Harry Potter Wiki
Harry Potter Wiki

Harry Potter mourns over the dead body of Cedric Diggory

Voldemort: "There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!"
Albus Dumbledore: "You are quite wrong. Indeed, your failure to understand there are much worse things than death has always been your weakness."
— Discussion of death[src]

Death is the end of a living organism's life, technically defined in humans as the permanent termination of brain activity.[1] Death has commonly been considered a sad or unpleasant occasion, due to the affection for the being that has died and the termination of social and familial bonds with the deceased. Fear of death is common and many cultures and religions have the idea of an afterlife.


"It's the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more."
— Albus Dumbledore[src]

Death, defined in magical terms, is the end of a body's life due to illness, or injury, and the departure of the soul that occupied it.

Death in the magical world has some substantial differences with death in the non-magical world. Some magical creatures have unusual relationships with death, namely the Phoenix and the Thestral. No spell has been found to render dead flesh impervious to burning, thus rendering the Inferi highly vulnerable to it.[2] The power of death and related concepts are deeply fundamental issues within Magic, and some of the most important unchanneled magic that witches and wizards can perform relies on death as an organising principle. It is obviously a major factor in Dark Magic, but, somewhat surprisingly, its importance is just as evident in the unwritten laws of Magic as a force for good.

Death is as permanent and irreversible in the magical world as outside of it, though the wall separating death and life is in general much more porous due to the effects of magic: ghosts can be left by living things as a permanent imprint of themselves after death; portraits of dead witches and wizards maintain their personalities and some of their memories; powerful magic like that of Priori Incantatem, Horcruxes,[3] and the Resurrection Stone can recall substantial memories of the dead temporarily into the midst of the living;[4] there is an archway on a dais in the Department of Mysteries that forms a physical portal between life and death;[5] and it is possible in the rarest of cases for wizards to visit the borderlands between death and life, in a state called Limbo, and return to the world of the living.[6]


It is also believed that death could manifest in physical forms. The Grim, which takes in the form of a large black dog, is believed to be an omen of death, and even a cause of death to others, as some people who spotted it died 24 hours later while others believed it would haunt them until they finally died. The Grim was the main omen and manifestation of death which had been prophecied for decades by Seers, and Seers who had the gift of sight but lacked the gift of interpretation, could misinterpret a wizard in an Animagus form similar to the Grim as the Grim itself, which was especially the case for Sybill Trelawney, who mistook Sirius Black's dog Animagus form as the Grim.[7]

Another manifestation of death is a mysterious hooded figure which the three Peverell brothers in The Tale of the Three Brothers allegedly encountered when crossing a road and then a river which was too treacherous to pass. While this mysterious manifestation of death was believed to have appeared in front of the three brothers and presented the three Deathly Hallows to them as gifts, others like Albus Dumbledore believed that the three brothers were powerful enough to create the Hallows themselves, which may imply that the three brothers encountered that manifestation of death through creating the Hallows.

While either encounter is debatable, this manifestation and embodiment of death appeared treacherous and tricked the brothers into using the Hallows for their own personal gains in revenge for cheating him with their magical powers, knowing that the brothers would eventually be reclaimed by death as his own. Antioch Peverell was murdered due to the lust created by the Elder Wand, and Cadmus Peverell committed suicide upon seeing the Resurrection Stone's limitations, but Ignotus Peverell, who distrusted that manifestation of death, alone eluded death while wearing the Cloak of Invisibility, and after living to a ripe old age, passed the Invisibility Cloak on to his son and departed the living world with death as an equal.[8][9]

However, death is not entirely malevolent, and it seems to possess a noble side as well. This can be seen with honourable individuals such as Albus Dumbledore and Lily J. Potter. Dumbledore willingly sacrificed himself and arranged his own death at the hands of his close friend Severus Snape,[10] in order to help Snape secretly fight against Tom Riddle in the Second Wizarding War.[11] On 31 October 1981, Lily J. Potter sacrificed herself to protect the life of her infant son Harry Potter, to protect him from Tom Riddle after she was subsequently murdered by him, which resulted in Harry Potter being protected with the power of his mother's love.[12]

This protection was later passed on to Harry's friends and all the Hogwart's defenders when Harry willingly sacrificed himself to Voldemort[13] despite not dying due to Voldemort's act in taking Harry's blood to restore his body binding Harry to life while Voldemort was still alive.[6] Another evidence of death's more noble side is that the physical appearances of honourable individuals who suffered in life, such as the spirits of Remus Lupin, Sirius Black and Albus Dumbledore, were all rectified after their deaths once they passed into the afterlife.[4][6] It was also death which ensured that Sirius and Remus were both reunited with their other two best friends James and Lily Potter in the afterlife, having both endured downward life spirals after they were murdered by Voldemort.[4]

Death in species


Muggles can and do die as a result of magic, usually used deliberately by witches and wizards. All things considered, in their world, there is a much more clearly demarcated and impenetrable line between living and death (or 'beyond'), than in the magical world.

The corpse of the deceased Lily Potter

Due to the cruciality of death in the forces of magic, it plays a very major role in the lives of witches and wizards, personally, socially, and morally. Due to the protection provided by their innate and deliberately used magic, it appears wizards are rarely or never killed by mundane or non-magical forces, whether non-magical diseases and disorders or accidental collisions, drownings, falls, etc. Indeed, many witches and wizards of extremely advanced age (at least by Muggle standards) are mentioned, like Armando Dippet and Nicolas Flamel. But the magical world is nevertheless very dangerous and deadly, and if the story of the Second Wizarding War is any indication, witches and wizards are more likely by far to suffer violent deaths than Muggles.

Non-human magical creatures

All living things with magical powers, as do those without them, die, and all except the Phoenix are, as individuals, permanently dead thereafter. The Phoenix dies in a burst of flame, due to old age or if subjected to lethal force, and is reborn in a pile of its own ashes moments later (and thus is a contiguous individual organism, and in a sense, immortal).[14] The Phoenix is a powerful symbol of the cycle of life and death and the sense in which an individual can live on, and as such is used as the namesake of the Order of the Phoenix, an organisation diametrically opposed to the Death Eaters' view of the matter. This profound power may also be the reason its tail feathers are used as wand cores.


The Thestral

Four other magical beings that have interesting relationships with death are the Thestral[15][16][17][18], Basilisk, Mandrake, and Dementor. Thestrals, scaly winged ungulates, are invisible to all witches and wizards (and perhaps other living creatures) unless they have witnessed death. The Basilisk, a giant serpent, kills any living thing with whom it makes direct eye contact.[19] Mandrakes are magical sentient plants whose cries will kill anyone who hears them.[20] Dementors are malevolent non-beings, and are amongst the foulest creatures which walk the earth. Dementors feed on human emotions and can remove the soul of a living being with the Dementor's Kiss.[21][22] Not being living beings, they cannot die or be killed, but can be fought off and repelled with the Patronus Charm, which is the only known defence against these creatures. They also cause an aberrancy of death: the removal of a soul from its body before bodily death.[23] The soulless body can remain, in no sense alive except for the continuance of its vital functions, until it dies some time later. The soul is said to be immortal, so it is unknown if the Dementor's act of 'sucking' the soul out of the body through the Dementor's Kiss damages it in any way, or simply pulls it through to 'beyond' earlier than expected.

Non-living sentient beings


"A ghost, as I trust that you are all aware by now, is the imprint of a departed soul left upon the earth... and of course, as Potter so wisely tells us, transparent."
Severus Snape explaining what a ghost is[src]

A ghost

Ghosts can be left behind, seemingly on purpose or accidentally, as imprints of the departed body of a dead witch or wizard, which seem to be occupied by the individual's soul, left behind in the living world. The ghost exhibits the personality, emotions, and purposeful action of a being with a soul, and can be seen, can speak, can be wafted on breezes of air, and can manipulate fluids.

They can participate in the events of the living by serving as messengers or creating distractions, but cannot affect the physical world in many other ways. It also seems they are confined by some power to a limited selection of places- the Hogwarts ghosts cannot leave the castle, and Myrtle Warren describes being forced to return to it when she attempted to follow Olive Hornby. The exact mechanism by which a witch or wizard becomes a ghost is unclear, but the two causes described are fearfulness or aversion to passing on, and determination to haunt someone left alive. Some ghosts profess to regret their status: They know nothing about the afterlife after they died. They think that 'beyond' seems like it would be a more natural and comfortable place for their soul to inhabit. Becoming a ghost is something of an aberration of the normal process of death, in which a body dies, a soul leaves it, and moves 'on'.


"The poltergeist is an invisible entity that moves objects, slams doors and creates other audible, kinetic disturbances."
— Description of a Poltergeist[src]

Peeves, the resident Poltergeist of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Poltergeists are mischievous spirits whose primary purpose of existence is to cause chaos and trouble for the living. Poltergeists are not alive and thus cannot be killed, are selectively permeable to matter and thus can choose to pass through solids or apply force to them at will, and can apparently think, feel, and plan. The one thing it appears they cannot do is leave their place of habitation, from which they were created magically out of the emotions felt within; Peeves uses these powers purely for indiscriminate mayhem.

Substantial Memories

Witches and wizards use the word 'memory' to refer to the same concept as Muggles: a picture or impression formed in the past and held at present in the mind. However, 'memory' also appears to describe beings that appear neither ghost nor alive. They are described as "less substantial than a living body but much more than any ghost..." In all cases they depict dead people, and have the power to impact the physical world: on 24 June 1995, whilst Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort were duelling in the Little Hangleton graveyard, the Reverse Spell effect resulted in the souls of James Potter I, Lily J. Potter, Cedric Diggory and Frank Bryce appear (who had all been murdered by Voldemort),[24] and in on 2 May 1998, the memories from the Resurrection Stone rustled the twigs and leaves around Harry's feet, whilst he was walking through the Forbidden Forest and accepting the death at the hands of Voldemort.[4] On the other hand, however, these shadows are tangible only to those who recall them.


"The Inferius is a corpse that has been reanimated by a Dark wizard's spells. It is not alive, it is merely used like a puppet to do the wizard's bidding."
— Severus Snape regarding Inferi[src]

The Inferi in the cave

The Inferi are corpses that have been reanimated by Dark Magic that do the bidding of the Dark wizard or witch who controls them using Necromancy. The magic required to bring about Inferi is complex and difficult. Inferi are not alive nor dead, they are puppets for Dark wizards and witches to use. They are said to prefer cool dark peaceful places and recoil from any source of light, and are extremely vulnerable to fire. Tom Riddle was notorious for using Inferi during both Wizarding Wars. He murdered so many people that he had an army of Inferi at his disposal, many of which occupied The Cave where he hid Slytherin's Locket, one of his Horcruxes.[25]

Wizarding portraits and photographs

"Hogwarts portraits are able to talk and move around from picture to picture. They behave like their subjects. However, the degree to which they can interact with the people looking at them depends not on the skill of the painter, but on the power of the witch or wizard painted."
— Description of a portrait[src]

A Hogwarts portrait

Though often not classified as beings due to their limited scope of motion, encompassing only their own, neighbouring, and alternative portraits (wherever they may be), people depicted in Wizarding photos and portraits very much toe the line between normal life and death. Though photos appear to be only very brief snapshots of a person's soul, portraying them thinking, feeling, and doing whatever they were at the time the photo was taken, portraits seem to capture quite a bit more of the soul of the person in question.[26]

Portrait people can do a variety of actions within their painted world, perhaps cycling between many aspects of their personality or habits, as is said to be an aspiration of Muggle fine portrait artists. They can also participate in the world of the living. They can serve as messengers or intermediaries. The Fat Lady sentiently guards the door of the Gryffindor common room, requiring a password to swing open and allow access, and though her (and her temporary substitute, Sir Cadogan's) ability to recognise and interact with individuals is dubious, the Fat Lady proves perfectly capable of explaining, in detail, an assault upon her by Sirius Black. The former Hogwarts headmaster and headmistress portraits in the Head's office usually slumber (though often this is a ruse as they pay careful attention to goings-on in the office), but describe themselves as 'duty bound to assist and counsel the current head whenever called upon'. The portrait of Dumbledore continues to interact with Headmaster Snape in the same way and for the same purposes as the living Dumbledore, and seems to be a vital organiser of their continued implementation. This is a remarkable degree of power to relegate to the realm of 'inanimate objects'.[26]

Causes of death

Harry Potter: "Does it hurt?"
Sirius Black: "Dying? Not at all, Quicker and easier than falling asleep."
— Discussion of what dying feels like[src]

Bellatrix Lestrange killing Sirius Black in the Death Chamber

There are no accounts of non-magical forces bringing about the deaths of witches and wizards. Heart attacks, strokes, and cancer are unheard of. Lethal run-ins with water, deoxygenated air, crushing forces and the like also seem not to happen without magical forces being involved. Most likely this has more to do with the innate rather than deliberately used powers of magical humans (for example, children without wands often do magic to protect themselves, like Lily Evans landing gently after launching off a swing, Harry Potter flying to the roof to avoid pursuers, and Neville Longbottom bouncing when thrown out of a window), as such protective magic probably prevents mundane accidents and self-repairs diseases and damage. Deliberately performed magic, like that of Healers and Aurors, also probably can stave off such deaths.

Natural causes

"To one as young as you, I'm sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day."
— Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter about the deaths of Nicolas Flamel and his wife.[src]

Nearly all humans are expected to die of old age. As far as natural deaths go, it seems that aged witches and wizards can die of old age, and they certainly become more vulnerable to common magical ailments like Dragon Pox. Muggles can reach ages of up to a hundred or more years, while wizards can reach exceptional ages. Nicolas Flamel and his wife Perenelle lived for over 600 years, thanks to the aid of the Philosopher's Stone that produced the Elixir of Life. After the Stone was destroyed both Nicolas and Perenelle died of old age.

Some wizards, like Albus Dumbledore were able to live for 115 years before his death at the hands of Severus Snape (who was acting under his orders) to end Dumbledore's suffering with the Killing Curse before he succumbed to the curse that were eventually killing him.[11]


Harry Potter: "Have you ... I mean, who ... has anyone you’ve known ever died?"
Luna Lovegood: "Yes, my mother. She was a quite extraordinary witch, you know, but she did like to experiment and one of her spells went rather badly wrong one day. I was nine."
— Luna Lovegood regarding her mother's accidental death[src]

Magical accidents are described as having killed two people, Kendra Dumbledore, killed by the uncontrolled magic of her disabled daughter, Ariana,[27] and Pandora Lovegood, killed by an accident with an experimental spell.[28] Other magical accidents, such as the explosion of an Erumpent horn, Quidditch accidents, and misused magic, are also clearly capable of causing death, and Quidditch accidents in particular, are described as having done so.

Combat and law enforcement deaths

Deaths caused by Aurors using lethal force against a suspect threatening to kill someone or fleeing after doing so, or battlefield deaths in situations like, for example, the Second Wizarding War, would be misclassified if called murders. Though deliberately using lethal force is banned in sporting-level duels, it is understood by all participants that death may result, and that it would be neither an accident nor murder.

There are fascinating moral dimensions to the use of lethal force in wizarding. During the Second War, the forces of the resistance to Voldemort, in particular the Order of the Phoenix, sustained very heavy casualties, while relatively few Death Eaters died. This is partly because they faced death so much more willingly and fearlessly than their adversaries, and partly because they refused to use some of the greatest powers available to them (Dark Magic, in short), not because of the penalty in effect, but simply because to do so would be evil. While their deaths were tragic, in a sense they were also acts of nobility and love.

In the Muggle world, certain countries also carry the death penalty, in which criminals of a certain severity is lawfully executed, which would not (in legal terms) be considered as murder or manslaughter. While no such system exists in the modern Britain magical community for wizard criminals, magical animals who are deemed a threat can face execution as well. The American magical community does carry the death penalty; violating the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy is a crime that may be punishable by death, as many demanded Dorcus Twelvetrees to be executed, and Newton Scamander and Porpentina Goldstein came very close to being killed had they not managed to escape.

Manslaughter and murder

"The supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart."
Horace Slughorn[src]

Voldemort murders Lily Potter on Hallowe'en 1981

Manslaughter is the use of what turns out to be lethal force against another individual, without a specific intent or plan to kill them, but in full awareness that it was a possible outcome. Witches and wizards can be killed by magic besides the Killing Curse, such as the spell used by Bellatrix Lestrange to force Sirius Black through the veil in the Death Chamber and to his death,[5] and the death of Bellatrix herself when Molly Weasley used the same spell against her.[13]

Murder is the act to intentionally induce death in another individual. The main magical instruments of murder are the Killing Curse, the placing of fatal curses upon objects, and poisons. The Killing Curse is designed for bringing about death (which in most cases would be classified as murder), and clearly has no other possible purpose. It is therefore illegal,[29] though the British Ministry of Magic legalised its use by its own Aurors during the First Wizarding War, in the hope that delimiting them would make them more effective against Death Eaters, and is an eminent example of a slippery slope.[30] Voldemort was a prolific mass murderer, and used the Killing Curse freely and committed so many murders that he used the victims as part of an Inferi army.[31]

In a similar sense to new-minted Muggle soldiers and criminal gang members finding it hard to kill on purpose, it is said to be very difficult for a relatively 'innocent' witch or wizard to use this curse. Bartemius Crouch Junior (disguised as Alastor Moody) confidently predicted that if every single student in his Defence Against the Dark Arts class pointed their wand at him and said the incantation, he wouldn't get 'so much as a nosebleed', as the curse need not only powerful magic and concentration but also an utter disregard for the sanctity of life to be used effectively.[29]

The other two known means of attempting murder, cursed objects and poisons, are both much less likely to succeed, more haphazard, and in that sense betray a greater hesitancy to kill. Draco Malfoy tries both when tasked by Voldemort to assassinate Dumbledore, but the Headmaster correctly read into them a moral aversion, a partially suppressed qualm obstructing the homicidal gesture. Indeed, when Draco was given the opportunity to kill Dumbledore directly to restore his family's honour and to appease Lord Voldemort, he ultimately could not do it. Harry also experienced this when he gave up his chance to kill Sirius Black, who at the time he thought to have brought about the death of his parents and assaulted his friend Ron. Of course, the success of using cursed objects and poison to kill can be as malicious as it is hesitant, as Voldemort used both to great effects, utilising a cursed ring and little known poison to defend and achieve his personal interests.

The act of ending a person's life is considered to be the most supreme act of evil, such a level that the murderer's soul would be torn apart; this is a consequence that violates the very law of nature, in addition to being against the law.[3] It seems that one's motives of ending another's life can influence whether the soul would be torn apart or not, as Severus Snape's soul remained intact when he gave Albus Dumbledore a mercy killing.

It is not coincidental, then, that murder is the act required of a wizard or witch to create Horcruxes. Callousness in taking the life of others in order to make one's own life harder to take is the very essence of a mutilated soul.[3]

Staking one's life

Harry Potter: "What happens if you break an Unbreakable Vow?"
Ronald Weasley: "You die."
— Harry and Ron discussing the Unbreakable Vow.[src]

Magic's power can be greatly increased when one stakes one's own life. The Unbreakable Vow is a Dark covenant that, if violated, results in the death of the violator.[32] While this is a sinister way of maintaining trust, it is certainly effective. In the opposite direction, the power of love can be amplified by the decision to deliberately sacrifice one's life in an attempt to save another.[12] Such a sacrifice, willingly made, can create a lasting protection powerful enough to deflect even the Unforgivable Killing Curse, and which lingers in the blood of those protected indefinitely, rendering them untouchable by and uninhabitable for powers maimed and disfigured by inhumanity.


"After all, to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure."
Albus Dumbledore comments on the afterlife[src]

While the purely physical aspect of death is fully understood, the nature of what lies beyond it is a mystery to wizards, witches, and Muggles alike beyond the fact that there is indeed some sort of afterlife. When a wizard or witch dies, unlike a Muggle, he or she can choose to leave behind an imprint of their soul in the mortal world in the form of a ghost.[28][33] Few opt to become ghosts, however, as it means they will never "go on" like most people do.[28]

Limbo is an afterlife-related plane that exists in-between the physical world and the true afterlife; its contents are apparently subjective. Living people and the dead rarely spend time there. When Harry visits limbo, he met Albus Dumbledore, who offered counsel and consoled him. But when Voldemort, his soul maimed and mutilated by "tampering so inadvisably" with such evil as Horcruxes and the Killing Curse, arrived in the afterlife, he was trapped in limbo, unable to go onward or go back.[6]

Immortality and Resurrection

"No spell can reawaken the dead."
— Albus Dumbledore[src]

There is no known way to magically reunite a person's soul with his/her body once they have died.[34] Many young witches and wizards discovered this through the story of Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump (in which the protagonist Babbitty is blackmailed by a charlatan to perform magic for a king, but does not bother raising her wand when the king tries to raise a dog from the dead.) During the six centuries that have elapsed since Beedle wrote the tale, innumerable ways have been devised to maintain the illusion of the continuing presence of one's loved ones. For example, wizarding photographs and portraits move and (in the case of the latter) talk just like their subjects.

The Resurrection Stone has the power to bring back "shades" of loved ones

Similarly, the Mirror of Erised may also reveal more than a static image of a lost loved one.[35] Ghosts are translucent, sentient images of wizards and witches who decided, for whatever reason, to remain on earth.[28] The closest to resurrecting the dead would be the Resurrection Stone, which can recall someone who has died from the beyond, but they will return only in a semi-corporeal form, "less substantial" than a living body but "much more" than a ghost.[4]

Necromancy is the Dark Arts of raising the dead. It has been noted as "a branch of magic that never worked", since reuniting the departed soul to the deceased body is by far impossible. However, Dark Wizards have created pale imitations of resurrection via the creation of Inferi and charmed skeletons, which involves complex spells and curses to accomplish. Such creatures are not truly alive, as they are simply corpse puppets moving based on their creators' design, with no free will nor soul remaining in them.[34]

A dead person can be returned to life by using of Time-Turners, by going back in time to prevent such deaths from occurring, thus changing history into one where the target will remain alive. However, due to the complexity of time, this could easily bring repercussions of such magnitude that could easily cause many more deaths and tragedies than good. An example is when Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy went back in time to prevent Cedric Diggory from being killed, he became a bitter young man who joined the Death Eaters and ended up killing Neville Longbottom, and thus inadvertently kept Lord Voldemort from being killed, which in turn led to Harry Potter's death, and changing the course of history into an age of darkness (which also caused Albus to be un-born).[36]

Despite this, wizards have still not found a way of reuniting body and soul once death has occurred. This subject was covered by eminent Wizarding philosopher Bertrand de Pensées-Profondes in his celebrated work A Study into the Possibility of Reversing the Actual and Metaphysical Effects of Natural Death, with Particular Regard to the Reintergration of Essence and Matter, during which he stated that reversing death would never be physically possible.[9] Phoenixes are the sole exception to the rules of death, as they can be reborn from their ashes without any restraints or assistance.[37][38][14]

However, while there exists no known method of reversing death once it has occurred, there are certain things a witch or wizard can do to postpone their death or prolong their life (even further than the longevity which would seem to be granted by magical ability e.g. Albus Dumbledore's health despite his advanced age).

The Elixir of Life, which is made from the Philosopher's Stone, will grant a person extended life for as long as he/she continues to consume it.[39][12] However, because the only known Philosopher's Stone in existence at the time was destroyed in 1992, this method is not currently available.[12]Unicorn blood can keep alive a person who is near death, but unicorns are such pure, defenceless creatures that a person who kills one and drinks its blood will have "but a half-life."[40] A wizard or witch who rips their soul through an act of murder can place that torn fragment inside of an external object called a Horcrux.[3]

By binding a part of the soul to the earth, the Horcrux prevents the wizard or witch from dying, even if the body is injured or completely destroyed.[3] However, there is a cost to using Horcruxes — as shown in the deterioration of Lord Voldemort's physical condition after repeatedly splitting his soul, as well as the mangled spectral state he has been trapped in during the destruction of his physical body. There is a potion which enables the Horcrux-creator's body to be reconstructed in the latter scenario.[41] Overall, however, many wizards and witches would prefer death over such a pitiful state of existence. It seems if this potion is used, and the wizard is returned to a resurrected body, they seem to be unable to die until all of the Horcruxes are destroyed, as shown with Lord Voldemort during the final battle of Hogwarts, as only when all of his Horcruxes were destroyed was he killed. The creation of Horcruxes damages the soul in such a way that if the user dies after all their anchors are destroyed, then the soul would remain trapped in limbo in a terrible state, never to return as a ghost nor move on.[6]

Study and perception of death

"Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love."
— Albus Dumbledore on death[src]

The Veil in the Death Chamber of the Department of Mysteries

There is a chamber in the Department of Mysteries where witches and wizards study the mysteries of death.[28] In this chamber is the Veil, an ancient stone archway, which is a gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead.[28] People standing around the Veil may hear voices from the other side depending on their level of faith in an afterlife.[28][42] A person whose body passes through the Veil will die.[28][5]

Wizarding philosopher Bertrand de Pensées-Profondes also researched death. He wrote a highly-regarded work on the subject, A Study into the Possibility of Reversing the Actual and Metaphysical Effects of Natural Death, with Particular Regard to the Reintegration of Essence and Matter.[34]

Although many fear death due to the unknown that lies beyond life, few would ever choose to manipulate and damage their own souls to remain behind in a pitiful existence. Horcruxes and remaining as ghosts are two known methods of immortalising one's existence in the plane of living, but the former has dire consequences that few would ever want it, while the latter means entrapment for eternity that only those who fear or have deep bonds would choose it.[28]

Lord Voldemort considered death to be the ultimate humiliation of defeat, that nothing is worse than it, and was his greatest fear as a result; his fear of death and lack of understanding of the soul's well-being's importance led him to the extreme lengths of creating seven Horcruxes to evade death. He and his host of the time, Quirinus Quirrell, were so fearful of death that they would be willingly to drink unicorn blood, which would leave them a cursed half-life. Voldemort even looked down on his mother for dying, incorrectly believing she was a muggle for suffering what he regards as a weakness; even after discovering she was a witch did not alter his perception of her mortality. Albus Dumbledore saw Voldemort's fear of death as his greatest weakness, as there are fates worse than death, and that anyone who can truly understand that and accept the inevitability of death can be considered to be a true "Master of Death". On the other hand, some people who believed in the existence of the Deathly Hallows incorrectly believed that becoming a Master of Death meant choosing and accepting immortality, and that uniting all three Deathly Hallows would result in another form of immortality.

As Dumbledore states there are fates believed to be worse than death, which generally included living under permanent pain, misery, physical and mental incapacitation, or living under an unbreakable curse. There are indeed some wizards and witches who prefer death than such fates. Many inmates of Azkaban went insane after a short time in there due to the depressive effects, and stopped eating, preferring to die away. Many people also feared receiving the Dementor's Kiss as a result, preferring death to living in an empty, vegetative state. Tragic tales are told of knowing victims begging for death rather than becoming werewolves, mainly due to the extreme stigma of Lycanthropy in the wizarding community and the accompanying life of poverty and loneliness.[43] As Horace Slughorn mentioned, the existence in a spectral state from a wizard who created a Horcrux would be a fate that very few would desire, and that death is a preferable alternate to such. Ironically, Voldemort, in spite of his extreme fear of death, ended up suffering a fate worse than death after the destruction of his Horcruxes and his death, when his mutilated spirit was trapped as a terrible, stunted form in limbo for all eternity.[6] When Firenze revealed to Harry Potter about the cursed, half life which drinking Unicorn Blood would cause, Harry stated that death would be better than living a half and potentially painful life.[40]

Merope Riddle, who lived her entire life of misery from her abusive household, lost all will to live on once she ceased dosing Tom Riddle Senior with Love Potion, and he came to his senses and left her, contrary of her besotted belief that he would stay out of genuine love. Dumbledore noted that she was heavily weakened and lacked the courage to go on after this final heartbreak and would prefer death over living through anymore potential unhappiness.[44] Another aspect of this is when Frank and Alice Longbottom were tortured into insanity due to repeated and prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus Curse by Voldemort's Death Eaters. As a result, many people said that death would have been a preferable fate for them, as they were still alive but forced to live under permanent incapacitation at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, and unable to recognise their only son.[45]

In the Muggle world, certain countries employ the death penalty, which is to kill convicted criminals for committing crimes of a certain level of severity. Vernon Dursley advocates the death penalty, claiming that "...hanging's the only way to deal with these people", showing a harsh view on criminal justice.[46] Although wizarding authorities are sometimes permitted to kill criminals for resisting arrest, there seems to be no actual death penalty for captured convicts in the wizarding world. On the other hand, for magical animals deemed dangerous by the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, they are executed by beheading, one known executioner was Walden Macnair. In the 1920's Magical Congress of the United States of America carried out executions by means of the Death potion , a Condemned prisoner would be suspended over the potion in a chair and lowered into the potion while being showed their happiest memories and would be enveloped in a sphere and set on fire.[47]

See also

Behind the scenes

  • Death is a major subject and theme in the books of Harry Potter. At least one person dies in five out of seven of the Harry Potter books, and the death of a person or people in the past is an important plot element in all seven.
  • During each of the last four books, the body count increases each time, with over a hundred named characters dying during the timeline of the books by the end. Of these deaths, none were natural. It is hard to actually think of one that is not violent in some way. The deaths of twelve characters, Quirinus Quirrell, Frank Bryce, Cedric Diggory, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, Charity Burbage, Peter Pettigrew, Dobby, Fred Weasley, Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Tom Riddle, are described in detail as they happen. Over twice as many are described in detail after they happened.

Author's comments

"Do you absolutely have a sense of how evil it is to take another person’s life? Yes, I think in my book you do. I think you do. I think you see that is a horrific thing. I have enormous respect for human life. I do not think that you would read… the deaths in [my books] and think, yeah, well, he’s gone, off we go. Not at all. I think it’s very clear where my sympathies lie. And here we are dealing with someone, I’m dealing with a villain who does hold human life incredibly cheap. That’s how it happens: one squeeze of the trigger. Gone. Forever. That’s evil. It’s a terrible, terrible thing..."
J. K. Rowling
"Death is just life's next big adventure"
J. K. Rowling
"It is not about striving for immortality, but about accepting mortality."
J. K. Rowling on becoming the Master of Death


Notes and references

  1. WP favicon.PNG Death on Wikipedia
  2. Pottermore
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 34 (The Forest Again)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King's Cross)
  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 6 (Talons and Tea Leaves)
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 21 (The Tale of the Three Brothers)
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Tales of Beedle the Bard - "The Tale of the Three Brothers"
  10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  15. 2003 interview at Royal Albert Hall on Accio! Quote
  16. F.A.Q. question on JKRowling.com
  17. 2004 Edinburgh Book Festival on JKRowling.com
  18. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 21 (The Eye of the Snake)
  19. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 16 (The Chamber of Secrets)
  20. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 6 (Gilderoy Lockhart)
  21. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 (The Dementor)
  22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 20 (The Dementor's Kiss)
  23. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
  24. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)
  25. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 26 (The Cave)
  26. 26.0 26.1 Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Hogwarts Portraits" at Wizarding World
  27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 28 (The Missing Mirror)
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 28.6 28.7 28.8 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)
  29. 29.0 29.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  30. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 27 (Padfoot Returns)
  31. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 4 (Horace Slughorn)
  32. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 16 (A Very Frosty Christmas)
  33. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 21 (The Unknowable Room)
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 The Tales of Beedle the Bard, page 79
  35. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 12 (The Mirror of Erised)
  36. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  37. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12 (The Polyjuice Potion)
  38. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 (The Only One He Ever Feared)
  39. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 13 (Nicolas Flamel)
  40. 40.0 40.1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 15 (The Forbidden Forest)
  41. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 32 (Flesh, Blood and Bone)
  42. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 34 (The Department of Mysteries)
  43. Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Werewolves" at Wizarding World
  44. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle)
  45. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 23 (Christmas on the Closed Ward)
  46. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 2 (Aunt Marge's Big Mistake)
  47. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay