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Raiders of the Lost Horcrux:

Well, with the release of DHs, this theory got hosed to the point of being irretrievable. Once again I wouldn’t have been nearly so disconcerted by the fact if what Rowling had given us in its place had been something better. But, without excessive arrogance, I really cannot say that it was. What Rowling gave us doesn’t even match up properly with what she had already told us.

Not even in a manner which could be read as an intentional revelation which clarified things which had still been still unclear, or as a revelation of some piece of clever misdirection, but merely as a piece of crass and lazy carelessness which only raises more questions (most promanently over what she thought she was doing), and made the issue even more confusing than it needed to be.

It’s now not even internally consistent. Regulus supposedly tells Kreachur to leave him there in the Cave (to die), take the Locket home, and destroy it. Which strongly suggests that his death was an intentional suicide, since, if he had wanted to try to survive (which it is implied might have been possible, Kreachur had survived that potion) he would have only needed to have ordered Kreachur to take him home once he had drunk the potion, and switched the lockets, and to have given himself time to recover as well. He knows that Kreachur could have done that. Kreachur had done it before, indeed, it was Kreachur who brought them both to the cave in the first place.

Now, admittedly that might have turned out to be awkward as all get out, since Voldemort may have summoned Regulus before he recovered, which would have been very hard for Regulus to have explained. Particularly to a master Legilimens. Not to mention trying to explain his sudden illness to his mother. But is it worth dying just to avoid having to make a few explanations?

Kreachur also tells us that he was only 17 at the time, so consequently he would have still been in school. I really cannot see that he would have considered it better to die rather than to miss the Hogwarts Express. Especially if he was clearly ill at the time and might have returned to school once he recovered. Nor do I believe that Voldemort typically summoned followers who were still at school during the periods that they were supposed to be in attendance at Hogwarts. (Never mind the fundamental idiocy of physically marking followers who were living in dormitories under Albus’s eye — but then I suppose thumbing his non-nose at Albus may have been much of the point.)

But evidently Rowling considered it easier to just arbitrarily and illogically kill the boy off than to deal with the logistics of her setup. It made for some cheap “drama” and easy tear-jerking. I say it was sleazy writing.

And then how is a deliberate suicide supposed to square with his “screw you” note in which he boasts that he had destroyed the real Horcrux? As it now turns out, he evidently never even intended to make an attempt at its actual destruction. He left Kreachur holding the bag and simply intended to be dead. Unnecessarily!

We are left having to conclude that Regulus must have deliberately killed himself just to get free of Riddle’s service.

Without having ever had any real intention of personally striking a conclusive blow against Riddle which would do him some actual damage, regardless of what he spouted off about the matter.

It was an empty boast. The boy died a liar and a braggart. So much for “brave Regulus”. It was clearly easier for him to face death than to face Tom. Or than even to make an attempt to destroy the Horcrux once he stole it.

Unless the determination to suicide was itself induced by the Potion. Albus was also pleading for death by the time he reached the bottom of the basin. I could accept that.

In which case the Potion was a more effective barrier than we’ve all been crediting it with being.

But if she had been sincere in her own intentions, Rowling ought at least to have had Regulus die in an actual attempt to destroy the Horcrux. If he knew what it was, he ought to have had some idea of how to destroy it. It would have hardly astonished any reader if it turned out to be more difficult than he had expected.

For that matter where does Kreachur’s tale now fit with Sirius’s story of Regulus having got in, got cold feet, and been murdered by his fellow DEs, on Voldemort’s orders because of it? What left field did that version come from?

Let alone Remus’s contention that Regulus had managed to elude his fellow DEs for no more than a few days to a week before they caught him. Who is the fantasist here? Because it certainly sounds like someone has to be.

And what about the bloody tapestry sketch dates which conflict both with the statement that his death had occurred “some 15 years earlier” from the date at which Harry noted it, in the summer of 1995 in OotP, as well as Kreachur’s statement in DHs that he died a year after having signed on with the DEs at the age of 16. The tapestry sketch claims that he died in 1979 (i.e., 16 years earlier) and that he had managed to reach the age of 18 when he died.

If Rowling had been intending to create as many pointless contradictions to her earlier statements as possible, she couldn’t have done it better.

Consequently, I flatly don’t believe her.

Therefore, the following has not been reworked to reflect what we were told in the course of DHs. It has been moved into this particular collection instead. Although I have added some annotations which have been made in recognition of the final book.

But at least this version holds together, is as internally consistent as I could get it, and reflects what we had been told up to the end of HBP.

Even if, acto Rowling, it is wrong.

****

There were originally supposed to be six Horcruxes. Harry had already dealt with one of them. Dumbledore took care of another one for him.

And there was at least one joker in the deck. The one that they just brought back from the sea cave was a fake.

Which led all the readers to Regulus Black.

And, given time, would undoubtedly lead Harry to Regulus Black, as well.

By the time DHs was pending, it was yet again time to — once more — re-evaluate what we thought we knew about the problem of the Horcruxes.

The pertinent round of this continuing re-evaluation cycle was set off over the months of July and August, 2006, when I spent a good deal of my free time working with LiveJournalists Swythyv and Professor_Mum, as well as John Granger of the HogwartsProfessor.com board, and a couple of others, on a collection of essays related to the events that went on in HBP. (The book, ‘Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?’ is still available from amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other sources.)

As usual, some of their theories turned out to make fine launching pads for adjustments to existing theories of my own, some of which then spun off in rather different directions from their originals. But between the three of us, Swythyv, Professor_Mum and I, we’d managed to draft out a backstory which, amazingly enough, accounted for just about all of the screwy details related to the Case of the Hijacked Horcrux.

It may not have been Rowling’s intended backstory, but it was at least a viable one, and was supported by what we had to work from by that date, on enough points to make a plausible theory, even if it later turned out not to be correct.

The whole question of Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes was burgeoning out of control by that time, so the essay has been split. This particular portion now concentrates on our extrapolations of Regulus Black and his implied Indiana Jonesy adventure concerning the Dark Lord’s sea cave and the stolen Horcrux. My speculations on the other Horcruxes, and Horcruxes in general can now be found in the two essays entitled ‘Horcrux Redux’ (parts 1&2).

****

For the previous several months, it had looked like any attempt to sort out the issues attendant upon this particular component of the “find the hidden objects” problem concerning the adventure of Harry Potter and the Seven Riddles pretty much had to start from the adventure of the sea cave. And with Regulus Black, aka; R.A.B.

By that point I was no longer quite as convinced that this was the real starting point as I had been when I started. Although it still obviously mattered. And, to be fair, with Harry finishing Book 6 determined to find out who R.A.B. was, and what he did with the stolen Horcrux, it was almost certainly where Rowling would initiate the next part of the quest.

But by then several rounds of dominoes had toppled since HBP came out. And new possibilities had opened up in areas which looked like they might turn out to be relevant to this seemingly irresolvable problem.

Because the problem, as Rowling set it up, did appear to be irresolvable. Just as with the bloody Potions book, whatever pattern you attempted to lay out all the pieces in, you always seemed to be stuck with one left over. Always one which didn’t seem to fit anywhere, but which could not be safely dismissed.

The first question, of course, was whether or not we could safely assume that Regulus Black and the mysterious R.A.B. were the same person.

I really did think we could. And if I had turned out to be wrong, I would have had plenty of company. The fandom as a whole had pretty well unilaterally accepted that Regulus Black was R.A.B. and I could see no reason to raise objections. Rowling had not given us anything upon which a reasonable objection could be based.

In fact, in the joint interview of July 2005, Rowling had tacitly admitted that R.A.B. was Regulus Black. Insofar as she had stated that as of that point in the series we had met or heard of pretty well all of the cast of significant characters, (which turned out not really to be the case. Ariana Dumbledore, much?) and that while we might discover more about some of the ones we’d already met, and there may be some minor characters added in passing, the major players were all known to us by then. So I had a certain degree of confidence in continuing to reason from the standpoint that R.A.B. and Regulus Black were one and the same.

So. We already knew that if Regulus Black was indeed R.A.B., then he had certainly known about at least one of the Horcruxes.

Either that knowledge alone, or something else about either Voldemort himself, or his activities, his objectives, or his methods, sent Reggie into a tailspin. We had too little direct information to be able to really determine what it was exactly that set him off. Fanfic writers and my fellow theorists all still had a few more months to play with this. But I thought we were all getting a lot closer to a unified theory which, while it may not be correct, was at least internally consistent.

As I stated at the time; we had not yet heard quite the last of Regulus Black, even though we had been told the end of Regulus Black. Or, what everyone in the books seemed to confidently believe to have been his end.

I was not entirely convinced of that, either. Although I was a lot more convinced of it than I had been a year or so earlier. If the final book of the series was built to what appeared to be Rowling’s recent pattern and was being set up to echo the 3rd book, then we were certainly being invited to expect to find out that somebody had at some point faked their own death. And Reggie was one of our top candidates to have done it. Although it didn’t necessarily follow that he was the one who did. After all, we had never even heard of Peter Pettigrew, until we got a few chapters into PoA, and by this time we already had a list of possible casualties.

But, we did need to find out for certain what R.A.B. did with the real Horcrux. And we could be confident that this was not an issue that Rowling was going to dodge.

In HBP Dumbledore had strongly implied to Harry that no one else knew about Lord Voldemort’s Horcruxes, but with the evidence of R.A.B.’s “Boo! Sucks!” note staring us in the face we just couldn’t accept Dumbledore’s statements on the subject at face value. I suggested that maybe, despite what Rowling tells us in her interviews, we needed to stop assuming that Dumbledore was always right, even if he was “never very wide of the mark”.

Particularly if the mysterious R.A.B was Regulus Black. Regulus Black was a wet-behind-the-ears raw recruit who didn’t make it to his 18th birthday. If he could figure it out, how could we say that somebody else hadn’t?

****

Needless to say, I doubted very much that Regulus’s repudiation of Lord Voldemort and all of his works was motivated by the same kind of squeamishness on the subject of Horcruxes as had been demonstrated by Horace Slughorn. It does not fit with anything that we were shown concerning the Death Eaters’ (let alone the Black family’s) presumed total acceptance of all aspects of Dark magic.

Another thing which appeared to be self-evident is that Regulus not only learned of the existence of a Horcrux, he seems to have learned what had been done with it. Which is to say that he appears to have learned about the sea cave. And, from the information at our disposal, we were invited to believe that he also managed to figure out how to retrieve the Horcrux from where Voldemort had hidden it.

None of which I continued to be convinced of, by that time, either.

But it threw us a considerable curve.

From our own trip into that cave we had been given to understand that getting a Horcrux out of that basin is a two-person job.

If, that is, what Dumbledore told us about it was strictly on the level. It wouldn’t be the first time that information from Albus Dumbledore, in fact, wasn’t.

And, unless we had all been fed either deliberately false — or honestly mistaken — information, all appearances suggested that Regulus Black did manage to get the Horcrux out of the cave in time to later be killed by his fellow Death Eaters.

Our information on that point was suspect, however. Neither of our primary informants on the matter of Regulus’s supposed flight, pursuit, and death are people who were in a position to actually know the truth of the report. Sirius Black’s statements, (he who’d had nothing to do with his family for about 5 years by that time) were at 2nd hand and tended to be extremely biased. Remus Lupin’s are less biased, but likely to be even more distant from any reliable source.

Sirius clearly did not know who actually killed his brother, nor does he say anything about having attempted to find out, although Regulus was allegedly murdered close to two years before his own imprisonment in Azkaban. Remus states only that Regulus survived the Dark Lord’s wrath no more than a few days.

Which suggested that this was the kind of information that must have filtered back to Sirius over the grapevine. And who knows how much it may have morphed by the time it reached him.

Or who, in fact, released it to the grapevine.

In the wake of DHs, I now suppose that it was only when Regulus’s fanboy scrapbooks of Lord Voldemort turned up in his room after his death was recorded by the Black family tapestry that his family concluded that he had been swept up in the DE movement, which must have directly contributed to his death. Since he had not been killed by Aurors or in any known bit of DE action, the family assumed that he must have been killed by his associates on their leader’s orders. In actual fact, he simply went missing, and a death date appeared on the tapestry. No one other than Kreachur knew anything further.

Although, considering that Regulus was still a student at Hogwarts, the report of his death during a term break may have set off any number of student rumors. Any one of which Sirius may have got hold of without ever hearing of his family’s version. Plus, by the time Harry showed up at #12 Sirius had already seen his brother’s room and the scrapbooks.

But Remus’s confirmation that Reggie had only evaded DEs for a few days before they caught him is still a report from Cloud-Cuckooland.

With the release of the Black family tapestry sketch, showing the last 6 generations of the Black Family Genealogical Tapestry, which Rowling donated to a charity auction in February of 2006, we finally had what we believed to be the dates of Regulus Black’s life recorded as 1961 to 1979.

This came as a considerable surprise, since from the textual evidence of OotP we had earlier calculated that his death had occurred in 1980. However, if Rowling was serious about the dates on the sketch, it is clear that if born in ’61, he would have had to have started Hogwarts in ’72, finished with the class of ’79 and been dead by the end of the same year. We certainly got no indication, either then nor even directly from Kreachur’s tale that he was killed while he was still a student. Although upon further examination of his account, that must have been the case.

It is also clear that the tapestry sketch’s dates must now be dismissed as unworkable due to the direct contradiction to canon. My proposal as an adjustment which would fit with our current information as given us in the text of both OotP and DHs are 1963–1980. Leaving his father Orion’s death, as it is recorded, in 1979. There is no way that he could still be 17 in ’79 if he was born in ’61. There is no reason to leave his death in ’79 when the text of OotP puts it in ’80. Both dates have been moved to match the information as given in the text.

We were also directly told in OotP that Sirius’s parents threw every knut they could spare into layering protections on their home and apparently cowered there in virtual hiding throughout the years of Voldemort’s rise. However, upon the posting of the sketch of the tapestry mentioned above we discovered that Regulus and his father, Orion, supposedly died the in same year, and that Orion Black and his wife, Walburga, were never the Heads of the Family at all. Orion’s father, Arcturus, outlived all of them. One has to wonder why Sirius did not mention this, for it would appear to be of some importance. At that point, we had no certainty as to whether Reggie predeceased his father or not. But by this time I am inclined to believe that he did not. That, indeed, he was not even approached for recruitment by the DEs until his father was safely dead.

In 1979. When Reggie was 16.

A reconsideration of the problem posed by the absentee Head of the House of Black suggests a comfortably non-dramatic possible solution to that conundrum, at least.

Arcturus Black, the Head of the family, may have simply chosen to live with his married — and childless — daughter Lucretia, leaving the family home to his son, Orion, and his growing family, since Orion’s branch of the family would inherit it eventually, and the boys could then be brought up in the Black family’s primary residence.

Particularly if Arcturus had been widowed by that time. It should be noted that nowhere in what we have of the Black family tapestry sketch has any member of the family ever embarked upon a second marriage. It is possible that among the most narrowly pureblooded circles such a practice would be frowned upon, due to an extreme shortage of eligible prospective marriage partners already. It should also be noted that a fairly high number of the Black family in every generation appear to have remained unwed. A lack of eligible potential partners is probably the cause of this as well.

I’ll have to say that in Arcturus’s place, given the choice of living with a childless (or possibly even widowed) daughter and the shrieking Walburga and her two screaming infants, I certainly know which residence I would choose.

But then we were also handed the oddity of the fact that Sirius Black seems to have inherited the house, despite having been blasted off the family tapestry and not (so far as we could tell) reinstated.

For the House was certainly the property of Sirius Black by the time Harry was escorted there in the summer of 1995. If, at the point that HBP was released, the property had automatically passed to the next male with the surname of Black still listed on the tapestry, then upon Arcturus’s death in 1991, it ought to have passed to his first cousin Pollux’s younger son Cygnus, the father of the three Black sisters, who was originally recorded in the sketch as having survived until the following year. Yet it appears to have done nothing of the sort.

At this point Real Life interrupts all of our speculations with the information that a full year after posting their version of the tapestry sketch with the dates of Cygnus Black, Sirius’s uncle and the three sisters’ father, recorded as 1938–1992 the HP Lexicon abruptly changed these dates to 1929–1979, duplicating those of his 2nd cousin Orion’s.

I do not know the original source of these new numbers. The Lexicon took them from a tour of the film set and a close look at the prop tapestry that was to be used in the film. But we do not know where the film designers got their numbers. The numbers are assuredly not in the books themselves, and may not even be from Rowling.

The adjustment does, however, resolve a couple of problems which were built into the chronology as depicted in the original sketch. First, it gets rid of one of the 13-year-old fathers which had been the cause of so much hilarity, and exasperation, across the fandom since the sketch was released. And it does resolve the problem of Sirius Black inheriting the house. If Cygnus Black were to have died at any point before about 1980, then it would be clear that apart from Arcturus himself, and his cousin Pollux, both of them well into their elder years (and, just possibly, Marius the Squib), Sirius would have been the only male Black left. And the choice was either to reinstate him as heir, or to see their name become extinct upon their own deaths. At that point there was still no stain upon Sirius’s character (regardless of his supposed rejection of Dark magic), and it might have been expected that the boy would settle down and marry eventually.

As we discovered early in HBP, the Black family holdings could be left by a formal will to someone who was not on the tapestry. And even the family House Elf could not gainsay such a will. Indeed it now seems likely that this must have been done in Sirius’s case as well as Harry’s. Certainly Kreachur’s service to Sirius Black was every bit as grudging as it was to Harry. Sirius, after all, was not on the tapestry, either.

So, despite the prior disowning of the elder son of the family, and the death of the younger son and their father (and, evidently, the last surviving male cousin), upon the previous Head of the Family’s death, the property did not pass to Walburga’s eldest niece, Bellatrix Lestrange.

This seems most likely to have been deliberate, and to have been old Arcturus Black’s doing, for all that Sirius dismisses his grandfather at every mention.

Apparently this is one of those stories “between the lines” of the tapestry which Rowling has left it to us to fill in for ourselves.

And for the moment, at least, I suppose we will have to let the film designers’ adjustments to the tapestry stand.

****

Which brings us to Bellatrix.

She doesn’t come across as an exceptionally clever woman, does she?

She’s not particularly discrete, either. Can’t resist boasting, in fact.

Even in Spinner’s End among people who know the truth of the matter, she can’t resist airing her own importance. “He shares everything with me! He calls me his most loyal, his most faithful —” “...The Dark Lord has, in the past, entrusted me with his most precious — if Lucius hadn’t —”

Wait a minute. Run that one past us again. The Dark Lord has, in the past, entrusted this loose cannon with his “most precious...”

Most precious what?

We know he entrusted Lucius with a Horcrux.

And, so, much belated, another penny finally dropped. Someone posted on the HogwartsProfessor.com discussion boards a quote that makes it clear that in HBP Dumbledore comes right out and tells us that Lucius was only entrusted with that Horcrux shortly before Voldemort’s first defeat. Which is to say, not until 1981. To wit:

In response to a statement of Harry’s that it had been Voldemort who had wanted the Diary smuggled into the school, Albus’s response was:

“Yes, he did, years ago, when he was sure he would be able to create more Horcruxes, but still Lucius was supposed to wait for Voldemort’s say-so, and he never received it, for Voldemort vanished shortly after giving him the diary... ” (HBP, US hardcover edition, page 506)

Which raises the previously unasked question as to just when Voldemort actually hid his Horcruxes.

We’d assumed that he hid them when he made them.

It now looked like we may have been wrong.

****

And now we are going to go skittering off and chase wild geese down blind alleys for a bit. I’ll bring this back on track eventually.

Albus tells us that Riddle allegedly likes things that come complete with a history, with a tradition, with some level of grandeur as bases for his Horcruxes. That’s why he was so eager to use relics associated with the Founders themselves.

Well, that’s why he was eventually so eager to use artifacts associated with the Founders for bases for his Horcruxes.

When you stop to think of it, the first three Horcruxes that we were told about were primarily significant only in their connections to himself. It seemed to have been only when poor, silly Hepzibah Smith waved the Hufflepuff cup under his nose that he decided to branch out and collect the whole set.

(ETA: Well, okay, now that we know that Godric's Sword had a habit of turning up in emergencies, and Tom had already sweet-talked the general location of the Ravenclaw diadem out of the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw, he had probably already formed his plans to use Founders’ relics before Hepzibah waved the cup at him. But I suspect the cup’s turning up was a surprise. Having come down through Hepzibah’s family it wouldn’t have been in any records accessible to B&B.)

But grandeur and antiquity are clearly what he prefers, if he can get it.

I’ll bet he likes that kind of thing in the guardians for his Horcruxes as well. When he entrusts them to guardians.

The Blacks, after all, are a very old family.

And there is no question that Bellatrix is utterly loyal.

And it turns out that we were on the right track in suspecting that she also had custody of one of the Horcruxes, too. We were just wrong about which one.

****

Dumbledore appears to have never questioned the reading that Voldemort created the inner chamber of the sea cave in which the Locket was allegedly first hidden. But Dumbledore admits that he makes mistakes. And that when he does they are apt to be huge ones. I thought this may turn out to be be one of those, although probably not a truly significant one.

But I suspected that the sea cave is far, far older than Tom Riddle.

It is certainly designed to a far older tradition.

We already know that Voldemort likes to pay return visits to the scenes of what he regards as his triumphs. He takes possession of those places too, if he can. We know he returned to the Riddle house, and he probably owned it. He returned to the Gaunt hovel to hide the Ring, unless he entrusted that job to an underling — which I very much doubt — and he probably owned the Gaunt property too. At least it would probably say so if you went looking through the land records.

And, if he also returned to the sea cave in which he had terrorized two of his fellow orphans, he may well have realized upon his return as an adult, as Albus did, that this was a place that had “known magic”.

It is not difficult, rereading Dumbledore and Harry’s journey into that cave, to draw the conclusion that the potion Dumbledore had to drink to reveal the Horcrux forced him to relive every action and every mistake he had ever made over a very long life.

That, in particular, he was forced to relive any action that exacted a cost from others, particularly in the suffering of innocents. For, to Dumbledore (at least as we thought we knew him) those would have been his very worst memories.

(Relived his very worst memories? And ended in a suicidal despair?)

And it ultimately would have ended, indeed, it may have ended, in drawing the soul out of his body.

(That progression sounds awfully familiar, you know. Where have we heard of something like that before...)

Or, conversely, it has been postulated elsewhere that the potion caused him to relive whatever may have been done in that place by others.

Or to see the future consequences of his own actions.

But whatever it actually did, I really, really doubted that this was quite the fountain’s original purpose or function. It has been tainted.

Such fonts of knowledge, or of self-knowledge, or of wisdom (or unwelcome truths) go back in folklore for a very, very long way. And they are usually tucked away in secret places very much like that sea cave.

And such places in folklore are often womens’ places. And the “crudeness” of the door that demanded a payment in blood for entry (another bit of female-related symbolism) may be less an indication of the shallowness of Tom Riddle’s character, than of the age of the place that he had co-opted for his own purposes. Very old magic is often tied to blood. Only consider the sort of protection that Lily left upon Harry. And which Dumbledore compounded by adding an additional layer of protection based upon Lily’s blood.

Albus Dumbledore, after all, was an authority on blood magic.

(Pot? I’d like you to meet my dear friend, Kettle.)

Plus that inner cave is just too blooming big, and seems too thumping old to have been built from scratch less than 50 years ago by an upstart like Riddle.

But it’s not a foregone conclusion that it was Bellatrix who told Tom about the cave and assisted him in his defiling of it; filling the lake with Inferi and poisoning the knowledge that the font provided (although if the font was originally of the variety that contributes to personal enlightenment, then it is self-renewing, and it must have been poisoned at its wellspring).

For one thing that would imply that Voldemort didn’t hide his Horcrux in that cave until after Bellatrix was out of Hogwarts, and since we still believed she was born in 1951 (in the Autumn too, probably), she would not have finished at Hogwarts until 1970, about a decade after he had already returned to the ww and had already launched his rise to power. Which sounded an unlikely progression.

But not an impossible one. Hold that thought.

****

Since the Locket had probably already been converted into a Horcrux before Tom Riddle’s return to the wizarding world, which took place by the early 1960s, you might have expected him to have put the Horcrux into the cave before his return as well.

We have nothing to tell us he did so (and post-DHs know for certain that he didn’t). He may just as easily have hung on to the whole collection for the sake of security and in order to gloat.

After all, he would have hardly been the first wizard with a collection of such “objects of virtue”. There would have been nothing even remotely remarkable in that. Not even if the objects were suspected of being stolen. And even if someone got the bright idea that one of them might be a Horcrux, they would hardly have leaped to the conclusion that five of them were. (Or, four, more likely. The Diary was probably tucked away in his sock drawer, and not out on display.)

The fact that he couldn’t have handed the Diary over to Lucius until Lucius left Hogwarts with the class of ’72 or ’73 suggests that distributing the Horcruxes into other hands, or off to secure hiding places may have been a fairly late development. With little, on the face of it, to suggest why he should have so abruptly done such a thing.

Unless he didn’t do it until the end of 1979, or early 1980.

The year 1979 has not, to our knowledge, ever been directly mentioned in the course of the books. But we had at least two statements, one from Sirius Black (which has since been rewritten) and one from Severus Snape, which when added up land us in that year. As well as a piece of known Ministry policy which is as likely to have been instituted in that year as not.

And right about Halloween of 1979 is also the earliest possible date that Sybill Trelawney is likely to have made her first Prophecy. IF the Prophecy was made around the time of the child it foretold’s conception. And while this is far from a done-deal, I have used this possibility as a base point for many of the theories throughout this collection.

Because if that’s the case: that it was toward, or after the end of 1979 that Tom Riddle suddenly started distributing his Horcruxes into safe hiding places, then we have a very good idea why he might have suddenly chosen to diversify his “insurance”.

That’s right. He started hiding them when he learned that he was the subject of a bona-fide Prophecy. One regarding his own downfall.

But the cave itself might not have been a secret from the Death Eaters at all. Riddle manifestly had another use for that cave, one which he evidently shared with them.

Or did he?

****

Which sends us back to the problem of Regulus, and how he discovered that there was a Horcrux in that cave (if he ever did, and if there ever was), and how he managed to get the Horcrux out of the cave. And whether he ever told anyone of what he was doing. Or why.

It’s not, after all, information that he had anything to gain by keeping it to himself. Not if Sirius’s version of the matter is right and Voldemort had already ordered his death. But, so far, an awful lot of Voldemort’s enemies, Albus Dumbledore first and foremost among them, seem to be determined to keep his secrets for him, in clear defiance of any kind of common sense. Whether this general epidemic of folly is intentional on Rowling’s part or not I could not say.

And, intentional or not; we had tacitly also been told something else fairly significant about this particular problem.

Regulus also seems to have known that the Horcrux in the cave was a locket. He may even have known whose locket. Leading me to wonder whether Bellatrix may only be a competent Occlumens when she knows she is being tested. Or if Reggie came across this information by accident when she was teaching Occlumency to him.

It is an idea. But by that time I doubted it was the right one.

Still, that decoy locket had to have been prepared in advance. Can you seriously imagine that Regulus got into the cave, made his way to the island, managed somehow to drink the potion and discover; “Damn! I’m going to have to raid Mum’s jewelry box and make another trip!” Or even that he just transfigured a pebble into a locket, arbitrarily pulled a piece of parchment, a quill and bottle of ink (which he just happened to have on him) out of his pocket and composed his “Boo! Sucks!” message at the last moment? Scribbling it out on the edge of the basin? Hardly.

Which brings one back around to the question of why Voldemort should have chosen to share the location of any of his Horcruxes, with anyone else in the first place. The Diary, which was also a weapon, could have been an exception (or was it?). It needed to be kept safe, but it also needed to be kept where it could be easily retrieved, against the time he decided to deploy it. For he clearly someday intended to deploy it.

But why would he share information, any information at all, about the others? And yet it seems as if he must have shared it with somebody, or how would a wet-behind-the-ears rookie Death Eater like Regulus Black ever manage to find out enough about it to figure it out?

Regarding the bigger puzzle, however; how did Regulus manage to steal the Horcrux?

****

On that issue, we have to thread our way through a whole jungle of questions.

First: did he actually succeed in what he intended? Had that Horcrux already been destroyed? Was the Horcrux the locket itself, or something that was in the locket?

For that matter, was it the Locket at all? In that kind of a mise-en-scène, wouldn’t you have expected the Horcrux in the basin to be the Cup? You cannot see what is in the bottom of the basin through that potion. All you can see is the glowing green potion. It’s opaque. (Or is it? Maybe not) Maybe R.A.B. just used a locket for his fake Horcrux because a locket would protect his message from the potion.

For all the information we had at that moment, the sea cave Horcrux could even have been the “mystery Horcrux” about which we had no textual clues at all.

Conversely, did Regulus only manage to steal the Horcrux and substitute the decoy? The message in the decoy locket must have been prepared ahead of time. It tells us what he intended to do, but not whether he lived long enough to accomplish it.

Regarding this particular issue there had been no shortage of fans to have pointed out that, early in OotP, a heavy locket which no one could open, was found in one of the display cases in the parlor of #12 Grimmauld Place along with a cursed music box and any number of other items, all of which Sirius Black threw out. If that locket was the real Horcrux we would have a fine time trying to find out what became of it. There was no shortage of possibilities.

Just for starters:

It had been thrown out and may now be in anybody’s hands, or even in a landfill (or whatever the Brits in London do with their rubbish).

Mundungus Fletcher may have stolen and sold it. Or kept it. And now he was off in Azkaban. We don’t know what happened to his stash. Albus might have even retrieved it already.

Aberforth might have bought it off of Dung when Dung was peddling his swag on the streets of Hogsmeade.

Kreachur may have rescued it from the trash and hidden it in his nest.

And, for my own part, by this time, I was somewhat inclined to agree that the mystery locket from Grimmauld Place probably was the Horcrux. It was a little late in the series to be introducing an additional wild goose chase, when we already have four of the bloody things to sort out and only one book left to do it in. But I’d been wrong on any number of other points. That particular locket could still turn out to just be a locket.

For that matter, since Regulus was clearly expecting to die soon when he wrote his message, just what time frame are we dealing with? Was he already on the run? It does sound like it. Or did he simply expect to die, sooner rather than later, of the potion? Or for some other reason altogether?

For that matter, as has been asked elsewhere online; did Regulus manage to fake his death, and then go back to remove the Horcrux from the cave after Voldemort fell? By then he would have had all the time in the world to figure out how to get at it. If he knew about the Horcrux, he would have known that Voldemort wasn’t really dead, which would explain the wording of his note.

Second: did he actually escape from the cave with the Horcrux, to be hunted down later by one of the other Death Eaters and killed as reported? Or was the report of his death only assumed to have meant that he had been murdered, presumably on Voldemort’s orders? Was he actually killed destroying the Horcrux? If so, does Voldemort know this?

Did Regulus even make it out of the cave alive? We saw that there was at least one wizard in that lake. And if Reggie is sleeping with the Inferi, is the real Horcrux in the lake with him?

Well, not necessarily. Regulus Black was the son of a family that owns a House Elf. He was one of Kreachur’s masters. A House Elf’s master can summon him. In fact, can summon him almost instantaneously. From almost any location.

House Elves can also Apparate and Disapperate where wizards cannot. If Regulus got to that island alone, and got himself into trouble, he probably could have called on Kreachur, to help him, or at least could have passed him the locket and told him take it away and to guard it, if he could not destroy it. In which case, Regulus probably is in the lake with the rest of the Inferi.

****

And as a possibly related side issue — or perhaps just another point of confusion: we have known the number of Sirius Black’s Gringotts’ vault since PoA.

It is vault number 711. Number 713 is possibly the School’s, but it is generally believed to have been Nicholas Flamel’s.

Who lived to be nearly 700 years old.

So how old is that genealogical tapestry in the parlor of the house in Grimmauld Place again? Oh, that’s right. About 700 years old.

That isn’t Sirius Black’s personal vault. That’s the Black family’s vault.

And now it’s Harry’s.

And if Reggie, dying, passed the Horcrux to Kreachur and told him to hide it safely where no one could get at it, would Kreachur necessarily have hidden it in the house?

Would Reggie’s family?

And, maybe, just maybe, Voldemort did entrust the Locket to Bellatrix, and it was not the cave Horcrux. And Bellatrix eventually entrusted it to her Aunt Walburga rather than take it with her into Azkaban. Or, she simply she wasn’t permitted to take jewelry with her into Azkaban. Walburga Black was still alive when Bellatrix was sentenced to Azkaban, after all.

In which case, Bella may have had her own reasons to be asking Snape about the secret headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix in the Spinner’s End chapter of HBP. And maybe the fact that she doesn’t still have custody of that Locket is one of the reasons that she is no longer very high in Voldemort’s favor.

But I can’t see any way the logistics of this script accounts for the locket in the cave.

Speaking of which; the very fact that it was Kreachur, an elf that everyone in the Black family knew, who was dancing all around Robin Hood’s barn attempting to pass information about the Order of the Phoenix to Narcissia that would have given the Malfoys a mighty strong hint of just where those Headquarters were. (And just what happened to that thread in the official Kreachur backstory?)

And now the Order’s Secret Keeper is dead.

Rowling informs us that this does not change anything.

Convenient, that.

****

But, I digress:

Third: if Regulus anticipated the possibility that whatever he ran into in that cave might be something too big for him to handle on his own and took somebody with him in the first place, who did he go with? Did he take Kreachur with him? That would have assured an accomplice who would not give his game away. House Elves cannot directly betray their masters’ secrets.

Did he send Kreachur to fetch him a bezoar when he realized that there was a potion to be neutralized? Are House Elves immune to the potion in the Birdbath of Doom? Is drinking that potion on Reggie’s orders why Kreachur now acts like he is 2/3 round the twist and no longer even tries to take care of the house of the family to which he was apparently devoted? What is a House Elf’s purpose in life? Kreachur seems to have misplaced his.

And if Reggie did not go to the cave with Kreachur, and did not go alone, who did he go with? And where is that person now?

On the issue of who went with Reggie into the sea cave, if Reggie is really dead, and if his tale really needs to be told, and he didn’t go with Kreachur, and we can take Rowling at her word that we’ve already met all of the major players in this cast of dozens, we haven’t got a particularly wide field of possibilities, do we? In fact, we may be looking at a vast field of... one.

Yup. Him again. Our generic, all-purpose Man of Mystery, and Rowling’s favorite red herring.

****

Right about this point I found myself having one of my “wait a minute...” moments. There was something very strange going on here. And I could tell that I was clearly missing something.

From a strictly meta standpoint I had a lowering feeling that we were all being set up. I was beginning to suspect that if Regulus Black got the Horcrux out of the cave we would be handed, at most, some half-baked solution that just plain doesn’t work because it doesn’t connect to anything. A solution that essentially comes out of thin air “because the author says so”, without a proper backtrail that makes any kind of sense. Rather like the “confession” of Barty Crouch Jr. (ETA: HA! Called that one correctly. Go me!)

Or; we were not going to be handed any kind of a solution at all, because the whole adventure of Regulus Black and the Dark Lord’s Sea Cave, is just one giant, gaudy, irresistible red herring.

And I had come round to thinking that this was the most likely possibility.

Because, looked at from any rational standpoint, Regulus Black just plain Knew Too Much. He certainly knew too much for any wet-behind-the-ears new recruit, and there just wasn’t time for him to have worked himself up through the ranks to be anything more than that.

He knew about the cave.

He knew where to find it.

He knew how to get into it.

He knew about the Horcrux.

He seems to have known about the locket.

HOW would he have known all of this? I was not convinced that he would have been able to learn all of this from Bellatrix. I wasn’t convinced that Voldemort would have shared all of this with Bellatrix.

So let’s take another look at the set-up, shall we?

And re-check our list.

****

He knew about the Horcrux. Check. He unquestionably knew about the Horcrux. He says so flat out in his “Screw you” message.

He seems to have known about the Locket. It really is hard to convince ourselves that his substitution was in the form of a locket by accident.

But did he know about the cave? How much did he know? And in what context?

What do we know about that sea cave that we can definitely trace to Lord Voldemort’s influence on it — and no one else’s? What is in the sea cave (other than the now-missing Horcrux) that we know Voldemort caused to be put there?

Not the blood-price door. Not the inner chamber. Like I say, I think both of those are much older than Tom Riddle. He found it, he took possession of it, and he made use of it. But we have no proof that he created it. I seriously doubt that he realized that there even was an inner chamber before his return visit there as an adult. He was only eleven, or — more probably — even younger, on his first trip there, and he didn’t even know that magic was real. Or that his power over the other children was magic.

Not the fountain, either I suspect. I think we can safely conclude that Voldemort tampered with the fountain, but mystic fountains in caves that have never seen the light of day are not that hard to cite in Real World folklore. The fountain, and the cave itself, might easily date back to Merlin’s day, or earlier. The wonder is that Tom didn’t come back and turn the Basin into a Horcrux. I would have. Founders, schmounders, if you want artifacts of historical significance for your Horcruxes, you don’t get much more historical than that fountain. I mean, if you’re going to be committing what amounts to blasphemy anyway…

Probably not the lake either. That’s another traditional element, and the lake is clearly there to make access to the island and the fountain more difficult. Petitioners in such places of great Mystery such as that sea cave appears to be were supposed to find the access difficult, although not impossible. Or at least symbolic. And having to approach the fountain over water (fresh water, in a sea cave) from an antechamber that is only accessible at low tide, is the kind of symbolism that such quests usually entailed.

The boat. Now this is more like it. There probably has always been some kind of a boat in that cave, but it was probably not that boat. Dumbledore even tells us that he recognized Tom Riddle’s style in that boat. So that was almost certainly his. But the boat in itself doesn’t really get us much forwarder.

The Inferi in the lake.

Bingo.

****

Rereading the trip into the sea cave it is obvious that Dumbledore knew exactly what was lurking in that lake.

Before he and Harry even got into the inner chamber, Albus Dumbledore knew what was in that lake. He knew, from the outset, that they were going to have to bypass a lake full of Inferi. There was absolutely no question or hesitation in his statements or actions regarding what was floating about in that lake. He may try very hard to give us the impression that he never had been in that cave himself, but I just don’t buy it. At the very least, he clearly had advance information about what was in that cave.

He also tells us that Voldemort “killed enough people to make an army of Inferi”. Does he mean that he killed them all himself? Or that He and his followers killed enough people, on his authority and in his name to build themselves such an army?

For that matter, what kind of numbers, to a wizard, would constitute an “army”? Riddle has an “army” of Death Eaters, too. Which comes out to about 60, tops. The lake certainly sounds as if it is big enough to hold 5 or 6 dozen Inferi. Indeed, when Harry was trying to fight them off, the narrative even refers to them as an “army of the dead”.

So. Is this the same “army of Inferi”? How many armies of Inferi does your average Dark Lord need?

And furthermore we were told that the Voldemort’s army of Inferi had been used “the last time”. His followers, or at least some of them, almost certainly know about that cave and what is in that lake. He’s not the only one.

Or is he?

Did he keep the secret of where the Inferi were stashed to himself? And only called them up when he wanted them used?

Well, maybe. No one has seen hide nor hair of them since he disappeared the first time, have they? So maybe he was the only one who could control them. And if that is the case, then anyone he might have told about it would have felt themselves to be very highly favored indeed, wouldn’t they? And it’s possible that no one was ever so favored.

For that matter, in the wake of DHs we don’t even know whether the Inferi troops were ever put to use again after Riddle redirected them to Horcrux-guarding.

But it wasn’t (and still isn’t) exactly safe to assume that Tom was the only one who knew about the Inferi in that lake. Just that he seems to have been the only one who was ever willing to deploy them.

So. Okay. Do we know anything about the proper care and maintenance of Inferi? Can we make a guess?

Inferi are animate corpses. But they don’t seem to be rotting corpses, although they do seem to be gradually withering, even under water — which may slow the process.

Actually, they sound to me as if Rowling lifted them straight out of the Mabinogion, where they are referred to as the “cauldron-born”. So far as I can recall from Evangeline Walton’s version of the tale, the Lord of the Dead (who isn’t a bad guy, btw, just a grim one) gave as a gift to one of his mortal allies a giant magical cauldron large enough in which to lay the corpse of a man, and when this corpse had been “seethed” in the cauldron for the proper time, in the proper manner, it rose up and would obey its master.

(Now what does that description remind us of?)

In the original hero tale, in one of their wars somebody deployed an army of cauldron-born. It was an exceedingly nasty battle. Being already dead, they couldn’t be killed, and you had to hack them apart to stop them coming after you. In some retellings they would even collect and reform themselves overnight and come after you again the next day. The only way to destroy them was to destroy the cauldron which animated them.

Well, we already know that Rowling doesn’t necessarily adopt things from her sources verbatim. She often tweaks them. Her Inferi actively seem to want to avoid light and warmth, and are apparently more comfortable if not exposed to air, either. Well, they’re dead. They probably want to be buried. So keeping them in a cave where the sun never shines is a reasonable thing to do. And if they want to feel enclosed, or contained, it’s easier to call them out of water than it is to keep having to dig them up. And if you don’t need them for long periods they are safe enough there.

Is that how Reggie knew about the sea cave? Was he the low-ranker that ended up having to play errand boy; periodically sent off to the sea cave to retrieve a few Inferi whenever his Master decided he wanted to make use of them?

Did Dumbledore and Harry just break into Voldemort’s garage?

****

Okay: back to square 1.

Let’s play with some alternate possibilities.

We were originally invited to believe that at some point Regulus Black defied the Dark Lord. We are given the impression that either he refused orders, or he repudiated Voldemort and the whole Death Eater movement. In any case, he managed to get away without being killed right then and there, and he managed to keep ahead of the rest of them for a few days before somebody caught up to him and killed him.

Allegedly.

We were invited to believe that at some point during those few days he made a visit to the sea cave and retrieved the Horcrux, leaving a decoy. We don’t know whether he managed to destroy the real one.

I am not convinced of that reading. It just plain doesn’t make sense.

So let’s try to dismiss considerations regarding the sea cave for the moment and concentrate on the other main component of the equation. Reggie himself.

From the tone of the note he left with the false Horcrux, I’d say that he repudiated Voldemort himself and his entire movement, and was determined to strike at least one telling blow against him before he died. That note doesn’t sound particularly fearful, it sounds angry. And vindictive.

And we don’t know what set him off.

Or do we? Can we make a guess?

Regulus Black’s flashpoint may have had nothing whatsoever to do with the Horcrux. The Horcrux is just what he knew he could use to strike the most damaging blow to Voldemort with. Something related to Voldemort himself evidently pushed Regulus Black’s buttons and Madam Black’s baby boy was going to do damage.

Well, we still don’t really know for sure whether Rowling intended that Orion Black (or Cygnus) predeceased Regulus or not, do we? I think he (they?) did. That could turn out to be relevant.

The “Screw you!” message taunts the Dark Lord with the information that it was R.A.B. who “discovered your secret”. I believed that Reggie must have done that before the alleged death warrant went out, since those few days on the run weren’t likely to have been a good time to have been making major discoveries of other people’s secrets.

But that discovery alone might not have prompted him to steal the thing.

Or did it?

Given how short a time Regulus was even in the organization (a maximum of six months, we first thought, Kreachur tells us a year), he must have been a very meddlesome little monkey indeed. Maybe he did go into the organization as another of Albus’s spies — as some fans were contending. I’ll admit I couldn’t get properly enthusiastic about the idea myself, but it wasn’t impossible.

What was more likely, however, is that he had come across some very exclusive source of information that none of the other characters had anticipated.

But, if he already knew about the cave, and knew about the Horcrux, (and knew about the locket?), how can we assume that he didn’t also know about the fountain, and, consequently, know about the potion?

And since he seems to have known he was going to die anyway, would he have cared about the potion, beyond making sure that he wouldn’t be so disabled by it that he couldn’t get away afterwards? Maybe he did take a bezoar into the cave with him.

Hm. We’re stuck in the damn cave again.

Let’s back up a bit farther, and try again.

****

Frankly, where the adventure of Reggie Black and the Dark Lord’s Sea Cave was concerned, we had a whole cornucopia of possibilities to play with. Rowling had packed so many variables into this puzzle that I doubted that anybody’s version was going to get it right. And that went for mine as well.
And, if the whole issue was a red herring, we were never going to find out, either.

So it was all ours to play with. A gift to the fanfic community.

To say nothing of the theorists.

In any case: we could not overlook the possibility that the locket at #12 may not have got there by way of Regulus Black. Or not directly.

We also need to remember that Reggie’s parents clearly loved him, and there is no reason to suppose that this love was not returned. Once he knew he had got himself marked for execution, he left home and never returned to Grimmauld Place lest he be followed and put his family in danger, too. And if his father was already dead, he would not want to endanger his mother as well.

Frankly, we don’t really know why Regulus would have bolted from what was probably one the most secure houses in the UK, but the fact is that he did bolt. Rowling tells us so, right there in the books (ETA: and then later pretended she hadn’t), and we have no choice but to accept this information as it is given. He was young. He may have panicked. I’m not convinced that we will ever be filled in on the details.

And if Reggie stole the Horcrux from the cave, and passed it to Kreachur to hide, while he was actually on the run, he probably never managed to get to any place secure enough, long enough to summon Kreachur and have him bring him the Horcrux so he could destroy it, for fear that he might be overtaken before he could do it, and it might fall back into Voldemort’s hands.

****

Dumbledore went out of his way to give Harry a strong impression that no one else knows about Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

That would certainly be the soundest way to ensure that Voldemort got no hint that Dumbledore (or anybody but Dumbledore) has figured it out. But the fact is that there are a few other people wandering around the landscape who have scraps of information concerning the matter.

Such as Slughorn. Or for that matter, Pettigrew — if he got to Godric’s Hollow early enough to have witnessed the spell that went wrong — whatever it was. (ETA: let alone being right there on hand — and probably drafted into service to assist in the creation of the Nagini Horcrux.) And we have no idea of just what information is lurking about in all of the private libraries of Dark Arts sympathetic families. The subject was only banned at Hogwarts, and that comparatively recently. The truth is out there. Or at least the pieces are. If you know where to look.

Or know whom to ask. Horace Slughorn must be the very last person to whom the idea of creating a Horcrux would appeal, but he seems to have a sound enough grasp of the theory. And if the information was only banned at Hogwarts since Albus Dumbledore started agitating on the subject there is a good chance that just about any member of any generation older than Tom Riddle’s might be just as conversant on them.

Certainly in a family of traditionally Dark wizards, anyway.

But Albus also made a vigorous effort to convince Harry that even he himself had no proof of the possibility until Harry had handed him the Diary four years earlier. And I tend to think that this may have been another case of Albus shaving the truth according to his audience. And once again, I thought the intention behind this misdirection was probably in order to shield Snape, whose welfare Albus does not entrust to Harry.

Because at that time I tended to think that even if Snape didn’t know the full text of the Prophecy, he did know about the Horcruxes. I was sure that he at least knew what kind of information Albus had him looking for. Otherwise what was the point of his being a spy?

If Regulus Black really did manage to steal a Horcrux and fake his death, as had frequently been proposed, then Albus’s “official story” was obviously inaccurate, whether he was aware of it or not. Either Albus did not know about it, or this was classified information that he was not yet ready to reveal to Harry.

And if Dumbledore was directly involved in Reggie’s alleged (i.e., faked) death, then the probability was that Dumbledore had known that there had to be more than one Horcrux ever since the attack on Harry in 1981, because the Horcrux from the cave would probably have already been destroyed — and yet, at Godric’s Hollow, Voldemort still did not die.

What is more, if Dumbledore was involved in the disappearance of Regulus Black, the probability was that Snape was involved as well. Ergo; Snape was also aware of the fact that Voldemort had achieved deathlessness by the use of multiple Horcruxes. This was absolutely not information that Albus was going to share with anyone else.

Under this particular scenario, we don’t know how much Regulus Black told Albus about the Horcrux. Presumably as much as he knew.

Which all raised the outside possibility that Reggie’s Horcrux had already been destroyed, and if so, it may not have been the Locket, since the Locket seemed to still be around.

But, in that case you would have expected Albus to have told Harry about it, so as not to waste his time on that one. Therefore, we cannot assume any of it. And, even if Albus was involved, if he did not regard Reggie’s story as his secret to tell, he would have kept silent about it. Which may be the crux of the matter.

He would certainly keep silent if he went to the trouble to “disappear” Reggie in order to keep him safe. And that goes double if any hint of Reggie’s faked death would seriously endanger Snape — who may have taken credit for it.

Or, if Reggie was hidden under Fidelius, Dumbledore may not have been his Secret Keeper. Snape was. Dumbledore knew the secret, but could not reveal it. I’ll admit that I liked this possibility. But I wasn’t going to be disconsolate if it should turn out to be wrong.

There was also a strong probability that Snape had also been shown the Pensieve presentation on the life and times of Tom Marvolo Riddle. With the notable exception of Slughorn’s memory, since Albus did not have access to that one until Harry managed to retrieve it.

Indeed, Slughorn may have been shown bits of that collection after Riddle’s first disappearance, too. Specifically the memory of the Gaunt family at home. Marvolo Gaunt made quite an issue of being descended from Salazar Slytherin. The current Head of Slytherin would not have been an inappropriate place to start asking questions regarding the puzzle of who are these people? And you have to admit that Sluggy would be a very good place to start asking questions about any of the “old families”. He carries on as if he has a dossier on all of them.

And Snape may very well have been shown this series when he was about Harry’s age, or not much older. If Snape did go into the DEs as Albus’s agent, Dumbledore would have wanted his agent to be prepared for what he was going into. And to understand just what kind of information they were really looking for.

For that matter, Albus may not have even needed to bring up the subject of Horcruxes to Severus Snape. We’re talking about a fledgeling Dark wizard who was brought up with access to a fairly extensive book collection. Those books at Spinner’s End are described as old books. I think the core of that collection was his grandparents’. The subject of Horcruxes certainly wasn’t banned at Hogwarts (or anywhere else) in their day.

Albus may have needed to do no more than to state that Riddle’s goal was immortality. Snape may have needed no more information than that to connect the dots. Although he probably wouldn’t have assumed there to be more than one of the things. Albus may not have either, at first. But I don't believe it took him until the year of the Basilisk to figure it out.

And if we accept that Snape already knew about the existence of the Horcruxes, Albus would have shown him Slughorn’s memory as well, once he had it. So they both would have a clear idea of what they were up against.

We have a loop here; if we discover that Reggie is alive, we will find out that it was supposedly Snape who finally “ran him to earth” and killed him. And, conversely; if we find that it was Snape who ran him to earth, we will probably discover that he is still alive.

IF Reggie is still alive.

I do think that if he is, it was Snape who first offered him the opportunity to really rock the boat, do some damage, and slip off the game board, undetected.

And, if Reggie is alive, Snape is most likely to have taken him to Dumbledore, who “disappeared” him, after learning at least a basic outline of the issue of the Horcrux, and possibly the sea cave layout.

If Reggie was ever there himself.

If.

Way too much “if”.

Because Albus may not have known anything about Reggie’s activities, whatsoever. We cannot assume that he did.

****

Back to the drawing board:

For the previous year or so, I had been keeping in reserve the possibility that it was the news of Reggie’s death which might have been the last straw for Snape, who had been inside the organization long enough to be realizing that it was a monumental scam, with no purpose apart from mindless violence, and went to Dumbledore himself soon afterwards.

This version no longer played.

All of those particular scripts related to Reggie escaping or being found out by Snape had receded into the realm of implausibility.

Because with the reminder that the Diary was only passed to Lucius Malfoy in ’81, the possibility was raised that Riddle only distributed his Horcruxes into hiding places and to guardians after he had learned about the first Trelawney Prophecy.

And in that case Regulus Black and his sad story had nothing to do with Snape’s loyalties whatsoever. Because the way I was reading the information, the indications were that Snape was already working with Albus by the time the Prophecy was made. Instead, Reggie’s death would have been the first death to have occurred as a direct result of the release/escape of the partial Prophecy.

And, if so, the real question was whether Snape and Albus were aware of that. They may not have been. They do not need to have been.

****

In this scenario, the Prophecy would have to have been made shortly after Halloween, 1979, just about the time of the child it foretold’s conception. The Horcruxes would have been sent into their hiding places at any point after the Prophecy was reported, over the ensuing two years. Reggie Black unquestionably died during this period.

Which also means that we (and Harry) might have a better chance of tracing the Horcruxes if they were only hidden around the time Harry was born, rather than decades earlier. And one wonders whether, on the strength of having reported the partial Prophecy, Severus Snape ranked high enough to be given the responsibility of hiding one of them.

(Is that how Albus knew to go directly to the ruins of the Gaunt’s hovel and retrieve the Ring as soon as he was ready to launch Operation Horcrux? Possibly. But I tend to doubt it.)

However, if the locket we saw in Grimmauld Place was the Horcrux from — or originally assigned to — the sea cave, then whoever’s faked death was due to be revealed in the course of book 7 (if anyone’s) it would probably not be Reggie’s.

If the Locket from #12 was the Horcrux, then Reggie’s faked death was no longer necessary to the story arc. That Horcrux was no longer in the cave (or never had been there in the first place). We did not need to hear Reggie’s story. That’s a false trail. A red herring. How — or if — he got the Horcrux out of the cave doesn’t matter, either. It doesn’t matter how he knew it was there, it doesn’t matter how he got it out. He got it out, or kept it out, he either destroyed it, or he didn’t, and hid it in, or sent it to Grimmauld Place for safety, and boogied off. End of story.

If the locket from #12 was the sea cave Horcrux; from the structure of the series to date it also probably had not been disarmed yet. And finding Reggie or what happened to him wasn’t going to tell us squat about where it had got to now.

If the Locket from Grimmauld Place is the Horcrux from the sea cave, it doesn’t matter whether Reggie died failing to disarm it, was killed by DEs, as reported, or faked his death and made his escape from wizarding Britain and is now living under the name of Stubby Boardman on a houseboat in Sausalito. He isn’t needed and he won’t be back.

All that needs to happen is that his name be identified as R.A.B. And we don’t need to bring him back on stage to do that.

What we need to know is what happened to the Horcrux.

****

And, now let’s go back to the drawing board, yet again, and start over from the beginning.

And see what is behind Door #3:

This one has been freely adapted from an earlier theory which was first posted in the hp_essays community and on the LiveJournal of a fan going by the name of Professor_Mum.

And I have to admit that I really like this one.

It’s based upon a consideration that I had completely missed, but it has rapidly become my theory of preference. This reading isn’t altogether watertight either. In fact it had a major gap in it for which we had no certain context to use as a plug. At least not then.

The gap was the premise that although Voldemort almost certainly created all of the Horcruxes #s 1–4 by the end of his 10-year exile from the wizarding world, if the theory is to work, he did not assign them to their hiding places until much later. Decades later.

That particular gap has been quite satisfactorily filled.

We had some evidence to support this. Tom did not entrust Lucius Malfoy with the Diary until shortly before his first defeat. Prior to that point he must have kept the Diary among his own effects.

For that matter, maybe we ought to reevaluate our assumption that the Diary was the first Horcrux created, too. Maybe it wasn’t #1 at all. Maybe it was #5. Maybe it was only created, as a weapon, at the point that he decided that he needed such a weapon.

But we won’t do that here. This essay is concerned with the Locket. The Diary had nothing to do with the Locket.

What is necessary for us to accept as the basic premise for this particular reading of the events pertaining to the sea cave Horcrux is that Voldemort held onto Slytherin’s Locket until some point after Halloween, 1979.

And that at some point after that date he entrusted it to Bellatrix to take and hide in a place of safety. It may have been her own idea to hide it in the basin in the cave that housed the Inferi, or he may have specifically instructed her to hide it there. He may have even provided her with a wineskin of the green potion to protect it with.

And he sent her because it was getting on to winter, or he doesn’t fancy the swim, or that getting into that Cave, and getting over to the island was a rigmarole that he didn’t feel like going through himself, out in the open where he might be spotted. She could demonstrate her loyalty by doing it for him.

And Bellatrix, being Bellatrix, could not resist making a stop at #12 and swaning about to her cousin Reggie on how much the Dark Lord trusts her — and generally boasting, and hinting, and making innuendos.

Yes, that’s right.

Reggie substituted the Locket before it ever got to the sea cave.

It never got any farther than #12 — until Sirius threw it out.

****

This playscript requires a very different set-up from the usual ones. But it is a much, much simpler set-up, and it doesn’t require inventing unauthorized magic, or rewriting the rules of magic, either.

Some things to consider:

R.A.B. taunts the Dark Lord that “I discovered your secret!”

Tom Riddle has more than one secret, you know.

Why have we been assuming that this fatal secret was the secret of his Horcruxes?

Regulus was a member of the Black family. You, know, those Blacks. Dark wizards from the year dot one. This is a family that thinks beheading the servants is normal. Is convinced that the mounted heads of outworn House Elves are a charming display of trust and devotion to their departed retainers. The kid’s mother once had a cousin who had actually been lobbying the Wizengamot to legalize Muggle hunting at some point in the last century and a half. Is he really going to blink at the idea of murdering somebody to create a Horcrux? Probably not.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

Or Harry Potter’s either. We have been so desperately trying to find our one truly good Slytherin that we have been ignoring the odds.

R.A.B. wanted to strike a real blow at the Dark Lord. Good for him. This doesn’t necessarily make him a hero on the side of the Light.

Yes, he had obviously figured out that the Dark Lord had created a Horcrux. Good for him. He was sharper than most of his associates.

This is also a kid who has been hearing about an “immortal” Dark Lord for most of his life. There are very few methods for attaining what passes for immortality.

The kid also had a Dark wizard for a grandfather to ask questions of, and access to a private Dark Arts library which does not have the imposed limitations that Albus Dumbledore has established off at Hogwarts. He also had the smarts to look it up. Good for him.

But that sure wasn’t what had him seething to drag the Dark Lord down.

Consider: this is Walburga Black’s precious baby boy. What, so far as we can tell from what we’ve been shown, was Madam Black’s primary obsession?

Purity of blood, wasn’t it?

What do you think a boy with that kind of a background’s reaction is going to be when he discovers that his Leader is a literal halfblood?

After he has irrevocably bound himself to him.

With. No. Way. Out.

****

Sirius claims to have believed that his parents would think that their darling Regulus was a right little hero when he signed up with Lord Voldemort’s army for the preservation and exaltation of “racial purity”. But Sirius wasn’t even capable of noticing what motivated one of his own roommates of seven years standing.

It also never seems to have occurred to him that for all his parents’ pure-blooded snobbishness, they were having no part of Voldemort’s rising “Dark Order”. All the while that Voldemort’s star was steadily climbing into the heavens, they were nervously slapping layers upon layers of protection on their family home. Any possible significance of this behavior seems to have been totally lost on Sirius Black.

Professor_Mum believes that the Blacks had discovered something very important about the former Tom Riddle’s background. I am inclined to agree with her.

Orion Black was of a perfect age to remember that “Lord Voldemort” had once been a nickname used by one of his schoolmates. A boy by the name of Tom Marvolo Riddle.

And that at some point after Riddle’s initial disappearance from the wizarding world, I think that both he, and his father Arcturus, had discovered that Tom Marvolo Riddle was a literal halfblood.

And a thief. And probably a murderer.

I think that we can take it as given that Arcturus Black had Ministry connections. Connections good enough for him to recognize exactly when a donation to the Ministry exchequer would garner him an Order of Merlin, first class.

Riddle’s halfblood background had turned up in the course of Albus Dumbledore’s campaign to secure Morfin Gaunt’s release from Azkaban, probably during the period that Tom Riddle was absent from the wizarding world. The evidence submitted in that campaign would have included a recovered memory which revealed that the afore-mentioned Riddle was almost certainly a parricide. And was definitely a thief.

And, oh yes, a halfblood.

But Arcturus and Orion didn’t have the nerve to speak up and actually mention that little bit of information. Certainly not after Riddle had returned and started gathering followers.

Not to anyone. Possibly not even to Walburga. It was just too dangerous.

Orion resisted any blandishments to join Riddle’s movement, kept his head down and started layering protections on the family home. No doubt on his father’s advice and with his approval.

It didn’t occur to any of them that Riddle would manage to get his hooks into their children. Certainly not their precious Reggie. I think that had Orion lived to hear of it, Reggie’s announcement that he had joined the DEs would have set off an explosion not much less violent than the one following the news that his brother Sirius had set up a prank that might have killed a fellow student. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time a teenager made a disastrous, life-altering decision without discussing the matter with his parents.

And Reggie’s parents would have had no hope of being able to bail him out of the consequences of that decision.

Although Orion may have tried. If he was still alive then. Asked the wrong questions anyway. Or made the wrong comment in the wrong ears.

Given that Riddle had — on the surface — adopted the pureblood supremacists’ party line wholesale, how could Orion, a deliberate outsider from Riddle’s organization, have known which were the wrong ears? Possibly even his own brother-in-law’s ears, now that we need to consider the matter of Cygnus’s marriage to one of the Rosiers and his death occurring in the same year as Orion’s. (Although there must have been no evidence suggesting that Cygnus was a DE at the time of his death, or you would think that we would have been told something of it.)

Just about every member of the Black family we have met or heard of (other than Tonks, and possibly Andromeda) seems to have a pronounced spiteful streak. Once they feel they have a grievance, most of them would happily cut off their own nose to spite their face, so long as it gives you a bloody nose as well. They also can’t seem to resist mouthing off when they really ought to keep quiet.

So Orion dies of meddling, if he wasn’t already dead before someone (cousin Bellatrix?) approached Reggie to recruit him. Reggie cannot be sure that his becoming a DE had anything to do with his father’s death, but he’s stuck, and doesn’t know of anything he can feasibly do about it. After belatedly speaking with his grandfather, he keeps his head down and starts diving into research to find out whether there is anything doable.

****

So, okay. Adjusting to account for Kreachur’s tale in timing, even if in no other particular, at some point late in 1979 or early 1980, certainly no later than summer break, Bellatrix shows up, boasting to Reggie of her mission to hide the Locket. She doesn’t talk about the cave. She doesn’t need to. In this iteration Reggie does not need to have ever heard of the cave. Albus learned about the cave somewhere else. Probably got a nudge when reviewing his own memory of that interview with Mrs Cole back in ’38.

Bellatrix does, however, wave the Locket under Reggie’s nose and point out that it was Salazar Slytherin’s own — see his mark?

Bellatrix may even have shown up to ask for ideas on where to hide the damned thing. But, whatever the case, she makes it clear — even if not in so many words — that she is the Dark Lord’s favorite and he has entrusted her with his most precious treasure which she is to take and hide in a place of safety. She is being unforgivably indiscrete, but this is family. And Reggie is an insider.

If Orion is already dead, especially if he is dead of meddling, Bella may even have been ordered to find out whether Walburga knows anything that means she needs to be eliminated as well (Walburga doesn’t).

Reggie, who has now discovered Tom Riddle’s background, and has lost his father, is already simmering with resentment, determined to strike a blow against what he now regards as a false Dark Lord, even if he does get himself killed for it. He has also already figured out that the “Dark Lord” has to have created a Horcrux.

After all, once his grandfather finally told him what kind of a mistake he has made, he has been combing the family library for some way in which he can strike a blow against a deathless Dark Lord, and there just aren’t that many ways to achieve deathlessness.

Or to unravel it.

He makes the intuitive leap to the certainty that this “treasure” entrusted to cousin Bella must be the Horcrux. He may even recognize Slytherin’s mark and knowing that it really was Slytherin’s locket considers it another affront that a halfblood like Riddle should have possession of such a treasure, rather than a fine noble family like, say, the Blacks.

Walburga invites Bellatrix to stay for tea, or luncheon, or whatever.

While Bella is off washing her hands, (or questioning her aunt), Reggie transfigures something into a locket, writes his “screw you” letter, inserts it, and substitutes his copy for the original.

He manages to hit the unsuspecting Bella with a Confundus Charm at some point during the visit. She doesn’t realize that the locket she now has is not the same one she brought.

Bella leaves and hides the false Horcrux in the sea cave, according to her instructions.

But Reggie at 17 isn’t quite smooth enough to exercise the necessary self-control needed to really pull his coup off. He unwisely asks Bellatrix whether the Locket she was entrusted with is Voldemort’s Horcrux (or may just have let it slip that her Master is a halfblood) — and realizes as soon as the words are out of is mouth that he has made a fatal blunder.

Bellatrix may know nothing about Horcruxes, but she is sharp enough to know what kind of trouble in the ranks calling their Lord a halfblood is likely to raise. Whichever it was, Reggie realizes that she is not going to keep her mouth shut, and any attempt to ask her to not mention the matter, or to promise his own silence will only make the likelihood that she will speak up worse. Any questions on the subject is going to throw the cat among the pigeons.

As soon as she leaves, he warns his mother that he is on the hit list, gets word to his grandfather about which members of the family have also been drawn into the Dark Lord’s army and bolts. He may make a stab at disarming the Locket, but after being unable to get it open, gives up and leaves it behind.

Reggie’s death date shows up on the tapestry a few days later.

Because Bellatrix did ask Voldemort whether the Locket is his Horcrux, and/or revealed to her Master that Reggie knows he has one. Or at least that Reggie knows his halfblood background.

In either case, Voldemort immediately orders the boy’s death just in the interests of security. Bella is fortunate not to be eliminated as well. But her loyalty is utterly unquestionable and her degree of hero worship enough to save her. Voldemort decides instead to hedge his bets and tells her that yes, the Locket is his Horcrux, and she must never ever let anyone know.

He has to have done something like that.

Because, when you stop and think about the matter, Bellatrix seems to be awfully certain, at the time of her sentencing, after the Dark Lord’s first defeat, that Lord Voldemort is not dead. Of course it’s Bellatrix, so it is easy to chalk up any wild statements from her as sheer bravado. (I think the Hat must have really wanted to put her in Gryffindor, and she flatly refused to go. She and the “new” Ginny are looking more similar by the moment. I confess to a certain degree of amusement when Bellatrix in full cry put Harry in mind of Ginny and her “blazing look”.)

But Albus was present at that trial, and he witnessed that statement. Did it set off any warning bells for him? Or is this another instance of his making no statement unless he can prove it, in triplicate, before witnesses?

Because Horcruxes are not exactly new technology. They certainly aren’t something Tom invented. The information about them is out there. It’s just not in the library at Hogwarts. Albus may not want other people to know about them, but he can’t keep them from finding out about the theory at least. Not once they are out of school.

And if Bellatrix knows about the Locket, then she could be after it too, even if only because she wants to keep Voldemort from finding out how badly she flubbed the hiding of it. More probably, of course, she knows that it is something that must not fall into the hands of his enemies.

If nothing else, she is sincere. Indeed, she has always been completely sincere. Disliking her is no reason for us to overlook that fact. In fact she is so sincere that I really can believe that Tom may have trusted her with information about one of the Horcruxes rather than to have to execute his most faithful fangirl for having discovered it.

And... it also just makes such perfect literary logic that Sirius Black, for the third time, managed to totally bollix up Albus’s plans. The Black family wasn’t just the Dark Lord’s bane (acto Professor_Mum’s theory), if you ask me. It seems to be clear that the Blacks are far more of a liability to their allies than they are to their enemies. Born marplots, every single one of them.

I did agree that it would make sense, and would certainly provide us a nice shortcut to find the Locket in Kreachur’s nest. But I was beginning to suspect, and even to hope, that it wouldn’t be that easy. The Locket would make the very best of wild geese to chase through the last book, stumbling over the Cup in the process, with the Scar (and the Wand?) waiting for them at the finish line. That would make for a more focused storyline I think. And give us an echo of PS/SS as well. In fact it would give us echoes of all three of the first three books, wherein the final reveal also gives us the answer to questions we never thought to ask.

****

The death of her favorite son (and her husband?) seems to have been the last straw for Walburga, and for Arcturus Black as well. They bar the doors against Bellatrix — formerly a considerable favorite, who they probably now regard as another misled victim like their Reggie, and probably the rest of that whole branch of the family as well.

So where does that leave Madam Black?

For that matter, where does that leave old Arcturus Black?

Housebound, perhaps?

Did Walburga Black spend the last six years of her life, and Arcturus the last 12 years of his effectively prisoners in their own homes; Walburga with no company other than Kreachur? Might this explain something of the conduct of Walburga’s portrait?

But Voldemort was gone within about a year after Reggie’s death. And Bellatrix was in Azkaban within the following year. Walburga had no real reason to continue to live in such seclusion.

Or did she?

Perhaps most importantly, we got no suggestion from the conduct of Madam Black’s portrait that Sirius Black’s family had ever bought into the Ministry’s official story that Sirius was involved with Lord Voldemort or the Death Eaters in the first place. Indeed, her objections to him seem all to be on exactly the opposite grounds!

If that’s what her shrieking was actually about. Perhaps Walburga spent the rest of her life railing about the filthy halfblood Riddle (who she remembers from school perfectly well. I doubt he endeared himself to her) who had almost single-handedly destroyed her entire family.

Is that why Sirius, despite having been previously disowned, ended up inheriting the house from his grandfather after all? Because Arcturus did not believe that Sirius had ever been involved with the Death Eaters? And that even if he was in Azkaban, so long as he lived, the Malfoys — another pack of the Nameless Upstart’s followers were not getting their hands on his house.

In fact, by the end of 1979 — apart from Arcturus’s daughter Lucretia, who is female — Sirius is about the only surviving younger representative of the Black family that Arcturus can be reasonably confident has not gotten involved with Tom Riddle or the Death Eaters.

Well, other than Andromeda Tonks, of course.

Is that why he reinstated Sirius as his heir?

Did he announce that decision after discovering Bellatrix and Narcissa’s husbands’ involvement with the DEs, over Walburga’s objections? Is the portrait’s behavior consistent with Walburga having had the law laid down to her by her father-in-law? Did Arcturus change his will at this point to ensure that his cousin Pollux, or his cousin’s son Cygnus and his daughters will never get their hands on his house.

Works for me.

Don’t know for sure whether it works for the series. Particularly not in the face of the changing dates on the tapestry.

But then you also have to question Sirius’s statement that Kreachur hadn’t cleaned anything in 10 years. Walburga had been dead for 10 years, but Arcturus lived until ’91. Dying only four years earlier.

Of course Quentin Crisp assured us that after 4 years the dust gets no thicker.

But Lucretia outlived her father by only a single year (if even that), and he may have been living with her. Particularly if she was widowed young. She may have been. Apart from the Lestranges’, hers is the only childless marriage on that tapestry in the past 150 or so years. And we can see the Blacks did not go in for second marriages.

But, if Reggie passed the word to anyone I doubt it was to his mother. And it certainly wasn’t to Kreachur, either. Kreachur still idolizes Bellatrix.

But, you’ll notice that even amid all the pond scum Kreachur does mutter under his breath, he says nothing particularly favorable about the Dark Lord himself. And while he clearly knows who Harry Potter is, and just as clearly detests him, you just don’t get the feeling that having brought the Dark Lord down had anything to do with that.

And, “talking — not listening”, seems to have been one of Walburga’s specialties.

So did Walburga continue to live as a shut-in after Regulus and Orion’s deaths, Voldemort’s fall, the DE trials, and Bellatrix’s sentencing to Azkaban? The condition of Walburga’s house certainly makes it sound like it.

Why?

What did Regulus tell her before he bolted? What did he tell Arcturus?

Did they know that the Locket was a Horcrux?

How could they know that and not do something about it if they opposed Riddle?

Has the Locket already been disarmed?

By Arcturus?

Or, knowing that Riddle created a Horcrux, and that they now had custody of that Horcrux — of which Regulus may have informed him — and not being able to get the Locket open to disarm it, and not daring to simply destroy it, did Arcturus stick it in the display case in the parlor and just not tell anyone. Not even Walburga? Or Kreachur?

After Sirius’s arrest and sentencing to Azkaban, Arcturus seems to have given up. He did not ever return to live at #12. Although the house was still his. He left Walburga in possession of it, and after her death it was occupied only by Kreachur.

At the end of his life, or at some point in those final six years while he still had access to the house, where he no longer cared to live, might he have finally thrown in the towel and whispered the truth to Phineas’s portrait?

Did Albus know that the Locket was supposed to be at #12?

Was the locket we saw there even the right Locket?

Well, we won’t know until we find it, will we?

Oh I can see that the Locket is going to lead us a merry dance in Book 7.

But I’d still check the Black family’s Gringotts vault if I were Harry.

****

I’m a bit sorry that that one is now out of bounds. It plays extremely well with what we had to go by at the end of HBP.

****

Which brings us to the question of why Albus dragged us off to the sea cave in the first place. He may even have known that the Horcrux was no longer there. Why should he make such a point of retrieving R.A.B.’s “Screw you” note from the cave in order to set Harry on the trail?

Well, downstream of DHs, what I suspect may have happened was yet another “failure to communicate”. Albus, as usual, did not tell anyone that the Locket was important, and in return, Albus was not immediately told when Sirius Black threw the Locket out. Albus thought that it was safe in the Black’s parlor. He hadn’t really grasped the full scope of Sirius Black’s positive genius for bollixing up other people’s carefully-laid plans. Even though Albus had already been bitten by it before. Twice, in fact.

Of course Albus was told, eventually, Far too late to do anything but set up a new hunt for the accursed thing. It is probable that he only discovered the loss of the Locket when the Order cleared out of Grimmauld Place after Sirius’s death.

I think he might have intended to collect and destroy both the Locket and the Ring at the beginning of Year 6 when he finally launched Operation Horcrux, and only discovered its loss then. Some of his absences from the School over the year were probably spent following leads on it. As well as to the cave.

In fact, if he knew about the Locket at #12, the disappearance of it is probably why he put such an effort into tracing the cave at all. He had to backtrack to where the Locket was supposed to have been originally. Not on his own account, of course, but on Harry’s.

In short, he needed to start Harry off at the head of the trail, (although why he couldn’t have simply told the boy, I don’t know) since he trusted that once Harry made the necessary connection of R.A.B. = Regulus Black, he would be able to follow up on it. But then that would have been no good unless they managed to retrieve whatever message Reggie might have left with the decoy. He was probably reasonably confident that Reggie had left a message of some sort.

Although he didn’t just tell Harry that Kreachur may have known something, and as his Master he should order him to just tell him what it was, I don’t know. Particularly not if Albus is supposed to have picked up the clue of the cave and the inferi from legilimancy images he got from Kreachur.

Of course, by then, Albus was on the point of staging his own exit; his health and his own time to deal with the issue had run out, forcing him to pass the job on to Harry. And, in the outside chance that he was magically constrained from telling Harry about Regulus Black, he had to introduce Reggie’s name and role into the hunt by some other means. If this was the case, anyone who might be able to reveal Reggie’s part in the matter was no longer accessible to Harry.

But the only scenario in which Regulus Black would be required to make a personal appearance over the course of book 7 was if the sea cave Horcrux was not the Locket. In that case we really did need his story, because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else around to tell it. And that possibility was beginning to look less and less likely.

Of course there was also the chance that Albus was giving Harry the opportunity to spread the word of where the bloody army of Inferi was stashed to someone in authority, so they could go in there and clear it out before Voldemort brought them back online, too.

But, given that it was Harry, that possibility seems a bit too sensible to hope for.

****

Which sends us back to the cave again:

Hopefully for the last time.

The indications are very clear that Dumbledore knew something of what to expect in that cave, but he did not appear to have all the details, and he seemed to need to “feel his way”.

Actually, that “feeling his way” impression now looks to me as if he had hedged his bets before leaving the castle that evening with a 2–3 hour dose of Felix Felicis, and was waiting to see all the possibilities spread out before him before he made each statement or took each action. Compare this with the more subjective account of Harry’s actions while under the influence of Felix a few chapters earlier and decide for yourself.

The obvious question at the end of HBP was, if Reggie’s death was faked by Albus and Co., and the sea cave Horcrux was the Locket, and it has not already been destroyed, is why Dumbledore did not immediately try to recover the real Horcrux and destroy it when he first heard of it. Or at any point after Voldemort’s first disappearance.

Well, post DHs, now we know. Evidently Albus hadn’t a clue as to Reggie’s doings.

Even if he had, up until 1991, Reggie’s grandfather was still alive, and I doubt that Albus was a favorite of his.

And he was hardly going to break into the man’s house to get it, even if Arcturus wasn’t living there. And, after Arcturus Black’s death, Albus still had no access to that house until Sirius broke out of Azkaban and could be convinced to go into hiding there. But we have no clear idea why Albus didn’t take custody of it then. If he knew about it.

Which pretty strongly implies that he didn’t. Or didn’t know that Reggie had stolen it anyway. Youngsters have managed to pull the wool over the Headmaster’s eyes before this.

But the only way he could have avoided recognizing it in the display case in the parlor is if he hasn’t reviewed his memories of having seen it in Madam Smith’s collection recently enough to recall what it looked like. And not bothering to even give the Black collection of Dark artifacts a decent once-over. Which is just sheer bloody carelessness. He had a good six months to figure it out before Sirius decided to clean house and tossed it.

Also, if the “one with the power” to vanquish the Dark Lord was the Potters’ (or the Longbottoms’) child, Albus may have been hesitant to do anything to rock the boat until the kid was old enough to take a hand in the matter. Destroying his Horcruxes is likely to make Tom even more stropy than usual if he finds it out. Besides, Albus certainly didn’t want to give Tom any reason to make even more of them as replacements.

If he even could. There must be a practical limit to how many Horcruxes any one person can make from a single soul.

So, not doing anything to alarm Tom Riddle makes a degree of sense.

But not enough to justify his total inaction.

We could only hope that Tom hadn’t replaced the Diary. We were told that Tom knew that he’d lost that one. Harry gave it back to Lucius, disarmed, and Tom pried the story out of Lucius.

But it still might have been a good idea to have taken a good look into those display cases and confiscated the Locket as soon as Sirius opened the house to serve as Headquarters. The bloody thing was on display, for heaven’s sake. I ask you!

Which, since Albus did nothing of the sort, might be an indication that the old man really was slipping.

Or that he didn’t spend enough time in the house himself to discover it. Which sounds just plain careless if he knew anything about the “adventure” of the sea cave, which he clearly seems to by the time he took Harry there. Although by then it was about a year too late.

Maybe he read about that cave in Beedle. I would have bet it was in there somewhere. (The original concept of Beedle was supposed to have been close to 30 stories — until Rowling realized that she would have to write it out by hand six times and bailed.)

But the fact that even after Albus knew that Voldemort had made multiple Horcruxes, and until he viewed Slughorn’s memory he could not have known for certain how many multiple Horcruxes there probably were — although I’d say he had strong suspicions before that — he left them all in place until he was ready to address Operation Horcrux. And he wasn’t prepared to do that until Harry was of an age to take part in it, and the Ministry was admitting they had a Dark Lord problem on their hands.

Or circumstances forced his hand. Which I think the events of the opening of the summer of ’96 did.

Once again we get an up close and personal view of Albus Dumbledore’s true besetting weaknesses. And they have nothing to do with seeing the best in others. He was far, far too reluctant to Take Action in any manner which might solve a problem before it got completely out of hand.

I’ll ask you all again: are we really sure that Dumbledore was an ex-Gryff? His failures were the absolutely classic Ravenclaw failures of inaction, excessive detachment, the tendency to hang back and just observe; of being just so confident in one’s superior understanding of the significance of all this minutia one is collecting — and of expecting any problem to solve itself without his intervention. Anything less like the besetting Gryffindor failing of leaping in, half-cocked, before you have the whole story would be difficult to imagine.

All of which is compounded by his fetish for catching wrongdoers in the act, before witnesses.

From his personal history it is easy enough to see where that last weakness comes from. It must make things go much smoother to be able to do so when a matter comes before the Wizengamot. Considering the difficulties people run into when trying to pry a verdict out of a jury of 12, can you imagine the nightmare it must be with a body of 50? But still, there is a time and a place for that sort of thing.

The best time to have gone out hunting Horcruxes was while Voldemort was out of commission. And Albus had to know that there was at least one of them by then. He claims that he knew from the beginning that Voldemort wasn’t dead. The list of things that would have kept Voldemort from dying when his own curse rebounded is even shorter than the list of what monsters are stone-turners. Albus has to have known that there was at least one Horcrux in the equation, even if he knew nothing about Reggie’s adventure.

Could he possibly have believed that the Harrycrux was the only one?

If he did, then he will have concluded that the Prophecy had delivered him a cure that was worse than the disease. Maybe that’s why he now is claiming that all Prophecies are bunk. Maybe he didn’t think that way before.

But, no. That Albus was able to go straight to the Gaunt ruin and dig out the Ring, almost as soon as the Ministry admitted that Voldemort was back, and the term broke up, suggests that even without knowing for certain that there were six of the damned things, he knew, or had strong suspicions, about that one. And that the Harrycrux was in the equation at all, was proof that there were multiple ones.

Why he didn’t dig the Ring out at once when he formed those suspicions and take it to the room of the Veil and pitch it through I don’t know (well, I do now). It stands to reason that’s how you get rid of a Horcrux safely. Let it anchor Tom Riddle’s soul on the other side of it.

Hypothetically, if they could have taken them all out while Voldemort was still disembodied, they might even have pulled the conscious part of his soul through the Veil after them. And then we wouldn’t have this problem.

Although it would have been a puzzle getting the Cup out of the Lestrange’s vault.

And except, of course, for the little inconvenience that the last of the set happened to be Harry.