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Tom Riddle, the legendary and feared Dark Wizard who sought after, and temporarily achieved, immortality

Harry Potter: "A stone that makes gold and stops you from ever dying! No wonder Snape’s after it! Anyone would want it."
Ron Weasley: "And no wonder we couldn’t find Flamel in that Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry. He’s not exactly recent if he’s six hundred and sixty-five, is he?"
— A discussion about the Philosopher's Stone[src]

Immortality was the magical ability to live forever.[1] Immortality was one of the known limits to magic; it was nearly impossible to make oneself immortal; the only known and working ways were making and using a mystical object of great power to sustain life (such as the Philosopher's Stone created by Nicolas Flamel[1] or a Horcrux, the latter having been used by Lord Voldemort).[2]

Immortality was not to be confused with amortality, which was for something being unable to die due to never having been truly alive.[3]

Methods

Elixir of Life

The legendary Philosopher's Stone

The Philosopher's Stone, a stone created by famous alchemist Nicolas Flamel, was able to produce the Elixir of Life, one of the known means of immortality.[1] In 1991 and 1992, a weakened Lord Voldemort tried to gain possession of the Stone so he could rise again after his downfall ten years prior. The Stone was then destroyed by Albus Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel himself in order to prevent this from happening again. With the destruction of the Philosopher's Stone, all individuals who were immortal because they drank the Elixir of Life (like Flamel and his wife) died after the supply of Elixir ran out.[4]

The Elixir did not truly grant immortality, as it only extended the drinker's lifespan,[4] as opposed to rendering them invulnerable to damage. Thus, it was possible for them to die even while drinking the potion. It had to be drunk regularly, for all eternity, to continuously live on. Furthermore, the potion did not rejuvenate youth, as if one lived past their natural lifespan, they would continue to age, eventually taking on a decrepit and ancient appearance, as Nicolas did.[5]

Horcruxes

Tom Riddle's seven Horcruxes

Harry Potter: "So he’s made himself impossible to kill by murdering other people? Why couldn’t he make a Philosopher’s Stone, or steal one, if he was so interested in immortality?"
Albus Dumbledore: "Well, we know that he tried to do just that, five years ago. But there are several reasons why, I think, a Philosopher’s Stone would appeal less than Horcruxes to Lord Voldemort. While the Elixir of Life does indeed extend life, it must be drunk regularly, for all eternity, if the drinker is to maintain the immortality. Therefore, Voldemort would be entirely dependant on the Elixir, and if it ran out, or was contaminated, or if the Stone was stolen, he would die just like any other man."
Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore discussing Voldemort's desire for immortality[src]

A Horcrux was an object chosen for the purpose of being a receptacle of part of one's soul, split by doing the most inhumane action: murder. If at least one of the Horcruxes (and by extension the wizard's soul) were intact, the wizard was considered immortal. Splitting one's soul was considered a violation of the very laws of nature, and existence in such a form was preferred by very few, and was therefore considered the vilest of the Dark Arts.[2] Herpo the Foul was the first wizard ever to create a Horcrux, and therefore the person to be accredited to this dark discovery.[6]

Lord Voldemort, who was so fearful of death, intended to split his soul into seven pieces, six pieces residing in Horcruxes and the seventh piece in his body. He was the only wizard in history to have created more than one Horcrux and therefore considered the one closest to true immortality.[2] Unbeknownst to him, his soul was split a seventh time; after his killing curse rebounded after trying to murder an infant Harry Potter, a shard of his soul attached itself to the baby. The seven Horcruxes were all items owned by reputable people that played an important — or scarring — role in his life, including the Four Founders.[7] His best plans were, however, beaten due to his arrogance, when Regulus Black,[8] Albus Dumbledore,[2] Harry Potter,[2] Ron Weasley[9] and Hermione Granger discovered his secret and found each one of his Horcruxes and destroyed them (Vincent Crabbe also destroyed one, but he did it unknowingly and likely did not know that Voldemort had any at all),[10] returning Voldemort his mortality and led to his eventual and final death.[11]

Voldemort chose the usage of Horcruxes for his immortality due to his refusal to be reliant on anything but himself; he found the usage of the Elixir of Life to be dependent on him drinking it for all eternity and the stone required to create the potion, which he could not accept. Relying on external vessels for his soul fragments, however, was acceptable, since they were magical extensions of himself.[2]

Phoenixes

Fawkes the Phoenix, an immortal magical bird

"Fawkes swooped down in front of Dumbledore, opened his beak wide, and swallowed the jet of green light whole. He burst into flame and fell to the floor, small, wrinkled, and flightless."
— Fawkes rebirthing after swallowing a Killing Curse[src]

Whenever phoenixes died, whether from old age[12] or something like a Killing Curse,[13] they would always be reborn from their remaining ashes, technically making them immortal.[12][13] They were so far the only living beings who possessed natural immortality, as it seemed there was no known method to truly and permanently kill a phoenix. They were also the only creatures who defied the absolute law that nothing could truly bring back the dead. A phoenix bursting into flames to die and then to be reborn (usually by old age) was known as a Burning Day.[12]

Fawkes, the pet phoenix of Albus Dumbledore, had been reborn from old age many times,[12] and revived instantly from his remaining ashes when swallowing Lord Voldemort's Killing Curse meant for Dumbledore during their duel in the Ministry Atrium, he exploded after swallowing it.[13]

Unicorn blood

A pool of silver Unicorn blood

Firenze: "The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips."
Harry Potter: "But who’d be that desperate? If you’re going to be cursed forever, death’s better, isn’t it?"
Firenze: "It is, unless all you need is to stay alive long enough to drink something else — something that will bring you back to full strength and power — something that will mean you can never die."
Firenze telling Harry Potter about the properties of Unicorn blood in the Forbidden Forest[src]

Unicorn blood had the gift to save a drinker from death even when they are nearing it. This made it similar to the Elixir of Life, which also extended the life of the drinker. However, if taken, it would lead the drinkers to be cursed for all life, as they had slayed an innocent creature for self-preservation. Such an act was considered to be only for those who had nothing to lose, and everything to gain would commit.[14]

Quirinus Quirrell drank unicorn's blood while he was possessed by Voldemort, in order to maintain his waning life due to the strain of sharing body with the Dark Lord, until they can gain access to the Elixir of Life.[14][4] Two years later, Voldemort had Peter Pettigrew to craft a Dark potion that required unicorn blood as one of the ingredients to regain his rudimentary physical form, which would require him continuous intake of the potion to maintain the little health he regained.[15]

Deathly Hallows

Symbol of the Deathly Hallows

"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."
Albus Dumbledore, on the Master of Death[src]

Many wizards believed that the person who mastered the three Deathly Hallows (which were the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility) would be the Master of Death, and would achieve some form of immortality, while a larger proportion dismissed both the concept and the three artefacts as a fairy-tale.[16] However, becoming immortal from gathering the three was a misconception, as being a true Master of Death was realising and accepting the fact that everyone would die and there were worse things than death. Harry Potter collected the three Hallows and was willing to accept death and so became the Master of Death. According to Albus Dumbledore, the Hallows were a desperate man's dream, dangerous, and a lure for fools. Indeed, many died in their pursuit of the Hallows and the "Master of Death" legend.[7]

Known immortals

Name Method Status Notes
Herpo the Foul Horcrux Unknown The first wizard to create a Horcrux.[6] It is unknown what happened to him and his Horcrux.
Nicolas Flamel Elixir of Life Deceased Immortal for 666 years; with the destruction of the Philosopher's Stone and the eventual depletion of Elixir of Life, Nicolas and his wife passed away eventually.[4]
Perenelle Flamel Elixir of Life Deceased Immortal for 658 years; with the destruction of the Philosopher's Stone and the eventual depletion of Elixir of Life, Perenelle and her husband passed away eventually.[4]
Tom Riddle Multiple Horcruxes Deceased The only wizard to have created multiple Horcruxes.[2] He remained immortal for 55 years (from age 16 to 71) before the destruction of all of his Horcruxes, and died when his Killing Curse rebounded.[11]
Quirinus Quirrell Unicorn blood Deceased Quirrell drank unicorn blood to extend his wavering lifespan due to sharing a body with Voldemort's fragmented soul,[4] at the cost of a cursed life,[14] and ultimately died when confronted by a power that his hatred could not comprehend.[4]
Fawkes Phoenix Alive As a phoenix, Fawkes was immortal, forever within the death-and-rebirth cycle of his species.[12][13]
Sparky Phoenix Alive As a phoenix, Sparky was immortal, forever within the death-and-rebirth cycle of his species.[12][17]
Harry Potter Tom Riddle's use of his blood in his regeneration Alive Riddle's use of Harry's blood (which still had Lily J. Potter's protection) "tethered Harry to life", while Riddle lived. When Riddle was defeated, Harry became mortal once more.[7]

See also

Appearances

Notes and references

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