Lord Voldemort, born Tom Marvolo Riddle, was the son of Merope Gaunt (a descendent of Salazar Slytherin) and Tom Riddle, a handsome, wealthy Muggle from Little Hangleton whom Merope ensnared with a love potion. When her husband found out she was a witch, he abandoned her while she was pregnant (HBP10). Tom's mother died shortly after giving birth to him one December 31, living just long enough to name him Tom Riddle, after his father and Marvolo, after his grandfather.
Tom Marvolo Riddle, the half-blood orphan, was to transform himself into Lord Voldemort and take control of the Wizarding world by manipulating the festering relationship between pureblood and Muggle-born wizards. Eventually he would lose all – not because he lacked power, but because of his ruthless methods, his inability to love or trust anyone but himself, and his belief in his own infallibility. As he told Quirrell, he believed that “there is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it.” (PS17).
Early years The dark wizard known as "Lord Voldemort" was born in 1928 in an orphanage in London. His mother, a witch, and, according to Voldemort, a descendent of Salazar Slytherin, had fallen in love with Tom Riddle, a Muggle. Tom Riddle lived in a fine-looking manor that stood on a hill overlooking the village of Little Hangleton. The manor house was one of the largest and grandest buildings for miles around. When Voldemort's mother told her husband that she was a witch, he abandoned her, returning to his parents' home. As Lord Voldemort told the story, his father "didn't like magic." Voldemort's mother died just after giving birth to him, living just long enough to name him Tom Riddle, after his father and Marvolo, after his grandfather. He was raised in a Muggle orphanage.
For the first eleven years of his life, Tom was raised in a clean but grim Muggle orphanage in London. As he got older, he began to steal things and appeared to cause "nasty" things to happen to the other children and to pets around the orphanage (HBP13).
At Hogwarts: 1938 - 1945 Once at Hogwarts, Tom was sorted into Slytherin House and swiftly became known as an unusually brilliant student. A handsome boy, he was much admired by everyone, with the exception of the Transfiguration professor, Albus Dumbledore. During the holidays, Tom had to return to the Muggle orphanage he despised.
Secretly, Tom was obsessed with his Slytherin heritage and with finding the ways he might cheat death. He found the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets in his sixth year and released Slytherin’s basilisk within it, killing a student named Myrtle. Slytherin had built the chamber deep in Hogwarts castle and kept it hidden from the other founders. He sealed it so that only his own true heir would be able to unseal the chamber and unleash the horror within to purge the school of "all who were unworthy to study magic." During this time Tom had begun using a new name among his most intimate friends at Hogwarts. Contemptuous of the name of his "foul, common Muggle" father, he made an anagram of Tom Marvolo Riddle. The rearranged letters spelled "I AM LORD VOLDEMORT." It was a name he hoped "wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak," when he became the "greatest sorcerer in the world."
On June 13, 1943, Tom staged the capture of another student, Rubeus Hagrid, and tricked Headmaster Armando Dippet into believing Hagrid and his giant spider Aragog were responsible for the attacks. Tom received an engravedtrophy for special services to the school, but he realized that Albus Dumbledore was keeping an "annoyingly close watch" on him and it was not safe to open the Chamber of Secrets again while he was still at school. Tom preserved himself in the pages of a diary with the hope that he would one day be able to lead another in his footsteps and "finish Salazar Slytherin's noble work."
Events at Little Hangleton: 1944-1945 Riddle didn't learn the complete story of his birth until he tracked down and visited his uncle Morfin Gaunt the summer after Myrtle died. In revenge for his father's abandonment and Muggle blood, he went to the Riddle mansion in Little Hangleton and murdered his father and grandparents (GF1). The Riddle's gardener, Frank Bryce, later told police that on the day of the Riddle's deaths he had seen a stranger; a teenage boy, dark-haired and pale, near the manor. The next morning a maid found Tom Riddle Sr. and his elderly parents dead in their drawing room, "still in their dinner things." The Riddles were as cold as ice and each had a look of terror upon his or her face but had no sign of physical injury. The Riddles were buried in the Little Hangleton churchyard.
This last year at Hogwarts, Tom was Prefect, Head Boy, and received a Medal for Magical Merit. Albus Dumbledore later said of him, "Brilliant. Of course, he was probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen." Secretly however, Tom was researching Horcruxes and had come to the conclusion that if one Horcrux was good, seven would be better (HBP23). He made his first two Horcruxes with the murders of Myrtle and his father. He was only seventeen.
About this time, Albus Dumbledore defeated the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in a spectacular duel and became the only wizard that Riddle ever feared.
Transformation: 1945 - 1970 After leaving Hogwarts in 1945, Riddle surprised everyone by working at a dark magic shop named Borgin and Burkes on Knockturn Alley. His job there was to ferret out items of value and obtain them at the lowest price possible. He was very good at this, but he abruptly left this job and disappeared after he killed Hepzibah Smith for a gold locket that belonged to Slytherin, and the gold cup that belonged to Helga Hufflepuff (HBP20).
Riddle disappeared for over ten years. During this time he "traveled far and wide ... sank so deeply into the Dark Arts," "consorted with the very worst" witches and wizards, and "underwent so many dangerous, magical transformations" in his quest for power and immortality. When he returned he was known as “Lord Voldemort.”
First Rise of the Dark Lord: 1970s - 1981 By the early 1970s, Voldemort had a growing legion of thuggish followers he called “Death Eaters,” and he was so fearsome that few dared speak his name. Few people realized he was the same handsome and brilliant boy who had been so accomplished and well liked at Hogwarts. In addition to his Death Eaters, Voldemort formed alliances with dark creatures such as werewolves and dementors; he also controlled armies of Inferi (animated corpses).
Many of the witches and wizards who joined him came for a share of the power he offered, but increasingly many joined his following out of fear of reprisal. "The years of Voldemort's ascent to power were marked with disappearances," and increasingly open violence.
Each Death Eater bore a sign, the Dark Mark, a skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue, burned into his or her left inner forearm by the "Dark Lord"; when they had killed, Death Eaters would send the same sign into the air, comprised of emerald stars blazing in a haze of greenish smoke, causing terror when it was seen.
Voldemort’s first reign of terror lasted eleven years. During this time, Voldemort and his minions attacked anyone who resisted or who defended the rights of Muggles and Muggle-born wizards, and marked the gruesome scenes of torture and murder with the Dark Mark lest anyone else think to stand in their way. Whole families were wiped out and many others went into hiding.
Overwhelmed by reports of deaths, disappearances, and torture in an atmosphere of terror, Bartemius Crouch, then Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, authorized Aurors to use the Unforgivable Curses against suspects, empowered them to kill rather than capture, and some suspects were handed to the dementors without trial. Still, the Ministry could not cope with the situation, so Albus Dumbledore began organizing the resistance, creating the group that became known as The Order of the Phoenix (OP6, 9).
The Order was frightfully outnumbered, however, and the Death Eaters were killing the members of the Order off, many times killing their entire families along with them. Lord Voldemort seemed “mightier than any wizard living," and had achieved his goal; most of the wizarding world avoided saying his name, when they spoke of him at all they referred to him as You-Know-Who, or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Loyalty betrayed At the height of his power in the late 1970s, Voldemort was to recruit two young Death Eaters who would turn on him in different ways.Severus Snape and Regulus Black joined the Death Eaters for different reasons, but both of them came to realize that they could not support Voldemort’s methods or stand by when he hurt the ones they loved. Regulus, furious about Voldemort’s abuse of Kreacher, was to die trying to sabotage one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes (DH10), and Snape became a double agent for Dumbledore after Voldemort decided to attack Lily Potter (DH33). Ironically, Snape was the one who told Voldemort of the prophecy he overheard identifying a child who would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Snape was horrified when Voldemort decided that the Potter’s child Harry was the child of the prophecy. Voldemort learned only part of the prophecy: that this person would be born at the end of July to parents who had survived three attempts to kill them. Voldemort realized that he must find and kill that child (OP37).
Dumbledore would not need Snape’s skills for many years to come; Voldemort’s physical body was destroyed when the Avada Kedavra curse he aimed at one-year-old Harry Potter rebounded on him. His mother Lily’s self-sacrifice seconds before had unexpectedly protected her son (PS1). Voldemort’s Horcruxes worked, but for nearly a decade he could only live by possessing the bodies of others (PS17). Many of his Death Eater followers were tried by the Wizengamot and sentenced to Azkaban.
Missing years: 1981-1994 After Voldemort fled, he hid in a forest in Albania, far from humans and from the Aurors he knew would still be searching for him, using the only power left to him, the ability to possess the bodies of others, he inhabited animals, snakes being his preference.
He waited, sleeplessly, forcing himself to exist second by second, expecting his faithful Death Eaters to try to find him and perform the magic that would restore him, but those Death Eaters who were not killed by Aurors or imprisoned in Azkaban were denying they had every been involved with Voldemort or claiming they had been cursed and forced to kill and torture against their will.
Second defeat: 1991-1992 In the summer of 1991 Voldemort managed to possess Hogwarts professor Quirinus Quirrell, who was in Albania to get first hand experience with Dark creatures and got more than he bargained on. Once back in England with Quirrell, Voldemort kept his strength up by consuming unicorn blood, but he needed a more lasting solution (PS15). He decided to steal Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone for the elixir it would make, but Dumbledore got to it first and hid it at Hogwarts. Voldemort (still sharing Quirrell’s body) and Harry met again in front of the Mirror of Erised when they both broke through the stone’s protections and battled for possession of the stone. There, Voldemort learned of a second layer of protection from Lily’s sacrifice: Voldemort could not touch Harry without intense pain. Dumbledore rescued Harry in time, and Voldemort abandoned Quirrell to die. Dumbledore and Flamel later destroyed the stone (PS17).
Voldemort had been once again thwarted by Harry Potter.
Second exile: 1992-1994 Lord Voldemort returned to his forest in Albania in failure. He was as weak as he had ever been and thought it would be too much to expect another foolish wizard to happen along, and he had given up hope that his faithful Death Eaters cared what had become of him.
But while Voldemort waited without hope, the diary in which he had preserved the "memory" of his "sixteen-year-old self" had been in the possession of Lucius Malfoy, one-time Death Eater, who took an opportunity, in August 1992, to slip the diary into a book purchased for young Ginny Weasley at Flourish and Blotts Bookstore. Ginny opened her heart to the diary and through it to Tom Marvolo Riddle and he became stronger and stronger "on a diet of her deepest fears, her darkest secrets," and he was soon more powerful than Ginny and able to use her, without her knowledge, to open the Chamber of Secrets, release Slytherin's basilisk, and have her act as his agent in Hogwarts.
Through her Tom learned of Harry Potter and his victory over Lord Voldemort, who was his "past, present and future." When Ginny became frightened and attempted to dispose of the diary, Tom was delighted that it was found and opened by Harry. Tom was able draw him to the Chamber to attempt to rescue Ginny because he was, by this time, strong enough to leave the diary and wanted to learn from Harry the secret of his survival as an infant. Tom was amused by the similarities between himself and Harry and acknowledged that Lily Potter's sacrifice was a powerful counter-charm, but concluded that it was "merely lucky chance," that Harry survived and he proceeded to match his powers against Harry.
Assisted by Fawkes, the Sorting Hat, and the sword of Godric Gryffindor, Harry killed the basilisk but he was wounded by a basilisk fang which splintered off in his arm as the snake died. Tom was dismayed when Fawkes healing tears saved Harry, who then used the broken fang to defeat him by plunging it into the diary. The venomous fang burned a hole through the diary and the memory of Tom Marvolo Riddle passed screaming and writhing into nothingness. Harry Potter, "a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent" had again defeated Lord Voldemort.
The servant of the Dark Lord returns By 1994, Voldemort had developed new plans to fully regenerate his body. He had also acquired two followers: Peter Pettigrew (on the run after his Scabbers disguise was broken) and the snake Nagini(soon to be a Horcrux). With Pettigrew’s help he made a temporary potion with unicorn blood and Nagini’s venom to achieve a rudimentary body (a scaly baby-like form). However, full regeneration required a potion made from bone from his father (easy), flesh from a servant (easy), and blood from an enemy (which would have been easy if he hadn’t decided to get it from Harry). Though he could have used the blood of any "foe," Voldemort wanted Harry Potter, who had stripped him of power thirteen years before and he believed "the lingering protection his mother once gave him would reside in my veins too."
The seven Horcruxes (see Horcruxes page)
|Object||Murder (BLC)||Date created||Hiding place||Broken by|
|Diary||Moaning Myrtle||murder in 1942; Horcrux created fall of 1943||Given to Lucius Malfoy||Harry (CS17)|
|Ring||Tom Riddle Sr.||1943||Gaunt house||Dumbledore (DH33)|
|Diadem||Albanian peasant||possibly 1945 (DH31)||Room of Requirement||Crabbe (DH31)|
|Cup||Hepzibah Smith||c.1946||Given to Bellatrix Lestrange||Hermione (DH31)|
|Locket||Muggle tramp||c.1946||Cave||Ron (DH19)|
|scar||rebounding curse||1981||(accidental; technically not a Horcrux)||Voldemort (DH34)|
|Nagini||Bertha Jorkins||1994||---||Neville (DH36)|
Voldemort's return Together Voldemort and Pettigrew found an informant named Bertha Jorkins, tortured her for her knowledge, and killed her (GF1). Her murder was used for Voldemort's last Horcrux, the snake Nagini. With the information taken from Bertha, Voldemort rescued Barty Crouch, Jr. and hatched an elaborate plan to bypass all of Harry’s protections and bring him to the Little Hangleton graveyard for Voldemort's rebirthing. It worked. Harry and the "spare," Cedric Diggory, were delivered to the graveyard, where Cedric was immediately killed. The potion worked too. Not only did Voldemort’s potion recreate his physical body, he could now touch Harry without excruciating pain. Voldemort called a conference of his surviving Death Eaters and demanded their renewed allegiance (GF32).
When Voldemort tried to duel with Harry he got another surprise: his and Harry’s wands shared the same core (one of Fawkes’ phoenix feathers), and neither one could overpower the other. This created the conditions for Priori Incantatem, and Voldemort grew more and more fearful as the shades of Voldemort’s last victims were pulled from his wand. With help from the shades of Harry’s mother and father, Harry was able to escape to safety with Cedric's body (GF34).
The Prophecy beckons & the Ministry panics After this debacle, Voldemort became determined to gain an edge over Harry. He remembered theprophecy that Snape had overheard so many years before and decided to concentrate on solving the mystery that was Harry Potter before re-launching his takeover. His efforts centered on the official record of the prophecy known to be stored in the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Mysteries. For this and other reasons, Voldemort orchestrated the escape of ten high-security prisoners from Azkaban Fortress in January 1996. Among the freed Death Eaters was Augustus Rookwood, who had in the first war served as Voldemort's spy within the Department of Mysteries.
The prophecy wasn’t an easy thing to steal; attempt after attempt failed, and Voldemort’s anger mounted. Eventually Voldemort tricked Harry into coming to the Department of Mysteries and had a select band of Death Eaters led by Lucius Malfoy waiting to snatch the prophecy orb once Harry found it (OP34). This plan failed too, for many reasons, but mostly overconfidence. Malfoy didn’t get the prophecy soon enough and it was destroyed in the battle. And even though his Death Eaters outnumbered Harry and his school friends two to one, they couldn’t do what they needed to before members of the Order of the Phoenixarrived to even the numbers. In the ensuing battle between the Death Eaters on one side and members ofDumbledore's Army and the Order of the Phoenix on the other, the prophecy sphere was destroyed.
The battle seemed over when Dumbledore arrived and deftly captured most of the Death Eaters, until Voldemort then appeared and attacked Harry directly. Dumbledore found them in the nick of time and drew Voldemort into battle. Eventually, Dumbledore wrapped Voldemort in a suffocating mass of water, and Voldemort disappeared. For a few seconds, it appeared that Dumbledore had won. When Harry broke cover, Voldemort possessed him and dared Dumbledore to kill the both of them. Voldemort’s possession was so excruciating that Harry became certain of death and his thoughts turned to the loved ones he would soon see again. Unexpectedly, this surge of love and longing was anathema to Voldemort and forced him out of Harry’s body. Voldemort was able to touch Harry and possess him, but Harry’s loving heart and acceptance of death proved to be inimical to Voldemort (OP37). The Dark Lord had lost his chance to hear the whole prophecy, and nearly a dozen of his most elite Death Eaters were captured and sent to Azkaban.
The Minister of Magic publicly admitted that Voldemort had returned in an interview with the Daily Prophet at the end of June, after the battle in the Department of Mysteries. Consequently, Voldemort no longer has a reason to be discreet in his activities to avoid public disclosure, as that is now a fait accompli.
Dumbledore must die Voldemort then began to plot Dumbledore’s assassination and the takeover of Hogwarts. Toward this end, he made sixteen-year-old Draco Malfoy a Death Eater, and told him to kill his Headmaster and get a small army of Death Eaters into Hogwarts. Draco’s worried mother added some extra insurance – she secretly made an Unbreakable Vow with Severus Snape for Snape to protect Draco and kill Dumbledore if Draco failed (HBP2).
It took the whole school year, but Draco nearly did it. He created an entrance into Hogwarts with vanishing cabinets, and managed to corner Dumbledore and disarm him. Dumbledore knew Draco was no murderer, though, and convinced him to lower his wand, at which point Snape arrived and fulfilled his vow (HBP28). What Voldemort didn’t know was that before he died Dumbledore had learned about the Horcruxes, shared the information with Harry, and that the ring Horcrux had already been destroyed. (Voldemort already knew about the diary.)
A silent coup With Dumbledore out of the way, Voldemort finally had the freedom he needed to take over the Ministry and Hogwarts, and to try once and for all to kill Harry. First, he freed Lucius Malfoy and the others from Azkaban. He then set up a base of operations in the Malfoy mansion, and organized the infiltration and silent coup of the Ministry (DH1); Severus Snape, ascendant in his Master’s eyes for the murder of Dumbledore, was made the Headmaster of Hogwarts. Snape had also brought crucial information about when the Order of the Phoenix was going to move Harry from safety at 4 Privet Drive. On the given day, Voldemort and his Death Eaters were ready and waiting, but instead of one Harry and a heavy guard, there were seven guarded look-alikes, and Voldemort was thwarted again (DH4).
Now that the Ministry was under his control, Voldemort set about creating a police state. Propaganda was disseminated promoting suspicion and fear of Muggle-born wizards to justify stripping them of their wands and their rights. Everyone had to prove their ancestry and neighbors were encouraged to inform on neighbors. Voldemort also encouraged wizards to use magic openly against Muggles. Voldemort’s regime is best symbolized by the Ministry’s new motto “Magic is Might” and the statue installed in the Ministry’s entrance: a gargantuan black carving of a witch and wizard enthroned upon masses of naked Muggles (DH12).
The Elder Wand and the Horcruxes Voldemort had another problem to solve: how to find a wand that would be effective against Harry. He had known for several years that due to the twin cores that his own wand of yew and phoenix feather wouldn’t work, so first he tried Lucius Malfoy’s wand, but it was destroyed (DH4). Then, by torturing Ollivander (a captive of Voldemort’s for over a year), Voldemort learned of an invincible wand called the Elder Wand, the Wand of Destiny, or the Deathstick, and he set about trying to find it. He tracked it first to the European wandmaker Gregorovitch(DH7) , then to Gellert Grindelwald, (still imprisoned at Nurmengard) (DH24), and then, to Dumbledore. Voldemort went to Hogwarts, split open the tomb, and took possession of the wand from Dumbledore’s dead hands (DH24).
The Battle of Hogwarts When Harry, Ron and Hermione broke into Gringotts and stole the Hufflepuff cup from the Lestrange family vault (DH26), Voldemort finally realized that Dumbledore and Harry knew about the Horcruxes and frantically began to visit all his hiding places to no avail: the ring was gone, as was the locket. Counting the diary and the cup, four Horcruxes were gone, leaving only the Ravenclaw diadem and Nagini between him and ignominious death (or so he believed). Voldemort gathered his army and attacked Hogwarts where the diadem was hidden, but Harry got to it first (DH29).
Before unleashing his army, Voldemort gave the teachers and students at Hogwarts an ultimatum: give Harry up, and the school would be untouched. Of course, they didn't. The midnight deadline passed, and the school was attacked by Death Eaters, werewolves, giants andAcromantulas, with Voldemort commanding from the Shrieking Shack. Harry sought him there and witnessed Voldemort’s cold-blooded murder of Severus Snape simply for the reason that he thought it would give him a stronger connection with his new wand. While Voldemort left to deliver another ultimatum to Hogwarts, Harry collected Snape’s seeping memories and took them to Dumbledore’s Pensieve to experience them (DH33).
Finally, Harry knew why Snape hated James, why Voldemort initially tried to spare Lily, and how well Snape had protected Harry’s life. He also learned that he himself contained a Horcrux and that his life had to be sacrificed if Voldemort was to truly die. Harry put on his Cloak of Invisibility, invoked the Resurrection Stone, and walked with the shades of his dead family and friends to Voldemort, who quickly killed him (DH34).
In reality, Voldemort only killed the Horcrux inside Harry, and Harry was sent to a place between life and death. There, he was able to speak with Dumbledore and see what remained of Voldemort’s soul – a horrible, flayed infant-like creature whimpering in pain. Harry made the decision to go back into battle to see if he could weaken Voldemort further, or kill him (DH35). He was aided by a surprising ally: Narcissa Malfoy was told to make sure Harry was indeed dead – which she confirmed even though she could feel his heart beating – once Harry whispered to her that Draco was still alive and safe.
Even the display of Harry’s apparently dead body could not bring the valiant forces inside Hogwarts to surrender. Molly Weasley defiantly slew Bellatrix, Neville Longbottom beheaded Nagini, Voldemort’s last Horcrux, and Harry revealed himself and slew Voldemort (DH36). Voldemort died once and for all. He was the last surviving descendent of Salazar Slytherin.
Students of the subtle science of wandlore will discuss the final duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort for years to come. After Dumbledore’s death, the true master of the Elder Wand was not Snape, but Draco, who disarmed Dumbledore in the tower at Hogwarts. Then, once Harry disarmed Draco while at the Malfoy mansion, Harry became the true master and it would not harm him. When Harry used the Expelliarmus during the duel, it called the Elder Wand to its true master, and bounced Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra back and killed him.
What remains of Voldemort's sorry soul exists in the "flayed baby" form Harry saw at King's Cross (BLC).