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â€œâ€˜Dear Bally, Thanks for your help. Hereâ€™s a copy of the book, hope you like it. You said everything, even if you donâ€™t remember it. Rita.â€™
I think it must have arrived while the real Bathilda was alive, but perhaps she wasnâ€™t in any fit state to read it?â€œ
â€œNo, she probably wasnâ€™t.â€
Harry looked down upon Dumbledoreâ€™s face and experienced a surge of savage pleasure: Now he would know if all the things that Dumbledore had never thought it worth telling him, whether Dumbledore wanted him to or not.
â€œYouâ€™re still really angry at me, arenâ€™t you?â€ said Hermione; he looked up to see fresh tears leaking out of her eyes, and knew that his anger must have shown in his face.
â€œNo,â€ he said quietly. â€œNo, Hermione, I know it was an accident. You were trying to get us out of there alive, and you were incredible. Iâ€™d be dead if you hadnâ€™t been there to help me.â€
He tried to return her watery smile, then turned his attention to the book. Its spine was stiff; it had clearly never been opened before. He riffled through the pages, looking for photographs. He came across the one he sought almost at once, the young Dumbledore and his handsome companion, roaring with laughter at some long-forgotten joke. Harry dropped his eyes to the caption.
Albus Dumbledore, shortly after his motherâ€™s death, With his friend Gellert Grindelwald.
Harry gaped at the last word for several long moments. Grindelwald. His friend Grindelwald. He looked sideways at Hermione, who was still contemplating the name as though she could not believe her eyes. Slowly she looked up at Harry.
Ignoring the remainder of the photographs, Harry searched the pages around them for a recurrence of that fatal name. He soon discovered it and read greedily, but became lost: It was necessary to go farther back to make sense of it all, and eventually he found himself at the start of a chapter entitled â€œThe Greater Good.â€ Together, he and Hermione started to read:
Now approaching his eighteenth birthday, Dumbledore left Hogwarts in a blaze of glory â€“ Head Boy, Prefect, Winner of the Barnabus Finkley Prize for Exceptional Spell-Casting, British Youth Representative to the Wizengamot, Gold Medal-Winner for Ground-Breaking Contribution to the International Alchemical Conference in Cairo. Dumbledore intended, next, to take a Grand Tour with Elphias â€œDogbreathâ€ Doge, the dim-witted but devoted sidekick he had picked up at school.
The two young men were staying at the Leaky Cauldron in London, preparing to depart for Greece the following morning, when an owl arrived bearing news of Dumbledoreâ€™s motherâ€™s death. â€œDogbreathâ€ Doge, who refused to be interviewed for this book, has given the public his own sentimental version of what happened next. He represents Kendraâ€™s death as a tragic blow, and Dumbledoreâ€™s decision to give up his expedition as an act of noble self-sacrifice.
Certainly Dumbledore returned to Godricâ€™s Hollow at once, supposedly to â€œcareâ€ for his younger brother and sister. But how much care did he actually give them?
â€œHe were a head case, that Aberforth,â€ said Enid Smeek, whose family lived on the outskirts of Godricâ€™s Hollow at that time. â€œRan wild. â€˜Course, with his mum and dad gone youâ€™d have felt sorry for him, only he kept chucking goat dung at my head. I donâ€™t think Albus was fussed about him. I never saw them together, anyway.â€
So what was Albus doing, if not comforting his wild young brother? The answer, it seems, is ensuring the continued imprisonment of his sister. For though her first jailer had died, there was no change in the pitiful condition of Ariana Dumbledore. Her very existence continued to be known only to those few outsiders who, like â€œDogbreathâ€ Doge, could be counted upon to believe in the story of her â€œill health.â€
Another such easily satisfied friend of the family was Bathilda Bagshot, the celebrated magical historian who has lived in Godricâ€™s Hollow for many years. Kendra, of course, had rebuffed Bathilda when she first attempted to welcome the family to the village. Several years later, however, the author sent an owl to Albus at Hogwarts, having been favorably impressed by his paper on trans-species transformation in Transfiguration Today. This initial contract led to acquaintance with the entire Dumbledore family. At the time of Kendraâ€™s death, Bathilda was the only person in Godricâ€™s Hollow who was on speaking terms with Dumbledoreâ€™s mother.
Unfortunately, the brilliance that Bathilda exhibited earlier in her life has now dimmed. â€œThe fireâ€™s lit, but the cauldronâ€™s empty,â€ as Ivor Dillonsby put it to me, or, in Enid Smeekâ€™s slightly earthier phrase, â€œSheâ€™s nutty as squirrel poo.â€ Nevertheless, a combination of tried-and-tested reporting techniques enabled me to extract enough nuggets of hard fact to string together the whole scandalous story.
Like the rest of the Wizarding world, Bathilda puts Kendraâ€™s premature death down to a backfiring charm, a story repeated by Albus and Aberforth in later years. Bathilda also parrots the family line on Ariana, calling her â€œfrailâ€ and â€œdelicate.â€ On one subject, however, Bathilda is well worth the effort I put into procuring Veritaserum, for she, and she alone, knows the full story of the best-kept secret of Albus Dumbledoreâ€™s life. Now revealed for the first time, it calls into question everything that his admirers believed of Dumbledore: his supposed hatred of the Dark Arts, his opposition into the oppression of Muggles, even his devotion to his own family.
The very same summer that Dumbledore went home to Godricâ€™s Hollow, now an orphan and head of the family, Bathilda Bagshot agreed to accept into her home her great-nephew, Gellert Grindelwald.
The name of Grindelwald is justly famous: In a list of Most Dangerous Dark Wizards of All Time, he would miss out on the top spot only because You- Know-Who arrived, a generation later, to steal his crown. As Grindelwald never extended his campaign of terror to Britain, however, the details of his rise to power are not widely known here.
Educated at Durmstrang, a school famous even then for its unfortunate tolerance of the Dark Arts, Grindelwald showed himself quite as precociously brilliant as Dumbledore. Rather than channel his abilities into the attainment of awards and prizes, however, Gellert Grindelwald devoted himself to other pursuits. At sixteen years old, even Durmstrang felt it could no longer turn a blind eye to the twisted experiments of Gellert Grindelwald, and he was expelled.
Hitherto, all that has been known of Grindelwaldâ€™s next movements is that he â€œtraveled around for some months.â€ It can now be revealed that Grindelwald chose to visit his great-aunt in Godricâ€™s Hollow, and that there, intensely shocking though it will be for many to hear it, he struck up a close friendship with none other than Albus Dumbledore.
â€œHe seemed a charming boy to me,â€ babbles Bathilda, â€œwhatever he became later. Naturally I introduced him to poor Albus, who was missing the company of lads his own age. The boys took to each other at once.â€
They certainly did. Bathilda shows me a letter, kept by her that Albus Dumbledore sent Gellert Grindelwald in the dead of night.
â€œYes, even after theyâ€™d spent all day in discussion â€“ both such brilliant young boys, they got on like a cauldron on fire â€“ Iâ€™d sometimes hear an owl tapping at Gellertâ€™s bedroom window, delivering a letter from Albus! An idea would have struck him and he had to let Gellert know immediately!â€
And what ideas they were. Profoundly shocking though Albus Dumbledoreâ€™s fans will find it, here are the thoughts of their seventeen-year-old hero, as relayed to his new best friend. (A copy of the original letter may be seen on page 463.)
Your point about Wizard dominance being FOR THE MUGGLESâ€™ OWN GOOD â€“ this, I think, is the crucial point. Yes, we have been given power and yes, that power gives us the right to rule, but it also gives us responsibilities over the ruled. We must stress this point, it will be the foundation stone upon which we build. Where we are opposed, as we surely will be, this must be the basis of all our counterarguments. We seize control FOR THE GREATER GOOD. And from this it follows that where we meet resistance, we must use only the force that is necessary and no more. (This was your mistake at Durmstrang! But I do not complain, because if you had not been expelled, we would never have met.)
Astonished and appalled though his many admirers will be, this letter constitutes the Statute of Secrecy and establishing Wizard rule over Muggles. What a blow for those who have always portrayed Dumbledore as the Muggle-bornsâ€™ greatest champion! How hollow those speeches promoting Muggle rights seem in the light of this damning new evidence! How despicable does Albus Dumbledore appear, busy plotting his rise to power when he should have been mourning his mother and caring for his sister!
No doubt those determined to keep Dumbledore on his crumbling pedestal will bleat that he did not, after all, put his plans into action, that he must have suffered a change of heart, that he came to his senses. However, the truth seems altogether more shocking.
Barely two months into their great new friendship, Dumbledore and Grindelwald parted, never to see each other again until they met for their legendary duel (for more, see chapter 22). What caused this abrupt rupture? Had Dumbledore come to his senses? Had he told Grindelwald he wanted no more part in his plans? Alas, no.
â€œIt was poor little Ariana dying, I think, that did it,â€ says Bathilda. â€œIt came as an awful shock. Gellert was there in the house when it happened, and he came back to my house all of a dither, told me he wanted to go home the next day. Terribly distressed, you know. So I arranged a Portkey and that was the last I saw of him.â€
â€œAlbus was beside himself at Arianaâ€™s death. It was so dreadful for those two brothers. They had lost everybody except for each other. No wonder tempers ran a little high. Aberforth blamed Albus, you know, as people will under these dreadful circumstances. But Aberforth always talked a little madly, poor boy. All the same, breaking Albusâ€™s nose at the funeral was not decent. It would have destroyed Kendra to see her sons fighting like that, across her daughterâ€™s body. A shame Gellert could not have stayed for the funeralâ€¦. He would have been a comfort to Albus, at leastâ€¦.
This dreadful coffin-side brawl, known only to those few who attended Ariana Dumbledoreâ€™s funeral, raises several questions. Why exactly did Aberforth Dumbledore blame Albus for his sisterâ€™s death? Was it, as â€œBattyâ€ pretends, a mere effusion of grief? Or could there have been some more concrete reason for his fury? Grindelwald, expelled from Durmstrang for the near-fatal attacks upon fellow students, fled the country hours after the girlâ€™s death, and Albus (out of shame or fear?) never saw him again, not until forced to do so by the pleas of the Wizarding world.
Neither Dumbledore nor Grindelwald ever seems to have referred to this brief boyhood friendship in later life. However, there can be no doubt that Dumbledore delayed, for some five years of turmoil, fatalities, and disappearances, his attack upon Gellert Grindelwald. Was it lingering affection for the man or fear of exposure as his once best friend that caused Dumbledore to hesitate? Was it only reluctantly that Dumbledore set out to capture the man he was once so delighted he had met?
And how did the mysterious Ariana die? Was she the inadvertent victim of some Dark rite? Did she stumble across something she ought not to have done, as the two young men sat practicing for their attempt at glory and domination? Is it possible that Ariana Dumbledore was the first person to die â€œfor the greater goodâ€?
The chapter ended here and Harry looked up. Hermione had reached the bottom of the page before him. She tugged the book out of Harryâ€™s hands, looking a little alarmed by his expression, and closed it without looking at it, as though hiding something indecent.
But he shook his head. Some inner certainty had crashed down inside him; it was exactly as he had felt after Ron left. He had trusted Dumbledore, believed him the embodiment of goodness and wisdom. All was ashes: How much more could he lose? Ron, Dumbledore, the phoenix wandâ€¦
â€œHarry.â€ She seemed to have heard his thoughts. â€œListen to me. It â€“ it doesnâ€™t make a very nice reading â€“â€
â€œYeah, you could say that â€“â€
â€œâ€“ but donâ€™t forget, Harry, this is Rita Skeeter writing.â€
â€œYou did read that letter to Grindelwald, didnâ€™t you?â€
â€œYes, I â€“ I did.â€ She hesitated, looking upset, cradling her tea in her cold hands. â€œI think thatâ€™s the worst bit. I know Bathilda thought it was all just talk, but â€˜For the Greater Goodâ€™ became Grindelwaldâ€™s slogan, his justification for all the atrocities he committed later. Andâ€¦ from thatâ€¦ it looks like Dumbledore gave him the idea. They say â€˜For the Greater Goodâ€™ was even carved over the entrance to Nurmengard.â€
â€œThe prison Grindelwald had built to hold his opponents. He ended up in there himself, once Dumbledore had caught him. Anyway, itâ€™s â€“ itâ€™s an awful thought that Dumbledoreâ€™s ideas helped Grindelwald rise to power. But on the other hand, even Rita canâ€™t pretend that they knew each other for more than a few months one summer when they were both really young, and â€“â€
â€œI thought youâ€™d say that,â€ said Harry. He did not want to let his anger spill out at her, but it was hard to keep his voice steady. â€œI thought youâ€™d say â€˜They were young.â€™ They were the same age as we are now. And here we are, risking our lives to fight the Dark Arts, and there he was, in a huddle with his new best friend, plotting their rise to power over the Muggles.â€
His temper would not remain in check much longer: He stood up and walked around, trying to work some of it off.
â€œIâ€™m not trying to defend what Dumbledore wrote,â€ said Hermione. â€œAll that â€˜right to ruleâ€™ rubbish, itâ€™s â€˜Magic Is Mightâ€™ all over again. But Harry, his mother had just died, he was stuck alone in the house â€“â€
â€œAlone? He wasnâ€™t alone! He had his brother and sister for company, his Squib sister he was keeping locked up â€“â€
â€œI donâ€™t believe it,â€ said Hermione. She stood up too. â€œWhatever was wrong with that girl, I donâ€™t think she was a Squib. The Dumbledore we knew would never, ever have allowedâ€“â€
â€œThe Dumbledore we thought we knew didnâ€™t want to conquer Muggles by force!â€ Harry shouted, his voice echoing across the empty hilltop, and several blackbirds rose into the air, squawking and spiraling against the pearly sky.
â€œHe changed, Harry, he changed! Itâ€™s as simple as that! Maybe he did believe these things when he was seventeen, but the whole of the rest of his life was devoted to fighting the Dark Arts! Dumbledore was the one who stopped Grindelwald, the one who always voted for Muggle protection and Muggle born rights, who fought You-Know-Who from the start, and who died trying to bring him down!â€
Ritaâ€™s book lay on the ground between them, so that the face of Albus Dumbledore smiled dolefully at both.
â€œHarry, Iâ€™m sorry, but I think the real reason youâ€™re so angry is that Dumbledore never told you any of this himself.â€
â€œMaybe I am!â€ Harry bellowed, and he flung his arms over his head, hardly knowing whether he was trying to hold in his anger or protect himself from the weight of his own disillusionment. â€œLook what he asked from me, Hermione! Risk your life, Harry! And again! And again! And donâ€™t expect me to explain everything, just trust me blindly, trust that I know what Iâ€™m doing, trust me even though I donâ€™t trust you! Never the whole truth! Never!â€
His voice cracked with the strain, and they stood looking at each other in the whiteness and emptiness, and Harry felt they were as insignificant as insects beneath that wide sky.
â€œHe loved you,â€ Hermione whispered. â€œI know he loved you.â€
Harry dropped his arms.
â€œI donâ€™t know who he loved, Hermione, but it was never me. This isnâ€™t love, the mess heâ€™s left me in. He shared a damn sight more of what he was really thinking with Gellert Grindelwald than he ever shared with me.â€
Harry picked up Hermioneâ€™s wand, which he had dropped in the snow, and sat back down in the entrance of the tent.
â€œThanks for the tea. Iâ€™ll finish the watch. You get back in the warm.â€ She hesitated, but recognized the dismissal. She picked up the book and then walked back past him into the tent, but as she did so, she brushed the top of his head lightly with her hand. He closed his eyes at her touch, and hated himself for wishing that what she said was true: that Dumbledore had really cared.
The Deathly Hallows
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .