I know that this question may sound like it has a very obvious answer, and many of you may just say that Harry didn't die because he was the Master of Death, as he had the possession of the three Deathly Hallows.

Couldn't, though, the "Master of Death" be purely a figure of speech, since the owner of the Hallows would be able to kill, resurrect and dodge death?

I know this is a question that is left open in the book, but couldn't Harry have lived because he carried a piece of Voldemort's soul, and Dumbledore gave Harry the choice to really die or just kill the piece of Voldemort's soul, and then Harry could live?

Is there anything in any of the books to support either theory?


5 Answers 5


The true Master of Death is that individual who fully accepts mortality and is not afraid to die himself. It's not about possessing or using the Hallows; it's about accepting the inevitability of death, which is something Voldemort was completely unable to do, but Harry was able to accept the concept of the inevitability of death.

I think this is really important: It is not Dumbledore who gives Harry the opportunity to choose life or death while they're in King's Cross in Deathly Hallows -- Harry possesses the discretion to chose his next step all on his own -- in the end, Harry chooses life. Dumbledore doesn't choose it for him.

The realisation of what would happen next settled gradually over Harry in the long minutes, like softly falling snow.

‘I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?’

‘That is up to you.’

‘I’ve got a choice?’

‘Oh yes.’ Dumbledore smiled at him. ‘We are in King’s Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to ... let’s say ... board a train.’

‘And where would it take me?’

‘On,’ said Dumbledore simply.

Deathly Hallows - page 578 - Bloomsbury - chapter 35, King's Cross

Harry could have chosen to go on, but he didn't. He chose to go back, chose to take on Voldemort to try and destroy him, so the people and community he loved so fiercely could live better, safer, and more peaceful lives free from fear.

Because Voldemort took Harry's blood for the resurrection potion in Goblet of Fire, and took in Lily's enchantments, Lily's enchantments in Voldemort's blood kept Harry tethered to life as long as Voldemort was himself alive. Voldemort destroyed the piece of his soul when he cast Avada Kedavra on Harry in the forest (with Lily's protections keeping Harry from being killed); Harry did not kill that piece of Voldemort's soul. The piece of soul didn't protect Harry from death; the fact that both he and Voldemort shared Lily's protective enchantments kept Harry alive.

So, no, the fact that Harry survived Avada Kedavra in the forest does not have to do with possessing a portion of Voldemort's soul. It has to do with Harry being tethered to life through Voldemort and Lily's enchantments, and Harry's choice to no continue down the path of death at King's Cross.

Harry chose life after the piece of Voldemort's soul inside him was destroyed.

  • 1
    I never realised Harry was in Trainspotting
    – user46509
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 17:43
  • 2
    Lily's enchantments in Voldemort's blood kept Harry tethered to life as long as Voldemort was himself alive - does that mean that regardless all the events in the books Voldemort would not be able to kill Harry anyway? Like, never ever? While any other Death Eater (or anyone really) could do it?
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 12:26

It was the Elder Wand, Harry’s blood, and Harry’s choice.

J.K. Rowling gives a detailed answer to this on the FAQ section of her old website, and attributed Harry’s survival to three different factors - Lily’s blood in the Dark Lord, Harry being the true master of the Elder Wand, and the choices both Harry and the Dark Lord made.

Lily’s sacrifice protection

The first part was that the Dark Lord had Harry’s blood in him and tethered him to life by keeping the enchantment alive.

Again, Voldemort violated deep laws of magic he did not understand, but there is more to it than that.

Having taken Harry’s blood into himself, Voldemort is keeping alive Lily’s protective power over Harry. So Voldemort himself acts almost like a Horcrux for Harry – except that the power of Lily’s sacrifice is a positive force that not only continues to tether Harry to life, but gives Voldemort himself one last chance (Dumbledore refers to this last hope in chapter 35). Voldemort has unwittingly put a few drops of goodness back inside himself; if he had repented, he could have been healed more deeply than anyone would have supposed. But, of course, he refused to feel remorse.
- FAQ on J.K. Rowling’s website

Dumbledore expected this to happen, and explained it to Harry.

“He took your blood believing it would strengthen him. He took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon you when she died for you. His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you and so does Voldemort’s one last hope for himself.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (Kings Cross)

Harry being the true master of the Elder Wand

The second part is that the Dark Lord used the Elder Wand, a wand that saw Harry as its master, againt Harry, so none of the spells he tried to cast on Harry worked.

Voldemort is also using the Elder Wand - the wand that is really Harry’s. It does not work properly against its true owner; no curse Voldemort casts on Harry functions properly; neither the Cruciatus curse nor the Killing Curse.

The Avada Kedavra curse, however, is so powerful that it does hurt Harry, and also succeeds in killing the part of him that is not truly him, in other words, the fragment of Voldemort’s own soul still clinging to his. The curse also disables Harry severely enough that he could have succumbed to death if he had chosen that path (again, Dumbledore says he has a choice whether or not to wake up). But Harry does decide to struggle back to consciousness, capitalises on Lily’s ‘escape route’, and pulls himself back to the realm of the living.
- FAQ on J.K. Rowling’s website

The choices both Harry and the Dark Lord made

However, the choices that both Harry and the Dark Lord had made had a large part in the final outcome of events. If either of them had made even one different choice, the outcome may have been different.

It is important to state that I always saw these kinds of magic (the very deepest life and death issues) as essentially un-scientific; in other words, there is no “Elder Wand + Lily’s Blood = Assured Survival” formula. What count, ultimately, are Harry and Voldemort’s own choices. They have each been given certain weapons and safeguards, but the power of these objects and past happenings lie in how they are understood, and how they are used or enacted upon. Harry has a deeper and truer understanding of the meaning of the objects and past events, but his greatest powers, those that save him, are free will, courage and moral certainty.
- FAQ on J.K. Rowling’s website

One of the simplest, though certainly not the only, example of this was that Harry could have chosen to die when the Killing Curse hit him.

Harry being “master of death”, in context, didn’t seem literally meant.

Harry being a “master of death” is never mentioned as a reason for his survival, either in the books, or in interviews with J.K. Rowling. It was only ever mentioned once, by Dumbledore when he’s telling Harry he was wise to not fear death.

“You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (Kings Cross)

Used in this way, it seems to be more of a statement that it’s best to accept that death happens and Harry was honorable to actively choose to die for a noble cause, rather than a literal statement about him possessing all the Hallows. In fact, his possession of all three Hallows shortly before the confrontation is never mentioned as a factor in his survival.

  • 7
    Wasn’t it the best answer for the question ?!
    – F P
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 23:39
  • @FP Thanks a lot, I worked really hard on the research for it! :)
    – Obsidia
    Commented Oct 19, 2018 at 23:40

Using the quote from this answer:

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 toward the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last.

Deathly Hallows, chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)

This implies that since Harry is the true owner of the Elder Wand, killing curses directed at him from the Elder Wand simply won't work. Voldemort's soul-piece died for the same reason Voldemort died the next time he tried to kill Harry: the curse still kills, just not Harry.

As for the King's Cross scene mentioned in the other answer, at this point Harry can be considered to be unconscious. I don't think we can take anything that happens when he's in this state to be factual, and we certainly shouldn't take it to be literal. At best, it's a cryptic spiritual experience; at worst, it's just a dream.

As for the 'Master of Death' theory, in-universe it's part of a fairy tale, one that many characters don't think was 100% true. Plus, there's too many questions about whether or not Harry is actually the master of Death; he dropped the stone, wasn't carrying the wand, and wasn't wearing the cloak.

This answer, on the other hand, is based on a direct quotation from the narrator, who is onmiscient and, to my memory, has never lied.

Also, coming from this answer is a supporting quote from the author herself:

Also, since Voldemort is using the Elder wand, which actually belongs to Harry, neither the Cruciatus or the killing curse work properly. "The Avada Kedavra curse, however, is so powerful that it does hurt Harry, and also succeeds in killing the part of him that is not truly him, in other words, the fragment of Voldemort's own soul that is still clinging to his. The curse also disables Harry severely enough that he could have succumbed to death if he had chosen that path.

Bold emphasis mine. As she says, Harry survived because the killing curse doesn't work 100%, and after that because Harry decided not to give up. So you could say it was partly Harry's decision that saved him, but it was the Elder Wand that gave him the choice in the first place.

Bottom line: Harry was the master of the Elder Wand, which refused to kill him.

  • 1
    Now I'm wondering, if Harry had chosen to die, would that mean the Elder Wand's allegiance would have shifted? Or would he have become its final owner, as Dumbledore intended to do? Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 19:27
  • Your emphasis raises some interesting points... If it would not kill its master, it seems unlikely that Harry was actually in danger of dying in his King's Cross dream thing.
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 19:28
  • @TBear edited with a quote in an answer to your question. The way I see it, the wand is testing Harry. It doesn't kill him, but puts him so near death that Harry can choose to give in, or power through and prove himself worthy. Seems like something the Elder Wand would do. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 19:39
  • Spelling: onmiscient → omniscient
    – PJTraill
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 20:14

Harry's blood had enchantments of protection provided by Lily's sacrifice. In Goblet of Fire, when Voldemort uses harry's blood for his resurrection, the protection provided by enchantment doubled. So Harry can't die without Voldemort dying.


He didn't die in the forest because the elder wand belonged to Harry and you can sort of conclude that wands don't kill their masters. So when Voldemort tried to kill Harry in the forest, all the wand could do was kill the piece of Voldemort in Harry (the horcrux) not Harry himself. When Voldemort in the end tried to kill Harry during the battle, there was nothing there to kill except Harry himself but the wand couldn't kill it's owner so then it backfired and killed Voldemort instead. Had Harry not been a horcrux, Harry wouldn't have died in the forest and Voldemort would have become that tiny baby thing he did when he first tried to kill Harry when he was a baby.

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