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How does a wizard learn about the existence and properties of Horcruxes? Who knows what they are, how to make them, what they can do? What wizard would make a Horcrux? Under what circumstances? And for what reasons? And why are they so evil? Hermione is working very hard to answer these questions. As Hogwarts virtual library search-engine, she is coming up empty – no answers to these questions can be found at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry so far.
Fifty years ago, Tom Riddle, while still a student at Hogwarts, somehow learned of Horcruxes. How he did this is something of a mystery since Tom has no wizarding family, no connection with anyone in the wizarding world outside of Hogwarts (that we know of), and attended a school where Horcruxes were a banned subject, where Dumbledore at the time was, as Slughorn explains, (HBP, US version p. 499) “particularly fierce about it…” (“it” being the ban on Horcruxes). And yet by the end of Book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we believe that Tom Riddle-turned-Voldemort had probably divided his soul into seven parts and created six external Horcruxes in his lifetime.
How do we learn of the Voldemort Horcruxes?
Through Dumbledore’s suspicions.
Dumbledore is the only wizard who suspected that Voldemort created Horcruxes. When the Avada Kedavra curse Voldemort used against Harry backfired and diminished Voldemort, Dumbledore suspected that Voldemort had made a Horcrux. Then Tom Riddle’s diary came along in Chamber of Secrets and Dumbledore’s theory gained some support. No mere memory, the being in Tom Riddle’s diary began to come to life and behave like a Horcrux, restoring Voldemort to life.
But then Tom Riddle’s diary was destroyed when Harry stabbed it with the poison basilisk fang, and Voldemort did not perish. So here Dumbledore must have begun to realize that either he was wrong about his theory that Voldemort had made a Horcrux or that there may have been more than one Horcrux. What an astounding idea this must have seemed! And in Book 6 when Harry returned from the graveyard and reported what Voldemort told his followers at the end of Goblet of Fire about having gone further than any other wizard, Dumbledore believed that this information provided support for the possibility that Voldemort may have been using Horcruxes, but had been using more than one of them. Remember, it wasn’t until Harry finagled that bit of memory from Slughorn (in HBP) that we got any confirmation at all of Dumbledore’s Horcrux theory. Slughorn’s memory shows the first hard evidence linking Voldemort with the Horcruxes.
But Dumbledore suspected the possibility of a Horcrux from the beginning. Why? Why suspect a Horcrux? Was it because he was familiar with the concept? Was it because he had already created one?
Dumbledore create something as evil as a Horcrux! Impossible!
Or is it? (Hmmm, perhaps I should write for the Quibbler…)
Here’s a thought: perhaps it is not the Horcrux itself that is evil, but killing someone in order to create a Horcrux that is evil. Slughorn explains that the Horcrux is created: “By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use this damage to his advantage: He would encase the torn portion (of his soul in a Horcrux)” (HBP p. 498).
Killing rips the soul apart. This is important: Killing rips the soul apart — whether one makes a Horcrux or not. The evil act is in the killing. If a wizard had killed another person, regardless of his intent, the ripping of the soul would have occurred.
There are three possible forms of intent involved in the act of killing. The first is malice, the desire to inflict harm and affect a killing. We usually associate this with anger or hatred and Muggle and Wizard societies both punish this type of act. The second form of intent is self-preservation. Here the person who affects the murder is justified in doing so because he, his family, his friends or even his society as a whole are in danger from the person who is about to be killed. In this case the killer is not punished by society. And the third form of intent is actually lack-of-intent. This is the case when a person or persons are killed inadvertently, or accidentally. In the Muggle world this is sometimes punished, sometimes not. If the killer’s lack of due diligence caused the death(s) — as in drunken driving — we tend to punish it, even though it was not intended by the killer. If the killer shows due diligence — and someone simply jumps out onto the road in front of a moving car — we tend not to punish the killer.
I do believe that killing under any of the three forms of intent causes damage to the soul. Maybe there is no blame to be laid, no guilt to be levied, but there would still be great anguish to the soul of someone who realizes he has taken a life. Whether through malice, self-defense, or completely by accident, the person who kills is diminished in some way by having taken a life. I believe this is the damage to the soul. It is not a punishment by society, but a natural result of destroying life. And I think this damage occurs no matter how good or evil the person who affects the killing is as a person. In fact, it is easy to imagine that the anguish of a good person who is pressed to kill is far greater than that of someone who feels no loss at ending someone’s life.
The damage to the soul would be irreversible. And here a wizard could use this damage “to his advantage (by) encasing the torn portion in a Horcrux.” Creating a Horcrux, in and of itself, is not evil. It is the murder that precedes the Horcrux creation that causes the soul to be ripped apart that is evil. Killing is, as Slughorn explains, “the supreme act of evil.” The evil is done. And then you have a damaged soul. Encasing your now-damaged soul in a Horcrux neither extends nor eradicates the evil born of the murder. A Horcrux is simply a container for that already-damaged portion of the soul.
We know, from Albus Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card (Philosopher’s Stone, UK edition, p. 77), that “Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindlewald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood and his work on alchemy with his partner Nicolas Flamel.” So, in 1945 Dumbledore defeated the evil wizard Grindlewald. How might he have “defeated” Grindlewald? Did he need to kill him as perhaps Harry needs to kill Voldemort? There is no mention of Grindlewald in Azkaban. I suspect that the defeat did involve a killing.
If Dumbledore had killed Grindlewald, then perhaps Dumbledore might have created a Horcrux. Not necessarily an evil Horcrux, but the product of opportunity rather than the product of an evil act. Dumbledore is a very intelligent, logical being. If the killing of Grindlewald was necessary, then the possibility of creating a Horcrux might be a logical follow-up. And if the killing was a positive event eliminating evil from the wizard world, then perhaps Dumbledore’s Horcrux — though borne through dark magic — would not be an evil thing. Not creating a Horcrux would not have changed his need to kill Grindlewald.
Why would Dumbledore even consider making a Horcrux? In Book 1, McGonagall has a conversation with Dumbledore in which she points out that he knows all of the Dark Magic, but that she believes he chooses not to use any of it. Perhaps he has had good reason to use Dark Magic for some positive purposes. And remember, Dumbledore’s old friend, Nicholas Flamel, sought eternal life with the Philosopher’s Stone. Why is it hard to suppose that Dumbledore may have sought eternal life as well? A different means to that end, yes, but still with a goal to the same end.
But would Dumbledore have committed this supreme act of evil? If Dumbledore has committed a killing, he would have to have a damaged soul. The damage done by killing another is absolute. Does Dumbledore have a damaged soul? Having a soul like Harry’s that is “untarnished and whole” (p. 511) is certainly wonderful but may not be something that every witch and wizard can claim. Dumbledore is 150 years old and has been battling evil in the wizarding world for quite some time. Is it possible that his soul is still untarnished and whole? That he has never harmed another witch or wizard, evil or otherwise? I think not. Only youth has such purity and innocence. As people go through life, wizards and Muggles alike, we are confronted with difficult choices and obstacles, points in our lives at which there is no easy answer.
So let’s assume Dumbledore did need to finish Grindlewald to remove his evil influence from the world. What Horcrux would hold Dumbledore’s damaged bit of soul? Gryffindor’s Sword perhaps? One of the many silvery spindly objects in his office? I don’t think so. I think Dumbledore’s Horcrux is the phoenix Fawkes.
Isn’t it most interesting that Dumbledore suspected that Nagini was one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes? We know Voldemort to be a friendless person who collects inanimate artifacts and objects for his Horcrux keepers. Why would Dumbledore think that Voldemort might choose Nagini to guard a portion of his soul? Why suppose that a wizard would choose any animal as a Horcrux, unless of course you had already done the very same thing yourself.
There is no comparison between Nagini and Fawkes as viable soul-keepers, or Horcruxes. Nagini is a snake, a magical creature with questionable moral values. Fawkes is a magical creature known for extreme loyalty, the ability to heal wounds and transport very heavy loads for long distances. Fawkes seems to be all positive attributes. And even more importantly: Nagini can be destroyed. Fawkes, a phoenix, cannot be killed. He will continue to rise anew from the ashes, reborn to continue on. Fawkes is an excellent choice for a Horcrux. Fawkes will live forever.
All right, so let’s say we allow the assumption that Dumbledore has made a Horcrux. And let’s go on to the next step and allow that Harry discovers it. This is, by the way, quite necessary since the Harry Potter stories are all told from Harry’s point of view and we would certainly not know of the Horcrux unless Harry knew of it as well. How would this Horcrux work itself into the story in Book 7? What would be the value and difficulty of discovering that Dumbledore had created a Horcrux?
The value is easy to spot. There is then the possibility that Dumbledore isn’t gone for good. He may have died physically, but he could be reborn through the use of his Horcrux. This is, for everyone except Voldemort and the Death Eaters, a very uplifting possibility. Dumbledore’s abrupt departure from the quest to destroy Voldemort at the close of Book 6 is quite disturbing. It is as though, after so many, many years of his research and discovery to identify Voldemort’s weakness(es), Dumbledore simply vanishes.
What if Harry is not the only one to learn of Fawkes’s role as a Horcrux? Then what? Who else might be trying to recover Fawkes at the same time as Harry?
The most likely wizard to join Harry in the pursuit of Fawkes would be — Severus Snape. Somehow, Snape will know that Fawkes was Dumbledore’s Horcrux and will be trying to get Fawkes. Harry will discover this. Not knowing whether Snape is good or evil, we won’t know whether Snape should get Fawkes or not. Hermione will tell us we should trust Dumbledore’s faith in Snape; Harry will be convinced Snape is up to something evil. It is possible Snape is supposed to acquire Fawkes, that Dumbledore wants him to, and that Snape was aware — at the moment of the Avada Kedavra curse on top of the tower — that there would be further steps to having Dumbledore return to make sure that Voldemort was vanquished.
Furthermore: How would Dumbledore have protected Fawkes from Voldemort? Surely Dumbledore would have foreseen that someone on the Dark Side might have discovered Fawkes’s value as a Horcrux. How might he have provided protection for Fawkes? Perhaps in was in the same way he protected the Philosopher’s Stone. Remember the protection Dumbledore placed on the Stone in the Mirror of Erised? “You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone — find it, but not use it — would be able to get it…” (PS p.217) Perhaps Harry will need to want to recover Fawkes, but not activate Dumbledore’s Horcrux in order to gain Fawkes.
Maybe when Harry discovers that Dumbledore has a Horcrux — Fawkes — a choice has to be made about bringing Dumbledore back or going on without Dumbledore’s help. What if the choice was there and Harry has to decide whether to rely on Dumbledore’s help or to move on as a now-adult wizard (Harry comes of age at the start of Book 7 on July 31) and accept his role as The Chosen One? A choice between what is right and what is easy, perhaps.
Somehow, I have found it hard to believe that Dumbledore would so easily leave the battle with Voldemort. Dumbledore has spent many years researching Voldemort’s background and looking for ways to finish him. Why would he bow out so easily, before he could see his work brought to closure? Completed by Harry, yes, but brought to closure.
And the wording of Professor Trelawney’s prophecy is curious, as well, “one cannot live while the other survives…” If Harry, himself, does not directly cause Voldemort’s death, Harry will retain his pure, untarnished, virgin soul. He will remain in many ways childlike and pure. Is this desirable? Or does Harry need to pass through a gauntlet of sorts to become an adult? Perhaps Harry must kill Voldemort to become an adult. Perhaps this is a painful process that must be done. Harry came awfully close to damaging his soul with the Septumsempra curse on Malfoy. It is not impossible to believe that Harry will have to suffer the consequences of his anger and hatred toward Voldemort (and maybe Snape). As a minor (under the age of 17) Harry still has a pure untarnished soul. But is it realistic to expect that this will continue throughout his adult life? I think not. Life is not that simple.
Meanwhile, there is one other important player in this search: Hagrid. Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, is our resident expert in Magical Creatures. That’s Fawkes, a magical creature. Hagrid will know how to recover and capture Fawkes (just like Hagrid knew how to lull Fluffy to sleep) because Dumbledore would have told him. Dumbledore tells Professor McGonagall in Book 1, “I would trust Hagrid with my life,” and he has. Dumbledore has shared with Hagrid Fawkes’s secret.
So while we know there will be a search going on for Voldemort’s Horcruxes in Book 7, we may learn that a parallel search will commence for Dumbledore’s Horcrux, Fawkes.
I really do believe that Dumbledore does have a Horcrux. The Horcrux is Fawkes, his soul mate, literally. And Hagrid is the Secret keeper of the Horcrux secret.
Hagrid will likely die protecting this information. And what does that mean? Hopefully we’ll find out soon, because J.K. chose this topic as one of the three FAQ questions she would like to answer on her web site: What happens to a Secret after the Secret keeper dies? I don’t think this is of terribly vital importance to 12 Grimmauld Place, but I do think it will matter even more when it comes to losing Hagrid.
We learn of the existence of Horcruxes out of the blue in Book 6 of the seven book series. No mention of them in any of the thousands of pages preceding Half-Blood Prince in Books 1 through 5. Will we learn in Book 7 that there is another Horcrux? Dumbledore’s Horcrux?