Something that falls through the cracks due to Ms. Rowling’s determination to present her wizarding society’s mind-set as if its population is constant, its society static, and that at all times all people have thought exactly as they do today, is the question of what wizards might reasonably believe is the appropriate treatment of children. Quite without regard to the obvious fact that if we take Rowling’s statements as to the population of wizarding Britain as a base point (which we simply can’t) it looks very much as if children must make up a very different percentage of the overall population of the wizarding world than they do in the mundane world among us Muggles.
And if we had tried to believe her earliest statements regarding wizards, their potential ages, and their population numbers, the imbalance would have been even worse. After all, if one was to assume (on Rowling’s assertion) that people characteristically lived to be 130–180 years old, you would expect there to be a lot more geezers than goslings.
After all, you only get 17 years to be considered a kid. You can be considered old anywhere from twice to four or five times that long. And if everyone born the same year you are does the same, hey, do the math.
Rowling, however, notoriously does not do math.
Well, by the time Rowling sat down to write DHs, she also seems to have quite thoroughly gone off the idea of wizards routinely having vastly longer lifespans than Muggles. She had already set it up that some wizards live longer than most Muggles, however. So she couldn’t write the possibility entirely out of the story. But she scaled it back considerably. Children under the age of 17 aren’t quite as small a segment of the population as it first appeared that they must be. Although there is still probably a lower percentage of the total population under the age of 17 among wizards than there is among Muggles. And their position within society still may not quite be the same in both.
• • • •
Among fanon authors, who, for the most part are more likely than not to be young themselves, their young characters are often empowered to an implausible degree. In fanon, even the most ordinary wizarding youngsters typically have established careers, have married and begun families before leaving their teens and are honored and respected authorities in their fields and leaders of their communities by the age of about 25. Rowling’s post-DHs interview statements appear to encourage this reading. At least as it regards Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Ron. Although she changed her mind about Ron within the week.
I think it is reasonable to view this interpretation of matters as being in at least some degree an effect of wish-fulfillment. Canon, at least up through HBP does not altogether support it.
To be sure, once a young wizard has proved his qualifications with a passing score on his Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations, he is probably permitted to take a place among the gainfully employed in wizarding society, even though he is still technically subject to the reasonable restrictions of underage sorcery until his 17th birthday, which typically will take place within the following year. It easy to speculate that until attendance became compulsory for all minors in DHs, there was a small subset of the students of Hogwarts who did not return to the School after sitting the OWL exams at the end of their fifth year. Rowling never either openly confirmed nor denied whether this is in fact the case, but if Stan Shunpike was indeed only 21 at the time of his arrest in 1996, the evidence suggests that he was not at Hogwarts after sitting the OWLs.
These early school-leavers (if they do indeed exist; I would not be astonished if Ms Rowling simply chose not to mention the possibility out of concern for giving the appearance of approving of early school-leaving for anyone other than her protagonists) would be the equivalent of those working class children who stay in school only for so long as it is required of them, and thereafter forego further education in favor of finding a paying job which will take them as they are, without demanding further qualifications. Within the wizarding world, such jobs are probably fairly widely available. Wizarding children from the artisan class, whose families run wizarding businesses and/or are engaged in wizarding crafts are probably often among this number, since the sooner such a child’s hands are set to the family pump, the better for everyone in the family. And whatever specialized training the family business may require will be more productively learned at home, on the job, than in theory at Hogwarts. It is not unreasonable to suppose that some highly specialized craftspeople (such as the Ollivanders) may actively encourage their children to take their place in the business at an earlier age than that of “Ministry brats” or other children who have chosen to aspire to professions whose entry may require a respectable showing in the NEWTs.
Another group of these early leavers may be currently employed in what is, these days, referred to as the “service industry”. Some such possible example of early school-leavers of this second sort that we have met in the series so far are Madame Rosemerta, and Tom of the Leaky Cauldron, Florian Fortesque and the aforementioned Stan and Ernie of the Knight Bus.
Such early school-leavers would, indeed still be legally subject to the reasonable restrictions of magic as practiced by underage wizards, but inside the wizarding world those restrictions effectively only apply to such matters as being still too young to get an Apparition license, to be unable to use magic outside of the secluded wizarding world, and within it possibly only to be able to do so under proper adult supervision, such as that of a parent or an employer. It is highly improbable that “reasonable” restrictions would bar a young wizard from performing any legitimate function in the course of gainful employment or the training for such inside the wizarding world under his employers eye, any more than they do for a young wizard performing legitimate classwork in a wizarding Academy. Although formal registration and a special “work permit” may be required. Indeed, given that I am pretty sure that the idea of a young wizard being educated at home rather than in one of the recognized schools may well be fanon, or interview info, and never actually mentioned in the course of the books at all, the whole matter may be conducted sub-rosa and not officially acknowledged.
The belated introduction (in DHs) into the narrative of the “trace” on underage magic flatly contradicts an earlier statement by Dumbledore regarding the matter, unless we conclude that either Dumbledore was deliberately fudging the truth for no obviously purposeful reason, or that the trace is only applied to young wizards living in Muggle households, and is imposed as an early warning system for when the Accidental Magic Reversal squad or the Obliviators need to be dispatched to the young wizard’s vicinity. In short, that as Dumbledore explained it in HBP, the restriction, as enforced, is effectively only the restriction of underaged Muggle-born magic.
It is easy to theorize that the Ministry would be happy to collect fees to supervise the scheduling of NEWTs undertaken after independent studies by witches and wizards who are already of age and out of school. Hogwarts only offers training is specific disciplines, and I am certain that not all of the possible ones are available there. We have been told by J.K. Rowling that there are no wizarding universities. But I suspect that it is not impossible to undertake further training than what is offered at Hogwarts, quite apart from the sort of specialized training programs sponsored by St Mungo’s and the DMLE.
These postulations remain only theories, however. Nothing of them is ever openly spoken of in canon.
• • • •
But, despite the fact that Rowling has told us that a young wizard is regarded as an adult upon his attaining his 17th birthday, in all probability, the typical place of such a young adult within wizarding society is that he is marginalized and largely ignored. There are some notable exceptions, of course. In particular, there are certain to be a few exceptionally talented youngsters who may find themselves on some variety of fast-track for early advancement.
Our best illustration of this particular process in action is in the rather singular case of Percy Weasley, achiever of the coveted 12 OWLs and former Head Boy of Hogwarts, who seems to have stepped out of school directly into an entry-level “Junior Administrative Assistant” position within the Ministry of Magic. Our vantage point on Percy’s experience may be misleading, however. Not only was Percy already the son of a well-known and well-liked current Ministry employee — which, without making even the slightest accusation of nepotism, can only have worked in his favor — but his position as Head Boy, and his test scores on the NEWTs exams the previous summer had probably been high enough to draw the attention of whatever Ministry headhunters set about to “cherry-pick” the top performing students of each given year. Percy is also widely-known to have wanted a Ministry career.
Percy’s next promotion, about 5 months later, to personal assistant to his Department’s Head, however, should be regarded as a false message on the way such matters are normally handled. That situation was not normal in the least. Percy is a young man very sure of his own excellence, and it is clear that, secure in the honesty of his own intentions, he did not question that he had earned that promotion. But, to the reader, particularly to the reader who has finished the book and is now looking back and counting the clues, it is clear that Percy’s promotion was deliberately engineered and given to him by no less than Voldemort and Wormtail, themselves.
For them, Percy Weasley was a gift from the gods. Upon discovering Percy; young, keen, and above all, inexperienced, already in place in Crouch’s Department, Imperius-controled Barty Crouch Sr. could simply be instructed to name Percy as his personal assistant, after showing him a visible degree of favor; and then take “medical leave”, sending all further instructions by owl, at a much earlier date than they would have otherwise been able to remove him from public view. If nothing else, Wormtail knew exactly how any such instructions should be worded in order to best allay suspicion. Percy clearly never knew what hit him.
From what we can determine in canon, Percy also clearly did not know that his former pet rat, Scabbers, was an Animagus and a spy, and was now an active supporter of Lord Voldemort. Ron knew this. But we get no indication that Percy had ever been told it. At best, Percy was only aware of the brouhaha between Ron and Hermione when it was believed that Scabbers had been killed by Crookshanks. His reappearance, months later, was never widely advertised. From Molly’s reaction upon being confronted with Sirius Black in the Hospital Wing at the end of GoF (a full year later) it is obvious that Ron had not shared any of the information learned at the conclusion of PoA with anyone in his family. And, following the twins’ lead in such things — as he nearly always does — Ron would certainly not have shared the information with Percy. (Who, at that point in the series, would have passed such knowledge on to their parents.) It is improbable, however, that even had Percy learned of this information it would have caused him to be more inclined to question the provenance of his superior’s alleged instructions. Percy, who seems to be singularly lacking in paranoia, was not expecting to have to spot attempted subversion or a covert attack.
Percy’s later acceptance of a post on the Minister for Magic’s own staff is a slightly different proposition, but again, the advancement was unlikely to be typical. To take advantage of this offer he was forced to openly oppose and indeed to make a complete break from his own family. Percy has been much criticized by the younger fans for this decision. I am inclined to cut the boy some slack, however. And, indeed, it is made clear to the reader that breaking contact with his family has not deprived Percy of any great source of emotional support. His family has never really been shown to give him any appreciable degree of such support. Which speaks far more unfavorably of Percy’s family, than it does of Percy himself.
We do not have the full information concerning what was behind that particular offer for promotion, however. If Minister Fudge really only offered the position in hopes of keeping an eye on a family suspected of supporting Albus Dumbledore, as Arthur contended, he certainly did not get one. Yet Percy was still on Fudge’s staff at the end of the year, and the following month he was still employed within the office of the Minister for Magic by Fudge’s successor. Evidently he had earned his place, in the eyes of his employers. And had done it without spying either on his family, or upon Harry Potter.
Percy may be a humorless, highly self-important young man, but he is very competent, and clearly managed to make himself much too useful to the people in charge to be summarily dismissed.
He was even retained by the puppet Ministry under Pius Thicknesse. And eventually validated himself by ultimately and publicly deciding that retaining his position in the Ministry was not worth supporting what the Ministry had become.
• • • •
As to the more typical wizarding view of the appropriate treatment and status of children, however:
Among Muggles, and within the dynamics of the cyclic history which drives Muggle society, children under the age of 20 comprise approximately a quarter of the total population. This percentage varies to some degree when one examines the actual population numbers at 10 or 20 year intervals. The number of children born during a “Fourth Turning” is almost always relatively small, due to the crisis mode mindset that characterizes a Fourth Turning, and discourages the establishment of large families. By contrast, the birth numbers of the “First Turning” of the new cycle which follows it, are invariably very high, since the temper of a First Turning is that the crisis has been resolved, peace and plenty either already abound or are soon to be attained, and those somewhat older parents who deferred the starting of families during the crisis are now free, and encouraged, to do so — in addition to the young adults who have only just attained a proper age to be considering this step, and who are given no reason to defer this particular pleasure.
The temper of the times as reflected by the mind-set of these two very different eras also widely differs where it comes to what is considered the appropriate treatment of children. Society’s expectations of the “typical” child’s normal behavior are just as widely diverse.
During a Fourth Turning, children are a heavy responsibility, hence the reluctance to produce very many of them. Children are therefore to be protected (even overly protected) at all costs, kept under firm control and removed as completely as possible from the dangerous and important world-in-crisis of the adults. Children, in return, are expected to be rarely seen and even more rarely heard. They are to be docile, diligent, and well-behaved, and to keep out of the way.
The children of a First Turning, which follows the Fourth, are the embodied celebration of the successfully resolved crisis. Large families, even very large families are regarded as normal and desirable. Children are expected to be rambunctious and exuberant. They are given far more freedom than their immediate predecessors and are widely indulged by society. First Turnings are frequently defined as being “child-centered.”
The two eras also vary where teenagers are concerned. In a child-centered First Turning, where children already have greater freedoms and are generally indulged, teenagers are also indulgently, and with some amusement, regarded as “almost adults” and allowed a great deal of social prominence and general public attention. In a crisis-centered Fourth Turning, under most circumstances teens are regarded as “older children” and expected to follow the rules set by their elders and to remain safely in the background.
There is an additional factor operating in mundane society which also needs to be considered. Modern post-Rousseau (sp?) Western Civ. has also enshrined the “state” of childhood by lumbering it with all sorts of symbolism related to nature and innocence and a great deal of other mumbo-jumbo. This is very much in contrast to the older, traditional viewpoint that childhood is a training period which should be gotten through as quickly as possible, or, conversely, that the little sinners should be whipped (literally) into shape as quickly and harshly as necessary, to save their souls before they can be led, or lead others, astray. (These definitions are both vastly over-simplified — Hagrid would be proud of me.)
The Seclusion of wizarding society predates the writings of Rousseau by a generous margin. What is more: wizarding children probably don’t constitute anything like a full quarter of their society’s population. If Rowling’s original claim of longer lifespans for wizards is at all to be given any credence, this cannot help but bear a considerable weight upon the degree to which modern wizarding society will have focused its collective attention upon its young.
• • • •
In the first place, let’s look at the potential market demographics:
Even with the projected wizarding lifespan scaled back more closely to something like what we have actually seen in canon, given a relatively stable birthrate, a physical developmental period not noticeably longer than that of their Muggle counterparts and a projected lifespan of up to 110–120 years, the under-18 set might represent as little as a projected 15% or so of the total population.
Given that the primary concern of wizarding culture (the business of being a wizard, as it were) is to further the development of its own particular specialty, which is to say, magic, and to continue to conceal its presence from the mundane world, it does not have the spare resources of mundane society to throw at what must be considered a comparatively brief “larval” state affecting a minority segment of its members. Consequently, apart from seeing that the barest critical needs pertaining to this state are met, the society as a whole turns its attention to other areas where such attention is deemed to matter more.
For that matter it is never made clear that even seeing that those barest critical needs pertaining to this state are met. The Ministry of Magic takes no responsibility for wizarding children’s early education even as it appears to strongly discourage the enrollment of wizarding children in Muggle primary schools. (If the wizarding population is so cowed that they won’t even reveal their magical status to Muggles when they intend to marry one, they will hardly risk blowing the whole issue open by sending their children to be educated alongside of those of their Muggles neighbors. Rowling has confirmed this last assertion.) Clearly we are to understand that any witch or wizard who chooses to produce a child does so entirely upon his or her own responsibility, with multiple restrictions regarding their oversight of that child and without any support from the Ministry for the welfare or education of that child — until he reaches an age to be trained magically. Then, and only then, does the Ministry step forward and remove the child from his parents’ care to train him as a wizard. To me, there appears to be something fundamentally wrong with this picture.
Indeed, what we have seen of wizarding culture, in which virtually every child between the ages of 11 and 17 is routinely secluded in a boarding school for 10 months of the year, and that children between the ages of 0 to 10 are either educated at home at their parents discretion, or are Muggle-borns enrolled in Muggle primary schools, it would seem evident that wizarding society as a whole takes no notice of and makes almost no provision for children until they are of an age to be trained as wizards.
Given the lack of anything like a wizarding orphanage — even in the wake of a supposed war which saw the end of any number of wizarding families — it would appear that the Ministry of Magic cannot even be bothered to oversee the physical safety and upbringing of its youngest future constituents.
In fact, it would not be much of a stretch to conclude that, apart from those few businesses which derive revenue from marketing products that are attractive to children, wizards upon the whole seem to want as little to do with children as possible. Children are probably regarded as an unattractive, but necessary, nuisance. And a walking security risk. One which should be kept as avoidable by the rest of the wizarding world’s “real” population as possible. This seems to be reflected in the generally small size of wizarding families. If Muggle society made as few provisions for the young as the wizarding government apparently does, either their family sizes or their general standard of living would be much lower than they are.
Given the slightly longer wizarding lifespan, the lack of clear demarcation between the internal “stages” of a wizard’s adult life, and, perhaps, most important of all, the fact that these life stages are each of somewhat irregular duration, wizarding society may not be subject to the sort of pressures that create cyclic history at all, and should not be assumed to replicate it in this, or any other regard. Indeed, such shifts in Muggle social dynamics may utterly mystify wizards.
However, with DHs it has finally been openly admitted that the “Seclusion” of most of wizarding society is a sham. Other than that minority of wizards who are able to live in Hogsmeade itself or within such secluded districts as Diagon Alley, most of the wizarding population lives among Muggles in the vicinity of a half-dozen or so traditional semi-wizarding villages. There is no way to completely avoid being swept up into the dynamics of cyclical history under such conditions.
Wizarding society however, almost certainly does not go through the periodic cycles of child-centeredness which can be noted in mundane society. Young wizards are taught the academic basics and given a moral grounding entirely at their parents’ discretion until they reach an age that their magic is trainable, whereupon the Ministry finally takes an interest in them, and they are effectively removed from their parents, and herded into a secure facility where this critical matter is overseen by experts. Their progress is monitored by a Ministry Department, with a view toward cherry picking the top performers into key, entry-level Ministry positions. The Ministries of Magic being one of the key industries of the wizarding world, its largest single employers, and, being the ones that oversee and administer the training facilities, have first choice of the newly qualified.
Wizarding children of the ages of 10 and under are kept in semi-isolation by their parents, to avoid any such fallout as would be likely to occur from too close interactions with Muggles, and apart from what appear to be fairly rare cases, see few children other than those of their own families. Or their family’s friends.
Wizarding children also are not usually exposed to the mundane world around them by means of being bombarded all day by television (or its advertising), and most of them probably would not be able to recognize the on switch of a computer. They probably would be familiar with radio by means of the wizarding wireless. We have heard no indication that the Wizarding Wireless includes any sort of childrens’ programing, however.
• • • •
And at the age of 17 they are legally defined as adults.
The only significant “officially” perceived difference between the fresh Hogwarts graduate and a more seasoned wizard is the graduate’s lack of practical experience, which will matter in some fields considerably more than in others. But in practice, few allowances will be made for youth itself.
For that matter, it is entirely possible that even the somewhat more mature wizards and witches of the most typical child-bearing and child-rearing ages are also regarded somewhat dismissively by the persons in the greatest positions of power, due to the fact that such are assumed to be preoccupied with the temporary distractions attendant upon producing and raising young, rather than being free to pursue the serious business of furthering the goals of wizardkind. If children themselves comprise no more than roughly 15% of the population, the parents of minor children will not represent all that significantly larger a percentage of the population, either. Young children (which even in the wizarding world are usually not “only” children) and their parents together, probably comprise not much more than a third of the total population.
And if young children and their parents together represent so small a percentage of the total wizarding population. This is not likely to be the dominant, policy-making percentage of it, is it? Certainly not, considering how very little policy in the ww ever concerns itself with children.
We have been shown virtually nothing of any of this in canon because, up to now, we have been limited to the PoV of an adolescent boy who is locked up in the kiddie-bin for ten months of the year and exiled to Muggle hell for the rest of it. And the only wizarding family he has had any real contact with is, even by most wizarding standards, a raging pack of eccentrics. Nor, I think, does Rowling ever intend to show us any of this, for she has stated repeatedly that when she has finished with Harry Potter’s school years, she intends to work on other projects.
Our ability to discern a plausible reading of a viable wizarding society from canon is not made any easier by Rowling’s determination to co-opt all secondary characters into providing comic relief. This technique appears to be applied more crudely the older a given supernumerary character is.
Besides, I’m not convinced that Rowling even grasps the implications of any her statements on the subject, herself. I think that she regarded the key point of whole matter, the allegedly longer lifespans of wizards, as mere set-dressing.
And if she does grasp it — and by this time she may — she still doesn’t intend to go into it, because it would interrupt the pace of the story.
But, it is still true.
If wizards have potentially longer lifespans than Muggles, then, rather than four basic generations; juveniles, young adults, the middle-aged and the elderly, there ought to be at least five; juvenile, young adult, middle aged, elderly and, say, “venerable”. Albus Dumbledore, at the age of 116 was a venerable wizard. In a real society such as Rowling postulates, there would be that additional generation represented in it. And that generation would be an *active*, contributing generation, not consigned to sit by the fire and do little because of feebleness or other infirmities. They would be the elders still setting policy.
Or the basic four generations acknowledged would all be of different duration.
As things stand, Rowling seems unwilling to even depict the possibility of a adolescent child’s still possessing living grandparents. Only Neville Longbottom appears to admit to having one.
My reading of the situation is that in traditional wizarding thought, there would be no sentimental value placed upon the “state” of childhood whatsoever. And that children, however necessary, are not regarded as “special”.
• • • •
Children are certainly necessary, even essential to wizarding society’s survival, yet they are probably regarded by those who do not have to deal directly with them, as a nuisance. But from a wizarding point of view, the “state” of childhood itself is brief enough that one does not make a big Muggleish parade of it. The lifespans of wizards are presumed to be such (even if those alleged extended lifespans generally fail to materialize) that in the eye of those who are actually in charge” of any sort of social policy, well before these particular children are of an age to replace “us” they will have melded seamlessly into the much larger total adult wizarding population. In fact, they will probably be grandparents themselves by that time. The anticipated length of a wizard’s life is such that childhood is probably viewed as a very temporary condition, to be got through as simply as possible before embarking on one’s “real” life, and it is a stage certainly not meriting the sort of commerce-driven special attention as is the case in mundane culture.
Furthermore; a wizarding child’s magic usually does not reach a level that it may be reliably trained until he is within hailing distance of puberty. And by this time we all have a pretty clear idea of how much indulgence the wizarding world as a whole bears for the magically incapable. With this in mind, what normal wizard is likely to go misty-eyed and nostalgic over a period of his life during which he was unable to reliably perform magic?
In fact, that alleged, greatly-made-much-of extended lifespan of wizards appears not only to be rather less than the fans have attempted to make it out to be, but to clearly be a benefit only enjoyed by adult wizards. And remarkably few of them, at that. For there is no indication whatsoever in canon that the juvenile period of a pureblood wizard is any longer than that of a Muggle-born wizard — whose juvenile period does not notably differ from that of typical young Muggles.
And if, as I have suggested, the longer lifespan of wizards is based upon some physical benefit granted to the wizard by the active channeling of magical energies which helps to preserve his physical health and well-being, (and consequently, cannot be deployed effectively by the very young) and, as an outside possibility, any medi-magical treatments or lifestyle practices are aimed at lengthening the period during which a wizard is able-bodied and mentally and magically acute in order to preserve the greatest number of fully-functional members of society at all times, with a view to staving off yet another Goblin uprising; then, the end result of these benefits is that wizards — who may live longer — do not remain young longer, but, as with the improvement in the general health and increase of life expectancy among Muggles over the course of the 20th century, they remain functional, but OLD. Longer. The wizarding world, in short, ought to be “a country of old men” (and post-menopausal women).
• • • •
Which is the last thing that Rowling seems willing to show us.
But then Rowling admits that she is a coward.
In a society in which close to half of its members are either past, or within hailing distance of their 60th birthday (and in which it can be quite comfortably assumed that close to half of a witch’s life is still patiently waiting for her to get around to it after she finishes with the purely temporary demands of childbearing and child rearing) the Western, and Muggle-centric, value which we place upon the energies and vitality of youth, might be very far from the case.
Indeed, it becomes very easy to postulate a culture which operates rather on the principles of what, in my own childhood, were presented as the values of a sort of “storybook” version of ancient China, which was conventionally portrayed as having an exaggerated public veneration for age and tradition, and in which the old were regarded as a fount of wisdom and nearly always deferred to on the grounds of their opinions being more valuable merely through their having lived longer. Meanwhile the world wags on with business as usual, and children are expected to pull their own weight as far as they are able, and to stay out from underfoot.
And, as I state above, in a society of people who live extended lives, what children there are, are rather thoroughly outnumbered. It is Neville Longbottom, not the Weasleys, whose home life should probably be regarded as the more typical of young wizards. What is more, the state of childhood itself is probably discounted and devalued, being judged to represent very little of an individual life’s total worth. After all, young children cannot properly perform magic.
Meanwhile, legislation is imposed upon the freedom of children’s actions in order both to control the amount of risk to which they are exposed and, perhaps more importantly, the degree of risk for discovery by Muggles which their inexperience and possible heedlessness may produce. Hogwarts may be by no means as secure a facility as Azkaban, but it’s not that much more open. It is yet another isolated, fortified location in which young are to be kept secure, out of the firing lines and restrained from participation in the daily functioning of society. We got a taste of this enforced noncombatant status over the course of OotP, and very frustrating we, and Harry, found it.
• • • •
For this reason I have never placed a lot of credence upon the fanfics that postulate the casual induction of schoolboys into the ranks of the Death Eaters. That such children might be encouraged to gather whatever information is circulating through the halls of Hogwarts and passing it on to their parents, yes, of course. Any advantage is worth using. To approach any like-minded schoolmates as future recruits, certainly. But to permit them to take full participation in Voldemort’s vision before they have even left school, or learned to Apparate? Ridiculous.
And post-DHs I still consider it ridiculous.
Not to mention that laying your personal Mark on children still living in dormitories would be a totally reckless and witless policy. (Tom was raised in an orphanage, for heaven’s sake! He lived through seven years in a Hogwarts dormitory. He knows how little privacy one has living in an institution.) No. Just — no. Not even in Slytherin House. It should be noted that while he may in HBP have made an exception to this rule in Draco Malfoy’s case, this was a single exception, made for a specific purpose. IF such and exception was even actually made. Which is far from certain.
And the whole story of Regulus Black, as told by Kreachur is completely bonkers. Not least in his contention that Reggie joined up at the age of 16. But that is a subject for another essay, on another day, in another sub-collection, under another heading.
To be sure, Lord Voldemort may not dismiss children as readily from his considerations as the generality of wizarding society does. If it existed in the Potterverse, he would certainly be able to remember the existence of the Hitler Youth. (As well as the standard rhetoric of the 3rd Reich which he knowingly incorporates into his addresses to the DEs. He has their number and will lead them on with exactly what they want to hear.) But while adolescents and post-adolescents may make the most dedicated foot-soldiers, he can afford the additional 2-4 years for the current crop to be out of school and away from official scrutiny before admitting them into the fold.
Besides, they aren’t a lot of practical use until they can Apparate, and they can’t do that without reprisals until they are 17. They aren’t even taught the skill until they are 16.
Which, prior to the release of HBP, seemed to raise the possibility that there might be yet another kind of selection process going on within the DE families.
At that point, back when Lord Voldemort’s followers were assumed to be far more numerous than they in fact are, I thought that it could well have been that Lord Voldemort did not really WANT whole families bearing the Dark Mark. The head of the clan or his heir, yes. But if one of them gets captured, they all come under suspicion, and there may well be a Ministry demand for a rolling up of sleeves. If the whole family is marked, that’s the end of it. Who is left to carry on and give him access to their resources?
I proposed that it could well be that he encouraged the families of his supporters to make a decision among themselves (subject to his own approval) as to just who is going to be their primary representative within his inner circle, while the rest are positioned to knowingly and willingly carry out his orders at one remove, with nothing to identify them as his. Then, if the family’s representative is caught, the whole family can then simulate horror and revulsion and do a convincing job of wailing about how they had been used with a strong likelihood of being able to carry it off. And, one assumes, after the dust settles, another representative is selected and takes the first’s place in the circle.
Well, it might certainly have worked. Even if Rowling didn’t happen to think of it.
• • • •
The situation in DHs — while totally implausible — certainly supports the contention that Tom must have had more than just marked DEs and imperiused puppets at his beck and call.
And while it now appears that I was considerably off-target, I still may not be completely wrong. Very much in the way that there was a very real cut-off point where no one finishing Hogwarts after a given date could have ever been a “real” Death Eater, it now appears that no one finishing their Hogwarts years before a given date is a likely candidate, either. In the manner of “young turks” everywhere, I seriously doubt that Tom Riddle and his merry pranksters gave squat about enlisting the active participation of their parents’ generation, or indeed much of anyone older and with more authority in the wizarding world than themselves. Or at least not through any means apart from coercion, either emotional or magical. It might be significant that the only former DE we’ve seen who appears to be significantly older than his 70s is Igor Karkaroff, who is a foreigner. And he may actually be within the standard DE age bracket and simply went grey-haired young.
But the first defeat of Lord Voldemort was a helpful interruption. By the time he was defeated at Godric’s Hollow, not all of his followers were still whole-hearted in their personal loyalties, regardless of their support for his assumed agenda. The 2nd generation DEs had not gone to school with Tom Riddle, and while Lord Voldemort expounded on the issues in exactly the manner they had been brought up to revere, in most cases he did not ever expend the effort necessary to charm them all into the sort of highly personal attachment that had roped in their fathers. He saved that sort of treatment for the new recruits which didn’t have a hereditary connection to his organization, or outsiders who could be particularly useful for whatever reason, such as Barty Crouch Jr and, possibly, Severus Snape.
And, of course Bellatrix, whose devotion was probably an unasked-for gift. And one which he does not really show that he particularly valued over the course of DHs.
But Lord Voldemort’s sudden disappearance and 13 years reprieve from both his expectations and his demands were quite enough to give some of his followers second thoughts. For the first time in their lives they were free, and self-determining. And I think that quite a few of them found that they preferred it that way. Particularly those who had signed up in hopes of political power, which had never materialized, mainly because Voldemort had no intention to actually overthrow the government. He just wanted to keep it afraid of him.
I think that had the raid on the DoM not ended in a shambles, and Lucius Malfoy had managed to retain some scrap of his Master’s favor, if Lucius had had anything to say in the matter, there would have been no actual Dark Mark in Draco’s future. Or, at least not until there was a new Malfoy grandchild slumbering innocently in his or her cradle. I cannot really see Lucius Malfoy regarding the possible extinction of the Malfoy name and honors as an acceptable price to pay for putting Lord Voldemort into power. Nor do I get the general impression that the Malfoys invariably marry and start spawning immediately upon finishing Hogwarts. Lucius would certainly not have pushed for Draco’s early marriage.
• • • •
To some extent, however, in trying to extrapolate the general stance of the wizarding world toward its young, one must also make some allowances for contamination from mundane culture. And probably ever more so as the 20th century progressed and the mundane entertainment industries became more prominent and more accessible to wizards.
Which would be readily noted as the number of wizarding families living in proximity to Muggle districts and the number of Muggle-born wizards participating in wizarding culture steadily increased. Once wizards’ families get very heavily into the forms of mundane entertainment they can’t help but absorb a lot of mundane values.
Even though I do still tend to doubt that most wizarding families maintain televisions. But that may be a misperception. You will notice that while there are rather a lot of rip-offs of Muggle tech circa about WWII era, there seems to be nothing much more recent than that. Despite the growing influx of Muggle-borns who are familiar with later tech. Possibly wizards are simply adopting the Muggle tech directly these days, and not attempting to make a living from converting or simulating a form of it which is suitable for sale to wizards.
But, still, I believe that general attitudes and policy in the wizarding world is typically set by the adults, and by the older adults at that. And the older wizards in the wizarding world today did not grow up in a society where there was such a high level of Muggle influence. In the wizarding world, as anywhere else, all things being equal, adults with a greater level of experience will find it easier to gather a following than adults without it. And, obviously, once a group has become entrenched, it will not readily risk its power balance by admitting outsiders into its gestalt.
Consequently, the group currently in control will age steadily until another group manages to displace them. And from what we saw of the Wizengamot, the group now in power probably is of an age range of 60-120, and most of those, as purebloods, did not grow up amid the mundane entertainment media.
Under this reading, if anything, Cornelius Fudge, who was only a Junior Minister some 15 years ago, comes across as surprisingly young for his position. And Lucius Malfoy as being very young indeed to have been able to wield so much influence over the past few years. To the point that until the publication of HBP, I seriously wondered what had happened to Lucius’s father. And to his grandfather.
Of course, at the end of DHs, with the whole of British wizarding society in a shambles from top to bottom, they are going to have to start rebuilding it somewhere. Unfortunately, if the bloody epilogue is to be taken seriously, it is clear that at most, they did nothing more than to recreate what they had when Harry first stepped into the Leaky Cauldron in the summer of 1991.
Which given any close examination, was nowhere in the vicinity of being “well”.