“For neither can live while the other survives…”

by Karima

The carefully worded Prophecy has been keeping readers preoccupied. However, while it seems to talk about the future interaction between Harry and the Dark Lord, its statements are at times uncannily representative of the past… particularly the events that took place inChamber of Secrets. The line “for neither can live while the other survives” is, upon reflection, an accurate description of the connection that was forged between Ginny and Tom Riddle in CoS. The notions of live, die, and survive interacted in CoS in a way that is summed up in the words of the Prophecy. So, we might ask the question: is Tom Riddle’s diary where we need to look to see what might happen between Harry and Voldemort in the future?

Tom Riddle said to Harry in CoS (UK paperback ed., p332 – 336):

“…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…” (333)“…But there isn’t much life left in her: she put too much into the diary, into me. Enough to let me leave its pages at last…” (336)

Tom Riddle got Ginny under his influence with the purpose of sacrificing her life so he could live. He grew stronger as Ginny grew weaker until the balance finally flipped to his advantage and he could leave the pages of the diary. Inside the chamber, in the final stage of the process Ginny was no longer really alive, yet while she still “survived” he couldn’t be fully alive. Neither could live, meaning fully exist while the othersurvived as long as the connection between them existed and when Harry put an end to it by destroying the diary, Tom “died” and Ginny lived.

The connection responsible of the state “neither could live while the other survived” between Tom Riddle and Ginny was the diary. The connection between Harry and Voldemort, summed up in the sentence of the prophecy “neither can live while the other survives,” is Harry’s scar. So, what could we learn from the diary and its secrets that would help us solve the mystery of the Harry/Voldemort connection?

A closer look at the nature of the Ginny/Tom connection (the diary and its functioning) reveals how “memories” might play a crucial role in it. There is more to the scene inside the chamber than first meets the eye. A very subtle clue seems to be the heart of the connection. When Harry stabbed the heart of the diary with the Basilisk’s fang, the ink, which symbolizes the diary’s blood, poured out and Tom was destroyed. Why was that so?

Tom Riddle said to Harry in CoS:

“I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley’s like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.” 

“My diary, Ginny has been writing in it for months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes: how her brothers tease her…” 

“I grew stronger and stronger on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets.”

It seems that in the process of writing her “secrets and memories” in the diary, Ginny was somehow “magically” transferring her life essence into the Tom Riddle memory. The diary became like a living body and the ink its blood. When the ink left the diary while Ginny was still alive, the magical spell was undone and Ginny’s life essence returned to her, thus terminating Tom Riddle’s life. Meaning, the release of the content of the diary severed the link between Ginny and Tom. This looks like a metaphor, and it may be a foreshadowing of the process that will help vanquish Voldemort in the end.

For the purpose of further discussion we call what went from Ginny to Tom’s diary “living memories” as opposed to memories that are usually remembered, a more or less accurate “replay” of events and things that happened in the past, similar to what Harry experienced when inside Dumbledore’s Pensieve…

Judging from the American cover of the Half-Blood Prince, “memories” will be quite important in the forthcoming book, if the cracked pan in the picture is indeed a Pensieve. As the author has stated that something Harry found out in the CoS was developed more at length in the HBP, and taking the undoing of Ginny/Tom connection as a strong parallel to what needs to happen to vanquish Voldemort, we might wonder if it has something to do with the secret power of the “living memories”? If yes, which “living memories” are we talking about? To answer this question, we need to go back to the source of it all.

Death, life essence and blood magic in the HP series

Lily’s blood protected her son against a curse nobody before Harry is known to have survived in the wizarding world except his nemesis Lord Voldemort. This evokes the probability that Voldemort might have used blood magic to protect himself against death.

What follows relies heavily on a certain speculation about the body and its relationship to the life essence, the very thing that seems to keep people on this side of the curtain, something that others mentioned in their editorials.

We simply imagine that the life essence is some special energy with specific properties and once its connection to the body is undone (in the death process), it would simply “evaporate” away – like when a jar breaks, a volatile substance (like ether) escapes from it and there is no way holding it back. Also, it looks like the soul cannot be destroyed, but the body certainly can.

Knowing this, Voldemort proceeded to protect himself from death by changing the way in which his identity was connected to his body and life essence. To do so, we assume that he modified his life essence to safely separate it from his body. Then he “exclusively” connected it to his identity, and finally he put the new parts back inside his body in such a way so that should the body get “destroyed”, Voldemort would still survive until he could make a new one for himself. We assume that the key ingredient in the Dark Magic he used to transform himself had to be his relatives’ blood or life essence, which explains why he sacrificed their lives.

When he was done with the transfiguration process, he became an “artificial” construct of parts fused together with magic. So when the killing curse fired back at him he didn’t die, but his body was destroyed and the magic that was holding him together as a whole was undone. He split in parts, and it seems that some “living part” of him and his powers which we consider to be “living memories”, sought the next living body to dwell in it. And since Harry was the only living soul around these “living memories”, they entered his mind and became the special link between him and Voldemort.


As far as we are aware of, an exchange of life essence is something unnatural and seems to be very hazardous. Moreover, the Tom Riddle/Ginny exchange in CoS shows an interesting phenomenon: once a life essence or a “living memories” exchange had been set in motion, it creates a state of co-existence between the involved parties until it ends one way or another, and this applies to the Voldemort/Harry exchange too.

The difference in Voldemort/Harry exchange is that a living part of Voldemort was accidentally transferred to Harry due to special circumstances, to Voldemort’s anti-death magic and to the magic Lily used to protect Harry. So far, this exchange sealed their fates together so that neither would ever have a life independent from the other, which brings us back to the line in the prophecy: “For neither can live while the other survives”…

How could Harry then ever vanquish Voldemort?

If we look at how Tom Riddle was destroyed in CoS, we clearly see that the “living memories” Voldemort unintentionally poured inside Harry’s mind are the key to his destruction. Somehow setting them free would provide the direct means to vanquish him. Perhaps when they are released, a special magical work can be done with them or to them that would help defeat Voldemort.

In that case, obviously they need to be retrieved from Harry’s mind and acted upon. This is where the importance of “memories” will come into focus in the future of the story. It is likely that the use of a special Pensieve and Dumbledore’s magical skills will come into play to help Harry as the US cover of Book Six seems to show us. Also, something about Lily is likely to be key to solve it all. We don’t know for sure but we will find out soon, when Book Six is available to us.

P.S. I would like to thank Daniela Teo, who has read successive drafts of this editorial and helped rewrite and clarify some parts of it.