The Burrow: For Neither Can Live While the Other Survives

An original editorial by RedSparks

“For neither can live while the other survives.”

For the last two years, we have all been contemplating the meaning of the prophecy. In the wake of the Half-Blood Prince, we have so many new questions to ponder that the prophecy hardly seems exciting. Already, speculation runs rampant in editorials and the forums: Is Snape really evil? Did Dumbledore plan to die, sacrificing himself so that Snape and Malfoy could live? Can Malfoy be redeemed? Will Harry go back to Hogwarts? Will there even be a Hogwarts to go back to? Who is R.A.B., and did he successfully destroy the locket? Or was it Regulus Black, and the locket is somewhere in Grimmauld Place or stolen by Mundungus? And what are the remaining Horcruxes? This last question is where I think people might go astray in their thinking.

As we see in the Pensieve, Slughorn tells Tom Riddle that Horcruxes are very dark magic – so dark that they are a forbidden topic at Hogwarts. Slughorn indicates that, in order to create a Horcrux, the wizard hides a part of the soul in an object outside the body. Then, if the body is destroyed, the wizard would not die, “for part of the soul remains earthbound and unchanged” (HBP, pg. 497). The existence would be horrible, as Voldemort learned the hard way after his curse rebounded off Harry, but he would still exist, which is what Tom wanted more than anything. However, the splitting of the soul must involve an enormous act of evil. After committing murder, the wizard would insert his soul into an object using a spell.

We know that Voldemort fears death and has always craved immortality. Dumbledore reminds Harry that, when Voldemort regained his body, he told his Death Eaters that he had gone “further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality” (HBP, pg. 501). Dumbledore, therefore, believes that Voldemort has created several Horcruxes, as nobody had ever created more than one to date.

Young Tom Riddle indicated in Slughorn’s memory that he thought splitting the soul into seven fragments would make one stronger, as seven is the most magically powerful number. Thus, Dumbledore believes Voldemort created six Horcruxes to effectively divide his soul into seven pieces (since at least a portion of his soul remains in his newly-restored body). (On a side note, I think it is very cool that this soul-splitting explains why his appearance changed so drastically over the years from the handsome boy he once was.)

If the soul is encased in an object to make a Horcrux, what are the six objects that house Voldemort’s soul? Dumbledore knows of two that were definitely Horcruxes – Riddle’s diary and Slytherin’s ring. Dumbledore indicates that Voldemort would have chosen objects of grandeur for the other Horcruxes. In researching Voldemort’s past, young Tom is obviously consumed by his own greatness and would obviously choose objects which reflect this. He is fascinated by his heritage and the relationship with the other founders. Dumbledore suspects that objects belonging to the four founders would have a great pull for Voldemort. Voldemort obtained Slytherin’s locket and Hufflepuff’s cup from Hepzibah Smith, these items are, in all likelihood, now hidden away somewhere, transformed by Voldemort into Horcruxes after particularly meaningful murders.

The final two Horcruxes are less clear, yet Dumbledore has suspicions that one is a relic that was once owned by either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. As for the other, Dumbledore believes it is that wretched snake Nagini, since Voldemort was unlikely to have acquired artifacts from both founders, especially since the only known objects – the sword and possibly the Sorting Hat (though Dumbledore doesn’’t mention it) – belonging to Gryffindor are housed in the Head’s office at Hogwarts.

These final two Horcruxes are where I think the confusion will set in. Dumbledore says that Voldemort appears not to have had all six Horcruxes when he traveled to Godric’s Hollow to kill Harry. He was going to use that shining moment – the moment he vanquished the one person (in his mind) the prophecy said could defeat him, which was obviously the most meaningful murder in achieving his goal of immortality (since he could then never be vanquished) – to create his final Horcrux. Dumbledore says that Voldemort failed. Since Harry was not killed, Voldemort did not make his final Horcrux. Instead, he was defeated and left bodiless for years. Dumbledore’s theory is that Voldemort created his final Horcrux in Nagini with the murder of that poor Muggle Frank Bryce. Although it is inadvisable to leave your soul in “something that can think and move for itself,” it seems even riskier to leave it in something living because it could die (HBP, pg. 506). It seems that part of the soul would die with the creature.

But, as I was reading the chapter about Horcruxes, I could hear the theories already. The believers in the changeling theory were surely ecstatic. If Voldemort had not created his last Horcrux before he went to kill Harry, surely when Voldemort tried to kill Harry, he transferred a fragment of his soul into the baby while the curse rebounded! Dumbledore merely suspects that Nagini is the final Horcrux because he never imagined that it could be Harry! The new theories, once the forums reopened and the editorials started coming in, would be that Harry, not Nagini, was the final Horcrux. Or, because Harry was an inadvertent Horcrux, Voldemort had unwittingly split his soul into eight parts when he put a piece of it in Nagini. And the biggest theory of all going into Book 7 is that Harry, being a Horcrux, will have to die in order to defeat Voldemort once and for all.

Some problems exist within these theories. The first is that I think Nagini truly is a Horcrux. Dumbledore has a reason to suspect as much. In OotP, after Harry had the dream in which Nagini attacks Arthur Weasley, Dumbledore consults one of his silver devices. A smoky serpent’s head grew up out of the device and when Dumbledore says, “but in essence divided,” the smoky snake divides into two serpents (OotP, pg. 470). Because Nagini was a Horcrux and Lord Voldemort was possessing her at the time (he definitely was, for that is how he realized that Harry could see what he was up to sometimes and that he could manipulate the link to lure him to the Ministry), there were two parts of his soul residing in the snake that were, in essence, divided. I think this event may also be evidence that Harry is not a Horcrux. Otherwise, since Harry was there, too, the serpent would have divided into three as three fragments of soul would have been there.

Next, if Harry truly is a Horcrux, I do not believe he necessarily has to die in order to vanquish Voldemort. Who is to say that death could break the spell? Surely a corpse could be a Horcrux as easily as any other object. If death released that part of Voldemort’s soul, I doubt he would have made Nagini a Horcrux as she surely is not immortal. Although, if the soul is released when the being dies, then Voldemort definitely does not know that Harry is a Horcrux; he would be much less intent on destroying Harry in the better interest of his soul. Thus, I think that if Nagini dies, her body would still retain his soul and be a Horcrux. So, too, would Harry if he is one.

We do not yet know how Horcruxes are destroyed in general, but it seems that physical destruction is not required in order for a Horcrux to be destroyed. The objects are not gone from the Earth once they are no longer Horcruxes. Harry drives a poisoned fang through Riddle’s diary. Yes, fine, if that were the only way to destroy a Horcrux, Harry would probably have to die. But we do not learn how Dumbledore removed Voldemort’s soul from the ring; all Dumbledore says on the matter is “[t]he ring is no longer a Horcrux” (HBP, pg. 503). The ring is not destroyed or demolished, but it is no longer a Horcrux. At least this gives Harry a fighting chance.

All we know is that Horcruxes are created by a Dark magic spell and an act of supreme evil – murder. Perhaps a spell exists that can undo a Horcrux that can be cast with an act of supreme good. I know a lot of fans are now hoping that Snape will sacrifice himself to save Harry in the end, and many have thought for a long time that Wormtail’s debt to Harry would play a major role in the end. So maybe Harry the Horcrux has a chance to save the world without it costing him his life. I think these theories are unlikely, though, as probably nobody alive would know what spell to cast to reverse the Horcrux. Harry definitely did not use this method to destroy the diary Horcrux. It doesn’t appear that Dumbledore removed the soul from the ring in this manner either (though we didn’’t see it); I doubt there happened to be someone around whose life needed saving at that particular moment.

Another problematic theory is the possiblity that Harry became a Horcrux in the first place. Horcruxes, as they are described by Slughorn, appear to be created by a deliberate act. He says that they require and act of murder and a spell. Voldemort was reduced to “less than spirit, less than the merest ghost” after the curse rebounded and was in no shape to cast a spell (HBP, pg. 497). He could not have deliberately cast a spell and created a Horcrux at that moment. Plus, the murder upon which he was anchoring his Horcrux spell was unsuccessful – the child lived. No act of supreme evil, no spell: therefore no Horcrux.

But what about Lily’s murder? Voldemort had just murdered her before he turned to Harry. Assuming the murder he was using was Lily’s murder, as the attempt at Harry’s life was unsuccessful and could not have been used, Voldemort could not have made Harry a Horcrux. He used the wrong spell. Voldemort did not cast the Horcrux spell; he directed Avada Kedavra at Harry (Harry is the only known wizard to have survived it, of course). Since one has to deliberately use a spell to create a Horcrux and can’t just do it by accident, Harry must not be a Horcrux.

I know some will still not be convinced. Since what happened to Harry was an anomaly, since nobody had ever survived Avada Kedavra before, isn’t it possible that an accidental Horcrux was made? I suppose, but we have even more important evidence that Harry cannot be Voldemort’s Horcrux. Dumbledore must have had a reason to have made this glaring omission when listing possible objects used by Voldemort. I do not think this omission is another oversight on Dumbledore’s part. Indeed, I think he had considered the possibility, and found that Harry categorically cannot be a Horcrux. One key thing that prevents this theory from being possible: the prophecy.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…
(OP, pg. 841).

We know the prophecy is talking about Harry. Harry is the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Voldemort made it so that night in Godric’s Hollow.

The first key phrase to determine if Harry is a Horcrux is “either must die at the hand of the other.” Voldemort cannot die while he has Horcruxes encasing his soul still intact. But what if Harry is the last remaining Horcrux? Two possibilities prevail, depending on how a human Horcrux can be destroyed.

If the ferment of soul can be extracted from Harry without killing him, (for example, if the scenario I presented earlier were true, that a human Horcrux can be reversed by the opposite of the Horcrux spell and an act of good), then we’re not too bad off. The soul could be removed; Snape or Wormtail or Malfoy or someone else can save Harry’s life and perform the anti-Horcrux spell. Thus, there would be no more Horcruxes, and Voldemort would at last die at Harry’s hand.

However, if the only way to destroy a human Horcrux is death, we have a conundrum on our hands. Harry cannot kill Voldemort if a Horcrux remains, but Voldemort cannot die at Harry’s hands if Harry is already dead. Yes, the logistics are mind-boggling. If Harry, the last Horcrux, was killed, Voldemort would still have the little bit of soul left in his body; but nobody would be able to kill him, as he must die at Harry’s hand. Conversely, if Harry tried to kill Voldemort before destroying the Horcrux within himself, Voldemort would return to his spirit form since there a piece of his soul would still be earthbound, and it could regain human form at some point in the future. Either way, Voldemort would not be dead. This could be a good sign for Harry – if good is going to defeat evil, his survival would be logistically required if the only way to get rid of a human Horcrux is death. If Harry dies, Voldemort wins. Yes, there was “one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord”; the prophecy was right about that. The kid had the power, but was unfortunately turned into an accidental Horcrux, so he wasn’’t able to use that power to win out over evil. Because of the circumstances (if Harry were truly a Horcrux and could only get Voldemort’s soul out by dying), I doubt that Harry would die, because I don’t think the series will end with evil triumphing over good and our hero dead. That would be even more depressing than the ending of the Half-Blood Prince. Thus, the theory that Harry must die to defeat Voldemort since he is the last Horcrux don’t seem to work out.

But the above is not the most important reason Harry is not the Horcrux. The real key to the prophecy is that “neither can live while the other survives.” If Harry is housing a fragment of Voldemort’s soul, Voldemort can seemingly survive while Harry lives. In fact, he will be more whole as long as his little Horcrux remains earthbound. Let us plot an imaginary final battle between Voldemort and Harry as an example: Harry and Voldemort are in a final showdown. Voldemort is too busy spouting off about how great he is to notice that Harry is cursing him silently and is shocked when he sees the jet of green light about to hit his chest. But oho! Voldemort has survived the Avada Kevadra curse. Not because Harry was full of righteous anger and isn’t capable of casting it, but because of the steps Voldemort has taken. Harry destroyed all but one Horcrux – himself. The curse has left Voldemort as less than the merest ghost, but he vows to come back, greater and more terrible than he was before.

Voldemort survives because he still had a fragment of soul left earthbound in his final Horcrux, Harry. Had Harry been killed, his Horcrux destroyed, Voldemort would have died as well. But because Harry lived, Voldemort survives. In fact, Voldemort survived because Harry lived: a direct contradiction to the prophecy. “Neither can live while the other survives.” Harry being a Horcrux means Voldemort cannot die while Harry lives as long as the Horcrux resides in him – in fact, Volemort must live. Perhaps not in his comfortable body, but he would still live in Harry and in spirit form. Unless the fragment of soul to be removed without killing Harry, Voldemort would not ever be killed as long as Harry survives. If such a violation of the prophecy were possible, the whole plot of Order of the Pheonix would be pointless. And Dumbledore would be wrong again.

Dumbledore, until last year, was the only wizard alive who knew the entire contents of the prophecy. He also seemed to be the only one who knew the full extent of the steps that Voldemort took to achieve immortality. In HBP on page 501, Dumbledore says he does not think the Death Eaters knew what he meant when Voldemort said he had gone further on the path to immortality than anyone before. Dumbledore thinks that they didn’’t know about the Horcruxes, or at least they did not know that there were multiple Horcruxes. R.A.B. appears to have known about at least one, but judging by the wording of the note, he thinks Voldemort will be mortal again once the locket is destroyed; so, either he thinks there is only one Horcrux, or he thinks he has found the last one.

We have seen, through Harry’s many journeys into the Pensieve, that Dumbledore often considered his memories very carefully in order to help him in the present. I am confident that Dumbledore had pored over the memory of the prophecy many times since that cold, wet night some seventeen years ago. He had considered carefully when would be the right time to reveal its contents to Harry. Dumbledore had been pondering every possible interpretation for the past seventeen years.

Likewise, he had been learning everything he could about young Tom Riddle, the man he became, and the events that shaped him. Four years ago, when Harry emerged from the Chamber of Secrets with the destroyed diary, Dumbledore “received what [he] considered certain proof that Voldemort had split his soul” (HBP, pg. 500). Since that time, he had suspected there were more Horcruxes. I do not believe that Dumbledore would have overlooked or merely discounted what so many readers instantly assumed – that Harry was the sixth Horcrux. If Dumbledore thought there was a possibility, he would have told Harry so when naming the potential Horcruxes. And if there was any way to remove Voldemort’s soul without killing Harry, he would have done that, too.

But Dumbledore knows (as we learn at the end of chapter twenty-three, pages 509-512) that the events Voldemort set in motion by killing James and Lily and marking Harry as an equal ensured that the prophecy came true. It will happen as told. Not because it is fated, but because Voldemort has chosen to put so much stock into the prophecy. And because Harry, prophecy or no, will choose to destroy Voldemort for all of his atrocities. Dumbledore knows that “one will die at the hands of the other, for neither shall live while the other survives” because he knows Harry and Voldemort. But because it is true, it excludes the possibility that Harry is a Horcrux. Dumbledore has thought very carefully about that one, we can be sure.

I know Dumbledore has made mistakes in the past, perhaps even a fatal mistake, but this is too important. There is no room for mistakes in dealing with the Horcruxes. They must all be destroyed, and Harry must live so that Voldemort can die at his hands, rather than the other way round. If there was any chance that Harry was a Horcrux, Dumbledore would have told Harry. This was not the time to protect Harry’s feelings. He was not about to repeat the mistake of protecting Harry from terrifying yet essential information like he did with the prophecy. The Half-Blood Prince was about preparing Harry for the ultimate battle with Voldemort. Dumbledore showed Harry the way to defeat Voldemort. Knowing what a dangerous mission he was embarking on when they went to the cave, knowing it was possible he might not return, Dumbledore must have had faith that Harry was ready. And I, in turn, have faith in Dumbledore.

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