This essay attempts to analyse what happened in that first split second after Lord Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra curse rebounded that fateful Halloween night at Godric’s Hollow. In particular, I attempt to shed some light on what unknown entities were transferred from Lord Voldemort to Harry Potter in those brief instants. The first, and by far the longest, part of the essay looks inside Jo Rowling’s fictional world to discover what she means by a soul, and how that soul relates to thoughts, consciousness, memories, free will, magical powers and other things related to the mind, body and spirit. I will discuss what might have happened on that night, what that implies for Harry in Book 7, and I will break down and rebut some arguments that people have put forward in this area.
Free Will in the Potterverse
We have seen a number of entities that appear to be capable of independent thought and action in the Harry Potter series. Most obviously, there are the living wizards and witches. Close behind are the other sentient creatures, such as House elves, centaurs, goblins and merpeople. Beyond that, we have also seen portraits, ghosts, dementors and other beings, and finally, a few powerfully magical objects such as the Sorting Hat, Tom Riddle’s diary, the Marauders’ Map and the Goblet of Fire. All of these and a few other entities could be thought of as being capable — at some level — of action independent of other intelligences.
One way to analyse the rules behind Jo Rowling’s world is to take some archetypes of each type of character or object and examine how they behave, and then draw conclusions from the evidence.
I have selected the following. The selection was made largely on how much we know about the specific character and to what extent the being represents its own class of entities.
• Centaur: Firenze
• House Elf: Dobby
• Ghost: Nearly Headless Nick
• Echo: Lily Potter as she comes out of Voldemort’s wand
• Monster: Aragog
• Poltergeist: Peeves
• Object1: Sorting Hat
• Object2: Tom Riddle’s diary
• Object3: Marauders’ Map
• Object4: Goblet of Fire
I have not included portraits because Jo Rowling has specifically said what they can do and what they are not capable of. They are not relevant to this discussion.
Here is what she said when asked about portraits and whether they can offer advice.
That is a very good question. They are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. If Harry had a portrait of his parents it would not help him a great deal. If he could meet them as ghosts, that would be a much more meaningful interaction.1
So Jo Rowling is drawing a clear distinction between ghosts and portraits. Ghosts can think and offer advice. Portraits cannot.
I am going to build on this distinction when discussing free will and independent action. The test I am using is whether the entity can plan a desired outcome and act to make that plan happen.
It is clear that Ron, Firenze, and Dobby as well as goblins, merpeople, and even Aragog all pass this test. We have seen many occasions when each of these has made a plan, remembered details and acted upon them.
I barely need to remind readers, but Ron’s performance in the chess game shows all these elements.2 He has shown similar skills many times since. Firenze makes a decision to rescue Harry from Voldemort, even though it breaks many of the cultural rules of his species.3 Later, in Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, it is clear that Firenze remembers Harry. Dobby shows creativity and choice in his attempts to prevent Harry returning to Hogwarts4 and later he has shows us a huge store of memories about Harry and his actions.5 Aragog displays decision-making skills during his interview with Harry and Ron in the forest.6
Although we have not met enough goblins to decide whether they have similar skills, I don’t think there can be any doubt they can make their own decisions. Griphook leads Harry and Hagrid down into the vaults below Gringotts.7 Meanwhile, a couple of other goblins out-smart Ludo Bagman over the betting on the outcome of the Triwizard Tournament.8
Similarly among the ghosts, Nearly Headless Nick wants to become a member of the Headless Hunt. He asks Harry to tell Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore how scary he (Nick) is.9 Nick shows emotions, petulance, jealousy and frustration at the repeated refusal to allow him into the Hunt. More importantly, Nick forms a desire (join the Hunt) that is separate and distinct from any desire he may have had prior to his death. He then constructs a plan and acts in ways that he believes will achieve his goals. We have also seen Myrtle behaving in the same way.10
Peeves the Poltergeist is more difficult. He wants to cause mayhem and does so, selecting balloons filled with water, ink pellets and other items to fire at both students and teachers. When Harry wants to be quiet, Peeves deliberately makes a noise to spoil Harry’s plans. But this feels to me more like the behaviour of a three-dimensional portrait —albeit a skilfully drawn one — than the behaviour of a fully formed character. Peeves seems to be on a one-track mission to cause mayhem. He does not seem to make any judgements about how the mayhem is caused, nor who suffers from it. Admittedly, he shows a little more respect to Dumbledore than he does to the students, but I have to leave Peeves in the undecided camp at the present. We’ll return to Peeves a bit later, and he will help us in our clue-hunting then.
Riddle’s Diary, on the other hand, listens to Ginny talking about how Harry defeated Voldemort, and then formulates a plan to kill Harry. First it showed Harry a carefully-selected memory — the scene with Hagrid and Aragog, and then it lures him into the Chamber with the deliberate intention of using Ginny’s body and soul to revitalise himself and then summon the basilisk to kill Harry.11
When we look at the Goblet of Fire, it may be a powerfully magical object, but it shows no signs of independent action. The goblet merely has to select names. There does not appear to be any free will there.12
The Sorting Hat, however, does seem to be capable of free will. In most of its actions the Hat is fairly mechanical: it selects pupils and divides them into Houses according to rules laid down centuries ago. But it also composes the sorting song each year. And that, it seems to me, involves some kind of independent action. It detects, for example when the school is in danger and makes a request to pupils to stand together. Perhaps it relies on the current head teacher to suggest what to say, but I doubt it. It seems to be writing a new song each year to suit the events surrounding the school.
There is, however, one irrefutable piece of evidence surrounding the Hat’s ability to think and act for itself. In the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it chooses to give Harry the Gryffindor sword. Harry was not asking for that specifically, he just wanted help — any help. Dumbledore was not around to offer advice. The decision to produce the sword comes from the Hat and the Hat alone.13
Like the portraits, the Marauders’ Map seems to retain the character of people who wrote it. The Map does not ‘think’ for itself. It merely shows what it was created to show.14
My final choice of entity is perhaps the most interesting. Lily, when she emerges from Voldemort’s wand, is variously described as a memory or an echo.15 But she does manage to form a plan. She tells Harry what to do and she and the other echoes then do everything in their limited power to delay and confuse Voldemort after the link between the wands is broken.
‘When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments .. but we will give you time ... you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts .. do you understand, Harry?’
‘Do it now,’ whispered his father’s voice. ‘Be ready to run, Do it now ...’ 16
This is clear evidence that these entities know what is happening and have formed a plan to help Harry escape. These words are not the same as the catchphrases of portraits; they are clearly spoken with some kind of intelligence and feeling behind them.
To summarise: people, centaurs, elves, goblins, a Horcrux, the Sorting Hat, ghosts and even echoes of people murdered by Voldemort are capable of independent action. By contrast, paintings, photographs, and other objects are mere reflections of the characters they are meant to represent. Peeves cannot be placed with certainty into either category.
Memories in the Potterverse
Looking at the same archetypes as above, I want to show that any object capable of displaying free will also has memories.
Again, it is clear that all sentient creatures — witches, wizards, centaurs, goblins, house elves, merpeople and yes, Aragog— have memories.
We have seen Ron remembering how his brothers tried to trick him into making an unbreakable vow.17 In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Firenze meets Harry once more and clearly remembers their previous encounter. We have heard that Goblins have very long memories, especially for people who try to trick them out of gold. Ghosts also have memories. They can form new memories of events that take place after their death and they can remember events from before their deaths. At his Deathday party18 and elsewhere, Nearly Headless Nick talks about his life prior to his execution and life among the ghosts.
Again, Peeves is a bit of a mystery. We don’t have any long dialogue with him, but he does make an oblique reference to Harry’s previous actions:
‘Oooh, Crackpot’s feeling cranky,’ said Peeves, pursuing Harry along the corridor, leering as he zoomed along above him. ‘What is it this time, my fine Potty friend? Hearing voices? Seeing visions? Speaking in –’ Peeves blew a gigantic raspberry ‘– tongues?’ 19
I think this tilts the balance toward the “Has a memory” category, but it’s by no means conclusive.
Tom Riddle’s diary, on the other hand, seems to be made up of little but memories. It has old memories and is capable of forming new ones. In the chamber, Tom describes his father and shows contempt for his Muggle name. He also remembers what Ginny has told him about Harry. As further evidence, Riddle twice refers to himself as a memory. First when he introduces himself to Harry in the Chamber
‘Are you a ghost?’ Harry said uncertainly.
‘A memory,’ said Riddle quietly. ‘Preserved in a diary for fifty years.’ 20
And second when Harry invokes Dumbledore’s name.
[...] Dumbledore has been driven out of this castle by the mere memory of me.21
Just as the Marauders’ Map has no free will, it has no memory either. The only possible counter-example to this is the occasion when the Map insults Snape by referring to him as greasy-haired.22 These remarks, however come across as more like catchphrases than calculated and planned insults. Indeed Jo Rowling has specifically said that the Map is just a pale imprint of its authors.23
The Sorting Hat definitely has a memory. When Harry puts it back on his head in Dumbledore’s office, it remembers how difficult it had been to place him at their first encounter.24 Later, it remembers that Godric Gryffindor:
[...] whipped me off his head’ [...]25
and then that the Four Founders
[...] put a little of their brains in me. [...]26
In summary, sentient beings have memories, as do ghosts and the Horcrux. Paintings, photographs and other representations do not. The Sorting Hat seems to have a memory, and it also has a limited amount of free will. Peeves is on the verge of displaying both freewill and using a memory, but the jury is still out on that one.
Finally, do the echoes emerging from Voldemort’s wand have memories? Absolutely they do. Frank Bryce remarks that the man who killed him was a real wizard. Cedric asks Harry to take his body back.27 They could not do this if they were unable to remember their own deaths.
Souls in the Potterverse and in Modern Culture
There is scant canon evidence about souls and their role in Rowling’s books. Almost certainly, Jo has chosen not to reveal too much about her idea of souls, as this is going to be critical to the resolution of the Harry-Voldemort conflict in the final book. However, what evidence there is, is telling.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin describes the dementors’ kiss like this:
‘Oh no,’ said Lupin. ‘Much worse than that. You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you’ll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no ... anything. There’s no chance at all of recovery. You’ll just -- exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever ... lost.’ 28
This seems to be saying that once your soul has gone, so have all your memories. In other words, the only place memories reside is in the soul. This is important because it means that whenever we see memories in the Harry Potter world, we also have to look for a soul.
The other piece of canon about souls is the description of Riddle’s Diary. We know that it contained a part of his soul. We also know that it had memories and free will.
Finally, in terms of canon evidence, we need to remember Lockhart, in the closed hospital ward, three years after his own memory charm backfired.29 His memories are completely wiped, and he becomes a shadow of his former self. We see something of his former personality, but he has no sense of self; no memories. Does that sound a little like Lupin’s description of a victim of the Kiss?
I have to say at this point that I make no connection between this analysis and the real world. I don’t think for a moment that loss of memory equates to loss of soul in our world. I’m just pointing out that in Rowling’s books, soul and memory are inextricably linked. Loss of one appears to mean loss of the other. And here we see the danger of drawing too many references from the real world and extending them into the Potter universe.
Remaining for a moment outside the Harry Potter universe, the world’s religions do not agree on what a soul is. Here are some suggestions for the meaning of the soul:
• The immaterial, immortal part of man; spirit, mind or heart; essence; vital principle; a person.30
• The moral or spiritual part of man as related to God, considered as surviving death and liable to joy or misery in a future state.31
• The Soul is the Essence of self, the part of self that exist after death, and during after life separate from the physical vessel, also the soul exists with the spirit and body in a trinity during life.32
• Basically, all that a human person is ...except for the physical body. Used in Scripture as synonymous with “spirit” in regards to humans. The body perishes, but the soul is immortal. As such, it contains all elements of personality, memory, and non-material individuality.33
• ... the personal identity of a living being, its feelings, thoughts, impulses, memories, and sense of self.34
It is not entirely clear what Rowling means by a soul, but I think there is enough commonality in the above definitions to say that the soul contains the memories. This is certainly consistent with Rowling’s books. But Rowling goes further: she says that memories exist nowhere but in the soul.
Rowling has said she is a Christian,35 but there is a debate among different Christians as to the role of the soul and mind in our spiritual make-up. Some people believe that a person is made up only of the body and the soul. Others say there is a third element: Mind, or Spirit. So they think of a person as made up of Body, Mind and Soul. Here is yet another attempt to define the word “soul”:
From the Greek word “psuche” — breath. This word has a variety of meanings, including: the seat of personality, the individual or person themselves, the I mmaterial component of a human, etc. Among Christians, dichotomists believe that a person is composed of a body and soul; trichotomists believe that a person consists of a body, soul, and spirit. Both argue their cases from Biblical passages.36
Rowling has made it clear that the Potter books fall firmly in the latter camp. She has taken some care to distinguish between Mind and Soul and Body. She makes the distinction most clearly when Dumbledore is explaining Horcruxes to Harry, and says that even though Voldemort’s soul is irreparably mutilated, his Mind and his powers remain intact.
Without his Horcruxes, Voldemort will be a mortal man with a maimed and diminished soul. Never forget, though, that while his soul may be damaged beyond repair, his brain and his magical powers remain intact. It will take uncommon skill and power to kill a wizard like Voldemort, even without his Horcruxes.37
Souls, Spirits and Memories
All the above is designed to give canon-based evidence that memories, free will and a soul are inextricably linked. Anything with a soul has memories and free will. Anything with free will and the ability to remember and form new memories has a soul.
But thoughts, abilities and ambitions are not associated with the soul. They are in the Mind: the Spirit.
Ghosts appear to be the physical representation of the soul, which separates from the body once it has died. After Sirius’ death, Harry asked Nearly Headless Nick about death and ghosts. Nick seemed to say that ghosts remain in this world when they are reluctant, or too scared of death, to pass to the other side.38 I think Nick was saying that the soul remains in the world of the living, even though death has divided the soul from its body.
This idea is supported by Voldemort’s comments in the graveyard:
[...] I was less than the meanest ghost [...]39
These words can be taken to mean that his soul (protected by Horcruxes) remained in the land of the living, but it was so damaged and mutilated that he was not even a ghost. Even the meanest ghost has a complete soul, and Vapormort was less than that -- perhaps with only a sixth or less of his original, complete soul.
The ghosts also seem to retain their Mind. Rowling describes Nick, Myrtle and the other ghosts in the same way she describes living people. There is no difference in the quality of their thoughts, ambitions and feelings, compared with the living folk.
Also, when Voldemort is re-born in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he still has his vindictive, psychopathic Mind. That must have remained attached to his soul after the Avada Kedavra curse backfired. This idea is consistent with ghosts being both Soul and Mind, but lacking a body.
This then, explains why the re-born Voldemort still has his psychopathic spirit, whereas the Riddle we saw in the Chamber was altogether different.
In the chamber, Riddle was cold, calculating and cruel, but not the vindictive psychopath we saw a few years later. He is just the soul without the original Mind. Vapormort, by contrast, is the remains of the soul fragment that once inhabited his original body, and is still linked to the Mind that also inhabited that body.
Just to underline this, when Ginny described being possessed by Diarymort, she said her mind went completely blank.40 This is her experience of Diarymort’s blank Mind. Contrast that with Harry’s experience of being possessed by Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry was possessed by Voldemort with his full Mind and Harry experienced that as a raging monster of hate.41
Although Rowling chose not to tell us what might have become of Diarymort if Harry had not succeeded in destroying the Horcrux, her response seems to confirm that Diarymort was fundamentally different from the re-born Voldemort.
‘In Chamber of Secrets, what would have happened if Ginny had died and Tom Riddle had escaped the diary?’
‘I can’t answer that fully until all seven books are finished, but it would have strengthened the present-day Voldemort considerably.’ 42
A Horcrux we know to be a soul — or a soul-fragment, but these two examples seem to say that the soul fragment has neither a body nor the conscious Mind it originally inhabited.
With this insight, we finally get to explain Peeves. Peeves is pure Spirit. He is a Mind without a Soul.
Rowling says so, in so many words:
Peeves isn’t a ghost; he was never a living person. He is an indestructible spirit of chaos, and solid enough to unscrew chandeliers, throw walking sticks and, yes, chew gum.43
Putting all of this together, we have a good explanation of Rowling’s world view as described in the Potter books.
• The Mind (or spirit) is the source of ambition, thought and motivation
• The Soul is the source of memories, compassion, emotion
• The Body is the vessel in which both these aspects normally reside.
Another way to look at Soul in Rowling’s universe is the character, abilities and powers that a person was born with, together with later memories.
Mind on the other hand, is the character traits, powers and abilities that people have learned since birth. The Mind develops during our lifetime: formed and shaped by our conscious decisions and choices.
The Mind grows steadily through a wizard’s life, shaped by his conscious choices.
Mature, sentient beings such as wizards and centaurs have all three elements: Body, Soul and Mind. They can make plans, remember things, and have ambitions and emotions like compassion, love and hatred.
Nick, like all ghosts, has both Mind and Soul, but no Body.
If you want to think of Peeves as having a body, then Peeves has both Mind and Body, but no Soul. Lockhart in the Closed Ward has Mind and Body, but it’s not clear if he has a soul or not.
Riddle in the Chamber has both a body and a soul, but no mind. Because he has made only a very few conscious choices, his mind remains as an almost blank canvas. A newborn baby is in the same situation: Body and Soul, but no Mind.
An Inferius is just a body. Albeit one animated by the force of will of another being – such as Voldemort.44
A Horcrux — such as Diarymort — is composed of pure Soul. This has memories and is capable of making plans and carrying them out, but has no physical body to do it with. Crucially, it has no Mind either, so no ambition or thoughts — unless and until it has access to another mind or body.
Peeves is composed of pure Mind, with either a body or not, depending on how you see him. He has vestiges of memory and is capable of making simple plans, but cannot form long-term strategies.
Looking at my selection of archetypes, we have to consider the Sorting Hat and the echoes which came out of Voldemort’s wand in Priori Incantatem.45
According to this analysis, we have to conclude that the Sorting Hat, which seems to possess a limited amount of both free will and memory, has a fragment of someone’s soul inside it. I don’t suppose for a moment that it is Voldemort’s soul. The Hat has shown no signs of sharing Voldemort’s memories. Godric Gryffindor is a much more likely candidate — or possibly a fragment of each of the four founders... The Sorting Hat told us:
‘Twas Gryffindor who found the way,
He whipped me off his head
The founders put some brains in me.’ 46
It is just possible, I suppose, to interpret the Sorting Hat’s ability to make up songs and produce swords as similar in quality to Peeves’ ability to cause trouble and remember Harry’s antics. If you interpret things that way, the Founders would have placed Spirit, or Mind, rather than Soul, into the Sorting Hat. Nevertheless the possibility of the Hogwarts Founders’ memories residing in the Sorting Hat remains intriguing.
The echoes of James and Lily follow the same pattern. I wonder if the Avada Kedavra curse steals a small part of the victim’s soul. Perhaps that is the subject of a separate essay, for now we progress to the main part of this increasingly lengthy treatise.
We can all agree that something was transferred from Voldemort to Harry on the night the Avada Kedavra curse backfired. The same transfer that gave Harry the ability to speak Parseltongue and forged a connection between Harry and Voldemort.
Having developed this line of reasoning, I had to ask if the thing that was transferred has free will and memories. Because if it does, then it is a part of Voldemort’s soul.
The way I read the books, it does.
However, Rowling is too good an author to make the clues completely unambiguous. Many people will reject these clues and continue to believe that whatever was transferred, it was not part of Voldemort’s soul. This just goes to show how carefully Jo Rowling has constructed the books. In 3,000 and odd pages, she has managed to conceal the central mystery of the series so carefully and so skilfully that it is impossible, even with millions of fans reading the words in minute detail and researching libraries-full of of myths, legends and cultural references, for the fans to make a completely convincing case one way or the other.
Predictably enough, my first example is the famous quote from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry remembers the name of Tom Riddle, as though a childhood friend.
And while Harry was sure he had never heard the name TM Riddle before, it seemed to mean something to him, almost as though Riddle was a friend he’d had when he was very small, and half-forgotten. But this was absurd. He’d never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that.48
I know Harry, Ron and Hermione have been discussing Riddle in some depth a few minutes before, but the recollection described here is something hidden deep in the memory. There’s a difference between remembering something from a few minutes before, and remembering something from years ago. The psychologists call it short-term and long-term memory. Normal_Lestrange has a whole essay devoted to analysing this short paragraph.
The second piece of evidence is something I raised in one of the forums here, but it was not discussed in much detail, so I have thought it through more carefully and tried to explain it more clearly.
When Harry meets a dementor he remembers Voldemort murdering his mother and a flash of green light. That’s the moment Harry lost his parents, but it is also the moment Voldemort almost died.
Rowling has said Voldemort’s worst fear is death, so Voldemort’s worst memory has to be the near-fatal mistake of killing Lily followed by the impact of the reflected Avada Kedavra curse.
This is just an interesting coincidence, until you remember that Harry passes out soon after seeing the flash of green light. Here is the sequence of events as given by Steve Vander Ark’s Lexicon:
Man’s voice: “Lily, take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off ------”
Lily goes to Harry’s room where he is in his cot [crib].
According to Voldemort, James died “straight-backed and proud.” (GF34)
The sounds of someone stumbling from a room -- a door bursting open -- a cackle of high-pitched laughter -- (PA12)
Lily’s voice: “Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!”
Voldemort: “Stand aside you silly girl … stand aside now.”
Lily: “Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead -----”
Lily: “Not Harry! Please … have mercy … have mercy…”
Harry hears a shrill voice laughing and the woman screaming (PA9, PA12).
Then Harry remembers a blinding green flash and a burning pain in his forehead, then a high, cold cruel laugh. Voldemort had used theAvada Kedavra Curse on Lily and Harry.49
After hearing Voldemort laugh the memory runs out.
Unfortunately, I think this is a rare case of the Lexicon being inaccurate. I requested clarification from the Lexicon, but there was no response.
In the last paragraph of that quote, instead of remembering the flash then a laugh, the last thing Harry remembers is the green flash.
The laugh became high and cold. There was a burst of green light and Harry awoke, sweating and shaking.50
But the worst moment of Harry’s life — if that is what we are seeing — has already passed. Voldemort has already killed both his parents. After Lily has died, he sees the green flash and feels the pain in his forehead. Immediately after casting the curse, it reflects off Harry and rips Voldemort’s mind and soul from his body.
Lupin claims Harry passes out because he is remembering his parents’ deaths.51 Terrible though that is, if we read Harry’s memory carefully, it is obvious that the moment of Lily’s death has passed and we have moved on by a second or two. I believe Harry passes out because he is re-living Voldemort’s memory of the reflected Avada Kedavra curse. As Harry re-lives that memory, he almost dies, just as Voldemort did when the Avada Kedavra bounced back. We know Voldemort can still remember that moment, because he described it:
Aaah ... pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost.52
Since this moment is surely Voldemort’s worst memory, it is reasonable to assume that it is the one he re-lives when in the presence of a dementor.
Remember also that Jo Rowling has said that Harry was too young at 15 months to realise what was going on at Godric’s Hollow.
Harry did not see his parents die. He was one year old and in a cot at the time. Although you never see that scene, I wrote it and then cut it. He didn’t see it; he was too young to appreciate it. When you find out about the Thestrals, you find that you can see them only when you really understand death in a broader sense, when you really know what it means.53
So Harry was not aware either that his parents had died during that scene, nor did he have any understanding of how his life might change as a result of those events. Would these moments really be the worst of Harry’s life, if he was so unaware of what was going on that night?
This, then seems to be strong evidence for Harry having some of Voldemort’s memories — which in turn means some of Voldemort’s soul. It also defines exactly when the soul-fragment passed from Voldemort to Harry. Harry has Voldemort’s memories right up to the moment the reflected curse hits Voldemort. And that means the soul (and its memories) passed across in the precise instant when Voldemort was ripped from his body, a few moments after Voldemort had murdered both James and Lily. And we see no more of that particular memory.
It is also worth remembering that, in the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry no longer re-lives the events of Godric’s Hollow. He re-lives a moment of his own life from a few weeks earlier, when Voldemort tried to kill him in the graveyard. Why should Harry’s worst memory change after Voldemort has resurrected himself? If this is Harry’s memory, then we have to wonder if the experience in the graveyard is worse than losing both parents.
If, on the other hand, it is Voldemort’s memory, being resurrected might make that particular memory lose some of its sting. And second, would the Riddle-in-Harry be scared to half to death when he heard Voldemort’s threat to kill Harry (and itself)?
Returning to the evidence for the Riddle-in-Harry having memories, my third example is Harry’s ability to speak Parseltongue. The quality of this ability is completely different in Harry as compared with Morfin or Marvolo Gaunt. Those two speak it as a natural language between themselves.54 But when Harry tries to speak it without the prompting of a real snake, he struggles to access this skill.55 It almost appears that he is trying to access a nearly-forgotten memory of how to speak the language. In reality, it is Harry’s mind trying to access Voldemort’s memory. No wonder it is a struggle.
This reinforces the idea that the soul is that which the person is born with. Parseltongue seems to be an inherited skill. While there does not seem to be any canon evidence to say it cannot be learned, the rarity of the skill suggests that it can only be acquired before birth.
While none of these is completely overwhelming, I have to repeat the constraint: Jo Rowling set the rules of this little game, and she has constructed the evidence so carefully that the truth, if we manage to discover it, it will be held up by the finest of threads. The false trails, on the other hand, will be in plain sight, tempting us all to follow.
Next, we have to ask if the Riddle-in-Harry is capable of independent action.
Again, the way I read it, the answer is yes. Once more, however, the evidence is open to interpretation.
There are two clear occasions where the thing inside Harry obviously acts independently of Harry. Twice in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Harry meets Dumbledore’s eyes, and the thing wants to kill Dumbledore.
On the first occasion, Harry is whisked away before the monster can do anything, and on the second, Dumbledore removes himself. But the way the two passages are written is so similar to Rowling’s description of the snake attack on Arthur Weasley56 that I am convinced Rowling wants us to believe Harry would have followed the desires of the monster to attack Dumbledore, had he remained within striking distance.
This seems to me to be overwhelming evidence of Voldy-thing-inside-Harry trying to use Harry’s body and mind to change things in a way that suits itself. I don’t expect everyone to be convinced, however.
In further support of this case, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, contains countless examples of Harry doing things for unexplained reasons. Rowling writes these as though the idea just jumped into Harry’s head, and he does them out of some deep internal drive. interpretation is that the Riddle-in-Harry is starting to wake up and take its own decisions to achieve its own desired outcomes. Once more, Normal_Lestrange’s essay addresses many of these examples.
There is more evidence throughout the series, though most of the following clues are open to different interpretations.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort transferred some of his powers to Harry in the words:
‘You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,’ said Dumbledore calmly, ‘because Lord Voldemort — who is the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin — can speak Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure…’
‘Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?’ Harry said, thunderstruck.
‘It certainly seems so.’ 57
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore is explaining Horcruxes to Harry, Dumbledore says he took the ruined diary to be certain proof that Voldemort was using Horcruxes. So it is at this point, at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that Dumbledore has realised for certain that there are a number of Voldemort soul-fragments spread around the Wizarding World.
According to the books, the passage above describes the moment when Dumbledore had only just realised that the powers transferred to Harry are derived from just such a soul-fragment. From then on, he strongly suspects Harry is a Horcrux.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Sorting Hat is unsure where to put Harry. Harry has courage, intelligence and loyalty. Three qualities prized by Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff respectively, yet the Sorting Hat strongly wanted to put him into Slytherin: the only house to which pure-spirited, unambitious Harry is completely unsuited.
[...] It’s all here in your head [...]58
says the Sorting Hat. And where do we think the soul-fragment lies? In Harry’s head, under the skin and in between his eyes.
We know from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that cruel, ambitious Tom Riddle went straight into Slytherin,59 so the part of Voldemort (whatever it is) residing in Harry’s body must have confused the Hat into wanting to place Harry into Riddle’s most suitable house. What part of Voldemort is enough to over-rule Harry’s native courage and loyalty? Something powerful, something like a soul, perhaps.
In the early books, when Voldemort is weak, Harry’s scar hurts from time to time, notably when Voldemort is especially angry, or uses the Cruciatus or Avada Kedavra curses. As Voldemort gains in strength, however, the link between Harry’s thoughts and emotions and those of Voldemort grow stronger. By Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he is having visions. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Voldemort is back almost to full strength, there is a near-continuous feed of images and emotions coming from Voldemort into Harry’s mind. During that year — specifically the year that Voldemort is close to full-strength — Harry is a nasty, angry, ungrateful, selfish git for most of the time.
By the time we get to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Voldemort is using Occlumency against Harry’s visions, Harry has once more returned to the loving, kind, courageous young man we have come to know and love. In addition to blocking the visions, the Occlumency must be blocking all the hate and nastiness that in Year 5 was flowing from Voldemort to Harry.
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …60
The prophecy (above) and Dumbledore seem to be saying that Harry is — to borrow from the Daily Prophet — the Chosen One. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. So what is it about Harry that makes him special? We know he has some powers from Voldemort, such as Parseltongue, but there must be more to it; Dumbledore is a more powerful and knowledgeable wizard than Harry, yet Dumbledore never tries to kill Voldemort. On the contrary, Dumbledore spends most of the series preparing Harry for the final conflict.
What does Harry have that Dumbledore doesn’t?
Dumbledore has more power to love than most wizards. We have seen throughout the series that he is selfless, humble (mostly), compassionate and loving, as well as knowing a lot of spells and magical theory. In straight magical terms, he far outstrips Harry.
So there must be something within Harry that makes Harry unique. Is it just the power to love? I think Dumbledore has just as much power to love as Harry. But Dumbledore does not have a piece of Voldemort inside him.
[…] and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal [...]61
When Voldemort cast the Avada Kedavra, he marked Harry with a scar. He also transferred a part of his soul. After the transfer, each of them has one seventh of Voldemort’s original soul. They are equals.
[...] neither can live while the other survives [...]62
Jo Rowling has said this prophecy was worded very carefully. I can’t imagine for a moment that Harry can live a full and fulfilling life while he has a fragment of Voldemort’s soul inside him. Note: I don’t use the world live as the opposite of die -- that’s merely surviving. I use live to mean a proper, full, untainted life.
On the other side of the coin, Voldemort certainly can’t live the life he’d like while Harry is alive. The man has become completely obsessed with Harry Potter. Voldemort isn’t even thinking about world domination at the moment; he’s thinking about how to get rid of that troublesome teenager, Harry Potter.
So neither of them has any chance of living the kind of life they would like while the other remains alive.
We all know Trelawney’s an old fraud, don’t we? Or do we? Just as the Sorting Hat first identified the spirit of Voldemort lying within Harry, I think Trelawney picked up on Voldemort’s presence too.
‘...I think I am right in saying, my dear, that you were born in midwinter?’
‘No,’ said Harry, ‘I was born in July.’ 63
Tom Riddle was born on December 31.64
Later, Trelawney tells Harry he is a most interesting subject for divination.65 So why should an ordinary 16-year-old be so interesting? Unless the life force she detects in him is the amalgam of two separate characters,66 one of which is the incredibly powerful Voldemort/Riddle persona.
The Opposing Arguments
I know the Harrycrux theory has been bandied back and forth and there is a vocal body of opinion which resists the idea that a piece of Voldemort’s soul lies underneath Harry’s scar.
Let me try to counter some of the arguments often put forth by the Not-a-Horcrux apologists.
In order to destroy Voldemort, Harry has to destroy all the Horcruxes. If one of the Horcruxes is inside himself, then Harry has to kill himself first, then kill Voldemort, which is going to be difficult.
First, this does not rebut the case for Harry being a Horcrux. It just means Jo needs a vivid imagination to can get around this particular problem. We’ve already seen she is more than capable of that.
I can think of a number of options. The most obvious possibility is a visit to the Land of the Dead, and a return. There are many examples of this journey in classic heroic literature. The heroic figure finds a portal into the realm of the dead, voluntarily walks through it, makes a journey of self-discovery and then returns to the land of the living through an unexpected exit. Often many of the dead spirits accompany the Hero back into the world of the living and then find a use for themselves in overcoming a seemingly invulnerable enemy. Think of Aragorn in Return of the King, or Lyra and Will in The Amber Spyglass. Hercules/Herakles does the same in Greek mythology, bringing Cerberus, the three-headed dog, back from the underworld.
If Harry is a Horcrux, then Harry has to die before Voldemort can be vanquished and that’s just awful.
I agree, I can’t see Harry ending up dead. But see the answer above. Harry doesn’t have to die — or stay dead — for the Voldemort soul-fragment to be destroyed or to be excised from his skull. It’s just a question of how creative Jo Rowling can be. I’ve mentioned a visit to the Land of the Dead above, and Jo can easily make the soul fragment die there, while allowing Harry to escape by means of some clever plot device. If that isn’t good enough, here’s another possible scenario. When Harry meets a dementor, I’ve already proposed that Voldemort’s memories jump to the front of Harry’s mind. Perhaps a dementor will not kiss Harry on the mouth, but on the forehead, removing Voldemort’s soul from Harry. I can think of other options, and Jo is far more creative than I.
If Harry was a Horcrux, Dumbledore would have told him in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or even before.
Not necessarily. First, Dumbledore already has told Harry (at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — see above), but Harry has not yet worked it out. Second, Dumbledore is only revealing the information to Harry when Harry is ready for it. Dumbledore hides information which he thinks Harry is not ready to hear just yet. We have seen this throughout the series. Maybe Dumbledore has prepared another method to show Harry what he has to do later in Book 7.Dumbledore told us what the Horcruxes were. He didn’t mention Harry.
See above. The books are quite consistent with the idea that Dumbledore has realised Harry is a Horcrux, but chooses not to tell Harry just yet. It’s a terrible thing to have to tell a young man: “Inside you is a piece of the soul of the most evil wizard for centuries.” I think even Harry might just freak out, or immediately jump to the conclusion that he has to kill himself.
I know Jo has said that when she wants us to believe something is true, she puts it into the mouth of either Dumbledore or Hermione. But she’s also great at misdirection. She encourages us assume things that she never really said.
For example, in “Snape’s Worst Memory,” she makes us think that his worst memory is being bullied and dangled upside down by James and the Marauders.67 But then Lupin tells us that the Levicorpus spell was being used all the time.68 So what was Snape’s worst memory? It must have been something else in that chapter, but I’m not going to risk a ship-war by suggesting what that might be.
In the same spirit of misdirection, when Dumbledore mentions Nagini in connection with Horcruxes, he never actually says, “She’s a Horcrux”, or anything like it. This is what he says:
‘I think I know what the sixth Horcrux is. I wonder what you will say when I confess that I have been curious for a while about the behaviour of the snake Nagini?’
‘The snake? said Harry, startled. ‘You can use animals as Horcruxes?’
‘Well, it is inadvisable to do so’, said Dumbledore, ‘because to confide part of your soul to something that can think and move for itself is obviously a very risky business. However, if my calculations are correct, Voldemort was at least one Horcrux short of his goal of six when he entered your parents’ house with the intention of killing you.’
‘He seems to have reserved the process of making Horcruxes for particularly significant deaths. You would certainly have been that. He believed that in killing you he was destroying the danger the prophecy had outlined. He believed he was making himself invincible. I am sure that he was intending to make his final Horcrux with your death.’ 69
This sounds to me like Dumbledore telling Harry that the soul-fragment lies within Harry. It also hints at the possibility that Harry might be able to control the Horcrux.
If, like Harry, we still think Dumbledore is talking about Nagini, then it makes perfect sense. However, if we read it with the idea that Dumbledore knows the soul fragment lies under Harry’s forehead, but wants to protect him from too much anguish, yet also refuses to lie to Harry, and we see a different meaning to the words.
After giving this warning, Dumbledore returns to the Nagini theme. What he says may be true, but it does not preclude the possibility that Voldemort transferred part of his soul to Harry that night.
As we know, he failed. After an interval of some years, however, he used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man, and it may then have occurred to him to turn her into his last Horcrux. She underlines the Slytherin connection, which enhances Lord Voldemort’s mystique [...]70
Voldemort would never have put a soul-fragment into something he was about to kill.
Voldemort was at the height of his powers in 1980 / 1981. He was arrogant, supremely confident, totally secure in his forthcoming victory. The only thing he had to do to create a seven-part soul was kill a defenceless baby (or so he thought). Dumbledore said,
He seems to have reserved the process of making Horcruxes for particularly significant deaths. You would certainly have been that. He believed that in killing you he was destroying the danger the prophecy had outlined. He believed he was making himself invincible. I am sure that he was intending to make his final Horcrux with your death.71
There is no reason to doubt this interpretation.
There is the famous Horcrux-by-Mistake theory introduced and developed by many on the Riddle-in-Harry thread, which says that Voldemort was preparing to create a Horcrux with Harry’s death. He would have prepared an object to receive his soul. As he cast the Avada Kedavra curse, the curse reflected back to Voldemort, Voldemort all but died and his soul split with the death of his physical body. Because the Avada Kedavra curse was completely haywire, the soul-fragment had to find somewhere to go. It found its way into Harry, goes the argument.72
I know many are not convinced by that, so I have a second answer to this, and it’s a lot nastier.
Wouldn’t it suit Voldemort’s cruel, spiteful purpose to make a Horcrux of the dead body of his supposed nemesis (Harry Potter)? So that while intending to kill baby Harry, he also prepared to create a Horcrux from the dead baby’s skull. When the curse backfired, the Horcrux spell still worked, passing a part of Voldemort’s soul into Harry’s live body. The scar on his forehead being the evidence of the Horcrux.
Personally I find this idea fairly revolting — much more revolting than the accidental Horcrux theory.73 But I certainly do not think Voldemort is below this kind of desecration of a baby’s body. Once the Horcrux was created, the good guys would bury the baby’s body, and none would be any the wiser about the location of that Horcrux. And just think... Voldemort’s symbol is a skull with a snake coming out of the mouth. Does that sound like a skull that can speak Parseltongue. Seems to fit Voldemort’s imagery, does it not?
Voldemort wouldn’t keep trying to kill something that contained a part of his own seven-part soul.
True, he’d just try to keep Harry alive, but immobile, or impotent, if he knew part of his soul was inside Harry.
But remember that Voldemort could not tell when the soul-fragment in the diary was destroyed. So it’s reasonable to assume that he wouldn’t detect his soul ripping and then separating during the attempted murder of Harry. Remember also what Voldemort suffered as the Avada Kedavra spell rebounded;
My curse was deflected by the woman’s foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon myself. Aaah ... pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost ... but still, I was alive.74
Could he have felt or detected anything during that intense pain? I think not. Any sensation of ripping the soul would be obliterated (surely?) by the ripping of soul from body.
By Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Voldemort has worked out that he needs to use Occlumency against Harry, he stops trying to kill him. I can interpret this as saying that Voldemort did not realise Harry contains part of his soul until the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. After that, Voldemort becomes much more careful about the connection between himself and Harry. During the battle inside Hogwarts, Snape reminds the other death eaters of Voldemort’s instructions to keep Harry alive.
Voldemort tried to possess Harry at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and could not remain inside Harry for any length of time. How can a part of Voldemort remain inside Harry for years and years?
Once more, this is open to a lot of interpretation, but I think “possessing” Harry is a mind or spirit thing; not a soul thing. By possessing Harry, Voldemort’s mind comes into direct conflict with Harry’s conscious mind. Harry, naturally enough, rebels against this, and instinctively he uses his soul to expel the deliberate invasion of his mind by Voldemort.
In the case of the soul-fragment, we’ve seen (above) that the soul-fragment is a blank canvas in terms of ambition and motivation. So the soul-fragment should be simply the character of infant Tom Riddle, combined with the memories up to the moment Harry’s scar appeared, without the malevolent psychopathic mind that developed in the orphanage and later in life. That innocent soul could quite easily reside in Harry, without any conflict with his soul, or even his mind. Occasionally, the Riddle-soul comes to the forefront, notably in the presence of Dumbledore — whom Voldemort already had cause to dislike — during Year 5, when Voldemort was most powerful . When these emotions come into conflict with Harry’s intact soul, Harry always wins, and the fragment has to retreat to its little hidey-hole once more.
Whatever was transferred to Harry was just powers; not a soul-fragment.
This is a tough assertion to argue against since there is no evidence or logic behind it, but you have to ask what exactly was transferred. Whatever it was, it was enough to confuse the Sorting Hat; it was enough to open some kind of psychic bridge between Voldemort and Harry; it was enough to make Harry a Parselmouth; it was enough to transform him into the only one who could beat Voldemort. it was enough to give Harry some of Voldemort’s memories and enough to make Harry want to kill Dumbledore on at least two occasions.
So what part of Voldemort could do all those things, if not a part of his soul?
1. J.K. Rowling Official Website. “J K Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival.” News. 15 Aug. 2004. J.K. Rowling Official Website. 23 April 2006. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/news_view.cfm?id=80.
2. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997. Ch. 16.
3. Ibid. Ch. 14.
4. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Ch. 2.
5. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000.
6. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Ch. 15.
7. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997. Ch. 5.
8. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. P.635.
9. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. P.99.
10. Ibid. Ch. 9, Ch. 17.
11. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Ch. 17.
12. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. Ch. 17.
14. J.K. Rowling Official Website. “When the Marauder’s Map is insulting Snape, how did Prongs write his insult as he’s dead?” F.A.Q. 2006. J.K. Rowling Official Website. 28 April 2006 http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq.cfm?ref=aboutthebooks.
15. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. P.606.16. Ibid. Ch. 34.
17. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury, 2005. P.305.
18. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. Ch. 8.
19. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. P.222.
20. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998. P.227.
21. Ibid P.232.
22. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury, 1999.
23. J.K. Rowling Official Website. “When the Marauder’s Map is insulting Snape, how did Prongs write his insult as he’s dead?” F.A.Q. 2005. J.K. Rowling Official Website. 23 April 2006. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=103.
24. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1999. P.154.
25. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury, 2000. p.157.
27. Ibid. Ch. 34.
28. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury, 1999. P.183.
29. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. Ch. 23.
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