On the identity of R. A. B.: An Alternative to Regulus Black?
The moment I finished HBP and wiped the tears off my face, I, too, started pondering the question: who is R. A. B.? It took me (and everyone else out there, it seems) all of thirty seconds to come up with Regulus Black. He seemed to be the only wizard whose initials, at least the ones we know, fit. He was a Death Eater, so he would address Voldemort as Dark Lord. And, as people more observant than myself have pointed out, there’s that mysterious locket at Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
However, something did not seem quite right. I read and re-read the note. Its tone struck me as very personal: it was written by someone who knew Voldemort well, possibly for a very long time. That is why they signed using only their initials: they were confident Voldemort would identify them correctly. The note sounds like it had been written to someone who had done the writer a great personal wrong and got away with it. The writer wants Voldemort to know that, in the end, he or she was not powerless and did exact his or her revenge: “I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret… I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more.”
All this is inconsistent with what Sirius told Harry about Regulus. According to Sirius, his brother had been a Death Eater for about five minutes, “then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out” and was not even “important enough to be killed by Voldemort in person” (p. 112, OOTP, American edition). Others have argued that Sirius could have been mistaken about the degree of his brother’s involvement. Just as easily, he could have been right. Since we don’t know all the facts, this point can be debated indefinitely.
There is another strike against Regulus, one that is harder to ignore. How did he know about the cave? Even if Voldemort had told his Death Eaters about the existence of Horcruxes, I doubt very much he would tell them their locations. I am sure he does not trust anyone that completely. And the last (and, possibly, the least weighty) argument against Regulus: it was just too easy a guess!
So who do we know to fit the following criteria: (a) had initials R. A. B.; (b) had known Voldemort well or for a long time; (c) had suffered a personal wrong at his hands; (d) knew about the cave. The last criterion narrows down the list of suspects to just a few people, and only one of them may have initials R. A. B.: Amy Benson, the little girl terrorized inside that same cave by young Tom Riddle. It has been assumed that Amy Benson is a Muggle, but she does not have to be. She is an orphan, just like Tom Riddle, so we know nothing about her parents. It is plausible that if she has at least one parent who is a wizard, her first name may be something bizarre like Reminadhorrea or something (Romilda? Rowena?). Thus, at the orphanage, she would go by her more “normal” middle name: Amy.
Before I embark on how I imagine little Amy’s life story, I would like to make a slight detour that, again, has to do with the tone of the note. In HBP, Harry and Hermione have several arguments about the person styling themselves the Half-Blood Prince. One of them has to do with the person’s gender. For instance, on p. 538 of the American edition, Hermione suggests that a girl named Eileen Prince is the HBP. Harry disagrees: “It’s the way he writes, I just know the Prince was a bloke, I can tell.” Well, Harry turns out to be right: HBP was, indeed, “a bloke”. So why all this fuss, why did JKR include all these arguments? I think it was to alert us the fact that in another instance, another piece of writing had, in fact, been done by a woman.
While I’m covering slightly tangential topics, I will also add that it is likely that the person who took the locket, whoever it may be, did not make it out of the cave alive and is now in fact one of the Inferi guarding the Horcrux. That is why, when Harry said “Accio Horcrux!” only one Inferius came out of the water. It was the one with the locket.
So, now on to Amy Benson. Below I present one, very brief, possible version of the story that I believe to be consistent with everything we know so far. R… Amy Benson was born to one wizarding and one Muggle parent and was orphaned at an early age. She did not show any magical ability as a young child and was thus powerless to defend herself against Tom Riddle’s cruelty. She (and Dennis Bishop, the little boy taken into the cave along with her) was never the same since, according to Mrs. Cole, the matron at the orphanage. Possibly, she never recovered enough to go to Hogwarts and, instead, was placed into the permanent care ward at St. Mungo’s, the same ward where Neville’s parents now live.
Now, many people have speculated that Lily Evans worked as a Healer. If so, she could have worked at the same ward. Since this was all happening before 12 Grimmauld Place became the headquarters of the OOTP, the Closed Ward as St. Mungo’s might have been used for that purpose. Thus, Amy Benson may have been able to overhear things like, “Voldemort’s name used to be Tom Riddle” and “He probably created a Horcrux, but where did he hide it?!” The memory of the suffering she had endured at Tom Riddle’s hands and the information that only she had concerning the location and the significance of that cave may have been enough to stir Amy to action.
I do not believe that she acted alone, but I do think that, ultimately, she was the one who took the real Horcrux and left the note signed R. A. B. I also believe that she faced Voldemort at least one more time, probably before she ventured again into the cave. The reason she escaped the encounter alive was that Voldemort did not take her seriously, as is probably natural with a person who one used to bully and terrorize. But he was reminded of her existence, of the impact that he had had on her life, and she was sure that he would recognize her as the writer of the note.