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

Trying to make the Potterverse make sense since 2003!

1970 (approximate): Lord Voldemort does something which renders himself personally unmentionable by the greater wizarding public.

Summer, 1971: The Whomping Willow is planted. The tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, intended for the use of Remus Lupin is prepared at the same time.

September 1, 1971: The Marauder’s cohort arrives at Hogwarts for the autumn term.

November 28, 1971: Bill Weasley born. Note: Molly and Arthur Weasley were out of Hogwarts and had eloped before the summer of 1971, when the Willow was planted. It is *not* established in canon that they eloped during the summer of 1971. They may have done so at any date earlier. Their birth years and attendance years at Hogwarts are not established in canon.

June, 1972: Bellatrix Black finishes Hogwarts.

June, 1972: Andromeda Black finishes her 6th year at Hogwarts. Marries Ted Tonks, presumably in an elopement. There were said to be a lot of those at the time. She never goes home again. Her aunt Walburga burns her name off the family tapestry.

June 1973: Lucius Malfoy finishes Hogwarts.

1973: Nymphadora Tonks born. From her August, 1995 statement that she had just qualified as an Auror the year earlier, we can conclude that she began her training in the summer or Autumn of 1991. (The last year that any candidates were accepted into the Auror training program, as of Harry Potter’s 5th year at Hogwarts.)

Ergo; if she commenced her Auror training directly out of Hogwarts, she would have finished Hogwarts the summer of the year that Harry started, and her mother, Madam Andromeda Tonks (née Black) is unlikely to have been at Hogwarts after June of 1972. That Bellatrix Lestrange née Black is established as the eldest of the three Black sisters reveals that Sirius Black’s blanket statement in GoF of her being a part of the same group that Severus Snape frequented while at Hogwarts must be somewhat exaggerated. She can have been no younger than a 7th year in the academic year of ’71-’72, which was Snape and the Marauders’ first year at Hogwarts.

December 12, 1973: Charlie Weasley born.

June, 1975: Narcissia Black finishes Hogwarts. It is uncertain exactly when she married Lucius Malfoy, but their son was born in June 1980.

1972–1976: At some point during the Marauders’ years at Hogwarts, presumably between their 3rd and 7th years when they would have had limited access to the village of Hogsmead, Mundungus Fletcher got himself permanently ejected from the Hog’s Head pub by the barman Aberforth Dumbledore. Indicating that by this point the Headmaster’s brother was definitely stationed in the village in a position to be keeping an eye and an ear on the doings of the Hog’s Head’s rather unsavory clientele. It is possible that he and his brother were both engaged in gathering information which was passed on to the Ministry in matters concerning the Death Eaters and/or other persons engaged in criminal activities. The Hog’s Head was probably a suspected Death Eater dive by this time. Although only the lowest ranks may have actually patronized it.

1975: young Quirrell starts at Hogwarts. It was Quirrell, after all, who first volunteered the information that James Potter and Severus Snape were at Hogwarts together and had loathed one another. Consequently, he must have seen at least something of the hostilities, and may have witnessed the Snape’s Worst Memory attack as a First year. This information would have come from Quirrell himself, Voldemort wasn’t anywhere near Hogwarts at that time and wouldn’t have cared anyway.

1975–76: The “werewolf caper” in which Severus Snape allegedly might have been killed by Remus Lupin but for James Potter’s intervention took place at some point during this year. The hazing episode that we witnessed in the Pensieve took place at the end of the year in June. If the werewolf caper took place early enough in the year, and was hushed up without dire consequences, that might have given the Marauders the confidence, and sense of invincibility which prompted them to make such a very public attack upon Snape at the end of the year.

Based upon information in HBP, it is likely that at some point in their 5th year (1975–1976) a spell which had much the same effect as Levicorpus, managed to escape into the school. Post-DHs we appear to be expected to simply assume that Snape taught it to Mulciber or Avery and it spread from there. In any case, whatever the source, the spell rampaged through the school like a bad case of the flu.

July, 1976, (probably): After a final confrontation with his family, Sirius Black leaves home. Moves in with the Potters.

August 22, 1976: Percy Ignatius Weasley born.

1977, Winter or Spring: Death of Sirius’s uncle Alphard, leaving him a sufficient legacy to get his own flat during the summer. Alphard is blasted off the family tapestry posthumously for this demonstration of disrespect to his sister and her husband, the boy’s parents.

1977, late Summer or Autumn: Dorea Potter dies of natural causes, either soon preceded or followed by her husband Charlus Potter. If these are supposed to be James Potter’s parents, he would have been in his 7th year at the time. (Source: Black family tapestry sketch, circa 2006, so we cannot depend on the date. Or the information.)

April 1, 1978: Fred and George Weasley born.

June, 1978: Snape and the Marauders finish Hogwarts.

1979, exact date unknown: Death of Orion Black.

1979: Regulus Black, age 16, joins Death Eaters. Probably during the summer or Christmas break, exact date uncertain.

September 19, 1979: Hermione Jean Granger born.

• • • •

Early November, 1979–January 1980: Sybill Trelawney gives a Prophecy in the presence of Albus Dumbledore. Setting the stage for the next phase of the conflict between Lord Voldemort and the rest of the wizarding world. My own inclination is to accept the earlier end of this possible range of time.

Which entails another side trip on the subject of “defiance”:

We have been given no reason in canon to believe that any of the three instances of the alleged “defiance” of Lord Voldemort on the part of James Potter which are specified in the Trelawney Prophesy took place during his school days (I am inclined to dismiss the “prequel” which Rowling produced for yet another charity auction after the release of DHs. Very little of it actually fits into what we have been told in canon). If this is the case, all three of these incidents must have taken place between July 1, 1978, the point at which we can be sure that James had completed his schooling, and July 31, 1980, the date of the birth of his son.

We also have no information regarding the form that this alleged defiance is supposed to have taken. Dumbledore states that to have escaped his attentions or those of his followers would have been interpreted as “defiance”. We have generally assumed that this alone is what has constituted their “defiance”. But we have, to date, no information as to why they would have been attacked by Voldemort, or his agents, in the first place. The Trelawney Prophesy was not yet a factor at this point in time.

Defiance, however, comes in more than one flavor and three separate escapes from Death Eaters turns out not to be absolutely required.

We were given some hints (admittedly, only in interviews) by Rowling during the early years of the series that what the Potters did for a living was “important”, but there has been no follow-up of these statements in the text. This appears to be an intention that Rowling did not ever manage to fit into the story, and it is not likely to be a profitable avenue for exploration now. From everything she has told us lately, both James and Lily were unemployed, and living on James’s inheritance. Not my definition of “important”, but your milage may vary.

We also know from Sirius Black that when James Potter started his final year at school his parents were both still alive; yet by the time of James Potter’s death on October 31, 1981 his son’s only surviving relatives were Lily Potter’s sister Petunia, and her family. We already can see that this statement was inaccurate, since if Doria Black and Charlus Potter were Harry’s grandparents, there is no shortage of family connections through the Black family which can be proved to be cousins of Harry Potter. But Petunia and her family were certainly Harry’s closest relatives.

Rowling stated in her joint interview of July, 2005 that both of the elder Potters were quite old, even by wizarding standards, at the time of their deaths (a statement which is not supported in the least by the dates on the tapestry sketch, leading many fans to question whether these are supposed to represent James’s parents at all). And that they died of natural causes; some unidentified magical illness.

I have been given to understand that on Pottermore Rowling has indicated that Dorea and Charlus Potter were not James’s parents. I would not know about Pottermore, and prefer to dismiss it from consideration, given that Pottermore is not actually canonical even if Rowling did have something to do with it.

Well, we still have any number of possibilities. Admittedly none of those can be regarded as canon, either.

One possibility is that the defiance preceded, and indeed may have provoked the attacks.

That Lily Potter was allegedly offered a legitimate choice of saving herself (when? Not in our hearing. Not at any point in that DHs flashback) suggests that it was only James Potter who was the primary object of any previous attacks. Given that the DEs by this point included a generous number of James’s Hogwarts rivals, the first attack(s) could have been quite personally motivated. Lucius Malfoy’s statement in CoS that Harry’s parents were “meddlesome fools, too”, otoh, suggests that James, and probably Sirius Black, may have managed to unwittingly stumble into the middle of some DE plot and mess with it, motivated primarily by Sirius’s continuing adversarial attitude toward his family. This might have constituted their first act of defiance. With the first direct attack upon James Potter (and probably Sirius as well) a piece of retaliation. Their escape constituting their 2nd “defiance”.

After the attack, I suggest that James not only did not back down, but began to publicly speak out against them, supported by the prominently pureblooded Black family’s rather notorious black sheep, and James’s own Muggle-born girlfriend/fiancée/eventual wife. Which would have constituted his 3rd act of defiance.

However, by this time, I think it simplifies matters considerably to assume the pronouncement to refer to *collective* defiance. i.e., membership in any *group* known to have opposed Voldemort’s activities at least upon three occasions. Which of course, the Order was. As was, indeed, the Ministry.

And that, in fact, membership in the Order, or employment by the µinistry automatically would qualify *anybody* as having “thrice defied” the Dark Lord for the purposes of the Prophecy and its related bafflegab.

Remus Lupin, a registered werewolf, would have made sure to keep himself well in the background during this period, since his involvement in the matter would have done nothing for James’s public image. And, in another part of that background, I believe that pressure was now steadily being brought to bear on Peter Pettigrew, who was known to be connected to Potter’s circle, and the Order. My own suspicion is that this pressure involved both the “carrot” and the “stick” and was applied by an expert. Pettigrew, unwilling to look the situation in its face, started spinning daydreams to himself and trying to have things both ways. See the companion essay entitled ‘Abandoning Ship’ for more detailed speculation.

An interview comment by Rowling in October of 2007 attempts to reconcile this by claiming that the Potters and Sirius Black had joined the Order of the Phoenix directly out of school. Unfortunately the logistics of this statement are not fully supported by what we have been shown in canon. Consequently, although I will leave the statement here, I am less than enthusiastic about adopting it for my own speculations. Post-DHs I have become progressively less and less inclined to accept any interview claims as being even remotely canon. They are suggestions only, imho.

And, bringing us back to the starting point; I propose that at some point around Halloween, 1979 Albus Dumbledore conducted a job interview for a vacant Divination instructor’s position and became the impromptu recipient of the Trelawney Prophesy. Further speculation on matters related to the Prophecy can be found in the essay entitled ‘The Child Foretold’.

My reasoning for the most likely placement of the Prophesy around Halloween is discussed in detail in the aforesaid essay. In any event this reasoning is readily supported by Trelawney’s statement that in September of 1995 she has been an instructor at Hogwarts for “nearly 16 years”. Indicating that she, like Minerva came on Staff after the school year had formally commenced. We know from Albus Dumbledore that he did not take her onto the staff of Hogwarts until after she had made the Prophesy. Her date of hiring would therefore be sometime between the middle of the Autumn term, 1979, and January, 1980. (The Umbridge interview took place before the end of September, 1995, so we can be certain only that Trelawney did not start teaching at the beginning of the Autumn term of ’79.)

We were told in OotP that during this incident an eavesdropper was detected, and ejected from the building, presumably by the barman Aberforth Dumbledore, before this individual got a chance to overhear the Prophesy in its entirety.

Which entails a side trip to examine the “grand contradiction”.

In HBP we discovered that Trelawney’s version of this event is very different from Dumbledore’s. According to Trelawney the eavesdropper was still outside the door when she had finished giving the Prophecy, and dragged into the room by the barman after it was complete. From this point we are forced to pick and chose which version we are going to believe.

Since there is no way that Trelawney would have been able to identify the eavesdropper if Dumbledore’s version is the accurate one — there having been no opportunity for her to have gotten a glimpse of him — I am forced to conclude that Dumbledore was fudging the truth for reasons of his own. We have yet to hear either Severus Snape or Aberforth Dumbledore’s version of the proceedings.

In any case only the first part of the Prophecy was actually reported to Lord Voldemort. I say that this was certainly with Albus Dumbledore’s knowledge, possibly with his approval, and not impossibly on his orders. Even if not according to Rowling.

What is more, despite the fact that the Ministry’s policy is to suppress Prophecies, Albus hedged his bets, in case that unprepossessing youngster at the door was not one of Tom’s, and waltzed into the Ministry himself to present them with a Prophecy record — probably already labeled something provocative like “Concerning The Dark Lord’s Downfall”. Albus was taking no chances that the fact of the existence of that Prophecy would not get out.

For the sake of my own interpretations, it is easier for me to believe that Albus sent Snape to report the first half of the Prophecy, and then possibly formed his Order to attempt damage control. But I won’t insist on it.

But what I DO now suspect is that Albus’s insistence in HBP that Prophecies are what you make of them was offered very much in the spirit of “the man who learned better”. I tend to think that at the time it occurred, he was every bit as deluded by that Prophecy as Tom was.

At the very least, Albus knew that he had been caught napping and at least part of the Prophecy was potentially in circulation. There was every chance that Tom would learn of it.

• • • •

At which point it is now necessary to extrapolate Tom Riddle making another surreptitious foray into B&B to make use of the vanishing cabinets. Up to this point, I contend that the Cup, the Locket and the Diadem had remained safely tucked away in the Room of Hidden Things, and Tom had felt confident in his belief that even if by some unforeseen circumstance they managed to be found, they would not have been removed from the building.

I also doubt that he had as yet created any additional Horcruxes. He very likely still had wanted to use Gryffindor’s sword and Dumbledore’s death for one of them, and had still not managed to figure out a way to accomplish it. Given the physical results of his previous stint of Horcrux-making, he had held back and kept another spot open, in case of future developments.

I am also inclined to doubt that he credited Albus Dumbledore with being able to recognize an actual Horcrux, regardless of how “fierce” he might have been some decades earlier about suppressing any information about them. Albus had certainly constituted no more than a moderate nuisance to Riddle’s activities so far.

If, as I contend, the Prophecy was made at some point around Halloween, 1979, then Tom might have taken a few days or weeks to draft out his altered plans in reaction to it. He still had a Ministry to destabilize, and any number of other ducks to herd into a row. But he does appear to have come to the decision that leaving three of his Horcruxes all in the same place was probably not as clever an idea as he had originally thought.

And, what is more, with a “Child of Prophecy” in the equation, he was no no longer obligated to devise a way of managing to possess, and then assassinate Dumbledore for his piece de resistance. He could now simply contract that death out, without needing to create a Horcrux from it.

I rather expect that he waited until the winter break when there would be fewer people in the castle. If there was some Ministry function or Wizengamot session which would get Dumbledore out of the castle as well, all the better.

He left the Diadem in place. It was sufficiently damaged that it would not enhance his status, even if someone did recognize what it was. And he decided to hide the Locket himself. But, at some point, almost certainly in 1980, he gave the Cup to Bellatrix for safekeeping.

He had already experienced the “grabby” behaviour of his own Horcruxes back when he had created the Ring. But from that experience he had only concluded that he could not comfortably handle them, and may have concluded that the soul fragment was attempting to rejoin with the rest of his soul. I also rather think that since 1943, he may have largely forgotten about that particular detail.

I currently hypothesize that Bellatrix rapidly gave him ample reason to remember that little problem. Hermione tried to tell us that Horcruxes are only dangerous if you become “attached” to them. (And she was manifestly wrong about that if Rowling is to be believed. But attachment undoubtedly makes it worse.) Can you draw me any scenario in which Tom could hand Bella a Founder’s artifact, asking her to keep it safe for him, and she wouldn’t immediately become “attached?”

It had probably completely taken her over before a month was out. The difficulty would have been in getting it to turn her loose. And she probably wouldn’t have wanted it to! Tom probably had to order her to put it in her Gringotts vault where she couldn’t keep being overtaken by it.

All of which I rather think gave him ideas.

He had stopped at four, holding two spots in reserve, he still had an extra slot available to devise a weapon which might facilitate the long-delayed project of eliminating Dumbledore, and the method that he eventually devised would result in that fifth Horcrux being left in a place where not only would no one ever find it, but it would have a Basilisk to guard it, in addition. Indeed, with a Basilisk terrorizing the castle, the school may have been closed, and he could finally have taken the castle as his own personal stronghold.

It might have taken him a while to think of using his old diary as a user interface, and some time more to draft out how it would need to work. We do have Albus’s statement that the Diary was not given to Lucius Malfoy until some time in 1981, possibly rather late in the summer.

So, altogether, it may have been something more, and something other than just determining the proper interpretation of; “the seventh month” that kept him occupied for two years after he learned about the Prophecy, before he appears to have done anything about it.

• • • •

The October 2007 appearance in which Rowling made the comment above about the Potters joining the Order right out of school also produced a statement claiming that the Potters had gone into hiding soon after Lily discovered herself to be pregnant. From this statement it would appear that we are being invited to understand that the meeting between Snape and Albus Dumbledore on the windy hilltop was the point at which Albus convinced the Potters to go into hiding. I think this might be an invitation that it would be unwise for us to accept.

In the first place, although Christmas break 1979–1980 would certainly conform to both the season in which the meeting was seen to have taken place and the time at which the Potters are now stated to have gone into hiding (which contradicts information which had been sitting on Rowling’s original website since about 2004), from what we witnessed, it is very difficult to accept that the discussion between Snape and Albus is referring to a child who is not already born.

It is also difficult to accept that Tom Riddle would have announced to Snape that he was intending to murder the Potters the moment he learned that the Potters were expecting a child. The child after all, might not have shown up until August, or might have been a girl. Tom Riddle would have probably dismissed a girl as being any threat to him.

For that matter there is the question of how Tom Riddle would have known that the Potters even were expecting a child at so early a date. For it is unlikely that they made a general public announcement so early in the proceedings.

To be sure, if Tom had been informed of the matter so early, it would certainly explain how Albus knew that there was a spy in his Order and that the spy was connected to the Potters. But, the fact is that Voldemort did not reveal that there was a child of Prophecy in the equation to his followers in general. That he spoke of the matter to Snape, is only due to the fact that it was Snape, alone, among his followers who even knew that the Prophecy referred to a child.

I also seriously doubt that Albus revealed the news of a Prophecy to the Order either, and without that information, there is no reason for why Peter should have reported a pregnancy among the Order members to the DEs. For that matter, Peter is not widely believed to have actually got off the fence and joined Lord Voldemort until the night he inadvertently led the Dark Lord to his destruction. Although he had certainly been passing information before that night. Possibly under pressure, initially.

It is also hard to believe that Peter could have been spying in the Order for 22 months without Albus having figured out that it was him. If Albus gave a damn, that is. The Order wasn’t all that large. Even downstream of DHs, it is hard to believe Albus hadn’t figured it out.

So, upon the whole I think I will decline that particular invitation.

On the other hand, if Voldemort was aware that Lily Evans (the current Lily Potter) and Severus Snape had been friends when they first came up to Hogwarts, and continued to be such for years afterward, regardless of whatever Snape might think of James Potter, then I can well imagine that he might have chosen to claim — to Snape — that he had decided to kill the Potters as soon as he understood that the Potters were expecting a child (or had produced a child) around the time that the foretold child of Prophecy was due.

Consider; Tom Riddle had nowhere nearly as solid a grip on Severus Snape as he had upon his more typical followers. Snape did not fit his followers’ usual demographic at all. And most of his younger followers were well aware of it. Bellatrix in particular, who had Tom’s ear, would certainly have remembered the grubby, common, little working-class tyke, from a northern Muggle mill town who had showed up in her 7th year, and she would have been quick to make certain that Tom knew all about it.

This might not have had quite the effect that Bella intended. As an orphanage child, Tom himself had come from a social stratum that was if anything, somewhat lower than Snape’s. Snape’s efforts to make himself “presentable” would have been regarded as being to his credit. But it would have suggested that Snape not only knew what Muggles were like from experience, rather than biased and ignorant report, but that he also probably had few obvious collateral ties inside the wizarding world through which he could be readily manipulated.

If nothing else, a threat to Lily Potter and her family would serve as a useful test.

Snape’s plea for Lily’s life spoke well of his capacity for loyalty. It also suggested that if Tom could manage to spare the little bint, her life could be held hostage against Snape’s good behavior forever afterwards.

It’s far from a certainty, but it seems in keeping with what we’ve come to expect of the mental processes of Tom Riddle.

• • • •

January, 1980–December, 31, 1980: at some point during this period, Regulus Black disappears and his death is recorded on the family tapestry in the parlor. His Voldemort scrapbooks, discovered in his bedroom after his death suggested to his family that he had become involved with the DEs, leading to his death. Arcturus Black reinstates Sirius as his heir, there being no other male Black still living other than his cousin Pollux whose line has dwindled to nothing but granddaughters.

The Black family tapestry sketch absolutely contradicts information given us in the course of the series, for it claims that Regulus Black did not die in 1980, as was stated in OotP, but in 1979. It also claims that Regulus was born in 1961, which, if the information given us by Kreachur in the course of DHs is to be believed would place his death in 1978. Consequently the sketch contradicts both OotP and DHs on anything related to Regulus Black, while the books do not actually contradict each other. His father, Orion Black is also shown on the (corrected) sketch as having died at some point during 1979. We do not know if his death and that of Regulus are supposed to have been connected. But it does not seem likely.

A further wrinkle has been introduced by the tapestry dates for Cygnus Black, which were originally stated as being 1938–1992. There were considerable problems with these dates. The Lexicon later changed these dates to 1929–1979 matching those of his cousin Orion. This information was allegedly taken from the prop tapestry created for the film. It is unknown where the film designers got these numbers.

• • • •

December 1979–February 1980: I still think it would make a great deal of sense to read it that in an attempt to reduce the potential collateral damage from the Prophecy, Dumbledore either founded the Order of the Phoenix, or started directing persons at risk toward it. Probably within the following month or so after hearing the Prophecy. I suggest that the Order was largely composed of his own trusted associates, all of those persons known to have defied/escaped/butted heads with Lord Voldemort or his followers, as well as whatever friends and family members of the first two groups were willing to get involved. It is possible that the Potters came in through their association with Remus Lupin, who may have already been monitoring the movements of Fenrir Greyback’s band of werewolves on Albus’s behalf.

Among this collection of people were a handful of families, including, as it turned out, not one, but at least two couples who were anticipating the birth of a child around the end of July, leading Dumbledore to conclude that the “7th month” referred to in the Prophecy was, in fact, July, rather than September, the month whose name translates literally as “7th month”, or the 7th month following the giving of the Prophecy which, if the Prophecy was given around Halloween, would have been the end of May. He also knew that Tom had none of these assurances.

If it was not intended as a holding pattern for young rowdies of good family, the primary purpose of the Order appears to have been mutual support and protection. For there is certainly no other function that it served which was not already being covered by the Ministry.

Even if Albus never openly admitted to the existence of a Prophecy or expressed this to be any part of the organization’s purpose, the Order’s duties would have been particularly directed to the protection of the anticipated Child of Prophecy and his family, along with any other candidate for this position and his family.

The Order’s stated purpose is more likely to have been intelligence gathering and interpretation. The members can hardly have been unaware that pretty much anything else would be duplicating effort already being handled by the Ministry. Intelligence processing was as well, but the Ministry was likely to have always been glad of more help, and the Order would have had slightly different sources of such information. The Ministry would probably have also been glad of a trusted source for few extra volunteers for a raid or other operation.

Dumbledore’s duties to the school, to say nothing of the Wizengamot and the International Confederacy of Wizards precluded his taking more than an advisory role in this matter. The active members did the body of the work, mostly on their own initiative under Alastor Moody’s overview, with occasional input, advice, and direction from Dumbledore. The vintage photograph of the “original” Order unearthed by Moody at the opening of OotP is assumed to have been taken not long after the Order’s founding, possibly as early as 1978, or by the beginning of 1980. Both Lily Potter and Alice Longbottom and their husbands were already a part of the organization. Neither’s pregnancy had yet reached the point of “showing”.

The Ministry and the Hogwarts staff were aware of the Order’s existence, its stated purpose of opposing Voldemort, and was willing to work with it. But at this point it seems unlikely that it was aware of the Order’s connection to a Prophecy, or even in the case of most of the Ministry, of the fact that there ever had been a Prophecy — let alone that a part of that prophecy had managed to escape. We have no further information on this issue.

The Ministry was itself under the strain of close to 20 years’ worth of slow, insidious undermining of public confidence in its ability to protect its constituency, and at most it was only aware that a Prophecy related to the Dark Lord had been recorded and archived in the Department of Mysteries. Had it known anything further it might be grateful for someone else, particularly someone of Dumbledore’s stature to be willing to take on the additional burden of overseeing anything as dicey as the events foretold in a maybe-Prophesy. But more likely, they would have firmly advised him to stay out of it and not meddle.

It is also entirely within established policy that the Ministry would have flatly refused to take any action with regards to matters referred to in a Prophesy, even one that had escaped. From the measures taken by the Ministry to limit access to even the records of Prophesies, it is clear that the MoM’s official policy on Prophecies is to actively suppress them. It would been against all precedent for the Ministry to have taken extreme measures, or indeed any measures to prepare for one. Which sets a precedent from the beginning that the Order exists to do that which Dumbledore judges needs to be done, and which the Ministry will not or can not do.

Voldemort, on his end, would have seen to it that none of his followers had any knowledge regarding a Prophesy concerning his downfall, either. This is information which he only shared after his return, when retrieving the record of the Prophecy became his highest priority. The most that could have been known by anyone within the DEs prior to his first defeat is that there was a record of a Prophesy related to the Dark Lord having been made, but prior to Tom’s first defeat Harry Potter’s name had not been on that record.

On the other end of the equation, if Albus Dumbledore shared any information with the members of the Order of the Phoenix (and he claimed that he did not) it would have been only that portion of the Prophesy which Voldemort was known to be aware of; that the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord would be born to those who had thrice defied him, born as the 7th month died. No one other than Snape and the Dumbledore brothers knew anything of what had actually been said on that night.

• • • •

1979 (Approximate): there is a shift in the progress of the war. The Ministry institutes its shoot-to-kill policy. Possibly in response to recent unspecified advantages gained by the DEs.

• • • •

One possibility concerning that unspecified advantage Lord Voldemort and the DEs may have gained concerns Barty Crouch Jr.

Young Crouch, upon what indications we have in canon can have finished Hogwarts no later than with the class of 1981, making him one of the last bonafide groups of Death Eaters to have been inducted into the organization before the defeat of the Dark Lord in October of that year.

If this is the case, he would have started Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1974, the year after our Pensieve junket took place, and would have been born between September 2, 1962 and September 1, 1963. This supports Sirius Black’s statement that Crouch looked no older than 19 when he was first imprisoned, possibly as late as 1982. He would have been either 19 or barely turned 20 at that point. He would also have been in the same year as Regulus Black. Who died before finishing Hogwarts.

However, given that almost no information handed to us by Sirius Black in that particular conversation has failed to be thrown into dispute elsewhere inside of canon, I am no longer convinced that this statement is safe enough to simply be accepted without question. Particularly a statement that pertains to something as indeterminate as the apparent age of a youngster of around 20. How readily would most people be able to tell an 18-year-old from a 20-year-old after all? Young Barty may have been baby-faced, and anything up to a couple of years older than Sirius guessed him to be. And if that were the case, he may have been a new hire at the Ministry and passing information on his father’s activities to Voldemort since the middle of 1979.

Now I admit that this possibility is not openly suggested anywhere in canon. But the fact that it takes so little effort to admit such a possibility into the equation; indeed, one need only to dismiss one statement from among a clutch of statements nearly all of which have since proven to be dubious, it seems unsafe to refuse to consider it. And the fact that Sirius seems not to remember anything about young Crouch, despite the fact that their time at Hogwarts in either case must have overlapped, suggests to me that 12 years in the custody of Dementors had resulted in a degree of memory loss which was not confined only to specifically happy memories. That indeed, any memory which was not actively miserable may have been misplaced, and that many basically neutral memories might not have ever resurfaced without some degree of therapy, which Sirius never got.

• • • •

Over the course of the first four books, and even to some degree in the fifth, we were given the strong impression that throughout the first portion of Lord Voldemort’s “first rise” he had enjoyed some degree, perhaps a very large degree, of popular support.

But then, we also believed, based upon Dumbledore’s comment that “We’ve had precious little to celebrate for 11 years”, made in the first chapter of PS/SS, that Lord Voldemort had only begun his rise around 1970.

Post HBP, it is now clear that this was no such thing. We have been shown the official backstory of Tom Riddle at most of what are represented to be its significant points, and there was no point in that arc at which he was ever anything other than the leader of a dangerous gang of thugs, a gang that the greater part of the wizarding public abhorred, and, moreover, one with no more than a few dozen voluntary followers even at the height of his influence.

And yet we still get statements like Lupin’s claim that the Order was outnumbered 20 to one by Voldemort’s DEs. Clearly, Lord Voldemort was a Master of smoke and mirrors.

It seems likely that the discovery that a Prophecy had been made related to his downfall shocked and frightened him. And, rather than ignoring it, which would have been the wisest course, he panicked and escalated his campaign of steadily increasing violence before the Ministry had succumbed to either his cumulative overt or covert campaigns against it (assuming he actually had any. After the fact it seems easier to believe that he was merely stringing his followers along with an illusion that he had).

This turned out to be a significant blunder. One should never do anything based on a Prophecy.

The final phase in his first rise appears to have been based upon extravagant levels of open violence. In the face of an already collapsed and dysfunctional Ministry he might soon have been able to wrest command away from the Wizengamot and establish a state of open anarchy. But the Ministry was still holding together, even if in a weakened position. And it was still able to mount a functioning, if not altogether effective, opposition. We were given to believe that Voldemort’s current activities, once his return was open knowledge, took up, as closely as possible, from where he left off nearly 15 years earlier.

It is also unlikely that there were ever more than 5 or 6 dozen actual Death Eaters, most of them the members of 3–4 dozen or so families; descendants of the people with whom Tom had attended school, plus a few key recruits who may have been slightly older than himself, or, later on, younger recruits from families of a similar background. And later yet, his original followers’ descendants.

If his followers current activities reflect those of the 1970s, it now appears that they were far more likely to depend upon sabotage achieved by lavish use of the Imperius Curse, which served to conceal their true numbers. We have already been told that in the first war most of the Death Eaters did not know more than a few of their fellows’ identities (Imperio’ed puppets certainly would not). And, from Karkaroff’s testimony, it appears that they operated in sub-groups probably under “cell leaders” at Voldemort’s direction.

Different groups probably had different responsibilities, and it was probably only a few of these subgroups who had typically been engaged in arranging open attacks, suspicious deaths (or, even better, unsuspicious deaths) and disappearances.

But enormous damage to public perception was being done.

As in his second rise, much rhetoric was expended spurring the Ministry to unwise responses to the growing threat, and these responses, although they produced little in the way of actual protection, did much to increase the level of public anxiety, and even to force a significant minority of the public into a position of opposing the Ministry’s policies and actions who otherwise would not have done so. Not to mention prompting a complete disregard of due process of law and the arrest and summary imprisonment of the innocent, without benefit of trial. Voldemort had effectively remade the Ministry, and Barty Crouch Sr in particular, over into his own image.

Furthermore, if any prominent, highly vocal critic of the WW’s government had ever been revealed (or could be made to appear to be revealed) as an undercover DE terrorist willing to overthrow that government by violent means, however vigorously a deceived former supporter of this critic might recant his earlier position, there was always considerable doubt that his statements could be trusted, since he was known to have formerly been quite open in his support of the “monster’s” goals. Neighbor could no longer trust neighbor, and even one’s own family members were nervously brought under general suspicion.

I suspect that until the final, most violent stage of his rise, Muggle-baiting and Muggle killings had probably never been an official part of the agenda, apart from serving as another source of a gibe at the Ministry for failing to stop it. Attacks upon Muggles were simply a perk in which Voldemort had always allowed his followers to indulge unchecked, so long as they could manage to not get themselves caught, and did not let it interfere in what orders he did give them. He certainly had no objection to it and may have occasionally taken part. But he has demonstrated enough of a pattern of allowing other people to take the real risks, even for his own activities that I suspect whipping his followers up with rhetoric and turning them loose to indulge themselves was more in his style.

I also suspect that not all of his followers may have indulged in this behavior. (Although many, particularly a certain segment of the younger ones, did, with considerable relish.)

Now, suddenly, they were all — young and old — expected to hold themselves in readiness to be sent on violent missions in which they were expected to kill, destroy, and terrorize their fellow wizards! Any of them. At any time. Regardless.

And without regard to the protection of wizarding Seclusion, either.

Not all of Voldemort’s inner circle had intentionally signed up for this. Certainly not to take the risk of completely blowing the discovery of the existence of wizards among them wide open to the countless multitudes of Muggles out there. Nor to be expected to take the risk of openly attacking other wizards who could curse them back!

Plus; some of the younger ones had evidently expected this “new Dark Order” to be simply handed to them once the Ministry collapsed. Without any kind of compromise of their own moral values — such as those were.

The reactions to their Leader’s sudden escalation of the agenda were somewhat varied: the first, and most widespread, and of course, the only one really acceptable, ranged anywhere from; “Okay. You’re the boss.” to “YES!!!!!”

The second; a far less common reaction was to offer some protest; It was at this point that Voldemort took the gloves off and demonstrated that he was not their Leader, he was their Master. Unforgivable curses, and some judicious thinning of the flock were his immediate response to any form of protest. In fact, I suspect that ordering some of those who were teetering on the fence to do the actual culling was an economical way of sorting out who was worth being retained.

Young Regulus Black was originally assumed to have been a casualty of this particular phase in the proceedings. But it is now clear that there was a good deal more than this to his particular story, and our initial perception (as was that of his own brother) was very, very wrong.

The third reaction among the troops was undoubtedly; “Oooohh, shit!” accompanied by a determination to keep one’s head down, follow orders, and just hope that it would all be over soon. Ludo Bagman’s behavior in canon make it likely that if he was indeed a Death Eater, this was his response.

And one or two of them may have considered approaching the Ministry to cut a deal.

• • • •

1980, exact date unknown: Millicent Bagnole becomes Minister for Magic

1980, March 1: Ronald Billius Weasley Born. Middle name commemorating Bilius Weasley, one of Arthur’s uncles; the one who is said to have seen the Grim and died of it.

1980, June 5: Draco Malfoy born.

1980, July 30: Neville Longbottom born.

1980, July 31: Harry James Potter born.

1980, late: Igor Karkaroff captured and sentenced to Azkaban.

• • • •

For some as yet undetermined reason of his own (although I have speculated on what sort of project may have been keeping him busy, above), Voldemort did not attack the families of either of the two children who were born at the time supposedly foretold by the Prophesy immediately after the children’s births. Although Harry’s christening was allegedly “a hurried and secret affair” with his parents ready to bolt into hiding at any moment, the expected attack did not come until more than a year later.

It is possible that Voldemort, who is perfectly capable of drawing a line between two points, and being perfectly well aware that the month name “September” translates literally into “7th month” had concluded that the child foretold in the Prophesy was to be born toward the end of September. And when no such child appeared, he was forced to backtrack. Having learned of the Prophecy soon after the end of October, he may have next estimated seven months from the time of the Prophecy, which would have been the end of May. That investigation may have proven to be similarly fruitless.

It is also possible that the families of any wizarding child born during the month of September 1980 had already been attacked and murdered, and he had concluded the matter settled. Temporarily. We do not know of any event that might have caused him to reconsider the matter, or when.

But whatever the cause might have been, the prospect of needing to survey 20+ years of his activities in order to determine who might be the specific “defiant ones” to whom the Prophesy referred, and to attempt to discover whether any children of such people were known to have been born at any other time that the Prophecy might have been referring to would have been daunting. He was also hampered in this search by the fact that he had shared none of his scanty information regarding the Prophecy with any of his followers. Not even the most zealous.

By the beginning of October 1980 (or thereabouts) the only follower he had who knew anything about the contents of the Prophecy was Severus Snape, who had reported it. I originally thought that this might have had some bearing upon why Snape was ordered into Hogwarts the following year. That, in fact, one of the first assignments that he gave Snape, once he had established himself at Hogwarts, might very well have been to get a look at the enrollment list and copy down the names of all children whose births were listed on it in the year following the date the Prophecy had been given. If this had been the case, it would have been very clear why events came so quickly to a head in October of 1981.

This seems not to be the case, however. At this point it also becomes necessary — with some reluctance — to take the revelations of ‘The Prince’s Tale’ into account. Regardless of the fact that in most cases, to summarily dismiss any information that was lobbed at us over the course of DHs will usually make getting a handle of what was going on a lot more convincing.

Nevertheless, from the state of the leafless trees on that windy hilltop, it is unlikely that the meeting at which Snape told Dumbledore that Riddle had chosen to target the Potters took place as early in the year as Halloween, or any time before it. Trees usually still have their leaves at Halloween, that is the height of “fall color”. Consequently, the meeting must have taken place either the previous year, in late autumn, winter (although not once snow was on the ground) or very early spring, before the trees had set out buds. Indeed, if the region where the meeting took place was in an area which gets little snow (as is the case with much of Great Britain), it could have taken place at any time over the previous winter.

It is not likely to have taken place the week or so before the Potters went into hiding, as was implied in the eavesdropping scene in the 3 Broomsticks in PoA. I think that Ms Rowling must have suffered a change of mind between 1999 and 2007 regarding this matter. In any case, the meeting appears to have taken place well before Severus Snape was taken onto the staff at Hogwarts school.

• • • •

Winter of 1980/1981, early: Severus Snape turns himself in to Albus Dumbledore and agrees to become a spy in return for protection for Lily Potter (and her family). If it was a mild winter, it is possible that this meeting occurs during Christmas break. He would be just turning 21.

1981, late spring or summer: Severus Snape, who since reporting the partial Trelawney Prophecy to Lord Voldemort, has risen into a position of at least some favor on the strength of it is ordered to take a position in Dumbledore’s school. Ostensibly to spy on Dumbledore.

It is still strongly suggested in canon that Voldemort intended for Snape to be drafted to the ever-rotating DADA instructor’s position, and Snape did indeed first apply for that position.

Which, given that Voldemort knows perfectly well that the position is cursed, suggests that he; A. considered Snape expendable, and/or; B. he only intended for Snape to be posted inside the school for a year.

Consequently we might suspect that there was in fact another covert mission behind this assignment. One that could be accomplished within a year. I contend that the most likely such covert assignment would have been the assassination of Albus Dumbledore. But; only after Voldemort had already settled the threat posed by the foretold child of the Trelawney Prophecy. At this point I do not think that Snape was informed of this.

Snape, who had already been working with/for Dumbledore for at least some months, informed Dumbledore of this development, and Albus chose to modify the plan by hiring Snape to replace Horace Slughorn as Potions master and Head of Slytherin House instead. It is at this point unknown whether Albus encouraged Slughorn to consider retirement at this time, or if his inquires regarding what had caused his favoritism for Tom Riddle to cool so rapidly back around the time that something was attacking and petrifying students had already prompted Slughorn to consider retirement.

• • • •

Herein some further speculation concerning Snape’s position within the DE hierarchy:

Snape was certainly accepted into the inner circle of “marked” DEs at some point, but I contend that until he reported the partial Trelawney Prophecy to his Master he was never a prominent or particularly important figure among them. He was just too young. He is almost certain to have been brought into the organization under Malfoy’s sponsorship and would have functioned as a subordinate member of Malfoy’s “cell”.

Snape, to that point, had probably never worked directly for Voldemort; his orders would have always come through Malfoy. (One seriously wondered how having his patron, Malfoy, taken off the game board at the end of OotP was going to affect Snape’s position in the circle. Evidently he immediately appeared to have risen to take Malfoy’s “favored” place.)

And Snape’s orders were dependent upon whatever area in which Voldemort had chosen to deploy Malfoy’s cell. Snape probably was Malfoy’s own pet Potions swot. Voldemort may have had one or two other, older and more experienced (although possibly not so gifted) Potions specialists already available; Malfoy very likely did not, or none as conveniently to hand as Snape.

But I believe that Snape’s primary function for the DEs was not necessarily Potions brewing, or even R&D of hexes with which the Ministry Aurors would be unfamiliar, but rather the gathering and verification of information. His marked affinity for this sort of work had been apparent even before he finished school, and it is just as likely to have proved essential to Malfoy prior to Snape’s alleged change of allegiance as it became to Dumbledore afterwards. In short: he has always been engaged in espionage at some level.

Given Rita Skeeter’s fairly obvious Malfoy connections, it seems likely that Malfoy and his cell may have been quite heavily engaged in information gathering, with blackmail and extortion as a sideline. Pettigrew’s DE contact, however, is almost certainly to have been someone not connected to Malfoy. Otherwise Snape might have figured out the identity of the Order’s spy and passed word to Albus.

It should also be noted that at the time he contacted Dumbledore, there was probably no provable crime for which Snape could have personally been charged. Such crimes may have existed, but it is almost certain that his involvement in any such was nothing that could have been proved. Disagreeing with Ministry policy, even publicly, is not a crime. The study of the Dark Arts in itself is not illegal.

Snape may not have been the only DE to have considered turning his coat, either. But he may have been the only one with the chutzpah to have signed on as a Ministry mole using Dumbledore as an intermediary. And even he would not have done so had he not been desperate. At this point Dumbledore also kept Snape’s activities completely separate from those of his Order. Snape had no interaction with the Order during VoldWar I. Nor did the Order know about Snape’s position as a spy. They only knew that Albus had spies.

• • • •

Being welcomed into the Order of the Phoenix as a benefit of his long-standing friendship with Black & Potter may have been a cause of great relief for Peter Pettigrew who had been finding it progressively more difficult to pass information to the Voldemort supporter who had been plying him with veiled threats and even vaguer promises, without giving away something which might actually get James (who he still regarded as his friend, even if only for “old time’s sake”) killed.

Although Pettigrew’s leaks were probably not the only reason, a not insignificant percentage of the Order’s appalling casualty rate over the 20-24 months or so of its known operation probably was due to information that Peter had provided, almost from the date of the Order’s foundation.

It appears to have been some months before it was suspected that the organization had a traitor in its midst. It was several more months before Albus narrowed it down that the traitor was one of the Potters’ associates (rather than, say, an associate of the Longbottoms, or someone from the Ministry). And this suspicion may have been assisted by information provided by Snape, although it is not dependent upon that. We certainly were given no such indication over the course of ‘The Prince’s Tale’.

In this iteration, the Order’s membership was also almost entirely made up of people that Voldemort and his followers already wanted dead. This offered Peter a far wider range of potential subjects to inform on than just James Potter’s immediate circle.

What is more, while Peter informed his contact of the Order’s existence. I seriously doubt that he volunteered anything related to the Order’s actual purpose — assuming that he knew anything of it, apart from its identity as a trusted group of intelligence gatherers. I doubt very much that anyone among the DEs other than Voldemort, Snape, and possibly Rookwood, was aware of the existence of a Prophecy related to Dark Lord, and even Rookwood would not have known for certain what the Prophecy related to. Consequently, Pettigrew’s “handler” did not know the right questions to ask. And, as we’ve always seen, Peter never just up and volunteers information.

In a matter of only a few months after the Prophecy was made, however, Voldemort’s 20+ years of steadily tightening of the screws of anxiety and dread had erupted into a campaign of wanton violence and terrorism which raged unabated for nearly two years. The demoralization of the wizarding public was all but complete after a year of this. To the typical wizard on the street it appeared that Voldemort was certainly winning.

At some very early point in this development, Pettigrew finally woke up and realized how deeply he had been drawn in to this situation unaware, But his primary shock is more likely to have been over his own blindness rather than from the reflection that the information he was passing was responsible for so much of the violence around him. Peter Pettigrew has always had a marked taste for violent mayhem, and once he managed to wrap his mind around the truth, if anything he is likely to have felt rather excited, and, well, important.

• • • •

Taking place over the course of 1981: Capture and sentencing to Azkaban of Doholov, Travers and Mulciber, and the deaths of Rosier and Wilkes while resisting arrest.

It has recently been pointed out that if Moody’s statement that it took 5 DEs to take down the Prewett brothers, and that the Order could say for certain that there were five of them, might suggest that the Prewetts had managed to call for help. The help arrived too late for the Prewetts, but was able to take custody of their attackers:

i.e., Doholov+Mulciber+Travers+Rosier+Wilkes = five Death Eaters.

Unproven, but suggestive.

1981, August 11: Ginevra Molly Weasley born.

1981, September 1: On Voldemort’s orders, Severus Snape joins the staff of Hogwarts as Potions master and Head of Slytherin House for the academic year 1981-82, his instructions to take the DADA instructor’s position having been balked by Dumbledore. Young Quirrell is at this point a seventh year student (probably a Ravenclaw).

At this point it is necessary to reconsider the matter of the Diary. Albus tells us that Lord Voldemort only passed the Diary to Lucius Malfoy shortly before his defeat. We have no real evidence to suggest that it was a Horcrux before that point.

Albus also states that the Diary was a particularly disturbing example of a Horcrux because it was clearly designed to be used as a weapon rather than exclusively as an anchor of its creator’s life to the material “plane”. (This statement has since been rather badly undercut by the behavior of the Locket, and what we have since been informed to be the general behaviour of *all* Horcruxes in DHs. What was that one supposed to be if not a weapon? It certainly behaved exactly the same, just stupider). From the information at our disposal, it sounds very much as though Lucius was entrusted with the Diary in 1981 and told to wait for his Master’s signal to send it into the school.

Which means that Tom pretty clearly intended that the Chamber of Secrets be opened in the academic year of 1981–’82. And probably that Albus be murdered under cover of the attendant uproar. At that point Lucius Malfoy’s quickest route by which to send an artifact into the school would have been through Snape.

I think that we may have finally uncovered what the full scope of Snape’s one-year posting as DADA instructor was supposed to accomplish. He was either to have passed the Riddle Diary into the hands of a child at the school, or he was to open communications with it himself. If the first, the choice of child would have possibly been left up to him.

However, we cannot be altogether certain of that reading, no matter how reasonable it may sound, for we have been given every indication to understand that the creation of an additional 5th Horcrux would have left a visible change to Riddle’s appearance in its wake, and we have heard of no point toward the very end of VoldWar I at which Lord Voldemort’s physical appearance took a sudden turn for the worse.

But then, how could we be sure of that? Who would have reported such a thing to Harry, who is our only real window on this world? By that point of VWI Voldemort himself was in deep seclusion, no one but his most favored Followers — or his personally selected victims — appear to have ever seen him. And none of them were talking about his physical appearance.

• • • •

1981, Late September/October: Additional information indicating that Voldemort has decided to attack and murder the Potter child reaches Dumbledore.

Or at any rate, so we were given to understand in PoA. Rowling probably hasn't reread her notes related to that one recently. I don’t know how she thinks that information fits with what she chose to show us in ‘The Prince’s Tale’.

For that matter, the letter which Harry found in Sirius’s room at #12 speaks of Harry’s birthday tea as a recent event, placing the letter as being from perhaps, mid-August. (Q: who, precisely is supposed to have taken the photo showing Lily laughing, Harry on a toy broom, and James’ legs in the background? Bagshott? Pettigrew?) And while the Potters are clearly not yet under Fidelius, and are modestly interacting with various of the other wizarding neighbors in Godric’s Hollow, such as Bathilda Bagshott, they appear to be keeping their heads down and living at least somewhat in seclusion. James is at any rate fretting over the loss of his cloak, and the necessity of sticking close to home because of it.

In any event, Albus proposes the use of the Fidelius Charm to protect the family, and offers to serve as Secret Keeper. James Potter possibly smarting over the withholding of his cloak (spoken of as having already been loaned to Albus in Lily’s mid-August letter) or possibly alarmed by Bathilda’s tales of Albus and young Gellert Grindelwald, declines the offer.

After investigating the Fidelius charm himself, he decides to employ it after all. Tells Dumbledore that Sirius Black will be their Secret Keeper.

1981, October 23-26 approximate: The Potters go into hiding at Godric’s Hollow under the protection of the Fidelius Charm. At the last minute Peter Pettigrew substitutes as Secret Keeper instead of Sirius Black. Pettigrew and Black also go into hiding, individually.

1981, October 31 - November 1: Voldemort receives information from Pettigrew on the Potters’ location. By some as yet unexplained (and probably unexplainable) process, the Fidelius Charm is broken, rather than simply “shared” with the wrong party.

He descends on Godric’s Hollow. We are given to understands that he kills James and Lily Potter; whatever curse intended to kill Harry Potter (and create the last Horcrux?) rebounds, and destroys his own body. Damage is made to the house either by Pettigrew who has followed him, possibly unbeknownst, or as a part of an agreed upon plan intending to eliminate Sirius Black, or as a consequence of an improperly grounded curse.

Pettigrew confiscates Voldemort’s wand and escapes. Note: now that we know that the house is still standing it is possible that Pettigrew retrieved the wand at some later time, but it seems unlikely that it would not have been confiscated by Ministry investigators had it still been there after the explosion. We do know that the site was investigated by the Magical Catastrophes Department.

We do not know whether Peter may have hedged his bets with a Patronus message to the Headmaster claiming that Black had betrayed them all.

Dumbledore is informed of the defeat of the Dark Lord (probably by Snape when his Dark mark disappears), is abruptly aware that the Fidelius has been broken rather than merely shared. Sends Hagrid to Godric’s Hollow via portkey to investigate. Sirius Black arrives at Godric’s Hollow soon afterwards. Events of the “missing” 24 Hours ensue.

• • • •

Speaking of which; a recent email conversation with a British HP fan brought up the observation that in Book 1, Chapter 1, Vernon Dursley seems to notice an inordinate number of oddballs in cloaks out in the streets on the day before his wife found a baby in a basket on their doorstep.

Which, in a roundabout manner, finally offers a possible explanation for why although Harry Potter had lived in hiding among Muggles for a decade, everyone in the wizarding world still knew what he looked like, right down to his distinctive scar.

I think those wizards that Vernon noticed on that November day were Order members. I think that Albus had alerted the Order to keep watch on the Dursleys to determine whether anyone else from the ww was aware of them and their location. Arabella Figg would not yet have been posted in the house on Magnolia Crescent to keep watch full time. Albus undoubtedly had other commitments the day after Voldemort’s defeat, and knew that he wasn’t going to be able to get there until that evening at the earliest. So he wanted them kept track of, just in case.

Which would also account for Minerva’s overhearing the gossip of Tom’s defeat and the Potters’ deaths while she was sitting on the Dursleys wall in her Animagus form all day.

And, since the wards that Albus set on the Dursley residence was not Fidelius, this means that any of the Order members who had taken part in watching the property that day knew exactly where Harry Potter had been placed. And some of them probably dropped by periodically to try for a Potter sighting.

Harry did recognize at least one of those Order members when Hagrid took him to Diagon Alley.

They were probably reasonably good at keeping the location secret, but they would have gossiped about having seen the boy. And described him.

• • • •

November 1?, 1981: Peter Pettigrew confronts Sirius Black in a Muggle district, presumably in London; he is assumed to have been killed, along with a dozen Muggles. Sirius Black is arrested and consigned to Azkaban without trial. Harry Potter is left on Dursley’s doorstep sometime after dark. Speculation regarding the “missing” 24 hours may be found in the essay so entitled.

It should be noted that once he had taken up his position at Hogwarts, Snape was probably not summoned to any Death Eater meetings during term time in order to not raise any suspicions of his continuing allegiance to the Dark Lord on Dumbeldore’s part.

If, as I still suspect, Pettigrew only made his decision to take the Dark Mark on the evening of the Potter’s deaths, Snape would not have been present when “Wormtail” appeared and led Voldemort into a trap. It is possible that, isolated at Hogwarts, he never was told that the betrayer of their leader was someone who went by the name of Wormtail. Otherwise it is just possible that the name might have rung a bell. Or, conversely; he knew that it referred to one of the Marauders, but not knowing the context, assumed it referred to Black, since everyone was convinced that Black was the traitor.

Rowling has also assured us that Snape was not loitering around Godric’s Hollow under James’s cloak at the time. I quite agree. He would have been in plain sight at Hogwarts, at the Halloween Feast that evening until curfew. As would Albus.

1981, probably a few days later in November: Igor Karkaroff attempts a plea bargain in return for his release from Azkaban. Deal accepted by Barty Crouch Sr. (Note: Snape had already been cleared of any culpable association with the DEs by Albus at this time.)

November 1981–early 1982: Frank and Alice Longbottom are tortured into insanity by Death Eaters. They are nonetheless able to identify their attackers. The Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr are quickly arrested, tried, and sentenced to life in Azkaban.

1981-1982: Death Eater trials, including the arrest and sentencing of Augustus Rookwood, followed by Ludovic Bagman’s arrest, trial, and acquittal. Barty Crouch Sr accepts DE Lucius Malfoy and DE Avery’s Imperius defense.

1982 exact date uncertain: Madam Crouch takes her son’s place in Azkaban under Polyjuice. She is assisted in this substitution by her husband. Dies in custody soon afterward, still under Polyjuice.

Barty Crouch Sr imprisons his son in his home under the double constraints of the Imperius Curse and an invisibility cloak. Madam Crouch’s death and funeral are reported in the Daily Prophet. Crouch leaves his son during the day under guard by the family’s House Elf, Winky. The reported death of his son in Azkaban either after or some time before the reported death of Madam Crouch begins the sway of public opinion against Barty Sr. At some point afterwards, possibly as late as 1990 with the appointment of Cornelius Fudge as Minister for Magic, he is shifted to the Department of International Magical Cooperation. It is at this time unknown whether there was any active “whispering campaign” to this end, but he is no longer being considered as Minster Bagnole’s successor as Minister.

1983: Bill Weasley begins his first year at Hogwarts.

1984: Nymphadora Tonks begins Hogwarts.

1985: Charlie Weasley begins Hogwarts.

1987: Percy Weasley begins Hogwarts.

1989: Fred and George Weasley begin Hogwarts.

Academic year 1989-90: at the end of the academic year, the DADA instructor, Professor Quirrell, who was apparently hired on the basis of a sound theoretical study of his subject of some years standing, announces his intention to take a sabbatical year to gain practical experience in the field. It is unknown whether any specific incident in the classroom over the course of the year was the cause of this decision. It should be noted that this interpretation ignores Rowling’s claim that Quirrell had originally been the Muggle Studies teacher before his sabbatical year. The claim was made in an interview, and we already know about how much faith to put into anything that comes out of those. It should also be noted that the academic year of 1989–90 was Fred and George Weasley’s first year at Hogwarts.

Bill Weasley finishes Hogwarts with the class of 1990. The same year, Charlie sits the OWLs, and with glowing references from Professor Kettleburn of Care of Magical Creatures and his Head of House, Professor McGonagall, takes an opening at the Dragon Reserve in Romania rather than commencing NEWT-level studies at Hogwarts.

1990: Millicent Bagnole, Minister for Magic, retires and is succeeded by Cornelius Fudge, Head of the Department of Magical Catastrophes. It is reasonable to speculate that there was a general rotation of Department Heads at this time; and that Crouch’s transfer to the Department of Magical Cooperation was a part of this rotation, with Amelia Bones replacing him as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Ms Bones, having no knowledge of any unofficial non-interference pacts between Crouch and, say, Abraxus Malfoy, initiates a series of raids on suspected Dark wizards’ homes over the next two years. Arthur Weasley, now Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department, a sub-bureau within the DMLE, is peripherally involved in these. It is possible that Arthur was promoted to the Head of the MMA division at this time, amidst the rest of the personnel rotations. He soon is completely enamored of Muggle technology, with which he is still largely unfamiliar.

Regarding Crouch’s transfer to the Department of Magical Cooperation: we know only that Crouch had already been transferred by the time his subordinate Bertha Jorkins — who may well have decided to set her cap at her widowed (new?) boss — showed up at his home one day with a message; expecting to find him and discovered the family skeleton, instead. His excessive modification of Jorkins’s memory, and her subsequent Transfer to the Department of Magical Games and Sports took place at some point before 1994 when Percy Weasley joined Crouch’s staff.

1991, spring, late: young Quirrell goes into a forest in Albania and comes out twitching. This is reported to Albus Dumbledore either by an observer stationed onsite, or by one of the instruments in his office. He concludes that he is going to be forced to create some sort of diversion to distract Lord Voldemort from contacting his followers and attempting to reform his empire — or from attacking Harry Potter who will be arriving at the school with the incoming class at the Autumn term.

Knowing the full content of the Prophesy, Dumbledore is convinced that there is probably no hope of destroying Voldemort at this time. He discusses the problem regarding his knowledge that he has a compromised DADA instructor with his old friend and former partner, Nicholas Flamel. It is at this point unknown whether he also discussed the matter with the new Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. This last seems unlikely. Fudge would have been too insecure in his post and too much of a yet unknown quantity.

Nymphadora Tonks finishes Hogwarts with the class of 1991. Commences Auror training.

1991, summer, early: Harry Potter releases a large snake from its enclosure in the zoo. Quirrell returns to England psychically haunted, but not yet physically possessed by Lord Voldemort. (No, I have no idea how this was accomplished, either. And Rowling is No Help.)

1991, summer: The Dursleys are subjected to a plague of owls. Vernon takes evasive action. Arabella Figg reports this development to Dumbledore.

1991, July, probably the 30th: Dumbledore calls an emergency meeting at Hogwarts wherein he announces that he is having Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone brought to Hogwarts for safekeeping and requests the assistance of the Groundskeeper, the four Heads of House and the DADA instructor to help him set up security measures to protect it before the students return. In Quirrell’s hearing he instructs Hagrid to fetch the Stone from a specific (numbered) Gringotts vault the next day. Voldemort takes the bait and directs Quirrell to break into the specified vault and remove the Stone before Hagrid can retrieve it.

1991, July 31, 12:00:01 am: Hagrid appears at the Hut on the Rock (this is assumed to be via either portkey or Thestral. Given that Buckbeak had no apparent difficulty carrying two healthy teenagers and a tall, full-grown, even if half-starved adult to the top of a tower, one might also cast a vote for hippogriff) with a copy of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts letter, a birthday cake, and the story of his parents’ murder.

Later that day Quirrell botches the timing on the attempted break-in of the Gringotts vault. Quite possibly on purpose, in what turns out to have been a last act of defiance. He only made his attempt on the Stone after he had already encountered Harry and Hagrid at the Leaky Cauldron. This attempt at evading orders dooms him. Voldemort takes full physical possession of him at this point.

From this point all events proceed as defined (or suggested) in canon.