The Downfall of the Order – Part 1
In the early 1970s, as the darkness that had been gathering for decades began to rapidly grow stronger, Albus Dumbledore founded the Order of the Phoenix. The Order was a beacon of hope for many, but only a few years later, that light was snuffed out. What exactly was it that made the Order fall so hard and so quickly? From the few clues the books give, I imagine the Order’s story played out like this.
The Last Good Year: June 1979–June 1980
The Marauders and their contemporaries at Hogwarts have gone through school under Voldemort’s reign and heard of the Order’s exploits at the very least from the obituaries in the Prophet at breakfast. Upon graduation, James, Sirius, Remus, Peter, and Lily are recruited into the Order by Dumbledore. Meanwhile, Snape and his gang ally themselves with the Death Eaters. Former classmates and friends learn to see each other as foes.
The Order tracks the movements of Voldemort’s allies, protects vulnerable families and important people from attack, and fights on the front lines as Voldemort seeks to gain more power. Thrice in this one year, James, Lily, Alice, and Frank come face-to-face with Voldemort himself and manage to defy him each time. Had his name perhaps been made taboo and had they found out the hard way? Had they been audacious enough to seek him out themselves? We may never know. But for one more year, with half a dozen formidably talented teenagers at its helm, the Order would be a powerful force against evil.
The Prophecy Is Made: July 1980
Voldemort tried to kill you when you were a child because of a prophecy made shortly before your birth” (OotP).
On a wet night in mid-July, in a dingy private room of the Hog’s Head, Sybill Trelawney delivers the fateful prophecy to an astonished Dumbledore. Severus Snape hears only half of the prophecy before he is thrown from the premises, but he rushes to deliver the news to his master. The Dark Lord and the few allies he chooses to inform have no way of knowing which, if any, of his many foes might be expecting a child. Voldemort will spend over a year contemplating whom his vanquisher might be before he is able to piece together all the clues.
Meanwhile, the Potter family and their friends rejoice at the birth of Harry James, while the Longbottoms celebrate the birth of Neville. It is a bright spot amid the darkness of the war, though neither Lily’s nor James’ parents are alive to meet their grandchild. The Marauders are no doubt ecstatic, and Sirius is especially effervescent upon being named Harry’s godfather. Bright spots like these are vital, for here is where the story begins to darken.
Mischief Begins: September 1980–June 1981
YOU’D BEEN PASSING INFORMATION TO HIM FOR A YEAR BEFORE LILY AND JAMES DIED! YOU WERE HIS SPY!” (PoA 374)
Voldemort is growing increasingly frustrated with the Order and increasingly desperate to penetrate their operations somehow. But of course he would never do the dirty work himself, so in my imagination, he sends forth the dynamic duo of Bellatrix and Narcissa to find an informant among the Order’s ranks. In Peter Pettigrew – increasingly resentful of the Order’s failures and fearful for his own safety – they find the perfect target, and under their combined pressure he bends.
He — he was taking over everywhere!” gasped Pettigrew. “Wh — what was there to be gained by refusing him?” (PoA 374)
For a year, Peter does not bear the Dark Mark or come into contact with Voldemort at all. The secrets of the Inner Circle, along with the prophecy, remain a mystery to the lowly informant. And his identity, in turn, remains a secret to most of the Inner Circle for a long while. Meanwhile, Order missions begin to take a turn for the worse, tensions are high while trust is low, and Sirius Black has a sneaking, heartbreaking suspicion he knows who’s behind it all.
In Part 2, I imagine the last year of the first Order’s existence and the moments that led to its rapid downward spiral during the fall of 1981.