The matter of how Harry Potter survived Lord Voldemort's Killing Curse in the Forbidden Forest, at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, can be confusing for even hardcore fans of the books and films.
Harry had a long-standing connection to the Killing Curse. His first encounter with the Avada Kedavra incantation gave him a reputation that would carry on through his time at Hogwarts. However, it was Harry's later brush with death in the Forbidden Forest during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that confused readers and watchers of the series - unsurprisingly, since the explanation involves a complex exchange of spells and Voldemort ultimately being the architect of his own downfall.
Even though the Harry Potter series was full of magic, conflict, and mystery, there was a lot of heart at the center of the story, so it makes sense that something like family and everlasting love would be the driving force behind Harry's survival and Voldemort's subsequent defeat. Here's a breakdown of why Harry survived that night in the Forbidden Forest.
Harry Potter's History With The Killing Curse
Harry Potter became the target of the Killing Curse multiple times throughout the series. On Halloween night in 1981, Lord Voldemort ventured to Godric's Hollow with the intent of killing Harry. James Potter was killed trying to save his wife and child. Lily Potter then shielded her infant son when Voldemort unleashed the Killing Curse, causing it to bounce back and disintegrate his physical body. Harry survived but was left with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead and a nickname: "The Boy Who Lived."
Voldemort used the words Avada Kedavra at least three more times on his sworn enemy. The Dark Lord killed Cedric Diggory using the deadly spell during the final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry watched in horror as a bright green light flashed before his eyes as his friend's lifeless body hit the ground. After taking Harry's blood, Voldemort ordered him to a duel. Voldemort used the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse before turning to the Killing Curse. His opponent found a distracting during the duel and was able to use the Portkey to get back to Hogwarts with Cedric's body.
Voldemort used the curse again in the Forbidden Forest, and then again during the final duel that defeated Voldemort once and for all. Harry's encounter with the Killing Curse in the Forbidden Forest has resulted in a lot of confusion, but there are essentially two main reasons in Harry Potter canon that explain why he didn't die at Voldemort's hands as an adult.
Harry Potter Was The Master Of The Elder Wand
One reason that Harry lived after being hit by the Killing Curse in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is his mastery of the Elder Wand. There was a belief that obtaining the Deathly Hallows would grant the finder some sort of immortality. The Deathly Hallows were directly connected to the legend from The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In the tale, the Peverell brothers tricked Death, who in return offered them "gifts" intended to corrupt them and lead to their deaths. The rewards included the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak.
Harry notably possessed all three items that comprised the Deathly Hallows when Voldemort tried to kill him the night of the Battle of Hogwarts. He received the Cloak of Invisibility from his father, James, and obtained the Resurrection Stone from Dumbledore after it was hidden in a snitch. While it's unclear whether there's any truth to the "Master of Death" being immortal, the Elder Wand will resist causing harm to its master - who, via a roundabout series of events, was Harry. Draco was the previous owner of the Elder Wand, but Harry successfully disarmed him, making Harry the new master even while the Elder Wand was technically in Voldemort's possession. Harry's mastery of the Elder Wand explains why Voldemort failed to kill him in their final battle, but there's also another explanation for why Harry survived the Killing Curse in the Forbidden Forest.
Harry's Protection Against Lord Voldemort
When Lily sacrificed herself to save Harry in Godric's Hollow, he was protected by magic's strongest defense: love. Dumbledore explained to Harry at a young age how Lily's love lived on and served as a protection against evil. However, there's more to Lily's protection than that. Harry remained protected when he moved in with the Dursley family because, as sisters, Lily and Petunia shared the same blood. Dumbledore knew this, which was why he chose the family to take care of Harry after becoming an orphan, and insisted on Harry returning to the Dursleys every summer despite their ill treatment of him.
Lily's protection still encompassed Harry when he started at Hogwarts. Voldemort was unable to touch Harry, and if he tried, he would be a victim of serious pain - as proven in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The love protection spell lifted when Harry turned seventeen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is why he had to be hurried away from the Dursleys' house in the dead of night. However, Lily's protective charm was unwittingly extended by Voldemort himself, who ended up spelling his own doom.
Lily's Protection In Voldemort's Blood Saved Harry
When Lord Voldemort rebuilt his physical body in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he used Harry's blood. That ingredient would go on to aid in the Dark Lord's downfall. At first it seemed that the love protection was canceled out when Voldemort used Harry's blood, since Voldemort was able to touch Harry without experiencing pain - but that wasn't the case. The protection, first created by Lily, actually lived on through Voldemort when he received a new body. As Dumbledore explained, "His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you."
When Voldemort hit Harry with the Killing Curse in the forest, it destroyed the Horcrux that resided in Harry, but left Harry himself alive. Since Voldemort was still alive, Lily's love spell was still in effect. Harry was sent to limbo, where he encountered Dumbledore. He was given a choice to die and finally rest, or return home, and he chose the latter. Nagini remained as Voldemort's last Horcrux until Neville destroyed her with the Gryffindor's Sword. With no Horcruxes remaining as Voldemort's primary defenses, this left the Dark Lord vulnerable.
Harry returned from limbo and faced off against Voldemort one last time. Just as his mother did for him at Godric's Hollow, Harry sacrificed himself for his friends and loved ones by standing in front of his foe unarmed. This put a new protection spell around those at Hogwarts. Harry then revealed the truth about being the master of the Elder Wand. Since the Elder Wand wouldn't cast a Killing Curse on its owner, the spell rebounded, killing Voldemort in the process. The outcome of this climactic Harry Potter event wouldn't have been possible without Lily Potter and her love for her son.
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