In Harry Potter, it is understood that the act of Self Sacrifice is a means of protecting one or more people from death from Avada Kedavra.

Sacrificial Protection happens at least twice in the Harry Potter series:

  1. Lily sacrificing herself to attempt to save Harry.
  2. Harry sacrificing himself to attempt to save the defenders of Hogwarts.

But then we have a scene that Harry sees by looking into Voldemort's mind. Voldemort is looking for Gregorovitch and murders a german-speaking family who lives in Gregorovitch's old home:

... He raised the wand. She screamed. Two young children came running into the hall. She tried to shield them with her arms. There was a flash of green light - (Deathly Hallows, Ch. 12 - Magic is Might)

This event is similar to the scene when Voldemort kills the Potter family in the sense that the mother attempts to protect the children by using her body as a shield.

Why does this act of sacrificial protection not have the same result as in the other instances?


1 Answer 1

  • She wasn't given a choice to stand aside. JKR specifically stated that the protection would only apply if the victim gave their life willingly.

  • It's not clear whether the German woman was a witch or just a random Muggle anyway.

JKR: James was immensely brave. But the caliber of Lily's bravery was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself. Now any mother, any normal mother would have done what Lily did. So in that sense her courage too was of an animal quality but she was given time to choose. James wasn't. It's like an intruder entering your house, isn't it? You would instinctively rush them. But if in cold blood you were told, "Get out of the way," you know, what would you do? I mean, I don't think any mother would stand aside from their child. But does that answer it? She did very consciously lay down her life. She had a clear choice -

ES: And James didn't.

JKR: Did he clearly die to try and protect Harry specifically given a clear choice? No. It's a subtle distinction and there's slightly more to it than that but that's most of the answer.

MA: Did she know anything about the possible effect of standing in front of Harry?

JKR: No - because as I've tried to make clear in the series, it never happened before. No one ever survived before. And no one, therefore, knew that could happen.

MA: So no one - Voldemort or anyone using Avada Kedavra - ever gave someone a choice and then they took that option [to die] -

JKR: They may have been given a choice, but not in that particular way.

  • 2
    Could you put some sources for the JKR statement and why the sacrificial protection is dependent on whether the sacrificer must be a witch or muggle for this to work (against the Killing Curse). I see no reason to believe for example that if Voldemort had gone after Hermione when she was a toddler and her mother did the same as Harry's and was given a choice, that she would not have been protected as well. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:29
  • @Anduril_1251: What makes you think it would be possible for a muggle, who is not capable of any magic whatsoever, bestow a magical protection on a person by willingly and clearly sacrificing his/herself in a desperate act?
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 17:46
  • @Ellesedil - In fairness the book doesn't make it clear that she's a muggle. She's certainly living in a wizard's house so there's a possibility that she's a witch.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 18:07
  • 5
    As a seasoned DM, her answers and hedging reek of desperate retconning and explanation of things she just never considered. Haha. I know because I've done it.
    – asteri
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 23:17
  • 1
    @trysis "at least one of Hermione's parents is a Squib" why do you say this? I've tried searching the site but not found anything on this topic.
    – TZHX
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 14:36

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