Why does Harry have a scar when Avada Kedavra leaves no trace?

‘The Muggle authorities were perplexed. As far as I am aware, they do not know to this day how the Riddles died, for the Avada Kedavra Curse does not usually leave any sign of damage ... the exception sits before me,’ Dumbledore added, with a nod to Harry’s scar.

Half-Blood Prince - page 343 - Bloomsbury - chapter 17, A Sluggish Memory

What caused Harry to retain a scar from Avada Kedavra, when no one else in know history showed any signs of cause of death when Avada Kedavra was used?

What caused Harry's scar?

I'd love an answer based in canon, such as the books, interviews with J.K. Rowling, or Pottermore.

  • 4
    There is some confounding going on since nobody else is known to have survived the avada kedavra. So it may well be that all survivors of the curse end up with a scar - but we don't really have much to decide one way or another.
    – Dason
    Nov 20, 2012 at 5:31
  • 3
    I seem to remember the scar is left by the piece of the Dark Lord's soul entering Harry's head. I don't dare to leave this as an answer as I'll have to look up the books for confirmation.
    – b_jonas
    Nov 20, 2012 at 13:49
  • 1
    Ok, now how about Dubledore's London-shaped scar (mentioned in Stone chapter 1)? Did JKR ever say anything about its origins? Or was that a throwaway joke by Dumbledore similar to the one about the tattoo on Harry's chest (in Hallows chapter 4).
    – b_jonas
    Nov 20, 2012 at 19:50
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    @b_jonas - I think the "Map of the London Underground" scar was a throwaway joke myself. Dumbledore would've had to have fallen on a waffle iron or something to get a scar like that! Nov 22, 2012 at 4:23
  • @Slytherincess I dimly recall that Rowling actually said that it's a secret but she actually quite loves that scar Dumbledore refers to. So I'd think it's a bit more serious. I do want to know what it's all about though; I suppose we all do even.
    – Pryftan
    Oct 18, 2017 at 17:10

4 Answers 4


Harry's scar was not just a remnant of the curse that failed to kill him. Remember when Voldemort casted Avada Kedavra on baby Harry, it never worked. Harry wasn't affected by it in any way. It rebounded because of Lily's protection, killing Voldemort. A piece of Voldemort's soul, unwilling to die, bonded itself to the infant Harry. That's what left the scar.

From Chamber of Secrets, "Dobby's Reward"

‘You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,’ said Dumbledore calmly, ‘because Lord Voldemort – who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytherin – can speak Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar.

In Order of the Phoenix, "The Lost Prophecy"

‘I guessed, fifteen years ago,’ said Dumbledore, ‘when I saw the scar on your forehead, what it might mean. I guessed that it might be the sign of a connection forged between you and Voldemort.’

In Deathly Hallows, "King's Cross Station"

‘But ...’ Harry raised his hand instinctively towards the lightning scar. It did not seem to be there. ‘But I should have died – I didn’t defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!’

I believe his scar was absent in King's Cross Station because the Harry in King's Cross Station represented Harry's soul. Voldemort was finally separated from Harry's soul at that point. As Xantec pointed out however, his bodily scar remained. However, as we are told in the Epilogue:

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

When viewing the full history of his scar, it becomes obvious that it was more than just the result of a curse. Avada Kedavra never scarred Harry. To the casual observer, it would appear to be the cause. Dumbledore knew better. He knew that that scar was caused by the "unintentional Horcrux" Voldemort left behind. Dumbledore also would have known that making this common knowledge would be very dangerous to the effort to undo Voldemort's remaining soul, so he covered it up deliberately, saying the scar was an exception to Avada Kedavra's undetectable powers.

ETA by Slytherincess: A little blurb regarding Harry's scar being the point of entry of Voldemort's soul, and the fact that when Harry's scar hurts it's because that remnant of Voldemort's soul is trying to rejoin its master by leaving Harry by the means of original entry.

Q: Why does Harry feel pain in his scar?

J.K. Rowling: Well, of course the pain he feels [in his scar] whenever Voldemort's particularly active is this piece of soul seeking to rejoin the master soul. When his scar is hurting him so much, that's not scar tissue hurting him. That's this piece of soul really wanting to get back out the way it entered. It really wants to- it entered this boy's body through a wound, and it wants to rejoin the master. So when Voldemort's near him, when he's particularly active, this connection, (JN: Oh, my gosh!) it was always there. That's what I always imagined this pain was. Yes, so there you go.


  • 2
    When Harry left Kings Cross and returned to the real world is it mentioned at all whether the scar was there or not?
    – Xantec
    Nov 20, 2012 at 17:01
  • @Xantec On double checking, apparently it did stay. I must have missed that. It's mentioned in the epilogue. I don't think it changes what caused it, though. Nov 20, 2012 at 17:57
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    I have added other evidence supporting my claim, and fixed my oversight. :) Nov 20, 2012 at 18:15
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    I'm inclined towards this answer because I know the reason Harry's scar hurts him is that the piece of soul from Voldemort is trying to get back to its master through Harry's scar. It makes sense that the scar would also be the point of entry of Voldemort's piece of soul. This is a really well-thought-out theory, Gabe. As for Dumbledore, I more see him just keeping information to himself by omission (I won't go so far as to say he lied to Harry about Harry's scar), but otherwise I feel your theory is quite interesting and sound enough. +1 and accept. :) Nov 22, 2012 at 3:57
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    @GabeWillard after reading the quote from rowling at the bottom of your answer, the line "it entered the boys body through a wound" (it being the piece of voldemorts soul) implies that the wound was their First, not created by the soul entering him. (and i know this post is a little dated but it caught my eye.)
    – Himarm
    Nov 7, 2014 at 15:59

Harry is the exception (2.something excepted; an instance or case not conforming to the general rule.)

"...does not usually leave any sign of damage ... the exception [is Harry]."

Avada Kedavra usually leaves no trace. In Harry's case it backfired and did not work as it usually does. He is the exception to the rule, the only exception. Until someone else survives there really isn't enough evidence to say whether the scar was also an exceptional occurrence or just something that happens when someone survives the killing curse.

The short answer however, is that Avada Kedavra leaves no trace when the person is killed, it is not so when they are not killed.

  • 3
    I know what "exception" means. Thank you for the answer, though. Nov 22, 2012 at 3:51

The scar is there because Avada Kedavra rebounded off Harry, the result of his mother's protection. In Sorcerer's Stone, Hagrid says, "That was no ordinary cut. That's what yeh get when a powerful, evil curse touches yeh." Essentially, when the curse bounced off Harry, it gave him his scar, as no curse that powerful could bounce off without a trace.


I think the scar was a part of you-know-who given to Harry not on purpose.Remember even Dumbledore says"I think he transformed some powers into you the night he gave you that scar" in Chamber Of Secrets when Harry started speaking parceltoungue

  • You haven't answered the question asked. If it wasn't on purpose, and Avada Kedavra leaves no trace - then how did it scar him?
    – phantom42
    Jan 16, 2015 at 14:20
  • Hi and welcome to stack exchange :) I agree with Phantom on this one
    – Rocket
    Jan 16, 2015 at 14:42

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