Plenty of people are still confused by that final scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. After Harry goes through Severus Snape’s memories, he learns that he is one of Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes and must die at Voldemort’s hand. Knowing that Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake, will be difficult to kill as she is always by Voldemort’s side, Harry will have to sacrifice himself and then expect someone else to kill Nagini before Voldemort can finally die.
He arrives at Voldemort’s camp in the Forbidden Forest expecting to die. And Voldemort does not disappoint, using a Killing Curse so powerful that it knocks him down momentarily. Harry, on the other hand, wakes up to find himself in a lighter version of King’s Cross, where he meets Dumbledore.
So, if he really met Dumbledore and was in a sort of limbo for wizards, did Harry Potter really die? That’s a question a lot of fans have. And I’m here to answer it.
Did Harry Potter Really Die in Deathly Hallows?
Technically, this isn’t really an answer anyone can answer with a yes or no. He was hit with a Killing Curse that sent him to limbo, but it wasn’t Harry himself that died. To understand this answer properly, we have to go back and explain why and how Harry was turned into a Horcrux which required him to “die” by Voldemort’s hand.
Flashback to October 1981
Towards the end of the Second Wizarding War in 1980, seer Sybill Trewlaney and Albus Dumbledore met at the Hog’s Head for an interview. Trewlaney applied for the position of the Divination professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but Dumbledore was disappointed by the interview and was about to reject her application. However, as he was about to leave, Trewlaney entered a trance and provided him with a real prophecy:
“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…”
She predicted that a boy that had the power to defeat Voldemort was born towards the end of July 1980 to parents who have defied Voldemort in three occasions. This boy would have a power Voldemort could not understand or ever have for himself. And if more than one person fulfilled these requirements, Voldemort’s decision on who it was would ultimately determine who this Chosen One is. Voldemort chose Harry because both of them were half-blood (since Harry’s maternal grandparents are Muggles) while Neville was a pureblood.
Voldemort spent the better part of a year trying to find the Potters, and he didn’t find them until Peter Pettigrew betrayed the Potters as their Secret Keeper and told Voldemort their location. Thus, Voldemort was allowed to trespass their Fidelius Charm, enter their home, and murder the Potters. When Lily Potter sacrificed herself to protect Harry, she invoked a powerful ancient magic rooted in love that protected Harry until adulthood. So, when Voldemort tried to kill Harry with the Killing Curse, the spell rebounded at destroyed him.
Voldemort, however, had made five other Horcruxes. So, when his physical body was destroyed by the curse, his soul remained in this earth. This allowed him to be resurrected into a second body in 1994. However, the cost of creating one Horcrux was the damage sustained on Voldemort’s soul. By the time he came to kill one-year-old Harry, his soul was so unstable from being split five times that, when he was destroyed from the Killing Curse, his soul split another time. The other part of his soul attached itself to the closest living thing it could find, which was Harry himself. This is how Harry became Voldemort’s accidental Horcrux.
Harry’s “Death” in 1998
Fast forward back to 1998 when Voldemort finally uses his Killing Curse on Harry. Harry wakes up in a whiter version of King’s Cross where he finds Dumbledore (who died about a year prior). There, Harry also finds a grotesque version of Voldemort’s soul that Dumbledore says is beyond their help.
There, Dumbledore explains to Harry what he failed to explain in Snape’s memory. When Voldemort fired the Killing Curse at Harry, he did not kill Harry completely – just the part of Voldemort’s soul that remained in Harry as a Horcrux. So, technically, a part of Harry does die, but it’s the part of him that made him connected to Voldemort. However, because that part of Voldemort’s soul is so damaged, it cannot pass through the side of the dead and is forever stuck in Limbo. This is why Harry himself – sans Voldemort’s soul – has the option to return to the world of the living.
This also has to do with the ownership of the Elder Wand. Since the Elder Wand technically belongs to Harry, the Elder Wand would have never killed its own master. Instead, it killed the part of Harry that wasn’t truly him. For proof, we have to look at the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because the film doesn’t include this bit.
After Harry re-awakens and Narcissa Malfoy lies and says he is dead, Voldemort shows off by using the Cruciatus Curse on Harry’s body multiple times. Harry does not feel anything because the wand, no matter how powerful it is, would never betray its true master and use its power against him.
And to answer Harry’s question at the end of the scene (“Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”), Dumbledore answers it perfectly: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Knowing Harry, no matter how close he was to Dumbledore, he could not have come up with a more Dumbledore answer. Harry did die, enter limbo, and had the option to truly die and let his soul pass on to the land of the living, but he chose the noble decision to return and fight.