Department of Mysteries #2: “You’re Dead Potter!”
Experienced readers know Jo Rowling likes to hide clues in her books. You read something in the text and think nothing of it, but then it turns out to have been Very Important later and you say, “D’OH! How obvious! I should have noticed that!” It was my effort to notice the obvious before it became obvious that led me to a startling question:
Is Harry Potter already dead?
Before you dismiss this as too foolishly ridiculous, consider what we know about the author and her work. First, she likes to hide clues. Second, she uses the English language VERY carefully, choosing not only her words but also her phrasing with extreme care. Third, she has a terrific sense of humor and likes to put in jokes that may not be recognized until much later.
While re-reading Order of The Phoenix recently I noticed something that had escaped me before. These quotes do not appear together, but when examined together they seem ominous:
“You’re dead, Potter” — Draco Malfoy, OoTP, pp. 851 (US)
“Funny, you’d think I’d have stopped walking around.” — Harry Potter, OoTP, pp. 851 (US)
“You died, but I’m talking to you … you can walk around Hogwarts and everything, can’t you?” — Harry Potter, OoTP, pp. 860 (US)
“I walk and talk, yes.” — Nearly-Headless Nick, OoTP, pp. 860 (US)
I know what you’re thinking: “So what! It is just people talking!” Ah, but it’s also Jo Rowling’s characters talking in one of her stories, which makes me think there’s something more to it.
But how could Harry be dead? You’d think he’d have stopped walking around. After all, he’s not a ghost; he is flesh and blood. As for ghosts, they walk and talk, yes, but as JKR once pointed out, they are “not properly dead.”
You should not read any further until you have completely read and understood the Changeling Hypothesis, an idea from the owner of Red Hen Publications, mysteriously known only as Jodel. In Maline Freden’s column The North Tower, she presented Jodel’s brilliant theory and discussed pieces of the information in detail. You should not depend on her summary alone though, since Maline has left a few things out.
According to Jodel, Harry may be carrying around two souls inside him: his own and Voldemort’s. Jodel speculates that Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra curse, which literally backfired on him, separated his memory and intellect – let’s call this his persona – from his soul. Voldemort’s soul then, needing a warm body in which to live, and having nobody (haha) else around (since Voldemort’s body was vaporized), leapt into Harry’s body and is still there today.
This would explain a lot of things. Harry’s scar, for example, is a magical injury, present because two souls are inside him and one is trying to get out to re-join its original persona. Voldemort still has a connection to his soul – this explains the telepathic link with Harry. This also explains why Voldemort is not roaming around like a zombie, as the victims of a Dementor’s kiss would do – and THAT is very important indeed.
” ‘It is a walking corpse’ said a St. Louis matron poisonously.” — William S. Burroughs, THE PLACE OF DEAD ROADS
Another thing Jodel points out, which Maline omitted, is that it may not have been Harry’s mother’s love which caused the AK spell to rebound. Jodel writes that Lily Potter may have tricked Voldemort into agreeing to a magical contract – “My life for Harry’s” – and that it was Voldemort’s attempt to kill Harry after taking her life, thereby breaching the contract, which caused the curse to backfire upon its owner.
Remember what Voldemort said in GoF: that it was “an ancient form of magic” which caused him to be vaporized. We have been led to believe that this was motherly love, but what if it was simply the magic that binds wizards to honor magical contracts? In other words, what if Harry’s mother’s love did not protect him from Voldemort’s curse?
What if Harry is, in fact, dead?
THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY
Like her character Mundungus Fletcher, Jo Rowling likes her little jokes. She is also very well versed in both classical and popular culture: from Socrates to Star Trek, she has absorbed it all. I wonder if the entire Potter septology might not be one colossal homage to “The Trouble With Harry”?
In this classic 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film, all of Harry’s friends are in a dither over Harry. They do not know what to do with Harry, and Harry is troubling them to no end. What IS the trouble with Harry? Why, Harry is dead, of course!
The whole film is a farce about what to do with a corpse, an idea later re-used in “Weekend At Bernie’s.” The joke in the Potterverse, of course, is that the corpse (if Potter is indeed a corpse) is doing just fine on his own.
As for Draco telling Harry he is dead: oh, the twisted irony! That’s exactly the kind of thing teenage boys say to each other every day; of course we would dismiss it. Neither Draco nor we are supposed to suspect that he is actually making a literal, factual statement. Harry really IS dead.
As Moody would remind us, “Constant Vigilance!”
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING
It would seem, of course, that Harry could not be dead. He is still physically alive and walking around. But remember what JKR said about being dead: you cannot come back to life once you are “properly dead.”
That begs the question: is there a way to be Improperly Dead?
In fact, there are several. First and most obvious is to be a ghost. Since ghosts are simply dead souls and have no physical bodies, we know Harry is not a ghost.
Then there is the condition of living death suffered by the victims of the Dementor’s Kiss. These people have had their souls sucked out but retain their physical life. It is not much of a life however, for without a soul they have no awareness of themselves and are, literally, less than human. These people might as well be dead, but they are not “properly dead.”
Another form of Improper Death is the one that Voldemort’s magical precautions automatically thrust him into once his body was vaporized: a spirit floating around, not a ghost, able to return to physical life once a suitable body has been found. This form of death is critically important for two reasons: 1) it allows the “dead” person to be brought back to full physical life, and 2) it allows retention of both the soul AND the body.
Notice that the other two forms of Improper Death allow the dead person to retain either the soul OR the body, but not both. Ghosts retain their souls, but not their body; victims of a Dementor’s Kiss retain their body but not their soul. Only Voldemort’s dark magical technique allows a person who has been otherwise destroyed to recover both body and soul and return to physical life.
If I have figured correctly, this is not only the key to Harry’s “death,” but the key to bringing him back to life as well.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN GODRIC’S HOLLOW?
From Chapter 1 of Book 1, we have been led to believe that Harry suffered no ill effects from Voldemort’s curse. According to all characters in the HP books, even those who don’t like him, Harry was unaffected and the curse simply bounced off. That’s what they say. But, as Galadriel Waters so astutely pointed out in her Ultimate Unofficial Guide, “Don’t take a character’s word for it!”
What if Harry WAS affected by that awful curse? What if, in fact, the Avada Kedavra did exactly what it was supposed to do and killed him?
Those familiar with the Changeling Hypothesis will say, “Sure it affected him – it gave him two souls!” But if the curse just bounced off him, why does he still have a scar exactly where the curse touched his head? Consider this: if his mother’s love really did protect him, he should have no marks at all. The fact that there IS a scar proves he has been injured; therefore his mother’s love could not have been the perfect shield it has been made out to be.
And how could a soul enter his body with his own soul already occupying it? The CH is based on the assumption that one body can hold two souls, but is this true? We know that in most stories in which a spirit possesses someone, the possessing spirit does not share that person’s body but takes it over, forcing the original soul out. The original soul then wanders the Earth, inert and unaware, but unable to leave the mortal plane. The only way it can have any sort of life is to enter a body – either its own original body or another one.
Here is my take on what happened:
Voldemort found the Potters at home. He killed James. He then tried to kill Harry, but Lily tricked him into a magical bargain: “My life for harry’s!” He agreed. He killed her. Then, thinking he didn’t have to honor his contract (or not realizing he had made one), he tried to kill Harry – and succeeded.
Now it gets complicated. The Avada Kedavra did indeed kill Harry, but not in the usual way. His mother’s love DID protect him, but not like we think. Voldemort’s breach of contract made the curse malfunction; it failed to kill Harry. It did, however, separate Harry’s soul from his persona.
Rebounding off Harry to hit Voldemort, the “bent” curse did the same thing to him: it split his soul and his persona. Voldemort of course was much older and more powerful than baby Harry, and he had taken magical precautions against death. His persona took flight and became a disembodied spirit – Vapormort, as Jodel calls it.
What is more interesting is what happened to his soul. If the AK had the same effect on Harry as it did on Voldemort, his soul would have found a warm body with no soul in it, or at least, with its soul very loosely attached. Whether Harry’s body was soulless or just easy pickings, Voldemort’s soul entered it and took over. This means Harry’s original soul is … where exactly?
We don’t know. Perhaps it is still floating about the Earth, unaware, ready to return if it ever gets the chance. Of course, it will not get that chance while Voldemort’s soul already occupies Harry’s body.
THE PROPHECY RE-EXAMINED
“And either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives” — Sybill Trelawney, OoTP, pp. 841 (US)
More than one person has pointed out that we need to examine Jo Rowling’s language very carefully. It also helps to understand the nuances of language yourself.
I do not believe, as one of my fellow writers suggested, that “the other” is someone else besides Harry or Voldemort. I am fairly sure “the other” refers to these two wizards. What may not be clear to some, however, are the meanings of “either” and “at the hand of.”
In English (American as well as British) usage, “either must die” can be taken two ways. It could mean that either Harry OR Voldemort must die, leaving the other (the one of the pair who did not die) alive. Or it could mean that BOTH must die.
“There were weeds growing on either side of the road.”
If you were never taught this in school, it is not surprising; in recent decades there has been a serious erosion of scholarship in all subjects on both sides of the Atlantic. I, however, was taught by very proper old ladies in the 1970s, and they were very specific in their use and explanation of our language. It would seem JKR either was taught by the same old gals or became one herself, for all of her strict and careful usage.
SO: either must die, meaning perhaps that only one must die, or that both must die. But what about that other phrase, “at the hand of.” Have we really been reading that correctly?
Most people believe that “at the hand of” means that one of them, Harry or Voldemort, must kill the other. For most people, to die “at the hand of” someone means to die by that someone’s homicidal act. In fact that is NOT what it means, and there is no ambiguity.
If JKR wanted to say that either Harry or Voldemort must kill the other, she would have said “BY the hand of,” not “AT the hand of.” To die “AT the hand of” someone does not mean that they will kill you, but that you will die NEARBY to them, or next to them, i.e. “at [the other’s] hand.”
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Let us recall the timing of the Prophecy, and see how that affects this theory.
The prophecy given by Sybill Trelawney in the Hog’s Head was spoken before Harry was born, but more importantly, before Voldemort attacked him. This is key. Trelawney spoke in the future tense in our past – 1980, before Harry was born. Events that were still in her future may now be in our past: that is, her use of future tense does not mean the events she spoke of are in OUR future, or in Harry’s future as of June 1996, when (many of us have calculated) he was in Dumbledore’s office hearing the prophecy. They may have taken place before – long before.
“And either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives.”
Perhaps these two lines of the prophecy are not fated to come true in Harry’s future. Perhaps they have already come true – on October 31, 1981.
If “either must die at the hand of the other” then either Harry OR Voldemort must die WHILE PHYSICALLY LOCATED RIGHT NEXT TO the other. Or maybe they BOTH must die this way. Whichever it is, neither can live while the other survives.
Once again, language: “to survive” is not the same as “to live.” To survive is to continue in some sort of existence, but not necessarily to live.
Take a look at Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, for example. Obviously Nick survives, but he is definitely not living. Consider also Barty Crouch, Junior: we don’t know where he is, probably St. Mungo’s, but we know he has been Kissed by a Dementor and is no longer “alive” in the human sense. Yet he survives – if you believe there is any of him left to survive.
Isn’t it possible that Harry or Voldemort, or both, might survive without living?
It would certainly fit with the prophecy. If “neither can live while the other survives” then BOTH Harry and Voldemort must be dead, albeit Improperly Dead, as they are both currently surviving. Likewise, in order for neither to live while the other survives, they both would have had to have died simultaneously – say, at the moment Voldemort cursed baby Harry.
“I have memory and awareness But I have no shape or form As a disembodied spirit I am dead and yet unborn” — Rush, “Hemispheres” (1978)
Now we – and Harry, and Voldemort – are faced with a serious problem: how to fix this?
Let’s consider both sides in looking for a solution. Yes, we want Harry to win and Voldemort to lose, but Voldemort sees it differently. For purposes of storytelling, Voldemort must act in his own interest. So how should he approach this, and can it possibly work in Harry’s favor?
Before there can be any solution, one must recognize the problem. So far Voldemort has not realized there is anything wrong, and he probably wouldn’t believe it if Dumbledore told him. I will leave that up to JKR: eventually, however, Voldemort will have to learn and accept the truth.
WWVD: WHAT WOULD VOLDEMORT DO?
He needs to separate Harry from his (Voldemort’s) soul. We don’t know what kind of dark magical schemes JKR may have planned, but it is likely Harry would die in the process – or at least Voldemort would expect him to. Notice also that, once Voldemort learns the truth, he CANNOT kill Harry or allow Harry to come to harm. Harry is too valuable alive: he has Voldemort’s soul. If Harry dies without being separated from the soul he carries, the Dark Lord loses his soul forever.
So Voldemort’s new strategy will be to capture Harry, in preparation for whatever process is needed to restore his (Voldemort’s) soul to him. Voldemort would probably expect Harry to be zombified like a Dementor victim once the person has been Kissed, and probably plans to kill the Zombie-Harry afterward.
What should Harry’s strategy be? First, it’s really Dumbledore’s strategy. Dumbledore is fighting Voldemort indirectly through Harry, using Harry as his weapon. This is because, as the prophecy said, it has to be this way: Voldemort is after Harry, and Harry is the key to vanquishing Voldemort.
In order vanquish Voldemort, to beat him once and for all, something other than a normal death is needed. Voldemort cannot die, at least not in the normal way. What then?
Recall these words from Dumbledore:
“Merely taking your life would not satisfy me, I admit.” — OoTP, pp. 814 (US)
“Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness.” — OoTP, pp. 814 (US)
Let’s figure that Dumbledore knows, or will find out, that Harry’s soul is not inside him but IS available to return to Harry’s body. Actually this would be a good time to point out a different interpretation of the Smoke Serpent in OoTP. Quoting again:
“Naturally, naturally … but in essence divided?” — OOTP, pp. 470 (US)
“The smoke serpent, however, split itself instantly into two snakes, both coiling and undulating in the dark air.” — OOTP, pp. 470 (US)
This has been taken to mean that Harry is “in essence divided.” I think that is wrong for 2 reasons:
1) if the Changeling Hypothesis is correct, Harry is not divided, he is doubled, and
2) the smoke was two green snakes, representing two Slytherins or two aspects of one Slytherin. If it represented Harry and Voldemort, it would have been a red or gold Lion and a green snake, not two green snakes.
I believe the machine Dumbledore used on Harry was nothing less than a device for examining a person’s soul. Since Harry carries Voldemort’s soul and does NOT carry his own, original soul, the smoke was green for him. The snakes split because Voldemort, not Harry, is “in essence divided.”
So Dumbledore already knows that Harry has Voldemort’s soul. He also knows Harry does not have his own soul. We cannot be sure if Dumbledore knows that Harry’s soul is still available to be reattached, but if he doesn’t now, I’ll bet he find out in Book 6.
Dumbledore knows that to vanquish Voldemort he must neutralize him, i.e. render him unable to harm anyone. He must also ruin Voldemort’s reputation and his control of the Death Eaters. Luckily these two things go together. If he can destroy Voldemort in a public, powerful and penetrating way, one that demoralizes the DE, this will break their faith in the Dark Lord. Everyone knows Voldemort cannot be killed, so it would have to be something terrible and irreversible, something that would strike fear and horror into the hearts of the Death Eaters: a Fate Worse Than Death, as the old saying goes.
Unlike Voldemort, however, Dumbledore is limited by his need to save Harry. Voldemort just wants to get his own soul back, but Dumbledore wants to get Harry’s soul back for him too, and that limits him. Or does it?
We know that Harry must be rid of Voldemort’s soul for either of them to “live” and that, if one lives, the other cannot survive. If my theory is correct, then Harry must also get rid of Voldemort’s soul in order for his own soul to be returned to him. The question is, how do you remove a soul from a person? And can the subject live (or survive) afterward?
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION
One very neat solution, which would return Harry’s soul to him and Vanquish the Dark Lord utterly, would be for Harry to receive the Dementor’s Kiss.
Yes, that is no typo. No, I am not joking.
If Harry receives the Dementor’s Kiss he will definitely lose his soul – or rather, he will lose the soul he has been carrying around for a decade and a half. Voldemort’s soul.
What will happen to Harry then? I suspect he will be just fine. Once the Dementor eats “his” soul it will put him down, finished with him … and then his original soul can re-enter his body. With his persona still intact – that’s separate from the soul, remember – and his own soul back, Harry will not only not be a zombie, he will be better than he was before.
Note that this will probably NOT work if, as in the Changeling Hypothesis, Harry has both souls within him already. If a Dementor gets hold of Harry and finds that he has two souls, can it really be expected to consume only one? Dementors are not known for being generous or fair-minded, and I’ll bet they are not known for eating in moderation either. No, for Harry to live he must be rid of Voldemort’s soul first, then have his own soul re-instated later.
And what of Voldemort? Ah, there’s the delicious irony. Voldemort’s soul will be consumed – eaten, literally, by the Dementor – and will no longer exist. What will be left of Voldemort? He will be a Dementor Victim, an empty shell, a zombie.
“For what does it profit a man That he gain the World and lose his soul?” — Mark 8:36
“I was afraid of death,” said Nick. “I chose to remain behind.” — OoTP, pp. 861 (US)
Once the Dementor has eaten the Dark Lord’s soul he will be an empty husk, a shell without any filling, literally less than human. He will not be dead, of course – he has seen to that – but he will be in a far worse state. A State Worse Than Death.
As for the Death Eaters, they will surely be destroyed, emotionally and perhaps literally, by their leader’s fate. They believed he was invincible because he could not die, but they will now realize this was a horrible mistake. I do not for a moment think they will become Good People – they are rotten to the core – but they will certainly learn the error of their ways. In other words, they will come to realize, most forcefully, that their Fearless Leader was vulnerable after all.
Many people have pointed out the similarities between Voldemort and his Death Eaters and Hitler and his Nazis. Jo Rowling herself has used Nazi comparisons on her website. Well, if the pattern holds this should be the very last parallel with the National Socialism. The Nazis were devastated when they lost the Second World War and learned of Hitler’s death. The fanatics, the true believers – the SS and Nazi Party idealogues – had thought he and they were immortal and invincible. His death and their defeat broke them of that illusion. I expect the same will happen in Book 7.
And what of Harry?
“You ALWAYS get out of things!” — Ron Weasley
I expect Harry will live, but be greatly changed. For one thing he won’t be a Parselmouth any longer, as that ability resided with Voldemort. Likewise he will no longer be immune to all poisons, nor will he live the charmed life he has before, always able to know exactly what to do on the spur of the moment. Of course, he knew what to do because Voldemort was in his head, and he needed to know because Voldemort was after him. Now his life will be much more peaceful, mundane … maybe even boring.
I would like to see Harry and Hermione marry and live happily ever after, but right now there is no indication of that. I do expect he will move out of 4 Privet Drive, eager to be on his own. I suspect he will finally patch things up with his Dear Auntie and will be welcome in her house forevermore.
He’ll be rich, like his father, so whatever he wants to do he can do, like his father. Become an Auror? I have no doubt he would pass with flying colors. Go into the novelty business as a full-time partner with “Gred” and “Forge?” I don’t see why not. Or he could just take some time off and write his memoirs. He will only be 18 in the month after Book 7 ends, but he has lived one heck of a life and people will want to read about it. No doubt some Muggle writer like that Joanne Rowling person will be credited as the author of this “fictional” biography in Our World. (Hehehe.)
Another correspondent suggested to me that Dobby might go to work for Harry after he graduates. I think that’s a great idea, and I hope Jo writes it that way. Don’t see why Harry would need a House Elf, though, as he will no longer be suffering the painful attacks which have plagued him most of his life.
Harry will be a lot better looking.
He will no longer have that scar.