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Regulus and the Cave, the Locket and the Note

by David Camillus

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.
R.A.B. has been discussed from several angles. There are so many questions that immediately come to mind about R.A.B. The first is simply R.A.B.’s identity. I assume R.A.B. is Regulus Black, but that is not what I wish to discuss here. In any case, if you disagree that Sirius’s brother is R.A.B., this editorial will probably have significantly less value to you.

I think that the question of R.A.B.’s identity was not meant to be all that difficult for close readers like us to figure out. I find it relatively easy to believe that any Death Eater who knows what a Horcrux is would guess that Voldemort has one. They know he has been working toward immortality and they know he murders often.

I believe the most interesting question (in terms of being hard to answer) that is being widely discussed is how R.A.B. found the cave. My short answer is that I believe he could not have found it. Dumbledore found it by doing research and then looking for a cave that fit what he knew about the cave Mrs. Cole mentioned to him at the orphanage. There are several reasons I don’t think R.A.B. could have found the cave by research:

  1. Dumbledore got extremely lucky in his conversation with Mrs. Cole at the orphanage. If she had failed to mention a cave, would Dumbledore ever have thought of it? Would Harry? I think not. So how would R.A.B. ever discover that the cave was significant by looking into Voldemort’s past?
  2. Dumbledore found the ring first. He was looking for places he knew were significant to Tom Riddle. Anyone who did enough research on Voldemort to discover the cave would certainly discover that the Gaunt house was also significant to Tom, since it was the home of his magical ancestors and his connection to Salazar Slytherin.
  3. The note makes it clear that R.A.B. expects to die soon. I do not believe he would have had time to do the research into Voldemort’s past between deciding to defect and being killed.
  4. The note implies that R.A.B. thinks there is only one Horcrux. If Voldemort only had one Horcrux, why put it there? Surely no one researching Voldemort would think that cave is the most significant place in his history.

Additionally, it is important to note that Voldemort and the Death Eaters must not know that Regulus knew about the cave or the existence of a Horcrux. The note makes it clear that R.A.B. thinks he has made a discovery, and if Voldemort thought it was at all possible that his Horcrux had been disturbed, he would check on it. R.A.B. couldn’t have been involved with protecting the locket, because after killing Regulus, Voldemort would certainly check that he had correctly protected the Horcrux.

These two points leave me with only a few possibilities, all pretty unlikely, as to how R.A.B. could obtain the locket that should be in the cave:

Scenario A: Voldemort went to the cave or sent a Death Eater there during Regulus’s time as a Death Eater, and Regulus followed that person to the cave without that person’s knowledge. He may have even discovered some or all of the protections at this point.Scenario B: Voldemort or someone else who knew about the cave talked about it during Regulus’s time as a Death eater, and Regulus overheard this conversation without the speakers’ knowledge.

Scenario C: Voldemort intended to move the locket Horcrux into the cave during Regulus’s time as a Death Eater. Regulus intercepted the locket and switched it with the fake one containing his note. The fake locket was placed in the cave without anyone realizing it was not the real locket, which means that Voldemort was not the person to place the locket in the cave, since he would have recognized the fake immediately.

I believed A or B to be more likely than C until I realized there was a question other people had not been asking about R.A.B. and the locket. Why did R.A.B. leave his note to Voldemort in a locket?

At first, this did not seem problematic at all. Tom Riddle took a locket, so we expect to see a locket there. Harry was not surprised to see a locket, so we aren’t either. If we look a little closer, though, the replacement locket may have significant meaning. If R.A.B. wanted someone to think the replacement locket was the Horcrux locket, it makes sense, but who would he want to fool?

[Harry] turned the locket over in his hands. This was neither as large as the locket he remembered seeing in the Pensieve, nor were there any markings upon it, no sign of the ornate “S” that was supposed to be Slytherin’s mark.
-HBP, American hardback, pg. 609

Voldemort would certainly not have fallen for the fake locket if Harry had noticed the difference. If R.A.B. wasn’t trying to fool someone, why not just leave a note without putting it in a locket? Why not just put the note in a box?

I can only think of a few explanations, none of which I think is very likely.

Scenario X: JKR didn’t think it through very hard, and just needed the plot device of letting Dumbledore think he and Harry had found a real Horcrux.Scenario Y: Some magical alarm goes off if there is no locket there (think Indiana Jones replacing the statue with a bag of sand)

Scenario Z: Someone other than Voldemort, someone who didn’t know what Slytherin’s locket looks like, would believe the locket Horcrux was there.

I dismiss X as being below Jo, and also uninteresting. The story would not have been much changed if Dumbledore had realized the locket was a fake, except that he may have been able to figure out faster than Harry will who R.A.B. is.

Additionally, it’s pretty clear that Rowling thought carefully about the note being in a locket. In the book, the note is set unlike any other note in the series. It’s arranged so that lines are longer nearer the middle. The note fits in a circle, as though it’s in a locket. If the fact that the note is in a locket were insignificant, would she go to that trouble with the spacing of the note’s text?

I think Y is EXTREMELY unlikely because by the end of HBP, we see no sign that Voldemort knows the (replacement) locket is missing. If he were to find out, it would hugely change the plot of book 7, since he would know his Horcruxes were being hunted. Additionally, if R.A.B. could detect the alarm, wouldn’t Dumbledore detect it?

That leaves me with Scenario Z, that R.A.B. had someone else to fool. That gives much more credibility to Scenario C above. Voldemort must have sent someone else to put the locket Horcrux in the cave, and R.A.B. somehow intercepted the locket. He replaced it with the fake, but Voldemort’s servant did not know it was a fake and placed it in the cave anyway. I find this scenario stunning, but I can see no other explanation.

If R.A.B. intercepted the Horcrux before it reached the cave, then we get around the question of how he found the cave and how he got past the protections. This is a relief, because it was a stretch for me to believe that a young wizard, even one as talented as Regulus probably was, could figure out how to get past the protections when Dumbledore had to pause quite a while to figure them out. Was 18-year-old Regulus really that much more able than 16-year-old Harry? Could he figure out that the door needed blood, pull up the boat, solve the potion, and defeat the Inferi when Harry was completely reliant on Dumbledore for all of those things?

[Harry] watched as Dumbledore continued to revolve on the spot, evidently concentrating on things Harry could not see…Harry did not ask how Dumbledore knew. He had never seen a wizard work things out like this, simply by looking and touching…
-pg. 558

My impression reading all that was that Harry pretty much had no idea what was going on.

The possibility of replacing the locket before it is placed in the cave also removes the questions of why the boat was under the lake and why the potion was in the bowl when Harry and Dumbledore went to the cave. Could Regulus replace the boat and the potion? If Voldemort checked on his Horcrux, wouldn’t he check the actual Horcrux and not just to see if the potion were there? Harry and Dumbledore had to get past the protections just the way Voldemort intended the protections to work. Why would R.A.B. leave the protections as Voldemort wanted, but leave a note in a locket Voldemort would immediately know is fake? Why could Dumbledore and Harry see no signs that someone else had entered the cave since the locket was put there?

There are several implications. First, this means that Voldemort trusted one of his servants with a Horcrux and didn’t even check to make sure they’d secured it correctly. This may not seem like a huge stretch given that Voldemort gave Lucius Malfoy the diary Horcrux, but in that case the Horcrux was to be used as a weapon. In the case of the locket, Voldemort obviously wanted it very well protected. To think that Voldemort trusted a Death Eater enough to entrust a Horcrux to the Death Eater, that changes our idea of Voldemort as Dumbledore describes him.

“You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend…”
-pg. 277

It also implies that Voldemort had the locket placed in the cave during the time R.A.B. was a Death Eater. If R.A.B. is, in fact, Regulus, that probably means the locket was the last Horcrux that Voldemort succeeded in making before his downfall, since Regulus is younger than Sirius and could not have been a Death Eater for long because he came of age only a few years before Voldemort’s downfall.