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I came across a page about Horcruxes. I came across this paragraph that piqued my curiosity.

To create a Horcrux, a wizard first had to deliberately commit murder. This act, said to be one of supreme evil, would result in the murderer metaphysically damaging their own soul. A wizard who wished to create a Horcrux would then use that damage to their advantage by casting a spell which would rip the damaged portion of the soul and encase it in an object. If the maker was later killed, he or she would continue to exist in a non-corporeal form, although there were methods of regaining a physical body. However, according to Horace Slughorn, few would want to live in such a form and death would be preferable to most.

I checked Slughorn's page, but I couldn't find out why a non-corporeal form was undesirable. After all, Voldemort was living in such a form for a while and nothing much happened to him.

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    Except he couldn't do anything by himself. Isn't that enough of a drawback? Would you like to depend on Wormtail, of all people? – Gallifreyan Jul 5 '17 at 17:11
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    Depending on a mouse? Yuck. I guess you have a point. – Baby Man Jul 5 '17 at 17:12
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Because living incorporially is supremely painful, evil, dangerous and a violation against nature.

Apart from that, it's fine.

Here's the passage from the books that the wiki's alluding to:

"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..."
Slughorn's face crumpled and Harry found himself remembering words he had heard nearly two years before.
"I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost....but still, I was alive...
"...few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferable."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23, Horcruxes).

Why exactly would death be preferable?

  • Using Horcruxes is extremely painful. Voldemort found this out at Godric's Hollow.

    "My curse was deflected by the woman's foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon me. Aah...pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it."
    (Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33, The Death Eaters).

    Being ripped out of your body could hardly be expected to be a pleasant experience.

  • It's super evil. Voldemort may be fine with evil but Slughorn had considerably more scruples than Voldemort did. Creating a Horcrux involves murder. Slughorn was visibly upset at the prospect that he might be caught up in that sort of thing.

    "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?"

    "Merlin's beard, Tom!" yelped Slughorn. "Seven! Isn't it bad enough to think of killing one person?"
    (Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23, Horcruxes).

    This approach to death is consistent with the message across the wider Harry Potter mythology. Death is natural and any form of immortality is evil and can only provide a very inferior standard of life.

    "The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have but a half life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips."
    (Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest).

  • Slughorn regarded the prospect of incorporial life as a travesty that was deeply unnatural.

    "Well," said Slughorn uncomfortably, "you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is a violation, it is against nature."
    (Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23, Horcruxes).

  • Slughorn understood that splitting the soul made it irratic and unbalanced. Part of the reason why no-one had ever tried to split their soul in seven was because it was such an extreme and crazy idea. Most people value their souls enough to not want to dilute and weaken them. Voldemort was different insofar as his desire for immortality surpassed his respect for his own soul. Slughorn recognised how dangerous that process was and found it intolerable.

Basically, Voldemort wasn't unaffected at all. He went through a painful, evil, unnatural and dangerous procedure. In his own words, it left him as "less than the meanest ghost". Like most wizards, Slughorn believed that the form of existence that Voldemort was prepared to endure was beyond contempt. Death was better in his eyes, both because of the quality of life one has as a Horcrux-spirit and because of what one has to do to obtain it.

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    What happens if you have an unbalanced soul? Is it as bad as they make out? (considering no one's gone as far as V before it's probably speculation) Or does that warrant it's own question? – marcellothearcane Jul 5 '17 at 18:05
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    @marcellothearcane You are subject to hormonal mood swings and temper tantrums. Especially when your teenage adversary continually eludes and outsmarts you. Seriously though, I don't think anyone but Voldemort really knows what it feels like. I imagine it feels like part of your essence has been carved out and thrown away. Feel free to ask a new question if you want. – The Dark Lord Jul 5 '17 at 18:12
  • especially when it's completely not skill on the said teenagers part. I suppose old Herpo might have told everyone how bad one fragmentation was... – marcellothearcane Jul 5 '17 at 18:15
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    Well if the The Dark Lord himself answers this, then it must most definitely be true. – Baby Man Jul 6 '17 at 4:29
  • Using Horcruxes is extremely painful - the supplied quote could just as well be about the curse, not living incorporeally. Slughorn regarded the prospect of incorporeal life as a travesty that was deeply unnatural - the supplied quote is about splitting one's soul, not living incorporeally. – Rawling Apr 1 '18 at 11:30
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A non-corporeal form is weak and can’t do much on its own.

The biggest practical problem with having a non-corporeal form is it’s weak, and until the wizard who tethered themselves to life with a Horcrux is actually able to regain a body, even a powerful wizard like the Dark Lord isn’t capable of much in that form. Without help, they’d also be unable to do the necessary magic required to gain a stronger and more able form.

“Nevertheless, I was as powerless as the weakest creature alive, and without the means to help myself … for I had no body, and every spell which might have helped me required the use of a wand …

‘I remember only forcing myself, sleeplessly, endlessly, second by second, to exist … I settled in a faraway place, in a forest, and I waited … surely, one of my faithful Death Eaters would try and find me … one of them would come and perform the magic I could not, to restore me to a body … but I waited in vain …”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)

He was only able to truly begin to regain his strength when Wormtail found him and began brewing him a potion to restore some of his strength - but even in the rudimentary body he still relied heavily on Wormtail, even for small things like moving and being fed.

“There is a little more in the bottle, my Lord, if you are still hungry.’

‘Later,’ said a second voice. This, too, belonged to a man – but it was strangely high-pitched, and cold as a sudden blast of icy wind. Something about that voice made the sparse hairs on the back of Frank’s neck stand up. ‘Move me closer to the fire, Wormtail.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)

Even in a somewhat corporeal form, he was still fairly weak, and relied heavily on being cared for by Wormtail.

“How am I to survive without you, when I need feeding every few hours? Who is to milk Nagini?’

‘But you seem so much stronger, my Lord –’

‘Liar,’ breathed the second voice. ‘I am no stronger, and a few days alone would be enough to rob me of the little health I have regained under your clumsy care. Silence!”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)

It’s only after he makes the potion with Harry’s blood that he’s truly able to restore his strength and begin his attempts to conquer the wizarding world again.

While the Dark Lord made six Horcruxes, more than any other wizard was known to have, from what Slughorn says when not even considering the possibility of multiple Horcruxes, this particular disadvantage seems to apply to people who’ve only made one as well.

“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 …’

Slughorn’s face crumpled and Harry found himself remembering words he had heard nearly two years before.

‘I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost … but still, I was alive.’

‘… few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferable.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)

This was before Tom Riddle even mentioned the idea of creating multiple Horcruxes (something which only he had done anyway), so the difficulty of living in a non-corporeal form seems to occur even for wizards with only one Horcrux.

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