The Durmstrang Institute, a fortress of a castle within the northern parts of Europe into Scandinavia, is a school with an immense reputation preceding its name. This reputation arose from its founding in the year 1294 AD, which for the Wizarding World and the non-magical world, was considered the Dark Ages. A seemingly fitting name for a time period filled with a lack of education and incessant violence. However, for one particular witch by the name of Nerida Vulchanova, this was the perfect opportunity to make the Wizarding World right again by deciding to open up her own school in a tundra of a location. The reasoning for the location, of course, was to (sometimes literally) filter out the weaker wizards from discovering her secretive school. This inherent secrecy, as some may know, set the precedent for many years to follow as time progressed from one Headmaster to another. Nevertheless, those that did embrace the wintry tundra had received a very thorough education that mimicked that of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and some historians argue that the education was better at that time. (Although the following statement was a major controversy of its time, any school that offered an education was considered the best of them all.)
The founding of Durmstrang Institute and its subsequent years open to the selective public of northern Europe was considered a great success for the future of the school. However, there were darker times ahead for the school that all began with the rather mysterious death of Nerida Vulchanova. Her death, as any skeptic would assume, was not mysterious at all, but rather it was influenced by a variety of factors. The events leading to the untimely death of Nerida all began with a particular skirmish between the Headmistress and a former student of hers whose name was lost in history, but many speculate the name to be Hildegard Thenir. The name is speculated, of course, since there is no record of this name anywhere in the Durmstrang Institute, which is important because even expelled students yield records. However, the role that Hildegard plays into the death of Nerida Vulchanova may make it apparent as to why that may be.
To begin, Hildegard Thenir was unlike the common student at Durmstrang Institute, and was considered muggle-born, having magical abilities while both of her parents were non-wizards. It appalled Nerida Vulchanova that her parents were fine with her leaving home for months on end to go to an undisclosed location each year. What Nerida didn’t know, however, was that Hildegard had lied to her parents since her first year, and instead ran away to study with the fabled Headmistress. It took two years for Vulchanova to realize this, and she then decided to take Hildegard under her wing and independently trained her to be an extraordinary witch. For instance, one of the more prominent principles of Nerida Vulchanova was harnessing the innate capabilities of each witch or wizard. Unfortunately for her, this very principle was used against her.
Post graduation from Durmstrang Institute, Hildegard Thenir went off into the world, but as a recluse who never talked to anyone that was not magical, believing that the muggles had betrayed her for shaming and shunning her of her abilities. She decided to take fate into her own hands and expose her magical abilities to the public, only to face immense backlash from both the wizarding and non-wizarding world. Hildegard was taken into custody briefly, but then escaped to the only place that she was familiar with- Durmstrang Institute. However, Nerida Vulchanova was not pleased after hearing of the public altercation (and breach of the then-weak International Statute of Secrecy) from her fellow staff, more notably from Professor Harfang Munter. Together, Munter and Vulchanova decided that it was best to remove Hildegard from the premises on the basis of revealing the location of Durmstrang Institute before the Magical Government could institute their (few) Obliviators effectively.
Unfortunately for them both, Hildegard was followed by a collection of muggles who had vowed they would find this witch and try to use her powers for their own benefit, but some joined the mob simply in fear of the supernatural. Upon realization of this mass castle before them, many believed it to be a grand cathedral. Once a few of them had roamed onto the campus, the enchantments surrounding the school instantly alerted the Headmistress and her staff, which then sent the school into an immediate emergency situation. Thankfully for the magical capabilities of Nerida Vulchanova and Harfang Munter, the muggles did not go anywhere near the entrance, even if some were removed by force. Yet, this caused a definitive rift between Vulchanova and her old protégé, even to the point where the two got into a particularly momentous argument.
Words between the two soon turned to jinxes, and the battle had begun. However, the pupil in this case did not outrank her master, and Vulchanova was victorious as she had Disarmed Hildegard and demanded her to leave the premises and to never return. Despite advice to do so, Vulchanova didn’t make her pupil take an Unbreakable Vow, which turned out to be a mistake of a lifetime, for the true battle was nowhere near over.
Days turned into months since the skirmish between Vulchanova and Thenir, but the old Headmistress was beginning to become skeptical. A primary source of this skepticism arose from her collegue Harfang Munter, who held a certain prejudice against muggle-born wizards without reason. Vulchanova, though, was not pleased by this prejudice and believed in things happening for a reason, being a rather enlightened witch for her time. Even still, the Headmistress partially believed in closing her school from any prospective muggle-born students. This decision, however, would not come in her lifetime.
Approximately ten years after their initial skirmish, the Headmistress’s enchantments were once again set off by a presence of muggles, but this time much larger than before. When she looked out on the mass of people that were approaching her grounds, she found a familiar face leading the crowd, that of Hildegard Thenir.
Chaos could be the only word to describe the subsequent events, as Vulchanova rushed students into a safe haven within the bordering mountains near the school and as Munter gathered his dueling students and other staff to defend the school as best as they could.
The battle was chaotic, brutal, yet short-lived for the muggles, who had decided to retreat despite the orders of their leader. Yet, for those with magical capabilities, it was far from over. Since Hildegard Thenir was a rather capable witch herself, she forged a wand of her own creation so that it harnessed her power easily. Out of the want for pure revenge, Hildegard lay waste to her old home and destroyed as much of the castle as she could, before ultimately facing her instructor, mentor and Headmistress at her own office. The true battle had just begun.
Although the circumstances were just like that of the previous battle, this duel seemed different than the rest. Vulchanova understood clearly how much Hildegard had grown in power, and how she had met her match; she faced the battle with bitter pride. Due to her older age, Vulchanova was struggling to fend off her pupil, to the point where the tides were turned on her and she was disarmed. At that moment, Nerida knew what was coming next, and decided to face death in the eye. Yet, that was not the case at all. As Harfang Munter burst through the door of the Headmistress’s office, the last thing he would see would be Hildegard Thenir running towards Nerida Vulchanova before Disapparating and never being seen ever again…
Taking the reigns of a ruined school, then (unanimously decided) Headmaster Harfang Munter decided instantaneously to prohibit muggle-born students from attending Durmstrang Institute and to once again closely conceal the location of the castle. Despite his prejudices, however, Munter was rather clever and decided to rebuild the castle around the area that acted as a safe haven to the students during the Second Thenir Incident, as it would later be named. Although it was very easy for the powerful wizard to remove the ruins, he decided to keep it, as an ode to his former colleague and friend Nerida Vulchanova, but also as a reminder as to why muggle-born students were prohibited.
As time passed on, Munter became a very prominent Headmaster as he was tough in teaching, but the students felt as if he truly prepared them for the harsh realities of the world beyond Durmstrang. One of the more noticable skills that was required of the students would be dueling, which then became a requirement amongst students to develop the ability to attack and defend easily.
Unfortunately for Munter, his reign could not last forever, as he refused to delve himself too deeply into the dark arts. He knew that his time was coming to an end as Headmaster and he had to prepare his next one for the responsibility they faced. Munter then reached out to one of his best and most notable student by the name of Agna Mjolnise.
Now Agna was unlike Munter in the sense that she was less prejudiced against muggle-born students, and held beliefs that mimicked that of Nerida Vulchanova, which was something that Munter despised yet admired- hence the nomination for her to become Headmistress of Durmstrang Institute. Over the following months, Agna was told all the secrets surrounding the school, and was told even more details surrounding the Thenir Incidents than she already knew. Mjolnise was essentially to become the next Vulchanova, which Munter didn’t necessarily mean to impose upon his student, but knew what was to be her destiny.
Certainly, Munter was correct in that Mjolnise took the reins over the school with an iron fist. She was unwavering in her teachings and emphasis on deuling and even a little bit into the dark arts, but also held no room for conflict as she ended them rather quickly. Her lack of patience with conflict eventually led her to lifting the prohibition of muggle-born students, remaining confident that should another Thenir Incident occur, she would know as Munter informed her of all students he independently taught- that and she held a significant pride in her ability to duel, having beat Munter himself.
Agna Mjolnise would then instill a new precedent for the Headmasters of Durmstrang to follow, and it would be to have the prospective Headmaster be able to defeat the current Headmaster in a duel. However, this was seemingly an exception as time would later tell that Agna favored her own children to become Headmaster over, in some instances, a more capable witch or wizard. Although, as the years progressed, the students and families that attended Durmstrang Institute became rather familiar with the last name.
Around the year 1915, the family line had ended. The Mjolnise had died out with time, and the last Headmistress, Madam Petrine, was left stuck with a very difficult decision. She had a few nominees in mind, many of which involved an Estelle Nordskov, the youngest daughter of a small family that attended Durmstrang recently. Her family roots would’ve easily disregarded Estelle, since she came from a non-prominent family, but Petrine knew of the prowess that Estelle carried with her, being one of the renowned student duelists. Therefore, Petrine challenged Estelle one fateful day for the throne of Durmstrang. Within minutes, Estelle had easily Disarmed the great Petrine Mjolnise, solidifying her nomination into becoming the next Headmistress.
Estelle was very methodical in her approach to becoming Headmistress in that she was reminiscent of her predecessors, such as Agna Mjolnise and even as far back as Nerida Vulchanova, and was unwavering in her principles. However, these principles were not in concurrence with the general population, as she wanted to be more open to other subjects besides the required dueling and dark arts, two subject areas that Estelle was rather proficient at. These new ideologies, however, were not taken lightly by the public of Durmstrang Institute, and they decided to challenge the Headmistress. Their challenge mimicked that of an old Triwizard Tournament task, in that she had to retrieve an artifact that was being guarded by a dragon.
The crowd had severely underestimated Estelle, whose extracurricular studying had helped her easily defend herself against the dragon while studying its behavior to easily snatch the artifact in approximately fifteen minutes. Estelle had lived up to her impeccable reputation, and was successful in expanding the education of the Durmstrang Institute, while still upholding certain older principles.
There is still much in store for Estelle during her reign as Headmistress as she faces a greater threat, that of Gellert Grindlewald, an old student that Madam Petrine (the previous Headmistress) had informed her about, and how he delved too far into the Dark Arts. However, Estelle vowed that if Grindlewald were to come, she would be ready as she studied the journals of the greatest duelists of their time: Harfang Munter and Agna Mjolnise.