Red Hen Publications

Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection: O! The Times are Out of Joint! Part II
The Potterverse Essays

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

1945, May: In our own world this marked the official end of the Muggle war in Europe. This date may be completely irrelevant to the Potterverse.

1945, June: Tom Riddle sits the NEWTs and leaves Hogwarts by the end of the month. Harry Potter attempts to convince us that he immediately departs for Albania in search of the Ravenclaw diadem.

I tend to doubt that. I think he had the last of his contracted time to serve with B&B. Also, after his visit to his uncle Morfin Gaunt, I think he started searching the shop records in hopes of finding any information on the Slytherin Locket — which he had not known existed before that point. He found those records, too. And the name of the collector who had purchased it. He may even have already met the lady, but possibly not. Perhaps not for a couple more years. But, collectors always come back, eventually. And he was waiting for her when she did.

1945, either spring or summer break: Albus Dumbledore defeats the Dark wizard Grindelwald. Grindelwald is consigned to Nuremgard, the prison he had caused to be built for his enemies.

At this point it is unknown how determined a fight Gellert put up against his former friend Albus Dumbledore. I think that Grindelwald was fully aware that Albus would be very reluctant to actually kill him. It is at least arguable that Gellert might have been equally reluctant to kill Albus.

A genuinely desperate man might have done so anyway. Particularly one who was holding the Elder Wand. Whether he was “truly” its master or not.

Consequently it is definitely arguable that Gellert Grindelwald may have already discovered that his reach had exceeded his grasp, and that his regime had already come unstuck. He appears not to have had a team of supporters behind him that he trusted, and, indeed, if a one-on-one duel with Albus Dumbledore was able to bring his whole house of cards down in one decisive confrontation, he may well have already come to realize that to be locked up in his own prison was the best of his available options.

But in any case, whether he was ever properly the “Master” of it or not, he is confident in being able to safely turn the Elder wand over to Albus. And was just possibly relieved to be shut of it.

I contend that he also turned over all of the notes pertaining to his search for the other two of the Hallows.

• • • •

Albus’s chocolate frog card provides at least a capsule review of the signal accomplishments of Albus Dumbledore.

That the card identifies Dumbledore as the current Headmaster of Hogwarts suggests that unless chocolate frog cards only came on the market sometime about 1960. Either the defeat of Grindelwald was not of such an order as would have justified commissioning a card for him on its own merit, or the card would have been issued back in ’45. Dumbledore was not appointed to the office of Headmaster until at least the something like the winter of 1956–’57, and possibly not until a few years later.

To examine this last statement; we need to make another side trip, and jump forward to OotP, directing our attention to the period that Professor Umbridge was making a nuisance of herself in other instructors’ classrooms during the Autumn term. She showed up in no fewer than four of Harry’s classes during this period, over the course of September – December 1995. In the course of most of these “interviews” (the exception being Hagrid’s) she routinely asked the class’s instructor the length of time they had been teaching at the school. The answers were;

Snape = “14 years.”

Trelawney = “Nearly 16 years.”

McGonagall = “39 years this December.”

From which we can quite accurately calculate the date at which Minerva McGonagall joined the faculty as Transfigurations mistress. Which, counting back from the point the statement was made in the Autumn term of 1995, places her starting date as January 1957. Which implies that something took place during the Autumn term of 1956 to require that Hogwarts fill a suddenly vacant position for a Transfigurations instructor.

Since we know that in 1943 the Transfiguration instructor of Hogwarts had been Albus Dumbledore and the Headmaster of the School the elderly Professor Dippett, we are invited to assume that this event was the death or retirement of Professor Dippett.

Post-HBP, it is now strongly suggested that we had unavoidably overlooked a detail which was not available to us prior to the release of HBP. One which is tucked into the official Riddle backstory. With this minor detail in mind, there is no absolute certainty that Minerva’s addition to the Hogwarts staff corresponded with Albus’s elevation to Headmaster. Although this still probably represents the earliest likely date for his appointment as such.

However, given the sheer range of Albus Dumbledores offices and achievments, we probably need to make an examination of the whole collection in order to try to determine which came in which order.

From the letterhead of Harry’s Hogwarts letter, we know that by 1991 Albus Dumbledore was not merely the Headmaster of Hogwarts School, but also the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederacy of Wizards.

We have no information regarding the order in which these three offices were acquired. It seems mildly improbable, however, that a common schoolmaster would also be Supreme Mugwump or Chief Warlock. It seems somewhat more likely that the office of Headmaster of Hogwarts School came first.

Still, given Albus’s age and long reputation, it is just barely possible that he had been Chief Warlock even while still an active teacher. He almost certainly had his own seat on the Wizengamot when he was still blamelessly teaching at Hogwarts and (possibly) serving as Deputy Head. Because we are told outright that he had already been offered, and had refused, the post of Minister for Magic three times by the time by the time he finally became Headmaster. It is unlikely that the post of Minister would have been offered if he were not already a member in good standing of the Wizengamot.

There appears to be no set term of office for Minister for Magic, but several questions in the final round of the WOMBAT test on Rowling’s first official website suggested a typical term of approximately 10 years. By 1938, had he chosen, he might have been serving as Minister for Magic rather than hand-delivering Hogwarts letters to orphans.

It may have taken at least a few years on the Wizengamot for Dumbledore to have gained enough support to be elected Chief Warlock of that body, although if Griselda Marchbanks was already a member of that body, which seems likely, she would have certainly nominated him for the position. Griselda was extremely impressed by Albus from the time she first met him when he was a schoolboy sitting his NEWTs.

However, we also do not know — and probably never will know — exactly when Dumbledore began teaching. He could have been a personage of considerable political importance before he ever started. And it appears, post-DHs that due to his habit of initiating correspondence with notable figures, his name was already fairly widely known in powerful circles by the time he sat his NEWTs.

Which, perhaps we ought to remind ourselves, was before his life turned upside-down over the course of the summer after he sat those NEWTs. The young Albus Dumbledore who formed those associations had no reluctance about grasping for power. Nor, once he came to the conclusion that power was something that he needed to avoid, did he withdraw from those associations. Neither, it would appear, did he ever feel that he was unqualified to offer the world, and his associates, his advice.

Even before DHs was released, the fact that he had already been offered the post of Minister for Magic three times before he was appointed Headmaster, suggests that, among the ruling elders of British wizardry, Dumbledore’s reputation went back much farther than the date at which he defeated what at that point was appearing to be one very obscure Dark wizard. His associations with Flamel, Marchbanks, Bagshott, and other notable personages seemed a much more likely direction for investigation if one was searching for reasons why people kept repeatedly offering him a high political post that he manifestly did not want.

The fact that no mention whatsoever is made on that card of any presumed activities on the part of Albus Dumbledore during VoldWar I would suggest that Albus Dumbledore’s specific activities, if any, during VoldWar I have remained generally unknown to the broader wizarding public (or that, post-DHs, his determined reluctance to take responsibility for the welfare of others dictated that he probably engaged in very few of such, until the point that he titularly founded the Order of the Phoenix) and that his reputation is based upon his multiple positions as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards over that crucial period and since.

In any case, those people who “wanted him to be Minister for Magic” as recently as 1990 presumably were almost certainly his fellow members of the Wizengamot, a body of some 50 witches and wizards, who appoint or elect the Minister among themselves. (Note: that the Minister for Magic is an appointed office was finally confirmed in April 2006 with the posting of Grogam Stump as Wizard of the Month on Rowling’s official site. Mr Stump was a popular MfM “appointed in 1811”.)

• • • •

The widely known events of the year 1945 in canon, at this point are:

Albus Dumbledore defeats the Dark wizard Grindelwald.

We don’t know when during the year this took place. But until the release of DHs we could assume that the fact that in our world the war was over in Europe by the time the school year ended would appear to suggest that Grindelwald’s defeat was not concurrent with the end of any Muggle war, if there even was one. We could also speculate that it must have taken place in the vicinity of Hogwarts, since Albus had a day job and wasn’t off on the continent chasing Dark wizards.

Now that we cannot establish that the Potterverse even had a Muggle war in the 1940s, this reasoning falls apart. With the release of DHs we are once again stuck having to account for the fact that Albus had to go abroad in order to defeat Grindelwald. Which limits us to one or another term break.

Until the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince we knew of no obviously significant date directly related to the adventure of Harry Potter and the Dark Lord between 1945 and the then presumed return to Britain of Tom Riddle in 1970 (based upon Dumbledore’s statement in November ’81 that the wizarding world had had little to celebrate for the past 11 years). Since the release of HBP, however, we have a number of other possible stopping points, and the 1970 date has been rendered bogus.

• • • •

So, taking the events of HBP (which we had no indication of before that book was released) into consideration, one possibility, to recap:

1945: Long time DADA Professor Galatia Merrythought announces her retirement. It’s possible the the ongoing Grindelwald situation may have been instrumental in this decision. But not altogether certain. After all, some fifty years teaching might well be accounted to be a sufficient career for anyone.

Upon sitting his NEWTs, Tom Riddle applies for the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor. Upon the advice of Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster Dippett kindly refused this request, telling Tom that 18 is too young to be a teacher, and recommends that he return and re-apply in a few more years, when he has had more experience. Riddle is next known to be employed at Borgin & Burke as a Sales Assistant. In retrospect, even if he was not obligated as a contracted apprentice, he was almost certainly there in hopes of tracing what had become of Slytherin’s locket which until shortly before his own birth had still been being worn by his mother. He suspected, and rightly so, that eventually the collector who purchased the locket will return.

On the strength of his fresh defeat of Grindelwald (probably during Easter break, or just possibly early in the summer break), Albus cuts any threat of Riddle’s future appointment as DADA instructor off at the pass by taking over the DADA post himself and a new Transfigurations instructor is hired.

Canonical proof? None, but it lines up with subsequent events which we know to have taken place in regards to the Hogwarts staffing issues.

• • • •

At the date of the interview with Madam Smith, Riddle’s physical appearance was such as to suggest that he had already created at least the first of his seven Horcruxes. We do not know for certain whether the faintly decadent “pale and interesting” appearance he presented at that time was definitely indicative of his having created a Horcrux, but we have been offered no alternative interpretation. It is strongly, and crudely, implied that this is the underlying cause of all of his subsequent changes in appearance.

It would appear, from one of Ms Rowling’s interview statements, and upon the basis of Harry's unsupported assumptions in DHs that Tom had, by the time of his return created three of them. To wit, the Ring, the Diary, and the Diadem, which Harry is convinced that he went and retrieved from Albania as soon as he finished Hogwarts. I find this supposition difficult to credit, given the gross deterioration in his physical appearance by the next time we saw him which we are to understand was the result of creating only two more of them (the Cup and the Locket).

I really do think that Harry is being a fool, and that Ms Rowling was talking off the top of her head, without reference to any of her notes, or application of common sense, about a subject which she had not ever considered in any depth, having already relegated it to the background. I mean, it’s quite obvious from everything she has ever had to say on the subject that she doesn’t actually care about anything to do with Horcruxes.

I am more inclined to believe that by the date of his chat with Madam Smith Riddle had created only the Ring. By that point, he would have been in the process of drafting out his next sequence of plans. I think that before leaving for Albania he hid the Ring in the ruin of the Gaunt hovel, possibly as a trap for his uncle Morfin (of which more later). In all likelihood, he also may have stashed it there as a safeguard against embarking upon his impending travels to a dangerous part of Eastern Europe to hunt for the Ravenclaw diadem.

But I am currently convinced that, Harry’s convictions notwithstanding, Tom had delayed that journey until Hepzibah Smith who he had indeed discovered in the shop’s records to be the purchaser of Slytherin’s locket, revisited B&B (i.e., collectors always return). His intention was to have a shot at charming her into giving him a chance to verify that she did indeed still have the locket in her possession, rather than, say, depositing it in her Gringotts vault where no one else could get access to it.

The Murder of Madam Smith (whose death, I agree was probably the base for creating the Cup Horcrux) prompted him to retreat from the ww before managing to establish himself at Hogwarts where the Sword associated with Gryffindor was probably known to occasionally manifest at times when there was a threat to the school.

It is uncertain whether his deployment of the Basilisk at the end of his own 5th year had been a gambit intended to goad the Sword into manifesting itself even then. It is not established whether Tom had already managed to discover that the Sword was understood to appear under such conditions as an ongoing threat to the school.

But any such earlier manifestations were probably documented, and it is possible that such were indeed his intentions. By that point in time, he had already spoken with his uncle and discovered his own descent from Slytherin, and had also possibly found record of the sale of the Slytherin locket in the records of the shop. It is likely that he had already cozened the secret of what had happened to the missing diadem out of the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw. It is not altogether impossible that he may have reasoned that by deploying Salazar's monster, he might force a manifestation of Godric’s sword.

In another universe, Tom Riddle might well have made a very good historian.

• • • •

When this essay collection first went online I contended that it was not the death of young Myrtle and Hagrid’s expulsion which put Dumbledore onto Riddle’s trail but the murder of the Riddle family and Tom Riddle’s subsequent disappearance.

It is now abundantly clear that this belief is altogether incorrect. At that point it was largely assumed that the Riddles were murdered after Tom had already finished Hogwarts in 1945. I also did not know, (nor did anybody apart from Rowling) that Tom’s mother had a father and brother who outlived her, and that her brother was all-too-available to take the blame for the Riddle murders.

And, yet, for far too long a time time, I had still been convinced that I had been right in essence, because it had been a death and Riddle’s subsequent disappearance which had finally prompted Albus Dumbledore to attempt to belatedly trace Riddle’s backtrail, and that after examining Hokey’s memory of Riddle’s last known meeting with her mistress, two days before that lady’s death, he had made a point of speaking with Caractacus Burke regarding the provenance of that locket, and eventually his inquires also led him to Bob Ogden, which seems to have prompted him to request an interview with Morfin Gaunt before Gaunt’s death in Azkaban.

Well. I no longer believe any of that chain of events, either.

I had been so determinedly rejecting DHs and everything to do with it that I totally overlooked the only bit of that stupid and overwrought business of the Albus/Gellert backstory which actually connects to the central issue of the problem of the threat constituted by Tom Riddle. So let us all step back a number of years, and reevaluate what we think we know:

• • • •

1945 (Yes, again): Albus Dumbledore defeats Gellert Grindelwald, taking him into Custody.

A domino got knocked over — right on top of me — during a correspondence with my fellow-traveler, Swythyv. One which prompted a number of fundamental shifts in assumption regarding certain bits of that backstory. Not that any of it particularly matters, and none of it is actually provable, but it is gratifying to discover that there are still potential insights to be gained regarding the Harry Potter saga.

I’d been assuming for years that Albus turned up most of the Riddle backstory in the course of investigating Hepzibah Smith's death and the disappearance of two of her treasures.

Well, that’s still possible, but that no longer reads as the most likely scenario.

After all, at the time that Madam Smith was murdered, Albus Dumbledore had a day job and was off in Scotland still actively teaching most days of the week.

Albus wasn’t likely to be investigating anything related to Madam Hepzibah Smith.

So who was? The woman was clearly found to have been murdered. And robbed. There would certainly have been an investigation of that. That’s the DMLE’s job. And the DMLE was doing it.

It’s beginning to look as though by the time Hepzibah Smith was murdered for her treasures, the ongoing duel between Tom Riddle and Albus Dumbledore was already well engaged. As I say, I’d been so determinedly rejecting DHs and everything in it that I had completely overlooked one particular which in retrospect now appears obvious.

Albus did not trip over Morfin Gaunt during an investigation of Tom Riddle’s activities.

It was Morfin Gaunt who set him onto Tom Riddle’s trail.

The very same Tom Riddle that Albus had thought that he was finally well rid of, as of June of 1945.

Consider: Albus took Gellert into custody in 1945. Probably during the spring or summer break, since he was still actively engaged in the classroom, teaching, with a class schedule to follow at the time. Indeed, one of the students in his class was the young Tom Riddle.

Ergo: whether I am correct in my speculation that Gellert's rise had already failed some years (5?) earlier, and that it was simply that no one had been able to catch him and get him off the streets which required Albus's intervention (possibly on Gellert's own insistence) or not, it stands to reason that Albus had some degree of involvement with closing down whatever was left of Gellert's operation.

And Gellert effectively purchased his life and safety from Albus by making him an offer he knew Albus was not likely to refuse.

• • • •

Stepping back another 46 years, both Albus D and Gellert G had gone completely nuts over the idea of recovering and reuniting the Deathly Hallows. Gellert was particularly fascinated by the unbeatable Wand, Albus was fixated on the Resurrection Stone, but they were both absolutely gaga about going off on a treasure hunt and finding the damned things.

Neither one of them ever really got over that shared obsession, either. In fact, Gellert in particular, went right on to do it. Albus, badly burned, shied off from the whole issue, until he confronted Gellert again 46 years later.

After which point he seems to have suffered a fairly major relapse.

Now, pause and think: is Gellert, a dedicated — and partially successful — Hallows quester really likely to have stopped at just the Wand?

I don't think so! Indeed, the very fact that he did find the Wand is more likely to have made him all the more determined to find the other two items as well. After all, the legend had by that time grown up which claimed that only the master of all three of the Hallows would be the Master of Death.

And by, say, 1915 or 1920, he had resources available to put toward finding them.

Grindelwald was still very young when he acquired the Elder Wand, however. And the young tend to be impatient. Where Albus might possibly have done nothing but to continue his research until he had at least discovered one more of the Hallows, when the circumstances presented a not-to-be-refused opportunity, Gellert made his grab for world dominance on the strength of holding only the Wand. After that point any campaign for World Dominance™ will have kept him fully occupied.

However, he is highly unlikely to have ever forgotten that he intended to make himself the Master of Death itself, and for that he needed both the the Stone and the Cloak as well. If Grindelwald did NOT have a handful of very talented scholars on his payroll engaged in attempting to track the other two items I would be very much surprised.

I still think that it is most likely that his empire had come unstuck by about 1940, and that it was only the fact that he was still running about loose and unpredictable that had most of the European ww so on edge that they were begging Albus Dumbledore to come and take care of the situation. But what is clear is that Albus did finally do so. And, once Gellert was taken into custody, which was almost certainly arranged and administered by Albus Dumbledore, personally, it was Albus who closed down what was left of Gellert's operations.

Well, okay. As a result, at some point in the middle of 1945 we have Albus returned to Britain, in possession of the Elder Wand, possibly (acto Swythyv) a clutch of tamed Thestrals, and all 40+ years of Gellert's notes regarding the search for the other two Deathly Hallows.

The next portion of my speculations is a bit less clearly supported by elements openly stated in canon, but there is at least one such statement.

Part II of this particular theory stems from a comment made by Marvolo Gaunt during his confrontation with Bob Ogden.

Evidently someone had attempted to buy the Peverill ring from Marvolo. Had offered him a handsome sum for it as well. We do not know precisely when, but Ogden’s visit to the Gaunts took place in the summer of 1925.

Where was Gellert Grindelwald in 1925?

By 1925, or even 1920, I should think that it would be unlikely that Gellert Grindelwald would be in Britain attempting to purchase an alleged Peverill artifact himself. He had other fish to fry. But he would certainly have sent an agent to do it for him. And the fact that the artifact was only a possible lead, might explain the lack of followup. There are unquestionably as many purported “Peverill artifacts” strewn across wizarding Europe as there were fragments of the “true cross” in its Muggle counterpart. The agent had followed the lead of an old wizarding family’s ownership of what they claimed to be the Peverill ring, but there was nothing about Marvolo or his household to instill any confidence in those claims. And we already know from our first sight of Xeno Lovegood at the Weasley wedding that there is no shortage of artifacts bearing the sigil of the Hallows questers. At least a few of these artifacts are bound to be legitimately historic in themselves.

So, in 1945 we have Albus returned to Britain with (a clutch of Thestrals?) the Elder Wand, an Order of Merlin, and some 40 years of Gellert’s records concerning his search for the Stone and the Cloak.

Most of the leads in this record had already been investigated and found to be bogus. But there were probably a few unexamined or abandoned trails. Over the following 2–3 years Albus’s term breaks are taken up with attempting to pick up these leads where Gellert’s agents had left them. Since he is still actively engaged in the classroom, his time for such pursuits is limited to the 3 weeks of Christmas break, the 2 weeks of Easter break and the long holiday of two months in the summer. In addition to any Assistant Headmaster duties which may fall under his responsibility. Or not, as the case may be. We have no direct canon claim that Albus was ever Deputy Headmaster, although it would not be unexpected.

At some point after the commencing of the school term of… we’ll say 1947, but we don’t have to insist on it, he finally works his way down the list to a report of a ring bearing the sigil of the Hallows which in the middle 1920s was in the possession of a family named Gaunt who refused to sell their heirloom. Given that there was nothing to distinguish the ring in question from any other artifact of the sort that would have been adopted by a family of traditional Hallows questers, the lead had been abandoned.

Well, Albus knows enough of pureblood wizarding society to know that ‘Gaunt’ is a legitimately old wizarding name, although the family appears to have died out. The lead may well go nowhere, but it is certainly worth following.

A grateful Ministry would hardly have refused to assist Albus Dumbledore in an attempt to trace a wizard who might have a connection to whatever it was that Gellert Grindelwald had been up to over in Europe, some years back.

It would soon have transpired that Marvolo Gaunt had died back around 1927 or ’28. But a look at the Ministry's file would have turned up his arrest record. Which would have led Albus directly to Bob Ogden, and the information that Marvolo's son Morfin was currently serving a life sentence in Azkaban for the murder of three Muggles.

His interview with Bob Ogden, which entails a Pensieved memory, forewarns him that he’s going to need a translation charm to understand Parseltongue. I almost wonder whether Morfin was compos mentos enough by the time Albus got to him to even still speak and understand English.

So we now finally have a handle on why Albus was permitted that interview with Morfin Gaunt in which he uncovered the buried memory of Tom Riddle’s visit to his uncle back in the summer of ’42.

Morfin Gaunt, by then is very close to his end. He has been in the hands of the Dementors since that summer of 1942, something like 5 years, on top of his earlier 3-year sentence back in the mid-’20s. It is possible that the deterioration of his condition is part of the reason why over the course of the interview the suppressed memory was finally accessible.

The memory has provided Albus with no more information concerning the provenance of the family’s ring, although he now remembers having seen Tom Riddle wearing what was probably that ring at Hogwarts. But there is a clear indication that a miscarriage of justice has taken place, and if he can get Morfin out of the Dementor’s custody and into St Mungo’s there might be a better chance of questioning him further. He starts a campaign to secure Gaunt’s release.

He is also now determined upon building a case against Tom Marvolo Riddle and presenting it to the Wizengamot. There is no statute of limitation on the crime of murder. Albus now sees the possibility of packing Tom Riddle away to Azkaban where he will be in no position to be a further danger to anyone.

If he had been quicker off the mark and managed to do it then, he might have pulled it off. After all, at that point, for all of his former popularity among a group of fairly high-ranking schoolboys, Tom Riddle wasn’t anyone with influence to bring to bear in opposition to Albus Dumbledore.

And then Albus has to return to his teaching duties. In the interim between this point and the summer break, the information that Albus Dumbledore is agitating for a retrial for Morfin Gaunt, of all people, is printed in the Prophet, although probably on a back page. It is more of a curiosity than a bit of relevant news.

• • • •

To Tom Riddle, however, any article that mentions Morfin Gaunt serves as a strong suggestion that he needs to get out of Dodge. He turned 21 at the end of 1947, and his contract, if any, with Burke will be up in June. Upon the whole, he’s found the association profitable in terms of information, training, and contacts, but he never did intend to spend his whole life as a shopkeeper. And he already knows who last had Slytherin’s locket. Now is a good time to get it back.

He starts cultivating Hepzibah Smith. When we saw him pay her a visit in Hokey’s memory, he claimed to have come with a negotiation from B&B to purchase back one of her previous acquisitions, at this point there is no way of telling whether this was his own idea or whether he was able to nudge Burke into sending him, but the connection is going to serve his own purposes rather than Burke’s.

He probably also starts making comments to Burke about maybe taking a traditional Grand Tour when his contract runs out. Is there anywhere or anything on the Continent that Burke thinks might be particularly worth investigating or keeping an eye out for?

In the meantime, there is the question of the Ring. By this time Tom is bound to have heard about those loons who call themselves the Hallows Questers, but at least they are an exclusively wizarding nut cult so he’s had no regrets as to having formerly displayed the connection. But it may turn out to be inconvenient, now, after the fact.

He has no idea that *Albus* wants that ring. But if Albus is campaigning for Morfin’s release, then the likelihood is that the memory charm on Morfin has failed, and the ring ties him to the Riddle murders (he probably thanks Merlin that the device on it doesn’t connect him to any specific family).

I think Tom decided that it might be wise to shed it. He was also planning to soon be traveling into dangerous places, so, one evening, or on his day off, he slipped off the radar, cursed it heavily, and dumped it where he'd found it.

I think that he quite deliberately took it back and left it in the Gaunt ruin. And it was quite deliberately cursed to kill whoever picked it up. That was an intentional trap. He no doubt expected that the most likely person to find it would be uncle Morfin. And if Morfin wants his ring back, much joy may he have of it. Once Morfin was dead, there would be no way to conclusively prove Tom had ever been anywhere near the place.

So, right about the time his contract with Burke was due to expire, Tom Riddle, in his capacity as a shop assistant employed at Borgin & Burke has an interview (not his first) with Madam Hepzibah Smith, a wealthy collector of magical artifacts, in which he verifies that, yes, it is Madam Smith who has current possession the locket of Salazar Slytherin, which had originally been the property of his mother’s family. She also reveals that she possesses a cup which she claims is a relic of Helga Hufflepuff, of whom Madam Smith claims to be a descendent. These temptations prove far too great to resist. Madam Smith survives her last known interview with Riddle by only two days.

He almost certainly made another visit on the actual evening of her death, during which he possesses Madam Smith, forces her to drink poison, waits until she dies and creates the Cup Horcrux from her murder. He then takes the Locket and the Cup (and probably whatever cash he found in her house), also probably stuns her House Elf, and modifies the elf’s memory, makes his good-byes to Burke, and slips off the board by the time the Hogwarts term breaks up for the summer.

• • • •

An alternate possibility, suggested by a correspondent, is that Tom may possibly have been being kept abreast of developments inside the Ministry by a former classmate. It stands to reason that someone else either in his own year, or anything up to 2–3 years ahead of him might be working in the Ministry by then. Possibly more than one, considering how well-connected many of Tom’s former classmates were. In either event, Albus Dumbledore’s sudden interest in getting Morfin Gaunt’s conviction overturned would have given Tom an unequivocal heads-up.

Indeed, I suspect that Tom was probably the one who took the initiative by contacting Hepzibah (whose name had probably shown up any number of times in the shop’s records) about selling that goblin armor back to B&B. And he may have done so without his employers’ knowledge. It would not have taken long to charm her into showing him whether she still had the locket, and had it in her own possession, rather than having stowed it in a Gringotts vault.

And, I’m also certain that the news of Albus’s interest in Morfin did prompt him to lay a curse on the Ring which would cause it to kill anyone either who tried to remove it from its hiding place, or attempted to put it on. (I am still rather fond of my theory that he developed this curse by clandestinely messing with the silver and opal necklace at B&B, which was already known to be cursed, but nothing actually depends on that.)

On Burke's end, he had no idea that Tom had any interest in that locket or any connection with the ragged, homely young witch he'd bought it from. Tom was careful to never tell him anything of that. Tom’s investigations of the shop’s records were probably passed off as becoming better aware of the shop’s stock.

• • • •

Morfin Gaunt didn’t live to walk into the trap that Tom had set for him, but it caught Albus Dumbledore neatly enough, even though it had to wait to do so for something like 39 years. Almost to the day. We’re never going to get any kind of confirmation on any of this but I put the murder of Hepzibah Smith as taking place in early June 1948. That’s certainly within the parameters that we already had.

Albus would have recognized Tom when he showed up in Morfin’s memory immediately. But I’m not sure that he hadn’t been expecting it. A lot depends upon just how widespread the name “Marvolo” is among wizards. And Albus had been taking a covert interest in a student named Tom Marvolo Riddle for some years now. In fact, he had finally believed himself to be rid of the troublesome boy. He probably also remembered that the child had once claimed to be a Parselmouth, and may well have recalled the ring that Tom had been wearing at some point in his last three years at school. Albus most likely had never taken a close look at it, but, even if it was crude and ugly, it was not something that one would expect to find in the possession of a penniless orphan. Albus already knew that the boy was a thief, as well as the kind of bully who liked to take trophies. Morfin's rambling over having “lost” his father's ring would have made that connection inescapable.

By that time, Tom was of age, either as a wizard or a Muggle, out of school, and no longer under any authority of Albus Dumbledore’s.

Since he had also almost certainly already turned the ring into a Horcrux, and since Rowling now has all Horcruxes acting like Tolkein’s One Ring, he would have had reason to find the ring’s attempts to influence him irritating, and would have stopped wearing it

• • • •

Although considering what that ring already inherently was there is a rather more amusing possibility for someone to make something of. If they choose.

You do not activate the Resurrection Stone by wearing the ring. You have to take it off and turn it around in your palm three times.

Well what else would you expect someone to do who is gloating over creating his very first Horcrux?

And probably thinking of all his “perfect” murders.

We’ve already seen that Tom doesn't *like* to be visited by the dead. We do know he got used to talking to the ghosts at Hogwarts, but these shades aren't *ghosts*.

He pulled up the Riddles — even though they were Muggles — and he also got Myrtle. And Myrtle immediately set up her usual howl about how Olive Hornsby was mean to her and now she's dead and it was unfair, and Tom probably said something like; “Then go haunt Olive Hornsby and leave me alone!” And Myrtle was off like a shot, since he’d just given her permission to do exactly what she wanted to do.

Various people have pointed out that Myrtle is curiously substantial for a ghost. How many other ghosts have we met who were able to displace water?

Tom managed to banish the Riddles. They were all Muggles, and wouldn’t have been able to manifest at all without the help of the Stone. But shedding the Ring a few years later may probably have suddenly looked like a rather good idea.

He may have even thought that what it did had something to do with his having turned it into a Horcrux. It would have been years before he had a chance to learn differently. Assuming he ever did.

• • • •

Having gone over the reports both of Morfin and his father’s earlier arrest, as well as the report of Morfin’s murder conviction, it is difficult to believe that the name of the primary victim in both attacks did not register with Albus, who would certainly have associated it with the troublemaker who he suspected to have been behind any number of the nasty incidents at Hogwarts over the past few years. And who he had finally thought he was through with having to deal with.

Through the use of Legilimency Dumbledore followed his hunch, and was able to retrieve the buried memory of Morfin’s only meeting with his nephew. Which if we had a more pro-active Albus, he would possibly have been looking for. Albus’s discovery of Gaunt’s almost certain innocence of the murders of the Riddle family was enough to try to get him out. Morfin Gaunt’s death took place before his release from Azkaban could be accomplished. Morfin’s death therefore I now place in the spring or early summer of 1948, although we cannot be certain. Assuming Morfin and his sister Merope had been near to the same age, Morfin would have been somewhere in his 40s at the time of his death.

That Albus Dumbledore was campaigning for Morfin Gaunt’s release suggests that the information discovered in the recovered memory would have been submitted to some Ministry committee as evidence. We do not know for certain who might have been a part of this committee. But there is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that Arcturus Black, then Head of the Black family may have been a member of this body.

Bob Ogden, however, had been working with Dumbledore since this business first turned up, and was aware of Albus’s attempt to build a case against the man he believed had been the true murderer of the Riddle family. He probably assigned an Auror to investigate further. Ogden probably also no doubt pointed out that Albus’s case, as it currently stood, was far from watertight. The death of Morfin Gaunt before he could be questioned further put a considerable spoke in their wheel.

However, at about this point in time, the DMLE suddenly finds itself investigating the robbery and murder of one Madam Hepzibah Smith, a wealthy collector of magical artifacts. The whole business is confusing and inconclusive. There is undoubtedly a good deal of discussion regarding the case around the Department.

The name of one of Madam Smith’s last visitors a couple of days before she was found dead turns out to be the name of the same fellow that Albus is convinced probably murdered that family of Muggles back in the summer of 1942.

Someone speaks with the Auror who is in charge of the Smith investigation. While the murder of the Riddles might just conceivably be classified as a domestic. The murder of Madam Smith appears to be a straightforward murder for gain. Ogden doesn’t see a pattern emerging, but they just might have a serial killer on their hands.

At which point I tend to think we may have discovered where that long-standing association/friendship between Albus Dumbledore and Alastor Moody may have started.

Moody is known to have been an Auror with a long career. It isn't beyond belief for that career to have started by some point in the 1940s. Possibly even earlier. In ay case, Ogden may well have suggested that the two of them pool resources and see if they could advance their investigations and get this Tom Riddle off the streets.

Unfortunately, Riddle was out of the country before a viable legal case against him could be raised.

• • • •

Nothing much is known to have taken place related to the face-off between Tom Riddle and Albus Dumbledore over the following decade. Which is approximately the point at which Tom Riddle returned to Britain, wearing a new face, and, soon afterwards, adopted a new name.

January 1957: Minerva McGonagall is hired as the new Transfiguration instructor at Hogwarts.

Winter, year unknown (1957–1963 approximate): Albus Dumbledore is formally appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If we are to take Albus at his word that Tom Riddle was absent from Britain for a period of ten years, this would place his appointment in the winter of 1958–’59.

Soon afterwards Albus Dumbledore receives a visit from the former Tom Riddle, now openly calling himself Lord Voldemort. During this meeting Riddle once again requests the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor — which he knows is now vacant. This request is refused.

In retaliation, Riddle allegedly jinxes the post, ensuring that no other instructor will manage to finish out a year in the position. We do not know whether the jinx was to continue in perpetuity, or only throughout Dumbledore’s tenure as Headmaster (Rowling has since stated that it lasted until Riddle’s unequivocal death). In the course of this discussion, it is also heavily implied that Aberforth Dumbledore was already in place as the barman of the Hog’s Head Tavern in Hogsmeade by the date of the interview between Albus and Tom Riddle. Indeed, it is entirely possible that Aberforth has been in place in some capacity at the Hog’s Head since he sat his OWLs in 1900.

• • • •

One thing which we do not know is how long Riddle had been in Britain at the time he contacted Albus for that job interview.

The probability is that he had not been back for long. Riddle is unknown to have had a fixed address during the period after he finished Hogwarts, and before he departed Britain, presumably in search of the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw. During the period that he was employed at B&B he is assumed to have had rooms somewhere in the general Diagon/Knockturn Alley area, if he was not actually being housed by Burke on the premisis.

At this point, he had certainly not yet aquired the Riddle House, and the Gaunt hovel was probably close to uninhabitable. Consequently, we might fairly safely conclude that he was staying with one or other of his former classmates. Wizards do appear to recognize the laws of hospitality, and many of the more prominent families have properties which would make such hospitality easy to extend.

This seems also to be this point at which “Lord Voldemort” first began to make a public appearance. Which upon consideration probably ought to strike us as distinctly peculiar — particularly given later developments. Still, perhaps we need to remember that what things become, is not always what they originally were. Or what they were presented as being.

The Diary revenant informed us that “Lord Voldemort” had been an invention of Tom Riddle’s schooldays. Already known to his close associates by the time he was in his 5th year.

Whatever the grand title of Lord Voldemort might have represented to Tom Riddle at that point. I rather suspect that it was presented to his compatriots in the manner of a joke.

Before his resurection in the summer of 1995, Tom Riddle had been presented to the reader as an individual who would have always appeared to have a goal. I agree that once he was actually “on stage” his depiction in canon would call this belief into considerable question, for a more passive villain would be difficult to find.

Not to mention the fact that the official Riddle backstory, as presented by Albus Dumbledore depicts him as a public enemy from the get-go. An outlaw whose “message” could never have enjoyed any degree of public acceptance, let alone support.

Post-DHs we know that Albus was capable of lying like a rug, but this is still a contradiction that needs some form of resolution.

One of these things, is simply not like the others.

However, perhaps we need to keep in mind that the Tom Riddle who returned to Britain after a decade’s absence had not yet been diminished by a dozen years of semi-existence as a disembodied spirit, being eaten away at by the sort of chaotic entities which feed upon magic as it emerges into the world.

The Tom Riddle who returned to Britain roughly around 1958–1963 had just completed a mission which I believe had taken him far longer than he had ever thought was even possible.

I tend to think he was ready for a break.

• • • •

The next item on his primary agenda was going to be tricky to get set up. He needs to establish a place for himself at Hogwarts and engineer a situation which will cause Gryffindor’s sword to manifest.

Not a problem — if Dippet had still been in charge, but Hogwarts is currently lacking an active Headmaster, and it looks like the job is probably going to fall to Dumbledore. That’s going to make things difficult. He has never had a good relationship with Albus Dumbledore.

In the meantime, he is staying with one of his friends, catching up with others, and finding out what has been going on over the past decade that wasn't mentioned in the international news.

I rather think he was starved for company, too. After all, hunting for the lost diadem was probably not really a mission that he felt he could share.

Oh, sure, he had been used to working alone back in his orphanage. And he’s at his most dangerously inovative when he is working solo. But his years at Hogwarts had given him a taste for having a following.

I suspect that his host, or someone in his host’s family might have been a member of the Knights of Walpurgis.

Remember them? Rowling tossed their name out in an interview, possibly the joint interview of 2005, and tried to claim that they were an organization that Riddle had taken over in order to create the Death Eaters.

They never turned up anywhere in canon.

But I don’t doubt that they, or something very much like them does indeed exist in the Potterverse.

As I've said elsewhere, I think that they were the model that Horace’s Slug Club was based on.

And I no longer think that it had any resemblance to the Death Eaters. Or certainly not at its inception. It’s far more likely to be along the lines of the Glorious Order of the Moose. Or perhaps the Shriners.

It was (and probably still is) a service organization. I suspect that it was formed around the time that wizarding seclusion was being established, and was created to assist families, or individuals, to hide themselves. Or to help them re-train for some craft or profession which would benefit themselves and their new world a bit less conspicuously than just trying to support themselves farming. A “hidden” wizarding world simply isn't big enough to hide a lot of farms.

No. Leave the farming to the Muggles. They’re good enough at it not to need magical help.

But, like I say, things do not always remain what they begin as.

By the mid-20th century the Knights were very much the Slug Club. Only older.

Riddle’s contemporaries probably regarded them as a lot of stuffy old farts who thought far too well of themselves.

• • • •

Which, at very long last, finally offers at least a possibility of how “Lord Voldemort” might have briefly — very briefly — enjoyed some public notice.

It was a *prank*.

There Tom was, staying over with one of his ex-schoolmates, and a couple of the other old boys joined in, hanging out, all of them being bored scions with nothing of any significance to do with themselves. Riddle probably privately considered them all a bunch of useless twits who wouldn’t have recognized a good day’s work if it bit them on the arse. By this time they were probably around 30, and had established themselves as well as they were ever going to establish themselves until someone in one of the older generations died and left room for them to get a bit closer to the top of the family “business”.

Not a trace of anything that could be regarded as a “purpose” among them.

In short, they were all dangerously at loose ends.

They’d been reminiscing about some of the rigs they ran back at Hogwarts, and someone probably brought up Lord Voldemort. Who had been very much an in-joke among them.

Somebody else probably brought up the Knights of Walpurgis, and it all expanded into a glorious plot to bring “Lord Voldemort” (from abroad) to a meeting as a guest.

Tom may have even given a fine speech (complete with a foreign accent) at the meeting. One which would have *sounded* like exactly what they all stood for —

— And which upon further examination would have devolved into a complete mockery.

They may have kept Lord Voldemort around for a few more meetings, and maybe a couple of articles in the Prophet.

They probably didn’t perpetrate the original hoax any longer than it was still fun, but it may have taken a while to wind down.

Being publicly made an object of ridicule for having bought the package might have had something to do with a reluctance to speak of the episode later.

But that certainly wouldn’t explain the type of reluctance which we see in canon.

• • • •

I could just about see the whole “Lord Voldemort” thing starting off as a joke which got completely out of hand.

But the violence later attributed to the Death Eaters that started causing concerns in the DMLE by roughly the mid-1960s was something else entirely.

That doesn’t really seem to be connected at all. That has nothing to do with somebody prancing about masquerading as a bogus Lord Voldemort.

Something, somewhere else gave Tom and his cronies a reason to renigue on any kind of social contract and start raising hell for the fun of it. And whatever that reason might have been, it has to have been something more than just “because they’re evil”.

I’ve swung around to the view that the whole Death Eaters business originally started as a group effort. It might not even have been Tom who made the first move.

However, it does seem to have taken at least a bit of time before Tom had established himself as their unequivocal leader.

Yes, they'd been in the habit of following his lead from their schooldays. But he hadn’t owned them. By the time they had adopted the Dark mark and started signing their work, he did.

That had to have taken time to establish.

Indeed, I suspect that the reason it took so long before the DMLE woke up and realized they had a bunch of terrorists on their hands, was because for the first several years, terrorizing the wizarding public wasn’t actually Tom’s primary objective. No, the primary objective was Tom’s gradual establishment of total dominence, and indeed *ownership* of their whole group, and all its works.

It would, after all, take a while to convince people who are accustomed to regarding themselves as the ruling elite to essentially sell themselves into slavery to you, personally.

It would have been easy enough for him to forment dissatisfaction with things as they are — even if most of that crowd was already in the position of being at the very apex of society.

Only of course you’re not, since your daddy and your granddaddy, and hell, even your great-granddaddy are still probably hanging around, refusing to let go of the reins.

He could enable blowing off some steam — if you point them at a safe target, of course.

A handful of Tom’s old school friends would have drifted into place without a great deal of resistence. Not all of them, however. The ones who hadn’t a taste for that kind of mayhem, were simply not invited to take part.

And were probably “encouraged” not to speak of anything they might have engaged in before they realized the direction things were taking.

And once a few such engagements have been successfully acomplished, nobody would be in a position to go blowing the whistle on anyone else.

Real recruitment didn’t get started until there was a philosophical message and something that would pass as a “cause”. But the formative period was now.

And Tom seems to have wanted to establish a tight, indeed, a complete hold on the followers that he already had before he made any push to recruit others.

I’m inclined to think that the whole first phase of Tom’s first rise, the period before the DMLE started looking for a pattern in the kind of disturbing episodes that were taking place, may have been acomplished with no more than a handful of partcipants.

• • • •

Riddle’s physical condition at this date, after his 10-year absence makes it evident that he has already been noticably Changed by his involvement in some dangerously degenerative magical processes. His appearance is not yet so far removed from that of general humanity as it would be by the time of his 2nd return to the ww in 1995, but he is sufficiently changed to strongly foreshadow it. We assume that he had rendered the ring, the cup, the locket, and the diadem all into Horcruxes by this point, but that he had certainly not yet created his 6th Horcrux. It is now uncertain as to whether he had already rendered the diary into a Horcrux, either. Or whether he only did that shortly before intending to deploy it when he gave it to Lucius Malfoy in preparation for an intended plot that never materialized due to his defeat at Godric’s Hollow.

Riddle would, at the point of his return to Britain (depending on which year the interview actually took place), have been 30–36 years of age. If it did indeed take place in the winter of ’58–’59 he would be just short of his 32nd birthday.

• • • •

At this point one might well raise the question of why Albus even agreed to that interview. He clearly had no intention of granting any request that Tom Riddle might make. Why even permit him onto the grounds? Did he think it would be impolite to refuse him a hearing?

Did he want to take the opportunity to make Tom aware that he would be paying great attention to his future behaviour? Is that what that reference to "rumors have made their way to Hogwarts. I would be sorry to believe half of them to be true." business was about?

Was that an elliptical hint that he was well aware of Tom’s former activities concerning the Riddles and Madam Smith?

What else could it be? Tom was presumably only recently returned to Britain. He wasn’t known to have yet done anything since his return that Albus could have held against him.

And then Albus went on to out Aberforth as a source of his own information in the course of it. WTF?

The whole meeting appears in retrospect to have been a piece of foolishness on Albus’s part.

Of course, outside the fourth wall, it’s all just a case of Rowling moving furniture. Her apparent purpose was pass some information to the reader about Aberforth’s identity, in case they’d missed the interview and website information, and to have Tom strut around and show off his ruined looks. But it clanks. Loudly.

• • • •

At this point, once again, I’d like to direct our attention to some of the possibilities introduced by those 2019 reconsiderations regarding that set of paired vanishing cabinets.

We have no information regarding when those cabinets were first introduced to the two locations where we originally encountered them. They are described as being *lacquer* cabinets, but this is not much help. Such a style, treatment, or material is often associated with chinoiserie, and other “exotic” decorative elements, and such styles have been going in and out of fashion for at least the last three centuries. Conversely, the term can merely indicate a particular variety of glossy shellac.

As to Borgin & Burke’s shop, we are told that the business was founded by Caractacus Burke, and that either the present shop, or an earlier one also run by Burke, was in business at least as early as 1926, when Merope Gaunt sold Burke the Slytherin locket. By the time Burke was interviewed, probably by Alastor Moody, regarding that locket in the course of his investigation of the robbery and murder of Madam Hepzibah Smith, Burke was described by Harry Potter as “a little old man”.

Moody’s interview with Burke is most likely to have taken place in the mid-20th century. The shop might by that time have been in business for several decades.

The question of how long Burke might have had possession of the London cabinet could boil down to whether or not he was aware that the cabinet was one of a paired set. If so, he might have been reluctant to sell it without attempting to acquire the second cabinet, in order to sell them as a set, which would be a great deal more valuable.

But in any case, the fact that the London cabinet was still in the shop in 1996 in no way disqualifies it from having been in the shop in 1938. Or for it to have been acquired at any time during the period that Tom was either employed there full time, or working there during his summers. And I am fairly certain that if it was acquired during that period, it would have been known to be a “vanishing” transfer cabinet from the get-go. B&B isn't just a second-hand furniture shop, after all. All of their stock is known to be magical in either function or origin.

Burke is likely to have had at least some form of provenance for that cabinet, and such information would have been in the shop records. Such information might very well have included the fact that it was one of a pair of transfer cabinets, and could well have included the activation phrase, or spell.

Another thing we don’t know is whether Burke was aware of the location of the second cabinet. It is quite likely that through some oversight, he did not, or he would have made a more determined attempt to acquire the one still at Hogwarts.

Tom, however, is very likely to have come across the Hogwarts cabinet at some point while poking and prying into every nook and cranny looking for the Chamber of Secrets, and might have recognized that it matched the one at Burke’s. Particularly if, as I have postulated, he spent his summers as Burke’s shop boy, being trained in how to deal with a wide variety of enchanted, or cursed artifacts.

And if so, then Tom Riddle may well have had access to that cabinet during at least some of his student years at Hogwarts. Even more to the point, he would have had access to it in 1948, before he left Britain and headed off to Albania.

I'm not at all sure that Tom would have passed this information on to Burke. I would be quite unsurprised to learn that Tom found having his own secret passage into Hogwarts during the summer to be very useful. Particularly given that he was well aware of how to get into the Room of Hidden Things.

It does occur to me to wonder how much of Burke’s new stock during that period in time had been lifted from among the unclaimed and abandoned property in that Room. Tom Riddle was a thief long before he became a murderer.

And if, as I now suspect, Tom was covertly slipping in and out of Hogwarts under Headmaster Dippet’s unsuspecting nose at his own convenience, then I think the rarely asked question of; “Where did Tom store his Horcruxes before he gave them to followers to hide?” has a fairly obvious answer.

Tom, after all, is not known to have had a residence of his own during the years he was working at B&B. He probably had a rented room somewhere, or even was living in a room attached to the shop. This is not the best sort of place to hide valuables. Particularly dangerous valuables. Particularly not dangerously illegal valuables.

I rather think that once he had stopped wearing it, he had stowed the Ring in the Room of Hidden Things until he decided to use it as a Morfin trap.

And once he acquired them, he was hardly going to risk the Cup and the Locket on his projected jaunt across Europe. They would be much safer stored in the Room.

Insofar as the Cup and Locket went, there was also the added bonus of the fact that if by some unlucky chance they had been discovered there, They would probably have simply been put on display in the trophy room rather than removed from the castle.

Consequently; Tom’s job interview may have been primarily a pretext for getting into the castle to discover where the transfer cabinet was currently located. A simple “point me” would have done that.

Checking whether the Cup and Locket were still in situ, adding the Diadem to the collection, and jinxing the DADA post (or the classroom), or Confunding the Hat, could all be better accomplished on a later visit, at some time when there would be no reason to believe that he had been anywhere near the place, and could work undisturbed. He had come to Hogsmeade with witnesses who could attest that he had met with Dumbledore, returned to the Hogs Head and departed in their company. As for getting back via the cabinet; he was fully conversant with the security at Burke’s. Getting access to the London cabinet was hardly beyond his capabilities.

• • • •

After this point we lose track of any of Tom Riddle’s known activities. It is a bit much to suppose that having been denied his chance to settle into Hogwarts castle and attempt to create a situation which would enable him to get access to Godric’s sword, he simply went off and threw a tantrum for the next 20 years.

And about the only thing I can come up with at this point to explain that would be some kind of a psychotic break.

If the soul is the seat of the personality, it’s not like Tom Riddle’s personality was not already deeply compromised. We have been given every reason to believe that by the time he showed up in Albus’s office, he already had four Horcruxes to his (dis)credit.

But, if that was the cause, it wasn’t a break that was immediately obvious to his croneys.

On the other hand, the Diary Revenant did tell us that it had always been his intention to make his name feared. it is not impossible that once the joke of being Lord Voldemort wore thin, and Albus blocked his attempt to establish himself in the castle, he decided to give up on the goal of adding Godric’s sword to his collection, and concentrate on that instead.

It did not happen overnight. It took several years to gather momentum.

And if Cornelius Fudge is to be believed, the DMLE didn’t start connecting the dots and looking for villains until the mid-1960s.

We have been given at least some indication of the activities which were later attributed to the Death Eaters over that period. Although nothing of what we are given to understand went on is described in any kind of detail. It is all blocked in with the broadest of brushes, leaving the reader to make assumptions and leap to conclusions. Which can end up in a quagmire.

We were told that there were unexplained disappearances. It has not been indicated whether these were wizards or Muggles. But it must be admitted that most wizards would have remained unaware of the disappearance of Muggles.

We do not know whether these disappearances were persons of any particular blood status, or political stance either. Nor whether they were persons who had any known unfriendly dealings with either Tom Riddle or his associates.

For that matter, we do not know whether the people who were assumed to have disappeared might not simply have been people who would not have been quickly missed.

By the mid-1960s, however, the DMLE was taking notice and becoming concerned.

The general uneasiness over the situation that such attention might have provoked would, either sooner or later, have led someone in a position to be tracking such occurances to conclude that, rather than an unknown individual dark wizard or two, they had a suspected group of terrorists at work.

Quite possibly without any clear indication of what these terrorists actually wanted.

The turning point of the whole first “war” appears to have been the point at which these suspected terrorists started signing their work with a skull-and-snake sigel which became known as the Dark mark.

That is the point at which there was first acknowledged to even be a war.

We do not know just when the term: “Death Eaters” was first applied to these particular terrorists. Nor where the term originally came from.

Nor do we know whether at any point in their gradual rise, these “Death Eaters” appeared to have been undertaking any of their violent activities for the purpose of any sort of material gain. But I suspect they were apparentaly not simply assumed by the DMLE to be a band of brigands attempting to distribute the wizarding world’s wealth into their own hands by any means that seemed effective.

The question of; “What do they want? What are they after?” would have become nerve-wracking as their activities spread. Because I don’t think there was initally any clear indication.

At some point, a philosophical component related to blood status and pureblood superiority was publically added to the mix, but the people being targeted for the group’s attentions were of so broad a variety and applicable to any of such classifications as to make it difficult to reconcile this detail as being anything like a coherant message.

Once someone coined the term “blood traitor”, however, it gradually became clear that the target was anyone who caught their attention, or who attempted to speak out against them.

A major element related to the first rise of the Death Eaters that we do not know is just precisely when Tom devised the Dark mark and convinced his followers to adopt it. Or what his argument for having them adopt it was. Clearly there is a form of communication built into it which it conveys upon its wearers — which was undoubtedly useful. But the apparant pain of its activation might have made it a hard sell. Tom, however, was persuasive.

And once they accepted his mark, they were his. Without recourse.

It was the adoption of the Dark mark which finally solidified Tom Riddle’s activities into a “cause”.

Not that he, or they, actually had one. Apart from demonstrating that they could do anything they wanted, to anyone they wanted, and the Powers That Be were powerless to stop them.

Admittedly, they couldn’t do it openly, but running around in masks had a thrill of its own.

But they needed to have at least something that would pass as a message, or a “mission statment”, as it were, so they recycled any conglomeration of the old Pureblood manifesto that they’d all grown up with, on whatever occasion that some pronouncement appeared to be necessesary. It didn’t particularly need to be consistent. After all, the audience would fill in the blanks.

At some point the “Lord Voldemort” persona — which a number of the credulous still believed in — was drawn into association with the Death Eaters. Probably as a mouthpiece.

And around 1970 something was done which rendered “Lord Voldemort” unmentionable by most of respectable wizarding society.

None of which has ever been specified in detail, either in canon or otherwise.

And, no don’t talk to me me about the taboo. The taboo was only adopted once Tom had the full resources of the Ministry at his disposal in order to apply it. If the taboo had been in effect over the course of Vold War I, Sirius Black would have told us all about it his rant about “how things were in the war” in OotP when he was preaching to Harry about how awful the first war had been. Rowling only invented that stupid taboo at the last minute in the last book, in order to enable Harry to capture himself.

• • • •

To leap directly from this point to our next fairly solid date of 1980 would be to overlook the entire Marauders’ era, in which there is considerable reader interest across the fandom, and who unquestionably have contributed significantly to the story in the overall scheme of things.

Until recently, our only real handles on the Marauder era had come from interview and website information, which was awkward to work with since it tended to be mushily inexact, and because Ms Rowling has a distressing tendency to later reverse herself in subsequent statements. Both of these apparent handles also depended upon highly “relative” dates.

The first of these is the post-GoF interview statement, quoted above, that Severus Snape (a year-mate of Remus Lupin and the rest of the Marauders) was “35 or 36” years old in the summer of 1995. The second; in a website response, in reply to the question as to whether or not she liked Sirius Black, Ms Rowling made the statement that he was only “around” 22 when he was sent to Azkaban.

However, with the release of the Black family tapestry sketch in February 2006, we suddenly had to juggle the information that Bellatrix Black was allegedly born in 1951.

And yet, acto Sirius Black, Bellatrix was still at school when Severus Snape (and he himself) got there.

Since we know that Sirius Black was sent to Azkaban a day or so after Voldemort was defeated (i.e., November, 1981), if he was 22 years old at that point, he would have been born in 1959. He would not have been at Hogwarts while his cousin Bellatrix was still there. Not if she was born in 1951. Not even if she was born in the autumn of ’51.

And she isn’t quite stupid enough for it to be plausible that she had to repeat a year. although it is possible that she may have missed a year due to some other, possibly medical, problem. I think it might be unwise to depend upon that possibility, however.

The HP Lexicon originally reasoned from the “35 or 36” interview information that Snape and the Marauders were all born in 1960. I never agreed with that reading. I thought the probability was that the Lexicon’s calculations were off by a year. For their cohort all to have been born in 1960 did not plausibly give everyone enough time to finish school and get into position for the events which we know to have taken place in 1980-’81. But we did not yet have the website information regarding Black when the Lexicon did their original calculations and for several years they seem to have had something invested in an attempt to represent all characters as being as young as possible.

It now seems likely that Rowling either later cribbed her dates from the Lexicon (which she had cited on her original website) or she pulled them out of her hat, but for good or ill, we now have James and Lily Potters’ birth dates set in 1960.

Carved in stone, in fact.

Ergo: we need to redraft, or completely dismiss, the dates on the tapestry sketch. And we need to redraft all of the dates for that generation in order to make them line up to what has been said about these people in canon. Because all of the dates that are visible in that sketch are just plain wrong.

And, after all, dates are what a timeline is all about.

I suppose it would also make sense here to raise the question of the ages of a few other people who are just a bit older than the Marauders. as well. Comparatively few of these can be set with any accuracy, since of all the persons we have met, only two of them have ever had ages assigned to them at any specific time in canon.

If we can believe her quick-quotes quill; in order to have been 43 in the Autumn term of Harry Potter’s 4th year, Rita Skeeter would have to have been born in 1951, or quite late in 1950. She would most probably have started at Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1962 and finished with the class of 1969. This might well put her into the same year as Molly Weasley. This is not an absolute conclusion, however. The elder Weasleys may have finished school some time earlier than this, and simply not have started their family until 1971.

However, Rita’s long practice of sniping very specifically at the Weasleys, does at least suggest that there may be a history of friction between Rita and the elder Weasleys.

Arthur Weasley’s February 6 birthday, and Molly’s October 30 one would imply that if they are close to the same age, which has also been strongly suggested in canon, Molly would have been a year behind Arthur at school. Or, Molly could easily be the elder of the two, by a mere 3 months or so, which would put them both into the same year.

We have no confirmation of that, however. And while their elopement suggests that they married quite young, it does not necessarily follow that they started their family immediately. And all that we have in canon to set the date any closer than that is the information that the Whomping Willow (planted in the summer of 1971) was not at Hogwarts in Molly’s day.

Note: all projective birthdates regarding ages of the the oldest three Weasley children were thrown into a cocked hat, and then shaken hard, by contradictory information posted on JKR’s website, over the course of 2004, forcing us to dismiss at least one of her cumulative statements on the subject as simply wrong. And all of these statements still add up to a total which does not support statements made by the Weasley children themselves as to what was going on when, in their childhood.

More recent discussion on a listgroup far, far away, has suggested an alternate interpretation which reconciles most of the confusion, but depends upon another as yet unconfirmed factor. The matter is gone into in the companion essay ‘The Weasley Calendar’, I will not repeat the calculations here, but the information following is in accordance with those modified calculations. They may yet be further disrupted by future statements made by Rowling, but I suspect by this time Rowling has other fish to fry.

And I’m no longer inclined to listen to her anyway.

The Longbottoms also would appear to fit into this gap between Rita and the Marauders, but we do not have any information to place their birth dates at all.

With Lucius Malfoy, however, we have another minor problem. In order to have been 41 in September of Harry Potter’s 5th year, Lucius Malfoy would have to have been born in 1954 or very late in 1953. In this case, he would have probably started Hogwarts in 1965 and finished with the class of 1972. Lucius, unlike the elder Weasleys, would remember the planting of the Whomping Willow. But with these dates his time at Hogwarts overlaps that of Snape and the Marauders by only one year. Considering the suggested long association between Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape, it would seem more likely that a longer period of early association would have been the case. The article which stated Lucius’s age as 41 ran in September of 1995. So unless Lucius, like Miss Granger has a mid-September birthday, we have insufficient wriggle room in which to deal with the issue.

If, however Lucius Malfoy can be assumed to have a September (or later) birthday, then he would have had to wait an extra year to begin Hogwarts which would give he and Severus an overlap of two years. Malfoy’s adjusted Hogwarts years would have been 1966–1973.

• • • •

As to the rest of the relevant characters for whom a date can at least be estimated:

1953, Autumn: Bellatrix Black born. Once again we are extrapolating children in a family spaced 2 years apart in accordance with what appears to be Rowling’s default assignments.

Due to the necessity of fitting Nymphadora Tonks’s birth into the timeline before the end of August of 1973, in order for her to have commenced Auror training with the last group accepted into the program in 1991, and to yet keep Bellatrix in school at least long enough for a one year overlap with the Marauder cohort, an autumn birthday to delay Bellatrix’s start at Hogwarts seems the least awkward adjustment. Her Hogwarts years would have been 1965–1972.

1955, January-August: Andromeda Black born. Andromeda, on the other hand needs to have been born early enough in the year to have been of age and able to bail out of school in order to marry Ted Tonks as soon as she turned 17, making it possible for her daughter to have been born by the end of August of 1973. She might have been in the same academic year as Malfoy, but left before her 7th year.

1957: Narcissa Black born.

We have no indication of the birth dates of Frank and Alice Longbottom. But the fact that they had completed three years of Auror training and were established as active Aurors in the field at the time of Lord Voldemort’s first defeat would put them at least a couple of years older than the Marauder cohort, who, even if they immediately started Auror training upon completing Hogwarts would not have had full qualifications as Aurors by the time Harry Potter was born.

Sept 2 1959–Sept 1 1960: Marauder cohort born. Those dates known to us are:

September 2 — December 31, 1959: Sirius Black born. We can’t estimate any closer than that, and even that information is off-canon.

January 9, 1960: Severus Snape born.

January 30, 1960: Lily Evans born.

March 10, 1960: Remus John Lupin born.

March 27, 1960: James Potter born. So much for Sirius Black’s statement that James had been “only 15” at the time of the Pensieve junket. James would have turned 16 some 3 months earlier.

We have no “official” birth dates for Sirius Black or Peter Pettigrew. Rowling’s statement that Sirius was “about 22” when imprisoned in Azkaban on November 1, 1981 suggests an autumn 1959 birthday. No information whatsoever is available concerning Peter Pettigrew.

January–August, 1963: Regulus Black born. The death date on the tapestry as reported in OotP would have been 1980. Not 1979 as recorded on the Tapestry sketch. From the statement made by Kreachur in DHs he was 17 at the time of his death. I have adjusted both his birth and his death dates to match with the textual evidence in canon.

1966 (approximate): According to Cornelius Fudge in July of 1996, the Ministry of Magic finally becomes officially aware of a group of terrorists calling themselves the Death Eaters, under the leadership of a wizard calling himself “Lord Voldemort”. His capture and arrest are being actively sought from this point.

• • • •

Another thing we do not know is whether Albus Dumbledore took any action related to this newly apparent threat against the British wizarding world at this time. Given his reluctance to take action at any point that it might have made a difference in canon, I am inclined to believe not. I am also still inclined to believe that from what we observed, Albus Dumbledore would have been unlikely to do anything whatsoever before a situation arose (i.e., the Trelawney Prophecy) which he knew that the Ministry would do absolutely nothing to address — because to do nothing about Prophecies is established Ministry policy, for good and sufficient reason.

I also do not know whether Rowling has since posted any information on Pottermore, or any other website regarding the date at which Dumbledore formed his Order of the Phoenix. It was clear, however in the immediate post-release flury of interviews given after the publication of DHs that she intended us all to believe that the Marauders were able to go directly from Hogwarts into the Order, “full time”.

Of course this was also during the period that she could not stick to the same story of what her own trio was doing with itself between the Battle of Hogwarts and the Epilogue for two days running.

Frankly, I am inclined to regard this impression very much in the same light as the statement made in the combined interview of 2005 that she “feels” that the Potterverse events parallel those of the Real World — and then when she actually settled down to tuck this statement into her backstory, she went out of her way to demonstrate that the history of the Potterverse, as she states it, would make any such a parallel impossible. At which point one must conclude that Rowling “sucks at summaries”.

Still, assuming that the Order existed before the Prophecy got turned loose, we are left needing to address what conceivable use Albus Dumbledore would have decided that he had for a private group of vigilantes unaffiliated with the Ministry — particularly a group which included Ministry employees. Particularly one that was supposedly under his direction while he was away at Hogwarts, with a day job of his own. A day job that, in addition to a seat on the Wizengamot, the position as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the office of Supreme Mugwump of the International Council of Wizards apparently didn't keep him sufficiently busy.

To be perfectly honest, this whole scenario appears to be no more than a labored attempt to depict a tableau of two titularly secluded “leaders” of two symmetrically opposing groups, each with a team of minions, striking attitudes and snarling at each other across a great divide, posing in perfect balance.

However, the problem with tableaux is that they are all inherently a completely artificial representation of whatever their apparent subject is. Any hint of movement at all and the illusion is spoilt.

• • • •

Much as the way in which Rowling has refused to ever give us any workable definition of these “Dark Arts” that are supposedly such a point of debate among wizards, she has also failed to provide us with any convincing reason for why Albus would have felt a need to try to put together a team to oppose a Dark wizard when the Ministry was already doing so.

Did he hope that if he could be seen to be opposing Tom that if someone brought Tom down he might be able to take possession of that ring?

Indeed, he was dividing the Ministry’s efforts and syphoning off some of what we are given to understand were some of their best operatives. And they agreed to it! There was nothing secret about the Order of the Phoenix in the first Voldemort war. Indeed, acto Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin, during VoldWar I the Order and the Ministry fought side by side.

So, why the Order at all? What was the point? Why did the Ministry let the Headmaster — off in Scotland — meddle with their job of catching Dark wizards?

Or, maybe it’s finally time for us to wonder; did they ask him to?

After all, somebody (probably the ICW) had certainly asked him to deal with their Grindelwald problem.

This was something that came up in a discussion at some point in, I think, 2011. Why would the Ministry have wanted Albus Dumbledore to found an Order of youngsters and misfits to oppose Lord Voldemort? And permit at least three of their own Aurors to donate their time to shepherd it. Probably on their own time, I doubt that Moody and the Longbottoms were being paid a bonus to do it.

Well, it also occurs to me to wonder exactly how this Order functioned. It sounds like they did a certain amount of training, maybe some research, and more-or-less waited on the Ministry to give them something to do, or give them a heads-up for when the Ministry needed some additional bodies.

Without pay, of course.

And also without requiring any specific NEWTs. You need quite a collection of those to qualify for Auror training, after all.

Plus, apart from Moody and the Longbottoms — who we know were employed by the Ministry — it doesn’t sound like many of the rest of the group were Ministry employees at all. Some, like Hagrid and Minerva, had day jobs elsewhere. Some, like Mundungus Fletcher (and Remus Lupin), were probably unemployable.

And some, like the Potters and their friends, were a pack of young hotheads without jobs to keep them busy and out of mischief.

And the more I think of it, the more likely it sounds as if the Ministry might have wanted such a group of well-connected post-adolescents kept track of.

After all, it stands to reason that not all of the young rowdies in the ww at that period were prime DE material. And they may not have all had to work for a living, either.

The ones who did need to work probably had enough on their plate already, but kids with money (and “good families”) and too much time on their hands... Oh, yeah, I could see someone, somewhere in the Ministry, coming up with an idea to harness that energy to some purpose. And Albus was in an excellent position to have some idea of who were the most likely candidates. And also to be best qualified to give them some flannel-mouthed pep talk that would direct them somewhere where they might be out of the Ministry’s way and of some conceivable use.

And if a few of of them did manage to be taken on for Auror training, or settle into entry-level Ministry jobs, no harm, no foul.

Not that I necessarily think that the whole “Order of the Phoenix” was nothing more than another name for; Albus Dumbledore’s Babysitting Service for “Special Snowflakes”, but it makes at least as much sense as what Rowling has managed to provide with her oh-so-vaunted “feelings”. In fact, maybe a bit more.

But, really, the more Rowling has to say on the subject, the less reason I can see for the Order to even exist.

Until, that is, the Prophecy demons tossed an actual one into Albus Dumbledore’s lap. Just to see what he made of it.

Given the way the physics of the Potterverse seems to warp themselves around Harry Potter, maybe that’s why they did.

Prenatally, even.

I mean, the more we ever learned about James Potter and Sirius Black, the less likely it sounded that they would even want to sign on for three more years of advanced training in order to become Aurors and make a career of hunting Dark wizards. After all, they wanted to fight Dark wizards right now, not three years from now. And they were confident that they already knew as much as they would ever need in order to do that.

It would certainly explain Lucius Malfoy’s dismissal of them as “meddlers”.

Like I say, I still don’t see any convincing reason for why Albus would have founded an Order — apart from authorial fiat — until that Prophecy got turned loose. But at least this is a possibility.

• • • •

Another possibility, and one that recently surfaced (not until the year 2020!), is even more theoretical.

This one came up over the course of an email correspondence regarding the Hallows.

Yes, those Hallows.

Albus and Gellert both went Hallows-mad some time around 1899, and neither one of them ever really got over it. And although I rather think that the continuing search for the Stone and the Cloak were still definitely on his agenda, I suspect that by the time the Marauder cohort started at Hogwarts, Albus had thoroughly checked out all of the leads that Gellert had turned over to him in 1945, as far as he possibly could, and had come to a standstill.

Well, yes, he still wanted to get a god look at that ring that young Riddle had been wearing. But that wasn’t getting him any forwarder.

We were given no hint of what age James was when he first brought the Cloak to school with him. I tend to doubt that his father handed it over to him in first year. But if Sirius Black is to be believed (which is always debatable), James Potter’s invisibility cloak was a factor for more than one of their Hogwarts years.

The Marauders were hardly the most responsible of teenagers, were they? One cannot suppose they were any more so as preteens, either.

So, let’s just suppose that at some point they were larking about with it and got caught. An invisibility cloak in the hands of a student is not something that belongs in a school. Any responsible instructor would have no doubt confiscated it.

And turned it over to the Headmaster, to see that it was returned to the student’s family.

Invisibility cloaks do exist in the Potterverse. They may not be common, but Albus is not unaware of them. They are used by the DMLE and at least one of Albus’s associates in the DMLE is known to have one.

But I would rather expect that if the Potters’ heirloom cloak was turned over to him by a concerned member of the staff, he would have very quickly recognized that this was not a “typical” invisibility cloak.

He would, indeed have turned it over to James’s father. Albus isn’t a thief, after all. And when James brought it back to Hogwarts a year or so later, he and his friends were a lot more careful, and were never caught with it by the staff again. But Albus now had another “project” underway, and the first order of business was to see what he could discover about the Potter family’s lineage. I rather think that, name change notwithstanding, it was not difficult to confirm his suspicion that these were indeed Peverill descendants.

Which means that Albus had just been handed what to him would have looked like a very good reason to “cultivate” James Potter.

And to want to continue to have a good reason to keep track of Mr Potter once he had finished school.

• • • •

Now, I am quite sure that you will find no direct support for this particular reading in canon, but Rowling’s canon is only loosely sketched in. I am just as sure that you will find nothing that would absolutely disallow it, either.

But, once this particular possibility is actually on the table, quite a few matters which continue to mystify readers suddenly line up in a row like obedient little ducklings.

For one thing; if the Cloak had been confiscated and returned to James’s father before the Marauders’ 5th year, we have a secondary reason for Albus to have gone easy on the Marauders over the werewolf caper.

We definitely have a reason for Albus to support the proposal for James Potter to be Head Boy.

We also suddenly have a viable reason for just why Albus might have arbitrarily decided to form an Order of independent “freedom fighters” under his personal oversight, right around the time the Marauder cohort finished school.

And, with this in mind, I rather doubt that it was only Lord Voldemort who leapt to the conclusion that, once there was a “Child of Prophecy” in the equation, that the child so referred to would be the son of James Potter.

I certainly don’t insist upon it, but it does open up a number of possibilities…

• • • •

On the other hand, as of 2021 yet another possible option opened up.

This one is much less dramatic, but far more to scale. It’s certainly got my vote.

I think it is perfectly believable to assume that Albus at some point in the mid-1970s might have had to listen to Alastor Moody grousing about obstructiveness in the DMLE once too often, and challenged Moody to put his money where his mouth was.

He offered to sponsor a volunteer resistance group and put Moody in charge of running it, and give him sombody else to bark at. Albus was the titular head, and might call a meeting when he came across something that he thought needed to be shared. He’d also recruit a few people that he thought might be useful, and encourage the people who constituted his own information network to pass things on to Moody when they came across something. As for day-to-day operations, Moody could direct and coordinate it to suit himself.

After all, the Order did appear to survive Albus’s death. But after Moody was killed, it seems to have broken up and gone dormant. Although certain people associated with it later went on to develop Potterwatch.

And, of course, once it actually existed, Albus would have been perfectly capable of inviting the Marauders to join up, for whatever reasons of his own, and given that the order had no specific NEWT requirements, and wasn’t demanding three years of advanced training before qualifications, I’d say that James and Sirius at least, would have found that option much more attractive than working for the Ministry.