O, the Times are Out of Joint!
This article required a fair degree of revision in view of Rowling’s DHs endorsement of the 1960 birth date for the Marauder cohort. With one fell swoop she immediately disallowed nearly every date of a previous version of this piece which had been derived from the Black family tapestry sketch.
So, welcome to the “adventure” of trying to sort out a workable and consistent timeline of the events we have been given to understand have taken place pretaining to the story of Harry Potter and the Dark Lord.
Attempting to work from the Black Family Tapestry Sketch now appears to be a peril that lurks for the unwary. For, although it seems that we can probably take all of the relationships depicted on that sketch as read, the dates on that document simply do not work. Neither with statements made by characters in the books, nor pointed out by the limited 3rd-person narrator related to actions or events which are a inside the story. The tapestry sketch, not truly being a part of the story (even though it does make an cameo appearance in it), does not trump the information in the books. The information in the books trumps it.
I have also incorporated some more recent tweaking regarding some of the Weasley family’s birth years in accordance with the calculations used in the essay entitled ‘The Weasley Calendar’, which was also done to bring the probabilities closer to what had actually been mentioned in passing inside the books. Information which was once available on the (no longer online version of) Rowling’s official website does not trump information in the books either. Nor, for that matter does information on Pottermore. Not if it contradicts information inside the published version of the books.
And, finally, neither do Rowling’s statements in interviews trump what is in the books. And should not be expected to. In an interview Ms Rowling is speaking off the top of her head without access to any of her references. And she has in the past claimed not to even reread her own work. Sometimes it also comes across as though she is making things up up on the fly to amuse the questioner and the audience. There is no reason to insist that the official canon — which are, after all, published documents — reflect that. Particularly since there is just as much of a chance as not that she will contradict any such statement made as soon as someone asks her another question later. Or even the same question.
None of this tweaking is authorized, you understand. But the end result matches up somewhat better with what we have been told in the text of the actual books.
The point of the exercise is to construct a reasonably consistent timeline that can be adapted for other purposes. And anyone is welcome to do so.
Forget the date of the International Act of Wizarding Seclusion. Forget the estimated date of the founding of Hogwarts. Forget the estimated date that the Hogwarts Quill went into commission.
In THIS essay, we are only concerned with the events which are more-or-less directly connected to the seven-part adventure of Harry Potter and the Dark Lord.
Which is to say, the very late 19th and most of the 20th century.
Or, by extention, the lifespan of Albus Dumbledore.
Until February of 2006 we still had only two “solid” dates from which we attempted to calculate any of the Potterverse’s events of the 20th century. The first was the information on Albus Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card, which states that Albus Dumbledore defeated the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945. And that doesn’t really get us very much forwarder, since it now seems apparent that Grindelwald hadn’t really got squat to do with Voldemort or Harry Potter. Or at least not directly, even if his story did reflect (rather poorly) upon Albus Dumbledore. Actually, upon examination this turns out to be slightly inaccurate. It turns out there is a probable connection. But even so it remains firmly in the background.
Our second date was given us by Nearly Headless Nick, who states in CoS that he was executed in 1492, and that he would shortly be celebrating the 500th anniversary of his death. (I suspect the date actually meant here was 1592, which would have both matched up with his statement of the year before — that it had been *400* years since he had tasted food — and his mode of dress which includes a ruff, but we need not explore this glitch further, we can pretend it is a typo that the editors missed and at any rate, it has nothing to do with the events of the 20th century, either.)
All other statements within canon up to February 2006, then, were based upon “relative” rather than “absolute” dates. Which is to say that the dates were relative to the date of Sir Nick’s execution, which served as our base point.
Our default starting point dictated that if Nearly Headless Nick was executed in 1492, and that event took place 500 years earlier, then the date at which his statement is being made is 1992. No problem with that so far.
This statement was made shortly before Halloween of Harry Potter’s 2nd year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Since we know that Harry had started at Hogwarts at the age of 11 almost exactly one year earlier, we readily determined that if the statement was made in 1992, soon after Harry has just turned 12, then Harry was born in 1980.
Or was he?
Yes, in fact, apparently he was. Or at any rate, it appeared to be safe to continue to believe so. This information was later confirmed in October 2007 when Harry Potter became featured as the Wizard of the Month on Rowling’s official site.
As of February 2006, we thought we had been given a bit of a break. JK Rowling was asked by a charitable group known as Book Aid if she would donate a page of her own work for auction as a fund-raiser.
She donated a sketch covering the last 6 generations of the Black Family’s genealogical Tapestry.
Admittedly there were enough obvious bugs and glitches attendant upon these dates to make it difficult to know which ones were actually safe to use to reason from, even then. But I will not examine that particular issue here. A much fuller exploration and attempt at retrofitting that matter is elsewhere, in the essay regarding ‘The Noble House of Black’.
Since the release of DHs, however, it had become obvious that the dates on this piece of paper are all but completely unworkable.
Which certainly isn’t to say that we had not put a great deal of effort into trying to work with them by that time.
The information on the tapestry sketch raised almost as many issues as it settled. Among the issues which seemed to have been settled by it was the confirmation of all our calculations of the year of Harry Potter’s birth. He is known to have been born in the same year as Draco Malfoy. Draco Malfoy’s birth year is clearly stated as being 1980. Nothing either in the books nor on the website has ever really called this date into question.
Of course, from the very beginning, the soundness of calculating from the original 1492 date was immediately contradicted by any attempt to cross-check related data against a Real World calendar as to the timing of events actually mentioned in the story. And if this date was adjusted to comply with the actual timing of some of these Real World events, the 1945 Grindelwald date was rendered even more irrelevant than it appeared to be already.
For example; that 1980 birthday for Harry Potter was immediately called into question by even the most cursory look at any Real World calendar.
The action of Chapter one of PS/SS opens with Vernon Dursley setting off to work on a “dull, grey Tuesday morning” which all subsequent statements imply to have been November first, 1981, some 15 months after Harry’s birth.
Except that if you look at any calendar for 1981, you will see that the first of November is quite clearly a Sunday; a day upon which Vernon and Petunia might be heading off to church, but on which Vernon would certainly not be heading off to the office.
Unless the day the story opens is not the 1st of November, but the 3rd and baby Harry was not merely off the map for the “missing” 24 hour period generally assumed, but had been kept in seclusion for a period of some three days. Otherwise it is not possible for the narration we are given to be applied to the Real World year of 1981. And even this re-evaluation would not explain the radio announcer’s mysterious admonition that Bonfire night is “not until next week, folks”, unless the broadcast was actually taking place late in October rather than the 1st of November, which makes no sense whatsoever. It would not add up even if the 1st of November had been on a Tuesday.
In order to find a First of November that does take place on a Tuesday, you have to step forward to 1983. Which would shift Harry’s birth date to July 31, 1982. Which does not comply with having the 500th anniversary of Nearly Headless Nick’s death (in 1492) take place in Harry’s 2nd year, since in that case Harry’s 2nd year would have been the academic year of 1994-95.
So. Would correcting the date of Nick’s execution to 1494 resolve the problem?
Well, it would certainly resolve that problem. But does it solve all of them? In a word, no. Let alone the fact that it adds the complication of having Dumbledore defeat the Dark wizard Grindelwald the same year that Tom opened the Chamber, Myrtle was killed by the basilisk and Hagrid was expelled.
For that matter, the year earlier, as mentioned above Nick had been sighing that he had not tasted real food for nearly 400 years, not 500. That would move his execution to 1592 (which would at least fit the description of his costume), and raises no other conflicts, but it will not move November 1, 1981 to a Tuesday, regardless. Even though it does make our confidence in using the 1492 date just a little bit shaky.
So what about any of the other events in the series that ought to be verifiable by a good look at an almanac?
In PoA Buckbeak’s execution is set for June 6, at sundown. It is a major plot point that there was a full moon that night.
That turned out to be an eventful evening. We not only overheard what we assumed to be Buckbeak’s execution (it wasn’t), Scabbers, who had been missing, presumed dead, for months unexpectedly re-emerged, we witnessed the showdown in the Shrieking Shack, learned the truth about just who really betrayed Harry Potter’s parents to Voldemort, got through a large-scale Dementor attack, and watched Harry and Hermione’s daring trip back through time to rescue Buckbeak and Sirius Black. One of the side events of that action-packed evening was Professor Lupin’s having gotten caught out in the light of the full moon without having taken his wolfbane potion.
This climax of PoA took place in 1994, according the 1492->1980 birth date-based calculations. Was there a full moon on June 6 in 1994? Well, as anyone who has been hanging around the fandom since the book came out in 1999 could tell you, no. There was not. The “Moon in June” wasn’t until the 23rd that year.
So, would resetting the wayback machine to 1996 and moving Harry’s birthdate to 1982 fix this? No. The full moon in June was on the 1st in ’96. Closer, certainly, but still nearly a week off.
Searching through that almanac, the first year we find where the full moon in June took place on the 6th is the year 2001. I don’t think so. Harry Potter was not born in 1987 whatever you may try to say. Digging back further we finally find a June 6 full moon in... 1982.
Well, that’s a bit interesting. Was this the master calendar used for all dates, every year, throughout the entire series perhaps?
Well, it’s possible, certainly. But not a done-deal. Although it is interesting to note that both year 3’s first Hogsmeade weekend, which included Halloween itself, and year 5’s second Hogsmeade weekend which included Valentine’s day did land on weekends in ’82, but both landed on Sunday rather than Saturday. I suspect that there are additional such inconsistencies throughout the entire series. And I can guarantee that they are not all going to be resolved by a single global adjustment to Nick’s 1492 death date.
It is obvious that we are all on “Rowling time”, which conforms to no known rational calendar. Ms Rowling never made any attempt to put the Potterverse’s days of the week or phases of the moon into proper synchronization with those of our world. It is useless to attempt to adjust the timelines to allow for this. The tale takes place in Storybook Land. In Storybook Land, all times are one.
Ergo; we shall, provisionally, just have to assume that the weeks, months and years in the Potterverse are all the same lengths as ours, and continue to nod politely at the dates Rowling has given us, as she has given them to us. Ms Rowling has warned us that she is not at her best at maths, so anything to do with numbers tends to all come unstuck at a touch. (One of the people in the Café Dangereux online where I used to hang out commented that JK Rowling’s use of numbers is “impressionistic” rather than realistic. This is a very nice way of describing it.)
And, like I say, we were finally given confirmation of one point at least. Draco Malfoy, who shows up on the Black family tapestry, through his mother, is listed as having been born in 1980. And Harry Potter who is Wizard of the Month in October 2007 was as well. So we were right about that at least. We need no longer fret about Harry’s birth year.
Assuming that we ever had been inclined to.
Which perhaps is just as well. I will admit that I was rather fond of my calculations as they stood and was just as glad to be able to go on playing with some of them for a bit longer. Even if I did end up having to do a major retrofit in the wake of DHs.
The Black family tapestry did temporarily force at least a few adjustments onto my calculations, however. I really did try to make those dates work — until they turned out to be contradicted by information in just about every single book from GoF on. Finally in the wake of the closure of official canon, I decided that it was enough of a trial to attempt to bring the actual published statements into some form of compliance, and that life was too short to try to incorporate a page of gratuitous nonsense as well.
In GoF, Sirius Black tells us very clearly that Severus Snape hung out with, among others, “the Lestranges, a married couple now in Azkaban” when he was a boy at Hogwarts. In OotP we learned that these particular Lestranges were Rodolphus Lestrange and the former Bellatrix Black, Sirius’s own first cousin.
With the release of the Black family tapestry sketch, we learned that Bellatrix Black was born in 1951.
The only way that Severus Snape could be at school at the same time as a Bellatrix Black who was born in 1951 would be if she was born after September 1, and he was born no later than 1958. Not even the 1959 that I had been endorsing ever since I started posting my interpretations on the web. And certainly not the HP Lexicon’s 1960, which I had never agreed with anyway.
1958. Nothing. Else. Works.
And at that she’d be a 7th year when he went up as an ickle Firstie.
That much about worked.
So for a couple of years, the dates throughout the collection were therefore updated to reflect this new interpretation.
With the release of Deathly Hallows it seems that I adjusted at the wrong end of the equation. Now that the 1960 birth date is official for the Marauder cohort in the books, the adjustment needs to be made to the Black family tapestry sketch instead. Even if the whole exercise is simply because Rowling cannot count (the woman had demonstrated in canon that she literally cannot count to four) and wrote down the wrong dates.
Possibly in both places.
Ever since I put the first iteration of this essay collection together I have been scattering bits and pieces of extrapolated timeline backstory theory throughout it and by now it would be a real chore for anyone to try to go through and sort it all out. But I am finally going to try and collect it all into one place.
In this essay, right here.
Therefore; I am undoubtedly going to end up summarizing and repeating the various calculations pertaining to the backstory here, along with my sources and the lines of reasoning I have used, just in case anyone has any interest in comparing my theories regarding the master backstory timelines alongside those of more widely-known sites such as the Harry Potter Lexicon. (Which I gather has been moved.)
I will not be extending this chronology into the body of the series as we have it in the books. Whatever might have been going on during any period that Harry was an active participant would be better discussed in an essay related to analyzing whichever particular adventure. Consequently, this chronology only goes as far as the day that Harry was escorted by Hagrid to Diagon Alley the first time.
The sources I have used are, in order of preference; statements actually made in the books; statements made later by JKR in interviews, or on her website, the Black family tapestry sketch; or extrapolations from what may be suggested by the above in the absence of hard data. There are also a couple of points made in the background by the overlay of some dates of events in the Real World, although there is some risk in using those, since the Potterverse is manifestly not the Real World.
There are, in addition, a number of extrapolated possibilities worked up from points that turned up in discussions or correspondence with other fans. There is no obligation to accept any of these, but they do fit nicely into some of the remaining gaps.
One of those is a sizable gap, and I made a determined effort to fill it completely.
You will also notice that I do not mention the films at any point in any of this. That omission is quite deliberate. I do not accept the films as canon. Films are effectively authorized fanfic.
So; Sundry timeline calculations regarding the Potterverse backstory as of October, 2007 go as follows:
First out, and off the radar; we need to make a side note that in the first four books, we get a couple of references which imply that there was evidently a very dangerous, unidentified Dark wizard active at some point in the later half of the 19th century. It was mentioned in passing on more than one occasion that Lord Voldemort is “the most dangerous Dark wizard in a hundred years.” Or words very much to that effect. In short; the wizarding world, in Rowling’s original iteration, has been in something like this situation before. Possibly more than once, and most recently about a century ago. It survived that crisis, but it probably hadn’t quite believed that it was going to at the time.
By HBP Rowling seems to have completely abandoned this line of backstory. People in the course of the story are now all hyperbolically declaiming that Lord Voldemort is the ultimate in eeeeevil. And is the most dangerous Dark wizard Of All Time. Neither of which statements seems even remotely plausible.
I also find such hyperbola in bad taste. But I am not the one writing the story.
Although I do have to concede that this rather tacky device does conveniently bypass the consideration that, consequently, unless the career of the last major Dark wizard took place on the continent and was upstaged by mundane events inside or outside of Great Britain, the whole thing managed to completely escape the attention of British Muggles. For they continue to show no indication of having ever heard of it.
In DHs, this factor appears to have been instrumental in the lack of mention ever given to Gellert Grindelwald, whose activities at the other end of Europe seem to have passed the average wizard-in-the-street in Britain by without much attention, or concern, until nearly the mid-20th century.
However, clearly not all Dark wizards are equal. In HBP even Albus Dumbledore appears to have scaled up his opinion of the danger represented by Tom Riddle to the point of suggesting that he is possibly the most dangerous Dark wizard “of all time”, at least when speaking of Riddle to Harry. Unfortunately, given the revelations regarding Albus's character over the course of DHs we cannot overlook the possibility that these statements were intended as sheer flattery, with the intent to influence Harry's decisions, and appeal to his self-absorption. Although it would certainly be nicer if we could overlook that possibility. And we can probably agree that no earlier Dark Lord candidate has ever presented quite such a sticky issue as the problem posed by those multiple Horcruxes.
But in any event; regarding the chronology of the wizarding world over the course of, say, Albus Dumbledore’s life, now that we have the official Dumbledore backstory and the official Riddle backstory, in some detail, we find that it is necessary (and that we are finally able) to take few back-steps, and do some infill and retrofitting.
With one recently interjected addition. As of the end of 2019 (yes, I am still in correspondence with people in HP fandom some 20 years later) my attention was drawn, by a correspondent, to the problem of the paired “vanishing cabinets” which figured fairly prominently over the course of both OotP and HBP.
We had first encountereed those cabinets all the way back in CoS. By Harry’s day, one of those cabinets stood in the showroom of Borgin & Burke’s curio shop in Knockturn Alley, London. The other, of course was on display in a public area of Hogwarts. The Hogwarts cabinet was later smashed by Peeves during that same academic year and although physically repaired, its charmwork remained faulty.
We have absolutely no information about when the Hogwarts cabinet was brought into the castle, other than that it was almost certainly originally the personal property of a former member of the Hogwarts staff. One whose family, if any, has evidently never chosen to demand it back.
At the other end of this particular equation, we also have no information to establish when the London cabinet was added to the showroom of B&B, or under what circumstances. Either B&B were unaware that they were holding one of a set of paired cabinets, or they have been unsuccessful in gaining possession of the cabinet at Hogwarts.
For over a dozen years, I had been proposing that those paired cabinets had originally constituted Headmaster Black’s emergency route home to #12 Grimauld Place. His daughter Belvina was recorded on the Black Family Tapestry sketch as having married a Herbert Burke, which appeared to provide a simple line to draw between two points.
Since the tapestry sketch shows Belvina as having been alive until 1962 — which would have been around the time of Riddle’s return from Albania, I had dismissed the London cabinet from any considerations regarding Tom Riddle’s period of employment in the shop a decade or so earlier.
This dismissal might have been premature. The description of the cabinets matches the style of chinoiserie which has been intermittently popular since the eighteenth century. We have no way of determining just when those cabinets reached B&B and Hogwarts. The Hogwarts cabinet could have been there since Albus’s days as a student. The London cabinet could have been at B&B’s since before Tom Riddle was born.
So, with that interjection noted, lets see what we can make of a timeline:
1881: Birth of Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore, eldest child of Percival and Kendra Dumbledore of Mould-on-the-Wold. This date was confirmed when Albus was featured as Wizard of the Month for September, 2007. This came as a general surprise, since Rowling had stated more than once in interviews that he lived to the age of about 150. Evidently she’d had second thoughts by the time she sat down to write DHs for the 1881 birth date is supported by the text of that book, at least.
1883, Autumn: Birth of Aberforth Dumbledore. This date is an approximation, but it follows Rowling’s default positioning of the births of children within a family as two years apart. Aberforth was three years behind Albus at Hogwarts, however, suggesting that his birthdate is after September 1.
1885: Birth of Ariana Dumbledore. Family portrait noted in DHs was probably made within the year.
1891, approximate: Attack upon Ariana Dumbledore, aged 6, by three Muggle neighbor boys. Percival Dumbledore sentenced to Azkaban for attacking said Muggles. Kendra Dumbledore moves the family to Godric’s Hollow.
1892: Albus Dumbledore begins Hogwarts.
1895: Aberforth Dumbledore begins Hogwarts.
1899, Spring: Gellert Grindelwald, age 16, is expelled from Durmstrang and packed off to his great-aunt in Britain.
1899, June: Death of Kendra Dumbledore, soon after her elder son sits his NEWTs. Albus and Elphias Doge appear to have departed from Hogwarts before the leaving feast in order to start on their traditional “Grand Tour”. Upon notification of his mother’s death, Albus returns from London immediately, canceling his trip to care for his 14-year-old sister. Albus soon encounters Gellert Grindelwald who is living with his great-aunt Bathilda Bagshott. (In Britain, Gellert seems to have had little difficulty acquiring a new wand if his own was snapped in a formal expulsion as would have been done at Hogwarts. It is assumed that he had already passed the equivalent of his OWLs, and may have intended to sit his NEWTs in Britain.) By the time Aberforth returns from school Albus and Gellert are fast friends. The two spend most of the summer building castles in the air about questing after the Deathly Hallows, and how the world should be ruled. They ill-advisably start maing plans to actually put their dreams into practice.
1899, August: an attack by Gellert upon Aberforth (who was protesting their plan to take their sister abroad) escalates into a magical brawl involving Gellert, Aberforth and Albus, in the course of which Ariana Dumbledore is inadvertently killed. Gellert Grindelwald flees back to the Continent. Aberforth holds his brother responsible, assaults him at the funeral and breaks his nose. Aberforth returns to Hogwarts to study for and sit his OWLs. It is unknown whether he continued his schooling beyond that point. The brothers remain estranged for some years.
Albus’s subsequent actions are uncertain, although the impression given is that he was engaged in research, a partnership with Nicholas Flamel, and maintained a wide correspondence with many of the ww’s eminent figures before returning to Hogwarts as a teacher. In the original projections based upon Rowling’s statement that Abus was around 150 years old at the end of GoF there was ample time for this. With the DHs retrofit which sees him at 116 years of age at the time of his death in 1997, there simply isn't. There is a brief period between about 1899, and maybe 1925 in which some of this might have been acomplished, but for the most part, these broad associations end up needing to be scaled back to correspondence only.
Acto Rowling in various interviews at some point in his life he learned to understand both Merrow and Parseltongue. Merrow he would have learned from the lake dwellers at Hogwarts. It is unclear who taught him to understand Parseltongue. Later Rowling stated that she didn't think that Parseltongue could be learned, but, really, the official Riddle backstory makes no sense unless he could understand it, and she had previously claimed that he could. Presumably Parseltongue when spoken by a human is inteligible through a translation spell, rather than being formaly learned.
1900–1910: At some point during this period Gellert Grindelwald steals the Elder Wand from the wandmaker Gregorovitch. Since in all references to this event Gellert’s youth is repeatedly called to our attention, my guess would be that the theft had probably taken place by 1905, when Gellert would have been about 22.
1907: Probable birth year of Merope Gaunt. Dumbledore’s states in passing that she was 18 years of age at the time the scene took place which we were enabled to witness via a memory contributed by the late Bob Ogden, a former employee of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (and presumably kin to Tibereus Ogden, a supporter of Dumbledore’s, who, along with Griselda Marchbanks resigned from the Wizengamot in protest over Dumbledore’s removal from that body in mid-1995).
Difficult as it is to imagine either Merope or her brother Morfin at Hogwarts, unless such things were managed very differently at the early part of the 20th century, it seems equally unlikely that they would be recognized as a qualified witch and wizard, and permitted the possession of wands without having at least managed to scrape some sort of passing score on the OWLs. So it is likely that despite Tom Riddle’s statement to the contrary, they did indeed at least attend Hogwarts.
For that matter; that Dumbledore is able to state Merope’s age so confidently confirms either that the Gaunts are in all likelihood British-born and were recorded by the Hogwarts Quill on the enrollment list, which he could have looked up before showing the memory to Harry, or he personally remembered their attendance at the school. At any rate, Albus had at some point taken care to research the family before his presentation of the Ogden memory to Harry.
If Merope sat the NEWTs, she would have finished school at the beginning of the same summer in which we witnessed the arrest of her father and brother. Merope’s Hogwarts years — assuming she sat the NEWTs — would have probably been 1918-1925. If she left after only sitting the OWLs those dates would be modified to 1918-1923. Morfin appears to have been the elder of the two Gaunt children, although it is not known by how much. Nor whether this is even, in fact, the case. We assume this to be the case chiefly because he appears to have been given a sentance for assaulting a Ministry employee which would suggest that he was tried as an adult rather than a minor.
1914, (extrapolated): growing unrest in Europe, cumulating in a political assassination in Sarajevo escalates into a Muggle war. This also marks the possible start of Gellert Grindelwald’s rise to power in Eastern Europe. Much of his activity over the next several years were undoubtedly masked under cover of the Muggle war. Later the influenza pandemic, followed by a bust-boom-bust economy affecting much of the western world, and the social unrest attendant upon the economic situation over much of Europe may have also concealed his growing influence. Assuming continuing parallels to Real World events, Fascist regimes popping up like mushrooms all over Europe, and the Spanish Civil War may have further distracted attention from the periods of the consolidation of his gains.
He is not likely to have given up on his ambition of collecting all three of the Deathly Hallows. Indeed, the fact that he has managed to take possession of one of them has probably only made him the more determined to find them all.
But his current activities preclude his taking any further action on the matter himself. He has set some trusted agents to attempting to trace and acquire the relics under his direction. None of the artifacts he acquires, if any, are genuine. One of his agents does manage to make a note of Marvolo Gaunt regarding the ring. The agent does not credit Gaunt with enough understanding of the matter to believe the ring he holds is genuine and does not persist in his efforts to aquire it.
1925: Summer; Bob Ogden visits the Gaunt household in the course of an investigation concerning the hexing of a Muggle by Morfin Gaunt. An altercation ensues which results in the arrests of both Marvolo and Morfin Gaunt.
1925: Late Summer/Autumn; in the absence of her father and brother, Merope Gaunt screws up her courage to put herself in the way of Tom Riddle, a Muggle with whom she is infatuated. It is assumed that at some point during this period she managed to trick him into drinking a love potion. The two make a run-away match of it and remove to London. Given that Merope was under the age of 21 and did not have her family’s permission or approval of the match, the legality of the marriage could be uncertain, but under the influence of a potion Tom would probably have married her.
1926: Late Winter; Marvolo Gaunt is released from Azkaban. He returns to Little Hangleton to find his daughter gone and the house abandoned.
1926: Spring — April-June; Muggle Tom Riddle returns to Little Hangleton claiming that he had been “hoodwinked” by Merope Gaunt.
1926: December; Merope Riddle, heavily pregnant, is seen in Knockturn Alley. She sells Slytherin’s Locket to Caractacus Burke of Borgin & Burke’s. He cheats her.
December 31, 1926: birth of Tom Marvolo Riddle in a London orphanage. Death of Merope Riddle. Age about 19.
Summer, 1928: Morfin Gaunt released from Azkaban. Father and sister both dead. He returns to Little Hangleton and lives as a recluse. Age approximately 22–23.
Summer, 1938 (or perhaps the sumer of 1937): on the annual outing to the seaside with his orphanage, young Tom Riddle terrorizes two of his fellow orphans in a sea cave.
Summer, 1938: Professor Dumbledore visits the orphanage with Riddle’s Hogwarts letter. Tom accepts the letter, Albus’s warning, and an amount of wizarding currency from the Governor’s fund for destitute students, and enters Diagon Alley, unsupervised.
September, 1938: Tom Riddle arrives at Hogwarts. He is Sorted into Slytherin. Horace Slughorn is Head of House. Like most young Slytherin students, he learns of the legend of Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets.
Undeternined date 1938–1941: Tom Riddle, in his search for the Chamber of Secrets discovers the Room of Requirement in its guise as the Room of Hidden Things. He keeps this information to himself.
Summer 1941: At this point we remind ourselves of the fact that traditionally, orphanages only undertook the care of children until they reached an age to be legally able to work for a living. At 14, Tom is eligible to take a job in domestic service, and one has been arranged for him. Upon his refusal to accept it, the orphange takes the opportunity to be rid of him.
With a collection of various magical artifacts that he has lifted from the Room of Hidden Things, Tom approaches Caractacus Burke of Borgin & Burke to sell the items for funds to attempt to support him, and and asks for a summer job. Burke, feeling he has the upper hand, offers an apprentichip, in which Tom will be bound to Burke’s service for a term of seven years, and in return, Burke will train him in dealing with cursed artifacts. Tom, having few options, and seeing at least some advantages to himself in the arrangement, accepts the offer. (Note: further extrapolation of this possibility can be found in the essay; ‘Minding the Gap’.)
September, 1938 - June, 1942: Tom Riddle searches for information regarding the wizarding side of his family. After abandoning a fruitless effort to trace the Riddles (possibly on the advice of Burke), he finally discovers a reference to a Marvolo Gaunt. Determines the family’s whereabouts. Over this period he also continues to search for the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets — as has probably every third child ever Sorted into Slytherin for centuries.
July or August, 1942: Tom (age 15) makes a brief appearance in Little Hangleton. Encounters Morfin Gaunt, learns of his parents’ history. Learns of his descent from the line of Hogwarts Founder, Salazar Slytherin, and the existence, and disappearance, of Slytherin’s locket, which was last known to have been in his mother’s possession. He stuns Gaunt, steals his wand and crosses the valley to the Riddle House, where he murders the Riddle family. He then returns to the Gaunt cottage, where he returns Morfin’s wand, steals the Peverill ring, and modifies Morfin Gaunt’s memory by overlaying it with a copy of his own memory of committing the murders. Somehow he manages all this without setting off the trace on underaged sorcerers.
(I contend that Burke may have had Tom’s Trace deactivated by the Ministry in order to facilitate Tom’s use of magic in the course of his duties in the shop — Burke had some excellent connections, after all. In any event, at some point prior to his appearance in Little Hangleton, Tom appears to have become familiar with the operation of a Pensieve, and I doubt it was under the tutalige of Headmaster Dippett. His arrival at the Gaunt house was late enough in the evening to have taken place after the shop’s closing time.)
Some days later: Aurors arrest Morfin Gaunt who admits to the crime and is sentenced to life in Azkaban.
After learning from Morfin Gaunt of his own descent from Salazar Slytherin (in the summer of 1942) Tom seems to have redoubled his efforts to find Salazar’s Chamber of Secrets, ultimately with success. There is no evidence to suggest that he was aware of either his descent from the Founder (or that his father was actually a Muggle) prior to speaking with Morfin Gaunt.
It was also over the course of the school year after his visit to Little Hangleton that Tom built the functions of a Pensieve into at least one (possibly more than one) Muggle paper diary. Into which he recorded the events of that year.
The first solid piece of (relative) information we were given to calculate from concerns the Riddle diary. Harry Potter did not come into possession of the Riddle diary until January of 1993. And the whole fact that the date on the diary’s cover is exactly 50 years earlier, is presented to the reader as a Major Clue in the course of the novel. Ergo: the date on the diary was 1943. The academic year of 1992-93 is Harry’s 2nd year; the academic year of 1942-43 was Tom Riddle’s 5th year.
It needs to be stated, and stated repeatedly, that Tom Riddle was raised outside of the wizarding world. He would have been plagued with at least a few paranormal incidents attributable to accidental magic during his childhood and he, consequently, grew up knowing that he was somehow “special”. But until the age of 11 he did not know that he was a wizard, and he did not know either that magic was real, that what he was doing was magic, or that there was a hidden world of wizards.
Consequently, the fact that he was accomplished in the Dark Arts by the time he sat his OWLs originally suggested to me that at some point he had been tutored in those Arts. I had also postulated that a ready opportunity for this to have taken place, outside of Hogwarts itself, was offered to us by the events of the Muggle’s equivalent of the Real World’s World War II.
The dates of the wartime evacuation of children from large urban areas such as London and Liverpool into the countryside during the Muggle war — if the dates in the Potterverse were indeed those of the corresponding war in the Real World — would have taken place in two major phases. The first of these, soon after the war was declared, was in September in 1939, at the beginning of Tom Riddle’s 2nd year at Hogwarts. The second evacuation effort began with the start of the German bombing of London in December of 1940 at the end of the Autumn term of his 3rd year. These events would have made it easy for him to have been tutored away from Hogwarts by Dark wizards who had chosen to “groom” him for a purpose, perhaps in recognition of his Slytherin ancestry.
But, no. In the Potterverse, apparently children were never evacuated from wartime London, for Dumbledore assures us that Riddle returned to his (London) orphanage during summers throughout the war years. Or at least so he was believed to have done by Albus Dumbledore — who claims to read Muggle newspapers, and would at least have been aware of a widespread evacuation of children from urban centers, such as London. Nor did anyone know of Riddle’s Slytherin ancestry. Not even Riddle himself until the summer before his 5th year.
Apparently, there were also no wartime paper shortages and Tom was able to purchase (or shoplift) a Muggle diary for the calendar year 1943 before boarding the Hogwarts Express in 1942.
He may have also belatedly acquired one for 1942 as well. or he may have simply modified the dates of whatever diary he had aquired. Which would hardly be the only modification he made to that book.
From all of his later known actions, it seems apparent that his on-the-fly memory modification of Morfin Gaunt had given him ideas.
The diary(s) were taken to school to serve as the basis of a project.
As to the continuing question of the war itself: we do know from the opening chapter of GoF that the Muggle world of the Potterverse, like that of our own, went through at least one war in the middle of the 20th century. Frank Bryce had returned from it with a stiff leg and a disinclination for loud noises, or for company, by the summer of 1942, when he witnessed young Tom on the Riddle property the night of the murders. We do not know for a certainly that the Muggle England of the Potterverse was involved in this war, let alone that the Muggle England of the Potterverse went through two major wars in the 20th century. We have generally assumed so; but we may be wrong.
After DHs, I had come to the conclusion that we probably were wrong. There is nothing in the text of the entire series which supports the assumption that there was ever a second world war in the Muggle Potterverse. And a good deal about the behavior and attitudes of the characters we see appear to contradict it. Somehow, the Muggles of the Potterverse seem to have managed to avoid it. And we are directly told that Grindelwald never brought his war to Britain.
For one thing, even in the rather pastoral opening of GoF there is no impression that there was a war actually in progress at the time. Which there would certainly have been the case in 1942. Or even in 1943. Even Frank Bryce, who had come back from a war seems to have been back for some time.
For another thing, if there had been a Third Reich complete with a widely reported agenda to “purify” their society by exterminating entire “inferior races”, wouldn’t people remember it? Even wizards might remember it. Or at least wizards who retained at least some awareness of the Muggle world (i.e., At least half of the wizarding population, possibly more) would remember it. Let’s face it, people do not immediately lose all recollection of major wars which their nation is agreed to have won! There are people in Britain who are still boasting about the Falklands. If there had been some Muggle on the continent bombing London in 1939—’45, (which even for wizards must have constituted a considerable inconvenience), and spouting bilge about racial purity, when “Lord Voldemort” née Tom Riddle surfaced a mere 20 years or so later, with a pack of terrorist hooligans all spouting the same kind of bilge, someone should have been able to slap a label on them immediately, and point out that they were copying a pack of Muggles who were losers. Not wibble about like this was some brand new thing under the sun that they had no idea what to do over.
Plus, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, major world wars are not brought to an end by one-on-one duels between a couple of wizards, which Muggles do not believe in.
Nor do whole continents spend five years clamoring for a high school teacher of the only school in the only country which has been left out of the loop of this “war” to come and solve their Dark Lord problem for them.
Ergo: I now am convinced that the world was clamoring for Albus to come and make things right because Gellert’s rise had already come unstuck on him, and it was only Gellert himself who still needed to be settled, and that Gellert had managed to let everyone know that he would only surrender to Albus Dumbledore.
And I DO think that it was Gellert who stipulated that he would only surrender to Albus Dumbledore. And then went on a rampage to raise the stakes until Albus broke down and felt he had to comply.
Well, now that we know about the Elder wand, we might be able to make a few guesses.
For one thing, Gellert probably didn't like the idea of that wand being ignominiously snapped by anyone else who might apprehend him. (Although if that really was the Elder wand — which certainly seems to be the case — it isn’t likely that there are very many who could have taken him down, unless he was taken completely unaware.)
I also think that he had very strong suspicion that Albus would take him into custody without killing him. By that time, being locked up safely in his own prison probably looked like his best option.
Sidebar: Known events of the Academic year 1942-1943/Tom Riddle’s 5th year.
September, 1942: Tom Riddle is appointed as a Prefect.
At some point in the year Tom Riddle, who has come across the term, asks Horace Slughorn to explain Horcruxes. (It is not absolutely clear whether this conversation took place during this year or the following one. It could have been either. I, for one, do not believe any of Harry’s pronouncements on the subject. Harry wasn’t really there. And unless Harry’s memory is even worse than we have been led to expect, he was lying about what he saw in Slughorn’s memory. Sluggy was very clear on the matter that the subject of Horcruxes had already been banned, and that Tom would not find anything further related to them in the Library. But we are not likely to get any additional information on that matter.)
At this point we do not know how much Riddle already knew or had already guessed regarding Horcruxes when he raised the question to Slughorn. The impression which he gave Slughorn is that he had run across the term in a book, (possibly the same reference Hermione later encountered) and having been unable to find any further information, decided to ask a teacher.
This impression could be entirely false, but it is difficult to account for anything else.
Slughorn by that time already understood that there was no detailed information regarding Horcruxes left in the Hogwarts library, or of the spell which will create one (a detail which Harry seems to have forgotten). The subject was already banned, and steps had no doubt been taken to excise all such information from areas accessible to the students. Slughorn made this very clear.
Slughorn was certainly not lying, but he was somewhat mistaken, however. He failed to take into account the fact that the banned books may have been removed from the library, but they had not been removed from the castle. The banned information had merely been made inaccessible to most of the castle’s residents.
Hermione Granger makes the argument that Albus had removed the books from the library and stored them in his own quarters. Chiefly because she had removed them from the Headmaster’s study. However, Albus was not Headmaster yet when Riddle raised the question of the subject to Slughorn, so either Albus had removed them from the library and kept them, on his own authority, or they had been removed from the library at his behest and stored where Headmaster Dippett had directed them to be stored.
I suspect that poor Sluggy inadvertently told Riddle exactly where to go to find the information he sought. Slughorn, in his agitation, let slip the news that Albus Dumbledore was particularly fierce on the subject and had seen that it was banned from the school. Well, we know where banned books end up at Hogwarts, don’t we? They are removed into storage in the Room of Hidden Things. When Harry finally got into that Room, late in his own 6th year, he saw thousands of books stored there. Stolen books, books which had been graffitied, and banned books.
Just how much would you care to bet that Tom Riddle wasn’t already fully aware of the Room of Hidden Things by his 5th year? He’d been all over the school looking for the entrance of the Chamber of Secrets ever since he had first heard of it. Nor had he ever had any compunction about the use of Legilimency to pry out other people’s Secrets. Indeed, we got ample confirmation in DHs that Tom was fully aware of the Room of Hidden Things, even though he does seem to have been fool enough to think that a room obviously packed to the rafters with the detritus of teachers and students of over 1000 years was known only to himself.
Contrary to Tom’s belief, I think that Albus was by no means too law-abiding to have discovered that Room. Even if it had never taken the opportunity to have manifested itself as the Room of Beautiful Chamber Pots until Harry’s 4th year. Upon his becoming Headmaster Albus would have immediately recovered those Dark Arts books related to Horcruxes and tucked them safely away in the Headmaster’s study.
When Tom showed up in his “melting wax” iteration very soon afterwards, Albus may have even have engaged in some reflections on the subject of missing horses and barn doors.
The only that thing we know for certain is that the Riddle Diary was definitely a Horcrux, and that the memories of the Diary revenant had been put there when Riddle was 16.
We do not know, however, when the diary was actually made into a Horcrux. That may have been done years later.
Yes, I know that Rowling claims that Tom used Myrtle’s death to create it. In common with much of Rowling’s interview information, this comment came off the top of her head and does not really hold up to what has been said regarding the back history of the subject in the course of the series. Or even what she had already shown us related to the Diary in the book in which it featured.
Slughorn’s rather incoherent explanation of Horcruxes suggests that the Horcrux needs to be created at the same time that the murder that it is created from takes place, but this timing has no relationship to the age or character of the artifact used to store the resulting soul fragment. Nor that the artifact used cannot already be magical in its own right. Indeed, with the exceptions of Harry and Nagini, all of the artifacts that Tom created his Horcruxes from already were magical in their own right (as in fact, so was Harry). The ripping of the soul and the removal of the fragment to its external housing really does not appear to two separate actions. I now concede that both actions must be performed at the same time. And Rowling, having finished with the series, is unlikely to backtrack in order to clarify. My own reading is that “the spell” that Slughorn speaks of almost certainly enables both functions. And I am also as convinced as I ever have been that the spell to create a Horcrux is not Avada Kedavra. Nor is it unblockable.
From what Rowling has told us inside canon, it would appear to be faulty reasoning to assume that one may create a Horcrux from a soul fragment which has been torn loose in the course of a murder committed at some time in the past. Committing any variety of murder may tear your soul, but it does not necessarily tear pieces off. And so long as the fragments remain together inside the body the breech will eventually heal, (if one feels sufficient remorse for the act) since the soul is *supposed* to remain intact.
Even while damaged, it will still continue to function more-or-less normally, and there will be no apparent effect upon the murderer’s physical appearance. Lord Voldemort created seven Horcruxes and looks barely humanoid. Peter Pettigrew murdered a dozen Muggles in one stroke, and while he is certainly no beauty he does not in any manner resemble a mask-faced, red-eyed, cadaverous monster.
Apart from the death of Moaning Myrtle, which from the internal evidence in canon had to have taken place some time before the Diary Horcrux was created, we have been told of no other suspicious death or disappearance during the period between December 31, 1942 and December 30, 1943 — the year that Riddle was 16 — which Riddle might have used as the source needed to create a Horcrux. If one cannot select and use a specific previously-committed murder to create a Horcrux, then either whoever died to create the Diary did so off of everyone’s radar, or the Diary Horcrux was created later and the Diary revenant only replicated the 16-year-old Riddle because it is the 16-year-old Riddle’s memories which were accessible to give it form.
And if Voldemort actually does reserve the creation of Horcruxes for *significant* murders (which claim Rowling has already contradicted in post-DHs interviews. Acto her reckoning one was made from the death of a Muggle tramp and another from an Albanian peasant, neither hardly likely to be considered “significant” to Riddle), then subsequent Horcruxes must have been created at the same time each murder was committed to produce them, otherwise how could he have determined which fragment was ripped loose by which murder in order to use it for a Horcrux? And yet the only murders for which we know Tom Riddle was responsible took place at times that do not fit the profile of when the Horcruxes must have been created. Clearly, for all that we supposedly got the whole official Riddle backstory in HBP, we are still missing rather a lot of information.
And, while we are at it, Moaning Myrtle was presumably killed by the Basilisk, not by Tom Riddle. From her own account, she looked it in the eyes, and died of it. I do not know how causing a person to be killed by a monster whose nature is to kill other creatures by looking at them rips your soul, even if you were the one to have summoned the monster.
Unless Tom had actually possessed her and forced her to look at the Basilisk. Which, for the record, I now believe is exactly what happened. She was clearly not killed by a spell, and Dumbledore does not appear to count Myrtle among Riddle’s victims.
But that still does not mean that the Horcrux created by Myrtle’s murder was the Diary. Even if Tom had the diary in his pocket, he was wearing the Peverill ring at that stage of his career, and the ring would have been much more accessible in which to trap any soul fragment produced by that murder.
It is also pretty widely believed (although this is probably more fanon than canon) that an artifact to be made into a Horcrux, needs to be given some form of advance preparation for the purpose. In the period leading up to Myrtle’s death, the only artifact in Riddle’s possession which he is likely to have considered of a suitable provenance for such a purpose was the Peverill ring. He is not likely to have considered a paper Muggle diary as a suitable repository for his soul. Memories, yes, what else is a diary for. But hardly his soul. Besides, he wasn’t yet finished with the diary.
Conversely, Dumbledore is definitely wrong when he claims that UglyBaby!Mort used Nagini to kill Frank Bryce. And we all know it. Harry witnessed Bryce’s death by courtesy of the connection between his mind and Voldemort’s. Even weakened as he was, Voldemort still managed to kill Bryce with an AK. The snake did nothing but to report that Frank Bryce was listening at the door, and to watch it happen. Even Rowling eventually realized that particular statement was a blunder and has since claimed that Nagini was made into a Horcrux by the murder of Bertha Jorkins. Which at least makes some degree of sense in the timeline, and assures us that the Snake was already under Tom’s full control before it reached Britain. Even though we are thereby forced to accept that UglyBaby!Mort was capable of deviding his soul and creating yet another Horcrux when he hadn’t even managed to recover a functioning human body yet.
But there is no point in sidetracking ourselves by digging into the issue of the Horcruxes at this point. There is a whole set of Horcrux essays over in the UNhallowed collection which examines the issue in exhaustive detail. We don’t really need to do it here.
Returning to our timeline: at some point, presumably late in the academic year of 1942–’43, Tom Riddle finally discovered the entrance to Salazar Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets.
The Chamber was opened. The Basilisk was released. There were attacks on students, most were petrified, and later revived, one student (Myrtle) was killed.
Her death took place quite late in the year. The Headmaster was about to send the students home some 2–3 weeks before the end of term in response. (Note: if the testing procedure was as it was shown to be at the end of OotP, the standard exams for that year would not have been given yet. The NEWTs and OWLs would probably have been underway but not yet complete.)
Rubeus Hagrid, a 3rd-year student was discovered to have been trying to raise an acromantula inside the castle, and was expelled. There were no further attacks. The problem was deemed solved. The attention of Albus Dumbledore, may have been more closely directed at Riddle (who had ratted out Hagrid to his own advantage) after this date. In response, Tom Riddle closed the Chamber of Secrets and did not reopen it during his remaining time as a Hogwarts student.
From statements related to this information we can calculate that:
Rubeus Hagrid, whose birthday is December 6, acto JKR’s website, would have been born in 1928. He started Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1940 and lost his father at some point during 1941 at the age of 12 or 13. I originally thought that this might possibly due to the Muggle war. The Germans bombed more than just London. But since I no longer believe that there was a Muggle war going on in Britain in 1941 in the Potterverse, this no longer plays. Someone — until this point it has generally been presumed to have been Albus Dumbledore — took responsibility for the orphan who had no surviving human relatives. It is uncertain whether this is in fact the case. The Board of Governors or even the Wizengamot may have ended up getting involved. It is even possible that the school itself took responsibility for the boy.
The wizarding world is small enough for sponsorship by non-relatives to probably be standard procedure in such cases. Certainly in the case of a child such as Hagrid who could not readily be palmed off onto the Muggle authorities. Nor could he be left to wander about at liberty, unsupervised.
In an interview made shortly after the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire JKR informed us (in response to a reader’s question) that Severus Snape was 35 or 36 years old. She then went on to volunteer the information that Albus Dumbledore was 150 (which she has since reconsidered), and that Minerva McGonagall was “a sprightly 70” (which as of late 2011 she has also reconsidered). This information was at the time assumed to be current with the internal timeline of the story arc as representing the matter as it stood during the summer of 1995, the point to which the series had progressed when the statement was given.
Given that, acto JKR’s website we now know that Minerva McGonagall’s birthday is October 3, If we provisionally assume that she was born in 1925 (I completely dismiss the bilge that Rowling chooses to post on Pottermore, particularly when it contradicts statements she made during the course of the series and from which we were expected to work for most of the past decade) she would have started Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1937 and finished with the class of 1944. She would have been in her 6th year and completely out of the loop when the Chamber was first opened and Hagrid expelled. She would also be expected to have remembered the uproar of the events of that period, if she had still been at Hogwarts at the time.
However, her extreme confusion during CoS as to Salazar’s Chamber however suggests that the age of “70” stated in the interview must have been “impressionistic”, for Minerva gave us no indication that she had ever lived through events of that sort at the school once already. It is for this reason that I am inclined to place Minerva’s birth date no later than 1923, making her Hogwarts years the period from 1935 to 1942, finishing the year before young Riddle discovered the entry to the Chamber.
For the record, and as a piece of Real World background information; The year 1920, like the year 1946, was, in the Real World™ the first full year after a major war was concluded (and, in the case of 1920, the year after a deadly pandemic as well). Both circumstances had much the same effect upon the Muggle birthrate. In fact, in England the year with the highest number of recorded births in the entire 20th century was 1920. With a recorded 1,126,800 births in that year alone.
We do not know for certain whether the Potterverse had two major World Wars in its 20th century, let alone a flu pandemic. We originally assumed that the events of the Potterverse have paralleled those of the Real World, but we cannot be certain of that from what we were ever told in canon. However, until we have been given actual information which makes it clear, I will continue to try to reason as if Muggle history has proceeded in the Potterverse much as it has in the Real World up to at least the 1930s. In the Potterverse of the books there appears to have been no 2nd World War that included Britain. The worldwide Great Depression of the earlier 1930s may have lasted longer however.
If the porportion of magical births to Muggle births which appears to be the case from the calculations in other essays in this collection applies, the above 1,126,800 recorded births would have included about 13-14 Muggle-born magical children, Close to twice as many as the usual number prior to that time of 7 or 8. Compared to the usual 10 or so purebloods in a given year. I don’t know how long it took for this sudden boom in the Muggle-born birthrate to taper off. These children would have started arriving at Hogwarts in a wave beginning with the Academic year of 1931-32. It may have taken a little time for the information to have spread to the older generations whose own children were already out of Hogwarts that Muggle-born students at Hogwarts were now easily outnumbering purebloods, but the information would have gotten there eventually. In any event, mutterings about this “inundation of mudbloods” would soon have taken an upsurge in the households with pureblood isolationist, or budding supremacist sympathies, which would have quickly been being parroted in the Slytherin — and other — dormitories.
The fact that the Riddle Diary was dated exactly 50 years before the year that Harry got his hands on it is a Major Clue to the solution of the CoS “mystery” and, consequently, this is a relevant piece of information which does not admit to alternate interpretations.
1. The events leading to Hagrid’s expulsion did not take place until after June 13, of the year that was the date printed on the diary’s cover. The threatened closure of the school amounted to little more than sending the students home about 2–3 weeks early.
2. According to the Diary revenant’s own testimony, it was not embedded into the Diary until after the Chamber had been closed again, at the end of Riddle’s 5th year, but before Riddle turned 17. So if the revenant’s account can be trusted, we conclude that the Diary Horcrux was created between the middle of June and the end of December.
I no longer think that we can trust the Diary revenant’s account, however.
Who are you going to believe? Tom Riddle or Albus Dumbledore?
Eh, forget I asked. It’s not that much of a choice, is it?
Still, Dumbledore may have habitually shaved the truth according to his audience, but what purpose would he have had to claim to Harry that he knows of no murder committed by Riddle between the Riddle massacre in the summer of 1942 and the murder of Hepzibah Smith at least five years later, if that was not the case?
Albus knows when Myrtle died.
He knows that Riddle created the diary as a diary when he was 16. Harry is the one who told him that.
We do not necessarily know when he created the Diary as a Horcrux.
But we may be able to make a guess.
Not for some years afterwards, I would guess.
Perhaps not for a good many years afterwards.
And would the Diary revenant even have been fully aware of just exactly when it actually came into conscious and independent existence separate from the age of the memories to which it had access, i.e., those of the 16-year-old Riddle?
The following extrapolations regarding the Diary and its creation step off the path which accepts all of Rowling’s information, from either the series, the website, or interviews, impartially. Although the contradictions between the sources are not always major ones, there are nevertheless multiple contradictions. I have chosen to overlook interview information in favor of what holds together most closely to the information which can be found within the text of the books.
Harry’s second Hogwarts year may have begun in 1992, but it ended in 1993. The date printed on the diary’s cover, from the internal evidence of the story was, therefore, 1943.
If the diary was aquired in London, and aquired specifically for the purpose of embedding the secret of Salazar’s lost chamber into it (we were shown no traces of its having been used for anything else), then it would appear to have been aquired after Riddle’s fifth year was completed.
This reading does not quite hold together, however. The Diary revenant was able to take Harry directly to the account of specific events within the story regarding the aftermath of the first time the Chamber was opened. Very specific events, indeed specific as to the very day. Now, Riddle may have a good memory, certainly. He may have also later drafted the account of the events of that year according to approximate dates, setting them down in the various pages of the book for later retrieval. But if we are supposed to believe that the events assigned to June 13, actually happened on June 13 — and I really think we are, then we are being invited to believe that he must have recorded them into the book, effectively as they happened.
And then hid them.
Assuming that he even needed to. If that diary was an experimental version of a Pensieve, the memories may have been entered directly as memories. There may have never been any visible *writing* involved.
Indeed, the information which was conveyed to Harry was conveyed primarily as images, and sound. Not as any form of text. The Diary only wrote back when it was attempting to communicate with a potential target.
And none of that happened by accident. Nor could Tom readily have anticipated the events that were going to end up being recorded in that diary before they happened. I think he was already recording his day-to-day activities during his 5th year before he discovered the entrance to the Chamber (He very deliberately did not let Harry get a look at that page). Plus, when you factor in his modification of Morfin Gaunt’s memory just the previous summer, it is not at all difficult to deduce that Tom may have decided to conduct an experiment in creating a form portable memory storage.
Riddle could not very well have gone off to Hogwarts the previous September with the intention of putting himself into a book, confidently expecting that this was the year that he was going to strike gold and uncover the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. He may believe in prophecies, but he isn’t a seer. He had not at that point yet found the entrance to the Chamber, let alone subdued the monster that was waiting there. But when it happened, it enhanced the value of that particular diary immeasurably.
Rather like actually having your camera with you, and loaded, when chance puts you in the way of a once-in-a-lifetime shot.
And I think that Albus was right when he tells us that by the time he made it into a Horcrux, he was able to treat that one so casually, because he knew he already had others.
Ergo; The Diary was not Tom’s first Horcrux.
It was his 5th.
And I don’t think it was a part of his originally planned set at all.
Once we had been given the official Riddle backstory in HBP, many of my earliest interpretations were demonstrated to be faulty.
First; apparently in the Potterverse, children in London were not evacuated into the country during the war. Second; that rather than being overseen and more-or-less confined to the orphanage property during the summer, Tom had been accustomed to wandering about at liberty throughout London by the time he was 10, completely unsupervised. Third; that as we had all vaguely suspected, the “reasonable restrictions” on underage sorcery is in fact, only a reasonable restriction on underage Muggle-born sorcery. That, in fact, once inside a wizarding household or district there is no reliable way to trace underage sorcery. This restriction is conducted entirely upon an “honor system” administeered, or not, by the children’s families. And, fourth: that by the time he was awarded his Prefects’ badge, Tom Riddle was already a murderer three times over.
My original scenario, and one in which I had taken into account the logistics of wartime paper shortages and the widespread evacuation of children to the countryside during that particular war; was that the diary was sent to Riddle as a Christmas gift by someone still in London. Either from a friend at the orphanage or, rather more likely, by one of the institution’s staff. Orphanages in the 1940s did recognize that Christmas is a holiday in which gifts are given to children. Even if those gifts tended to be drearily practical, or otherwise not particularly exciting. A diary would be very well in keeping with the caliber of gift that an orphanage child might expect to receive at Christmas. And Riddle was still, officially, an orphanage child. This scenario is no longer required. Rowling had not taken into her account any of these matters.
But we still do not know just where Tom learned how to create a Horcrux.
The Room of Hidden Things is still our hottest possibility.
As is a private library of a schoolmate.
But if the Diary was not the first of the collection, we are off the hook for a whole slew of timing issues that creating a Horcrux while he was still in school entails. Such considerations do not necessarily apply to the Ring.
Moreover, we have the intractable issue to have to sort out that all of the memories shown to Harry by the Diary revenant were events that took place after the death of Myrtle — which Rowling claims is the point that the Diary became a Horcrux.
Think about that for a second. We are being expected to believe that Tom, who later discovered that once he had turned the Ring into a Horcrux he found he could no longer continue to wear it, had allegedly already turned the Diary into a Horcrux — and yet had still been able to continue entering data into it? For weeks afterward?
Because there is no way that the Diary revenant would have had access to the events that took place after Myrtle’s death unless someone had entered them into that book. And, as I just pointed out, everything that he showed Harry, took place after Myrtle’s death.
Now, even setting aside how badly handled the whole issue of the Locket behaving like the One Ring all through the endless camping trip was, did you ever get any kind of feeling that; in addition to trying to take over anyone in contact with it, it was actually aware of where they were and what they were doing? That it was learning anything about their situation? Yeah, sure, it could access their fears and taunt them with them, but it sure didn’t know enough of their circumstances to, say, lead them into a trap.
I don’t think that Tom would have been able to keep writing into that Diary any more than he could have bourne to continue wearing the Ring (and I've had some ideas regarding that ring since I last revised this article as well) once he’d turned it into a Horcrux.
And the next time we caught up to that Diary after we know that it had become a Horcrux, was when he handed it off to Lucius Malfoy shortly before his first defeat. So all we can say for sure is that it was a Horcrux by 1981.
Nevertheless, if the sort of “elegantly wasted” appearance he was displaying at the time of his visit to Madam Smith is supposed to be a visual clue that he had already created one, then even though Albus tells us that he does not know of another murder committed by Riddle during that period, he has to have guessed that there was one. And we are pretty sure that by that time he had created the Ring.
We have good reason to believe that Tom was largely out from under adult surveillance (or at least Muggle adult surveilance) during summer breaks. We already have his boast, made at the age of 11 that he was in the habit of wandering about London on his own, and after that point he certainly knew how to get into Diagon Alley.
By the time he was out of school, he was also clearly fully aware of the resources available in Knockturn Alley, and it is all too likely that Riddle had already discovered that there is no way of reliably tracing underage magic inside a wizarding district long before he was out of school.
Indeed, even in the absence of the formal apprenticship/contract that I postulate, he may have been in the habit of earning his pocket money for the year by working at Borgin & Burkes, or some other Diagon, or Knockturn Alley shop during the summer.
And who knows what information he might have discovered there?
1945, May: In our own world this marked the official end of the Muggle war in Europe. This date may be completely irrelevant to the Potterverse.
1945, June: Tom Riddle sits the NEWTs and leaves Hogwarts by the end of the month. Harry Potter is convinced that he immediately departs for Albania in search of the Ravenclaw diadem.
I tend to doubt that. I think he has the rest of his contracted time to serve with B&B. After his visit to his uncle Morfin Gaunt, I think he started looking through the shop records in hopes of finding any information on the Slytherin Locket — which he had not known existed before that point. He found it, too. And the name of the collector who purchased it. He may have already met the lady, but possibly not. Perhaps not for a number of years. But, collectors always come back, eventually. And he was waiting for her.
1945, spring or summer break: Albus Dumbledore defeats the Dark wizard Grindelwald. Grindelwald is consigned to Nuremgard, the prison he had caused to be built for his enemies.
At this point it is unknown how determined a fight Gellert put up against his former friend Albus Dumbledore. I think that Grindelwald was aware that Albus would be very reluctant to actually kill him. It is at least arguable that Gellert might have been equally reluctant to kill Albus.
A genuinely desperate man might have done so anyway. Particularly one who was holding the Elder Wand. Whether he was “truly” its master or not.
Consequently it is now also arguable that Gellert Grindelwald may have already discovered that his reach had exceeded his grasp, and that his regime had already come unstuck. He appears not to have had a team of supporters behind him that he trusted, and, indeed, if a one-on-one duel with Albus Dumbledore was able to bring his whole house of cards down in one decisive confrontation, he may well have already come to realize that to be locked up in his own prison was the best of his available options.
But in any case, whether he was ever the proper “Master” of it or not, he is confident in being able to safely turn the Elder wand over to Albus. And just possibly relieved to be shut of it.
I contend that he also turned over all of the notes pretaining to his search for the other two of the Hallows.
Albus’s chocolate frog card provides at least a capsule review of the signal accomplishments of Albus Dumbledore.
That the card identifies Dumbledore as the current Headmaster of Hogwarts suggests that unless chocolate frog cards only came on the market sometime about 1960. Either the defeat of Grindelwald was not of such an order as would have justified commissioning a card for him on its own merit, or the card would have been issued back in ’45. Dumbledore was not appointed to the office of Headmaster until at least the something like the winter of 1957–’58, and possibly not until some years later.
To examine this last statement; we need to make another side trip, and jump forward to OotP, directing our attention to the period that Professor Umbridge was making a nuisance of herself in other instructors’ classrooms during the Autumn term. She showed up in no fewer than four of Harry’s classes during this period, over the course of September – December 1995. In the course of most of these “interviews” (the exception being Hagrid’s) she routinely asked the class’s instructor the length of time they had been teaching at the school. The answers were;
Snape = “14 years.”
Trelawney = “Nearly 16 years.”
McGonagall = “39 years this December.”
From which we can quite accurately calculate the date at which Minerva McGonagall joined the faculty as Transfigurations mistress. Which, counting back from the point the statement was made in the Autumn term of 1995, places her starting date as January 1957. Which implies that something took place during the Autumn term of 1956 to require that Hogwarts Academy fill a suddenly vacant position for a Transfigurations instructor.
Since we know that in 1943 the Transfiguration instructor of Hogwarts Academy had been Albus Dumbledore and the Headmaster of the School the elderly Professor Dippett, we are invited to assume that this event was the death or retirement of Professor Dippett.
It is now strongly suggested that we had overlooked a detail which was not available to us prior to the release of HBP, and the official Riddle backstory. There is no longer any certainty that Minerva’s addition to the Hogwarts staff had anything to do with Albus’s elevation to Headmaster. Although this still represents the earliest likely date for that appointment.
From the letterhead of Harry’s Hogwarts letter, we know that by 1991 Albus Dumbledore was not merely the Headmaster of Hogwarts School, but also the Chief Wizard of the Wizengamot and the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederacy of Wizards.
We have no information regarding the order in which these three offices were acquired. It seems mildly improbable, however, that a common schoolmaster would also be Supreme Mugwump or Chief Warlock. It seems far more likely that the office of Headmaster of Hogwarts School came first.
Still, given Albus’s age and long reputation, it is just barely possible that he had been so even while still an active teacher. He almost certainly had his own seat on the Wizengamot when he was still blamelessly teaching Transfiguration and (possibly) serving as Deputy Head. For we are told that he had already been offered, and had refused, the post of Minister for Magic three times by the time by the time he finally became Headmaster. There appears to be no set term of office for Minister for Magic, but several questions in the final round of the WOMBAT test on Rowling’s first official website suggested a typical term of approximately 10 years. By 1938, had he chosen, he might have been serving as Minister for Magic rather than hand-delivering Hogwarts letters to orphans.
It may have taken at least a few years on the Wizengamot for Dumbledore to have gained enough support to be elected Chief Warlock of that body, although if Griselda Marchbanks was already a member of that body, which seems likely, she would have certainly nominated him for the position. Griselda was extremely impressed by Albus from the time she first met him when he was a schoolboy sitting his NEWTs.
However, we also do not know — and probably never will know — exactly when Dumbledore began teaching. He could have been a personage of considerable political importance before he started. And it appears, post-DHs that due to his habit of initiating correspondence with notable figures, he was fairly widely known in powerful circles by the time he sat his NEWTs.
Even before DHs was released, the fact that he had already been offered the post of Minister for Magic three times before he was appointed Headmaster, suggests that, among the ruling elders of British wizardry, Dumbledore’s reputation went back much farther than the point at which he defeated what was at that point appearing to be one very obscure Dark wizard. His associations with Flamel, Marchbanks, Bagshott, and other notable personages seemed a much more likely direction for investigation if one was searching for reasons why people kept repeatedly offering him a high political post that he manifestly did not want.
The fact that no mention is made on that card of any presumed activities on the part of Albus Dumbledore during VoldWar I would suggest that Albus Dumbledore’s specific activities during VoldWar I have remained generally unknown to the broader wizarding public (or that, post-DHs, his determined reluctance to take responsibility for the welfare of others dictated that he probably engaged in very few of such, until the point that he founded the Order of the Phoenix) and that his reputation is based upon his multiple positions as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards over that crucial period and since.
In any case, those people who “wanted him to be Minister for Magic” as recently as 1990 presumably were almost certainly his fellow members of the Wizengamot, a body of some 50 witches and wizards, who appoint or elect the Minister among themselves. (Note: that the Minister for Magic is an appointed office was finally confirmed in April 2006 with the posting of Grogam Stump as Wizard of the Month on Rowling’s official site. Mr Stump was a popular MfM “appointed in 1811”.)
The widely known events of the year 1945 in canon, at this point are:
Albus Dumbledore defeats the Dark wizard Grindelwald.
We don’t know when during the year this took place. But until the release of DHs we could assume that the fact that in our world the war was over in Europe by the time the school year ended would appear to suggest that Grindelwald’s defeat was not concurrent with the end of any Muggle war, if there even was one. And that it must have taken place in the vicinity of Hogwarts, since Albus had a day job and wasn’t off on the continent chasing Dark wizards.
Now that we cannot establish that there even was a Muggle war in the 1940s, this reasoning falls apart. With the release of DHs we are once again stuck having to account for the fact that Albus had to go abroad in order to defeat Grindelwald. Which limits us to one or another term break.
Until the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we knew of no obviously significant date directly related to the adventure of Harry Potter and the Dark Lord between 1945 and the then presumed return of Tom Riddle in 1970 (based upon Dumbledore’s statement in November ’81 that the wizarding world had had little to celebrate for the past 11 years). Since the release of HBP, however, we have a number of other stopping points, and the 1970 date has been rendered bogus.
So, to recap:
1945: Long time DADA Professor Galatia Merrythought announces her retirement. It’s possible the the ongoing Grindelwald situation may have been instrumental in this decision. But not likely. After all, some fifty years teaching might well be accounted to be a sufficient career for anyone.
Upon sitting his NEWTs, Tom Riddle applies for the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor. Upon the advice of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster Dippett kindly refused this request, telling Tom that 18 is too young to be a teacher, and recommends that he return and re-apply in a few more years, when he has had more experience. Riddle is next known to be employed at Borgin & Burke as an Sales Assistant. In retrospect, he was almost certainly there in hopes of tracing what has become of Slytherin’s locket which until shortly before his own birth had still been being worn by his mother. He suspects, rightly, that eventually the collector who purchased locket will return.
At the end of the summer, on the strength of his fresh defeat of Grindelwald, Albus cuts any threat of Riddle’s future appointment as DADA instructor off at the pass by taking over the DADA post himself and a new Transfigurations instructor is hired.
Proof? None, but it would line up with subsequent events which we know to have taken place in regards to the Hogwarts staff.
At the date of the interview with Madam Smith, Riddle’s physical appearance was such as to suggest that he had already created at least the first of his seven Horcruxes. We do not know for certain whether the faintly decadent “pale and interesting” appearance he presented at that time was definitely indicative of his having created a Horcrux, but we have been offered no alternative interpretation. It is strongly implied that this is the underlying cause of all of his changes in appearance.
It would appear, from one of Ms Rowling’s interview statements, and upon the basis of Harry's unsupported assumptions in DHs that Tom had, by that date created three of them. To wit, the Ring, the Diary, and the Diadem, which Harry is convinced that he went and retrieved from Albania as soon as he finished Hogwarts. I find this supposition difficult to credit, given the gross deterioration in his physical appearance by the next time we saw him which we are to understand was the result of creating only two more of them (the Cup and the Locket).
I really do think that Harry is being a fool, and that Ms Rowling was talking off the top of her head, without reference to any of her notes, about a subject which she had not ever considered in any depth, having already relegated it to the background. I mean it’s quite obvious that she doesn’t actually care about anything to do with Horcruxes.
I am more inclined to believe that by the date of his chat with Madam Smith Riddle had created only the Ring. He would have now been in the process of drafting out his next set of plans, and eventually he hid the Ring in the ruin of the Gaunt hovel, as a trap for his uncle Morfin (of which more later). In all likelyhood, he also stashed it there as a safeguard against embarking upon his impending travels to a dangerous part of Eastern Europe to hunt for the Ravenclaw diadem. But I am currently convinced that, Harry’s convictions notwithstanding, Tom had delayed that journey until Hepzibah Smith who he had indeed discovered in the shop’s records to be the purchaser of Slytherin’s locket, revisited B&B (i.e., collectors always return) so he could have a shot at charming her into giving him a chance to verify that she did indeed still have the locket in her possession, rather than, say, depositing it in her Gringotts vault where no one else could get access to it.
The Murder of Madam Smith (whose death, I agree was probably the base for creating the Cup Horcrux) prompted him to retreat from the ww without managing to establish himself at Hogwarts where the Sword associated with Gryffindor was known to occasionally manifest at times when there was a threat to the school.
It is uncertain whether his deployment of the Basilisk at the end of his own 5th year had been a gambit intended to goad the Sword into manifesting itself even then. It is not established whether Tom had already managed to discover that the Sword was understood to appear under such conditions as an ongoing threat to the school. But any such earlier manifestations were probably documented, and it is possible that such were indeed his intentions. By that point in time, he had probably already discovered his own descent from Slytherin, and had also probably found record of the sale of the Slytherin locket in the records of the shop. It is also possible that he had already cozzened the secret of the missing diadem out of the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw. It is not altogether impossible that he may have reasoned that by deploying Salazar's monster, he might force a manefestation of Godric’s sword.
Ever since this essay collection first went online I have contended that it was not the death of young Myrtle and Hagrid’s expulsion which put Dumbledore onto Riddle’s trail but the murder of the Riddle family and Tom Riddle’s subsequent disappearance.
It is now abundantly clear that this belief was incorrect. I did not know, (nor did anybody apart from Rowling) that Tom’s mother had a father and brother who outlived her, and that her brother was available to take the blame for the Riddle murders.
And, yet, for a long time time, I was still convinced that I had been right in essence, because it had been a death and Riddle’s subsequent disappearance which had finally prompted Albus Dumbledore to attempt to belatedly trace Riddle’s backtrail, and that after collecting and examining Hokey’s memory of Riddle’s last known meeting with her mistress, two days before that lady’s death, he had made a point of speaking with Caractacus Burke regarding the provenance of that locket, and eventually his inquires also led him to Bob Ogden, which seems to have prompted him to request an interview with Morfin Gaunt before Gaunt’s death in Azkaban.
Well, I no longer believe any of that chain of events. I had been so determinedly rejecting DHs and everything to do with it that I totally overlooked the only bit of that stupid and overwrought business of the Albus/Gellert backstory which actually connects to the central issue of the problem of the threat constituted by Tom Riddle. So let us all step back a couple of years, and reevaluate what we think we know:
1945 (Yes, again): Albus Dumbledore defeats Gellert Grindelwald, taking him into Custody.
A domino got knocked over — right on top of me — during a correspondence with my fellow-traveler, Swythyv. One which prompted a number of fundamental shifts in assumption regarding certain bits of that backstory. Not that any of it particularly matters, and none of it is actually provable, but it is gratifying to discover that there are still potential insights to be gained regarding the Harry Potter saga.
I’d been assuming for years that Albus turned up most of the Riddle backstory in the course of investigating Hepzibah Smith's death and the disappearance of two of her treasures.
Well, that’s still possible, but that no longer reads as the most likely scenario. It’s beginning to look as though by the time Hepzibah Smith was murdered for her treasures, the ongoing duel between Tom Riddle and Albus Dumbledore was already engaged. As I say, I’d been so determinedly rejecting DHs and everything in it that I had completely overlooked the only particular in which the tacky and stupid Dumbledore/Grindelwald backstory actually connects to the main story arc regarding Tom Riddle.
Albus did not trip over Morfin Gaunt during an investigation of Tom Riddle’s activities.
It was Morfin Gaunt who set him onto Tom Riddle’s trail. The same Tom Riddle that Albus had thought that he was finally well rid of by then.
In 1945. Or, at any rate, not long afterwards.
Consider: Albus took Gellert into custody in 1945. Probably during the spring or summer break, since he was still actively engaged in the classroom, teaching, with a class schedule to follow at the time.
Ergo: whether I am correct in my speculation that Gellert's rise had already failed some years (5?) earlier, and that it was simply that no one was able to catch him and get him off the streets which required Albus's intervention (probably on Gellert's insistence) or not, it stands to reason that Albus had some degree of involvement with closing down whatever was left of Gellert's operation.
And Gellert effectively purchased his life and safety from Albus by making him an offer he knew Albus was not likely to refuse.
Stepping back another 46 years, both Albus D and Gellert G had gone completely nuts over the idea of recovering and reuniting the Deathly Hallows. Gellert was particularly fascinated by the unbeatable Wand, Albus was fixated on the Resurrection Stone, but they were both absolutely gaga about going off on a treasure hunt and finding the damned things.
Neither one of them ever really got over that shared obsession, either. In fact, Gellert in particular, went right on to do it. Albus, badly burned, shied off from the whole issue, until he confronted Gellert again 46 years later.
Now, pause and think: is Gellert, a dedicated — and partially successful — Hallows quester really likely to have stopped at just the Wand?
I don't think so! Indeed, the very fact that he found the Wand is more likely to have made him all the more determined to find the other two items as well. After all, the legend had by that time grown up which claimed that only the master of all three of the Hallows would be the Master of Death.
And by, say, 1915 or 1920, he had resources to put toward finding them.
Grindelwald was still very young when he found and acquired the Elder Wand, however. And the young tend to be impatient. Where Albus might possibly have done nothing but to continue his research until he had at least discovered one more of the Hallows, when the circumstances presented a not-to-be-refused opportunity, Gellert made his grab for world dominance on the strength of holding only the Wand. After that point any campaign for World Dominance™ will have kept him fully occupied.
However, he is highly unlikely to have ever forgotten that he intended to make himself the Master of Death itself, and for that he needed both the the Stone and the Cloak as well. If Grindelwald did NOT have a handfull of very talented scholars on his payroll engaged in attempting to track the other two items I would be very much surprised.
I still think that it is most likely that his empire had come unstuck by about 1940, and that it was only the fact that he was still running about loose and unpredictable that had most of the European ww so on edge that they were begging Albus Dumbledore to come and take care of the situation. But what is clear is that Albus did finally do so. And, once Gellert was taken into custody, which was almost certainly arranged and administered by Albus Dumbledore, personally, it was Albus who closed down what was left of Gellert's operations.
Well, okay. As a result, at some point in the middle of 1945 we have Albus returned to Britain, in possession of the Elder Wand, possibly (acto Swythyv) a clutch of tamed Thestrals, and all 40+ years of Gellert's notes regarding the search for the other two Deathly Hallows.
The next portion of my speculations is a bit less clearly supported by elements openly stated in canon, but there is at least one such statement.
Part II of this particular theory stems from a comment made by Marvolo Gaunt during his confrontation with Bob Ogden.
Evidently someone had attempted to buy the Peverill ring from Marvolo. Had offered him a handsome sum for it as well. We do not know precisely when, but Ogden’s visit took place in the summer of 1925.
Where was Gellert Grindelwald in 1925?
By 1925, or even 1920, I should think that it would be unlikely that Gellert Grindelwald would be in Britain attempting to purchase an alleged Peverill artifact himself. He had other fish to fry. But he would certainly have sent an agent to do it for him. And the fact that the artifact was only a possible lead, might explain the lack of followup. There are unquestionably as many purported Peverill artifacts strewn across wizarding Europe as there were fragments of the “true cross” in its Muggle counterpart. The agent had followed the lead of an old wizarding family’s ownership of what they claimed to be the Peverill ring, but there was nothing about Marvolo or his household to instill any confidence in those claims. And we already know from the first appearance of Xeno Lovegood at the Weasley wedding that there is no shortage of artifacts bearing the sigil of the Hallows questers. At least a few of these are bound to be quite historic in themselves.
So, in 1945 we have Albus returned to Britain with a clutch of Thestrals, the Elder Wand, an Order of Merlin, and some 40 years of Gellert’s records concerning his search for the Stone and the Cloak.
Most of the leads in this record had already been investigated and found to be bogus. But there were probably a few unexamined or abandoned trails. Over the following 2–3 years Albus’s term breaks are taken up with attempting to pick up these leads where Gellert’s agents had left them. Since he is still actively engaged in the classroom, his time for such pursuits is limited to the 3 weeks of Christmas break, the 2 weeks of Easter break and the long holiday of two months in the summer. In addition to any Assistant Headmaster duties which may fall under his responsibility. Or not, as the case may be.
At some point after the commencing of the school term of… we’ll say 1947, he finally works his way down the list to a report of a ring bearing the sigel of the Hallows which in the middle 1920s was in the possession of a family named Gaunt who refused to sell their heirloom. Given that there was nothing to distinguish the ring in question from any other aritifact of the sort that would have been adopted by a family of traditional Hallows questers, the lead had been abandoned.
A grateful Ministry would hardly have refused to assist Albus Dumbledore in an attempt to trace a wizard who might have a connection to whatever it was that Gellert Grindelwald had been up to over in Europe, some years back.
It would soon have transpired that Marvolo Gaunt had died back around 1927 or ’28. But a look at the Ministry's file would have turned up his arrest record. Which would have led Albus directly to Bob Ogden, and the information that Marvolo's son Morfin was currently serving a life sentence in Azkaban for the murder of three Muggles.
At least his interview with Bob Ogden forewarns him that he’s going to nead a translation charm to understand Parseltongue. I now wonder whether Morfin was still compos mentos enough by the time Albus got to him to even still speak English.
So we now finally have a handle on why Albus was allowed that interview with Morfin Gaunt in which he uncovered the buried memory of Tom Riddle’s visit to his uncle back in the summer of ’42.
Morfin Gaunt, by then is very close to his end. He has been in the hands of the Dementors since that summer of 1942, something like 5 years, on top of his earlier 3-year sentence back in the mid-’20s. It is possible that the deterioration of his condition is part of the reason why over the course of the interview the supressed memory was finally accessible.
The memory has provided Albus with no more information concerning the provenance of the family’s ring, although he now remembers having seen Tom Riddle wearing what was probably that ring, but there is a clear indication that a miscarriage of justice has taken place, and if he can get Morfin out of the Dementor’s custody and into St Mungo’s there might be a better chance of questioning him further. He starts a campaign to secure Gaunt’s release.
And then has to return to his teaching duties. In the interim between this point and the summer break, this matter is printed in the Prophet, although probably on a back page. It is more of a curiosity than a bit of relevant news.
To Tom Riddle, however, any article that mentions Morfin Gaunt serves as a strong suggestion that he needs to get out of Dodge. He turned 21 at the end of the previous year, and his contract with Burke will be up in June. Upon the whole, he’s found the association profitable in terms of information, training, and contacts, but he never did intend to spend his whole life as a shopkeeper. And he already knows who last had Slytherin’s locket. Now it’s time to get it back.
He startes cultivating Hepzibah Smith. When we saw him pay her a visit in Hokey’s memory, he came with a negotiation from B&B to purchase back one of her previous acquisitions, at this point there is no way of telling whether this was his own idea or whether he was able to nudge Burke into sending him, but the connection is going to serve his purposes rather than Burke’s.
He probably also starts making comments about maybe taking a traditional Grand Tour when his contract runs out. Is there anywhere or anything on the Continent that Burke thinks might be particularly worth investigating or keeping an eye out for?
In the meantime, there is the question of the Ring. By this time he knows about those loons who call themselves the Hallows Questers, but they are an exclusivly wizarding nut cult so he’s had no objection to displaying the connection. That may turn out to be inconvenient, now, after the fact.
He has no idea that *Albus* wants the ring. But if Albus is campaigning for Morfin’s release, then the likelyhood is that his memory charm has failed, and the ring ties him to the Riddle murders (he probably thanks Merlin that the device on it doesn’t connect him to any specific family).
I think Tom decided that it might be wise to shed it. He was also planning to soon be traveling into dangerous places, so, one evening, or on his day off, he slipped off the radar, cursed it heavily, and dumped it where he'd found it.
I think that he quite deliberately took it back and left it in the Gaunt ruin. And it was most deliberately cursed to kill whoever picked it up. That was an intentional trap. He no doubt expected that the most likely person to find it would be uncle Morfin. And if Morfin wants his ring back, much joy may he have of it. And once Morfin was dead, there would be no way to conclusively prove Tom had ever been anywhere near the place.
So right about the time his contract with Burke was due to expire, Tom Riddle, in his capacity as a shop assistant employed at Borgin & Burke has an interview (not his first) with Madam Hepzibah Smith, a wealthy collector of magical artifacts, in which he verifies that, yes, it is Madam Smith who has current possession the locket of Salazar Slytherin, which had originally been the property of his mother’s family. She also reveals that she possesses a cup which she claims is a relic of Helga Hufflepuff, of whom Madam Smith claims to be a descendent. These temptations prove far too great to resist. Madam Smith survives her last known interview with Riddle by only two days.
He almost certainly makes another visit in which he possesses Madam Smith, forces her to drink poison, waits until she dies and creates the Cup Horcrux from her death. He then steals the Locket and the Cup (and probably whatever cash he found in her house), modifies Hokey’s memory, makes his good-byes to Burke, and slips off the board by the time the Hogwarts term breaks up for the summer.
An alternate possibility, suggested by a correspondent, is that Tom may possibly have been being kept abreast of developments inside the Ministry by a former classmate. It stands to reason that someone else either in his own year, or anything up to 2–3 years ahead of him might be working in the Ministry by then. Possibly more than one, considering how well-connected many of Tom’s former classmates were. In either event, Albus Dumbledore’s sudden interest in getting Morfin Gaunt’s conviction overturned would have given Tom an unequivocal heads-up.
Indeed, Tom was probably the one who took the initiative by contacting Hepzibah (whose name had probably shown up any number of times in the shop’s records) about selling that goblin armor back to B&B. And he may have done so without his employers’ knowledge. It would not have taken long to charm her into showing him whether she still had the locket, and had it in her own possession, rather than having stowed it in a Gringotts vault where no one could have got at it.
And, I’m sure the news of Albus’s interest in Morfin did prompt him to lay a curse on the Ring which would cause it to kill anyone either who tried to remove it from its hiding place, or attempted to put it on. (I am still rather fond of my theory that he developed this curse by clandestinely messing with the silver and opal necklace at B&B, which was already known to be cursed.)
On Burke's end, he had no idea that Tom had any interest in the locket or any connection with the ragged, homely young witch he'd bought it off of. Tom was careful to never tell him anything of that. Tom’s investigations of the shop’s records were passed off as becoming better aware of the shop’s stock.
Morfin Gaunt didn’t live to walk into the trap that Tom had set for him, but it caught Albus Dumbledore neatly enough, even though it had to wait to do so for something like 39 years. Almost to the day. We’re never going to get any kind of confirmation on any of this but I make the murder of Hepzibah Smith as taking place in early June 1948. That’s certainly within the parameters that we already had.
Albus would have recognized Tom in Morfin’s memory immediately. But we cannot be sure that he hadn’t been expecting it. A lot depends upon just how widespread the name “Marvolo” is among wizards. And Albus had been taking a covert interest in a student named Tom Marvolo Riddle for some years now. In fact, he had finally believed himself to be rid of the troublesome boy. He probably also remembered the ring that Tom had been wearing at some point in his last three years at school. Albus most likely had never got a close look at it, but, even if it was crude and ugly, it was not something that one would expect to find in the possession of a penniless orphan. And Albus already knew that the boy was a thief, and a bully who liked to take trophies. Morfin's rambling over having “lost” his father's ring would also have made that connection inescapable.
By that time, Tom was of age, out of school, and no longer under any authority of Albus Dumbledore’s. He had also almost certainly already turned the ring into a Horcrux. And since Rowling now has all Horcruxes acting like Tolkein’s One Ring, he would have had reason to find the ring’s attempts to influence him irritating, and would have stopped wearing it.
Although considering what that ring already inherently was there is a rather more amusing possibility for someone to make of. If they choose.
You do not activate the Resurection Stone by wearing it. You have to take it off and turn it around in your palm three times.
Well what else would you expect someone to do who is gloating over creating his very first Horcrux?
And probably thinking of all his “perfect” murders.
We already know that Tom doesn't *like* to be visited by the dead. We know he got used to talking to the ghosts at Hogwarts, but these shades aren't *ghosts*.
He pulled up the Riddles — even though they were Muggles — and he also got Myrtle. And Myrtle immediately set up her usual howl about how Olive Hornsby was mean to her and now she's dead and it was unfair, and Tom probably said something like; “Then go haunt Olive Hornsby and leave me alone!” And Myrtle was off like a shot, since he’d just given her permission to do exactly what she wanted to do.
Various people have pointed out that Myrtle is curiously substantial for a ghost. How many other ghosts have we met who were able to displace water?
Tom managed to bannish the Riddles. They were all Muggles, and wouldn’t have been able to manifest at all without the help of the Stone. But shedding the Ring a few years later probably suddenly looked like a rather good idea.
He may have even thought that what it did had something to do with his having turned it into a Horcrux. It would have been years before he had a chance to learn differently. Assuming he ever did.
Having gone over the reports both of Morfin and his father’s earlier arrest, as well as the report of Morfin’s murder conviction, it is difficult to believe that the name of the primary victim in both attacks did not register with Albus, who would certainly have associated it with the troublemaker who he suspected to have been behind any number of the nasty incidents at Hogwarts over the past few years. And who he had finally thought he was through with having to deal with. Through the use of Legilimency Dumbledore followed his hunch, and was able to retrieve the buried memory of Morfin’s only meeting with his nephew, and Albus’s discovery of Gaunt’s almost certain innocence of the murders of the Riddle family. Morfin Gaunt’s death took place before his release from Azkaban could be accomplished. Morfin’s death therefore I now place in the spring or early summer of 1948, although we cannot be certain. Assuming Morfin and his sister Merope had been near to the same age, Morfin would have been somewhere in his 40s at the time of his death.
That Albus Dumbledore was campaigning for Morfin Gaunt’s release suggests that the information discovered in the recovered memory would have been submitted to some Ministry committee as evidence. We do not know for certain who might have been a part of this committee. There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that Arcturus Black, then Head of the Black family may have been a member of this body.
January 1957: Minerva McGonagall is hired as the new Transfiguration instructor at Hogwarts.
Winter, year unknown (1957–1963): Albus Dumbledore is formally appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If we are to take Albus at his word that Tom Riddle was absent from Britain for a period of ten years, this would place his appointment in the winter of 1958–’59.
Soon afterwards Albus Dumbledore receives a visit from the former Tom Riddle, now openly calling himself Lord Voldemort. During this meeting Riddle once again requests the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor — which he knows is now vacant. This request is refused.
In retaliation, Riddle jinxes the post, ensuring that no other instructor will manage to finish out a year in the position. We do not know whether the jinx was to continue in perpetuity, or only throughout Dumbledore’s tenure as Headmaster (Rowling has since stated that it lasted until Riddle’s unequivocal death). It is also heavily implied that Aberforth Dumbledore was already in place as the barman of the Hog’s Head Tavern in Hogsmeade by the date of the interview between Albus and Tom Riddle. Indeed, it is possible that Aberforth has been in place in some capacity at the Hog’s Head since he sat his OWLs in 1900.
Riddle’s physical condition at this date, after his 10-year absence makes it evident that he has been greatly Changed by his involvement in some dangerously degenerative magical processes. His appearance is not yet so far removed from that of general humanity as it would be by the time of his 2nd return to the ww in 1995, but he is sufficiently changed to strongly foreshadow it. We assume that he had rendered the ring, the cup, the locket, and the diadem all into Horcruxes by this point, but that he had certainly not yet created his 6th Horcrux. It is now uncertain as to whether he had already rendered the diary into a Horcrux, or if he only did that shortly before intending to deploy it and gave it to Lucius Malfoy in preparation.
Riddle would, at this point (depending on which year the interview actually took place), have been 30–36 years of age. If it did indeed take place in the winter of ’58–’59 he would be just short of his 32nd birthday.
At this point I’d like to direct our attention to some of the possibilities introduced by those 2019 reconsiderations regarding that set of paired vanishing cabinets.
We have no information regarding when these cabinets were first added to the two locations where we originally encountered them. They are described as being *lacquer* cabinets, but this is not much help. Such a style, treatment, or material is often associated with chinoiserie, and other “exotic” decorative elements, and such styles have been going in and out of fashion for at least the last three centuries. Conversely, the term can merely indicate a particular variety of glossy shellac.
As to Borgin & Burke’s shop, we are told that the business was founded by Caractacus Burke, and that either the present shop, or an earlier one also run by Burke, was in business at least as early as 1925, when Merope Gaunt sold Burke the Slytherin locket. By the time Burke was interviewed by Albus Dumbledore regarding that locket, Burke was described by Harry Potter as “a little old man”.
Albus’s interview with Burke is most likely to have taken place in the mid-20th century. The shop might by that time have been in business for several decades.
The question of how long Burke might have had possession of the London cabinet could boil down to whether or not he was aware that the cabinet was one of a paired set. If so, he might have been reluctant to sell it without attempting to aquire the second cabinet, in order to sell them as a set, which would be a great deal more valuable.
But in any case, the fact that the London cabinet was still in the shop in 1996 in no way disqualifies it from having been in the shop in 1938. Or for it to have been aquired at any time during the period that Tom was either employed there full time, or working there during the summer. And I am fairly certain that if it was aquired during that period, it would have been known to be a “vanishing” transfer cabinet from the get-go. B&B isn't just a second-hand furniture shop, after all. All of their stock is known to be magical in either function or origin.
Burke is likely to have had at least some form of provenance for that cabinet, and such information would have been in the shop records. Such information might very well have included the fact that it was one of a pair of transfer cabinets, and could well have included the activtion phrase, or spell.
What we don’t know is whether Burke was aware of the location of the second cabinet. It is quite likely that through some oversight, he did not, or he would have made more of an attempt to aquire the one still at Hogwarts.
Tom, however, is very likely to have come across the Hogwarts cabinet at some point while poking and prying into every nook and cranny, and recognized that it matched the one at Burke’s. Particularly if, as I have postulated, he spent his summers as Burke’s shop boy, being trained in dealing with a wide variety of enchanted, or cursed artifacts.
And if so, then Tom Riddle may well have had access to that cabinet during at least some of his student years at Hogwarts. Even more to the point, he would have had access to it in 1948, before he left Britain and headed off for Albania.
I'm not at all sure that Tom would have passed this information on to Burke. I would be quite unsurprised to learn that Tom found having a secret passage into Hogwarts during the summer to be very useful. Particularly given that he was well aware of how to get into the Room of Hidden Things.
It occurs to me to wonder how much of Burke’s new stock at that point in time had been lifted from among the unclaimed and abandoned property in that Room. Tom Riddle was a thief long before he became a murderer.
And if, as I now suspect, Tom was covertly slipping in and out of Hogwarts under Headmaster Dippet’s unsuspecting nose at his own convenience, then I think the rarely asked question of; “Where did Tom store his Horcruxes before he gave them to followers to hide?” has a fairly obvious answer.
Tom, after all, did not have a known residence of his own during the years he was workig at B&B. He probably had a rented room somewhere, or even was living in a room attached to the shop. This is not the best sort of place to hide valuables. Particularly dangerous valuables.
I rather think that once he had stopped wearing it, he had stowed the Ring in the Room of Hidden Things until he decided to use it as a Morfin trap. And he was hardly going to risk the Cup and the Locket on a jaunt across Europe. They would be much safer in the Room. Insofar as the Cup and Locket went, there was the added bonus of the fact that if by some chance they had been discovered there, They would probably have simply been put on display in the trophy room rather than removed from the castle.
Consequently; Tom’s job interview was primarily a pretext for getting into the castle to discover where the transfer cabinet was currently located.
Checking whether the Cup and Locket were still in situ, adding the Diadem to the collection, and jinxing the DADA post (or the classroom), or Confunding the Hat, could all be better acomplished on a later visit, at some time when there would be no reason to believe that he had been anywhere near the place, and could work undisturbed. He had come to Hogsmeade with witnesses who could attest that he had met with Dumbledore, returned to the Hogs Head and departed in their company. As for getting back via the cabinet; he was fully conversant with the security at Burke’s. Getting access to the London cabinet was hardly beyond his capabilities.
To leap directly from this point to our next fairly solid date of 1980 would be to overlook the entire Marauders’ era, in which there is considerable reader interest across the fandom, and who unquestionably have contributed significantly to the story in the overall scheme of things.
Until recently, our only real handles on the Marauder era had come from interview and website information, which was awkward to work with since it tended to be mushily inexact, and because Ms Rowling has a distressing tendency to later reverse herself in subsequent statements. Both of these handles also depended upon highly “relative” dates.
The first of these is the post-GoF interview statement, quoted above, that Severus Snape (a year-mate of Remus Lupin and the rest of the Marauders) was “35 or 36” years old in the summer of 1995. The second; in a website response, in reply to the question as to whether or not she liked Sirius Black, Ms Rowling made the statement that he was only “around” 22 when he was sent to Azkaban.
However, with the release of the Black family tapestry sketch, we suddenly had to juggle the information that Bellatrix Black was born in 1951.
And yet, acto Sirius Black, Bellatrix was still at school when Severus Snape (and he himself) got there.
Since we know that Sirius Black was sent to Azkaban the day after Voldemort was defeated (i.e., November 1, 1981), if he was 22 years old at that point, he would have been born in 1959. He would not have been at Hogwarts while his cousin Bellatrix was still there. Not if she was born in 1951.
And she isn’t quite stupid enough for it to be plausible that she had to repeat a year. although it is possible that she may have missed a year due to some other, possibly medical problem. I think it might be unwise to depend upon that possibility, however.
The HP Lexicon originally reasoned from the “35 or 36” interview information that Snape and the Marauders were all born in 1960. I never agreed with that reading. I thought the probability was that the Lexicon’s calculations were off by a year. For the group all to have been born in 1960 did not plausibly give everyone enough time to finish school and get into position for the events which we know to have taken place in 1980-’81. But we did not yet have the website information regarding Black when the Lexicon did their original calculations and for several years they seem to have had something invested in an attempt to represent all characters as being as young as possible.
It now seems likely that Rowling either later got her dates from the Lexicon or she pulled them out of her hat, but for good or ill, we now have James and Lily Potters’ birth dates set in 1960.
Carved in stone, in fact.
Ergo: we need to redraft the dates on the tapestry sketch. And we need to redraft all of the dates for that generation in order to make them line up to what has been said about these people in canon. Because all of the dates that are visible in that sketch are just wrong.
I suppose it would also make sense here to raise the question of the ages of a few other people who are just a bit older than the Marauders. as well. Comparatively few of these can be set with any accuracy, since of all the persons we have met only two of them have had ages assigned to them at any specific time in canon.
If we can believe her quick-quotes quill; in order to have been 43 in the Autumn term of Harry Potter’s 4th year, Rita Skeeter would have to have been born in 1951, or quite late in 1950. She would most probably have started at Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1962 and finished with the class of 1969. This might well put her into the same year as Molly Weasley. This is not an absolute conclusion, however. The elder Weasleys may have finished school some time earlier than this, and simply not have started their family until 1971.
However, Rita’s long practice of sniping very specifically at the Weasleys, does at least suggest that there may be a history of friction between Rita and the elder Weasleys.
Arthur Weasley’s February 6 birthday, and Molly’s October 30 one would imply that if they are close to the same age, which has also been strongly suggested in canon, Molly would have been a year behind Arthur at school. Or, Molly could easily be the elder of the two, by a mere 3 months or so, which would put them both into the same year.
We have no confirmation of that, however. And while their elopement suggests that they married quite young, it does not necessarily follow that they started their family immediately. And all that we have in canon to set the date any closer than that is the information that the Whomping Willow (planted in the summer of 1971) was not at Hogwarts in Molly’s day.
Note: all projective birthdates regarding ages of the the oldest three Weasley children were thrown into a cocked hat, and then shaken hard, by contradictory information posted on JKR’s website, over the course of 2004, forcing us to dismiss at least one of her cumulative statements on the subject as simply wrong. And all of these statements still add up to a total which does not support statements made by the Weasley children themselves as to what was going on when, in their childhood.
More recent discussion on a listgroup far, far away, has suggested an alternate interpretation which reconciles most of the confusion, but depends upon another as yet unconfirmed factor. The matter is gone into in the companion essay ‘The Weasley Calendar’, I will not repeat the calculations here, but the information following is in accordance with those modified calculations. They may yet be further disrupted by future statements made by Rowling, but I suspect by this time Rowling has other fish to fry.
The Longbottoms also would appear to fit into this gap between Rita and the Marauders, but we do not have any information to place their birth dates at all.
With Lucius Malfoy, however, we have another minor problem. In order to have been 41 in September of Harry Potter’s 5th year, Lucius Malfoy would have to have been born in 1954 or very late in 1953. In this case, he would have probably started Hogwarts in 1965 and finished with the class of 1972. Lucius, unlike the elder Weasleys, would remember the planting of the Whomping Willow. But with these dates his time at Hogwarts overlaps that of Snape and the Marauders by only one year. Considering the suggested long association between Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape, it would seem more likely that a longer period of early association would have been the case. The article which stated Lucius’s age as 41 ran in September of 1995. So unless Lucius, like Miss Granger has a mid-September birthday, we have insufficient wriggle room in which to deal with the issue.
If, however Lucius Malfoy can be assumed to have a September (or later) birthday, then he would have had to wait an extra year to begin Hogwarts which would give he and Severus an overlap of two years. Malfoy’s adjusted Hogwarts years would have been 1966–1973.
As to the rest of the relevant characters for whom a date can be estimated:
1953, Autumn: Bellatrix Black born. And once again we are extrapolating children in a family spaced 2 years apart in accordance with what appears to be Rowling’s default calculations. Due to the necessity of fitting Nymphadora Tonks’s birth into the timeline before the end of August of 1973, in order for her to have commenced Auror training with the last group accepted into the program in 1991, and to yet keep Bellatrix in school at least long enough for a one year overlap with the Marauder cohort, an autumn birthday to delay Bellatrix’s start at Hogwarts seems the least awkward adjustment. Her Hogwarts years would have been 1965–1972.
1955, January-August: Andromeda Black born. Andromeda, on the other hand needs to have been born early enough in the year to have been of age and able to bail out of school in order to marry Ted Tonks as soon as she turned 17, making it possible for her daughter to have been born by the end of August of 1973. She might have been in the same academic year as Malfoy, but left before her 7th year.
1957: Narcissa Black born.
Sept 2 1959–Sept 1 1960: Marauder cohort born. Those dates known to us are:
September 2 — December 31, 1959: Sirius Black born. We can’t estimate any closer than that.
January 9, 1960: Severus Snape born.
January 30, 1960: Lily Evans born.
March 10, 1960: Remus John Lupin born.
March 27, 1960: James Potter born. So much for Sirius Black’s statement that James had been “only 15” at the time of the Pensieve junket. James would have turned 16 some 3 months earlier.
We have no “official” birth dates for Sirius Black or Peter Pettigrew. Rowling’s statement that Sirius was “about 22” when imprisoned in Azkaban on November 1, 1981 suggests an autumn 1959 birthday. No information whatsoever is available concerning Peter Pettigrew.
January–August, 1963: Regulus Black born. The death date on the tapestry as reported in OotP would have been 1980. Not 1979 as recorded on the sketch. From the statements made by Kreachur in DHs he would have been 17 at the time of his death. I have adjusted both his birth and his death dates to match with the textual evidence.
1966 (approximate): the Ministry of Magic finally becomes officially aware of a group of terrorists calling themselves the Death Eaters, under the leadership of a wizard calling himself “Lord Voldemort”. His capture and arrest are being actively sought from this point.
What we do not know is whether Albus Dumbledore took any action related to this newly apparent threat against the British wizarding world at this time. Given his reluctance to take action at any point that it might have made a difference in canon, I am inclined to believe not. I am also still inclined to believe that from what we observed, Albus Dumbledore would have been unlikely to do anything whatsoever before a situation arose (i.e., the Trelawney Prophecy) which he knew that the Ministry would do absolutely nothing to address — because to do nothing about Prophecies is established Ministry policy.
I also do not know whether Rowling has since posted any information on Pottermore, or any other website regarding the date at which Dumbledore formed his Order of the Phoenix. It was clear, however in the immediate post-release flury of interviews given after the publication of DHs that she intended us all to believe that the Marauders were able to go directly from Hogwarts into the Order, “full time”.
Of course this was also during the period that she could not stick to the same story of what her own trio was doing with itself between the Battle of Hogwarts and the Epilogue for two days running.
Frankly, I am inclined to regard this impression very much in the same light as the statement made in the combined interview of 2005 that she “feels” that the Potterverse events parallel those of the Real World — and then when she actually settled down to tuck this statement into her backstory, she went out of her way to demonstrate that the history of the Potterverse, as she states it, would make any such a parallel impossible. At which point one must conclude that Rowling “sucks at summaries”.
Still, assuming that the Order existed before the Prophecy got turned loose, we are left needing to address what concievable use Albus Dumbledore would have decided that he had for a private group of vigilantes unaffiliated with the Ministry — particularly a group which included Ministry employees. Particularly one that was supposedly under his direction while he was away at Hogwarts, with a day job of his own. A day job that, in addition to a seat on the Wizengamot, the position as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the office of Supreme Mugwump of the International Councel of Wizards apparently didn't keep him sufficiently busy.
To be perfectly honest, this whole scenario appears to be no more than a labored attempt to depict a tableau of two titularly secluded “leaders” of two symmetrically opposing groups, each with a team of minions, striking attitudes and snarling at each other across a great divide, posing in perfect balance.
However, the problem with tableaux is that they are all inherently a completely artificial representation of whatever their apparent subject is. Any hint of movement at all and the illusion is spoilt.
Much as the way in which Rowling has refused to ever give us any workable definition of these “Dark Arts” that are supposedly such a point of debate among wizards, she has also failed to provide us with any convincing reason for why Albus would have felt a need to try to put together a team to oppose a Dark wizard when the Ministry was already doing so.
Did he hope that if he could be seen to be opposing Tom that if someone brought Tom down he might be able to take possession of that ring?
Indeed, he was dividing the Ministry’s efforts and syphoning off some of what we are given to understand were some of their best operatives. And they agreed to it! There was nothing secret about the Order of the Phoenix in the first Voldemort war. Indeed, acto Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin, the Order and the Ministry fought side by side.
Why? What was the point? Why did the Ministry let the Headmaster — off in Scotland — meddle with their job of catching Dark wizards?
Or, maybe it’s finally time to wonder; did they ask him to?
This was something that came up in a discussion at some point in, I think, 2011. Why would the Ministry have wanted Albus Dumbledore to found an Order of youngsters and misfits to oppose Lord Voldemort? And permit at least three of their own Aurors to donate their time to shepherd it. Probably on their own time, I doubt that Moody and the Longbottoms were being paid a bonus to do it.
Well, it also occurs to me to wonder exactly how this Order functioned. It sounds like they did a certain amount of training, maybe some research, and more-or-less waited on the Ministry to give them something to do, or give them a heads-up for when they needed some additional bodies.
Without pay, of course.
Plus, apart from Moody and the Longbottoms — who we know were employed by the Ministry — it doesn’t sound like the rest of the group were Ministry employees at all. Some, like Hagrid and Minerva, had day jobs elsewhere. Some, like Mundungus Fletcher (and Remus Lupin), were probably unemployable.
And some, like the Potters and their friends, were a pack of young hotheads without jobs to keep them busy and out of mischief.
And the more I think of it, the more likely it sounds as if the Ministry might have wanted such a group of well-connected post-adolescents kept track of.
After all, it stands to reason that not all of the young rowdies in the ww at that period were prime DE material. And they may not have all had to work for a living, either.
The ones who did need to work probably had enough on their plate already, but kids with money (and “good families”) and too much time on their hands... Oh, yeah, I could see someone, somewhere in the Ministry, coming up with an idea to harness that energy to some purpose. And Albus was in an excellent position to have some idea of who were the most likely candidates. And also to be best qualified to give them some flannel-mouthed pep talk that would direct them somewhere where they might be out of the Ministry’s way and of some concievable use.
And if a few of of them did manage to settle into entry-level Ministry jobs, no harm, no foul.
Not that I necessarily think that the whole “Order of the Phoenix” was nothing more than another name for; Albus Dumbledore’s Babysitting Service for “Special Snowflakes”, but it makes at least as much sense as what Rowling has managed to provide with her oh-so-vaunted “feelings”. In fact, maybe a bit more.
But, really, the more Rowling has to say on the subject, the less reason I can see for the Order to even exist.
Until, that is, the Prophecy demons tossed an actual one into Albus Dumbledore’s lap. Just to see what he made of it.
Given the way the physics of the Potterverse seems to warp themselves around Harry Potter, maybe that’s why they did.
I mean, the more we ever learned about James Potter and Sirius Black, the less likely it sounded that they would even want to sign on for three more years of advanced training in order to become Aurors and make a career of hunting Dark wizards. After all, they wanted to fight Dark wizards right now, not three years from now. And they were confident that they already knew as much as they needed in order to do that.
It would certainly explain Lucius Malfoy’s dismissal of them as “meddlers”.
Like I say, I still don’t see any convincing reason for why Albus would have founded an Order — apart from authorial fiat — until that Prophecy got turned loose. But at least this is a possibility.
Another possibility, and one that recently sufaced (in the year 2020!), is even more theoretical.
This one came up over the course of an email correspondence regarding the Hallows.
Yes, those Hallows.
Albus and Gellert both went Hallows-mad some time around 1899, and neither one of them ever really got over it. And although I rather think that the continuing search for the Stone and the Cloak were still deninitely on his agenda, I suspect that by the time the Marauder cohort started at Hogwarts, Albus had thoroughly checked out all of the leads that Gellert had turned over to him in 1945, as far as he possibly could, and had come to a standstill.
We were given no hint of what age James was when he first brought the Cloak to school with him. I tend to doubt that his father handed it over to him in first year. But if Sirius Black is to be believed (which is always debatable), James Potter’s invisibility cloak was a factor for more than one of their Hogwarts years.
The Marauders were hardly the most responible of teenagers, were they? One cannot suppose they were any more so as preteens, either.
So, let’s just suppose that at some point they were larking about with it and got caught. An invivsibility cloak in the hands of a student is not something that belongs in a school. Any responsible instuctor would have no doubt confiscated it.
And turned it over to the Headmaster, to see that it was returned to the student’s family.
Invisibity cloaks do exist in the Potterverse. They may not be common, but Albus is not unaware of them. They are used by the DMLE and at least one of Albus’s associates has one.
But I would rather expect that if the Potters’ heirloom cloak was turned over to him by a concerned member of the staff, he would have very quickly recognized that this was not a “typical” invisibility cloak.
He would, indeed have turned it over to James’s father, and when James brought it back to Hogwarts, he and his friends were a lot more careful, and were never caught with it by the staff again. But Albus now had another “project” underway, and the first order of business was to see what he could discover about the Potter family’s lineage. I rather think that, name change notwithstanding, it was not difficult to confirm his suspcion that these were indeed Peverill descendants.
Which means that Albus had just been handed what to him would have looked like a very good reason to “cultivate” James Potter.
And to want to continue to have a good reason to keep track of Mr Potter once he had finished school.
Now, I am quite sure that you will find no direct support for this particular reading in canon, but Rowling’s canon is only very loosely sketched in. I am just as sure that you will find nothing that would absolutely disallow it, either.
But, once this particular possibility is actually on the table, quite a few matters which continue to mystify readers line up in a row like obedient little ducklings.
For one thing; if the Cloak had been confiscated and returned to James’s father before the Marauders’ 5th year, we have a secondary reason for Albus to have gone easy on the Marauders over the werewolf caper.
We definitely have a reason for Albus to support the proposal for James Potter to be Head Boy.
We also suddenly have a viable reason for just why Albus might have arbitrarily decided to form an Order of independent “freedon fighters” under his personal oversight, right around the time the Marauder cohort finished school.
And, with this in mind, I rather doubt that it was only Lord Voldemort who leapt to the conclusion that, once there was a “Child of Prophecy” in the equation, that the child so referred to would be the son of James Potter.
I certainly don’t insist upon it, but it does open up a number of possibilities…
1970 (approximate): Lord Voldemort does something which renders himself personally unmentionable by the greater wizarding public.
Summer, 1971: The Whomping Willow is planted. The tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, intended for the use of Remus Lupin is prepared at the same time.
September 1, 1971: The Marauder’s cohort arrives at Hogwarts for the autumn term.
November 28, 1971: Bill Weasley born. Note: Molly and Arthur Weasley were out of Hogwarts and had eloped before the summer of 1971, when the Willow was planted. It is *not* established in canon that they eloped during the summer of 1971. They may have done so at any date earlier. Their birth years and attendance years at Hogwarts are not extablished in canon.
June, 1972: Bellatrix Black finishes Hogwarts.
June, 1972: Andromeda Black finishes her 6th year at Hogwarts. Marries Ted Tonks, presumably in an elopement. There were a lot of those at the time. She never goes home again.
June 1973: Lucius Malfoy finishes Hogwarts.
1973: Nymphadora Tonks born. From her August, 1995 statement that she had just qualified as an Auror the year earlier, we can conclude that she began her training in the summer or Autumn of 1991. (The last year that any candidates were accepted into the Auror training program.)
Ergo; if she commenced her Auror training directly out of Hogwarts, she would have finished Hogwarts the summer of the year that Harry started, and her mother, Madam Andromeda Tonks (née Black) is unlikely to have been at Hogwarts after June of 1972. That Bellatrix Lestrange née Black is established as the eldest of the three Black sisters reveals that Sirius Black’s blanket statement in GoF of her being a part of the same group that Severus Snape frequented while at Hogwarts must be somewhat exaggerated. She can have been no younger than a 7th year in the academic year of ’71-’72, which was Snape and the Marauders’ first year at Hogwarts.
December 12, 1973: Charlie Weasley born.
June, 1975: Narcissia Black finishes Hogwarts. It is uncertain exactly when she married Lucius Malfoy, but their son was born in June 1980.
1972–1976: At some point during the Marauders’ years at Hogwarts, presumably between their 3rd and 7th years when they would have had limited access to the village of Hogsmead, Mundungus Fletcher got himself permanently ejected from the Hog’s Head pub by the barman Aberforth Dumbledore. Indicating that by this point the Headmaster’s brother was definitely stationed in the village in a position to be keeping an eye and an ear on the doings of the Hog’s Head’s rather unsavory clientele. It is possible that he and his brother were both engaged in gathering information which was passed on to the Ministry in matters concerning the Death Eaters and other persons engaged in criminal activities. The Hog’s Head was probably a suspected Death Eater dive by this time.
1975: young Quirrell starts at Hogwarts. It was Quirrell, after all, who first volunteered the information that James Potter and Severus Snape were at Hogwarts together and had loathed one another. Consequently, he must have seen at least something of the hostilities, and may have witnessed the Snape’s Worst Memory attack as a First year. This information would have come from Quirrell himself, Voldemort wasn’t anywhere near Hogwarts at that time and wouldn’t have cared anyway.
1976: The “werewolf caper” in which Severus Snape allegedly might have been killed by Remus Lupin but for James Potter’s intervention took place around April or May. The hazing episode that we witnessed in the Pensieve took place at the end of the year in June.
Based upon information in HBP, it is likely that at some point in their 5th year (1975–1976) a spell which had much the same effect as Levicorpus, managed to escape into the school. Post-DHs we are expected to simply assume that Snape taught it to Mulciber or Avery and it spread from there. In any case, whatever the source, the spell rampaged through the school like a bad case of the flu.
July, 1976, (probably): After a final confrontation with his family, Sirius Black leaves home. Moves in with the Potters.
August 22, 1976: Percy Ignatius Weasley born.
1977, Winter or Spring: Death of Sirius’s uncle Alphard, leaving him a sufficient legacy to get his own flat during the summer. Alphard is blasted off the family tapestry posthumously for this demonstration of disrespect to his sister and her husband, the boy’s parents.
1977, late Summer or Autumn: Dorea Potter dies of natural causes, either soon preceded or followed by her husband Charlus Potter. If these are James Potter’s parents, he would have been in his 7th year at the time. (Source: Black family tapestry sketch, so we cannot depend on the date.)
April 1, 1978: Fred and George Weasley born.
June, 1978: Snape and the Marauders finish Hogwarts.
1979: Regulus Black, age 16, joins Death Eaters. Probably during the summer or Christmas break, exact date uncertain.
September 19, 1979: Hermione Jean Granger born.
Early November, 1979–January 1980: Sybill Trelawney gives a Prophecy in the presence of Albus Dumbledore. Setting the stage for the next phase of the conflict between Lord Voldemort and the rest of the wizarding world. My own inclination is to accept the earlier of this possible range of time.
We have been given no reason in canon to believe that any of the three instances of the “defiance” of Lord Voldemort on the part of James Potter which are specified in the Trelawney Prophesy took place during his school days (I am inclined to dismiss the “prequel” which Rowling produced for yet another charity auction since the release of DHs. Very little of it actually fits into what we have been told in canon). If this is the case, all three of these incidents must have taken place between July 1, 1978, the point at which we can be sure that James had completed his schooling, and July 31, 1980, the date of the birth of his son. If we adopt the alternate reading that the Order was only formed after the Trelawney Prophecy was given, and the likelihood that Albus Dumbledore would have formed his Order of the Phoenix of people who he was able to determine had already “defied” the Dark Lord three times by the date of the Trelawney Prophecy, the date of the founding of the Order needs to be shifted to comply with the date of the Prophecy. At the earliest to Halloween 1979, around the time of the “Child of Prophecy’s” conception, but possibly at some point early in 1980.
We also have no information regarding the form that this alleged defiance took. Dumbledore states that to have escaped his attentions or those of his followers would have been interpreted as “defiance”. We have generally assumed that this alone is what has constituted their “defiance”. But we have, to date, no information as to why they would have been attacked by Voldemort, or his agents, in the first place. The Trelawney Prophesy was not yet a factor at this point in time.
Defiance, however, comes in more than one flavor and three separate escapes from Death Eaters are not absolutely required.
We were given some hints (admittedly, only in interviews) by Rowling during the early years of the series that what the Potters did for a living was “important”, but there has been no follow-up of these statements in the text. This appears to be an intention that Rowling did not ever manage to fit into the story, and it is not likely to be a profitable avenue for exploration now. From everything she has told us lately, both James and Lily were unemployed, and living on James’s inheritance. Not my definition of “important” but your milage may vary.
We also know from Sirius Black that when James Potter started his final year at school his parents were both still alive; yet by the time of James Potter’s death on October 31, 1981 his son’s only surviving relatives were Lily Potter’s sister Petunia, and her family. We already can see that this statement was inaccurate, since if Doria Black and Charlus Potter were Harry’s grandparents, there is no shortage of family connections through the Black family which can be proved to be cousins of Harry Potter. But Petunia and her family were certainly Harry’s closest relatives.
Rowling stated in her joint interview of July, 2005 that both of the elder Potters were quite old, even by wizarding standards, at the time of their deaths (a statement which is not supported in the least by the dates on the tapestry sketch, leading many fans to question whether these are supposed to represent James’s parents at all). And that they died of natural causes; some unidentified magical illness.
I have been given to understand that on Pottermore Rowling has indicated that Dorea and Charlus Potter were not James’s parents. I would not know about Pottermore, and prefer to dismiss it from consideration, given that Pottermore is not truly canonical even if Rowling did have something to do with it.
Well, we have possibilities. Admittedly none of those can be regarded as canon, either.
One possibility is that the defiance preceded, and indeed may have provoked the attacks.
That Lily Potter was offered a legitimate choice of saving herself suggests that it was only James Potter who was the primary object of any previous attacks. Given that the DEs by this point included a generous number of James’s Hogwarts rivals, the first attack(s) could have been quite personally motivated. Lucius Malfoy’s statement in CoS that Harry’s parents were “meddlesome fools, too”, otoh, suggests that James, and probably Sirius Black, may have managed to unwittingly stumble into the middle of some DE plot and mess with it, motivated primarily by Sirius’s continuing adverasial attitude toward his family. This constituted their first act of defiance. With the first direct attack upon James Potter (and probably Sirius as well) a piece of retaliation. Their escape constituting their 2nd “defiance”.
After the attack, I suggest that James not only did not back down, but began to publicly speak out against them, supported by the prominently pureblooded Black family’s rather notorious black sheep, and James’s own Muggle-born girlfriend/fiancée/eventual wife. Which would have constituted his 3rd act of defiance.
Remus Lupin, a registered werewolf, would have made sure to keep himself well in the background during this period, since his involvement in the matter would have done nothing for James’s public image. And, in another part of that background, I believe that pressure was now steadily being brought to bear on Peter Pettigrew, who was known to be connected to Potter’s circle. My own suspicion is that this pressure involved both the “carrot” and the “stick” and was applied by an expert. Pettigrew, unwilling to look the situation in its face, started spinning daydreams to himself and trying to have things both ways. See the companion essay entitled ‘Abandoning Ship’ for more detailed speculation.
An interview comment by Rowling in October of 2007 attempts to reconcile this by claiming that the Potters and Sirius Black had joined the Order of the Phoenix directly out of school. Unfortunately the logistics of this statement are not fully supported by what we have been shown in canon. Consequently, although I will leave the statement here, I am less than enthusiastic about adopting it for my own speculations. Post-DHs I have become progressively less and less inclined to accept any interview claims as being even remotely canon. They are suggestions only, imho.
And, bringing us back to the starting point; I propose that at some point around Halloween, 1979 Albus Dumbledore conducted a job interview for a vacant Divination instructor’s position and became the impromptu recipient of the Trelawney Prophesy. Further speculation on matters related to the Prophecy can be found in the essay in the acompanying portion of the collection (the UNhallowed collection) entitled ‘The Child Foretold’.
My reasoning for the most likely placement of the Prophesy around Halloween is discussed in detail in the aforesaid essay. In any event this reasoning is readily supported by Trelawney’s statement that in September of 1995 she has been an instructor at Hogwarts for “nearly 16 years”. Indicating that she, like Minerva came on Staff after the school year had formally commenced. We know from Albus Dumbledore that he did not take her onto the staff of Hogwarts until after she had made the Prophesy. Her date of hiring would therefore be sometime between the middle of the Autumn term, 1979, and January, 1980. (The Umbridge interview took place before the end of September, 1995, so we are aware only that Trelawney did not start teaching at the beginning of the Autumn term of ’79.)
We were told in OotP that during this incident an eavesdropper was detected, and ejected from the building, presumably by the barman Aberforth Dumbledore, before this individual got a chance to overhear the Prophesy in its entirety.
In HBP we discovered that Trelawney’s version of this event is very different from Dumbledore’s. According to Trelawney the eavesdropper was still outside the door when she had finished giving the Prophecy, and dragged into the room by the barman after it was complete. From this point we are forced to pick and chose which version we are going to believe.
Since there is no way that Trelawney would have been able to identify the eavesdropper if Dumbledore’s version is the accurate one — there having been no opportunity for her to have gotten a glimpse of him — I am forced to conclude that Dumbledore was fudging the truth for reasons of his own. We have yet to hear either Severus Snape or Aberforth Dumbledore’s version of the proceedings.
In any case only the first part of the Prophecy was reported to Lord Voldemort. Certainly with Albus Dumbledore’s knowledge, possibly with his approval, and not impossibly on his orders. Even if not according to Rowling.
What is more, despite the fact that the Ministry’s policy is to suppress Prophecies, Albus hedged his bets, in case that unpreposessing youngster at the door was not one of Tom’s, and waltzed into the Ministry himself to present them with a Prophecy record — probably labled something provocative like “Concerning The Dark Lord’s Downfall”. Albus was taking no chances that the fact of the existence of that Prophecy would not get out.
For the sake of my own interpretations, it is easier for me to believe that Albus sent Snape to report the first half of the Prophecy, and then formed his Order to attempt damage control. That interpretation however has taken up permanent residence in the Potterverse UNhallowed collection. I will not insist on exploring it here.
But what I DO now suspect is that Albus’s insistence in HBP that Prophecies are what you make of them was offered very much in the spirit of “the man who learned better”. I think that at the time it occured, he was every bit as deluded by that Prophecy as Tom was.
At the very least, Albus knew that he had been caught napping and at least part of the Prophecy was potentially in circulation. There was every chance that Tom would learn of it. Hence the Order. For damage control.
At which point it is now necessary to extrapolate Tom Riddle making another sureptitious foray into B&B to make use of the vanishing cabinets. Up to this point, I contend that the Cup, the Locket and the Diadem had remained safely hidden in the Room of Hidden Things, and Tom had felt confident in his belief that even if by some unforeseen circumstance they managed to be found, they would not have been removed from the building.
I also doubt that he had as yet created any additional Horcruxes. He wanted to use Gryffindor’s sword and Dumbledore’s death for one of them, and had still not managed to figure out a way to acomplish it. He had held another spot open, in case of future developments.
I am also inclined to doubt that he credited Albus Dumbledore with being able to recognize an actual Horcrux, regardless of how “fierce” he might have been some decades earlier about supresing any information about them. Albus had certainly constituted no more than a moderate nuisance to Riddle’s activities so far.
If, as I contend, the Prophecy was made at some point around Halloween, 1979, then Tom might have taken a few days or weeks to draft out his altered plans in reaction to it. He still had a Ministry to destabelize, and any number of other ducks to herd into a row. But he does appear to have come to the decision that leaving three of his Horcruxes all in the same place was probably not as clever an idea as he had originally thought.
And, what is more, with a “Child of Prophecy” in the equation, he was no no longer obligated to devise a way of managing to possess, and then assasinate Dumbledore for his piece de resistance. He could now simply contract that death out, without needing to create a Horcrux from it.
I rather expect that he waited until the winter break when there would be fewer people in the castle. If there was some Ministry function or Wizengamot session which would get Dumbledore out of the castle as well, all the better.
He left the Diadem in place. It was sufficiently damaged that it would not enhance his status, even if someone did recognize what it was. And he decided to hide the Locket himself. But, at some point, almost certainly in 1980, he gave the Cup to Bellatrix for safekeeping.
He had already discovered the “grabby” behaviour of his own Horcruxes back when he had created the Ring. But from that experience he had only concluded that he could not comfortably handle them. I also rather think that since 1943, he may have largely forgotten about that particular detail.
Bellatrix rapidly gave him ample reason to remember that little problem. Hermione tried to tell us that Horcruxes are only dangerous if you become “attached” to them. (And she was manifestly wrong about that if Rowling is to be believed. But attachment undoubtedly makes it worse.) Can you draw me any scenario in which Tom could hand Bella a Founder’s arifact, asking her to keep it safe for him, and she wouldn’t immediately become “attached?”
It had probably completely taken her over before a month was out. The difficulty would have been in getting it to turn her loose. And she probably wouldn’t have wanted it to! Tom probably had to order her to put it in her Gringotts vault where she couldn’t keep being overtaken by it.
All of which I rather think gave him ideas.
Since he had stopped after four, holding two spots in reserve, he still had an extra slot available to devise a weapon which would facilitate the long-delayed project of eliminating Dumbledore, and the method that he eventually devised would result in that fifth Horcrux being left in a place where not only would no one ever find it, but it would have a Basilisk to guard it, in addition. Indeed, with a Basilisk terrorizing the castle, the school may have been closed, and he could finally have taken the castle as his own personal stronghold.
It might have taken him a while to think of using his old diary as a user interface, and some time more to draft out how it would need to work. We do have Albus’s statement that the Diary was not given to Lucius Malfoy until some time in 1981, possibly rather late in the year.
So, altogether, it may have been something more, and something other than just determining the proper interpretation of; “the seventh month” that kept him occupied for two years after he knew about the Prophecy, before he apears to have done anything about it.
The October 2007 appearance in which Rowling made the comment above about the Potters joining the Order right out of school also produced a statement claiming that the Potters had gone into hiding soon after Lily discovered herself to be pregnant. From this statement it would appear that we are being invited to understand that the meeting between Snape and Albus Dumbledore on the windy hilltop was the point at which Albus convinced the Potters to go into hiding. I think this might be an invitation that it would be unwise for us to accept.
In the first place, although Christmas break 1979–1980 would certainly conform to both the season in which the meeting was seen to have taken place and the time at which the Potters are now stated to have gone into hiding (which contradicts information which had been sitting on Rowling’s original website since about 2004), from what we witnessed, it is very difficult to accept that the discussion between Snape and Albus is referring to a child who is not already born.
It is also difficult to accept that Tom Riddle would have announced to Snape that he was intending to murder the Potters the moment he learned that the Potters were expecting a child. The child after all, might not have shown up until August, or might have been a girl. Tom Riddle would have probably dismissed a girl as being any threat to him.
For that matter there is the question of how Tom Riddle would have known that the Potters even were expecting a child at so early a date. For it is unlikely that they made a general public announcement so early in the proceedings.
To be sure, if Tom had been informed of the matter so early, it would certainly explain how Albus knew that there was a spy in his Order and that the spy was connected to the Potters. But, the fact is that Voldemort did not reveal that there was a child of Prophecy in the equation to his followers. That he spoke of the matter to Snape, is only due to the fact that it was Snape, alone, among his followers who even knew that the Prophecy referred to a child.
I also seriously doubt that Albus revealed the news of a Prophecy to the Order either, and without that information, there is no reason for why Peter should have reported a pregnancy among the Order members to the DEs. For that matter, Peter is not widely believed to have actually got off the fence and joined Lord Voldemort until the night he inadvertently led him to his destruction. Although he had certainly been passing information before that night. Possibly under pressure, initially.
It is also hard to believe that Peter could have been spying in the Order for 22 months without Albus having figured out that it was him. If Albus gave a damn, that is. The Order wasn’t all that large. Even downstream of DHs, it is hard to believe Albus hadn’t figured it out.
So, upon the whole I think I will decline that particular invitation.
On the other hand, if Voldemort was aware that Lily Evans (the current Lily Potter) and Severus Snape had been friends when they first came up to Hogwarts, and continued to be such for years afterward, regardless of whatever Snape might think of James Potter, then I can well imagine that he might have chosen to claim — to Snape — that he had decided to kill the Potters as soon as he understood that the Potters were expecting a child (or had produced a child) around the time that the foretold child of Prophecy was due.
Consider; Tom Riddle had nowhere nearly as solid a grip on Severus Snape as he had upon his more typical followers. Snape did not fit his followers’ usual demographic at all. And most of his younger followers were well aware of it. Bellatrix in particular, who had Tom’s ear, would certainly have remembered the grubby, common, little working-class tyke, from a northern Muggle mill town who had showed up in her 7th year, and she would have been quick to make certain that Tom knew all about it.
This might not have had quite the effect that Bella intended. As an orphanage child, Tom himself had come from a social stratum that was if anything, somewhat lower than Snape’s. Snape’s efforts to make himself “presentable” would have been regarded as being to his credit. But it would have suggested that Snape not only knew what Muggles were like from experience, rather than biased and ignorant report, but that he also probably had few obvious collateral ties inside the wizarding world through which he could be readily manipulated.
If nothing else, a threat to Lily Potter and her family would serve as a useful test.
Snape’s plea for Lily’s life spoke well of his capacity for loyalty. It also suggested that if Tom could manage to spare the little bint, her life could be held hostage against Snape’s good behavior forever afterwards.
It’s far from a certainty, but it seems in keeping with what we’ve come to expect of the mental processes of Tom Riddle.
January, 1980–December, 31, 1980: at some point during this period, Regulus Black disappears and his death is recorded on the family tapestry in the parlor. His Voldemort scrapbooks, discovered in his bedroom after his death suggested to his family that he had become involved with the DEs, leading to his death. Arcturus Black reinstates Sirius as his heir, there being no other male Black still living other than his cousin Pollux whose line has dwindled to nothing but granddaughters.
The Black family tapestry sketch absolutely contradicts information given us in the course of the series, for it claims that Regulus Black did not die in 1980, as was stated in OotP, but in 1979. It also claims that Regulus was born in 1961, which, if the information given us by Kreachur in the course of DHs is to be believed would place his death in 1978. Consequently the sketch contradicts both OotP and DHs on anything related to Regulus Black, while the books do not actually contradict each other. His father, Orion Black is also shown on the (corrected) sketch as having died at some point during 1979. We do not know if his death and that of Regulus are supposed to have been connected. But it does not seem likely. Nor can we be altogether sure that both deaths did indeed take place during the same year, or whether Orion really did die in 1979 and Regulus in 1980. Which certainly seems aleast as much, if not even more likely.
A further wrinkle has been introduced by the tapestry dates for Cygnus Black, which were originally stated as being 1938–1992. There were considerable problems with these dates. The Lexicon later changed these dates to 1929–1979 matching those of his cousin Orion. This information was taken from the prop tapestry created for the film. It is unknown where the film designers got these numbers.
December 1979–February 1980: I still think it makes the most sense to read it that in an attempt to reduce the potential collateral damage from the Prophecy, Dumbledore founded the Order of the Phoenix; probably within the following month or so after hearing the Prophecy. I suggest that the Order was composed of his own trusted associates, all of those persons known to have defied/escaped/butted heads with Lord Voldemort or his followers, as well as whatever friends and family members of the first two groups were willing to get involved. It is possible that the Potters came in through their association with Remus Lupin, who may have already been monitoring the movements of the band of werewolves collected under Fenrir Greyback’s leadership on Albus’s behalf.
Among this collection of people were a handful of families, including, as it turned out, not one, but at least two couples who were anticipating the birth of a child around the end of July, leading Dumbledore to conclude that the “7th month” referred to in the Prophecy was, in fact, July, rather than September, the month whose name translates literally as “7th month”, or the 7th month following the giving of the Prophecy which, if the Prophecy was given around Halloween, would have been the end of May. He also knew that Tom had none of these assurances.
If not intended as a holding pattern for young rowdies of good family, the primary purpose of the Order appears to have been mutual support and protection. For there is certainly no other function that it served which was not already covered by the Ministry. Even if Albus never openly admitted to the existence of a Prophecy or expressed this to be the organization’s purpose. The Order’s duties would have been particularly directed to the protection of the anticipated Child of Prophecy and his family, along with any other candidate for this position and his family.
Its stated purpose is more likely to have been intelligence gathering and interpretation. The members can hardly have been unaware that pretty much anything else would be duplicating effort already being handled by the Ministry. Intelligence processing was as well, but the Ministry was likely to have always been glad of more help, and the Order would have had slightly different sources of such information. The Ministry would probably have also been glad of a trusted source for few extra volunteers for a raid or other operation.
Dumbledore’s duties to the school, to say nothing of the Wizengamot and the International Confederacy precluded his taking more than an advisory role in this matter. The active members did the body of the work, mostly on their own initiative with occasional input, advice, and direction from Dumbledore. The vintage photograph of the “original” Order unearthed by Moody at the opening of OotP was probably taken soon after the Order’s founding, probably late in 1979, or at the beginning of 1980. Both Lily Potter and Alice Longbottom and their husbands were already a part of the organization. Neither’s pregnancy had yet reached the point of “showing”.
The Ministry and the Hogwarts staff were aware of the Order’s existence, its stated purpose of opposing Voldemort, and was willing to work with it. But at this point it seems unlikely that it was aware of the Order’s connection to a Prophecy, or even in the case of most of the Ministry, of the fact that there ever had been a Prophecy — let alone that a part of it had managed to escape. We have no further information on this issue.
The Ministry was itself under the strain of close to 20 years’ worth of slow, insidious undermining of public confidence in its ability to protect its constituency, and at most it was only aware that a Prophecy related to the Dark Lord had been recorded and archived in the Department of Mysteries. Had it known anything further it might be grateful for someone else, particularly someone of Dumbledore’s stature to be willing to take on the additional burden of overseeing anything as dicey as the events foretold in a maybe-Prophesy. But more likely, it would have firmly advised him to stay out of it and not meddle.
It is also entirely possible that the Ministry would have flatly refused to take any action with regards to matters referred to in a Prophesy, even one that had escaped. From the measures taken by the Ministry to limit access to even the records of Prophesies, it is clear that the MoM’s official policy on Prophecies is to actively suppress them. It would been against all precedent for the Ministry to have taken extreme measures, or indeed any measures to prepare for one. Which sets a precedent from the beginning that the Order exists to do that which Dumbledore judges needs to be done, and which the Ministry will not or can not do.
Voldemort, on his end, would have seen to it that none of his followers had any knowledge regarding a Prophesy concerning his downfall, either. This is information which he only shared after his return, when retrieving the record of the Prophecy became his highest priority. The most that could have been known by anyone within the DEs prior to his first defeat is that there was a record of a Prophesy related to the Dark Lord having been made, but prior to Tom’s first defeat Harry Potter’s name had not been on that record.
On the other end of the equation, if Albus Dumbledore shared any information with the members of the Order of the Phoenix (and he claimed that he did not) it would have been only that portion of the Prophesy which Voldemort was known to be aware of; that the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord would be born to those who had thrice defied him, born as the 7th month died. No one other than Snape and the Dumbledore brothers knew anything of what had actually been said on that night.
1979 (Aproximate): there is a shift in the progress of the war. The Ministry institutes its shoot-to-kill policy. Possibly in response to recent unspecified advantages gained by the DEs.
One possibility concerning that unspecified advantage Lord Voldemort and the DEs may have gained concerns Barty Crouch Jr.
Young Crouch, upon what indications we have in canon can have finished Hogwarts no later than with the class of 1981, making him one of the last bonafide groups of Death Eaters to have been inducted into the organization before the defeat of the Dark Lord in October of that year.
If this is the case, he would have started Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1974, the year after our Pensieve junket took place, and would have been born between September 2, 1962 and September 1, 1963. This supports Sirius Black’s statement that Crouch looked no older than 19 when he was first imprisoned, possibly late in 1982. He would have been either 19 or barely turned 20 at that point. He would also have been in the same year as Regulus Black. Who died before finishing Hogwarts.
However, given that almost no information handed to us by Sirius Black in that particular conversation has failed to be thrown into dispute elsewhere inside of canon, I am no longer convinced that this statement is safe enough to simply be accepted without question. Particularly a statement that pertains to something as indeterminate as the apparent age of a youngster of around 20. How readily would most people be able to tell an 18-year-old from a 20-year-old after all? Young Barty may have been baby-faced, and anything up to a couple of years older than Sirius guessed him to be. And if that were the case, he may have been a new hire at the Ministry and passing information on his father’s activities to Voldemort since the middle of 1979.
Now I admit that this possibility is not openly suggested anywhere in canon. But the fact that it takes so little effort to admit such a possibility into the equation; indeed, one need only to dismiss one statement from among a clutch of statements nearly all of which have since proven to be dubious, it seems unsafe to refuse to consider it. And the fact that Sirius seems not to remember anything about young Crouch, despite the fact that their time at Hogwarts must have overlapped, suggests to me that 12 years in the custody of Dementors had resulted in a degree of memory loss which was not confined only to specifically happy memories. That indeed, any memory which was not actively miserable may have been misplaced, and that many basically neutral memories may not have ever resurfaced without some degree of therapy, which Sirius never got.
Over the course of the first four books, and even to some degree in the fifth, we were given the strong impression that throughout the first portion of Lord Voldemort’s “first rise” he had enjoyed some degree, perhaps a very large degree, of popular support.
But then, we also believed, based upon Dumbledore’s comment that “We’ve had precious little to celebrate for 11 years”, made in the first chapter of PS/SS, that Lord Voldemort had only begun his rise around 1970.
Post HBP, it is now clear that this was no such thing. We have been shown the official backstory of Tom Riddle at most of what are represented to be its significant points, and there was no point in that arc at which he was ever anything other than the leader of a dangerous gang of thugs, a gang that the greater part of the wizarding public abhorred, and, moreover, one with no more than a few dozen voluntary followers even at the height of his influence.
And yet we still get statements like Lupin’s claim that the Order was outnumbered 20 to one by Voldemort’s DEs. Clearly, Lord Voldemort was a Master of smoke and mirrors.
It seems likely that the discovery that a Prophecy had been made related to his downfall shocked and frightened him. And, rather than ignoring it, which would have been the wisest course, he panicked and escalated his campaign of steadily increasing violence before the Ministry had succumbed to either his cumulative overt or covert campaigns against it (assuming he actually had any. After the fact it seems easier to believe that he was merely stringing his followers along with an illusion that he had).
This turned out to be a significant blunder. One should never do anything based on a Prophecy.
The final phase in his first rise appears to have been based upon extravagant levels of open violence. In the face of an already collapsed and dysfunctional Ministry he might soon have been able to wrest command away from the Wizengamot and establish a state of open anarchy. But the Ministry was still holding together, even if in a weakened position. And it was still able to mount a functioning, if not altogether effective, opposition. We were given to believe that Voldemort’s current activities, once his return was open knowledge, took up, as closely as possible, from where he left off nearly 15 years earlier.
It is unlikely that there were ever more than 5 or 6 dozen actual Death Eaters, most of them the members of 3–4 dozen or so families; descendants of the people with whom Tom had attended school, plus a few key recruits who were slightly older than himself, or, later on, younger recruits from families of a similar background. And later yet, his original followers’ descendants.
If his followers current activities reflect those of the 1970s, it now appears that they were far more likely to depend upon sabotage achieved by lavish use of the Imperius Curse, which served to conceal their true numbers. We have already been told that in the first war most of the Death Eaters did not know more than a few of their fellows’ identities (Imperio’ed puppets certainly would not). And, from Karkaroff’s testimony, it appears that they operated in sub-groups probably under “cell leaders” at Voldemort’s direction.
Different groups probably had different responsibilities, and it was probably only a few of these subgroups who had typically been engaged in arranging open attacks, suspicious deaths (or, even better, unsuspicious deaths) and disappearances.
But enormous damage to public perception was being done.
As in his second rise, much rhetoric was expended spurring the Ministry to unwise responses to the growing threat, and these responses, although they produced little in the way of actual protection, did much to increase the level of public anxiety, and even to force a significant minority of the public into a position of opposing the Ministry’s policies and actions who otherwise would not have done so. Not to mention prompting a complete disregard of due process of law and the arrest and summary imprisonment of the innocent, without benefit of trial. Voldemort had effectively remade the Ministry, and Barty Crouch Sr in particular, over into his own image.
Furthermore, if any prominent, highly vocal critic of the WW’s government had ever been revealed (or could be made to appear to be revealed) as an undercover DE terrorist willing to overthrow that government by violent means, however vigorously a deceived former supporter of this critic might recant his earlier position, there was always considerable doubt that his statements could be trusted, since he was known to have formerly been quite open in his support of the “monster’s” goals. Neighbor could no longer trust neighbor, and even one’s own family members were nervously brought under general suspicion.
I suspect that until the final, most violent stage of his rise, Muggle-baiting and Muggle killings had probably never been an official part of the agenda, apart from serving as another source of a gibe at the Ministry for failing to stop it. Attacks upon Muggles were simply a perk in which Voldemort had always allowed his followers to indulge unchecked, so long as they could manage to not get themselves caught, and did not let it interfere in what orders he did give them. He certainly had no objection to it and may have occasionally taken part. But he has demonstrated enough of a pattern of allowing other people to take the real risks, even for his own activities that I suspect whipping his followers up with rhetoric and turning them loose to indulge themselves was more in his style.
I also suspect that not all of his followers may have indulged in this behavior. (Although many, particularly a certain segment of the younger ones, did, with considerable relish.)
Now, suddenly, they were all — young and old — expected to hold themselves in readiness to be sent on violent missions in which they were expected to kill, destroy, and terrorize their fellow wizards! Any of them. At any time. Regardless.
And without regard to the protection of wizarding Seclusion, either.
Not all of Voldemort’s inner circle had intentionally signed up for this. Certainly not to take the risk of completely blowing the discovery of the existence of wizards among them wide open to the countless multitudes of Muggles out there. Nor to be expected to take the risk of openly attacking other wizards who could curse them back!
Plus; some of the younger ones had evidently expected this “new Dark Order” to be simply handed to them once the Ministry collapsed. Without any kind of compromise of their own moral values — such as those were.
The reactions to their Leader’s sudden escalation of the agenda were somewhat varied: the first, and most widespread, and of course, the only one really acceptable, ranged anywhere from; “Okay. You’re the boss.” to “YES!!!!!”
The second; a far less common reaction was to offer some protest; It was at this point that Voldemort took the gloves off and demonstrated that he was not their Leader, he was their Master. Unforgivable curses, and some judicious thinning of the flock were his immediate response to any form of protest. In fact, I suspect that ordering some of those who were teetering on the fence to do the actual culling was an economical way of sorting out who was worth being retained.
Young Regulus Black was originally assumed to have been a casualty of this particular phase in the proceedings. But it is now clear that there was a good deal more than this to his particular story, and our initial perception (as was his own brother’s) was very, very wrong.
The third reaction among the troops was undoubtedly; “Oooohh, shit!” accompanied by a determination to keep one’s head down, follow orders, and just hope that it would all be over soon. Ludo Bagman’s behavior in canon make it likely that if he was indeed a Death Eater, this was his response.
And one or two of them may have considered approaching the Ministry to cut a deal.
1980, exact date unknown: Milicent Bagnole becomes Minister for Magic
1980, March 1: Ronald Billius Weasley Born. Middle name commemorating Bilius Weasley, one of Arthur’s uncles; the one who is said to have seen the Grim and died of it.
1980, June 5: Draco Malfoy born.
1980, July 30: Neville Longbottom born.
1980, July 31: Harry James Potter born.
1980, late: Igor Karkaroff captured and sentenced to Azkaban.
For some as yet undetermined reason of his own (although I have speculated on what sort of project may have been keeping him busy, above), Voldemort did not attack the families of either of the two children who were born at the time supposedly foretold by the Prophesy immediately after the children’s births. Although Harry’s christening was “a hurried and secret affair” with his parents ready to bolt into hiding at any moment, the expected attack did not come until more than a year later.
It is possible that Voldemort, who is perfectly capable of drawing a line between two points, and being perfectly well aware that the month name “September” translates literally into “7th month” had concluded that the child foretold in the Prophesy was to be born toward the end of September. And when no such child appeared, he was forced to backtrack. Having learned of the Prophecy soon after the end of October, he may have next estimated seven months from the time of the Prophecy, which would have been the end of May. That investigation may have proven to be similarly fruitless.
It is also possible that the families of any wizarding child born during the month of September 1980 had already been attacked and murdered, and he had considered himself safe. Temporarily. We do not know of any event that might have caused him to reconsider the matter, or when.
But whatever the cause might have been, the prospect of needing to survey 20+ years of his activities in order to determine who might be the specific “defiant ones” to whom the Prophesy referred, and to attempt to discover whether any children of such people were known to have been born at any other time that the Prophecy might have been referring to would have been daunting. He was also hampered in this search by the fact that he had shared none of his scanty information regarding the Prophecy with any of his followers. Not even the most zealous.
By the beginning of October 1980 (or thereabouts) the only follower he had who knew anything about the contents of the Prophecy was Severus Snape, who had reported it. I originally thought that this might have had some bearing upon why Snape was ordered into Hogwarts the following year. That, in fact, one of the first assignments that he gave Snape, once he had established himself at Hogwarts, might very well have been to get a look at the enrollment list and copy down the names of all children whose births were listed on it in the year following the date the Prophecy had been given. If this had been the case, it would have been very clear why events came so quickly to a head in October of 1981.
It seems not to be the case, however. At this point it also becomes necessary — with some reluctance — to take the revelations of ‘The Prince’s Tale’ into account. Regardless of the fact that in most cases, to summarily dismiss any information that thas lobbed at us over the course of DHs will usually make getting a handle of what was going on a lot more convincing.
Nevertheless, from the state of the leafless trees on that windy hilltop, it is unlikely that the meeting at which Snape told Dumbledore that Riddle had chosen to target the Potters took place as early in the year as Halloween, or any time before it. Trees usually still have their leaves at Halloween, that is the height of “fall color”. Consequently, the meeting must have taken place either the previous year, in late autumn, winter (although not once snow was on the ground) or very early spring, before the trees had set out buds. Indeed, if the region where the meeting took place was in an area which gets little snow (as is the case with much of Great Britain), it could have taken place at any time over the previous winter.
It is not likely to have taken place the week or so before the Potters went into hiding, as was implied in the eavesdropping scene in the 3 Broomsticks in PoA. I think that Ms Rowling must have suffered a change of mind between 1999 and 2007 regarding this matter. In any case, the meeting appears to have taken place well before Severus Snape was taken onto the staff at Hogwarts school.
Winter of 1980/1981, early: Severus Snape turns himself in to Albus Dumbledore and agrees to become a spy in return for protection for Lily Potter. It is possible that this meeting occurs during Christmas break. He would be just turning 21.
1981, late spring or summer: Severus Snape, who since reporting the partial Trelawney Prophecy to Lord Voldemort, has risen into a position of at least some favor on the strength of it is ordered to take a position in Dumbledore’s school. Ostensibly to spy on Dumbledore.
It is still strongly suggested in canon that Voldemort intended for Snape to be drafted to the ever-rotating DADA instructor’s position, and Snape did indeed first apply for that position.
Which, given that Voldemort knows perfectly well that the position is cursed, suggests that he; A. considered Snape expendable, and/or; B. he only intended for Snape to be posted inside the school for a year.
Consequently we might suspect that there was in fact another covert mission behind this assignment. One that could be accomplished within a year. I contend that the most likely such covert assignment would have been the assassination of Albus Dumbledore. But; only after Voldemort had already settled the threat posed by the foretold child of the Trelawney Prophecy.
Snape, who had already been working with/for Dumbledore for at least some months, informed Dumbledore of this development, and Albus chose to modify the plan by hiring Snape to replace Horace Slughorn as Potions master and Head of Slytherin House instead. It is at this point unknown whether Albus encouraged Slughorn to consider retirement at this time, or if his inquires regarding what had caused his favoritism for Tom Riddle to cool so rapidly back around the time that something was attacking and petrifying students had already prompted Slughorn to consider retirement.
Herin some further speculation concerning Snape’s position within the DE hierarchy:
Snape was certainly accepted into the inner circle of “marked” DEs at some point, but I contend that until he reported the partial Trelawney Prophecy to his Master he was never a prominent or particularly important figure among them. He was just too young. He is almost certain to have been brought into the organization under Malfoy’s sponsorship and would have functioned as a subordinate member of Malfoy’s “cell”.
Snape, to that point, had probably never worked directly for Voldemort; his orders would have always come through Malfoy. (One seriously wondered how having his patron, Malfoy, taken off the game board at the end of OotP was going to affect Snape’s position in the circle. Evidently he immediately appeared to have risen to take Malfoy’s “favored” place.)
And Snape’s orders were dependent upon whatever area in which Voldemort had chosen to deploy Malfoy’s cell. Snape probably was Malfoy’s own pet Potions swot. Voldemort may have had one or two other, older and more experienced (although possibly not so gifted) Potions specialists already available; Malfoy very likely did not, or none as conveniently to hand as Snape.
But I believe that Snape’s primary function for the DEs was not Potions brewing, or even R&D of hexes with which the Ministry Aurors would be unfamiliar, but the gathering and verification of information. His marked affinity for this sort of work had been apparent even before he finished school, and it is just as likely to have proved essential to Malfoy prior to Snape’s alleged change of allegiance as it became to Dumbledore since. In short: he has always been engaged in espionage at some level.
Given Rita Skeeter’s fairly obvious Malfoy connections, it seems likely that Malfoy and his cell may have been quite heavily engaged in information gathering, with blackmail and extortion as a sideline. Pettigrew’s DE contact, however, is almost certainly to have been someone not connected to Malfoy. Otherwise Snape might have figured out the identity of the Order’s spy and passed word to Albus.
It should also be noted that at the time he contacted Dumbledore, there was probably no provable crime for which Snape could have personally been charged. Such crimes may have existed, but it is almost certain that his involvement in any such was nothing that could have been proved. Disagreeing with Ministry policy, even publicly, is not a crime. The study of the Dark Arts in itself is not illegal.
Snape may not have been the only DE to have considered turning his coat, either. But he may have been the only one with the chutzpah to have signed on as a Ministry mole using Dumbledore as an intermediary. And even he would not have done so had he not been desperate. Dumbledore also kept Snape’s activities completely separate from those of his Order. Snape had no interaction with the Order during VoldWar I. Nor did the Order know about Snape’s position as a spy. They only knew that Albus had spies.
Being welcomed into the Order of the Phoenix as a benefit of his long-standing friendhip with Black & Potter was a cause of great relief for Peter Pettigrew who had been finding it progressively more difficult to pass information to the Voldemort supporter who had been plying him with veiled threats and even vaguer promises, without giving away something which might actually get James (who he still regarded as his friend, even if only for “old time’s sake”) killed.
Although Pettigrew’s leaks were probably not the only reason, a not insignificant percentage of the Order’s appalling casualty rate over the 20-24 months or so of its known operation probably was due to information that Peter had provided, almost from the date of the Order’s foundation.
It appears to have been some months before it was suspected that the organization had a traitor in its midst. It was several more months before Albus narrowed it down that the traitor was one of the Potters’ associates (rather than, say, an associate of the Longbottoms). And this suspicion may have been assisted by information provided by Snape, although it is not dependent upon that. We certainly were given no such indication over the course of ‘The Prince’s Tale’.
In this iteration, the Order’s membership was also almost entirely made up of people that Voldemort and his followers already wanted dead. This offered Peter a far wider range of potential subjects to inform on than just James Potter’s immediate circle.
What is more, while Peter informed his contact of the Order’s existence. I seriously doubt that he volunteered anything related to the Order’s actual purpose — assuming that he knew anything of it, apart from its identity as a trusted group of intelligence gatherers. I doubt very much that anyone among the DEs other than Voldemort, Snape, and possibly Rookwood, was aware of the existence of a Prophecy related to Dark Lord, and even Rookwood would not have known for certain what the Prophecy related to. Consequently, Pettigrew’s “handler” did not know the right questions to ask. And, as we’ve ever seen, Peter never just ups and volunteers information.
In a matter of only a few months after the Prophecy was made, however, Voldemort’s 20+ years of steadily tightening of the screws of anxiety and dread had erupted into a campaign of wanton violence and terrorism which raged unabated for nearly two years. The demoralization of the wizarding public was all but complete after a year of this. To the typical wizard on the street it appeared that Voldemort was certainly winning.
At some very early point in this development, Pettigrew finally woke up and realized how deeply he had been drawn in to this situation unaware, But his primary shock is more likely to have been over his own blindness rather than from the reflection that the information he was passing was responsible for so much of the violence around him. Peter Pettigrew has always had a marked taste for violent mayhem, and once he managed to wrap his mind around the truth, if anything he is likely to have felt rather excited, and, well, important.
Taking place over the course of 1981: Capture and sentencing to Azkaban of Doholov, Travers and Mulciber, and the deaths of Rosier and Wilkes while resisting arrest.
It has recently been pointed out that if Moody’s statement that it took 5 DEs to take down the Prewett brothers, and that the Order could say for certain that there were five of them, it might suggest that the Prewetts had managed to call for help. The help arrived too late for the Prewetts, but was able to take custody of their attackers:
i.e., Doholov+Mulciber+Travers+Rosier+Wilkes = five Death Eaters.
Unproven, but suggestive.
1981, August 11: Ginevra Molly Weasley born.
1981, September 1: On Voldemort’s orders, Severus Snape joins the staff of Hogwarts as Potions master and Head of Slytherin House for the academic year 1981-82, his instructions to take the DADA instructor’s position having been balked by Dumbledore. Young Quirrell is at this point a seventh year student (probably a Ravenclaw).
At this point it is necessary to reconsider the matter of the Diary. Albus tells us that Lord Voldemort only passed the Diary to Lucius Malfoy shortly before his defeat. We have no real evidence to suggest that it was a Horcrux before that point.
Albus also states that the Diary was a particularly disturbing example of a Horcrux because it was clearly designed to be used as a weapon rather than exclusively as an anchor of its creator’s life to the material “plane”. (This statement has since been rather badly undercut by the behavior of the Locket, and what we were informed to be the general behaviour of Horcruxes in DHs. What was that one supposed to be if not a weapon? It certainly behaved exactly the same, just stupider). From the information at our disposal, it sounds very much as though Lucius was entrusted with the Diary in 1981 and told to wait for his Master’s signal to send it into the school.
Which means that Tom pretty clearly intended that the Chamber of Secrets be opened in the academic year of 1981–’82. And probably that Albus be murdered under cover of the attendant uproar. At that point Lucius Malfoy’s quickest route by which to send an artifact into the school would have been through Snape.
I think that we may have finally uncovered what the full scope of Snape’s one-year posting as DADA instructor was supposed to accomplish. He was either to have passed the Riddle Diary into the hands of a child at the school, or he was to open communications with it himself. If the first, the choice of child would have possibly been left up to him.
However, we cannot be altogether certain of that reading, no matter how reasonable it may sound, for we have been given every indication to understand that the creation of an additional 5th Horcrux would have left a visible change to Riddle’s appearance in its wake, and we have heard of no point toward the very end of VoldWar I at which Lord Voldemort’s physical appearance took a sudden turn for the worse.
But then, how could we be sure of that? Who would have reported such a thing to Harry, who is our only real window on this world? By that point of VWI Voldemort himself was in deep seclusion, no one but his most favored Followers — or his personally selected victims — appear to have ever seen him. And none of them were talking about his physical appearance.
1981, Late September/October: Additional information indicating that Voldemort has decided to attack and murder the Potter child reaches Dumbledore.
Or at any rate, so we were given to understand in PoA. Rowling probably hasn't reread her notes related to that one recently. I don’t know how she thinks that information fits with what she chose to show us in ‘The Prince’s Tale’.
For that matter, the letter which Harry found in Sirius’s room at #12 speaks of Harry’s birthday tea as a recent event, placing the letter as being from perhaps, mid-August. (Q: who, precisely is supposed to have taken the photo showing Lily laughing, Harry on a toy broom, and James’ legs in the background? Bagshott? Pettigrew?) And while the Potters are clearly not yet under Fidelius, and are modestly interacting with various of the other wizarding neighbors in Godric’s Hollow, such as Bathilda Bagshott, they appear to be keeping their heads down and living at least somewhat in seclusion. James is at any rate fretting over the loss of his cloak, and the necessity of sticking close to home because of it.
In any event, Albus proposes the use of the Fidelius Charm to protect the family, and offers to serve as Secret Keeper. James Potter possibly smarting over the withholding of his cloak (spoken of as having already been loaned to Albus in Lily’s mid-August letter) or possibly alarmed by Bathilda’s tales of Albus and young Gellert Grindelwald, declines the offer. After investigating the Fidelius charm himself, he decides to employ it after all. Tells Dumbledore that Sirius Black will be their Secret Keeper.
1981, October 23-26 approximate: The Potters go into hiding at Godric’s Hollow under the protection of the Fidelius Charm. At the last minute Peter Pettigrew substitutes as Secret Keeper instead of Sirius Black. Pettigrew and Black also go into hiding, individually.
1981, October 31 - November 1: Voldemort receives information from Pettigrew on the Potters’ location. By some as yet unexplained process, the Fidelius Charm is broken, rather than simply “shared” with the wrong party.
He descends on Godric’s Hollow. We are given to understands that he kills James and Lily Potter; whatever curse intended to kill Harry Potter (and create the last Horcrux?) rebounds, and destroys his own body. Damage is made to the house either by Pettigrew who has followed him, unbeknownst, as a part of an agreed upon plan intending to eliminate Sirius Black, or as a consequence of an improperly grounded curse.
Pettigrew confiscates Voldemort’s wand and escapes. Note: now that we know that the house is still standing it is possible that Pettigrew retrieved the wand at some later time, but it seems unlikely that it would not have been confiscated by Ministry investigators had it still been there. We do know that the site was investigated by the Magical Catastrophes Department.
We do not know whether Peter may have hedged his bets with a Patronus message to the Headmaster claiming that Black had betrayed them all.
Dumbledore is informed of the defeat of Dark Lord (probably by Snape when his Dark mark disappears), is abruptly aware that the Fidelius has been broken rather than transferred. Sends Hagrid to Godric’s Hollow via portkey to investigate. Sirius Black arrives at Godric’s Hollow soon afterwards. Events of the “missing” 24 Hours ensue.
Speaking of which; a recent email conversation with a British HP fan brought up the observation that in Book 1, Chapter 1, Vernon Dursley seems to notice an inordinate number of oddballs in cloaks out in the streets on the day before his wife found a baby in a basket on their doorstep.
Which, in a roundabout manner, finally offers a possible explanation for why although Harry Potter had lived in hiding among Muggles for a decade, everyone in the wizarding workd still knew what he looked like, right down to his distinctive scar.
I think those wizards that Vernon noticed on that November day were Order members. I think that Albus had alerted the Order to keep watch on the Dursleys to determine whether anyone else from the ww was aware of them and their location. Arabella Figg would not yet have been posted in the house on Magnolia Crescent to keep watch full time. Albus undoubtedly had other commitments the day after Voldemort’s defeat, and knew that he wasn’t going to be able to get there until that evening. So he wanted them kept track of, just in case.
Which would also account for Minerva’s overhearing the gossip of Tom’s defeat and the Potters’ deaths while she was sitting on the Dursleys wall in her Animagus form all day.
And, since the wards that Albus set on the Dursley residence was not Fidelius, this means that any of the Order members who had taken part in watching the property that day knew exactly where Harry Potter had been placed. And some of them probably dropped by periodically to try for a Potter sighting.
Harry did recognize at least one of those Order members when Hagrid took him to Diagon Alley.
They were probably reasonably good at keeping the location secret, but they would have gossiped about having seen the boy. And described him.
November 1, 1981: Peter Pettigrew confronts Sirius Black in a Muggle district, presumably in London; he is assumed to have been killed, along with a dozen Muggles. Sirius Black is arrested and consigned to Azkaban without trial. Harry Potter is left on Dursley’s doorstep sometime after dark. Speculation regarding the “missing” 24 hours may be found in the essay so entitled.
It should be noted that Snape was probably not summoned to any Death Eater meetings during term time during this period in order to not raise any suspicions of his continuing allegiance to the Dark Lord on Dumbeldore’s part.
If, as I still suspect, Pettigrew only made his decision to take the Dark Mark on the evening of the Potter’s deaths, Snape would not have been present when “Wormtail” appeared and led Voldemort into a trap. It is possible that, isolated at Hogwarts, he never was told that the betrayer of their leader was someone who went by the name of Wormtail. Otherwise it is just possible that the name might have rung a bell. Or, conversely; he knew that it referred to one of the Marauders, but not knowing the context, assumed it referred to Black, since everyone was convinced that Black was the traitor.
Rowling has also assured us that Snape was not loitering around Godric’s Hollow under James’s cloak at the time. I quite agree. He would have been in plain sight at Hogwarts, at the Halloween Feast that evening until curfew. As would Albus.
1981, probably a few days later in November: Igor Karkaroff attempts a plea bargain in return for his release from Azkaban. Deal accepted by Barty Crouch Sr. (Note: Snape had already been cleared of any culpable association with the DEs by Albus at this time.)
1981-1982: Death Eater trials, including the arrest and sentencing of Augustus Rookwood, followed by Ludovic Bagman’s arrest, trial, and acquittal. Barty Crouch Sr accepts DE Lucius Malfoy and DE Avery’s Imperius defense. Later in this period, possibly as late as the anniversary of Voldemort’s fall: The Longbottom Affair. Frank and Alice Longbottom are tortured into insanity by Death Eaters. They are nonetheless able to identify their attackers. The Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr are quickly arrested, tried, and sentenced to life in Azkaban.
1983: Madam Crouch takes her son’s place in Azkaban under Polyjuice. She is assisted in this substitution by her husband. Dies in custody soon afterward, still under Polyjuice.
Barty Crouch Sr imprisons his son in his home under the double constraints of the Imperius Curse and an invisibility cloak. Madam Crouch’s death and funeral are reported in the Daily Prophet. Crouch leaves his son during the day under guard by the family’s House Elf, Winky. The reported death of his son in Azkaban either after or some time before the repored death of Madam Crouch begins the sway of public opinion against Barty Sr. At some point afterwards, possibly as late as 1990 with the appointment of Cornelius Fudge as Minister for Magic, he is shifted to the Department of International Magical Cooperation. It is at this time unknown whether there was any active “whispering campaign” to this end, but he is no longer being considered as Minster Bagnole’s successor as Minister.
1983: Bill Weasley begins his first year at Hogwarts.
1984: Nymphadora Tonks begins Hogwarts.
1985: Charlie Weasley begins Hogwarts.
1987: Percy Weasley begins Hogwarts.
1989: Fred and George Weasley begin Hogwarts.
Academic year 1989-90: at the end of the academic year, the DADA instructor, Professor Quirrell, who was apparently hired on the basis of a sound theoretical study of his subject of some years standing, announces his intention to take a sabbatical year to gain practical experience in the field. It is unknown whether any specific incident in the classroom over the course of the year was the cause of this decision. It should be noted that this interpretation ignores Rowling’s claim that Quirrell had originally been the Muggle Studies teacher before his sabbatical year. The claim was made in an interview, and we already know about how much faith to put into anything that comes out of those. It should also be noted that the academic year of 1989–90 was Fred and George Weasley’s first year at Hogwarts.
Bill Weasley finishes Hogwarts with the class of 1990. The same year, Charlie sits the OWLs, and with glowing references from Professor Kettleburn of Care of Magical Creatures and his Head of House, Professor McGonagall, takes an opening at the Dragon Reserve in Romania rather than commencing NEWT-level studies at Hogwarts.
1990: Millicent Bagnole, Minister for Magic, retires and is succeeded by Cornelius Fudge, Head of the Department of Magical Catastrophes. It is reasonable to speculate that there was a general rotation of Department Heads at this time; and that Crouch’s transfer to the Department of Magical Cooperation was a part of this rotation, with Amelia Bones replacing him as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Ms Bones, having no knowledge of any unofficial non-interference pacts between Crouch and, say, Abraxus Malfoy, initiates a series of raids on suspected Dark wizards’ homes over the next two years. Arthur Weasley, now Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department, a sub-bureau within the DMLE, is peripherally involved in these. It is possible that Arthur was promoted to the Head of the MMA division at this time, amidst the rest of the personnel rotations. He soon is completely enamored of Muggle technology, with which he is still largely unfamiliar.
Regarding Crouch’s transfer to the Department of Magical Cooperation: we know only that Crouch had already been transferred by the time his subordinate Bertha Jorkins — who may well have decided to set her cap at her widowed (new?) boss — showed up at his home one day with a message; expecting to find him and discovered the family skeleton, instead. His excessive modification of Jorkins’s memory, and her subsequent Transfer to the Department of Magical Games and Sports took place at some point before 1994 when Percy Weasley joined Crouch’s staff.
1991, spring, late: young Quirrell goes into a forest in Albania and comes out twitching. This is reported to Albus Dumbledore either by an observer stationed onsite, or by one of the instruments in his office. He concludes that he is going to be forced to create some sort of diversion to distract Lord Voldemort from contacting his followers and attempting to reform his empire — or from attacking Harry Potter who will be arriving at the school with the incoming class at the Autumn term.
Knowing the full content of the Prophesy, Dumbledore is convinced that there is probably no hope of destroying Voldemort at this time. He discusses the problem regarding his knowledge that he has a compromised DADA instructor with his old friend and former partner, Nicholas Flamel. It is at this point unknown whether he also discussed the matter with the new Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. This last seems unlikely. Fudge would have been too insecure in his post and too much of a yet unknown quantity.
Nymphadora Tonks finishes Hogwarts with the class of 1991. Commences Auror training.
1991, summer, early: Harry Potter releases a large snake from its enclosure in the zoo. Quirrell returns to England psychically haunted, but not yet physically possessed by Lord Voldemort. (No, I have no idea how this was acomplished, either. And Rowling is No Help.)
1991, summer: The Dursleys are subjected to a plague of owls. Vernon takes evasive action. Arabella Figg reports this development to Dumbledore.
1991, July, probably the 30th: Dumbledore calls an emergency meeting at Hogwarts wherein he announces that he is having Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone brought to Hogwarts for safekeeping and requests the assistance of the Groundskeeper, the four Heads of House and the DADA instructor to help him set up security measures to protect it before the students return. In Quirrell’s hearing he instructs Hagrid to fetch the Stone from a specific (numbered) Gringotts vault the next day. Voldemort takes the bait and directs Quirrell to break into the specified vault and remove the Stone before Hagrid can retrieve it.
1991, July 31, 12:00:01 am: Hagrid appears at the Hut on the Rock (this is assumed to be via either portkey or Thestral. Given that Buckbeak had no apparant difficulty carrying two healthy teenagers and a tall, full-grown, even if half-starved adult to the top of a tower, one might also cast a vote for hippogriff) with a copy of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts letter, a birthday cake, and the story of his parents’ murder.
Later that day Quirrell botches the timing on the attempted break-in of the Gringotts vault. Quite possibly on purpose, in what turns out to have been a last act of defiance. He only made his attempt on the Stone after he had already encountered Harry and Hagrid at the Leaky Cauldron. This attempt at evading orders dooms him. Voldemort takes full physical possession of him at this point.
From this point all events proceed as defined (or suggested) in canon.