The Imprinting of Harry Potter

by Kate

Everyone has been pondering what exactly it is that Dumbledore tells Harry is in the Department of Mysteries in OotP:

“There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death…It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you.”

People have written that it is HOPE or LOVE that saved Harry but I believe it is something more, something that embodies all of those options. I believe it is Imprinting.

Imprinting (usually with ducks and geese) has been described in the following manner: Konrad Lorenz, in his classic studies of this phenomenon, noted that the bond seemed to be formed immediately, that it seemed to be irreversible and that it seemed to only develop during a brief “critical period” in the first day or so after hatching. Lorenz employed the term “Imprinting” to describe the process by which the social bond was formed. In doing so he implied that during a gosling or duckling’s first encounter with a moving object the image of the object is somehow stamped irreversibly on the nervous system.

What caught me was something that Nearly Headless Nick said to Harry at the end of OotP. Harry, having been distraught about the loss of Sirius, was looking for a way in which Sirius could come back when he realizes that Nearly Headless Nick is a ghost and that Nick came back. In his discussion with Harry, Nearly Headless Nick tells him not everyone can come back as a ghost; only wizards. Nick also says that Sirius won’t come back. He then says that some wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth but very few wizards choose that path. Nick was afraid of death and chose to stay; he’s neither here nor there and at the Department of Mysteries they study this matter. It is Nearly Headless Nicks last statement “At the Department of Mysteries they study this matter” that caught my eye.

What a combination: “There is a room in the Department of Mysteries that is locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death…” and the statement that “Some wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth. At the Department of Mysteries they study this matter.” What if the force that is so powerful is imprinting? Nearly Headless Nick comments that “some wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth but very few wizards choose that path.” JKR never says that the imprint of a person has to be in ghost form. What if by sacrificing herself, Lily left her imprint in Harry? Who’s to say that it wasn’t the Avada Kedavra rebound that caused the Unspeakables to start studying this imprinting?

Obviously, an imprint of your deceased mother, who sacrificed her life for yours, could qualify as a force more wonderful and more terrible than death. It is wonderful because you know that she will be with you forever, to protect you and love you. It is also more terrible than death to hold the guilt that a loved one died to save you and the pain of knowing you’ll never have them in the physical sense. Think about when Harry finds the Mirror of Erised. He is happy yet sad. He gets great joy in seeing himself with his parents, but when he reaches up to grasp his mother’s hand on his shoulder, he once again feels great pain knowing that it’s just an image, not the real thing.

Now, let’’s break down Konrad Lorenz’s description as it applies to the Harry Potter series.

Konrad Lorenz, in his classic studies of this phenomenon, noted that the bond seemed to be formed immediately

So let’s say that Harry’’s bond with his mother formed immediately as do most babies’ bonds with their mothers. Just the fact that she carried him for nine months prior to his birth instills a bond that is superior to any other bond formed.

that it seemed to be irreversible

Well obviously the blood bond is irreversible since it seems to be the only thing that can protect Harry from Voldemort. JKR threw in the loophole…the fact that he has to return at the Dursley’s where his mother’s blood resides at least once a year in order to maintain his protection, but hey, she’’s the author, she’’s allowed to.

and that it seemed to only develop during a brief “critical period” in the first day or so after hatching.

If you convert that “critical period” from duck years to people years, I would say it is about between 10 months and 14 months. This puts Harry being 1-year-old, right in the midst of the “critical period.”

Lorenz employed the term “Imprinting” to describe the process by which the social bond was formed. In doing so he implied that during a gosling or duckling’s first encounter with a moving object the image of the object is somehow stamped irreversibly on the nervous system.

Now of course, Lorenz is describing the fact that the first thing a duck or goose sees is what it considers to be its parent, but if you want to take a less literal and more Potterverse interpretation, by offering her life for Harry’’s, the image of Lily was stamped irreversibly on Harry’’s nervous system. The fact that he is her son is what enables him to have her blood but I believe her imprint was left with him too. I believe that the blood bond offers some protection to Harry but that it was the imprint that the Avada Kedavra bounced off of. It hit the already dead Lily and not Harry. I believe this is a parallel to why the stare from the Basilisk did not kill Justin: because he saw it through Sir Nicholas. Spells and curses do not affect the deceased in the same manner in which they affect the living and spells and curses that are intercepted by the deceased do not affect the living in the same manner they normally would.

I believe that in sacrificing herself for Harry, she left her imprint in him. However, I also believe that in receiving the Avada Kedavra curse, the full imprint of Lily was destroyed, leaving only traces of it behind. I know I mentioned above that Lorenz stated it was stamped irreversibly on the nervous system, but again, this is Potterverse and I’m sure that Lorenz didn’t include the Lord Voldemort factor when he was studying imprinting. He’s a Muggle scientist, not an Unspeakable.

In my opinion, it is possible that the curse scar was caused when Lily’’s imprint was forced out of Harry’’s body. Picture this, if you will: Lily’’s imprint bursts out of Harry’s head (causing the “curse scar”) and absorbs Avada Kedavra. All that is left in Harry is the feeling of his mother’’s love and her blood running through his body. Once the Lily Imprint receives the curse, it wills itself back at Voldemort, causing him to receive the curse, but not in its full form. This was now Avada Kedavra coming back from/with a ghost or imprint and thus lacked the strength of a full Avada Kedavra. This is why Voldemort ALSO wasn’’t killed when the curse rebounded.

If this is true, then Voldemort believes he is invincible when he really is not. Voldemort makes the comment to his Death Eaters that he was stripped of his powers but that one of his experiments must have worked to allow him life after Avada Kedavra. I believe that his experiments, although making him a very powerful Dark wizard, did not give him invincibility and that he is very much able to die. If I am correct, this will play a big role in the second war. Harry has his mother’’s blood to protect him but I think when Harry finds out the truth in what REALLY happened that day back in Godric’’s Hollow, he will come to understand that the all powerful Voldemort has more weakness than he realizes. Harry will realize that he does have the power to vanquish him and he will prevail.

I, like all of you, am unable to sit still waiting for book 6 to come out so that I can find out if my ideas, and many others that I have read, are correct. I hope you all enjoyed my theory. If you want to contact me with comments or questions, you may do so at whaleykate at yahoo dot com.

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