Harry and Voldemort and its Role in the Final
"D'you mean ... did you just
"I was You-Know-Who." 2
the Harry Potter series moves towards its climax, readers are anticipating the
final confrontation between Harry and his nemesis, Lord Voldemort. It is
natural to view this as a sort of super-wizard's duel with the same manner of
spells, jinxes and dueling as in the previous encounters. Even Harry and his
friends think this way; they look forward to "powerful counter-curses ...
anti-jinxes [...] and evasive enchantments generally." 3
the text points to a different, more meaningful end: a duel in consciousness
between the two, based on the strange link between Harry's and Lord Voldemort's
one can dismiss the notion of Harry as a wizard super-hero. Harry, a "boy's
boy' as one critic put it,4 has shown himself to be a worthy wizard. He has
"fought a man's fight" and "met challenges that even grown wizards have never
Still, there is no reason to think that Harry would fare better than the adult
members of the Order, such as Sirius Black, Lupin or Tonks. Snape out-dueled
Harry at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and would
have killed him had it not been for Voldemort's foolish order to spare him.
Too, Harry's dueling skills are all either inherited from his parents, learned
from Lupin or from the Half-Blood Prince, or acquired with the help of "more
talented friends' 6 i.e. Hermione. None of this is distinctive to Harry, and
this is not the way that Voldemort "mark[ed] him as an equal." 7 Harry himself tells
Dumbledore: "I couldn't fight the way he [Voldemort] did tonight, I
can't possess people or ’ or kill them." 8
Harry defeats Voldemort, it must be through something unique and special to
Harry, that others do not have ’ such as the link in consciousness between
Harry and Voldemort.
is explicit about the nature of Harry's extraordinary talent: Voldemort "not
only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely
deadly weapons [¦] the tools for the job." 9
"deadly weapons" did Voldemort give Harry? Here, again, Dumbledore is clear.
Harry has weapons, but they are not dueling weapons:
It is Voldemort's fault that you
that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, that you even
understand the snakelike language in which he gives orders [...] You have flitted
into Lord Voldemort's mind without damage to yourself, but he cannot possess
you without enduring mortal agony.10
final confrontation will rely on Harry's strange ability to penetrate
is a link between Harry and Voldemort, forged by Voldemort's attack on Harry
and strengthened by Voldemort's use of Harry's blood to regenerate (explaining
the mysterious "gleam of something like triumph" 11 in Dumbledore's eye at
the time). Dumbledore knows this; after Harry witnesses the attack on Arthur
Weasley through Voldemort's eyes "Dumbledore seems almost to have been waiting
for Harry to see something like this." 12 This is more than
simple possession. Dumbledore saw "a shadow of him [Voldemort] stir behind your
eyes" and found that Harry "felt Voldemort awake inside [him]." 13
window into Voldemort's mind has been useful so far only as a source of
information, but the potential is far greater then that. Voldemort has already
used the link to "force his way into [Harry's] mind, to manipulate and
misdirect [his] thoughts' but this backfires on Voldemort and leads to his
public exposure in the Ministry of Magic. Voldemort has also been forced to
employ Occlumency against Harry, to shut off "the dangerous access to his
thoughts and feelings that [Harry has] been enjoying' 14 possibly at great
if Harry is able to similarly force his way into Voldemort's mind, so that
Voldemort is forced to live with a shadow of Harry's consciousness awake within
him? What if Harry's consciousness is able to inflict mortal agony on
Voldemort, who "could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he
like Harry ("strange likenesses" 16)may not be a good
Occlumens. From the Pensieve memories it appears that Slughorn, Dumbledore and
Hokey the house-elf all saw through Tom Riddle's charming mask and got a
glimpse of the real Voldemort lurking within. Rowling has said that Harry is a
poor Occlumens because "his emotions were too near the surface and that he is
in some ways too damaged." 17 The same words might apply to
Voldemort ("Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?" 18), whose emotions of
anger and hatred are rarely in check. If Voldemort lets his Occlumens guard
down, then Harry may once again have nightmare visions in which he looks in the
mirror and sees "a face whiter than a skull ... red eyes with slits for
pupils' 19 while Voldemort has his own nightmare vision of being in
the body of a seventeen-year-old kid full of the force he detests. This would
flesh out the words of the prophecy: "neither can live while the other
is the final contest between Harry and Lord Voldemort: whether Harry succeeds
in penetrating Lord Voldemort's consciousness or whether Voldemort succeeds in
killing him first.
previous encounters between Harry and Voldemort provide models for this type of
confrontation. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry faces
Quirrell/Voldemort and finds that just physical contact is enough to inflict
agony on Lord Voldemort. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire we learn
that "Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier." 21 Then there is the
climactic scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
Harry's scar burst open and he
knew he was dead: it was pain beyond imagining, pain past endurance [¦] He was
locked in the coils of a creature with red eyes [...] they were fused together,
bound by pain, there was no escape [¦] Let the pain stop, thought
Harry [...] death is nothing compared to this ...
And I'll see Sirius again ...
And as Harry's heart
filled with emotion, the creature's coils loosened, the pain was gone.22
confrontation also shows the importance of the "power the Dark Lord knows not."
Rowling is careful not to name that power; in Goblet of Fire it appears only as
part of the surname of a deceptively important character, Luna Lovegood.23 It is named explicitly
only in Half-Blood Prince:
Nothing I have seen in the world
has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more powerful than my
kind of magic.24
I know! I can love! [...] Big deal!25
goes on to explain that Harry's ability to love prevents Harry from being
seduced by the Dark Arts, "the only protection that can possibly work against
the lure of power like Voldemort's." This is somewhat unsatisfying. Harry got
it right when he said that he could not possibly have "the slightest desire to
become one of Lord Voldemort's followers" ’ "Of course I haven't! He killed my
mum and dad!" 26 It does not take extraordinary powers to refuse Lord
Voldemort under those circumstances.
the "power the Dark Lord knows not" gives Harry a more useful ability to
confront the Dark Forces. Harry's thoughts of Ron and Hermione enable him to
repel a Dementor attack;27 his thoughts of Sirius allow him to expel Lord Voldemort
and inflict mortal agony on him. This must be how Harry wins through in the
end. Harry will penetrate Voldemort's mind and penetration by a mind "so full
of the force he detests" will defeat Lord Voldemort.
may not even be necessary for Harry to kill Voldemort directly, despite the
words of the prophecy. If Voldemort is left weak and vulnerable, Harry will
have plenty of allies who are willing to finish the job. This may even include
some Death Eaters ’ the Malfoys, Pettigrew and Snape.28
word about Snape: Snape is now the unchallenged Number Two in the Dark Order,
but Voldemort, like all Dark Lords, does not tolerate a powerful Number Two.
Regardless of his true allegiance, he may turn on Voldemort, if only in keeping
with Phineas Nigellus's rule that "We Slytherins [¦] will always choose to save
our own necks." 29 Which side will Harry take if he is present within
Voldemort's mind when Voldemort confronts Snape? Harry has already witnessed
the torture of Wormtail and the torture of Avery. He has never enjoyed it. What
will happen if Harry finds himself witnessing and even (as Voldemort)
participating in the torture of Snape? This is the point where Harry could be
tempted to unmake the choice he made when he first entered Hogwarts: "You could
be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on
the way to greatness [...]’ no? Well, if you're sure ’" 30 Instead, Harry may
want to reach out, like Voldemort, to dominate, to control and to cause pain,
and thus become seduced by the Dark Arts. This could be the final temptation
for Harry and the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry's
triumphs over Voldemort have all come when he reaches out in kindness towards
others ’ "you were brilliant, Fawkes" 31 ... "Don't break the
connection" 32 ... "I'll see Sirius again" 33 ’ not when he lashes
out in anger.
the most important feature of the final confrontation is that Harry will not be
alone. Despite the loss of all his protectors at the end of Half-Blood Prince ’
"His mother, his father, his godfather, and finally Dumbledore [...] He could
not let anybody else stand between him and Voldemort [...] he was more alone
than he had ever been before" 34 ’ he will still not be alone.
When Harry confronts Voldemort, he will carry with him the memory of Sirius,
Diggory, his parents, and Voldemort's countless other victims. Harry will also
have with him the loved ones he has yet to lose in Book Seven. Harry's loyalty
to his lost loved ones, and the agony inflicted on Lord Voldemort through
contact with a consciousness so full of a force he detests, will be the key
elements in a final confrontation.
Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 416.
Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 97.
McGuire, "Lord of the Golden Snitch."
Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 738.
Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 36. Snape's view that Harry succeeded
through "sheer luck and more talented friends" is echoed by the Horcrux Tom
Riddle ("nothing special about you, after all [...] merely a lucky chance that
saved you' Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 233), by Voldemort ("Harry
Potter escaped me by a lucky chance' Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 571), and
by Harry himself ("all that stuff was luck [¦] I didn't get through any of that
because I was brilliant at Defence against the Dark Arts' Rowling, Order of
the Phoenix, 292’3). For another perspective on Harry and the Dark Arts,
see Jacobs, "Opportunity costs: What profit a man to defeat the Dark Lord but
lose his soul?".
Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 741.
Ibid., Half-blood Prince, 477.
Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 604.
Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 434.
Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 61.
Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 743.
Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 233.
Anelli and Spartz, TLC/MN Interview, Part 2.
Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 246.
Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 516.
Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 604.
Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 719’20.
Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 68.The word "love" appears twice in Dumbledore's
interview with Harry at the end of Order of the Phoenix: when Harry says
that "she (Aunt Petunia) doesn't love me" (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix,
737) and Dumbledore says "I behaved exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who
love to act" (Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 739).
Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 415.
Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 22.
Many Death Eaters serve Voldemort out of fear rather than loyalty ("I bet
they'd be even more frightened than the rest of us to see him [Voldemort] come
back' Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 128) and might turn on Voldemort if they
could do so safely. There is some direct evidence on this for Pettigrew.
Dumbledore told Harry that "the time may come when you will be very glad you
saved Pettigrew's life" (Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 311); and
Pettigrew regretted that he returned to Voldemort almost immediately (Rowling, Goblet
of Fire, 14). He also has a silver hand to do it with. Pettigrew's
"powerful new hand" (Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 563’4), having been
described in detail, must play some role before the end of the saga. Snape, on
the other hand, is likely to be involved in the final confrontation on one side
or the other. Having murdered Dumbledore, Snape's only chance for acceptance
back into the wizarding community is if he participates in the murder of
Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 437.
Ibid., Philosopher's Stone, 91.
Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 236.
Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 576.
Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 720.
Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 601.
Melissa and Emerson Spartz. "The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet Interview Joanne
Kathleen Rowling, Part Two." The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. /#static:tlcinterviews/jkrhbp2
Alan. "Opportunity Costs ’ What does it profit a man to defeat the Dark Lord
but lose his soul?" Books and Culture, Vol. 11, No. 6, November/December 2005,
p. 22. http://www.ctlibrary.com/bc/2005/novdec/7.22.html
(also available at the Harry Potter Lexicon, http://www.hp-lexicon.org/essays/essay-opportunity-costs.html).
Gregory. "Lord of the Golden Snitch." New York Times, 5 September 1999, http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/09/05/reviews/990905.05maguirt.html.
J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London : Bloomsbury, 1998.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury, 1999.