Let’s talk about Voldemort. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. The man—or thing—with seven horcruxes.
Sometimes I feel like him.
Not because I cast spells or lead an army of Death Eaters or kill people, but because I’ve made my own sort of horcruxes, and I’ve split my soul into more pieces than Voldemort’s seven.
Slughorn: “Well, well, it can’t hurt to give you an overview, of course. Just so that you understand the term. A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul.”
Tom Riddle: “I don’t quite understand how that works, sir.”
Slughorn: “Well, you split your soul, you see, 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.
All of my horcruxes are people. My parents and my brother and the rest of my family, a handful of Calvin profs, old roommates and dormmates and English students. Some are my slightly hickish friends from Port Orchard, and others are suit-wearing friends from Washington, D.C. I have ripped my soul—my identity—and scattered it among them.
Each person has a piece: in my family, I am the calmer brother—more boring, but more stable; with 3rd vanReken alumni, I am the unpredictable one with offensive opinions and questionable morals; around Port Orchard bonfires, I bring plans and logic and an uptight need to make sure things are right. Each group keeps one of my roles, and each person has part of my personality. I store it with them, for those parts are too many and too conflicted to fit in the same body. While Walt Whitman contains multitudes, multitudes contain me.
The first of Adalbert Waffling’s Fundamental Laws of Magic: “Tamper with the deepest mysteries—the source of life, the essence of self—only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind.”
My horcruxes keep me powerful. And they keep me safe. When I laugh at a sexist joke out backpacking, smoking a cigar and stinking from three days without a shower, I know that I am more than that. I am the college graduate who interned for an environmental nonprofit, who voted for marriage equality in Washington state, who wears a suit and tie and styles his hair. And I am the child of Tim and Karen, with a messy room and clothes that I only iron when I have to. Whatever I do in one context cannot define me, cannot determine me, cannot destroy me—because I have horcruxes in a dozen other places. They have made me larger. I am many, and my identity is too vast to ruin.
The upside: I am more than myself.
The downside: Wherever I am, I do not feel complete.
Slughorn: “But, of course, existence in such a form… few would want it, Tom, very few. Death would be preferable.”
I have lost myself with all this splitting. I can rush from person to person, flying from Washington to Michigan and back, jumping between groups and searching for me, the consistent, unfractured soul—but that soul does not exist.
I can never recover all my horcruxes and gather them in one place. Some float in a nebulous world where I still argue with old friends about screenwatching in Halo 2, and where I share Monday night dinners with my housemates on the corner of Bemis and Giddings, and where I hike with Professor Vande Kopple through Ludington State Park. The others are spread far apart—from Princeton to Pittsburg to Port Orchard to half a dozen other cities.
At best, I feel like I cannot catch my breath after getting the wind knocked out of me, or like I need to scratch an itch on an arm that does not exist.
At worst, I feel hollow. A whisper of memory and conversation, flitting between my horcruxes.
Ron: “Isn’t there any way of putting yourself back together?”
Hermione: “Yes, but it would be excruciatingly painful.”
Harry: “Why? How do you do it?”
Hermione: “Remorse. You’ve got to really feel what you’ve done.”
Here, Voldemort and I diverge.
Voldemort, unlike me, has the option of remorse.
Tom Riddle: “And how exactly does one split his soul?”
Slughorn: “Well, you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature.”
Tom Riddle: “But how do you do it?”
Slughorn: “By an act of evil—the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart.”
Voldemort made his horcruxes with death. He made them deliberately, and he made them for their power. Repentance, however unlikely, is possible.
My horcruxes happened naturally. They were not planned or deliberate, and I did not make them for strength or safety. I made them by loving—and that, I believe, is a far more effective method for splitting a soul.
It is how all of us make our horcruxes—how all of us rip apart our sense of self and give it to those closest to us. It is not calculated, nor is it wise. It is inconvenient and painful, and it leaves us itching and hollow, because we love recklessly, and we love long distance, and we love the dead and the dying. But for that—despite the consequences, extreme and dangerous—I have no remorse. There is hurt in this existence, but there is no remorse. And greater than all, there is love.
Josh deLacy graduated from Calvin College in 2013, hitchhiked around the United States for two months without using money or interstates, and now lives between the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. His work has appeared in several literary journals, including Underground Voices, Front Porch Review, and Perspectives. His hitchhiking experiences are recorded at travelingontrust.com, and his writing portfolio can be found at joshdelacy.com.