Chapter 2 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: In Memoriam
For the first time in six years, Harry is fully emptying his school trunk, deciding what to take on his mission and what to leave behind when he departs the Dursley house for the final time. While unpacking, something cuts his hand. Harry, still four days away from his seventeenth birthday, the age he can perform unrestricted magic, has yet to learn how to heal wounds. He plans to ask Hermione to show him. Hunting carefully through his trunk, he finds a glass shard from the broken two-way mirror his late godfather, Sirius Black, gave him. While heading to the bathroom to tend the cut, Harry stumbles over a tea cup left outside his bedroom door, a booby trap he assumes Dudley planted for him.
Harry reads Dumbledore's obituary in the Daily Prophet. It reveals that Dumbledore's father was sentenced to Azkaban for attacking three Muggle children. Albus quickly overcame his father's notoriety through his brilliant performance at Hogwarts, winning many honors there and corresponding with many learned witches and wizards.
Three years later, Albus' brother, Aberforth, joined him at Hogwarts. The two were unalike, Aberforth being more reserved and likely to settle differences by dueling, where Albus would debate the issues, but they were friends. After finishing school, Albus planned to travel the world with his friend, Elphias Doge, the obituary's author, when his mother, Kendra, died suddenly, leaving Albus the sole provider for the family. While Elphias traveled the world, another tragedy struck the Dumbledores: Albus' younger sister, Ariana, died suddenly. The brothers became estranged after, and Albus never discussed his family. Following this sad chapter, Albus went on to achieve many notable successes, including discovering twelve uses of Dragon's blood and defeating Grindelwald in an epic duel.
Looking at Dumbledore's picture, Harry realizes he barely knew the man; their conversations were mostly about him. Tearing out the obituary, he stuffs it into a book. In that day's Daily Prophet, Harry reads about an upcoming exposé on Dumbledore, excerpted from hack journalist Rita Skeeter biography about him. Harry flips to the interview with Skeeter, who, spinning her usual stylized lies, suggests that Dumbledore dabbled in Dark magic, that his sister, Ariana, was a Squib, that Aberforth broke Albus' nose at Ariana's funeral, claiming Albus killed her, and that the epic duel between Albus and Grindelwald may have been something other than it seemed. She hints that the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore was odd, even inappropriate, and that Harry was seen running from where Dumbledore fell to his death. And even though Harry testified against Snape, the long-standing grudge between them is public knowledge.
Harry is outraged, but there is little he can do. Distractedly turning over the mirror shard, he glimpses a sky-blue flash in it, the same color as Dumbledore's eyes. Studying the mirror closely, he only sees his reflection, and there is nothing blue nearby that could have been reflected in it. Dumbledore's eyes will never gaze upon him again, but all the same, he tucks the shard safely away in a front pocket.
Glimpses into Dumbledore's previously unknown history, which have been kept concealed, are revealed here. Doge's comments and Rita's interview imply that there is some significant, and possibly unsavory, mystery regarding Dumbledore's earlier life, though anything written by Skeeter, known for embellishing or fabricating her articles' facts, should be considered suspect. Regardless, Dumbledore's past appears to be darker and more secretive than most knew. And while Dumbledore's death has left a significant hole in Harry's life, much of that emptiness is now caused by what Harry never knew about his mentor, throwing Harry into emotional turmoil and groping for answers. He is still grief-stricken by the loss and deeply misses his mentor's comforting and protective presence, but he is also left confused, cut adrift, and doubting what Dumbledore's true intentions were; Harry also wonders whether Dumbledore ever loved him or was merely using him as a weapon to defeat Voldemort. These inner conflicts and doubts will plague Harry throughout the book, and could possibly affect his mission. Even allowing for Skeeter's poisoned pen, there are many mysteries about this mysterious wizard that will need significant explanation before Albus Dumbledore can finally be laid to rest.
The blue flash in the broken two-way mirror may also be significant. Is this Dumbledore somehow watching from beyond the grave? Harry apparently hopes so, considering his sudden care with the mirror shard.
- Could some of what the Daily Prophet states about Dumbledore be correct?
- Why would Rita Skeeter write a biography about Dumbledore? How accurate is it likely to be?
- Why did Harry know so little about Dumbledore's past? How much did Harry, or anyone, have the right to know?
- Why would Dumbledore's father have attacked three Muggle children?
- Why does Harry keep the mirror shard? What might the blue flash in it be?
- Who might have left the cup of tea outside Harry's bedroom door? Why would they leave it there?
Rita Skeeter's source for her book was the elderly and senile Bathilda Bagshot, a noted historian and Dumbledore family friend, who was also known by Lily Potter. Rita elsewhere alludes to having slipped Bathilda some Veritaserum to retrieve her memories. However, the only story that Bathilda could share, and thus the only one that Skeeter can report, is an outsider's point-of-view. That, highly coloured by Skeeter's acidic quill and Bathilda's likely addled recollections, will result in an extremely slanted, highly inaccurate, and damaging story.
Harry will labor under these skewed beliefs until Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus' younger brother, truthfully explains why his father attacked the three Muggle youths. Aberforth discloses that the Muggle boys had witnessed Ariana, their younger sister, performing magic, and had demanded that she do more. When she refused, the Muggles physically assaulted her. The resulting injuries left her permanently brain-damaged and unable to control her power. Their father retaliated, finding and attacking the Muggles, though he was later imprisoned. It was due to Ariana's brain damage that Kendra Dumbledore hid her daughter, fostering gossip that she was a Squib. Kendra feared that if Ariana's condition was discovered by the Wizarding community, she would forcibly be institutionalized "for their own safety". Unfortunately, when Ariana suffered an uncontrolled magical outburst, Kendra was accidentally killed. Ariana died in an accident soon after.
Following these tragedies, the young Albus Dumbledore became obsessively driven to pursue the titular Deathly Hallows. Like Harry, he desired to be reunited with his dead loved ones, and he believed that one Hallow possessed that power.
The eye that Harry occasionally glimpses in the broken mirror shard is not Albus Dumbledore's, but his brother Aberforth's. He apparently purchased several artifacts that Mundungus Fletcher looted from Sirius Black's ancestral home, including the twin to the magic two-way mirror Sirius gave Harry.
Readers should pay attention to the cup of tea left outside Harry's bedroom as it may be somewhat significant. It was Dudley who left it there, probably in a rather feeble attempt to make amends for mistreating Harry during their childhood but also to express his gratitude for Harry having saved him from the Dementors two years previous. This small episode plays no part in the overall plot, but the teacup may foreshadow Harry's search for Helga Hufflepuff's Cup, one of Voldemort's Horcruxes that Harry must destroy. The author will use a similar literary tactic when she directs our attention to Auntie Muriel's tiara, later in the book. That particular article, like the teacup, is also relatively insignificant, but it may foreshadow something else.