In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, several ghosts are shown e.g Nearly Headless Nick, Moaning Myrtlee etc, but later it is revealed to Harry that dead can not be brought back to life. Then how come these ghosts exist? Why didn't James and Lily became ghosts as well? Kindly help.

2 Answers 2


In the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, there is an exchange between Harry and the ghost Nearly Headless Nick (played by John Cleese in the films) which explains why some wizards return as ghosts and others do not:

"Wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth, to walk palely where their living selves once trod", said Nick miserably. "But very few wizards choose that path."

"Why not?", said Harry. "Anyway - it doesn’t matter - he won’t care if it’s unusual, he’ll come back, I know he will!" [...]

"He will not come back", repeated Nick. "He will have... gone on."


"I was afraid of death", said Nick softly. "I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn’t to have... well, that is neither here nor there... in fact, I am neither here nor there..."

He gave a small sad chuckle. "I know nothing of the secrets of death, Harry, for I chose my feeble imitation of life instead."

In short, a ghost is an imprint of the soul that wizards leave behind because they were afraid of the death (of, rather, of "going on" after it).

I wouldn't expect Harry's parents to fall into the "fearing death" category.

  • Every wizard has a choice to become a ghost or not. But the situation in which Harry's parent died, they didn't fell in "fearing death" category but they did fall in "what will happen to our only child" category. Still this answer is sufficient for my query. Thanks 1+ from my side. Dec 19, 2014 at 9:43
  • It's been a while since I read the books, but I think that the fear for their child would not be resolved by becoming ghosts. First, they are attached to a location, which limits their reach. Second, their physical impact is minimal. They had no idea where their child will grow up, so attaching to Hogwarts would be the only place to make any sense, but that would be too far fetched and leave them years of agony of "living" in this world without any contact with Harry. Third, they don't fall into "extraordinarily strong connection to the locations they haunt" category either. Dec 19, 2014 at 11:33
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    So, yes, it is their choice. No, they do not get stuck to Hogwarts exclusively, but what other location could Harry's parents chose? They couldn't have known no other location at which their child would spend a lot of time. Certainly not Lilly's estranged muggle sister. Dec 19, 2014 at 14:11
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    If you'd like to improve this answer to quote from a canon source rather than a wiki's rough summary of said source, please see my edit. This edit was reversed by a third party who evidently felt I'd gone too far, but as the OP, you get the final word :-) Jul 5, 2016 at 0:12
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    I thank both of you. Rand's edit was OK; it gave canon instead of a wiki-retold version, which is fine by me. My two parts were merged, rather than one of them removed. I rolled it back and I added a short sentence to explain what the citation tells that is important for this answer, which I believe is the part that cde felt was missing. I think it's a better written answer now, thanks to the both of you. Jul 5, 2016 at 1:01

I don't think anyone could really answer this question. However, there are two key-points someone must consider:

  1. A person can never truly grasp the idea of "death". Neither can we. Nearly-Headless Nick said he was rather afraid of it and thus chose not to leave, which makes him seem kind of a coward. Now, there is no doubt that both Potter's parents and Dumbledore​ were braver and had more courage than him and they all chose not to come back, so maybe the first keypoint is courage.

  2. Lily and James Potter's death is a major contributor in the plot of the books. Without their death, there would be no Chosen One nor a conflict really, so it is crucial that they die and not return.

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