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Why does Tom Riddle ask Slughorn about Horcruxes, at all?

  • The benefits are slim to none (see How did Slughorn's information on horcruxes actually help Voldemort?). Tom already knows about them and how to make them from actual reliable sources, and Slughorn tells him absolutely nothing new or useful.

  • The risks are great. Slughorn will remember what they discussed, and risk revealing Tom knowing about Horcruxes, AND discussing creating 7 of them - which is, indeed, what happened by HPB time, literally directly leading to Voldemort's demise. Riddle is lucky Slug didn't sell him out to Aurors right then.

  • Plus I don't really see why Tom would consider Slughorn a reliable and useful source of Horcrux info. He's not a Necromancer or a deep Dark Magic scolar. He's a bloody Potions professor.

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    Why, it's almost as if Tom Riddle is a deeply psychologically scarred individual with poor impulse control and who comes up with terrible plans.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 1:04
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    Duplicate of How did Slughorn's information on horcruxes actually help Voldemort?? "Why did he need to ask Slughorn how to make a Horcrux, then, if he'd already read that?" asked Ron. "He only approached Slughorn to find out what would happen if you split your soul into seven," said Harry.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 2:01
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    @Valorum - the point is, why approach him AT ALL? Not like he's an expert on multiple Horcrux creation. Matter of fact, based on canon conversation, he didn't really know the answer. A slim chance that he might seems sooooo not worth all the risk Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 2:42
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    @Valorum - "poor impulse control" and "terrible plans"? It's like you meant Draco :P Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 2:44
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    There's not enough textual evidence of this to make it an answer, but I always got the impression that Riddle expected Slughorn to become a Death Eater later, and may have been using this conversation as a way to get him to implicate himself. "Maybe I will tell people how you helped me make horcruxes if you don't work for me," makes for useful leverage.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 12:12

1 Answer 1

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He was assessing the risk, and he was disclosing more information than he intended to.

He already knew how to make horcruxes.

Just to get this out of the way: Riddle did not approach Slughorn to find out how to make horcruxes, this has been asked and answered a couple of times on this page already.

He wanted to know what would happen, possibly assessing the risk for his own safety

Dumbledore points out that creating more than one Horcrux was completely unheard of, so it makes sense for Riddle to get another opinion before proceeding tampering with his own soul further.

'You heard Voldemort: What he particularly wanted from Horace was an opinion on what would happen to the wizard who created more than one Horcrux, what would happen to the wizard so determined to evade death that he would be prepared to murder many times, rip his soul repeatedly, so as to store it in many, separately concealed Horcruxes. No book would have given him that information.'

(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horcruxes)

He can't know the benefits of his conversation before having it

You're arguing with the benefit of hindsight that the discussion between Slughorn and Riddle didn't provide him with any benefits. Yet, Riddle could not have fully known that prior to the discussion.

Slughorn is about the only person to talk to about Horcruxes

Slughorn is well-connected even in the more shady wizarding world, and open to discuss equally shady topics, as he acknowledges the curiosity about these things:

"It's natural to feel some curiosity about these things... wizards of a certain calibre have always been drawn to that aspect of magic..."
(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horcruxes)

At the same time, Horcruxes are a fiercely banned topic at Hogwarts, which is mentioned in the same chapter. Adding how easily Slughorn is available and how easy it is for Riddle to manipulate him, he seems like an obvious choice to approach.

As to the risks: Voldemort might not have realized what he disclosed

My personal interpretation of the whole exchange was that at this point Riddle's mind was already made up to make more than one Horcrux, he was simply looking either for confirmation that it was possible, or for any obvious red flag that would have prevented him from proceeding (Like: "Wizard Fugnald tried this once and blew himself into pieces, so don't try it"). He is pressing Slughorn very hard, and all he is getting as a response is that there are merely moral boundaries to his plan, which, as we know, Riddle is happy to cross.

I think his own impatience made him blurt out more of his plan than he intended to. His impatience is mentioned in the build-up:

"...few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferable." But Riddle's hunger was now apparent; his expression was greedy, he could no longer hide his longing.

(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horcruxes)

Then, when he is finally past all the topics that he already knows of and gets to the whole point of the conversation, he spills it all and Slughorn even interrupts him (otherwise he might have disclosed even more):

'I mean, would one Horcrux be much use? Can you only split your soul once? Wouldn't it be better, make you stronger, to have your soul in more pieces? I mean, for instance, isn't seven the most powerfully magical number, wouldn't seven-?' 'Merlin's Beard, Tom!' yelped Slughorn.

(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horcruxes)

Riddle then leaves, and my interpretation is that Slughorn gave him the confirmation he needed now. Given his emotional state at this point, it is likely he didn't realize what he just shared with the teacher:

'I won't say a word, sir,' said Riddle and he left, but not before Harry had glimpsed his face, which was full of the same wild happiness it had worn when he had first found out that he was a wizard, the sort of happiness that did not enhance his handsome features, but made them, somehow, less human...

(Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horcruxes)

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    Good points. It does strike me as implausible that in the entire millennia-long history of witchcraft and magic, no dark wizard had ever tried or succeeded in making multiple Horcruxes. A bit of a weak plot point. Unless simply no record existed.
    – RC_23
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 23:16
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    @RC_23 Perhaps: (i) Horcruxes were not something anyone but very specialized scholars knew about, (ii) prospective powerful dark wizards believed that splitting their soul would reduce the potency of their magic, or their joy for life, or (iii) Horcruxes were discovered more recently. Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 3:27
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    @RC_23 there is no indication that no one did this before. In fact, one could speculate that this has been done before and Slughorn knew about it, hence his disgusted emotional response. That would be headcanon, of course.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 10:49
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    @Mateen, if you read the tales of Beedle the Bard we know that the closest thing most people have to knowledge about these things is from folklore that makes it quite clear something is lost in the process. So your second point definitely holds up according to the lore.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 21:14

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