Wizards Unite Characters: You-Know-Who

voldemort wand

It’s time to start your Wizards Unite training!¬†Here you can learn the good, the bad and the ugly about the magical world‚Äôs most prominent figures.

Today’s profile: You-Know-Who

voldemort tom riddle

Editor’s note: Out of respect for our readers and aware of the fear his name instills to this day in many witches and wizards, we have decided to refer to Tom Riddle’s self-given name as You-Know-Who

Early Life

A deceitful conception

Tom Marvolo Riddle was born on December 31, 1926. His mother Merope Gaunt was one of the last living members of her family line.

The Gaunts were an ancient, and formerly wealthy, wizarding family. They were noted for producing individuals with violent and unstable personalities due to generations of inbreeding.

Tom’s mother fell in love with a Muggle, Tom Riddle Snr. Although she pursued him, he showed no romantic interest towards her. Desperate, Merope used a love potion to finally seduce Tom.

Once their relationship began, she became pregnant while Tom was under the coercive effects of the potion. She was unaware of the consequences such a union it would produce.

The potion’s influence couldn’t last forever, and once its effects wore off Tom abandoned the very infatuated and pregnant Merope¬†on the streets of London. Heartbroken and alone, Merope died moments after giving birth to Tom Marvolo Riddle, named after her former lover, Tom Riddle, and her own father, Marvolo Gaunt.

A lonely childhood

Tom was raised in the Muggle-run Wool’s Orphanage. Although unaware of what he was, he did have some grasp on his abilities beyond that of normal magical children of his same age, and an unusually high degree of control over them. He used his magic to¬†exert power over the other children, frightening and even harming them. Since everyone at the orphanage was a Muggle, no one could really explain what what happening or blame him, though they did learn to distrust him.


In 1938 he received a visit that changed his life.

“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.”

Albus Dumbledore¬†arrived at Wool’s Orphanage to tell him he had been accepted into Hogwarts. This information opened up a whole new world for Tom. He finally got the answers he needed, understood where his power came from, why he was different from the other children. And most importantly, he got a glimpse of true power and his own potential.

His Hogwarts years

slytherin crest

Tom Riddle attended Hogwarts as a member of the Slytherin House until 1945.

The House of Slytherin

Although he spent his Christmas breaks at school, he had no choice but to return to the Muggle Orphanage during summer breaks, which he despised and dreaded. He repeatedly tried to convince the headmaster and his teachers to let him stay at the school for the summer to no avail.

tom riddle

Riddle believed his classmates and teachers saw him as “poor, but brilliant, parent-less, but so brave, a school prefect, a model student.” Thanks to his exceptional acting abilities, he was able to convince virtually all of the Hogwarts staff and instructors that this ‘good boy’ facade was his true personality.

The sole exception to this was Dumbledore, who, though not necessarily suspicious of Riddle, never forgot about his misdeeds at the orphanage, nor his unsettling behaviour during their first meeting. In turn, Riddle 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 his other instructors. In time, he came to fear and despise Dumbledore.

An unexpected death

Over time, Riddle’s charming persona earned him quite a following. Many would describe them as Slytherin thugs, either seeking his protection or trying to share some of his glory. Although Tom claimed they were his friends, in reality they amounted to little more than servants. These students would later become his first Death Eaters.

I am lord voldemort

While at Hogwarts, Tom learned of his ancestry, and his blood connection to Salazar Slytherin. His new-found obsession led him to privately change his name (ashamed of his filthy Muggle father) to You-Know-Who.

“You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father‚Äôs name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother‚Äôs side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch? No, Harry. I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I had become the greatest sorcerer in the world!”

The Chamber of Secrets

During his fifth year, Tom discovered Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets. As the Heir of Slytherin, he managed to open the chamber and tame the Basilisk dwelling there. Tom let the creature loose, instructing it to attack Muggle-borns. The Basilisk injured many students and finally killed a Muggle-born witch near the Chamber’s entrance, in the girls’ bathroom. Myrtle Warren, later known by generations of Hogwarts students as Moaning Myrtle, was thankfully the only fatality.

moaning myrtle

In light of this incident, the Hogwarts Board of Governors decided that Hogwarts was to be closed. Tom quickly realised that, in order to keep the school, he would have to close the Chamber and find someone else to blame for the incident. Tom then framed fellow student Rubeus Hagrid and his pet Acromantula, Aragog. Hagrid was subsequently expelled, and Tom received an engraved trophy for Special Services to the School.

Dumbledore, already suspicious, kept such a close eye on him after the incident that Tom realised he could not risk opening the Chamber again while still a student. That was when he decided to preserve¬†a part of his soul within his own school diary, the very first of his seven Horcruxes, hoping it would one day lead someone to finish Salazar Slytherin’s “noble work”.

ginny weasley tom riddle diary

Life After Hogwarts

“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!”


Creating His Horcruxes

First, Tom turned his old school diary into a Horcrux.

After that, he tracked down his Muggle father and murdered him, along with his grandparents. He covered up his involvement in the crimes by altering his maternal uncle Morfin Gaunt’s memory and making him confess.¬†Tom also turned the Gaunt family’s signet ring into his second Horcrux, wearing it like a trophy at Hogwarts

Before graduating,¬†Riddle charmed Ravenclaw’s House ghost, Helena Ravenclaw (daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw) into telling him the location of her mother’s diadem. He then retrieved Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem and turned it into his third Horcrux.

While working at Borgin and Burkes, Tom befriended Hepzibah Smith, a wealthy but elderly descendant of Helga Hufflepuff. Hepzibah showed him her two most valuable treasures: his Salazar Slytherin’s locket and Helga Hufflepuff’s cup.¬†Tom murdered Hepzibah to steal these coveted objects. He soon turned them into his fourth and fifth Horcruxes.

The rise of You-Know-Who

After years away perfecting his skills and studying the dark arts, Tom finally let go of his Muggle name and became publicly known as You-know-who. Upon his return to England, he spent the next few years before the First Wizarding War gathering followers in witches and wizards who called themselves Death Eaters.

death eaters

Some joined them out of fear, others our of greed for wealth and fame. Then there were many who supported his cause to dominate Muggles and Muggle-borns.

The First Wizarding War

1970 marked the start of the First Wizarding War.

The Unexpected Army

You-Know-Who recruited the giants, who had long ago been driven by wizardkind into the mountains, and werewolves, who were persecuted by most witches and wizards.¬†You-Know-Who’s army caused widespread destruction and mayhem during the war.

Bartemius Crouch Snr was head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the time and known for his fanatical hatred of the Dark Arts. He issued an edict that gave Aurors authorisation to use Unforgivable Curses on Death Eaters without warning. Also, suspects were sometimes handed over to the Dementors without a Wizengamot trial. Many innocent people were locked away.

During this time, Albus Dumbledore created The Order of the Phoenix to fight against You-Know-Who. The war itself lasted for eleven long years.

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… And the Dark Lord will mark him as equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”

The Prophecy

Ten years into the war, when Voldemort was at the height of his dominion, Sybill Trelawney gave Dumbledore a prophecy which predicted the fall of the Dark Lord. One of You-Know-Who’s Death Eaters heard the first part of the prophecy and reported it back. You-Know-Who took the information given and sprang into action.

There were, at the time, two babies to whom the prophecy could have referred ‚ÄĒ Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Both families had sought to thwart Voldemort three times, and both families were members of the Order of the Phoenix. Both children in question were born at the end of the seventh month, July. Voldemort chose to target Harry instead of Neville; Dumbledore suspected this was because Harry shared a similar family heritage with Voldemort, both of them being half-bloods.[

You-Know-Who tracked down the Potters, found their Secret Keeper and broke the Fidelius Charm protecting their home. Once inside, he murdered James and Lily Potter. However, when he used the Killing Curse on Harry, it rebounded and seemingly obliterated his body. 

I was ripped from my body, less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost, but still, I was alive.

The ghost Years

Voldemort lost his physical form and magical powers, but he remained alive in ghostly form, bound to the world thanks to his Horcruxes. He retreated to the forests of Albania and waited for his faithful Death Eaters to find him. He gained physical form by inhabiting snakes, though he disliked doing so because the bodies of such animals were ill-equipped to perform magic, and because his possession significantly reduced their lifespans; none of his hosts survived for too long.

In 1991, he formed a plan to regain his physical body. Hogwarts Professor Quirinus Quirrell had made a voyage to Albania, where his foolish and gullible mind was vulnerable to You-Know-WHo. He latched onto Quirrell’s body and came back to Hogwarts with him. You-Know-Who ordered Quirrell to drink the blood of unicorns in the Forbidden Forest so he could gain strength from the unicorn’s healing abilities.

Ultimately, after an encounter with Harry Potter, You-Know-Who was expelled from Quirrell’s body and left once more without a physical form or magical powers.

Soon after that, Death Eater Lucius Malfoy found Tom Riddle’s Diary. Not knowing it was a Horcrux, he secretly gave the diary to Ginny Weasley. Possessed by a piece of Tom’s soul, Ginny opened the Chamber of Secrets once more. A loyal friend, Harry Potter endeavoured to save Ron’s sister. After fighting off the Basilisk, Harry used one of its fangs to destroy the Diary, unwittingly destroying the first Horcrux at the same time.

A return to strength

In 1994 Pettigrew returned to his master. Together, they built a rudimentary body that he could use to travel and perform magic. While in this form, You-Know-Who was forced to drink a potion made from unicorn blood and venom from Nagini, a snake he befriended, to remain alive.

Certain that Dumbledore had¬† destroyed the Philosopher’s Stone,¬†You-Know-Who decided to attempt an old piece of ritualistic Dark Magic that would restore him to a body.


He made plans to travel to England in order to obtain two of the three key ingredients: a bone from his father and the blood of his most hated enemy, Harry Potter. The third ingredient, the flesh of a servant willingly given, he would obtain from Wormtail himself.

Then he rescued one of his Death Eaters, Barty Crouch Jr, and had him impersonate Alastor Moody and infiltrate Hogwarts. Crouch turned the Triwizard Cup into a Portkey that transported Harry Potter to a cemetery in Little Hangleton where Wormtail and You-Know-Who were waiting.

The ritual was successful, and You-Know-Who finally regained a body and his strength. With Harry as the only witness, the wizarding world at large refused to believe You-Know-Who had returned.

The Second Wizarding War

daily prophet boy who lies cover

In 1995, Dumbledore reconvened the Order of the Phoenix once more, using Sirius Black’s family home at 12 Grimmauld Place as headquarters.

The Battle of the Ministry

In an attempt to hear the full prophecy, You-Know-Who sent his Death Eaters to the Ministry. There, they encountered Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley, who were trying to rescue Sirius Black. You-Know-Who’s attempt to get the prophecy was foiled by Dumbledore, and a¬†fantastic duel ensued. Despite You-Know-Who’s overwhelming magical abilities,¬† Dumbledore proved himself to be the superior wizard and worthy of being feared.

dumbledore voldemort duel

Once You-Know-Who’s return could no longer be denied, Second Wizarding War truly began. The Dementors left Azkaban to side with the Dark Lord, who could offer them more scope for their powers. As a result, there were many Death Eater attacks. Mass Muggle killings were rampan.¬†The giants renewed their allegiance to You-Know-Who, and caused so much destruction in Muggle areas that the cover up story involved a hurricane. Dementor attacked on a daily basis, and the effect on the Muggles manifested in severe depression and grim weather.

In 1996, Lucius Malfoy’s son Draco became a Death Eater, his first mission to kill Dumbledore. Against all odds, the boy managed to sneak a group of Death Eaters into Hogwarts and the Battle of the Astronomy Tower ensued. Faced with Draco’s inability to complete his task, Severus Snape killed Dumbledore instead.

dumbledore death

The Ministry under his control

Voldemort soon murdered the Minister of Magic and established a totalitarian police state.  Under the Imperius Curse, Minister Pius Thicknesse became his puppet and Death Eater Yaxley took control of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The Muggle-Born Registration Commission was created to round up Muggle-borns and imprison them in Azkaban.

Snape, meanwhile, took over as Headmaster of Hogwarts while Death Eater siblings Amycus Carrow and Alecto Carrow became teachers.

In an attempt to amass even more power, You-Know-Who began a search for the Elder Wand, one of the Deathly Hallows. He managed to track down its last known owner, Gellert Grindelwald, but the wizard refused to share any useful information and taunted You-Know-Who until he lost his temper and killed him.

grindelwald and voldemort

However, Voldemort deduced that Dumbledore, who had defeated Grindelwald, had won the Elder Wand. Voldemort then went to Hogwarts, where he met with Snape and proceeded to break into Dumbledore’s tomb and steal the Elder Wand.

The Battle of Hogwarts

By then, You-Know-Who learned Harry Potter was searching for his Horcruxes. He knew that if the boy destroyed them, he could truly kill him. Unaware at that moment of the mental connection between the two, he unwittingly revealed the location of the last Horcrux: Hogwarts.

You-Know-Who rounded up his entire army of Death Eaters, Snatchers, werewolves, giants, Dementors, and Acromantulas. He commanded his army to fight the Aurors, professors, and students who were in the castle.

The Battle of Hogwarts had began.

Believing himself the Master of the Elder Wand after Snape’s death, You-Know-Who finally joined the battle.

I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have until midnight.

He called a one-hour armistice and requested Harry in exchange for peace and no further deaths. Unbeknownst to him, Harry carried the seventh Horcrux, the scar on his forehead. It had accidentally formed when You-Know-Who failed to kill him as an infant.

When Harry met him in the Forbidden Forest, You-Know-Who used the Killing Curse on him almost immediately. However, he only destroyed the Horcrux, rendering his scar “normal”. Using Harry’s blood as an ingredient in the potion that gave him a new body years prior made their lives more intricately linked than either could imagine. Lily¬īs Protection, now in You-Know-Who, anchored Harry to the world of the living. Instead of killing him, the spell merely knocked to the ground, where Harry feigned death.

The Last Horcrux

Believing himself the victor,¬†You-Know-Who marched alongside his army to Hogwarts. Neville, instead of surrendering at the sight of Harry’s body, charged at You-Know-Who.

When Neville refused to join him, You-Know-Who placed a Full Body-Bind Curse on him, placed the Sorting Hat on the boy’s head and set the hat on fire to make an example of him. Neville, however, managed to throw off the curse and pulled Gryffindor’s Sword from the Hat. He used it to decapitate Nagini, destroying the last remaining Horcrux.

As reinforcements arrived, the second round of the Battle began. Enraged, You-Know-Who attempted to strike down everyone within his reach as his weakened army forced its way into the castle. In the Great Hall, The Order of the Phoenix gradually cut down his army. Then Harry Potter emerged from his Invisibility Cloak, finally revealing he was very much alive.

The Elder Wand’s True Master

harry voldemort face off

As the two wizards faced off, Harry revealed that Snaped had been, in fact, working for Dumbledore all along, and had killed the Headmaster at his own request. That meant the Elder Wand had never belonged to Snape. Draco had become its master during that battle, and Harry had later earned it by disarming him. The Elder Wand’s rightful Master was Harry Potter.

You-Know-Who, in a fit of rage, tried to cast the Killing Curse on Harry, but the Elder Wand refused to attack its true Master. The spell rebounded off Harry’s, killing the Dark Lord once and for all. Just as the Prophecy had predicted.

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  1. Nice editor’s note! ūüėÄ
    Editor’s note: Out of respect for our readers and aware of the fear his name instills to this day in many witches and wizards, we have decided to refer to Tom Riddle’s self-given name as You-Know-Who

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