It seems only like yesterday that we enrolled at Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, but it's been 10 years since the Harry Potter movies ended, and 14 since the last book was released. But while many fans consider themselves experts on Harry Potter, sometimes one needs to revisit the books and films to remind themselves of the answers to some rather complicated questions.
Is Dumbledore really dead? And why isn't Harry dead? How did he survive all those attempts throughout the series? Why didn't he die as a baby? Or when Voldemort killed him in the Forbidden Forest? Why didn't he disintegrate at the same time Voldemort did? And just how did he survive the deadly venom of the Basilisk fang while in the Chamber of Secrets?
To save you binging hours of Wizarding World magic, whether it's streaming the Harry Potter movies online or reading the books, we've got all the answers in one place. So grab your quill and parchment and get ready to take notes in case you suddenly get pop-quizzed by your friends on all things Harry Potter…
Why didn't Harry die from the Basilisk?
It might seem like we're already getting ahead of ourselves by jumping to Chamber of Secrets, but this question is different from all the others on this list - because Harry doesn't actually die from the venom in the Basilisk's fan.
Nevertheless, it's a question that begs for an answer all the same. So, we know that Harry survives when the Basilisk bites into his arm during that epic fight down in the Chamber of Secrets. But why not? Luckily, the answer is a lot more straightforward than the next few, before we get into all things Horcruxes, Deathly Hallows, and love-based protection spells.
When Harry enters the Chamber of Secrets, he discovers that the monster that's been lurking beneath the school all these years is a giant Basilisk, and is being controlled by Tom Riddle – a piece of Voldemort's soul that resides in the diary (which we later discover is one of the Horcruxes).
After Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes blinds the Basilisk, the snake pursues Harry through the tunnels. When they finally do battle in the main chamber, with Harry pulling the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat (brought to him by Fawkes) and kills the beast, but not before a venomous fang penetrates his arm.
Within moments, Harry is near death, however, Fawkes returns and cries into Harry's fatal wound, which saves his life. We later learn from Dumbledore that, as the phoenix is able to regenerate at the end of its life, its tears contain healing powers.
Dumbledore also explains that Fawkes was only ever able to respond to Harry's need for help in the first place because of Harry's loyalty to Gryffindor – which is also why he was able to pull the sword from the hat, something that only a true heir of Gryffindor is able to do.
Why didn't Harry die as a baby?
Having overheard a prophecy by Professor Trelawney which foretold that a boy born in July would become his 'equal', Voldemort arrives at Godric's Hollow specifically to kill Harry Potter. First, he performs the Killing Curse on James Potter. But just as he's about to do the same to Harry, Lily steps in the way to protect her son and is killed by Voldemort. But that still leaves Harry vulnerable to a subsequent attack – and while an attempt is made, it doesn't work, and instead, the Killing Curse backfires.
Harry is left with a rather impressive souvenir - his infamous lightning bolt scar. Voldemort, on the other hand, is left without a body. Of course, we know that Voldemort leaves Harry with more than the lightning bolt, but we'll talk about that a bit later. So why doesn't Harry die from the Killing Curse? At the end of Sorcerer's Stone, we learn from Dumbledore that Lily used a ‘counter charm to protect Harry before Voldemort performed the Killing Curse on her, leaving her son with ‘love-based protection.
Dumbledore adds that it's the same reason why Professor Quirrell – the Dark Arts teacher whose body had been hijacked by Voldemort – couldn't bear to have Harry touch him; that Lily's sacrificial act is the kind of magic that "lives in your very skin" – and that that mark is "love". So, if Lily hadn't have used sacrificial protection for Harry, the Boy Who Lived would have died when Voldemort struck him with the Killing Curse. But because she did, it meant that Harry wasn't just left with something permanent from Voldemort, but from his loving mother too.
Why didn't Harry die when Voldemort killed him?
During the Battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows, Harry finally surrenders to Voldemort, after discovering that a part of Voldemort's soul lives inside him, following their first encounter at Godric's Hollow all those years ago, which also explains his connections to the dark lord.
In other words, Harry is one of the seven Horcruxes, each of which contains a fragment of Voldemort's soul, and all of which need to be destroyed in order to finally defeat him. With only two left – Nagini and Harry himself – the Boy Who Lived gives in to Voldemort's demands and meets him in the Forbidden Forest.
There, Voldemort performs the Killing Curse on him, and Harry falls to the ground, dead. What follows is an ethereal dream-like scene where Harry meets Dumbledore at a limbo-version of Kings Cross Station. Beneath a bench, they find a bloodied and deformed version of Voldemort, in a terribly weakened state. This represents the Horcrux that lives – or lived – inside Harry, and is now dying. After hitting Harry Potter with the Killing Curse, Voldemort has unintentionally destroyed the penultimate Horcrux.
However, that doesn't mean that Harry isn't dead. In fact, we learn that he is, as Dumbledore gives Harry the option of 'going on or returning to the world. But shouldn't the curse also have killed Harry? In a way, yes, but this is where things get a little bit more complicated. This is because Harry is the ‘Master of Death', having been in possession of all three Deathly Hallows: the Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak, and the Resurrection Stone. Ultimately, Harry chooses to return to his body.
Related: Is Harry Potter the Master of Death?
Why didn't Harry die when Voldemort died?
We all know how the final fight ends – while Harry and Voldemort duel with their wands, Neville Longbottom successfully lays waste to Nagini using the Sword of Gryffindor, destroying Voldemort's final Horcrux. But this isn't what ultimately defeats Voldemort – though of course without killing Nagini, killing Voldemort would have remained impossible. But Voldemort is now simply left vulnerable to death, like any other witch or wizard. He is mortal.
With the final Horcrux out of the way, Harry is able to defeat the dark lord once and for all, while also disarming him of the Elder Wand– a weapon that never really belonged to Voldemort in the first place, which is why it never worked for him properly. And so Voldemort is dust. But why didn't Harry die along with him? Wasn't Harry one of his Horcruxes? Yes – he was, but remember that that part of him had already been destroyed by Voldemort in Harry had no reason to die ‘with' Voldemort – there was no remaining connection between the two.
From the moment Voldemort makes the decision to kill Harry Potter as a baby, he truly seals his own fate. Fearing that his ‘equal' would rise, the dark lord unintentionally sets in motion a self-fulfilling prophecy, rendering Harry not only his equal but also making the boy one of his own Horcruxes. From that moment on, every other decision Voldemort makes ultimately leads him to his own demise: from trying to become master of the Elder Wand, to kill Harry in the Forbidden Forest. As for Harry, given all the attempts on his life, he really does earn the title the Boy Who Lived.
You don't need a Time-Turner to go back and enjoy the heyday of Harry Potter. The third movie in the Fantastic Beasts franchise hits theaters on July 15, 2022, and there's the upcoming open-world game Hogwarts Legacy, set for release later this year. And there are also rumors of a Harry Potter HBO TV series, as well as rumors of another Harry Potter movie, which is likely to be based on the canonical stage production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Harry Potter page.