harry potter

Harry Potter surviving at the end of the series always felt inevitable, but also something of a cop-out. What saved the Boy Who Lived from Voldemort's wrath during The Deathly Hallows was the same thing that saved him as an infant: the protection of his mother, Lily. At least, that's what we're told. Reddit user WippitGuud has a more satisfying explanation, and it all involves Dumbledore lying. Again.

According to the fan theory, Harry wasn't defended by Lily's proection -- he actually died. Despite what Dumbledore said, it was in fact the Deathly Hallows that ressurected him after he perished. The most important point here being that for the latter to be true, Harry had to actually die from Voldemort's Avada Kedavra. You know, the spell they call "The Killing Curse."

Think about what we know about this moment, compared to Voldemort's downfall in Godric's Hollow all those years beforehand. The first time Lily's protection shielded Harry, Voldemort's spell rebounded and murdered its caster. The Dark Lord was out of comission for years because he had to find a way to regain a physical form that wasn't being suffocated under a large burgundy turban. You'd think that if it was Lily's protection staving off Harry's death once again, then the exact same thing would happen to Voldemort once again -- but it doesn't. Because The Killing Curse did its job. 

Look at it this way: If his mother's protection did indeed deflect Voldemort's second attack, then shouldn't Harry have another scar? If it was anything like what happened to him as a baby, Harry would have another jagged mark alongside his old one, and would later have to explain to future employers why the twin lightning bolts on his forehead are definitely not a reference to the Nazi SS. 

As WippitGuud points out, the biggest clue might be the way Horcruxes work. See, if you want to truly destroy a Horcrux, you have to destroy the container. And as Dumbledore says when Harry visits the heavenly King's Cross, that's exactly what happened. 

harry potter

Because the Horcrux was destroyed, we have to assume its container -- one scrawny kid from Privet Drive -- was destroyed also. That would also explain why Harry has the choice to move onto the afterlife or return back to the land of the living to save the world.

So how did Harry Potter come back to life? Well, he had mastery over three very important items: The Resurrection Stone, the Invisibility Cloak and the Elder Wand. Maintaining control over all three Deathly Hallows, it is said, makes you the "Master of Death." Which sort of sounds like you're the frontman of a goth metal band in middle school, but in this case, it might mean the wielder of said items can't die. 

But wait, Harry didn't have the Elder Wand, right? Voldemort was the one using it at that fateful moment in the woods. But book readers will remember that Voldemort actually tested Harry's "corpse" with a Cruciatus Curse -- and it did nothing. That's when Harry knew he was still master of the Elder Wand. He'd actually wrenched control of it from Draco earlier. 

Wands are what you might call fair-weather weapons. If someone defeats another wizard, the mastery of their wands are officially transferred over to the victor. That might sounds like an odd and obscure rule, and it kind of is -- even wizards in Harry Potter aren't always sure about who possesses what wand. When Draco Malfoy disarmed Dumbledore, he had no idea the Elder Wand had been transferred over. Likewise, when Harry yoinked Draco's hawthorn wand (seen above), he didn't realize that the Elder Wand's alliegance had passed on once more. I wasn't kidding when I called wands fair-weather weapons. Hell, I bet if you checked the Elder Wand's Facebook page right now, they probably became a hardcore Cubs fan the moment they won the Pennant.

Since Harry wasn't "defeated" before he confronted Voldemort in the woods, the Elder Wand was still technically on Team Potter. But instead of fighting for his wand, Harry just took what was coming. 

harry potter

This is the key. Since Harry didn't die in combat, he wasn't technically defeated. From the book:

"But..." Harry raised his hand instinctively toward the lightning scar. It did not seem to be there. "But I should have died - I didn't defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!"

"And that," said Dumbledore, "will, I think, have made all the difference."

In other words, "The only way to win is not to play." And since Harry had all three Deathly Hallows under his control, he was the true Master of Death. Don't take my word for it though -- Dumbledore says it himself:

"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."

The old headmaster doesn't directly acknowledge that Harry actually died because that would be telling Harry that he is indeed the Master of Death. Having that kind of power would undoubtedly corrupt someone, as we saw with the Tale of the Three Brothers. Crafty old bastard that he is, Dumbledore allows Harry to believe that his mother's protection worked once more. Even in the magical white void of limbo, Dumbledore is still a god damned liar. 

Looking back, Harry probably should have figured out that he died when he was fighting Voldemort in the last battle. He explains that a protection spell had been cast over the students of Hogwarts:

"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 aren't binding? You can't torture them. You can't touch them."

If Harry truly did the same thing as his mother, he would have had to die for the people he loved. And that's what really happened, despite what some tricky old codgers might tell you.

Tristan Cooper has his own headcanon on Twitter.