J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series will be remembered as a classic for many reasons as the years go by, and one of them will certainly be for its unforgettable antagonist. With the creation of Lord Voldemort, Rowling added a frightening villain to our pop culture that now ranks among the worst of the worst. Thinking about Voldemort and all that he did in the Harry Potter franchise is enough to give you chills, even more so when you look at his whole story and what he did from beginning to end.
At the start, he was just known as Tom. Tom Marvolo Riddle was born December 31, 1926, and grew up in an orphanage. He displayed a worrying habit of using his magic to harm others from age, and once he got to Hogwarts, he worked his way to becoming He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, a nickname that saves the listener from the trauma of thinking of the many horrible crimes he committed.
It's hard to count all the instances of death, torture, and other awful acts Voldemort committed; his evil was bottomless. For this list, though, we tried our best to stick to just those few that are the most memorable and the most horrible moments from Voldemort in Harry Potter.
Here are the top six moments that still make us shudder thinking about them all these years later.
Events at the Orphanage
Use of early magic by kids before they arrive at a school like Hogwarts is not unheard of, and in fact, there are multiple instances of it spoken about and seen in the books. We learn in Sorcerer’s Stone that Harry himself used magic without realizing it before he learned he was a wizard.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore heads to the orphanage to tell Tom about his acceptance to Hogwarts, we learn that at a young Voldemort was using his magic for quite unpleasant things. Tom tells Dumbledore he can make animals do what he wants them to do, and the woman running the place shares that after a boy named Billy Stubbs argued with Tom, the boy’s rabbit was found hung from the rafters the next day; “it didn’t hang itself from the rafters, did it?” she asks.
During an outing, he also went into a cave with two kids, Amy Benson and Dennis Bishop, and they were “never quite right afterwards.” While Tom insists nothing happened, he does tell Dumbledore he makes bad things happen to people who annoy him and he can make them hurt if he wants. At an early age, Voldemort was already getting a taste for pain and torture.
Blaming Hagrid for opening the Chamber of Secrets
Tom opened the Chamber of Secrets when he was at Hogwarts, but once the death of a girl threatened to close the school and the result would mean heading back to the orphanage that he loathed, Riddle knew he had to do something drastic. So, to redirect any suspicion that might be focused on his antics with the chamber, he found someone else to take the blame: Hagrid.
Due to Hagrid’s love of less-than-safe creatures, it was all too easy to manipulate everyone into believing that Hagrid deserved the blame. The whole event shows how good Voldemort has always been at manipulating people and how he felt little guilt at ruining the lives of others to get his way. You might think this pales next to the deaths and torture, but it shows a level of cruelty and manipulation that makes Voldemort so dangerous and vile. He destroyed Hagrid’s future as a wizard and any chance of graduating at Hogwarts in order to just get what he wanted.
Horcruxes are horrible magical objects that Professor Horace Slughorn is so ashamed to have told Tom about, he tries to keep the memory to himself — even though its knowledge could stop Voldemort’s reign of terror. At Hogwarts, Riddle was already interested in this very dark magic, where a wizard ties a piece of their soul to an object so that if their body is killed they can continue to live on. They will never truly die until all the horcruxes they make are destroyed.
Horcruxes can only be made by murdering someone and Slughorn is horrified when Riddle asks if it’s possible to do it six or seven times, when to the professor considering even one is beyond dreadful. The very fact that Voldemort was willing to kill and create horcruxes to keep himself from dying is nauseating.
The Inferi are creepy in and of themselves, as corpses reanimated by a dark curse. When we encounter them in Half-Blood Prince guarding one of the Horcruxes, what makes them even worse is the fact that Voldemort killed so many people in order to create that army below the water. Men, women, and children emerged from its depths and they all ended up there because of him. According to Pottermore, the Inferi there were “mostly vagrant, homeless Muggles whom Voldemort had murdered for the purpose during his first rise to power, although some were the earthly remains of wizards or witches who 'disappeared' without explanation.” It’s a horrible fate for the Muggles and the magical folk who no one ever found.
Ordering Cedric’s Death
The death of Cedric Diggory in Goblet of Fire was so quick and unnecessary it might seem odd to make this list when so many others have also died. However, it shows a complete disregard for life and a level of cruelty that is the perfect depiction of part of what makes Voldemort among the worst villains. There was no need for Cedric to die. He gets dragged with Harry to Voldemort and, seeing no use for the Hufflepuff, Voldemort casually just says “kill the spare.”
To consider a human life, a boy, just “a spare” and so easily order that death can only be described as disgusting. That’s Voldemort though. If people are not useful to him, then he does not see them as human at all. Not seeing the humanity of others is a trait held by the most vile villains.
Trying to murder baby Harry
We know Voldemort killed a lot of people, including a fellow student around his age, during his time. However, the fact that when Voldemort heard the prophecy there were no doubts in his mind at all about finding a baby and killing him is another example of the lows to which Voldemort would stoop.
The child was supposedly a threat to his power and that was enough justification for finding and killing a baby that had done nothing yet. Harry’s parents died as a result, with Voldemort not even understanding how Lily could refuse his demand that she step aside so he could murder her son which was all he wanted. The complete lack of any feeling or hesitation in this moment just proves how truly horrendous and hopeless Voldemort was.