Rowling's questions: your answers

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I’ve always believed that Harry & Voldemort were somehow the same person, but I have wondered about Dumbledore’s lack of role in the Voldemort/Death Eaters revolution. Do you think Voldemort & Dumbledore (who definitely aren’t the same person) have some sort of non-agression pact? (The books have said several times that Dumbledore is the only wizard Voldemort feared.)

Please don’t laugh…

I have a suspicion that Voldermort is a blood relation of Harry’s


No, Rowling has definitely stated that Voldymeister is not a blood relation.

I think the most obvious answer to the first question is that the curse lost some energy when it bounced off Harry.

I thought she’d only stated that Voldie was not his father not a general blood relation. (Not that I think they are related mind you, but that’s all I remember hearing)

Question #1: Voldemort changed himself quite drastically from the Tom Riddle who left Hogwarts in 1944. These changes were related to experimental charms potions and curses he subjected himself to, in his quest to, as he put it, “conquer death.” They had such a dramatic effect on his appearance that he no longer even physically resembles Tom Riddle. As Voldemort seems to imply in the Little Hangleton graveyard, they also fundamentally altered the nature of his life-force. The reasons for this effect are little understood, even by Voldemort himself.

Question #2: After the incident in the Hog’s Head in the early summer of 1980, Dumbledore knew the futillity of attempting to kill Voldemort himself (at any rate, not before Voldemort succeeds in killing Harry Potter). Prior to hearing the prophecy, however, we can only speculate. Perhaps Dumbledore did, in fact, attempt to use Avada Kedavra on Voldemort prior to 1980, only to find that Voldemort, having altered the nature of his life-force so radically, had also given himself the ability to block this heretofore unblockable curse.

In any event, I would not have been inclined to ask either of the above questions before reading Year 7. I feel that the bringing up and answering of two such important plot points are Ms. Rowling’s prerogative and responsibility.

Anyway, we all know that she never answers a question in advance if the answer is a significant plot point. Probably everybody intuitively understands how these questions probe too close to the boundaries.

I hope the answers won’t be so obvious or simple.

See, Voldemort was so in love with Harry’s mother, that when he killed her, he had her body stuffed and he keeps it in the basement, in the fruit cellar. And he dresses up like Harry’s mother, has conversations with himself/herself, and opened a small motel on an out-of-the-way location…

What was Voldemort doing in Godric’s Hollow the night Harry became an orphan? He was there specifically to kill Harry Potter, to prevent the fulfillment of a phrophecy he only half-heard. He succeeded in killing James and might have spared Lily – but she chose to sacrifice herself to save her son.

How did Lily Potter do it?

In The Goblet of Fire, it’s revealed that the curse Voldemort used to kill the Potters is the Avada Kedavra – or Killing Curse, the worst and deadliest of the three Unforgiveable Curses. It was widely known this was the spell Voldemort favored to kill his enemies. According to the imposter Mad-Eye Moody, it’s unblockable and without a countercurse. Let’s assume for a moment this information is accurate and use some reasoning: if the spell is unblockable, then it can’t ricochet and kill someone else, like a bystander or the spellcaster. So Lily didn’t have that option in defending her baby.

In The Order of The Phoenix, Dumbledore finally explains to Harry that the spell used to save him as an infant was an ancient blood-spell of protection cast by his dying mother.

So while it may be true the Avada Kedavra doesn’t have a precise counter, it can certainly be thwarted. In Harry’s case, it required the self-sacrifice of his mother. I surmise that Voldemort stood before Harry’s crib, preparing to cast the spell – and Lily deliberately threw herself in its path to save Harry while simultaneously casting the blood spell that would protect Harry.

But what would happen to the Avada Kedavra itself, once Lily cast her protection spell? It can’t be blocked. It can’t ricochet. Her wand and Voldemort’s did not share twin cores (according to Mr. Ollivander), so they wouldn’t nullify each other and cause the spells to work in reverse.

I contend the spell was transmuted – not quite death, but something very much like it. It managed to give Harry his scar, and bestowing onto Harry some of Voldemort’s skills – Pareltongue, an aptitude with Dark Arts, perhaps – and a shared mind-link. Then it ricoheted back to Voldemort, transforming him.

In The Sorceror’s Stone (or The Philosopher’s Stone, if you’re reading this in the U.K.) Voldemort reveals his shared body atop Quirrell’s head and says, “See what I have become? Mere shadow and vapor… I only have form when I share another’s body.” Further, Dumbledore says, later in that same chapter: “[Voldemort]… not being truly alive, he cannot be killed.”

What’s a name for an insubstantial thing that’s neither fully alive or quite dead?

A ghost.

A ghost that hungered to become a living thing again. Voldemort would spend the next thirteen years trying to become substantial again… by possessing Quirell, killing a unicorn, attempting to use the Stone and finally resurrecting his body in GoF.

But what of Harry, whose parents were just killed? It was Dumbledore who added the final protection: he gave him a charm that extended Lily’s blood sacrifice to Harry’s adopted home – his sister’s home. To quote Dumbledore in OoTP, “While you can still call home the place your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there once a year… Your aunt knows this.” [Italics mine.]

There is a statement, said by Voldemort and questioned by Harry, that has never been answered by Dumbledore. Harry first asked him in the first book, but Dumbledore declined to answer it then, and it never came up in .

Voldemort told Harry: “Your mother needn’t have died… she was trying to protect you…”

Why was Voldemort willing to spare Lily Evans Potter? What was so special about her that he would let her live when he killed so many others, including her husband?

Was it – love? Was Voldemort jealous of James?

Was it because he was trying to turn her?

Was it because of some other connection, relationship, obligation?

Did he promise her to Snape?

Here’s a wild guess: did Voldemort somehow know and love Petunia Evans and wanted to spare her the pain of killing her sister? Did Petunia struggle with her affection for the dark, forboding wizard and her love for the mystiphobe, Vernon Dursley? Is there some sick love triangle between He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the Dursleys?

Ha Ha!. Okay. That last part’s a goof. I admit it.

Perhaps the reason why Voldemort was willing to spare Lily Potter is key to understanding the events of the next book.

As to Rowling’s other question: The answer falls under two categories: either Dumbledore is Unwilling or Unable to kill Tom Riddle.

Let’s examine “Unable” first.

Dumbledore cannot directly counter the Avada Kedavra. It’s been stated that it cannot be countercursed or blocked – although re-reading OoTP it’s clear it’s been blocked; Dumbledore saves Harry from being killed by knocking the statue of magical creatures between Harry and the Avada curse, causing the curse to “glance off”. It makes me want to re-state my assertion that you can’t block the Avada Kedavra with a magic spell, but you apparently can with a dense enough material object. Such an object seems unlikely to be found in the average wizarding home, so Lily still did not have that option.

Dumbledore believes in the prophecy. It states that either Harry will kill Voldemort, or the reverse. So while Dumbledore can step in and help prevent Harry from being killed by Voldemort, trying to kill Voldemort himself simply won’t happen. Intending to kill Voldemort may have other repurcussions.

Let’s look at possibilities under “Unwilling”

Dumbledore does not wish to kill Voldemort. He always calls Voldemort “Tom” in their face to face meetings, which immediately casts him in a teacher/student role. In their epic clash in OoTP, he says [paraphrasing] “There are things worse than death, you’ve never understood that” Dumbledore may believe there is a way to disable or disarm Voldemort without killing him.

Dumbledore has a moral opposition to personally learning Dark Arts magic.
There’s no evidence so far that Dumbledore can even cast any of the Three Unforgiveable Curses. If you read the books carefully for the spells Dumbledore has cast, he’s never cast any. He may not know how. He may not wish to know how. In the very first book, he stated rather matter of factly that, “Voldemort had powers I will never have.” Professor McGonagall asserts thats because he’s too noble to use them – but that may only be an assumption on her part. Like Gandalf’s refusal to carry the One Ring to its destuction, Dumbledore could have an equally compelling reason not to learn the Dark Arts himself. Yet for the sake of the art form itself, may not harbor any objection to teaching it to others. Just because someone can make an atomic bomb doesn’t mean you stop teaching physics.

Are you sure? I remember in Order of the Phoenix (?) the Ministry officials tried to arrest him on some charge – I think, for forming his own “Dumbledore’s Army” – and he admitted his guilt but added “I will not go quietly.” And he didn’t. In fact, he overpowered them all and escaped.

I think the blood-spell and the curse somehow tied Harry and Voldemort together, to the point where killing one will kill the other. Throughout OotP, it becomes more and more obvious that Harry and Voldemort are becoming more and more twinned as Voldemort regains his physicality.

If Dumbledore kills Voldemort’s physical body, he’ll kill Harry, too. At least IMHO. And he realizes this – has had an inkling of it since the original disaster, let’s say, and it’s hatched into a full-blown realization since then. It may even be possible that if Dumbledore kills V’s physical body again, he might doom Harry’s spirit (as well) to the kind of horrible fleshless existence V. endured for about 10 years. Dumbledore wants to spare Harry this, and he’s spent the last fourteen or so years awaiting Voldemort’s return and figuring out how to untangle the both of them, or contain each of them, so as to preserve Harry while limiting Voldemort’s effectiveness.

Anyway, it’s a theory.

Mrs. Furthur

While I won’t venture to guess the specifics - Rowling’s gift is to make the twists both complex and yet logical-seeming simultaneously - I think this gets to the heart of it. Voldemort somehow represents Harry’s dark side - whether they are literally the same person, became intertwined through the murder attempt and thwarting, or whatever, they are bonded. And the basic premise of the book is a young person’s quest to decide between Good and Evil. The fact that Harry could have gone with Slytherin but chose Gryffindor is the basic premise in a nutshell - we all have evil and good inside us, but it is how we choose to live our lives that reveals which quality will dominate.

Oh - ooops, sorry - so to actually answer the questions:

Why didn’t Voldemort die? - you can’t kill evil. You can’t eliminate someone’s evil side; you can only choose goodness over evil. Both sides are eternal and live within all of us.

Why didn’t Dumbledore kill, or try to kill, Voldemort? - again, you can’t kill evil, only encourage people to choose the path of goodness.

Sorry - I don’t mean to get all moral-y and zen on anybody, but I think this is at the heart of the book.

[minor additional thought]

Of all the “There are x plots in the world, and every book is just a re-statement of them” types of lines I have heard, my favorite is “There are only 2 plots in the world: 1) Our hero goes on a journey; and 2) One day, a Stranger came to town” In both cases, the plot serves to reveal the true nature of the characters - for the first, it is for the hero; for the second, it is of the town’s inhabitants and how they react to the stranger. In the case of Harry Potter, he is clearly #1, and his journey is about learning to master his gifts and make his own choice between good and evil.

My $.02

[/minor additional thought]

There are a number of things lurking in the back of my brain about this. Rowling has a habit of taking seemingly good guys and revealing them to be bad guys, and vice versa. (I SINCERELY hope that is NOT what’s going to happen with Dumbledore, but though that’s a quiet little thought, I can’t seem to completely squash it.) A lot about Dumbledore has been hinted at, but not pursued: before being Headmaster, he was the Transfiguration teacher, and he’s told Harry he has “other ways of becoming invisible”. From this I deduce he may be an Animagi, and if so, he’s either a registered one, in which case Hermione knows, or he’s unregistered and “illegal”. Where Rowling is going with this info, I don’t know, but it’s been hinted at often enough that I can’t imagine it won’t be addressed at some point.

Also, there’s that little bit at the end of (I think) Book 4, in which Harry, telling Dumbledore that Voldy has regained his body, thinks he sees a flash of triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. Harry’s sure he must be mistaken, but I can’t let that one go, either. My suspicions are that either Dumbledore IS a bad guy (squash squash squash) or that he knows a body can be killed, whereas a spirit can’t. So maybe he sees here an opportunity to exploit Voldy’s weakness.

But Dumbledore is, well, KIND to Voldy. He does not take the aggressive stance physically, but attempts to almost soothe him while deflecting him. By recalling Voldy to his “human” existence as Tom Riddle, maybe Dumbledore thinks Voldy is not entirely unredeemable. Remember, it’s prophesied that the Dark Lord will die - NOT that Tom Riddle will.

So, all that in mind, here’s my own personal theory on the two questions: Voldemort didn’t die because Harry himself was an infant - and Bellatrix later told Harry that a curse can’t work without intent behind it. As Harry had no idea what was going on at the time, he could hardly have countercursed Voldy, so it was left to Lily to make the sacrifice, casting the necessary deflection of the curse. Alternately, Voldy didn’t WANT Lily to die, so “pulled his punch” at the last second when Lily jumped between him and Harry - thus making his own personal sacrifice (for reasons I can’t even begin to imagine.) And Dumledore has never attempted to kill Voldemort because he knows Tom Riddle is redeemable - maybe Voldy/Tom’s self-sacrifice for Lily is the reason?

One idea that I came across on another board is that Voldemort has somehow found a way to store part of his life-force outside of his own body – perhaps infusing it into a material object with a stronger version of the process used to produce the Marauder’s Map and the enchanted portraits, for instance. It would therefore be necessary to find this object and destroy it in order to kill him.

I quite like this idea – it sounds nicely folkloric and explains Dumbledore’s enigmatic “in essence divided” line from OotP.

By the way, here is a link to the full interview transcript at Rowling’s web site. Lots of juicy stuff, including confirmation that “there is more to Aunt Petunia than meets the eye,” the fact that the barman in the Hog’s Head is Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth, and the news that we’re finally going to meet the mysterious Blaise Zabini :slight_smile:

Maybe I have to go read “Phoenix” again, but how would Hermione know? Is there a Who’s Who among U.K. Animagi available in the library?


Yes, there is a registry for animagi that Hermonie read for a peice of homework. I have forgotten the real title of it, if it was given.

My thoughts are very spoilerriffic:

The key to Harry’s survival of the kill spell was that that he was so deeply loved- so perhaps what saved Voldemore was that he too was deeply loved, but by who?

Someone who had the chance to vanquish him but chose not to: I think Voldemore might be Dumbledore’s son. That quite neatly answers both questions.

ooooo, that’s nice.