A life debt is a magical bond formed between a wizard or witch and the person whose life they saved. The one who owes the debt to the saviour would one day be obliged to repay the deed by doing something beneficial to the said saviour. Such a bond can be formed between even the worst of enemies and regardless of whether either of the involved parties want it or not. As this bond is magically binding, the indebted could commit the repayment without acknowledging it, or even against their will.
Known life debts
- James Potter, in his fifth year, saved Severus Snape from a near-fatal prank that Sirius Black played on him, which involved luring Snape to the Shrieking Shack where Remus Lupin was in his werewolf form. As such, Snape owed James a life debt, although they hated each other. This was repaid when Snape repeatedly protected James' son, Harry, throughout Harry's years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, it is possible that Snape chose to protect Harry solely because of his love of Harry's mother, Lily Potter. Snape also could've repaid James when he asked Dumbledore to hide the Potters in 1981.
- Harry Potter, in his third year, prevented Peter Pettigrew from being murdered by his former best friends, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, for treason. Instead, Harry asked for him to be transferred to Azkaban. Though Pettigrew escaped, he still owed Harry a life debt. This was repaid when Pettigrew showed a rare and brief moment of mercy at the Skirmish at Malfoy Manor and released Harry from a choking hold with his silver hand, which Voldemort had given to him for sacrificing his own hand to bring Voldemort back into human form. Unfortunately, it was fulfilling this debt that caused the silver hand to then turn on Peter, killing him for showing what Voldemort would have considered weakness.
Behind the scenes
- Both known life debts are related to Harry's benefit, and both the indebted parties died protecting him.
- J. K. Rowling has stated Ginny did not owe Harry a life debt for his rescue of her in the Chamber of Secrets.
- It is unknown whether Arthur or Ron ever had life debts to Harry, for being rescued after being attacked by Nagini in 1995, and given a bezoar after being poisoned in 1997, respectively. If it is true that Ron once owed Harry a life debt, he presumably repaid it by saving Harry from drowning in 1998.
- It is unknown if life debts can be made between animals and people, but if so Harry may be in debt to Fawkes the Phoenix for saving him from the Basilisk venom, and Dumbledore might have been in debt to Fawkes for swallowing the Killing Curse during his duel with Voldemort, although it should be noted that an instance where a Phoenix would require the repaying of a life debt would be rare, if even possible, given that they are, in all known cases, reborn after death.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (First identified as Life debt)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows