Priori Incantatem

chapter thirty-four of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Voldemort gives Harry his wand, and duels him to kill – but Harry first shakes off his Imperius Curse, and then fights back and their wands connect. Shadows of Cedric, Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins, and Lily and James then come out of Voldemort’s wand, and protect Harry as he breaks the connection, grabs Cedric’s body, and escapes.

The Dark Lord, by TBranch

“You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?” said Voldemort softly, his red eyes glinting through the darkness.

(by TBranch)


Priori Incantatem, by Beeeb

He felt his feet lift from the ground. He and Voldemort were both being raised into the air, their wands still connected by that thread of shimmering golden light. They glided away from the tombstone….

(by Beeeb)


Priori Incantatem, by Mudblood428

The… shadowy figures began to pace around the inner walls of the golden web, while the Death Eaters flitted around the outside of it… and Voldemort’s dead victims whispered as they circled the duelers, whispered words of encouragement to Harry, and hissed words Harry couldn’t hear to Voldemort….


Narrow Escape, by Beeeb

Accio! Harry yelled, pointing his wand at the Triwizard Cup. It flew in the air and soared toward him. Harry caught it by the handle…. They were going back.

(by Beeeb)


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

It’s incredibly interesting that the Triwizard Cup was a Portkey that not only brought Harry and Cedric to Little Hangleton, but was also programmed to go back to Hogwarts. This almost certainly isn’t typical of Portkeys, given the way we see them treated elsewhere (remember the Ministry officials throwing used Portkeys haphazardly into a box at the Quidditch World Cup?). So why on earth would this be the case?

It’s possible that the Cup was pre-programmed to be a Portkey from the middle of the maze back to the outside, and when the “faithful Death Eater” altered it, all he could do was create an intermediary step (he could add a destination, but not alter the existing one). But one other theory I’ve seen is that the Portkey would have been designed this way deliberately to take Voldemort back to Hogwarts, along with his Death Eaters, to start his new reign of terror. The idea would certainly be Voldemort’s type of scheme, and also makes sense – after all, Hogwarts probably has protective spells that prevent someone from creating a Portkey in, similar to how you can’t Apparate in. But since the Portkey was created from within the Hogwarts grounds, he was able to program it to come back.

It’s possible the wizarding world is very, very lucky that Harry was able to get away from Voldemort, for more reasons than they’ll ever know.


This was another chapter that was the subject of much debate in fandom for a while, as the original printing of Goblet of Fire accidentally described James coming out of Voldemort’s wand first, then followed by Lily. Of course, by all other accounts of their deaths, the order should have been the other way round, and Rowling confirmed as much on her website, saying “my American editor thought that was the wrong way around, and he is so good at catching small errors I changed it without thinking, then realised it had been right in the first place. We were all very sleep-deprived at the time.” The error was fixed for subsequent printings of the book.

The Final Word

(Interviewer:) There’s some other horrific violence, too, like when Wormtail cuts up Harry’s arm to get the blood to bring Voldemort back to life. Very disturbing.
(J.K. Rowling:) Yeah, that wasn’t good, I agree with you.
Have you ever thought, ‘Maybe I should tone it down’?
No. I know that sounds kind of brutal but no, I haven’t…. I don’t at all relish the idea of children in tears, and I absolutely don’t deny it’s frightening. But it’s supposed to be frightening! And if you don’t show how scary that is, you cannot show how incredibly brave Harry is. He’s really brave, and he does, I think, one of his bravest things in this book: He can’t save Cedric, but he wants to save Cedric’s parents additional pain. He wants to bring back the body and treat it with respect.
Saving Cedric’s body reminded me of the Hector Patroclus Achilles triangle in the Iliad.
That’s where it came from. That really, really, REALLY moved me when I read that when I was 19. The idea of the desecration of a body, a very ancient idea… I was thinking of that when Harry saved Cedric’s body.
And then you go and emotionally decimate your readers with that scene where Harry’s murdered parents are drawn out of Voldemort’s wand. I was in tears.
Me too. It was the first time I cried writing a Harry Potter book. I got pretty upset.
(September 2000)

43 Responses to “Priori Incantatem”

  1. I don’t think Voldemort would have traveled back to Hogwarts. Remember in Order of the Phoenix, Lupin and Sirius tell Harry that he spoiled the Rebirthing Party by surviving to bear witness to the newly reborn Voldemort. Voldemort was hoping to go unnoticed and begin his new reign of terror in secret.

  2. I like the first theory about the cup being programmed to take the champion to the beginning of the maze (and making the cup a portkey would be a good way to make sure the first to touch it is the winner). Barty Jr just created an intermediate destination to the graveyard but ultimately the coup was meant to take the winner back to Hogwarts.
    I agree with Jim in that Voldemort’s plan is to come back quietly as we are told in OotP. Harry was not supposed to survive and no one was supposed to be aware of the fact that he had returned.

    I think this was the first time I actually cried reading Harry Potter. It was heart-breaking to see Cedric back, and Lily and James…

  3. My reaction to the idea that Voldemort was going to go to Hogwarts is that it doesn’t make sense because of Lupin saying that no one was supposed to find out that Voldemort returned.

    I’m thinking it’s one of those things that is more about making the plot work and less about what makes sense. Voldemort wanted to stay in the background, but the portkey needed to go back to Hogwarts.

    It’s kind of like with Yaxley. He was the Death Eater Harry used Petrificus Totalus on on the tower (as we learn when Harry, Ron, and Hermione infiltrate the Ministry), and, from Scrimgeour’s comments to Harry at the funeral, was apparently discovered by the Ministry. Yet, he was able to use his role in the Ministry to get information and place the Imperius curse on Thicknesse just a few weeks later. It doesn’t make sense that he would be discovered as a Death Eater and still working at the Ministry, but he needed to be so that’s how it is.

  4. I can’t decide how I feel about the ‘Voldemort returning to Hogwarts’ theory. It wasn’t my idea (though the other one was, so I’m glad you both liked it better ;) ), and I’m torn. On the one hand, wanting to stay hidden fits with Voldemort’s actions over the ensuing couple of years (quiet, in the background, until he’s built up enough strength) and it’s possible he mentioned to Snape that his plan had gone awry, given Snape’s role as a spy for the Death Eaters – hence the Order’s knowledge of it. On the other hand, with the element of surprise on his side (and the lack of adults at the school), he could easily have killed Dumbledore and taken the school over. And the fact that the cup went back to Hogwarts at all is so strange, though obviously it needed to for the sake of the plot. So… I’m not sure. Any other thoughts?

  5. I guess I don’t 100% buy Lupin’s comment that Voldemort wanted to stay in the background as fact. It’s possible Snape told him that, of course, but it also sounds to me like it could just be an assumption that the Order made based on how the events took place.

    And jay ferguson, as far as the “things that [are] more about making the plot work and less about what makes sense,” yes – there are plenty of those, to be sure. But I find it much more fun to try to find rational explanations for them, even if the explanations weren’t Rowling’s intent. :) Of course, occasionally we’ll have things like two Mondays in a row, but most of the time there’s at least SOMETHING that we can make sense of.

  6. I was thinking for some reason that you have to “deactivate” a portkey…I could swear I remember them doing something to the portkeys at the World Cup before tossing them aside, but maybe I just made that up to make sense of it.
    I’ve always liked the idea of Voldemort’s plan being to wipe out Harry and then go back to Hogwarts to slaughter everyone at the tournament — a plan which of course didn’t work since Harry didn’t die. I’d say things didn’t go according to plan, but not necessarily for the reason Lupin provides.

  7. Seeing that Voldemort had intended Harry to die, maybe the plan was using the portkey to transport Harry’s body back to Hogwarts?
    I’m sure it would have caused much despair and horror to the spectators at Hogwarts,and eventually the wizarding world, to see The Boy Who Lived’s body dead and yet many of them would merely think that he died during the events of the third task?(Of course Dumbledore would have suspected otherwise more of less..)

  8. Maybe the portkey was supposed to bring Harry’s corpse back to Hogwarts? After all, if Harry just disappeared without a trace, that would seem a whole lot more suspicious than if he had just died in the maze somehow. Of course, Dumbledore would have realized that something was wrong no matter what, but maybe Voldemort had planned how to make something or somebody else seem responsible for Harry’s death, so that he himself could stay in the background. Perhaps he would put the blame on the faithful servant? It’s not like he hadn’t framed someone else for murder and got away with it before…

  9. fenshoe, I agree with you. In my head, you aso had to de-activate the portkey. Or maybe the portkeys at the World Cup were the exceptions, instead of the rule: What if they had put a special spell on those (since there are so many and people have put a lot of thought in the organisation) and the portkey to the graveyard just does what every portkey does….
    I love the JK-quotes about this chapter :)

  10. Unrelated to anyone else’s thoughts, I love Beeeb’s first picture.
    I really am confused about the Portkeys. ^.^

  11. I don’t consider myself a gullible reader, but I remember first reading this chapter and thinking (very casually) to myself that “The next book is gonna have to be called Ron and Hermionie and the Something Something” because I was so sure that Harry wasn’t going to make it. Imagine my suprise. . .

  12. Regarding the intended use of the portkey to transport Harry’s body back to Hogwarts (re: Jason and Alex), that makes the most sense to me. It fits not only with Lupin’s belief that Voldemort wanted to lie low for a while, but also with Voldemort’s perpetual need to show his work. I can’t imagine Voldemort killing Harry and then keeping his death a secret. So, even if he didn’t plan to storm Hogwarts with the Death Eaters (and I have to think even the greatest Dark Wizard would want a little more time to recoup), the death of The Boy Who Lived would send a vanguard of fear through the wizarding world.

  13. Another fascinating detail that’s overlooked here is that VOLDEMORT HAS HIS OWN WAND.

    When you’ve been blasted into a bodyless /thing/, how can you take your wand with you? But clearly, this is the wand Ollivander sold young Tom Riddle, since it reacts to Harry’s in the way only Voldemort’s can.
    Peter had two wands. When Sirius chased him down–he had another wand behind his back, the rat– did Peter stop by the ruins of the Potter house first? He certainly wasn’t hiding when Sirius checked on him. Did Peter see Voldemort’s dead body (how else would the wizarding world know he was ‘dead’?) and take his wand? Did Scabbers have Voldemort’s wand with him the entire time he was at Hogwarts?
    Kinda makes this bit all the more lucky for Harry, right? If Peter hadn’t escaped Sirius and Ron in PoA, Voldemort would have acquired a new wand by this point, and instead of Priori Incantatem, we’d have Avada Kedavra Harry Potter.

  14. Spider, Rowling has said that Wormtail went by and picked up Voldemort’s wand after the house was blasted apart. So your theory is correct – but your point about the Priori Incantatem is an interesting one.

  15. Okay, here’s a theory…what if Voldemort wanted to kill Harry, turn him into an inferi and send him back to kill Dumbledore? You can control inferi, right?
    Or maybe Voldemort wanted to send Harry back dead to freak everyone out.

  16. So there were two first times JRK cried while writing this book (once when Cedric was killed and now when Harry’s parents’ shadows come out of the wand)? ;-)

    Spider, I was wondering about Voldemort having his own wand, too, but didn’t think it through as you did.

    Avada Kedavra – Expelliarmus. Voldemort should really keep in mind that the outcome of this combination wasn’t what he had hoped for. ;-)

  17. Although I did like the idea of Voldemort planning on showing up at Hogwarts, the more I think about the portkey problem, the more I like the idea that fake Moody was only able to add an interim destination, but it was originally programmed to return to the outside of the maze. It fits in with the snitch being only touched by skin the first seeker who reaches it, i.e. the winner automatically appears and there’s no dispute.

  18. I always thought Lupin said Voldemort was staying low because Harry’s survival in the graveyard had thrown his original intentions askew. I don’t know that LV’s original intentions are ever mentioned in the books, but I always thought he was going to make his grand re-entrance at the tournament.

  19. Why didn’t Harry and Cedric take the portkey back as soon as they appeared in the graveyard? Even if they didn’t know it would take them back, I’m surprised they didn’t even think to try…

    It seems likely to me that Voldemort planned to take the portkey back himself to Hogwarts – if he had been planning all along to keep quiet, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Dumbledore would realize what had happened and tell everyone anyway.

  20. Also, why did the Priori Incantatum only reveal the murders? We know this effect works on all spells cast by the wand. From the time Voldemort killed James, was it really not used for ANYTHING but murder? What about when he tried to kill Harry? And why didn’t Wormtail use it at all? I know he has his own wand, but if he uses it regularly, why did he use Voldemort’s wand to kill Bertha and Cedric?

  21. Will: I got the impression that Harry and Cedric thought the graveyard was a part of the last assignment, that there was a last challenge there (maybe because there were two of them and it wasn’t supposed to be a draw) they needed to do in order to win. That’s why they didn’t immideatly think of turning back :)

  22. Unlike other portkeys we have seen, which have all involved precise timing and such, this one works upon command, so to speak. In making the portkey ready-to-go perhaps this had an effect on how exactly it worked, and upon having completed it’s task, it took the user to the destination they wished, rather than a predetermined path – much like apparation? This is the only time, as far as I can recall, we encounted a portkey which didn’t have a schedule to keep, so there’s no telling what else was modified.
    Personally, if it were programmed to return to Hogwart’s on purpose for future use by Voldemort, I’d assume it would have been kept (somehow, perhaps magically transported so there was no human contact) until he decided the time was right to make his move. Obviously the defences on Hogwarts were powerful, which we see bipassed by the death eaters in Half-blood Prince with the vanishing cabinet – a task given to Draco by Voldemort – perhaps the loss of the cup was just as much a foil to Voldemort’s plans as being revealed as “being back”.

    I’m just throwing ideas out as I think of them, honestly, but it seems somewhat plausible. Or, of course, the cup was always just meant to be another horcrux – yet another, although for the first time literal, trophy.

  23. Actually, Priori Incantatum does reveal all prior spells, not just murder. Remember the screams and the ghostly hand came out first, then more screams, then people.

  24. I have the first edition American book, the one with James coming out of the wand firts, and I never thought about how that was wrong until later, when someone pointed it out. And then once I did read a newer version where they fixed the mistake, and it just seemed so wrong to have James speaking all of Lily’s lines. It just doesn’t seem to fit, really. I just figured that because they’re Harry’s parents, they got to bend the order a bit :)

  25. I like the theory about sending Harry’s body back better than the Voldemort wanted to take it back himself theory, because it makes the most sense to me. Voldemort only had his DEs back at that point, and surely he’d want to at least get the rest of his army back before attempting something that he hadn’t even tried when he was all powerful before. He never tried a full hostile takeover until after Dumbledore was dead. Unless the plan was for Crouch Jr to kill Dumbledore first. But the idea of wanting his return to stay a secret until he had all his old forces back and was ready to reveal himself makes sense, and having Harry Potter just disappear would have been an extremely suspicious thing to do. Whereas if he sent the body back it would have looked like Harry had died as part of the task.

  26. In response to some of the comments:

    One: Priori Incantatem shows all spells – Dumbledore said so. I don’t know why the other spells didn’t turn up – except the hand – that was a echo of the hand Voldemort gave Peter, not the “murder” of the hand – that was cut off with a knife, not a wand.

    Two: Someone mentioned if Voldemort had used another wand He would have killed Harry by avoiding PI. This is not true. As we learn from book seven (spoiler) Harry and Voldemort’s wands are extremely powerful – remember Harry’s wand destroyed Lucius’ (when Voldemort was using it) with the same incantations. Interesting. And here I was thinking it was about the power of the wizard, not the wand – but JKR is cleverer than that. Just think: if Ollivander knew what little 11 year old Tom Riddle would end up becoming, he may not have gifted him with such a powerful wand…

    Three: The error is also in the British books – I don’t know what happened there. I’m in NZ so we use the British version and I just read it – James came out first – which is wrong. How could she have overlooked it! :P

  27. Samantha, Harry most likely would have been killed here if he had not had the protection of the twin cores because Harry’s wand was not yet exposed to Voldemort’s wand. It was only after this battle and because of the connecting of the cores here that Harry’s wand could recognize and regurgitate some of Voldemort’s magic – this is explained by DD in DH Chapter 35 “Kings Cross” (at least by my interpretation of what DD is telling Harry:)

  28. Ooooooh, I must’ve missed that. Interesting. Harry was super lucky then!! Wow!

  29. It seems a little odd that the Cup could be summoned, it would have made it just too easy for the champions to touch it, I think that’s an oops (or maybe nothing could be summoned once you were inside the maze?) Anyway, it seems a little weird that thet didn’t even try to do it…

  30. Federico, you’re definitely right – and given the fact that later on we see Horcruxes with anti-Summoning charms on them (that work no matter where they’ve been placed) it doesn’t make a lot of sense that the Cup wouldn’t be given the same protection. I like your theory that the entire maze was under that enchantment, though. Or perhaps the Cup was in a ring of protection of some sort, like the Age Line that Dumbledore used on it earlier, to prevent both Summoning and other, more sinister enchantments?

  31. I’m 99% positive the point of the Portkey going back was to take Harry’s corpse back. The point of Voldemort’s elaborate Triwizard Tournament plan, as opposed to fake Moody calling Harry in his office one day and giving him a Portkey-coffee-cup, was not only to get at Harry when he was not protected but to make his death look like an accident. It would have been suspicious if Harry just disappeared from school one day, or his dead body was lying in Moody’s office. Voldemort likes to create fear and work in the background – there is NO way whatsoever he would declare himself at Hogwarts. Harry’s dead body in the maze would be plausible, as the maze was dangerous and Harry was young. Voldemort would be back and NO ONE at Hogwarts would have any idea – I know they didn’t really believe him anyway, and there would be suspicion, but not even the Order would be positive. Imagine the power Voldemort would have working in that kind of secrecy, like he had in OotP but even more so, as DD wouldn’t even know the details.

  32. Does any of the theories about the portkey explain how PI-James could know and tell Harry that the cup would take him back to Hogwarts?

  33. “SPOILER”
    I think if Voldemort had used another wand he wouldn’t have killed Harry.Voldemort couldn’t kill Harry because he had already used Harry’s blood to get the protection of Lily.He thinks that this protection makes him stronger (and in some way, this made ​​him stronger,because he was able to touch Harry’s head) but using Avada Kedavra,it doesn’t work that way.We saw it in book 7 and the chapter “forest again”.

  34. Pam, Voldemort could not have killed Harry. Harry was protected by his mother’s blood until his seventeenth birthday. As long as he returned to Privet Drive each summer (which he did), he was protected everywhere, not just at Privet Drive.

    Of course, neither Harry nor Voldemort knew that at the time. The danger must have felt real to Harry – and it certainly did to us readers!

    Maria, this is also correct. Once Voldemort had taken Harry’s blood, Harry was doubly protected. Now he couldn’t be killed as long as Voldemort was alive.

    It does raise the question of why Dumbledore still insisted that Harry return to Privet Drive every summer. Perhaps he thought they might be incredibly lucky and kill Voldemort off before Harry was seventeen. In that case, there still might be a few Death Eaters pursuing Harry, so Dumbledore must have felt that it was worth giving Harry the extra protection.

  35. **SPOILERS**
    I agree that Voldemort coming back through the Cup just isn’t his style. And it just doesn’t make sense. Voldemort was even talking about rebuilding his army in the graveyard, and let’s face it, once Hogwarts is gone, he has nothing left really. Even the Ministry pales in comparison, as DH shows us. The only place that doesn’t fall really, is Hogwarts. Voldemort knows he couldn’t ever take it on just being reborn, with only a handful of Death Eaters on his side. At first I liked the idea of the trip to the graveyard just being an intermediary trip for the Cup, but now I’m leaning more towards Voldemort wanting to send Harry’s body back. As it was said above, it is so his style, and would allow him to work in secret. It just makes the most sense to me.

    Samantha, I don’t know why this hasn’t been brought up yet, but Priori Incantatem does bring up all the spells. The screams are the Cruciatus Curse, then there’s the hand, and then the murders. I’m not sure why Imperio didn’t show up (maybe it only shows up when the spell worked?), and what would the “iron hand” bending Harry into a bow count as? Certainly not Imperio. Other than these two inconsistencies, I’m pretty sure that’s all that wand did.

  36. I think it makes sense to combine two of the theories on here re: LV’s Portkey plans/why the cup returned to Hogwarts. It was planned to return to the edge of the maze for purposes of spectacle, CrouchMoody added on the interim destination, and told LV, who then said, “well, tell you what, we’ll use that to send his body back to Hogwarts”, thus taking advantage of the Tournament’s plans for his own ends.

  37. I really like the theory that Crouch Jr. could only add another step to the portkey, because I always thought that Voldemort wanted to keep the entire thing secret. However, I’d always thought of it differently.

    Kind of like what Clabwab says, I had assumed that portkeys were of two distinct types, those that leave at a specific time, a kind of one-way trip, and those that are more like a backwards-forwards gateway between two places. I can’t see Voldemort sending Harry’s body back when no evidence is better than something which could give even a little bit of information. As to why James knew that the cup would take Harry back, I just thought he knows that it’s a backwards-forwards kind.

  38. Here’s a question: A high, cold voice (Voldemort) says, “Kill the spare.” A second voice (Wormtail) actually performs the curse that kills Cedric. After Voldemort gains his body and is robed, he pulls his wand out of a pocket in his robe. But then Cedric comes out of Voldemort’s wand.

    Did Wormtail use Voldemort’s wand and then put the wand in the robe pocket? When would he have done that with the making of the potion and writhing on the ground in pain? Would Voldemort have ALLOWED Wormtail to even use his wand? I just can’t see Voldemort allowing Wormtail to use his wand.

  39. I like the theory that Harry’s body was to be transported back via portkey. But does not Voldemort indicate to Nagini that she can look forward to a good Harry snack?

  40. The theory of using the portkey to return to hogwarts is an interesting one, although I doubt voldemort would have utilised it immediately given he wanted his return to be a secret. most likely he planned to keep it as a method of penetrating hogwarts’ defenses, which he couldn’t do even when secrecy was far less of a problem in year 6. It took all of voldemort’s power and followers to finally breach hogwarts, and when he finally did Harry went and finished him off.

  41. i’m 100% with the theory of the portkey being designed to transport harry’s body back and make it look like an accident. it’s just so voldemort-ey, and it also fits with lupin’s theory in OotP. Now this got me thinking and it occured to me that sending harry’s body back with avada kedavra just cast on him would seem a very suspicious death, as in the riddle house chapter it is described to be forensically impossible to distinguish from any other sources of death.

    we may argue that this was unnecessary as harry was sure to sustain convincing injuries along the way to the cup, but even so they would not be able to justify his mysterious death. For voldemort to have come up with a plan as brilliant as this to bring harry to the graveyard right under DD’s nose, he would seem very foolish if he neglected the aftermath of his return at the hogwarts end of the portkey, and it would make sense that he had a plan to ensure his secret return and advantageous position.

    going with this last comment here by James about nagini wanting a nice harry-snack when his master was done with him, we could say Voldemort could let him take a few chunks out of harry, and this way it could look like a beast killed harry…

    anyway I’m new here and I would very much like to thank the author of this website, as I am thoroughly loving all the information I wouldn’t dream of realising on my own.

  42. I like the theory of Rtozier’s, that the Cup was already programmed to return and Crouch jnr added a clause and informed LV, who used it for his own ends….to hopefully send Harry’s body back.

    But Harry wouldn’t have died anyway, not just because of the blood protection but because he was a Horcrux (bk 7).
    Oh damn, Harry resisted this time… But he still thought he would die. So I think my theory still works….
    What do you think?

  43. Remember, *spoiler* there is the protection Harry got two chapters ago when some of Harry’s blood, with his mother’s protection in it, was used to re-incarnate Voldy in corporal form. We learn about that three books from now.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: