Linking Voldemort and Grindelwald

fantastic-beasts-3

In this recently-released image from The Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald is shown accompanied by Vinda Rosier, one of his supporters. The name should sound familiar to Harry Potter fans, since she shares last name of several minor characters in the original series, all of which have some connection to Voldemort.

Vinda Rosier and Leta Lestrange both seem to be Grindelwald supporters, which in a way is surprising, because Deathly Hallows makes it sound like Grindelwald was never powerful in Britain. It makes sense for some British wizards and witches to think he has the right idea, but his army should be mainly Durmstrang and Beaubatons graduates, not previous generations of Slytherin/Death Eater families.

However, Grindelwald is sort of a precursor to Voldemort. Their goals and methods are slightly different, but they are united in their belief that wizards are superior to muggles and that “pure-blood” wizards are superior to muggle-borns. In that way, it makes sense that a few of the ancestors of the Death Eaters would be drawn to Grindelwald just as their descendants are later drawn to Voldemort.

Which brings me back to the Rosiers. Although they’re not a prominent Death Eater family like the Malfoys or Lestranges, they’re woven into so much of the backstory that they were almost certainly important in a behind-the-scenes way.

Tom Riddle Jr. was born December 31, 1926, not long after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts movie.  At this point, he’s a very young child growing up in a muggle orphanage. Therefore, the unnamed Rosier who was one of his school peers would also be an infant or be born very soon. Could Vinda be his mother? If so, then he would grow up surrounded by Grindelwald supporters and longing for the day when he, too, could fight for them. At school, he meets Tom Riddle, a classmate with ideas very much like what he’s heard at home. Grindelwald is defeated in 1945, around the time Tom Riddle and his classmates leave Hogwarts, leaving a power vacuum he’s all too happy to fill. Rosier, as the child of a Grindelwald supporter, would have no love for Dumbledore and most likely a desire for vengeance. He becomes one of the first Death Eaters.

Evan Rosier, presumably the older Rosier’s son, went to Hogwarts at the same time as Snape, and they were part of “a gang of Slytherins who nearly all turned out to be Death Eaters”. Therefore, Evan Rosier was one of the bad influences that led Snape to become a Death Eater himself. He died during the first war against Voldemort, killed by an Auror while trying to avoid capture. Said Auror is implied to be Mad-Eye Moody, who mentions that Rosier “took a bit of me with him”. Although Evan Rosier died before Sorcerer’s Stone begins and is never really developed as a character, he definitely made an impact through his interactions with Snape and Moody.

But it doesn’t end there. Let’s assume that Vinda is Druella Rosier’s mother as well. Druella Rosier grows up much like her unnamed brother, surrounded by pro-Grindelwald sentiment, and in the aftermath of Grindelwald’s defeat, marries Cygnus Black.

When Sirius describes his family to Harry, he says that his parents were never Death Eaters. It’s not that they were against the Death Eaters, per se, but they weren’t about running around in masks and killing people. They were content to cheer from the sidelines. However, Druella’s mother was not, and neither is her brother. We don’t know if Druella was ever a Death Eater or an active Grindelwald supporter, but she definitely had relatives who were, and she might very well have, much like Bellatrix, dreamed of sending her own children to fight for the Dark Lord. Fierce, ruthless Bellatrix would have wholeheartedly embraced the role. Knowing that the Lestranges were another old family of Death Eaters and Grindelwald supporters, I can see her seeking out Rhodolphus Lestrange as a husband, not out of love but as a way to get into Voldemort’s inner circle. Before long, the whole extended family is working for Voldemort.

Now here’s the interesting thing: the Rosiers and Lestranges were longtime Death Eater families, but the Malfoys weren’t, nor is there any sign yet that they were involved with Grindelwald. Older generations of Malfoys come across as more like Sirius’ parents, utterly despicable but uninvolved, and Draco’s grandfather even seems to have been an old friend of the stubbornly neutral Professor Slughorn. I tend to imagine Lucius Malfoy as a first generation Death Eater who joined well after Voldemort’s rise to power began. Snape, Barty Crouch Jr., and Igor Karkaroff would also fall into this general category. These newer recruits typically lack the fierce loyalty of the ones born into Voldemort’s service and were drawn in by promises of greatness but unwilling to go to prison for him once he was gone. They would likely have been recruited by in-laws or classmates, and in the case of Lucius Malfoy, that would be his wife’s family.

And Regulus Black? His parents weren’t Death Eaters, but they had the same kind of twisted morals. He was the youngest of the family, and as he was growing up, his cousins would have already been getting more and more entangled with Voldemort. It wouldn’t have taken much for one of them to whisper in his ear that this is the way to save the family’s honor after Sirius and Andromeda’s betrayals. And he would have believed it, because everything Voldemort did was in line with his parents’ beliefs, if not their actions.

There’s no way of knowing yet if Vinda Rosier is directly related any of these people. Maybe she’s an aunt or a distant cousin instead. Maybe Rosier is her maiden name and she marries into a different family. Maybe she dies childless and has no impact on the main Harry Potter story at all. But it would be an odd choice to give Grindelwald a supporter from an important Death Eater family and not expect there to be some connection. Leta Lestrange can’t be Bellatrix’s ancestor, because Bellatrix is a Lestrange only by marriage, but Vinda Rosier can, and it makes a lot of sense that she would be.

Almost all the high-profile Death Eaters from the main Harry Potter series can be traced back either to the Rosier and Lestrange families or to Tom Riddle’s original group of “friends”, which included members of both families. Now we know that the Rosiers and Lestranges were Grindelwald supporters before they joined Voldemort. While the two had different goals and methods, Voldemort did not just emerge to fill the power vacuum left by Grindelwald but in fact inherited his supporters as well.

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Voldemort’s Mistake

When I was writing my Taylor Swift Slytherin playlist, I said this about “Getaway Car”:

It’s not that Slytherins are in any way incapable of loyalty, but they are loyal to themselves first, along with perhaps one or two others. The driver of a getaway car, the rebound boyfriend, or the partner-in-crime doesn’t factor into that.

I’ve always thought that one of Voldemort’s biggest mistakes – second only to underestimating love – was making himself an army of nothing but Slytherins – Slytherins who all had their own reasons for joining him, almost none of which were about loyalty to Voldemort.

Dumbledore describes Tom Riddle’s school friends – and by extension, the Death Eaters – as “the weak seeking protection, the ambitious seeking some shared glory, and the thuggish gravitating toward a leader who could show them more refined forms of cruelty”. That seems pretty accurate from what we see. The Malfoys and Barty Crouch Jr. are of the ambitious type, Wormtail and Snape are definitely the “weak seeking protection”, and Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback are in it out of bloodlust. While they all gravitate toward Voldemort as a leader and are on board with his poisonous rhetoric, in a way, he’s just that getaway car driver.

No, that’s not quite right. For Bellatrix, he’s everything. Maybe for Barty Crouch Jr., too. Their primary loyalty is to Voldemort even more than to themselves. But they’re unusual exceptions among Voldemort’s followers. The Malfoys are loyal to their family first. Wormtail is loyal only to himself. Snape is loyal to the memory of Lily Potter before either Dumbledore or Voldemort. This is a group of people who, when they finally managed to capture Harry and his friends, spent so long arguing over who would summon Voldemort that they ended up escaping. There is basically no unity among them, and a common cause in name only; they’re in it for themselves. Their ambitions clash and their ruthless natures mean a lot of betrayals. In other words, they are all Slytherins and all want to be on top.

In contrast, the Order of the Phoenix is made up of people from all four houses, and Dumbledore’s Army is made up of three. From Hufflepuffs with their work ethics and unfailing loyalty, to Ravenclaws with their wisdom and creative thinking, to Slytherins who spy and work in secret, to Gryffindors burning with passion for a righteous cause, they are far from homogenous, and their members’ strengths complement each other. As the Sorting Hat warns at the beginning of the fifth book, the Houses are stronger together and, divided, don’t stand a chance.

The Name

The name is a whisper
That quivers and shakes
And hangs in the air like a bomb
About to explode

The name is a secret
That everyone knows
But all refuse to say
You-Know-Who
And we all do
But no one forgets
The fear those three words hide

The name is a darkness
That lurks all around
And threatens all who oppose it
Too dangerous to put into words
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

The name is a lie
Carefully crafted
To hide from the shame
Of – possibly
Being ordinary
Casting aside Tom Riddle
To take on another identity

The name is a trap
For all who dare speak it
Disarming, unveiling
And bringing our enemies here
Swallow your pride
Keep the word inside
A matter of safety, not fear

The name is a power
Too great to be spoken
The Dark Lord whose army may
Conquer the world

The name is a voice
Rising over the silence
Refusing to go on in fear
A head held high
A heart at last daring
To say what all need to hear:
Voldemort.

Did Harry Apparate at Ten Years Old?

In the Harry Potter books, young witches and wizards who haven’t started learning magic yet often produce it without realizing exactly what they’re doing. Sometimes, it’s simple magic, like making flower petals open and close, or re-growing hair after an embarrassing haircut. However, sometimes young children produce magic that even adult wizards have trouble with. For example …

Levitation

“The girl had let go of the swing at the very height of its arc and flown into the air, quite literally flown, launching herself skyward with a great shout of laughter, and instead of crumpling on the playground asphalt, she soared like a trapeze artist through the air, staying up far too long, landing far too lightly” (Deathly Hallows 663)

While levitating objects is one of the first things Hogwarts students learn to do, levitating oneself is much more difficult. Very few wizards are capable of flying without a broom; only Voldemort and Snape are shown to do so, and everyone seems shocked that they can. And yet, young Lily Evans could already do something very similar.

Apparition

“Dudley’s gang had been chasing him as usual when, as much to Harry’s surprise as anyone else’s, there he was sitting on the chimney. The Dursleys had received a very angry letter from Harry’s headmistress telling them Harry had been climbing school buildings. But all he’d tried to do (as he shouted at Uncle Vernon through the locked door of his cupboard) was jump behind the big trash cans outside the kitchen doors” (Sorcerer’s Stone 25)

Apparition is like the wizarding equivalent of driving a car. You have to pass a test and get your license before you can do it outside of class, and you can’t take the test until you’re seventeen. And yet, that’s almost definitely what Harry did here. One minute, he’s trying to get away from Dudley’s gang, and the next, he’s magically disappeared and he’s up on the roof. Probably lucky he didn’t splinch himself, apparating without a clear destination in mind.

Vanishing spells

“One second, Piers and Dudley were leaning right up close to the glass, the next, they had leapt back with howls of horror. … The glass front of the boa constrictor’s tank had vanished” (Sorcerer’s Stone 28)

While not as extreme as some of the other examples, vanishing spells are not taught until fifth year at Hogwarts, and most of the students seem to have difficulty with them. Harry, just before his eleventh birthday, is able to vanish an enormous pane of glass. Of course, he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet.

Unforgivable Curses

“I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to” (Half-Blood Prince 271)

Dumbledore tells young Tom Riddle that he’s been using his magic “in a way that is neither taught nor tolerated at our school” (273). What he doesn’t tell him is that an adult using one of these curses on a fellow human will almost always receive a life sentence in Azkaban for it. Curses like the Imperius and Cruciatus should be well beyond the abilities of a child just starting at Hogwarts, but Tom already seems to have learned how to make them happen on command.

Legilimency

“‘Tell the truth!’ He spoke the last three words with a ringing force that was almost shocking. It was a command, and it sounded as though he had given it many times before. His eyes widened and he was glaring at Dumbledore, who made no response except to continue smiling pleasantly” (Half-Blood Prince 269-70)

Only a skilled occlumens can lie to the adult Voldemort, and eleven-year-old Tom Riddle already seems accustomed to being able to demand the truth. It seems like he’s learned to tell whether others are lying to him, although reading Dumbledore’s mind is more difficult. Alternatively, he could be trying to use the Imperius curse, which would force Dumbledore to tell the truth in a different way.

Perhaps what Dumbledore tells Tom Riddle is the answer: “At Hogwarts … we teach you not only to use magic, but to control it” (273). Young children’s magic in the Harry Potter series is spontaneous and uncontrollable. It’s not the power they lack at such a young age, but the ability to use it in any kind of consistent way. Much like any real-world talent, the raw ability won’t amount to anything unless it’s studied and refined.

A Poisoned House

I’ve been saying for a while now that the traits that define Slytherin house are not necessarily bad things. They can be taken to horrible extremes, certainly, but they don’t have to be. And yet, I can talk all I want to about ambition as a positive quality, and I can argue that clever plans don’t have to be just for villains, but the fact remains that that’s just not how Slytherin house is portrayed in the books. It doesn’t make sense for roughly ¼ of each incoming class to be destined for evil, and it doesn’t make sense for virtually no dark wizards to crop up in the other houses, but counterexamples from the Harry Potter books themselves are few and far between.

And yet, the reader clearly is supposed to have a more nuanced view, by the end, than simply “Slytherin is evil, Gryffindor is good”. Otherwise, why would Harry tell his son that it doesn’t matter where he’s sorted, even encouraging him by saying that one of Albus Severus’ namesakes was a Slytherin and one of the bravest men Harry ever knew? Regardless of Snape’s true loyalty, if Slytherin was really as horrible as the younger Harry believed, he surely would have encouraged his son to choose a different house, as Harry himself did. Was the sorting hat right, then? Would Harry have done well in Slytherin?

I don’t think so. I think that, given the threats that Harry faces and the challenges he has to overcome, he was far better off in Gryffindor with Ron and Hermione, than in Slytherin, where his classmates might have viewed him with hostility and suspicion, the rest of the school would have distrusted him twice as much, the rumors that he only defeated Voldemort because he himself was a dark wizard would have flourished, and – when Voldemort came back – he would not have had Ron and Hermione, nor the rest of the DA, to help him. Does that mean Salazar Slytherin wouldn’t have wanted Harry in his house, if he were alive? I think he would have. The hat considered putting him there for a reason. But what I’m getting at here is that Slytherin house was poisoned, and it wouldn’t have been the welcoming home that Gryffindor was to Harry.

What I mean when I say “poisoned” is that a certain former Slytherin made the house into something far worse than it had to be, and of course here I’m talking about Voldemort.

When he was at school, Tom Riddle’s first followers were some of his Slytherin classmates. Dumbledore describes them as “the forerunners of the Death Eaters” and the first to become Death Eaters. After he left school and began to build his army, he no doubt started with their connections: friends, siblings, and eventually children. For instance, one of his school friends had the last name Lestrange, and his descendants certainly became Death Eaters. Later on, allegiance to Voldemort was passed down in the families of Harry’s Slytherin classmates, such as the Malfoys. Because families are often put in the same house, and this seems especially the case with the “pure-blood” families Voldemort favored, it would be easy for the poison to spread throughout the house.

Pottermore describes Slytherins as a tight-knit group of “brothers” who “look after [their] own”. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it can lead to a twisted ideology becoming the accepted norm and loyalty to someone like Voldemort being spread quickly, from Voldemort’s original school peers and their families, to the other members of that house. Even people like Snape, whose family had no allegiance to Voldemort, and Barty Crouch Jr., whose father was passionately against the Dark Arts, went on to become Death Eaters. Voldemort initially tried to get a job at Hogwarts because he saw its potential as a place to recruit followers, and while he never managed to find many in the other three houses, by Harry’s time, there is not a single Slytherin student willing to stand against him. On the contrary, most of the ones we meet seem eager to join him. This is not simply a by-product of ambition and cunning. It’s the result of 50 years’ worth of poison.

So what does it mean that Harry can tell his son it’s okay for him to be a Slytherin? It represents the beginning of a healing process. With Voldemort dead, it is finally possible for the poison he left in Slytherin house to be washed away, even if the process is a slow and difficult one.

Why am I saying all this now? If it’s not already obvious, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has gotten me thinking about the epilogue again, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say once that comes out (only 2 days now!) But for now, I’ll leave you with eleven-year-old Albus Potter, who, like his father at the same age, is scared of being put in Slytherin, and is told that he can choose, but that any choice he makes will be okay. I think that’s awfully sweet, and definitely a sign that things have changed in those nineteen years.

Quidditch as a Metaphor

I was thinking about Quidditch last night. It just doesn’t make sense, does it? The golden snitch is worth 150 points, whereas each goal is only worth 10, so the team whose seeker catches the snitch almost always wins. There is literally one example in seven books and countless Quidditch games where a team was far enough behind to lose after their seeker caught the snitch. But if that’s the case – if it all comes down to one player on each team – then isn’t the rest of it pointless? You could argue that the beaters still have a useful role to play, but the chasers? The keeper? If you need a 150 point lead to win without the snitch, isn’t everything they do futile?

That sounds a lot like something else from the Harry Potter series, doesn’t it?

deathlyhallowsposter

Harry himself – who incidentally plays seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team – is the “Chosen One”, the only one capable of taking down Voldemort. Both sides fight to the best of their abilities, and it’s not as though the things they do are irrelevant. It matters a great deal that Ron and Hermione stand by Harry and help him. It matters whose side Snape was truly on. It matters that the Order of the Phoenix fight Voldemort throughout the last 3 books, and that many of the teachers and older students rally to defend Hogwarts at the end of Deathly Hallows. But in the end, it all comes down to Harry and Voldemort. “Neither can live while the other survives”, and the battle between them decides the outcome of the war.

But it gets better: near the end of Deathly Hallows, when Harry seems to be dead, his friends don’t simply surrender. They continue to fight. Neville turns down the chance to join Voldemort, pulls the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat (much as Harry did earlier in the series), and beheads Nagini, Voldemort’s snake. The battle continues, even with Harry supposedly gone – and not only are they fighting, they are winning: “Everywhere Harry looked, Death Eaters were folding under sheer weight of numbers, overcome by spells, dragging arrows from wounds, stabbed in the legs by elves, or else simply attempting to escape, but swallowed up by the oncoming horde” (page 735, American hardcover version). To continue the Quidditch metaphor, the defenders of Hogwarts are determined to win even without their seeker.

And yet, it is not until Harry reveals himself for one last duel with Voldemort that the battle is won. In the end, it was always meant to come down to the two of them.

Dementors and Boggarts

What do these two creatures have in common, aside from the fact that the latter turns into the former when Harry sees it? Well, a lot, actually.

Boggarts are a physical manifestation of fear. They look like giant spiders for Ron, dementors for Harry, and Professor McGonagall telling Hermione she failed all her classes, but they always take on the worst fear of the person facing them. They are defeated by the ridikulus spell, but the spell on its own means nothing. It’s laughter that defeats a boggart; all the spell does is morph one’s fear into something that can be laughed at.

Dementors are cloaked monstrosities that suck the hope and happiness out of the world around them. Unlike boggarts, they are not considered easy to defeat; while Professor Lupin teaches his third year students how to fight boggarts, he warns Harry that the magic used against dementors is far more advanced. However, much like ridikulus, it is not enough to simply shout “Expecto patronum!” and wave one’s wand. The Patronus Charm is fueled by happy memories, the very things that dementors drain away.

In other words, laughter is to a boggart what happiness is to a dementor. Both are dark creatures that represent a very real negative emotion, and both are stopped not simply by magic but by an equally real positive reaction.

Let’s take it a step further: Voldemort, the greatest evil in the Harry Potter series, is defeated by love. It is Lily Potter’s sacrifice, made out of love, that protects baby Harry and defeats Voldemort the first time around. Later, at the end of the fifth book, Dumbledore tells Harry that the line in the prophecy about “power the Dark Lord knows not”, refers to Harry’s ability to love, which is something Voldemort cannot even begin to comprehend. He himself is cold and unfeeling, and he constantly underestimates the things that others will do for love, eventually leading to his downfall.

Hate and evil can only be defeated by love. Despair can only be defeated by holding on to happy memories. Fear can only be defeated by finding a way to laugh at it.