comment by Strangeattractor ·
2014-02-11T01:30:06.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Avada Kedavra and Lily
Avada Kedavra is repeatedly pointed out to be an unusual spell.
The caster's state of mind doesn't seem to matter when casting Lumos or other ordinary spells. But for Avada Kedavra, the person casting the spell has to feel a certain emotion and achieve a certain state of mind. As Harry puts it in chapter 86 the spell is "A magically embodied preference for death over life."
In the conversation with Moody and Dumbledore, it is also mentioned that the first time to cast Avada Kedavra is a big psychological hump for most people to get over, though it usually becomes easier on subsequent occasions.
What if the way Avada Kedavra really works is that it amplifies the preferences of the caster for life or death, but only if it is extreme? What if having an absolute preference for life over death is also a psychological hump that you have to get over?
I think it is plausible that Avada Kedavra doesn't work exactly like the wizards think it does. Moody says it works by striking at a person's soul. If souls don't exist, then maybe it works a different way.
I think it is plausible that over many years many people could use Avada Kedavra without discovering its additional properties.
In some ways, Avada Kedavra would be a very safe spell to experiment with, if the caster didn't really want the other person dead. However, it would take an immense amount of trust to allow another person to cast it at you, without dodging. How well do you know the caster, and can you really believe that they don't want you dead? Or, from the caster's point of view, would you really want to risk using something called the Killing Curse on someone you care about and love?
In Harry's memory of Godric's Hollow, his mother Lily first gets the Dark Lord to agree to save Harry in exchange for her death. Only then does she start to cast Avada Kedavra.
It's true that she was interrupted by the Dark Lord also casting Avada Kedavra. And I don't think we've seen very many examples of wizards collaborating on spells, so maybe that part of this theory doesn't work so well.
There have been hints that not everything at Godric's Hollow was as it seemed. Lily had been experimenting on life extension. What if under these extreme circumstances, her baby about to die if she did nothing, she decided to risk an experiment? What if she managed to outwit the Dark Lord?
That would be pretty awesome. It would be an expression of a mother's love in actions, not just in feelings.
Harry's memory of the event has Lily shrieking "Avada Ke-" in desperate hate, but he was under the influence of a dementor when he was remembering the scene. He might not have all the nuances of the scene, or all of the emotional flavour of it. And the scene doesn't show where Lily's wand was pointing, just has the sound of her voice.
Death, cell death and dementors
Does Harry really just want to prevent person death? His actions would be consistent with that, but the way he thinks of things and what he says isn't completely consistent with that.
Harry says things like "I won't let Death touch me, I won't let Death touch the ones I love," in Chapter 45 when facing down a dementor, and "I thought of my absolute rejection of death as the natural order," in Chapter 46, shortly after destroying a dementor.
To me, saying something like "I will not let them be touched by Death" makes about as much sense as saying "I will not let them be touched by molecules."
I would ask, how are you going to go on living for the next month without touching death?
Even if a human being decides to live by strict dietary rules like the Jains do (eating only fruit that has fallen to the ground, etc.), how will they avoid the cell deaths inside their body? The death and replenishment of cells is part of biology, part of living.
I would also ask, what does Harry mean when he says death is not part of the natural order? Aside from the idea that the death of large scale sentient sapient organisms is not desireable, that is. (Or is that the only thing Harry means?) From empirical observation, it would appear that death is part of all living organisms found in nature, at the level of cell death at least. I'm willing to entertain the idea of alternatives, but I'm not aware of any viable ones. I'm kind of bothered that Harry doesn't seem to see the need to propose any, or to make any distinctions between different types of death, if indeed he thinks cell death is different than person death. When he talks about death it is usually death with a capital D, and somewhat anthropomorphized, or a somewhat awkward abstraction. It doesn't seem to have much relationship to biology as we know it.
I think it might be the vestiges of the idea of having souls, or of the ghost-in-the-machine model of consciousness.
If you think of a person as being sort of a collection of emergent properties, and if you think that their body is part of who they are, then ignoring the deaths that happen at the smaller scales of the body doesn't really fit.
I'm used to overlooking this sort of thing most of the time, but one of ways HPMOR appeals to me is that on many topics it strives to be more correct and accurate about how things work and how to think about things. On the issue of death, at least with regard to dementors, it falls short of this for me. I would not be comforted by the thoughts Harry uses to resist dementors.
Voldemort and rituals
I think it is quite possible that Voldemort is doing rituals to attempt to survive. For example, assuming Quirrell is Voldemort, he managed to get a sample of Harry's blood when he grabbed the newspaper from him and Harry got a paper cut in chapter 26. In Chapter 61, Dumbledore says of Voldemort's possible plans for resurrection: "His second avenue is nearly as strong: The flesh of his servant, willingly given; the blood of his foe, forcibly taken; and the bone of his ancestor, unknowingly bequeathed." So, Quirrell has Bellatrix Black, and it seems likely she would willingly give him flesh. He has Harry's blood. He probably has some way to get bone from an ancestor. I don't think it would necessarily have to be from his father or immediate ancestors, though Dumbledore says that's the most powerful combination.
I'm not sure what Voldemort's motivations are beyond avoiding death. His present mode of survival might not be something he can maintain indefinitely. And if he thinks the universe is at risk, he would want to save that, to save his own skin.
He seems to be doing something with Harry, but I'm not sure what. When asked about it while in Azkaban, he said in Parseltongue "Plan iss for you to rule country, obviossly, even your young noble friend hass undersstood that by now," but that might be an outright lie, or just what he thinks Harry would find easy to believe.
In Chapter 89, from inside Quirrell's head, we can see that he feels Harry's emotions, but cannot directly manipulate them, and he thinks "With any luck, the boy had just discarded his foolish little reluctances." So it seems like Quirrell wants Harry to have fewer hesitations or ethical restrictions, but I'm not sure why.
It is possible that the main reason for the attack on Draco was to influence Harry, but I don't think it is obvious that this was the case, or that it is necessarily the only reason.
Also, Dumbledore might not be correct about the details whether there has to be a murder in coldest blood. He is simply repeating stories and legends from books he managed to track down about how to seek immortality. He might have interpreted it differently than Voldemort did.
comment by Velorien ·
2014-02-11T15:21:34.428Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I understand your theory about Avada Kedavra and Lily now. It has a few problems.
There's no reason to believe that Avada Kedavra is that unusual. It is one of two advanced spells whose workings are explained in detail, and the other is the Patronus Charm, which also requires a special state of mind. From this, it is entirely plausible that emotion-based spells are common among advanced casters, and not a great rarity that a) has special unique features and b) no-one's ever thought to study.
Your theory relies on all of our sources of information being incomplete or wrong (the entire wizarding world for all of its history, as well as Harry's memory), which surely merits some kind of penalty.
"Lily had been experimenting on life extension." Where do we know this from?
"In Harry's memory of Godric's Hollow, his mother Lily first gets the Dark Lord to agree to save Harry in exchange for her death." I'm not sure how this ties in to your theory, but either way, I suggest you review her actual words.
“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”
“Not Harry! Please... have mercy... have mercy...”
“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead!”
Unless Lily is an amazing actress, these are not the words of a woman trying to manipulate someone into completing a ritual.
In looking up quotes, I did find a line that strongly supports your theory, however. It's when Fred and George are planning rumours to spread about the Defense Professor:
“...like when he claimed that you could only cast the Killing Curse using love, which made it pretty much useless.”
And this is Eliezer we're talking about, and it also does so happen that if your theory is correct, Voldemort would have observed the results of Lily's experiment and taken note of its success.