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When someone makes a Horcrux, part of their soul is stored in it, and when the Horcrux is destroyed, so is part of their soul.

In the case of Voldemort, he had split his soul into so many parts that he had irreparably damaged it, so when the 2nd to last part of his soul was released, it appeared in limbo, where Harry saw it. J. K. Rowling has said that after Voldemort was killed, that was all that remained of him.

But what about a person that isn't as twisted as Voldemort. If someone creates a single Horcrux, so they have split their soul, but not to the point that Voldemort has, and then the Horcrux is destroyed, what happens when that person dies? Will their incomplete soul be as damaged as Voldemort's, or will they be able to cross over to the afterlife? Or is there a chance they'll be either trapped in limbo or be trapped on this side, as a ghost?

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It’s likely they can’t ‘move on’ without a whole soul and are stuck.

The way a Horcrux works is that it keeps a piece of soul in an object, and the soul can’t move on while that piece remains earthbound and undamaged. This may imply that a whole soul is needed to be able to fully move on and not remain stuck in limbo.

“Well, you split your soul, you see,’ said Slughorn, ‘and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged. But, of course, existence in such a form …”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)

The Dark Lord’s soul was sufficiently damaged that he was forced to remain in limbo in the stunted form Harry sees him in when in King’s Cross, so he for sure couldn’t move on.

Jon: Since Voldemort was afraid of death, did he choose to be a ghost if so where does he haunt or is this not possible due to his Horcruxes?

J.K. Rowling: No, he is not a ghost. He is forced to exist in the stunted form we witnessed in King's Cross.
- J.K. Rowling and the Live Chat, Bloomsbury.com (July 30, 2007)

It’s not clear if this is specific to the Dark Lord as his soul is damaged so severely, or if someone who made one Horcrux would have a similar fate except perhaps they’d exist in limbo in a less stunted form as their soul isn’t as badly damaged as his was.

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    I started reading this, especially your first sentence, and thought, "No." From there, for some reason, I really didn't want to like or pick this as an answer, but you make a solid point, especially your inclusion of the live chat transcript with JKR. I like this answer - not just because I think it's right, but also because it seems to play by the same sense of balance that JKR shows in other ways in her universe. The very act of killing someone so one can live forever is the same act that can doom someone to be eternally stuck between life and death. – Tango Nov 12 '18 at 21:16
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    @Tango Thanks a lot! :) I’m glad you like it! :) – Bellatrix Nov 12 '18 at 21:18
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Do you mean to say that the horcrux is intact and the person dies? It is clearly mentioned that the person cannot die unless the horcrux is destroyed. So first you have to destroy the horcrux and kill the person. When the horcrux is destroyed the person would feel a part of his soul burning off but he won't be in a limbo. He would be weaker and will finally die when he is killed in his body. That's my theory anyways.

  • I mean I want to know what happens to a person who has a horcrux that is destroyed, then they die after that. I don't go with the person feeling a part of his soul burning off, since Voldemort never felt that. – Tango Feb 23 '12 at 17:17
  • to that i would say that actually voldemort felt it when his horcrux were destroyed. This is actually mentioned in the last part and the 6th part that in chamber of secrets because voldemort was not restored to his full body he did not feel the "Tom Riddle Diary" being destroyed. Also because he had done so many parts of his soul, when one of he horcrux got destroyed he felt it mildly. – DoNNie_DarkO Feb 24 '12 at 6:02
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The answer is "We don't know for sure from canon".

There are 2 options and canon never clarifies which option it is (at least till Pottermore covers DH fully when JKR would hopefully expand a bit on that fascinating bit of magic):

  1. Horcruxes only work at the moment of "death"(s).

    In that case, the single Horcrux and plays no role afterwards (until/unless the person is resurrected), in in which case destroying the Horcrux is zero effect on the "undead" soul piece. They can still be resurrected into a new body, ala Voldemort.

  2. Or, Horcruxes keep working onwards, a permanent anchors, and are required to continue keeping the soul tied to this world.

    In which case destroying a single Horcrux will un-anchor it; and then the unhorcruxed fragment will be gone, permanently dead in afterlife OR a ghost.

    One factor in favor of this option is that Voldemort wanted >1 Horcrux. If the first option was the case, I don't see how there'd be any major benefit from having 1 or 7 Horcruxes, and Tom Riddle made it quite clear there was such a benefit. But this is just conjecture.


    However, in this case, again, canon is not clear on what happens to that 1/2 of the soul that is no longer anchored (or even that it's 1/2 of the soul in the first place, what with "JKR Maths").

    I'll make an assumption that the fact of Voldemort's soul remaint being stuck in limbo is used as an exceptional case due to 7 Horcruxes... but that's all it is - an assumption. May be it was simply due to having any Horcruxes, we simply don't have any data to be certain.

  • While I like the first possibility, I think the 2nd is more likely. But, remember, Voldy was dead and came back (due to his horcruxes). He was here again, even after all of them were destroyed. That may be because they weren't needed as anchors or because he had a full body by then. – Tango Jan 5 '15 at 23:14
  • @Tango - he most emphathically did NOT come back due to his horcruxes. He came back due to the remaining soul piece obtaining a new body due to a spell by Wormtongue. #2 merely means that Horcruxes kept that soul piece from "dying" until that happy event. After the re-bodying, the Horcruxes had no funcion until and unless his body was destroyed again (except, in canon, by that time he had no Horcruxes left, alas) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 5 '15 at 23:17
  • Okay, I got that - but then, the piece of the soul did not die due to the horcruxes. That makes me think if they had been destroyed before Wormtongue's spell, that he would have died. So once he was back in a body, apparently he didn't need the horcruxes. – Tango Jan 7 '15 at 5:54
  • @Tango - it's debatable whether he "needed" Horcruxes even before he was back in the body (I guess yes but unsure). However, he'd still "need" them as far as their second-time-around re-use, for when the NEW body dies. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 7 '15 at 8:31
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A Horcrux ties someone to earth because a part of them has been severed and attached or anchored to a material object, which can even be a living body. In other words a Horcrux is an additional artificial anchor in addition to the natural one of the body.

If a person who is killed still has a Horcrux they are not dead but exist as a sort of spirit or demon who if powerful enough may be able to possess or soft re-anchor themselves to simple creatures or weak willed humans such as Quirrell at their will.

This spirit can only go to the afterlife or choose to be a ghost (There seems to be a pre-requisite of violent traumatic death to be a ghost) if either before or after their physical 'death' their horcrux is destroyed . Horcrux creatures are not ghosts because their is no proof in canon that Ghosts can possess anyone, only Voldemort seems able to do so and so by logical extension can other Horocrux creatures. Voldemort obviously doesn't want to go to the afterlife, but he also seems to be 'unghostable' because he has cut himself into so many soul bits, so he is stuck in limbo,

  • I disagree with the violent and traumatic death being a pre-requisite. I believe that Ghosts return when they have a specific reason to, eg. Moaning Myrtle wanted to haunt hey bully, the Bloody Baron wanted to pay penance for murdering his love. Professor Binns died in his sleep but wanted nothing more than to keep teaching, so he returned to do that. Sirius however had no reason to return other than helping Harry, which he knew the rest of the Order could do better than a ghost. (ditto James, Lily, Remus, Tonks etc) – Steven Wood Feb 28 '14 at 9:14
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From Slughorn's words,

“Well, you split your soul, you see,” said Slughorn, “and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged. But of course, existence in such a form . . .” -- Highlights added

Part of the soul remaining earthbound appears to be key here. To me this means that the Horcrux acts as an anchor to your soul. At the time of death your soul leaves your body and passes on, but part of your soul is now trapped, halting the primary piece of your soul from moving on.

Some words from Hermione,

Seeing that Harry and Ron looked thoroughly confused, Hermione hurried on, “Look, if I picked up a sword right now, Ron, and ran you through with it, I wouldn’t damage your soul at all.” “Which would be a real comfort to me, I’m sure,” said Ron. Harry laughed. “It should be, actually! But my point is that whatever happens to your body, your soul will survive, untouched,” said Hermione. “But it’s the other way round with a Horcrux. The fragment of soul inside it depends on its container, its enchanted body, for survival. It can’t exist without it.”

Here we see that for a normal soul, when the body is killed, the soul stays intact, and moves on, but for a Horcrux'd soul the second the container is destroyed the soul is destroyed.

If this is how the Horcruxes work, then when the Horcrux is destroyed that piece of the soul is destroyed and the forces that pull the soul away from earth will be free to take the primary soul fragment and move on.

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When a Horcrux is destroyed, the person ought to feel it. Voldemort didn't feel it as he had abused his soul so much that it stopped responding to him. I think Dumbledore mentioned something of this sort somewhere. I'll try to find out and edit it in.

If the wizard is then killed, he will most probably go into limbo (no canon sources). It stands to reason as why would limbo make a distinction between a seventh of a soul and half a soul? It would certainly reject full souls, but IMHO all fractions of souls should look the same to it. So I guess that the wizard would go to limbo, but maybe not damaged and neglected as the Voldemort-baby-thing.

I personally feel that one needs to have an intact soul to become a ghost/go to the afterlife.

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The body dies but the part of soul contained in the horcrux remains intact, and the part of the soul living in the body also remains intact (remember Hermione saying "I could slash you with a sword and your soul would not be damaged", or something similar).

I suppose that the part of the soul that was in/with the body continues its normal cycle, whatever that is (for example, going to some afterlife or limbo).

As for the part contained in the horcrux, I guess nothing happens to it unless another wizard finds the horcrux, recognizes it for what it is and either destroys it or provides it with a body (or until it is destroyed by some unlikely accident, involving stuff like cursed fire).

  • If it is destroyed, the other part of the soul will still be wherever it went after the death of the body (e.g. in the afterlife, etc.).
  • If it is restored, the "dead" person will return to physical life, just like Voldemort did.
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Even splitting the soul once can have catastrophic and near irreversible consequences (depending on how much remorse the Horcrux maker is capable of feeling). So, a wizard who dies with only half a soul (the Horcrux being destroyed beforehand) will forever remain in a crippled, stunted form in the afterlife. It is basically a Hell of their own making. Whether this form would resemble Voldemort's utterly desolated soul fragment in the 'Kings Cross' chapter of Deathly Hallows or not is unknown.

To add to this, I have always understood each soul fragment to be a kind of clone of the once-whole individual i.e. any fragment of soul of Voldemort's could have theoretically be reborn into a body, because each fragment is still Voldemort; each Horcrux is a Voldemort. When a Horcrux is destroyed, the piece of soul doesn't just disappear into nothingness, but passes into limbo or the afterlife. For the purposes of this discussion, I would say that the two halves of souls would both exist in the limbo world/afterlife, but as separate entities. So, you would end up with two very damaged beings in limbo that are both experiencing the same eternal pain and suffering ... Gah! Voldy, you idiot ...

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