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"Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realise that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever."
Dumbledore regarding the power of love[src]

Sacrificial protection was an ancient, powerful, and long-lasting counter-charm.[2] It was endowed when one person (whom we will call "the victim" for purposes of this article) ultimately sacrificed their own life willingly and out of deep, pure love to save the life of one or more people (to whom this article will refer as "beneficiaries").[3][4][1][5]

Some people regarded sacrificial protection as "the ultimate protection".[6]


Baby Harry Potter in Blanket

Lily's loving sacrifice saved Harry's life, leaving only a lightning-shaped scar

When Lord Voldemort went to kill an infant Harry Potter in order to subvert the prophecy about the coming of a champion who would defeat him, Harry's mother, Lily Potter, stood in his way. Having willingly sacrificed her life in order to protect her infant son, Harry was placed under magical protection, so that when Voldemort cast the Killing Curse at Harry in turn, the spell backfired, leaving him unharmed (save for a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead) and Voldemort (saved by his Horcruxes) reduced to a disembodied shade. Harry became the only known person to survive the Killing Curse because of the power of his mother's loving sacrifice.[1]

During the Battle of Hogwarts at the climax of the Second Wizarding War, Harry Potter willingly surrendered himself to Voldemort and allowed himself to be hit with his Killing Curse so that the piece of Voldemort's soul residing inside him would be destroyed and the Dark wizard could be defeated once and for all. However, due to Voldemort taking Harry's blood (along with Lily's lingering protection) into himself three years previously to rebuild his body, he had unwittingly tethered Harry's life to his own, allowing Harry to survive being hit by the killing curse a second time. Even though he survived, Harry still made the choice to sacrifice himself out of love for his friends. This conferred a certain amount of protection on Harry's allies, making it so that spells Voldemort tried to place on them, including Silencing Charms and a Full Body-Bind Curse, quickly wore off.[5]


In order for the protection to form, the would-be killer must give the victim the option to live, but the victim must consciously and willingly choose death.

This is why James Potter's death didn't confer magical protection on Lily and Harry in 1981; as Voldemort was set upon killing James and thus never gave him an opportunity to choose to save himself.[7] On the other hand, Lily was offered the chance to step aside because Voldemort had promised Severus Snape that he wouldn't kill her unless she got in his way.[8] Her conscious refusal to comply with Voldemort's demand was why unusually strong magical protection was conferred upon her son.[7]

It would seem that the protection could take effect even if the opportunity for self-preservation was presented only by circumstance. In 1998, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Voldemort gave Harry one hour to surrender himself, vowing to hunt him down if he did not show up in that time. Although Voldemort was determined to kill Harry, his sacrificial protection worked to save his friends, presumably because he willingly gave himself up despite having enough time to try to run away, whereas James was only given a minute's notice of Voldemort's arrival. He even arrived to face Voldemort just after the required hour and by that time Voldemort thought he wasn't coming.[8]


"But I knew too where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated — to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day."
— The effects of sacrificial protection[src]
Harry Potter being "killed"

Harry Potter allowing Voldemort to hit him with the Killing Curse so that the defenders of Hogwarts were protected

Sacrificial protection could be conferred on a single beneficiary or on a group of them. After the sacrifice, the protection would live on in the beneficiary's veins.[5]

In cases involving a single person, the protection prevented whoever had murdered the victim from physically touching the beneficiary without experiencing excruciating pain,[3][4] and would cause a Killing Curse cast at the beneficiary by the murderer to rebound.[4]

In cases involving multiple beneficiaries, the extent of the protection isn't known, but it seems that it was less than in single-beneficiary cases. The spells cast by the murderer at those beneficiaries would simply wear off more quickly rather than be reflected back, although it is unknown how that would apply to the Killing Curse. However, the difference in the level of protection could also be attributed to whether or not the victim actually died since, in the only known case in which sacrificial protection was conferred to a group of people, the victim survived.[5]

Blood connection[]

"She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you."
— Explanation of the bond of blood[src]

Another defensive effect of sacrificial protection bound the beneficiary to life when his or her blood was transferred to another person as long as that person lived. This was seen when Harry cast the counter-charm and suffered a Killing Curse again, but survived.[5] However, if the blood was transferred to the murderer, then the murderer would be able to overcome some aspects of the protection. Evidence of this could be seen in the way that Lord Voldemort was able to touch Harry Potter and harm him after his rebirth and resurrection.[9]

Baby Harry Left At Privet Drive

Albus Dumbledore leaving infant Harry Potter with a note on the doorstep of 4 Privet Drive, his aunt Petunia Dursley's home, so that the bond of blood he placed on Harry could be sealed

If the victim was related to the beneficiary, then a powerful charm known as the bond of blood charm could be cast upon the beneficiary to give them additional protection, although it is unknown how closely the two must be related for this charm to work. This charm prevented any harm from coming to the beneficiary from the murderer while they were in a blood-related relative's home.[1]

In order for this charm's power to take effect, the living blood-relative must first take the saved person into their home willingly.[1] However, the additional protection would break automatically when the saved person moved out permanently or turned seventeen (the age of majority in the British wizarding world), whichever happened first.[10][11]

Known occurrences[]

Harry Potter: "I was ready to die to stop you hurting these people —"
Lord Voldemort: "But you did not!"
Harry Potter: "— I meant to, and that's what did it. I've done what my mother did. They're protected from you. Haven't you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can't torture them. You can't touch them."
— Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort in their ultimate duel[src]
Person(s) sacrificed Person(s) protected Date Notes
Lily Potter Harry Potter 31 October 1981 Lily Potter sacrificed her life in order to protect her infant son.[1]
Harry Potter Hogwarts' defenders 2 May 1998 Harry Potter willingly allowed himself to be hit with Voldemort's Killing Curse to protect Hogwarts students and teachers.[5]

Behind the scenes[]

  • According to J. K. Rowling, this kind of magic is very un-scientific, and that there was no "Elder Wand + Lily's Blood = Assured Survival" formula. It was ultimately the choices that Harry and Voldemort made.[12][13]
  • It is evidenced that people under sacrificial protection could be protected or protect themselves from the Killing Curse using Shield Charms, as Harry used them to protect his friends and allies from Voldemort's curses during the second part of the Battle of Hogwarts.
  • It's unknown if anyone employed by or affiliated with the murderer can harm a beneficiary. Ginny Weasley is said to have missed death by a inch when Bellatrix Lestrange sends a Killing Curse at her, implying that Ginny would have been killed if the Curse had made contact.
    • In the film, Nagini is depicted as posing a mortal threat to Ron and Hermione. While Quirinus Quirrell was unable to touch Harry without being burned, this was because Voldemort himself inhabited Quirrell's body at the time.
  • Presumably, it is also possible to place sacrificial protection on one or more people by deliberately shielding the intended victim(s) from any curse or other Dark spell. If this is indeed the case, then it would be much more likely that the person who sacrificed themself for others, actually still could survive it, as most curses aren't deadly, at least not immediately.
  • When Voldemort took Harry's blood to rebuild his body, he unwittingly put a few drops of goodness back inside himself, that gave him one last chance to heal himself if he had repented.[12]
  • Lord Voldemort's inability to understand the power of love made him severely underestimate and misunderstand the power of this protection. He correctly believed that by taking Harry's blood for his regeneration, he would be able to touch the younger wizard and affect him with spells, but this ironically strengthened the protection by preventing Voldemort from killing Harry while Voldemort himself was still alive.
  • Interestingly, the only two known occurrences of the counter-charm have been through the Potter family in terms of Lily J. Potter and Harry Potter, mother and son. It is yet to be shown that this charm is demonstrated by someone outside the Potter family.
  • Because of Harry's sacrificial protection, the spells that Voldemort casts during the final phase of the Battle of Hogwarts did not work properly. This is why Neville Longbottom was able to break the Full Body-Bind Curse Voldemort cast on him and was seemingly unharmed when Voldemort lit him on fire. Yet also in the final film, Voldemort casts the Stunning Spell on Neville out of anger after seeing Harry alive. This spell did not hold, either, as Neville woke up soon after.
    • Interestingly, Harry is seen in the films as being able to deflect Killing Curses with a Shield Charm, although this may be to do with the allegiance of the Elder Wand rather than the sacrificial protection. This is the sole place in the final film where the blocking of a Killing Curse can be considered to be theoretically possible.
    • The other blocks, such as by Bellatrix while duelling Molly Weasley, exist to elongate duels and increase drama. However, it could be that Bellatrix merely used either a Stunning Spell or the Disarming Charm to prevent Molly's curses from hitting her.


Notes and references[]