In fanon circles, over the course of the first several years of the fandom, there was a great deal of stewing and much debate concerning the ages of the two eldest Weasley sons. By extension, this debate had also raged over the question of the probable ages of Arthur and Molly.
The first of these debates seems to finally be more-or-less settled, although hardly to everyone’s satisfaction. Or even to a truly conclusive result. Rowling’s “impressionistic” approach to numbers introduced unnecessary contradictions to the issue that were readily avoidable (even though she didn’t bother to avoid it), but settled it finally appears to be. Probably.
To retrace this rather twisting path to enlightenment:
In her online interview in honor of World Book Day in March of 2004, JK Rowling appeared to have put the first half of this debate to rest. Charlie Weasley was stated as being two years older than Percy. Bill as two years older than Charlie. Since we know the ages of Percy and the younger Weasleys this appeared to settle that matter, and I still think we can assume that this is probably more-or-less what Rowling actually meant.
Or at least what she meant, then.
Despite the fans’ wails of protest.
And even that it didn’t reflect what she had already showed us in the books, in which Percy had to have been at least three years behind Charlie at Hogwarts, or Charlie would still have been there when Harry and Ron showed up.
Or at least he would have had to be if he finished a full 7-year course of study and sat the NEWTs at the end of it.
Instead, he has clearly already been at the Dragon Reserve in Romania long enough to have made at least one visit home, in order for Ron to have seen the burns he got from wrangling dragons.
And also despite the ruin of the fans’ years of over-complex calculations of Charlie and Bill’s probable ages, based upon the length of time it had been since Gryffindor last won the School Quidditch Cup. Winning the Cup, it turns out, had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter. The whole issue of the Quidditch Cup was either flotsam, a false lead, or completely irrelevant.
However; the devil is in the details, and unfortunately the devil soon managed to fly away with any kind of tidy resolution. Rowling’s statement was first amended when it was noted that Percy was evidently three years behind Charlie at Hogwarts, not two. This could still have been painlessly explained by giving Percy a birthday after September 1 and forcing him to wait an extra year to start at Hogwarts. But Percy’s birthday had already been posted on the site as August 22, earlier that year. Having done that, Rowling had managed to botch the issue beyond the point of being able to make an easy fix. Besides, a September birthday two years before the twins would have had Percy in the year directly ahead of the Twins, rather than two years ahead of them.
So she simplified the whole thing by stating on her website that Percy is 3 years younger than Charlie and 2 years older than the twins.
And then she went and unsimplified the matter all over again in her December 2004 posting of a Happy Birthday notice for Charlie, which throws the whole explanation out of whack again.
By giving Charlie a December birthday she had clearly rendered at least one of her statements regarding the ages of the three eldest Weasley sons as untenable (“One of these things is not like the others...”). With a December birthday, Charlie was once again only two years ahead of Percy at Hogwarts, rather than three. Even if he was 3 years older, since now it would be Charlie who had to wait an extra year to start Hogwarts.
• • • •
I felt quite undeservedly smug on the Quidditch Cup issue. I did not nail the ages of Bill and Charlie Weasley correctly, either. But I came closer than many. Mainly because I contended that when Gryffindor had last won the Cup was no clear indication of just when Charlie Weasley had finished Hogwarts. In retrospect, it now appears that Gryffindor had last won the Cup in Charlie’s very first year on the team. And never again afterwards.
Charlie probably had something to do with that big win, but it doesn’t sound like his term as Captain was significantly better than Oliver Wood’s. Unless we are all missing something.
And we may be. Evidently the year before Harry and Ron arrived at Hogwarts was a throughly pitiful year for Gryffindor Quidditch, if Minerva is to be believed. Doesn’t much sound like Charlie was in charge that year. If he was 3 years older than Percy, that ought to have been his 7th year. If he was only two years ahead of Percy because of that December birthday, it would have been his 6th year.
My own contention was that Oliver Wood’s exaggerated veneration for Charlie Weasley could have only come from his actually having known Charlie Weasley. Ergo, Charlie must still have been at Hogwarts recently enough for a 5th-year Oliver Wood’s time at Hogwarts to have overlapped. In fact, I held that what was most likely was that Oliver Wood had actually been a part of Charlie (a former Captain)’s own team. And as far as that goes, I was absolutely right, on both counts.
Most of the comments made by characters in passing had primarily been applicable to the age difference between Charlie and Ron (and, by extension, Harry). The extreme (up to 14 years) age gap that a few fans proposed between Charlie and Percy was never convincing, and even applying this length of time to the gap between Charlie and Ron never felt right to me, nor, apparently to a great many other people. I was not alone in my determined rejection of a 14 year gap, or even a 10-year gap between Charlie and Percy. I thought it was probably more like five. And, I was wrong about that, too.
However; the setting of this long gap’s timing; as I followed most of the arguments, read something like:
IF the issue is that Gryffindor hasn’t won the cup since Charlie was Seeker, AND;
IF Charlie played the position of Seeker throughout his Hogwarts career (rather than moving on to Chaser or Keeper after he got his growth spurt and turned stocky), AND;
The last year that Gryffindor won the cup was seven years before the date that people were bringing up the subject, AND;
People were bringing up the subject in Harry (and Ron’s) first year, THEN —
Charlie had to have LEFT Hogwarts at least seven years before Ron STARTED. (Not Percy, Ron.) Charlie would be fourteen years older than Ron. Percy is four years older than Ron. Charlie would be ten years older than Percy.
And, to me it never worked. Because I just couldn’t buy the kind of exaggerated hero worship that Oliver Wood had for Charlie Weasley unless Oliver had some reason to feel that he KNEW Charlie in his glory days. Knew him at Hogwarts. Didn’t just read about it, wasn’t just told about it by an older sibling or someone else after the fact. Charlie had been there.
I miss the days that you could theorize from what the characters told us about things and have some confidence in being able to believe them.
• • • •
And it wasn’t like it was that difficult to work out a plausible scenario which would allow for that. It is very easy to accept that Charlie was the Gryffindor Seeker for 5–6 years running and that Gryffindor took the cup at least once during those years. But Gryffindor doesn’t have to have taken the cup EVERY year that Charlie was Seeker. We’d seen already that even though Harry is an outstanding Seeker, quite possibly better than Charlie, it wasn’t until his third year that Gryffindor finally managed to take the Cup. I proposed that through injuries or sheer bad luck Gryffindor may have been edged out for the Cup in Charlie’s later years at Hogwarts. For that matter, McGonagall’s statement, made in Harry’s 3rd year, that if they do not win the match it will be their eighth year in a row that Gryffindor has missed the Cup, already threw the total off by a year from Oliver’s statements in PS/SS.
And, clearly that seems to be the case. Despite the miserable year for Gryffindor Quidditch in the academic year 1990–’91, Charlie Weasley had evidently just left Hogwarts the year before Ron — and Harry — started. They barely missed him. It was “the legendary Charlie Weasley’s” very own suddenly vacant Seeker position that Harry was drafted into. And the Legendary Charlie Weasley’s Team Captain’s shoes that Oliver was trying to fill.
Wait for it.
• • • •
Bill’s last visit to Hogwarts “five years ago” from the vantage point of June, 1995 must now be assumed to have been to watch a game with the twins as the new Gryffindor Beaters given that they made the team in their 2nd year. That would also have been Charlie’s last year at Hogwarts, the year immediately before Ron and Harry first went up to school. I now doubt that is what Rowling had originally intended by that statement, but that’s what she had Bill say.
If Rowling had wanted to compress the six birthdays of the Weasley children into the smallest time period possible, AND to have it fit the way things fell out in the series, and to have it match up to what the Weasley kids have to say about it themselves, inside the story, she ought to have set it up according to the following progression.
Optimum ages of the Weasley Children as of the opening of the series:
Ginny – 10 (Aug 11 birthday, 1981)
Ron – 11 (March 1 birthday, 1980)
Twins – 13 (April 1 birthday, 1978)
Percy – 15 (Sept-Dec birthday, 1975) Soon to be 16. He’s slightly more than 2 years older than the twins, but well under three years older.
Charlie – 18 (Jan-Aug birthday, 1973). Two years older than Percy. Three years ahead of him in school.
Bill – 19 (Nov 28 birthday, 1971) Soon to be 20. Nearly two years older than Charlie.
Under this timeline, Percy, whose birthday is after Sept 1 would have been forced to wait that additional year in order to start Hogwarts, putting him three years behind Charlie, even though he is only two years younger. Bill’s post-Sept 1 birthday would do the same and put him into the year immediately ahead of Charlie although he is close to two years older. In any case, Charlie’s birthday needed to be after January 1 and before September 1. Percy and Bill’s birthdays needed to be after September 1.
This would also mean that Bill had finished with the class of 1990, rendering his comment, made in June of 1995, of not having been back to Hogwarts in five years, into a reference to his own years there, rather than a possible visit to watch his brothers play Quidditch after he had already finished. And it is very hard to believe that this is not what Rowling had originally intended. Although the statements that she has given us since that time have throughly bollixed any possibility of retaining that interpretation.
This timeline would also have finally made some sense of Ginny’s statement in CoS that she had wanted to go to Hogwarts “ever since Bill went”. When we first heard it back in CoS, and most fans were postulating an exaggeratedly long age gap between Charlie and Percy, it had seemed that Ginny’s comment had to be interpreted as careless phrasing of; “ever since Bill was there”, since in Ginny’s early childhood, Bill had always been at Hogwarts. But that interpretation would cast continuing doubt on Ginny’s reliability as a source of future information throughout the entire series for it was a clear case of lying by exaggeration. Indeed, with too long a gap Bill would have been out of Hogwarts by the time Ginny was born.
But if Bill had not been able to start Hogwarts until September 1983, then there was every chance of an 11-year-old Ginny still having a vague, but real, memory of the day that the whole family turned out to see her “hero”, her big-brother Bill off to Hogwarts on September 1 1983, when she was 2 years old, and of having wanted to go too.
Charlie, although born nearly two years later, would have joined him there the following year.
• • • •
Well, all good reasoning apparently must come to an end; on top of the statement that Charlie was three years older than Percy, as of December 12, 2004, when Ms Rowling, followed up a notorious update to her website two days earlier, which had contained no fewer than four statements which absolutely contradicted either statements made in earlier interviews; information that she had given us in the text of the books; or which contradicted established scientific fact; she compounded the general confusion over the Weasley kids’ ages by posting a birthday notice for Charlie Weasley. On December 12.
In order to have made such a sweeping number of clankers in a single week she must have either let the pregnancy hormones do the talking or the lady was deliberately messing with our heads. We had no reason at the time to believe that she is stupid, after all.
But she had now given Charlie Weasley a December birthday.
If Charlie Weasley was born in December of 1973, he could not have finished school before Harry and Ron started. Or not unless the statement of Percy being 3 years younger than Charlie and 2 years older than the twins is also wrong.
If Charlie was born in 1973 — in December — then he, like Bill, would have had to wait that extra year to be able to start at Hogwarts; he would not have been able to start until 1985, which would mean that if he sat the NEWTs, he would not have finished until June of 1992.
If, however, Bill was born in 1970 and Charlie in 1972, then they would have finished school in 1989 and 1991 respectively. But if Percy is indeed at least 3 years younger than Charlie and 2 years older than the twins, then Ron who is 2 years younger than the twins — which is amply supported in canon — would need to have been born in 1979. Meaning that Harry would have also had to have been born in 1979. Which doesn’t work either. And there is still an overlap of time in which Charlie, Ron and Harry would have all been at Hogwarts together.
So clearly, if the above is true, Percy is not 3 years younger than Charlie, he is close to 4 years younger than Charlie. Or at any rate he was born in the fourth year after Charlie was. And was 3 years behind Charlie at Hogwarts.
Nor, if Charlie was born in December, would Ginny — who was born the year after Harry, have been able to plausibly say with any sort of veracity that she has wanted to go to Hogwarts “ever since Bill went” since that adds a year to the timespan between Bill’s first trip on the Hogwarts Express and Ginny’s. While an 11-year-old Ginny might quite believably have a faint, but genuine memory of seeing her favorite brother off to Hogwarts for the first time when she was 2, she is unlikely to have any clear memory of having done so when she was barely a year old. If Bill is 2 years older than a Charlie who is three and a half years older than Percy, even if he is born after September 1, he would still have started Hogwarts in 1982, some 2-3 weeks after Ginny’s first birthday.
Ergo; yes, she is now a liar by exaggeration (of course, having become more well acquainted with Ginny over the past two books, the news that she is a liar of any degree ought not to strike any of us as surprising); in any event, we cannot completely trust anything she tells us.
• • • •
If we take a birthdate of 1980 for Harry Potter — which is sort-of confirmed by the Black family tapestry sketch, wherein Draco Malfoy’s birth year is stated as being 1980 — and a Hogwarts staring date of 1991, in order for Charlie to be out of Hogwarts before Harry and Ron start, he has to have started no later than 1984; and the only way Charlie can do that is if his birthday is before September 1, 1973. Ergo, according to our present information, if he was born in December, then he must have been born in December 1972. If Percy has been assigned an August birthday, he has to have been born in 1976, in order to be 2 years ahead of the twins.
In which case, the statement of Percy being 3 years younger than Charlie and 2 years older than the twins, is simply wrong. Which is the only way this all works. It requires that we ignore at least one bona-fide statement of Rowling’s as being not worth the electrodes it takes to display it.
JKR has posted birthday notices for the whole Weasley family by now. Ginny’s birthday was stated as being August 11. Percy just made it in under the wire for his academic year with a birthday on August 22. Two weeks later and we would have had to adjust things based on the premise that Percy was not 2 years older than the twins, but only 2 years ahead of them in school. Which, frankly would have worked much better all round.
In any case, if we adjust Percy’s birthdate as well as Bill and Charlie’s according to the dates as stated on the official website, the official lineup on the kids’ ages at the start of the series now goes:
Ginny - 10 (Aug 11 birthday, 1981)
Ron - 11 (March 1 birthday, 1980)
Twins - 13 (April 1 birthday, 1978)
Percy – 15, (Aug 22 birthday, 1976)
Charlie – 18, soon to be 19 (Dec 12 birthday, 1972)
Bill – 20, soon to be 21 (Nov 28 birthday, 1970)
And Ginny is a liar by exaggeration. Bill started Hogwarts in 1982 when she was barely a year old, and she probably doesn’t remember the first thing about it.
And if Rowling is messing with our heads deliberately; then shame on her.
• • • •
However, over on a discussion listgroup far, far away, this particular puzzle was being kicked around to somewhat different effect. I think someone over there may have been onto something.
Ms Rowling may indeed be messing with our heads. Or at any rate, she isn’t telling us something which we really need to be aware of in order to make sense of the rest of what she has told us.
Is there anyone here who is likely to be astonished by the prospect of JK Rowling not telling us something?
I didn’t really think so.
In this case, since the whole issue of the ages of Bill and Charlie Weasley is so peripheral to the main story she may simply not consider it something that anyone needs to be aware of. (Although it *does* rather matter to people who want to write fanfic.) And it is information about professional decisions that she would hardly want to be criticized for appearing to support. She was already likely to catch enough flack over Harry’s announced intention of leaving school to hunt Horcruxes.
Which is pretty much the same thing that turned up on the discussion list. Charlie Weasley may have left school early to wrangle dragons.
Quite possibly with Professors Kettleburn and McGonagall’s blessings.
• • • •
When you stop to consider it, positions at that Dragon Reserve in Romania are probably fairly prestigious. It’s an international entity, probably administered by the International Confederation of Wizards, and while it is certainly hazardous work and there may be a degree of turnover, there cannot be all that many openings at any given time. In fact several years may pass between openings. And it really doesn’t sound like the kind of field that requires a multitude of NEWTs. A bright, highly athletic boy like Charlie, with his Head of House and Care of Magical Creatures professors willing to write references, may have snatched at an opening as soon as one occurred, rather than take the chance of missing it, and having to wait an undetermined number of years for the next one.
And there was the issue of character as well. A boy who is both appointed Prefect AND Quidditch Captain is not a boy whose Professors entertain a lot of reservations about. You would expect such a boy to easily be appointed Head Boy in his year as well. But we know that Charlie wasn’t. Now that one thinks of it, the omission seems rather odd.
Unless, of course, he simply wasn’t there.
Let’s make another attempt at an optimum lineup of ages at the start of the series with modifications according to what we now know of the kids’ birthdays and what Rowling HAS told us about their ages.
Ginny – 10 (Aug 11 birthday, 1981)
Ron – 11 (March 1 birthday, 1980) one year older
Twins – 13 (April 1 birthday, 1978) two years older
Percy – 15 (August 22 birthday, 1976) two years older
Charlie – 17 (December 12 birthday, 1973) three years older
Bill – 19 (November 28 birthday, 1971) two years older
Bill and Charlie would turn 18 and 20 before the end of the calendar year.
This lineup re-establishes some veracity on Ginny’s part. It resolves the muddle about Bill’s statement of it having been five years since he was back. It also finally sinks in that Rowling only claimed that Charlie was three years older than Percy. She did not actually say he was three years ahead of him at school.
He just was obviously no longer at Hogwarts by the time Ron started. We know that he was already in Romania by then. With the birthdays as listed above, Charlie would have only been two years ahead of Percy at school. Ron’s first year ought to have been Charlie’s 7th.
Which brings up a point that someone (else) on that listgroup mentioned. Ron never went home at all during PS/SS. And yet he says; “You should see the burns that Charlie got (from the dragons)”. If Charlie had only just started at the Dragon reserve at the end of the previous school year he would have hardly had time to be home on leave where Ron would see his burns. He would have only barely had time to make the friends who came and picked up Norbert.
Added to Minerva’s laments regarding the previous year’s Quidditch team, and the twins’ statement that they hadn’t won, “since Charlie left”, it really begins to sound as if Charlie Weasley sat his OWLs and has been out of Hogwarts for as long as Bill has.
Which brings us back to the Quidditch babble. Everyone may not all be talking about the same thing. There is babble about when Gryffindor last won the Quidditch Cup, and there is babble about when Gryffindor last won a match. From Minerva and the twins, I think it sounds very much as if the first year without Charlie, Gryffindor had a terrible year and never won any of their matches. Gryffindor hadn’t won a match “since Charlie left.”
The Cup, however is a different kettle of fish. It is easy to miss out on the Quidditch Cup, even in the face of some stellar individual wins during that particular season. Wood tells us at the opening of the PoA season that Gryffindor hadn’t taken the Cup for 7 years. Depending on what he is counting back from might make a difference, but rationally it ought to count back to Charlie’s 3rd year. Which was Oliver’s 1st. We do not know who took the cup the year before that, and Oliver’s memory wouldn’t go back that far at Hogwarts. We don’t know when Charlie became Captain, but I don’t think we’ve ever heard of a Quidditch Captain who was younger than a 5th year. Since the office is the equivalent of Prefect, this would make sense.
So, hypothetically Charlie might have won the Cup for Gryffindor in his 3rd year, done some really fine playing in his 4th and 5th years, been team Captain (as well as Prefect) in his 5th year but still not won the Cup during it. And at the end of the year, sat his OWLs, and left school to wrangle dragons.
Or, just to be safe, perhaps he sat his OWLs, started his 6th year, turned 17 at the end of the Autumn term, and, being now of age, left Hogwarts and was off to Romania, and out of range of Molly’s response to his career choice. Which would have left Gryffindor without a Seeker, altogether. No wonder they had such a rotten year.
And, Fred and George’s dramatic “early” school leaving (to say nothing of Ron’s) wasn’t the first in the family, since Charlie had already set a precedent.
Actually that works for me.
• • • •
The youngest (socially approved) estimate of any of the above lists of children’s ages and birth dates would project Molly as some 19-20 years older than Bill. Which is a decent enough starting point for round two of the great Weasley age debate.
Which is to say, the probable ages of Arthur and Molly.
We know that they are close in age. Molly states that she and Arthur were dancing to one of Celestina Warbeck’s songs “when we were 18”. However, given that Arthur’s birthday is in February and Molly’s is in October, they would not necessarily have been in the same year at Hogwarts unless Molly is the elder of the two. Which is certainly possible. She seems to be inclined to talk down to Arthur as if he were younger than she. In fact, she tends to treat him as if he were one of her kids.
If Arthur is the elder, however, this would give him at least one year in which to land a job, establish himself, and to begin to advance far enough in his career to be able to contemplate supporting a wife and family by the time Molly finished school. And, regardless, Molly would have been 18 at the age of sitting her NEWTs.
Even at that, there is no absolute certainty that they did marry as soon as Molly left school, although their elopement seems to suggest it.
For, in HBP we finally learned that Molly and Arthur had eloped. There was apparently a flurry of that sort of thing during VoldWar I. We do not know whether Arthur and Molly’s marriage was part of this flurry, however. The “war” was not openly acknowledged much before the mid-1960s, even though Voldemort’s activities had probably started up somewhat before then. And by all accounts whatever Voldemort did that rendered himself unmentionable was not done until some time around 1970 according to Albus.
In fact their elopement opens up the possibility that Charlie wasn’t the first early school leaver in the Prewett family, either. If Arthur was already out of school and Molly didn’t see any reason why she had to sit in classes for another year when she was already of age, I could see the elopement being her reason not to return for her 7th year. She would have already been of age, after all.
Which raises the widely-held fanon belief that Molly got pregnant while at Hogwarts and that their marriage was effectively a matter of necessity.
I’m not particularly fond of Molly myself, but I don’t buy that in the least.
And there is no certainty that they started their family immediately, after marrying either. A woman with the kind of mind Molly Weasley appears to have would probably make a point of waiting at least one full calendar year after marrying before getting pregnant, just to put a dead stop to any spiteful gossip that a hurried marriage, or an elopement, might provoke.
A witch would have control over that kind of thing.
Nor does having 7 children in 10 years mean that you start having them at the most inconvenient time possible, without a secure home in which to raise them or an income with which to support them. Nor is there any impression of self-consciousness over necessary haste on Molly’s part about her justification for her and Arthur’s elopement.
And, for that matter, if there is any group of people who would have full control over their own fertility, it would be witches. Molly has 7 children because she wanted seven children (or six, the twins may have been a surprise). And Arthur evidently did not object.
I’ll admit it wouldn’t suit me, but I wouldn’t want 7 Horcruxes either.
And, at that, if Percy had been a girl, they might have stopped at three.
And waiting until Arthur got his first promotion might have also been agreed upon before starting that family. He was young and intelligent and popular. It wouldn’t be long in coming, and, indeed, it probably wasn’t.
That Molly and Arthur’s eldest child was probably born in 1971, suggests that their marriage must have been fairly early in the acknowledged war years. Possibly before “Lord Voldemort” had transmuted himself into He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named. We also do not know of a specific reason for there having ever been any objection to their marriage on the part of either of their families. But that does not mean that there wasn’t one.
The Prewetts may have disapproved of Arthur’s blood-traitor background (they very likely did, in fact). It is equally possible that the Weasleys disapproved of Molly’s vulgarity (and ignorance of any sort of proper conduct).
One member of the Prewett family, presumably “rich uncle” Ignatius, had married into the prominent Black family. Orion and Walburga Black may have been convinced that being a Black made one practically royalty, but it is unlikely that that viewpoint was shared by the Weasley family, and both the Weasleys and the Blacks may still have been smarting over the marriage of Arthur’s parents which had gotten his mother, Cedrella Black, blasted off the family tapestry. The Prewetts’ position on the matter has never been expressed. For that matter, even though we cannot map it on what we see of the tapestry, there may have been an objection to the fact that both of them were fairly closely connected to the Black family, which was already a bit too fond of marrying their cousins.
It is generally assumed, whether rightfully or otherwise, that the objection was to their ages. Which, if so, suggests that they may indeed have married young, quite soon out of Hogwarts. It still does not necessarily follow that they chose to start their family immediately. We have no information regarding that issue at present. And it now appears that we never will.
• • • •
Any specific dates pertaining to Molly and Arthur and their ages are pretty much up in the air, although at this point projecting their ages as somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-50 seems safest. Rowling hasn’t given us anything like an actual date to hang the exact ages of their generation on, although Bill’s 1971 birth date at least provisionally nails Molly’s youngest plausible age (assuming that she attended Hogwarts through 7th year and finished after sitting the NEWTs) as around 45 at the opening of DHs.
Toward the end of Goblet of Fire, Molly did make a comment about she and Arthur dodging the old caretaker, Apollyon Pringle. Which, if nothing else, solidly nails down the fact that she and Arthur first became involved with each other while they were both still in school.
In any event, given that the twenty or so years of Voldemort’s first rise now seem likely to have been a period of escalating lawlessness, rapidly heightening social anxiety and a steady loss of confidence in the legitimate government, it is no longer altogether plausible that any consideration regarding an official “war effort” would have imposed a counter incentive to young Arthur and Molly against marrying the minute both were out of school and Arthur was holding down a steady job which would support him, a wife, and the beginnings of a young family. Indeed, theirs was clearly not the only elopement to have marked the period of Voldemort’s escalating activities, even before the worst of his assault on the Ministry’s authority. (The marriage of Andromeda Black and Ted Tonks is another suspected elopement during this period.)
• • • •
A few people used to attempt to throw a spanner into the works by claiming that Molly and Arthur must have both left Hogwarts prior to Hagrid’s expulsion in 1943, since they remember the groundskeeper who preceded him. A moment’s reflection will show that this is unlikely to be the case.
The reference usually invoked in support of the theory is that of Molly “recalling at length about the groundskeeper before Hagrid”.
That was all the statement says. There is nothing in that statement that either claims or implies anything other than that Molly came to Hogwarts before Ogg stepped down and handed the job over to Hagrid. It does not even contradict the possibility of whether Ogg may or may not have done so during Molly’s time at Hogwarts. (It was an encounter with Filch’s predecessor, the caretaker, Apollyon Pringle that left Arthur with scars he still has. Nothing to do with Ogg.)
In the first place, Hagrid was still a child when he started training under Ogg. Traditionally, Apprenticeships were contracted for a term of seven years. (Muggle apprenticeships, that is. Wizarding ones may work very differently.) Hagrid was expelled in June, 1943 at the age of 14. He wasn’t even legally an adult until December of 1946.
Going by the terms of a traditional apprenticeship, the earliest that Hagrid could have taken over would have been around 1950. Which still sounds a little early for Molly and Arthur to already be at Hogwarts. Particularly in view of Bill’s 1971 birth date. (I’ve always pictured Molly and Arthur as the equivalent to baby-boomers, born after 1945.)
In the second place, I seriously doubt that Ogg would have turned the job over to Hagrid before he’d been working with the youngster long enough to be sure that he wouldn’t flake out in an emergency.
We are still reasoning from very scanty information here. Hagrid could have been Ogg’s “assistant” for decades after finishing out his term as apprentice. The deal was that Ogg was to train Hagrid as his eventual replacement, not that Ogg was to step aside as soon as Hagrid was trained.
• • • •
Our only solid piece of information for estimating the older Weasleys’ ages that we have in canon is that it is necessary for Molly, at least, to have finished at Hogwarts before the Whomping Willow was planted prior to Remus Lupin and his year-mates’ first year. With a November 1971 birth date for their oldest son, this would nail Molly’s last plausible Hogwarts-leaving year as being the class of 1970. And given that we now know that Molly’s birthday is October 30, we know that she had already turned 18 in the calendar year before she finished her 7th year. (If she attended for a 7th year.) Which if everything was done according to “respectable” standards (which Molly is positively strident in her championship of) would have her turning 20 just before Bill was born. Assuming that they started their family within the first year after they married. Which is still far from a done-deal.
If Molly was not out of Hogwarts until 1970 and sat her NEWTs that would almost put Molly into the same academic year as Bellatrix Black who is stated in canon as having been at Hogwarts at the same time as the Marauders and Snape, at least briefly. Molly however, is also stated in canon as having been out of Hogwarts before the Whomping Willow was planted in preparation for Lupin’s arrival there. So that at least doesn’t fit.
However, if Molly blew off her final year she might be the same age, or possibly even a year younger than Bellatrix, quite possibly in the same year as Andromeda. Somehow, I find that harder to believe. It is easier to simply dismiss the birth dates on the Black family tapestry sketch, since they already conflict with actual information in the books in several instances. Particularly in view of Rowling’s now-official endorsement of the 1960 birth date for the Marauders’ cohort.
But this second Weasley age debate, however suggestive, remains unresolvable. So far, new information actually stated in OotP and HBP has only exploded the theory that Arthur and Lucius Malfoy were same-year Hogwarts rivals, which had certainly appeared within the realm of the possible up to that point in the series — certainly given behavior, on both their parts in CoS which suggested a long history of personal animosity between them.
But if Lucius Malfoy is 41 years old at the beginning of OotP, in September of 1995, as is stated in the Daily Prophet, then his time at Hogwarts would have overlapped that of the Marauder cohort, and Lucius would remember the planting of the Whomping Willow.
A marriage for Arthur and Molly taking place by the end of 1969 would still have Malfoy’s time also overlapping theirs as well, however, although he would have been either 2 or 3 years behind Molly, and 3 years behind Arthur.
From the dates on the Black family tapestry, Bellatrix Black might have been in the year following Molly. But those numbers can no longer be supported inside canon. At any rate Bellatrix needs to have finished school no earlier than 1972 in order for her time to have overlapped with that of the Marauders, even if only for one year. Ergo: I think we must adjust our calculation to allow for Bellatrix being something like 2–3 years younger than Molly.
I find that I personally quite like the reading that Molly and Arthur finished with the class of 1969, myself. If Molly finished Hogwarts in 1969, then she would have been born in October of 1950, and started Hogwarts with the Autumn term of 1962, along with all the other kids born late in 1950 and the ones born between January and August of 1951.
Just like (if we can believe her quick-quotes quill) Rita Skeeter.
After all, there has to be some reason why Rita takes such a delight in picking on Molly’s menfolk in print. She’s been doing it for years. And it can hardly be put down to taking pot-shots at persons in exalted positions. The Weasleys are nobodies, even if they are purebloods.
Can you imagine Molly and Rita in the same year at Hogwarts? (Think: Draco Malfoy and Ron Weasley. Squared.) There is no reason to suppose that the foremost Gryffindor/Slytherin opponents of any given year are invariably wizards.
And one has to wonder just where Arthur fits into that scenario.
But once one admits the possibility that Rita Skeeter and Molly Prewett may have been old Hogwarts rivals, or opponents, or flat-out enemies, a whole lot of little things start falling into place.
In fact, the more you think of it the more likely it seems. We know what style of fighter Rita is. And we know that Molly is all too willing to square off against anyone she disagrees with. Fireworks wouldn’t be the half of it.
However, this, too, is a thing of mere suggestion and possibilities, without direct canon support, or any future hope of it. Although the circumstantial evidence is mounting up...