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I'm assuming anyone who might answer this question has read all seven of the Harry Potter books.

With the benefit of a completed canon and fully-informed hindsight, at what point in the series is the first hint given that Horcruxes, specifically, are Voldemort's means to immortality? Is there an event, a phrase of dialogue, an object, etc, that is the first clue to Voldemort's creation of Horcruxes?

  • I'm not really considering the scene in the graveyard in Goblet of Fire where Voldemort says outright, 'And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death?' (GoF - Chapter 33 - The Death Eaters ) This is a pretty overt statement.

  • I'm also not asking where the first usage of the word 'Horcrux' occurs, as it's obviously in Half-Blood Prince.

  • Finally, I'm not looking for an answer from the HP Wiki, as I find it to be inconsistent (i.e. it mixes movie canon with book canon without citations; I'm interested in book canon only)

  • Do you mean "If one had in-universe knowledge, such as of horcruxes, but not Voldemort-specific knowledge, what point in the series would give you enough information to guess that he used a horcrux"? – Acccumulation Apr 3 '18 at 5:00
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There are perhaps a few other clues, although they are the type that in hindsight are clues, but not so much during the fact.

First of all, Voldemort survived, but as a spirit of some kind, and very weak. That shows he must have done something to survive.

Secondly, it was noted in the first book that Voldemort came back periodically, each time a little less human than the previous time, showing that he was somehow giving up his humanity.

But the clues in CoS are much more detailed, which hint specifically that Voldemort had used Horcruxes vs. some other method of immortality.

28

Well, one could theoretically guess after the spirit of Tom Riddle arises from the diary at the end of the "Chamber of Secrets".

It's pretty clear that SOMETHING kept Voldemort's essence alive, ever since he's shown to have possessed Quirrell in "Philosopher's Stone".

But there was no clear notion that an independent piece of his essence could have latched onto an object until CoS.

Possible proof here.

The link I mentioned between books two and six does not, in fact, relate to the 'Half-Blood Prince' ... Rather, it relates to a discovery Harry made in 'Chamber' that foreshadows something that he finds out in 'Prince'.


As a second angle, someone on a forum once brought up a point that Harry being a Horcrux is somewhat possible to predict from CoS as well:

And while Harry was sure he had never heard the name T. M. Riddle before, it still seemed to mean something to him, almost as though Riddle was a friend he’d had when he was very small, and had half-forgotten. But this was absurd. He’d never had friends before Hogwarts, Dudley had made sure of that (src: CoS)

Now, we know from Dumbledore that Voldemort transferred some of his powers onto Harry, but that would NOT explain how Harry have any affinity for Tom Riddle's name - there was no memory transfer as per Dumbledore's explanation. To remember T. Riddle, Harry must have contained some of Voldemort's mind/memory.

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    I would have said the same thing, but I was busy watching the late late show on TV while DVK was here working diligently at providing educated answers for people such as @Slytherincess. – Tango Jan 23 '12 at 9:36
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There is a very simple clue in Sorcerer's Stone. When Dumbledore is explaining to Harry about how he really got the scar, Harry says something like (book not in front of me), "So, Voldemort left a piece of himself in me?". That lined screamed Horcrux in hindsight to me.

  • This is alredy mentioned in Toscano's answer – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 4 '14 at 1:25
  • @DVK while that is true, it is a rather vague reference to the event that this answer describes in more detail. – KennyPeanuts May 2 '14 at 13:52
4

There might have been slight clues, but Rowling herself believed that before Half-Blood Prince there probably weren't enough clues to guess. She's mentioned this in a 2004 interview which may itself count as a slight clue. Quoting part of this:

There are two questions that I have never been asked but that I should have been asked, if you know what I mean. If you want to speculate on anything, you should speculate on these two things, which will point you in the right direction. The first question that I have never been asked—it has probably been asked in a chatroom but no one has ever asked me—is, “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” Not, “Why did Harry live?” but, “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” The killing curse rebounded, so he should have died. Why didn’t he? At the end of Goblet of Fire he says that one or more of the steps that he took enabled him to survive. You should be wondering what he did to make sure that he did not die—I will put it that way. I don’t think that it is guessable. It may be—someone could guess it—but you should be asking yourself that question, particularly now that you know about the prophesy. I’d better stop there or I will really incriminate myself. The other question that I am surprised no one has asked me since Phoenix came out—I thought that people would—is why Dumbledore did not kill or try to kill Voldemort in the scene in the ministry. I know that I am giving a lot away to people who have not read the book. Although Dumbledore gives a kind of reason to Voldemort, it is not the real reason.

Update. That said, there's a slight clue in Philosopher's Stone chapter 4. Here, Hagrid says this about the Dark Lord.

‘Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. […’]

3

There are a few hints in “Philosopher’s Stone”.

The very first small hint that the Dark Lord used Horcruxes to keep himself alive is in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, when Hagrid is telling Harry for the first time who Voldemort is. Hagrid describes exactly the Dark Lord’s situation: without a full soul he doesn’t have “enough human” in him to die, and he’s too weak to do much - exactly the effect of having a Horcrux tethering him to life.

Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die. Some say he’s still out there, bidin’ his time, like, but I don’ believe it. People who was on his side came back ter ours. Some of ’em came outta kinda trances. Don’ reckon they could’ve done if he was comin’ back. Most of us reckon he’s still out there somewhere but lost his powers. Too weak to carry on.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 4 (The Keeper of the Keys)

There’s another one in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, but it’s perhaps less clear - though it does hint that he can’t simply be killed.

“Yes, sir. Well, Voldemort’s going to try other ways of coming back, isn’t he? I mean, he hasn’t gone, has he?’

‘No, Harry, he has not. He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to share … not being truly alive, he cannot be killed.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)

In “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, we first learn that the Dark Lord was able to keep a version of himself in a diary, but there’s no suggestion that this sort of thing is how he kept himself alive.

“I knew it wouldn’t be safe to open the Chamber again while I was still at school. But I wasn’t going to waste those long years I’d spent searching for it. I decided to leave behind a diary, preserving my sixteen-year-old self in its pages, so that one day, with luck, I would be able to lead another in my footsteps, and finish Salazar Slytherin’s noble work.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)

None of these would have been nearly enough for most people to guess about the Horcruxes, but when already knowing about them it’s fairly clear these are small references to them.

The first clear hint that Harry had a piece of soul was in book two.

The first hint that Harry has a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul is when Dumbledore explains to Harry why he can speak Parseltongue and was considered for Slytherin by the Sorting Hat.

“You can speak Parseltongue, Harry,’ said Dumbledore calmly, ‘because Lord Voldemort – who is the last remaining descendant of Salazar Slytherin – can speak Parseltongue. Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure …’

‘Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?’ Harry said, thunderstruck.

‘It certainly seems so.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 18 (Dobby’s Reward)

In retrospect, it’s quite clear that Dumbledore is referring to the piece of the Dark Lord’s soul in Harry - this is one of the most direct hints.

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The first is when Harry is told that he got transferred the powers of Voldemort. However look closely at the scene in the Half Blood prince when Harry looks at the memory of the first time Dumbledore meets Tom Riddle, on the ledge in the memory on the windowsill there are exactly 7 stones and the picture young Tom has hanging up is the location of the third Horcrux

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I would say that, if you read all seven books first. The first hint is the Dursely's treatment of Harry. The seventh book goes into detail about the side affects of living with a Horcrux. It turns Ron and Harry against each other. Therefore it is no wonder the Durselys did everything they could to distance themselves from him. Possible why they were always bad people.

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    This is a really interesting perspective! Unfortunately, we can see from the flashback's that Petunia thought Lilly was a freak even as a child. In the first book it's mentioned that the Dursleys are deathly afraid of anyone finding out that they are related to the potters. Additionally, it's shown in TDH that even though they hate it, bearers of the horcrux don't want to give it up, while the dursleys are glad to see Harry leave. They really are just terrible people, even without magic. – Sidney Jun 27 '16 at 19:48
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    On the contrary, Petunia only calls Lily a freak because she's jealous. (Or at least, it's heavily hinted). And they never really go into what kind of people they are. They clearly spoil their own son, and just because they hide the fact that their family are wizards doesn't mean they didn't care about the Potters prior to living with Harry. Also, it is never said that bearers don't want to give it up. Ginny chucks the book and only steals it back to protect Harry. Ron leaves the necklace just fine. The Dursleys are the people who endure a Horcrux the longest in the whole series. – EvSunWoodard Jun 27 '16 at 20:08
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I just noticed, in the sixth movie, they did an amazing piece to hint at harry being a horcrux. When Dumbledore is explaining that dark magic, especially a horcrux, leaves traces, Harry does that neck twitch so reminescent of a snake. It's a good piece cinematography!

(the scene is right before Dumbledore and harry disapparate to the cave)

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