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Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection: Potterverse Subjects - Horcrux Redux, Yet Again
Potterverse Subjects

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

Continuing with our historical survey and explorations of possibilities regarding the Horcruxes, written after HBP, once we all knew we were going to have to be dealing with them.

By the end of HBP I thought there was some question as to whether Voldemort had figured out what, or rather, who his final Horcrux was. I rather suspected that he may have by that point in the series.

He did know that he had succeeded in losing another piece of his soul, anyway.

For despite all of his statements in the graveyard about being willing enough to get his “old” body back — until he could manage a truly immortal one (a statement that Rowling had been determinedly ignoring ever since, but I that I still suspected we might not have heard the end of), he had not yet got a good look at that regenerated body. But he already knew it wasn’t the *same* as his previous body.

After all, the first thing he did after rising from the cauldron and dressing himself was a detailed self-examination. Harry watched him run his hands over himself, arms, chest, face, he would have been able to tell from the changes to his physiognomy that — despite the spell having gone awry 13 years earlier — he had still split off another soul fragment since the night of his defeat. This was not the first time he had gone through this procedure, remember? He knew the kind of changes to expect.

With that in mind, it belatedly occurred to me that this may have been the purpose of Rowling’s having him create a Horcrux from his snake. That would serve to mask any physical changes attendant upon having succeeded in creating the Harrycrux at Godric’s Hollow. In this, I think I may have been giving her far too much credit. She never had managed to keep proper track of that sort of detail, and she certainly wasn’t likely to start then.

(Although to be honest, at that point I was still determinedly resisting such a daft idea as that the last Horcrux was the Snake.)

Still, given Rowling’s insistence that Nagini was indeed an additional Horcrux, Riddle would have been able to account for having lost another soul fragment since Godric’s Hollow, despite the monumental screw-up which had destroyed his original body there.

The fact that Tom, according to Albus, had allegedly gone to the Potters’ intending to create a Horcrux also suggests that he would have taken an artifact of significance with him.

Rowling completely failed to follow through on this thread in her DHs flashback. I am now inclined to believe that she’d completely forgotten that she’d had Albus tell us any such thing. But that does not prove that there never was any such artifact. Getting inside Tom’s head does not automatically reveal the truth of his past actions. Only what he chooses to recollect now. Sixteen years later, en route to Godric’s Hollow again, he wasn’t thinking about any artifact. He was fully occupied with the prospect of finally murdering his appointed enemy. And, apparently, fantasizing about how it was supposed to have worked the first time. Actual events? Fugeddaboutit!

Pausing for a moment in this particular “scenic view spot”; one needs to stop and pick and choose what version of the matter you are going to believe.

So. Do you believe that Harry did, in fact, become a Horcrux? We weren’t given any way of believing that he was not with the way that the story played out, were we?

So, then. Do you think Lord Voldemort intended to create a living Horcrux from a child which had been prophesied to “vanquish” him? Why on earth would he choose to do that? He fully intended to kill that child. And to“immortalize” the event.

The very fact that a soul fragment was left in the child makes it abundantly clear that to create a Horcrux was a part of that evening’s agenda. You don’t stuff bits of your soul into people you intend to kill by accident.

So of course he took an artifact with him. Then. We have no idea what it was, and neither does Rowling. She might even have dodged the issue by pretending there was no such artifact because she couldn’t think of one.

Therefore, I thought his first assumption might have been that the designated artifact was now his 6th Horcrux. Or that there wasn’t a Horcrux at all. That in fact the split-off soul fragment had simply been lost when his spell was derailed.

• • • •

If he had not paid a visit to Godric’s Hollow since that discovery — and he may not have (ETA: well, he obviously did, but apparently he just went there to set and bait the Bagshott trap), it isn’t exactly the scene of one of his triumphs — I thought he may have decided to leave the artifact in place, or had simply assumed that it had already been found and removed.

I had speculated that Harry and his friends might very well find it there. And that it might have a curse on it, although that was far from certain, but that it would not be a Horcrux. Harry is the Horcrux. And that even if they did find an artifact, Harry and his friends were primed to believe that it couldn’t be a Horcrux, since the last one, acto Dumbledore, was the Snake.

In any case, I thought this artifact might turn out to be the as yet unspecified Ravenclaw or Gryffindor artifact — assuming there was any such thing. Or that it might be just something otherwise old and suitably impressive.

Conversely, Voldemort might have already retrieved the artifact. Which raised the question of whether Voldemort can tell by touch or sight whether or not an artifact actually has become a Horcrux. (Given that his Horcruxes now all tend to reach back, I suspect he might.) Still, Harry had no reaction from handling the Diary, apart from a vague feeling of familiarity when he read the name written on it. Prior to all Horcruxes suddenly acting like the One Ring in DHs, Voldemort might have thought he had taken possession of his final Horcrux, and had only recovered an artifact.

Swythyv, the theorist who pointed out the possibility that Reggie may have faked his death and gotten the Horcrux out of the cave after Voldemort’s first defeat also floated the suggestion that Tom Riddle may have lifted his mystery artifact from Borgin and Burkes’ shop before his disappearance, Obliviating his employers’ memories of having ever had it, and falsifying the shop’s records. This is certainly a viable possibility. It would also be in character. Tom was already a thief long before he became a murderer. And I would suspect that, given long enough, just about any magical artifact of significance might well cross the threshold of B & B. That’s probably one of the reasons why Tom chose to work there in the first place.

However, when Lord Voldemort took physical and psychic possession of Harry Potter in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic at the end of Year 5, the way he had possessed Quirrell a few years earlier, he got a nasty surprise, and probably now realizes that there is something that he had totally not anticipated about the Potter boy, and his scar. Dumbledore claims that Voldemort found the attempt at possession so painful that he has taken steps to close off the connection from the other end. Harry can hardly confirm or deny this since he was in such agony at the time himself that he was aware of nothing else.

But Voldemort certainly hit something he absolutely DID NOT expect, and he is (or once was) quite clever enough to have put 2+2 together, if it had occurred to him to try. But we didn’t know at the end of OotP whether that was the case.

However, he certainly didn’t restrain himself from creating his final Horcrux for some 20 years on the off chance that there might someday be a Prophecy out there with his name on it. I still think that he had been reserving that last Horcrux for one specific murder. One that up to 1981 he still had not yet figured out a workable, risk-free way to accomplish.

As I say, I think he was saving up that one for the death of Albus Dumbledore.

• • • •

I still believe that, you know. Even some fifteen years and counting after the closing of canon.

I think that Riddle returned to the ww from his first exile to discover that his long-range plans had suffered an unexpected set-back. Actually, he may have had a couple of plans regarding the school already in train, and neither had materialized. The first showed no signs of materializing at all. His back-up plan was also a washout.

• • • •

Which raises the question: what could have been Tom’s original plan regarding the castle? The one that didn’t materialize at all?

Well, by this time I’m no longer sure that there ever really was such a plan, given that I now believe that I have convincing evidence to conclude that the diary hadn’t been made into a Horcrux until well after 1943. Possibly not until something like 1981. But there is still a hint of one in canon. Once again, I have a correspondent to thank. As well as my fellow traveler, Swythyv. My correspondent pointed out the following passage from CoS, which I had overlooked:

“I knew it wouldn’t be safe to open the Chamber again while I was at school. But I wasn’t going to waste those long years I’d spent searching for it. I decided to leave behind a diary, preserving my sixteen-year-old self in its pages, so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.”

Er... leave behind a diary?

Perhaps he didn’t make that appointment in order to get access to the castle just for the sake of hiding the Diadem. Perhaps he also made that trip in order to retrieve his diary. All he would have needed to do would be to get into range and cast Accio diary! Harry was able to summon his broom all the way from Gryffindor tower to the edge of the forest in GoF.

However, that passage also suggests that even Rowling seems to believe that the Diary was made into a Horcrux by Myrtle’s death. Although internal examination of the text thoroughly refutes that possibility. He was still entering data into that diary after Myrtle’s death. I don’t think a Horcrux, even one with a user interface, would have let him continue to do that.

Particularly not if he couldn’t even go on wearing the Ring because the fragment kept trying to re-integrate.

It was also Swythyv who pointed out to me the interesting “coincidence” (which I suspect might have been no coincidence) that when Harry and Ron found the Diary in Moaning Myrtle’s loo, Ron immediately started burbling on about book traps, such as the book one *could not* stop reading, or ‘Sonnets of a Sorcerer’ which would force you to speak in limericks for the rest of your life.

We can’t really know for sure, but from the Diary Revenant’s claim. It does certainly sound like the diary always was intended to serve as a weapon. It may not have been a Horcrux yet (and I am now convinced it probably wasn’t) at that early point, but it could still have been a trap. I also don’t think the Diary Revenant had yet taken up residence at that point in its history, but it was stuffed full of a year’s worth of Tom’s memories, and ripe for mischief.

But that’s a possibility that I don’t really think plays very well. I think the Revenant was talking about *its* mission. And the Revenant wasn’t in that Diary until it became a Horcrux. And that wasn’t until well after Tom had finished school.

We don’t really have any clue about how any such trap may have originally been set up to work, either. Which is another reason I am not convinced that there was anything of the sort. But it is at least possible that if a book can make you talk in limericks ever after, one could make you hiss a set phrase in Parseltongue to the water taps. That’s all it would have taken to set the Basilisk running amok (which may have been the whole point of this hypothetical plan). And the kid with the book certainly be would be the first one to die.  

I daresay that Tom might have been quite happy to have let the Diary take some child over in his absence and to have returned to the ww to find the school closed and the Basilisk in residence, making it possible for him to simply move in without much fanfare. But I still suspect that he decided to make sure that when it did, it would be at his convenience.

But, as I say, by this time, I just think the Diary Revenant was just boasting. We can probably dismiss the thread of Tom’s having left the diary as a booby trap for the unwary.

Although it might have been a fun thread to follow. Maybe in a fanfic.

• • • •

The following may have been his back-up plan:

And this one seems a good deal more likely.

When he dodged out of Britain to Albania, he had no idea that it was going to take him anything like a decade to find the dratted diadem.

He had expected Professor Dippett to still be Headmaster when he returned.

He had expected Professor Dippett to give him the DADA position when he asked for it.

Once established at Hogwarts as the DADA instructor, he would have set up one of his Byzantine plots to murder Albus Dumbledore and create a Horcrux from his death. (Having kept at least one slot open in reserve for that purpose.) He would then have either kept the whole set with him, or hidden that Horcrux — and possibly all the others — in the castle. (Or, conversely, he might have seen to it that they were “discovered” and put on display for all to admire as relics of the Founders.) He would have jockeyed his way into taking Dumbledore’s place as Deputy Headmaster and simply waited for Dippett to die. And then he would be in charge of Hogwarts castle. As he had intended to be for years.

Instead, he found that Dippett was already dead, or retired, and that Dumbledore was now Headmaster.

He knows that there is No Way that he is ever going to be given a teaching position in Dumbledore’s school.

He has to revise his plans.


But he doesn’t necessarily give them up.

• • • •

Which at long last raises a question put to me late in 2019 by yet another correspondent, about where Tom had stashed his Horcruxes before he started parceling them out to trusted followers for safekeeping. After all, it’s not like he had a known place of residence where he kept them together under his own eye.

And once raised, that turns out to be quite a question, too. One which connects back to the mystery of that pair of vanishing cabinets in Hogwarts, and in London. For over a dozen years, I’d assumed that the London cabinet had reached the shop by way of Belvina Burke née Black, who had still been alive until 1962.

In that case, it would have only been put on display in B&B well after the period of time that Tom is known to have worked there.

But what if it wasn’t. What if it had already been in the Burke family’s possession when Tom had been employed there?

Burke isn’t likely to have displayed that cabinet without knowing what it was. Not unless it was on display in his own family’s quarters, or in the stock room. After all, he isn’t really likely to have been able to sell it as part of a paired set unless he had both cabinets. It’s only use is as furniture unless you have the complete set.

And, indeed, by Harry’s day, it seems to be being used only as furniture. Even before the Hogwarts cabinet was damaged by Peeves. By the 1990s it seems likely that B&B had given up on being able to get possession of the Hogwarts cabinet. May not have known that the other cabinet was even at Hogwarts.

We have no real clue about which former member of the staff the Hogwarts cabinet had originally belonged to, but clearly it had belonged to someone on the staff. And clearly there was a problem with their estate which kept B&B from being able to take possession of it. In return, they probably refused to part with the London cabinet, had Hogwarts tried to claim it.

My original assumption that it had been Headmaster Phineas Nigelus Black’s emergency route home to London, might be completely out in left field. After all, such cabinets had been going in and out of fashion since some time in the 18th century.

I’ve speculated for years that Tom turned the Peverill ring into a Horcrux, cursed it, and planted it in the ruins of the Gaunt hovel as an Albus trap (although it was far more likely intended to take his uncle Morfin out of the picture before Tom’s failing memory charm could create any further difficulties for Tom), and also as a piece of “traveler’s insurance” before heading off to the wilds of Albania in search of the Ravenclaw diadem.

Most of us have speculated that Tom set up that job interview with Albus as a pretext to hiding the Diadem at Hogwarts. That speculation is clearly not altogether wrong. The Diadem could have only got there after his return from abroad.

But there may have been more to that interview than just that.

Let’s ask another question; what if Tom had already been aware of the properties of the vanishing cabinets back when he was working for Burke?

When Harry started at Hogwarts, the as yet undamaged Hogwarts cabinet had still been on display in a public area. What if that was also the case in Tom’s day. And what if the shop records pertaining to the London cabinet included the activation spell for transport between the two cabinets.

So — just for the sake of theorizing — let us give this a bit of thought. A Diadem is not a small item that you can carry in your pocket without detection. Yes, wizards can conceal things magically, but Albus Dumbledore is a wizard that it is fairly difficult to slip things past. Tom seems not to have quite managed it on any consistent basis.

So, let’s try this on for size; Tom set up that interview in order to get into the castle and determine whether the Hogwarts cabinet was still present, and where in the castle it was situated. Once he was on site, a simple ‘point me’ charm would do that.

Had he actually been given the job he was asking for, I am fairly confident that he would have had the cabinet moved into his own quarters. And probably purchased the London cabinet in order to keep control of it.

In the absence of future employment at Hogwarts, I think he still managed to get access to the London cabinet, and snuck back to the castle at a time that most of the students were away for winter break and the staff was otherwise occupied, and put the Diadem in the Room of Hidden Things —

— Along with the Cup and the Locket, which he had stashed there for safety before leaving the country in search of the Diadem.

I daresay he had also wanted to get into the castle in order to check on them. Had they been found during his absence, they would most probably have been put on display, either in the Trophy room, or in the Slytherin and Hufflepuff common rooms as treasures of the school. Not knowing of Albus’s interest in Hepzibah Smith’s murder, he would be fairly confident of their not having been removed from the castle, even if they had been found.

He was easily able to determine that they had not been found in his absence, so he left them in place, adding the battered Diadem to the collection.

And at some point, close to 20 years later, after hearing about the prophecy, he retrieved the Cup and the Locket and made arrangements to hide them separately.

• • • •

The diary, on the other hand, I think he had kept with him. It wasn’t a Horcrux yet, but it was a fairly impressive example of experimental magic. I also think that in its original form, it contained all of his research and experimental notes regarding the creation of Horcruxes, and he had updated it as he had advanced that study, even beyond the date printed on the cover. I don’t think he would have been quick to dismiss it.

After all, it functioned as a completely usable paper pensieve, and recorded the year that he was all over the castle looking for the Chamber of Secrets, ultimately finding it.

As well as the books on Horcruxes in the Room of Hidden Things.

And, while he was limited to his own 15–16-year-old vantage point to actually *read* any of those books now, he was only limited by his younger self’s proximity to be able to take a closer look at the inner spaces of the castle.

And while wizards reducing their trunks to matchbox-size and carrying them around in their pockets is almost certainly fanon rather than canon, he would hardly be setting off for Albania without luggage. The diary wouldn’t have taken up all that much room, after all.

And I rather think that he probably spent a fair amount of time “revisiting Hogwarts” over the decade that he spent in Albania on what was looking more and more like a wild goose chase.

After all, Hogwarts was home.

• • • •

Once we managed to scramble out of the crater left in the wake of DHs, I thought I needed to revise my original scenario, slightly. Tom may have had a specific interest in Founder’s artifacts.

There appear to be any number of legends circulating throughout Hogwarts regarding the Founders. Rowling didn’t bother to fill us in on those unless the plot du jour needed her to, and she didn’t really tell us much even when she did. I don’t think Rowling herself is much interested in the legends of Hogwarts. Fortunately, that means she’s left them alone for the rest of us to play with.

But we did need to be told about the legend of Salazar Slytherin’s chamber of secrets. We also needed eventually to be told about the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw. And even though Albus never came out and told us there was an actual legend involved, it is obvious that there is bound to be one concerning the sword of Godric Gryffindor as well. I very much doubt that Harry was the first student in the history of Hogwarts to have ever pulled that sword out of Godric’s hat. I suspect there is a legend pertaining to Helga Hufflepuff floating about too, but we were never in a position to need to know about that one.

(It probably wouldn’t concern a cup, at any rate. Helga’s family had taken the cup away with them. There is no legend concerning Salazar’s locket either, for the same reason. The founder legends of the school only concern things that the founders were known to have left — or lost — at Hogwarts.)

Albus, as we know, placed a great deal of stock in legends. So, I think did Tom. Even if Tom never bothered to read Beedle the Bard or managed to draw a connection between the legendary Elder Wand and the story of Death and the three brothers, he would have learned all that he could about the legends specifically pertaining to Hogwarts, while he was at Hogwarts.

As a student Sorted into Slytherin it stands to reason that he would have quickly learned about Salazar’s chamber. I think we can take it as given that he heard about Godric’s sword as well. In fact there is probably some story circulating about that the sword only shows up when Hogwarts is in danger.

And by this time I don’t think he managed to sweet-talk the secret of what happened to the Ravenclaw Diadem out of the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw by accident, either. He was following the trail of precisely that information. The Bloody Baron knows exactly who Ravenclaw’s Grey Lady is, after all.

So Tom knew that he was going to have to leave Hogwarts, and indeed Britain, eventually if he wanted to retrieve the diadem, but he was going to have to either stay there, or come back, to get a crack at the sword. And of the two, he wanted a chance to get hold of the sword first. After all, once the sword became a Horcrux, it would disappear back into wherever it stayed between its appearances, and you couldn’t ask for better security for a Horcrux than that.

I really don’t think that he had a lot of expectation of actually being given the DADA position when he first applied for it from Headmaster Dippett either. He was only 18, after all, and hadn’t even sat his NEWTs yet. But it was certainly worth asking, and meant that Dippett would remember his interest when he came back and asked for it again. He doesn’t seem to have retaliated by jinxing the position when he didn’t get it at that point. And he had every intention of coming back later and asking for it again.

His interlude at Borgin and Burke I still believe took place before rather than after any trip he made to Albania. The diadem, after all, had been there for a thousand years, more or less, it could sit a bit longer until he was ready to go hunting it.

If, as I have postulated, he had been in the habit of working at B&B during his summer breaks, after speaking with his uncle Morfin Gaunt, and learning about the existence of the locket, he would have already searched the shop records for anything that resembled an entry regarding a locket in the year leading up to his own birth, and he would have certainly found at least one such. And would have also discovered who had purchased it.

And, as he had probably already learned while working at the shop, collectors always come back.

The wait paid dividends, too. Because by waiting for Hepzibah Smith to show up, he managed to get a crack at an undocumented artifact of Helga Hufflepuff’s as well.

And then he was off to Albania to collect the diadem!

I think he hit a snag at that point. I’ve come round to the view that it may have taken him most of that missing decade to find the diadem. If it was hidden in a hollow tree back in the 11th or 12th century, the likelihood is that by around 1950 it was buried in so many centuries of forest compost that retrieving it would take a lot more effort than just a matter of wandering through the forest casting “Accio diadem” at random intervals. It may have taken him every bit of that decade in order to get a line on the proper place to dig.

But he managed it eventually, and then it was time to return to Britain, take up a post at Hogwarts and create a situation which would assure that the sword would make a reappearance.

Well, we all saw how well that went, didn’t we?

He found that he needed to come up with a Plan B.

• • • •

So, what would this Plan B need to consist of?

First; he still needs to actually get into the castle. There is at least one important matter that he wants to take care of “on site”. Possibly some others as well. And now he is going to need to do it under Dumbledore’s crooked nose.

I think he also decides he’d best give the old coot a diversion so he won’t catch on to what the real purpose of this trip was. (i.e., Just because Rowling tells us the Sorting Hat is not a Horcrux, it does not mean that it has not been tampered with.)

So Tom makes an appointment and pretends to ask for the DADA position. He doesn’t expect to get the position, but he’s still miffed when he doesn’t. When refused, he stalks out of the Headmaster’s office and sorts out some preliminaries of his real agenda, which is determining the safety of his Horcruxes, and the location of the vanishing cabinet. On his clandestine return via the cabinets, he adds a layer of misdirection by thoroughly jinxing the DADA position, or possibly the classroom, as another distraction and solidly confunding the Hat. This has the helpful side effect of assuring that every year there will be a vacant position into which he might be able to insert an (expendable) agent. But even that wasn’t his main objective.

As Albus says, Tom must have had some reason for making a long journey on a nasty night other than to ask for a position he knew he wouldn’t get. And Albus is quite right. We just had no idea what that reason was at the time. Nor any blatant clues to Tom’s real purpose either.

Well, we now know that at some point he swung by the Room of Hidden Things either on his way to Albus’s office, or on his way back to the main staircase and, either at that time — or on a dark night on a return visit soon afterwards, pitched the Ravenclaw Diadem, which he had already turned into a Horcrux in amongst 1000 years of Hogwarts rubbish.

Second; he needed to devise some way of reaching the children he intended to enlist into his service. Even that early, he may have already discovered that somehow his message seems to be less... compelling to the older generation. Even to much of his own generation, once they’d acquired jobs and families. Besides, the older generation was inclined to question his authority, and he wasn’t having any of that. He had, so far, enlisted only a couple of followers who were more than a year or three older than himself. And his rhetoric’s greatest appeal was to adolescents and post-adolescents.

Since he now was not going to be at the school to set up his own little club of “Riddlers” he needs to devise some other approach. Some sort of selection criteria which will get his target demographic all into a place where his prospective candidates can be approached by his existing followers. Or, rather, by their children. Which is where the confunded Hat comes in.

I do still tend to think that Tom tampered with the Sorting Hat. But I happily accept that Tom did not go to Hogwarts to create a Horcrux.

I did think that he may have gone to hide one. And I (along with countless others) was right about that.

But by the end of HBP, all the indications were that he only started parceling out Horcruxes to followers after he learned about the Prophecy. So I was no longer altogether convinced that he would have been hiding a Horcrux as early as that job interview. Rowling had certainly given us no reason to explain such a decision. Unless, of course, the Horcrux was somehow anchoring the DADA position’s curse.

At that point we hadn’t enough data for it to occur to me that at that point, Tom was systematically putting things back where they had originally come from, and that if they had been found, it was extremely unlikely that anyone would have taken them out of the Castle. Instead, they would have been far more likely to be put on display for all to admire.

• • • •

We do not know how long he had been back in Britain when he learned that Dippet was gone and Albus promoted to Headmaster, either. Presumably long enough to have begun reeling his old school friends back into his train, but probably not more than a few weeks or months.  

We also don’t know whether he did any wandering about the castle, once he left Albus’s office. He would have been under observation by the Hogwarts Art Collection if he had, but we do not know what they reported to Albus, since Albus didn’t tell us.

Besides, I’ve long suspected that Albus wasn’t the only wizard who didn’t need a cloak in order to become invisible.

And, as I say, if Tom was already aware of the properties of the vanishing cabinets, he need not have made his infiltration visit at the same time as the job interview at all. He’d have come back later, possibly while Albus was in London at the Wizengamot or some such.

And then; mission (whatever said mission was) accomplished, since Riddle hadn’t anything else that he particularly needed to do, he threw a tantrum for over 20 years, and embarked on a life of crime, trailing his enthralled followers after him, like the pied piper.

• • • •

Until the ruddy Prophecy turned up, and he decided that killing an infant “child of Prophecy” and using that murder for his last Horcrux was an even better idea than trying to figure out a risk-free way of murdering Albus Dumbledore and making his final Horcrux from that. He would arrange for Dumbledore’s death by some other means. And never mind making a Horcrux from it. That was no longer necessary. In fact, he may well have created a fifth Horcrux specifically in order to accomplish that particular murder.

Which is the real reason why I think that Severus Snape was sent to Hogwarts, and expected to take the DADA position (which he had originally applied for). Such a posting would assure that he would be out of the school within the year. He wasn’t sent to do long-term spying. He went in with a specific mission that was supposed to be completed within one academic year. Because that was all the time he was going to get. In fact, quite literally, I suspect.

And I suspect that this specific job was to be that of assassin.

• • • •

Which now raises the question of whether Tom really had only just created the Diary in ’81, and what he had intended to do with it.

We cannot say for certain that the Diary was only made into a Horcrux just before he entrusted it to Lucius Malfoy. But it now seems very likely that he may have only created the Diary Horcrux once he was told about the Prophecy.

And we know that Tom likes to plan ahead.

By Halloween, 1979, the earliest date at which the Prophecy is most likely to have been made, Tom had just about everyone where he wanted them. The average wizard-in-the-street believed he was winning this war. The Ministry was in disarray. The DMLE had made itself over in his image and was preying on its own constituency. Practically the only uncompromised bastion of resistance appears to be Hogwarts castle, and Albus Dumbledore. Who was no doubt regarded as a continuing nuisance, but probably not that much of a threat.

And which we know wasn’t “uncompromised” at all. It was serving as Tom’s recruitment center. Much as the Ministry was serving as his publicity department. But the public didn’t stop to consider that. Wizards, after all, aren’t much on logical thinking.

Tom still wanted that castle.

He needs to close the school, at least temporarily, so he can take it. I rather suspect that by that point it wasn’t really the School that he wanted at all, it was the castle. He wanted it for his own stronghold. He seems to have changed his mind about closing the school by the time he went ahead and let his followers take over the Ministry. But that wasn’t for another 16 years. Even Tom Riddle can change his mind over 16 years.

But, back in ’81 I think he did just want the castle. He wanted it for himself.

Well, hey, he had nearly closed the school when he was back in 5th year, hadn’t he? He could have been reliving that triumph any time over the past decades by dipping into the diary, and I think he probably had.

Open the Chamber of Secrets, set the Basilisk loose, kill a few students, and the Governors will close the school.

And if Dumbledore is also killed in the process, all the better.

Oh, he had excellent reason to want Severus Snape inside the school. He intended to make that a highly productive year, and Snape was going to be his little helper. Snape went off to the school with at least one piece of instruction. With the understanding that once he was there, other instructions would follow. In the meantime:

Order #1. Make a list of all the magical children born in the year following the Prophecy, and send it to Tom in order for him to be able to determine for certain whether he had missed anyone.

And I am sure that once Tom had taken care of the problem of the Prophecy child, there would have soon been the following:

Order #2. When Lucius passes you a Diary, write in it. Cooperate with what writes back.

• • • •

When Snape begged Tom to spare Lily’s life, he revealed a potential crack in his loyalty to the Dark Lord. I don’t think Tom was delighted.

Oh, sure, he’d have spared Lily if she’d made it easy for him. Her death wasn’t absolutely required. But he’d certainly make sure that Snape wasn’t going to get any benefit from it. Rewarding the faithful is one thing, And allowing hostages to fortune (or one’s future good behavior) is no bad thing either, but you do not give your own servants allies against you.

More to the point; Snape was the only one of Tom’s followers who knew anything of what that Prophecy was about. Rookwood might (and probably did) report that there was suddenly a Prophecy record in the DoM archives related to the Dark Lord (and probably to his downfall), but he had no way of learning what was in it. Tom did not intend that anyone else among his followers should find out what was in that Prophecy, Or even discover its existence, if Tom could help it. I suspect Rookwood was given good reason to keep his mouth shut.

Ergo: Snape was expendable. And once the Horcrux possessed him, Tom would have no need to question his loyalty.

I’m still not altogether sure that Tom realized that the Revenant would actually be able to escape from the book, although if the Diary Horcrux wasn’t created until ’81, and not created until after Bellatrix had needed to be forcibly disentangled from the Cup, that scenario begins to look a lot more likely. But just having it possess someone to direct the Basilisk may have been as far as Tom thought the project through.

If Tom did realize the Revenant would absorb the writer’s very life force in order to escape, Snape, with his inappropriate sentimental attachments — as well as being the only follower to have known anything of the content of the Prophecy — would certainly have been Tom’s top pick of a candidate.

And perhaps it was the reincarnated Diary Revenant that was supposed to murder Dumbledore, and to move the soul fragment that drove it into a classier housing than an inanimate book.

Would even the Elder wand have been any defense against a Revenant? Harry had to stab the book to destroy the Revenant. The book would have been lying in the Chamber of Secrets, out of Dumbledore's reach.

And the basic “cunning plan” may have been drafted out well before Tom had any definite idea of who the foretold child was. The child’s identity was one of the snags against putting it into operation earlier.

He could have drafted the basic plan out as early as the end of 1979.

After he learned about the Prophecy.

And realized that it would be much easier to kill an infant, than it would be to kill Albus Dumbledore.

• • • •

However: returning to the issue of the still missing Horcruxes; I’ll admit I was with the majority in their conviction that the Cup was somewhere in the castle.

(ETA: well, one of them was in the castle. Not the Cup, however.)

Where it might actually be, I didn’t know, and I was not going to try to guess. It could be in the Room of Hidden Things. It could also be hiding in plain sight in the Trophy Room. Although it would be hard to understand how Albus might have overlooked it for nearly 40 years if it was there.

And I did NOT believe that Tom had transfigured it into anything else. That would be missing the whole point of putting it in the castle at all. The Horcruxes all needed to remain recognizable.

I thought it could even be sitting in state under a bell jar in the Hufflepuff common room. How often does the Headmaster go there? For that matter; I thought we might also need to make another field trip down into the Chamber of Secrets. Harry didn’t get a lot of opportunity to look around for little golden Cups on his last visit there.

(ETA: it turns out that we did need to go back down to the Chamber of Secrets. To collect Basilisk fangs. Of which a Basilisk apparently has more than the usual two. *sigh* Rowling, all teeth are not fangs. Not even all pointy teeth are fangs. In snakes, only hollow pointy teeth are fangs. And most snakes only have two.)

So let’s look at the other end of the equation. And ask ourselves again: “What would Tom Riddle do?” For that matter, what has Tom done so far? We’ve seen or been told of where he intended three of the six Horcruxes to be end up. What do those places have in common?

The Gaunt hovel. The Sea Cave. The Chamber of Secrets.

Well. They are all places where Tom might readily feel that his “greatness” has been demonstrated. He pulled something of a coup off at each of them, without anyone ever having called him to account for it.

So. From our observations we know that once he decided to distribute his Horcruxes into places of safety, he saw to it that at least three of them were deposited in places which were associated with the confirmation of his own greatness.

And yes, I know that it was Malfoy who actually deployed the Diary in Year 2. But Riddle would have eventually given the order to deploy it himself, and the Revenant would always have dragged whatever unfortunate had the Diary down into the Chamber to die. The Diary would have ended up there, regardless. I think that much was always intended.

So what about the other ones? What other such places do we know about?

Not many, I think. I make it at, oh, surprise, a total of... 3. Interesting, that.

There was the orphanage. Tom ran them ragged at that orphanage. And they didn’t know what to do with him. He wasn’t happy there, but oh, yes, he would have considered it a place in which his greatness was confirmed.

There was also the Riddle House. And we could all guess that he had already taken possession of that one. Much as he did the cave. I think he kept that particular location secret from his followers, too, or Bellatrix would have taken the place apart after he disappeared. I suspect only Peter actually knew about the Riddle House, and that only later. Unless Tom had some of his followers billeted there after the Azkaban breakout.

There was also Hepzibah Smith’s home. Wherever it was. We hadn’t a lot of expectation of getting back there. But he did pull off another of his coups in her home.

And, of course, there was Hogwarts. That’s a large reason why he wants it.

Well, like I say, we hadn’t a lot of expectation of ending up at Madam Smith’s home, if that was even still owned by Hepzibah’s family. And we had no idea of what had become of the building that housed the orphanage. But the Riddle house might have been worth investigating.

For that matter, so might the Crouch house.

So, at a very outside chance, might Borgin and Burkes.

And we already knew that we were going to be getting back to Hogwarts.

• • • •

So, at the end of HBP we were left with a yawning gap regarding the location of the Cup, The current location of the Locket, and the location and identity of the mystery Horcrux. I had what I thought was a very neat theory regarding the Sorting Hat (as did any number of other people). But Rowling evidently decided that it was one which needed to be headed off at the pass before it got too well established, because she shot it down on her official website update on Christmas 2005. The Sorting Hat was NOT a Horcrux.

Consequently, for quite some time I thought we were going to just have to wait until the 7th Book. Because there certainly didn’t seem to be any clues regarding the mystery Horcrux lying about in the 6 we had (unless you wanted to make an argument for the extravagantly cursed silver-and-opal necklace that kept crossing our path). Ah well. She had to introduce some new material in the last book, didn’t she?

Or at least, that’s what I had decided as of Boxing Day 2005.

• • • •

As a side note: We were all told, in DHs, that to destroy a Horcrux, one must damage the object housing it irretrievably. Beyond all magical recovery. But from what we had observed, while to destroy a Horcrux does certainly damage the object in which it is housed, it does not necessarily destroy the object. The Diary is still a diary, even if it has acquired a hole through it. The Ring is still a ring, even if the stone is cracked. Getting the soul fragment out of Harry will not necessarily kill Harry, although it will probably injure him. But, unlike a book or a ring, Harry can heal. This was a heartening consideration.

Mind you, Rowling hand-waved the whole issue of how you destroy those things. The plot required that they had to be destroyed, so bt Book 7 anyone who made the effort appears to have been able to do it. By just about whatever means was handy at the time. That wasn’t always the case.

In CoS, it made perfect sense that stabbing a paper diary with a Basilisk fang would do it.

I don’t think there is anyone who has ever read the series who would question the fact that Harry killed the Diary Horcrux with a Basilisk fang. It worked, it was in scale with the story as it stood at that point and it was believable.

I don’t think anyone questions that Albus got himself fatally cursed by messing with the Ring, either. Although I have to admit that cracking the stone, but not damaging the actual *Ring* by whacking it with a sword, and yet NOT disabling the “Resurrection” function inherent to the stone itself, is harder to believe. And for that matter, I don’t think that the stone would have been beyond magical repair, either. It’s physically a stone, it was just cracked. It wasn’t pulverized and the dust scattered to the winds. And the gold setting wasn’t damaged at all.

A correspondent offered the suggestion that since the ring was the product of mortal wizards and mortal goblins, it stood to reason that the sword would be unable to undo whatever properties had been given the stone by Death. Works for me.

Given that it manifestly didn’t undo the properties given it by Death. It only evicted the soul fragment.

But then we only got handed that blither about destroying a Horcrux requires damaging its housing beyond magical repair in DHs. And I’m not sure I believe it, either. Damage it enough to force the soul bit out, yes. But once the soul is gone, why shouldn’t you be able to repair it later? I think Rowling just likes destroying things. Things like her readers’ confidence in her intentions.

Rowling seems to have fallen as flat on her face over explaining how you destroy a Horcrux as she did evading the explanation of how to make one. Instead, over the course of the series, Rowling seems to have created a whole series of valuable artifacts only for the purpose of messily destroying them. Wasteful, I call it.

But then you are stuck having to consider that magic in Rowling’s universe has never cost anybody anything. It’s barely half a step removed from “Make a wish!”

Also; whereas Voldemort may have set nasty protective curses on some of his Horcruxes, since Harry wasn’t intended to become one, there are no such curses on him or his scar. The (possibly) cursed artifact which was intended to become the last Horcrux might still be lying in the house at Godric’s Hollow. We didn’t go inside, after all. Rowling was more concerned with trying to make a snake walk on two legs than to remember anything about that.

I suppose the failure to make any attempt to round the Horcruxes up in Voldemort’s absence is not altogether Albus’s fault. Such an attempt would have been doomed to failure. Albus couldn’t have got the Diary away from Lucius Malfoy. Let alone getting the Cup out of the Lestranges’ vault. But all the indications are that he knew about the Locket. And he certainly knew about the Ring. He knew about the Cup as well, even if he didn’t seem to know for certain where it was hidden.

But we still didn’t know the identity of one of them.

Or, did we?

• • • •

Soon after the Christmas bombshell which exploded the theory of the Sorting Hat Horcrux, somebody else came up with an awfully tempting suggestion regarding that 4th Horcrux.

It rather sounded as though John Granger, the fellow with the “alchemical” reading of the Harry Potter series (he of the Scar-o-Vision filter) had nailed the identity of the mystery Horcrux as well. According to his theory, the Mystery Horcrux was Voldemort’s wand.

The concept of the mystery Horcrux being a wand was certainly not unique to John Granger. Rather a lot of people were convinced that the 4th Horcrux was a wand. Most of them were also convinced that this wand was the Ravenclaw artifact, and the majority of these fans identified it as the wand which for years lay in state in Ollivander’s window.

It’s not a bad guess. But I was just not convinced. For one thing, despite the official title of the final book; ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, and the association various fans were strenuously attempting to draw with the traditional four Hallows of Britain, or with the four suits of the Tarot, I didn’t really see that much evidence that Rowling was actually using either the four Hallows of Britain or the symbolism of the Tarot as it applies to the Horcruxes. She has used the Tarot for other associated references elsewhere in the series, but she does not use it for all of her references.

She does make a claim of having researched quite a lot of information regarding Alchemy, and she also admits to the four Hogwarts Houses being representative of the four traditional elements, however.

The symbolism of the four elements as applied to the Hogwarts Houses goes: Gryffindor=Fire, Hufflepuff=Earth, Ravenclaw=Air, Slytherin=Water.

The Four Hallows of Britain are a Sword, a Spear, a Cauldron and a Stone.

The symbolism of the four elements as applied to the four suits of the Tarot goes: Wands/Rods=Air, Cups=Water, Swords=Fire, Coins=Earth.

Usually. A fairly widepread alternate reading claims the Wands/Rods are Fire, and the Swords are Air.

Well, okay, we have a Cup/Cauldron, but it is associated with the Earth House, not the Water House.

We have a Sword, properly associated with Fire, but inaccessible to Voldemort during the entire period that it would have been necessary for him to render it into a Horcrux. The Sword of Gryffindor is not a Horcrux. (As it turns out, thanks to Harry, it now kills Horcruxes.)

Albus has already “destroyed” a Stone, in fact he’s destroyed two of them, and now we are invited to make a bit of a stretch and claim that yet another piece of jewelry represents a Coin, and, once again, the House is Water, rather than Earth.

I think it’s a bit much to assume that Wand/Air/Spear (and we’ve had no hint of a Spear over the course of 6 books) is automatically going to apply to Ravenclaw and dictate the form of the missing Horcrux. None of the others have been that simple.

And, besides, if Riddle had turned Ollivander’s wand into a Horcrux, don’t you suppose he would have stolen it? He would hardly have left it in a shop where someone might purchase it, and he would never see it again. And “other people’s” wands tend to get snapped. (Which even if it happens accidentally is going to put them beyond “magical repair”.)

Not to mention that we have no way of knowing that just because there has always been a wand in Ollivander’s window, that it has always been the same wand. It’s just the same cushion.

Which is hardly to say that the people who were convinced that the wand in the window is the Horcrux were all necessarily wrong, and that I was right. I was just not convinced of it.

ETA: and indeed anyone who ever speculated that a wand was going to be relevant to the problem of settling Tom Riddle and his Horcruxes turns out to have been on the right track. But Rowling set that whole issue up to be the kind of mystery that it would be impossible for any mere reader to actually solve.

Plus, the theory of a wand Horcrux only flies until Rowling decided in DHs to amp up the “drama” by making all Horcruxes act like Tolkein’s One Ring. We only got that particular spitball tossed at us in DHs.

Much the same objection applied to the silver-and-opal necklace. Which in some quarters was also a contender. If Tom had turned it into a Horcrux, he would have stolen it. He wouldn’t have left it to be purchased by someone else where he might have lost track of it. He may hide them, but he insists on knowing where they are supposed to be.

And besides, I was not sure that the necklace wasn’t relevant to the problem of Tom and his Horcruxes. I just didn’t think it was relevant in the way that the fans usually assumed.

• • • •

We have no idea how many years that necklace spent sitting in Borgin and Burkes. We know it was there at the beginning of Harry’s 2nd year. But that’s all we know beyond question.

Nevertheless, to me, the description; “a magnificent silver and opal necklace” invokes visions of one of those marvelous art nouveau pieces from the 1890s or thereabouts. Which would have nothing to do with the founders, and would be easily a generation and more older than Tom Riddle.

It may well have already been in the shop when Tom started working there. And it was already known to be cursed.

But, upon any sort of consideration, there is something very strange about that curse. The sign in the shop claimed that it had already killed several Muggles. But Katie Bell, who is a witch, almost died from a brief contact with it through a small hole in her glove.

Now, while cursed jewelry is easy enough to cite in both folklore and literature, it’s rather unusual to find a piece that will attack you before you even get a chance to put it on.

That’s just weird. That can’t be the original curse. Unless curses, like love potions, get stronger in storage.

Did Tom experiment with that curse? After all, the item was already advertised as cursed. The staff would have handled it with gloves anyway. And if a purchaser got more than he bargained for, well, he knew it was cursed when he bought it, didn’t he?

Or did the exchange go in the other direction? Once again, once we notice that something has happened in the course of this series, it usually turns out to have happened again, often before the same book is over. In HBP we twice encountered deadly curses which were transmitted by contact with a piece of jewelry. Severus Snape managed to intercede quickly enough to save both victims. At least for a while.

Did Riddle get the idea to curse some of his Horcruxes from the necklace?

I think there is a good chance he may have. I think if Katie Bell had come back from St Mungoe’s with a small black scar on her hand we’d be even more confident of it.

So, should we assume that there will be similar curses upon all of them?

• • • •

Actually, I didn’t think we needed to.

Tom didn’t curse the Diary. He couldn’t. Not even as a retrofit. The Diary needed to be given to someone who would handle it long enough for the Revenant to take control of him or her. So, no nasty poisonous curses that go off on contact, there.

I doubted that Harry (or the snake) had protective curses on them, either. If Harry is the 6th Horcrux, he wasn’t intended to be, so there will be no additional magical protections of any kind from Tom on that one. And even if Albus’s suggestion that his last Horcrux was the snake had been correct, Pettigrew still needed to milk that snake’s venom daily to make BabyMort’s formula to keep him alive for the rest of the year. So, no contact curses there, either, thank you.

And if the Locket we saw briefly at #12 was the real Horcrux, it was passed from hand to hand among the whole Order of the Phoenix with no ill effects. No one could open it, (So? It was Slytherin’s locket. Hiss; “Open, sez me” at it in Parseltongue like the Chamber. Duh!) but no one was harmed by it. At least not by casual contact with it. Or at least not until those people handling it in Book 7 knew it was a Horcrux. I rather think Rowling “overwrote” that particular complication in DHs. The malevolence of the Locket could have waited until Harry got it open. Then it would have at least come as a nasty surprise. (And reminded us all that it really wasn’t a “tame” Locket...)

And we really have no idea regarding the Cup.

(ETA: in the wake of DHs, we still don’t. Nobody handled it much on stage, and it wasn’t around all that long.)

So perhaps the question really ought to be why was the Ring cursed, but not the others?

• • • •

I was beginning to think the answer might boil down to; “location, location, location.” Nobody was likely to get into the Chamber of Secrets to steal the Diary. Nor were there likely to be a lot of people making raids on the sea cave. The Riddle house at least had a caretaker to look after it.

But the Gaunt ruin was just sitting in the woods outside a village. Which in itself would have constituted an attractive nuisance to some of the local elements. The last thing Tom wanted was that someone might find his Horcrux and take it away from where he stashed it. Even if he didn’t get to kill his uncle Morfin with it.

I really don’t think that Tom was particularly concerned about Muggle trespassers. There are all sorts of spells to keep Muggles away from an area. Spells that he probably didn’t apply to the Riddle house because Frank Bryce was on site, and Tom wanted him there. But the curse on that Ring was designed for wizards. In fact it was probably designed for very powerful wizards, since Tom would have assumed that one of those (or his uncle Morfin, who Albus Dumbledore was agitating to get released from Azkaban) would be the only ones who would ever find it. And he never expected that anyone would manage to survive it. That Albus survived whatever had injured him at the start of year 6 was enough to deflect any suspicions that Tom might have had concerning the source of that injury.

Actually, it was long after the fact that a couple more dominoes landed on me and I started wondering whether the Ring might have been deliberately left in the Gaunt ruin as a trap. That cursed Ring appears to have been a multi-purpose hazard. I have come round to the idea that the Ring was indeed his first Horcrux, and that Tom hid it there before he left for Albania back in the late 1940s. If nothing else, it served as “traveler’s insurance” against any potential hazards which he might encounter on his projected trip.

In the second place, we have always understood that Morfin had been given a life sentence for the Riddle Massacre. Even if such was never stated outright. Actually in those days, I’m a little surprised he wasn’t simply hustled through the Veil. Muggle murderers were still routinely hanged in the 1940s. However, given my more recent considerations, I rather think that Tom had been put on alert by seeing an article in the Prophet stating that Albus Dumbledore was petitioning for Morfin’s release.

The only way that would have come about is that Tom’s memory tampering must have broken down, giving Albus at least some glimpse of the truth.

Ergo: first off, to get out of Britain was now a priority. Secondly, if Morfin Gaunt is found dead in his shack of an anonymous curse, there really isn’t likely to be anyone who will miss him. And regardless of what anyone might suspect, no one will be able to trace that curse back to Tom.

And if Albus decides to search the shack himself… well he was just asking for it, wasn’t he?

All of which (prior to the release of DHs) led me to wonder whether Riddle had made a point of visiting Godric’s Hollow since his return, to retrieve whatever artifact he took to the Potters’.

The Fidelius was broken, and while he (allegedly) knew that he had intended to create a Horcrux there, he may not be any better than anyone else at determining whether a given artifact is one. If you will remember, Harry had no reaction whatsoever to the Diary, apart from a certain vague feeling of familiarity. Or to the Diadem, when he encountered it in HBP either. Or to the Locket upon his first encountering it in OotP. Did Voldemort believe he had taken charge of his final Horcrux already, deceiving himself with what will turn out to be another fake? That would be a bit of symmetry, at least.

Although considering the (pasted on) “grabby” behavior of most of his Horcruxes, I think it would probably be fairly quickly evident whether a given artifact was one or not.

And, in any case, if he did return to Godric’s Hollow and found the place maintained as a shrine, he may have simply left it alone.

• • • •

And then, once again, there was the question of his wand.

John Granger and I disagreed on the final implications of his wand theory. Much as we disagreed on the means by which it became a Horcrux. He hadn’t gotten his version to its final stage, when I last saw it (any more than I had done for mine), and his final one may have come to an entirely different conclusion from the intermediate version that I encountered. But the whole idea was originally his, not mine. And we veered off in different directions with it.

His contention (in the version I encountered) was that Voldemort tried to turn his wand into a Horcrux the night he tried to kill Harry and that the Phoenix feather core rejected the soul fragment, expelling it with the AK that was supposed to kill Harry. Which is how Harry got saddled with it.

I didn’t agree.

In the first place, I didn’t think that Voldemort tried to kill Harry with an AK.

For another thing, if he turned his wand into a Horcrux he didn’t do it that night.

I thought that if Tom Riddle had turned his wand into a Horcrux, it still was one. (At that point in canon most Horcruxes just sat there. They didn’t try to possess their holders.)

I did rather like the idea that Riddle might have tried to make a Horcrux from his own wand. We already knew that at least one of his other Horcruxes was considered “significant” only by means of its connection to himself. And a wizard’s wand is certainly an item of great significance to him. It is the single thing about him that defines his difference from a Muggle. Nor would anyone question the Wand being in his possession.

Such a decision would certainly be in character. Particularly once Riddle learned that the feather core of his wand had come from the very same Phoenix that was Dumbledore’s companion bird.

And, since a Phoenix lives practically forever, there is nothing to say what other famous witches or wizards Fawkes may have chosen as companions over his long history.

This is not necessarily something that Tom would have been told as a child when he first purchased that wand. Ollivander was far more forthcoming with Harry when Harry purchased its brother wand — Harry having already acquired a “history” with its counterpart — than he might have been with Tom Riddle who had simply purchased one of a powerful pair of wands. But young Tom had been roaming about Diagon and Knockturn alleys every summer since that date, Possibly even taking summer jobs there, and he probably had impressed the local shopkeepers as favorably as he had most of the Hogwarts faculty. The 18–20-something Riddle also worked at Borgin and Burke for some time after finishing school, and he almost certainly associated with his fellow shopkeepers and their assistants. Such associations would have been an excellent source of information. Being an extremely personable young man — when he chose to be — he might well have learned about his wand’s history from Ollivander during either of these later periods.

Being wholly self-absorbed, Riddle might very well have wanted to discover as much as he could of any artifact which was so closely associated with himself as his own wand, just on general principles. And we have already seen that Ollivander will talk wands interminably to anyone who gives him an opening. Learning that his own wand was cored with a feather from the Hogwarts Phoenix, and was one of only two such wands in existence might very well have elevated it to the status of being considered an appropriate receptacle for a fragment of his soul.

Besides; over his decade of self-exile, we know that any significant part of it spent in Britain must have been spent outside the wizarding world, for no other wizards saw hide nor hair of Tom during that time. He would not get a lot of opportunity to collect historical magical artifacts associated with the Founders of Hogwarts out among the Muggles.

And, while we now know that he did travel abroad during this period, under normal circumstances, how many artifacts associated with the founders of Hogwarts would he be likely to find outside of Great Britain? (Albus, after all, presumably knew nothing about what had become of the diadem.) I long suspected that Tom had probably intended ultimately to settle into the castle as a member of the staff, and create a situation that would flush the sword of Gryffindor out from hiding to serve as the receptacle for the Horcrux that he would create from Dumbledore’s death. And I still think that was probably his original intention.

And in any case, he had over 20 years to decide on the artifact that he eventually took to the Potters’.

• • • •

But back during the period between the release of HBP and DHs, it had occurred to me that we had another maybe-pattern that needed to be considered as well. With the release of HBP, the circumstantial evidence was slowly building up which suggested that Tom may have only started distributing his Horcruxes into hiding places after he learned about the Prophecy.

(None of the following takes into account my much more recent suspicion that the first group of Horcruxes had all been stashed in the Room of Hidden Things for safekeeping before Tom headed out to Albania to hunt for the Diadem.)

Albus told us that Lucius Malfoy wasn’t entrusted with the Diary until just before Voldemort’s fall in 1981. If we accept Sirius’s story of the Death of Regulus Black, and that Regulus Black was R.A.B., he could only have gotten hold of the Locket during 1980, around the time of his death.

(The R.A.B. speculation has been adjusted to 1980 in view of the fact that the dates on the tapestry sketch are completely unworkable when compared to things actually told us in canon. I do at least *try* to prioritize what is actually published in canon.)

At that point, we had to just assume that his was the Locket. We had no direct evidence to support that assumption. Just the circumstantial evidence that the substitute Horcrux had been a locket.

It would not be unreasonable for Albus to have learned about the Diary’s going to Lucius Malfoy from Snape, as well as from Dobby and Harry. But probably not until after the year of the Basilisk was over, since Malfoy certainly did not spread the news around that he had been entrusted with it before that. Probably not even to Snape. Afterward, Snape may have got his side of the story out of him, and Albus added it to his store of information.

And, at the time, Reggie Black seemed most likely to have learned about the Locket from one of the DEs in his own family, of which there were several, Bellatrix being the one highest in the Dark Lord’s favor. At that point, I believed that Bellatrix may have been the one entrusted with the task of putting the Locket into the cave.

So we already had tenuous links between two of Tom’s highly placed lieutenants and two of the known Horcruxes. What about the other three? Did he deliberately entrust the ones he did to members, or connections of the Black family?

Let me point out that we cannot really count the Snake/Scar along with the others for this stage of our reasoning. Those were created much too late to be a part of the same puzzle. Whichever one of them, if either, was actually a Horcrux, it was not hidden by Voldemort. And both are capable of independent movement, and are no longer where they were at the time of Tom’s first defeat.

So. The Horcruxes, the lieutenants, and the final intended hiding places in the hidden objects puzzle represented by the first five Horcruxes, at the end of HBP appeared to be:

  1. The Diary -» Lucius Malfoy -» the Chamber of Secrets
  2. The Ring -» Placed it Himself -» the Gaunt Ruin
  3. The Locket -» Bellatrix Lestrange? -» the Sea Cave
  4. The Cup -» Unknown -» Unknown
  5. The [Wand?] -» None (inadvertently Wormtail) -» Keep it Himself

Given the speed with which Albus went off and found the Peverill Ring, once he was determined to launch “Operation Horcrux” one does have to wonder whether reporting the Prophecy had raised Snape high enough in the ranks that he was also entrusted with a “valuable artifact” by his Master, and given instructions of where to hide it. But the likelihood is that Tom hid the Peverill Ring in the ruins of the house it had originally come from himself. Also that he had probably done so quite some time before he chose to hide the others. The curse on that one isn’t really something that I think he would have trusted a subordinate to juggle. Plus, Albus was fully conversant with the story of that Ring, and may well have gone straight to Marvelo’s house to find Marvelo’s ring without additional prompting. He did know Tom’s style.

So. We had a couple of new blanks to fill in. IS there another lieutenant that we needed to be watching for who may have hidden the Cup? Had we been in proximity to a suspected Horcrux depository site over the course of the series?

Well actually, yes. The Riddle House. Tom could have left the Cup hidden there himself, keeping that location secret from all of his followers. He could have even put it there at any time after he came to check on the Gaunt hovel after his return from hunting the Diadem — there is probably a wall safe somewhere in the Riddle house. If so, the Cup could have been waiting there for BabyMort in year 4.

Whether it is still there is debatable. He may have moved it to somewhere he considered safer, if the opportunity presented itself. Particularly since Pettigrew now knew about the Riddle House.

Voldemort had all that year in which to redirect the Cup, with a zealot follower and his Imperiused father to play errand boys. And both of the Crouches spent a significant amount of time at Hogwarts. Either could have taken the Cup there and concealed it.

A large percentage of readers really did expect the Cup to turn up at Hogwarts. I did too. The question was where was it hidden, and when did it get there. If Tom didn’t start hiding the Horcruxes until after he knew about the Prophecy, then over the course of Year 4 seemed to be the best possibility for getting it there. Riddle had always intended to take possession of that castle. I rather think that he may have originally intended that he and his Horcruxes should all eventually end up there.

And those of us who had adopted the Book 3 = Book 7 reading of the series and were expecting book 7 to reflect PoA, consequently, were primed to feel the weight of a “dead man’s hand” across the action of the novel. It was hard to not assume that that hand would “of course” be Dumbledore’s. (ETA: I called that right, and now I’m sorry.)

But there are also the living dead. So perhaps we ought to give a bit of consideration as to whether impersonating Moody and assisting in Harry’s abduction was Barty Crouch Jr’s only function over the course of Year 4. Maybe it isn’t Kreachur we should have been eyeing with suspicion, but Winky.

And, while we are on the subject; what has become of the Crouch property?

We were told that Barty Jr was the last of his line.

He’s in no condition to ask what became of it.

The Crouch holdings originally included a House Elf. What kind of properties typically do that? Large, rich, old ones isn’t it?

Crouch Sr was held prisoner in his own home, under Imperius, until he managed to make his escape. Tom and Peter were back at the Riddle house by the time Barty sent them word of his having performed damage control. How do we know they didn’t return to the Crouch estate once they learned of Crouch Sr’s death?

After all, who was going to think to look for them there?

And it is the site of another of Riddle’s coups, isn’t it?

• • • •

There is also the disturbing factor that Tom knew that he had lost one of his Horcruxes.

It appears that I was incorrect when I speculated that he did not discover that particular fact until after the end of OotP when Lucius Malfoy had been packed off to Azkaban, and Riddle wanted his Diary back.

For Albus does claim that Voldemort got that information out of Malfoy, directly. And if Albus had an eyewitness account (and it certainly sounds like he did) it must have happened before September 1 of year 5. The only eyewitness we know who was available to report such matters would be Snape, and, as a Head of House, Snape remains on campus through the Christmas and Easter breaks. So the discovery had to have taken place before the school year commenced.

And Harry did have an attack through his scar (and a bad one, too) the night before boarding the Hogwarts Express that year. An attack which was never explained to the reader. But that gets us no forwarder on the puzzle regarding the rest of Tom’s collection.

That discovery also didn’t take place until more than a year after Tom had acquired Nagini. But the fact that he might have decided to replace the Diary was not in itself evidence that Nagini was also a Horcrux. (Which I obstinately refused to believe until Rowling absolutely insisted on it.)

I thought that he had more likely concluded that his attempt to create a Horcrux from the murder of the Prophecy Child had simply failed. Nagini therefore became what he thought was his sixth, because he needed her kept close for the sake of her venom, but didn’t want to take the risk that, being a large snake, she might decide to eat him. He was still BabyMort, and bite-sized, after all.

Although that doesn’t tell us whether the book on Horcruxes ever claimed that one could create a Horcrux from a living creature. I’m sure that if it did, it would have pointed out that living creatures eventually die. The Horcrux will only preserve it’s maker’s life. Not the host’s.

But then, he only truly needed the snake until he had managed to create himself a new body.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that he might never have considered making another. Although, if he thought he already had his set of six, even if one of them was already destroyed, he was not going to try to stir the pot, further.

For one thing, there was the question of whether he even could create another one. There must be a practical limit of how many of the things can safely be created from a single soul. I suspected that he may already have been over that limit, and knew it.

Plus the underlying question is whether he wanted his soul in 7 pieces, or a 7-part soul. He already had a 7-part soul, even if he knows that he has lost at least one of the parts. This question was likely to be irresolvable until we caught up to him. If he looked even less human than he did in OotP, we would know that he had done it again. And heaven only knows what artifact he may have used for it.

But there isn’t that much mystery as to which murder he would have used for it. He is suspected of having killed Amelia Bones personally. And there is no question but that her murder was a significant one.

But this particular issue was one that I would have just as soon not get too heavily into, because I thought it might be a dead end.

Which it did, indeed, turn out to be.

• • • •

At this point I feel as though I ought to draw attention to the fact that my own determination to read the series as a continuing mystery adventure with deliberately placed clues and careful misdirections throughout, pretty much dictates the sort of interpretations which I am going to formulate in my reading of it. And the possibility that Voldemort’s wand was the “mystery Horcrux” looked mighty good insofar as that if this was the case we had a ready-made, nicely dramatic, playscript for it’s “unmasking” — and it’s destruction.

Tom Riddle wasn’t the only person who had an association with that wand.

Peter Pettigrew allegedly took charge of that wand for over a dozen years. (Although he doesn’t seem to have used it. There were no extra spells in the Priori Incantatum log, apart from Cedric’s murder.)

You know. Pettigrew. Him. The little man who seems to have had a ringside seat to just about every event of significance related to the former Tom Riddle since the Prophecy was turned loose. The fellow that almost certainly had at least one more major part to play in this story — for all that Rowling had stuffed him into the background and seemed to be earnestly trying to make everyone forget that he was there.

(ETA: *sigh* If only. I seriously wonder whether Rowling was so determined to just have the whole thing over that she jettisoned any plans she may have once had for that quarter. For it certainly reads as if she bundled Pettigrew out of the story in so brusque a manner because she no longer knew what to do with him — possibly after having already discarded the rest of the components she needed for finishing off his character arc.)

The wand would be an entirely different sort of weapon from the Diary. Riddle had no reason to design it so the soul fragment would ever try to take control of the user. Such behavior would have been quite unnecessary, and quite undesirable. He never expected anyone to be using that wand but himself.

Plus, we didn’t have all of his Horcruxes acting like the One Ring back when we were still developing theories. That was a complication that was only dumped on us in book 7. Prior to that, the Diary, which did do that kind of thing, was openly stated as having been unique.

Even so, a wand with a living soul might still have some sort of influence upon someone who was in contact with it over long periods of time. And while we are at it, we need to re-evaluate Albus’s conviction that Riddle felt uncomfortable wearing the Ring after turning it into a Horcrux. If he is correct in that belief, (and we’ve no idea where he supposedly came by that information) then we need to just dismiss the possibility of Voldemort’s wand being the mystery Horcrux from the get-go.

But I rather doubted that Albus was inside Tom’s head to find out why he wasn’t wearing the Ring when he paid his visit to Madam Smith, or indeed when he paid his visit to Hogwarts to ask for the DADA position. So I was prepared to at least follow the possibility of the Wand Horcrux a bit farther.

We do not know what Pettigrew did with the wand once he removed it from the house at Godric’s Hollow. He may have just stashed it somewhere (in the Weasley’s attic, guarded by the Ghoul, along with James and Lily’s?). Or he may have chosen to keep it on him.

From the example of Minerva McGonagall, an Animagus seems to transform along with all of his clothing and accessories, including his wand. Peter/Scabbers might have had that wand, along with a fragment of Tom Riddle’s soul, literally as a part of his own body for a dozen years as a rat. Yes, Riddle may well have had more reason to use Pettigrew as the servant whose flesh would revive him than just the fact that he happened to be available.

But not if all Horcruxes are grabby. It would have taken Peter over long before that.

However, we had already enough reason to believe that Pettigrew — who clearly appeared to have a final part to play in this drama — had a thing for wands. He seems to have collected them. He made a snatch for any untended wand that crossed his path. And I thought that there was a reason that the first thing we saw him do with his new silver hand was to pick up a twig and crush it to powder. (ETA: well I guess you can say there was. But I can’t readily think of how Rowling could have come up with a lamer one if she’d been trying.)

For that matter, Pettigrew was hardly with Voldemort because of his great devotion to the cause of pureblood supremacy. He was there because he didn’t believe he had anywhere else to go. And I thought that Voldemort may have shot himself in the foot by sending that particular follower — who was not blindingly loyal, and who had a fine collection of resentments to work on, into close proximity with Severus Snape — whom I was convinced was committed to Dumbledore’s agenda — where Snape could go to work on Pettigrew with whatever taunts and snide jabs about how his current “friends” do not seem to treat him any better than his former friends did until Pettigrew felt totally ill-done-by and was ready to lash out because he had nothing left to lose. And if Pettigrew tried to remind Snape that he owed his life to James, Snape would just remind him that he owed his life to Harry. For I suspected that Albus had filled him in on that. After all, Albus probably expected that Snape would eventually have to be dealing with Pettigrew.

And if the wand WAS a Horcrux, in the final showdown we might expect Peter to finally make one of his wand snatches (expecting to be killed for it — although not in the manner he would be — Judas did, after all, hang himself), destroy the wand by crushing it to powder and possibly be blown up as a result of it, thereby wiping out any debts which Pettigrew may owe anybody.

And this reading could also have meant that the final confrontation would be forced upon Harry long before he was ready for it. He starts Book 7 with two Horcruxes down, and he knows the general appearance of two others. I thought we could take it as read that he would deal with the Locket, and probably manage to find and settle the Cup. But if the 4th one was the Wand, I did not think he or anyone other than Voldemort would be aware of that until it got taken out of action, and the taking of it out would be a major shock to everybody.

And Harry might only realize in the course of the actual showdown that he was the last of them. Or maybe not. I still thought the showdown might be at the DoM, and he and his friends would already have some reason to be there.

But I was no longer as convinced that it would take place at the DoM as I was before HBP. Although, I did have to admit that the probability that the scene depicted upon the cover of the US edition of the forthcoming book was indeed set in the Hall of the Veil was very strong.

However; given that the artist of the US editions had a track record of (since GoF, anyway) always depicting a scene that is actually in the book, and one that takes place during the run-up to the climax, but never — to that point — had been a depiction of the climax itself. We needed to keep in mind the possibility that this might be an earlier, abortive confrontation, and that in the actual story, Harry would get away and they would have to stage a rematch.

• • • •

Still, I was convinced that if the Wand was a Horcrux, there ought to be some clue to it in the existing text. Probably in the confrontation in the graveyard. Probably something for which we did not have the proper context at the time.

And there is something there that doesn’t altogether fit.

It was not nearly as solid a clue as I would like, but I suspected that our maybe-clue could be the fact that Harry’s scar did one of its numbers when Cedric Diggory was killed. Harry’s scar only acts up when Voldemort is involved.

But, it was Pettigrew who killed Cedric.

However, he did it with Voldemort’s Wand.

Admittedly, Harry’s scar was already kicking up a tantrum over Voldemort’s proximity. But when Pettigrew cast that AK, the pain spiked.

The only other things that caused the pain of his scar to spike that evening (apart from being put under Cruciatus) was when Voldemort physically touched him, and when Voldemort called the Death Eaters through Pettigrew’s Dark Mark. And he didn’t do either of those with a wand.

Ergo: Harry may have been reacting to a soul fragment housed in the Wand. His scar supposedly only acts up when Voldemort is involved. There is no reason why he should react to a 3rd party casting an unforgivable curse in his vicinity, whether or not it was on Voldemort’s orders. If a wand is only a wand, casting an AK with Voldemort’s wand ought not to cause any more reaction than if the 3rd party casts an AK with his own wand — as Snape did on the Astronomy tower. Harry was shocked and horrified when Snape cast his AK, but his scar didn’t even itch.

So, Voldemort’s wand may not be just a wand.

• • • •

However, in that case you would think that it ought to set the scar off whenever that wand is used for an unforgivable. Certainly for an AK. But it doesn’t. Which was another puzzle.

Rereading both the battle of the Atrium and the duel in the graveyard; Voldemort was throwing around curses in both of those, and Harry was in pain. But it all seems to have just been the usual QuirrellMort effect where whenever Voldemort is close and feeling murderous the scar acts up.

Still, I had never been able to account for the scar pitching a fit when Pettigrew killed Cedric. And in the back of my mind, I had been being bugged by that for years. Voldemort was present, yes, as BabyMort and Harry’s scar was already reacting to his presence before Pettigrew’s AK was cast. But the pain got worse when Pettigrew cast that AK. Nor is that the only time it did so over the course of the book.

At the opening of GoF Voldemort killed Frank Bryce, with an AK, with that wand, and Harry witnessed it at long-distance, and woke with his scar hurting.

In his vision in chapter 29, his scar also reacted to Voldemort’s Crucio-ing Wormtail, for letting Crouch escape, with that wand. So it would appear to react to Cruciatus as well.

At least it reacts to it at long distance in a vision. The pain did not spike when Voldemort Crucio-ed Avery, with that wand, right there in the graveyard in Harry’s presence.

Presumably Harry’s scar was already hurting as much or more than it had during his vision of the Riddle House, so there was no additional effect when Voldemort used his own wand in Harry’s presence to cast an Unforgivable curse on a third party.

But this whole issue is totally confused, and I no longer think we can take reports of the scar hurting as anything more than Rowling flinging around declarations of Harry being in pain to try to create drama. I think we’d be very mistaken indeed, to put any dependence at all upon whether to not it ever *means* anything.

Which, given that the wand was never one of Tom’s Horcruxes seems all too evident.

• • • •

However, I did reflect that this all could just be a fumble in the writing, which in retrospect appears to be the case.

Because we also had to keep in mind that Harry’s scar had shown no reaction to any of the other Horcruxes, or suspected Horcruxes to which he had been exposed. Not to the locket at #12. Not to the Diadem in the Room of Hidden Things. Not to the Diary. Not even to the Diary Revenant. And we know now what that Revenant was, and the Revenant was certainly “feeling murderous” enough to cause a reaction if there was going to be one. And it didn’t. (Which I think was a mistake. The scar ought to have reacted to the Revenant.) So the whole question is still up in the air.

But there was an awful lot of critical information that was still awaiting answers at the end of Book 6. And if Dumbledore had deliberately staged his own removal from the game board the night of the adventure of the sea cave, there seemed to be a good chance that he left some of those answers in places where they might be found. The Pensieve was one possibility. And if there was a collection of little bottles with it, all the better. (We just had to hope they were labeled.)

And it was only a matter of time before his portrait woke up. A portrait is only a residual echo of the actual person, but it is a great deal better than nothing.

And for that matter there was also Aberforth. And Horace Slughorn.

But the way things seemed to be shaping up; while Harry may or may not return to classes, he was still going to have to return to Hogwarts. I suspected that the school was going to remain closed for the following year. And Harry and Co. might not be the only trespassers.

Harry, I thought, do it the easy way, for once. You’ve got the money. Send somebody in the Order to buy that black lacquer cabinet in Borgin and Burkes.

Before someone else gets the same idea.

It would be just perfect for the parlor in Grimmauld Place.

In fact, for a long time I suspected it may have originally started out there.