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This article is an attempt to clear up some common misconceptions posted by several readers here on Beyond Hogwarts about what Horcruxes are and how they work. I’m not claiming to have some great insight into what J.K. believes about Horcruxes. I merely offer up my own humble opinion, from information gleaned from the books, and years of unabashed geekdom, for the sake of discussion/argument on the topic of Horcruxes.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Professor Slughorn tells Tom Riddle:
You split your soul, you see, and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged.HBP pg. 497/464
In other words, a Horcrux is a container in which the witch or wizard who makes one puts a piece of their soul to keep safe in the event that the person’s body is destroyed. A Horcrux prevents the soul from “passing on” and thereby holds the witch or wizard’s consciousness earth bound. That’s it.
From that point on, steps would have to be taken to re-establish ones self in a body capable of functioning normally. It seems someone that creates a Horcrux would require assistance to perform the spells or rituals necessary to regain human form.
For example, an evil wizard creates a Horcrux. He has left instructions with his minions of what they are to do should he die (how to make him a body and how to put him in it).
The wizard is killed. His lackeys follow his instructions and he is restored. Then, he is killed again. His flunkies again follow his instructions, and again he is restored. One Horcrux, since it remained intact, brings the wizard back twice. It is not “used up”; it merely preformed its function.
Voldemort says he was ripped from his body but did not die. He existed as “less than the meanest ghost”. He forced himself second by second, minute by minute to live. He had no body to hold a wand and perform the spells that would return him to his body. He gets that help first from Quirrell, whom he possesses in hopes of getting the Sorcerer’s Stone. But it does not seem to be a normal possession. Quirrell is still in control of his own body, he just follows Voldemort’s orders. It is as if Voldemort is simply living off of Quirrell like a parasite. (Voldemort actually uses that word in the Sorcerer’s Stone movie.) Quirrell is killed when Harry stops him from getting the stone and Voldemort is forced from his body by physical contact with Harry.
Next, Pettigrew actively looks for Voldemort and finds him. Voldemort instructs him in “ancient dark magic” that returns Voldemort to a rudimentary, weak form that he can inhabit until he regains his full strength. Voldemort then instructs Pettigrew in how to make a potion from unicorn blood and snake venom to make him strong enough to travel. It is only through the ritual in the cemetery that Voldemort finally regains his full strength and body.
And through this all, there are still six horcruxes. Dumbledore tells us so.
If you’re putting a piece of your soul into something to keep it safe in order to “keep you alive” in the event your body is destroyed, you’re going to want to make sure that that object is also kept safe, preferably secret. I do not believe, nor is it stated in any of the books, that a Horcrux has the power to possess or harm any one on its own. It was the enchantments protecting the ring that damage Dumbledore’s hand. (A similar enchanment on the necklace, not a horcrux at all, injured Katie Bell.) The remoteness of the cave, the “blood tribute” arch, the lake of infirius and the potion are all employed to protect the locket.
I believe that many people are so distracted by the act of killing another human, and the subsequent damage to one’s soul, that they miss the truly evil act of REMOVING a piece of ones soul. I, like Dumbledore, am a firm believer in the power of, for lack of a better word, redemption. The idea that any one can turn their life around and try to atone for one’s prior misdeeds. Perhaps even if some one has torn their soul it can, over time, heal, I don’t know. But to remove one’s soul is an act of desecration from which there can be no recovery. I believe that it is due to the removing of the soul itself that Horcruxes are deemed to be such an evil thing.
About this, Slughorn says:
Existance in such a form … few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferrable. You must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, an act against nature.HBP pg.497/465
If murder is evil, then the removal of pieces of the soul may be considered “beyond normal” evil. ONLY the most sinister, twisted and depraved individual would consider the act, much less actually do it. There is a reason all the foul and loathsome wizards flock to Voldemort’s banner, he alone is the one who appears to have made a Horcrux.
In the wizarding world there is a spell specifically designed to kill, another that forces one to act against their will, and a third exists only to cause “pain beyond pain”. Use of any of these spells has been determined to be so horrific a crime that the spell caster is imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Yet, the children of the wizarding world know of their existence. Information on them, although limited I’m sure, could most likely be found in a well-stocked library. Yet nothing on Horcruxes appears in the library of the “greatest wizarding school in the world” except for just over a dozen words.
All I could find was this, in the introduction to Magick Moste Evile — listen — ‘Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction…’ I mean, why mention it then?” she said impatiently, slamming the old book shut.HBP pg 381/357
We share Hermione’s frustration. But this is another indication of just how ultimately evil Horcruxes are, and how only the most evil of Wizards would even consider making one.
But what about Tom Riddle’s Diary? It’s the first Horcux that appears in the series, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, the first we are made aware of, and it is worthy of closer examination.
Many people seem to believe the diary is a “typical” Horcrux. As Dumbledore and Harry explore the nature of Horcruxes in their private lessons, it seemed odd to Dumbledore (and for that matter me) that the diary was treated in a completely different fashion than, say, the ring, which Voldemort hid so that no one would find it and protected it with a “terrible curse”, or the locket, which he also went to extraordinary measures to protect. If you’re putting a piece of your soul into something to keep it safe in order to “keep you alive” in the event your body is destroyed, you’re going to want to make sure that that object is also kept safe, preferably secret.
About the diary, Dumbledore says:
Although I did not see the Riddle who came out of the diary, what you described was a phenomenon I had never witnessed. A mere memory starting to act and think for itself? A mere memory, sapping the life out of the girl into whose hands it had fallen? No, something much more sinister had lived inside that book…a fragment of soul, I was almost sure of it. The diary had been a Horcrux.HBP pg. 500/467
The original enchantment on the diary was intended to posses a student at Hogwarts, and thereby force them to open the Chamber of Secretes, and release the Basilisk. It was INTENDED to wind up in the hands of another. And consider that being an extremely rare ability, there was almost no chance the person possessed or controlled by the diary would be a Parselmouth, although this skill would be needed to command the basilisk and set it on the students with muggle parents. So, somehow, I believe, the diary initially contained a bit of Tom Riddle’s sixteen-year-old consciousness, so that it (he) could actively control the person doing its (his) bidding.
As Ginny Weasley poured her thoughts and emotions into the diary, she activated the enchantments on it and provided the power needed for it to function as it was originally intended to, and in doing so, she became more and more susceptible to it’s influence. Perhaps even forcing Ginny to perform magic increased its (his) power over her and made it possible to become something more than just the memory left in the diary. I think this would explain why the Tom Riddle that came out of the diary was the sixteen-year-old Riddle and had no memory of Harry, or that night in Godrick’s Hollow. When he was placed there, the diary was not yet a Horcrux, and when it was made a Horcrux, Voldemort was still at the height of his power. Unlike the other Horcruxes, that would be hidden and protected to keep the soul fragment within them safe, the diary must be considered something other than a “typical” Horcrux.
The existance of the diary is one of the darkest indications of Voldemort’s evil insanity. Since he was so cavalier about the protection of this Horcrux, we can only assume this means he didn’t particularly care, because he intended to have other Horcruxes to protect him, something he, himself, boasts that no other wizard had ever done.
I’m really hoping that since Horcruxes have become so important to the whole Harry Potter story, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows will give us much more information on Horcruxes. It may come in the form of Viktor Krum, Dumbledore may have left notes, even Fleur may have some useful information. Until that time, this is the best information we have to go on.