Chapter 28 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Missing Mirror
As soon as Harry, Ron, and Hermione Apparate into Hogsmeade Village, a screeching alarm announces their presence. A Death Eater, guessing that it is Harry, attempts to Summon the Invisibility Cloak they are concealed under, but it fails to respond, keeping the Trio hidden. As they back down a side street, Hermione wants to Apparate out of Hogsmeade, but Harry says that protective spells have probably trapped them there. A sudden chill sweeps in and darkness starts enveloping everything around them: Dementors, sensing their fear, close in. Unable to withstand their suffocating presence, Harry casts a Patronus, scattering the Dementors, but revealing their location. A Death Eater yells that he has seen Harry's Patronus. A nearby door cracks open, and a harsh voice calls out, "Potter, in here, quick!"
Dashing inside, the Trio find themselves in the Hog's Head Inn. From an upstairs window, Harry recognizes the tall barkeeper talking to the Death Eaters outside as Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus' younger brother. Aberforth claims he accidentally set off the Caterwauling curfew alarm while putting his cat out and insists it was his goat Patronus; the Death Eaters initially disbelieve him, but, thrown off the trail, and not wanting to risk losing a convenient location to trade black market goods, decide to leave. Aberforth rebukes the Trio for risking their lives coming to Hogsmeade. Harry spots the twin to the mirror Sirius gave him; Aberforth explains he bought it from Mundungus Fletcher, who stole it from Grimmauld Place. Aberforth has been watching them with it. Harry recognizes Aberforth's eye as the one in the mirror shard and realizes that he sent Dobby to rescue them. Aberforth confirms it was him and is saddened to hear Dobby is dead.
Ron thinks Aberforth sent the doe Patronus, but Aberforth sarcastically reminds him that his Patronus is a goat. Aberforth suggests they wait until the Caterwauling alarm is turned off in the morning, then escape into the mountains. Harry insists they must get into Hogwarts castle because Dumbledore asked him to do something. Scoffs Aberforth, "Did he now? Nice job, I hope? Pleasant? Easy? Sort of thing you'd expect an unqualified wizard kid to be able to do without overstretching themselves?" Ron and Hermione are obviously uncomfortable, and Harry remains silent, struggling with his own misgivings regarding Dumbledore, though he had already resolved to continue trusting him. Aberforth claims that others who trusted Dumbledore often suffered misfortune as a result. He urges the Trio to abandon their mission, believing the Order of the Phoenix is finished and Voldemort has won. It is time to save themselves. Against Harry's protests, Aberforth asks if Dumbledore had been honest and revealed the entire story to Harry. When Harry is unable to respond, Aberforth says that Dumbledore reveled in lies and secrecy, learning it at their mother's knee.
Hermione attempts to ease the tension by inquiring about Aberforth's sister, Ariana, but this backfires when Aberforth brusquely asks if she has been reading Rita Skeeter's book. Harry quickly changes the subject by mentioning Elphias Doge. "That old berk," sneers Aberforth. "Thought the sun shone out of my brother's every orifice." Harry says nothing, still attempting to conceal his uncertainty. Aberforth reveals that Ariana, aged six, was injured by Muggle boys who observed her performing magic. She was never the same, eventually going half-mad and unable to control magic. Their father hunted down the boys in retaliation, but he never told the Ministry why he assaulted them, because, once revealed, Ariana would have been permanently committed to St. Mungo's Hospital. Instead, the family kept her hidden, fostering rumors she was a Squib. With their father in prison, Aberforth and his mother, Kendra cared for Ariana as best they could. Aberforth was Ariana's favorite. Albus, involved with his studies and winning prizes, usually confined himself to his room when at home. One day, while Aberforth was out, Ariana flew into a rage. Unable to subdue Ariana's uncontrollable magic, Kendra was accidentally killed. Albus canceled his Grand Tour with Doge and returned home to care for Ariana and support the family while Aberforth finished his schooling. Aberforth claims Albus resented the responsibility that was forced upon him, though Aberforth had offered to relieve him. Then Albus met Grindelwald, a wizard he considered as brilliant as himself. The two quickly bonded, and, drawn by their mutual attraction to power and fame, hatched an elaborate scheme to create a new Wizarding order. When Aberforth learned about their grandiose plans, a three-way duel erupted; a stray curse killed Ariana. Aberforth claims Albus was glad his burden was gone, but Harry says he always carried it, recounting the night Albus died. After drinking the potion in the sea cave, Albus was raving, pleading with an unseen person not to hurt them. Harry is certain he was begging Grindelwald to spare his brother and sister, though Aberforth remains skeptical.
Harry resolves to continue the mission. Knowing Voldemort could be killed, Dumbledore gave that knowledge to Harry. If Aberforth refuses to help sneak them into Hogwarts, then they will find their own way in. Relenting, Aberforth agrees to help and speaks to Ariana's portrait. She turns to leave, but rather than disappearing from the frame sideways as figures normally do, she instead turns and disappears down a long, dark passageway behind her. Aberforth explains that there is only one way into the castle now, the old secret passages are being guarded. Ariana soon returns accompanied by someone. As they reach the portrait, it swings open to reveal a tunnel; standing inside is Neville Longbottom.
For Harry, uncovering the truth about Albus Dumbledore has been a journey nearly as long and difficult as his quest to find the Horcruxes and this truth has come in many pieces, from various sources and over time, creating a complicated and still unsolved jigsaw puzzle. Searching for answers has tested and strained Harry's loyalty and faith in his mentor, causing him to question whether the man he loved and thought he knew and trusted had ever loved him in return, and was the good person he believed him to be. Aberforth Dumbledore provides crucial information that helps Harry to better understand Albus' past behavior regarding his family. This has partially restored Harry's faith in Albus, but not entirely.
Until now, Aberforth has remained a curious and vague background figure, but his character becomes more defined here as he assumes a prominent role filling in the story's many gaps. Despite their physical resemblance, the two brothers have vastly differing talents, dispositions, and personalities. Albus' brilliance outshone his brother, but Aberforth's antagonism toward his elder brother was less about sibling rivalry and petty jealousy, than it was suppressed anger and deep-seated resentment over Albus' using his superior talents for pursuing his personal goals and accolades to shirk family responsibilities, letting the burden for Ariana's care fall upon Aberforth and their mother, Kendra. However, it is questionable whether the Dumbledores' decision, however well-intentioned, to keep Ariana hidden at home was ever a wise one. Ariana and the entire family might have fared far better if she had been placed in a structured setting where she could be cared for by professional healers rather than being hidden away. It is unclear if their decision was based on whether the quality of care at that time was sub-standard or if the stigma of having a severely handicapped child was simply too shameful for such a prominent family to bear, particularly following their patriarch's notoriety. Whatever their reasons, it eventually led to tragic circumstances and forced Albus to abandon, or at least postpone, his lofty ambitions to instead support his younger siblings. And while Aberforth's desire to care for his sister in his brother's stead may have been noble, Albus retained sufficient belief in education's importance that he refused Aberforth's request to leave Hogwarts so he could tend to their sister in Albus' place. Albus' bitter despair (and perhaps self-imposed martyrdom) over abandoning his goals may have been a factor in him falling prey to Grindelwald's Dark influence, though that hardly excuses Albus' behavior.
Albus and Aberforth maintained an amicable truce throughout their adult lives, but their suppressed emotions kept them aloof with one another, perhaps mutually fearing that spending too much time together would stir up old animosities or erupt into a violent debate over who actually killed their sister. Regardless whose curse fatally struck Ariana, each shared responsibility in her death by allowing their long-simmering hostilities to explode into an out-of-control confrontation, though Albus' brief foray into the Dark Arts with Grindelwald certainly played a more significant factor in the events leading up to the tragedy. Interestingly, though the brothers never grew close, they lived near one another, Albus at Hogwarts and Aberforth in Hogsmeade, sharing an occasional drink at the Hog's Head Inn.
Albus' death has hardly softened Aberforth's feelings, however. When Harry says he is on Albus Dumbledore's mission, a sneering Aberforth mocks him (and Albus), causing Harry to recall his own doubts and concerns about Albus and forcing him to acknowledge that Aberforth's harsh words contain truth. Like Aberforth, readers must also be wondering why such a young, inexperienced, and unqualified wizard, even an immensely talented one like Harry, would have been given such a dangerous and seemingly impossible mission while being provided so little information. Harry resolves to remain loyal and trust Albus Dumbledore, dedicated to continuing the mission. He also attempts to convince Aberforth that Albus did indeed love his family and tried to protect them from Grindelwald. The pessimistic Aberforth remains skeptical, but he, perhaps surprisingly, sets aside his lingering animosity toward his brother, his capitulatory view regarding the war, as well as any doubts that Harry can succeed, and helps the Trio sneak into Hogwarts.
While Aberforth has provided many answers about Albus and Grindelwald, his recollection differs from what Rita Skeeter, Bathilda Bagshot, Elphias Doge, and Aunt Muriel claimed. And though Aberforth has provided an apparently factually accurate account about his family, his version should not be considered the conclusive one. Truth is often subjective and nebulous, and it is affected by others' opinions, personal experience, imperfect memories, individual bias, and raw emotions. Rarely is there a singular maxim, and all versions must be studied, weighed, and filtered before a definitive conclusion can be drawn. Even then, many will still disagree and instead believe only their own viewpoint. Although Aberforth has solved many mysteries, and filled in many missing pieces, he lacks all the facts and the puzzle remains incomplete—there is still much more to be learned about Albus Dumbledore.
- What is Aberforth's response when Harry tells him Dumbledore assigned the Trio a mission? What does Aberforth mean by this? Is he right?
- Why does Aberforth believe the war is lost and Voldemort has won? Is he correct? Does he really believe Voldemort has won?
- How does Aberforth's explanation about his family differ from Rita Skeeter's version in her book? How does it differ from Auntie Muriel's and Doge's?
- Why does Harry resolve to continue trusting Dumbledore, despite his own numerous doubts and concerns about him and the mission?
- Why does Aberforth finally agree to help the Trio sneak into Hogwarts?
- Why would Aberforth have bought the mirror from Mundungus Fletcher? Did he know when he bought it that Harry had the matching twin? If so, how?
- Harry tells Aberforth what Dumbledore said during his delirium in the sea cave. Is Harry's interpretation correct? Will this ever change what Aberforth believes?
- Why was Aberforth watching the Trio in the mirror?
- Is Aberforth's explanation about his family the truth or merely his version of it? Explain.
- Hogwarts' former Headmasters typically have more than one portrait in different locations, often visiting them back and forth. If Aberforth has a talking portrait of his sister, why doesn't he have one of Dumbledore? Would this have helped or hurt the war effort?
- If Ariana has a connecting portrait to Hogwarts, why doesn't Dumbledore's portrait communicate with Aberforth through her? Why would her portrait be in Hogwarts?
- Why would Aberforth be in contact with Neville Longbottom?
Although Aberforth claims to believe that Voldemort has already won the war, it will be learned that, apart from his offering Harry a place to hide, he has been secretly helping the resurrected Dumbledore's Army. It is unclear why he does this. He may simply be assisting the students because he is concerned for their safety, even though he believes they are fighting a lost cause. He does, however, participate in the Battle of Hogwarts, fighting within the school, actively defending it against Voldemort. Given this, it is entirely likely that Aberforth, in claiming that Voldemort has won, is, consciously or otherwise, testing Harry's mettle, trying to determine the depth of Harry's commitment to Albus' cause. This would also explain his immediate willingness to help once Harry declares that he will proceed with or without Aberforth's help. He may also realize that nothing will dissuade Harry from attempting to sneak into Hogwarts, and he therefore relents and provides the Trio the safest, and as far as he knows, only passage.
Examining the various stories about Albus Dumbledore, we see that Aberforth has the only consistent explanation about Albus' young life. Rita Skeeter based her embellished story on Bathilda Bagshot's fading memories, but Bathilda was, of necessity, outside the family, exactly the sort that Kendra would prevent knowing about Ariana's condition. Doge, possessing the same understanding, glossed over any parts that he found less than complimentary, and as a result became unconvincing, while the Weasleys' Auntie Muriel seems only to receive and pass on gossip and innuendo. And while each character provided some truth, their versions were, for the most part, faulty. However, we still fail to fully understand why Dumbledore and Grindelwald became so close, or why Dumbledore changed so radically following that episode. Our understanding will come when Harry meets with Dumbledore's Shade in what we are calling the waystation. There, we learn that Dumbledore believed Ariana's death was directly caused by his seeking power, and consequently resolved to never again attempt to gain power over others.
There actually is one other route left into Hogwarts, that being the tunnel from the Shrieking Shack that leads to the Whomping Willow. Harry, Hermione, and Ron will use this passage to get to the Shrieking Shack, where Voldemort is directing the battle, and will find it is guarded by only the Willow, as before. Aberforth knows nothing about this passage, nor does Neville, but Snape knows it exists, having actually traveled along it, once as a student, and later in Harry's third year. It is never explained why Snape leaves this gap in Hogwarts' security perimeter standing open, though it is unlikely an oversight.