‘So the boy ... the boy must die?’ asked Snape, quite calmly.

‘And Voldemort himself must do it, Severus. That is essential.’

Deathly Hallows - page 551 - UK Hardcover - chapter 33, The Prince's Tale

Dumbledore tells Snape it is 'essential' that Voldemort be the one to kill Harry, I'm assuming in order for the piece of Voldemort's soul in Harry to be properly killed as well.

But why?

Hermione destroyed the Hufflepuff cup; Ron destroyed the Slytherin locket; Neville killed Nagini; Harry destroyed the diadem and Tom Riddle's diary. So the Horcruxes were not immune to destruction at the hand of someone other than Voldemort. And as it ended up, Harry himself wasn't even a Horcrux, but rather just an unknowing host to a parasitic bit of Voldemort's soul.

Why was it 'essential' that Voldemort be the one to kill Harry in order for the piece of Voldemort's soul to die?

  • 10
    The first thing that comes to mind is maybe only the Elder wand would be powerful enough to destroy the horcrux, and Dumbledore was (correctly) banking on Voldemort taking the Elder wand after his death.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 12:56
  • 7
    and that the elder wand would not kill Harry since he was the real master of it
    – Justin C
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 13:35
  • 4
    Harry was indeed a horcrux. An unintended one but a horcrux nonetheless. Commented May 2, 2012 at 18:12
  • 12
    @MikeBrown - No. As per Pottermore, Harry was NOT a horcrux (despite serving as a soul piece container). I asked as a separate Q Commented May 2, 2012 at 18:43
  • 4
    @JustinC - nope. Harry was not YET the master of Elder Wand at the time Dumbledore said that. DD was under impression that Snape was (or nobody). Commented May 2, 2012 at 18:43

13 Answers 13


I thought it had to do with the protection Harry's mother gave him by sacrificing herself. There's a scene where Dumbledore says that it was a mistake for Voldemort to take Harry's blood as part of his new body - that by doing so the protection was enhanced to the point that Voldemort couldn't really kill him. So it was essential because anyone else really would've killed him.

Also, I think Dumbledore expected (or at least hoped) that Harry would sacrifice himself, which would give the same sort of protection to the people Harry loved.

  • but doesn't the protection end when Harry turns 17? And the final battle was after Harry was 19
    – debal
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 11:40
  • 4
    @debal I thought that was all about being under the protection that all young wizards get, not about Harry's mom's love.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 18:57
  • It was definitely about his mother's blood still protecting him as a child. Although I think this answer misses the aspect of saving Harry - the strong hint is that it had to be Voldemort in order to destroy the Horcrux without killing Harry. Some remnant of the link between them, perhaps?
    – Jon Story
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 11:28
  • 9
    @debal, first, Harry was not yet 18 at the time of the battle. He turned 17 at the beginning of DH, and the battle took place in the following May. Second, the blood protection would fade with time, so Dumbledore built an extra protection using the blood connection with his aunt. That is that protection which broke when he turned 17. Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 9:53
  • @bilbo_pingouin Actually it broke earlier because he could no longer call it his home; it would have broken when he turned 17 but he declared it was no longer his home before that - and at that immediate moment the protection was gone!
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:18

As was discussed previously on SFF, Harry's blood protection initiated by his mother's sacrifice seems to ONLY work against Voldemort, not against other people.

In other words, Harry, if killed by someone other than Voldemort, would die 100%, despite Voldemort having taken his blood into the new body.

Therefore, it's quite possible that the "essential" comment was meant in the angle of Harry surviving and NOT Voldemort losing the last "Horcrux".

  • 15
    It all makes sense...when Voldemort "killed" Harry, all he really did was kill part of himself. Commented May 2, 2012 at 18:15
  • 1
    That was always my interpretation too.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 3, 2012 at 14:02
  • 8
    This seems to be the only angle possible, but is it logical to say that Harry would actually have died if killed by somebody else? The relevant statement by Dumbledore in King's Cross says "He tethered you to life while he lives!". There is no mention of an agency against which protection is guaranteed. I remember vaguely it having been mentioned on this site that Voldemort's new form served as a "Horcrux of sorts" for Harry! Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 20:33
  • 2
    Important aspect being missed: Harry needed to sacrifice himself AGAINST Voldemort to protect wizarding society (for which he was fighting) AGAINST Voldemort. Evidence: "You won’t be able to kill any of them ever again. Don’t you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people—” (DH 738 US Hardcover).
    – CCHP
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 1:46
  • His mum's protection isn't relevant here? This has to do with the piece of Voldemort's soul residing in Harry. His mother's protection already was gone wasn't it? As @NUnnikrishnan hints at it's the Horcrux that isn't really a Horcrux at this point that Dumbledore was talking about with Voldemort 'killing' Harry. If it was the protection it'd not have mattered in the slightest would it? Even if so the connexion to his mother's sacrifice is no longer relevant at this point. Edit: Ah, unless it has to do with the fact Voldemort took Harry's blood? In which case my logic fails.
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:22

Two reasons, both important:

  1. Anyone else would have actually killed Harry, but Voldemort had Lily's sacrificial blood, tethering Harry to life. Dumbledore thought he'd survive because of this (evidenced in GOF's "gleam of triumph" in Dumbledore's eyes).

  2. VERY IMPORTANTLY, Harry had to die by Voldemort's hand so he could use that sacrifice to protect wizarding society from Voldemort for the rest of time. This is what Dumbledore meant in OOTP when he mentioned caring for Harry more than "nameless/faceless people in the vague future."

"You won’t be able to kill any of them ever again. Don’t you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people—" (DH, 738, US Hardcover).

Had someone else--say a different Death Eater--killed Harry, wizarding society would not have been protected from Lord Voldemort, even if Harry had sacrificed his life in being killed by that Death Eater.

  • 1
    Yours is the only answer that mentions what I thought was the clearest indication that Dumbledore thought the blood V had taken from Harry would be important in his downfall, since Harry himself even noticed it, thought Dumbledore quickly hid it. He had to, otherwise if Harry even suspected he wouldn't die, he might not have given his friends any protection from V's curses. That's why he didn't even tell Snape, to ensure that Harry really thought he would die. In fact, this was crucial because Harry viewed Snape's memory. One might even suspect Dumbledore guessed V might eventually kill Snape.
    – user21820
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 11:40
  • "Dudley Dursley thought he'd survive because of this" Wow, I had no idea that Dudley was so clued up! Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 17:27
  • 2nd point does not seem right to me. Then why didn't Lily was protected when James sacrificed himself for her and Harry?
    – Sandun
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 6:50
  • 1
    @Sandun: That is addressed in the canon. Voldemort set out to kill James, so the protection did not work. There needs to be a degree of volition. Voldemort was willing to spare Lily if she stepped aside. She chose to die to protect Harry. Harry need not have ventured into the forest, but he chose to do so. That’s the mechanism of the protection.
    – CCHP
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 8:38

Voldemort had to be the one to kill Harry because of the sacrificial enchantment his mother brought into fruition when she threw herself between Voldemort and Harry (when he was a baby). This sacrificial enchantment ran through Harry's blood--and when Voldemort took Harry's blood into himself at the end of the Goblet of Fire, he'd basically condemned himself to a later but official demise. In essence, he signed his death slip in doing so and gave Harry the biggest protection he could have against him. But as other users have noted, Voldemort had to be the one to kill Harry because the enchantment only worked against Voldemort, no one else. Had Bellatrix or any other Death Eater's killed Harry, he would have not survived because the enchantment only protected him from the curses Voldemort sent at him. When Voldemort cast the killing curse at Harry in Deathly Hallows--he didn't officially kill Harry, he only destroyed Harry's blood that ran through his own body as well as the Horcrux inside his scar. The moment he did that, he unknowingly ruined his chance to become immortal...

  • 2
    Good answer. You should add some links/quotes/evidence to back it up.
    – Moogle
    Commented Mar 2, 2014 at 11:31

On the contrary, I would like to propose the possibility that it was not at all necessary for Voldemort to kill Harry in order for the piece of Voldemort's soul to die; however, Dumbledore always has his reasons. Dumbledore wanted Voldemort to be the one to "kill" Harry because Dumbledore had, as usual, excellent foresight, and because Voldemort fully believed in the prophecy.

Recall that Voldemort himself insists that he must be the one to kill Harry Potter:

"There have been too many mistakes where Harry Potter is concerned ... I understand those things that I did not understand before. I must be the one to kill Harry Potter, and I shall be." — Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1

This is the not the first we hear of Voldemort being reluctant for anyone to kill Harry but him; shortly after Dumbledore's death, Snape stops the Carrows and Rowle from killing Harry:

"Have you forgotten our orders? Potter belongs to the Dark Lord — we are to leave him! Go! Go!" — Snape in Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 28

Obviously Voldemort doesn't want anyone else killing Harry (and Dumbledore ought to know this, via Snape). He wants to do it himself, because he does not think anyone else would be able to get it right, especially because his plans to kill Harry have been foiled so many times. Only by killing Harry himself will Voldemort be able to truly ascertain that he has succeeded.

In addition, Voldemort has heard bits of the prophecy, particularly the bit saying that "either must die at the hand of the other." He's had some time since the Ministry debacle to mull over what he knows about the prophecy, and he must have come to the conclusion that, as long as Voldemort is alive, nobody will be able to kill Harry Potter but Voldemort himself.

That explains Voldemort's insistence that Harry must die at his own hands. So why did Dumbledore insist the same?

Consider what would have happened if, during the end of the seventh book, somebody else had inadvertently killed that piece of Voldemort's soul within Harry, with Harry being sent into that same King's Cross limbo state. Voldemort would have been immediately suspicious, because he had not seen to it himself and because that would be a direct contradiction of the prophecy. He would have gotten down to the bottom of it and realized that Harry was not actually dead. He may even have realized that Harry really had developed some sort of Killing Curse immunity; he may have retreated and looked for ways to get around it. Even if, ultimately, he would have been unsuccessful, who knows how much longer the war would have been, how many more innocent lives would have been lost in the process?

Dumbledore would have wanted the war to end quickly. He knew that Harry's sustained blood protection was a powerful weapon that could bring about a decisive victory if used correctly and at the right moment. They had the element of surprise on their side, so why not keep it that way?

If Voldemort himself is the one to cast the Killing Curse at Harry Potter, it will be Voldemort himself that will be utterly bewildered that Harry was still alive: he's followed the prophecy and he's seen it through with his own eyes and wand. Dumbledore may have banked on the fact that Voldemort's arrogance, ignorance, and shock in the heat of the moment would cause him to act rashly upon failing to kill Harry. Instead of rationally assessing the situation, Voldemort stupidly does the same thing yet again and expects a different result, which led to his demise.

I can't say exactly how much of this Dumbledore anticipated, but in any case, it was clearly advantageous from a strategic standpoint for Voldemort to have been the one to "kill" Harry and not anybody else.


I thought because Harry possessed—or mastered, in the case of the Elder Wand—all three of the Deathly Hallows, he had conquered death. He was truly killed by Voldemort, thus destroying the horcrux, but he also had a choice to return to the living or go forward in the hereafter. He had that choice by his ownership of the cloak, the stone, and the wand. Voldemort took Harry's blood to gain the benefits of Lily's protection, obviously not realizing that Harry was a horcrux and destroying him would kill one more piece of his own soul. It's a wonder why Voldemort didn't reason that killing Harry would affect his own bond of blood, something I don't remember being explained, but Voldemort's vanity made him incapable of recognizing his own vulnerability. Voldemort killing Harry was the only way to end the blood alliance with Harry as well as destroying that shred of his own soul within Harry. It had to be real death to kill the horcrux, but return to life was a choice Voldemort didn't realize Harry possessed. Harry could be killed or not by anyone by his own choice while he had ownership of all three objects. Once Harry destroyed the elder wand, his power and thus anyone's power over death was broken.
Only certain modes of destruction could kill the horcrux. The blood of the basilisk was one method. Voldemort created the horcruxes; therefore, it's logical that only Voldemort could kill something he had created without needing the poisonous blood of the basilisk. While Harry had power over death, another assassin couldn't destroy the horcrux if Harry chose to live. It had to be Voldemort, the creator of the horcrux, who destroyed it.

  • 2
    A horcrux that's a living being does not require Basilisk venom etc. to be destroyed. The creature's death would be the end of the horcrux. I believe Dumbledore explained to someone that Nagini was a poor choice of a horcrux because of this. Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 9:11
  • So Harry did die at Vs hands, killing the horcrux in the process. But as you explained he had the choice to return. Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 9:12
  • ' He had that choice by his ownership of the cloak, the stone, and the wand.' Completely unrelated. You may recall that Harry even tells Voldemort what he saw Voldemort would become if he lost. If he had had remorse (though he wouldn't and it could kill him as Hermione points out) it'd be different. No, as Dumbledore says being a Master of Death means you will accept it willingly. The fact he could return has nothing to do with being the true owner of all three Hallows.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 1:54

This is how I understand it unfolded:

Originally Harry's mother created the protection by willingly sacrificing herself out of pure love and devotion - fully sacrificing herself, not simply defending Harry. Resulting in Voldemort not being able to harm Harry in any way. When Voldemort used the killing curse on Harry it reflected on himself, destroying his body BUT also breaking a part of his soul off at the same time which latched onto Harry's soul. Harry in function became another horcrux for Voldemort.

When Voldemort used Harry's blood for his resurrection it was to 'nullify' the protection granted to Harry by his mothers sacrifice (Goblet of fire). It allowed him to touch and harm Harry but what saved Harry on that occasion, was the cores of their wands were the same and had a special connection. Which resulted in Voldemort's wand regurgitating his spells e.g. Harry forced Voldemort's spell back when the wands connected and the people Voldemort had killed begun coming out of his wand. A side effect that Voldemort didn't realise is that he had in essence become a type of anchor for Harry's soul - functioning similar to a Horcrux for Harry but without the soul mutilation. While Voldemort lived, Harry could not die - I believed it was a blanket protection as well, not just specific to Voldemort killing Harry but now that I read your question it seems that it must have been ONLY Voldemort that could no longer kill Harry but that doesn't make sense based on the wording. Perhaps it was that Dumbledore knew Harry would willingly sacrifice himself but ONLY to Voldemort because that's who Harry knew he really needed to protect his friends from.

Than in the forest when Harry willingly sacrificed himself for his friends out of pure love and devotion, he provided the same type of protection for them that his mother provided for him when he was an infant - although seperate from his mothers protection (The Deathly Hallows). At the same time that Voldemort used the killing curse on Harry, he killed the part of his soul residing in Harry and actually did succeed in killing Harry but because Harry's blood lived on in Voldemort, Harry could choose to not pass over. He in truth had nullified the protection granted by his mothers sacrifice but had created an entirely new problem when he took Harry's blood - it wouldn't apply to a simple blood transfusion I believe but only to a total resurrection of a persons body.

Later on in the final duel, the people Harry had sacrificed himself for were offered a level of protection against the people Harry had died to protect them from aka Voldemort and his followers. Voldemort still could not kill Harry and when their spells collided because Harry was the true master of the incredibly powerful elder wand, the wand was able to overcome the raw power of its master - it sided with Harry when it recognised that the person who Voldemort was duelling, was indeed its true master - resulting in Voldemort's own curse being reflected onto himself. Because all the other fragments of Voldemort's soul had been destroyed, there was no longer anything to protect him from death.

Dumbledore had always intended for this to be the eventual outcome because it was the only way, well maybe except the part of Harry not dying but I think that was what he hoped would happen. I'm still not convinced based on what Dumbledore said in Harry's vision that it had to be Voldemort but I can't say the book is wrong, simply that it doesn't make sense if you take Dumbledore's words at face value - that's if my understanding of the the process is correct.

The deathly hallows were almost certainly wizard creations and not all powerful. I don't think they had anything to do with Harry surviving the killing curse in the forest.

As a side note - in case it was mentioned - the protection granted by Harry's relatives was linked to his mothers sacrifice but still separate, so while it only lasted until he came of age, his mothers protection would be until his death.

This is of course my own opinion and it's truly to much effort to find quotes substantiating what I have written, so make of it what you will and I'm well aware I answered much more than the original question but based on the other comments I thought I would put in my two cents.


Because Lily's protection was specified for Voldemort. As long as the enchantment survived, Voldemort could not kill Harry. But other people can kill Harry. So it was essential to have Voldemort kill Harry.


Because Dumbledore knew that Voldemort would make himself weak by killing Harry, as he knew that Harry wouldn't be truly dead because Voldemort would have killed one of his horcruxes, which really is not Harry but Voldemort himself, narrowing it down, a piece of Voldemort was living inside of Harry as a shield against the final "Avada Kedavra" Voldemort would use to kill Harry, Dumbledore knew that Voldemort will have technically saved Harry's Life.

Also to answer "why" Voldemort had to be the one? it was because Voldemort wouldn't let the Death Eaters kill him, and nobody on the good side had the heart to kill him.


Horcruxes in living things die when the host dies (nagini). As for why Harry had to die by Voldemort's hand I am not certain, but it is important to note a few things about Harry's "death". This is a possible answer: Harry had to die by Voldemort's hand because of the prohacy. @Neither can live while the other survives." Harry cannot truly live while harboring a piece of Voldemort's soul. Voldemort could not use the horcrux in Harry as long as Harry lived. So perhaps Voldemort had to be the one to kill Harry so that Harry could live. I personally think Jo intended to kill Harry in one epic final battle but her publishers refused so he was allowed to come back. This is plausible for a few reasons. Harry was master of the elder wand and all 3 deathly hallows, making Harry master of death, when Voldemort tried to kill him in the forest. Harry had the choice to come back because Voldemort tried to kill Harry with a wand that belonged to Harry. Maybe you cannot be killed by your own wand or since 2 souls resided in Harry's body only one soul had to die and the weaker one, a partial soul (Voldemort's), and not the owner of the wand, did.

Dombledore intended to have the power of the elder wand end with him as no one had disarmed him before he died, He had asked Snape to kill him giving him a better death than the curse in his hand would so Snape killing him would not have transferred the ownership of the elder wand to Snape. His plan was foiled because Draco disarmed him before Snape killed him. Later at Malfoy manor, Harry disarmed Draco thus making Harry the master of the Elder wand. When Harry puts the wand back in Dombledore's tomb after fixing his old wand the power of the elder wand will end with Harry.

Harry was the only one that could defeat Voldemort. It was possible for Neville to have been the one with the power to defeat the dark lord but Voldemort ensured that it was to be Harry when he tried to kill him as a baby and the curse rebounded killing Vildemort's body and a piece of his soul attaching to Harry. That night Harry was marked (the scar) as Voldemort's equal and from that point on it could only be Harry.

  • I don't think Nagini is a good example; she was killed with the Sword of Gryffindor, which could have destroyed any Horcrux. We don't really know what happens if a Horcrux that hasn't been magically protected against harm is destroyed by means that would not destroy a normal Horcrux, never mind how the container being alive might change things. It seems a reasonable guess that the soul-fragment would still be destroyed, but perhaps not. (Come to think of it, if Dumbledore didn't know what would happen either, that might be another reason for insisting that Voldemort be the one to kill Harry.) Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 21:11

I think the reason that voldemort had to be the one to kill harry is because the prophecy clearly states "either must die at the other ones hand", which is interpreted to mean that one has to kill the other. Since Harry must die, because he's a horcrux, he can't be the one to kill voldemort. So in order for the prophecy to come true and in order for the Dark Lord to be vanquished, Voldemort has to be the one to kill harry. And that's why Dumbledore says that it is 'essential' for Voldemort to be the one to kill Harry.


If an "avada kedavra" by anyone could simply destroy a Horcrux then why Dumbledore worked so hard to find a way for destroying the ring? Don't tell me Dumbledore looked on the ethics while destroying Horcrux.

Horcrux is a living thing because it has a soul. An "avada kedavra" spell is supposed to destroy the living things. But there are exceptions like Phoenix birds. Horcrux have mystical power like Phoenix to survive attacks.

I think it would be more easy for the creator to destroy the Horcrux than anyone else. If somebody other than Voldemort cast the "avada kedavra" on Harry and if it goes unaffected then Voldemort would certainly know something is not right. So Dumbledore needed Voldemort to try first and this explains the ‘essential.’

  • And what if there was a defensive spell on the Horcrux that would deflect the spell? Even if theoretically it could kill the Horcrux they have really strong defences in their protection site (except maybe the Gaunt shack?) but they also have protective mechanisms on themselves. Remember that Harry had to speak in Parseltongue to open the locket.
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:31

Before Voldemort took Harry's blood, he could not even touch him, and presumably, his 'avada' against Harry were ineffective. But after he took the blood, he had a hook into Harry's protection, so he could try to kill him (and send the part of himself stuck to Harry across the veil). The green jet could attempt the task, but Harry's blood protection was still operating in Voldemort himself, at that moment, due to Harry's/Lily's blood he had taken into himself, and that would prevent Harry's death at Voldemort's hands. So, while the blood inside Harry is getting destroyed by the green jet, the blood inside of Voldemort was making sure Harry lived. In taking Harry's/Lily's blood, Voldemort simultaneously obtained the ability to (attempt to) harm Harry while at the same ensuring that Harry could not die at Voldemort's hands. I wonder, if Harry had a sibling holding Lily's blood, standing around in the forest scene, would Harry have still survived the attack? He may have. But then a sibling was vulnerable to being killed off, before Harry even reached that scene. But the blood being inside Voldemort himself was the best way of ensuring that Harry had the protection when he needed the most. The would be killer and the protection would approach harry simultaneously.

So, basically, in the beginning, Voldemort had no weapons in his arsenal that could even be used against Harry. But Voldemort being Voldemort had to try to change the situation, found out the trick to be able to even lay a finger on Harry, but in the process, made sure his attack could not actually kill Harry. Essentially, Harry was never in real danger from Voldemort himself. His fight was to save the rest of his community from Voldemort , and himself from Voldemort 's goons.

And, there is no mention of Lily's sacrifice derived protection expiring when Harry reached any age. That applied only to the protection Dumbledore set up for Harry at his aunt's house.

  • 3
    But why was it essential that Voldemort kills Harry. Dumbledore clearly says Voldemort must kill harry, yet you're saying that isn't possible.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 14:36
  • And, there is no mention of Lily's sacrifice derived protection expiring when Harry reached any age. Yes there most certainly is: When he turned 17 or when he could no longer call his childhood home 'home'.
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:27

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