Concerning the Death of Harry

by Kendra Lisum

As much as I don’t want it to happen, I have had a nagging feeling since I’ve read The Order of the Phoenix that Harry is not going to live past the seventh book. I will go book-by-book and point out some clues, and then I will try to bring them all together to reveal why Harry will die. (Although I hope beyond hope it will not come true, since Sirius’s death nearly killed me I cannot even imagine what Harry’s would do).

First, in The Sorcerer’s Stone, we are thrown into this world where our hero’s parents are killed: revealing death as a central theme and catalyst from the beginning.

Then when Harry comes across the unicorn in the Forbidden Forest and is rescued by Firenze, Bane reprimands Firenze saying: “Remember, Firenze, we are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens. Have we not read what is to come in the movements of the planets?” (257). This could be read two ways, which Harry points out to Hermione and Ron on page 260. It could mean that the centaurs have read Voldemort’s return in the stars. Or it could mean they read that Harry is going to die…or perhaps both. No matter what the answer, Firenze interfered (or so Bane says, anyway)—he saved Harry and he scared away Quirrell, hindering Voldemort in drinking the unicorn blood, and thus stealing away some of his strength, delaying his return.

Another clue to what the centaurs were referring to, however, comes when Firenze takes his leave of Harry. He tells him: “The planets have been read wrongly before now, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those times” (259). Firenze could be hoping the stars are incorrect in foretelling Harry’s death.

At the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling returns to the theme of death as she has Dumbledore prepare us: “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” (297). So we are told death is not something to fear, but rather an adventure—it’s the attitude you take toward death that makes it what it is. Death, too, is what gave Harry his protection. Lily died to save Harry, her love lives on in him, saving him from death. So we are told again that death can be, in some ways, a blessing and, you could argue, a necessity. Lilly had to die so Harry would live to vanquish the Dark Lord—for the chance to save millions of lives, she sacrificed her own. Death becomes almost immediately linked with love and the power of that love.

In The Chamber of Secrets, we are given a huge, and perhaps vital, clue as to what the seventh book in the series may hold. Dumbledore says: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” (333). But I will return to this later.

As for The Prisoner of Azkaban, we learn about Dementors and their ability to suck out the soul of a person, not unlike the Spectors and intercision in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, which leave the victims lifeless, but alive; breathing but emotionless. A fate worse than death, perhaps? Again, emphasizing death is not the ultimate terror, as some believe.

The Goblet of Fire gives us our first actual death—first witnessed death. Harry, too, is faced with the first real possibility of dying, and he chooses to do it his way: “He was going to die like Cedric, those pitiless red eyes were telling him so…he was going to die, and there was nothing he could do about it…but he wasn’t going to beg…” (661). Furthermore: “Harry crouched behind the headstone and knew the end had come…He was not going to die crouching here like a child playing hide-and-seek; he was not going to die kneeling at Voldemort’s feet…he was going to die upright like his father, and he was going to die trying to defend himself, even if no defense was possible” (662). So here we see Harry, believing he’s going to die, choosing to do it on his own terms.

The Order of the Phoenix gives us perhaps the strongest glimpses into what awaits Harry in the final book. Voldemort shouts: “There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” (814). “You are quite wrong…” replies Dumbledore. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness” (814). This is extremely important because Dumbledore is telling us directly that fear of death, such as Voldemort possesses, is a mistake, one that weakens a person.

But the biggest clue comes when Voldemort possesses Harry. Harry, in his weakened emotional and physical state, begs: “Let the pain stop…Let him kill us…End it, Dumbledore…Death is nothing compared to this…And I’ll see Sirius again…” (816). This is the clincher that makes me believe Harry will die in the seventh book. Harry is taught by Dumbledore not to fear death, that choices are more important than abilities, and that there are things worse than death. All of this will inevitably come into play.

In Dumbledore’s office when Harry is devastated, horror-struck, and repulsed at himself over the recent events and his role in them, Dumbledore assures him that “the fact that [Harry] can feel pain like this is [his] greatest strength” (823). So we have two dynamics: fear of death is a weakness, but the pain that comes with losing a loved one—essentially, the pain of love—is a strength. And we already know love and death are inextricably linked. Harry also cries out in rage that he wants out, that he wants it to end, that he’s had enough. Who can blame him wanting to end the pain and torment that seems to be his life?

(Here’s just a quick tidbit about the classic hero-myth: heroes must suffer and sacrifice. The classic heroes Achilles and Roland first lose their best friends to death, and then their own lives. For more on Harry losing Ron, see Maline’s editorial about Ron dying: North Tower 22. For more on the hero and his traditional roles, see “Harry Potter as Hero-in-Progress” in the book The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter. I know this is all very sad, and I pray it doesn’t happen, but I am just speculating on it because that’s the fun of reading these books as they come out—we have time to speculate and guess before we actually know.)

Ok, so why does this all point to Harry’s death? Here is how everything is linked:

Love saved Harry and I believe (as Maline has so brilliantly explained in her North Tower column on will be the crucible that will defeat Voldemort in the end, because he, Voldemort, does not understand its power. Voldemort’s two greatest weaknesses are the lack of understanding of this power of love, and that death is something to fear and resist. Harry’s greatest strength, on the other hand, is his absolute love for Sirius and his parents, which is also his greatest weakness. Sirius died because Harry was betrayed by his own good nature and love for his godfather. Sirius’s death, then, will give Harry the power to vanquish Voldemort in the end because he will know what it is to have loved and lost (on a more personal level than his parents, since Harry was but an infant). He will have experienced (no doubt even more so, with more deaths, in the coming books) all the beauty and terribleness, the blessing and the curse, that is love. This experience will allow him to use the inherent power in love against Voldemort.

Here’s the scenario I could see happening: Harry and Voldemort fighting valiantly to the death, each knowing the other must die for one to survive. Harry will somehow (perhaps with the help of someone unlikely, like, oh say, Wormtail) defeat Voldemort, but it will leave him mortally wounded or exhausted beyond recovery. Harry will know he has the choice to die, to finally let go. And I think he will choose to do so. I think he will choose as his mother and father and Sirius chose: to die (for the sake of others). He will choose to be with his parents and Sirius and the others he loved who have died fighting Voldemort. Dumbledore may be there, telling Harry that it’s okay, that he can go if he wishes, that Voldemort is gone for good, and it’s okay to die now. Like Frodo, there’s nothing more for him to do, he’s fulfilled his duty and now he can go to the “Undying Lands,” to continue the analogy.

Another clue that is less concrete, is the fact that Rowling has insisted there will be no books after Book Seven. Considering the popularity of the series, would she ever be left alone if Harry survived? Everyone she ever came across would ask for another Harry Potter book, would inquire about Harry, etc. And here’s a huge clue that took my breath away when I read it—my heart sank and I knew Harry has a good possibility of dying: Rowling has said that while she is Christian, she’s glad no one noticed because if they knew, they would know how the series would end. We all know Harry Potter in many ways parallels the Bible, or at least Christian teaching, so it follows that Harry parallels Christ in some ways. As such, Harry will die in much the same sacrificial way as Christ—to save everyone from evil. Jesus chose to die for us, as Harry will choose to die for the safety of the wizarding world, indeed for the entire world.

Feedback welcomed: