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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 and Herpo the Foul).[2]

Immortality was not to be confused with amortality, which was the state of something being unable to die due to never having been truly alive in the first place, such was the case for Non-Human Spiritous Apparitions.[3]

Methods[]

Elixir of Life[]

Main article: Elixir of Life
Nicolas Flamel HM

Nicolas Flamel holding the legendary Philosopher's Stone

The Philosopher's Stone, a stone of legendary substance created through Alchemy, was able to produce the Elixir of Life, one of the known means of immortality.[1] The only known Philosopher's Stone in existence was created by the famous French alchemist Nicolas Flamel. Of course, the Elixir did not truly grant immortality, it only extended the drinker's lifespan.[4]

The downside was that the Elixir had to be drunk regularly, for all eternity, for one to continuously live on. Furthermore, the potion did not rejuvenate youth; if one lived past their natural lifespan, they would continue to age, eventually taking on a decrepit and ancient appearance, as Nicolas did.[5] Additionally, the Elixir did not render the drinker invulnerable to damage. Thus, even while the Elixir prevented the drinker from dying of old age, it was possible for them to be killed.

In 1991 and 1992, a weakened Lord Voldemort tried to gain possession of the Stone so he could regain his corporal form and rise again as an immortal after his downfall ten years prior. After Harry Potter stopped Voldemort's servant from getting the Stone, it was destroyed by Albus Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel himself in order to prevent cases like Voldemort's from attempting to steal the Stone 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]

Horcruxes[]

The Horcruxex

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 for a fragment of one's soul. As long as at least one of the Horcruxes (and by extension the wizard's soul fragment hidden within it) remained intact, then the wizard was anchored to the world of the living. If their body suffered fatal damage, then they would have continued to exist in the living world as a disembodied shade (similar to a ghost, but still alive). For all intents and purposes, the wizard was considered immortal, though existence in this shade form was preferred over death by very few. Herpo the Foul was the first wizard ever to create a Horcrux, and therefore the person to be accredited to this dark discovery.[6]

Horcrux creation

Tom Riddle creating Horcruxes by splitting his soul

The making of a Horcrux was considered the vilest of the Dark Arts. The process for creating a Horcrux required the wizard to first split their soul. This was achieved by doing the most inhumane action: murder.[2] Furthermore, it had to be a genuine act of murder without remorse. A mercy kill or killing for self defense would not have worked. Splitting one's soul was considered a violation of the very laws of nature;[7] one whose soul had been damaged could never pass on to the afterlife, nor could they come back as a ghost. Instead, they would be trapped in Limbo for all eternity in a wretched and disfigured form.[8][9] Only through remorse prior to their death could the soul have been healed and spared them of this fate.[citation needed]

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 or living beings that played an important — or scarring — role in his life, including the Four Founders.[9] His best plans were, however, beaten due to his arrogance, when Regulus Black,[10] Albus Dumbledore,[2] Harry Potter,[2] Ron Weasley[11] 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),[12] which rendered Voldemort mortal again and led to his eventual and final death.[13]

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]

Unicorn blood[]

Unicorn blood 1

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 power to save a drinker from death, even when they were an inch away from it. This made it similar to the Elixir of Life, which also extended the life of the drinker. However, if drunk, it would result in the drinker having "a half-life, a cursed life", as they had slayed a pure and innocent creature for self-preservation. Such an act was considered to be only for those who had nothing to lose and everything to gain.[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 his body with the Dark Lord, until they could gain access to the Elixir of Life.[14][4] Two years later, Voldemort had Peter Pettigrew craft a Dark potion that required unicorn blood as one of the ingredients to grant him a rudimentary physical form, which would require him to take continuous doses of the potion to maintain the little health he regained.[15]

Deathly Hallows[]

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 acquired all three of the Deathly Hallows would be the Master of Death, and would achieve some form of immortality. The Deathly Hallows were three magical artefacts supposedly created by Death. The Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in the world; the Resurrection Stone, which could summon loved ones back from the afterlife; and the Cloak of Invisibility, which was said to conceal its wearer so completely, even death could not find them.

The Hallows were spoken of in The Tale of the Three Brothers by Beedle the Bard. Some people believed the Hallows were real and wore the Sign of the Deathly Hallows as a symbol of their belief. However, a larger proportion dismissed both the concept and the three artefacts themselves as a mere fairy-tale.[16] Some people, while believing the Hallows were real, disregarded the idea that they were actually created by Death, and instead reasoned that they were created by the three brothers who inspired the story, Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell.

While the three Hallows actually did exist, becoming immortal from gathering the three was a misconception, as being a true Master of Death was realising and accepting the fact that death was inevitable and there were far worse things than death. Harry Potter collected the three Hallows (though he did not possess all of them at the same time) 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.[9]

Phoenixes[]

Phoenix

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[17] or something like a Killing Curse,[18] they would always be reborn from their remaining ashes, technically making them immortal.[17][18] 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 of old age and then to be reborn as a baby phoenix was known as a Burning Day.[17]

Fawkes, the pet phoenix of Albus Dumbledore, had been reborn from old age many times,[17] 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 but was reborn and continued to live.[18]

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.[13]
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]
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.[9]

Appearances[]

Notes and references[]

See also[]

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