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After the Avada Kedavra curse rebounded from Harry onto Voldemort, Voldemort disappeared. I'm curious as to why so many key players believed Voldemort was still "alive" somewhere, his powers decimated, but, under the right circumstances, able to return to full power. It seems the witches and wizards in chapter one of Philosopher's Stone, The Boy Who Lived, were happy to believe that Voldemort was gone forever. Why didn't everyone believe Voldemort had died, rather than just disappeared? Was it the lack of a body? Or were there other reasons?

Here's a couple of quotes from Philosopher's Stone if anyone wants to review them. Otherwise, just disregard.

‘A fine thing it would be if, on the very day You- Know-Who seems to have disappeared at last, the Muggles found out about us all. I suppose he really has gone, Dumbledore?’

‘It certainly seems so,’ said Dumbledore. ‘We have much to be thankful for.’

Philosopher's Stone - page 13 - Bloomsbury - chapter 1, The Boy Who Lived

‘But what happened to Vol– sorry – I mean, You-Know-Who?’

‘Good question, Harry. Disappeared. Vanished. Same night he tried ter kill you. Makes yeh even more famous. That’s the biggest myst’ry, see ... he was gettin’ more an’ more powerful – why’d he go?

‘Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he’s still out there, bidin’ his time, like, but I don’ believe it. People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of ’em came outta kinda trances. Don’ reckon they could’ve done if he was comin’ back.

‘Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on. ’Cause somethin’ about you finished him, Harry. There was somethin’ goin’ on that night he hadn’t counted on – I dunno what it was, no one does – but somethin’ about you stumped him, all right.’

Philosopher's Stone - pages 46-47 - Bloomsbury - chapter 4, The Keeper of the Keys

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    Nothing canon to back it up, but it occurs to me that the same thing happens in real life fairly often. Unless people see the body, and sometimes even then, they will tend to wonder / suspect a villain to still be around. I still hear stories about Hitler possibly not having been in the bunker. Much like Voldy, the missing body makes such belief harder to directly dispute. – K-H-W Sep 20 '12 at 0:50
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    Oh, god.. Did I just Godwin Harry Potter? – K-H-W Sep 20 '12 at 0:50
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    @KeithHWeston Lets just go with all the "Elvis Lives!" theories, then – Izkata Sep 20 '12 at 1:12
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    @KeithHWeston -- FTW, my friend. Godwin FTW. :) – Slytherincess Sep 20 '12 at 15:12
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    Probably for a classical reason: people tend to think what they like to hear... – Willem Van Onsem Mar 16 '15 at 14:18
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I think the quote from Hagrid that you used most eloquently shows that people had many differing opinions on the subject, that most thought that he had just disappeared, but some thought that he had died.

Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he’s still out there, bidin’ his time, like, but I don’ believe it. ... ‘Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers.

As Keith pointed out in his comment, the lack of a body is going to give people food for thought. Additionally this is a world filled with magic, so even if there were a body there would likely be some skepticism as to his death.

It reminds me of the telephone game, where you tell a story (speak a phrase) to one person and they repeat it to the next and so on. By the time the story (phrase) gets around to everyone, it has fundamentally changed. No one knew what happened to Voldemort, not even Dumbledore (at this point), so of course there was speculation and many differing opinions on the matter.

  • Yes, this makes sense and your example of the telephone game is clever. It really is true -- when a piece of particularly exciting information makes the rounds, it's often embellished. I can see the Wizarding world believing hundreds of different versions and stories. It is interesting, though, that people didn't look to Dumbledore for leadership. That said, maybe they did and it's just not shown in the book. Apropos to nothing, I have always thought that "Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die" was JKR's first hint to us of the Horcruxes. :) – Slytherincess Sep 21 '12 at 0:35
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  1. He gave enough hints to his DEs that he would return (no quotes ATM but he says as much in his little rant at the end of GoF when DEs re-assemble)

  2. People who have hard-headed practicality - like life-bitten Hagrid or magical law enforcement - think the same way the police think in muggle world. No body, no evidence, no death. It's what makes the most sense, canon or not.

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    I don't think Voldemort ever foresaw the situation that happened -- that the killing curse would rebound and nearly kill Voldemort himself. He says as much in GoF. So not ever imagining he would disappear in the first place, how would he know to give hints to his DEs about his return? I basically agree with your second point. There are instances of death investigations without a body, but compared to the number of people who go missing, it's a minute, almost negligible percentage. I can see the MoM being all "Good riddance!" and washing their hands of it after a perfunctory investigation. – Slytherincess Sep 21 '12 at 0:26
  • Voldemort may not have foreseen that exact situation, but he took a lot of precautions against his premature demise in any form. It seems like he was pretty secretive, even with his DEs, about exactly what those precautions were, but it's not much of a stretch to think he may have mentioned to some of them that any reports of his death or disappearance may be premature or greatly exaggerated. – InternetHobo Mar 31 '17 at 2:40
  • @InternetHobo Yes. And consider Regulus's note: he specifically says he discovered his (Voldemort's) secret. But even so Voldemort did suggest that he left some hints but maybe not how? And Bella says directly that he'll return and when he does those who went to prison would be freed and honoured above the others. – Pryftan Jul 27 '18 at 1:44
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Some people did. But not those who knew Dumbledore.

As NominSim says, there are differing opinions about this in the wizarding community. Some believed he was dead, some believed he was planning his return to power and some believed he was gone forever (even if he wasn't dead in the technical sense of the term). One person who did know (or at least guessed with unerring precision) what happened to Voldemort was Dumbledore.

"Did I believe that Voldemort was gone forever? No. I knew not whether it would be ten, twenty or fifty years before he returned, but I was sure he would do so..."
(Order of the Pheonix, Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy)

Dumbledore was convinced that Voldemort would come back at some stage. Here he's recounting to Harry his thought process when he decided to send Harry to the Dursleys. So, even at this very early stage, Dumbledore recognised the significance of Harry's scar and knew that Voldemort wasn't truly defeated. As b_jonas points out, Dumbledore may very well have made his suspicions public. Hagrid, as someone who looked up to Dumbledore, would most likely have taken his word as gospel.

There's also the mysterious events surrounding Voldemort's demise to consider. Many witches and wizards seemingly knew the rough outline of what happened, as is shown by McGonagall knowing the rumours even having spent the entire day perched on a wall, disguised as a cat. This answer also shows that people knew some basic facts about Harry. People knew that Lily and James were dead, that Voldemort was gone but that Harry survived. That's an enigmatic cocktail of strange circumstances. In the absence of firm evidence, even those who didn't know Dumbledore may have speculated that Voldemort was only temporarily thwarted - how could a baby have finished him off for good?

@AncientSwordRage makes a good point in this answer that the Ministry believed Voldemort to be alive.

"The four of you stand accused of capturing an Auror - Frank Longbottom - and subjecting him to the Cruciatus Curse, believing him to have knowledge of the present whereabouts of your exiled master, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named -"
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 30, The Pensieve)

Additionally, Voldemort reveals that the Ministry was actively looking for him.

"But I dared not go where other humans were plentiful, for I knew that the Aurors were still abroad and searching for me."
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33, The Death Eaters)

Finally, at least a few of Voldemort's followers believed whole-heartedly that he would return.

"The Dark Lord will rise again, Crouch! Throw us into Azkaban, we will wait! He will rise again and come for us, he will reward us beyond any of his other supporters! We alone were faithful! We alone tried to find him!"
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 30, The Pensieve)

However, you only have to look at the reaction of the public during Order of the Phoenix to see how many people believed that Voldemort was "gone for good".

"While the Ministry insists there is nothing to fear from Voldemort it's hard to convince people he's back, especially as they really don't want to believe it in the first place."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 5, The Order of the Phoenix)

People were basically in denial because the thought of Voldemort's return was so terrifying to them. And as long at the government and the media had the same story they were happy to believe he was still dead, despite evidence to the contrary.

So why were the witches and wizards so happy in Philosopher's Stone?

It may be splitting hairs but this is the difference between Voldemort being "gone" (as McGonagall puts it) and "gone forever" (as Dumbledore later puts it). For your average witch or wizard who's been cowering under the threat of death, torture and oppression, it didn't matter. The danger had passed, and that was all they cared about. Hence the owls, fireworks, street parties etc. And they were right to - for 13 years it didn't make any difference whether Voldemort was dead or not. He was gone and that was why they partied.

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    Of course I believed the Dark Lord would return! And I was right! – Bellatrix Jun 21 '17 at 18:51
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    @Bellatrix Yes. Well you're an excellent warrior - and you're named quite aptly too! And you were also taught by the Dark Lord himself so you possibly had even more reason to believe it. And one of the first things I thought of in the question is what this answer points out - people wouldn't want to believe such a person is back esp those who were alive or were affected in some way by his first time (like the Longbottom's son?). – Pryftan Jul 27 '18 at 1:47
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I would think Dumbledore claimed immediately that the Dark Lord is not dead. Many people would then believe Dumbledore. He was a highly reputed authority figure at that time.

When Hagrid says “Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers.”, maybe he's a bit biased though, because most of the people he meets frequently would believe Dumbledore.

  • Any evidence to your claim? – AncientSwordRage Sep 20 '12 at 22:48
  • I agree with you that Dumbledore has always been a highly respected man (OOTP excepted). I see the circumstances of Voldemort's disappearance as inexplicable enough that Dumbledore would proceed with the utmost caution in formulating a working theory on what happened. I'm a little unsure what you're saying about Hagrid; Hagrid and Dumbledore held each other in very high esteem. I'm not giving you a downvote on this answer, but it would be great if maybe you expounded a bit if you feel like it. :) – Slytherincess Sep 21 '12 at 0:18
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As far as key players, I think most of them can be traced to Dumbledore, who had a VERY conclusive proof that Voldemort was still alive: Harry. Harry was a Horcrux, and Dumbledore held him, which means that Dumbledore would have detected Voldemort's spell. Spells on humans disappear on the death of the owner (see Dumbledore's death,) so this would 100% prove that Voldemort was alive, somehow.

For the general population: Voldemort already had a reputation for being an amazingly stealthy and cunning wizard, so people could easily believe that he was 'still out there, bidin’ his time'. Maybe he's testing the loyalty of his followers. Maybe he's trying to lure us into a false sense of security. Maybe...

Voldemort had been fighting a war for years by the time he went to kill Harry. Not many details are given about the method of waging that war, but most evidence leans towards a shadow war. Imperius Curses, secret assassinations, and the covert build-up of forces seem to be his method. It's very easy to see people's suspicions about his 'death.'

If you're wondering why that puts the majority of people in camp that Hagrid told Harry was only 'some', not 'most', then think of the time difference. Over the next decade most people who believed that he was biding his time switched over to the camp that thought 'he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers.' A decade is too long for a plot.

Completely Unsupported Speculation:

  • Since he has Horcruxes, it's possible that he's already survived previous fatal attacks, but they weren't as powerful of attacks and thus caused less damage. Voldemort was killed by his own Killing Curse, which was VERY strong, hence the insane damage.
  • Voldemort wouldn't have been very happy with Horcruxes that only saved him from death by putting him in such a ridiculously weak state of being. He had to have expected a better result in most cases.
  • I'm almost certain though that Horcruxes only prevent death - nothing more. And whether or no Voldemort wanted Horcruxes to leave him better off doesn't mean he wouldn't have made them. Preferring a better option for something doesn't mean there is a better option. He knew very well that a Horcrux was to prevent DEATH - keyword. He already knew what a Horcrux was when he talked with Horace; it's an easy way to appear ignorant by asking what they were and by acting ignorant he could get more information out of him. This is an extremely basic and simple tactic of getting information. – Pryftan Jul 27 '18 at 1:52
  • The only time something happened prior to his final defeat was when he attacked Harry. It was Lily's sacrifice that caused the curse to rebound. The supposed strength of the curse is irrelevant. It kills and that's all there is to it. He hadn't survived fatal attacks already - there is absolutely no evidence nor is there any reason to believe that. Yes I realise you say it's unsupported speculation but it's certainly not true whatever the case. – Pryftan Jul 27 '18 at 1:55
  • @Pryftan On numerous occasions, it is shown that Unforgivable Curses can vary in power dramatically. Young Mr. Crouch said something to the effect when he pointed out that an entire classroom of wizards and witches would be lucky to give him a nosebleed with Avada Kedavra. – Jeutnarg Jul 29 '18 at 19:46
  • Whether or not that's the case my point is still valid and yours is not. What you claim is possible simply isn't. The only times he was 'killed' is to do with Harry. The suggestion that just because he has Horcruxes it's possible that he already survived fatal attacks. I don't think anyone but you buys that as plausible. And even if he had to wait he at least didn't die. That was his goal: to conquer mortality. He did that at the time. That's all there is to it. – Pryftan Jul 30 '18 at 1:05
  • 'I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman’s foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon myself. Aaah . . . pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost . . . but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know . . . I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal — to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked ..' Voldemort disagrees with you too! – Pryftan Jul 31 '18 at 1:22

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