In the Chamber of Secrets, Tom used Harry's wand to cast Flagrante to spell out ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ and unscramble it to ‘I am Lord Voldemort’. If he was able to cast any spell with Harry's wand, why didn't he try to stop Harry from destroying the diary? He could have even petrified Harry and then let the Basilisk finish him.

Even while Fawkes was healing Harry after he got poisoned by the Basilisk he's just watching and shouting.

Get away, bird. Get away from him — I said, get away.

It seems he forgot that he was a wizard...he raised the wand after the healing completed. Even after that he was not fast enough.

So why didn’t he just immediately kill Harry himself?

3 Answers 3


I think that the premise went like this:

Ginny has been writing on the diary for quite a while. Turns out she's been writing, all the time, about how the famous Harry Potter defeated the Dark Lord - as a baby.

If the baby Harry destroyed Voldemort, knowing this, would Tom Riddle dare try again, without first figuring out how exactly did it happen? He's not stupid enough to commit the same mistake twice... ok yes, yes he is, but this time it is pretty obvious that it would be overly imprudent to attack someone who somehow destroyed his adult version with no reasonable explanation.

  • (from Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 17 - The Heir of Slytherin)

"I have many questions for you, Harry Potter". "Like what?" Harry spat, fists still clenched. "Well," said Riddle smiling pleasantly, "how is it that you -- a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent -- managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort's powers were destroyed?" There was an odd gleam in his hungry eyes now. "Why do you care how I escaped?" said Harry slowly. "Voldemort" said Riddle softly, "is my past, present, and future, Harry Potter..."

"To business, Harry," said Riddle, still smiling broadly. "Twice -- in your past, in my future -- we have met. And twice I failed to kill you. How did you survive? Tell me everything. The longer you talk," he added softly," the longer you stay alive."

On the other hand, asking the Basilisk - a third party - to kill Harry seems to be safest bet. If Harry has some sort of miraculous defence mechanism, it will be the Basilisk that ends up dead, rather than Tom Riddle.

So Harry kills the Basilisk. Why didn't Tom, on a desperate move, attempt to kill Harry? Because Harry was already doomed anyway: Tom knew that Harry was poisoned and it was just a matter of time for him to die, so there is no need to cast a spell that may or may not have adverse effects on Tom.

So, the safest bet is to simply wait for Harry to die off from the poison...

... aaaand Fawkes arrives.

Riddle's face contorted. Then he forced it into an awful smile. "So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that's a powerful countercharm. I can see now... "

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    Nice explanation 'Who-Must-Not-Be-Named'(@Voldemort) ..I have one more doubt please.. why didn't he closed the entrance to Chamber,any way Fawkes don't have parseltongue . If that happened mission will be completed .
    – Mani
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 5:07
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    @Mani: I don't know, I didn't even think about that, maybe he didn't either :P... maybe just wasn't thinking properly, given the fact he had just popped out of a book.
    – Saturn
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 5:10
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    @Mani It is unlikely that a secret chamber has only one entrance and exit. We only know of the one, but the basilisk had access to the entire castle, and likely didn't use just the one bathroom entrance. It had to live (feed) somehow, but probably avoided the wizards and witches above generally, and only attacked when commanded to do so by one holding power over it.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 15:30
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    @Voldemort I wouldn't say that not thinking to close off a secret chamber that had been previously remained secret for quite a long time just in case a magical bird came along and happened to use its magical tears to heal the wound constitutes "not thinking properly".
    – Dason
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 15:34
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    So many books could of ended if Tom Riddle decided "Ah screw it, Avada Kedavra!" I still love the books though, don't get me wrong :P
    – John Odom
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 14:09

The diary Riddle was not a real human, it was only a very convincing illusion that the Horcrux had created. The illusion could show letters in the air just as easily as it could show Riddle's body. By making it appear that the letters were written by a Dancing Lights spell, the Horcrux was trying to convince an unsuspecting Harry (and you) that Riddle could cast spells. I'm quite sure he could not actually have cast spells, not even when he had Harry's wand. See my answer under the question How come Nagini had magical powers for more on the same.

  • This is a very interesting view-point! Yes... It was fairly easy for Tom Riddle's memories to just conjure letters mid-air. And yes, he doesn't perform any magic either... Even I kinda thought there for a moment that the memory couldn't have cast a spell...
    – Stark07
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 15:18
  • It was sure that Tom Riddle used fiery rope conjuring spell to form letters.Also cast by Hermione in OoP to put 'X' mark on doors in Department of Mysteries.If he was just memory he couldn't be solid but he picked up the wand .....
    – Mani
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 16:10
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    Mani: he's solid, but not a real person. It's a conjured solid body that can lift a wand and remove all ink from the diary, but not cast spells. You have seen simple magic spells that create solid water or wine.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 18:04

While @Voldemort's answer is plausible (Riddle being afraid to attack Harry); there's a possible second explanation which I think is more supported by the book.

I'll split it up into 3 points at which Riddle may have decided to kill Harry himself; and explain each point why he didn't:

  1. Not killing Harry from the outset (or petrifying as OP suggested):

    Riddle is a Heir of Slytherin (and that identity is very important to him); and as such, using the basilisk for him is highly symbolic of his power and unique status as Heir (in other words, he's using the Weapon of Slytherin, not just a wand and a curse). He says as much:

    "Now, Harry, I’m going to teach you a little lesson. Let’s match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him..."

    NOTE: one possible quibble would be that "he lets the snake to do the killing for him" - but he didn't see it that way; using Basilisk to kill Harry is as much his own accomplishment as using his wand for Riddle; as we can see from his parting remark later when he thought Harry was dying:

    "... but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must..."

  2. Not Killing Harry once he killed basilisk:

    Harry was already dead as far as he was concerned, and he didn't need to do anything else.

    You’re dead, Harry Potter,” said Riddle’s voice above him. “Dead. Even Dumbledore’s bird knows it. Do you see what he’s doing, Potter? He’s crying.” “I’m going to sit here and watch you die, Harry Potter. Take your time. I’m in no hurry.” ...
    “So ends the famous Harry Potter,” said Riddle’s distant voice. “Alone in the Chamber of Secrets, forsaken by his friends, defeated at last by the Dark Lord he so unwisely challenged. You’ll be back with your dear Mudblood mother soon, Harry… She bought you twelve years of borrowed time… but Lord Voldemort got you in the end, as you knew he must…”

  3. Not killing Harry when he stabbed the book with the fang

    This happened too fast; and Riddle was in too much pain to react or think well:

    For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand still raised, stared at it. Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book.
    There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry’s hands, flooding the floor. Riddle was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing and then —
    He had gone

  • 2
    @Mani - If you think my version's more convincing, SE lets you change which answer is the accepted one *hint* *hint* :) Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 18:02
  • 2
    There's certainly more text suggesting that Voldemort is methodical and calculating rather than an arrogant villain who just does random things for symbolic significance. In fact, your own answer to another question contains most of the evidence against your current interpretation. Sure, you quote a bunch of passages in your answer, but that doesn't inherently make it a better argument. Just because he didn't put some stuff in block-quotes doesn't mean his answer was an uneducated and baseless theory.
    – asteri
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 21:23
  • 1
    Now if you used your text to support something like: "Based on what Tom Riddle says, using the Basilisk was the most direct way that that he could affect the world; he couldn't kill Harry outright," you might actually have something substantial.
    – asteri
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 21:23
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    @JeffGohlke - the items he picked for Horcruxes and the fact that he was obsessed with being heir of Slytherin say you're wrong. it WAS important to him. Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 21:26
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    @JeffGohlke This is a remarkably common error on the part of villains of all genres. The author does a bit of hand-waving to make sure the good guys have that once last chance they need, no matter how ridiculous it seems. It's so bad, it has a trope. A fully satisfying explanation is often impossible to find, and I'd say that this explanation is about as good a one as you're going to get. I'd also say this one is more methodical than the other one, addressing issues point by point, and is therefore more thorough and clearer.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 22:30

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