Red Hen Publications

Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection: The Longbottom Affair
The Potterverse Essays

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

A long-ago promise that we would find out that what Harry’s parents did was “important” is only one of the statements that Rowling dropped on us years ago and never followed up on.

Around about February of 2007 it finally penetrated that one of the possibilities for Book 7 was that the other shoe might finally drop regarding the Longbottoms. Rowling had already poked at least one domino in that particular layout with her question about the significance of Harry’s Cloak. Quite a number people had speculated that Frank had been using the Cloak to keep a watch on the comings and goings in Godric’s Hollow.

Which in turn directed some of our attention back to the attack on the Longbottoms.

And, no, I still didn’t believe in MemoryCharmed!Neville. But she had definitely, and publicly told us, some time around the 3-year summer, that the Lestranges and Barty Jr had been sent after Frank and Alice Longbottom. In fact she had posted that information on her original website, and she never rescinded that statement. Nor did she ever explain it.

It couldn’t have been Voldemort who sent them. He was already gone by then.

We’d also long ago been told that the Pensieve Four attacked the Longbottoms, trying to discover Lord Voldemort’s whereabouts.

Why should Bellatrix Lestrange have believed that the Longbottoms might know Lord Voldemort’s whereabouts?

Or, perhaps, as we were led to believe up until OotP, why should she think that Frank Longbottom might know Voldemort’s whereabouts. (It was only in OotP that Alice was suddenly identified as being another Auror, rather than just Frank’s wife. It was only in OotP that Rowling woke up and started showing witches — other than Rita Skeeter — actually working for a living in just about any field aside from teaching or shopkeeping.)

It’s a question worth asking.

Of course, as usual, one doesn’t ask those sorts of questions until a possible answer seems to be hovering somewhere around the horizon.

• • • •

But, looking back to early 2007:

At that point it was finally time to reflect that Bellatrix almost certainly knew about the Horcruxes. Or at least she knew about one of them. It’s turned out since that she’d been given custody of it, after all.

For that matter, Reggie knew about one of them too. That kind of information may (or may not) have traveled in either direction. But the statement we heard Bella make at her sentencing, now that we’d all got the proper context to interpret it, makes it more than likely that she was no more convinced that Voldemort was dead than Dumbledore was, and for much the same reason.

But the fly in this particular pot of ointment is that at that point I had thought that the Horcrux that Bella had been given instructions to hide had been the Locket. And that she’d been instructed to hide it in the Inferi cave. That she, instead, had been entrusted with the Cup and had stashed it in her own vault at Gringotts disallowed my whole original line of reasoning.

And until Rowling finished off the series and shut down such speculation, I had wondered if there might be some goofy idea that if you can find one of the accursed things, you can call the owner to you. If that was the case, she’d have built Tom a new simulacrum in a New York minute, and he’d have been back in next to no time.

Well it kind-of makes sense doesn’t it? Unfortunately I don’t think Horcruxes really work that way. And besides, Rowling certainly doesn’t think think so either, or she wouldn’t have given Bellatrix the Cup for safekeeping. After all, why torture the Longbottoms for information Voldemort’s whereabouts when all you need to do is make a trip to your own vault at Gringotts to bring him back, yourself? So much for that speculation.

• • • •

But, as I say, looking back at exploded theories — in connection with my musings about Reggie and the sea cave, I had postulated that it had been Bellatrix who had been entrusted to hide the Locket in the sea cave. And that on the basis of that:

After the Dark Lord’s disappearance in 1981, Bellatrix got the somewhat loony idea (or maybe not so loony) that if she could recover the Horcrux, she could restore the Dark Lord.

To this end she makes another trip to the sea cave. The potion balks her efforts at retrieving the locket. But in the course of the attempt, she makes another (to her) horrible discovery.

The potion in the basin is not truly opaque. It is luminescent, and it is reflective. Highly reflective. Once she douses her own Lumos and allows her eyes to adjust to the darkness, the glow of the potion eventually illuminates what is in the basin.

And it is not the Slytherin Locket.

She has been duped. The Locket she placed in the basin was not the Locket she had boasted to Regulus that the Dark Lord had entrusted her to hide.

And by 1981 Reggie was no longer around to be questioned.

And she can no longer get access to the House at #12. Walburga has made it inaccessible to her.

She is stymied.

• • • •

Following this line of reasoning a bit further; she isn’t ready to give up. But she hasn’t very many avenues of enquiry left to pursue. By 1981 the Black family has dwindled alarmingly. But there are still a couple of avenues for her to explore. We do not know whether Ignatius and Lucretia Prewett (and Arcturus, who was probably living with them) had a nasty experience during this period. Ignatius’s two nephews, or perhaps, cousins, were already dead at DE hands, so it is possible that Bellatrix was balked there as well, and did not have any expectations of being able to convince Lucretia or Arcturus that they needed to assist her. Old Auntie Cassiopeia is a member of her own branch of the family, and doesn’t know anything to the purpose, and Bellatrix may have supposed that the house at #12 would be just as inaccessible to her.

Which left only distant cousin Callidora Longbottom.

Yes, that’s right. Longbottom. Which, through association, might have given her some fresh ideas.

Callidora Longbottom née Black. Born 1915 (and, acto the tapestry sketch in 2006, still alive). This lady is quite possibly Frank Longbottom’s grandmother, if the sort of early marriages we’ve been shown from time to time in the series are characteristic. Neville’s Gran, the Augusta Longbottom whose Hogwarts career Minerva remembers so vividly would be her daughter-in-law.

Rowling did, after all, tell us that the Lestranges were sent after the Longbottoms.

She doesn’t tell us by whom.

She doesn’t tell us why they were sent after the Longbottoms specifically, either.

• • • •

And now let’s ask the question that nobody had made an issue of yet.

Who, precisely, were the Longbottoms, back when they still knew their own names?

There was more than one reason for someone to have been a member of the Order of the Phoenix, you know:

  1. You might have escaped the attentions of the DEs three times.
  2. You might be an associate of Albus Dumbledore

Those categories aren’t mutually exclusive. While I can’t really see Hagrid or Mundungus Fletcher escaping the DEs 3 times, I don’t have any problem with the idea that, say, Alastor Moody, might have qualified on both counts. Maybe so did Frank and Alice Longbottom.

(ETA: as I've recently postulated in a couple of the other essays in this collection, I've now come around to the conclusion that while Albus may have founded the Order of the Phoenix, it was Alastor Moody who actually ran it. Therefore, some of the members may well have been recruited because they were Alastor’s progegés. Which could explain all of the Order members who were active Aurors.)

Plus, Albus did sound particularly bitter when he eventually told Harry what became of the Longbottoms, didn’t he? And old Augusta is still one of Albus’s biggest fans, despite it all. And she is in tight with Griselda Marchbanks who is an even bigger fan. I really do begin to suspect that the Longbottom family and Albus Dumbledore may go back a long way socially and may have been even closer associated 15-20 years ago than anyone has ever bothered to inform Harry.

But that’s only a part of the equation.

Albus also tells us that he and Harry are the only two people who [ought to] know the full text of the Trelawney Prophecy.

I doubted the same limitation went for knowing about the Horcruxes. For example; until DHs gave us strong indication otherwise, I was pretty sure that Snape knew about those, and knew exactly what kind of information he was inside the DEs organization to try to find. Rowling has since shut down that line of enquiry as well. And given us nothing of value to replace it with.

But by then I was beginning to wonder whether Frank and Alice had also been in the know, and were following leads to them, once Snape reported that Voldemort was giving a few selected individual, high-ranking followers some sensitive missions.

Ultimately, I seem to have been wrong about that, too.

• • • •

On the other hand, we also have no reason to suppose that the Longbottoms were not still on social terms with the Black family, even if their politics were not what Pollux Black’s branch of the family agreed with. The Longbottoms had been considered eligible marriage partners for the Black family’s daughters, within living memory after all.

And two of the younger Longbottoms are Aurors. Who can make Walburga open the door to them.

In fact, that particular two of the younger Longbottoms are Aurors; who also have a perfect excuse to be rooting out Dark artifacts for Albus Dumbledore, who is known to be a friend of their family.

In fact, they are members of Dumbledore’s bloody Order.

This might have prompted Bellatrix to connect a few phantom dots. It is possible that since she knows that her Master suddenly decided to entrust her to hide his Horcrux she may have leaped to the conclusion that he knew that someone was looking for it. Bellatrix, after all, did not know about the Prophecy. Or by all accounts, she didn’t know about it then.

She might have also remembered that Lord Voldemort had shown an interest in the Longbottoms around the same time he was interested in the Potters. She doesn’t have the context to understand that this interest was because of the babies.

But it still wouldn’t have been Voldemort who sent the Lestranges and Barty Jr after Frank and Alice Longbottom. Like I say, he was already gone by then.

• • • •

Over here where I am standing, in the land of Qui Bono?, I’m not altogether convinced that Bellatrix connected those dots in quite that pattern entirely on her own. She may have had... encouragement.

From somebody who, ironically, hadn’t a clue about the Horcruxes. Even though he had also been given custody of one of them.

However, Lucius may have also had some awareness of Voldemort having taken an earlier interest in the Longbottoms.

Yes, indeed. My vote for possible instigator at this point always goes to Lucius Malfoy.

Malfoy’s position was precarious enough already. He had escaped Azkaban on an Imperius defense, but Bellatrix was a security risk on two feet, and far too much of a loose canon to be permitted to run around at large, unimpeded. And inside canon, there is no reason to believe that there was ever any love lost between Lucius and Bellatrix. I think they have always been rivals.

Besides, there was also the little matter of what remained of the Black family’s holdings. Which were now apparently up for grabs.

• • • •

By the end of 1981; around when we are invited to assume that the attack on the Longbottoms took place; according to the revised tapestry dates, the only members of the Black family left alive and at liberty were some half a dozen members of the older generations, and Cygnus’s three daughters. The heir, Sirius was in Azkaban and he was not coming out alive. Indeed, one rarely survived all that long in Azkaban. The older generation would eventually all die off too, and the property would ultimately devolve upon the sisters.

And one of the sisters was already disowned, and out of the succession, so, of no further interest.

Leaving only (still childless) Bellatrix standing between all of the Black family holdings ultimately devolving upon Lucius’s own wife and infant son.

Lucius Malfoy wants the very best for his family.

He will do whatever it takes to get it.

Encouraging Bellatrix to go ahead and make a fool of herself is a doodle.

• • • •

However, now, over a decade down the track from the release of DHs, a question has been raised which actually proposes a possible answer to our recalcitrant question of why target the Longbottoms?

Admittedly, it doesn’t get us any forwarder on the question of who it was who “sent” the Lestranges after them, but it does at least raise a viable reason as to why.

At the end of CoS, Albus is grandly “explaining it all”, as usual, and drops the information in passing that Tom is back lurking in Albania.

How did he know that?

Yet another Never-Asked-Question, eh?

And it needs to be asked.

Who was it, after all, that told Albus about Tom’s Albanian connection?

For that matter; why is it that at whenever Tom suffers a crushing defeat, he always high-tails it off to Albania?

As of CoS Albus seems to have known that Tom was back there again. But Albus also appears to be completely out of the loop regarding any association between Tom Riddle and the Albanian nation. Hardly surprising, since there appears to be no such connection. The only connection between them is still believed to have been the Ravenclaw diadem. Tom spent anything up to a decade in Albania looking for the ruddy diadem. But Albus wasn’t ever informed of that.

Well, I think I have at least a possible answer to why he keeps going to ground there.

He owns property there.

He was in that region for something like a decade during the period he was looking for the diadem. He wasn’t wandering around the countryside like an itinerant monk. I think he had managed to take possession of a piece of property, with a house of some sort, and had established a base that he worked out of. On his return after ’81, he may have been riding snakes in a forest, but I suspect that there was a house available for him to find as comfortable a nest as could be managed in the foundations.

And that house probably had the reputation of being haunted during the times between snakes.

For that matter, some of his earliest followers, who had returned, or come to the UK with him back when he was asking for the DADA position may have been aware of that place, and had no reason not to mention it over the 20 years or so between his first return and his first defeat. Therefore, Pettigrew probably had a destination for his own search, which makes their whole meet-up rather less coincidental.

It certainly isn’t completely off the wall that Peter might have known that Tom once *had* a base in Albania. Even if he knew no more than that it was in a forested area. It would be a lot easier for him to go and look for a house rather than to wander at random hoping to stumble across a specific snake. At worst — or maybe that’s “at best” — the property would provide a place for *Peter* to go to ground and be safe from pursuit.

I would imagine that land records can be magically altered, and probably fairly easily. I really doubt that Tom paid down money, or brought a legitimate lawsuit to court to get possession of either the Riddle, OR the Gaunt properties. But it seems pretty evident that he did, in fact, own them. I’d say that there is probably a crumbling villa somewhere in Albania with a bad enough reputation that people know about it, but no one much goes there.

But Albus never admits to being aware of that. He didn’t even claim to know that one of the Horcruxes was the Ravenclaw diadem. Or at least he never admitted to it. Not a single bloody clue.

So, without that missing piece of context, what put Albus onto the idea that Tom might be hiding out in Albania?

Well it certainly wasn’t anyone who was approaching the problem from the standpoint of hunting the Horcruxes, or Albus might have been a bit less clueless than he was. And I very much doubt that the Order or most of its members were in any position to come across such information, either. So that pretty much leaves either one of Albus’s other agents, or the Ministry.

Snape was already teaching at the school by then, and still in contact with at least some of the remaining DEs who escaped prosecution. But his main contact seems to have been Malfoy who not only knew nothing about the Horcruxes, but by all indications was the first actual DE in his family.

If one removes any awareness or consideration of the diadem from the equation the only hint one is left with is the fact that Tom spent several years abroad in his youth, mostly in Albania, and that it was only upon his return to Britain that he started contacting his old school chums and putting together a terrorist organization.

So who knew that?

Well the 2nd-generation DEs all seem fairly unlikely candidates. Which leaves Bella’s husband and his contemporaries right out of it. The new recruits like Snape and possibly even Malfoy were in an even less knowledgeable position. The Lestrange brothers, and young Avery, and Evan Rosier, however might have at least heard a few stories from their fathers.

Except that I don’t think they did. I rather doubt that Tom was at all communicative about exactly where he had been and what he had been doing, after he returned to Britain and started sending out lures to his old school friends. He might even have been at some pains to give the impression that he had merely been off on an extended version of a traditional “grand tour”.

So who does that leave?

How about the followers that he brought back to Britain with him?

There weren’t many of those. But there seem to have been one or two.

And, of course they knew nothing of why Tom had been knocking about in Albania. They only knew that he had been there, because that’s where they joined up with him. Any of them might well have mentioned such a property there.

I think it might be interesting to run a check back through the records of the Albanian Ministry’s DMLE for the years of, say, around 1948–1963 or thereabouts. I suspect that you might turn up some incidents which would prove... suggestive.

And who is most likely to have been the ones with the authority to do that?

How about the British Ministry?

Which employed the Longbottoms.

Bingo.

• • • •

Barty Crouch had accepted Karkaroff’s offer to make a plea bargain. And I think that once he was willing to talk, Igor found himself questioned and questioned again, and questioned yet a third time, or even more, regarding his entire association with the wizard formerly known as Lord Voldemort, before he was turned loose and allowed to shake the dust of Great Britain from his feet. And someone in Crouch’s Department would have probably been involved in the questioning, and someone else would have been set to verifying this testimony.

I suspect that enough turned up in the investigation to indicate that, yes, Lord Voldemort probably did start his career back in Albania. There may be any number of nasty unsolved cases in the Albanian records.

This might not have telegraphed that Tom would necessarily have returned there, but it at least gave Albus some place to start looking.

And I really do think that his informant may have been Frank Longbottom.

Which it would be easy enough for somebody who might have at least limited access to the DMLE’s records to verify. Like, oh just maybe, the Head of the Department’s son.

And Longbottom, unlike Karkaroff was still in Britain.