I want to be very careful about how I ask this question – I am not asking How did Voldemort die? [CLOSED] Below the text is the relevant passages from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows if anyone wants to review them (I'm sorry for the amount of text).

How did Expelliarmus beat Avada Kedavra and kill Voldemort?

I feel the reason Harry's Expelliarmus overpowered Voldemort's Avada Kedavra curse has to do with who was master of the Elder Wand and how the Elder Wand works. I've always had trouble understanding fully how the Elder Wand works, though. How much did the fact that Voldemort never truly won or mastered the Elder Wand factor into how Expelliarmus reacted to Avada Kedavra and caused Avada Kedavra to rebound and kill Voldemort?

An answer based in book canon would be especially welcome, but any canon source really is fine.

Harry heard the high voice shriek as he, too, yelled his best hope to the heavens, pointing Draco’s wand:

Avada Kedavra!’

Expelliarmus!’

The bang was like a cannon-blast and the golden flames that erupted between them, at the dead centre of the circle they had been treading, marked the point where the spells collided Harry saw Voldemort’s green jet meet his own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling like the head of Nagini, spinning through the air towards the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last.

Deathly Hallows - pages 595 - 596 - Bloomsbury - chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan

and:

Harry, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in his free hand as Voldemort fell backwards, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upwards. Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snake-like face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy’s shell.

Deathly Hallows - page 596 - Bloomsbury - chapter 36, The Flaw in the Plan

And somehow I feel the following is important because Voldemort disdained the idea of learning from other people or things that he didn't see an immediate use for; for example, he dismissed the importance of House-elves because he found them beneath his notice and this came back to haunt him when Kreacher escaped the Horcrux cave alive and with the Slytherin locket Horcrux:

‘A person can still use a wand that hasn’t chosen them, though?’ asked Harry.

‘Oh yes, if you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where there is the strongest affinity between wizard and wand. These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.’

Deathly Hallows - page 399 - Bloomsbury - chapter 24, The Wandmaker

Can you help me put the pieces together?

14 Answers 14

up vote 30 down vote accepted

There are two factors that led to Voldemort's defeat. One is, as you've noted, his failure to master the Elder Wand. But the other is the failure of all of his spells after he cast Avada Kedavra on Harry.

Because Harry died to save his friends, he and they received the same kind of magical protection that Harry bore after his mother died to save him. The details, including citations from the book, can be found here.

That would be the primary and main factor, in my opinion.

The Elder Wand recognized Harry through Harry's Magic in Expelliarmus and chosen not to kill Its rightful master who was at last taking possession of It - Harry had previously decided not to do so for the time being and focus on the Horcrux Cup, leaving the deed for a later, more appropriate time. So, in essence, he was lending the Elder Wand to Voldemort, in order to take It back by force - the only thing It respects - later, thus a disarming charm was the perfect and appropriate magical tool for it. Had Harry rushed into Hogwarts to try to prevent Voldemort of taking the Elder Wand, and failed, Voldemort would have become Its rightful master - by theft, as did Grindelwald.

Instead, he did the opposite. Hence it's a wand prone to killing, It backfires the killing curse to Its master's foe.

Although I too find it difficult to understand, since the Elder Wand seems to respect only raw magical might.

Perhaps, then, a secondary factor was the fact that Voldemort chose Harry's blood to rebuild his body, believing it would, not only make way for he to touch Harry, but also to be shielded by Lilly's sacrificial protection. But by doing that he rendered Harry the only foe capable of killing him - at least magically. And he also acted as a Horcrux of sorts for Harry, for while he lived, Harry could not die, binding him to earth through his blood and Lilly's protection.

That's why, I believe, Harry survived a second time the Avada Kedavra curse, while the Horcrux that lived in Harry's scar died. So, essentially, that connection of blood was keeping Voldemort’s new body alive, with Lilly's protection also playing a role in empowering him; all in all, depending on an act of will on the part of Harry - who had previously accepted and even welcomed death, contrary to Voldemort - to decide whether or not and when to sever that connection. Voldemort’s rebuilt body was full of raw magic might but, unlike his previous original body, did not stand such might on his own.

Thus the Elder Wand recognized Harry as the source of Voldemort’s power, while Voldemort being nothing more than a protection for Harry, one that he could dispose of at the time of his choosing.

One might ask, as I did to myself, so how come Wormtail could have been killed by Voldemort indirectly through the cursed silver hand? Well, my thesis is that Harry's blood was taken by force, and by force Harry willfully severed that connection. For when he cast the Disarming Charm he seemed to be aware of what was going to happen, although he chose not to defeat his foe with a Killing Curse, even knowing that his foe would use one.

While Wormtail willfully sacrificed his flesh, and willfully accepted the silver hand as reward. Thus, Wormtail was, willfully blinded, trusting and agreeing his life and himself to whatever Voldemort’s will might have been.

Magic, deep Magic most importantly, seems to function as contracts and pacts. Voldemort seems either to be ignorant of it, or to ignore and despise that - believing, perhaps by his experiences in the Orphanage or his accomplishes as a Dark wizard (flying for instance), that he was so powerful, that he was too special and above the rules. Indeed, he seems to believe he was a demi-god.

How much did the fact that Voldemort never truly won or mastered the Elder Wand factor into how Expelliarmus reacted to Avada Kedavra and caused Avada Kedavra to rebound and kill Voldemort?

A 100%.

I say so based on the following statement: there were no other factors/reasons that would make Harry's spell victorious.

Now then, been a while I don't read a thing about Harry Potter, but I think there were indeed no other factors. Therefore, the Elder Wand's mastery was the only factor on play - thus, a 100%. This is the only reason Harry's spell won.

  • I appreciate your answering. Thing is, you're not telling me why the Elder Wand is the only factor that made Harry's spell victorious. I'm hesitant to accept this as a 100% certainty, for if I'm reading you correctly, you're telling me you haven't read a thing about Harry Potter in quite a long while. I'd like a really comprehensive answer explaining how the Elder Wand and the two spells meshed together to cause Voldemort's death. But, again, thank you for taking the time to answer :) – Slytherincess Dec 6 '12 at 6:28
  • @Slytherincess: Can you think of any other factor? I can't - I don't remember ever any mention of a possible factor during the series - thus, the point stands (so far) that the Elder Wand's mastery is the only factor. If I think of one, I'll make sure to add it to the answer :) – Voldemort Dec 6 '12 at 6:58
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    @Slytherincess re-read the description right when V dies. IIRC, it says something like "the wand would not kill its master," which I think indicates it is primarily, if not entirely, the wand's allegiance that caused it. – Kevin Dec 6 '12 at 14:21

It is likely to be the only factor.

Voldemort was a highly skilled duelist and an amazingly powerful wizard (remember several Death Eaters ambushed Kingsley and were unable to kill him whereas Voldemort fought him and several others at the same time).

Harry was not particularly good at magic (he was good a DADA for his age but he was not in Voldemort's league).

Therefore Harry v. Voldemort should have Voldemort winning in magical power and dueling skill

If that Expelliarmus could normally beat Avada Kedavra then people would be using it all of the time.

Therefore it is unlikely that Expelliarmus has anything special that beats Avada Kedavra.

Wands are basically sentient and are not just tools to be used (I would guess that Voldemort would not appreciate how deep this connection went, he is a bully who is used to getting his own way by dominance). This was a very powerful wand and would be able to resist more than others the force of will from a user that was not its master, especially when ordered to kill its master.

This was really the only wild card in the situation and logically the only thing that could tip the scales in Harry's favour

In hoping that you will not pull out some destructive cannon (again :-) ) I can think of the following:

Wands channel magic and wands give allegiance to wizards and thus prefer the magic they like to channel. If the Elder wand favors Harry over Voldemort it would also rather channel Harry's magic than Voldemorts.

There seems to be a continous connection between wand and spell. The first time Harry and Voldemort duel on the graveyard in HP4 their spells colliding in mid air causes this entire shining sphere and regurgitating spells thing to happen which is later explained by the two wands being twins by their cores. I think it's Dumbledore saying it in HP4 and under torture Olivander tells Voldemort in HP7 about the twin cores and that Olivander assumes this "problem" could be solved by using another's wand. (please don't make me find quotes) So colliding spells activate an effect of two wands sharing the same core -> connection between wand and spell even after the spell has been cast.

We know nothing can counter, undo or block Avada Kedavra (Moody,HP4). This leaves room for deflecting/redirecting.

Therefore I would guess that when Avada Kedavra and Expilliarmus meet in flight at the end of HP7 the Elder wand recognises Harry and Harry's magic, decides it would much rather be channeling Harry's magic and doesn't want to kill Harry anyways. So it stops pushing the AK curse towards Harry and actually want's to pull in some of Harry's magic. In effect I would guess AK hitches a ride with the Expelliarmus heading towards Voldemort.

That effect would be very similar to the graveyard event in HP4 where Harry wills magic back into Voldemort's wand (at least the movies show bright lights along the connetion between the wands and I think the book includes mentioning of those as well). This time, however, the magic does not just go back into Voldemorts wand (which apparently chose not to kill its master but rather take the hit itself), but is channeled back out the other way, since this time the Elder wand prefers that direction of channeling magic in accordance with the direction Harry and the wand he uses channel magic.

So I don't think the actual spells have that much to do with why Voldemorts curse rebounded. Had Voldemort used for example taranta legra he would have started dancing, but he ended up casting AK.

"The Disarming Charm lies at the heart of a good dueling technique. It allows the duelist to rebound an opponent's spell in the hope that the rebounded spell will strike the opponent and leave him or her vulnerable to further attack." —Miranda Goshawk

This was found on a wiki, and I believe it is quoting from Pottermore, which is run by J.K. Rowling.

Now I'm not saying that is is the only reason that Voldemort's own curse, Avada Kedavra, was rebounded rebounded by Harry. If it was the only reason I would be surprised because the books say that Avada Kedavra can't be blocked.

The fact that the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand, was in a duel against it's true owner had a lot to do with it. When Harry used Expelliarmus the wand was given a chance to return to it's true owner and the spell that Voldemort had already casted ended up hitting him instead of Harry.

The reason Harry's spell hit Voldemort so accurately when he is no where near as good a duelist as Voldemort, as most mentioned, is because they are connected and Harry's wand is attuned to Voldemort as noted when, at the beginning of book 7, Harry's wand manages to find and attack Voldemort without much interference on Harry's part.

Another reason that could account for the loss is that Voldemort doesn't try to understand the nature of wands and instead tries to force the wand to obey him when it is well known that the wand chooses the wizard and Ollivander explains that a wand that isn't loyal to its master can affect the spells being cast by said wand. This is demonstrated when Ron gives Harry the extra wand he had collected and Harry's spells get messed up because it doesn't belong to him.

At the end of the book Harry talks about how Voldemort's defeat was not because of one thing but because of multiple things that all began to pile up against him.

1.) the wand belongs to Harry not Voldemort and this wand is the elder wand

2.) the bit of Voldemort's soul inside Harry which has inadvertently protected Voldemort is gone (I am don't know if this contributed to Voldemort's death but does stop him from surviving a fatal curse)

3.) Harry was willing to give up his life to cast the same protection over everyone that his mom gave him (I am unsure if this protection extended to Harry as well seeing as it doesn't say, and if it did then if Harry's mom had survived she would have been protected as well and I couldn't understand that seeing as that protection needs sacrifice)

4.) the curses they chose to cast

Most of the other answers on here explain the Elder Wand and it's part it the duel but some overlook the nature of the spell that Harry cast. I think that the spell played its role as well. I also mentioned two and three in the list above because, while I don't think it changed anything others do.

Voldemort was casting Avada Kedavra from the Elder wand. The Elder wand flew into Harry's hand thus Harry was now casting avada kedavra at Voldemort. Voldemort died from that Avada Kedavra. Harry didn't kill Voldemort as much as he killed himself and Expelliarmus had little to do with it except by shielding Harry until the Elder wand flew to him. There was no backfiring. Just a spell casted by Voldemort but used by Harry. Hope that explains it :)

This is how I see it:

  1. If you defeat another wizard, their wand 'shifts' allegence to you.
  2. In the Half blood prince, Draco Malfoy 'defeats' Dumbledore by disarming him (Dumbledore let this happen).
  3. Snape then kills Dumbledore.

So, Voldemort thinks Snape is the master of the elder wand so killing him should (in his mind) win the allegence of the wand. However, Draco is actually master of the wand, even though he's never taken possession of it.

(Quick note, Voldemort didn't kill Snape Nagini did, therefore he wouldn't have gained the allegiance of the wand, anyway)

In the Deathly Hallows, Harry defeats/disarms Draco in Malfoy Manor. At that point the elder wand shifts its allegiance to Harry so any magic cast with it against Harry is not going to work very well and certainly may not kill him.

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    There's no evidence to back up your "Quick note" other than your own opinion, as far as I'm aware. This also just seems to be (pointlessly) echoing the existing answers without adding anything new. – Anthony Grist Dec 12 '13 at 13:05
  • Quick note - from the film, Voldemort says (Nagini, Kill) then we hear the unmistakable sound of an animal attack. – Pat Dobson Dec 12 '13 at 13:11
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    I'm not questioning the fact that Nagini killed Snape (that happens in the book too), I'm questioning your assertion that "he wouldn't have gained the allegiance of the wand" because of it. If you have any canon evidence, or even a well-reasoned argument, to support such a claim I'd be interested in it. – Anthony Grist Dec 12 '13 at 13:26
  • To gain the allegence of the wand, Voldermort would have had to kill/defeat snape himself. Instead, he delegated the task to the snake, so theoreticall, the snake would have gained the wand... But, having to arms/hands would have struggled to use it . . . – Pat Dobson Dec 12 '13 at 13:45
  • The Elder Wand knew that Harry had disarmed Draco Malfoy (in this case disarmed means physically taking wands out of his hand) despite not being anywhere remotely near to that (it was still in Dumbledore's tomb), so I don't accept that it wouldn't know Nagini was acting on Voldemort's orders, especially considering there was a fragment of Voldemort's soul in the snake. – Anthony Grist Dec 12 '13 at 15:10

Voldemort's wand cracked when he cast the "Avada Kevadra" spell, so this actually killed Voldemort. Harry's "Expelliarmus" spell only protected Harry and made such a powerful energy it cracked Voldemort's wand. Watch the movie when it closes in on Voldemort and look at the wand.

Harry didn't kill Voldemort. Voldemort died by his own spell as Voldemort was now weak, both Voldemort's and Harry's spell crashed and Voldemort died by his own spell.

Basically for me you're talking about the spells.

My opinion is:

  • Firstly: you have to take into account the ownership of the wand
  • Secondly: Expelliarmus is a defensive spell and Avada Kedavra is offensive
  • Thirdly: Voldemort is weakened by way of Nagini having been killed
    • The final Horcrux, Harry, at this point being disconnected from the Horcrux weakness
  • Finally: There is the subject of Voldemort having just performed a very powerful spell whilst being very tired; you don't go for a knock-out blow if you're against the ropes.

So, this brings me to my point: Harry uses a defensive spell and defends himself against a magically tiring spell, from his own wand - which, by the way, Grindelwald actually owned as he cast a stunning spell from it as he was leaving Gregorovitch's, since you merely have to disarm, disable or kill the owner to get ownership of the Elder Wand :). So harry casts Expelliarmus and defeats Voldemort, and the curse rebounds, off of a defensive spell, killing Voldemort and also disarming him at the same time.

It only works in Harry's case, because Harry and Voldemort share a connection between each other. When they use opposite spells on each other and when both the spells collide, priori incantetum gets casted, as in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

  • Given the length of and the depth of information in the question your answer seems short. You could be more specific about which bit of Goblet of Fire you are talking about. – Rob Jan 25 '14 at 10:42
  • Yes, a book reference or quote would be very useful here. – Valorum Jan 25 '14 at 10:55

I'm sorry I don't have a source in front of me to provide citations.

Expelliarmus beat Avada Kedavra in DH because it always beats Avada Kedavra. Remember the graveyard in GoF? Harry survived the killing curse then by using Expelliarmus.

Everyone assumes there is no defense against Avada Kedavra. But when Professor Moody/Barty Crouch Jr. tells the class about Avada Kedavra, he says there is no known defense against it. Just because no one knows how to defend against it, doesn't mean that a defense exists.

In both of the duels that close GoF and DH, there is a lot of wandlore: twin cores, a priori incantatem, the Elder Wand's master, etc. It's subtle, but to me it's clear: Expelliarmus will always beat Avada Kedavra. And that's the answer to your question. It had nothing to do with wands.

  • citation needed Sorry but there is a canon answer to this question that has already been accepted. This answer is a fan theory... which contradicts WOG. – kaine Nov 3 '17 at 18:01
  • @kaine Good point. But how do you explain that Harry survived the Killing Curse both times he countered it with Expelliarmus? Coincidence? – scott Nov 6 '17 at 17:02
  • Yes. He survived because that was best for the story. He used expelliamus because that is his signature spell (he uses it so much compared to others it is explicitly pointed out in the last book). When there is a WOG answer, nothing else really matters. – kaine Nov 6 '17 at 17:15

It is simple. Since the elder wand did not belong to Voldemort, and Draco's wand belonged to Harry, Harry's spell overpowered Voldemort's. Because a wand works better with the person who rightfully owns it.

  • 2
    Is this just your opinion? – Valorum May 3 '14 at 6:37

protected by Valorum Feb 27 '15 at 0:33

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