Mind you, where unsavory magical constructs are concerned I do think that Rowling probably did turn up something suitably disgusting in regards to how one creates a homunculus such as that which was used to get VaporMort back onto the physical plane.
Rowling waved the existence of that particular process, and how revolting it is, in our faces when an interviewer actually got up the nerve to ask about how Tom built his Horcruxes. Without ever answering the question which had been asked. Indeed, implying that we didn’t want to know. (Sorry Jo, we definitely did want to know about Horcruxes. We aren’t anything like as interested in the homunculus.)
Whatever else it might have been, the homunculus wasn’t a Horcrux. Human beings have been attempting to perform magic for a long time, and some of the historically documented attempts are gross enough to gag a maggot. So something suitably disgusting was probably out there for Rowling to latch onto.
However, I suspect that since Horcruxes (by whatever name) — unlike homunculi — are a folklore element, rather than something documented in actual historical attempts to perform magic, she didn’t really have anything solid to extrapolate from, and it simply never occurred to her that she would need to create something plausible. Voldemort did it, because he did it, because the plot needed him to do it. Who cares how?
Well, that’s just it. In folklore it doesn’t matter how the giant got his heart into an egg, just so long as you can find the egg and smash it.
Unfortunately, Rowling seems unclear on the concept that importing folkloric elements into a work of fiction does not result in creating new folklore. An individual author is not capable of creating new folklore. An individual author creates fiction. The elements that Rowling was determined to import into her work of fiction were of a class and type to render her work of fiction into a work which will be classified as fantasy, but fantasy is not folklore, either.
n a fantasy series, it rather does matter just how an evil wizard manages to get several bits of his soul into a set of knickknacks.
Particularly if one of the main tasks of your hero is to get them out.
• • • •
So, first there are a number of things related to souls which we need to keep in mind.
It appeared to be established in CoS that at least some wizards are capable of creating something on the order of independently aware and potentially fully-functioning reproductions of their personal “selves”; potentially-incarnate memories. We now know that that particular entity was generated by a fragment of its creator’s soul which had been removed into a Horcrux; and which under certain circumstances might have been capable of taking up a second, independent physical existence separate from its original container.
It is strongly suggested in canon that in order for this last to have taken place, two murders would have been required. One to split the soul prior to putting the fragment into the Horcrux, and one to enable the fragment to escape this external housing and reincarnate itself by stealing the life force of a second victim.
Such entities we are given to understand are NOT common, and are not merely very Dark magic, but are an abominable perversion of both magic and nature, in fact, tantamount to blasphemy.
Not altogether unrelated to this; throughout this entire series J.K. Rowling has repeatedly rubbed everybody’s noses in the existence of a poltergeist, an entity believed by paranormal researchers to be generated as a manifestation of the psychic disturbance produced by turbulent human emotions — without ever having existed as an actual, living human being, and consequently, although it must be classified as a spirit, it is not actually a ghost. It is not established that a poltergeist actually possesses an individual soul. Which, upon consideration, seems unlikely.
It was also stated outright in PoA that a wizard’s body will not immediately die without a soul. The dysfunctional condition of those who have been administered the Dementor’s Kiss is due to the fact that their souls have allegedly been eaten. And, consequently, no longer exist in the physical world.
Remember these points for possible future reference.
• • • •
Horace Slughorn is an abject coward and squeamish with it besides, but I do not think that he would have been quite so agitated and dithery over the spell that creates a Horcrux (that’s “spell” singular, not “spells” plural, although I suspect that the creation of a Horcrux is more likely to be a “process” than a single spell.) Acto Slughorn, who, although an educated wizard, is hardly an expert on Horcruxes, to create a Horcrux requires only one spell. I doubt that the only thing that spell does is move a pre-existing, already detached soul fragment to an external housing. I suspect that Slughorn’s wittering on and hyperventilating all over the subject was because the “spell” that creates the Horcrux actually enables the whole process which results in murdering the Victim and splitting off a piece of the caster’s soul.
Rowling, obviously never considered the details of the process important enough to work them out all the way through to a logical conclusion. But that’s no reason for us to be similarly disrespectful.
So, looking at the matter in general: murder — by any means — is believed to split the murderer’s soul. But it doesn’t necessarily break pieces off and scatter them around the landscape. The pieces all stay together, and if sufficient remorse is generated the rent might heal. Regardless of the fact that there is no undoing the murder itself.
An AK’s purpose is simply to kill it’s target. There are any number of perfectly legitimate, socially acceptable reasons why one might need to kill a target. The target doesn’t need to be human, either (and in fact it usually isn’t). AK isn’t even necessarily illegal in itself. It’s only illegal when used against another human. You might as well compare knowledge of the AK to owning a rifle.
But I suspect that the Horcrux-creator spell’s victim is always human. Or at any rate, is always a sentient Being. In fact that spell probably requires that its victim have a soul of their own. It divides the caster’s soul, by producing the side effect of the destruction of another person’s life, and the release of their victim’s soul, as a by-product.
The spell may also make it easier to encase the newly-created separate fragment in its external housing (the Horcrux) as a part of the inherent process, in order to keep the split from ever healing. The soul, as Slughorn tells us is supposed to remain intact — or at least to all remain in the same place. To divide it and separate out that fragment of the murderer’s soul is “against nature”.
There is nothing against nature about killing things. In nature, most creatures kill just in order to eat.
I think that Slughorn was telling the truth, as far as he knows it. So when he says that there is a specific spell used to create a Horcrux, I do not think that he was wrong. Although his account of how it works may be inaccurate, or at the very least, incomplete. He does claim not to know that spell himself, so he has clearly never actually studied it.
But whatever the spell is, it would unquestionably be classified as a curse.
And, whatever the spell is, it doesn’t really sound as though the victim gets any choice in the matter. I rather suspect that you aren’t going to produce a Horcrux from any killing made during a running battle.
Ergo: it might be reasonable to postulate that the victim of a Horcrux-creating murder is no more likely to be capable of doing any curse blocking than, say, a 15-month-old infant.
• • • •
You do realize that this is beginning to skate around the edges of a definition of “human sacrifice”, don’t you? Maybe it is supposed to.
To repeat: I postulate that this as-yet-unnamed curse is one which makes it possible to separate out a portion of the caster’s soul, and may actually kill the victim, as well as making it possible to capture the now liberated soul fragment into its new housing. If the creation of a Horcrux were only a matter of a filing procedure I think even Horace might have known that much, little as he clearly wants to know anything about the creation of Horcruxes. And I still contend that the curse to create a Horcrux is certainly not the AK.
However, if the if spell to create a Horcrux is also “a” killing curse, it is one that very few people are still aware of. Only those who either completed their schooling before the subject was banned at Hogwarts (some point before the early 1940s), those who received their education outside of Britain, or those who have access outside of Hogwarts to Dark Arts reference materials which describe the process, and have a reason to look the subject up. To most wizards in at least the past 3 generations, the term; “killing curse” will bring to mind only the AK. I contend that this is a part of what is obscuring the issue.
Common usage being what it is, even those old enough to know better, or who were educated overseas, will probably not remember the Horcrux-creating curse when a current reference is made to “the” killing curse. And there could be noticeable similarities between the two spells, for their purpose is similar enough for them to share the same root principles. Particularly given that any sort of murder will also damage the soul, even if it does not typically create a Horcrux.
In complete defiance of Rowling’s statements, and particularly in defiance of the flashback at Godric’s Hollow (which is totally crackfic), I still don’t believe what Tom threw at Harry would be a standard AK. I don’t think that what Tom threw at Harry was any kind of an AK at all. Even if it is Rowling who seems to think it was. (Maybe she just didn’t want to have to stop and hand us yet another infodump in the middle of an action sequence.)
Tom tried to murder Harry with the traditional Horcrux-creation curse.
• • • •
Actually, given that “mad scientist Tom’s” first two Horcruxes appear to have been created using two vastly different means of murdering their victim — neither of which used any sort of spell at all — I would not be surprised to discover that Tom quite deliberately used a different method of killing his victim with every Horcrux he ever made. Not excluding the hypothetical use of a rope, a lead pipe, and a candlestick. If such is the case, one of them probably was created by using a simple AK.
Which throws a bit of a spanner into the works. Myrtle was clearly killed by looking into the eyes of a Basilisk, and Madam Hepzibah Smith was definitely poisoned. Neither of these are murder methods which require the use of a spell, yet, acto JK Rowling, Horcruxes resulted from both of those deaths.
Clearly, Horace Slughorn doesn’t really know what he is talking about. To be sure, there *is* a spell which enables the creation of a Horcrux. One which divides the soul of the caster and makes it possible to trap the fragment in an external housing. And any mention or description of this spell had been purged from the Hogwarts library by the time that young Tom Riddle asked about it in the academic year of 1942–’43.
But I am no longer convinced that the spell which Horace is alluding to even specifies the manner in which one is supposed to actually *kill* the victim. Although it may very well recommend one. Indeed, given the sort of overblown melodrama which Rowling’s wizards seem all too likely to indulge in, it may recommend stabbing the victim with an obsidian knife on a stone table during the dark of the moon. Or something equally fanciful and difficult to orchestrate — which may have set our Tom off into devising improvisations using the assets he had at hand.
There probably was a spell which would actually kill a victim in the documentation, however. Or, more likely, references to one, and it was one which Tom didn’t, at the age of 16, know. It may have taken him some time to hunt those references down and determine precisely which spell the reference meant. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t have been a simple AK.
Nor was it an AK which was used for the attempt which was made in Godric’s Hollow. The very fact that the whole attempt went so monumentally wrong, suggests that whatever spell was used needed to be grounded in some manner, and that it wasn’t, produced unforeseen results.
I rather think that for that particular Horcrux, Tom, believing that this one would be the last of his grand collection of Horcruxes, tried to do it in the grand traditional manner. And he might not have ever attempted to do it that way before, so he was flying blind.
In any case, whatever it was he was attempting to use, it wasn’t likely to be a plain-vanilla AK.
• • • •
Even dismissing most of the (totally unconvincing) information that was pasted on in DHs, we still are stuck with a number of anomalies to juggle regarding the Avada Kadavra curse.
In the first place, the depiction of the behavior of the AK in canon was already completely inconsistent. We might as well take a look at those inconsistencies before going further.
It should be noted that in neither Cedric’s nor Albus’s deaths was any “rushing sound” present — such as the one that Harry was aware of in the death of the spider in Moody’s class, or in the death-in-a-dream/vision of the murder of Frank Bryce. That both Cedric and Albus’s deaths took place out of doors while the spider and Frank Bryce were killed in an enclosed space might have been relevant. But I think it more likely that Rowling was just attempting to pile on her interpretation of “drama” and being carelessly inconsidtent.
On the other hand, such a rushing sound was present when Harry was attacked by a dementor in Little Whinging. Which was in the open. That sound was also noted in the memory which was replayed when he was confronted by a dementor on the Hogwarts Express in Year 3. That confrontation was in an enclosed space.
However, there is no mention of any such sound effects in the rest of his dementor-assisted memories of the attack upon him and his mother when he was a baby. Which is particularly odd since the presence of the dementors (at the Quidditch game), or the dementor-surrogate of the Boggart (in Lupin’s tutoring sessions), which provoked those memories, ought to have produced an awareness of the rushing sound, if the sound is also to be associated with the presence of dementors.
At present we have no context which would make it clear whether the rushing sound is a relevant piece of data for our reasoning or just a case of Rowling striking poses to be “interesting”, and anything resembling consistency has been simply allowed to fall through the cracks.
Although the fact that there was clearly NO Horcrux created from the death of the spider, should count against the likelihood of Albus’s claim that one was created from the murder of Frank Bryce, as well, even though we did not actually hear the incantation used to murder Bryce. I think we should just conclude that Albus managed to get something wrong.
For that matter, even Rowling has since changed her mind ex-cathedra regarding the murder of Frank Bryce as having been used to create the Nagini Horcrux, having decided to claim that the murder of Bertha Jorkins created it instead. To the best of my understanding, the correction has never been incorporated into the books however. In canon, bogus as it is, Albus’s clanker still stands. For the record; Rowling’s statement that it was Bertha Jorkins’s death that created the Nagini Horcrux is far more likely, and I have adopted it in my own theories, although it is still problematic for any sort of compliance with canon.
Assuming that by this point in time anyone still cares about that.
Another anomaly we have to juggle is the issue that when whatever the spell was that rebounded, allegedly Tom’s body was completely destroyed by it. There was no body left at the scene of the attempted murder. The Dark Lord did not merely die, he disappeared.
And the wall blew out. As stated elsewhere, AK might damage inanimate objects when it hits them by mistake, but it doesn’t typically cause explosions.
And, finally, as is also stated elsewhere in this collection, it needs to be pointed out that there was no record in the Priori Incantatum “log” from Tom’s wand in GoF of any curse that failed. The log skipped directly from Bertha Jorkins, to Lily.
With nothing in between.
• • • •
The whole business of what went on in Godric’s Hollow is explored in far more detail in the essay entitled; ‘C.S.I.: Godric’s Hollow’. I will try not to get too distracted by it here.
• • • •
But, starting over from the beginning: as to how Lord Voldemort managed to attain deathlessness — even if not true immortality; we already had a clue to this puzzle in Muggle folklore. Specifically, Russian folklore. But the same principle shows up in tales from other lands as well. Even some from Britain.
It was known that the sorcerer, Koschi the Deathless (in common with various other traditional villains from other cultures) could not be killed, because he did not keep his life inside his own body. His life was secured inside an egg, inside a bird, inside a treasure chest, hidden in the trunk of a tree, guarded by a dragon. The precise sequence there may be inexact, but the basic concept should be clear. When the dragon was lulled into sleep, the tree felled, the chest opened, the bird snared, and the egg broken, Koschi the Deathless died.
As I state above, the very fact that we were dealing with a “deathless” evil sorcerer was a clue in itself that we might be very well-advised to check out what traditional sources have to say about such entities. And it does indeed turn out to be an element that Rowling adopted from traditional folklore, as she had in the case of dragons or unicorns. And, as in the case of her House Elves, she made some modifications to her source before deploying it. But not to the point of explaining how her version worked.
Toward the end of OotP Nearly Headless Nick tells Harry that all ghosts are the Revenants of wizards who have not passed through the Veil in the Death Chamber of the Department of Mysteries.
Lord Voldemort accounts to his followers in GoF that he was “less than the meanest ghost”.
In what way was VaporMort less than a ghost? What constitutes a ghost?
The ghost of a person, as opposed to a poltergeist — which is not the Revenant of anyone that was ever actually alive — is generally accepted to be the manifestation, or, as stated in HBP, the “imprint”, of the soul of the departed, retaining all of that individual’s evolved personality, and the self-identity, thoughts, and memories of that person in life, as well as his visual appearance at the time of death.
The soul is generally regarded to be the seat of the emotions and of self-awareness. Those who have been subjected to the Dementor’s Kiss have no such awareness, no manner of feelings or judgment, and without such self-knowledge are unable to access their own memories. Nor do they exhibit any signs of individual character.
Lord Voldemort would have been fully aware of this. He had almost certainly encountered dementors at some point before his first defeat, even if they had not been a part of his former army. And, indeed, he has gone out of his way to reinvent himself as a sort of dementor-surrogate.
We have also been given no indication whatsoever to lead us to suppose that Lord Voldemort places any value upon human emotions. From his own statements and those statements of his followers that we have been privy to, it appears that he ascribes to the belief that emotions are the handles that one uses to manipulate other people. One is best off without them, oneself. The wizard formerly known as Tom Riddle’s chief priority would, therefore, have been to insure that his consciousness and his knowledge would be preserved and would remain functional, whatever befell his physical body, And that whatever befell his physical body he would go on living, without taking any further consideration for the state of his soul. Indeed, it is now clear that he would happily mutilate that soul repeatedly to achieve this end, and did.
Consequently, one might conclude that VaporMort was less than a ghost because unlike a ghost, he was not the imprint of a complete soul, but only of a portion of one.
• • • •
I think that, as with so much else in this series, we really do have to begin our reasoning with Tom Riddle. Creating Horcruxes seems to be something that was peculiarly well-suited to Riddle’s capabilities. And we already knew that a number of things that Riddle is capable of are understood to be extremely uncommon.
His ability as a Parselmouth, however, is not likely to be a relevant issue here. Albus has already told us that however rare the ability to understand and communicate with snakes may be, great and good wizards have shared this ability with Riddle. I think it is safe to say that we can dismiss Riddle’s being a Parselmouth from any consideration regarding the creation of Horcruxes.
Nevertheless, Riddle is widely understood to have at least one other presumably rare (although it’s never actually stated in the text as being such) ability. An ability which he clearly kept even after his defeat, and probably retained to his very end. Even as a thing of shadow and vapor; a disembodied fragment of a soul, he retained the ability to take possession of others, even against their will. Not merely to dominate them and bring them under his control by force of will, or to control them by means of the Imperius curse, but to take full psychic and physical possession of them.
This would appear to be a quality inherent to Tom Riddle’s underlying soul. One which is retained by any portion of it. Indeed, we saw that the soul fragment that haunted the Diary was able to take such possession of Ginny Weasley, ultimately even against her will, and over her resistance. Another such fragment came very close to overmastering Ron.
That doesn’t sound nearly as innocent as chatting with snakes, and I am indebted to my fellow traveler, the LiveJournalist Swythyv, for giving me a timely nudge, reminding me of this particular detail.
So let’s follow this particular line of inquiry a bit further shall we?
• • • •
For that matter, it was around this stage of the proceedings that I was abruptly reminded of a series of three murder mysteries read some decades back, (The author I am informed by a correspondent is Rosemary Edgehill. The relevant title, is probably ‘Speak Daggers to Her’, although the relevant volume may be one of the other two books in that set.) at any rate, in the first of these stories, the protagonist, a young woman who is a wiccan, is faunching over a young man who is deeply into Ceremonial High Magick, among whose grimoires turns out to be the description of a ritual in which one might attempt to divorce oneself from this world and its limitations by, among other similarly paradoxical feats, murdering oneself, yet continuing to live. I gather that this concept might not be altogether uncommon in occult studies.
Perhaps right about now we need to remind ourselves that what out here in the Real World is usually symbolic, in the Potterverse is just as likely as not to turn out to be literal. Perhaps Horcruxes are not just a folkloric element, after all.
It also occurred to me that if Ceremonial High Magick exists in the Potterverse our Tom would probably be very seriously into it. It would definitely chime right in tune with his taste for grandeur and self-aggrandizement. Interestingly, the only example of any true “ritual” to which we have been treated in the whole 4000 pages took place at Tom’s instigation. i.e., His rebirthing ritual via the Cauldron.
However. One evidently cannot just split off a piece of their soul, grab it, and put it directly into an inanimate object. Souls are evidently fairly resilient, or something as extreme as murder would not be necessary in order to produce a Horcrux. And something more than a simple murder must be involved, since murder in itself does not expel bits of the murder’s soul. Souls, however damaged, usually stay where they belong. It would take some maneuvering to get a fragment out of its source’s body.
Once one considers it, however, it is quite blindingly evident that the typical method of getting any soul out of a body is by killing the body that houses it.
So, what if the soul in that murdered body is not the Victim’s? Or, rather, what if the body in question contains not only the Victim’s soul?
What if the Murderer takes possession of the Victim before killing him? What would become of the portion of the Murder’s soul that is possessing the Victim at the point of death?
It might get split off, mightn’t it?
Thank you, Swythyv. I think you have just solved our fundamental riddle.
• • • •
So. Let’s explore a few possibilities, here.
To begin with, if we go by canon evidence, for those wizards (or witches) who share Tom Riddle’s ability for taking possession of others, either by force or guile, the Horcrux-creation curse that so upset Horace Slughorn might not even be altogether necessary. Moaning Myrtle was unquestionably killed by looking at the Basilisk. Madam Hepzibah Smith was definitely poisoned. No cast curses were involved in either case, and yet Horcruxes are generally agreed to have been created from both deaths. Slughorn clearly did not even want to think about the creation of Horcruxes, and, consequently, we had missed the point that the essential factor was not, in fact, that some specific curse was known to create them, but the requisite possession of the victim at the time of death.
Tom’s discussion with Slughorn is likely to have sent him straight off to the Room of Requirement in search of the banned books pretaining to Horcruxes. I suspect that it was only after Dumbledore became Headmaster that those were moved into the Headmaster’s study for safekeeping, under his own eye. We can be fairly certain that Tom’s search was successful. The Horcrux-creation curse was bound to have been found and probably copied out for his own reference, as would a great deal of related research, such as any required preparation of a potential housing to contain such a fragment, if any. (It should be noted that this appears to be unlikely. If Madam Smith’s death did produce the Cup Horcrux, there was no time to prepare it in advance, unless such preparation consists only of a simple spell that can be cast on the fly.)
Now that I think of it, I would be willing to suggest that Tom’s research pertaining to Horcruxes was, in fact, recorded, in detail, in his diary. The diary which, before it was converted into a horcrux, had probably not been so forthcoming about its contents to any random person who might have attempted to write in it.
No, I rather think that when the diary was just a diary (although calling it *just* a diary is a whopping understatement in itself), it was probably accessible only to Tom.
Among this research certainly would have been the directions on the necessity of taking possession of the victim whose death was to be used to split off the fragment. Most wizards and witches do not appear to be able to do this as a natural ability. That Tom was so able, and had known himself to be so able even before he knew that magic was real, probably both convinced him that; yes, he was destined to do this, and that it may have given him additional ideas.
He was, after all, still underage, and, as a child who was recorded as living in the Muggle world when not at Hogwarts, (unless I am correct about his summer apprenticeship at B&B) there was probably at least some form of Trace upon his wand. Nor, I think, did he like the idea of having any banned spell traceable to his wand in any case. He’d used Morfin’s wand to murder the Riddles the previous summer. It may well have occurred to him that if the really necessary factor was the possession of the victim at the point of death, then the fragment ought to still split off however, the victim died. Just so long as he maintained his hold on them to their end.
Or, in short, Myrtle’s death was an experiment.
Myrtle herself was no more than a lab rat, to Tom.
We have nothing to indicate how early in the school year he found the banned books and undertook his research of Horcruxes. Nor do we know just when in the year he finally discovered the entrance to the Chamber. And we do not know how many petrifications took place before opportunity handed Tom a trapped victim. But we can conclude that his research took place long enough before Myrtle’s death for him to have prepared the Peverill ring to hold a soul fragment. If, that is, any such advance preparation is necessary.
And, yes, I am quite sure that the first Horcrux was the Ring. He wasn’t yet finished recording that year into the diary when Myrtle was killed. Every scene that the Diary Revenant later showed Harry Potter took place after Myrtle was dead. I seriously doubt that he would have been able to continue entering memories into the book once it became a Horcrux. If he couldn’t bear to continue wearing the Ring after it became a Horcrux, he would hardly still be writing into the Diary, after it became one, either.
• • • •
But in any case, it is a magnificent piece of irony in that the little fool of a teenaged Riddle, in his glorious quest to avoid ever dying, had no better sense than to commit himself into repeatedly having to *experience* his own death at not that much of a remove, and to effectively kill himself by inches in order to accomplish it.
It’s hardly any surprise that Rowling ended up forcing him to finish the job, unassisted, either.
Madam Hepzibah Smith’s death is widely agreed to have produced his 2nd horcrux, and on that one I am prepared to accept Rowling’s off-canon word for it that it was the Cup. Chiefly because that reading makes all kinds of internal sense. He did not use any Horcrux-creation murder curse to create that one either.
And since he never had possession of the Cup until the night he killed Madam Smith, whatever preparation as is needed for a housing, if any, is probably not a long, drawn-out affair, but a spell which could be cast on site, before his victim finished dying (which in a poisoning might have taken a while), and freed the fragment which is to be contained.
But I rather suspect that he may have continued to experiment with alternate methods of killing the victim to create his Horcruxes. The documented Horcrux creation spell was only one possibility.
In any case, he does appear to have attempted to use that one to kill Harry.
• • • •
In his first life, apart from securing bits of his soul into physical objects, which was necessary to anchor himself to the material plane and prevent any other part of it from passing through the Veil, Riddle paid his soul, and its welfare no further attention. By the end of his first decade-long, voluntary exile from Britain he had engaged himself in creating at least three, and probably four of the known Horcruxes. Unlike the Diary, however, these fragments were not given a user interface. We had no indication that they would respond to or to attempt to interact with the holder of the artifact which housed them, and unlike the Diary, which could be written in, the other Horcruxes that we knew of for certain, (Cup, Locket, Ring) appeared to have had no “user interface” by which the holder could have interacted with the soul fragment they housed. And, indeed, we did encounter the Locket, briefly in OotP, and at that point in the series, it appeared to be completely inert.
Until a brief passage in HBP when Albus was presenting us with the official Riddle backstory, we had never had it hinted to us that Riddle had provided any of his Horcruxes with any obvious means by which to interact with those who came in contact with the artifact that housed them, although strong protections were (allegedly) placed on these objects to prevent them from being harmed.
Or at least so we were led to believe, then. This certainly appears to have been the case with the Ring. There is no point to giving an artifact a user interface if it is cursed powerfully enough to destroy anyone who tries to put it on. We were also told in HBP that once it had been converted to a Horcrux, Riddle was unwilling to continue wearing it himself, and ultimately concealed it in the ruins of the place from which it had come.
It is possible that he did this because he did not want to give the soul fragment housed in it any opportunity to reintegrate itself with its original source, but that is far from certain. In fact we have at this point no clue as to why he did not care to keep the Ring as close as he later kept Nagini. Excuse me if I dismiss this whole statement on the issue as yet another case of Rowling putting on airs to try to be interesting.
And frankly, the clumsily-retrofitted Tolkein’s “One Ring” rip-off in DHs, which was not overtly carried over to either the Cup or the Diadem, and only spliced onto the Locket — which upon our first introduction had been passed from hand to hand all around #12 without incident — at the last minute, made the story a lot cheesier than it had any authentic need to be.
Particularly when you consider that the Locket apparently had no noticeable effect whatsoever upon Umbridge who had had it in her possession for over a year by the time the trio got it off her. It didn’t even affect her ability to cast a Patronus. I mean, stop and think. Do you believe that Tom Riddle was able to cast a Patronus? Or that his Patronus would have been a Persian cat?
Frankly, I'm a bit more bemused that Dolores Umbridge was able to cast a Patronus.
On the other hand, adopting that particular trope does provide a possible hint as to just when Tom decided to create the Diary. As well as a viable motivation of what he intended by it. Not to mention a suggestion of what, precisely, might be wrong with Bellatrix as a value-added bonus. So I’m not as insistent upon rejecting it as I was on first introduction.
Of course, once I had traveled a good deal farther down the tangled up backstory track I also thought of a very likely reason for why Tom might have wanted to leave a booby-trap in the ruins of the Gaunt hovel, but I won’t go into that here. That is described in the “O, the Times are Out of Joint!” essay, as well as the one specifically about Albus.
• • • •
However, we need to keep in mind the fact that if Tom would customize one of his Horcruxes to serve as a potential booby-trap, he might have made other unprecedented modifications to others.
For one thing, although at 15 or 16 he may have been all kinds of confident that he had discovered “the answer” to never dying, by the time he was reaching his 50s he was probably all too aware that he was not immune to the passing of time. Wizards might have potentially long and active lives, but they do not physically live forever.
Deathlessness clearly wasn’t the answer to everything.
The following explores a side issue which may or may not be relevant.
It was a correspondent who pointed out to me a possibility that I had not worked my way down the track far enough to put any attention toward unraveling yet. In his speech to the mustered DEs in the graveyard meeting at the end of GoF, Voldemort openly admitted that he had not yet attained true immortality. That he would settle for getting his “old” body back again for the time being. This seemed to be a non-sequitur at the time. But perhaps we ought to be taking it a bit more seriously. Perhaps the statement, in itself, ought to strike us as ominous.
Indeed it is difficult to understand how he could have made any claim to be immortal if he was still physically vulnerable to time. My correspondent suggests that he had perhaps, already made plans to get around that particular obstacle.
Tom Riddle was certainly stated as being the most brilliant (if perhaps also the most unwise) student that Hogwarts had ever seen.
Tom Riddle clearly intended that the Diary Revenant should take control of whomever the book might be entrusted. That in due course the (presumed?) child under such control would reopen the Chamber of Secrets and call forth the Basilisk.
So far the only goal that all that appears to meet is a determination to raise some havoc on Dumbledore’s turf.
What if that was only step one? What if there was more to it than that?
I can certainly imagine that the murder of Albus Dumbledore might have been an item on that particular agenda.
For that matter, closing the school down because there was a Basilisk roaming through it at liberty, so he could move in and take possession of the building doesn’t sound out of the range of possibility, either.
But did Tom also plan that the Revenant should steal its victim’s life and use that death to escape from the book? To effectively reincarnate itself? Or was that an unforeseen bonus?
The Diary Revenant was forever 16.
Would the reincarnated Revenant remain forever physically 16? Forever young, handsome, 16-year-old Tom Riddle? Or would it have begun to age once its return to the material plane was complete?
Or would its return have ever been truly complete? It had solidified to the point that it could pick up and hold Harry’s wand, and play anagrams with it in floating letters of fire. It is assumed it would have eventually been able to cast an actual spell with it. But piercing and poisoning the Diary it had been housed in still managed to vanquish it into nothingness. Without physically touching it at all.
Had the adult Tom Riddle of 1980–81 extrapolated the possibility that a Revenant would reach a stage only a bit beyond the point that it did reach; a point that it would appear to be a solid human teenaged boy, able to move and act in the material world, but still actually anchored in the book, remaining as ageless as when the memories which formed it were first housed there? And still impossible to kill unless the book was destroyed?
While, of course, the book was secured in a place that was inaccessible to anyone but a Parselmouth.
And would the “Master” soul fragment have been able to house itself in that reincarnated new body too? To share it with the Diary Revenant?
It wouldn’t have been a truly physical body, and both fragments were from the same original soul. Even without remorse in the equation they might have been able to work in concert, even if they remained separate. Possession might not have burned the apparent body out as it did his other victims of possession. (Although back in 1981 he would have probably not have ever possessed any creature long enough to have burnt them out yet. That might have been an unpleasant surprise once he was off riding snakes in Albania.)
Or had he planned to steal it from the Revenant, forcing the Revenant into dormancy, back into the book, or into some other housing, keeping the new body in its own possession. A body in which Lord Voldemort might now move at will, without causing comment through either the wizarding or the Muggle worlds? By 1981 it had been over a decade since he was able to do that.
Had he already intended to ultimately remove himself from the monstrous ruin of his original body? Replacing it with a handsome, immortal, ageless one?
Would it have worked?
Perhaps we might be able to take some degree of consolation in the fact that he was unable to properly possess Harry Potter in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic despite, or perhaps because Mr Potter was already hosting one of Tom’s Horcruxes. Whether this inability was due to Lily’s sacrificial blood protection, or the damage to the Harrycrux wrought by the rebounding spell at Godric’s Hollow is unknown, and unproven.
Still, once he had returned to the material world, had he intended to finally deploy the Diary during Harry’s 5th year and take the final step to attaining his long projected immortality?
Only to discover that his servant Lucius had already deployed the Diary for his own purposes, in his Master’s absence, losing it forever.
Small wonder his anger was “terrible to see”.
Small wonder that he was determined to destroy Lucius’s wife and child once Lucius had managed to hide himself away in Azkaban.
Or had Tom just not thought it through that far, and not known that there would be a way for the Revenant to escape from the book?
I suppose we will never be given a definitive answer to that question.
• • • •
Indeed we have stumbled upon what appears to be the “crux” of the whole problem of the Horcrux.
According to Rowling, the Horcrux was developed by a wizard named Herpo the Foul, in classical times.
That gives us all more than ample time for the downsides and disadvantages of the process to have become obvious to anyone with more of a long view than a 16-year-old with a bee in his bonnet.
And you will notice that Horcruxes do not appear to be a method which is much resorted to in modern times. And Albus Dumbledore having pushed to ban the subject in one school in one European nation is unlikely to be the reason for that.
No, by modern times there has been an ample body of evidence for anyone who has made any kind of a study of the things to conclude that Horcruxes simply do not work.
Horcruxes are inherently a snare and a delusion.
Indeed, among the informed they are widely known to be a snare and a delusion.
Tying one’s soul to the material plane guarantees that eventually one will find oneself a disembodied spirit.
Without whatever protection preserves the integrity of ghosts. A ghost is not capable of ‘learning’ anything new, or of reaching a higher level of maturity or wisdom than they had in life. They are quite literally a “dead end”. But that inability to change is actually a form of *protection* for a ghost. A ghost does not change.
Disembodied spirits without such protection are highly vulnerable to those entities which feed upon chaotic energies. Which are precisely what sustains a disembodied spirit.
Entities which will effectively *eat* them, just as surely as any dementor.
I explored this issue in the ‘foundation’ essay on the history of magic. As it has been set up in the Potterverse, a witch or wizard’s magic is an inherent quality of the soul. Magical persons do not simply use magic. They produce it. The eruptions of accidental magic produced by immature magical children is due to a build-up of the magical/chaotic energies which they naturally produce. As a magical person matures, their soul continues to produce these energies whether they use those energies for sustaining spells, or in merely sustaining their own physical well-being.
A living magical soul will continue to produce magical energies even if it is disembodied.
It will continue to produce these energies even if the personality which this soul originally sustained has been eroded, unraveled, or erased by the sort of chaotic entities which feed upon such energies.
Which they definitely will do. As a dragon might strip off the armor in order to devour what is inside. After all, such entities care nothing for the personal sovereignties of individual wizards.
Eventually, once unraveled, the still-living soul will continue to emit chaotic magical energies into the world, until it is itself eventually consumed, although the “person”, which once identified itself as that soul will be long gone and forgotten.
Personally, I rather think that Albus may have compounded the potential damage of such a flawed process by stupidly attempting to suppress knowledge of such crude, unsuccessful attempts at achieving immortality in which wizards have managed to entangle themselves over the ages. This is a subject which ought to be presented in History of Magic. Indeed, it should be presented, and the reasons why it *doesn’t work* gone into in sufficient grisly detail, some time around 3rd year, or otherwise early enough that the little fools won’t accidentally trip over it later and consider it a viable answer to anything.
Tom’s own testimony regarding his experience over a decade as an unprotected spirit (forcing himself to remain conscious, just in order to continue to exist) does not sound like anything that anyone with an informed view of the possibilities, would willingly or knowingly volunteer for. In order to retain his own identity he had to forego any sort of rest or inattention, or he would have become unmade. Indeed, I believe it is very likely that he really did lose quite a bit of his original essence, for what came out of that cauldron was certainly nothing resembling a complete personality.
And over the course of the series, that simulacrum of a wizard indeed appeared to continue to unravel even though it had managed to return to the physical plane. Rowling kept him offstage for most of the last half of the series, but even the glimpses we got made it clear that by the time he came out of that cauldron, the brilliant, charismatic Tom Marvolo Riddle that everyone seems to remember, had already been irredeemably lost beyond recovery.