As the question states, would Kevlar or body armor stop an unforgivable curse like Avada Kedavra? It is shown in Harry Potter and OotP that unforgivable curses can be blocked by solid objects:

“I have nothing more to say to you, Potter,” he said quietly. “You have irked me too often, for too long. AVADA KEDAVRA!”

Harry had not even opened his mouth to resist. His mind was blank, his wand pointing uselessly at the floor. But the headless golden statue of the wizard in the fountain had sprung alive, leaping from its plinth, and landed on the floor with a crash between Harry and Voldemort. The spell merely glanced off its chest as the statue flung out its arms, protecting Harry.

Could a person wear Kevlar or full body armor and deflect spells? If it is possible, why don't wizards wear some kind of armor instead of robes when going in battle? Even something as light as aluminium should reflect curses and hexes and save lives.

  • Was the statue in the fountain at the MOM? – WRX Dec 12 '16 at 17:25
  • This... is a good question. But I think the assumption at the end isn't sound; the curse is seen to damage objects elsewhere. Perhaps adding in a quote from one of those situations would help. – Slacklord the Terrible Dec 12 '16 at 17:25
  • I'm guessing it's playing on the well known trope that shiny metal stuff reflects spells. Be it silver mirrors or in this case a golden statue. If objects made of kevlar could stop spells, a shirt with a sweatshirt could too, as they would count as objects - and kevlar armor is essentially fabric (really strong fabric.) – CyberClaw Dec 12 '16 at 17:45
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    The Captain America shield is defo a wise purchase from Borgin and Burke, it seems. – The Dark Lord Dec 12 '16 at 20:14

We muggles tend to think of spells as things like bullets traveling through space, following laws of physics like ballistics, to affect a target, but that's not what spells do. Spells "adjust" the laws of physics to the will of the wizard, allowing one to light a candle, or levitate a rock, or travel through time.

With practice, a wizard gains the ability to apply more "will" behind their spells and have greater effects. The "more powerful" wizards are those with the experience and charisma to impose their will and intent on the universe.

One constant I've seen in Harry Potter spells is the need for "Intent." Barty Crouch, Jr, states that the spell Avada Kedavra requires "a powerful bit of magic" to power it. Snape claims you need "nerve and ability" to cast unforgivable curses. It's not good enough to point and say the words, you have to intend for that curse to kill somebody (or harm them).

So, a spell isn't a bullet being shot from a gun; a spell is a wizard or witch bending reality with the force of their will. They INTEND to make something float, they INTEND to light all the candles in the hall.

They INTEND to make that spider die.

It all comes back to Barty saying that everyone in the room could point their wands at him and say the spell, but it wouldn't harm him. It's not a bullet guided by the laws of physics, it's the will of the caster bending the nature of the universe to fit his desires. I imagine a sufficiently powerful wizard would be able to kill a spider, but not kill a human, or kill a human, but not through clothing (his intent not being powerful enough), or to kill a human through clothing but not armor.

So, I would say, Unfortunately for Voldemort, Avada Kedavra (as currently known by the wizarding world) is not an instantaneous curse, but instead a curse with a travel time and line of sight. This is what saves Harry Potter; when the statue intervenes, Voldemort's INTENT was to kill Harry Potter, but the spell never reached him, and instead struck the statue.

Had the spell hit Harry's clothing, or armor (if he was wearing it), the INTENT would have still been the same: killing Harry Potter. And Voldemort would have enough force of will to impose that end result on the small "distance" between the actual landing of the spell (clothing) and the person being cast upon (Harry).

But because Voldemort BELIEVES that Avada Kedavera needs line of sight, and must touch his target, the spell fizzles.

I imagine a sufficiently powerful wizard, such as Voldemort or Albus, may be able to impose so much will on the universe that striking a container, such as a wooden box or an armored vehicle, inside which resided their INTENDED target, would still cause the death of their target inside. However, I would also suspect that less able wizards would find increasing levels of armor (kevlar, plate armor, plate armor with a shield, armored vehicle, etc) increasingly difficult to apply their effect to.

As an alternative explanation, building on INTENT as the driver of spells, if Voldemort believes that a statue can block the spell from reaching the target, his INTENT to kill Harry Potter with the spell evaporates when it misses. We, as humans, expect causes to directly apply to that which it effects; it could be the same for magic.

In this case, a sweater or suit of armor would not impede the INTENT of the killing curse, but if Harry were to sufficiently convince Voldemort that his Unobtanium-weave Kevlar armor absorbs and blocks the effects of spells, Voldemort would work on hitting unprotected parts, and would therefore lose his force of will when a spell hit the kevlar.

There is some speculation here, and it's a bit hand-wavy, but JK seems to see spells as affecting "objects" not individual components, or affecting "people as targets," not affecting things like hats and glasses. Unlike westerns, where guns are repeatedly shot out of hands, it appears that spells in the Potterverse are really directed by the intentions of their casters.

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    I don't think this can be right. You definitely need intent and ability to cast the spell and to cast it properly. But every indication is that spells do work like bullets. At least Stunning spells and AK do, hence the rays of red and green light. Once cast, intent goes out the window and what matters is whether it hits you or not. – The Dark Lord Dec 12 '16 at 20:13
  • I would respond that those spells "do work like bullets" because the wizards casting them believe that they do. If the wizard believes that a spell he casts with the intent to kill Alice will kill Bob if it strikes Bob, then it will, indeed, kill Bob if he stands in the way. The explanation in my answer is, I admit, a bit handwavey. But it's intended to explain how JK treats spells both like bullets (which would be blocked by sufficiently heavy clothing) and not (where clothing, containers, and the like don't matter if the wizard is powerful enough). – Zoey Boles Dec 12 '16 at 20:22
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    Spells "adjust" the laws of physics to the will of the wizard, or more precisely, the plot of the story, or whatever the writer dreams up – user13267 Dec 13 '16 at 12:27

Armor would not help. Remember the clues given in the text and the movie:

"The green light filled the cramped hallway, it lit the pram pushed against the wall, it made the banisters glow like lighting rods, and James Potter fell like a marionette whose strings were cut...."

Lily Potter, dead

When it functions normally, the Avada Kedavra spell does not cause trauma or injury. The victims simply died--there was nothing that armor could protect from.

The statue had no life to take away, so it was able to interpose itself without damage or being dis-animated.

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    that doesn't make sense to me. What is difference between golden armor and golden statue? If one can protect you when can another? – Vanja Vasiljevic Dec 12 '16 at 18:35
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    It doesn't 100% make sense to me, either--that's simply the way Rowling wanted it to work. – Justin Eiler Dec 12 '16 at 18:36
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    @VanjaVasiljevic - probably because Rowling thinks in terms of objects, not materials. The statue is not what Voldemort wanted to hit, so the spell gets blocked. Armor (or clothing, for that matter, if your thinking is just line of sight) is some part of the target, so it's useless. – Radhil Dec 12 '16 at 18:42

My personal theory is that the golden statue in OoTP was enchanted by Dumbledore, thus giving it additional power to deflect the curse. However, there is no evidence that kevlar or other inanimate objects would not be destroyed, or still allow the curse to go through. Even other animated objects that Dumbledore enchants are destroyed by AK:

Another jet of green light flew from behind the silver shield. This time it was the one-armed centaur, galloping in front of Dumbledore, that took the blast and shattered into a hundred pieces

This post has a good summary of some of the effects of curses on inanimate objects, and it seems that most of the time it destroys them. Does Avada Kedavra have any effect on inanimate objects? This includes suits of armor (and therefore likely kevlar too). From the answer to that post:

He skidded around another corner and a curse flew past him; he dived behind a suit of armor that exploded. (HBP, Chapter 28: Flight of the Prince)

If a kevlar vest exploded on contact with a curse, I'm not sure the person inside would be any better off than if they were just hit with the curse.

Another plausible explanation is that curses are impeded by physical objects (and may or may not destroy these objects) but can still effect the intended recipient if that recipient is in close enough proximity to the final location of the curse. This would explain why clothing doesn't stop any form of curse. This would allow for something like a statue to block a curse, be destroyed, and save Dumbledore's life, while clothing, kevlar or a suit of armor would not. However, this is totally speculation.

  • Or that the golden statue had a special enchantment that Dumbledore knew of and mobilized – y3sh Feb 14 '17 at 17:20

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