3 November, 1976
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Up in the Headmaster’s office, Dumbledore was examining the wand before him. It was a foreboding, twisted thing made out of dark walnut. It had a pronounced taper to a sharp end and a strange curve in its shaft. Dumbledore needed to know more, and since their guest was not waking up, he was reduced to other means of information gathering. He muttered "Priori Incantatem’’.
After what seemed to be a sullen struggle, the wand complied.
Spectres marched across the office as spell after spell presented itself in reverse order. An Aguamenti to fill a bucket. An Episkey applied to the nose of a fair haired teen, none too gently setting it back in alignment. Stupefy and Expelliarmus at a crazed looking, curly haired witch, missing widely. A weak Expecto Patronum with an otter only briefly visible before dissolving to thin air. Reducto to blow away a feral looking man who appeared to be trying to eat his victim. Duro on a tapestry, Glissando on stairs, Stupefy again... nothing Unforgivable. “Curious.” This didn’t tell him much about how the witch came to be found by the caretaker, lying huddled by the wall in the courtyard and in such a state.
He could look back into that diary, but the date and the scribbled warning on the first page gave him pause. Something deep inside was begging him to consider very carefully. The date could be spurious, of course. A fanciful writing by a young witch? Perhaps she was insane? Her wounds spoke of hunted desperation, favoring the diary’s verisimilitude. Putting the ugly wand down, he exited the office and made his way back down to the courtyard nearest the Whomping Willow. The tree itself seemed no more restive than usual. A patch of darkened blood on the stone caught his eye and he directed his steps that way. A search revealed nothing out of place.
With a wave of his hand made from a safe distance, the Headmaster applied magical pressure to the secret knob on the base of the tree, causing it to go limp. There, he discovered a faint glint of brass in the morning sun, hidden in the weeds beyond the pavers. The Time-Turner was sun-warmed and heavy in his hand. It sparked ominously whilst he shook the chain loose. Closer inspection revealed a fine crack in the hourglass itself, and with jostling that same crack more of the fine sand of time escaped. This sand turned to a mist that distorted the air around it before dissipating. Using his wand, Dumbledore applied a containment charm before carrying the thing back up to his office. The Headmaster’s unease deepened as he traveled back through the halls of his school.
On returning to the office, the pensive wizard laid the Time-Turner down beside the bag and the wand. Holding his hands steepled below his nose, he considered the ramifications of this morning’s events. What did he know about this witch now? Time-Turners don’t move in space, only time, so she traveled from Hogwarts, but not from now. The diary was dated 1998, so it was not any earlier than that, if the written words were to be believed.
The girl was in terrible shape and some of her injuries occurred after her arrival. The signs of torture were not fresh. Her arm was cursed and resistant to healing. Wherever and whenever she was from, it wasn’t safe. An icicle of fear crystallized within his chest. He concentrated on the partially formed terror and imagined it to be a dangerous objet d’art , all sharp edges and dripping with poison. Before it could spread, he placed it away in a well-guarded mental vault.
The castle had accepted his claim of Sanctuary for her in a spectacular way. The Headmaster had wanted to ensure that she would be protected, that no one could pull her from his influence before she recovered. At the time, Sanctuary seemed to be the best way of doing that, although now he wasn’t sure why that particular power was recalled to him so clearly; it hadn’t been invoked in decades. The memory of the castle’s acceptance of the ward sent a frisson along the back of his neck and he shivered. Phineas Black called down to him from his portrait, “Did someone walk over your grave, Albus?”
With a wry laugh and nod for Headmaster Black, he answered, “Perhaps.” Whoever the girl might be, he decided that she was much more likely friend than foe, although the corrupted wand was concerning. Well, he would have to wait for her to wake up before he could get any further.
Dumbledore’s thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a frazzled looking owl at the window. It was a Tawny, and it had clearly laboured hard under the weight of the official-looking scroll, stamped by the seal of the Minister of Magic. Last time he had gotten one of these, it was an Emergency Session, called to deliver a vote of No Confidence which ousted former Minister Eugenia Jenkins, after an incident saw three Aurors dead and many more wounded. In her place, the current minister, Harold Minchum had promised to end the threat of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and he was as subtle as a bull in a china shop. The official seal crumbled under his fingers. It had been keyed to his personal magical signature. He put on his half-moon spectacles and squinted in the candlelight. “Ah, yes. I should have anticipated this.” It was a missive for all members of the Wizengamot to attend another emergency session requesting additional powers to help combat the terrible threat. He had been informed earlier in the week that his friend Alastair Moody had been hit with a curse to the leg during a battle, and there was nothing for it but to amputate. He was planning on visiting, but it had been a very busy week. After feeding the tiny tawny owl some tidbits, he gathered himself and readied to leave.
The Ogma League met every second Saturday in the basement of 69 St James’s Place, London and had done so since 1726. Wizards from all over Britain gathered here to strengthen their connections, discuss philosophy, and share a spot of dinner and a glass of brandy. Members spanned generations and most were pureblood, joining the League was considered essential for anyone who wanted to get anything accomplished in the political arena. Only the right wizards from the best families joined, and the after dinner conversations held in front of the cavernous fireplace were always stimulating. In 1967 a hot-blooded wizard by the name of Tom Riddle, who later styled himself as “Lord Voldemort”, was invited to join the club as a guest of Ramses Lestrange and his grandfather, Rodolphus.
Tom recalled his impassioned speech with clarity. He was incensed by The International Statute of Secrecy, which he felt did gross injustice to magical people and beings all over the world. Older wizards may have recognised many of the themes on which Grindelwald had built his regime before it was toppled by agents of the International Confederation of Wizards. Riddle had made compelling arguments regarding how life had become worse for the wizarding community at large, and had hoped to gather support to change the world.
He spoke with passion, making eye contact with several wizards he recognised. “Brethren, we have been forced into the shadows for centuries. This has fragmented the magical society at large. We cannot congregate in public without extraordinary measures, lest mundanes see us. Our government spends thousands of Galleons and worse, gallons of magical blood to protect the Muggles from magical threats. If we were in the open, we surely could educate the Muggles, move them out of danger, and openly defend them.” He was very conscious of his audience as he continued.
“Non-magical people have been robbed of their knowledge of our kind, yet they write stories about us, and dress up like us. They tell tales of Merlin’s time with as much passion as we do. I tell you, sirs. They want us back. They too dream of the times, like those of Merlin and Arthur, when powerful wizards and witches provided leadership and succor. We have so much to offer the world, but we keep it hidden!” The last was punctuated with a fist to his chest, and he allowed his tone and demeanor to darken.
“No one should have to die because of an outdated law. Rune magic can be used to cast fire resistance enchantments at little cost, to prevent innocents from burning at the stake. They get tied up, let the fire rise and apparate away, none the wiser.” This was an oversimplification, and everyone knew it, but they also understood the young man’s point.
“No, brothers. The natural order of the world dictates that those who wield the power are the ones who have the responsibility to use it for the betterment of all. The Wizarding World gave up this gods-given charge in 1692, when our fear of the Muggles overtook us. That moment of weakness has caused suffering untold, and we stand by and LET it happen.” He threw his arms wide, “Magical Children need our help. They are abandoned, neglected, beaten, and even killed because of what they are. They die, not even knowing how special their power is, and what it can do.”
Tom Riddle’s eyes glowed with rage, “Ignorant Muggles attack elderly witches, drowning them and worse. As our sisters, mothers, daughters, and grandmothers are accosted by Muggles most vile, will we continue to stand by quietly, pretending that we do not exist?” Some of the seated audience shake their heads no. Others remained inert, although a few of those were probably asleep.
“Respected elders, I challenge you to do the right thing. We need to make new laws, and loosen the white-knuckled grip of the International Confederacy of Wizards.” He held up his hands as if in benediction, “We are up against the strongest captor of all - Fear.” Slowly, he shook his head, “Fear is an illusion. The only power that the Muggles have over us is what we allow them to exert.” Both hands twisted forcefully, as if he tossed that fear under his boots. “We must break our bonds!”
He paced the semicircle and nodded, making eye contact, noting the skeptical and answering the unspoken objections. “You are correct. This will take time, and cannot not happen all at once. We must find the fulcrum, and change our Ministry’s own laws to get the leverage we need to change the world. We can only do this together. Thank you, for hearing me out.”
With that, the session broke into smaller groups of chatter and some drew to Riddle’s side like iron shavings to a powerful magnet. He debated the economic impact of integrating Muggles, of the ways the world could be better if they could harness the untapped resource of their non-magical neighbours.
In time, it became clear to Tom Riddle that the pillars of wizarding society, the oldest wizards who had amassed power and wealth from within the Ministry, were content to continue as they were. Corruption and willful ignorance festered there and obstructed his rational efforts to effect change. He attempted to claim his seat as the last Gaunt descendant, and while privately many of the Ogmas were in favour of bringing him into the Wizengamot, the wary drowned out Tom’s claim. It was in a closed session that they voted, making his rejection a secret matter. It was around this time that Riddle applied for a position at Hogwarts, as the teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts was retiring. Professor Dumbledore himself, the very man who came to take him away from Wool’s orphanage, also rejected him with empty platitudes. Did the fool think that Riddle hadn’t known that he was in that closed session? He knew his history, he had spoken with Aberforth. The man that the world saw as brave and good was a hypocrite of the highest order.
It was that trip to Hogwarts that brought everything Tom had known all along into painfully sharp focus. Wizarding Society had to burn, so it might be reborn anew. There was no other way. They were all dying, stymied by their own fears. To beat death, they would have to swallow that fear and claim the power that was theirs all along. Many feared the Darker magicks, but Tom was willing to pay the price.
The membership of the Ogma League did not welcome Tom Riddle thereafter as a member, although he was invited back for further debate on many occasions. It was through his friend’s influence that he was able to secure the premises for private meetings, which he held on Thursday evenings. Tom Riddle named himself Lord Voldemort and maintained leadership from the beginning, but it was Ramses Lestrange who was instrumental in setting the tone for their little society. They called themselves The Knights of Walpurgis. It was an exclusive group, and a most serious Oath had to be sworn before admittance. As the Knights grew in size and scope, members were tested before being permitted to take the Oath.
From the outset, it was their mission to work on righting the wrongs that were unchallenged by the Ministry of Magic and governments like it. The work became dangerous, and Lord Voldemort and his followers became paranoid. They had to cover their faces and wear obscuring clothing when they met. This was to protect their identities as many would pay dearly should they become known. Ramses Lestrange suggested that they all agree to a magical tattoo, one that would allow them to know each other, and find each other in times of need. Lord Voldemort had already researched such spells and endorsed the idea. A skull with a snake protruding from its mouth represented their mantra. “To beat the Big Death, we must Swallow our Fear.”
Lord Voldemort continued to inspire his followers, and together they fought the Muggle menace. The message twisted, and Lord Voldemort demanded that his followers harden their hearts. The rescue missions were few and far between now, in favour of espionage and slaughter of the evil Muggles. Fear became their weapon and they were its masters.
The Ministry offered little resistance, and the Death Eaters, as they had been dubbed by the papers, held sway in many places. A new obstacle was making itself clear. There were wizards and witches who were openly opposing him and his followers. Riddle valued magical blood, and in order for his vision to become real, he needed to unite all of wizarding society. His orders were too open ended in regards to the handling of these rebels and it was this that cost Ramses Lestrange his life.
If he had been as ruthless and unwavering as he was with the Muggles, they would never have got close enough to cast that fatal curse, and Lestrange would have still been at his side. Tom Riddle was an excellent student, and he learned this lesson well. He ordered his followers to step down any overt operations as he revamped his command structure to compensate for the huge void left by Lestrange’s death. Lord Voldemort spoke abruptly after a prolonged silence, addressing one of the masked Knights, “Call Rodolphus and Rabastan to the circle, I wish to include them in our council.” Orion Black bowed deeply to his Lord before turning to deliver the summons personally.
Clearly, things were changing and he needed to plan and arm his followers. Lestrange’s sons had graduated from Hogwarts and were talented duelists and he planned to induct them to the Knighthood. He was certain their father would have wanted that. Together, they would achieve his vision and in so doing, avenge their Hero, Friend, and Father.
Albus Dumbledore had changed into the plum robes of his office before mounting a broom to the Apparition Point outside the castle grounds. He was a few minutes late, but it appeared that nothing had happened yet. The Chief Warlock sat listening to Minister Minchum and they seemed to be having an intense conversation. Dumbledore was shocked to see Moody sitting in a wheeled chair on the chamber floor. His attempt to make eye contact with his friend was interrupted by the Chief Warlock banging a gong to indicate the session was starting. The youngest member was tasked with opening the session, and Dumbledore was surprised to see Rudolphus Lestrange in the purple robes of the Wizengamot Chambers. In a clear tenor voice, he announced, “Wizards and Witches, please come to order. The Wizengamot is in session, Chief Warlock Gervain Davies is presiding.”
Minchum, wasting little time in observing the forms, said, “I request the floor.”
Davies waved a hand in answer, so Lestrange returned to his seat nearby, ceding the space to their Minister for Magic.
The Minister, one of the few in the room not wearing plum velvet robes, stepped out and began his argument. “When I was elected to the position of Minister, I promised to stop the man known as Lord Voldemort.” Gasps of fear echoed in the chamber and many a face paled at the name.
Raising the volume of his voice, magically amplified by charms on the chamber’s walls, he railroaded on, “Our brave witches and wizards of the Magical Law Enforcement Agency struck a major blow to the Death Eaters, we have confirmed that Ramses Lestrange was among those killed whilst resisting arrest.” Muttering broke out in the ranks, crescendoing with excitement.
Mad Eye Moody’s eye had been spinning around, but Dumbledore watched it swivel and stop, intensely regarding Rodolphus Lestrange. The youngest wizard of the Wizengamot had been examined and cleared by the MLE before being sworn in. This mattered, most especially because it was his Father, Ramses Lestrange, who was being discussed. The boy’s father was dead, and he had slipped into the barely cooled seat in his wake. Rodolphus noticed the attention and met Moody’s gaze. After holding the Auror’s attention, his eyes raked down Moody’s form, staring at the stump of the amputated leg, elevated and wrapped with bandages. The Headmaster frowned at Lestrange, but Moody appeared to be unmoved.
“During the debriefing it came to light that our Aurors were at a major disadvantage, as the Death Eaters do not follow written wizarding law, and use the Unforgivables freely. It is this that brings me here today to beg a change in the law, to allow Aurors to have that same freedom in apprehending and subduing these wizards.”
Minchum stalked across the floor, his hands waving expansively as he came to stand behind Mad Eye Moody’s wheelchair, breaking Lestrange’s line of sight. “Our population has been dwindling. We lost much to the conflict with Grindelwald, and what progress we had been making in rebuilding the pillars of our society is being lost, both by the direct work of the Death Eaters and the loss of our Aurors.” He clapped his hand onto Moody’s shoulder in a gesture of support. “We need to arm them with every advantage that we can give them.”
Albus Dumbledore had been worried about the changes in the ministry. The current Minister had been campaigning with the Wizengamot to increase the number of Dementors in Azkaban, insisting that they would be needed for high level prisoner security. This was being met with resistance from many.
Questions were raised by the council members, obtaining assurances of proper training and judicious use. Dumbledore found the idea of using the Imperius Curse and the Cruciatus Curse on anyone completely abhorrent, and the trouble with Avada Kedavra was that it was so final, and had the potential to hit a friend in the heat of battle. He was also concerned about the corrupting effect that the spell was rumoured to have on a person who used it. Jarred from his thoughts by the gong again, Dumbledore watched Rodolphus Lestrange stand and announce, “The floor is closed for debate at this time. A vote will be called to approve this amendment to the bill forbidding the use of the Unforgivables, to be maintained for a year. All those in favour of amendment, please raise your wands.”
And so it came to pass that the emergency Unforgivable Usage Amendment was approved with much less debate than was typically spent deciding whether or not to bring a bumper if it looks like it might rain. The Wizarding World was at war, and had been for some time. The time for action was here. He had to figure out a way to keep the forces of Light working together. As Lestrange announced the results and then closed the session for the Chief Warlock, Dumbledore considered that carefully schooled expression on the young wizard’s face. It revealed nothing.