Anything you recognise belongs to JK. Anything else probably belongs to her too.
A series of excerpts from Master Alberto Literator's seminal work, Magnificent and Mighty Manual Manipulations of Magic.
From the Executive Summary:
…Magical rituals are inherently dangerous and unstable exercises in direct, manual manipulation of magical energy. While spells and potions are limited by the skill of the caster or brewer, a well implemented magical ritual could theoretically, with the necessary materials, design and timing, accomplish almost anything…
From Chapter 3 – A historical perspective on the development of Magical Rituals
…Thoroughly documented examples in the public domain are rare, and are almost exclusively both benign and derived from publicly funded research. Individuals who invest the necessary (indeed, usually enormous amount of) resources into the research and development of new rituals are quite rightly reluctant to allow others to profit from their efforts. As such, the prescribed methods, materials, processes and spells are generally regarded as family (or less often, as trade) secrets. It is not uncommon for experienced ritual crafters to 'accidentally' release misinformation regarding their creations, leading to serious injury or death for the unwary…
From Chapter 7 – Common aspects of all Magical Rituals
…The sheer density of magical power contained within a ritual often dwarfs the yearly magical expenditure of a typical magical community...
From Chapter 12 – Safety (expunged from the published version)
...Magical rituals, as a rule, should not be interrupted.
At least, not by those who prefer living…
My efforts in studying magical theory have historically - not to mention infamously - been rather poor. During my years of formal education at Hogwarts, I was always far more successful with the practical application of magic rather than the theoretical. I could demonstrate the slight variations on the standard wand movements that enabled a caster to eke out a little more power from a spell, but I couldn't tell you why those very same movements worked better.
While I must take the majority of the blame for this state of affairs, at least a small part of the blame lies with my friends.
One of my best friends was always more interested in coasting through school. He unconsciously trusted that the inherent knowledge obtained from being raised in a purely magical environment would stand him in good stead around exam time. From his influence, I developed poor discipline in my study habits that was distinctly difficult to overcome as I grew older.
Another of my friends was so far on the opposite end of the spectrum that it was a wonder there wasn't some sort of explosion whenever they happened to be in the same room. She would urge, cajole, beg, plead, bribe and even, on one memorable occasion, blackmail me into working hard enough to get far better grades than I deserved. While I will be forever grateful for her foresight, her prodigious abilities allowed me to develop another fundamentally poor study habit. The habit of dependence. For years, whenever I was presented with a problem (schoolwork or otherwise) with no clear solution, I would rely on her to assist me, rather than try to work the solution out for myself. On the few occasions she declined her assistance, my sulking invariably tainted any solution I came up with.
To the surprise of many, including myself, I finally began studying in earnest after my formal education had ended. Once I had a goal in life beyond merely surviving to adulthood, I found that learning about magic was actually enjoyable. Enchanting, as it were. Much of my studying since the end of my Hogwarts career has been around the darker aspects of magic, and how to counteract it. That knowledge enables me to make a positive impact on the world.
Well, that's not quite correct. It would be more accurate to say that I remove some of the many negative impacts on the world. More specifically, I remove the negative impacts also known as dark wizards.
Now, I don't go out and simply kill those who delve deeper than is acceptable into the darker aspects of magic. Well all right, I do. Occasionally. But only if it's necessary. Riddle Junior, for instance. It was necessary for me to kill him. Fate you see. People who actively try to deny their destiny tend to end up reinforcing it. A lesson my nemesis learned first hand.
Honestly, using a Killing Curse on a toddler? He was overcompensating for something, I'm sure.
But, as I said, I don't go around indiscriminately butchering those who prefer curses and hexes to jinxes and charms. It is far more effective to negate the power and influence of dangerous magic users. After all, there was a big difference between someone dangerous, like Lucius Malfoy, and someone less so, like Marvolo Gaunt.
Both wizards were inordinately proud of the fact that they had individuals making appearances on both sides of their family tree. Both were sociopaths who thought that Muggles were a blight upon the earth. And both had, at best, average magical skill.
But the Malfoys (or rather, the Malfoy name) had money and influence behind it. The Gaunts did not.
So, rather than chlorinating the magical gene pool, I remove the negative impacts on society by depriving these bastards of the source of their power. Officially, I'm employed by various ICW members as a consultant to assist them with internal problems stemming from various dark magic users.
But when you say, 'Officially', there is always a corresponding, 'Unofficially', isn't there?
Despite my new-found enjoyment of learning, my more recent studies are stunted by the fact that I rarely get the chance to actually sit down to study. That is to say, I rarely get the chance to sit down to study uninterrupted. And almost without exception, these interruptions all boil down to one single fact.
I am the Master of Death.
Being the owner of all three Deathly Hallows should, in theory, be quite liberating. And it's not bad at all, if I'm completely honest. It's just that, well, it would be so much better if nobody actually knew. In the six years since becoming the Master of the Hallows, I have been obliged to prove, on all too many occasions, that my exam scores at Hogwarts were no indication of my practical magical skill. I have had to fend off attempts (ranging from clumsy to deadly) on my life and wand a couple of times a month. Yes, it gives my life a certain zest, but my 'official' work through the ICW already generates more than enough interest for any not-entirely-sane wizard, thank you very much.
I occasionally find myself wondering if the positives from possessing the Hallows still outweigh the negatives.
The list of benefits is extensive, I will quite happily admit. During the course of many of my gigs, I have all too often found it difficult to convince recalcitrant witches and wizards to reveal information they'd prefer to keep to themselves. One of my natural talents, as Dumbledore himself noted, is the ability to ferret out secrets. Quite often I somehow manage to end up exactly where I need to be to discover what I need to know; a trait that annoys so many people that even Snape would be hard pressed to register in the top quarter of the list. However, it is almost always faster to get the info directly, rather than spend time and effort to discover it surreptitiously.
Other 'governmental consultants' have to take care not to accidentally kill these potential sources of information, while those very same sources are not labouring under reciprocal conditions. This fact makes the truly successful members of my profession very rare. Those who can protect themselves but not keep their information sources alive don't tend to be as successful in their missions. Those who cannot protect themselves while keeping their targets alive usually don't complete their first.
Not me. I'll always do everything practicable to keep the body count as low as possible, unless of course I'm being paid a hefty premium to ensure that my target is never a direct danger ever again. But I possess a ring that allows me to question even those inclined to the suicidal. Dead men do in fact tell tales. To me.
I sort of fell into the contracting game. There wasn't an advertisement in the Prophet or anything like that. After I'd turned Riddle into a country-wide, week-long hangover, the Ministry of Magic had so few trained Aurors left that they could barely keep the Statute of Secrecy in place. The Ministry offered me a position in their ranks despite the fact that I hadn't even sat my NEWTs. I probably would have accepted it too and happily sauntered down a life path that included a red-headed wife, two point five children and a house with a white picket fence, if it hadn't been for one thing.
The idiots in charge decided to risk another Goblin Rebellion™ by claiming as much gold as they could from the vaults belonging to recently extinct family lines. The money pilfered was used to establish a fund from which sizable bounties were offered for each follower of Voldemort captured.
At that point, the only real problem I had was the fact that the offer came into existence after I'd killed the Head Honcho. The decision that changed my life was the Wizengamot shutting down magical border control. They hoped that the surviving members of Team Loser would just take a permanent (or at least, an extended) vacation abroad in less inhospitable climes, out of their jurisdiction and thus, out of their hair.
That decision - and subsequent action - pissed off a lot of people. But the majority of the wizarding world couldn't be more easily led even with rings bolted through their collective noses. They complained for a day or two and then went back about their business.
I however, did not. A few close friends of mine were, due in no small part to their prior association with me, also prepared to join in taking direct action against two (somewhat overlapping) groups of idiots.
Group A consisted of the remaining slaves of a recently deceased, unmourned, insane megalomaniac. Whether branded or not. In an effort induce fear rather than ridicule, they had called themselves Death Eaters. In my opinion, that was a strong medal contender in the "Most Stupidly Named Terrorist Group Ever" Olympics.
That is, until I discovered something that made me slap my forehead and wonder why everyone was so frightened of them. Apparently, back in the days when they first pulled on the bone mask and went Muggle hunting, they originally went by the name "The Knights of Walpurgis".
It was at that point I decided that, as a group, Death Eaters had fewer creative talents than a baboon with a handful of its own feces. And that they were in desperate need of a decent Public Relations firm.
Despite the Ministry's best efforts to enable, if not allow it, I was not going to let the sociopathic bastards get away again. Many of the survivors actually thought that they'd be able to lay low for a spell, and then pop up and dust off the old, "Honest guv, I was under the Imperius" defence. They'd drop a few galleons in some pockets, and go about their business. Neville, Ron and I spent some time under WWW-brand Polyjuice courtesy of George. We convinced a few ringleaders to organise the rest to meet up, by convincing them that they needed to get their stories straight.
The three of us then crashed every one of these gatherings, and bankrupted the recently-established bounty fund. In the first week of the offer alone, we rounded up three groups of a dozen or more Death Eaters.
Group B was of course, the Wizengamot. Not the Ministry of Magic, despite the dubious habit of people using the terms interchangeably. The Ministry was full of civil servants who were, for the most part, just trying to make a living wage writing reports on cauldron bottoms. It was the legislative/judicial branch, aka the Wizengamot, that dropped the proverbial ball. They were desperate to make the remaining Death Eaters at large someone else's problem. A number of members also didn't want any of their dealings or support entered into the public record.
So Ron and I came up with a little friendly competition to determine the best way to hit the pocketbooks of both sets of idiots.
Ron's idea involved double-dipping. If we were on the trail of a wealthy Death Eater, I'd stay under my cloak as backup while Ron made the take. With Ron's family's financial woes well known, more often than not he'd be offered a bribe to let the poor (that is to say, unfortunate) Death Eater go. Since the bounties for both marked and unmarked Death Eaters were in the five figure range, the bribes on offer were pretty substantial, even from my trust-fund-baby perspective. I'd drop a couple of trackers on the target while the stacks of coins changed hands. Once the target had buggered off, Ron would hide under the cloak, and we'd drop on the Death Eater again for the bounty less than a minute later.
This tactic induced the sort of annoyance in a lot of people that was usually associated with burst aneurysms.
I'm not sure which was more satisfying; the looks on their faces or the lovely clinking sound your enemy's gold makes when it lands in your vault. It's a tough call.
My brainwave (while more actual work) was far more financially successful. Ron and I set ourselves up as 'Anonymous Azkaban Extraction Consultants'. We'd make secret, unsolicited approaches to the families of those unfortunate, misunderstood, hardworking and honest Death Eaters, offering to break them out of prison - so long as the aforesaid families could afford our fees.
Said fees were on an obscure and complex sliding scale, based on what the families could pay – ranging from flippin' expensive through overly exorbitant all the way up to 'hock the mansion and rummage for change down the back of the sofa. Oh, and that sofa looks comfy, so we'll have that too'.
Once the gold was in our 'company' vault, Ron & I would spring them from prison; a process made much easier by a combination of the island's low Dementor population and rushed Auror training. Part of our Extraction Service included a Fidelius-hidden bolt hole, where we'd insist the ex-prisoners reside for a while 'until the heat died down'. Over the next few days, we'd add a few paranoia-inducing potions to their food. This guaranteed that despite their relative safety in their hidden (yet well bugged) location, they'd try to run sooner rather than later. We'd simply follow along. One quick pick up later and Ron and I would have another bribe and another bounty. Occasionally, we'd get a bonus for quietly retrieving an escapee without letting the media find out.
Our prices were so obscene that Lucius actually had to sell Malfoy Manor and its surrounding lands to pay for his and Draco's third Azkaban Extraction. The blond ponces only twigged to the fact that they were being played when the Prophet ran a story about Ron moving his entire extended family (which is pretty much the textbook definition of the term 'extended') into the old Malfoy ancestral home.
Draco's expression on hearing the news was a classic. That memory has been fuelling my Patronus ever since.
Soon, the Death Eaters discovered that, to their abject horror, no one was interested in associating with them anymore. It wasn't their family name, or pure blood status, or history that had attracted sycophants. It was the gold.
In all truth, I was surprised that they were... well... surprised. Hell, the Weasleys were a classic case in point. The Malfoys or Parkinsons are barely fertile, pureblood families that produce pathetic scions like Draco and Pansy - powerful, but only because of their wealth. The Weasleys are a pureblood family that pumps out powerful magical babies by the proverbial truckload, but they are dirt poor - a laughing stock.
Well, they used to be poor; the current generation has changed that.
Eventually, most of Voldie's old buddies were too broke to offer a bribe or pay us to get them out of prison. With about two thirds of the wizarding world's dark money out of the hands of the old families, Neville had the ready cash to fund a couple of impressive election campaigns for himself and Hermione, and none of their potential opponents had the ability to fund a counter-campaign. The pair even set a couple of records on their appointment to that body; the youngest ever member and the first Muggle-born member respectively. With the backing of all that gold, they managed to influence (read: bribe) a sizable voting bloc in the Wizengamot and began a series of reforms that caused pure-blooded shrieks of anguish audible from almost any part of the country.
Such indicators suggest that they are doing quite well for themselves.
Ron decided he had enough gold and quit the contracting game. Flush with dirty cash, he bought himself a seat on the board of his beloved Cannons. The money didn't help them win any games however. It is entirely possible that a powerful witch or wizard put a curse on them in decades past, sort of like the Defense position at Hogwarts. Despite the Cannon's continued lack of success, Ron was obscenely pleased with himself. The fact that he spent a lot of his spare time in his vault acting like Scrooge McDuck may have been a contributing factor. Once he learned to spell the coins soft after the first, memorable incident. Gold is *hard* when you land on it.
As for me? I'd come to the conclusion that the Wizarding World could go hang. I had literally given my life for them, only to be betrayed time and again. I was not about to take the standing offer to enter the Auror corps, even assuming I could get a handle on the whole obeying authority concept. I'd been well and truly cured of my 'saving people' habit, at least as it pertained to the Wizarding World at large.
If I was going to be pressed into service, I was damn well going to be paid.
Plus, I was hooked on the adrenaline rush.
I got a lot of kit custom made for the stated purpose of taking dark wizards down, and spent quite a bit of time studying magic that had passed me by at Hogwarts. With a reputation for successfully capturing extremely powerful people and a wand that makes any spell I cast stupidly overpowered, I began receiving dossiers on "person or persons of interest" from other countries. And occasionally from other governments too.
But 'catching' wasn't the primary reason I got my custom gear made. Sure, putting a dark wizard behind bars was the popular thing, but it didn't fix the underlying problem. These bastards were wealthy, or they had wealthy patrons. I reasoned that I would have far more long-term success at keeping dark wizards down by appropriating their resources. If someone had managed to bankrupt the Malfoy family sometime after the Halloween of '81, Voldemort's return after the Tournament would not have been so devastating.
So, I've got a kick-arse invisibility cloak, a ring that allows me to question dead people, and a wand that craps all over Olivander's best. They're combined with basilisk-hide clothes and about three-quarters of Borgin & Burkes' inventory shrunken down in various pockets, liberated before the shop mysteriously burned to the ground. With my history of attempting insane manoeuvres (and not just on a broom), they make me uniquely suited to publicly be a bounty hunter. A very, very expensive bounty hunter.
But oddly enough, it also makes me a damned fine thief.
I've nicked half the contraband in Knockturn Alley. Some of the vendors there have had to get legitimate part time jobs to make ends meet. The Department of Mysteries are still looking for several dozen unique volumes that disappeared from their 'forbidden library'. The Malfoys were decidedly pissed when they discovered everything missing from their drawing-room hiding place. Hell, I've broken into and out of Gringotts three times since the infamous Dragon-Ride-Over-London incident, and the goblins still don't have any idea why a handful of vaults belonging to powerful arseholes are short several of metric tonnes of gold.
(I'd have loved to have been listening through an extendable ear when the goblins explained to Madam Roysten that she couldn't afford the bribes she was paying out. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the meeting. I was busy, toasting her new-found poverty. With the contents of her own wine cellar.)
Yes, I'm a criminal.
And I'm no Robin Hood. Keeping up with modern advances in security is quite expensive. Muggle advances at least. The last magical advance not invented by WWW was probably the upgrade in travel technology known as the Hogwarts Express.
Despite the advantages I have, there are times that I do regret my poor study habits. Were I even able to learn, remember and plan a quarter as well as my studious school friend, I'd not find myself caught up in the most inconvenient situations.
Like the one today.
It had taken me nine long weeks to track down my target. I only managed to catch up to her after following her blood-stained, corpse-littered trail through Paris, Berlin, Osaka, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Singapore, Rome and back through Paris again. Ironically, I was only a few hundred miles away from the starting point of my journey. I felt a bit like Filius Fogg.
AN: Believe it or not, the Death Eaters were originally called the Knights of Walpurgis.
Source of information: BBC Newsnight Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Transcript of JK Rowling: The Interview
"'...in here is the history of the Death Eaters and I don't know that I'll ever actually need it - but at some point - which were once called something different - they were called the Knights of Walpurgis...'" - J.K. Rowling.