I'm re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and I think I'm a little confused on how Horcruxes work.

I previously understood them like this: A Horcrux is a vessel that the soul inhabits once the body dies (the creator leaves a "piece" of his/her soul in the object so that when the creator dies, his soul/conciousness still lives on in his Horcrux).

Therefore, I always thought that once Quirrell was killed and Voldemort left his body, his soul went to his next Horcrux (his diary). He then used this diary to manipulate Ginny to open the Chamber of Secrets, regain a body, and kill Harry.

But then, as I was reading the book, I noticed that Riddle does not know how Harry defeated him in Godric's Hollow--and in Goblet of Fire, Voldemort knows exactly what happened.

So am I misunderstanding Horcruxes here? If so, how did all of this work? If the diary was a Horcrux, how was Voldemort not really controlling it? Who was this "memory Riddle" who wanted to regain a body?

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    Think of them like Sauron's One Ring in Tolkien's works.
    – user40790
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 14:39
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    Quirrell isn't a horcrux. It sorta sounded like you were saying he was when you said "After Voldemort left Quirrell, did he inhabit his next Horcrux?" so I just wanted to put that out there. Quirrell's not a Horcrux.
    – RedCaio
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 23:18
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    @Axelord Absolutely not. What happens when the Ring is destroyed? He's diminished to an impotent shadow never to be a risk to the world again. Meanwhile what happens when the Horcruxes are all gone? Voldemort is still alive until he's actually killed. Completely different; the Horcruxes are to save part of his soul whereas the Ring is to dominate others.
    – Pryftan
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 3:43

2 Answers 2



Voldemort has a main portion of his soul, which contains most of his consciousness and resides (when he is not incorporeal, anyway), in his physical body. It is this that lived a wretched, bodiless existence for over a decade, and it is this to which Voldemort refers when he says "I":

I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost . . . but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know . . . I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal — to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked...for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done it.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The Horcruxes contain additional pieces of Voldemort's soul; he does not inhabit them. Their function is to tie his embodied soul down to life, so that even when killed his spirit still persists in some form.

“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

The Riddle that came from the diary was a piece of Voldemort's soul: not the main piece, but a piece nonetheless, possessed of some element of Voldemort's consciousness at the time he ripped it from his spirit.

“Well, although I did not see the Riddle who came out of the diary, what you described to me was a phenomenon I had never witnessed. A mere memory starting to act and think for itself? A mere memory, sapping the life out of the girl into whose hands it had fallen? No, something much more sinister had lived inside that book. . . . a fragment of soul, I was almost sure of it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Not quite. Voldemort needs to attach himself to a living thing, not an object, even a horcrux. The Riddle in the diary had always been there. It was the piece of the soul itself at the time it was made. It was a sixteen-year-old. During the whole second book, Voldemort was not in Hogwarts, he'd already left.

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