Red Hen Publications

Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection: The Sorting Hat Horcrux
The Potterverse Essays

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

Rowling tacitly shot my replacement for this particular theory 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. Frankly, Rowling doesn’t even appear to actually have one. But that has never stopped her from spouting out unconsidered statements that contradict other peoples’ attempts. Consequently, I’m sticking to mine, thank you.

But that is neither here nor there.

• • • •

The primary thing against this particular discarded theory, is the the issue of timing. After the fandom finally had the information that Horcruxes were our underlying problem, a lot of us spent the following couple of years debating the mechanics and probable procedure of creating them. Rather a lot of fans write fanfic, after all. An author ideally needs to have some idea about these things. And theorists will tinker with anything.

One of the issues hotly debated was whether or not the Horcrux had to be made at the same time as the murder which went into making it. Due to some of the above unconsidered statements regarding Horcruxes which we had received from Rowling, I was inclined to drag my feet over whether or not the two needed to take place at the same time.

It was only after we got a few more cases of Rowling popping off with something that contradicted herself that I finally capitulated on the issue. The majority view on Horcruxes is that, yes, they have to be made at the same time, and in the same place, as the murder which creates them.

Which right off the top, disallows this one. Because the only way it works is if they don’t.

Still, it was an interesting exercise in connecting dots. Even if the dots turned out to be illusionary.

And, for the record, although I have indeed dispensed with the Sorting Hat as Horcrux theory, most of the rest of this reasoning is still in play. You’ll find it repeated over in the essay on the Hogwarts Houses over in the Wide, Wide (Wizarding) World Collection.

• • • •

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 that 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 never managed to figure 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 an infant “child of Prophecy” and using that 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 in as a spy but as a potential 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 trailed after young Tom Riddle, and later 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, such a whopping majority of his “future followers” seem to have landed in only one House?

In my own case; I have been grousing for years that Malfoy’s assumption of “entitlement” hadn’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 understand 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, and his “elegantly wasted” appearance in the memory of his visit to Madam Smith is an indication of having created his first 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.

And when we saw him in back Slughorn’s memory, he still looked perfectly healthy, and was actually wearing that Ring. Albus claims that he never did that after he’d turned it into a Horcrux. He looked healthy and normal in the Diary memories which were shown to Harry, as well.

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 an acknowledged 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, (apart from the uncertainty of when the actual murder must take place) I thought we may have 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 believed 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 1948 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 supposed to have been 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, someday, 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 was 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 and was out in the world. While he was still at Hogwarts, 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. (Albus, after all, had never chosen to “move on.”) The Headmaster of Hogwarts is a position of considerable prestige, 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.

From his viewpoint, the Sorting Hat might 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. For that matter, 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 in retrospect, 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 while we’re at it, 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, both 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 them in an open fight. I think Riddle got cold feet.

But he had killed before. And if the Hat became a Horcrux 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 was a busy man, new in his position, and probably had agendas of his own to pursue.

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 in front of the Mirror of Erised. By the time he reached the Hog’s Head the transformation may have already been complete. If not, it would have been soon afterward. The eyes were probably now red, although the pupils may still have not yet become slitted, his features would have become more flattened and mask-like 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 closest followers) would have recognized him upon his return, although they would have been likely to think that they had disremembered just how frightening he looked rather than to have realized that, yes, he really did look even worse than before.

• • • •

Like I said, I wasn’t quite ready to retire that one at the time.

Although before much longer I would have done so anyway.

All I can say is that I didn’t think all that highly of the Ravenclaw diadem as presented, either. I thought that there ought to have been more of a clue to the reader over the first six books so they might have at least had a fighting chance of being able to figure it out for themselves. Without sufficient build up, it just comes across as making things up at the last moment and bunging them in all anyhow. What harm would a bit more of a hint have done, eh?

And when the final Horcrux did turn out to be Nagini, I was indeed disgusted.