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In Deathly Hallows: Part 2, in the final duel between Harry and Voldemort, Harry only tried to disarm Voldemort.

Why didn’t he use “Avada Kedavra”?

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To add to the other well said answers, casting the spell breaks one's soul. Harry knew this and didn't want this to happen to himself... –  Awal Garg Jun 14 at 12:01
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Not using Avada Kedavra is what makes the difference between Harry Potter and Dirty Harry. –  Tom Leek Jun 14 at 13:17
    
It's not like Harry didn't use any of the unforgivable curses.He used "imperio" in Gringotts.But yes, Avada Kedavra was one of the curses that Harry didn't want to use. –  Rajan Jun 15 at 2:56
    
I always thought that AK needs a real big desire to kill, nothing I would really see Harry to have. –  PlasmaHH Jun 15 at 21:26
    
@TomLeek "Dirty Harry Potter", now that would be a great crossover... Ah, who am I kidding, it's probably been done. –  SQB Jun 16 at 6:11

6 Answers 6

up vote 37 down vote accepted

I don’t believe there is a definitive canon answer to this, but here are some plausible reasons:

  • Experience. The disarming charm is Harry’s signature spell, and he has a lot of experience using it. By contrast, he’s never used Avada Kedavra, far less in a combat situation.

    His other uses of Unforgivable Curses have had mixed results: although he used the Imperius curse successfully while breaking into Gringotts, his initial attempts to use the Cruciatus curse on Bellatrix and Snape were unsuccessful. (Though as @quapka points out in the comments, he did eventually gain competence in this curse.) In such an important fight, risking a new and untested spell seems unwise.

  • Reliability. He’s used a disarming charm on multiple occasions to great effect, including the Battle of the Seven Potters and his last duel with Voldemort, in Goblet of Fire. Indeed, the book acknowledges that a disarming charm is what gives him the best chance:

    Harry heard the high voice shriek as he too yelled his best hope to the heavens, pointing Draco’s wand:

    “Avada Kedavra!”
    “Expelliarmus!”

    Deathly Hallows, chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan

    Why break what works? Of course, this is tied to the experience aspect.

  • Mercy. In the books, we learn that an act of great remorse may repair a soul which has been split using horcruxes, and Harry offers Voldemort this chance for redemption:

    “Yeah, it did,” said Harry. “You’re right. But before you try to kill me, I’d advise you to think about what you’ve done… Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle…”

    “What is this?”

    Of all the things that Harry had said to him, beyond any revelation or taunt, nothing had shocked Voldemort like this. Harry saw his pupils contract to thin slits, saw the skin around his eyes whiten.

    “It’s your one last chance,” said Harry, “it’s all you’ve got left… I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise… Be a man… try… Try for some remorse…”

    Deathly Hallows, chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan

    Using a disarming charm rather than a killing curse offers Voldemort this final chance. It isn’t Harry who kills Voldemort; it’s the curse which came from the wand that Voldemort was holding. I think Harry would want to give Voldemort that final chance.

  • Not descending to Voldemort’s level. Remember that Harry wants to pursue a career as an Auror, and the first Auror he “met” was Moody. In Goblet of Fire, we learn that Moody tried to minimise deaths, and Harry may well have been influenced by this:

    “I’ll say this for Moody, though, he never killed if he could help it. Always brought people in alive where possible. He was tough, but he never descended to the level of the Death Eaters.”

    Goblet of Fire, chapter 27, Padfoot Returns

    I can’t think of specific references, but I think Dumbledore would likewise have preferred Harry not kill Voldemort if at all possible. He looked up to them both, and that might have influenced his plan for the final duel.

    Voldemort was surely destined for execution either way, but that doesn’t mean Harry has to be the one to give the fatal blow.

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+1 For nice and complete answer. Although you are wrong about the Cruciatus Curse. Read: Deathly Hallows, ch. 30, The Sacking of Severus Snape, page 593, As Amycus spun around, Harry shouted, “Crucio!” –  quapka Jun 14 at 10:40
    
@quapka: Good point. I’ve edited to clarify. –  alexwlchan Jun 14 at 10:41
    
+1 But please tell me you didn't know all this from the top of your head... you scrambled through the books, didn't you? –  Awal Garg Jun 14 at 11:58
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@AwalGarg: Actually, I knew most of what I wanted to write before I opened the books. I usually look at the books to get exact quotes, and to clarify any remaining points. –  alexwlchan Jun 14 at 12:00
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I think a lack of intent is key. As we see with Harry's abortive attempts at the Cruciatus Curse, you have to really mean an Unforgiveable Curse in order for it to work. Does Harry have that hatred for Voldemort in him? I'm not so sure - I think he pities Voldemort more than he hates him in the end. (And I don't think we should hold Harry to the quote in Quapka's comment, as Harry's views still had time to develop between HBP and the end of DH). –  The Giant of Lannister Jun 15 at 11:31

I think alexwlchan's answer is very detailed and gives good explanation. To support his reasoning I may just add this:

Harry is not a killer

Rememeber how Harry treated Peter Pettigrew in the Prisoner of Azkaban:

NO!” Harry yelled. He ran forward, placing himself in front of Pettigrew, facing the wands. “You can’t kill him,” he said breathlessly. “You can’t.” Black and Lupin both looked staggered.
...
“We’ll take him up to the castle. We’ll hand him over to the dementors.... He can go to Azkaban... but don’t kill him.” “Harry!” gasped Pettigrew, and he flung his arms around Harry’s knees. “You — thank you — it’s more than I deserve — thank you —” “Get off me,” Harry spat, throwing Pettigrew’s hands off him in disgust. “I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it because — I don’t reckon my dad would’ve wanted them to become killers — just for you.

And the second time in Malfoy's Mansion in the Deathly Hallows:

No —”
Without pausing to think
, Harry tried to drag back the hand, but there was no stopping it. The silver tool that Voldemort had given his most cowardly servant had turned upon its disarmed and useless owner; Pettigrew was reaping his reward for his hesitation, his moment of pity; he was being strangled before their eyes.

No!
Ron had released Wormtail too, and together he and Harry tried to pull the crushing metal fingers from around Wormtail’s throat, but it was no use. Pettigrew was turning blue.

Another situation is at the Tottenham Court Road:

“What are we going to do with them?” Ron whispered to Harry through the dark; then, even more quietly, “Kill them? They’d kill us. They had a good go just now.” Hermione shuddered and took a step backward. Harry shook his head.

“We just need to wipe their memories,” said Harry. “It’s better like that, it’ll throw them off the scent. If we killed them it’d be obvious we were here.”

As discussed in this question, casting Avada Kedavra is not a easy daily spell. There is a lot behind it, mostly the fact, the you must intend to kill without hesitation and remorse. I am not saying, Harry did now have a reason to kill Voldemort. But he was not that kind of person. He did no try to kill Voldemort in the Graveyard and he did not do it at the end.


The association with Avada Kedavra

Another example, why Harry would not use Avada Kedavra might be, that it represented the way his parents died. I think almost every mention of that Curse might recall him that event. Imagine him using the Curse which killed his parents, even if it was on Voldemort, how would he feel about it? For that I'd quote three paragraphs from the Goblet of Fire:

  • How Voldemort had killed Harry’s father first. How James Potter had tried to hold him off, while he shouted at his wife to take Harry and run... Voldemort had advanced on Lily Potter, told her to move aside so that he could kill Harry... how she had begged him to kill her instead, refused to stop shielding her son... and so Voldemort had murdered her too, before turning his wand on Harry....

  • They were talking about the lesson, Harry thought, as though it had been some sort of spectacular show, but he hadn’t found it very entertaining — and nor, it seemed, had Hermione.

  • “Some lesson, though, eh?” said Ron to Harry as they set off for the Great Hall. “Fred and George were right, weren’t they? He really knows his stuff, Moody, doesn’t he? When he did Avada Kedavra, the way that spider just died, just snuffed it right —” But Ron fell suddenly silent at the look on Harry’s face and didn’t speak again until they reached the Great Hall

It is true, that against this argument might stand the fact of him using Cruciatus Curse, even though he's seen Neville's parents. But I think the representation might not be that strong.


Last bit

As @Mooz pointed out in the comment, I also believe, that Harry is not a killer. But I feel, that this should be here too:

I’d want him finished,” said Harry quietly. “And I’d want to do it.” “Of course you would!” cried Dumbledore.

...

He will continue to hunt you... which makes it certain, really, that —”
That one of us is going to end up killing the other,” said Harry.
Yes.

Half Blood Prince, chapter 23, Horcruxes, page 512.

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Good one, simply put: Harry is not a killer! –  Mooz Jun 14 at 22:24

Non-canonical: Harry is the good guy, he can't just kill Voldemort straight up.

Canonical: Why shouldn't he? Expeliarmus has worked out pretty well for him so far. He matched Voldemort's Avada Kedavra at the end of Goblet of Fire with Expeliarmus, and it worked. Even after the deatheaters recognized Harry because of using Expeliarmus (book 7 transport of Harry to the Burrow - chapter 4, The Seven Potters), Harry continued to use Expeliarmus quite successfully.

Furthermore: To use Avada Kedavra is still a crime, no matter who uses it and, more importantly, who it's used upon. Althought I don't think this is Harry's main objection (after all he uses Crucio several times)

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You are refering to the transport of Harry to the Burrow - chapter 4, The Seven Potters. During the flight Death Eaters realized it was Harry Potter because he used Expelliarmus. –  quapka Jun 14 at 10:35
    
@quapka: edited it, thanks –  cfrei89 Jun 14 at 10:57
    
One last thing - it was the seventh book. –  quapka Jun 14 at 11:39
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Also, Ex-pel-li-ar-mus is five syllables with no pause. A-va-da ke-da-vra is six plus a pause. Which can you cast faster? –  Shadur Jun 15 at 14:26
    
@Shadur: That's actually a pretty good point, never thought of that... –  cfrei89 Jun 15 at 15:42

A disarmed wizard is as defeated as a dead one, you can easily execute him later.

Ex-Pel-I-ar-Mus is shorter than A-va-da-ka-dav-ra. You get 6/5th as many spells cast that way.

Harry would be more familiar with the gestures. In the movies, two people casting a spell on each other the spells seem to push each other away, I assume the books were similar, been a while since I read them. If he gets the gesture wrong to Avada Kedavra, he has no defence and will die. Better to go with what you know.

Also, the good guy shouldn't kill and all that.

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I agree if Harry had of said a longer spell he would of been dead. They said the spells at the same time only harry's was shorter so his hit first and Voldemort's was deflected back at him. It was luck really, it could have hit the crowd but it didn't. –  iliveunderawesomerock Jun 16 at 2:34

It needs practicing: when Crouch-as-Moody demonstrates it, he says that the whole class could use it on him and he'd get barely a nosebleed.

But it's also irrelevant to Harry: he knows the Elder Wand won't kill him - he spends about 2 pages of the book explaining that to Riddle and the crowd - so he doesn't need such a drastic measure to defend himself. The question is why he needs to defend himself with Expelliamus even: he could just lower his wand and let his opponent's arrogance do the work for him for the second time in a couple of hours.

What Harry is really trying to do is save Riddle's soul. Remorse is the only method of repairing the damage created by making a horcrux, but can kill. In Riddle's case, who only has one-ninth of a soul after the death of Nagini, Harry can be fairly certain of it - so he will get vengeance anyway. But he has seen Riddle's future if he dies without remorse and feels both pity and revulsion, and that he must give Riddle the opportunity for one last chance.

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Because Harry won't Use The Curse That His Parents Got Killed With It

But That is Fool thing from him because he use the weak curse like disarm curse and shocking curse and those kind of things.

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