A major theme of Potterverse is that there are worse things than death. Primary among them: remorse. Even if you’ve split your soul through crime, you can reintegrate it through remorse, but remorse is “excruciatingly painful.” You’ve got to really feel what you’ve done, and the pain of it can kill you.
Larry Nassar, who abused at least 150 girls and women as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is learning this firsthand. During his trial, in a letter that was six pages long single-spaced, he complained that it was detrimental to his mental health to keep listening to his victims as they confronted him in court. He had passed out twice before his sentencing for related child pornography charges. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina cut short a session so he could meet with mental health providers, but they did not recommend any accommodations for him; he was apparently of sound mind and therefore qualified to hear what his victims had to say to him.
At the end of Goblet of Fire, Harry’s wand connected with Voldemort’s, creating an understanding between them that generated a shimmering dome of golden threads. With all his strength of mind, Harry forced a bead of magical light toward Voldemort and into Voldemort’s wand, whereupon ghost-like representations of Voldemort’s murder victims appeared from his wandtip, surrounded him, spoke to him, and obscured Voldemort’s view long enough for Harry to make his escape. Harry was the only person who ever connected with Voldemort enough to make him really feel what he had done to so many victims.
With similar strength of mind, Judge Aquilina immobilized Nassar so he had to listen to his victims’ testimony, and despite his groveling pleas, she would not sever the connection.
When Dumbledore conquered Grindelwald, he did not kill Grindelwald but locked him up in Nurmengard, the prison that Grindelwald himself built to house his victims. Grindelwald lived more than 50 more years in that prison, in sound mind, experiencing remorse, feeling the harm he had caused. When Voldemort came to attack him about the Elder Wand, the elderly Grindelwald laughed at him, “Kill me then, Voldemort, I welcome death! But my death will not bring you what you seek…. There is so much you do not understand….”
Larry Nassar didn’t have to hear anything other than accounts of what he had already done to other people. This prison is only as uncomfortable for him as he has made it through his own actions.
No wonder so many characters in the Harry Potter books, from Harry to Dumbledore to Hermione to Snape, go to extremes to prevent others from committing murder and other unforgivable crimes. Living with those crimes can feel worse than death; it’s worth the effort to avoid such a fate. In Sorcerer’s Stone, Firenze tells Harry that those who kill unicorns to drink their blood have “slain something pure and defenseless” and “will have but a half-life, a cursed life,” thereafter.
Larry Nassar is only 54 and his sentence for sex abuse is 40 to 175 years. He might have quite a long time to think about what he’s done.