The Harry Potter Reread is mulling over the term “lightheaded.” When you are lightheaded, does your head actually feel light? When I feel lightheaded, it’s more spinny. But “spinnyheaded” would be a truly ridiculous word.
This week we’re going to jump off a dragon into a lake and finally figure out who that blue eye belongs to. It’s chapter 27 and 28 of The Deathly Hallows—The Final Hiding Place and the Missing Mirror.
Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.
Chapter 27—The Final Hiding Place
The dragon climbs into the sky as the trio hang on for dear life. Thankfully, it doesn’t throw any of them off, but there’s no way to steer, and Harry has a no idea how long the dragon will fly. It keeps moving north toward cooler air. Harry wonders how long it will be before someone tells Voldemort of the break-in, how long before he finally realizes that they’re hunting Horcruxes. Ron finally recognizes that they’re losing height over a system of lakes, so Harry decides that they should all jump when they get low enough. They slide off and hit the icy water, then clamber out of the lake and move toward the opposite side of the shore, as far from the dragon as they can get. Harry starts casting the protective charms while Ron and Hermione tend to their wounds. Hermione hands Harry the essence of dittany, then pulls out fresh robes and pumpkin juice for all of them. Ron and Harry are immediately concerned over the fact that they have another Horcrux, but have now lost the means to destroy it. Hermione wonders if the dragon will be all right, but Ron insists that they are the ones she should be worried about since some people might have noticed that Gringotts break-in. The three of them start to laugh, and can’t seem to stop.
Harry has a sudden vision from Voldemort, who is told by a goblin that the Lestrange’s vault was broken into. He’s told that a small gold cup was taken, and he goes into a rage, murdering the goblin and anyone else who was present to hear the news. (Bellatrix and Lucius make it by fleeing the scene.) He stalks up and down among the dead, wondering if it’s possible that Dumbledore and therefore Harry knows about the other Horcruxes. He is certain that if any of the other Horcruxes had been destroyed, he would have felt it—he didn’t when the diary was destroyed, but he assumes it’s because he didn’t have corporeal form at the time. Voldemort thinks that he should check on all of the Horcrux hiding places to be sure, and in addition to the ones Harry knows about, he thinks of one hidden at Hogwarts. He thinks of warning Snape that Harry might return to the castle, then decides that trusting Snape is foolish, as Bellatrix and Lucius have just proven. He decides to visit the Gaunt shack first and take Nagini with him.
Harry moves back to his present, noticing that Ron and Hermione are standing over him, looking concerned. He tells them that Voldemort knows, that he’s checking the Horcruxes, that one of them is at Hogwarts and it’s likely the last place he’ll check. Harry knows it won’t take long, though, and that they have to move quickly. Hermione wants a plan, but he insists that they don’t have time, and that they’ll try to infiltrate through Hogsmeade. He tells Hermione to get under the Cloak to this time, insisting that no one will see their feet peeking out in the dark. On the other side of the shore, the dragon takes off and flies over a mountain. The trio get under the Cloak and Disapparate.
This all-too-brief respite is a whirlwind, but it’s great to see that poor dragon free and drinking water and soaring away at the end of the chapter. I hope Charlie Weasley finds it and takes care of it for the rest of its life (and also has stern words with Bill along the lines of “Did you KNOW this was happening at the bank? DID YOU?”)
We get a single laugh in before Harry is thrust back into Voldemort’s mind and feels all this rage and panic, before finding out all the information that they need to know. And when I was first reading it, I was a bit bothered by how convenient it all was, him getting all the essential info he needs in one lengthy swoop, but it occurred to me that this plays along perfectly with the power structure that Rowling has built into the series. Think about it. Harry’s superpower is love. The greatest power in the world, more powerful than any magic, is love. Voldemort stays away from Harry’s mind when he’s grieving, when he’s in pain over others, because love is abhorrent to him. Over and over, the theme that love is power—regardless of the toxicity of said love, or the relative moral standing of the person who feels love—is repeated to us.
Conversely, Voldemort’s fury and fear are the antithesis of power. And this is important because he believes that his anger and paranoia are what give him power. But those emotions are precisely what allow Harry to see into his mind, to learn what he needs to know to kill him. They are what give him away at every possible turn, and now we have this ultimate spill-the-beans moment: Voldemort lets Harry know where the final Horcrux is while he is busy freaking out over Harry finding Horcruxes. These Rage-On sessions that he gives into are ultimately what defeat him. It’s not convenient at all, it is literally how this universe functions.
It’s fascinating to me that Voldemort also believes that he would know the Horcruxes were being destroyed, that he would feel it. The point is that he has splintered his soul apart into shards, but he still somehow expects them to function as a whole. He also makes sense of his not knowing about the diary’s destruction by figuring that he had to be corporeal to feel it. That is also particularly interesting because it suggests that perhaps Voldemort views the soul as fundamentally tied to the body. Which is, in fact, the exact opposite of how most people understand the concept of soul. But if he believes that the soul is tethered in such a way, it goes further toward explaining his fear of death—he cannot conceive of his soul existing beyond his corporeality. Which makes even more sense of why the concept of Horcruxes would be alluring to him; the vessels for his soul are near-indestructible objects of great fame and significance. His soul not only remains corporeal via those objects, but beautifully accommodated as well.
I have always loved the fact that Bellatrix and Lucius just make a break for it. I mean, they’re horrible for shoving in front of others and getting them killed, but it’s such a fitting place for the both of them to know that they’re in over their heads, and that they need to get outta dodge, at least for the time being. I do wonder what it means to Bellatrix, though; her loyalty to Voldemort is real and deep, unlike Lucius, who clearly only wants in with whoever will give him the most power.
Chapter 28—The Missing Mirror
As soon as they arrive in Hogsmeade High Street, Harry is assaulted by the memory of arriving here last year with Dumbledore. Then a scream sounds through the air and Death Eaters burst from The Three Broomsticks. One tries to use a Summoning Charm on the Cloak, but it doesn’t work. The Death Eaters charge down the street looking for them, and trio back away down a side street in a narrow miss. Ron and Hermione want to leave, but Harry figures that this is a trap set for them, and that they’ll be barred from leaving. One Death Eater suggests setting the dementors on them, and when another nixes the idea because Voldemort wants to kill him, the first points out that a Dementor’s Kiss wouldn’t kill Harry anyhow—just remove his soul. Hermione insists that they try to Disapparate, but it doesn’t work. They try to edge backward down the side street, but dementors start coming, seeming to sense their fear. Harry whispers the Patronus Charm and his stag charges them down, but the Death Eaters know their location and are heading back to find them.
A door opens and someone tells Harry to get inside. The trio head into the Hog’s Head Inn, and are told to go upstairs, keep the Cloak on and stay silent. They head behind the bar and upstairs to a sitting room with a fireplace, above which sits a portrait of a blonde girl. The Hog’s Head barman is downstairs yelling at the Death Eaters, telling them that he will send Patronuses at any dementor he sees. One of them insists that they saw Potter’s Patronus, but the barman casts his own and the Death Eater seems less sure. They tell him that the curfew was broken, and he says he’ll put out his cat when he feels like it. He proceeds to threaten the group. telling them that their sidelines of trafficked potions and poisons will be ruined if they try to take him in. When the former Death Eater insists on the stag Patronus, he informs them it’s a goat, and they finally head off. The trio heave a collective sigh of relief, and await the barman upstairs. Harry notices a mirror proper up against the girl’s portrait. The barman comes in and quickly tells them off for being fools, but Harry has realized something more important—he’s the eye from the mirror, the one who sent Dobby to them. He’s Aberforth Dumbledore.
Aberforth says he’s sorry to hear that Dobby is dead, and that he bought the mirror off of Mungdungus a year ago to look out for Harry. Ron asks if the silver doe was him too, and Aberforth reminds him that his Patronus is a goat. He retrieves some food and the trio eat for a while. Once they’re done, Aberforth tries to plan how they’ll sneak out of Hogsmeade the next morning, but Harry tells him that they’ve got to get into Hogwarts. Aberforth says he’s wrong, and must get far away as soon as possible. Harry brings up what Albus wants him to do, and Aberforth insists that many people have gotten hurt helping Albus to carry out his plans. He tells Harry to stop carrying out the wishes of a dead man, and save himself. Harry is confused, recalling the Aberforth is a member of the Order, but Aberforth says the Order is finished and Voldemort has won. He advises Harry to flee, and take Ron and Hermione with him. Harry tells him that there’s a job only he can do, and Albus explained it. Aberforth asks if he truly told Harry everything and was honest with him. When Harry can’t reply, Aberforth tell him that Albus learned secrecy from their mother, and that he was very good at it.
Hermione asks if the portrait over the fire is of Ariana, and he confirms it. He believes the trio think too well of his brother, and Harry is instantly bothered by the turn in the conversation; he doesn’t want to be distracted from his decisions now by being encouraged to doubt by Dumbledore’s brother. When Hermione tells Harry that Albus cared for him, Aberforth is amused, saying that people Albus cared about usually wound up worse off for knowing him. Hermione asks if he’s talking about their sister. Aberforth launches into the true story: when Ariana was six, she was attacked by three Muggle boys who saw her perform magic (being so young, she couldn’t control it). The attack caused Ariana to turn inward, unwilling to perform magic, but unable to get rid of it. Magic would explode out of her, making her dangerous at times, but for the most part she was sweet and harmless. Their father went after the Muggle boys for what they did, but never told the Ministry why because he didn’t want Ariana locked up in St. Mungo’s for being a danger to the International Statue of Secrecy. They moved, told everyone Ariana was ill, and their mother tried to keep her happy. Aberforth claims he was her favorite because Albus was always in his room studying and being important. Aberforth was able to get Ariana to eat when she didn’t want to, and get her to calm down. She helped him feed his goats.
When Aberforth was fourteen, he wasn’t at home when Ariana lost control, and she accidentally killed their mother. Aberforth told Albus that he’d stay home and take care of her, but Albus insisted that he finished his education. Apparently, Albus did all right looking after Ariana for a while until Grindelwald showed up. Then Albus devoted all his time to making plans with the young man and ignored their sister. Before Aberforth was supposed to go back to Hogwarts, he confronted Albus and told him that he couldn’t take their sister anywhere and that he had to let this idea go. Albus was upset, but Grindelwald was furious at Aberforth for daring to speak to them that way. He used the Cruciatus Curse on him, and Albus tried to stop him, and then they got involved in the three-way duel. The thing was frantic, and Ariana was frightened and wanted to help, and then she was dead. Aberforth has no idea which one of them was responsible, as it could have been any of the three of them. Grindelwald left and Aberforth says that Albus was finally free to become the great wizard he wanted to be, but Harry shoots that down immediately. He remembers what Dumbledore said when he took the potion at the center of the cave last year, and started begging an unseen figure to hurt him instead. He knows that Albus was seeing the events of that day.
Aberforth asks Harry how he can be sure that he wasn’t dispensable to Albus, just like his sister, but Hermione doesn’t believe it. Aberforth asks why Albus didn’t tell Harry how to hide and stay safe instead, but Harry insists that sometimes you have to put your safety aside and think about others, especially in war. Aberforth counters that Harry is only seventeen, but Harry says that he’s of age and he won’t stop fighting even if Aberforth has given up. When Aberforth protests, Harry reminds him of what he’s already said this evening, that the Order is finished and Voldemort has won. Aberforth is convinced it’s simply the truth, but Harry tells him that he knows how to kill Voldemort from information that Albus gave him, and that he will continue until it’s done or he dies. He tells Aberforth that he’s known his death was a possibility for years. Then he asks for help to get into Hogwarts. Aberforth goes to the portrait, tells Ariana that she knows what to do, and she walks down a long tunnel behind her until she disappears into darkness. He tells the trio that Hogwarts is heavily guarded and has many patrols, and that he has no idea how they’ll survive with Snape in charge and the Carrows about. Ariana returns, but she has another figure with her. When they reach the foreground of the painting, it swings open, revealing the real Neville, who leaps from the mantel, claiming the knew Harry would come.
The fact that Cloak cannot be retrieved by Summoning Charm reinforces the idea that it’s a Hallow. It makes me wonder if similar rules apply to the Stone as well. We know that the Elder Wand does not truly pass hands unless you win it away, and you can’t steal the Cloak too easily. Does the same hold true for the Resurrection Stone?
We need a moment of applause for Aberforth Dumbledore, who, despite being an irascible old codger, is metal when it comes to talking down Death Eaters. Just… whoa. Stand on your doorstep and tell them they’re all idiots! Bet not too many other people have tried that tactic yet. Granted, he has some leverage, but answering to a curfew with “leave my cat out of this!” has a certain ring to it.
The rest of the chapter is a bit of an infodump, though we do need clearing up around the story of Ariana, Albus, and Grindelwald, of course. The most important part of the story is learning what happened to Ariana that required her constant care and led to her being hidden by the family, and the story is a terrible one. But perhaps what is more frightening is how believable it is. We very quickly see where the idea of the International Statue of Secrecy must have come from, with incidents exactly like what happened to Ariana. Of course, it was that same Statute that would have likely seen Ariana locked away forever had anyone known. While I understand the Dumbledore family not wanting her tucked away at St. Mungo’s you do have to wonder if things could have been different for Ariana if there were magical psychologists of some sort who could have helped her maybe come to terms with her power. Then again, maybe the wizarding world doesn’t even have those types of doctors. They sure could use them. (Which feeds back into the argument I’ve already made about how Hogwarts needs counselors for the kids.)
Harry is way too far in his hero’s journey to turn back now, but I do appreciate the way that he calls Aberforth on his BS. While the man has every right to feel the way he does and make the points he makes, his particular history with his brother has completely blinded him to the fact that the world needs Harry to do what he’s about to do. Aberforth has this idea that it’s better for him to save Harry, the way he couldn’t save his sister, that it’s somehow penance. But Ariana and Harry are not the same. They won’t die for the same reasons. There is a through line to the mistakes Albus Dumbledore made, absolutely—his issue with secrecy being the major offender—but Harry is not an accidental casualty. He is marked and he has purpose, and he would be in the same position without Albus, though with likely even less information than he currently has.
And then we get the most magical present of all—Neville! Neville looking at bit worse for wear, but he’s here! He’s excited! We’re all excited! Let’s break into Hogwarts, kids!
Brace yourselves, because we’re officially in Race-to-the-Finish-Line mode.