It is with great excitement that I undertake MuggleNet's newest column. I want to thank the many readers whose letters and requests have helped to make this column possible. I appreciate your support, suggestions and theories, all of which will help to enliven our ongoing discussions. While Spinner's End will happily be home to all things Severus, I also see the name in broader terms. It is my hope that we will all do a bit of our own spinning, as well as some persistent untangling, while we await the ultimate answers from the Queen of All Spinners, JK Rowling. I hope that our forum will become a lively and welcoming home for avid HP sleuths of all ages. With that, let us get on with our first official Spinner's End editorial!
Best personal regards,
The Eighth Horcrux
In the spirit of reader/editorialist cooperation, I would like to inaugurate this column with an idea that was presented to me by MuggleNet reader Paritosh. Paritosh is a 26-year-old HP fan currently earning his PhD in Physics in Houston. He emailed me to ask if I thought it was possible that Voldemort killed Amelia Bones to make another Horcrux. The idea began to take shape for me, and I decided it was worth some exploration.
After all, we hear young Tom Riddle ask Professor Slughorn if seven is the most magical of numbers. Dumbledore is convinced that Voldemort determined the strongest protection against mortality would be to split his soul into seven pieces. Dumbledore therefore surmises that Voldemort made six Horcruxes to augment the soul fragment that he has within his own body. But, as Paritosh points out, Voldemort knows that the Diary Horcrux has been destroyed.
Let us suppose that Dumbledore is correct, and there are four remaining Horcruxes: the Cup, the Locket, something of Ravenclaw's or Gryffindor's and Nagini. Voldemort still assumes (as far as we know) that the Ring is also intact, though we know that Dumbledore destroyed it. He knows that he carries within his new body the final soul fragment. However, Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort knows Harry destroyed the Diary Horcrux. Therefore, Voldemort knows that he still hasn't achieved his magical number of seven Horcruxes. This is highlighted by the fact that Dumbledore heard (from Snape?) that Voldemort's anger was terrible to behold.
Since Voldemort's return to his body, his activities are quite clear and rather straightforward. In GoF, Voldemort tried dueling Harry and was, once again, thwarted in his efforts to overcome this seemingly average boy. Chances are Voldemort did not know that he and Harry share wand cores. Still, it must have been a right shock for the newly embodied Dark Lord to be shown up in front of his loyal Death Eaters by the Potter brat again, after he so carefully orchestrated the demonstration of power which he hoped would finish Harry off for good.
Despite this setback, Voldemort does not remain quiet for long. In the few weeks between the end of GoF and the beginning of OotP, Voldemort puts his next plan into place: get the Prophecy. He sets to work immediately to try to retrieve the Prophecy and learn more about Harry's mysterious powers over him. The Order of the Phoenix already has plans drawn up and a secret strategy in place by the time that Harry arrives at Grimmauld Place at the beginning of August. We can assume from this that the Order was apprised of Voldemort's movements (again, by its one-time spy, Snape?). If Snape is Voldemort's man, then Voldemort knows that Dumbledore knows. If he is Dumbledore's Man, then Voldemort is probably a Dark Lord in the dark, at least about the Order's movements.
Throughout OotP, Voldemort wishes one thing and one thing only - get the Prophecy. He doesn't even make another direct attempt on Harry's life until luring him to the Ministry. Here, I believe he hopes to get the Prophecy and Harry in one move. First and foremost, he must discover what he doesn't know about the Prophecy. However, the Prophecy is shattered at the end of OotP, and Voldemort knows he won't get answers from Dumbledore, even if he has (as I assume he has) put together the fact that Dumbledore knows the full contents. He must turn to another strategy. But what?
Within a mere fortnight of the battle at the Ministry, Voldemort has put a new plot into action: the murder of Dumbledore. We know this, because JKR writes Chapter Two, "Spinner's End," before Harry and Dumbledore leave Privet Drive in Chapter Three (approximately two weeks into summer break). In "Spinner's End," the plan is already in motion, Draco has been set the task, and Snape already knows that the Dark Lord probably expects him to finish it for Draco. I think that this plot serves several purposes. First, obviously, it eliminates the interference, resistance and influence of the most powerful wizard of the age, Dumbledore. Voldemort might really have had the chance to finish Harry off in the Ministry if Dumbledore hadn't been there to intervene. Voldemort realizes that, as Hermione tells us in PS/SS, as long as Dumbledore's around, the Dark Lord won't be able to touch Harry. Dumbledore must be eliminated. The plan also allows Voldemort an excuse to punish the Malfoys for Lucius' mistakes. It tests Draco's mettle. It tests Snape's loyalty. Finally, it allows Voldemort to sit safely in the background while Dumbledore is eliminated, and to come up with a new strategy to finish off Harry.
And yet, with this brilliant plan in motion, Voldemort apparently risks his cover to commit a seemingly random murder - he kills Amelia Bones. Fudge believes, for reasons that he does not tell us, that Voldemort killed Amelia Bones himself. Paritosh and I believe this is significant. It has been pointed out to me that Fudge has hardly been a reliable source of information in the past. With this, I cannot argue. However, I find this circumstance to be different than Fudge's determined denial over the return of Voldemort. Fudge has been humbled by the beginning of HBP. He is at his least pretentious and obstinate and his most sincere in this chapter. And Fudge's misinterpretations and denial of facts have always had one singular purpose: to protect the status quo. Fudge doesn't want trouble. He lies and/or foolishly misreads events to suit his needs: to retain control and the illusion of security. What is to be gained for Fudge by deciding that Amelia Bones was killed by Voldemort himself, if it is not true? Absolutely nothing that I can see. However, something makes him believe it, and I don't think it's a red herring.
So, if Voldemort, after remaining in such careful hiding for over a year, makes an appearance in the Wizard and Muggle worlds to kill Amelia Bones, we must ask ourselves why? Let us suppose that Voldemort realizes that there has been a glitch in his plans. A Horcrux has been destroyed (remember, he doesn't know about the Ring, only the Diary). He is no longer the master of a seven-part soul. He must make a new Horcrux, to strengthen the spell with the power of Seven.
This isn't a task for Death Eaters. He must commit the murder himself. It would be sweet to be able to kill Harry and use him to make a seventh Horcrux, but Voldemort has been bitten too many times trying to kill Harry. He isn't going to try it again until he is secure in his knowledge that his seven-part soul is safely created and protected.
The Dark Lord comes out of hiding to do another murder. Why? To make a new seventh Horcrux is a viable answer. Alas, as is often the case in JKR's world, one answer leads to several more questions: Why Amelia Bones? What was so special about her, that her murder would be worthy of the making of a Horcrux? Why not stay in hiding, kill a disobedient or incompetent Death Eater, and make a Horcrux from that murder? What vessel was used to make the Horcrux? Where is the Horcrux hidden? What protections are on it and how can it be destroyed? Will Harry learn of the Horcrux in time to include it in his quest?
The Bones family has been a nit that I have been picking at for quite some time. We have been given a lot of information about them over the years, for characters that have so little direct function within the plot. And I cannot think of a family that has been more brutally targeted over the years by Voldemort & Co.
Edgar Bones: Original Order member; "a great wizard" (according to Moody - and I think those are a lot of words coming out of Moody); he and his family among "the greatest wizards of the age" according to Hagrid; brother of Amelia and uncle of Susan; killed with his wife and children (plural - at least two children). Not the first time a whole family has died in this war... but there's more.
Mr. & Mrs. Bones: Susan's grandparents and, presumably, Edgar and Amelia's parents. Also killed during the first war.
Amelia Bones: Head of Department of Magical Law Enforcement; presided over Wizengamot; Susan's aunt; called a very powerful witch; fair and honest. Interestingly, we do not hear of Amelia being a part of the Order, either in the first war or the current one. Is this significant?
By my count, we have no less than seven members of the Bones family killed by Voldemort and/or his followers. It seems that the third sibling, presumably Susan's father, has thus far been spared. Will he or his family be next to go?
Susan is a Hufflepuff, and Amelia is described by Tonks as having the very Hufflepuff quality of fairness. It is reasonable for us to assume that the Bones family is as traditionally Hufflepuff as the Blacks and Malfoys were Slytherin. I have, therefore wondered if their connection will have to do with Hufflepuff's Cup. But what if Amelia's murder was used to create a new Horcrux?
I believe that the Bones family is in the books for a specific purpose that we have not yet seen, and that their significance is one of the mysteries that we don't yet have enough information to solve (at least I don't!). The best that I can say with some confidence is that the Bones will prove to have an active part in Book Seven, and that Amelia's murder is associated with Horcruxes - either an old one or the making of a new one... or both.
If Paritosh is correct and Amelia's death was used to make replacement Horcrux Number Seven, where and what might it be? It would have to be something significant, and something that Voldemort had either had for years or gotten access to in the past two years.
If Dumbledore's theory is correct, five external Horcruxes were made before the night in Godric's Hollow. Voldemort planned to use Harry's death to make the sixth, which, with the seventh in his own body, would have completed his plan. Did he have the object with him at Godric's Hollow? If so, is it still there, and will Harry find it? If it's at Godric's Hollow, can it be a Horcrux? Since Voldemort was vaporized before completing his task, is the relic still just a relic? What if the Hufflepuff Cup was the article that Voldemort planned to use, and it was lost when his AK backfired and he lost his body? Who might have found it? Could it have landed with the Bones, for all these years? Would they know its significance as a Hufflepuff artifact? Did Amelia have it? And did Voldemort find it ever so amusing to kill her for it and then, finally, make it into the Horcrux he intended to make all along?
If that is the case, then Voldemort may have been one Horcrux shy of his goal, even if his murder of Harry had come off as he'd planned. I am assuming that Dumbledore is correct, and Nagini was made into a Horcrux with Frank Bryce's murder, at the beginning of Goblet of Fire.
If Voldemort planned to use Harry's murder to make the Cup Horcrux, he must have either had another Horcrux already stashed that Dumbledore doesn't know about, or he would have had to find one more Horcrux Hotel for his seventh. If the Cup was already a Horcrux when Voldemort first tried to kill Harry, then he must have had a new vessel ready. What we don't know is whether he would have to have done the spell right there and then, at Godric's Hollow, or if he would have had the leisure time to go back to a safe place and create his Horcrux later. This will help determine whether or not there is a potential Horcrux vessel at Godric's Hollow.
What other items might have appealed to Voldemort for potential Horcruxes? We assume he got something of Ravenclaw's or Gryffindor's, so he almost had the founders covered. I suspect that, whichever one he was lacking (I believe Gryffindor) he would have tried first to get that. If Dumbledore had Hogwarts too well protected and Voldemort was unable to find a Gryffindor article elsewhere, he might have had to turn to another idea.
He has so far used founders' artifacts, a family heirloom (actually, both the Locket and the Ring were heirlooms, from both the magical sides of his family; however, the Locket was also a Slytherin artifact, which made it doubly valuable), a personal history (which also served as a trap), and - possibly - his faithful animal companion and symbol of Slytherin, Nagini. What does this tell us? He is interested in deep magic, history, his heritage, things he can control and things of value. Wouldn't he just love to get something of Dumbledore's? Or Harry's? Could he have cast an Imperious Curse or even ordered a faithful servant steal something from one of them? Or, is the Eighth Horcrux some very powerful magical item in its own right? Perhaps it is a treasure that he took from the victim herself - something that the Bones family has passed along to each other for safekeeping. Or, could the monocle that we heard about at Harry's hearing be of some value that we don't know? Did Voldemort kill Amelia, steal her monocle and make it into a Horcrux? What else might he have been able to lay his long, bony hands on at the opening of HBP, and where might he have hidden it?
Several people have asked me if I think there could be a Horcrux hidden at Hogwarts. I certainly do believe it's possible. If he learned how to make the Horcruxes while he still had access to the school, or, if he trusted some DE's child (or a teacher?) enough to have him or her plant it for him, it's possible. Something hidden in the Chamber of Secrets has been suggested, as well as Tom's Special Award. However, I think it's unlikely that this additional Horcrux, if it exists, is at Hogwarts. It would have been made just before the beginning of HBP. He might have gone back to hide it at Godric's Hollow, or it could be in any number of places. Any speculating would be only speculating.
If the Horcrux exists, Harry is, as of now, completely unaware of it. There are several interesting scenarios that could come of this. Harry might destroy all the other Horcruxes, get to Voldemort, and find that he still can't destroy him. Voldemort will laughingly tell him that there is another Horcrux. Harry will barely escape with his life, and it will be a race and a showdown to see who can get to the eighth Horcrux first.
Or, this could be where Snape either turns out to have been Dumbledore's man all along, or decides to turn against Voldemort. One very important question that we do not know the answer to: does Snape know about the Horcruxes? We know he aided Dumbledore after the encounter with the Ring and we know he saw Dumbledore after the encounter with the green potion. We do not know whether he knew the injuries came from a Horcrux or Horcrux protection. If Snape knows and is on Voldemort's side, this is very bad news for Harry. I think it's unlikely, actually. It would make things awfully easy for Voldemort if Snape has told him that Dumbledore and Harry have been destroying Horcruxes. He could put extra guards on the ones he has and set a trap for Harry when he finds one. If Snape is Voldemort's man, I don't think he knows about the Horcruxes.
If Snape is Dumbledore's man (or his own man, who decides to throw his weight and talents on Harry's side) there could be a number of interesting plot twists as well. Snape finds Harry and somehow neutralizes Harry long enough to make him listen to the fact that the Dark Lord has created an additional Horcrux. He warns Harry that until that Horcrux is destroyed, Harry cannot vanquish Voldemort. Would Harry believe him? Would this be a major showdown of its own, between our Hero and a nemesis that Harry wants to destroy just about as much as he wants to destroy Voldemort? Will Harry and Snape, with their unbearable mutual loathing, be forced to work together against time to destroy Voldemort's last Horcrux?
The possibility of the Eighth Horcrux opens many doors. One could write an almost infinite number of plotlines around the idea. Have we been given clues about this Horcrux that we are missing at the moment? Is it an object we've seen before? Is it as protected as the Locket was, or is it passing from hand to hand like the Diary? And why was Amelia chosen for this murder? Why does Voldemort have such insatiable vitriol against the Bones family?
If there is an extra Horcrux lying around somewhere, Harry's task is even more difficult and precarious than he knows. Will he see this possibility? He knows that Voldemort learned of the Diary's destruction, so he has the information that he needs to make the connection. Will he figure it out on his own, once the shock of Dumbledore's death abates? He'll need to muster all of his own wit and talent, and he'll need to listen to the counsel of his friends and helpers more than ever before. He has a tremendous web to untangle, and will have to prepare for many different eventualities. We can only hope that Harry's powers of observation continue to grow and sharpen as he embarks on his greatest quest, and that he finds the right balance between trusting his own instincts and listening to the counsel of others.
Many thanks to Paritosh for sharing his theory with me, and for allowing me the honor of exploring it and sharing it with you.