The Ghost of R.A.B.

by Book Basilisk

To the Dark Lord
I know I will be dead long before you read this
but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.
I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,
you will be mortal once more.
R. A. B.
So many characters whose last names begin with “B”- so many possibilities for whom the mysterious R.A.B. could be. Well, here’s another one for you to consider that I have noticed hasn’t come up yet, though it was probably only a matter of time.

There is an enormous cast of characters in the Harry Potter series and therefore, a lot of people for us to keep our minds on when considering all topics for discussion. Fortunately, and unfortunately at the same time, JKR said in post-HBP interviews that there wouldn’t be many more characters introduced in Book Seven – or at least, not many significant ones in relation to the story and all the mysteries that have intrigued us. This comment makes me think that in looking for R.A.B. we should be looking for someone we already know, someone we have already met and have possibly overlooked.

Alright – what about Professor Binns? His last name starts with “B” and, as far as I know, we haven’t learned his first or middle names so his initials could very well be “R” and “A”. This was initially my only reason for considering him a R.A.B. contender, but of course, I have realized there is more or I wouldn’t be writing this editorial.

Evidence for Binns being R.A.B. is all in the letter. “I know I will be dead long before you read this.” Yep, Binns is a ghost and has been dead quite awhile. But how long, exactly, and does it match up with Voldemort’s timeline? I think it does.

We know from HBP that Voldemort was starting to think about horcruxes when he was still at Hogwarts and it would seem that the first time he tore his soul in half by killing was when he killed his father and grandparents, which was at the end of his school career. We have never learned how long, exactly, Professor Binns has been dead but he might have been alive and teaching Voldemort when he was at Hogwarts.

We are assuming that by the sentence above that the writer of the letter is expecting to be killed by Voldemort or his followers, but this is not necessarily the case. Binns was old – really old – and probably knew that he wasn’t looking at too many more end-of-year feasts where he could actually eat.

The letter-writer later says “I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal again.” This does not necessarily mean what it sounds like, which is that the writer is expecting to be murdered. If Binns did write the letter, then he probably knew if he exerted himself too much it might finally do him in, or just assumed that whatever getting the horcrux entailed wouldn’t be easy and might not be possible to live through.

In regards to the story of Professor Binns dying as he sat in front of the staffroom fire – we take for granted that he died of old age, as he was so very old at the time. But maybe it was from that horrible concoction he drank in trying to get the locket-horcrux that killed him. It may well have killed Dumbledore too, had Snape not gotten there first.

I think it significant that the letter only mentions one horcrux, not horcruxes – plural. The letter-writer apparently only thought that there was one horcrux, and maybe was under the unfortunate impression that by risking their life to destroy it that Voldemort would be mortal again. We know, of course, that Voldemort thought nothing of overkill (pardon the pun) and made himself no less than six horcruxes (at least, that’s Dumbledore’s theory). But perhaps R.A.B. was writing at a time when there was only one horcrux to speak of, before Voldemort had killed so many and torn his soul into so many pieces.

We have assumed (or at least *I* have assumed) that R.A.B. was someone writing during the last wizarding war, a contemporary of James and Lily and Sirius, etc., and all our favorites. After all, that is a period that we know the most about, one that JKR has told us the most about. We know comparatively less about Voldemort’s time at Hogwarts, although we know a lot more since reading HBP. It is possible that R.A.B. is older than we think he is.

Voldemort did start tearing his soul up fairly early in life, after all, and it is not inconceivable that even back then, when he was known as the handsome Tom Riddle, someone saw what he was up to. R.A.B. may have somehow uncovered what Voldemort was doing. But if it was Binns, then how did he find out? Maybe Voldemort asked him, as he did Slughorn. As a History of Magic professor, he might know something about the more unpleasant parts of magical history such as the previous use of horcruxes. Maybe Voldemort asked Binns about them, because he was such a popular student that he thought Binns would trust him to tell him, or maybe Binns was one of his favorite teachers- along with Slughorn.

I do not believe that Binns would have told him, and that is why Voldemort had to try asking Slughorn. Another possibility for Binns discovering this information is that Slughorn told him what Voldemort had asked – they might have been friends in the old days when they last taught at Hogwarts together.

Both the strength and the weakness of this theory is that we don’t know enough about Professor Binns to know whether he would have been capable of such cunning as to learn of Voldemort’s plans for the horcrux and daring in destroying the horcrux. Admittedly, the Binns that Harry meets at Hogwarts does not inspire such descriptions as ‘brave’ and ‘cunning’, but maybe he’s just tired after all that excitement. Or maybe he’s depressed. I would be depressed if I had given my life to stop a dark wizard and then, as a ghost, found out that I didn’t stop him after all and he had gone on to start a terrible war and kill a lot of people. Spare a thought for how R.A.B. would feel if he found out that his “hope that when you meet your match you will be mortal once more” didn’t pan out? Depressed, dejected, not interested in anything else besides dates of goblin riots and other boring historical facts.

Of course, R.A.B. would have had to be able to predict that Voldemort was evil and would become a mighty dark wizard who would need to “meet his match” someday, and only Dumbledore in Voldemort’s school days seemed to have had that foresight as far as we actually know. But if Binns really had found out about the horcrux, then I think that would have been enough for him to know that Voldemort was a baddy.

As I said, we don’t really know enough of Professor Binns’ character, unless we are to take it on face value that he was always boring and somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him. Perhaps he was not, and the events of his death made him that way. He may have remained a ghost to see what became of Voldemort, but he wouldn’t have had much will to be jolly and friendly like Nearly-Headless Nick, for example, after finding out. And what about Binns needing help to get the horcrux, as it takes two? Well, I assume that there must have been some sort of Hermione-type around in those days, maybe a favorite student of Binns’ back when he had some interest in his students, who was small enough to ride in the boat and willing enough to help him. I can’t speculate on whom that person might have been, but they too were likely “seen to” by Voldemort for their interference in his plans.

The biggest criticism I can think of myself for this theory is that Professor Binns does not seem the type to complete such a heroic act as tricking Voldemort and destroying the horcrux. But who do we know that we think is up to it – James, Lily, Sirius, etc. and all our favorites who we are fairly sure are not R.A.B. And yet we can reasonably assume, from JKR’s statements which I mentioned at the beginning of this editorial, that R.A.B. is at least someone we have heard of. So we must move beyond the usual suspects and consider those characters which might seem unlikely, but might be surprisingly spunkier than we first thought.

I welcome all comments on this theory.