Redeeming the Potterverse:
This final exploded theory that I am tagging on here was rather annoying to have to abandon, since part of it was quite new and the rest was spun off from an essay that the site was rather well known for. Indeed, the most recent portion had only just developed a couple of months before HBP was released, and it went against the grain to have to excise the relevant part of it from the portions which were still in play.
I am of course referring to a couple of the original components of the Changeling Hypothesis/Premature Prediction companion pieces at the top of the sidebar, above.
In their original forms, they constituted an example of the sort of redemption pattern that a fair-sized segment of the fandom was altogether convinced that Rowling was deploying, and indeed that Rowling herself appeared to be hinting at in her interviews.
Since a revised version of this theory remained in play until the end of the series, a certain degree of unavoidable repetition is present. Sorry about that. Some of the details, however are not at all the same.
Herein I present:
The Changeling Hypothesis/Premature Prediction
(Original Redemption scenario iteration)
According to the original Changeling hypothesis, the nature of the connection which indubitably exists between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort is that from the point that Voldemort’s killing curse rebounded and destroyed his mortal body, Harry Potter has been the repository of Tom Riddle’s soul.
Not merely a portion of it, as was obviously the case in canon, once we knew about the Horcruxes, but his entire soul.
The “soul” is generally regarded to be the seat of the emotions and of self-awareness. Those who have been administered the Dementor’s kiss have no such awareness, no kind of feelings or judgement and without such self-knowledge are unable to even access their own memories. Nor do they exhibit any signs of individual character.
Lord Voldemort would have been aware of this.
However, we have been given no indication whatsoever to lead us to suppose that Lord Voldemort places any particular value upon human emotions. From his statements and those statements of his followers that we have been privy to, it appears that he ascribes to the belief that emotions are the handles that one uses to manipulate other people. One is best off without them, oneself.
The wizard formerly known as Tom Riddle’s chief priority would, therefore, have been to insure that his consciousness and his memories would be preserved and would remain functional, whatever befell his physical body, without any further consideration for his soul.
Therefore, apart from binding his soul to the physical plane, which was necessary to prevent it from passing through the Veil, he paid it no further attention and concentrated all of his efforts upon safeguarding his consciousness, his memories and his self-awareness; hedging them about with whatever immortal qualities and protections he could either steal or create.
Harry, an immature, human entity, seems to have been left with no conscious memory of the event that Changed him, beyond that of a green light.
Voldemort, a mature, composite human/non-human hybrid entity, seems to have been left with only a memory of “pain beyond pain”.
I believed that in Voldemort’s case this was only due in part to the destruction of his physical body. When his safeguards against death were actually invoked by the rebounding curse, it turned out that somewhere in his preparations to protect himself he had made a serious miscalculation. He, of course, did not realize this.
The greater part of the pain of his destruction was due, not to his mere removal from a physical body, but to the forcible dividing of his very soul, stripping it of its life experience, along with all of the immortal, non-human qualities that he had been at such pains to acquire. It was these non-human, non-mortal qualities which survived in disembodied form, controlled and directed by Riddle’s conscious memories and “Self” identity. These (predominantly adult) memories retain a tenuous connection to the underlying magical and temperamental qualities of the original human “soul” which had once informed the original, human, Tom Riddle. But they do not really control it, and it does not control or support them.
In this sundering, the stripped soul, was left bereft, without a physical housing or any significant residue of the life experience which it had once possessed. The result was very much as though it had been returned to its original, newborn state.
The imprint of a soul which informs a ghost is able to sustain itself because it has the self-awareness of its former existence to hold it together and the personality and memories of it’s former identity to give it shape. If Lord Voldemort’s preparations had not included a miscalculation, the destruction of his physical body might have resulted in a very powerful and self-aware ghost which could possibly have continued to direct his followers even from a disembodied state and would have needed only to instruct those followers to build, or provide it with a simulacrum in which it might have easily have re-housed itself to facilitate a “return”.
The stripped soul, however, now possessing neither self-awareness nor developed personality to give it form, nor memories to guide it, and which, moreover, was barred from passing through the Veil, could not properly “die”. Nor would it have been capable of sustaining itself on its own. It must find itself a shelter and sanctuary.
This almost entirely reverted (but fully human) psychic entity which, for convenience sake, we will regard as the “soul” of Tom Riddle, complete with all of the fundamental magical and temperamental qualities with which he had been born, but without conscious memory of its former life, ripped from the no longer altogether human body and stripped of its non-human and non-mortal acquired qualities, instinctively used the only connection accessible to it, the connection established by the killing curse, transmigrating into the nearest living human body available to it, where it melded with the soul of the original infant Harry Potter, who was a highly compatible temperamental and magical “match”, even if not identical in every respect.
— Thus creating a composite but fully human hybrid entity which now possessed the inherent qualities necessary to destroy the still conscious and potentially animate “residue” of Lord Voldemort, in accordance with the Trelawney prophecy.
Well, that was the original hypothesis. Let’s follow this line of enquiry up its dead end and develop it further:
Both souls were now harmoniously contained within one physical body, that of the young Harry Potter who has no conscious memory of this point of joining. The Harry Potter that we know has developed as a fully human, but composite, hybrid entity.
An example of the actual process might be comparable to that of a botanist’s grafting of an experimental hybrid onto a closely related, but more hardy, root stock. [Note: all infants begin with an inherent temperament. The individual’s actual character develops later. The Tom/Harry hybrid’s “character” has developed as a fully integrated corporate entity.] It is tempting to wonder whether this sort of a grafting would have “taken” at all with Neville Longbottom.
The composite entity which we know as Harry Potter, however, unlike the former Tom Riddle, retains the original Harry Potter’s deeply internalized experience of 15 months as a loved and wanted child, with all of the emotional strength and normal early development that this entails. And which by the time of the combination/incorporation had already established a very different, and much more resilient sense of “Self” than that which the young Riddle had developed under the institutional-style of care of the orphanage in which he was raised. It is these memories which the introduced soul has used as a base, in the absence of its own. The stripped soul, being essentially that of a newborn was subordinate to the original soul of Harry Potter, in those instances that the two did not operate in concert.
Consequently the infusion of the original Tom Riddle’s underlying temperament — which had not yet developed the sociopathic pathologies of even a slightly older Riddle — and Riddle’s magical qualities served only to enhance rather than to divide or undermine the Potter child’s very similar fundamental temperamental qualities and potential character.
The present Lord Voldemort, consequently, does not have possession of his own soul. He bound it securely, prevented it from passing through the Veil at his first “death,” and, not regarding it as being of any value, effectively threw it away. Whereupon it passed into the keeping of Harry Potter.
Who was deeply loved. And knew it.
Unfortunately, from the point that Tom Riddle’s soul passed into the keeping of Harry Potter, Harry became as unloved as Riddle had always been. Harry, however, at 15 months of age had already learned that vital first lesson of bonding with those who tended him. And he had learned it very well.
For Harry, the abrupt transition from his parents’ loving care into the grudging hands of his Aunt Petunia ought to have struck him as a profound betrayal and loss, one that would have fully justified a descent into grief, fury, and crushing despair. We are given no indication that anything like this ever happened. Something therefore sustained Harry through this dreadful “passage”.
To the soul of Tom Riddle life in Petunia Dursley’s keeping would have seemed nothing out of the ordinary. It is not impossible that to Harry the vague “presence” of that second soul which took these changes of circumstance in stride, with neither terror nor outrage might have served as a stabilizing, if somewhat dampening influence.
In return, as nature abhors a vacuum, to the Riddle soul, which had been stripped of all memories of its own former life and any true sense of “self”, Harry’s sharp memories of warmth, love and joy in his parents’ care might well have served as an anchoring point enabling its emptiness to assimilate the outlook of an emotionally healthy infant who has successfully taken the first steps toward normal human interaction. These memories would certainly have given that soul a clear impression of an emotional landscape which was true, appropriate, and desirable that would have enabled it to establish a functional template of how things “ought” to be, and against which its established patterns of reaction to a landscape, such as the present one, of cold necessity and grim duty would have finally become identifiable as something else altogether.
In short, it was a true symbiosis of mutual benefit to both parties, and it served them well over the following 10 years, throughout which the two souls became ever more closely entangled, sharing the single identity of Harry Potter. And neither could have told you which was the original, nor where one left off and the other began. In fact they were ultimately no longer even aware that they were two, and not one.
With Harry Potter’s return to the wizarding world, however, it became almost immediately evident that there were serious disadvantages to the incorporation of two separate entities into one. When in proximity with the still active psychic “residue” of the Riddle soul’s former additional components it became vulnerable to the original entity’s emotional pull, producing physical pain and resulting in erratic episodes of psychic “leakage”. These exchanges have continued to plague Harry Potter since that date and now that the original identity has managed to reincarnate itself into a functioning simulacrum, the connection appears to run in both directions. In addition, Harry’s ingrained reluctance to involve or to depend upon others which he owes in part to the coping patterns of the Riddle soul has reached the point of being as much a hindrance as a help.
At the end of the original Changeling hypothesis essay I listed the three steps that would seem to need to be taken in order for Harry to permanently rid the world of Lord Voldemort as:
He has to destroy the simulacrum which Voldemort caused to be created at the end of Book 4.
He has to destroy the “evil memory” which controls and drives the simulacrum. Essentially he must eliminate the “Lord Voldemort” entity (or VaporMort, as it was presented at the beginning of the series).
And, finally, he must release Tom Riddle’s soul and send it through the Veil.
Not necessarily in that order.
And although, over the course of the series to that date we had been given a couple of simple solutions (simple, but not easy) which might accomplish the first two list items above, we were still left asking how on earth is Harry supposed to release a soul which the Changeling hypothesis contended is so fully entangled with his own that it has become a part of himself?
On Voldemort’s end it is also clear that he must personally destroy Harry Potter if he is ever to be able to function again as a “complete” entity. If anyone else should manage to kill the boy, the human soul that was once Tom Riddle’s is so entangled with that of Harry Potter that it may be carried through the Veil with it and permanently lost.
However, it is also clear to the reader that Voldemort is not aware that he does not have possession of his own soul. Nor does he realize that if he does succeed in murdering Harry and recovering it, he will be recovering a soul that believes itself to be Harry Potter.
This will hardly work to Lord Voldemort’s advantage. His soul has undergone considerable transformation since it was last in his keeping. For the past 15 years it has been living the life of Harry Potter. Harry’s reality, perceptions and objectives are by now far more “real” to it than those of the former Tom Riddle. And, having incorporated the infant Potter’s memories, it knows what love is, now; even though it has personally experienced little of it. It accepts the existence of love as an act of faith, and it is no longer the soul of a sociopath.
I am no theologian. I do not go searching for Christ figures in children's’ (or anyone else’s) literature. But it looks an awful lot to me as if Rowling may have handed us one after all. And at this point in the story it is not Harry Potter. To this point in the story Harry is standing squarely in the position of the soul in need of salvation. Which, in accordance with all conventional Christian doctrine, has already been provided, and now must be embraced.
And, in a very real sense, so is Tom Riddle.
An infant simply does not consciously choose whether or not to bond with its caretakers. It just does so. This is the first step of all human interactions and it is virtually a biological imperative. It simply happens — unless that infant is somehow prevented from taking that crucial step.
Clearly if what Rowling tells us is literally true, there had to have been something in Tom Riddle’s earliest experience which prevented him from ever having the faith necessary to form a connection with the people who were responsible for his welfare. This took place at so early an age that it is not something he can be held to be responsible for choosing.
But, having been denied the experience of bonding with any other person, at the point that it was essential to his future development to do so, he became incapable of ever living what anyone could call a “normal” human life. Tom Riddle must answer for his own actions, certainly. But it sounds as if he was set loose into the world unequipped to make proper choices. If the soul is the seat of the emotions, then he was emotionally crippled well before reaching an age of accountability.
So is it really an appropriate example of Divine Justice to destroy this soul for the virtually inevitable results of developing a defect over which it had no choice? A defect so fundamental as to render him incapable of comprehending the true meaning or purpose of any social contract? Is the damage to such a soul irreparable? Is there no possibility of healing?
The only thing that could conceivably have saved Tom Riddle would have been to get him out of that environment and into one where he could learn that basic first step of human relationships, to “bond” with his caretakers, before it was too late. That did not happen. Tom Riddle never learned to love another creature. And if no one ever loved the infant Tom Riddle it was not because he didn’t deserve it.
Under the reasoning of the original Changeling Hypothesis, The life of Harry Potter has constituted Tom Riddle’s “second chance”. The essay entitled ‘The Premature Prediction’ explored a proposal of a “spirit quest” which might conceivably occupy a component of the climax of the final book in the series. Originally this quest was proposed as something on the order of the following:
Harry finally confronts Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries. The trio has decided that they must get the Locked door open, in the confrontation they are pursued into room of the Veil. Voldemort behaves in his characteristic taunt-then-attack mode. Harry defends himself and somehow manages to destroy the simulacrum.
And, as in the Battle of the Atrium, he immediately finds himself pitched into a struggle with Lord Voldemort for the possession of his own body.
He throws himself through the Archway in order to take his enemy down with him, and to make his death count for something. Thus embarking on his spirit quest. If Rowling decides to use Harry’s prior performance with Pensieves as foreshadowing, he will not fall all the way through the archway and his friends will be able to pull him physically back through the Veil itself. He will be deeply comatose, but not actually dead. His friends, however, are unable to wake him.
Beyond the Veil, Sirius Black, either as man or dog is waiting for him and serves as his guide. In the spirit realm the Voldemort entity can exist independently — probably in VaporMort form. It finds itself unable to retreat back through the Veil to the physical world.
Enraged, it dogs Harry’s progress and settles in to hunt him.
Harry will certainly meet his father on this quest. James will be of some assistance, and may be able to give Harry needed information, but he will not be able to rid Harry of the VaporMort entity which is hunting him. James will send them in search of Lily, who after all did manage to defeat Voldemort the first time. As Harry and Sirius travel on, Harry will eventually have to start questioning how and why Voldemort is still hunting him when both of them are *dead*. Harry may encounter others who have died in the war by that time, (Dumbledore? Pettigrew? Quirrell — who might well thank him for delivering him from bondage?) but this part of the sequence will not be drawn out unduly.
Ultimately they will make their way to Lily and Harry will at long last have to face up to, and fully understand, and finally accept — instead of just take for granted — the love that saved him. And has gone on saving him.
And at that point Voldemort will make yet another attempt to overpower him.
During this final attack, Lily’s “lesson” will engage, confrontation will become transformation, the two souls will finally become disentangled and Tom Riddle, who by this time has grown into a variant aspect of Harry Potter will utterly repudiate the false Lord Voldemort, banishing him forever.
And will then beg mercy and forgiveness from Lily who ultimately has saved him as well as Harry. If Rowling decides to play the reincarnation card (highly unlikely, I know) Lily may well turn out to have been Tom’s own mother in a previous lifetime.
Elements of this rough template are actually from a work by C. S. Lewis. But they aren’t from any of the Narnia books, they are from Lewis’s last adult novel, ‘’Til We Have Faces’.
Towards the end of this resolution, overwhelmed by the power of the transformation, disoriented by the separation from his “other soul”, and blinded by the light that surrounds him, Harry stumbles through a door into a mercifully dim hallway. It was only locked from the other side. (And those rooms in the DoM are a right warren, all running into one another behind the scenes.)
...Thereby bringing with him/releasing The Power to permanently rid the Potterverse of the Dementors. Which it does, quite handily.
If Harry’s body was recovered from the Veil, he now wakes.
Tom Riddle remains behind in the spirit realm, perhaps in hope of a more appropriate resurrection one day. And so does Sirius Black, who would also rather take the chance of a whole new life someday than to attempt to return to the one which he made such a monumental botch of. Particularly given that any friends of his still among the living have all moved on without him. If Rowling decides to play the obvious parallel card it will be discovered that Harry’s quest has taken exactly three days and three nights.
The rest of the ending was pretty much as stated in the remaining essays posted elsewhere in the collection.
Well, that was the original theory. Back when I took Rowling’s apparent hint that there was due to be some sort of a Christian theme to the resolution of the adventure at face value.
Unfortunately, imho, it turns out that Ms Rowling seems unable to draw a distinction between Christian symbolism and Christian content.
On the strength of having had the whole later part of my theory shot out from under me only three months after I first posted it I was still a little miffed to see it go.