The Sorting Hat Horcrux:
Truth be told I was rather more annoyed about having this theory shot out from under me than most of the others. It was a fairly new one, I was very pleased with it, and I wasn’t at all ready to give it up yet. I am even more annoyed in that Rowling summarily shot it down and didn’t even bother to give us something better in its place.
Of course, since she did it I have had a whole new major epiphany regarding the creation of Horcruxes which contradicts it in any case, so by now it wouldn’t have played for me anyway.
Rowling tacitly shot the replacement down, too. But I still think the theory of Horcrux creation that I and my fellow travelers worked out was much more elegant than Rowling’s. Hers doesn’t appear to have been properly thought through at all. Consequently since her version (if any — I don’t think she even has an actual method of Horcrux creation drafted out in her notes) isn’t even in the books, I’m sticking to mine, thank you.
But that is neither here nor there.
A portion of this has particular piece has been copied and moved back up into the essay ‘On Hufflepuff (and Ravenclaw)’ after it finally sunk in that just because the Sorting Hat is not the missing Horcrux, that doesn’t mean that it might not have been tampered with. But the original iteration can sit here for a bit longer.
Tom Riddle seems to have held back from attempting to create his final Horcrux of a projected set of six for something over 20 years. But he certainly didn’t hold back from creating his final Horcrux for over 20 years on the off chance that there might someday be a Prophecy out there with his name on it. I honestly think that he was reserving that last Horcrux for a particular murder. One that he had not yet figured out a workable, risk-free way to accomplish.
I think he was saving that one up for the death of Albus Dumbledore.
But then the Trelawney Prophecy turned up, and he decided that killing the infant “child of Prophecy” and using his murder for his last Horcrux was an even better idea. He would arrange for Dumbledore’s death by some other means. (Which is why I think that Snape was really sent to Hogwarts, and expected to take the DADA position — which would assure that he would be out of the school within the year. He wasn’t sent as a spy but as an assassin.)
All of which is a big whopping clue that if anyone is to figure out what that “mystery Horcrux” is they will need to determine it from Voldemort’s past actions.
And the probable effects of those actions.
And that we probably had all the puzzle pieces we need to do that by now.
If I was right, we have had some of those pieces for a Long Time now.
And we have done nothing but complain about them.
We the fans have been carping and creebing for years about the depiction of Slytherin House. Ever since about Book 2. (We mostly just accepted it in Book 1. Harry saw very little of Slytherin House in book 1. Just Malfoy and his goons, and the Quidditch team. And Snape who went out of his way to be combative.)
We have since been told outright that people joined up with Voldemort for a pretty wide variety of personal reasons, over the years. And Slytherin House doesn’t have a monopoly on any of them.
Doesn’t it begin to look just a bit suspicious that despite a fairly wide variety of reasons for people to tag along after Tom Riddle, virtually all of his “future followers” have landed in only one House?
In my own case; I have been grousing for years that Malfoy’s assumption of “entitlement” hasn’t anything to do with “ambition” by my reckoning.
It has finally caught up to me that this is not sloppy writing; this is a CLUE.
And now that we’ve met Horace Slughorn, it is even more obvious that Tom Riddle waltzed in and stole his House right out from under him.
Tom intended to do it literally, too. How long do you think Slughorn would have continued as Head of Slytherin if Dippett had given Tom the DADA position when he first asked for it at 18?
How long would Albus have survived as Deputy Head?
Tom Riddle already had three murders to his credit before he started his 5th year at Hogwarts. We saw him wearing the Peverill Ring during the discussion in Slughorn’s memory. We’ve been led to suspect that he had created at least one of his earliest Horcruxes before he turned 17.
Maybe we oughtn’t to be off hunting Horcrux #5. Maybe we ought to be postulating the identity of Horcrux #3.
Or perhaps not. If each Horcrux created leaves a predictable visible effect upon the wizard who creates one, then he was probably no more than four down when he turned up in Albus’s office to request the DADA position. The Diadem, the Ring, the Locket, and the Cup. I’m no longer convinced that he’d already created the Diary at that point.
Tom was not raised inside the wizarding world and he approaches magic without a lot of the limitations of vision that the wizarding-raised absorb in childhood about what one can and cannot do with it. Some of Tom’s use of magic is a shockingly reckless affair.
One of his Horcruxes was calibrated to function as a potential weapon.
I think that one of the others was created to serve as a tool.
Or, in other words; I think that Tom Riddle nobbled the Sorting Hat.
To do that, assuming that one doesn’t need to accomplish the requisite murder at the same time as the Horcrux creation, he would have needed only to be left alone with it in the Headmaster’s office for a few minutes and a relatively fresh murder on his record. I think that with all of 6th year as school “hero”, and all of 7th year as Head Boy, a resourceful young man like our Tom ought to have been able to manage that.
But, in fact, (given only the above rider on when the murder must take place) I think we actually watched him do it, when he came to ask Albus for the DADA position. The Hat sits on a shelf behind Albus’s desk. Harry thought he saw Voldemort go for his concealed wand at one point during the interview.
At first we all thought that he was jinxing the DADA position. And if he could do that under Albus’s nose he could certainly have nobbled the Hat under Dippett’s, and why else should he ask for the DADA position at 18 if he didn’t already have a well-developed plan to use it.
But in this, I think that I may have overestimated young Tom Riddle’s wickedness. From the deterioration of his physical appearance between his leaving the ww around 1945 and his return a decade later, he had probably created only one Horcrux at the point that we saw him with Hepzibah Smith. And for that matter, the Sorting Hat does not sing the same song every year. Tom may not have remembered that the Hat was originally Godric’s for some time afterwards.
I have since concluded that when he first asked Dippett for the DADA position, as a student himself, he may indeed have wanted no more than to remain at Hogwarts.
Oh, well, yes, he wanted to be Headmaster, too. And he fully intended to become so as soon as he could manage it. But at that point he had no definite plans related to World Domination.™ He was a sociopath, a murderer three times over, and personally responsible for the death of a fellow student as well, but there was still some innocence left to him. World Domination was a bee that only got into his bonnet once he left school. While he was still there, his Ultima Thule was to stay.
And while I am inclined to think that Albus may have been correct that Tom eventually would have chosen to move on, he might just as easily have been mistaken. The Headmaster of Hogwarts is a position of considerable power, after all. Tom wanted it. He intended that Hogwarts should be his.
And in any case; it’s pretty clear that, at Harry’s age, Tom Riddle had no intention of ever leaving the school. He wanted to stay there forever.
But eventually, during his first long exile, he might have remembered that the Hat had once been Gryffindor’s, too.
From his viewpoint, the Sorting Hat would have been the perfect repository for a fragment of his soul. It was ancient, of immeasurable significance to the school, deeply associated and intimately connected to all four of the Founders. And even his enemies would be at great pains to keep it safe for him. Even Dumbledore had overlooked the fact that it had once been Godric’s Hat when he made his statement that the only known relic of Gryffindor’s, the Sword, had never been in contact with Riddle. And that sounds like it ought to be a clue, too.
We need to ask ourselves the same question that Albus asked Riddle. Why did he travel so far on a nasty winter night to ask for a teaching position that he didn’t really want and had no expectation of being given?
And why did he jinx the DADA position? What did he accomplish by that — apart from petty spite?
As to the first question; I think the original plan may have been to kill Dumbledore that night and make a Horcrux from his death.
So why didn’t he?
Well he had been away for quite some time, hadn’t he? And for that matter, he likes to have other people do his dirty work. So far as we know, he had never yet killed a wizard face-to-face, by that point, had he? He’d killed Muggles. He’d caused the deaths of two witches, by indirect means, but we don’t know of any point that he had stood up in front of a witch or wizard and tried to kill him in a fair fight. I think Riddle got cold feet.
But he had killed before. And he must have had at least one past murder in reserve. We do not know whose. He could have already begun filling the lake with Inferi. Dumbledore’s death could wait. The main item on his agenda that evening was to create his Horcrux.
And we saw him do it. Rowling isn’t consistent in her presentation of the use of wands. Hell, she isn’t consistent in her use of magic. But we’ve all seen magic performed without a wand from time to time. Even Harry managed it once by making his wand light up so he could find it when he had dropped it during the Dementor attack at the opening of OotP. Voldemort may not have needed to actually have his in his hand in order to nonverbally direct a fragment of his shredded soul across the room into the Hat.
So why should he curse the DADA position?
How about as a diversion?
He couldn’t count on Albus not noticing the twitch of his hand toward his wand, so he needed to give Albus some other reason to account for it. He cursed the DADA position (or maybe just the classroom) on his way down the stairs to the Entrance Hall, or from a distance afterwards, but that is not what we saw him do in Albus’s office. What we don’t know is whether Albus really bought the story or not.
But the jinxed DADA position would have been apparent by the end of June, whereas the Sorting Hat wouldn’t have been used until the following September. And Albus is a busy man, and new in his position.
Which also means that the Lord Voldemort whose appearance anyone in the wizarding world actually remembered was some intermediate stage between the melting wax image of his interview with Dumbledore and the Lord Scaly-Face that Harry met before the Mirror of Erised. By the time he reached the Hog’s Head the transformation may have already been complete. If not, it was complete soon afterward. The eyes were now red, although the pupils may still have not yet become slitted, his features would have become more flattened and masklike and the waxy look may have begun to look scaly. Anyone who saw him then (and that would have been few people apart from his followers) would have recognized him upon his return, although they would have been more likely to have thought that they had disremembered just how frightening he was rather than to have realized that, yes, he really did look even worse than before.
So. How does this work? Is the Hat aware that it has been tampered with?
Well, is Harry? Indications to this point are that it is probably not. And the tampering was, in this case, a remarkably subtle piece of work for Riddle, whose usual style is generally much more showy.
I think the fragment of Riddle’s soul convinces the Hat to read a desire for power over others as “ambition”.
This would cover all of the bases.
The truly ambitious would still be Sorted into Slytherin, anyway. The fragment doesn’t do anything to make the Hat read only the desire for power over others as ambition.
From the outside, that desire probably would look like ambition, too, but it really isn’t the same thing. And while it could perhaps be interpreted as a form of ambition, it isn’t either the purest, or the highest form.
But since Tom meddled with the Hat, quite a number of potential bullies land in Slytherin who might otherwise land somewhere else. Not all bullies, of course. The ones who indulge in bullying chiefly for the attention it attracts, and the admiration of the crowd rather than for the actual power involved still usually manage to land in Gryffindor. These are probably also the ones who most quickly outgrow the tendency to bully as they get older. Although not always.
More to the point; a lot of damaged kids who read “power over others” as protection of themselves and control over their lives (which accounts for a fairly major percentage of the aforementioned bullies, too if we are going to be honest) landed in Slytherin who really might have otherwise landed elsewhere.
And those are kids that Voldemort can use.
And, had he gotten the DADA post, once he had manage to edge out Horace Slughorn as Head of Slytherin they would all have come to him.
Quite a few of them still do. Eventually.
Tom Riddle absolutely didn’t learn the lesson that poor Sluggy tries so hard to teach. He totally misses the whole point of noblesse oblige. But he learned the technique. He saw how it was done. He would have set up his own club.
After all, he did.
And Forty Years of that kind of very slight shift in the priorities for Sorting kids has set its stamp on the character of the House. The Hat has to go.
Like I said, I wasn’t quite ready to retire that one.
Although by this time I would have had to do so anyway.
All I can say is that I didn’t think all that highly of the Ravenclaw diadem as presented, and thought that there ought to have been more of a clue to the reader to be able to figure it out for themselves. What harm would that have done, eh? And when the final Horcrux did turn out to be Nagini, I was disgusted.