In chapter 23 of Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore guesses that Voldemort planned to use Harry's death to split his soul one last time:

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.

However, it has already been made clear in that same chapter that splitting the soul requires murder. My question is this: Why would killing Harry be seen as murder? From what Voldemort knows of the prophecy, killing Harry, and any required persons along the way, isn't murder - it's self defence. As far as he's concerned, if he doesn't kill Harry, he's destined to be killed by him. So, how could this be considered murder? There's nothing evil about self defence.

  • 3
    Just because some weirdo spat out an occult prophecy about not living while the other does, doesn't mean that a grown, armed man instantly killing a newborn with a single spell falls out of the "murder" box.
    – Jenayah
    Nov 19, 2020 at 23:03
  • @Jenayah But he clearly took the prophecy very seriously. If he didn't, he wouldn't have reserved making a horcrux for it.
    – J. Mini
    Nov 19, 2020 at 23:06
  • Wizarding morality is not necessarily the same as what you may be familiar with. Consider that almost none of the “good guys” ever fight to kill, even though not killing Death Eaters allows them to escape and kill more innocent people. They seem to view any form of killing, justified or not, as something morally reprehensible.
    – Alex
    Nov 19, 2020 at 23:14
  • That is not a matter of magical versus non-magical morality, but rather the completely mundane morality of The Order of the Phoenix. There are organizations in real life that believe in complete pacifism, so they do not fight at all. For that matter, many real world police forces (at least in theory) do not try to kill dangerous criminals, but rather subdue them, and let us not forget that Voldemort is basically just a domestic terrorist.
    – Adamant
    Nov 20, 2020 at 8:14
  • In fact, it is not at all clear that not killing is a policy of the Order at all. Remus Lupin implies that Harry should be willing to use lethal force, even against mind-controlled cannon fodder. Molly Weasley kills Bellatrix Lestrange (seemingly with the illicit Killing Curse). Sirius and Remus were willing to kill Peter Pettigrew even when they had him in custody. Snape probably killed some innocent people while spying on Voldemort.
    – Adamant
    Nov 20, 2020 at 8:21

1 Answer 1


Legally, self-defense is generally reserved for imminent danger, not eventual danger. If any sort of self-defense made a killing not eligible for a horcrux, then they would be rather difficult to make; if you kill someone to make a horcrux, then the killing is necessary to make a horcrux, which is necessary to keep yourself from dying, so the killing was done in self-defense. You'd have to use a murder that you were going to do anyway.

It is stated that prophecies can be averted (and averting the prophecy was the whole point of killing Harry), and if Voldemort had stopped going around killing people, then Harry wouldn't have needed to kill him. Claiming self-defense as a justification for murder, when the only reason you need to defend yourself is because of all the other murders you're committing, is not much of an argument (and Harry didn't actually kill Voldemort, he died from the elder wand directing the Avada Kevada he cast trying to kill Harry back to him, so ultimately he wouldn't have died if he hadn't tried to kill Harry).

But the term "murder", as opposed to "homicide", is a legal term. It seems unlikely that a horcrux literally depends on what the legal authorities have declared illegal. Rather, it depends on some metaphysical aspect of the act. Being willing to kill a baby takes a tremendous amount of callousness, even if the baby is destined to be instrumental in your death sixteen years from now.

When Dumbledore tells Snape that he wants Snape to kill him rather than Draco to spare Draco's soul, Snape responds "What about my soul?" Snape was killing Dumbledore knowing that Dumbledore consented to the killing, and Draco was trying to kill Dumbledore to keep Voldemort from killing him, so evidently neither of these extenuating circumstances keep a killing from harming someone's soul (although it is not clarified whether the damage is sufficient to create a horcrux). In the real world, killing someone can be a traumatic experience even if it was justified.

  • This seems to boil down to the old "if all killing splits the soul, then why was there any need for Voldemort to wait until he killed Harry?" argument (e.g. this question). I'm starting to become willing to accept that these details are left too vague in canon for a convincing answer to be given.
    – J. Mini
    Nov 20, 2020 at 12:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.