The Downfall of the Order – Part 2
It is early 1981 and the Order has suffered multiple setbacks over the past few months. Many members suspect that there is a spy in their midst. Meanwhile, Sirius is desperately trying to fight off the suspicion that Remus is behind the Order’s misfortunes. But in that dreadful, twisted atmosphere, his suspicions only settle in further.
The Photograph: July 1981
By July, it is painfully clear that despite the spy in their midst, the Order must operate at full strength again. Dumbledore brings the entire Order together, even scooping out of thin air some obscure contacts of his: his brother Aberforth, the crook Mundungus Fletcher, and a Squib woman named Arabella Figg. To commemorate the occasion, they take a picture together. 14 years later, Mad-Eye Moody will show this picture to a young Harry Potter, pointing out the grisly manner in which half the occupants died soon after.
At their first meeting in almost nine months, the Order members are wary of each other. But no one suspects anything of Peter Pettigrew, who has a chance to catch up with everyone. The knowledge he gathers will bring devastation.
The Beginning of the End: August–October 1981
Two weeks later, Harry Potter celebrates his first birthday in style thanks to his godfather’s gift of a superb toy broomstick. In her letter to Sirius, Lily reveals that just days ago, Marlene McKinnon and her family were murdered. According to Moody, the McKinnons were killed “two weeks after this was taken” (OotP 173), placing the photograph in mid-July and the deaths of half its occupants during the three months that followed.
Thanks to Peter’s information, Voldemort is able to systematically exterminate some of the Order’s best fighters. Gideon and Fabian Prewett, Benjy Fenwick, and Edgar Bones and his family are brutally murdered. In mid-October, Dorcas Meadowes is killed personally by Voldemort, indicating her importance as a target. For this victory, Peter is formally branded with a Dark Mark and sent to meet with Voldemort in private for the first time.
Voldemort loses no time in asking for his newest servant’s insights into the dilemma of the prophecy that has plagued him for over a year. He is astonished to learn from Peter that the small sons of his most incessant foes – their existence a trivial detail before now – are the answer to the prophecy after all!
The Aftermath: October 1981–February 1982
After taking a few days to deliberate, Voldemort meets in private with Snape, the man who brought him the prophecy in the first place. Whether he felt kinship with the boy or wanted to further spite the coward Wormtail, Voldemort has chosen to target Harry Potter. Snape remains impassive but goes straight to Dumbledore afterward with all the vital information except the identity of the spy. It is unclear if Snape actually knew of Peter’s deceit, but since his aim was to protect Lily, it is unlikely that he would have withheld that information from Dumbledore had he known. In any case, we know too well what happens next.
Dumbledore… had a number of useful spies. One of them tipped him off, and he alerted James and Lily at once” (PoA 204).
Sirius is poised to be the Potters’ Secret-Keeper, but at the last moment, he suggests they use Peter instead and tell no one of it, not even Dumbledore, not even Remus. “And then, barely a week after the Fidelius Charm had been performed” (PoA 205), Lily and James are dead. Voldemort is gone. Peter fakes his death to hide from those who knew of his treachery, Sirius is imprisoned, Alice and Frank are tortured to insanity, Caradoc Dearborn vanishes, and Remus Lupin is left shattered. Though the wizarding world begins to heal, most of the original Order of the Phoenix, the valiant fighters who helped bring about Voldemort’s downfall, are lost, dead, or irreparably broken.
There is still quite a mystery surrounding the first Order of the Phoenix, and even after all this speculation, many questions remain unanswered. But the best thing about the Potter fandom is our dedication to resolving such mysteries together. Let us know in the comments how you think these events unfolded!