A Horcrux is an object in which a wizard has encased a piece of soul torn off from his own; this is done in hopes of becoming immortal.
- 1 Description
- 2 Side effects
- 3 Horcruxes in the series
A Horcrux is "the receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a fragment of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality". They are very advanced Dark Magic. There is no book at the Library at Hogwarts which tells about them, just one which refers to them (HBP17). Once having stored and created a Horcrux, a Dark wizard may remain alive so long as the part of his or her soul concealed as a Horcrux remains in tact even if their body has been destroyed (HBP24). The splitting of one's soul however, is an act of very dark magic and although it is possible for a body to exist in such a form, the wizard in question would live as "...less than a spirit, less than the meanest ghost..." as described by Lord Voldemort (GF33).
To create a Horcrux, a wizard rips his soul apart by committing "the supreme act of evil": murder. He then traps one of the torn portions in an object with a spell (HBP23). According to Professor Slughorn, "Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage: he would encase the torn portion [in a Horcrux.]" (HBP24).
How they work
When an ordinary wizard dies, their soul leaves the earth. However, when the wizard has a Horcrux, the piece of soul in that object remains "earthbound and undamaged" (HBP23). Therefore, even if his body is destroyed, he cannot die, because his soul is still present on earth. He becomes "mere shadow and vapour", with a solid form only when the wizard can "share another's body" (PS17).
We can assume that when the wizard dies, the first piece of soul remains on earth, as its destruction was not considered when Dumbledore discussed Horcruxes with Harry, and because Voldemort would need a piece of soul to inhabit the body he was reborn to (GF32). It is also suggested that the wizard retains his magical power even in this form, as Voldemort tells his Death Eaters that he could not return himself to a body because, "every spell which might have helped me required the use of a wand" (GF33).
It is likely that any sort of object can be used to create a Horcrux, as Voldemort used a variety of objects from a diary to a family heirloom, a ring. However, Dumbledore believed that Voldemort would have favoured "objects worthy of the honour," and it is unlikely that other wizards creating Horcruxes would have chosen the sort of objects used for Portkeys to encase their soul in.
Dumbledore believes that living creatures can be used as Horcruxes, although "it is inadvisable to do so, because to confide a part of your soul to something that can think and move for itself is obviously a very risky business," due to the behaviour of the snake, Nagini (see below) (HBP23).
The Horcruxes may have additional protection. Slytherin's locket was originally guarded by a cliff, the sea, solid rock, a lake, Inferi, and a dangerous potion with uncertain effects, before it was stolen by R.A.B. and replaced with another locket (HBP26, HBP28).
When a wizard makes a Horcrux, the mutilation of his soul causes him to become less human. The more Horcruxes he creates, the less human he becomes (HBP23). Ten years after the house-elf Hokey's memory shows him to be hollow-cheeked but otherwise normal, his features look as if they have been burned and blurred, and his skin is extremely white. During those ten years, we can assume that he has created more than one Horcrux, as he claims to have "pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed before" (HBP20), and Dumbledore believes that Voldemort, like him, thinks that no one has ever created more than one Horcrux (HBP23).
It is unclear whether the red eyes and slit-like nostrils that Voldemort has after he is reborn are caused by having more Horcruxes than he did than when he applied for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post a second time, or whether they are characteristics of a person who has been resurrected (GF33).
Horcruxes in the series
Harry and Dumbledore saw one of Slughorn's memories in which sixteen-year-old Tom Marvolo Riddle asked him about Horcruxes. Riddle was very eager to learn how to make them, and also asks Slughorn if it would be more useful to have one's soul in seven pieces, as seven is "the most powerfully magical number". This would therefore involve having six Horcruxes, with the seventh piece residing in Voldemort.
Dumbledore believes that Voldemort did indeed go on to make multiple Horcruxes, as he is sure that two have already been destroyed (Tom Riddle's diary and Marvolo's Ring), and it also accounts for the changes in his physical appearance (see Side Effects).
Tom Marvolo Riddle's diary
A diary which belonged to Tom Marvolo Riddle, in which he placed a fragment of his soul in order to prove that he was the Heir of Slytherin and force a future student to reopen the Chamber of Secrets. He used Moaning Myrtle's death to create it (BLC). It resided with Lucius Malfoy for many years, before he slipped it intoto Ginny Weasley's cauldron at their encounter in Flourish and Blotts in Diagon Alley (CS4). Ginny used the diary when she went to Hogwarts, and eventually it possessed her by Tom Marvolo Riddle, who used her in order to open the Chamber of Secrets (CS9). In an attempt to rescue Ginny, how had been taken captive down into the Chamber, Harry came face to face with the imprint of Tom Riddle, and realised that the diary was what kept Tom to exist. Harry destroyed it in the Chamber with one of the Basilisk's fangs, which contained venom.
Marvolo Gaunt's ring
A ring engraved with the Peverell coat of arms which belonged to Marvolo Gaunt, one of the last remaining heirs of Salazar Slytherin, made using the murder of Tom Riddle, Sr. (BLC). Riddle stole it and made it into a Horcrux. Dumbledore found it at the Gaunt's shack and destroyed the Horcrux sometime shortly before retrieving Harry from the Dursleys at the beginning of book six (HBP17), injuring his hand in the process. The ring survived with a lightning-shaped crack.
Salazar Slytherin's locket
A heavy golden locket with an ornate serpentine 'S (Salazar Slytherin's mark) (HBP10). Riddle stole the locket from Hepzibah Smith and made it into a Horcrux. He murdered a muggle tramp to create it (BLC). Originally hidden in a cabe Voldemort once visited on a day trip as a child. Harry and Dumbledore set out to retrieve the Horcrux from the cave which was later discovered to be a fake by Harry (HBP26), )HBP28). The real horcrux had been stolen by Regulus (R.A.B.) (DH10) with the help of his house-elf Kreacher. He orderered the elf to hide it and destroy it, but Kreacher never managed to even maim it a little.
Hermione, while the trio hid in number twelve, Grimmauld Place, remembered that she had seen a locket which fit Harry's description of the Horcrux. They searched for it through the whole house but never found it. Harry summons Kreacher and asks him if he knows anything about the lockey. The elf tells him that Mundungus Fletcher stole it after Sirius's death. Umbridge managed to take it from Mundungus and use it personally. The trio got the locket back but didn't know how to destroy it, until they got hold of Gryffindor's Sword. It was finally destroyed by Ron Weasley (DH19).
Helga Hufflepuff's Cup
One of Voldemort's Horcruxes is a "small golden cup with two finely wrought handles" bearing a badger emblem. The cup, once belonging to Helga Hufflepuff, was passed over to the Smith family where it ended up in the possession of Hepzibah Smith. Hepzibah showed Voldemort the cup while he was still working for Borgin and Burkes. The cup was stolen shortly after Hepzibah's murder.
Voldemort used her death to create the Horcrux (BLC). It was hidden in Bellatrix's Gringotts vault (DH23), but was stolen by the Trio (DH26). It was destroyed by Hermione Granger using a Basilisk fang (DH31).
Nagini was the last created Horcrux, after Bertha Jorkins' murder (BLC). She was the last one to be destroyed, and Voldemort kept her in a enchanted ball of protection when he found out that Harry was hunting Horcruxes. She was killed by Neville Longbottom using the Gryffindor Sword, which he got from inside the Sorting Hat (DH37).
Rowena Ravenclaw had a Diadem that gave the user more knowledge. It was stolen by her daughter Helena, the Grey Lady, and hidden in a forest in Albania. After Tom Riddle persuaded the ghost to tell her life story, he got the diadem from where it was hidden and used a peasant in Albania to create the Horcrux (BLC). He hid it in the Room of Hidden Things, one of the rooms that are offered by the Room of Requirement. Vincent Crabbe accidentally destroyed it while using Fiendfyre to attack the Trio and died because he could no control the curse (DH31).