What’s a Dark Lord without a few despicable acts to his credit? Throughout it all— seven books, a play, nine films and counting— we’ve seen everyone’s favorite noseless, soulless snake-lover commit some seriously heinous crimes. One does not achieve “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” status with conventional acts of terror, but rather through doing some seriously messed up stuff (such as looking like a naked mole rat dressed in a depressed monk’s robe).
The surprising (and chilling) thing is that, outside of a few super obvious crimes, we’ve grown so accustomed to Voldemort’s abhorrent, monstrous nature that many of his awful acts tend not to stick in the mind. Sure, everyone remembers the major murders and eerie declarations of pure-blood pride, but some of the truly gross crimes on this list are easily forgotten by even the most dedicated of fans. This doesn’t make them any less despicable, however, and it doesn’t improve things for the unfortunate souls on the other end of the Dark Lord’s fury. Here are the 15 most despicable acts committed by Voldemort:
15. Murder Of The Riddles
News flash: there’ll be a lot of murders on this list. This one’s particularly heinous because not only was it a young Tom Riddle’s first actual killing, but it also served as a catapult for a lifetime of horrific killings by the young Dark Lord.
Prior to donning his new name, young Tom Riddle re-visited his ancestral home and killed his father in revenge for abandoning his mother, who’d died years before, leaving Riddle an orphan. For good measure, he killed his grandparents as well, thus obliterating his muggle roots and any connection to his non-pureblood status. Riddle framed his uncle Morfin Gaunt for the murder by implanting a false-memory charm in him, causing Morfin to boast openly of killing the muggles. The muggle police, in turn, blamed the family gardener, though he luckily escaped prison due to a lack of evidence— Avada Kedavra leaves no trace of violence or harm on the body.
Before leaving, however, Voldemort did manage to get his hands on the ring of Salazar Slytherin. Unbeknownst to him, the ring actually contained one of the three Deathly Hallows— the Resurrection Stone, likely useless to the psychopathic and unloving Voldemort, secretly was the gem implanted in the ring’s band.
14. Abuse Of House Elves
An underlying theme of the entire series is the treatment of house elves, the slaves to old wizarding family masters. You can tell a lot about the character and quality of a family by the way they treat their house elves— many, sadly are abused, mistreated and ill-provided for. Among the house elves featured in the series is Dobby, the Malfoy family elf whom Harry heroically frees; less prominent, but no less important, however, is the Black family elf Kreacher.
Old, cranky and ornery, Kreacher grudgingly serves the family of Harry’s godfather. When Sirius’ brother Regulus gets involved with Voldemort, he enlists Kreacher’s help. Voldemort, in a chilling act of brutality, forces Kreacher to test the defense system around one of his horcruxes, making the elf drink a tortuous potion from a cup that automatically refills itself.
After Regulus’ death, however, Voldemort’s cruelty comes back to haunt him. Kreacher ends up in possession of the locket that contains part of Voldemort’s soul, and eventually hands it over to Harry- to be destroyed.
13. Creation Of A Totalitarian, Murderous Government
The authoritarian, fascist regime set up by Voldemort and his Death Eaters after the fall of the Ministry of Magic in The Deathly Hallows bears a distinct resemblance to the real-life Third Reich in Germany and other WWII-era dictatorships in Italy and Spain. For this wizarding government, blood purity becomes a matter of public policy. They terrorize and round up muggle-borns, sending them to Azkaban just as real-world governments did in their respective purges.
Under this wizarding regime, free speech becomes censored and policed; people live in constant fear that they might be the next to be sent to Azkaban without a trial. In an attempt to maintain an aura of fear, despair and terror, Voldemort remains hidden in the shadows, setting his Death Eater cronies up in powerful positions in which they perform his bidding while maintaining a false semblance of normalcy. Helping to give off this illusion are a number of corrupt officials who were part of the first Ministry, including Harry’s old foe Dolores Umbrage, who heads the Muggle-Born Registration Commission.
12. Opening The Chamber Of Secrets
Talk about dangerous. For anyone as terrified of snakes as I am, this one’s particularly despicable. During Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, Ginny Weasley mysteriously obtains a diary that, unknown to her at the time, is later revealed to be a former possession of a young Tom Riddle from his childhood days at the school and one of his horcruxes to boot. The diary had been designed by a young Tom Riddle to open the Chamber of Secrets, a hidden vault within the castle of Hogwarts in which a gigantic serpent patrols the underground pipes.
The opening of the chamber the first time, during Voldemort’s younger days, results in the death of Moaning Myrtle and the framing of Rubeus Hagrid, who is expelled from Hogwarts. The second time around nearly results in the deaths of multiple children, including Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny; its opening unleashes a terror upon the school that few could have seen coming. Muggle-born students continually come under attack, and Hogwarts nearly closes. Only some last-second heroics by Harry and the sudden appearance of the sword of Godric Gryffindor cause the school to remain safe and open.
11. Splitting His Soul Into Horcruxes
In the magical world (and everywhere?), the soul is meant to stay whole, complete, unbroken. A young Tom Riddle, however, learns of magical objects called horcruxes in which a wizard or witch can store part of their soul, thereby remaining alive if their physical body is compromised. In his audacious quest for immortality, Voldemort splits his soul into eight pieces as part of an erroneous attempt to stave off death.
This crime is so abominable that when Voldemort finally does truly die after the Battle of Hogwarts, his soul is unable to move on to the next world or to return to the living earth in the form of a ghost. Instead, as Dumbledore conveys to Harry in his dream sequence at King’s Cross station, Voldemort’s soul will forever remain trapped in limbo, incapable of transcending its previous crimes.
10. Massacre Of Cedric Diggory
Though it’s actually Voldemort’s loyal servant Peter Pettigrew who actually kills Cedric in the fourth instalment, we all know Pettigrew to be working directly on the Dark Lord’s orders. Indeed, perhaps Voldemort’s greatest crime throughout the series might just be his taking advantage of so many vulnerable, wicked people and turning them into havoc-wreaking Death Eaters. Wormtail certainly qualifies as a member of this group. As the submissive, meek friend of James Potter, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, he’d been surrounded at school by good, well-aimed friends; as he came under the influence of the Dark Lord and his followers, however, Pettigrew’s deceitful and cruel sides became inflamed, and he grew into Voldemort’s most loyal follower.
Cedric Diggory, a kind and loyal champion of house Hupfflepuff, was murdered in cold blood by Pettigrew on Voldemort’s orders. At only sixteen years of age, Diggory’s stolen life is one of Voldemort’s most terrible crimes because his life could so easily have been spared. Like always, though, Voldemort shows little regard for the lives of others. He expresses no remorse for his killings or for those committed by his followers, Diggory’s death serving as a chilling example of this indifference.
8. The Killing Of Lily And James Potter
Many years prior to the series’ beginning, Harry’s future divination teacher, Sybill Trelawney, delivered a prophesy during an impromptu trance to Albus Dumbledore. This prophesy predicted the birth of a young male wizard who would have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Severus Snape, working for Voldemort at the time, delivers this information to his master. Believing the prophesy to refer to the son of Lily and James Potter, Voldemort enters their home one fateful night and changes the course of history: when attempting the killing curse on Lily and James’ infant son, his spell rebounds and results in Voldemort’s temporary downfall.
The murder of Lily and James Potter, aside from its tragedy and unreservedness, impacts the series in a number of important and under-explored ways. Not only does it provide personal motivation for Harry to save the wizarding world, but it also teaches him a variety of valuable lessons, the most important of which is the significance of love. In the end, it’s Lily’s sacrifice for her son that saves him. Likewise, it’s Harry’s genuine, authentic love for his friends that separates him from Voldemort at the Battle of Hogwarts, winning the war and ending the Dark Lord’s reign.
7. Killing Hepitizah Smith
In his post-Hogwarts capacity working at Borgin and Burkes, the rare-objects dealers Harry originally visits in the second novel, a young Tom Riddle meets an old, wealthy woman named Hepitizah Smith. Hepitizah takes an instant liking to Riddle’s charm and charisma, and after a few visits agrees to show him two of her most treasured possessions: a cup once owned by Helga Hufflepuff and a locket that once belonged to Voldemort’s ancestor, Salazar Slytherin.
Needless to say, this did not sit well with Riddle. The locket, which had been sold for a pittance to Borgin and Burkes by Voldemort’s pregnant mother, was Riddle’s rightful inheritance. The cup, it seems, appealed to him for its powerful association with one of the founders of Hogwarts. Soon after viewing the items, Voldemort murders Hepitizah and steals the two ancient objects, framing the house-elf Hokey for the slaughter. The locket and the cup are soon made into horcruxes, with strands of Voldemort’s soul trapped inside of them. It’s unknown what happened to Hokey, but Dumbledore was able to extract a memory from her that proves invaluable in the quest to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes.
6. Toying With Draco’s Emotions
Everyone’s favorite emo-haired, brooding bully is actually a tremendously complicated character who faces a host of challenging circumstances at a very young age. Wealthy and culturally privileged, Draco rarely receives the love and affection that he so desperately craves. Having two pureblood, Death Eater parents comes with its challenges: Draco is perpetually forced to put on a false face for the world, knowing his family is actually devoted to the re-emergence of the Dark Lord and his fanaticism for pure-blood supremacy.
All culminates when, with his father Lucious imprisoned, Voldemort calls on Draco to provide entry for Death Eaters into Hogwarts during Harry’s sixth year. Draco struggles to handle these difficult, burdensome tasks. He eventually succeeds, however, and Death Eaters intrude upon Hogwarts. Draco is unable to finish the task ultimately assigned to him: killing Dumbledore. Instead, everyone’s favorite potions teacher performs the deed. Draco, torn and conflicted throughout the entire second war, defects hours before the culminating Battle of Hogwarts, saving himself and his mother from imprisonment.
5. Fathering An Illegitimate Daughter
Warning: this one contains spoilers from the recently published play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Voldemort, unknown to anyone in the main series, fathered a daughter with his loyal follower Bellatrix Lestrange sometime before the seventh book. Delphi appears for the first time in the play pretending to be an associate of Cedric Diggory’s father Amos; she eventually becomes a major character within the plot, interacting with the sons of both Harry and Draco.
Fathering an illegitimate daughter seems to have been Voldemort’s final act to impact the wizarding world. Hoping to preserve the Slytherin bloodline, which he was the last of, Voldemort seems to have taken advantage of Bellatrix’s near-insanity and devotion to him to father a pureblood heir. This loveless union (on one side anyway) never made any attempt to raise Delphi, tossing her off on a loyal follower to raise in exchange for a sack of gold. Truly despicable.
4. Taking Advantage Of Vulnerable Death Eaters
A trademark trait of all tyrants who spout hatred and incite violence is a charismatic presence that attracts the distressed, the weak and the vulnerable like magnets. Voldemort’s systemic exploitation and misuse of his Death Eaters, many of whom have been abused emotionally and mentally in the past, constitutes a crime of seduction, persuasion, and brainwashing with his particular brand of pure-blood supremacy. By taking advantage of the vulnerable, Voldemort is able to twist what once were only semi-dangerous thoughts and tendencies into full-blown terrorism, complete lawlessness and compulsions toward violence.
Witches and wizards like Barty Crouch Jr., Bellatrix Lestrange and Peter Pettigrew were all corrupted by Voldemort’s poisonous influence. Utilizing his commanding presence to provide an important, all-encompassing mission for these lost souls, Voldemort provides them purpose and value that the outside world was never able to. It’s one of history’s greatest lessons: the worst of the world’s bullies oftentimes are victims of bullying themselves.
3. Torturing Charity Burbage For No Reason
Charity Burbage was the Muggle Studies professor at Hogwarts prior to Voldemort’s second rise to power. After his return, she was abducted by Death Eaters and brought to Malfoy manner to be interrogated and punished for writing an article in the Daily Prophet that called for respect toward non-magical peoples. As this directly opposes the beliefs of Voldemort’s followers, they mocked her before Voldemort finally kills her, feeding her body to his serpent Nagini.
The senseless murder of Charity Burbage underscores and highlights a very-real reality not only about the Death Eater regime but about totalitarian governments everywhere: the desire to stamp-out any opposing thought through force, violence and terror. Voldemort and his followers mock Burbage’s devotion to peace and amicability toward muggles, and accused her of corrupting the minds of young wizards and witches with her inclusive, compassionate rhetoric. So terrible, huh?
2. Championing Pure-Blood Supremacy
Voldemort, as the child of a loveless union between a male muggle and Merope Gaunt, the pureblood descendent of Salazar Slytherin, believed from a very young age that a witch or wizard’s blood status was their defining value as human beings. His totalitarian, fascist empire is built on a foundation of pure-blood supremacy, with most of his Death Eaters being pure-bloods in their own right. The regime eventually introduces the Muggle-Born Registration Commission headed by Harry’s old foe Dolores Umbridge, where muggle-borns are rounded up, interrogated and shipped off to Azkaban in moves reminiscent of real-life fascist governments.
Voldemort’s belief in blood purity as a display of worth allows him to do and say some unlikely things, like at at the Battle of Hogwarts when he goes out of his way to praise Neville Longbottom’s bravery, as Neville is a pureblood. Voldemort consistently expresses his wish that as little magical blood be shed in his schemes for power, and seems to favor purebloods even among his enemies, like when he praises James Potter to Harry. Unquestionably, the championing of blood purity is one of Voldemort’s most despicable and most impactful crimes throughout the series.
1. Attempted Murder Of A Child
Sure, it’s the most obvious of Voldemort’s despicable acts, but that doesn’t make the attempted murder of a child any less reprehensible. Voldemort’s decision to act on the overheard prophesy is, in the end, his own undoing; as his spell rebounds on him from the sacrifice of Lily Potter for her son, Voldemort is thrown into oblivion, hanging on to life only through his soul-tearing horcruxes, a state described as being worse than death.
The most terrible of Voldemort’s crimes is the murder of the innocent— an infant child who’s done no wrong other than be born at the wrong place and the wrong time. In one of the series’ most powerful moments, Dumbledore reveals to Harry his theory that if Voldemort had simply ignored the prophesy, it would never have come true. Voldemort would never have created his own worst enemy, and the Dark Lord would have reigned unchallenged and supreme. As always, though, Voldemort fails to see what’s right in front of him and enters the home of the Potters, forever sealing his fate.