The Two-Way Mirror #12: Harry’s Scar and the Prophecy
For me, thinking about “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” has been like playing with one of those toys in which you have a transparent plastic labyrinth with a hole in the middle and a little metal bead. You want to guide the bead toward the hole so that you can hear that satisfying “pluck!” but the aimless labyrinth is pretty fun… and easier. I got the idea for this editorial when I became determined one day and told myself, “No more fooling around! You are going to start moving in the right direction! You are going to focus, focus, focus!” So with a lot of focusing and silent frowning, something started coming. But I got sidetracked – again! darned labyrinth – from the original question, and I began to stare instead at one line from the Prophecy: “For neither can live while the other survives.” I found it particularly hard to get this out of my head. So this editorial won’t be about “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” but about “Why is it that ‘neither can live while the other survives’?” The statement looks rather simple on the surface, but it leaves you with the feeling that you haven’t heard it right. Then the light began to dawn – I believe it was the light! You guys might think I’m still in the dark! – and I found not only an answer to a question but a methodology as well; one that might take me in the direction I am ultimately looking for: “Why didn’t Voldemort die?”
Part 1: Illustration: Harry’s Scar and the Prophecy
So after a lot of staring at the line “for neither can live while the other survives,” it was as if I had been looking at a fixed picture, and then suddenly, people started to move and the background became three-dimensional. I realized that between “neither can live” and “the other survives,” some time elapses… despite the “while” that misleadingly suggests they are taking place at the same time. In fact “the other survives” logically takes place before “neither can live.” The word “while” packs up the statement, folds it so that we can’t see all the space and time involved. So let’s unfold it.
Both Harry and Voldemort are surviving now, and yet both are living. (By the way, I choose to take at face value the statement from the prophecy and consider “live” and “survive” as the opposite of “die.”) So we are interested in the “neither can live” and “the other survives” that will take place further down the road. I’d really like to know how exactly neither can live if the other survives. There is only one way to find out: Let’s allow both Harry and Voldemort to survive… and time goes by… until the moment of danger becomes inevitable, when either one or both will die. Wake up now! The moment has come! Danger, danger! What moment? What danger? Has anything happened to warn us of this? Did it hit us out of the blue? Could we foresee this was coming…? Because I just have a feeling that we will see that moment with our own eyes in the future books, that we will understand the prophecy one day.
If we could foresee the danger, and I have a feeling that we could, then it would have to be visible in some kind of change that has taken place for either Harry or Voldemort as time has passed and as both have survived since the beginning of the books: something that makes it increasingly difficult for either to live. Has there been such a change?
Yes! Yes! Yippee! Something has changed between Harry and Voldemort, and it is related to the mystery of the scar. The scar then figures in more of the prophecy than the part “the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal.” It makes sense that there should be a relationship between these two mysteries, doesn’t it? The Prophecy applies to both Harry and Voldemort: It is all about the connection between them. It would make at least artistic sense that there should be a more practical relationship between the scar and the prophecy, both of which are concerned with the connection between Harry and Voldemort. The scar is very possibly present also in the statement “for neither can live while the other survives.” And if it is, what fearsome moment of crisis does the scar still have in store for us?
Perhaps we can make an educated guess. We have watched the connection between Harry and Voldemort become progressively stronger with the passing of time. I couldn’t help noticing that it wasn’t just the passing of time that strengthened the connection. There has been a direct correlation between the connection becoming stronger and Voldemort getting stronger – and perhaps also Harry.
Do you remember the good old days when we didn’t know Harry’s scar hurt? And then, when Voldemort began to get just a little stronger, with unicorn blood and Quirrell as host, Harry’s scar shot with pain in Voldemort’s presence. That scar comes alive as Voldemort comes closer to rejoining the living, like an aerial catching signals, faint at first, but getting stronger and stronger. Then, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry has his dream. By then, Voldemort had acquired a “protobody” that could hold a wand (how? wondered Dumbledore) and perform the Cruciatus Curse, the Killing Curse, and a powerful spell on Bertha Jorkins. When Voldemort finally acquires a full body, sure enough, we celebrate the event in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with a full-blown picture of the intensified connection. Harry now reads Voldemort’s moods, feeling when he is pleased and when he is enraged. His scar hurts all the time although Voldemort is not there. (I know, part of this seems due to Occlumency lessons, but these didn’t add anything really that wasn’t already there, except a higher frequency of occurrences). Harry’s dreams take him regularly in Voldemort’s mind. This is no life… but have we seen everything? Have we seen the real danger yet?
Now is the time to consider some troubling unforgettable details I left out concerning the connection between Harry and Voldemort:
1. Harry possessed an owl in one of his visions (or was he really riding on the owl’s back as he felt? how?)
2. Harry joins Voldemort in possessing Nagini in the Department of Mysteries.
3. In a vision Harry saw and spoke with Voldemort’s eyes and thoughts.
4. During his OWL history exam, Harry performed (?) Legilimency on a fellow student.
5. Voldemort possessed Harry in MoM.
6. Dumbledore wanted very much to know Harry’s point of view when he was in Nagini.
7. Dumbledore seemed very interested in the question “but in essence divided?”
8. Dumbledore know before seeing Harry in Order of the Phoenix that Voldemort would be staring out of his eyes (i.e., Dumbledore knew the connection was getting stronger).
9. Harry is saved by the “power” that annuls the scar in a way. Harry must also learn Occlumency. Do we want to close the scar or exploit it? Will the scar be closed up or used to its max in the final confrontation with Voldemort?
I think these questions can point us in plausible directions. Although I don’t exclude the possibility of a climax with a “closed scar,” I will suppose a climax with an “open scar.”
If the connection will get even stronger in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 7, or both, what can we expect from what we have seen? I think the most intriguing concept that surfaces in nearly all the observations that I listed above in relation to the scar is possession. It appears to be Voldemort’s defining skill. He is described repeatedly as someone who possesses, who has spent these past 13 years possessing serpents and such creatures. He possessed Quirrell. He possessed Nagini. He possessed Harry. And we might remember also Voldemort’s talent with Legilimency and the Imperius Curse, which seem symbolic forms of possession. Voldemort’s power to possess is only in its incipient stage in Harry. We and Harry have only begun to witness certain subtle hints that he might be capable of the same possession talent as Voldemort.
We know that through the scar that marked Harry as his equal, Voldemort transferred more than powers to his archenemy. As simplybecky so insightfully put it in her last editorial, “Blood Ties and Ancient Magic,” this marking of Harry as his equal is a very profound event: It changed Harry’s life to resemble in some ways Tom Riddle’s, such as making him an orphan. We might also notice that Voldemort gave Harry not only his powers, but the destiny to use them. Harry has to commit some of Voldemort’s crimes. When Harry performs (or tries to perform – but then why the red eyes?) Legilimency on his fellow student during the OWL exam, he is breaking the rules – and there is even something bordering on the criminal in this unworthy act of invading someone else’s mind. At that point Voldemort was attacking Harry’s brain: It is when he has the vision with Sirius in the Department of Mysteries. Tom opened his eyes in Harry’s eyes at that point. So with his criminal Legilimency, Harry is getting ready for the act of murder that he is supposed to commit in vanquishing Voldemort (Crucio was also a step, but notice that it was not induced by Voldemort). With all these parallels, could the act of possession be left out? Perhaps the act of possession is the crucial mystery left in the scar that hasn’t fully played itself out yet. It may take some Dark Magic to possess. But perhaps the scar will be Harry’s free ticket, so that he will be able to possess, and even murder, without needing to get his hands dirty…
It makes sense that absolute possession should be a climactic moment in the development of the scar scenario: When Voldemort is inside Harry in the Department of Mysteries, we know that the connection had reached a climax. How much closer can you get?
So now, suppose it is Harry’s turn to possess somebody. Whom shall he be possessing…? Why, Voldemort himself!
Let’s look again at the instances of Harry possessing Voldemort so far:
1. Harry sort of possessed or accompanied an owl sent to Voldemort.2. Harry accompanied Voldemort in possessing Nagini.
3. Harry saw himself inside Voldemort, spoke with Voldemort’s mouth, felt Voldemort’s feelings, looked in a mirror with Voldemort’s eyes.
How do owls find their living destinations, by the way? This scene of Harry accompanying an owl would seem to suggest that owls are somehow in tune with the soul of their destination. When a name is written on an envelope, it is in the magic world like turning the knob on the radio to the right station. If Harry accompanied the owl to Voldemort, it was because the owl was intercepting Voldemort’s soul like some kind of emission. And Harry’s aerial tuned in, too. So far, Harry has perhaps never independently possessed anything: He has always been in contact with Voldemort. (Just a side question: Could an owl find its way to Barty Crouch, Jr., now that he no longer has a soul, a memory, a mind, anything?)
Following nicely in Voldemort’s footsteps, Harry has “possessed” both lesser beings (owl, Nagini) and Voldemort himself. None of these possessions are real, though. In a sense, it was still Voldemort doing the possessing. When Harry looked at himself in a mirror through Voldemort’s eyes, he felt he was Voldemort: It is Voldemort’s mind that is choosing the words, just like in the Ministry of Magic. But I envision progress. Perhaps there will be a moment when Harry will be able to use Voldemort’s mouth to speak his own thoughts, when Harry will be able to use Voldemort’s hand… Now Voldemort possesses Harry in the Ministry of Magic and tries to get him killed. Bad idea… because now, it’s Harry’s turn. And what will Harry do with his turn that Voldemort didn’t do? Voldemort begs Dumbledore to “kill the boy” in order to be able to kill Voldemort. I always wondered about that: Had Dumbledore chosen to sacrifice Harry and had there been no prophecy, would he have been able to kill Voldemort in this deal? Could Voldemort be killed while possessing another body? Could his soul be separated from his real body that way and go “through the veil”? It is very important to be able to answer this question.
Suppose Harry possesses Voldemort’s body and sends Voldemort into his own body somehow. Perhaps this partial – hopefully not complete!? – switch is necessary. When Voldemort possesses Harry in the Ministry of Magic, Harry feels he is gone from the hall, inside Voldemort’s body. Therefore, it would appear that during these possession sessions between Harry and Voldemort, some kind of switch does have to take place. What next? I have come up with a few scenarios based on a problem raised by the statement in the prophecy: “and either must die at the hand of the other.” In the case of possession, a quibble arises: which hand? The spiritual or the material? Because we have seen Voldemort moving Harry’s mouth while possessing his body: why not the hand? In that case, whose hand would be doing the action, eh? The idea of something like a “spiritual hand” has already been introduced, on the one hand with Pettigrew’s hand of silver light given by Voldemort and on the other with the Imperius Curse, which has shown us that the hand that does the acting is not always doing the directing. Are we supposed to then broaden our minds about the “hand”? I like the idea of taking things at face value and finding a complex beauty in simplicity. But I can’t help posing the question “which hand?”
A “Material Hand” Scenario:
Voldemort convinced that he can kill Harry by killing the body Harry is inhabiting, will aim a Killing Curse at his own body possessed by Harry. What does he care for that resurrected body? True enough, he was delighted with it when he first got it. It was quite a masterpiece, the long fingers, the chest… but he has done it before, and he can do it again: Get another body. He doesn’t care much for the body he inhabits, as long as he inhabits a body! Besides, Harry’s body isn’t much worse than the resurrected one. Everything he hates is commemorated in that body Potter is now inhabiting: Potter’s blood, that worthless vermin Pettigrew’s flesh, and then the loathsome bones of Mr. Riddle, Sr. That does it. Perhaps if he kills the body he will destroy Potter with it. Avada Kedavra!
In the next chapter, you will find out who died at the hand of whom and what other powers were involved. Obviously, it will somehow be Voldemort, and although it is Voldemort’s spiritual hand that guides the Killing Curse, it is Harry’s material hand that performs it.
Four “Spiritual Hand” Scenarios:
Suppose that one must kill the original body in order to send the soul through the veil, not the body the soul is possessing. Would Voldemort, having this knowledge, have the courage to send a Killing Curse at the body he is inhabiting, Harry’s body, even while he resides in it? It would be risky, after all, and psychologically difficult for Voldemort, to aim at himself.
This is where Harry shows his strength. He possesses Voldemort’s body: He takes it upon himself to make Voldemort’s body commit suicide, at the risk of losing his own life in the process. This spiritual hand “suicide” scenario would imply that the “power the Dark Lord knows not” is to commit suicide. Voldemort definitely lacks that power. But then, I don’t like the philosophical lesson that accompanies that turn of events. Although where Voldemort is concerned, nothing is as it should be. I am sure there is more to the power, though.
Voldemort taunts Harry, aiming at Harry’s body while he is in it, tempting him to leave Voldemort’s body. I bet it was Harry’s idea to go into Voldemort’s body, and Voldemort is not happy about it. Harry just needs to figure out what to do now that he’s there. It’s kind of like in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when the Time-Turner takes Harry and Hermione “when” they needed to be, and then they have to figure out the rest. Possession will take Harry “where” he needs to be. What now? So Harry, seeing Voldemort threaten his body, will likewise threaten Voldemort’s body: You do me in, I’ll do you in. Voldemort says: Do you think I give a damn about that body? With you, Pettigrew, and my old father in it? Nasty ingredients. Your body isn’t much better, but it has some youth in it. I’ll transform it eventually… enough to get Harry pumping. He will make some quick instinctive decisions. But Voldemort does not want either his body or his soul to be killed. Not taking any chances. At the last moment, he will dash into his old body, hoping to catch Harry off guard, but he’ll be there right in time for the Killing Curse that Harry will somehow aim perfectly and the incoming soul and that will send him the way of all mortals, while Harry will have returned safely to his body.
Harry will look at his own body hosting Voldemort’s soul… perhaps it is possible to kill Voldemort if he kills his own body… but no, he cannot do it, because he loves his own body, given to him by his mother, the gift of his parents, Lily and James. He cannot kill his parents. Or must he let go? But no, he won’t, because there is too much love there for the part of his parents that is still alive in him… He looks just like his father and he has his mother’s eyes. Shall he make that ruffled hair and those green eyes disappear from this world? It would be with the greatest howl of desperation that he would take such action! And were he to take that action, do you think that he’d keep walking on the face of this earth in Voldemort’s resurrected body? If Harry were to take out his own body with Voldemort in it, he would save the next Killing Curse for Voldemort’s body. Maybe only the killing of both bodies can get rid of Voldemort and the connection. And maybe this is where the “power the Dark Lord knows not” comes in. Harry can somehow miraculously reanimate his own body. And in a way he will be bringing his parents back to life, too… joy and tears.
Ok, Harry is inside Voldemort’s body, and Voldemort is inside Harry’s body. Forget about the wands: They don’t work properly against each other. They’ll be doing some nifty wandless magic. I bet this magic will revolve around the connection between them. In the Ministry of Magic, Dumbledore keeps trying to imprison Voldemort, and Voldemort keeps trying to free himself (the ropes, the fountain water). I bet the opposite will be true with Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort might try to reinforce the connection. But Harry has “power the Dark Lord knows not,” and this power will help him untie the scar knot and vanquish Voldemort.
Eh? Sounds plausible?
Part 2: Methodology: One Question, Many Questions
We have been trying to solve a major riddle or question that the author has posed to us: “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” And we are determined to find the answer. Why are we so obsessed? Because Rowling told us to think about it, obviously… but she also said this: “I don’t think that it is guessable,” although she added, “It may be someone could guess it.” Talk about goading us on.
I think the more profound reason we want to know the answer to the question is that it is connected to a host of other questions:
Why didn’t Dumbledore try to kill Voldemort?
What does Dumbledore know?
Why does Harry have a scar?
What is the nature of the connection between Harry and Voldemort?
Why is it that ‘neither can live while the other survives?’
Why is it that ‘either must die at the hand of the other’?
Who (Voldemort or Harry) will die… or rather: How will Voldemort die – or be vanquished?
What is the importance of death to the series?
What is the role of the ‘power the Dark Lord knows not’?
The reason we want to know “Why Voldemort didn’t die?” is that if we find the answer to it, we can begin to answer a great deal more. We can pretty much write the remaining two books – so to speak – since Rowling said in answer to the question “Right at the beginning, when Voldemort tried to kill Harry, how did Voldemort and Harry both survive?”: “That is the crucial and central question and if I answered it there would be hardly any point writing books six and seven… so I won’t!”
We want to answer the question because it is related to other questions… What if we transform this sentence into: We can answer the question because it is related to other questions… that means that want = can. Do you see my point? The very reason behind our desire to answer the question may be a path to the answer. Like that famous puzzling statement attributed to God, I think, “You wouldn’t search for me if you hadn’t already found me.”
I am thinking of a metaphor from algebra. Equations have unknowns, and unknowns are good metaphors for questions. For example, in the equation x + y = 2, x and y are two unknowns that can give many possible answers (1 + 1, 11/2 + 1/2, etc). A way to limit our possibilities in algebra is to have a system of equations. In that case, if we have as many equations as we have unknowns, we can figure out the unknowns just by knowing the relationships between the equations. For example, if we have the equations x + y = 2 and x – y = 0, we can figure out what x and y are, and that there is only one answer.
I am really thinking of equations as questions, and instead of systems of equations, I propose building systems of questions: For example, I associated the nature of the scar connection between Harry and Voldemort with the prophetic statement “for neither can live while the other survives.” Perhaps when we will have integrated all of our questions into a system, we will move closer to a probable outcome of events.
Rowling suggests there is a certain necessity that follows logically from the givens in her Harry Potter world: “It’s a very strange thing, but I know I’m not alone in this among writers. It was as though I was given a piece of information and I just had to find out the rest of the information. It wasn’t really as though I were inventing it. I was working backwards and working forwards to see what must have happened” (CBC Newsworld Interview).
The world that Rowling has created feels to her like a logical deduction based on a few pieces of information. Can we put ourselves in her shoes? Can we reproduce her imagination? No, each imagination has its own “fingerprint,” I am sure, but maybe we could get a general idea… We, too, are given a few pieces of information. Maybe we could work our way backward and forward…
I have learned that spending enough time with the question constitutes half the answer. For this reason, I propose that we think very carefully about the questions that we have and about the way in which they are related and interact with each other.
I will transcribe here Rowling’s famous invitation to think about two questions (not one!):
There are two questions that I have never been asked but that I should have been asked, if you know what I mean. If you want to speculate on anything, you should speculate on these two things, which will point you in the right direction. The first question that I have never been asked, it has probably been asked in a chatroom but no one has ever asked me, is ‘Why didn’t Voldemort die?’ Not, ‘Why did Harry live?’ but, ‘Why didn’t Voldemort die?’ The killing curse rebounded, so he should have died. Why didn’t he? At the end of Goblet of Fire he says that one or more of the steps that he took enabled him to survive. You should be wondering what he did to make sure that he did not die I will put it that way. I don’t think that it is guessable. It may be someone could guess it but you should be asking yourself that question, particularly now that you know about the prophecy. I’d better stop there or I will really incriminate myself. The other question that I am surprised no one has asked me since Phoenix came out, I thought that people would, is why Dumbledore did not kill or try to kill Voldemort in the scene in the ministry. I know that I am giving a lot away to people who have not read the book. Although Dumbledore gives a kind of reason to Voldemort, it is not the real reason. Dumbledore knows something slightly more profound than that. If you want to wonder about anything, I would advise you to concentrate on those two questions. That might take you a little bit further.
I think it is very important that Rowling said we should think about two questions. They point in “the right direction,” which is one direction. That means, these two questions are part of a system: They are somehow connected. And Rowling brings in the prophecy on top of it: “You should be asking yourself that question [Why Voldemort didn’t die], particularly now that you know about the prophecy.” How can the prophecy have anything to do with Voldemort’s steps? Well, why shouldn’t the prophecy speak of the past as much as of the future? Aren’t the past and the future connected? Rowling’s invitation asks us really to put together a number of questions.
I would like to give special thanks to Sylvia, who sent me an analysis of a number of editorials on the topic of “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” She put together the insights offered by several MuggleNet authors in order to get a fuller picture of Voldemort’s nature. And in the process, she thought of an unforgettable image from Harry Potter: Dumbledore’s Pensieve. In the Pensieve, Dumbledore siphons off seemingly separate thoughts in order to detect “links and patterns” between them. I found this part of her study very inspiring.
Let’s create a “Pensieve of Questions” and focus on the links and patterns. Maybe we will be able to read Harry Potter from a distance! Ok, some of you don’t want to do that, but I do… It’s a good mind-sharpening exercise. And even if we figure out a few things, do you really think it will take the fun out of reading? There will still be a thousand things we will not have foreseen, all the great humor, all the new inventions, and all the new fun that Rowling packs her books full with.