Tom Marvolo Riddle, later and better known as Lord Voldemort, was a half-blood wizard who was considered to have been the most powerful and dangerous Dark wizard of all time. The son of the wealthy Muggle Tom Riddle Senior and the witch Merope Gaunt, he was orphaned and raised in a Muggle orphanage, which remained his permanent residence through his 1938-1945 attendance at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He was a member of Slytherin house.
His accomplishments included the opening of Salazar Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets and the use of its monster to attack Muggle-born students; several months' service as a purchasing agent for the Dark artefacts shop Borgin and Burkes; the ability to speak Parseltongue; and the attainment of immortality between the years of 1942 and 1998, a process begun upon the creation of his first Horcrux at the age of 16. Splitting his own spirit into a total of eight fragments, Lord Voldemort created seven Horcruxes. Abandoning his 'Muggle' name, he became the self-proclaimed Lord Voldemort, which was an anagram of his birth name. He commanded a veritable army of wizards and Dark creatures, committed numerous murders personally and through his followers, and on one occasion nearly succeeded and on a later occasion did succeed in taking over the Ministry of Magic by installing a puppet Minister.
- "The Gaunts, a very ancient wizarding family noted for a vein of instability and violence that flourished through the generations due to their habit of marrying their own cousins."
- —Description of the House of Gaunt[src]
Tom's family on his mother Merope's side were the last of the House of Gaunt; an ancient and formerly wealthy wizarding family that was noted for producing individuals with violent and unstable personalities due to generations of inbreeding. Because of the family's liking for grandeur in tandem with little sensibility at their indulgences meant the family gold was left in ashes long before the last of the lineage was born. His grandfather Marvolo Gaunt and his uncle Morfin Gaunt were two of the last known male descendants of Salazar Slytherin.
Tom's father Tom Riddle Snr was a wealthy Muggle living in the village of Little Hangleton, near the Gaunt shack, who was tricked into a relationship with Merope through probable use of a Love Potion. After some time, it is speculated by Albus Dumbledore that Merope discontinued her use of love potions on Tom, in the hopes that he had really fallen in love with her, or would at least stay for their child's sake. To Merope's great sorrow, he abandoned her and their unborn child.
Early life (1926-1938)
- "I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who are mean to me. I can make them hurt if I want to... I can speak to snakes too. They find me, they whisper to me. "
- —Tom Riddle to Albus Dumbledore about the things he can do[src]
Tom Marvolo Riddle was born on 31 December, 1926 at Wool's Orphanage in London. His pure-blood mother, Merope Gaunt staggered to the door of the orphanage, had Tom born in there, and died shortly after his birth. Tom Riddle grew up in a dingy orphanage, completely unaware of his wizarding heritage. Since the Muggle orphanage staff did not know anything about his mother, they did not know about his magical background. Instead, they believed that Merope was a circus worker, as Mrs Cole told Albus Dumbledore shortly before his first meeting with Tom. It is unknown whether or not the orphanage staff relayed this to Tom before his first encounter with Dumbledore.
Despite his ignorance of his mother's true background, Tom did have some grasp on his abilities beyond that of normal magical children of his same age, however, and an unusually high degree of control over them. Tom could move objects with his mind and cause them to travel floating wherever he wished, manipulate animals and creatures as he wished, speak Parseltongue, and use his power to inflict harm on other orphans. After getting into a fight with fellow orphan Billy Stubbs, he used his powers to hang the boy's rabbit from the rafters. On one occasion, he took two orphans, Dennis Bishop and Amy Benson, into a cave, where he performed an act so horrifying that the two orphans were traumatised into silence. Young Tom Riddle also stole from other orphans and hid their things in his cupboard like trophies. Albus Dumbledore later stopped him from this hobby. Dumbledore ordered Tom to return the stolen items to their rightful owners and apologise for his sins, and that he had the means to determine whether or not Tom fulfilled Dumbledore's orders. Dumbledore also strictly warned Riddle to stop his misbehaviour as Hogwarts had an honour code whereupon lying, cheating and stealing were not tolerated.
Discovery of being a wizard
When Tom was eleven, Albus Dumbledore, the transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, talked to Mrs Cole first, who informed him of how unusual Tom was, sharing tales of his extraordinary influence over the other children. When Dumbledore was at last introduced to the boy, Tom at first believed him to be a doctor or psychiatrist of some sort, come to take him to an asylum because of what the orphanage staff had seen. He was convinced after Dumbledore demonstrated his power by using a Flame-Freezing Charm on Tom's cupboard, and when he revealed that Hogwarts was a school for people with magic, which Tom realised his abilities were.
At a very early age, it was clear that Tom displayed a desire to be different and set apart from others (as it was hinted when he mentioned his dislike of his own name, because it was such a common name).
He was not surprised at all upon being informed by Dumbledore that he was a wizard — he was, in fact, eager to believe that he had special gifts that no one else had. Tom also showed an eminent fear of death, considering it a human weakness. He claimed that his mother could not have been a witch, because if she was magical, then she would have been able to avoid dying, and thought his father was a wizard. He asked if Tom Riddle Senior was an alumnus of Hogwarts, to which Dumbledore said he did not know offhand.
Tom's abuse of his wizarding powers alarmed Albus. He resolved to keep a close eye on him, something he should have done in any case, seeing as he was "alone and friendless". Dumbledore also warned Tom that at Hogwarts he would be introduced to the laws that controlled the usage of magic in the wizarding world, and that law-breakers were punished with severity not by Hogwarts but the Ministry of Magic. Riddle's demeanour changed after Dumbledore reprimanded him; he became more guarded and shielded his reactions. Dumbledore provided Riddle with enough information to find Diagon Alley and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Professor Dumbledore also provided Tom Riddle with a stipend from school funds so that he could purchase his books, equipment and so on. Travelling on his own to Diagon Alley, Riddle bought some second-hand robes and spell books for himself, along with his wand-thirteen and a half inches; yew; phoenix feather core — at Ollivander's. Garrick Ollivander later said that the wand was very powerful; Voldemort was very pleased with it until the wand failed him during his confrontation with Harry Potter in the Little Hangleton graveyard, many years later. Riddle also mentioned that he was a Parselmouth, which surprised Dumbledore.
Hogwarts years (1938-1945)
Tom was educated at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from 1938 to 1945, and was Sorted into Slytherin House, a nod to his ancestor Salazar Slytherin himself. During summer breaks, he was forced to return to the Muggle orphanage, which he despised and dreaded more than any other place on earth.
Tom described the way he was seen as "poor, but brilliant, parent-less, but so brave, a school prefect, a model student." Due to his exceptional acting abilities, he was able to convince virtually all of the Hogwarts staff and instructors that this facade was his true personality. The sole exception to this was Albus Dumbledore, who was, at that time, professor of Transfiguration. Dumbledore, though not necessarily suspicious of Tom, never forgot about Tom's misdeeds at the orphanage, nor his unsettling behaviour during their first meeting. In turn, Tom realised that he had been careless in showing Dumbledore his true character upon their first meeting, and never attempted to win him over as he had with all his other instructors. In time, he came to fear and despise Dumbledore.
Over time, Riddle gathered to himself a gang of Slytherin thugs, a motley composition of "the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty," most of which would become the first Death Eaters. Riddle claimed they were his friends, and made it appear so in public, but in truth, they amounted to little more than servants, and he cared almost nothing for them. He often manipulated them into committing petty crimes and other misdeeds, but none of these incidents were reliably traced back to the group.
It was also at some point during his years in Hogwarts that he and Dumbledore developed a recurrent argument regarding whether or not love was more powerful than any kind of magic. Tom would only regularly scoff at the thought of such a thing being true.
Opening the Chamber of Secrets
Upon arriving at Hogwarts, Tom became obsessed with his heritage and began researching it with an insatiable hunger. While researching his heritage, Riddle focused solely on who his father was, thinking him to be the magical parent, as he felt his mother could not have been a witch if she had died. He searched for his father's name in the school trophy room, in the records of Hogwarts prefects and in records of wizarding history, but found nothing to suggest his father had even attended Hogwarts. He was eventually forced to accept that his father was the Muggle parent, and that his mother was the magical one. It was around this time that Tom Marvolo Riddle gave himself the alias "Lord Voldemort", to spare himself of the reminder of his "filthy Muggle father."
Using his middle name, Marvolo, which was taken from his maternal grandfather, Riddle discovered his mother's heritage and the Gaunts' bloodline connection with Salazar Slytherin. Once Tom learned of his ancestry, it was not long before he discovered the existence of the Chamber of Secrets under Hogwarts, during his fifth year, and tamed the basilisk which dwelt within. As the Heir of Slytherin through his mother's family, Tom was able to open the Chamber Slytherin had left behind in order to "purge the school of all those who [were] unworthy to study magic" — in Tom's and Slytherin's eyes, Muggle-borns.
The basilisk injured many at Hogwarts in 1943. The last victim was a student named Myrtle Warren, who was killed in the girls' bathroom when she saw the basilisk's yellow eyes. In light of this incident, the board of governors decided that Hogwarts was to be closed. During that year, Tom made a special request that Headmaster Dippet would allow him to stay at school over the summer break. However, Dippet informed him of the governors' decision, and denied his request. Realising that the Chamber would need to be closed and the culprit caught in order to keep the school open (and not have to return permanently to the orphanage), he framed fellow student Rubeus Hagrid and his pet Acromantula, Aragog. Tom convinced Dippet that Aragog was the monster that had terrorised the school. Hagrid was expelled, and Tom received an engraved trophy for Special Services to the School.
Dumbledore, who did not believe that Hagrid was responsible for the killing, managed to arrange for him to be kept on as Hogwarts's groundskeeper. Distrusting Riddle, Dumbledore kept an "annoyingly close" watch on him after that. Due to this, Tom realised that he would not be able to risk opening the Chamber of Secrets while still a student. As such, he created a diary to preserve a part of his soul, the very first of seven Horcruxes, hoping it would one day lead someone to finish Salazar Slytherin's "noble work".
Murder of the Riddles
- Morfin Gaunt: "I thought you was that Muggle, you look mighty like that Muggle."
- Riddle: "What Muggle?"
- Morfin Gaunt: "That Muggle what my sister took a fancy to, that Muggle what lives in the Riddle House big house over the way, you look right like him. Riddle. But he’s older now, in 'e? He's older'n you, now I think on it... he come back, see. "
- — Riddle as he confronts his uncle Morfin Gaunt[src]
Around 1943, in the summer, Tom went to Little Hangleton to learn about his mother's family. While there, he met his uncle Morfin Gaunt, with whom he was far from impressed. Morfin mentioned offhandedly at one point during this meeting that he thought that Tom looked "mighty like that Muggle," Merope's husband, Tom Riddle Snr. Tom immediately demanded the identity of the Muggle in question, and Morfin told Tom the story of his Muggle father, which infuriated Tom to the point of seeking revenge. Tom stunned Morfin and took his wand, went to the Riddle House and, using his uncle's wand, murdered his father, grandfather, and grandmother with the Killing Curse.
He covered up his crimes by altering Morfin's memory, causing him to believe that he was the killer. When the Ministry of Magic investigated the crime, Morfin, who had previously served three years in Azkaban for using magic in front of and against Muggles, freely admitted to the deed and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. Tom took the family signet ring from Morfin and wore it like a trophy at Hogwarts.
Learning about Horcruxes
During his sixth year, Tom questioned Professor Slughorn, who was taken in by Tom's charisma, about the possibility of creating more than one Horcrux, something Slughorn felt deeply ashamed of in later years; in his mid-teen years, Riddle already sought to make himself immortal. Tom succeeded in doing so at some point during this year, creating his first Horcrux in the form of the aforementioned diary.
During Tom's seventh year at Hogwarts, he was Head Boy and he received a Medal for Magical Merit. He was regarded as one of the most brilliant students ever to attend Hogwarts, a fact admitted by Albus Dumbledore himself.
Shortly before leaving Hogwarts, Tom charmed the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw, more commonly known as the Grey Lady and the ghost of Ravenclaw House, into revealing the location of Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem. Tom sought to transform this diadem into another Horcrux.
After Hogwarts (1945-1949)
- Albus Dumbledore: "Rumours of your doings have reached your old school, Tom. I should be sorry to believe half of them."
- Riddle: "Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies. You must know this, Dumbledore."
- — Tom Riddle and Albus Dumbledore at a business intercourse[src]
After graduating, Tom immediately approached Armando Dippet and asked him for a chance to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts, and to remain at Hogwarts, for reasons that he did not confide with the then-headmaster — Hogwarts being his true home at heart, using the influential position as a teacher to recruit students into his future army, and to continue to penetrate the castle's magical secrets. Dippet rejected this offer, deeming the boy too young, but invited Tom to reapply in a few years, if he was still interested in the post, something that Dumbledore heavily advised against.
Tom then presumably travelled to the far-flung forest in Albania about which Helena Ravenclaw had told him, and retrieved the diadem. He murdered an Albanian peasant and turned the diadem into a Horcrux. Upon his return to Britain, he was offered several positions in the Ministry of Magic, but ended up working at Borgin and Burkes for Caractacus Burke, to the disappointment and surprise of many. He set to persuading witches and wizards to part with their valuable magical heirlooms — a job at which he was very good.
The rise of the Dark Lord (1950-1970)
Murdering Hepzibah Smith
- "But before they were sure beyond doubt that the cup and the locket were both gone, the assistant who had worked at Borgin and Burkes, the young man who had visited Hepzibah so regularly and charmed her so well, had resigned his post and vanished. His superiors had no idea where he had gone; they were as surprised as anyone at his disappearance. And that was the last that was seen or heard of Tom Riddle for a very long time. "
- —Tom disappears after murdering Hepzibah Smith[src]
While working at Borgin and Burkes, Tom befriended a wealthy, elderly witch named Hepzibah Smith. Between 1955 and 1961, Hepzibah showed Tom her two most valuable treasures: Salazar Slytherin's Locket and Helga Hufflepuff's Cup. Tom's eyes flashed red with greed and avarice upon seeing these objects and he desired them, because he saw the locket to be rightfully his as Slytherin's heir and the cup was a reminder of Hogwarts as well as a priceless artefact. Tom killed Hepzibah to steal these coveted objects and vanished without a trace. He covered his tracks well by implanting another false memory into an innocent bystander — Hokey, Hepzibah's house-elf. Hokey admitted to accidentally putting poison into Hepzibah's cocoa, which was believed, as Hokey was elderly herself. Meanwhile, Tom immediately resigned his post at Borgin and Burkes and fled with the cup and locket, subsequently turning them into two more Horcruxes using the murders of Smith and an unidentified Muggle tramp.
Lord Voldemort's request
- "I have experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed —"
- —Tom regarding the magical experimentation he did while abroad[src]
Tom disappeared for ten long years. He slipped deeper into the Dark Arts, travelled extensively, consorted with disreputable people, began to become distorted in appearance and lost his handsomeness, due to splitting his soul so many times, and began to use the alias "Lord Voldemort" openly. Ten years after Smith's murder, Tom appealed once more to the Headmaster of Hogwarts, who was then Albus Dumbledore, for the position of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts. After a short, superficially amiable chat, Dumbledore directly confronted Tom regarding why he had requested the position, as Dumbledore knew full well that Tom had no desire whatsoever to teach. Tom, unable to make an open request of Dumbledore due to the malicious nature of his true intentions, simply left after a final, gentle rebuke from his former teacher. From that day on, Hogwarts was never able to keep a Defence against the Dark Arts teacher for more than a year, which was attributed by Dumbledore to a curse by Tom Riddle.
Tom's visit to Hogwarts was not fruitless, however; he used the opportunity to hide Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem in the Room of Requirement, where he believed it would never be found. He had held onto the diadem for a decade before hiding it at Hogwarts.
Lord Voldemort, as he was now exclusively called, spent the next few years before the war gathering followers in witches and wizards who called themselves, collectively, Death Eaters. Some were supportive of his cause to dominate Muggles and Muggle-borns; while others were greedy for domination, wealth and fame; and yet others joined the Dark Lord out of fear. Voldemort considered them more like servants than friends or family. They freely used the Unforgivable Curses and killed mercilessly and indiscriminately. According to Sirius Black, Voldemort also used tricks, jinxes, and blackmail to get people to willingly join him.
At some point around this time, Voldemort greatly enhanced his skills in Legilimency, to the point that he became known to some (primarily his Death Eaters) as the greatest Legilimens in the world. Voldemort could read, control and unhinge the minds of others, and could almost always tell when he was being lied to. According to Severus Snape, Voldemort often enjoyed telepathically invading the minds of others, creating visions designed to torture them into madness. Only after extracting the last exquisite ounce of agony, only when he had them literally begging for death, would he finally kill them.
First Wizarding War (1970-1981)
- " [...] this wizard, about twenty years ago, started lookin' fer followers. Got 'em, too — some were afraid, some just wanted a bit o' his power, 'cause he was gettin' himself power, all right. Dark days, Harry. Didn't know who ter trust, didn't dare get friendly with strange wizards or witches... terrible things happened. He was takin' over. 'Course, some stood up to him — an' he killed 'em."
- —Rubeus Hagrid telling Harry Potter of how the First War began[src]
In 1970, Voldemort started the First Wizarding War by taking advantage of one of the wizarding world's greatest weaknesses: the beings and creatures that they had outcast. The Dark Lord recruited the giants, who had long ago been driven by wizards into the mountains, and werewolves, who were persecuted by most witches and wizards. Many feared the goblins would also join him, as they were restricted from wand use, but it never happened. In fact, Voldemort murdered a family of goblins near Nottingham at some point during the War, for an unknown reason (possibly anger at the neutrality of the goblins, or no reason at all).
Bartemius Crouch Snr, who was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the time and was known for his fanatical hatred of the Dark Arts, issued an edict that gave Aurors authorisation to use Unforgivable Curses on Death Eaters without warning, and suspects were sometimes handed over to the Dementors without a Wizengamot trial. Many innocent people were locked away. For many years after, people were even afraid to speak his name, and he was referred to as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
Under the staunch protection of Albus Dumbledore, the only person Voldemort truly feared, Hogwarts remained a safe place of learning throughout the entire war. The Order of the Phoenix was created by Dumbledore at this time to fight against Voldemort. The war itself lasted for eleven long years.
- "The thin man stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry...and Harry stared back into the face that had haunted his nightmares for three years. Whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose that was flat as a snake's but with slits for nostrils...."
- —Description of Voldemort after his rebirth[src]
During his childhood and early adulthood, Tom Marvolo Riddle was tall and handsome, with pale skin, jet black hair, and dark eyes. When Harry saw him in the a memory in the Pensieve, he saw that there was no trace of the Gaunt family in his face, and that he was his father in miniature: "tall for eleven years old, dark-haired and pale". Riddle's good looks continued to increase as he grew older, and he cunningly used them to charm many of the teachers at Hogwarts. While in Wool's Orphanage, he wore the standard grey tunic as with all the other children, and switched over to the Hogwarts uniform when he attended the school, gaining the Prefect and Head Boy badges when he attained those positions. When he worked in Borgin and Burkes, he wore a simple black suit.
However, as he became more involved in the Dark Arts, his good looks left him, with his features becoming waxy and increasingly reptilian, and his skin becoming as pale as snow. The whites of his eyes took on a perpetually blood-shot look. After he regained his body, his appearance became even more warped. In his final body, Voldemort was described as having pale white skin, a skeletally thin body, and dark scarlet eyes with cat-like slits for pupils. He had a chalk-white face that resembled a skull, snake-like slits for nostrils, and long, thin hands with unnaturally long fingers like spider's legs.
It is also mentioned that Voldemort had no hair or lips. He had long, sharp, pale blue fingernails, and took to wearing a black hooded cloak and several sets of elegant black robes. Voldemort had a high, cold voice which was sometimes described as being sibilant. The transformation into this monstrous state is believed to have been the result of creating his Horcruxes, becoming less human as he continued to divide his soul. Dumbledore also speculates that Voldemort may have gained his hideous appearance by undergoing dangerous magical transformations.
Personality and traits
- "His knowledge remained woefully incomplete, Harry! That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth that he has never grasped."
- —Albus Dumbledore on the power of love[src]
Voldemort was considered by many to be "the most evil wizard in hundreds and hundreds of years". His nature far exceeded that of any common evil doer and Dumbledore stated that he "went beyond normal evil" in the extent of his crimes. Hagrid claimed that while all Dark Wizards "go bad", Voldemort went "worse than worse". Indeed, Voldemort speedily developed into a power-crazed megalomaniac of the worst kind and the worst of humanity.
He was highly intelligent, as evidenced by his top performance at Hogwarts and his tremendous magical achievements, but his interests were narrowly focused on the usefulness of people, objects, and powers to his goals. His inability to see the larger picture and inattention to events, powers and human traits that were not immediately useful to him was a serious flaw that led to most of his setbacks and ultimately his downfall.
After his first defeat, many (namely Hagrid, Dumbledore, Neville's grandmother among others) believed that he had yet to be truly vanquished, and would one day return on the grounds that there was not enough humanity left in him to die in the first place. During his lifetime including much of his childhood, he was shown to be highly ruthless, cruel, merciless, and sadistic, showing as little mercy to his followers as he did his enemies. According to Dumbledore, he felt no desire or need for human companionship or friendship. The closest he came to caring about another living being was feeling affection for his pet snake, Nagini.
Voldemort thought of everything in terms of power (which he equated to domination through magical ability). He was somewhat willfully ignorant of people or matters which he considered to have no value. He was dismissive of the unique magic of house-elves due to their social status, and thus was dealt major setbacks by house-elves on two occasions: first Kreacher, who escaped the cave with the locket due to the sacrifice of his beloved master, Regulus Black, and Dobby, who bypassed the defences of Voldemort's headquarters (because Voldemort had neglected to render it inaccessible to house elves as he had to wizards) and helped Harry Potter escape right before Voldemort could arrive to kill him.
Voldemort was extremely independent, and preferred to operate in secrecy whenever possible. Dumbledore claimed that even if he had managed to obtain the Elixir of Life, he would have eventually found his dependency on it intolerable because it would have robbed him of his sense of self-reliance. Instead, he preferred to make Horcruxes, which were magical extensions of himself. Voldemort was a pathological narcissist, and so extremely arrogant and believed in his superiority to the point that he frequently referred to himself in the third person as "Lord Voldemort." It was said that if Voldemort looked into the Mirror of Erised, he would see himself, all-powerful and eternal.
Voldemort had very little attachment to anything that did not amplify his fame or existence, describing his followers as his "friends". However, he viewed them as nothing more than disposable pawns to carry out his tasks, only valuing their usefulness and physical abilities. Despite doting on pure-bloods, he was willing to execute any of them (or anyone else) if it suited him, even if they were completely loyal to him. Even his wand, which served him powerfully and faithfully for nearly six decades, was disposable when he discovered the even more powerful Elder Wand. The reason he valued his horcruxes was because they were an extension of himself, having a portion of his soul encased within each, while the reason he chose the objects he used was because they were significant in either historical value or personal sentiments, which therefore would emphasise his status as the most famous wizard on the entire planet.
Voldemort himself did not value his fellow human beings except to the extent that they were useful to him. He often described his followers as 'friends' and his Death Eaters even as 'family', but in no way treated them like an ordinary person does their friends or family. He demanded his followers' unswerving loyalty and obedience, spitefully took revenge for their mistakes or even bad luck by torture or going after family members and mistreated or even killed them at the slightest provocation. His cold-blooded murder of the man he believed to be one of his most powerful and useful followers, Severus Snape, just to be sure he was the true master of the Elder Wand and his callous attempt to sacrifice Draco Malfoy by ordering him to assassinate Dumbledore as punishment for Lucius Malfoy's blunders, are evidence of this.
- "If he could only have understood the precise and terrible power of that sacrifice, he would not, perhaps, have dared to touch your blood... but then, if he had been able to understand, he could not have been Lord Voldemort, and might never have murdered at all."
- —Albus Dumbledore talking about Voldemort's inability to understand or comprehend love when talking about the sacrificial protection Harry received from his mother[src]
The fact that Voldemort was conceived under slaved love (theorised to be a love potion by Dumbledore or to be the Imperius Curse by Harry)—administered/used by witch Merope Gaunt to Muggle Tom Riddle Snr - was related to his inability to understand love: it was a symbolic way of showing that he came from a loveless union - but of course, everything would have changed if Merope had survived and raised him herself and cared for him. The enchantment under which Tom Riddle fathered Voldemort is important because it shows coercion, and there can't be many more prejudicial ways to enter the world than as the result of such a union.
As a child at Hogwarts, and in the early years of his adult life, Riddle was considered an intelligent, polite young man who showed an enthusiasm to learn and was able to use his superficial charm to make many do his bidding, showing his skill at being an exceptional master manipulator. He described himself being viewed by others as poor, but brilliant, parent-less, but so brave, a school prefect, a model student. His reputation as a model pupil had earned him the trust and respect of his teachers and of the customers he was sent to deal with at Borgin and Burkes. However, this was all a ruse, as he was very manipulative, with Dumbledore claiming that there were a number of "nasty incidents" that happened throughout his time at Hogwarts that the authorities were never completely able to link to him. In his youth, Voldemort was capable of charming everyone at Hogwarts except Albus Dumbledore and surround himself with a group of "friends" which would eventually become his Death Eaters.
Voldemort's arrogance inevitably led to his major downfall. He also suffered from thanatophobia, a pathological fear of death, which he regarded as a shameful and ignominious human weakness. He equated death with being defeated or loss of domination, the ultimate humiliation. His Boggart would be his own corpse, which shows his extreme fear of death. The biggest difference between Harry and Voldemort was that Harry accepted mortality, which ultimately made him a stronger person than his nemesis.
Voldemort had an extremely obsessive nature. When Harry glimpsed into his mind, he often saw repetitive imagery, symptomatic of Voldemort's inability to let go of thoughts or diversify his interests. In his fifth year, he travelled with Voldemort down the locked corridor in the Department of Mysteries for many nights. During the second war, he followed Voldemort's unfolding obsession with the merry-faced thief, Grindelwald, and the Elder Wand. He was able to use Voldemort's compulsive mental check of his horcruxes to uncover the location of the one he had not yet found: Ravenclaw's Diadem, hidden at Hogwarts.
Voldemort tended to undergo extreme obsessions, such as immortality, pure-blood supremacy, the attempts on Harry Potter's life, and the search for the Elder Wand. This was reflected in his daily habits as well: he had a magpie-like tendency to collect lots of small objects and hold onto them. As a child, he is shown hoarding things that he stole from the other orphans, which eventually blossomed into his conception of the Horcruxes. Dumbledore said to Harry in the Limbo King's Cross that his obsession with the Elder Wand was to rival his obsession with Harry himself. The Dark Lord stopped at nothing in his many attempts to kill Harry Potter. The search for the Elder Wand was an extension of his obsession with murdering Harry, which, in turn, was an extension of his preoccupation with immortality (which he felt that Harry's very existence threatened). Ironically, his obsession of eliminating Harry in person, an obsession seemingly multiplied by every single failed attempt, is what led to his own death. Dumbledore noted that Voldemort was no different from any other tyrant in paranoid fear of an individual rising against him because of his own obsessive actions. This trait could be traced back to his childhood when he was convinced at first that Dumbledore had come to take him to an asylum. In another ironic twist, this indicates that Voldemort failed to make himself unique as he had the flaw of any evil tyrant.
Few ever saw anything troubling about the young Tom Riddle, but Albus Dumbledore observed psychological issues and their potential dark implications from their very first meeting. Dumbledore described a "magpie-like tendency" to collect trophies, to obsess over his collection, that led him to make a correct guess at what was behind the secret of his immortality: multiple Horcruxes. Dumbledore noted a similarity between Voldemort and other famous tyrants, in that obsessive actions driven by paranoia can bring about the thing most feared. Tom Riddle remained charming and well-liked as a young adult, and at first seemed to be aiming lower on the scale of ambition than his talents would have supported. He used his stint at Borgin and Burke's to develop his knowledge of the Dark Arts, and to track and collect powerful magical objects. Only a few people ever had an ominous feeling about his imminent rise as a powerful dark wizard: Hepzibah Smith, who saw his eyes flash red with avarice when he saw her treasured artefacts, and, again, Albus Dumbledore, who refused to give him a job teaching at Hogwarts. realising he would use his influence as a teacher to recruit students and do evil.
Gradually taking more and more power, eliminating rivals and those who stood up to him, and transforming his appearance and his social image into a serpentine persona that inspired a level of fear so profound that wizards avoided mentioning his name even after they thought him dead, Voldemort reached the peak of his powers in 1980.
- "I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman's foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon myself. Aaah... pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it...."
- —Voldemort explains how he thinks the destruction of his body was his own fault[src]
Despite his narcissistic nature, Voldemort could acknowledge his mistakes; he accepted the fact that the destruction of his body was more his fault then Harry's, even going so far to openly admit this to his Death Eaters. However, though Voldemort could acknowledge his mistakes, Harry said that he didn't learn from them, especially relating to matters he did not value such as love. When he was angry, Voldemort was unpredictable: he was capable of being cold and calm, but could also explode with rage and when he lost his temper he never hesitated to slay even his own loyal followers. He expected complete respect from his Death Eaters but did not truly care for any of them in return. He did rescue Bellatrix Lestrange after his duel with Albus Dumbledore, and also screamed and attempted to avenge her after she was killed by Molly Weasely. It is likely, though, that he was furious about the loss of a very powerful and talented servant as well as the mother of his daughter Delphini, rather than truly missing Bellatrix as a person. Bellatrix herself was obsessively in love with him (incidentally, this somewhat mirrored the fascination that Voldemort's mother had with his father), but he never returned the romantic feelings due to his lack of understanding and desire for love, despite having engaged in a purely physical relationship with Bellatrix, that resulted in the birth of their daughter.
One flaw that Voldemort did not possess, despite his egomania, was thinking himself infallible. He acknowledged his mistakes on several occasions, and with the candour and charm that had won him followers in the first place, he sought to make hay of his missteps, openly revealing such unflattering information to his followers and using it to illustrate how he could use his wits to further enhance his powers.
Upon his return, Voldemort showed a degree of such calculated humility. He did not announce his rebirth to anyone besides supporters, realising he was not yet strong enough to take on the Ministry. He also showed his followers leniency, even though they had not sought to help him after his downfall, realising he could not afford to mistreat them until returning to full strength.
His first downfall was brought about by his greatest flaw: disregarding that which he could not understand. He did not realise that trying to cast a Killing Curse on a victim after killing a protector who had voluntarily sacrificed themselves would result in the curse rebounding off due to the magic of love.
Voldemort's talents for sowing discord and mistrust showed during the Second War, as did his violent temper. As he neared the last days of his life, he made error after error, alienating his followers with a grisly display of mass murder in the aftermath of the Gringotts robbery, tipping Harry off to the location of the last unknown Horcrux due to a compulsive mental check of their location accompanied by fear, which he should have known would make the thoughts readable on his and Harry's soul fragment connection, and neglecting to notice the signs of Harry's closeness to defeating him, Snape's duplicity and Dumbledore's last plan.
Deep under his terrifying demeanour, Voldemort was capable of fear whenever he didn't feel that things were completely in his control. On some occasions, such as when he tried to murder Harry while he was a defenceless baby, Voldemort displayed cowardice. He was also furious, yet terrified, when he found out that Helga Hufflepuff's Cup was stolen. Voldemort was also more afraid than Harry was when their wands underwent Priori Incantatem, although he refused assistance from his followers due to his desire to kill Harry unaided. Nevertheless Voldemort was capable of suppressing and concealing his fears and confronting the things that threatened him. When he entered Morfin Gaunt's home as a teenager and confronted his deranged uncle, even Harry could not help but admire Riddle's complete lack of fear when witnessing the event in Dumbledore's Pensieve. Gaunt was drunk, unstable and showed murderous inhumanity whilst wielding a knife in teenage Riddle's face, all of which nonplussed him. Voldemort was even bold enough to engage Albus Dumbledore in a duel, despite Dumbledore being the only wizard Voldemort was ever said to have feared.
Voldemort was also a liar and a hypocrite, even when he was a child. He was sadistic to other children in the orphanage where he grew up and opened the Chamber of Secrets while at Hogwarts, resulting in the death of a fellow student. When confronted by Dumbledore on both occasions he denied any involvement. He also lied to Slughorn about his reasons for wanting to gain knowledge on Horcruxes. A further example of this is how Voldemort deemed himself a "Merciful Lord" with respect for his enemies, when in fact he considered everyone he had killed to be "worthless (as he held no regard for them) and nameless" (he had killed so many that they became vague figures and not people with names to him) and used the words "The more the better" regarding how many people died fighting his army. Voldemort also announced to Hogwarts after Harry's supposed demise that he had died whilst trying to run away for fear of his own life, despite knowing full well that Harry had willingly walked to what he believed was his death in the hopes of saving his friends. However, Voldemort did have moments in his life where he was willing to keep his word: after his discussion on Horcruxes with Professor Slughorn he promised not to tell anyone about the subject (though this was mainly for Voldemort's own safety) and gave Hogwarts a chance to turn Harry Potter over to him and leave the school untouched (however this was only keeping with his "Merciful Lord" façade). He also denied his blood purity having been a half-blood himself.
Despite the fact that he usually maintained a calm, reserved and sophisticated persona, Lord Voldemort was capable of phenomenally explosive and violent fits of rage. His rage would often get the better of him, as shown when he duelled Harry Potter in Little Hangleton, casting curses violently and screaming with fury whilst attacking Harry. He also roared with anger whilst duelling Dumbledore. When he experiences these mood swings, he would instinctively cast Killing Curses at whomever he saw first. The most famous display of fury was when he discovered that Gringotts Bank had been infiltrated, specifically his vault, and he murdered every survivor of the incident out of wrath — this further supports the fact that Voldemort was tremendously afraid of death.
Voldemort was shown to be highly intelligent and charismatic, able to inspire many powerful and influential wizards to follow him as his loyal Death Eaters. He could not care less what happened to anyone else, as long as he got what he wanted or avoided discovery for his crimes, shown as how he framed Hagrid, his uncle Morfin, and the house elf Hokey for murders he had committed himself. He was never concerned with the consequences of his actions, only if they either benefited him or got him into trouble with the law. A prime example of how selfish Voldemort was, is how he killed Severus Snape, arguably the man who had (as far as he knew) served him more faithfully and helpfully than anyone, simply to unlock the full power of the Elder Wand.
However, despite Voldemort's general malicious ways he had proven that he was capable of acknowledging the desires of others, but only if those desires did not interfere with his ambitions and were presented by someone whom he deemed a worthy servant. The only time this was ever really seen was when he agreed to Severus Snape's plea for Lily Evans' life. Although he did not agree to spare Lily unconditionally, he said he would offer her the chance to live if she did not attempt to stop him from murdering her son. Uncharacteristically, Voldemort followed through on his promise to Snape and gave Lily several chances to step aside. Doing this was what caused Lily's death to be a willing sacrifice which is what protected Harry from Voldemort in the first place.
One odd incident in Voldemort's life, discovered by Harry through an inadvertent mind-reading, occurred on the night he murdered Lily and James. As he walked down a Godric's Hollow lane on his way to their house, on his way to kill the infant Harry Potter, in a most unusual act of mercy, he decided to spare the life of a Muggle child who had complimented the impressiveness of his "Hallowe'en costume", not realising that Voldemort was not in costume, but a black-robed wizard with a pale, snakelike face. Killing him was an act Voldemort had deemed "unnecessary". Voldemort's reasoning for this was not made clear, though it can be surmised that Voldemort had chosen not to use magic until he had arrived at the Potter's house in case his presence was detected by any spies. Another possibility is that Voldemort simply thought the child was not worth his time or effort.
He also seemed to have respected, and sometimes even admired, bravery and skill, even when displayed by some of his enemies. After his return in 1995, he remarked to Harry that Harry's father had died "straight-backed and proud". Previously, at the end of Harry's first year at Hogwarts, he had referred to the Potters as "brave" and said that James Potter I "put up a courageous fight". During the Battle of Hogwarts, he appreciated Neville Longbottom's "spirit and bravery" and wanted him to become a Death Eater, though this was also partially due to Neville being a pureblood.
Typical for a Slytherin and unlike his blood traitor mother, especially as the Heir of Salazar Slytherin, Voldemort greatly believed in blood purity. In fact, his beliefs were far more extreme than an average pure-blood supremacist. This may actually reflect on his father's Social-Darwinist view on the class system. At the age of 16, Voldemort released Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets in order to purge the school of Mudbloods, thus showing his murderous hatred towards them, and kept a diary Horcrux to continue his actions, putting at risk a precious piece of his soul for his ideals. However, he was too much of a coward to give his life for his "cause".
Voldemort's obsession with blood purity also bred a strong disgust and hatred for the Muggle world. There are several indications — such as the statue Voldemort erected in the Ministry of Magic depicting Muggles being crushed — that Voldemort planned to manipulate and take over the Muggle government of Britain had he been successful. In addition, Voldemort, shortly after his return to physical form, told Harry about his Muggle family, only later to rebuke their memory and herald the return of his "true family".
In his later life, Voldemort claimed that Muggle-borns were actually Muggles who stole magic from real wizards and witches, rather than actually inheriting it rightfully, and so deserved to be severely punished for it. Whether he knowingly made this theory up or truly believed it (or if he was the first proponent of it) is unknown. He ruthlessly murdered Charity Burbage for supporting Muggle-borns. Despite his racist beliefs, however, he allowed the werewolf Fenrir Greyback to join his cause, though did not consider him an official Death Eater. It is also interesting to note that he was willing to allow Lily Potter to join him, despite the fact that she was Muggle-born. This showed that if the wizard or witch was exceptionally talented, Voldemort was capable of suppressing his hatred towards Muggle-borns and half-bloods, as long as they were willing to serve him.
Despite his hatred towards non-pure-bloods, Voldemort himself was a half-blood. Under his rule for a year, he allowed half-bloods to continue to attend Hogwarts, albeit with less respect. Voldemort was ashamed of his Muggle-sided parentage so much that he denied it, left misleading hints that he was a pure-blood and proudly presented his ancestry from Salazar Slytherin. However, Bartemius Crouch Jr appeared to be aware that Voldemort was a half-blood, telling Harry that he and Voldemort both had very disappointing fathers (though more likely that Voldemort simply relayed the disappointing father part, ignoring his blood status).
Voldemort's origins were extremely humble, even by Muggle standards. He grew up in an orphanage. His parents were the daughter of the Gaunts, the last decrepit, incest-ridden branch of the Slytherin family, and the son of a smug, haughty, rich Muggle family, who abandoned him. These humble origins made him an unlikely lightning rod for the wizarding aristocracy's pure-blood supremacist values, but due to his power, ability to trace lineage directly to Salazar Slytherin, and willingness to give their cause a platform and an apparently sympathetic ally, he gained their support, and, in time, put them into a state of impressed terror that rendered their support unwavering.
Voldemort found it useful to maintain a system of followers drawn from the Slytherin-centric Wizarding aristocracy, disaffected paupers with long-gone noble origins, as well as criminal elements, and in their company spoke like one of them, lecturing on themes of blood purity, Muggle inferiority, and the proper order of society. On one occasion, he even tortured and murdered a witch considered to be a blood traitor, Charity Burbage, for their pleasure. But Voldemort did not truly work for their cause, only allowing them to set up a pure-blood supremacist regime at the Ministry of Magic for his own reasons: to control the government, to compensate them for their service and to ensure their continued loyalty. Voldemort's preoccupations were increasing his own dominion and stamping out opposition: the wizarding aristocracy's concerns were of no real interest to him. The alliance between Voldemort and the Death Eaters was a natural result of Voldemort's ancestry, of having been raised in Slytherin house, and of promises to help them achieve their ends, but there should be no mistake — Voldemort was merely using them.
Despite claiming his actions were for the "noble work" of purifying the wizarding race, there is evidence that Voldemort treated this with lesser importance than his preoccupations with immortality and domination. During his time studying at Hogwarts, while he used Slytherin's Basilisk to attack Muggle-born students, ultimately using the Basilisk to murder Myrtle, he was too cowardly to take credit for the crimes at the time, as doing so would result in getting him into trouble with the legal authorities of the magical community. He framed Rubeus Hagrid to both get away with his actions, and to keep Hogwarts from closing down, both in his interests at the time. Knowing it wouldn't be safe to open the Chamber of Secrets again, while he was still at school, he decided to create his Horcrux diary, with the intention of eventually repeating his actions through someone else. It was only after creating his identity of Lord Voldemort, that he began to openly acknowledge himself as the Heir of Slytherin, long after most people would have been able to link him to being both Tom Riddle and the one responsible for opening the Chamber of Secrets the first time round. This shows that while he does not full-heartedly support the pure-blood supremacy ideology (if only using it to enter the elite social circles), he does indeed hold Muggles and Muggle-borns with contempt for their alleged inferiority.
He was more concerned about eliminating threats to his planned eternal domination of the world than ensuring pure-blood supremacy: as demonstrated by his efforts to destroy Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, the Order of the Phoenix and any other opposition to his rule.
According to Dumbledore, Voldemort also had a tendency to break school rules at Hogwarts, a trait that Salazar Slytherin treasured. He would pass this trait, along with Parseltongue to Harry Potter when he accidentally transferred a part of his powers to the boy.
Voldemort was also extremely possessive, even toward objects that weren't of any use to him, such as when he discovered the twin cores of his and Harry's wands could not kill each other, so he asked for Lucius Malfoy's wand, but refused to give Lucius his old one, which also complements how egotistical Voldemort was. He also had a tendency to hoard trophies or other oddities from his childhood and transformed them into Horcruxes.
Magical abilities and skills
- "...the most dangerous Dark wizard of all time..."
- —Albus Dumbledore on Lord Voldemort[src]
Voldemort was regarded to be the most powerful and dangerous Dark wizard of all time, possibly surpassing even Gellert Grindelwald. His followers noted that he possessed knowledge of magic that nobody could possibly imagine, and even Albus Dumbledore himself once stated that Voldemort had likely been the most brilliant student that Hogwarts had ever seen.
- Magical Mastery: Even at a young age, Voldemort was able to utilise magic without the use of a wand or even knowing the very existence of magic itself: he had a power to move objects with his mind, to communicate with and control animals, and even inflict harm on those who opposed or annoyed him. This unnaturally high level of control marked him a prodigy even as a child, and as an adult, Voldemort was generally considered to be the most dangerous Dark Wizard who had ever existed, and proved himself capable of holding his own well even against an Elder Wand-wielding Albus Dumbledore. He claimed he had experimented and pushed the boundaries of magic farther than they had ever been pushed, and that if he were to be granted a teaching position, he could teach students things that they can gain from no other wizard. Dumbledore himself also acknowledged that Voldemort's knowledge of magic was more extensive than any wizard alive, and that even his most powerful protective spells and charms were unlikely to be effective if Voldemort was at full power. This degree of power, coupled with his blatant lack of morals, make him an extremely dangerous adversary indeed.
- Dark Arts: Voldemort was incredibly talented in the Dark Arts, widely considered to be the most powerful practitioner of the Dark Arts the world had ever known, possibly surpassing even Gellert Grindelwald. He has a masterful knowledge of the most unknown and complex magic that a Dark wizard was capable of, and was also a masterful practitioner of all three Unforgivable Curses, with a special affinity for the Killing Curse, having murdered enough people to create an entire army of Inferi, and was known to have cast this curse effectively while still under-aged. Voldemort was also capable of developing Dark spells, hexes, charms, jinxes, and powerful curses: he placed one on the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher after being refused the post by Dumbledore, and another on Marvolo Gaunt's Ring to protect it after it had been made it into a Horcrux. On both counts, not even Dumbledore could lift the curse or jinx completely. In the films, Voldemort was also shown to be capable of containing spells and unleashing them in a blast that resembles a shock wave of dark energy: this attack was of such destructive powers that it shattered nearly everything in its path, and even knocked down the extremely powerful Dumbledore.
- Duelling: Voldemort was a duelist of frighteningly tremendous, almost unrivalled skill, being able to hold his own against an Elder Wand-wielding Albus Dumbledore and even duel evenly with Minerva McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Horace Slughorn (who were masterful duelists themselves) simultaneously. During his duel with McGonagall, Slughorn, and Shacklebolt, the Elder Wand-wielding Voldemort almost defeated all three of them, despite the fact that he had not unlocked the Elder Wand's full power, and they were all protected by Harry's loving sacrifice. He was also able to overpower many other prodigious witches and wizards, such as the extremely skilled Amelia Bones, and later also murdered the extremely powerful ex-Auror, Alastor Moody (though it should be noted that the curse that killed Moody was intended for Mundungus Fletcher, who disapparated). Voldemort's duelling style was, ironically, much like Dumbledore's in its unpredictability: he could instinctively switch styles in the blink of an eye, and was extremely aggressive, using powerful Dark magic to overwhelm his opponents. Apparently, he only chose to face opponents whom he saw as worthy adversaries. The only time Voldemort was ever forced to retreat from a duel was during his confrontation with Dumbledore in the Ministry of Magic.
- Potions: Voldemort may have invented his own potion, known as the Emerald Potion (or the Drink of Despair), which he used to protect Salazar Slytherin's Locket within the Horcrux cave. He also guided Peter Pettigrew into concocting a Dark and complex Regeneration potion which resurrected him to corporeal form and full power. He was also the likely inventor of the Rudimentary body potion, which Peter used to enable him to assume an extremely weak, barely-alive physical form.
- Charms: When Voldemort arrived at Hogwarts to steal Dumbledore's wand, he cast upon himself a Disillusionment Charm that was said to hide him from his own eyes. He also Summoned the Sorting Hat to punish Neville for opposing him.
- Fire spells: Like Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort had an incredible proficiency for manipulating and creating the element of fire: he non-verbally and wandlessly created an enormous serpent of fire to attack Dumbledore and Harry during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, and burned Neville with a flick of his wand when he defied him. He also unleashed a maelstrom of colossal firestorms on Harry after discovering that the latter had survived, screaming with rage whilst doing so - this supports the fact that his fury will make him more dangerous and destructive in this particular art.
- Apparition: Voldemort was a master of Apparition, and he used this ability frequently during his duel with Albus Dumbledore to change his position and avoid spells. Voldemort is the only known wizard besides Dumbledore to be able to apparate silently.
- Control of Underage magic: Even before being told that he was a wizard, or having any knowledge of magic or the wizarding world at all, the young Voldemort displayed an exceptional degree of control over his usage of underage magic, which he used to torment many of the other children at the orphanage. He was able to move objects with his mind, control animals to do his bidding, and even make bad things happen to those who annoyed him. Even Dumbledore commented that his powers were surprisingly well-developed for his young age, and that his level of control over them had made him uneasy.
- Occlumency and Legilimency: Voldemort was incredibly adept in the use of both Occlumency and Legilimency, being able to shield his own mind and penetrate the minds of others. He was particularly skilled in Legilimency, and gained a reputation as one of the most accomplished Legilimens the world has ever seen. His frighteningly tremendous Legilimency powers allowed Voldemort to delve and peer deep into the minds of others, seeing their deepest thoughts, and according to Severus Snape, Voldemort could not only read, but also control and unhinge the minds of others, with him often enjoying telepathically invading the minds of others, creating visions designed to torture them into madness (such as the one he sent to Harry Potter in 1996), and only killing them "after extracting the last exquisite ounce of agony", when he had them literally begging for death. Hence, Voldemort could almost always tell when someone was lying. However, when Narcissa Malfoy lied that Harry Potter was dead, Voldemort notably believed her. The most remarkable part about this skill was that he seemed to be working on it while he was still a child in the orphanage. Extremely few people were skilled enough in Occlumency to shield themselves from him. Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and also possibly Narcissa Malfoy were notable exceptions to this. Additionally, Harry Potter, despite his link to Voldemort's mind, discovered that he could block Voldemort's intrusions into his mind by feeling love, as direct contact with Harry's mind while he was feeling love was excruciatingly painful for Voldemort with his maimed and diminished soul.
- Flying: Voldemort was able to fly without support, defying the law of magic that states objects can only fly through use of a flying charm. He first exhibited this flying ability when in pursuit of Harry Potter over Little Whinging. He frequently used his ability to fly throughout the Second Wizarding War, and was known to have taught Severus Snape how to duplicate the feat.
- Parseltongue: Voldemort was a Parselmouth, a trait he inherited from his ancestor, Salazar Slytherin. It seems that most of his Gaunt ancestors (even his mother, grandfather and uncle) inherited this highly unusual trait; such traits are commonly passed down through families through inbreeding, a practise employed by the Gaunt family.
- Horcruxes: Voldemort is the only wizard who was known for certain to have created more than one Horcrux. These Horcruxes were Salazar Slytherin's locket, Helga Hufflepuff's cup, Nagini, the Gaunt ring, Riddle Diary, Ravenclaw's diadem, and Harry Potter himself.
- Transfiguration: Voldemort transfigured Dumbledore's fire-rope into a black snake during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. He tends to craft silver objects of reasonable durability through conjuration, as seen when he created an artificial silver forearm and hand for Peter Pettigrew non-verbally. He later produced a silver shield against Dumbledore's spells.
- Spell creation: The spell Morsmordre, which summons the Dark Mark in the sky, was one of Voldemort's own inventions. He and his followers used it to summon a floating, green Dark Mark, usually over the houses of their victims. He also invented the method of true, unsupported flight (a feat long considered impossible), and taught it to several of his followers.
- Inferi creation and control: Voldemort is the only wizard mentioned to have the ability to create and control Inferi, and an army at that, though it is implied that other Dark Wizards, such as Gellert Grindelwald, had used or intended to use them. Indeed, Voldemort was capable of spawning and unleashing an enormous and overwhelmingly powerful horde of Inferi and manipulate them to do a certain task only. Why he refrained from adding Inferi to his attack force when he engaged in the Battle of Hogwarts is unknown, since Inferi could endure phenomenal amounts of damage, even from Killing Curses and Sectumsempra, and simply get up and continue attacking.
- Power of possession: Voldemort has the power to possess living creatures, and gain complete control over their actions by doing so. Once the possession is done, the victims will have no knowledge of what happened. When he lost his body from a rebounding Killing Curse, which left him in a spectral form, possession was the only power that remained with him. This form of possession shortens the lifespan of the small animals he inhabits, and in the terms of wizards, his face would appear on the back of their head. In this case, it would seem that his possession is partial, as Quirrell had some (albeit little) control over his actions. It also shortened the host wizard's life, but he was able to extend it via unicorn blood. Compounded with his skill in Legilimency, even when his body was restored, he was able to possess Harry Potter temporarily, causing him great agony and forcing him to speak in Voldemort's own voice. However, Harry's grief over Sirius's death forced Voldemort out of his body. It is unknown if he could physically enter and take over another's body while his own body was restored.
- Wandless and Nonverbal magic: Voldemort was also capable of using spells wandlessly and non-verbally, and displayed a proficiency for telekinesis: he used his hand to telekinetically remove the masks from the Death Eaters who returned to him after his rebirth while he scolded them, disarmed Harry Potter with a simple wave of his arm during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, and pushed a dead giant out of his way with a lazy wave of his hand during the Battle of Hogwarts. He was also able to cast simple charms, Dark spells and other more advanced forms of magic without requiring to speak, which include even Cruciatus and Killing Curses. His most advantageous achievement with this art is when he conjured a gigantic towering snake made of Fiendfyre (which visibly startled even Dumbledore), doing so simultaneously nonverbally and wandlessly.
- Wand versatility: Voldemort has shown the ability to use wands other than his own with no handicap. In 1997, he used Lucius Malfoy's wand for a period of time, and could even effectively cast a Killing Curse on Charity Burbage. Later, during the same year, he intended on using Selwyn's wand, though this did not come to be. In the following year, he took ownership of the Elder Wand; despite not unlocking the wand's full power, he was still able to use his usual level of magic (which was described by himself and Snape to be extraordinary), being able to hold his own against three extremely skilled opponents all at once.
- Charisma: Even at a young age, Voldemort displayed a talent for the manipulation of others, being able to manipulate Horace Slughorn into telling him about Horcruxes and gain the trust of every teacher in Hogwarts, apart from Albus Dumbledore. He also surrounded himself with a group of friends who would become Death Eaters, though Voldemort felt no affection for any of them. Sirius Black noted that Voldemort also used tricks, jinxes, and blackmail to get people to join him. Even when his physical body and magical powers were severely weakened, Voldemort was able to use his charisma to manipulate Quirinus Quirrell into serving him, when Quirrell originally intended to be the other way around.
- Acting: Besides his formidable magical skills and extensive knowledge of magic, Tom proved to be a consummate actor, being able to hide his true nature from almost everyone in Hogwarts except Dumbledore. He was able to convince virtually all of the Hogwarts staff and instructors that his facade of being a model student was his true personality and was able to avoid detection of having opened the Chamber of Secrets.
- Leadership skills: Under his leadership, the forerunners of the Death Eaters were able to sneak past surveillance while acting under Tom's command, with several nasty incidences that were never connected to them, showing that even at a young age, Riddle was a very competent leader. As his repeated creation of Horcruxes increasingly compromised his soul and appearance, Tom's style of leadership presumably changed from the original charismatic rule of the Hogwarts gang to the tyrannical and completely ruthless - though no less effective - command of his Death Eaters demonstrated throughout both the First and Second Wizarding War. The best example of his efficiency as a leader would be the fact that he, with the help of less than fourty united Death Eaters, completely overwhelmed and came very close to dominating the entire population of magical Britain during the First Wizarding War.
- Salesmanship: A largely overlooked talent of Voldemort's was his skills at brokering sales as an assistant at Borgin and Burke's when he was in his late teens. His charisma and knowledge of various magical artefacts helped him in this job and allowed him to aquire a wide variety of magical relics for his employers at the time. This talent and job allowed him to discover the Locket of Slytherin and Helga Hufflepuff's Cup in the possession of Hepizbah Smith. He was often reserved for rather delicate matters that took subtlety and persuasion, but that he masterfully completed
- Intellectual genius: Voldemort was not only a great wizard, but also possessed an incredible intellect, as he was considered to be the most brilliant student ever to attend Hogwarts. His intellect is evidenced by his strategic cunning being able to mastermind and orchestrate two of the most destructive wars in British wizarding history.
- Voldemort: "They do not call me 'Tom' any more. These days, I am known as—"
- Albus Dumbledore: "I know what you are known as. But to me, I'm afraid, you will always be Tom Riddle. It is one of the irritating things about old teachers. I am afraid that they never quite forget their charges' youthful beginnings."
- — Albus Dumbledore talking to Voldemort when Voldemort returned to ask for a job at Hogwarts[src]
Voldemort was born Tom Marvolo Riddle, a name he hated due to it being a common name. When he later learned that his father and namesake was a Muggle, he decided to forge his own name, "Voldemort", from an anagram of his full name ("Tom Marvolo Riddle" is an anagram to "I am Lord Voldemort"). He used his middle name, Marvolo, to track down his magical heritage, due to it being a wizarding name. During this time, Voldemort had adopted the name "The Heir of Slytherin" after learning about the Chamber of Secrets and his descent from Salazar Slytherin. Using this name, he hoped to create a terrifying legacy of his own. Few people ever knew that Voldemort's true name was "Tom Marvolo Riddle" to begin with.
At first, this name was used to refer to him or to address him. Later, he became so feared in the wizarding community that nearly everyone referred to him only as "You-Know-Who", "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named", or "The Dark Lord", the last one used primarily by his Death Eaters and other supporters. Fudge even wrote it to the Muggle Prime Minister rather than saying it. According to Death Eaters, not pronouncing his name is a mark of respect. On Potterwatch, he was called "Chief Death Eater".
Albus Dumbledore was one of the few who dared refer to him as "Voldemort," although he preferred to use the name "Tom", using the former in conversation, and the latter when addressing Voldemort himself, showing his fearlessness. In ignoring the name Voldemort, Dumbledore disallowed him the intimidation he sought while appealing to what little remained of his former student deep within Voldemort. Dumbledore also insists on others to use the name "Voldemort", rather than "You-Know-Who", or such varieties, believing that fear in the name would only increase fear of the thing itself. Much later, Harry, despite never fearing Voldemort in name, would use the name "Riddle" in their final confrontation, for the same reasons Dumbledore does. Voldemort would hate it when people dared call him by his forsaken name.
After the coup at the Ministry in 1997, the Taboo curse was placed on the name "Voldemort"; speaking the name would summon Death Eaters, Ministry officials, or Snatchers via Apparition. This was used to find those who opposed Voldemort's rule, as only they would dare speak the name. This was how Harry, Ron and Hermione were found at Tottenham Court Road and before being brought to Malfoy Manor. Also, Kingsley Shacklebolt barely escaped Death Eaters when he spoke it. The taboo also caused the trio to be captured temporarily and brought to Malfoy Manor.
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