Little Hangleton: Restoration of a Soul

by Jay Ortiz

Although still vaguely alive in his “Vapormort” state, in order to restore himself to his full powers Voldemort had to find a way to transfer one of his six surviving soul fragments back into his body. And that is precisely what he did in the cemetery at Little Hangleton. ““I was willing to embrace mortal life again, before chasing immortality. I set my sights lower . . . I would settle for my old body back again, and my old strength.””(127)

As we watched the gruesome ritual, Peter Pettigrew (“Wormtail”) lowered into the boiling cauldron what little remained of Voldemort: “something ugly, slimy, and blind – but worse, a hundred times worse.”(128) Three additional ingredients were required: ““[b]one of the father, unknowingly given”;”(129) ““[f]lesh – of the servant – w-willingly given”;(130)” and ““[b]-blood of the enemy . . . forcibly taken.””(131) The first two do not now concern us, but the third is one more essential key to everything that has taken place – and will take place – in the story of Harry Potter. All of the fourth book is, ultimately, devoted to the intricate stratagems that Voldemort devised and executed to bring Harry to the cemetery, so that his would be the “blood of the enemy” that Peter Pettigrew would pour into the cauldron. Why was it so important to Voldemort that it be Harry, rather than any of his countless other enemies? Indeed, Pettigrew specifically asked that question, and pointed out how much easier it would be to use the blood of someone else:

“”The boy is nothing to me, nothing at all! It is merely that if we were to use another witch or wizard –– any wizard – the thing could be done so much more quickly.””(132)

Voldemort appears thoughtful and seems to agree, but then insists that it must be Harry Potter and no other:

“”I could use another wizard . . . that is true . . . .”

* * * * *
“”I have my reasons for using the boy, as I have already explained to you, and I will use no other.””(133)

As Voldemort mused, the blood of virtually any other wizard would have performed the function perfectly well, if the only objective was the regeneration of his body. There must, therefore, have been another reason for his insistence on Harry Potter; yet he declined to disclose it either to Pettigrew or to his Death Eaters:

“Wormtail would have had me use any wizard, would you not, Wormtail? Any wizard who had hated me . . . as so many of them still do. But I knew the one I must use, if I was to rise again, more powerful than I had been when I had fallen. I wanted Harry Potter’’s blood. I wanted the blood of the one who had stripped me of my power thirteen years ago . . . for the lingering protection his mother once gave him would then reside in my veins too.”(134)

Voldemort did not need merely to regenerate his body; he also had to recapture one of his soul fragments. He could, of course, have used any of the Horcruxes – only the diary had been destroyed at this point, and it appears that he was as yet unaware that Lucius Malfoy had so cavalierly allowed it to be vulnerable.(135) Why, after waiting so long, did he not use another wizard, and one of his Horcruxes? Why would he have been so determined that Harry was “the one I must use”? This sounds more like an imperative than a choice – and in fact it was.

His insistence that he “must use”(136) Harry was more complex than a simple desire for revenge; it had, again, to do with his interpretation of the part of the prophecy that he had heard. He knew that Harry had not been transformed into a Horcrux, and therefore his scheme for insurance – to guarantee that he would have a soul fragment within himself and that the “one with power to vanquish” him would be a Horcux – had failed. He had expected the Horcrux spell would kill Harry; however, even if it did not, Harry’’s own soul would have been destroyed nonetheless and, therefore, in essence Voldemort would have been facing himself in their final duel. Whoever prevailed, Voldemort would “survive.”(137)

The first, and probably least important, consequence of the failure of the Horcrux spell was that whenever Voldemort faced Harry there was now a risk that – if Harry prevailed – he might lose yet another fragment of his soul, and Harry would still be alive to come after him again. If Harry had been transformed into a Horcrux, his own soul would have been destroyed and Harry, as a distinct human being, would no longer exist. Therefore, in essence, Voldemort would have been fighting himself in their final duel. However, Harry was not a Horcrux and, if he defeated Voldemort, the Dark Lord would again revert to his “Vapormort” state, and would have to begin again to find a way to regenerate himself – only to have to face Harry yet another time, in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled. He could not risk his Horcruxes on that chance.

However, although he was not a Horcrux, Harry did carry within himself a fragment of Voldemort’’s soul. If the Dark Lord could recover that fragment and, at the same time, kill Harry while the boy was essentially helpless, then he could eliminate the threat of the prophecy and still protect all of his Horcruxes. Surely, in his arrogance, it never occurred to him that Harry might escape from the cemetery; in the unlikely event that Voldemort himself did not kill Harry, he would have been surrounded by Death Eaters who could be counted on to finish the job. Voldemort never anticipated that his wand and Harry’’s would link – his shock is evident in the narrative(138) – or that Harry might survive their duel.

The more important consequence of his failure to transform Harry into a Horcrux, however, was that – by deflecting the Horcrux spell – Lily’s love had imparted to Harry a “lingering protection.”(139) Now, at last, we must directly confront the question of what that protection – created by his mother’s love – actually was. Quite simply, it consisted of two elements. The first – and ultimately the one that will matter most – is that, by deflecting the Horcrux spell, Lily’s love preserved “the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole.”(140) Because of her sacrifice, the Horcrux spell did not damage Harry’’s own soul, and that in the end will make all the difference.

Secondly, Lily’’s sacrifice made it impossible for Voldemort to even touch Harry, much less kill him: ““I could not touch the boy.””(141) Thus, when Voldemort –– in possession of Professor Quirrell’’s body– – attempted to seize Harry, he “”couldn’’t touch his bare skin, not without suffering terrible pain.””(142) What, precisely, had Lily done to create such a powerful protection? When she deflected the Horcrux spell, she not only saved Harry’’s own soul, but she caused the fragment of Voldemort;’s soul that would have replaced Harry’’s to be deposited, relatively harmlessly, in the scar on her son’s forehead. Why, though, would that have protected him? The answer lies in Harry’’s blood. Traces of Voldemort’’s soul coursed throughout Harry’’s veins. When Voldemort – in his “Vapormort” state – attempted to attack Harry, he was essentially attacking his own soul. To have killed Harry would have required that he kill himself – or at least that part of himself represented by his soul fragment that resided within Harry. Yet, it must be emphasized that Voldemort’’s inability to touch Harry existed, in the narrative, only as long as “Vapormort” himself did not possess even a fragment of his own soul – therefore, Voldemort’’s soulless body was attempting to attack the very thing that anchored it to the earth. It would have been more than mere suicide for him to kill Harry – it would simply have been impossible. If a person’s body kills its own soul, the body itself would have to die – but Voldemort could not actually die, as long as he had remaining Horcruxes that would anchor him to the earth. So, killing Harry – as long as the boy carried a part of Voldemort’’s soul – would not be merely unsuccessful; it would be impossible.

For Voldemort, there was only one way around this dilemma – only one way to defeat the protection that Lily’s love had given her child – and that was to transfer his soul fragment from Harry’’s scar back into his own body. And, by using Harry’’s blood – which coursing through his veins carried the inchoate thing that is a soul – Voldemort succeeded in the cemetery at Little Hangleton in doing precisely that. As he himself said, after Harry’’s blood was poured into the cauldron, “”the lingering protection his mother once gave him would then reside in my veins too . . . .””(143) Voldemort now had a soul – or at least the maimed remnants of one – and now he could touch Harry, even kill him.

After Voldemort arose from the cauldron. his soul was now gone from Harry and, as Dumbledore quietly observed, “Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier.”(144) More importantly, if Harry is now successful in “”vanquish[ing] the Dark Lord””(145) (which must include the destruction of all the Horcruxes), his victory will be complete. As long as a fragment of Voldemort’’s soul remained in Harry, he could not truly vanquish Voldemort without himself dying; now he can do so. At last, at long last, we understand “the gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes,”(146) when Harry told him what had happened in the Little Hangleton cemetery.

Yet, as Dumbledore made clear, Voldemort had not overcome the more important of the protections that Lily’s sacrifice had given her son – the protection that ultimately assures his triumph over the Dark Lord:

“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love . . . The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort’’s . . . . the incomparable power of a soul that is untarnished and whole.” (147)

 

 

Part 8 – J. Subplots and Themes and K. The Final Confrontation

 


Notes

(127) GOF, p. 656.

(128) GOF, p. 640.

(129) GOF, p. 641.

(130) GOF, p. 641.

(131) GOF, p. 642.

(132) GOF, pp. 8-9.

(133) GOF, pp. 9-10.

(134) GOF, pp. 656-657.

(135) HBP, pp. 507-508.

(136) GOF, p. 656.

(137) OOTP, p. 841.

(138) GOF, pp. 664-666.

(139) GOF, p. 657.

(140) HBP, p. 511.

(141) GOF, p. 652.

(142) SS, p. 295.

(143) GOF, p. 657.

(144) GOF, p. 696.

(145) OOTP, p. 841.

(146) GOF, p. 696.

(147) HBP, p. 511.

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