Put simply, this essay proposes the following: Voldemort did not intend to make Harry into a horcrux (which a careful reading of canon will indicate), but there is canonical evidence that Voldemort went to the Potter house in 1981 intending to make a sixth horcrux. Further, there is enough support in canon to reasonably assume that Harry could have become an accidental sixth horcrux without Voldemort's knowledge.
This is a full-on scholarly study, which means that all quotes and references to canon are cited with page or chapter number. There's one area where I got a little sloppy, but it concerns a section which is mainly conjecture, and is not sloppy with regards to canon itself. Crit and countercitations both welcome.
Yee ha, here we go...
Commentary post-hack: OH SNAP VINDICATED.
The Case For The Harrcrux
Having, in recent weeks, had bullshit called on me many times for proposing the idea of Harry Potter as the sixth horcrux, I decided to sit down and study out for myself just how plausible or implausible the idea was. I wanted to work in not only some broad ideas that seem to be escaping many casual readers (such as the ridiculousness of the idea that it may have been intentional) but also a close reading of canon for detail regarding horcruxes, to gauge the probability that one could be created accidentally and/or without the knowledge of the creator. In this essay I intend to examine and assemble all known evidence about the creation, existence, and destruction of horcruxes, as well as the events of the night of Hallowe'en, 1981 and Tom Riddle/Voldemort's relationship to his own horcruxes. I will use this information to support the assertion that Harry Potter is himself the sixth horcrux and that this was an accidental act which Voldemort himself is unaware of.
I do not speak within the books but rather of the books as JKR wrote them, which is an important distinction since most of the canonical evidence I cite is Albus Dumbledore's conjecture or memories. Within the self-contained universe, conjecture is just conjecture; treating the books as scholarly sources, however, we can take into account the fact that if JKR put something there, it was probably for a reason. Most of our information on horcruxes comes from Dumbledore and I believe that, as Harry trusts Dumbledore, so we are meant to -- it is the same situation as Nick and Luna being poised at the end of book five to tell Harry that Sirius is gone for good. They are there to make it clear to the readers: do not expect this character to come back. He is gone (OotP, ch. 38). Dumbledore is a trusted, intelligent authority figure present to provide information which he has achieved through study and research without having to show the study and research involved. In essence, arguing that any given statement is merely Dumbledore's conjecture holds zero water with me.
You'll have to pardon my citation style; I'm working with e-copies of the books, so I can't always give hardcopy page number. I've cited chapters when page numbers are impossible. HBP and CoS, which do have page numbers cited, are cited off the UK and US editions respectively.
Let us first discuss what a horcrux is and how it is created. JKR assumes the existence of the soul without question; it is simply a given that a horcrux is a container into which a piece of a wizard's soul has been placed. In discussing the subject, Horace Slughorn says almost offhandedly that "you split your soul, you see" and Tom Riddle accepts it unquestioningly. Slughorn also succinctly defines the purpose of a horcrux, the reason it exists: "A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul [....] Then, even if one's body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged" (HBP 465 - 466). The basic function of a horcrux, at whatever cost, is to ensure immortality by protecting a portion of the soul, which in JKR's universe is corollary to personality: the very essence of a person and their mental link to the corporeal world. Lupin tells us so quite clearly while discussing the Dementor's Kiss: "You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no...anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just exist. As an empty shell" (PoA ch. 12). Without a soul a body may still exist in a "living" state, but anything which actually defines the person ceases to be.
We know from Slughorn, whose information appears to be accurate since Tom is successful in using it, that the four vital parts in the creation of a horcrux are an individual or creator, a victim, a spell, and an object. The individual murders the victim intentionally, thus "splitting" or "ripping the soul apart" (to use Slughorn's words) and performs a spell to encase the soul in the object. As we are in JKR's world we must play by her rules; this means not only assuming the existence of a human soul but also assuming that, as Slughorn states, murder is " -- the supreme act of evil [....] Killing rips the soul apart" (HBP 465 - 466).
Whether the soul is evenly split or whether a "portion" is merely torn off is unclear; it is clear that JKR feels the soul is in some way finite, as Tom Riddle's appearance grows progressively less "human" the more horcruxes he creates. Whether he is simply dividing off parts of his soul, or whether every time he creates a horcrux his newly shrunken soul is split in half, is impossible to state with assurance. What we know is that this act does separate a portion of the soul and that there is a spell whose apparent function is to encase the soul in an object of the individual's choosing. Slughorn mentions this spell as a part of the creation of a horcrux, but says that he does not know what the spell is. This may be a lie; by this time Slughorn is already regretting admitting to Tom that he knows what a horcrux is:
"Encase? But how?"
"There is a spell, do not ask me, I don't know!" said Slughorn, shaking his head like an old elephant bothered by mosquitoes. "Do I look as though I have tried it -- do I look like a killer?" (HBP 467)
While we do not know the spell, we understand its function and can, using evidence from the book, fairly easily establish two things: that a horcrux is not difficult to create once the murder has been committed, and that it can be done with no preparation of either the victim or the creator before the time of the murder. In establishing these, we also accept a third fact: that a living being can be made into a horcrux.
We must work backwards here, beginning with evidence about events in GoF given in HBP and then returning to GoF to study it in light of this new information. The idea of turning a living thing into a horcrux apparently didn't occur to Voldemort until he made Nagini at the start of GoF, and is not revealed to Harry until HBP: "After an interval of some years, however, he used Nagini to kill an old Muggle man, and it might then have occurred to him to turn her into his last Horcrux. She underlines the Slytherin connection, which enhances Lord Voldemort's mystique. I think he is perhaps as fond of her as he can be of anything" (Albus Dumbledore qtd in HBP 474).
We have no direct evidence of the creation of a horcrux-Nagini from the chapter in GoF in which Frank Bryce is killed. What we learn in GoF ch. 1 is that Voldemort, if he did indeed make Nagini into a horcrux at this point, had enough strength to not only kill Frank Bryce with an Avada Kedavra but to perform the spell to create a horcrux. We know Voldemort couldn't have prepared anything ahead of time because he was unaware that Frank Bryce was listening outside his door until Nagini informed him. He certainly wasn't planning to kill Peter Pettigrew; he explicitly states that he needs Pettigrew to milk Nagini and feed him, and he is already planning to force Pettigrew to sacrifice his own hand: "...you will have your reward, Wormtail. I will allow you to perform an essential task for me, one that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform" (GoF ch. 1).
Voldemort was not expecting Frank Bryce, so he could not have prepared to use him in the creation of a horcrux before Bryce arrived. After Bryce appears in the room, we see everything through his eyes until his murder, and there are no unusual preparations made or words spoken in his presence. This tells us that the spell to create a horcrux is something recited or performed after the murder, with no preparation necessary beforehand.
This event also indicates that the horcrux spell is not a very complex or difficult spell; if it were, it would have been too much for an already-weakened Voldemort to perform after performing an Avada Kedavra. We can extrapolate very little more about the nature of the spell, unfortunately, but I would like to posit two theories: one, that either the spell must be performed immediately after the murder or Voldemort made a habit of this, and two, that the spell may be performed with subtlety and therefore likely consists of nothing more complex than an incantation.
Setting aside the discussion of what happens to the torn-off piece of the soul and whether or not a soul can heal in time after a murder (which is a matter of personal faith and therefore not entirely germane to literary analysis in this instance) Dumbledore tells us that Voldemort "saved" the creation of horcruxes for "important" murders (HBP 474). To Voldemort it was an event, an important enough event that it would have been carried out immediately even if it were not necessary to do so.
It was also something intensely private; Voldemort, remember, does not trust other people except when it is unavoidable -- he did not even give the diary to Lucius Malfoy to keep safe, but rather to plant on an innocent child at the school (HBP 469). And yet, if he made Nagini into a horcrux using Frank Bryce's death immediately after the death occurred, Wormtail would have been in the room when the spell was performed. We know it is possible for a spell to be cast by thinking an incantation instead of saying it (HBP 149, 170 - 171). Certainly if dribbly candles, special potions, and chalk circles on the floor were involved, it would be impossible for the quasi-disembodied Voldemort to have performed the spell without Wormtail's knowledge and assistance.
In addition, such a complete general lack of information on horcruxes would seem to indicate that more people would give it a go if they only knew how simple it was. If Hermione has no information even after extensive research (HBP 258), the likely reason is that the spell is very simple. After all, in a school where the teaching of information on unforgiveable curses to sixteen-year-olds isn't even frowned upon (Moody states that the recommended year to teach unforgiveables is sixth year in GoF ch. 14), the only moral reason not to teach horcruxes is that it might inspire people to try it out.
Having defined what a horcrux intrinsically is and how it is created, we now turn to their destruction. It is evident that horcruxes do not "deteriorate"; the Riddle diary was fully functional and belligerently evil even fifty years after it was created. Therefore it requires an act to destroy a horcrux, an act which may not fully destroy the object but certainly damages it.
Knowledgeable intent does not seem to be an issue, however. Harry does not know that he is destroying an actual portion of Voldemort's soul when he stabs the diary at the end of CoS. He is aware only that it contains a "memory" of Tom Riddle and that it must be destroyed if Ginny Weasley is to be saved*. Indeed, Harry would appear to have fared better than Dumbledore did; he suffered no permanent damage from the incident. It is possible that, as in much religious mythology, innocence is an easy path to the destruction of evil.
* Incidentally, Harry has thus destroyed a portion of a soul; this is not, of course, the first time he has killed (Quirrell in PS) but it is the first time he has killed in defence of others rather than of himself.
At any rate, we have two "destroyed" horcruxes from which to draw conclusions: the Riddle diary and the Peverell ring. Both are damaged in the destruction of the soul itself:
Harry seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book. There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry's hands, flooding the floor. Riddle was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing and then -- He had gone. (CoS 322)
Harry noticed a ring on his uninjured hand that he had never seen Dumbledore wear before: it was large, rather clumsily made of what looked like gold, and was set with a heavy black stone that had cracked down the middle. (HBP 69)
It may be noted, however, that for the rest of CoS the book is not referred to as being "destroyed"; it has a giant fang-hole in it and all the ink has bled out of it, but otherwise it is whole. Similarly, Dumbledore is still able to wear the Peverell ring*; it still fulfills its basic function as a ring. It would appear that while some damage is necessary to remove the soul from the object, it is not necessary to completely destroy the object in order to destroy the soul it contains. In both cases the object is "opened" in some way, although in the case of the diary it is presumed that the stab wound is what destroys the soul-portion and not the "hole" the stabbing created.
* One wonders why he did, considering its reputation and the fact that a Death Eater could have seen him with it at any time, but the Ways of Dumbledore are oft-inscrutable.
Beyond this, there is not much to go on regarding the destruction of a horcrux. Whether destroying a horcrux frees the soul to enter into an afterlife or whether destroying a horcrux actively destroys the soul, thus barring the way to the afterlife, is unclear.
In summary and assuming the truth of the above facts and conjectures, we know the following about horcruxes:
1. They contain a portion of the soul which does not deteriorate over time. Their basic function is to protect this soul-part from destruction.
2. They can be made out of objects or living things.
3. They require a murder to create, in conjunction with a spell which requires no preparation.
4. There is a reasonable supposition that the spell must be performed immediately after the murder is committed.
5. Contingent upon #4, it is also reasonable to assume that the spell is simple and may be cast without spoken words.
6. Horcruxes do not require the complete destruction of the container in order to render them useless.
If we believe these to be true, then the case for Harry as an accidental horcrux is a strong one. To begin with, because it is the most common argument against the thesis of the "Harrcrux", let us examine Voldemort's intentions.
The fact that Voldemort never intended to make Harry into a horcrux has strong canonical support. Dumbledore tells us that he doesn't like to depend on other people for his immortality:
"...there are several reasons why, I think, a Philosopher's Stone would appeal less than Horcruxes to Lord Voldemort. While the Elixir of Life does indeed extend life, it must be drunk regularly, for all eternity, if the drinker is to maintain his immortality [....] Voldemort likes to operate alone, remember [see HBP 258, 260 for correlation]. I believe that he would have found the thought of being dependent, even on the Elixir, intolerable." (HBP 470)
He has made Nagini a horcrux, true, but she is under his control and, more importantly, is nonsentient so far as we know; she does not think for herself or have definite ideas about captivity and independence, so long as she is well-fed and well-treated. The idea of Voldemort turning any human being into a horcrux, particularly the one person who has been indicated as his greatest enemy, is laughable.
We do, however, have strong indications that Voldemort went to the Potter house in 1981 intending to use Harry's death to make the final horcrux. Dumbledore states:
"...if my calculations are correct, Voldemort was still at least one Horcrux short of his goal of six when he entered your parents' house with the intention of killing you. 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." (HBP 474)
We become aware, then, that Voldemort was already in the mindset to make a horcrux on a night when he killed two people and intended to kill a third. Presumably he brought an object with him. A lot is assumed about the discorporation of Voldemort; we tend to forget that there were no eyewitnesses in the books, other than fifteen-month-old Harry Potter. We do not actually know what happened in full. We can, however, reconstruct a general series of events.
Voldemort, on entering the house in Godric's Hollow, murders James first and then Lily; while he is not the most reliable of sources, in his own words he "...killed your father first; and he put up a courageous fight...but your mother needn't have died" (GoF ch. 32). Harry's own memories confirm this; during his Patronus lessons he hears his father tell his mother to run and then hears Voldemort telling her to stand aside while she pleads for Harry's life (PoA ch. 12).
Between Lily's death and Voldemort's discorporation, we are not aware of what occurred, though there is information regarding what occurred afterwards. We know from Hagrid that the "house was almost destroyed"; that it took a full day for Harry to be brought to the Dursleys although the wizarding world was alerted to the fact by eight am on the morning of November first; that McGonagall knew only through rumour what had happened although Dumbledore was able to confirm it; and that Albus Dumbledore must have communicated with Hagrid at some point during the day, to have made an appointment to meet with him at the Dursley household that evening, since he remarks that Hagrid is "late" (PS ch. 1). We later learn that it was on Dumbledore's orders that Harry was rescued from the wreckage, though we are not told how Dumbledore knew where the boy would be or what had happened (PoA ch. 10). Hagrid outlines what happens from the time he locates Harry onwards:
"...jus' got him outta the ruins, poor little thing, with a great slash across his forehead, an' his parents dead...an' Sirius Black turns up, on that flyin' motorbike [....] Thought he'd jus' heard the news o' You-Know-Who's attack an' come ter see what he could do. White an' shakin', he was [....] An' then he says, 'Give Harry ter me, Hagrid, I'm his godfather, I'll look after him --' Ha! But I'd had me orders from Dumbledore, an' I told Black no, Dumbledore said Harry was ter go ter his aunt an' uncle's." (PoA ch. 10)
Evidently it was Voldemort's discorporation, and not his attack on the Potters, which reduced the house to ruins; we are not informed how Harry survived. Voldemort's own account leaves out the crucial key moments between Lily's death and his discorporation; he merely states that he felt "...pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost [....] I remember only forcing myself, sleeplessly, endlessly, second by second, to exist....I settled in a faraway place, in a forest, and I waited" (GoF ch. 33).
Now comes the sticky wicket. Voldemort and Dumbledore both explicitly confirm, in two separate books, that Lily's self-sacrifice is what saved Harry. Dumbledore states that "...love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign...to have been loved so deeply [...] will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good" (PS ch. 17) although he is referring in this case to Quirrell. Voldemort will later echo him, however: "His mother died in the attempt to save him - and unwittingly provided him with a protection I admit I had not foreseen....I could not touch the boy" (GoF ch. 33). This is in keeping with the moral tone of the books and the continuing theme of love being the conquering force which Voldemort cannot escape or defeat.
Voldemort admits that "His mother left upon him the traces other sacrifice....this is old magic, I should have remembered it, I was foolish to overlook it" (GoF ch. 33) and that in order to be able to touch Harry, as he is now able, he was forced to use Harry's blood and no other in the potion which restored him to his body. We are therefore aware that, at the very least, some part of Harry now runs in Voldemort's chilly veins. And JK Rowling does like symmetry.*
* Consider that Dumbledore remarks repeatedly that Voldemort has been terrorising England for "eleven years" the day after he is vanquished (PS ch. 1), and that Harry is eleven when he begins Hogwarts and first re-vanquishes Voldemort when he is nearly twelve. Yet we know that Voldemort returned to England in the mid-1950s and had already formed the Death Eaters by this time (HBP). One wonders what occurred in 1970 to make the situation suddenly so much worse.
While it is assumed that Lily's self-sacrifice created some sort of magic-induced shield around Harry which rebounded the Avada Kedavra against Voldemort, I submit that this is an unlikely interpretation. Avada Kedavra does not vaporise the bodies of those it is used on, and we know that Voldemort was not killed but discorporated: "...for I had no body, and every spell that might have helped me required the use of a wand" (Voldemort qtd. in GoF ch. 33).
I suggest instead that Lily's self-sacrifice ensured that Harry would be protected through the very spell Voldemort wished to perform, the unnamed horcrux creation-spell. We know that any death can be used as the catalyst; her sacrifice may have protected Harry by placing the torn-away portion of Voldemort's soul into Harry. We are aware of the feedback loop that occurs when wand-twins are used against each other; imagine what happens when the soul attacks itself.
The strongest piece of evidence for Harry as a horcrux has yet to be presented, however. It is most straightforward; it comes directly from Harry and is correlated by Dumbledore, who you will recall is often the information-giver and the authority figure who voices those theories which JKR wishes to be taken as fact:
"You can speak Parseltongue, Harry," said Dumbledore calmly, "because Lord Voldemort -- who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytherin -- can speak Parseltongue. Unless I'm much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I'm sure ...."
"Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?" Harry said, thunderstruck.
"It certainly seems so." (CoS 332 - 333)
Harry's similarities to Voldemort as parselmouth, wand-twin, and potential-Slytherin have not gone unnoticed by fandom.
Perhaps surprisingly to many -- or at least a significant percentage of the handful who have survived the essay this far -- I will not be addressing the prophecy made by Sybil Trelawney. This is not to say that the prophecy either supports or negates the thesis we are concerned with here; rather, that I am having difficulty deconstructing it, or finding a logical deconstruction of it, which satisfies me as to its possessing any meaning at all. You're all welcome to have a go.
It is evident, however, that if Harry is a horcrux, Voldemort is currently unaware of it. This is not necessarily an impossibility -- Dumbledore himself says: "Voldemort is now so immersed in evil, and these crucial parts of himself have been detached for so long, he does not feel as we do [....] He was not aware, for instance, that the diary had been destroyed" (HBP 475). His soul is already split into at least three confirmed parts (ring, diary, and self); four if the locket has not yet been destroyed. Would Voldemort even notice another missing piece? It is not likely; especially considering Voldemort's repeated if rather cliched attempts to kill Harry. There is no doubt that this is Voldemort's intention: "And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him" (Voldemort qtd. in GoF ch. 33). Voldemort's ignorance about Harry's status as the Harrcrux is not in the least an issue, to my mind.
So far some fairly solid evidence has been established for the idea of the Harrcrux; it is not absolutely necessary to dig any deeper into canon to build an adequate defence of the theory. If we may pursue for a moment that flighty temptress, conjecture, however, it is possible to build a tenuous but even more valid case.
Let us posit that a vital component of the creation process of the horcrux is that the creator, whether conscious of it or not, must be fascinated and obsessed with the object which is to contain the soul. Setting aside Voldemort's obsessions, it is not entirely unprecedented in history. Those who have sought immortality by alchemical means have certainly been obsessed with the concept of the philosopher's stone, and posthumous immortality is a keystone of many modern and ancient religions.
All of the objects Tom Riddle used to make his initial horcruxes were objects of great value to him, occasionally objects of disproportionate value -- things he found more meaningful than they, in fact, actually were. Harry and Dumbledore actually discuss the value of the Diary:
"The diary wasn't that special."
"The diary, as you have said yourself, was proof that he was the heir of Slytherin; I am sure that Voldemort considered it of stupendous importance."
(HBP 472 - 473)
Clearly the Peverell ring is of great value to the Gaunts as well as to Tom, but the MLE representative, Ogden, hardly gives it a second look when Gaunt senior flaunts it at him (HBP 10). Along with the Slytherin locket and the Hufflepuff cup, these are things which are valued, but which Tom values in strange and obsessive ways.
Does Tom -- rather, Voldemort -- value Harry? Not particularly, but only because value is not the proper word. Voldemort is obsessed with the infant Harry. He goes to the Potter house, apparently alone, breaks down the door, murders a talented wizard and an equally talented witch in cold blood, and then turns his wand on an infant. Granted, we have seen that Tom is a sociopath who had no trouble killing rabbits at the age of ten (HBP 251) so a small child at the age of fifty-three oughtn't to be a problem. Still, it is safe to assume that a man who does not care whether the mother lives or dies is probably intensely focused on the child to the exclusion of all other matters. With the raw magic of Lily's sacrifice swirling around him, it is entirely possible that Voldemort unconsciously got ahead of himself and, in his obsession with Harry, inadvertently made Harry his focus and cast the spell prematurely. No doubt those who appreciate the symbolism of the wand will be inclined to snigger.
Where does this leave us? Well, we know that it is possible to preserve the original function of an object even if it ceases to be a horcrux; we have no evidence to support or refute the idea that a living being could have the soul "extracted" and survive, but perhaps that misses the point.
Is it possible that JKR's ultimate message is that we each possess the seed of Tom Riddle's madness inside us but that we need not give in? We are not positive of the nature of the soul in JKR's world, but it seems as though the simple fact of a horcrux's existence is not necessarily insurance that the original consciousness will go on existing, Voldemort's survival notwithstanding (as we know from the above discussion that it was likely not an actual Avada Kedavra which discorporated him). Is it possible that Voldemort's original soul could be destroyed, leaving only a spark of the great and terrible wizard in Harry's own body? Would it not be the most tremendous irony if Harry's ultimate battle was not to destroy the Voldemort before him but rather to understand, accept, and lay to rest the Voldemort he must always carry within him?
I suppose we'll know in a year or two.