Again, just using the spoiler tag as a courtesy. Anyhow. . .

In Sorcerer's Stone, Harry is able to destroy Professor Quirrell, possessed by Voldemort, by his mere touch. JKR reveals at Pottermore the following information about Professor Quirrell:

Quirrell is, in effect, turned into a temporary Horcrux by Voldemort. He is greatly depleted by the physical strain of fighting the far stronger, evil soul inside him. Quirrell’s body manifests burns and blisters during his fight with Harry due to the protective power Harry's mother left in his skin when she died for him. When the body Voldemort and Quirrell are sharing is horribly burned by contact with Harry, the former flees just in time to save himself, leaving the damaged and enfeebled Quirrell to collapse and die.

Source: POTTERMORE (Screenshot)


Professor Quirrell was a Horcrux and Harry destroyed Quirrell by his touch. . .


Why couldn't Harry destroy the Horcruxes by touch?

  • 1
    I want to say it has something to do with the fact that Voldemort used Harry's blood, but I can't quite make it consistent... Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 1:06
  • 1
    Or why not destroy the Horcrux the same way Gimli, son of Gloin, tried to destroy one? youtube.com/watch?v=TrJJ6ncp1fc
    – RichS
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 2:24

5 Answers 5


I'll lead with Dumbledore's description of the Quirrell incident:

[Harry]: "But why couldn't Quirrell touch me?" [Dumbledore]: "Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign ... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good."

So I see two important points here. First, Harry didn't so much physically destroy Quirrell as cause him unbearable agony. And yes, I remember that this caused physical burns on Quirrell, but I don't think it would have destroyed him to the extent one would have to on order to destroy a horcrux. And second, this was so painful for Quirrell because he was sharing his soul with Voldemort. Horcruxes don't have souls (beyond the one stored in them), so they wouldn't be subject to the same pain, and being (for the most part) inanimate, they couldn't feel the pain anyway and so it couldn't destroy them. At most, the part of Voldemort's soul would "feel" the pain (if that were possible in some manner), but we know Voldemort couldn't even feel when they were destroyed entirely, so he probably wouldn't have felt that pain at all. And consider the part of Voldemort's soul that was inside Harry. If any of the horcruxes would have been destroyed by Harry's touch, would have been that one.

So in summary, I think it boils down to the fact that it was the pain that destroyed Quirrell, because of sharing his soul with Voldemort, and being inanimate objects with neither a soul to share nor the capability to feel pain, much less be destroyed by it, the remaining horcruxes (with the possible exception of Nagini) would not have been destroyed by Harry's touch.

  • 6
    You wrote: And consider the part of Voldemort's soul that was inside Harry. If any of the horcruxes would have been destroyed by Harry's touch, would have been that one. This is such an excellent point, seriously. Of course Harry feels the pain in his scar off and on, which is connected to Voldemort, but is the pain in his scar due to the bit of V's soul inside him, a telepathic connection to V, or a bit of both? Anyway, great answer and thanks for pointing out the bit about Harry himself being a Horcrux! I would love to hear JKR's take on this... :) Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 14:41
  • 1
    JKR answered this, and a couple answers to other questions reference this interview, but I can't remember any off the top of my head. Anyway, the gist was Harry's scar hurt because V's soul was trying to get out of Harry & join V the way it came in.
    – trysis
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 3:48

Quirrell isn't a real Horcrux. He is sharing his body with the "main" part of Voldemort's soul, and almost certainly whatever processes are necessary to create a true, independent, permanent Horcrux haven't been performed on him. Thus he is lacking the protections etc Horcruxes have; note also the lack of any kind of magical defenses (a la the ring, journal, etc).

  • Also, none of the other Horcruxs that he touched were physical bodies possessed by Big V.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 20:02
  • So perhaps if he had touched Nagini, she might have been destroyed by his touch?
    – NiceOrc
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 22:21
  • Per abcooper's response, Harry did touch Nagini, to no effect. Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 5:41

This was always the explanation I went with, though of course it's conjecture:

Voldemort made himself immune to Lily's protection magic when he used Harry's blood to resurrect himself at the end of book 4. Since Rowling says that that power is what caused Quirrell to die from Harry's touch, it makes sense that it would have ceased to have that effect after Voldemort's resurrection.

Kevin quotes Dumbledore's explanation in his answer, which I think makes it pretty clear that the effect is only on horcruxes that are sentient, so that explains why the diary doesn't burn up when Harry touches it.

But Nagini, like Quirrel, is sentient - all snakes seem to be in the Harry Potter universe, since they can carry on conversations. Yet Nagini did not burn up when Harry touched her in book 7, because Voldemort had already protected himself from that. Obviously the torn pieces of soul maintain some connection to him, or how could their continued existence guarantee his?

  • 1
    Also, the fact that Voldemort has the protection, doesn't mean that the other parts of his soul have it as well.
    – fabikw
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 5:03
  • 2
    @fabikw I think it must mean the other parts of his soul have it as well - he must be connected to them, or why would he survive as long as at least one of them exists? And something clearly changed between book 1, when he touched Quirrel and burned him, and book 7, when he touched Nagini and nothing happened. They both seem to be evil sentient beings containing a piece of Voldemort's soul, so this still seems to me like a possible explanation. ^^ I edited my answer in response, thanks.
    – abcooper
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 5:38
  • I like your answer here. I had a hard time deciding between your answer and Kevin's. I went with Kevin's, but gave you the +1 in an upvote. It's interesting to me to consider sentient versus non-sentient Horcruxes. :) Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 9:18

I think it is about emotion and thought. As objects the Horcruxes could protect themselves if necessary but had no real psyche behind them, no free will or independent thought. And in the quote from Kevin's answer it mentions the hatred and evilness in Quirell and that was why he could not touch him. So the bit of soul needs the object to live and Harry's protection won't destroy an object because an object cannot be evil because it has no thoughts.

  • 1
    And for the Nagini thing wellI think Voldy protected her with magic
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 22:19

Quirrell wasn't a Horcrux because Voldemort hadn't murdered a person and split his own soul to possess Quirrel (Quirrell might be under the Imperius Curse). And secondly, not his fragment of soul, but Voldemort himself, was literally attached to Quirrell's body, unlike any of his other Horcruxes. Thirdly, Quirrell's own soul was intact while he carried Voldemort. Fourthly, the unicorns murdered were not for making a Horcrux but for obtaining their blood which was an ingredient for the elixir of life as Voldemort was merely 'a shadow' and had to ensure longevity. Fifthly, Voldemort, while clinging to Quirrell, gave him orders to kill Harry; other Horcruxes did not follow his orders, they acted on their own accord (except Nagini). Sixthly, Quirrell's body burnt down to ashes on Harry's touch (because Harry was blessed with parental love that overpowered the piece of evil on Quirrell's body), while the other Horcruxes were much harder to destroy (they could be destroyed by a basilisk fang, Gryffindor's sword, Fiendfyre or Avada Kedavra curse). Harry was himself an undesirable Horcrux and would have died on his own touch. Lastly, had Quirrell been a Horcrux to aid immortality, Voldemort would have placed his body in a secret chamber or vault protected by powerful charms, and not be so foolish as to cling to his body and make him walk openly in Hogwarts when he was himself so weak (however, later on, he made Nagini a horcrux as he had regained his original strength and power by then).

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