How Harry Potter survived Lord Voldemort’s Killing Curse in the Forbidden Forest at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows can be confusing for even hardcore fans of the books and films. Here’s why The Boy Who Lived survived the Harry Potter killing curse. Even though the Harry Potter movies were full of magic, conflict, and mystery, there was a lot of heart at the center of the story. These themes are woven into the “science” behind how certain spells work too — including Avada Kedavra, the Harry Potter killing curse. Ultimately, family and everlasting love were the driving force behind Harry’s survival and Voldemort’s subsequent defeat, but the specifics of how these rather twee themes translated into Harry surviving the Harry Potter killing curse requires a little more explanation.
Harry Potter used Unforgivable Curses himself more than once, as have many other characters, but Voldemort’s Killing Curse was the franchise’s most infamous use of Avada Kedavra. However, Harry’s later brush with death in the Forbidden Forest during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows confused readers and watchers of the series, with many wondering how Harry survived the Killing Curse in the Battle of Hogwarts. Here’s a breakdown of why Harry survived his battle with Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest and why Avada Kedavra didn’t kill Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter’s History With The Killing Curse
Harry Potter became the target of the Harry Potter Killing Curse multiple times throughout the series. On Halloween night in 1981, Lord Voldemort ventured to Godric’s Hollow with the intent of killing Harry. James Potter was killed trying to save his wife and child. Lily Potter then shielded her infant son when Voldemort unleashed the Killing Curse, causing it to bounce back and disintegrate his physical body. Harry survived but was left with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead and a nickname: “The Boy Who Lived.”
Voldemort used the Unforgivable Curse Avada Kedavra at least three more times on his sworn enemy. The Dark Lord killed Cedric Diggory using the Harry Potter killing curse during the final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry watched in horror as a bright green light flashed before his eyes, his friend’s lifeless body hitting the ground before Harry had time to blink. After taking Harry’s blood, Voldemort ordered him to a duel. Voldemort used the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse before turning to the Killing Curse. Harry, at this point magically outgunned and nowhere near powerful enough to face He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named head on, found a distraction during the duel and was able to use the Portkey to get back to Hogwarts with Cedric’s body.
Voldemort used the Harry Potter killing curse again in the Forbidden Forest, and then again during the final duel that defeated Voldemort once and for all. Harry’s encounter with the Killing Curse in the Forbidden Forest has resulted in a lot of confusion, but there are essentially two main reasons in Harry Potter canon that explain why he didn’t die at Voldemort’s hands as an adult.
Harry Potter Was The Master Of The Elder Wand
One reason that Harry lived after being hit by the Harry Potter Killing Curse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is his mastery of the Elder Wand. There was a belief that obtaining the Deathly Hallows would grant the finder some sort of immortality. The Deathly Hallows were directly connected to the legend from The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In the tale, the Peverell brothers tricked Death, who in return offered them “gifts” intended to corrupt them and lead to their deaths. The rewards included the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak.
Harry notably possessed all three items that comprised the Deathly Hallows when Voldemort tried to kill him the night of the Battle of Hogwarts. He received the Cloak of Invisibility from his father, James, and obtained the Resurrection Stone from Dumbledore after it was hidden in a snitch. While it’s unclear whether there’s any truth to the “Master of Death” being immortal, the Elder Wand will resist causing harm to its master — who, via a roundabout series of events, was Harry. Draco was the previous owner of the Elder Wand, but Harry successfully disarmed him, making Harry the new master even while the Elder Wand was technically in Voldemort’s possession. Harry’s mastery of the Elder Wand explains why Voldemort failed to kill him during the Battle of Hogwarts, but there’s also another explanation for why Harry survived the Harry Potter Killing Curse in the Forbidden Forest.
Harry’s Protection Against Lord Voldemort
When Lily sacrificed herself to save Harry in Godric’s Hollow, he was protected by magic’s strongest defense: love. Dumbledore explained to Harry at a young age how Lily’s love lived on and served as a protection against the Harry Potter killing curse. However, there’s more to Lily’s protection than that. Harry remained protected when he moved in with the Dursleys because, as sisters, Lily and Petunia shared the same blood. Dumbledore knew this, which was why he chose the family to take care of Harry after becoming an orphan, and insisted on Harry returning to the Dursley family every summer despite their ill-treatment of him.
Lily’s protection still encompassed Harry when he started at Hogwarts. Voldemort was unable to touch Harry, and if he tried, he would be a victim of serious pain — as proven in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The love protection spell lifted when Harry turned seventeen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is why he had to be hurried away from the Dursleys’ house in the dead of night. However, Lily’s protective charm was unwittingly extended by Voldemort himself, who ended up spelling his own doom with the Harry Potter killing curse.
Lily’s Protection In Voldemort’s Blood Saved Harry
When Lord Voldemort returned Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he used Harry’s blood – something that saved Harry in The Deathly Hallows. At first, it seemed that the love protection was canceled out when Voldemort used Harry’s blood since he could now touch Harry without experiencing pain. However, Lily’s protection simply took on a new form when he created a body from Harry’s blood. As Dumbledore explained, “His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you.”
When Voldemort hit Harry with the Harry Potter Killing Curse in the forest, it destroyed the Horcrux that resided in Harry, but left Harry himself alive. Since Voldemort was still alive, Lily’s love spell was still in effect. Harry was sent to limbo, where he encountered Dumbledore. He was given a choice to die and finally rest, or return home, and he chose the latter. Nagini remained as the last of Voldemort’s seven Horcruxes until Neville destroyed her with the Gryffindor’s Sword. With no Horcruxes remaining as Voldemort’s primary defenses, this left the Dark Lord vulnerable.
Harry returned from limbo and faced off against Voldemort one last time. Just as his mother did for him at Godric’s Hollow, Harry sacrificed himself for his friends and loved ones by standing in front of his foe unarmed. This put a new protection spell around those at Hogwarts. Harry then revealed the truth about being the master of the Elder Wand. Since the Elder Wand wouldn’t cast the Harry Potter Killing Curse on its owner, the spell rebounded, killing Voldemort in the process. The outcome of this climactic Harry Potter event wouldn’t have been possible without Lily Potter and her love for her son.
How Harry Potter Came Back To Life in Deathly Hallows
Of all the Harry Potter characters killed off in The Deathly Hallows, only Harry himself successfully returned to life after being hit with the Harry Potter killing curse (for a second time). The main reason for this is fairly obvious: Harry was the master of all three of the titular Deathly Hallows. However, how exactly does the Resurrection Stone bring Harry completely back to life when in The Tale of the Three Brothers it doesn’t seem to work that way?
Really, it all comes down to Harry’s mastery of the Hallows, making him the “Master of Death.” It seems as though possessing all three Deathly Hallows gives Harry the power to choose whether or not to die (as evidenced by his conversation with Dumbledore in limbo). Interestingly, Dumbledore’s Deathly Hallows role in explaining this to Harry potentially adds another layer to the “Master of Death” idea — as Dumbledore, too, once owned all three Hallows, and seemingly chose the manner of his own death by asking Snape to be the one to kill him.
Harry’s apparent return from the dead is not only the result of his possession of the Resurrection Stone (and the other Hallows) but also of his choices. Harry chooses to sacrifice himself, chooses to face Voldemort unarmed, and chooses to allow himself to be killed just as he chooses to return to life. Voldemort’s choices regarding the Deathly Hallows ultimately lead to his death, whereas Harry’s choices regarding the Hallows are what enable him to return to life and survive the Harry Potter killing curse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Was Harry Surviving The Killing Curse Just Plot Armor?
The Harry Potter killing curse was recently retconned in the Fantastic Beasts series, which may prove that the rules surrounding it should be considered flimsy at best. A lot of factors went into Harry surviving Avada Kedavra. Whether it be his mother’s protection or the fact that he possessed all the Deathly Hallows, there’s almost too much narrative padding to assure Harry’s survival. If anything, the logic behind why Harry survived Avada Kedavra in Deathly Hallows seems more like an over-explanation. There’s an argument that Harry’s survival in The Deathly Hallows is purely deus ex machina or plot armor.
While not technically a deus ex machina since the plot did lay groundwork for Harry’s survival prior to it happening, there are definite plot holes when it comes to why Avada Kedavra didn’t kill Harry Potter. Firstly, Lily Potter was probably not the only mother to stand between a dark wizard and her children. Given the fact that Voldemort’s first reign of terror included breaking into wizard domains and slaying all who refused to join him and their children. Harry most likely wasn’t the only baby to face the Dark Lord’s wrath. Therefore, it’s surprising that there aren’t more Avada Kedavra-proof wizard kids walking around with lightning bolt-shaped scars.
In addition, Harry’s possession of all the Deathly Hallows, and the Hallows themselves, really only came about in the final two chapters of the Harry Potter series. While Lily’s love protection isn’t technically a deus ex machina, the Deathly Hallows certainly come close to being one. There isn’t any prep work leading up to the story from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, though there’s more in the novels than in the movies. At some points, it seems like the Elder Wand and the rest of the Deathly Hallows were thrown in toward the end to make absolutely sure that Harry survives. If one thinks about it too long, the reasons why Harry survives the killing curse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are incredibly convoluted, so much so that one would be forgiven for thinking plot armor was ultimately behind it.
Who Didn’t Survive The Harry Potter Killing Curse?
The Harry Potter killing curse was only survived by its titular protagonist, and Voldemort with his followers had plenty more victims. The victims of The Battle at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were many, and other major characters like Albus Dumbledore were hit with Avada Kedavra before the final installment. Mad-Eye Moody was hit by the Killing Curse courtesy of Voldemort early on in The Deathly Hallows while transporting Harry to safety.
In addition, Voldemort used the curse to kill tons of Gringotts employees and Death Eaters in a fit of rage after the trio escaped the Malfoy Manor. Peter Pettigrew used the Harry Potter killing curse on Cedric Diggory in the graveyard during Goblet of Fire. The Battle at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows saw tons of major character deaths, and while not explicitly stated, victims like Lupin, Tonks, and Fred Weasley were presumably hit by the Unforgivable Curse.