We saw in Half-Blood Prince that Hepzibah Smith was distantly related to Helga Hufflepuff and that Hufflepuff’s gold cup was in her possession. We also saw that Salazar Slytherin’s line ends with T.M. Riddle/Lord Voldemort through the Gaunt family, which was in possession of Slytherin’s gold locket and a Slytherin family heirloom, the Peverell ring. But we haven’t been given direct information identifying the family or families that descend from Rowena Ravenclaw or Godric Gryffindor.
I have a hunch that the Fortescues are in the Ravenclaw bloodline and that Florean Fortescue’s disappearance has something to do with a Ravenclaw founder relic or family heirloom. I also have a hunch that Great-Auntie Muriel’s goblin-made tiara is part of the story.
The Fortescue/Ravenclaw Connection
The majority of portraits of dead headmasters and headmistresses in Dumbledore’s office hardly ever speak and only a few are described in any detail. I’ve skimmed the books looking for passages involving these portraits, and mostly they are noted as snoozing or snoring with no other details given. Unless a portrait has a plot function, Rowling doesn’t zoom in on them, and the more important they are, the more fully they are described.
In the scene following Harry’s dream of the snake attack on Arthur in OP22, Dumbledore wanted Phineas to ask Sirius if the Weasley children could stay at 12 Grimmauld Place, but Phineas first pretended to be asleep and then balked at running the errand. Several portraits spoke in that scene:
Harry recognized Armando Dippet from the diary memory; Dippet was described in this scene as a frail-looking wizard who reminded Phineas that portraits are honor-bound to serve the present headmaster. He was spotted once more.
An unnamed gimlet-eyed witch holding a wand similar to a birch rod asked Dumbledore if he wanted her to persuade Phineas. (OP22)
Phineas was described as a clever-looking wizard with a pointed beard who was painted wearing the Slytherin colors of green and silver standing behind a Slytherin banner. Harry recognized his voice as being the same one that spoke to him at the beginning of OP from the empty portrait in his bedroom at 12 Grimmauld Place. Phineas made snarky comments in other scenes in OP and snorted in disrespect when Dumbledore agreed to take Harry to the cave in HBP.
Everard was described as a sallow-faced wizard with short, black bangs who was painted in front of a velvet backdrop; he went to his other portrait in the Ministry of Magic to sound the alarm for Arthur. He made a return appearance at the end of HBP to tell McGonagall that the MoM had received the news of Dumbledore’s death and would be arriving shortly.
Dilys was described as an elderly witch with long silver ringlets who was painted on a handsome leather armchair; she went to her other portrait at St. Mungo’s to see Arthur being taken in weak but alive. She later winked at Harry from her portrait at St. Mungo’s and appeared to be counting the Weasley children as they walked past on their way to visit Arthur.
One additional portrait was highlighted in this scene. The wizard in the portrait isn’t named in this scene, but the “corpulent, red-nosed” wizard was highlighted three times in OP and once in HBP. It appears that the corpulent, red-nosed wizard in all of the scenes is Headmaster Fortescue.
In OP, when Phineas appeared reluctant to visit Sirius to ask if the Weasleys could stay with him to be near St. Mungo’s:
“Insubordination, Sir!” roared a corpulent, red-nosed wizard, brandishing his fists. “Dereliction of duty!” (OP22)
In OP, when Harry was being confronted in Dumbledore’s office after the DA’s meeting had been raided, it was learned that Willy Widdershins overheard the first Dumbledore’s Army meeting at the Hog’s Head and reported it to Umbridge to avoid being prosecuted for causing toilets to regurgitate:
“Blatant corruption!” roared the portrait of the corpulent, red-nosed wizard on the wall behind Dumbledore’s desk. “The ministry did not cut deals with petty criminals in my day, no sir, they did not!”
“Thank you, Fortescue, that will do,” said Dumbledore. (OP27)
At the end of OP, when Dumbledore sent Harry back to his office alone using a portkey, the wizard spoke to him again:
“I hope this means,” said the corpulent, red-nosed wizard who hung on the wall behind Dumbledore’s desk, “that Dumbledore will soon be back with us?”
Harry turned. The wizard was surveying him with great interest. Harry nodded. . . .
“Oh good,” said the wizard. “It has been very dull without him, very dull indeed.”
He settled himself on the thronelike chair on which he had been painted and smiled benignly upon Harry.
“Dumbledore thinks very highly of you, as I am sure you know,” he said comfortably. “Oh yes. Holds you in great esteem.” (OP37)
In HBP, after Harry and Dumbledore reviewed the Horcrux memory Harry had just obtained from Slughorn, the wizard was again highlighted trying to hear their very interesting conversation about Horcruxes:
“Harry suddenly noticed that every single one of the old headmasters and headmistresses in the portraits around the walls was awake and listening in on their conversation. A corpulent, red-nosed wizard had actually taken out an ear trumpet.” (HBP23)
This portrait of Headmaster Fortescue interests me for several reasons:
Rowling doesn’t describe the appearance of a particular headmaster or headmistress or throw the spotlight on them more than once in any meaningful way unless they have a function in the story. Phineas, Dilys, and Everard are minor characters but they provided important information as errand-runners during critical moments. Headmaster Fortescue has been mentioned four times, yet he doesn’t have an obvious purpose in the story relative to the attention Rowling has given him.
Fortescue is described as corpulent and red-nosed, a description close to the “corpulent, red-cheeked” complexion and body type associated in the medieval theory of humours with the element of air. Rowling assigned the element of air to Ravenclaw. According to one website, the personality traits associated with this humour are amorous, happy, generous, optimistic, and courageous, which fits with the characters of the Headmaster Fortescue and his probable descendant Florean Fortescue, owner of the Diagon Alley ice cream parlor.
Fortescue is a surname with a known date of origin. Sir Richard Le Forte was a leader in the Norman army at Hastings. He protected Duke William (“the Conqueror”) by holding a large shield or escu in front of him. When William prevailed, Sir Richard changed his surname to Richard Fort Escu, which means “strong shield.” Richard’s son was granted lands in Devon by a grateful William for the family’s distinguished service to him, making the family instant landed aristocracy in England. The year (1066) was fewer than 100 years after the founding of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Headmaster Fortescue was painted sitting on a “thronelike chair,” which seems to hint that he was a member of a noble family. I can’t help but think of the Noble House of Gaunt, which referred to Slytherin’s line. Assuming the Fortescues are in Ravenclaw’s direct bloodline, we see that Ravenclaw’s line didn’t descend into the psychopathic squalor of Slytherin’s, but Florean Fortescue is a small business owner, not a member of the aristocracy. And true to Ravenclaw House’s reputation for having the most intelligent students, Florean is a scholar even though he made ice cream for a living.
Florean Fortescue helped Harry with his History of Magic homework at the beginning of Prizoner of Azkaban when Harry was staying at the Leaky Cauldron. Florean knew a great deal about medieval witch hunts and burnings and also gave Harry free ice cream sundaes every 30 minutes. Early in Half-Blood Prince, Bill Weasley reported that Florean had been dragged off by Death Eaters from the look of his ice cream place. Florean was described as a good man who must have done something to upset them.
The portrait of Headmaster Fortescue is directly behind Dumbledore’s desk. On a shelf above Dumbledore’s desk is the Sorting Hat, and next to the Sorting Hat is a glass case holding Godric Gryffindor’s sword. These are the only two known Gryffindor relics, and Horcruxes are largely about relics of the four founders of Hogwarts. In the HBP chapter in which Harry and Dumbledore reviewed Slughorn’s true Horcrux memory, Rowling focused on only one portrait—Headmaster Fortescue—who pulled out an ear trumpet to better hear their interesting conversation.
I believe the placement of the Fortescue portrait near the Gryffindor relics, the physical description of Headmaster Fortescue linking him to the element of air, and the thronelike chair on which Headmaster Fortescue was painted are hints that the Fortescues are in Rowena Ravenclaw’s bloodline.
The Weasley/Gryffindor Connection
This one is much easier since there are plenty of clues to tie the Weasleys to Godric Gryffindor and they’re all on the surface. The pure-blood Weasleys are predictably sorted into Gryffindor house, they have the red-hair and choleric temperament associated in medieval humour theory with the element of fire (choleric people are sometimes called bilious, and Ron mentioned having an Uncle Bilius), there are several links to the Weasleys and ferocious, fire-breathing animals (Charlie works with dragons, Bill wears dragon-skin boots, the twins wear dragon-skin jackets), and most importantly, they have royal/Arthurian names (Arthur, William, Charles, Percy Ignatius, George, Frederick, Ronald, and Ginevra). But this doesn’t mean that only the Weasleys are descended from Gryffindor, and I have a hunch that when Rowling seemed to agree (hesitantly) in an interview that Harry was not the Heir of Gryffindor, she meant he wasn’t the last surviving heir as Tom Riddle is Slytherin’s last surviving heir. (There’s still room for Harry to be in the Gryffindor’s bloodline. James and Lily were living in Godric’s Hollow after all. But I have a hunch—prompted by Charles Potter’s marriage to Dorea Black on the Black Family Tree—that Harry may somehow carry the blood of all four founders. That would tie into the Sorting Hat’s songs about house unity because Harry does need to be the unifier in this fractured world. However, it would mean that a Slytherin male had fathered an illegitimate child at some point since both Dumbledore and Voldemort believed Tom Marvolo Riddle to be the last of the line.)
So where’s the connection?
The only two times tiaras were mentioned in the six books occurred in the last few chapters of HBP: Harry used a tarnished tiara to mark the hiding spot for the Prince’s textbook in the Room of Requirement and Molly mentioned her Great-Auntie Muriel’s goblin-made tiara. In the absence of any other strong clues to point the way, a tiara is the best candidate for the object of the mystery Horcrux. Is it possible that Great-Auntie Muriel could own Rowena Ravenclaw’s tiara and not know its provenance (I don’t think Godric Gryffindor would have worn a tiara)? That seems unlikely. Yet Great-Auntie Muriel’s goblin-made tiara is interesting because Tom Riddle was visiting Hepzibah Smith to make an improved offer on her goblin-made armor, so maybe the “goblin-made” reference is a clue that we should be paying attention to this tiara. I can’t think of anything else in the books referred to as goblin-made. “Goblin-made” suggests it’s old and valuable, so it could be a Ravenclaw or Gryffindor family heirloom without being a true founder relic (just as the Peverell ring was a Slytherin family heirloom but not a true Slytherin relic). And since Ravenclaw was also described as “fair,” a beautiful adornment like a tiara that would encircle the mind is a very plausible Ravenclaw relic even it pertains to her decendants and not to Rowena herself
In the Horcrux hunt, we’re looking for “something of Ravenclaw’s or Gryffindor’s,” which seems to imply that it will be one or the other, but what if that phrase is itself a clue that the Horcrux will be both in some way? Just because the Slytherin line petered out into one remaining person (Riddle/Voldemort) doesn’t mean the same is true of either the Gryffindor or Ravenclaw bloodlines. For all we know, Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw each had five children and each child founded a series of multi-branching families over the last 1,000 years. The pure-blood families are all related to each other as we’ve been told and as we can see from a little bit of Black ancestry from the Black Family Tree. Molly’s reference to “our” Great-Auntie Muriel, might be suggesting that both Molly and Arthur have blood ties (however distant) to Muriel. After all, Hepzibah Smith only claimed to be distantly related to Helga Hufflepuff, not the last of her line as Marvolo claimed the Gaunts to be.
We don’t know how Muriel is related to Molly and Arthur, but since Ginny is the first Weasley daughter to be born in several generations (surely a clue for something in the story and we haven’t seen anything yet), it’s not a long-shot that Muriel married a Weasley, and it’s entirely possible that Muriel was a Fortescue. We’ve heard enough times that all the old wizarding families are related to each other, and Muriel as a Fortescue Ravenclaw married to a Weasley Gryffindor would help us to solve the identity of the mystery Horcrux, which, in a way, would be “something of Ravenclaw’s and Gryffindor’s.” If the relation between Arthur and Molly to Florean Fortescue is fairly distant, then we wouldn’t have necessarily heard about it even when Florean’s disappearance was being discussed in the Weasley kitchen. They never discuss Septimus Weasley’s marriage into the Black family even though Sirius and his relatives are discussed often enough. I’d say it’s a fair shot that the goblin-made tiara has connections to both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw bloodlines.
So where could this be going?
Aren’t we looking for “something of Ravenclaw’s or Gryffindor’s” that was made into a Horcrux a long time ago? Not necessarily. We know Voldemort had the Peverell ring, diary, Hufflepuff cup, and Slytherin locket Horcruxes under his belt by circa 1947-48. And we know Dumbledore believed Voldemort was planning to make his sixth Horcrux at Godric’s Hollow, but Dumbledore was making an educated guess and didn’t pretend to be certain about that. We frankly have no idea when Voldemort made the fifth Horcrux or even if he had made five Horcruxes by October 31, 1981.
Certainly someone in the family would have noticed if a valuable heirloom had gone missing years ago. But if the goblin-made tiara is a Ravenclaw family heirloom, and Voldemort learned about it years ago and turned it into a Horcrux, does it necessarily follow that he stole it from the family? He did indeed steal away the locket, cup, and ring but perhaps he considered that his next Horcrux would be safest left with the family guarding it. Suspicion fell on him when Hepzibah Smith’s most prized relics were discovered missing and the young man from Borgin and Burkes who had been shown them only days before her death had promptly disappeared after her death. Hokey took the blame for Hepzibah’s death, but the theft of the cup and locket was an unsolved crime. Voldemort knew from Hepzibah that her family would never sell the cup, so maybe he reasoned that an heirloom Horcrux like the tiara would be best protected if he left it where it was. Once he had taken the cup, ring, and locket, he needed to find safe places to hide them. By leaving the tiara in place, he eliminated the problem of finding a hiding place for it but still could be assured of its safety; moreover, if he managed to turn it into a Horcrux without anyone in the family catching on, no one would ever suspect what he had done to it.
So why then would Florean Fortescue need to be hauled off by Death Eaters in 1996? Perhaps Voldemort decided he wanted to put the tiara Horcrux in another location or check on it and learned that it had been moved, so he needed a family member to get it, and Florean Fortescue was easy to grab because he was out in the open in Diagon Alley. But that begs the question: why would Voldemort care that it had moved to another family member so long as it was still in the family and protected? And from a plot point of view, this theory is problematic because Harry has to find and destroy the Horcruxes before confronting Voldemort, and he won’t be able to do that if Voldemort had already started shifting them to new locations at the beginning of HBP. On the other hand, perhaps he did check the locations of his Horcruxes in the summer of 1996 just to be sure they were still where he left them, and he discovered that the tiara had been transferred to a new keeper (he could have known just by looking in the cave that the green potion was untouched, so he wouldn’t have needed to empty the basin and see the actual locket).
An alternative theory is that Voldemort made a seventh Horcrux with the death of Amelia Bones and forced Florean to get the tiara kept by Muriel to use for this new Horcrux. I do believe with others that Voldemort is so dehumanized at this point that he could only make another Horcrux at great cost to himself, but he does place great importance on the magical power of seven and knew the diary has been destroyed. He might want another Horcrux to replace the diary. On the other hand, the soul fragment from the diary wasn’t destroyed but merely released from its anchor and probably went behind the Veil, so his soul was still in seven parts despite the destruction of the diary Horcrux. The only difference is that one fragment is no longer anchored to the earth. But the main problem with this theory is that Harry would have to figure out that there’s an additional Horcrux out there. If Molly asks to borrow the goblin-made tiara for Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and Muriel discovers it’s missing but was last seen shortly before Florean disappeared, the trio may put it together quickly and realize that Fortescue was snatched to get a “trophy” item from Ravenclaw’s family line. One additional Horcrux would not be a super complication, but if the tiara is Horcrux #7, then that leaves us still trying to identify the “something of Ravenclaw’s or Gryffindor’s” mystery Horcrux. Rowling has a lot of ground to cover in Book 7 with the Horcrux hunt, Horcrux destruction, expected warfare with giants, werewolves, goblins, elves, Dementors, wizards, etc., ultimate confrontation with Voldemort, backstory to fill about Dumbledore, Lily, James, etc., and an extra Horcrux would be an unnecessary distraction and page-eater, so it’s not likely to happen.
However, what if Voldemort had only made five Horcruxes when he entered Godric’s Hollow in 1981, and he made the sixth Horcrux with the goblin-made tiara in 1996? If he made the cup and locket Horcruxes in the late 1940’s and planned to make his last Horcrux from Harry’s death in 1981 per Dumbledore’s guess, he was not in a rush to get seven Horcruxes made early on, so it is not a given that he had made #5 before 1981. Maybe he planned to use Harry’s death to make Horcrux #5, not #6. This scenario would mean that there would still only be six Horcruxes in total, three of them destroyed, and the “something of Ravenclaw’s or Gryffindor’s” will be easy to identify if indeed the Ravenclaw heirloom goblin-made tiara is found to be missing early in Book 7 and Florean’s disappearance turns out to be near the time it was last seen (so the trio will be able to put it all together). Rowling did say in an interview that on the subject of the remaining Horcruxes, Dumbledore’s guesses were not very far wide of the mark, and there is nothing about a Ravenclaw Horcrux made in 1996 to contradict that statement or Dumbledore’s guesswork. So if the “something of Ravenclaw’s or Gryffindor’s” is the goblin-made tiara, then the mystery Horcrux will be relatively easy to identify. Whether it will be easy to locate is another question unless it was placed for temporary safe-keeping in the Room of Requirement and Harry inadvertently used it to mark the location of his textbook.
This may seem too pat, but Rowling is in the home stretch now, and she has to connect plot threads in order to pull everything together in one final book, so for plotting economy, there is reason for Great-Auntie Muriel’s goblin-made tiara and the tiara in the Room of Requirement to be the same tiara. What better place to store the tiara than in a magical room the size of a Cathedral containing thousands and thousands of motley objects hidden there by generations of Hogwarts staff, students, and castle elves? According to Ravenclaw’s Famous Wizard card, she is best remembered for her intelligence and creativity and is thought to have developed the school’s ever-changing floor plan. She sounds like a good candidate to have developed the school’s ever-changing magical room as well, so wouldn’t there be a nice little tie-in with a Ravenclaw Horcrux hidden in an extraordinary room that Rowena created?
Whether the goblin-made tiara is a Ravenclaw or Gryffindor or both heirloom remains to be seen, but the plot lines will be knitting together in Book 7, and many of us expect Fleur and Bill’s wedding will be marred in some disastrous way. The discovery that the tiara the bride was to wear is missing could be a foreshadowing of this.
This essay is a classic example of fan theorizing before the final book was released. For many years, this was this kind of speculation which kept adult Harry Potter fans so enthralled with the series. When Rowling revealed so many details about what happens next in interviews after Deathly Hallows, fans felt a little cheated of their opportunity to speculate and theorize about things.