The Burrow: Potions and Death

by Susan F

One of the things that endears us to the Harry Potter series (and to JK Rowling) is the many hints and infinite possibilities that are dangled before us. They entice us and make us jump up and insanely grab at what we think will finally answer the many questions and theories we have about the future of Harry Potter.

One question we so desperately want answered was posed by JK herself at the Edinburgh book festival. She asked us not to debate why Harry did not die from the Avada Kadavra curse, but to ask ourselves,

“Why didn’t Voldemort die?”

The simplest answer I can think of comes from a direct quote from Professor Severus Snape, when introducing Harry and the other first years to his Potions class:

“I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death.” (PS/SS)

Why didn’t Voldemort die? Because a cleverly brewed potion a la Snape prevented it. Snape, being a former Death Eater, simply whipped up a nice little potion for Voldemort to take and thus put a “stopper in death”. Snape is known as an excellent Potions Master. Lupin himself comments on this in PoA, when Snape prepares an anti-werewolf potion for Lupin, so it’s entirely possible that Snape can brew nice, death-defying potions for whomever he wishes.

Now, of course, the next question becomes: Why did the killing curse, set upon Harry, rebound on Voldemort and basically turn him into a half-dead whisper of his former self? Let’s consider what Voldemort told his Death Eaters in GoF, during his “rebirth”:

“His mother left upon him the traces of her sacrifice…this is old magic, I should have remembered it, I was foolish to overlook it…” (GoF)

Most likely, Voldemort simply forgot. In his zeal to return to a corporeal form, he probably just forgot about what exactly happened fourteen years ago. However, this “old magic” will be something that JK Rowling will definitely focus on in the next two novels. Even Dumbledore talks about the “ancient magic” that protects Harry, one that Voldemort “despised and underestimated”. Whatever this magic is, it is most likely hidden in some form in the Ministry of Magic and may be discovered by Harry and used to finally defeat Voldemort in the very end.

As for why Dumbledore didn’t try to kill Voldemort when he had the chance in the MoM? Well, one can assume that when Snape renounced the Death Eaters and went back “to the good side”, he must have shared some information with Dumbledore. Snape may have told Dumbledore about the potion he brewed for Voldemort and the protection that potion ultimately provides. Firing a death curse at him may only result in it rebounding or worse, so why bother with it at all, especially when you know the only person who can destroy Voldemort is mentioned in the prophecy.

At the same time, maybe Dumbledore knows more than he let’s on (and he’s never done that before!!). Harry’s scar itself, relic of the death curse, is important. Dumbledore knows that Harry’s scar indicates a forged connection between Harry and Voldemort. As the prophecy suggests, Harry must kill Voldemort, thus breaking the connection between the two of them. I’m guessing that in book 7, Harry will finally destroy Voldemort in the end, resulting in Harry losing some of his powers and his ever-present scar. There may be a faint remnant of it, but I think Harry’s scar is almost like a mark of Voldemort’s existence. It indicates Voldemort is still alive.

Of course, JK always leaves us guessing, and with so many clues and hints, I’m sure that there is some other magical reason why trying to kill Voldemort at that time and place in the MoM would have backfired.

I guess the next two books will answer those questions. Let’s just hope that Harry will finally find peace and calm in the end, with or without his scar.