The Diary of Tom Marvolo Riddle
In Chamber of Secrets, what would have happened if Ginny had died and Tom Riddle had escaped the diary? I can’t answer that fully until all seven books are finished, but it would have strengthened the present-day Voldemort considerably.” – J.K. Rowling
This question is a puzzle that has been bothering me for some time. Before HBP’s release, it was almost impossible to speculate as to why. Now, having seen, as Rowling has put it, the first part of a two-part novel, we may have enough clues to determine exactly what would have happened. First, I would like to go over exactly what we know about Horcruxes, what we know about that night in Harry’s second year, and finally, look at what was potentially the result of Riddle’s soul-piece finding a new body.
We can be pretty sure that the Horcrux in question, the diary, is the first Riddle created, undoubtedly with the death of Moaning Myrtle. The proof of this lies in the memories of the Horcrux-Riddle dwelling therein. It has to learn about Harry through Ginny, “[his] whole fascinating history”, and is then intrigued enough to seek out Harry. [COS Paperback US, pg. 311] Before that, he has begun his normal process of bringing Muggle-borns trouble with the Basilisk.
This whole plot undoubtedly reveals the nature of the diary to Dumbledore, as he has indicated. It is strange, I must admit, as this Horcrux has acted as no other that we have heard of. The ring and the locket seem simple enough, basic houses for bits of soul. However, this one has cunning and a means to interact with the world. We know that Voldemort’s primary intention with the diary is to allow someone to finish his great work within the school. Nagini, if she is indeed a Horcrux, maintains some of that same cunning and interaction, but that is because she is a living being, a very different kind of Horcrux that I will not go into just now.
What we know about Horcruxes: its very existence keeps the owner alive even if the body is destroyed; if removed from the body for an extended period, the owner does not know if it is destroyed; if the Horcrux and any brother Horcruxes are destroyed, the last bit of soul remaining is in danger of termination; and there is some mysterious connection between all the parts of a splintered soul, even if the owner cannot feel them. In the case of Voldemort, we do see this clearly in the case of Nagini (if she is a Horcrux). As Dumbledore says, “he [Voldemort] seems to have an unusual amount of control over her, even for a Parselmouth.” [HBP US, pg. 507]
We learn much more about the potential of a Horcrux long before we ever hear the term. The lessons of the diary indicate, to me, that the soul, in Rowling’s universe, contains the essence of a person in all aspects but body. The mind and spirit of the person are encapsulated into one. Perhaps this is part of the reason it is “an act of violation, it is against nature” to split the soul. [HBP US, pg. 498] It seems that every piece of soul carries an imprint of the mind and spirit of the person at the time it is broken off from him/her.
The clarity of the memory that the Riddle diary exhibits echoes that of the Pensieve. As Harry notes, “Once before, Harry had found himself somewhere that nobody could see or hear him… and unless he was very much mistaken, something of the sort had happened again…,” upon falling into Dumbledore’s Pensieve. [GOF Paperback US, pg. 586] The similarity to the Pensieve’s memory retention is staggering. As we know, the Pensieve can help people recall things that they are not aware of the first time except at some deep level. In both cases, Harry saw the world exactly as it had been when it was first experienced. Dumbledore has never mentioned this ability of a Horcrux; perhaps he has never heard of such a thing. Harry certainly says nothing about it in COS, when questioned.
The most terrifying ability of the Horcrux is to manipulate souls. To quote the Horcrux-Riddle, “So Ginny poured out her soul to me, and her soul happened to be exactly what I wanted… I grew powerful, far more powerful than little Miss Weasley. Powerful enough to start feeding Miss Weasley a few of my secrets, to start pouring a little of my soul back into her….” [COS Paperback US, pg. 310] Somehow, through this power, Riddle is able to control Ginny and eventually take her life force to return his 16-year old self. Luckily, Harry destroys the diary before that link is no longer necessary. (Or would it have always been precious?)
So, how does Voldermort do it? How does this Horcrux-Riddle start to draw power from Ginny and translate that into a new body? This seems a very uncharacteristic motion. The soul-piece within Voldemort is unable to do this, despite controlling animals and coming into contact with people such as Wormtail and Bertha Jorkins in the wild. He has to develop a partial body using Nagini venom, among other things, then with a new potion, bring his body back.
Based on what we have seen, I believe I have an answer. What does the diary have that Voldemort does not? A soul giving of itself. It has Ginny. The Horcrux, by definition, is lacking a completeness that a whole soul would have. It is weak. This weakness, I feel, will distinguish Voldemort and Harry’s souls in the final battle (the power of love). As it is, the soul-piece in the diary does not have the strength to do more than sustain itself in the form it is in (thus, the ring and other Horcruxes cannot do anything beyond exist in the state they are in). The diary cannot speak and present its memories, but it is more of a reflexive activity, requiring the input of ink — recall how it all spurted out at the end. Essentially, the void that the Horcrux has called for something to fill it, the love and woes of another soul. When Ginny’s troubles cause her to write within its pages, the soul-piece soaks up a love it has never experienced when it has been whole in Voldemort’s body. It feels a touch of what it is like to be a complete soul. It grows stronger, as Tom tells us, and is able to interact more with the environment. Recall that Voldemort (Tom) has a unique ability to control others. As the soul-piece feels more complete, more energized, Tom is able to control young Ginny and make her do things, just as he attempts to with Harry in OOTP. The description Ginny gives to Harry in OOTP is the same as when Harry experiences it live at the end, except that Harry can feel the control being taken and repels it.
With the growing power the Horcrux-Riddle has, it contemplates escape from the pages of the diary. Here is where it gets complicated. A Horcrux, to me, is an intact essense of a person at the time it is created. Therefore, it could act autonomously of the remaining bit in the owner, albeit interconnected by sheer force of the soul. The spirit and mind of Tom Riddle, age 16, is intact, and all that remains is a body.
How does one create a body? We have seen it done through potions. In addition, he does not choose to seize Ginny’s body and control it completely, probably discounting her abilities, as he so often does, those he considers his inferiors. However, we are sure that he is draining her spirit to create a new body for himself. Or is it a “new” body? The purpose of a Horcrux is to allow the owner to regenerate. Thus, it would be a sound assumption that one could use a Horcrux to create a rejuvenated self. So, if this new found source of energy simply allows Tom to tap into an innate quality of the Horcrux and reform himself as he was when he first created it (with only 1/7 of his soul, of course), then this would make sense. It further seems fitting that to create a newly working, operational body, it would take the life-energy of an entire being to do so. That has an almost poetic edge to it.
Most importantly, what are the implications of a returned Riddle? The most obvious, of course, is there could be the potential for two Dark Lords running around or Tom speeding the resurrection of Voldemort and the two teaming up. Nevertheless, what benefit would this give to the resurrected Dark Lord? Horcruxes are very powerful in that they are difficult to find, but a Horcrux that is as tough to destroy as the wizard himself makes for a difficult consequence. In addition, both would contain a sliver of a soul. Thus, both would not die if killed, the other Horcruxes would sustain them. They would be self-sustaining, between them. If one died, the other could keep the other going and vice versa. This would create an almost impossible barrier to overcome. One would have to destroy both versions of Voldemort in quick succession in order to defeat him completely, after you have destroyed the other Horcruxes. Moreover, facing two Voldemorts at the same time would make even Dumbledore hesitate. As Dumbledore unknowingly said, “Very fortunate the diary was discovered, and Riddle’s memories wiped from it. Who knows what the consequences might have been otherwise….” [COS Paperback US, pg. 336]