 656)
Here, Voldemort realizes that he is again mortal and vulnerable, but what he does not realize is that he has only made himself mortal and vulnerable to Harry Potter and has therefore, unbeknownst to him, fulfilled another part of the Prophecy.
I know that to many of you, this theory sounds really far-fetched. I have no idea if any of it actually holds any water whatsoever, but as I already said, it was really fun speculating and coming up with something interesting.
Whether or not Voldemort actually killed his father and grandparents for the reason I have suggested (ridding the earth of his blood ties), I still believe that they were used as a means to something. There is no good reason for Voldemort to just curse them with Avada Kedavra and be done with it. There must be some reason for him to have finished the job so quickly.
So, I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Now take what I have put together and start picking it apart. Send me feedback with any suggestions of important things you think I might have missed – anything that refutes my theory, or anything that supports it. I hope to hear from lots of you.