In every history book in the wizarding world, it is written that the Dark Lord first rose in 1970, gained power and supporters in the subsequent years, but was brought to his downfall by little Harry Potter in 1981, ending what was known as the Years of Terror. During these eleven years, heinous acts were carried out, both by the Light and the Dark sides, for war had blurred the lines between good and evil, and right and wrong.
The Christmas of 1975 was a day which would go down forever in wizarding history as Ash Christmas. It was a day when the distinctions between Light and Dark were severely tried, and the means to an end were put into question.
It all started with an attack by the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters a week before Christmas. Clancy Darlington, a distinguished member of the Wizengamot, was found tortured and killed in his family home, along with his Muggle wife and their son. Only his daughter escaped, being away at school. The murder of such an important official set the wizarding world on edge. Pressure was on the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, both to avenge the Darlingtons, and to finish this business with He Who Must Not Be Named.
And so, having worked hard to track down the Death Eaters, the Aurors gathered at the small seaside town of Folkestone based on a tip on Christmas evening, waiting to ambush twenty Death Eaters on a festive Muggle-torturing spree.
They waited until the Death Eaters arrived, drunk and ready for a night of Muggle-hunting fun, and they set up barriers, including Anti-Apparition wards and physical Containment Charms around ten of the houses, to be sure all the Death Eaters were properly surrounded. Under the orders of the Head of Department, Bartemius Crouch, a magical fire was set. It could not be put out with a wand.
They burned down the houses, along with the Death Eaters, who never had a chance to escape. The few that survived by pure chance were taken, badly burnt and half-dead, into custody. None survived to see the next year.
The horrifying part was that the Muggles in the houses did not survive either. A necessary sacrifice, it was called. The response to this was varied. Albus Dumbledore criticised it heavily, but there were many others who supported it, seeing only the dead Death Eaters and rejoicing.
Perhaps it was forgotten, in their thirst for revenge against the Dark side, that their means of vengeance did not fall far from Lord Voldemort’s.
The repercussions of Ash Christmas were to spread beyond anything the wizarding world could have imagined. Indeed, few know that it was actually a beginning to the end – an end which would arrive six years later. For among the people of the wizarding community were a group of students in Hogwarts who were touched, in some way or another, by this horrible tragedy: a group of students who were destined for greatness.