Horcruxes. Their creation is perhaps a bigger taboo than Voldemort’s chosen name. Their creation: the exact rituals that splinter a human soul, so gruesome that even Rowling claims to gag at the thought. Yet they fascinate so many fans.
Perhaps we shouldn’t discuss it. Perhaps it should remain unspoken. That’s what the wizarding world did. Read on if you so wish, but be aware that there may be some content that makes some readers uncomfortable.
We know Voldemort intentionally split his soul into seven parts; creating six Horcruxes and leaving one fragment inside his body. To create one was bad enough. To create six was insane, an act of true desperation. The seventh was an accident. We know how that one was made even if Voldemort didn’t. Lily’s sacrifice meant that his curse rebounded, and that’s where things get complicated.
If we’re to understand it correctly, we have to consider what exactly death is in the wizarding world. There is great significance given to the soul. That is, when Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort, and began his search for immortality, he aimed to tether his soul to earth—originally, to tether his soul to his body. Just as seen in Tolkien’s epic narrative, The Lord of the Rings, the Horcruxes, like the One Ring, acted like anchors—safety deposit boxes, essentially, meaning that even if his remaining soul was untethered, it would come back due to its connection to the others. But more importantly, there are clearly distinctions made between the soul, body, and mind in the HP universe. That is, despite having his soul split into multiple parts, Voldemort’s mind seemed unchanged; though perhaps there is a case to be made for the instability of his mental state in comparison with the instability of his soul. Moreover, the ‘main’ or ‘master’ soul segment- that is the original bit that the Horcruxes were made from- is innately ‘different’. It is the bit his mind is part of, and moreover, is originally tied to his own original body, and does not need a vessel, like the other Horcruxes. This of course can lead to the question; what would happen if Voldemort was subjected to the Dementor’s kiss? It is suggested that those kissed by Dementors are mindless without their souls, and yet there is a distinction between soul and mind. Would this therefore destroy the ‘master’ Horcrux; leaving 6 that could become physical manifestations of evil through their physical vessels yet without the ‘mind’ that made them parts of Voldemort? That is, they would simply be semi-autonomous objects of great evil, capable of corruption but without a driving force. Or, would his mind remain present, even less than ‘less than a ghost’, and in turn, default to a second authority, that is- a secondary soul fragment that would replace the main one? If so, would this be his first Horcrux which would hold the biggest part of his soul? Or if this happened post the creation of the 7th Horcrux (Harry Potter), would Voldemort’s mind default to Potter, as his only human Horcrux. Another interesting line of thought, is whether a Dementor would feed on Voldemort’s soul; something corrupted and broken, and moreover could the Dementor subject a non-human Horcrux to the kiss? It is likely that they couldn’t.
Essentially, we are to believe that if Tom Riddle, without a Horcrux, got stabbed, or hit by a Killing Curse, or pretty much killed in any way, he should die. That is, even if his body was not completely destroyed, his soul (which we take as canon to exist within the Harry Potter universe) would be ejected from his body. It is implied that there is a place that souls move on to (and the issue of heaven, hell, limbo, purgatory, the void, religion—especially Christianity—in HP is something to be discussed another time). Tom Riddle’s soul would have moved on. But it can’t, not if there are six parts of it anchored to earth: because whilst split, they’re not completely separate.
Therefore when his curse rebounded, hitting him, it did not kill him. The Killing Curse, unlike any other form of killing, is instant. If we take death to be the loss of one’s soul (which, incidentally, is what makes the Dementor’s kiss so horrific—that is, death is the loss of one’s soul, the kiss its destruction), the Killing Curse removes it immediately. This implies that had Voldemort been ‘killed’ in any other way (i.e. through being shot by a Muggle gun, or through blood loss, or even a fall), if death was not instant, his soul may not have fractured. The Horcruxes did not make him unwoundable, nor did they make him immortal in the sense he searched for; rather they gave him the inability to die. It is an important distinction: they weren’t the Philosopher’s Stone. We know that in his original body, Voldemort did age even after the creation of his first Horcrux. It can only be hypothesised what he would have done, once his body became too old and decrepit to be of use; many wizards lived past 100, yet even their bodies weakened over time. Perhaps Voldemort would have found another. It is easier to consider what he would have done had his body been destroyed, because that is implicitly what happened following the rebound. If his body had been destroyed in fire, for example, his soul may have become less than a ghost. Though, of course, there is the issue of whether his body could have been completely destroyed by something that wouldn’t destroy a Horcrux; this of course leads on to the issue of living Horcruxes and what exactly can harm them. Horcruxes can only be destroyed by things that leave them beyond repair, yet it is implicit that the part of Voldemort’s soul that remained in his original body was slightly different to that. It is suggested that whilst tethering his ‘soul’ to earth, the Horcruxes also make the original soul which they’re taken from indestructible, no matter how small it gets.
Tom Riddle halved his soul upon making his first Horcrux, and then he halved it again and again and again, making the ‘original’ fragment so fragile when it left his body but not earth, it was less than a ghost. As noted, a ghost is an imprint of a soul. This gives us some idea of the extent of the damage Tom Riddle did to his soul during his transformation into the seemingly immortal Voldemort. It also leads to the question: could his ‘immortal’ soul have been destroyed, leading to one of the other soul pieces becoming the master-soul? Probably not, meaning the master soul/the original bit of soul, or the true soul, was indestructible. This, therefore, supports the idea that even if his body was permanently destroyed in another means, his soul would depart without container, and would need to find a new one—this is similar to what happens in regard to the backfired curse.
But returning to the point at hand: due to the nature of the curse, and the instability of his soul, instead of simply leaving his body, it splintered once more. It is unclear as to what happened to Voldemort’s, or should we say Tom Riddle’s, original body. It was not recovered by the Ministry or by his Death Eaters, which is why there was such confusion regarding whether or not he was actually dead. Yet in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort claims to have had “no body”. This suggests no body of any kind, which does support the idea that he fled without his wand. Had he fled in the form in which Harry saw his soul, during Harry’s time in limbo in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, surely he could have taken it. Furthermore, that he ‘fled’ as a bodiless being, less than a ghost, gives us understanding as to how he reached Albania without being seen or heard of.
Moreover, from witnessing his bodiless seduction of Ginny Weasley in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we can see how he might have seduced Quirrell. The fragment of his soul hid in Albania, far from harm and from facing the downfall of the terror he had reigned with. He was not corporeal, and we’re so used to corporeal things it’s very hard to imagine it. But as a dark force he existed, and he waited for Quirrell, a mind weaker than most, which he infiltrated even without the use of a physical object with which to manifest himself. And, again, this makes sense. Imagine being by yourself in a far-off country, alone with your own thoughts—and very suddenly they’re not your thoughts at all.
How Harry became a Horcrux is simple. When Voldemort’s soul splintered, part of it searched for the nearest living thing to latch onto, and that thing was Harry Potter. Why, when Voldemort’s soul split, did the broken off section seek the nearest living thing? Why did it not try to go back to where it had come from? Moreover, why was a Horcrux formed? There is much speculation regarding the nature of the formation of a Horcrux. One theory (which appears on Tumblr in various forms, and is mentioned on the CoS forums) suggests that the act goes beyond simply murder or torture, but involves cannibalism; hence Voldemort’s naming his followers ‘Death Eaters’. Many cultures see cannibalism of one’s enemies as a form of devouring their power; and within a Christian narrative (though Christianity within the HP universe is a tense topic) cannibalism takes the form of a perverse Eucharist, furthering the image of Voldemort as an anti-Christ type figure. Thus it seems plausible that cannibalism, rather than say necrophilia is involved in Voldemort’s creation of his Horcruxes. If the means of creating a Horcrux isn’t fixed, then it is possible that the method varies from creator to creator. But it seems unlikely that Tom Riddle, prior to the complete instability of his mind and soul, would engage with necrophilia. Sex is so often seen as a weapon, and yet even though Voldemort is seen to indulge himself in torture, he does not seem to give in to the weapon that is sex, despite the implications that his Death Eaters do. Perhaps this is a means in which Voldemort ‘rises above’ his lower ranks. Cannibalism does not perversely ‘honour’ or acknowledge the body, but rather destroys it. It is symbolic, and Voldemort both as Lord Voldemort, and as Tom Riddle, demonstrates an indulgent love of symbolism.
Why Lily’s sacrifice worked as a form of protection is explained easily: others did not get the choice of life, which meant that, whilst they might have offered themselves before their children or loved ones, it was not a sacrifice. It also implies that the rebounding curse, in giving Harry his scar, splitting Voldemort’s soul and destroying the house, not only split the soul but forced it outwards, giving plausibility to the ‘nearest living thing’ train of thought. Yet as we’re made aware, this is not how Horcruxes are usually made; it was unintentional. And if Voldemort had developed his specific way of making Horcruxes, i.e. through cannibalism, then why would he ever even entertain the concept that one could have been made accidentally? Some might ask why he didn’t notice part of his soul was ‘gone’. But he was aware he’d been damaged, and it is possible to consider the state of his soul as so corrupted that he genuinely just didn’t realise.
Canonically, all we know of Horcruxes, of what can be Horcruxes, are from out-of-universe comments by Rowling, and from Voldemort’s Horcruxes. We know he chose his because of meaning; his obsession with poeticism may have been his downfall. That is, symbolism is great, but metaphors we live by is a phrase, not to be followed to a T. Many people have asked: could a grain of sand be made into a Horcrux? If living things can be made into Horcruxes, can they be killed by normal means? Are they also immortal, or would Voldemort be lugging a dead snake around in thirty years had he not been defeated?
Can Horcruxes become sentient, and would they continue to act as Horcruxes if they, like starfish, were to grow bodies of their own? I would argue that the ‘Tom Riddle’ of the diary was not the Horcrux; he was the memory that the diary held, brought to life by the Horcrux. He did not possess knowledge after the creation of the diary as a Horcrux;—after all, his soul was no longer part of the ever-growing and learning Voldemort—but he was missing crucial information from before this too: that is, it’s implied he didn’t know he was a Horcrux. He referred to himself as a memory, and arguably not because he simply didn’t want to introduce Ginny and Harry to the idea of Horcruxes. Why he hadn’t begun to manifest as a physical being beforehand is hard to determine. The answer is probably that the Horcrux simply wasn’t ‘awakened’ and when it was the ‘memory’ engrained in the diary; Riddle was what the Horcrux manifested as when Ginny’s lifeforce fed it. Thus when awakened to be told all about Harry Potter who defeated Voldemort (the man the memory at 16 knew he wanted to be), he decided that he must gain more knowledge of him. He reopened the Chamber of Secrets. He tried to stabilise as a physical manifestation. Had he succeeded, would the diary still have been a Horcrux? If so, would it have acted as a Horcrux for both the ‘memory’ and for Voldemort? Would the act of draining Ginny’s life constitute something so vile that it allowed the Horcrux to split, giving part to Tom Riddle, and allowing part to remain in the diary? After all, destroying the diary destroyed Tom Riddle because he had not completed his revival. Had he completed it, would it have? Furthermore, would Tom Riddle have posed a credible to threat to magical Britain, and in fact, to Lord Voldemort himself?
Part 2 will continue with discussion on what can be made into a Horcrux, and further exploration of Horcruxes and their significance within the HP universe.