Caractacus Burke (fl. 1846) was a wizard, who was one of the original founders of Borgin and Burkes. Caractacus was one of the people Albus Dumbledore interviewed to find out more about Voldemort's past. Dumbledore learned from Caractacus' memory that Merope Gaunt came to him when she was destitute, and sold him Salazar Slytherin's Locket for ten Galleons. Dumbledore apparently had a low opinion of him, while not directly calling Burke a greedy man, he strongly implied it by saying that it had been the kind of reputation Burke had earned.
After Tom Riddle had graduated from Hogwarts, Burke hired him to research and acquire items for him. Riddle had done a very good job at this, and Burke was very surprised when Tom Riddle disappeared out of the blue one day without tending any notice to him.
Burke was born in or before 1846.
- "Yes, we acquired it in curious circumstances. It was brought in by a young witch just before Christmas, oh, many years ago now. She said she needed the gold badly, well, that much was obvious. Covered in rags and pretty far along ... going to have a baby, see. She said the locket had been Slytherin's. Well, we hear that sort of story all the time, 'Oh this was Merlin's, this was, his favourite teapot,' but when I looked at it, it had his mark all right, and a few simple spells were enough to tell me the truth. Of course, that made it near enough priceless. She didn't seem to have any idea how much it was worth. Happy to get ten Galleons for it. Best bargain we ever made!"
- —Caractacus Burke on his encounter with Merope Gaunt[src]
In 1863, Burke founded the shop Borgin and Burkes with his partner Borgin. The shop is located in Knockturn Alley, an infamous street specialising in shops that sell Dark Arts items When Burke ran the shop he was known for taking advantage of people and driving hard bargains. This was demonstrated when, in December, 1926, he was visited by Merope Gaunt, a pure-blood descendant of Salazar Slytherin. Merope was destitute, and heavily pregnant with Tom Riddle. She wished to sell an artefact, the locket that had belonged to her famous ancestor. Burke was hesitant to accept her claims, having heard many such tales, but a few spells were able to confirm that she was telling the truth. He took advantage of her ignorance and desperation and paid her much less than its true value, about 10 Galleons worth. Burke later sold the locket to Hepzibah Smith, though he was desperate to get it back due to the historical value.
In 1945, Burke hired Tom Riddle, the son of the woman who sold Slytherin's locket to him (a fact Burke never knew). Burke tasked the young Riddle to persuade people to sell their valuable artefacts to the shop, a feat Tom was very skilled in. One such task was to persuade Hepzibah to sell a goblin-made armour, which Burke had to make an improved offer at 500 galleons. Shortly after this, Hepzibah died from an alleged accidental poisoning and during the investigations Riddle disappeared without so much as a resignation notice, much to Caractacus' astonishment.
It's unknown what happened to Burke after Tom left, though by the 1990s Borgin appeared to run the shop alone. It's also unknown if he recognised Lord Voldemort as his former employee or if he was still alive to see him wage war. Though Dumbledore's speaking about Burke in past tense in 1997, is an indication that he was deceased by then.
Caractacus was a British hero who fought the Roman invaders. Burke is reportedly named after Irishman William Burke, a bizarre serial killer who, with help from a partner, murdered dozens of people in Edinburgh in the late 1820s, selling the bodies as fresh cadavers to a local medical school. 'Burk' or 'berk' is also a British term for an annoying and stupid person, with an original meaning in Cockney Rhyming Slang which is far stronger. Caractacus was also the first name of the character played by Dick Van Dyke in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (First appearance) (Appears in flashback(s))
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Surname seen on sign)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (Surname seen on sign)
- Pottermore (Surname seen on sign)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle) - “Because of the evidence of one Caractacus Burke,” said Dumbledore, “who, by an odd coincidence, helped found the very shop whence came the necklace we have just been discussing.”
- He was, most likely, at least 17 when he helped established his shop in 1863.
- It is unconfirmed, but due to the fact that Dumbledore uses to word "was" to describe Burke, and that he doesn't appear to be running the shop with Borgin, it definitely a possibility he died some time before 1992
- The Burke family was one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight families, but he could have had Muggle heritage as well.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 13 (The Secret Riddle)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 20 (Lord Voldemort's Request)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4 (At Flourish and Blotts)