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A horcrux is a dark magical object in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling used to attain immortality. The concept is first introduced in the sixth novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, though Horcruxes are present in earlier novels without being identified as such. The exposition, retrieval, and destruction of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes forms the main focus of the final two books in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
In an online diary entry, Rowling described a Horcrux as a "receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a part of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality." With part of a witch or wizard's soul thus stored, he or she becomes immortal so long as the Horcrux remains intact, similar to the Eastern European idea of a lich, as in the myth of Koschei the Deathless from the Slavic mythology. For this reason, Horcruxes are typically hidden in a safe location. Even if the witch or wizard's body is destroyed, a portion of their soul will remain preserved within the Horcrux. However, the destruction of the creator's body leaves the witch or wizard in a state of half-life, without corporeal form.
Destroying a Horcrux will destroy the fragment of soul contained within it, ending its protection and returning the creator to a state of mortality. If a wizard has created more than one Horcrux, he will remain immortal until they are all destroyed. Once they are destroyed, the wizard will die a normal death if mortally wounded.
The portion of soul within a Horcrux also has the ability to take spiritual possession of other people. This possession is limited to those who become emotionally attached to the Horcrux. Once possessed, the soul within the Horcrux can take total control of the person's actions while the person remains completely unaware of the connection. Once a Horcrux has possessed a person, the Dark Wizard has the ability to take corporeal form by draining the life force of the possessed person. None of these spiritual connections extends to a wizard's other Horcruxes. The portions of soul also possess some level of sensory awareness, being able to sense when in danger and defend themselves.
Lord Voldemort is the only wizard explicitly mentioned as having created a Horcrux (though others are known to have done so), and is the only wizard known to have created more than one. In a podcast interview, Rowling mentioned that Herpo the Foul, a Parselmouth and the first breeder of a basilisk, created the first Horcrux.
Rowling uses Professor Slughorn's expository dialogue to reveal that the creation of a Horcrux requires one to commit a murder, which, as the supreme act of evil, "rips the soul apart." After the murder, a spell is cast to infuse part of the ripped soul into an object, which becomes the Horcrux. Rowling has never published the actual enchantment. In the final book of the series, Hermione Granger finds the spell in a book titled Secrets of the Darkest Art. Rowling has revealed that she intends to detail the process and spell used to create a Horcrux in her long-mentioned Harry Potter Encyclopedia.
Both inanimate objects and living organisms have been used as Horcruxes, though the latter are considered riskier to use, since an organism can move and think for itself. There is no limit to the number of Horcruxes a wizard can create, however as the creator's soul is divided into progressively smaller portions, he loses more of his natural humanity and his soul becomes increasingly unstable. In Voldemort's case, the continual shattering of his soul changed his appearance to become more snake-like.
Under very specific conditions, a soul fragment can be sealed within an object without the intention or knowledge of the creator. While the object thus affected will, like any Horcrux, preserve the immortality of the creator, it does not become a "Dark object." The only time this is known to have occurred is when Voldemort unsuccessfully used the Killing Curse on one-year-old Harry Potter. Voldemort's body was destroyed by the attempted murder and a portion of his soul was embedded within Harry.
Horcruxes are extremely difficult to destroy. They cannot be destroyed by conventional means such as smashing, breaking, or burning. To be destroyed, a Horcrux must suffer damage so severe that repair through magical means would be impossible. (Known specific means for accomplishing this are enumerated and detailed below.) Once a Horcrux is irreparably damaged, the fragment of soul within it is destroyed.
A Horcrux can be magically undone only if the creator goes through a process of deep remorse for the murder committed to create the Horcrux. The pain of this remorse is so excruciating that the process itself may kill the creator.[HP7]
Voldemort's creation of Horcruxes is central to the later storyline of the Harry Potter novels.
As the number seven is a powerful, mystical number in the world of Harry Potter, Voldemort intended to split his soul into that many pieces, with six in Horcruxes and the last reposing within his body. When Voldemort attacked the Potter family, he had been intending to make his sixth and final Horcrux with the death of "The Chosen One." Despite his defeat, he actually succeeded in doing so; when his body was destroyed by the rebounded Killing Curse, a piece of his soul was spelled off and attached itself to the only living thing remaining in the room—Harry Potter—effectively making him a sixth Horcrux. Voldemort, unaware of this, "completed" his collection of Horcruxes by turning his snake Nagini into one, thus fragmenting his soul into a total of eight (counting the one residing in his own body), not seven, pieces. Complicating things even further, only six Horcruxes (including Harry) ever existed at any one time in the series: by the time Nagini had been made a Horcrux, one of the original Horcruxes had already been destroyed.
All of Voldemort's deliberately-created Horcruxes were made using objects that had been important or held some sentimental value.
Each Horcrux is destroyed by a different character, as shown in the following table:
|Horcrux||Created with the murder of||Hiding place||Destroyed by||Destroyed using||Notes|
|Marvolo Gaunt's Ring/Resurrection Stone||Tom Riddle Senior||Gaunts' Shack||Albus Dumbledore||Sword of Godric Gryffindor||Voldemort created this Horcrux not knowing the ring's jewel was the Resurrection Stone, the second of the three Deathly Hallows.|
|Tom Riddle's Diary||Moaning Myrtle||In the care of Lucius Malfoy||Harry Potter||Basilisk fang||Lucius Malfoy planted the diary on Ginny Weasley to reopen the Chamber of Secrets, not knowing it was a Horcrux.|
|Helga Hufflepuff's Cup||Hepzibah Smith||Gringotts Bank, in the Lestrange family vault||Hermione Granger||Basilisk fang||Stolen from Hepzibah Smith, along with Slytherin's Locket.|
|Salazar Slytherin's Locket||A Muggle tramp||The cave with the lake of Inferi||Ron Weasley||Sword of Godric Gryffindor||Stolen from Hepzibah Smith, along with Hufflepuff's Cup. Originally recovered from the cave by Regulus Arcturus Black and Kreacher.|
|Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem||An Albanian peasant||The Room of Requirement in Hogwarts||Vincent Crabbe||Fiendfyre||Discovered by Harry in the Room of Requirement, but destroyed by a Fiendfyre curse cast by Vincent Crabbe.|
|Harry Potter||Lily Potter||N/A||Lord Voldemort||Killing Curse||When the attempted Killing curse rebounded, a part of Voldemort's soul flew into the nearest living thing, Harry Potter. Dumbledore believed that if Harry had been killed, Voldemort would have used Harry's death for the creation of the last Horcrux.|
|Nagini||Bertha Jorkins||Not necessarily hidden, but is with Voldemort, who is often in hiding||Neville Longbottom||Sword of Godric Gryffindor||Dumbledore believed that the Horcrux was created through the murder of Frank Bryce, but author J. K. Rowling has stated that the Horcrux was actually formed earlier, with the murder of Bertha Jorkins.|
Tom Riddle creates his first Horcrux using a ring owned by his maternal grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, during the summer before his sixth year as a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, when he was sixteen years old. He casts the spell after murdering his father. The ring is introduced during the fourth chapter of the Half-Blood Prince, having already been destroyed by Albus Dumbledore, but its significance not yet revealed.
In a Pensieve memory, it is revealed that Riddle had taken the gold ring, which has a black stone inscribed with a magical symbol, from his uncle Morfin Gaunt, whom he had framed for the murder of his father and grandparents by altering his uncle's memories. Riddle wears the ring while still a student at Hogwarts, but eventually hides it in the house where the Gaunt family had lived. It remains hidden under the floorboards, placed in a golden box, and protected by several enchantments, until Dumbledore finds it during the summer break between the events of Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore destroys the Horcrux with Godric Gryffindor's sword, though he is mortally injured by the ring's curses after putting the ring on his finger. The injury leaves his right hand permanently disfigured and would have killed him quickly but for the intervention of Severus Snape, who slowed the curse to Dumbledore's right hand and arm, but the curse still progressed up Dumbledore's right arm and would eventually kill him if it had run its course. The damaged ring is kept for a time on a table in the Headmaster's office.
Before his death, Dumbledore hides the ring's black stone inside a Golden Snitch and he bequeaths the Snitch to Harry in his will. Dumbledore had learned that the stone is, in fact, the Resurrection Stone, one of the three Deathly Hallows. This was why he had put it on his finger: he had hoped to activate it and apologize to his long-dead family, quite forgetting it was also a Horcrux now, and thus likely to be protected by destructive enchantments. Voldemort remained unaware of the stone's additional magical properties throughout his lifetime.
Tom Riddle used his diary to create his second Horcrux during his sixth year at Hogwarts. He cast the spell after murdering his fellow classmate Moaning Myrtle using the Basilisk. The diary is introduced in the second chapter of the Chamber of Secrets and is destroyed by Harry Potter during the climax of the same book.
Before Voldemort's downfall, he entrusted the Horcrux to Lucius Malfoy. While aware of its corrupting magical properties, Malfoy did not know the diary was a Horcrux. In an attempt to discredit Arthur Weasley, Malfoy hid the diary in Ginny Weasley's cauldron, amidst her other books. Tom Riddle's soul-fragment possessed Ginny and, through her, reopened the Chamber of Secrets. At the end of book two, Harry saved Ginny and destroyed the diary by stabbing it with the venomous fang of a Basilisk, making it the first Horcrux to be destroyed. His reports of the diary's behaviour to Dumbledore were the latter's first inkling that Voldemort might have created not just one Horcrux, but several: "What intrigued and alarmed me most was that the diary had been intended as a weapon as much as a safeguard," implying that Voldemort must have had backups of some sort.
To Rowling, a diary is a very scary object. She said in an interview, "The temptation particularly for a young girl, is to pour out her heart to a diary." Rowling's little sister Diane was prone to this, and her great fear was that someone would read her diary. This gave Rowling the idea to have a diary that is, in itself, against the confider. When asked what would have happened if Ginny had died and Riddle had managed to escape, Rowling declined to give a straight answer, but revealed that "it would have strengthened the present-day Voldemort considerably."
Tom Riddle used a cup owned by Hogwarts founder Helga Hufflepuff to create his third Horcrux. The spell was cast after he murdered Hepzibah Smith by poisoning her. The cup is introduced during the twentieth chapter of Half-Blood Prince and is destroyed by Hermione Granger in the thirty-first chapter of Deathly Hallows.
Hepzibah Smith, who owned the cup, was a distant descendant of Helga Hufflepuff. Riddle killed Smith, stole the cup, then framed her house elf Hokey for the crime. Voldemort entrusted the cup to Bellatrix Lestrange, who kept it protected in her family's vault at Gringotts Bank, a place to which Harry guessed the once penniless Voldemort would have always coveted a connection. Additional protective spells, including the Gemino and Flagrante curses, were used to protect the contents of the vault. Harry, Ron and Hermione stole the cup after breaking into the bank. Hermione later destroyed the Horcrux using a fang from the remains of the basilisk still in the Chamber of Secrets.
Tom Riddle created his fourth Horcrux using a locket once owned by Salazar Slytherin, which had once belonged to Riddle's mother, Merope Gaunt. The spell was cast after Riddle murdered a Muggle tramp. The locket is introduced briefly in Order of the Phoenix (described only as "a heavy locket that none of them could open") and is destroyed by Ron Weasley in the 19th chapter of Deathly Hallows.
Slytherin's locket was passed down through the generations and eventually ended up in the possession of Merope Gaunt. After being abandoned by her husband Tom Riddle Senior, Merope sold the locket to Caractacus Burke, shopkeeper of Borgin & Burkes, for ten galleons, a fraction of the Locket's true value. The locket was eventually sold to Hepzibah Smith. Riddle stole the locket, along with Helga Hufflepuff's cup, after murdering Smith. Once the locket became a Horcrux, Voldemort hid it in a cave where he had once terrorized two of his fellow orphans. The cave's magical protection included a door that could only be opened with a blood offering, an enchanted boat, a basin of potion that causes pain and horrific visions to the drinker, and the use of Inferi.
Disillusioned Death Eater Regulus Arcturus Black learned about the Horcrux and its hiding place. In an effort to bring about Voldemort's eventual downfall, he and his house elf Kreacher broke through the magical protection and stole the locket. While Black died in the effort, killed by the surrounding Inferi, Kreacher took the locket back to their home at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Kreacher continued to protect the locket for years. However, while the Order of the Phoenix was using the house as its headquarters, the locket was stolen by Mundungus Fletcher, a petty criminal and member of the Order. He gave it to Dolores Umbridge as a bribe when she caught him selling stolen property.
Two years later, Harry, Ron, and Hermione infiltrated the Ministry of Magic, where Umbridge worked, and stole the locket. Ron later saved Harry from being strangled by it when he wore it around his neck. The fragment of soul inside assumed the shape of Harry and Hermione and played on Ron's fear that Harry and Hermione had started a relationship during his absence (and his longer-held fear that in Hermione's eyes he, Ron, would never match up to Harry). Ron managed to overcome its influence and destroyed it using the sword of Godric Gryffindor in the Forest of Dean.
After the release of the final book, several reviews noted similarities between Slytherin's locket and the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings, as both artifacts negatively affect the personality of those who wore them.
Lord Voldemort created his fifth Horcrux using Hogwarts co-founder Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem. The spell needed to create the Horcrux was cast after Voldemort murdered an Albanian peasant. The diadem is introduced by name in Deathly Hallows, but actually first appeared in The Half-Blood Prince, described as "a tarnished tiara" in the Room of Requirement. Ravenclaw's daughter Helena, also known as The Grey Lady of Ravenclaw, stole the diadem from her mother in an attempt to become more intelligent than her. She fled to Albania where she hid the diadem in the hollow of a tree when the Bloody Baron attempted to search for her. After Helena was murdered by the Bloody Baron, she became the Ravenclaw house ghost and Tom Riddle, while a student at the school, charmed the Lady into telling him the location of the diadem. Shortly after leaving Hogwarts and after the subsequent murder of Hepzibah Smith where Riddle stole Slytherin's Locket and Hufflepuff's cup from her, he travelled to Albania and took possession of the artifact while planning his rise to power. Years later, when Voldemort returned to Hogwarts and reapplied for the Defence Against the Dark Arts position and was denied the job by Albus Dumbledore, he hid the diadem (now a Horcrux) in the Room of Requirement. Because Voldemort believed himself the only one to have discovered the Room, he never placed curses around the diadem.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry first comes into contact with the diadem when he hastily hides Severus Snape's old potions book in the Room of Requirement, right after he used an invented spell from the book on Draco Malfoy called "Sectumsempra". The diadem was only mentioned as an "old discoloured tiara" in the sixth book where Harry attempted to plan to try to later remember exactly where he placed the book. Later, after having the diadem described to him by the Ravenclaw ghost, Harry recalls this scene and hurries to retrieve it from the Room. The diadem was destroyed by a Fiendfyre spell cast by Vincent Crabbe as he, Gregory Goyle, and Draco Malfoy attacked Harry, Ron, and Hermione within the Room. Crabbe died in the resulting fire.
Main article: Harry Potter (character)Voldemort inadvertently sealed a fragment of his soul within Harry Potter while attempting to murder the boy. The event took place just before the opening chapter of the Philosopher's Stone. Rowling has explicitly stated that Harry never became a proper "Dark object" since the Horcrux spell was not cast. Regardless, as with all Horcruxes, Voldemort would remain immortal so long as his soul fragment remained within Harry. That portion of Voldemort's soul is unintentionally destroyed by Voldemort himself at the close of the thirty-fourth chapter of the Deathly Hallows with the help of the Elder Wand.
As a baby, Harry Potter was in the room when Voldemort's fatal Killing Curse backfired. Voldemort's soul had been weakened and destabilized by his continuous murders and the creation of his previous Horcruxes. Harry became a de facto Horcrux when a fragment of Voldemort's soul attached itself to him after the unsuccessful curse. The lightning bolt-shaped scar on Harry's forehead is a direct result of this attempted murder. This connection is used to explain several important plot points. Throughout the series, Harry is able to receive insight into Voldemort's mental and emotional states, allowing the reader to eavesdrop on the series' primary antagonist. This insight is usually accompanied by pain in the scar on Harry's forehead. Through Voldemort, Harry also inherited the ability to speak and understand Parseltongue. It is also revealed by Rowling in an interview that Harry's frequent pain in his scar when Voldemort is either active, nearby, or feeling strong emotions, is really the trapped bit of soul yearning to depart from Harry's body and rejoin its master soul.
While Voldemort did learn of Harry's telepathic ability, Voldemort was never made aware that Harry was inadvertently protecting a portion of his soul. When Voldemort attempted to kill Harry with the Killing Curse near the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he destroyed the portion of his own soul embedded within Harry. Once destroyed, the connections between the two were also broken, and Harry never again felt pain in his scar. Rowling revealed that Harry has also lost the ability to speak Parseltongue.
Nagini, Voldemort's pet snake, is introduced in the first chapter of The Goblet of Fire and is described as a long green serpent. As with his diary, Voldemort intended Nagini to be a tool as well as a safeguard to his immortality. Nagini is killed by Neville Longbottom in the final chapter of The Deathly Hallows.
Voldemort is able to communicate with Nagini due to his ability to speak Parseltongue, the language of snakes. Readers are first introduced to Nagini when the snake alerts Voldemort to the presence of an eavesdropping Frank Bryce, an old gardener who had worked for the late Riddle family. During the fourth year Harry spends at Hogwarts, Voldemort's temporary body is sustained by Nagini's venom, harvested by Peter Pettigrew. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry takes a direct viewpoint of Nagini's attack on Arthur Weasley in one of his dreams, feeling that he (Harry) himself is the snake. Albus Dumbledore believes this to be due to Harry's special connection to Voldemort, with Harry's witnessing the attack by virtue of the fact that Voldemort's mind "happened to be" in Nagini at the time. This is the first indication of Nagini and Voldemort's deeper connection, having the ability to share each other's thoughts, and share them with Harry as well.
In the final book, Nagini consumes Charity Burbage, a Hogwarts Muggle Studies professor, after the Killing Curse is used on her. Nagini is later placed inside the body of Bathilda Bagshot by Voldemort, and uses the hiding place to launch a surprise assault on Harry when he visits Godric's Hollow. Because some snakes can sense heat and movement in a way humans cannot, Nagini is able to detect Harry and Hermione even when they are under the Invisibility Cloak. After discovering that Harry is searching for his Horcruxes, Voldemort places Nagini into a protective magical cage to prevent her from being killed, but still uses her to kill Severus Snape by expanding the cage over and on top of him. When Harry is apparently killed by Voldemort, Nagini is released from the protective enchantment and is draped around Voldemort's shoulders during the Death Eaters' victory march back to Hogwarts. After Neville Longbottom openly defies Voldemort, Voldemort punishes him by forcing the Sorting Hat on his head and setting it on fire. The Death Eaters are then attacked and a battle ensues, and Neville pulls Godric Gryffindor's sword from the Hat, as Harry had done in Chamber of Secrets, and beheads Nagini.
Since she was Voldemort's last remaining Horcrux, her death sets up the series' climactic duel between Voldemort and Harry Potter. With no Horcruxes remaining and rendered mortal, Voldemort's death in that duel is final.
Nagini's name may be derived from the Sanskrit "Naga," meaning snake. The suffix "ini" is affixed to indicate that the subject is female. Hence, "Nagini" in Sanskrit may mean "female snake."