In Philosopher's Stone, chapter fifteen, The Forbidden Forest, while serving detention, Harry, Malfoy, and Fang encounter a robed figure, who ultimately turns out to be Quirrell, drinking unicorn's blood in the forest. Harry later learns Quirrell was drinking unicorn blood to sustain Voldemort's life while Quirrell was serving as a partial Horcrux for Voldemort. Canon states that anyone who drinks unicorn blood will be granted life:

‘That is because it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,’ said Firenze. ‘Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have but a half life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.’

Philosopher's Stone - page 188 - Bloomsbury - chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest

Why did Quirrell, who had infused himself with unicorn's blood regularly, die when Harry Potter touched him, while Voldemort's spirit surivived? I suspect the answer to the second part of the question is because Voldemort's Horcruxes protected him from death. But why wasn't Quirrell afforded the same benefit via the unicorn's blood? Despite consuming unicorn blood, Quirrell died and Voldemort didn't. Why?

Please no HP Wikia/Wikipedia answers. I'm looking for a canon-based answer or a J.K. Rowling quote.

  • 3
    I love the delicious taste of unicorn blood. Sep 29, 2012 at 21:39
  • @JackBNimble -- I know you do. Don't think I have forgotten the unicorn-on-the-grill comment. ;) Sep 30, 2012 at 18:38
  • Harry only killed Quirrell in the movie. In the book Harry falls unconscious just as Dumbledore arrives. Dec 21, 2015 at 1:35

2 Answers 2


The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.

Unicorn blood maintains one's health, it does not sustain it forever, which is why Quirrell had to continue to drink it throughout the book. It essentially heals you, but that doesn't mean that you can't be immediately killed again right away by other means. It doesn't make you an immortal who cannot be killed, just maintains your health.

As far as why Voldemort survived, I think you are correct in that as Quirrell was essentially a temporary Horcrux, Voldemort's destruction was prevented by Quirrells.

  • 2
    Amen. Unicorn blood is not a vaccine against death - it's a first aid (with limited active life in bloodstream). Sep 30, 2012 at 14:28
  • It says right there in canon that unicorn blood staves off death, that it keeps the drinker alive even if they are on death's door. I'm not sure drinking unicorn blood has healing properties; canon says it provides protection against death "at a terrible price" (which we don't know what that price is). Does it state in canon anywhere that unicorn blood heals? I've always thought of it as a substance that will temporarily keep one safe from death, and that it needs to be drunk regularly for ongoing protection. If there's no canon on healing, then we're left with "keeps you alive." :) Sep 30, 2012 at 18:51
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    @Slytherincess That is pretty much my point, whether you call it "healing" or "keeping you alive" you have to drink the blood to be "kept alive". The point is that it doesn't make you unable to be killed, it just keeps you alive. Two different things. A doctor can keep you alive, that doesn't mean you're immortal.
    – NominSim
    Sep 30, 2012 at 19:13
  • Hmm, well I found a line by Voldemort: "Unicorn blood has strengthened me, these past weeks ..." (PS - chapter 17 - The Man With Two Faces). Strengthen and heal don't seem to be interchangeable, though. At this point I'm feeling it's muddied -- it's not that I don't see your premise. :) Sep 30, 2012 at 19:15
  • @NominSim - Okay, but you're diverting the point of the question now. At no point did I say that either Quirrell or Voldemort are immortal, nor have I brought up immortality at all, so let's set that issue aside. I've asked if you have any canon references to back up your position. If you do, please include them. Otherwise, you've offered me a personal interpretation of canon. If you could offer canon references that shape your position, it would probably help me see your POV more readily. :) Sep 30, 2012 at 19:24

Quirrel was not a horcrux! Had he been a Horcrux, Quirrels death would have destroyed Voldemort's piece of soul, just like killing Nagini destroyed part of Voldemort's soul (see Deathly Hallows, when Neville beheads Nagini with Griffindor's sword).

Voldemort posessed Quirrel and when Voldemort posesses you it eventually kills you. Voldemort somewhere talks about posessing minor life forms like snakes and rats but they would die rather quickly which is why he couldn't use those to make his return. I think this is in Goblet of Fire.

Being posessed is why Quirrel had to keep drinking unicorn blood, because he was constantly beind destroyed by Voldemort posessing him. (Not sure on the "keep drinking" part)

Addressing comments:

There is no reason to believe Quirrel should have survived: unicorn blood will save you when close to death, but there's nothing that would indicate that it will also save you from further harm after drinking unicorn blood. The contrary seems the case:

  1. why would one go through the trouble of creating horcruxes if a sip of unicorn blood would keep you from ever dying? Ripping your sould is also not unproblematic. After all Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him just to make sure Draco doesn't have to thus saving Draco's soul. This is in "Deathly Hallows", one of Snape's left behind memories.

  2. if unicorn blood would save you from further harm it would counter Avada Kedavra, which nothing can.

As already stated in the OP, Voldemort didn't die when Quirrel did, b/c Voldemort had horcruxes.

  • This contains some great thoughts but does it really address why Quirrell didn't survive and Voldemort did?
    – NominSim
    Oct 1, 2012 at 3:13
  • I'm sorry, but JKR has stated Quirrell was indeed a "temporary Horcrux" on Pottermore. You can read what she says here: flickr.com/photos/slytherincess/7009633689 . :) Oct 1, 2012 at 19:43
  • Well, that's disappointing b/c it feels like a contradiction. First, you put a piece of you into a horcrux, not all of you, but Voldemort did that to Quirrel. Secondly, Chamber of Secrets shows horcruxes can become very active themselves. So why don't all fragments of soul leave their containers when destruction is imminent? Actually Book-Riddle seemed rather helpless and unable to defend. Thirdly, why didn't the unwanted 7th horcrux shred of Voldemorts soul just leave Harry? I could go on with some other stupidities this creates, but I guess there's no arguing cannon. Still, disappointing. Oct 1, 2012 at 21:50
  • @user1129682 -- Believe me, I feel your pain because it is somewhat inexplicable (in the same way I still think the Basilisk bite in CoS should have destroyed the piece of Voldemort's soul in Harry, regardless of Fawkes). It's pretty convoluted. I like your answer, though :) Oct 2, 2012 at 0:54
  • I do not think this answer is necessarily in contradiction with JKR's statement. She said he became "in effect" a "temporary Horcrux." That seems different from saying he actually was a Horcrux.
    – trlkly
    Jul 20, 2014 at 4:09

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