The Changeling Hypothesis:
This isn’t one of the original essays in the collection. All of those went up at the end of April of 2003. This wasn’t posted until something like late May of 2003. But for some years it was probably the most well-known of any of them (although by this time I can no longer be surewhether that still applies). It’s also the essay in which I came closest to getting it right. After HBP my accuracy rating fell off rather dramatically.
I’ll admit to being somewhat miffed. It isn’t so much that what I had extrapolated turned out to not be what Rowling claims happened, (which is always the risk you take if you are going to stick your neck out and expound on theories) as that it ultimately became clear that Rowling seems not to have intended anything. For, despite shooting down my theories, (which I thought were rather nicely constructed) she offered nothing whatsoever to put in their place.
Leaving us with a gaping hole in the middle of the backstory. By this point, I honestly do not think that Rowling has the slightest idea of how a Horcrux is actually made. And probably doesn’t want to think about the subject, either.
In which case she ought not to have been building them into the foundation of her story.
Consequently, in this essay you are going to be going over a lot more explorations of Horcruxes than you are of Changelings.
Mind you, I do think that she probably did turn up something suitably disgusting in regards to how Pettigrew created the homunculus which he used to get VaporMort back onto the physical plane. People have been attempting to perform magic for a long time, and some of the historically documented attempts were gross enough to gag a maggot. She waved the existence of this particular process, and how revolting it is, in our faces when an interviewer actually got up the nerve to ask about how did Tom build his Horcruxes. Without ever answering the question which had been asked, since the homunculus wasn't a Horcrux. And, 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.)
However, I suspect that since Horcruxes — unlike homunculi — are a folklore element, rather than something documented in actual historical attempts to perform magic, she didn’t really have anything to extrapolate from, and it simply never occurred to her that she would need to know that. He 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, so long as you can find the egg and smash it.
Unfortunately, Rowling seems unclear on the concept that importing folklore elements into a work of fiction does not result in creating 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 classified as fantasy. A fantasy series, in fact. And fantasy is not folklore. In 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.
For a while after HBP was released I felt just a little bit smug about this essay. My original theory was clearly not being supported by JK Rowling, but I had picked up on two of the major issues related to it. And I seem to have gotten those as solidly right as anybody is likely to have managed to do it anywhere in fandom. But, on the whole, in its original form it wasn’t so much that I was “on the right track”, as that I had hijacked the engine and taken a joyride in it a mile or three down my own track.
The first iteration of this essay was posted shortly before the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It got a number of revisions between then and the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, two years later, but the underlying concept remained unchanged. I will be including the gist of the original hypothesis in this essay, but most of the material here is concerned with more recent developments from the original version.
With HBP, a major flaw was revealed in my hypothesis. But the underlying premise turned out to have still been remarkably sound, so consequently the theory was reworked rather than abandoned.
The original iteration got kicked off when something rather interesting cropped up over on the old HP for Grownups list about six weeks before the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The traffic on that list crowded me out after the 5th book was released, but I had posted on it fairly regularly up to then.
A member who signed him/herself as The Admiring Skeptic made the observation that the climax of all of the first four books hinged upon a mistaken/false identity. It should be noted that this is a device which was conspicuously absent in the climax of OotP, and ever after, (although if it had actually had anything to do with the plot, the systematic deconstruction of Albus Dumbledore over the course of DHs would certainly qualify). In its place we had cases of false information, unknown motives and mysterious conspiracies.
The Admiring Skeptic proposed that on the strength of that observation, something to do with “identity” is in fact the underlying theme of the series. S/he proposed that Rowling was steadily building up to a truly MAJOR case of mistaken/false identity as the series’s climax. S/he also made about an 80% convincing argument that this bombshell is emphatically not the tired old Star Wars “I am your father, Harry” retread beloved of some sectors of fanon at that time, but that Harry Potter and Tom Riddle themselves are in fact the same person.
In its original form the theory hung upon the claim that Lord Voldemort was attempting to become immortal by wiping out both his own ending AND his beginning in order to reign thereafter as a sort of Dark God. To this end, at some point in the year before his fall, he brought his own infant self physically forward in time to be murdered according to some Dark ritual. The child!Riddle was rescued by James and Lily Potter who, adopted him and transfigured his features to resemble their own in order to conceal his identity. No one but Dumbledore (and eventually, Voldemort) being aware of the truth.
Like most fan theories, it was way too complex for everyday wear, but the reasoning (in its entirety) almost worked. Just... not quite. It also depended far too heavily upon time travel paradoxes which are always unstable, unreliable, and next to impossible to pull off convincingly.
This Adopted!Harry theory, understandably, sparked a lot of discussion and quickly reached the point of inspiring spin-offs. We were soon given the “Harry is Tom’s missing twin” variant. Which does not discernibly improve matters and eliminates the original concept’s significance. I cannot recall if there were any others which were even that coherent.
I found myself exploring an alternate interpretation, which eliminates the time travel paradox by invoking and substituting the ancient and honorable folkloric tradition of the Changeling.
At that time (about May, 2003) it seemed reasonably sound to me. The very fact that we were apparently dealing with a “deathless” Dark Lord was in itself a whopping big clue, suggesting that one might do well to check out the methods used by other deathless evil Enchanters, and general bad guys in folklore, of which there is no shortage. After my first reading of Phoenix my own variation on the theme still seemed reasonably sound, although the odds that JKR would choose to go there didn’t seem particularly high. But, after a later reread of Phoenix it looked as if I might have dismissed the possibility a little early. Some of the implications in Book 5 (although perhaps not the overt statements) turned out to be surprisingly supportive of my interpretation.
Now, in the wake of Half-Blood Prince, it is clear that my reasoning was a bit off.
Still, I did actually hit the target. Just not in the gold.
The original Changeling Hypothesis also seemed to have the very real advantage of offering us a welcome explanation to resolve the glaring discontinuity between the glimpse of Lord Voldemort which we were given at the end of Goblet of Fire and all of those earlier accounts of the compelling and charismatic leader that he is presumed to have been before his first defeat in order to have initially won so much alleged popular support and to have attracted so many devoted followers to his stated cause.
What we were shown in GoF simply does not square with those accounts. The creature we were shown in the graveyard of Little Hangleton is something that no one in their right mind would follow, on any consideration whatsoever, apart from that of fear or force.
On this issue, it turns out that we seem to have been deliberately led into reasoning from a false premise from the very beginning. For, despite having — over the course of the first five books — repeatedly invited the reader to believe that at one time Lord Voldemort had commanded a wide following and at least some degree of public support, with HBP Ms Rowling finally made it clear that this could never have been the case. It was an illusion.
Whether this was due to a change of intention on Ms Rowling’s part, or merely incompetent handling of a perception shared by most of the characters which was always intended to be revealed to be false, or whether it was a case of sheer authorial cluelessness, I cannot say. But the implication was certainly there in the first five books, and it was just as certainly, and conclusively refuted in the sixth. On the subject of Tom Riddle, in HBP Rowling sprung just as much of a reversal upon the reader as she had attempted regarding Severus Snape.
And, as with Snape, I thought that this may not be the last such reversal that she intended to spring on us, either.
Insofar as the matter of Lord Voldemort’s alleged broad public support goes, however. There clearly never was any. Ever. It was not needed, nor was it ever really wanted. Voldemort’s original followers turn out to have been a hand-picked selection from among his own schoolmates, augmented by a few other key recruits along the way and, ultimately their descendants. And there never were more than 5–6 dozen of them at any time. Which, in a population as tiny as that which Rowling claims (3,000–5000), is quite enough to raise havoc.
In addition, he had commanded a number of allied groups of non-human, or “part”-human pariahs who had nothing to lose by supporting him and who could be sweet-talked into believing that they might have something to gain.
Plus a lake full of animated corpses, who didn’t believe anything.
Consequently, a number of what I had previously believed to have been quite important factors to have to account for in the course of building a viable theory of the background issues, turn out not to have been issues at all.
In common with a fairl number of others, I also — misled by various of Rowling’s public statements in interviews up to the point that we are discussing here — thought that she had been invoking a basic redemptive pattern. This turns out to be more likely to have been an error of interpretation on my part than a change in intention on the part of JK Rowling. From the issues as defined in HBP and as stated in the interviews given around the time of that book’s release, it began to look as though Rowling did not intend to “redeem” anyone or anything whatsoever. Not Harry Potter, not the wizarding world, and certainly not Tom Riddle. As, indeed, turned out to be the case.
All of which utterly sank my Changeling Hypothesis in its original form. The original hypothesis was an unequivocal redemption scenario. That version has been spun off into the essay entitled; ‘Redeeming the Potterverse’ which may be accessed in the UNhallowed collection of essays.
The Admiring Skeptic’s premise (that the Harry Potter we know is in fact the same entity who formerly existed as Tom Marvolo Riddle) was an intriguing one, and I quite agree that as the series had gone — to that point — there had been ample suggestion that JKR could indeed have been building up to some variant of that revelation. OTOH, there were still a host of niggling details which made that particular Adopted!Harry premise a good deal less than fully convincing.
Therefore, I proposed what I dubbed the “Changeling!Harry” variant:
According to the Changeling!Harry variant, there was no Dark Ritual requiring the dislocation of the infant Riddle from his native time line. One of the major stumbling blocks to the original proposal was its dependence on some form of timeline paradox. Instead, my variant threw the burden of original motivation onto that moldy old fig of Trelawney’s bloody first Prophecy. Which has since been confirmed as having been Rowling’s intention as well. That this Prophecy was ever made at all is what set off the whole sorry business. Or, at any rate, Harry Potter’s part in it.
I’ll admit that I would have just as soon not resorted to this device, since it was already such a fanon cliché. But, given that this particular issue was sprawling in slatternly dishabillé all across the whole question of what Voldemort’s motivation in killing the Potters was, we ignore it at our peril. And, to be honest, it was the endless speculation and discussion of this element by the fans during the “three-year summer” between the publication of Book 4 and Book 5 rather than the attention drawn to it in canon which built the reference up into the monolith of utter tackiness that it was by then.
Not that it isn’t sufficiently tacky at the end of the series, anyway.
The major departure that the Changeling hypothesis took from the Adopted!Harry source is that the Potters really did have a son that they named Harry, and that the Changeling “substitution” (actually more like transformation) took place on the night of James and Lily’s deaths.
In this variant, we could take most of Dumbledore’s statements more or less at face value. It was indeed the half-overheard Trelawney Prophecy which set Voldemort on the Potters’ trail. The Prophecy strongly implied that the Potters’ child (or possibly the Longbottoms’) might be the appointed one who would prove to be the answer to this particular Riddle. And, in accordance with tradition, every action Voldemort took to evade his fate has only served to bind him more firmly to it.
If he had left it strictly alone, it might not have come to pass at all.
When exploring the implications of the Changeling hypothesis, our first question is: Why on earth did we believe for so long that Voldemort’s curse did not materially affect Harry, apart from giving him his scar?
Because it did affect him. In fact that curse quite obviously affected Harry. It is widely and unblushingly admitted to have affected Harry. By the middle of CoS he had even been shown to have a trace memory of the name “Tom Riddle”. Which sounded familiar to him even though he knew he had not ever heard it before. He is a Parselmouth — like Riddle — despite there being no stated history of this gift in the Potter family tree and his mother, being Muggle-born, is unlikely to have passed it down to him. In OotP we were even finally told straight out that, now that Voldemort is back on the physical plane, the link between them which we have been seeing glimpses of as far back as PS/SS now goes in both directions.
What else did that botched curse do to him?
Is he even the same Harry Potter?
Are you sure? Are they? And even if you, or they, are sure, are they right?
Who, after all, really got a chance to observe that infant in the 24 hours or so after the attack, before he was turned over to the Dursleys to raise? And how well did those observers know the Potters’ child in the first place?
Pettigrew had (most probably) snatched Voldemort’s wand, escaped, and was off making his own plans to go into hiding to his best advantage. He only knew that the infant had survived the attack and had been left howling in the ruins.
Sirius got a quick glimpse of the baby, in the dark of night, in the ruins of the Potter house when he turned up soon afterwards and tried to convince Hagrid to let him take the child.
Lupin was out of the loop altogether. If Lily had close friends of her own we did not yet even know who they were (there does seem to have been a Mary MacDonald for one, no idea what became of her), and the child was not entrusted to any of them.
The Dursleys had never even seen the child. We do not know how closely Dumbledore had been tracking the Potters — who were very young members of the Order — which I continued to believe had only been formed about the time the Prophesy was made. (Rowling implies not, but has provided us with no viable alternate reason for why Dumbledore would have felt a need to form an Order of his own when the Ministry was already working with him.)
We do know that Hagrid had known the Potters, both as members of the Order and from when they were in still in school, but had he ever seen their son before he was sent to Godric’s Hollow to investigate what had happened?
No, we do not know. Everyone saw a dark haired child with Lily’s green eyes and inquired no further.
Or perhaps not. There is still that “missing” period between the time that the Potters were killed and Harry was left on the Dursleys’ doorstep the following evening. Much discussion has been generated regarding Harry’s probable whereabouts during that period. And I think that if my somewhat facetious suspicions about that time gap are wrong, and possibly even if they aren’t, there is a good chance that for at least part of that time he was under examination at the Department of Mysteries. And we haven’t been told their findings.
Some observations in canon (direct and indirect) for us to consider are;
1. Voldemort had already undergone a great many voluntary physical and magical changes from his origins as an apparently normal human wizard. By the time he showed up at Godric’s Hollow he certainly no longer appeared to be completely human. Or perhaps we ought to say, knowing what we know now, he was no longer a “complete” human.
2. Voldemort’s attempt to murder the infant Harry Potter established a connection between the two of them. To outside appearances, the result of that murder attempt was that the “Victim” lived while the “Murderer” did not. We have been shown in canon that the connection between them was not broken by Voldemort’s apparent death. It remained intact, open, and by OotP was fully active, and went in both directions. Voldemort allegedly later blocked off the connection from his end through the use of Occlumency. Even later than that, in DHs Harry unconsciously managed to create an override to Tom’s Occlumency, and reverse the "polarity" of the connection. The actual mechanics of this last were never satisfactorily explained.
3. It was established in PS/SS, and later confirmed in GoF that VaporMort was capable of existing in the stolen bodies of other creatures for limited amounts of time. Even in the unwilling bodies of other creatures that he had taken control over by magical/psychic force. This may or may not be related to his exceedingly well-developed gift for Legilimency, but it deffinitely appears to be a part of his talent for possession.
This particular talent for “taking possession” of others was shared by the Diary revenant in CoS. Voldemort is also stated as having “possessed” the snake that bit Arthur Weasley despite his having already reincarnated himself into a functioning simulacrum by that time. This and his last ditch effort to possess Harry and use him as a hostage during the battle of the Atrium at the end of OotP confirms that this was not an ability which was unique to his disembodied state, and that even after he was back in a physical body of his own, this ability had been retained. He was capable, in short, of maintaining a psychic connection with two host bodies at once. We do not know what becomes of the simulacrum while Voldemort is possessing a victim.
4. 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 the 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.
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.
5. 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.
6. It was stated outright in PoA that a wizard’s body can live without his 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.
Dementors are the only creatures in canon which have been openly stated to be without souls of their own. Certainly the only arguably sentient creatures.
Got all that? To this point, we have still basically been reviewing components of my original, hypothesis with a few more recent updates. Now we will move on to some of the more speculative issues, and some more recent explorations. First, we need to ask ourselves some questions:
1. Why did the curse rebound? For that matter just what curse was it?
2. What actions did Voldemort take in his to attempt to make himself immortal? How did he manage to achieve deathlessness? For he did certainly manage to achieve that.
3. What is the nature of the connection between Voldemort and Harry?
4. Can we blindly rely on Dumbledore’s summation of the matter? Is he telling us everything he knows? Or everything he suspects? Is he telling the truth of what he knows/suspects?
As to the first of these questions, we still don’t have anything beyond the most shallow of answers. But I was pretty sure that I may have finally figured it out. Of course I’d thought that before then, too. The current version is better than the earlier ones, at least.
I also suspected that we had been following a false trail since GoF.
Q: When Crouch/Moody told us that there was only one person known to have survived the Avada Kadavra Curse, and that “he is sitting in this classroom”, why did we believe him?
A: We believed him because he was a teacher. And he gave us what appeared to be a viable answer to the standing question of what had taken place the night that Voldemort went to murder Harry Potter, and didn’t succeed.
But that’s no reason to go on believing him now is it? We know somewhat better than that by now.
It was implied that Crouch Jr was just a raw recruit in 1981, he is said to have been no more than 18–19 years old at the time of Voldemort’s first defeat (or was he?). I very much doubt that he ever knew anything about Voldemort’s Horcruxes. He certainly wasn’t at Godric’s Hollow. What the hell does he know about what curse Voldemort threw at Harry Potter? He certainly wasn’t there.
The obvious syllogism goes; AK is the “killing curse”. Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter. Therefore, Voldemort tried to kill Harry Potter with an AK.
Well. No. Not necessarily. Not even if Rowling goes out of her way to claim as much. Rowling doesn’t bother to “think” about the kinds of things she plunks into her story. We are not ever going to get a well thought-out extrapolation of what happened from Rowling. Anything she gives us is almost guaranteed to be as full of holes as swiss cheese. And she doesn’t like to be pinned down or being forced to comply with anything she’s already told us, either. We’ve got the Flints to prove it. All in all, we’ll be much better off rolling our own.
So I am just not blindly accepting that the curse that Tom Riddle tried to kill little Harry Potter with was the Avada Kadavra curse. No, not even if DHs tries to tell us so I do not believe DHs. I’ll only accept something handed up in DHs if it makes sense of something else we’ve been handed to juggle. And there are remarkably few thingsin DHs that will do that.
Particularly not if Dumbledore was correct in his belief that Voldemort’s intention was to create a Horcrux from Harry Potter’s murder (Rowling appears to have completely forgotten all about that scenario by the time she wrote DHs. Presumably we are forced to understand that Albus was deliberately lying to Harry, when he told him that, in order to give him a hint that Tom *had* created a Horcrux at Godric’s Hollow).
The Avada Kadavra curse does not in itself create a Horcrux, or Horcruxes would be a lot thicker on the ground than they are. They would certainly be a lot wider known than they are. And for all that Avada Kadavra is referred to as the “killing curse” it is hardly the only curse that kills. Wizards are perfectly aware of this, although common usage tends to conflate the issue.
AK is only the killing curse which is reputed to be “unblockable”.
A 15-month-old infant is not going to be doing a lot of curse blocking.
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. Acto Slughorn, to create a Horcrux requires only one spell), if all the spell did was 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 is the same spell that actually murders the Victim and splits 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. (Or, for that matter, how to account for how Albus supposedly knows exactly what happened at Godric’s Hollow despite the fact that there were no surviving witnesses apart from Harry who Rowling is determined to say didn’t see what was going on.) But let’s explore this all a bit further. I hve more than one possible interpretation of what we have to work with.
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 remourse 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 (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 human; always. Or at any rate, is a sentient Being. In fact that spell probably requires that a 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 soul, as a by-product.
The spell also makes it possible 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 healing. The soul, as Slughorn tells us is supposed to remain intact. To 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, and 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 itself.
But whatever the spell is, it would 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 cannot produce a Horcrux from a 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 a 15-month-old infant.
You do realize that this is beginning to skate around the edges of a definition of “human sacrifice”. Maybe it is supposed to.
To repeat: I postulate that this as-yet-unnamed curse is one which splits the soul and actually kills 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 am inclined to contend that the curse to create a Horcrux is not the AK.
However, the if spell to create a Horcrux is also “a” killing curse (which would appear to be inarguable), 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 go into the subject, 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.
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 have been created from the same root principles. Particularly if any sort of murder will also damage the soul, even if it does not create a Horcrux.
A classic AK is widely agreed to be unique in that it is unblockable. Lily shouldn’t have been able to have stopped one of those. An AK ought to have simply killed her, which should have had no effect upon any subsequent spells cast by her murderer. James had certainly attempted to get in the way of Voldemort when he folowing Lily and Harry up the stairs. WHy didn't the curse rebound when he killed Lily?
There is no reason why killing Lily first should have made a subsequent AK rebound on its caster.
In complete defiance of Rowling’s statements, even in defiance of the flashback at Godric’s Hollow, 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 Horcrux-creation curse.
Albus all but came out and told us so.
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 subject.
In the first place, the depiction of the behavior of the AK in canon is completely inconsistent.
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 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.
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 the dementor on the Hogwarts Express in Year 3. That confrontation was in an enclosed space.
However, there is no mention of any rushing sound 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 a case of Rowling striking poses to make things sound more “dramatic”, and 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. (Rowling has since changed her mind ex-cathedra regarding the murder of Frank Bryce as having been used to create the Nagini Horcrux. The correction was not incorporated into the books however. In canon, bogus as it is, it still stands. For the record; Rowling’s statement that it was Bertha Jorkins’s death that created the Nagini Horcrux is far more likely, although problematic for other reasons.)
Another anomaly we have to juggle is the issue that when whatever the spell was that rebounded, 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. AK might damage inanimate objects when it hits them by mistake, but it doesn’t typically cause explosions.
And there was no record in the Priori Incantatum “log” from Tom’s wand in GoF of a curse that failed.
If the spell was a standard AK — which is presumably unblockable — it ought not to have bounced at all. And if it hit the wrong person, it should have simply killed the wrong person. End of story.
If the spell had merely bounced, it ought to have still worked as designed when it did hit a living target, even if it did end up hitting the wrong person. Harry and Draco’s ricocheting spells, in GoF, were both perfectly functional after they collided and hit persons they were not aimed at. But whatever Voldemort threw at Harry rebounded and, not merely killing the caster’s body, completely destroyed it.
Clearly whatever Lily did totally bollixed whatever Tom was trying to do.
With mostly unforeseen results.
Which Albus Dumbledore nevertheless appears to have been able to piece together, after the fact, despite the lack of any eyewitness account. I don’t care how powerful a wizard he is, he ought not to have been able to do that.
Not unless there was something about the scene of the crime itself which made it plain what had happened. So, can we extrapolate a series of actions that would produce a physical effect that Albus would have been able to use to piece together what had taken place?
Keeping in mind that Albus at least did have access to those books which referenced the creation of Horcruxes.
He is very insistent that Harry lived because his mother died to save him as early as Book 1. I don’t think he is shaving the truth particularly closely when he tells us so. And there is no really satisfactory way of placing an eyewitness at the scene who could have reported the event. So how does he know?
What precisely did Lily do?
Which is probably not the right question. Another question is; what, precisely, was Tom trying to do?
I think we really ought to be asking whether we have enough information to postulate just how the Horcrux-creation spell works yet. Because just about any attempt to extrapolate what happened is going to depend on that.
Taking into account a few other bits of information that we have regarding Tom Riddle, we might just about have enough to work from, although we may still be missing critical bits which would render any speculation obsolete. But we might as well make the effort. We certainly are not going to be given any further information this far downstream of the closing of canon, now.
This is hardly my first attempt to try to extrapolate what the spell that Voldemort threw at Harry was, and how it is supposed to work, and, most importantly, what exactly went wrong with it. I’ve posted at least two earlier iterations of attempts at a solution to the problem here. So, this is an exercise in opening door #3.
To repeat: The Avada Kadavra does not create a Horcrux.
The Horcrux-creating spell is not unblockable.
Voldemort did not attempt to murder Harry Potter by means of the Avada Kadavra curse. He attempted to kill Harry Potter by means of the Horcrux-creation curse.
Lily’s sacrificial death blocked it.
And the Diary revenant admitted as much, now that we have the context to understand what it actually told us.
“So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see now...”
Excuse me; but haven’t we all been told, loud and clear, that Avada Kadavra has no known counter-charm? I think even 16-year-old Riddle knew perfectly well that the same lack of counter-charm did not apply to the Horcrux-creation spell. There might have been any number of possible ways to have blocked that one. Lily’s willing sacrifice stopped it cold.
The big question now is whether Lily knew that this is what would happen.
Rowling is insistent that she didn’t.
There are very few means by which to attain deathlessness, and Lord Voldemort was not famed for recreating the Philosopher’s Stone.
But Horcruxes are a banned subject at Hogwarts. James Potter had been brought up to abhor the Dark Arts. Sirius Black no longer had access to his own family’s extensive Dark Arts library after the age of 16, and we know nothing of Lupin (a halfblood) or Pettigrew’s family backgrounds. There is no obvious source of information on Horcruxes to be found here.
And for that matter, Lily wouldn’t even go out with James until 7th year, and being Muggle-born, had no avenues of inquiry regarding Horcruxes, either.
But the information is out there if you know where to look for it. If Regulus Black, at the age of 17 could have figured out that Voldemort had a Horcrux, it stands to reason that somebody else with access to a private library without the limitations that Dumbledore has imposed upon the one at Hogwarts could find it out as well. Dumbledore’s banning of the subject is presumably a comparatively recent phenomenon.
And the ban only applies to Hogwarts.
It stands to reason that the Blacks are not the only family with Dark Arts volumes in their private library. Indeed, I suspect that you could find a nice collection of such at Spinner’s End. I very much doubt that Severus Snape put that whole library together himself, although he has certainly added to it. I think he inherited the majority of it from his mother and his Prince grandparents. This is a possible source of at least some basic information. But not an essential one.
My original reading was that Lily — who the reader had been consistently led to underestimate throughout the series — in an act of desperation masked in surface hysteria had very cleverly maneuvered Voldemort into tacitly agreeing to a binding magical contract of “my life for Harry’s”. And that by killing her, rather than simply stunning her, he sealed his own fate, believing himself to be beyond the reach of consequences. When he turned his wand on Harry the “breech of contract” clause nailed him. If he had not already rendered himself deathless, that would have been the end of the story.
It now seems to me, however, that even that explanation is much more complex than really required. As of January/February, 2007, the dominoes have been falling like rain.
As things have turned out, I think that it is clear that it is what Tom did himself that established the connection between himself and Harry. What Lily did to directly cause the curse to misfire prevented the connection from being broken. And through the energy conducted by it, both parties were Changed.
As to our next question, that of 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 exact 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 had 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 it 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 judgement, 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 had 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 it 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 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 understood to have at least one other presumably rare (although it’s never actually stated in the text as such) ability. An ability which he clearly kept even after his defeat, and probably kept to his very end. Even as a thing of shadow and vapor; a disembodied portion of a soul, he retained the ability to take possession of others. Not merely to dominate them and bring them under his control by force of will, or to control them by means of the Imterius 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 years 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.) 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 grimores is the description of a ritual in which one might attempt to divorce oneself from this world and its limitations by, among other similarly impossible feats, murdering oneself, yet continuing to live. I gather that this concept might not be altogether uncommon in occult studies.
Perhaps 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 occured 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 resiliant, or something as extreme as murder would not be necessary in order to produce a Horcrux. And something more than just a murder must be involved, since murder does not expell bits of the murder’s soul, anyway. Souls usually stay where they belong, however damaged. It would take some maneuvering to get a fragment out of its source’s body.
It is, however, 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 problem.
So. Let’s explore a few possibilities, here.
To begin wth, 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 undoubtedly killed by looking at the Basilisk. Madam Hepzibah Smith was poisoned. No cast curses were involved in either case, and yet Horcruxes were created from both deaths. Slughorn clearly did not even want to think about the creation of Horcruxes, and had probably missed the point that the essential factor was not, in fact, the specific curse known to create them, but the requsite 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. It is 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, and so would a great deal of related research, such as preparation of a potential housing to contain such a fragment.
Among this research certainly would have been 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 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 job 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 to murder the Riddles. It may well have occured to him that if the really necessary factor was the possession of the victim, 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.
And, yes, I am 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 showed Harry Potter took place after Myrtle was dead. I seriously doubt that he would have been able to continue entering memories into it 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, either.
I suspect that Madam Smith's death was his 2nd horcrux, and on that one I am prepared to accept Rowling’s word for it that it was the Cup. He did not use the Horcrux-creation curse for that one either.
And since he never had possession of the Cup until the night he killed Madam Smith, such preparation as is needed for a housing, is probably not a long, drawn-out affiar, but a spell which can be cast on site, before the victim dies, and frees the fragment which is to be contained.
But I rather suspect that he did use the Horcrux creation spell for whatever death accounted for the Locket. And there may have been an advantage to that method that convinced him to use it for the rest of his projected set.
In any case, he does appear to have attempted to use it 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 the decade-long, voluntary exile from the ww he had engaged himself in creating at least three, and probably four 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 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 them with any obvious means by which to reach out to take possession of 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. 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 at the last minute onto the Locket which upon our first introduction had been passed from hand to hand all around #12 without incident, made the story a lot cheesier than it had any authentic need to be. On the other hand, adopting that partivular trope does provide a possible hint as to just when he decided to create the Diary. As well as a suggestion of what, precisely, might be wrong with Bellatrix.)
Of course, once I had traveled a good deal farther down the track I 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 over in the main Potterverse collection.
However, we need to keep in mind the fact that if Tom would customize one of his Horcruxes to serve as a potential weapon, he might have done the same to others.
The following is 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 the statement 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 the (presumed?) child under such control would reopen the Chamber of Secrets and call forth the Basilisk.
So far the only goal that 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 on that 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.
Was it originally intended that it 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 it was 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? To share it with the Diary revenant? Or 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 without causing comment through either the wizarding or the Muggle worlds?
Had he always 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?
And, 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 suspect we will never be given an answer to that.
Which, at long last, finally brings back us to the Changeling Hypothesis. It has seen a bit of development since its inception in 2003, and it no longer marches with canon at all, but, then, that’s why it is in this collection of essays accessed from this page instead of up in the main collection.
The premis is: Harry, an immature, fully human entity, seems to have been left with no conscious memory of the event that Changed him, beyond that of his mother’s screaming and a green light. Voldemort, a mature entity with an already deeply compromised soul, seems to have been left with only a memory of “pain beyond pain”. I believe that in Voldemort’s case this was only due in part to the destruction of his physical body.
In the original Changeling hypothesis, my contention was that by the miscalculation of choosing to preserve his life experience, rather than his soul, Voldemort’s soul was stripped of all its experience by the rebounding curse, and that the memory, self identity, and self-awareness of Lord Voldemort were spun off to exist independently as VaporMort. Essentially this was the “residue” of all his first life. But that his soul, now stripped of all of its first life’s experience and effectively returned to its original state, transmigrated to the nearest living body available to give it shelter, using the connection provided by the curse as its guide. That, in short, Harry Potter became the repository of Tom Riddle’s soul. That Harry was double-souled, and consequently now had all the qualities needed to “vanquish” the residue of Lord Voldemort. And that “inheriting” a new identity and growing up as Harry Potter constituted Tom Riddle’s “second chance.”
Clearly, this interpretation was wrong.
But not altogether forgotten.
Which brings me to yet another ultimately fruitless exploration.
As with so many others, Rowling deliberately set this one up — and then apparently forgot about it altogether, for she certainly did nothing with it.
According to Albus Dumbledore’s reading of the circumstances, Voldemort intended to create his sixth and final Horcrux from the death of Harry Potter.
Dumbledore goes on to state that the rebounding curse prevented this, and that if he has created a sixth Horcrux, it was done after his return to the material plane. Dumbledore also admits that he makes mistakes, and that when he does they are likely to be huge ones.
In common with most of fandom, I was of the opinion that Dumbledore had either made a mistake in this case, or he has deliberately deflected inquiry from its proper object for reasons which were not immediately obvious. I was sure that the sixth Horcrux was not Nagini. The sixth Horcrux — such as it is — was Harry Potter.
In this supposition we were informed that we were wrong (actually we weren’t), and I was duly disgusted to learn that Nagini turned out to be a Horcrux after all.
However, the fact that Voldemort had created a Horcrux — not from the death of Frank Bryce, but (ex-cathedra) from that of Bertha Jorkins, once he returned to a vestigial physical form concealed from him the discovery that he had also created one from the infant Harry Potter when his curse misfired at Godric’s Hollow.
We saw what Riddle looked like in his interview with Madam Hepzibah Smith after he had already created his first Horcrux.
We saw what he looked like upon his return to the wizarding world 10 years and three Horcruxes later.
Voldemort was familiar with each incremental step of the process between those two points. And when he ran his hands over his newly-risen face after rising from the cauldron, he would have expected to discover the changes wrought by creating his most recent Horcrux. Which is to say, Nagini. The changes between the “molten wax” face that he wore upon his return from his first exile, and the “mask-like” face that he has worn since his second return are extreme enough to detect by touch, running those spidery hands over his face, as Harry watched him do.
Even if, as I now suspect, there may have been a brief incremental stage between the wax image and the mask that came out of the cauldron which appeared in the year before his first defeat (since I am now inclined to think that the Diary was actually the 5th Horcrux, created around 1980–81).
Horace Slughorn claimed that “a spell” existed for the purpose of creating a Horcrux when Riddle asked his question in the academic year 1942–’43, but that he did not know that spell, and he insisted that the subject had already been banned. I think we can probably take Slughorn at his word on this. Tom Riddle did not learn how to create a Horcrux from Horace Slughorn. At most, he only got confirmation on what a Horcrux was.
*sigh* This is completely without regard to the direct contradiction to Slughorn’s information that Rowling inserted into DHs when she discovered that she had painted herself into a corner again. (And it has also now become abundantly clear that we cannot trust any statement of Rowling’s that was ever made in any interview, expecially if she lacks the integrety to even stand by what she has already written in the novels.)
But we also know that Riddle, by all accounts, was supposedly brilliant. By the very fact that he ultimately created that Diary, not just from the manner in which he had designed its housing; incorporating the function of a calendar, and a Pensieve (all of which were probably done for some other purpose), including an interactive user interface by which the fragment housed in the Horcrux might be able to interact with and take possession of the holder, steal their life and escape from the book (one life spent to put it in, another spent to take it out), we can conclude that he was not in the least averse to messing about with extremely dangerous, highly experimental magic.
But he had to find the spell which would split his soul, and eject the fragment, enabling him to do it.
(Although when he did, he evidently postulated that the relevant spell might not even be necessary — to a wizard like himself, at least! And then set about to prove it.)
Well, we are not without possibilities there. Albus Dumbledore was not able to ban information related to the creation of Horcruxes outside Hogwarts. And it has been recently pointed out to me that Riddle may not in fact have spent all of his summers in that orphanage. Which opened up a whole other line of enquery.
But I do agree with the fan who pointed out that Tom may have learned more from Slughorn, than just what a Horcrux was; this fan also implied that Slughorn may have inadvertently given Riddle exactly the information he required when he informed Tom that the subject had been banned at Hogwarts.
Banned books are certainly to be numbered among the contents of the Room of Hidden Things. And it is no stretch whatsoever to suspect that by his 5th year Tom Riddle was probably already well acquainted with the Room of Hidden Things.
In fact, that he was familiar with it was even confirmed in canon. He hid a Horcrux there, after all.
Which brings us to another recalcitrant contradiction between the various things that we have been told.
Tom Riddle was a murderer three times over by the age of 16. We are directly told this in HBP.
Dumbledore claims that he knows of no other murder committed by Riddle until the suspicions death of Hepzibah Smith, which took place at least 5 years after the Riddle massacre. And he also tells us that he believes that there were none.
This is either a whopping Flint or a clue to something.
Albus certainly remembers that a student named Myrtle was killed, right there in the school itself.
Besides, Albus, who may know more about Horcruxes than Riddle does, must know that the diary was “supposedly” created by the end of 1943. Harry told everyone in McGonagall’s office that Riddle had “written in the Diary” when he was 16.
Which, upon reflection, suggests that Albus’s statement may be a pointed nudge away from that particular most well-trodden path. Even if Rowling seems to have forgotten that she ever gave us that nudge.
We know that Tom, at 15, had managed to escape a murder investigation by using his uncle’s wand to kill his father and grandparents, and then further deflected blame by modifying his uncle Morfin’s memory. That took place the summer before he “wrote in the diary”.
That experience suggests that he was making a few experiments in memory storage.
What else, after all, is a diary for? Why did it suddenly occur to him to take a Muggle diary to school with him the following year? We know that the diary ultimately had been charmed to work as a fully-functioning Pensieve — with a built-in calendar to boot! And it was much more portable and convenient than any old stone bowl.
Tom did indeed “write in the diary” when he was 16.
But we have no evidence to suggest that he actually turned it into a Horcrux before he passed it to Lucius Malfoy — in 1981.
That the Diary revenant replicated a 16-year-old Riddle may have been only because the revenant was formed from the memories of a 16-year-old Riddle.
Yet even dismissing the Diary, Albus’s contention is still “Flinty”. Because the “pale and interesting” appearance which Tom was sporting by the time he had his interview with Madam Smith suggests that he had already created at least one of his Horcruxes. And yet Albus still claims that he knows of no additional murder committed by Riddle at that point.
Of course, this is Albus. Albus may just be being annoyingly literal here, and does not know, or was not prepared to voice any suspicions as to whose death may have served to create Riddle’s first Horcrux because he either does not know who the victim was, or because he was not aware that a Horcrux can be created without using the traditional spell designed to create them. Riddle may have managed to hide his tracks very, very well there.
And clearly Dumbledore is not considering the death of Moaning Myrtle, for whose death Riddle was certainly responsible, but who was definitely killed by the Basilisk, not by Riddle himself.
I do not think that Albus ever considered the possibility that Tom could have created a Horcrux by taking pssession of Myrtle and forcing her to look at the Basilisk. Evidently he has forgotten some of the things that the 11-year-old Riddle had boasted to him that he could do.
For that matter, it was Hokey who remembered having poisoned her mistress, although this may be an all-too-similar case of modified memory to that of Morfin Gaunt, who certainly remembered killing the Riddles. It may well have been Riddle himself who actually poisoned Madam Smith. Indeed, considering the theft of the locket and cup it would probably be safest to assume this to be the case. Hokey might conceivably have been bewitched into poisoning her mistress. I seriously doubt that she also stole her mistress’s treasures. And it was Tom who possessed Madam Smith and forced her to drink the poison.
But there is no indication whatsoever that you can create a Horcrux today from a murder committed at some unspecific point in the past. Particularly not if taking possession of the Victim is an intrinsic part of the process.
Riddle, who since the date of his interview with Madam Smith apparently has committed a great many murders — enough to stock a good-sized underground lake with Inferi, anyway; to the point that if any mere murder, rather than murder of a possessed victim would split one’s soul, Tom’s lack of any capacity for remorse, would ensure that his soul would probably be no more than a bundle of shreds and tatters — is still stated by Albus Dumbledore to have reserved the creation of his Horcruxes for “significant” deaths.
I suspect that this may be a slight misstatement on Dumbledore’s part. Possibly a deliberate one. As a “ritual suicide” any death that results in the creation of a Horcrux is by definition a significant death. Regardless of how insignificant the apparent victim.
Riddle certainly does appear to have been saving up the last of his projected set of six Horcruxes for a significant murder. But there is no reason to suppose that the five deaths that created the others were any more “significant” than that the Diary was an object of historical significance and grandeur.
We do not really know the identities of the deaths (significant or otherwise) from which Riddle created Horcruxes from the Diary, the Locket, and the Diadem. Rowling’s statements on the subject are contradictory and difficult to reconcile with the facts as they are depicted inside canon (although I am inclined to believe her when she says that Madam Smith’s death created the Cup). And, again, this was an interview statement. She tends to change those each time she is asked the same question. And at this point it looks very much as though we never will know for certain whose deaths he used for this purpose, any more than we will be told the identity of the people who are now sleeping the long sleep in Lake Inferi. But it is implied that by the time he had returned to the wizarding world after his first exile he had already created at least four of his intended set of 6 Horcruxes.
I had originally supposed, that in order to ensure that a Horcrux would be created by a specific murder some form of modification to the AK curse would have been required in order to ensure that the Horcrux would be created from the correct fragment.
That, incidentally, was the weak point of that particular theory. The point at which one has to completely invent magic to support a theory is the point at which the theory is usually hosed. The evidence that the spell which Voldemort used to attempt to kill Harry was not a typical AK was already clear enough, for whatever he threw at Harry did not behave as an AK had ever been demonstrated in canon to behave. But, at that time, we knew of no alternate spell that might have been used. This limitation no longer applies.
We may not ever know the name of the curse which splits the soul and makes the creation of a Horcrux possible, but, from Slughorn, we know that such a spell certainly exists. Otherwise Slughorn would not have specified that there was a specific spell. He'd have just said it was necessary to murder someone and left it at that, assuming that the spell would of course have been AK.
A dementor extracts the soul of its victim without harming the body. Nor are there any sweeping changes to the victim’s physical appearance due to having lost their soul. Those who have been Kissed do not resemble Lord Voldemort. And we get no indication in the text of the books that the dementors remove the soul in pieces when they extract it.
Under “normal” circumstances the dementors are more selective in what they take from their victims. Draining them of all hope, or joy, or happiness, or magic, and feeding upon them until the point that the victim, no longer able to recover from the drain, is left with only his worst memories to retreat into, leading ultimately to deepest melancholia, and the failure of the will to live. But while a dementor might devour a soul, or diminish it, it does not appear that a dementor would be able to divide one.
So. According to my current extrapolation; one must first possess one’s Victim and then murder the Victim while one retains possession of them, in a form of ritual suicide, which will split off the portion of one’s soul that is possessing the Victim from the rest of its source. The Horcrux-creation spell severs the connection between its caster and the fragment which is possessing the Victim, and then ejects the soul fragment which had possessed the Victim out of the Victim’s body, by killing the Victim’s body.
The fragment — whose source is still alive, and, not being drawn to the Veil — will attempt to return to its still-living source. Who prevents this return by entrapping it in a new housing, which has been prepared for it in advance.
It is possible that the curse also slows down the soul fragment, or makes it visible to the caster, so it may be more easily snared in a prepared artifact, as a butterfly with a net. The artifact evidently does not suck the soul fragment into itself on its own, or you would expect Tom’s “Master” fragment to have been trapped by whatever artifact he brought with him when he went to create his final Horcrux from Harry’s murder (assuming the artifact survived the implosion).
Yes, I know Rowling did not mention such an artifact in her flaskback of what she now wants us to believe happened, but I am not convinced one did not exist. Not if Albus was correct that it was Tom’s intention to create a Horcrux from Harry’s murder.
So. Creating a Horcrux is designed to render you immune from death. Creating a Horcrux requires a form of ritual suicide. The Victim serves as an intermediary proxy. The curse requires that both caster and Victim share the same soul. If they don’t, I suspect all hell breaks loose.
And, on Halloween of 1981, did.
But it does appear to be at least a viable hypothesis that only wizards who are able to take possession of others would be the ones who are easily capable of creating Horcruxes.
Is that ability really common, or is it a specialty of wizards of “a certain caliber”? At this point we have no information on that issue. No other person in the entire series, to the best of my recollection, has ever been stated as having taken possession of any other beast or being — apart from Tom Riddle.
I think Tom discovered that he could possess other creatures before he got his Hogwarts letter. Billy Stubbs’s rabbit hanging itself from the rafters now sounds highly suspicious. He probably got it up there and then made it jump, once the rope was around its neck. He broke contact immediately that time. And since the Horcrux creation spell wasn't in use, and the victim wasn't sentient, his soul didn’t split off a fragment. It may have taken some damage, however. Not that he cared.
But the two children he took to the cave may have been less successful “practice pieces” or perhaps he chickened out at the last moment. (Was he able to possess both of them at once? Maybe he overreached himself and lost control of them.)
He knew that Parseltongue was uncommon by the time he reached Hogwarts. But if possession is rare to begin with, I think he figured out that his facility for that was even rarer. And, indeed, if the spell that Slughorn refers to is in fact a possession spell. Tom never needed it at all, and has been “rolling his own” the whole time. But I would not go so far as to depend upon that.
If, perhaps, Tom had already found the banned books in the Room of Hidden Things, and knew he could do this, perhaps he wanted to know what else he could do with it. Ergo; he took the risk of raising the question to Slughorn, even if it cost him Slughorn’s regard. It seems to not be out of reason to suppose that Slughorn’s fondness for Riddle might have cooled off abruptly after their discussion on that particular subject.
We’ve also known since Book 1 that Voldemort tried to kill Harry and that his spell evidently rebounded, with the result that he, himself, disappeared.
We have been assuming, ever since GoF that Voldemort attempted to kill Harry with the AK on Barty Crouch Jr’s say-so, despite the fact that when that event took place Crouch allegedly wasn’t above 18–19 years old, a raw recruit, and wasn’t actually present at Godric’s Hollow to know what spell Voldemort used. I think that it is time to dismiss whatever Barty Crouch Jr has to say on the subject. It is a false lead. A red herring.
And Albus’s appearance of going along with Crouch’s statement in HBP was probably for some reason to which we had not been introduced yet. In DHs it was finally unveiled that yes, Albus was very deliberately not telling anyone his suspicion that Harry might not need to die in order to destroy that particular Horcrux, after all.
AK typically leaves a body behind. An unmarked body. We have also watched it do varying levels of physical damage to inanimate objects.
We have never seen it vaporize anything it hits. And yet we are supposed to believe that at Godric’s Hollow, it did so.
So right there we’ve been thrown a curve regarding our speculation as to which death created which Horcrux. It throws it right into limbo. For we do know that all five of the known deaths for which Riddle was responsible by the time of his first exile from the ww left bodies. Nobody disappeared.
In the ONLY instance where we know for certain (not after the fact in an interview answer) that Riddle’s primary reason for attempting to commit a murder was to create a Horcrux, the unintended victim (i.e., the caster) disappeared, leaving no physical trace. No AK which we have observed has ever behaved in this manner.
I repeat: in the absence of a dementor; to remove a soul from its body requires a death. The natural death of a 3rd party has no effect upon the 1st party’s soul. I suspect that the deliberately caused death of said 3rd party normally has no lasting effect upon the soul of the 1st party either; although the 1st party may be required to stand in temporal or spiritual judgement for their actions in their responsibility of that death. And even if damage to the murder’s soul is sustained, in normal persons remorse will go at least some way in healing it.
The curse which splits the soul of its own caster provides the required “death” of the caster by using that of a proxy, a live, intermediate temporary housing, which serves to split off a portion of the caster’s soul, which is then redirected into an external housing to keep it from ever passing through the Veil and defeating the purpose of splitting it.
So. Just what did Lily do to disrupt the process?
And why did that disruption do what it did?
And, just exactly what did the disruption do?
And why is there no record of it in the Priori Incantatum in the graveyard of Little Hangleton?
Or is there?
Those dementor-assisted memories of Harry’s are really very strange. Harry has no emotional connection to himself in them at all. It’s rather like a Pensieve playback with the video turned off. Or a radio play. Rowling claims that Harry did not see his mother’s murder. No doubt this is supposed to account for it. (Although she showed us quite otherwise in the DHs flashback. Harry was watching that.)
Well, okay. We all agree upon the basic hypothesis that Lily died to protect her son/her son was protected because she died instead of him. No one is arguing about that.
At this point my theories diverge irredeemably from what we were shown in DHs. And frankly, I still think my version is better-built. (It would be hard not to be.)
I think that in defiance of the flashback in DHs, Tom did not simply kill Lily when she wouldn’t cooperate. And, unlike in my earliest hypothesis, there wasn’t a formal “contract” that she established between them, of her life for Harry’s. She did not trick Tom into such a contract. The “contract” which resulted from her action wasn’t actually a contract, and it wasn’t expected. It was a product of “magic at its most impenetrable,” She didn’t know the projected result that would take place from her action.
But she may have been reasonably sure that what she did might save her baby.
I think she threw herself into the path of the Horcrux-creation spell.
Before it could reach Harry.
Whether she knew just enough about the principles involved to know that the Murderer and the Victim must share a soul, or not, she knew that she was not going to stand meekly by and watch her son be murdered. If Voldemort did not cast the curse non-verbally, she knew that it wasn’t an AK, and may even have hoped that her getting in the way of it would cause the spell (whatever it was) to misfire in some, probably spectacular, manner, which would buy Harry some time.
With no idea of what would actually happen to her.
Let’s take another look at the possible order of action here.
Possession does not require touch, Lily’s sacrifice would not keep Tom from possessing Harry, but it kept him from killing him. A death did result from the spell. In fact the death of the caster also resulted from it. So the soul fragment was still split off, but the fragment was not forced from Harry’s body because Harry did not die.
Indeed, as with all Dark magic, the caster’s intent matters far more than it does in common domestic wizardry. Tom’s very determination to create a Horcrux from this murder enabled him to do it, even though he completely lost control of the spell.
And Lily’s sacrifice transmuted into Tom being unable to “touch” her child. The Horcrux that Tom created in Harry might one day jerk him around, but it could not take possession of him. To do that Tom had to make the attempt himself from outside. Tom would never again be able to possess Harry without incurring consequences that he did not wish to invoke.
I now find myself wondering whether the shrill voice Harry heard laughing in the later portion of the dementor-assisted memory was his own — after Voldemort took possession of him. That was the point where Lily stopped pleading, and started screaming.
Tom intended to kill her child in front of her, and make some unspecified use of her for his own purposes. He didn’t believe that she could do anything to stop him.
Okay, let’s try this version on for size:
1. He breaks into the room, fresh from murdering James, laughing the patented Evil Overlord cackle™. Lily gets between them and pleads for Harry’s life. He orders her to get out of the way. She doesn’t.
2. He takes possession of Harry. He didn’t need for her to get out of the way to do that.
3. Harry starts laughing with Tom’s voice, Lily screams and probably glances at him in horror.
4. Tom steps to one side and throws the Horcrux-creation spell past her, while she is distracted.
5. She catches him at it and throws herself in the way of it. Just in time.
It killed her. Consequently there is no record of any failed spell in the Priori Incantatum log. Lily’s shade serves as a record of that spell just fine. But it couldn’t create a Horcrux from her death, since her soul was not shared by the caster of the spell. The Horcrux-creation spell requires that the Victim and the Murderer share the same soul. Destabilized, the spell rebounded, looking for its caster’s soul.
We’ve already seen that rebounding spells can do damage greatly in excess of their original intent. Protego, which causes spells to rebound carried Harry some way into Snape’ memories, rather than just evicting Snape from his own. Gilderoy Lockhart completely wiped out his own memory when a defective wand caused a simple Obliviate to rebound. When the Horcrux-creation curse found the soul it was looking for, it didn’t just kill the perceived Victim, it destroyed the container housing the incomplete soul. it vaporized it. Having done so, the misfiring spell’s energies also seem to have been conducted through the still open connection between the two portions of the shared soul (which Lily’s interference had inadvertently kept from being broken) to attack the fragment of the soul which was possessing Harry as well. It is probable that this extreme level of destruction was the result of there being no proper “grounding” between Murderer and Victim.
A tremendous amount of psychic energy must be necessary to split a soul from a 3rd-party’s death even when it works the way it is supposed to. Something which vaporizes a physical body might well be on the level of a very small, very contained nuclear blast. (This suggests that if a small, localized “nuclear blast” is at risk of taking place upon the site of the creation of a Horcrux, then it is best to create one out of doors in an area where the energy burst is unlikely to find any particular targets. Out in a field or a meadow — or a stone circle — might be most appropriate.)
The energy released in that blast may very well have been what blew out the wall of the room.
We are not dealing with the AK here. An AK might cause localized damage where it hits, and punch a hole in a wall, but it does not generate the power to blow one out. The destruction at the Potters’s house may not have been due to Peter Pettigrew sowing confusion after the fact, after all. Although we cannot completely dismiss that possibility, either. (Nor that if Peter was sowing confusion he might have simply vanished the Dark Lord’s body to raise a mystery.)
When the curse rebounded, it effectively produced a form of Horcrux from Lord Voldemort’s own physical body’s death, rendering himself both Murderer and proxy, and which split his soul into the bargain. Small wonder the pain was beyond describing.
It is evident within the text that something definable as a Horcrux was, in fact, created in this spell-gone-awry. But it was not a typical one, nor was it captured in whatever artifact that Voldemort had intended to create it for. By the time the process reached the point where the caster is supposed to capture and house the soul fragment in an object, Voldemort had lost control of it.
Thus he “marked” Harry Potter as his “equal”; being now possessed of the inherent qualities necessary to vanquish the Dark Lord, in accordance with the Trelawney prophecy.
As a Horcrux himself; moreover, as one in which the connection to the original source was never broken, to all of the other Horcruxes, Harry Potter ought to have been indistinguishable from their creator, for he and they all share the same soul. Up until the botch-fest of DHs this premise appeared to hold quite steadily. Harry had handled the Locket, the Diary, and the Diadem, all without invoking any response whatsoever. Only when he actually wrote in the Diary did he activate the “user interface”.
As Dumbledore points out, there is a risk involved in creating a Horcrux from a living entity which can think for itself and take independent action. Probably almost as big a risk as taking partial Prophecies at face value.
Riddle’s conscious memories and “Self” identity survived his physical destruction in disembodied form, since his presence on the physical plane was already securely anchored by his set of (now six) Horcruxes, as he had intended. This “residue” retains a tenuous connection to the underlying magical and temperamental qualities of the fragment of the original human soul which had once informed the original Tom Riddle and which was left in Harry.
But not to the other Horcruxes. In thosewhen the Horcrux-creation spell was used, it worked as designed, and his connection to each of those fragments was successfully broken. They do not control him, and he does not directly control or support them, although they may, as with the Diary revenant function in accordance with their “programing”. But, it should be noted that if given the ability to function at all, they function independently. The Diary revenant ultimately blew off its alleged directive to attack Muggle-borns in favor of attempting to entrap and kill Harry Potter.
Nor is Riddle’s own central consciousness aware of any of these fragments, for, not only were their connections broken, but up to DHs when Rowling abruptly changed all the rules, the fragments were housed in inert objects which had no self awareness. And while they contained his life’s essence, they, being housed in inanimate objects, were not fully conscious or truly “living” entities. There was nothing on their end of the connection to complete the “circuit”. Even the semi-aware Diary revenant, was as unaware of it’s source, as it’s source was unaware of it.
Unlike Harry, who is not a book, ring, or other inanimate object. And in whom the connection to Tom Riddle was still intact.
The portion of Tom’s soul which had been sent into Harry to possess him was severely damaged by the magical backlash of the rebounding spell, although it was neither killed, nor evicted from its housing. (We cannot be sure whether the scar was produced by the malfunctioning curse attacking the fragment, or the fragment attempting to escape its housing.)
The backlash, however, appears to have shorted out all memory from the fragment of Tom’s soul which had possessed Harry, as well as all sense of its own identity. Otherwise it would have continued to control him in the same way in which the Diary fragment which had possessed Ginny controlled her. Possibly even despite Lily’s protection. Over the course of the series it appears to have been completely incapable of doing that.
(Unless it actually had done so and the Harry Potter we know really IS the spiritual clone of the former Tom Riddle — which would put us all back to square one of my original theory. But I really doubted that Rowling was going to be taking us in that direction, and in fact she did not.)
The portion of Riddle’s soul embedded in Harry scarcely recognized its own former name and unlike the fragment in the Diary had no access to the memories of its creator. Nor does it identify with him. It is a mostly-quiescent passenger. Although the fact that Harry is a Parselmouth was an indication that the fragment was still present.
And even though the fragment behaved as if it had been Kissed, it was still alive and it was still a fragment of Tom’s soul. Harry was still a Horcrux. A defective Horcrux, perhaps. A Horcrux by default.
But a Horcrux, nonetheless.
Which raises a number of questions: If you can only create a Horcrux by possessing the Victim and then killing him, then Tom ought to know perfectly well that Harry is still carrying around that piece of his soul, simply by reason of the existence of the connection between them.
Was he prepared to simply sacrifice that particular soul fragment to the grand gesture of murdering Harry in the full view of all his followers during the graveyard assembly? Because he certainly intended to kill Harry in the graveyard.
Or did he believe that because Harry was clearly NOT under his control, that that particular fragment had been lost when his original body was killed? Did he only become aware of their connection later? That is certainly possible. It is also possible that he felt the gesture of murdering the child said to be his downfall in the sight of all his possibly doubting followers would have been worth the sacrifice. (Not to mention neutralizing that irksome Prophecy.)
I think we can dismiss the fact that QuirrellMort almost killed Harry back in Book 1. QM was trying to get the Stone away from him, not commit his murder. And the revenant in CoS either did not realize that Harry was effectively another Horcrux, or, possibly, did not care. Harry’s scar did not react at all to the Diary revenant (although it really ought to have). It is unlikely that the revenant had any reaction to him, either.
Which raises another question. The revenant was generated from a soul fragment housed in a Horcrux. It must have known that its original source was still alive. The fact of its own existence was proof enough that the original source could not die. You have to wonder what its intentions were toward its (now known to be disembodied, since Ginny had told him about it) creator. But this is a side track, and not likely to be a particularly productive line of enquiry.
And, returning to the point here; if Tom knows (at least by the end of HBP) that Harry is carrying around his missing soul fragment, did the fact that he could not properly possess him again in the Atrium at the end of OotP come as a surprise? Or was that the point at which he finally realized that the boy not only was still carrying around the fragment, but that there was something wrong with it. That he could not use the fragment to take full control of Harry. And that he could not effectively possess him twice.
As well as the fact that the scar served the boy as a warning system.
Because the explosion (implosion?) at Godric’s Hollow appears to have also done something like reversing the fragment’s polarity.
Now, rather than the fragment being drawn to its original source it is repelled by it. When the two are brought into physical proximity the fragment appears to be thrown back into the same state it was in at the point of the divorce from its origin. Even to open the connection from a distance could set it off if there was a strong emotional charge sent through it.
But in the absence of being used as an emotional conduit, it seems to be at least hypothetically possible that the connection could be used merely for observation. We got quite a few instances of that sort of thing in OotP. (And a LOT more of them, in the other direction, in DHs. Although pain was always present on Harry’s end during those. Tom, however seems to have been unaware of Harry’s visits.)
At some point during OotP, even if not before the opening of the story, it seems inarguable that Voldemort became sufficiently aware of his connection to Harry to attempt to use it as an observation post, and these attempts did not always, or did not always immediately provoke a reaction from the scar. This campaign on Tom’s part ultimately ended in disaster. To the point that by the opening of HBP he had taken to using Occlumency to block the connection.
Albus Dumbledore claims that Voldemort found the attempt to take possession of Harry and use him as a hostage at the end of OotP too painful to sustain. I do not know whether this is another of Dumbledore’s mistakes, one of his fibs, or what, for we did not actually get to witness that attempt. Harry was too overcome with the pain of the contact himself to be a reliable observer and we never got an outside point of view. There had certainly been no indication that Voldemort found his new ability to physically touch Harry the summer before painful to himself, although that was certainly still painful to Harry.
They certainly had no trouble both hitching a ride with Nagini. I think Lily’s protection having originally been proof against both physical touch and any future psychic possession to be a viable hypothesis. But Lily was not able to drive Tom out of Harry before he killed her. And the soul fragment was stuck there once there was no other place for it to go.
Physical proximity continued to be a problem, although Tom was able to get around the ban on physical contact from his end by creating a simulacrum which bore a blood relationship to Lily. Indeed, although Voldemort’s attempt to counter the restriction lessened the effects of the reversed polarity, it was incapable of eliminating it. Harry was still thrown into pain once he was in physical proximity to Lord Voldemort, and any physical contact was excruciating. And there doesn’t appear to be any really viable way for Tom to recreate for himself a soul which can touch Harry, or even to get near him without setting the scar off.
And unless the pain issue is entirely due to something that Lily did, it made me doubt very much that Nagini was another Horcrux. She would not be so cooperative if she could not get near Tom without pain (Ergo; evidently the pain was due to what Lily did). I really did think that the snake was more likely to be under Imperius than that she was actually carrying around a piece of Tom’s soul. He could possess her when he needed to hitch a ride. He did not need to keep her possessed. Keeping her spellbound ought to have been sufficient.
But in any case, the fact that Harry was carrying around a bit of his enemy’s soul in his forehead has somehow managed to gift him with at least a trace of his enemy’s abilities and power. Such as being able to understand Parseltongue.
And, no, I did not think that Dumbledore was being entirely straight with Harry concerning what he suspected might have happened. If nothing else, Dumbledore has always been reluctant to tell others things that he only suspects; remaining non-committal until he can show proof of his contentions. Dumbledore also seemed to have rather more faith in the innate power of good over evil than appears to be really warranted under the circumstances.
Nor did we ever have access to all of Dumbledore’s sources of information. That could also have made a difference in his decisions.
But I really do think that we have come very close to one possible solution to the question of what Lily did, in a manner that makes any kind of sense according to the material we have to work with before the series completely shredded itself, and which accounts for the probability that Harry inadvertently ended up becoming a Horcrux.
And that once the preparations have been done in advance, actually creating a Horcrux is a one-step process. Tom just plain didn’t get a chance to make 2 tries at it.
Which brings us to how Albus Dumbledore managed to figure out what happened from examining the scene of the crime.
Dumbledore did figure it out, at least in theory, because he knew just enough about the creation of a Horcrux to know how it was supposed to have worked. And to tally that up against what appeared to have happened.
The damage to the Potter’s house and the lack of a body for Tom, combined with the disappearance of the Dark marks (which had been reported by Snape), was destruction on such a level that it must have suggested that an improperly grounded spell had gone violently wrong there. And, since (I believe) Albus had already suspected that Tom’s intention was to create a Horcrux from Harry’s murder, the fact that Harry was alive, but Lily wasn’t, would have suggested to him that she had thrown herself into the path of the spell, destabilizing it.
As early as the end of PS/SS Albus is able to tell Harry, with complete confidence, that Harry lived because his mother died to save him. Either this is something that he knows because a willing sacrifice is known to be the only thing that will effectively block the Horcrux-creation spell, or he has deduced that Lily gave her life to save Harry because Hagrid reported that Lily’s body was in the room where Harry had been found, and there is no other ready explanation for Harry’s survival.
Otherwise, how do you account for his having that particular piece of information? He certainly wasn’t there. If you remember, he didn’t even know who the Potter’s Secret Keeper was. Got an anonymous letter, did he?
If he was confident that he knows what spell was used, then he at least had some chance of figuring out what must have gone wrong with it, just from the report of the conditions which Hagrid found there.
That Harry was now scared suggested that something new was in play that Albus couldn’t anticipate. But the possibility that the boy was now a Horcrux could hardly be either ignored or dismissed.
From the vantage point of the end of September, 2006, we were invited to suspect that this issue might be resolved by the “Never-Asked-Question” of why Albus had custody of James Potter’s invisibility cloak, when he did not need a cloak to be invisible. I was inclined to decline that invitation.
It was as yet unclear whether Rowling would claim that this was indeed the issue which the answer to that question would resolve, but it really didn’t look like it to me. We have no reason to connect the mystery of the reason Albus had the cloak to the mystery of what happened at Godric’s Hollow, apart from the fact that it was James’s cloak. And if James agreed to loan Albus his cloak then the reason for the loan may have been over something else altogether. Certainly over someplace else altogether.
But as to the central issue; that of the Changeling Hypothesis, Albus does drop hints. Even the fact that he was able to state with confidence from the outset that Voldemort was not dead is a strong suggestion that he knew perfectly well that there was at least one Horcrux already in the equation by 1981. The list of means that a wizard can use to ensure a degree of immortality has got to be even shorter than the list of what monsters are stone-turners. That Dumbledore was aware of something of what had taken place at Godric’s Hollow is suggested by his description, back as early as the first book in the series, of the late Professor Quirrell “sharing his soul with Lord Voldemort”. And Harry’s descriptions of what he had experienced through that scar, even in his first year, must have made Albus suspicious of the nature of that scar. For that matter, we even get a hint that Dumbledore was probably suspicious of the nature of that scar as early as the opening chapter of PS/SS.
Harry Potter, however, unlike the former Tom Riddle, retains the deeply internalized experience of 15 months as a loved and wanted child, with all of the healthy early emotional development and ability to form attachments that this entails. And which by the time of Riddle’s attack upon him had already established a very different, and much more integrated and resilient sense of “Self” than that which the young Riddle had developed under the institutional-style of care of the orphanage in which he was raised. (Leaving aside the possibility of outside tampering and interference by 3rd-parties.)
Consequently the infusion of a bit of Tom Riddle’s magical qualities served only to enhance the abilities of, rather than to divide or undermine the Potter child’s fundamental temperamental qualities and potential character.
That an individual’s soul is the seat of their feelings explains Harry’s residual connection to Voldemort’s emotional state. As well as the fact that — even once Harry was aware of it — Voldemort could still manage to waltz in and out of Harry’s head undetected, as he did off and on throughout the whole of Year 5. It would appear that Harry may share a similar underlying temperament to Tom Riddle’s original source “template” (without sharing Riddle’s sociopathic personality disorder). This similarity may have contributed to Harry’s initial confusion as to which of the emotions he was experiencing were not really his.
And it should be remembered that Harry only definitely identified those feelings which leaked through to him over the connection at long distance while Voldemort was otherwise occupied, as not being his own. When Voldemort’s consciousness was also present, Harry was unable to distinguish between his own feelings and those of his “passenger”.
This hybridization may explain Harry’s resistance to Voldemort’s magic, since he is using some of what was once Voldemort’s own power to resist him. But I had begun to suspect that this issue could be more related to the notorious “gleam” of triumph in Dumbledore’s eye when Harry described Voldemort having used his blood to create the simulacrum.
I have always believed that Voldemort introduced a paradox into the equation when he chose to use Harry Potter’s blood to build that simulacrum. And that it was one which had probably not worked to his advantage. The protection which Lily Potter placed upon Harry was established at the cost of her life’s blood. (Metaphorically, that is. She was killed by a curse. The curse did not literally shed her blood.) Her blood, which is to say Harry’s blood relationship to her, protected him from his enemy. In whatever form in which that enemy might personally attempt to attack Harry, his enemy could not touch him.
Voldemort’s use of Harry’s blood to create his simulacrum has indeed served to reduce, although not eliminate that particular prohibition. Which appears to have been restored upon Harry’s (and Tom’s) return from “King’s Cross”. For with the death of the soul fragment all trace of the soul connection between them was gone, even though the simulacrum still shared Harry’s blood.
But I think that perhaps the blood tie did NOT serve to work around the protection that Albus had layered on top of Lily’s, which was based upon it, and for which Albus might well think he had reason to feel a flash of triumph; in which Harry is protected from Lord Voldemort so long as he is in the company of his blood relations, and can call the home of Lily’s blood relations his own. This protection would run out upon his attaining his majority, but it would continue to protect him until then.
Lord Voldemort’s simulacrum nevertheless bears a close blood relationship to Harry Potter — as he had fully intended. Consequently, it also bears a close blood relationship to Lily. The simulacrum, therefore, is one of Harry’s “blood relatives”. Until Harry attained his majority Lord Voldemort could not kill him.
The tug of war with the brother wands in the Little Hangleton graveyard ultimately went in Harry’s favor. And it turned out that we hadn’t heard the last of that, either. Although the end result was exceedingly badly and incompletely explained. In GoF, none of Voldemort’s AKs connected; even though Harry was already injured, and had a game leg, he managed to dodge them. The echoes from the Priori Incantatum gave him advice and assistance enabling him to escape. A great golden statue intervened when Voldemort attempted to kill him in the Atrium in OotP, and when Voldemort attempted to take possession of him he ran into something that he absolutely did not expect, and barely escaped without being captured, himself.
Harry might as well have been given a two-year’s dose of Felix Felicis. Until he turned 17 and shook the dust from the Dursley’s home from his feet, Voldemort simply could not kill him. And even killing the Horcrux might not kill Harry — so long as it was Tom himself who did it.
But Voldemort could still hurt him. Terribly. That gleam of triumph did not last long.
And the possibility that Harry might be able to shed the unintentional Horcrux without having to die himself, was not proven.
An extra bit of soul might also explain Harry’s peculiar irresistibility, as well as much of his heightened vulnerability to dementors.
An additional magical “transfusion” also goes a long way towards explaining the number and severity of Harry’s accidental childhood magical break-throughs, since as a corporate entity he had too much power for any immature wizard to be able to effectively control or suppress.
The “double wills” may not invariably operate in concert either. In fact, in Phoenix we were given at least two, and possibly more occasions where Harry effectively heard himself telling people information that he had not intended to reveal, or casting spells without consciously choosing to do it. It is heartening to reflect that on most of these occasions this turned out to be the very best thing he could have done under the circumstances. Although whether this influence was due to the “Tom” fragment, or a preview of the sort of warping of the universe around Harry Potter that so marred the course of DHs, we cannot yet be sure, for although Voldemort was able to see and hear what Harry saw and heard, and to sense Harry’s emotions, if the connection worked for him the way it worked for Harry at that point, he had no actual access to Harry Potter’s thoughts.
And, finally, I thought that this reading might also explain something of the 2-dimensional, “cartoon” character of the restored Lord Voldemort. For all that he had managed to create a living replica of his previous body, his entire “Self”, already severely compromised by the underlying sociopathic personality disorder, did not inhabit that body. With the creation of each Horcrux, the human soul was diminished. He was quite literally a “fragmented” personality. What we were observing was very much akin to an embodied memory without a human heart. It’s reasoning displays a consistent lack of connection with human experience or responses and its emotions are simple and rather crude reactions to an intellectual reading of the situation, rather than truly emotional responses. They are memories of emotions, distorted and erratic. That he was lacking any authentic emotional connections in his speech or actions also explains the hollowness of his performances which reflected nothing of the charisma and power that they must once have displayed in order to enthrall most of his schoolmates and his instructors. The current Lord Voldemort was quite literally “not all there”.
And still exceedingly dangerous.
And much trickier to get rid of than an enemy that one could simply kill.
And in any event, if there is anything at all to this it was easy, circa 2006, to see that, yes, Harry must indeed manage to destroy the present Lord Voldemort if he is ever to be able to live a life in which he is not haunted by this particular evil memory. For as long as any part of Tom Riddle’s soul is on this side of the Veil, Voldemort will continue to return. And to completely destroy him, Harry must destroy all of his parts.
He and his allies must locate and destroy the remaining Horcruxes.
They must decommission the simulacrum which he unwillingly helped to create.
He must also destroy the “evil memory” which controls and directs the simulacrum. The “final Horcrux” as it were. It was not certain that these would necessarily be destroyed together. (Fortunately they were.)
In fact, to be safe, I thought he should probably neutralize that particular “evil memory” of his enemy before he destroyed the simulacrum. For with the probability of the 6th Horcrux (i.e., the Harrycrux) still being in play at the final confrontation, we could no longer safely assume that destroying the simulacrum would at the worst case merely revert Voldemort to VaporMort. It seemed entirely possible that to destroy his current hosting body now will merely launch Voldemort into a battle to posses Harry’s, despite the pain which that would invoke.
And, most difficult of all, Harry must release the final piece of Tom Riddle’s soul and send it beyond the Veil.
So long as Harry Potter is carrying around a fragment of Tom Riddle’s soul in his forehead, he can never truly be free of the persistent, recurring memory of Voldemort. The “last” Horcrux simply cannot be destroyed as long as the 6th Horcrux continues to anchor it this side of the Veil. Voldemort would continue to live as long as Harry does.
However, my own tendency to look for patterns then had me wondering whether — if the “Lord Voldemort” that we were now forced to consider is, in fact, not much more than an embodied evil memory — we might have already been shown an appropriate means to neutralize and disarm him, buying us time to figure out how to deal with that 6th Horcrux.
A lá Gilderoy Lockhart, perhaps?