Looking at the Latest FAQ Poll Answer
by Theresa Faustina
The answer to the latest FAQ Poll on Jo’s site reveals so much more than just that Neville has no special powers because of the prophecy. It gives us her take on the prophecy itself, on her attitude toward its reliability, and the impact it will have on her characters. And it lets us know a lot more about Voldemort, and what happened that frightful Halloween night.
I’ll start with the more obvious stuff. It answers one of the questions I initially had when I learned Neville’s birthdate. I had wondered whether he’d ever really been a candidate equal to Harry, who was born a few hours closer to the death of the seventh month. And I queried whether the “seventh month” had to necessarily mean July. Couldn’t it mean the seventh month from the prophecy’s date, or September, or the seventh lunar month?
But no, Neville and Harry were equally viable, or rather killable, candidates according to the clues Voldemort was able to glean from the fragment of the prophecy. And it ends on a happy note: Neville survives HBP, if the line about “none of this should be taken to mean that Neville does not have a significant part to play in the last two novels” is not a complete, cruel trick. As he’s one of my favorite characters, I’m quite relieved I won’t have to worry about his death in the next book.
Jo underlines the fact Voldemort has given Harry “tools” no other wizard has: the lightning bolt scar and his ability to see into Voldemort’s mind. The scar and mind link can be advantages to Harry. Jo implies that Voldemort would not have wanted anyone to have this sort of tool, though it obviously gives him the ability to see into the other persons mind as well. Curious to see that the author still considers the scar a “tool,” considering that Voldemort’s last actions involved exploiting the mind link to lure his enemy into a cunning, though not all that well executed, trap.
The mind link has come in handy before, but now that Voldemort knows of it and can trick Harry using it, is this unique and powerful tool now useless? Some readers, including myself, have thought so, as did Dumbledore, Snape, and the Order of the Phoenix throughout OotP; they wanted Harry to block all clues coming from the Dark Lord. Harry resisted this idea throughout the book, in part because his scar had been so useful so often, even saving Mr. Weasley’s life. The scar and mind link are part of Harry’s identity as the Chosen One, and not just because the scar makes him recognizable. I think these tools will not simply be cast aside by a few quick Occlumency lessons from Dumbledore (though obviously Harry must learn to protect his mind). They are, however, not the most important weapons in Harry’s arsenal, and I doubt they constitute the “power the Dark Lord knows not.”
Back to the FAQ Poll, the truly exciting clues are in the “what would have happened?” paragraph. First of all, I think we can now debunk any rumors that have been flying about as to why Harry really survived that night. It was because his mother died to save him by putting herself in the way of the curse meant for Harry, not because she did some complicated charm or got Voldemort to agree to some sort of magical contract. Yes, Jo says “able, and prepared,” which could indicate actions taken beforehand, but she then goes on to explain that if “Frank or Alice had thrown themselves in front of Neville, the curse would have rebounded just as it did in Harry’s case, and Neville would have been the one who survived with the lightning scar.”
You must willingly use yourself as a human shield to protect the other person. If you are killed, and the murderer goes to kill the person you died to save, Avada Kedavra will then rebound and your loved one will survive. That explains why James’ bold fight to save his wife and child isn’t in the same category as Lily’s sacrifice and didn’t save Lily, and it explains why sacrifices of this kind are so rare. On a side-note: should we also be wondering why Voldemort didn’t just blast Lily with the Avada Kedavra curse as soon as he saw her? Why did she get to act as a human shield instead of as an automatic target?
The truly special thing about the Lily-Harry-Voldemort situation is not that Harry lived, but that Voldemort survived the AK rebound. Under normal circumstances, he would have died. Jo has told us that we should be wondering why he didnt die. Would he have died if hed attacked Neville? No. She asks later in the fifth paragraph, “Would a Neville bearing the lightning scar have been as successful at evading Voldemort as Harry has been?” indicating that Neville would still have had to face Voldemort later on. Thus, Voldemort was immune to an AK rebound no matter which victim he tried to kill. An AK rebound normally works the same as a normal AK does, killing the person it hits. Therefore, I deduce that Voldemort was immune to Avada Kedavra on the night he first tried to kill Harry.
Not necessarily to death itself.
But definitely to Avada Kedavra.
A few months ago, Jo told us to ask why Voldemort didn’t die when the curse rebounded, and why Dumbledore didn’t try to kill him in the DoM. Perhaps the two answers are the same: the Killing Curse just wont work on Voldemort. It will hurt him and destroy his body and take away much of his power, but he will survive, and he will be able to come back.
How did or does this immunity work? Voldemort took several steps in his quest for immortality, and it is possible that not even he knows exactly which steps were essential to his surviving the AK rebound. Some have guessed that it has something to do with his soul or life force and that Harry somehow has part of Voldemort’s soul, or that their souls are switched completely, or that their life forces are tangled in some mystical way that will really shake things up come Final Battle time. It seems as good a guess as any, for now. To me, it is less important how the AK immunity works than that it did work and, if Dumbledores restraint in the DoM is any indication, would still work.
What does that mean? If Peter Pettigrew finally had enough of Voldemort’s torturing him and hit him with Avada Kedavra, would Voldemort just evaporate again? Would he be able to possess someone right away? And if he’s immune to the AK (and I don’t think Harry would have wanted to use that anyway) how the heck will he be killed? Perhaps Dumbledore, who apparently knows something about Voldemort’s secret, will help Harry figure out that he doesn’t need Avada Kedavra or Dark Magic to defeat the Dark Lord.
I like how Jo deals with the issue of the prophecy itself and ties it more deeply into her world where choices outweigh ability. The prophecy is its own catalyst, because of Voldemort’s decision to kill a certain baby. She casts into doubt the validity of her own prophecy, and states that it remains ambiguous to her characters. Great news! Maybe Harry will not rest for long in the “Oh woe! I must kill or be killed!” frame of mind, but will seek other interpretations, hopefully with the aid of certain skeptical friends and mentors.
In conclusion, I am highly delighted with Jo’s answer to her FAQ poll question. I had expected just a few sentences indicating Neville’s role in the story, and instead got a full page of clues to Voldemort’s actions, the rules on life-saving sacrifice, knowledge that Neville will be alive and active in the final two books, and some philosophical explanations of the various roles of destiny and decision in Jo’s universe.