The Last Place He’ll Think to Look

by Maya

So much to do, and just one book left to do it in. Voldemort made a play for immortality by splitting his soul into seven parts. Six parts went into Horcruxes and one part remains in his body. The most recent mission to retrieve a Horcrux was so dangerous that even the great Dumbledore didn’’t survive it. All six Horcruxes need to be destroyed before Harry can kill Voldemort. It sounds rather complicated, doesn’’t it? To give Harry and his friends enough time to deal with the Horcrux issue, Book 7 will need to be huge.

Or will it? JKR has already indicated that Deathly Hallows won’’t be insanely long — she doesn’’t even expect it to be as long as Order of the Phoenix. If she felt comfortable saying that before she’d started seriously writing Deathly Hallows, it suggests Harry may not be facing a task as overwhelming as some are imagining. I’’m guessing that JKR has a plan that allows Harry to take some “shortcuts” in completing his quest. (And no, I’’m not referring to theories based on R.A.B. ever knowing there was more to it than the locket or Dumbledore faking his own death so he can sneak around destroying Horcruxes.)

Dumbledore (who, according to JKR, is “never very far wide of the mark”) suggested that the six Horcruxes are Riddle’’s diary, the Gaunt family ring, Slytherin’’s locket, Hufflepuff’’s cup, an item that once belonged to either Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, and Nagini the snake. The diary-Horcrux was destroyed by Harry, and Dumbledore destroyed the ring-Horcrux. As “fate” would have it, two of the four remaining Horcruxes shouldn’’t be terribly far out of Harry’’s reach.

Possible Shortcut #1: Is That a Locket in Your Pocket?

Slytherin’’s locket (assuming that it is indeed the “heavy locket that none of them could open” found in Grimmauld Place in Order of the Phoenix) may already be in the possession of someone Harry knows. Mundungus may have stolen it; it then, may have passed from Mundungus to Aberforth. It is also possible that Kreacher may have hidden it. Any of these possibilities would allow Harry to obtain the locket through either detective work or dumb luck.

Possible Shortcut #2: Creepy Snakes Are Centrally Located

Nagini may be even easier to get at. Voldemort “likes to keep her close,” and Harry will obviously be meeting up with him again before Deathly Hallows is over. If nothing else, Harry could always let himself be captured after the other Horcruxes have been destroyed. If the Death Eaters bring him to the Dark Lord, they unwittingly bring him within striking distance of a Horcrux.

Possible Shortcut #3: It Doesn’’t Take a Genius to Stab a Book

Okay, I know what a few of you are thinking: “Just because Harry can get to those two Horcruxes easily, doesn’’t mean that it will be easy for him to destroy them. Look at Dumbledore’’s withered hand!” If you are thinking that, you’re forgetting some important details. The first is that Dumbledore never claimed destroying the Horcrux was what caused his injury. The ring was magically concealed in the Gaunts’’ house, protected by “many powerful enchantments” and “a terrible curse.” Dumbledore does say that “a withered hand does not seem an unreasonable exchange for a seventh of Voldemort’s soul,” but I don’t believe he was implying that destroying the Horcrux is what damaged his hand. It was getting past the protections on the ring (the curse, specifically) that hurt him.

This belief is reinforced by what we know from Harry’’s experience with Riddle’’s diary in Chamber of Secrets. Harry stabbed the book with the basilisk’’s fang, and the Horcrux was destroyed. This was done completely on the basis of Harry’s instinct or intuition — he had never heard of a Horcrux in his second year, and certainly hadn’’t researched methods of destroying them. The events in Chamber of Secrets strongly suggest that there is nothing inherently dangerous about destroying a Horcrux. Harry’’s experience with the diary also proves that there is no special spell required to destroy one. You’’ll recall that the diary had a hole pierced through it and the ring’s stone was cracked. The key to destroying Horcruxes may turn out to be something as simple as finding a way (magical or otherwise) to open or break the object encasing the soul. Do three determined teenagers need much instruction on how to break things? I expect not.

Possible Shortcut #4: The Magic Number

It’s very important to Voldemort that he have a seven-part soul, seven being “the most powerfully magic number.” He knows that the diary was destroyed, leaving him (he thinks) one Horcrux short of his goal. But I don’t expect him to replace that Horcrux, for the same reason he never completed his set of six Horcruxes in the first place. Think back to what Dumbledore told Harry in Half-Blood Prince:

“He seems to have reserved the process of making Horcruxes for particularly significant deaths. You would certainly have been that. He believed that in killing you, he was destroying the danger the prophecy had outlined. He believed he was making himself invincible. I am sure that he was intending to make his final Horcrux with your death.”
(Half-Blood Prince, page 506, US hardback)

Here we are a decade and a half after that night in Godric’’s Hollow, and history has repeated itself. Voldemort believes he has the creation of one more Horcrux and the death of a boy called Harry Potter standing between himself and immortality. This time, however, Harry’’s death would be all the more significant to Voldemort, seeing as how he’d failed to kill the kid at least four times now. I think our villain has returned to his old plan — his final Horcrux will require nothing less than The Boy Who Died.

On a related note, I don’’t believe Voldemort will find out that any of the Horcruxes other than the diary have been destroyed until it’’s too late to make replacements. This is more for storytelling reasons than anything — think of what would happen if Voldemort was continually replacing Horcruxes. If Harry found out about it, he would be chasing down new Horcruxes for the rest of his life. If Harry didn’’t find out, he would probably fight Voldemort once the original Horcruxes were destroyed only to lose in the end. Even if you like the idea of the villain winning, that doesn’’t strike me as a very interesting way for it to happen. (I fully expect Harry to be victorious, but on the off chance that Voldemort wins, he may as well win big. Harry never standing a fair chance after an entire book’’s worth of pointless Horcrux-chasing wouldn’’t prove much.) I think JKR had Dumbledore tell us that Voldemort can’’t feel it when a Horcrux is destroyed so we’ll have less reason to sit around at the end of Deathly Hallows wondering why the Dark Lord didn’’t see this one coming.

Possible Shortcut #5: No, Really — Ron Will Be Useful

Even if everything I’’ve suggested so far is true, there’’s still the trouble of the other two Horcruxes: Hufflepuff’’s cup and the Ravenclaw/Gryffindor relic. Tom Riddle stole the cup at the same time as the locket and presumably acquired the unidentified item later on. Odds are, these Hogwarts-founder-Horcruxes are as thoroughly protected as the Slytherin-Horcrux was. They’’re probably hidden and surrounded by potentially deadly magical traps or safeguards. The magnitude of the challenges that Harry can expect to face was demonstrated by the difficulty Dumbledore had in retrieving the fake locket-Horcrux.

What helped Dumbledore get to the locket? He was a very wise and powerful wizard, and there’’s no denying that his thinking and magical abilities were a major factor. Unfortunately, Harry doesn’’t have the luxury of taking the next hundred years or so to get up to Dumbledore’’s skill level. If we’re looking for shortcuts, it might be more useful to focus on the other reason Dumbledore was ultimately able to pluck the locket from the basin: teamwork. (“”One alone could not have done it.””)

Voldemort is, and apparently always has been, the ultimate loner. He doesn’’t want friends or equals of any sort, an attitude that is presumably a consequence of his inability to love. As intelligent as Voldemort is in some ways, he’’s also shown that this is his biggest blind spot. He probably thought his plan to kill baby Harry was foolproof, but he was foiled by a mother refusing to save her own life at the expense of her child’’s. A normal, loving person could have predicted that Lily would die rather than abandon her baby. That Voldemort would even bother to offer to spare Lily (and JKR has verified that the offer was genuine) demonstrates how his inability to understand love leaves him vulnerable.

Voldemort’’s blind spot got him again when it came to protecting the locket. He works alone, and he seemed to assume that anyone who might seriously challenge him would likewise be working alone. The protections around the locket Horcrux were nearly foolproof, but he obviously made a huge miscalculation with the boat. If Dumbledore hadn’’t been able to bring Harry with him on the boat, they wouldn’’t have been able to get the locket.

Harry’’s best friends have already indicated that they’’ll be accompanying him on his quest. Since the three of them make such a good team, they’’ll be sure to exploit any other loopholes Voldemort may have left open because he didn’’t take the possibilities of caring or cooperation into account. (And as a bonus: If the remaining founder-Horcruxes happen to be Ravenclaw’’s and Hufflepuff’’s, Hermione’’s much-noted intelligence and Ron’’s much-noted loyalty may somehow prove even more useful than usual.)

Possible Shortcut #6: Last Thing’s First

Editor’s note: This editorial was actually submitted before another by the same author, in which Shortcut #6 is morphed into a full theory. Check it out here:
“The Keys to His Soul.”

In the cave, Dumbledore explained that Voldemort would have left himself a way to safely pass through whatever obstacles were in place “in case he ever wanted to visit or remove his Horcrux.” This makes sense. But how did Voldemort plan to do it?

It’’s been suggested that if Voldemort wanted to retrieve the locket, he could have done it using a method similar to Harry and Dumbledore’’s. Before going to the cave, Voldemort could have kidnapped a Muggle child. The child wouldn’’t register with the boat and could be made to drink the potion in the basin, allowing Voldemort to remove the locket.

If that was the plan, it would mean Voldemort was being especially careless. He not only forgot to account for the possibility of an underage wizard willingly traveling on the boat, but apparently also ignored the risk of a Muggle child or house-elf unwillingly taking the boat and drinking the potion when forced by an adult wizard other than himself. That runs contrary to Dumbledore’s suggestion that Voldemort “had set other obstacles ahead that only he would be able to penetrate.” If the Dark Lord truly does not believe in the distinction between good and evil (as Quirrell claimed), Voldemort should have no reason to think that a person trying to kill him would have a problem with killing anyone else. I tend to think it makes more sense to assume Voldemort completely overlooked the potential to take a second person on the boat, than it does to assume he built it in as a feature and simply trusted that no one else would take advantage of it.

If we rule out his using a Muggle child or some similar unwilling accomplice, that still leaves us with the original question. How did Voldemort plan to retrieve that locket if it became necessary? Get ready — this is the part where we stomp right through the “thickets of wildest guesswork” and sit down to have a tea party in the briar patch of inductive reasoning.

While Hepzibah Smith was showing Slytherin’’s locket and Hufflepuff’’s cup off for Tom Riddle, she mentioned that both items supposedly had “all sorts of powers.” She didn’’t know what the powers might be, however, because she always kept the relics safely tucked away. (If she were alive today, I bet she’’d be the kind of person who never takes action figures out of their original packaging.) Tom, being a bit more inquisitive than Hepzibah, may have decided to learn more about the special powers each item possessed. Suppose he found out that one of the cup’’s powers had to do with what happened when you filled it up with liquid. Perhaps it neutralized poisons or made whatever was put into it disappear. Voldemort could have used such a magical property to allow himself to safely remove the potion from the basin in the cave — one relic to help him get to another. Use any cup but Hufflepuff’’s, and you get the full effect of that awful potion.

Of course, Harry has already emptied the basin in the less pleasant way. How does any of this cup business help him? It doesn’’t, unless we take it a step or two further.

Let’’s suppose the “mystery Horcrux” is something that belonged to Ravenclaw. (It doesn’’t really matter who it belonged to, but it’’ll be easier to explain this theory if I can use some definitive labels.) If Hufflepuff’’s cup and Slytherin’’s locket have special powers, Ravenclaw’’s relic probably does as well. Just as he made the deadliest obstacle protecting the locket easy to bypass if he used the special properties of the cup, Voldemort could have made the deadliest obstacle protecting the cup easy to bypass if he used the special properties of Ravenclaw’’s relic. But now we’re out of Horcruxes. So what could Voldemort have used to bypass the deadliest obstacle protecting Ravenclaw’’s relic?

Think about the night Voldemort first attacked Harry. As I mentioned earlier, Dumbledore believed that Voldemort was planning to make his final Horcrux with Harry’’s death. We can’’t know for sure, but it seems reasonable to guess that Voldemort had located whatever item he wanted to use to create that last Horcrux before he attacked the Potters. Since this happened in Godric’’s Hollow, let’’s say that Voldemort found a Gryffindor relic after all. (Again, it doesn’’t really matter whose it was.) So, we can continue our pattern by suggesting that the Ravenclaw relic had already been hidden, and that Gryffindor’’s relic could be used to access it without dying.

Using this system of needing one founder’’s relic to access another would allow Voldemort to collect that group of Horcruxes rather efficiently, as long as he did it in the proper order. At the same time, those Horcruxes would remain relatively secure from outside attack. What are the odds (in Voldemort’s mind, anyway) that someone could figure out that he made multiple Horcruxes, locate their hiding places, get through all but the final protections, realize that it takes one Horcrux to get another, and be lucky enough to find the Horcruxes in the correct sequence? Not to mention that person would also have to find the ring and diary Horcruxes, which were protected in ways totally unconnected to the methods used to hide the founders’ objects. It was all part of yet another of Voldemort’s nearly foolproof plans. It would have worked out so well, if only it hadn’’t been for that pesky little rebounded curse…

During the time when Voldemort was “less than the meanest spirit,” it’’s unlikely that he would have had any way to reclaim that relic of Gryffindor’’s that never became a Horcrux. So what became of it? Harry is planning to visit Godric’’s Hollow — maybe he’’ll stumble across something there. He could either find the relic itself, or information that leads him to it. Once he’’s got Gryffindor’’s relic, he just has to be lucky enough to discover where Ravenclaw’s relic is hidden before he discovers where Hufflepuff’’s cup is hidden. (Hey, it’’s a 50/50 chance. It wouldn’’t take that much luck.) If Harry and his friends can figure out that they need to use Gryffindor’’s relic to help them, they should be able to collect Ravenclaw’’s relic. Ravenclaw’’s relic will likewise help them collect Hufflepuff’’s cup. Put all these items together with Slytherin’’s locket, and voila! The Hogwarts Four are reunited, and Harry and his friends aren’’t even a little bit dead.

Possible Shortcut #7: Destiny May Not Exist, but Authors Do

JKR has said that Deathly Hallows will be a “torturous and winding journey” for Harry, and I don’’t doubt her. At the same time, it wouldn’’t make sense for the task of destroying the Horcruxes to be impossible. After all, how many chapters can she fill by repeating ““Harry still had no idea where to look for Horcruxes” or “what to do if he found one”” over and over?

Here’’s what it all comes down to: if JKR wants everything about the Horcrux hunt to fall into place for Harry, it will. He’’s bound to discover clues when he needs them, find help where he needs it, and be lucky when luck is the only thing left that can save him. The challenges he faces will be just difficult enough to meet the needs of the story, but no more difficult than that. Each Horcrux will be in the last place Harry thinks to look, but that doesn’t mean his quest will require turning over every rock in the wizarding world. It’s like that old saying: you always find what you’re searching for in the last place you think to look — because then you’ve stopped looking for it.