If Harry had witnessed his mother's death at age one, how come he couldn't see the thestrals on the carriage?

Many people may argue that he hadn't registered that she died at the time. And JK has stated the same. But in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry had witnessed it again when he went close to a dementor. How come he didn't see them in The Goblet of Fire?

Some people see a loophole in this though. In Sarah Buckley's theory which I will put HERE, It could have been Voldemort's soul in Harry that heard the voices.

In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin that dementors affect him so much because.

"It has nothing to do with weakness," said Professor Lupin sharply, as though he had read Harry's mind. "The dementors affect you worse than the others because there are horrors in your past that the others don't have."

But, as I have stated before, it is confirmed that Harry cannot fully remember his mother's death. Sarah Buckley theorizes that the horror was when Voldemort was defeated. Her theory was,

"It wasn't Harry’s soul who reacted so badly to the dementors, but the piece of Voldemort’s. The night Lily Potter died and Voldemort was defeated was the worst experience Voldemort had ever had. Consider also that the memory stops (and Harry faints) just a few seconds after Lily screamed and died, which would place the end of the memory right around the time Voldemort tried to Avada Kedavra Harry and was subsequently defeated - killed, or as close to as possible."

But I also disagree with this theory. Why? Well, in The Chamber of Secrets Dumbledore says

"You can speak Parseltongue, Harry," said Dumbledore calmly, "because Lord Voldemort--who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytherin--can speak Parsletongue."

And that is because there is a fragment of soul from Voldemort in Harry. This is my evidence that traits can be passed from Riddle to Harry.

This is also evidence for the dementor-Harry theory. But since harry can't see thesterals until Order of the Phoenix, not all traits can be passed down.

And in The first book he killed Quirrel! Shouldn't that count as witnessing someone die! I mean- There are so many plot holes with this subject I don't think I can solve the answer of this question. These are all the plot holes I can find, but I what to see an other opinion.

  • See also scifi.stackexchange.com/a/51743/4918 "Why couldn't Harry see Thestrals at the end of Goblet of Fire?", which also answers your question.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 23:30
  • I think it's very unreasonable to say that 'Harry killed Quirrell'. That has to do with the fact Voldemort couldn't touch Harry and Harry was protecting himself - and the stone. Then Voldemort in callousness left Quirrell to die. Part of his death is Harry's actions but it wasn't to actually kill. It's true that Harry later on did some pretty stupid things - like casting a spell marked 'for enemies' without knowing what it truly did and nearly did kill Draco with it - but he actually refused to kill deliberately.
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


When he saw his parents die, he was too young to understand death.

As a baby, Harry didn't understand his parents were killed. Even as he begins to remember it more as he gets older, he only remembers it as a flash of green light at first, and doesn't understand what happened. Later on he does see more clearly how the Dark Lord killed his parents, but understanding death retrospectively might not have been enough to see the Thestrals.

“He couldn’t remember being in the car when his parents had died. Sometimes, when he strained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came up with a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burning pain on his forehead. This, he supposed, was the crash, though he couldn’t imagine where all the green light came from. He couldn’t remember his parents at all.” - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 2 (The Vanishing Glass)

In addition, he didn't see Quirrell die.

Harry was still fighting Quirrell when he fainted because of the pain his scar was causing him.

“Quirrell screamed and tried to throw Harry off – the pain in Harry’s head was building – he couldn’t see – he could only hear Quirrell’s terrible shrieks and Voldemort’s yells of ‘KILL HIM! KILL HIM!’ and other voices, maybe in Harry’s own head, crying, ‘Harry! Harry!’ He felt Quirrell’s arm wrenched from his grasp, knew all was lost, and fell into blackness, down … down … down …” - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)

When Harry gets up, he still thinks Quirrell has the Philosopher's Stone.

“Harry stared at him. Then he remembered. ‘Sir! The Stone! It was Quirrell! He’s got the Stone! Sir, quick –’

‘Calm yourself, dear boy, you are a little behind the times,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Quirrell does not have the Stone.” - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)

  • I have to wonder if the fourth year the OP refers to is after he sees Cedric's death (though ignoring the third year of course for whatever reason). To that I remember Rowling saying that it took time for Harry to process the death; it took time for Harry to truly understand what he witnessed (more than logical, this) - and that's why he didn't see the Thestrals until year five. Good answer as always Miss Bella!
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 2:40
  • 1
    @Pryftan Yes, I’m fairly sure that’s what the OP is referring to. I’ve since found an interview (and writing on Pottermore) that addresses it, it’s exactly as you said - I have to add that in! :) That’s indeed why he doesn’t see Thestrals until his fifth year. Out of universe, she thought it an odd thing to end a book with. In his second and third years, he doesn’t experience any deaths, so if Quirrell doesn’t cause him to see Thestrals, the next time he sees death was when Cedric died. Thanks a lot! :)
    – Obsidia
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 2:50
  • 1
    Definitely! I'd add that not only would it be odd to add it but it wouldn't allow for the meaning to be fully discussed/elaborated upon/whatever - and it was rather significant, the death of Cedric. Of course so was your dear cousin Sirius but the point is the same - death can take a lot of time to understand for those who haven't experienced it; and even those who have experienced it sometimes have a hard time - depending on so many things including things that have happened in the interim (between the last death and present).
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 1:44
  • 1
    On the third year I was more thinking that the third year was omitted from the question, oddly. Not really that important though (I just hate being incomplete so felt the need to clarify it). And yes definitely add it to the answer! Not that it'll change my vote - it's a great quality answer as always Miss Bella; keep up the great work (and stay out of Azkaban :) )!
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 1:46

Harry couldn't have seen the thestrals in his second year because he arrived at Hogwarts with Ron in a flying car.

  • Whilst true he still wasn't able to see them until year five. It's a good observation however - unless of course you consider on the way home (if they use them - I don't recall if I ever even knew).
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 2:41

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