My master timeline required one fairly major revision back in 2007 in view of Rowling’s endorsement of the 1960 birth date for the Marauder cohort in DHs. 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. As well as my own calculations which took into account that a 1960 birth year scarcely gave the principle characters time to get into place before Tom Riddle came a-calling. I had, in response, calculated the Marauders’ birth year as 1959.
So, welcome to the “adventure” of trying to sort out a workable and mostly consistent timeline of the events we have been given to understand have taken place pertaining to the story of Harry Potter and the Dark Lord. And, yeah, I’m afraid that “mostly consistent” is as good as i’s likely to get.
Attempting to work from the Black Family Tapestry Sketch is now revealed 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 flatly do not work. Not 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 a cameo appearance in it), does not trump the information in the books. The information in the books trumps it.
It trumps it even more when one reflects that information on the sketch that was released in February of 2006 is not the same information as I am told now exists on Pottermore. After demonstrating that she could not stick to the same story for two days running about what her main characters were doing between the “final battle” and the epilogue, I am completely done with listening to Rowling.
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 the information inside the published version of the books.
The books, after all, came first. And they are going to be around much longer than Pottermore.
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 given that she has in the past claimed not to even reread her own work, often it 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 — is going to reflect that kind of behaviour. 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 on a different day.
None of the tweaking in this collecton 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 extrapolations of possible causes and motivations are, of course, completely speculative.
The point of the exercise is to attempt 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 backstory of 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 extension, the lifespan of Albus Dumbledore.
And by further extension, the life of Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Which is quite enough to be going on with.
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 that turns out to be slightly inaccurate. 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 there 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 — as well as 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 directly 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. And for the purposes of calculation we were counting from 1492, even though that date was politely agreed to be a misprint.
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 mostly confirmed in October 2007 when Harry Potter became featured as the Wizard of the Month on Rowling’s official site. Off-canon, admittedly, but no reason to assume it was incorrect.
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 howlingly 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 has 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.
Even at the outset, 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 any 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 birth date 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. Since much of the point of the timeline for CoS hinges upon the fact that the Riddle Diary was dated exactly 50 years before the year that Harry came briefly into possession of it, and that the original year of the Basilisk was Tom Riddle’s 5th year, this no longer matches, and all becomes more than slightly inconvenient.
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 that 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 mildly interesting. Was 1982 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 Sir Nick’s presumed 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 come unstuck at a touch. (One of the people in the Café Dangereux forums where I used to hang out commented that JK Rowling’s use of numbers is “impressionistic” rather than realistic. This is a very kind 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. Such as, for example:
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.
At that point in the series we were still inclined to take Sirius Black at his word. This was probably a mistake, but it is still difficult to believe that he would have felt he had anything to gain by deliberately lying about it.
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 year and a half, 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 already 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 the whole of 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 going to make an effort to collect it all into one place.
In this set of essays, 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.)
And there is a fairly high chance that this set of essays might reflect a later interpretation which is not mentioned in one or more of my other essays. If you catch one of those you can tell me and I’ll correct the mismatch. THIS sub-collection is the definitive timeline essay.
I will not necessarily be extending this essay’s 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 might be better discussed in an essay related to analyzing whichever particular adventure one is trying to concentrate on. 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 considerable 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.
At least 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 At All. Films are effectively authorized fanfic.
• • • •
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, we are given to understand that this last 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 bypassed even the average wizard-in-the-street of Great 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 lifespan, 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 a few recently interjected additions. As of the end of 2019 my attention was drawn, by a correspondent (yes, I am still in correspondence with people in HP fandom some 20 years later), to the problem of the paired “vanishing cabinets” which figured fairly prominently over the course of both OotP and HBP.
We had first encountered 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 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.
The physical description of the cabinets; that they were specifically lacquer cabinets, was not a lot of help in determining their age, either. That description of the cabinets lines up nicely with 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.
For over a dozen years, I had been proposing that those paired cabinets had originally constituted Headmaster Black’s emergency route home to #12 Grimmauld 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 nearly the time of Riddle’s return from Albania, I had dismissed the London cabinet from any considerations regarding Tom Riddle’s having encountered it during his period of employment in the shop a decade or so earlier.
This dismissal might have been premature. 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 earlier 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, even if not any of the earlier ones. Nor, it must be admitted is such a date contriadicted.
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 roughly 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. The 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 once they aquire them. They ill-advisably start making plans about how to put these 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 presumably returns to Hogwarts to study for and sit his OWLs. Possibly, he merely wanted out of his brother’s house. It is unknown whether he continued his schooling beyond that point. The brothers remain estranged for some years.
• • • •
Albus’s subsequent actions are unclear, although the impression given is that he was engaged in research, engaged in 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 Albus 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 accomplished, but for the most part, these broad associations end up needing to be scaled back to correspondence only.
Acto Rowling acto various interviews, at some point in his life he learned to understand both Merrow and Parseltongue. Merrow he could have learned from the lake dwellers at Hogwarts over his period as an instructor there. 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 Albus could understand it, and she had previously claimed that he could. Presumably Parseltongue when spoken by a human is intelligible through a translation spell, rather than needing to be formally 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 the memory contributed by the late Bob Ogden, a former employee of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (and presumably kin to Tibereus Ogden, a long-time 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 attend Hogwarts. At least through their 5th years.
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. It is my belief that he had found it necessary to do some research regarding the Gaunt family back in 1945. This will be gone into in more detail in Part II.
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. With the DHs adjustment to Albus’s personal timeline, he might not yet have been employed as an instructor at Hogwarts during the period that either of the Gaunt siblings were in attendance.
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 sentence for assaulting a Ministry employee (and a Muggle) which would suggest that he was tried as an adult rather than a minor.
• • • •
1914, (extrapolated): if we can assume that the Potterverse followed Real World trends (which is highly unlikely, but we’ll go through the motions as if we believed it) growing unrest in Europe, cumulating in a political assassination in Sarajevo escalates into a Muggle war. This also marks a 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, assuming that the Potterverse had one, 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, however. 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. In the course of these investigations, one of his agents does manage to make note of a Marvolo Gaunt regarding his family’s heirloom 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 acquire 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. Albus claims that at some point during this period she managed to trick him into drinking a love potion. It should be noted that Albus was not there, and had no real knowledge of Riddle's motivations in the matter, nor of whatever methods Merope may have used to capture Tom Riddle’s attention. The love potion scenario is Albus’s own unsupported addition to the narriative.
It should also be noted that Albus has clearly, and not without some justification, already made up his mind that nothing good could ever be associated with Tom Marvolo Riddle, and this opinion colors his interpretation of the actions of everyone concerned.
Tom and Merope 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 marriage, the legality of the marriage could be uncertain. But, if he was indeed under any form of magical influence 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 takes advantage of her ignorance of the locket’s probable value.
December 31, 1926: birth of Tom Marvolo Riddle in a London orphanage. Death of Merope Riddle. Age about 19.
It should probably be noted that it would have been extremely easy for Merope to ask anyone in Diagon or Knockturn Alleys about using the Floo to St Mungo’s hospital when the time came to bear her child. That she instead chose to bear that child in a Muggle venue strongly suggests that she had probably been actively avoiding any wizarding enclaves since leaving Little Hangleton. And she may have only made her way to B&B when she realized that she might be able to get a better price for the locket from people who would recognize its history. It is entirely possible that she absolutely did not wish to ever be forced to return to Little Hangleton, and that she did not want any child of hers to fall into the hands of her father or brother. Perhaps even more particularly if that child should turn out to be a girl.
Summer, 1928: Morfin Gaunt released from Azkaban. His father is dead and his sister vanished. He returns to Little Hangleton and lives as a recluse. Age somewhere between about 20–23.
Summer, 1938 (or perhaps the summer 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. In common with most young Slytherin students, he learns of the legend of Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets.
Undetermined date, but prior to the academic year of 1942–’43: Albus Dumbledore makes a fierce and determined effort to see the Hogwarts Library purged of any material pretaining to Horcruxes. It is not at all impossible that Horcruxes were not the only unsavory practice included in this purge. But concealing the existence and creation of Horcruxes was definitely a part of this campaign.
It is unknown both precisely when this campaign actually took place, or exactly what incident might have inspired Dumbledore to initiate it. But the fact that he had recently delivered a Hogwarts letter to a child who had boasted of what appeared to be a probable skill in *possession*, might not impossibly have prompted him to make an attempt to limit possible related damage.
Undetermined 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, extrapolation: 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 orphanage 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 himself, and and asks for a summer job. Burke, feeling he has the upper hand, offers an apprenticeship, 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 other immediate options, and seeing at least some advantages to himself in the arrangement, accepts the offer. (Note: further extrapolation of this theory can be found in the essay; ‘Minding the Gap’, which can be found under the heading of Missed Opportunities.)
Extrapolation, 1940–1942 approximate: death of the father of a young Gryffindor student by the name of Rubeus Hagrid, leaving the child effectively orphaned. Due to the boy’s obvious Giant heritage he cannot readily be sent to a Muggle orphanage, and there are no wizarding relatives willing to take him. Arrangements are made for him in Hogsmeade. Albus Dumbledore may have a prominent voice in the arrangements.
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, and 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 does not, however, learn of his descent from the line of the Peverills, for Morfin did not raise the subject. Tom 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 personally 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 family 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 tutelage 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 confesses to the murders 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 mastered the spellwork necessary to build 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, as they took place.
Ergo: well before becoming a Horcrux, the Riddle diary was a heavily charmed artifact.
• • • •
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.
In our own world, 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 of a war 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, possibly 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. For that matter, neither 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 in the Potterverse, 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 acquired. Which would hardly be the only modification he made to that book.
In retrospect, given some 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 the following year to serve as the basis of a project.
• • • •
As to the continuing question of a Muggle war: 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, a disinclination for loud noises, or for company, by the summer of 1942, when he witnessed a 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. That there was a first one is established, for there is a Muggle war memorial in Godric’s Hollow. But a good deal about the behavior and attitudes of the characters that we do see appear to contradict that there was ever a second one. 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 the Real World™ in 1942. Or even in 1943. Even Frank Bryce, who is stated to have 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 have managed to remember that. 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 like three-quarters) 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 a version of 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 somehow 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 or attacked by a group.)
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 at least already come across the term, asks Horace Slughorn to explain Horcruxes. (It is not absolutely clear in canon 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, in DHs he was lying about what he saw in Slughorn’s memory. Back in HBP 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 Hogwarts Library. But we are not likely to get any additional outside information on that issue.)
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 knew 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 may have been somewhat mistaken. 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, more probably, 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, assuming that Tom had not already found it in the Room of Requirement. 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 indeed 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 about it for certain is that the Riddle Diary was definitely a Horcrux by the time it was found in Ginny Weasley’s cauldron after a shopping trip to Diagon Alley, 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 happened 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 strongly 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 if you want to be exact). The ripping of the soul and the removal of the fragment to its external housing really does not appear to be two widely separate actions. I now concede that both actions must be performed as a process. 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 traditional spell to create a Horcrux is not Avada Kedavra. Nor is it unblockable. There is also reason to suspect that a wizard of some of Tom’s more *unusual* abilities, may not need a specific spell to create a Horcrux. He clearly finds it inordinately easy to project, or to shed bits of his soul.
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 damage your soul, but it does not necessarily tear pieces off. And so long as the fragments remain together inside the body the breech may 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.
**Unless Riddle was able to continue to enter in diary records after the diary was already the Diary — which I frankly think is unlikely. Once the book had a soul, I don't think it was readily editable, not even by its creator — then it had to have been made a Horcrux at some point after the events of Tom’s 5th year. Because every single scene related to the matter that Tom played back in Harry’s view took place after Myrtle was dead.
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, of course, 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 somewhat mystifyingly does not appear to count Myrtle among Riddle’s victims.
But that still does not mean that any 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, even if it isn't actually published canon, 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 dividing his soul and creating yet another Horcrux when he hadn’t even managed to recover a functioning human body yet.
Also that he managed to do it in Pettigrew’s company without Pettigrew figuring out what was going on.
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 which examines the issue in exhaustive detail. We really don’t 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, if he had not been doing so before, may have been more closely directed at Riddle (who had ratted out Hagrid to his own advantage) after this point. 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 as of the end of Harry Potter’s 4th year at Hogwarts, 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 I gather she has also reconsidered).
Given that, acto JKR’s original website we were told 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 reason from 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 regarding Salazar’s Chamber 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 first year in the aftermath of 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 ours, 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 more or less 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 proportion 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 year, 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.
- 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
- 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. So if the revenant’s account can be trusted, we conclude that the Diary Horcrux was created no earlier than 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 (now) 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 decades afterwards, I would guess.
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 acquired in London, and acquired 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 acquired 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.
I also suspect that the diary originally contained all of his research and theories about the creation of Horcruxes, and his extrapolations about whether it was possible for someone of his own talents to do so *without* using the traditional spell.
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 over the course of 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” administered, 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, 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. Most 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 tries to claim 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.
Not to mention the Diary Revenant’s own admission that it was not embedded into the diary until some time after the Chamber had been closed. Which certainly took place after Myrtle’s death and Hagrid’s expulsion.
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 entering memories into that Diary any more than he could have borne 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 about it 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 can be 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 surveillance) 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/informal apprenticeship/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?
• • • •
Continued in Part II.