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We know from Half Blood Prince that the soul splits when murder is performed. A horcrux is merely a receptacle that stores the portion of soul that has split off from the original by means of a spell.

We also know from Voldemort that creating a horcrux does great damage to your physical and mental wellbeing (see the nose and scarlet eyes and general nuttiness of Voldemort).

Does the split piece of soul reattach itself if not stored in a horcrux?

I ask because there are a lot of instances of murder without obvious Voldemort like effects.

For example Peter Pettigrew murdered 13 muggles but does not seem to be in the horcrux induced state. The same could be said for Bellatrix (although her mental unstableness is a possible indicator), Mad Eye Moody is another, as is Molly Weasley.

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    @SQB Murder is part of the "ritual" of creating a Horcrux in the sense that you need to split your soul to create one, and murder is the means by which you do that. It's stated explicitly as fact by Dumbledore in HBP, and there's a ton of information about this subject on this site (Horcruxes come up a lot). The accepted answer to this question has a quote. – Anthony Grist Feb 28 '14 at 9:52
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    I dont have the source material but when Dumbledore is asking Snape to kill him he says that Draco killing him would split Dracos soul as it would be murder, but Snape killing Dumbledore would be an act of mercy and therefore would not split his soul. I believe this is in Snapes memory in DH – Steven Wood Feb 28 '14 at 9:52
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    @Simon Harry became a "Horcrux" (he wasn't a true one, he was just Horcrux-like) when Voldemort's body was destroyed precisely because his soul had been damaged so much by all the acts of murder he'd committed. With regard to Snape, what Dumbledore actually says is Snape has to decide for himself if it would do him any harm, so there's no explicit confirmation either way; his soul might still have been split by it, we don't know. – Anthony Grist Feb 28 '14 at 9:57
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    @KharoBangdo I dont remember it stating in the books that Snape ever killed before Dumbledore. I agree that as a death eater it is likely but is it confirmed? if so who did he kill? – Steven Wood Feb 28 '14 at 10:06
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    Since we're discussing the conversation between Snape and Dumbledore, let's have some quotes: “That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.” “And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?” “You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,” said Dumbledore. (Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 - The Prince's Tale) – Anthony Grist Feb 28 '14 at 15:02
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It is said that split souls can be repaired, as long as its owner has not yet died. The catch is that the process can itself be lethal, and it requires the owner to feel sincere remorse: not something that someone vile enough to create a Horcrux is ever likely to do.

I bring this up because I suspect that it's crucial to finding an answer to your question. I would imagine that un-Horcruxed fragments do whatever they would have done if they'd never been Horcruxed in the first place, so that repairs remain possible, but we don't know what "whatever they would have done" is. Further details of the repair process could give us clues to that. Does it involve actually placing the fragments back into the soul in some way? Does the soul "call back" its fragments, which then rejoin with it on their own? Or does the soul "grow back" its lost pieces, with the original fragments not even needed?

If we assume the first case -repairing a soul means putting the fragments back in- then the fragments probably stay "with" the soul, in whatever way the concept of location applies to souls and fragments. They can't actually rejoin until repairs are made, but we never hear anyone talk about needing to find lost fragments, so if the repair process needs to do something with them, then finding them must be too easy to be worth mentioning. Un-Horcruxed segments, then, would likely return to wherever the soul is, even though they can't actually rejoin with it.

In the second case -the soul calls its fragments back and mends itself- then the fragments must still exist somewhere, but their location isn't important. Wherever they went, they'd hear the call, which would explain why they don't need to be found. Unless fragments have some ability to move about in some way (other than being called back), then they'd probably stay right where they were, waiting to be called. If they could move about, then they would.

In the last case -lost pieces grow back when the soul is repaired- then fragments probably just dissipate soon after being split off. They're not needed anymore, which again explains why they don't need to be found. Un-Horcruxed fragments, then, would probably dissipate in the same way.

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I believe that the part of split soul usually does not reattach itself to the murderer even if he does not create a Horcrux. However, if he does not create a Horcrux, the split piece soul is free to eventually go on and leave Arda, possibly when the dark wizard dies, possibly earlier. The spell that creates a Horcrux binds the piece of soul to this world as long as the Horcrux anchor object is intact, so that the soul is unable to go on.


Let me show the one evidence I have found for why creating a Horcrux as opposed to merely splitting your soul matters. I apologize that I have not found very clear statements, for wizards do not usually like to speak of this horrible topic.

Consider Professor Slughorn's explanation to the student Riddle in Half-Blood Prince chapter 23.

‘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 …’

[…]

‘… few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferable.’

You should notice two points in this. Firstly, attaching a piece of soul to a Horcrux makes it earthbound. Secondly, going on and leaving this world is the natural desire of most people after their death. This agrees with what Nick explains in Order of the Phoenix: most people want to go on, only very few are afraid of death and remain here as ghosts. This is why I believe that a split piece of soul would normally go on when the other piece of soul leaves the wizard's body.


As for the Dark Lord's unintentional Horcrux, an unprecedented and unpredicted event had happened that had bound a piece of soul to Harry without the Dark Lord's intention. I'm a bit hazy on the details, but from Dumbledore's explanation in Prince chapter 23 and Hallows chapters 33 and 35, I gather this has to do something with multiple factors: the Dark Lord's soul being already being unstable, Lily's protection on Harry, and the Dark Lord taking Harry's blood when he's recreated his body, thus strengthening the bond between them.

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There's a difference in intent:

  • If you kill someone in cold blood, that's murder and it would split your soul.
  • If you kill someone for a justified reason (i.e. self-defence or the defence of others), or to 'put them out of their misery' (as Snape did with Dumbledore; Dumbledore explicitly stated that Snape's soul would not be harmed, because he was merely granting his request), your soul should be fine.

As @The Spooniest stated, your soul can mend itself with remorse, but the process can kill you.

  • "Dumbledore explicitly stated that Snapes soul would not be harmed, because he was merely granting his request" What Dumbledore actually said was that Snape would have to decide for himself if it would harm his soul to grant his request and put him out of his misery. I think there's a very strong case that Snape's soul wouldn't have suffered from doing so, but Dumbledore never explicitly states that. – Anthony Grist Jun 20 '14 at 19:18
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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:

  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.

  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.

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