Harry was bleeding. Clutching his right hand in his left and swearing under his
breath, he shouldered open his bedroom door. There was a crunch of breaking china. He
had trodden on a cup of cold tea that had been sitting on the floor outside his bedroom
“What the –?”
He looked around, the landing of number four, Privet Drive, was deserted.
Possibly the cup of tea was Dudley’s idea of a clever booby trap. Keeping his bleeding
hand elevated, Harry scraped the fragments of cup together with the other hand and threw
them into the already crammed bin just visible inside his bedroom door. Then he tramped
across to the bathroom to run his finger under the tap.
It was stupid, pointless, irritating beyond belief that he still had four days left of
being unable to perform magic…but he had to admit to himself that this jagged cut in his
finger would have defeated him. He had never learned how to repair wounds, and now he
came to think of it – particularly in light of his immediate plans – this seemed a serious
flaw in his magical education. Making a mental note to ask Hermione how it was done,
he used a large wad of toilet paper to mop up as much of the tea as he could before
returning to his bedroom and slamming the door behind him.
Harry had spent the morning completely emptying his school trunk for the first
time since he had packed it six years ago. At the start of the intervening school years, he
had merely skimmed off the topmost three quarters of the contents and replaced or
updated them, leaving a layer of general debris at the bottom – old quills, desiccated
beetle eyes, single socks that no longer fit. Minutes previously, Harry had plunged his
hand into this mulch, experienced a stabbing pain in the fourth finger of his right hand,
and withdrawn it to see a lot of blood.
He now proceeded a little more cautiously. Kneeling down beside the trunk again,
he groped around in the bottom and, after retrieving an old badge that flickered feebly
between SUPPORT CEDRIC DIGGORY and POTTER STINKS, a cracked and worn-out
Sneakoscope, and a gold locket inside which a note signed R.A.B. had been hidden, he
finally discovered the sharp edge that had done the damage. He recognized it at once. It
was a two-inch-long fragment of the enchanted mirror that his dead godfather, Sirius, had
given him. Harry laid it aside and felt cautiously around the trunk for the rest, but nothing
more remained of his godfather’s last gift except powdered glass, which clung to the
deepest layer of debris like glittering grit.
Harry sat up and examined the jagged piece on which he had cut himself, seeing
nothing but his own bright green eye reflected back at him. Then he placed the fragment
on top of that morning’s Daily prophet, which lay unread on the bed, and attempted to
stem the sudden upsurge of bitter memories, the stabs of regret and of longing the
discovery of the broken mirror had occasioned, by attacking the rest of the rubbish in the
It took another hour to empty it completely, throw away the useless items, and
sort the remainder in piles according to whether or not he would need them from now on.
His school and Quidditch robes, cauldron, parchment, quills, and most of his textbooks
were piled in a corner, to be left behind. He wondered what his aunt and uncle would do
with them; burn them in the dead of night, probably, as if they were evidence of some
dreadful crime. His Muggle clothing, Invisibility Cloak, potion-making kit, certain books,
the photograph album Hagrid had once given him, a stack of letters, and his wand had
been repacked into an old rucksack. In a front pocket were the Marauder’s Map and the
locket with the note signed R.A.B. inside it. The locket was accorded this place of honor
not because it was valuable – in all usual senses it was worthless – but because of what it
had cost to attain it.
This left a sizable stack of newspapers sitting on his desk beside his snowy owl,
Hedwig: one for each of the days Harry had spent at Privet Drive this summer.
He got up off the floor, stretched, and moved across to his desk. Hedwig made no
movement as he began to flick through newspapers, throwing them into the rubbish pile
one by one. The owl was asleep or else faking; she was angry with Harry about the
limited amount of time she was allowed out of her cage at the moment.
As he neared the bottom of the pile of newspapers, Harry slowed down, searching
for one particular issue that he knew had arrived shortly after he had returned to Privet
Drive for the summer; he remembered that there had been a small mention on the front
about the resignation of Charity Burbage, the Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts. At
last he found it. Turning to page ten, he sank into his desk chair and reread the article he
had been looking for.
ALBUS DUMBLEDORE REMEMBERED
By Elphias Doge
I met Albus Dumbledore at the age of eleven, on our first day at Hogwarts. Our
mutual attraction was undoubtedly due to the fact that we both felt ourselves to be
outsiders. I had contracted dragon pox shortly before arriving at school, and while
I was no longer contagious, my pock-marked visage and greenish hue did not
encourage many to approach me. For his part, Albus had arrived at Hogwarts
under the burden of unwanted notoriety. Scarcely a year previously, his father,
Percival, had been convicted of a savage and well-publicized attack upon three
Albus never attempted to deny that his father (who was to die in Azkaban) had
committed this crime; on the contrary, when I plucked up courage to ask him, he
assured me that he knew his father to be guilty. Beyond that, Dumbledore refused
to speak of the sad business, though many attempted to make him do so. Some,
indeed, were disposed to praise his father’s action and assumed that Albus too was
a Muggle-hater. They could not have been more mistaken: As anybody who knew
Albus would attest, he never revealed the remotest anti-Muggle tendency. Indeed,
his determined support for Muggle rights gained him many enemies in subsequent
In a matter of months, however, Albus’s own fame had begun to eclipse that
of his father. By the end of his first year he would never again be known as the
son of a Muggle-hater, but as nothing more or less than the most brilliant student
ever seen at the school. Those of us who were privileged to be his friends
benefited from his example, not to mention his help and encouragement, with
which he was always generous. He confessed to me later in life that he knew even
then that his greatest pleasure lay in teaching.
He not only won every prize of note that the school offered, he was soon in
regular correspondence with the most notable magical names of the day, including
Nicolas Flamel, the celebrated alchemist; Bathilda Bagshot, the noted historian;
and Adalbert Waffling, the magical theoretician. Several of his papers found their
way into learned publications such as Transfiguration Today, Challenges in
Charming, and The Practical Potioneer. Dumbledore’s future career seemed
likely to be meteoric, and the only question that remained was when he would
become Minister of Magic. Though it was often predicted in later years that he
was on the point of taking the job, however, he never had Ministerial ambitions.
Three years after we had started at Hogwarts, Albus’s brother, Aberforth,
arrived at school. They were not alike: Aberforth was never bookish and, unlike
Albus, preferred to settle arguments by dueling rather than through reasoned
discussion. However, it is quite wrong to suggest, as some have, that the brothers
were not friends. They rubbed along as comfortably as two such different boys
could do. In fairness to Aberforth, it must be admitted that living in Albus’s
shadow cannot have been an altogether comfortable experience. Being continually
outshone was an occupational hazard of being his friend and cannot have been
any more pleasurable as a brother. When Albus and I left Hogwarts we intended
to take the then-traditional tour of the world together, visiting and observing
foreign wizards, before pursuing our separate careers. However, tragedy
intervened. On the very eve of our trip, Albus’s mother, Kendra, died, leaving
Albus the head, and sole breadwinner, of the family. I postponed my departure
long enough to pay my respects at Kendra’s funeral, then left for what was now to
be a solitary journey. With a younger brother and sister to care for, and little gold
left to them, there could no longer be any question of Albus accompanying me.
That was the period of our lives when we had least contact. I wrote to Albus,
describing, perhaps insensitively, the wonders of my journey, from narrow
escapes from chimaeras in Greece to the experiments of the Egyptian alchemists.
His letters told me little of his day-to-day life, which I guessed to be frustratingly
dull for such a brilliant wizard. Immersed in my own experiences, it was with
horror that I heard, toward the end of my year’s travels, that another tragedy had
struck the Dumbledores: the death of his sister, Ariana.
Though Ariana had been in poor health for a long time, the blow, coming so
soon after the loss of their mother, had a profound effect on both of her brothers.
All those closest to Albus – and I count myself one of that lucky number – agree
that Ariana’s death, and Albus’s feeling of personal responsibility for it (though, of
course, he was guiltless), left their mark upon him forevermore.
I returned home to find a young man who had experienced a much older
person’s suffering. Albus was more reserved than before, and much less light-
hearted. To add to his misery, the loss of Ariana had led, not to a renewed
closeness between Albus and Aberforth, but to an estrangement. (In time this
would lift – in later years they reestablished, if not a close relationship, then
certainly a cordial one.) However, he rarely spoke of his parents or of Ariana from
then on, and his friends learned not to mention them.
Other quills will describe the triumphs of the following years. Dumbledore’s
innumerable contributions to the store of Wizarding knowledge, including his
discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, will benefit generations to come,
as will the wisdom he displayed in the many judgments while Chief Warlock of
the Wizengamot. They say, still, that no Wizarding duel ever matched that
between Dumbledore and Grindelwald in 1945. Those who witnessed it have
written of the terror and the awe they felt as they watched these two extraordinary
wizards to battle. Dumbledore’s triumph, and its consequences for the Wizarding
world, are considered a turning point in magical history to match the introduction
of the International Statute of Secrecy or the downfall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-
Albus Dumbledore was never proud or vain; he could find something to value
in anyone, however apparently insignificant or wretched, and I believe that his
early losses endowed him with great humanity and sympathy. I shall miss his
friendship more than I can say, but my loss is nothing compared to the Wizarding
world’s. That he was the most inspiring and best loved of all Hogwarts
headmasters cannot be in question. He died as he lived: working always for the
greater good and, to his last hour, as willing to stretch out a hand to a small boy
with dragon pox as he was on the day I met him.
Harry finished reading, but continued to gaze at the picture accompanying the
obituary. Dumbledore was wearing his familiar, kindly smile, but as he peered over the
top of his half-moon spectacles, he gave the impression, even in newsprint, of X-raying
Harry, whose sadness mingled with a sense of humiliation.
He had thought he knew Dumbledore quite well, but ever since reading this
obituary he had been forced to recognize that he had barely known him at all. Never once
had he imagined Dumbledore’s childhood or youth; it was as though he had sprung into
being as Harry had known him, venerable and silver-haired and old. The idea of a
teenage Dumbledore was simply odd, like trying to imagine a stupid Hermione or a
friendly Blast-Ended Skrewt.
He had never thought to ask Dumbledore about his past. No doubt it would have
felt strange, impertinent even, but after all it had been common knowledge that
Dumbledore had taken part in that legendary duel with Grindelwald, and Harry had not
thought to ask Dumbledore what that had been like, nor about any of his other famous
achievements. No, they had always discussed Harry, Harry’s past, Harry’s future, Harry’s
plans… and it seemed to Harry now, despite the fact that his future was so dangerous and
so uncertain, that he had missed irreplaceable opportunities when he had failed to ask
Dumbledore more about himself, even though the only personal question he had ever
asked his headmaster was also the only one he suspected that Dumbledore had not
“What do you see when you look in the mirror?”
“I? I see myself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks.”
After several minutes’ thought, Harry tore the obituary out of the Prophet, folded
it carefully, and tucked it inside the first volume of Practical Defensive Magic and its
Use against the Dark Arts. Then he threw the rest of the newspaper onto the rubbish pile
and turned to face the room. It was much tidier. The only things left out of place were
today’s Daily Prophet, still lying on the bed, and on top of it, the piece of broken mirror.
Harry moved across the room, slid the mirror fragment off today’s Prophet, and
unfolded the newspaper. He had merely glanced at the headline when he had taken the
rolled-up paper from the delivery owl early that morning and thrown it aside, after noting
that it said nothing about Voldemort. Harry was sure that the Ministry was leaning on the
Prophet to suppress news about Voldemort. It was only now, therefore, that he saw what
he had missed.
Across the bottom half of the front page a smaller headline was set over a picture
of Dumbledore striding along, looking harried:
DUMBLEDORE – THE TRUTH AT LAST?
Coming next week, the shocking story of the flawed genius considered by many
to be the greatest wizard of his generation. Striping away the popular image of
serene, silver-bearded wisdom, Rita Skeeter reveals the disturbed childhood, the
lawless youth, the life-long feuds, and the guilty secrets that Dumbledore carried
to his grave, WHY was the man tipped to be the Minister of Magic content to
remain a mere headmaster? WHAT was the real purpose of the secret
organization known as the Order of the Phoenix? HOW did Dumbledore really
meet his end?
The answers to these and many more questions are explored in the
explosive new biography, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, by Rita Skeeter,
exclusively interviewed by Berry Braithwaite, page 13, inside.
Harry ripped open the paper and found page thirteen. The article was topped with
a picture showing another familiar face: a woman wearing jeweled glasses with
elaborately curled blonde hair, her teeth bared in what was clearly supposed to be a
winning smile, wiggling her fingers up at him. Doing his best to ignore this nauseating
image, Harry read on.
In person, Rita Skeeter is much warmer and softer than her famously
ferocious quill-portraits might suggest. Greeting me in the hallway of her cozy
home, she leads me straight into the kitchen for a cup of tea, a slice of pound cake
and, it goes without saying, a steaming vat of freshest gossip.
“Well, of course, Dumbledore is a biographer’s dream,” says Skeeter. “Such a
long, full life. I’m sure my book will be the first of very, very many.”
Skeeter was certainly quick off the mark. Her nine-hundred-page book was
completed in a mere four weeks after Dumbledore’s mysterious death in June. I
ask her how she managed this superfast feat.
“Oh, when you’ve been a journalist as long as I have, working to a deadline is
second nature. I knew that the Wizarding world was clamoring for the full story
and I wanted to be the first to meet that need.”
I mention the recent, widely publicized remarks of Elphias Doge, Special
Advisor to the Wizengamot and longstanding friend of Albus Dumbledore’s, that
“Skeeter’s book contains less fact than a Chocolate Frog card.”
Skeeter throws back her head and laughs.
“Darling Dodgy! I remember interviewing him a few years back about
merpeople rights, bless him. Completely gaga, seemed to think we were sitting at
the bottom of Lake Windermere, kept telling me to watch out for trout.”
And yet Elphias Doge’s accusations of inaccuracy have been echoed in many
places. Does Skeeter really feel that four short weeks have been enough to gain a
full picture of Dumbledore’s long and extraordinary life?
“Oh, my dear,” beams Skeeter, rapping me affectionately across the knuckles,
“you know as well as I do how much information can be generated by a fat bag of
Galleons, a refusal to hear the word ‘no,’ and a nice sharp Quick-Quotes Quill!
People were queuing to dish the dirt on Dumbledore anyway. Not everyone
thought he was so wonderful, you know – he trod on an awful lot of important
toes. But old Dodgy Doge can get off his high hippogriff, because I’ve had access
to a source most journalists would swap their wands for, one who has never
spoken in public before and who was close to Dumbledore during the most
turbulent and disturbing phase of his youth.”
The advance publicity for Skeeter’s biography has certainly suggested that
there will be shocks in store for those who believe Dumbledore to have led a
blameless life. What were the biggest surprises she uncovered, I ask?
“Now, come off it. Betty, I’m not giving away all the highlights before
anybody’s bought the book!” laughs Skeeter. “But I can promise that anybody
who still thinks Dumbledore was white as his beard is in for a rude awakening!
Let’s just say that nobody hearing him rage against You-Know-Who would have
dreamed that he dabbled in the Dark Arts himself in his youth! And for a wizard
who spent his later years pleading for tolerance, he wasn’t exactly broad-minded
when he was younger! Yes, Albus Dumbledore had an extremely murky past, not
to mention that very fishy family, which he worked so hard to keep hushed up.”
I ask whether Skeeter is referring to Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, whose
conviction by the Wizengamot for misuse of magic caused a minor scandal fifteen
“Oh, Aberforth is just the tip of the dung heap,” laughs Skeeter. “No, no, I’m
talking about much worse than a brother with a fondness for fiddling about with
goats, worse even than the Muggle-maiming father – Dumbledore couldn’t keep
either of them quiet anyway, they were both charged by the Wizengamot. No, it’s
the mother and the sister that intrigued me, and a little digging uncovered a
positive nest of nastiness – but, as I say, you’ll have to wait for chapters nine to
twelve for full details. All I can say now is, it’s no wonder Dumbledore never
talked about how his nose got broken.”
Family skeletons notwithstanding, does Skeeter deny the brilliance that led to
Dumbledore’s many magical discoveries?
“He had brains,” she concedes, “although many now question whether he
could really take full credit for all of his supposed achievements. As I reveal in
chapter sixteen, Ivor Dillonsby claims he had already discovered eight uses of
dragon’s blood when Dumbledore ‘borrowed’ his papers.”
But the importance of some of Dumbledore’s achievements cannot, I venture,
be denied. What of his famous defeat of Grindelwald?
“Oh, now, I’m glad you mentioned Grindelwald,” says Skeeter with such a
tantalizing smile. “I’m afraid those who go dewy-eyed over Dumbledore’s
spectacular victory must brace themselves for a bombshell – or perhaps a
Dungbomb. Very dirty business indeed. All I’ll say is, don’t be so sure that there
really was a spectacular duel of legend. After they’ve read my book, people may
be forced to conclude that Grindelwald simply conjured a white handkerchief
from the end of his wand and came quietly!”
Skeeter refuses to give any more away on this intriguing subject, so we turn
instead to the relationship that will undoubtedly fascinate her readers more than
“Oh yes,” says Skeeter, nodding briskly, “I devote an entire chapter to the
whole Potter-Dumbledore relationship. It’s been called unhealthy, even sinister.
Again, your readers will have to buy my book for the whole story, but there is no
question that Dumbledore took an unnatural interest in Potter from the word go.
Whether that was really in the boy’s best interests – well, we’ll see. It’s certainly
an open secret that Potter has had a most troubled adolescence.”
I ask whether Skeeter is still in touch with Harry Potter, whom she so
famously interviewed last year: a breakthrough piece in which Potter spoke
exclusively of his conviction that You-Know-Who had returned.
“Oh, yes, we’ve developed a closer bond,” says Skeeter. “Poor Potter has few
real friends, and we met at one of the most testing moments of his life – the
Triwizard Tournament. I am probably one of the only people alive who can say
that they know the real Harry Potter.”
Which leads us neatly to the many rumors still circulating about Dumbledore’s
final hours. Does Skeeter believe that Potter was there when Dumbledore died?
“Well, I don’t want to say too much – it’s all in the book – but eyewitnesses
inside Hogwarts castle saw Potter running away from the scene moments after
Dumbledore fell, jumped, or was pushed. Potter later gave evidence against
Severus Snape, a man against whom he has a notorious grudge. Is everything as it
seems? That is for the Wizarding community to decide – once they’ve read my
On that intriguing note, I take my leave. There can be no doubt that Skeeter
has quilled an instant bestseller. Dumbledore’s legion of admirers, meanwhile,
may well be trembling at what is soon to emerge about their hero.
Harry reached the bottom of the article, but continued to stare blankly at the page.
Revulsion and fury rose in him like vomit; he balled up the newspaper and threw it, with
all his force, at the wall, where it joined the rest of the rubbish heaped around his
He began to stride blindly around the room, opening empty drawers and picking
up books only to replace them on the same piles, barely conscious of what he was doing,
as random phrases from Rita’s article echoed in his head: An entire chapter to the whole
Potter-Dumbledore relationship … It’s been called unhealthy, even sinister … He dabbled
in the Dark Arts himself in his youth … I’ve had access to a source most journalists would
swap their wands for…
“Lies!” Harry bellowed, and through the window he saw the next-door neighbor,
who had paused to restart his lawn mower, look up nervously.
Harry sat down hard on the bed. The broken bit of mirror danced away from him;
he picked it up and turned it over in his fingers, thinking, thinking of Dumbledore and the
lies with which Rita Skeeter was defaming him …
A flash of brightest blue. Harry froze, his cut finger slipping on the jagged edge of
the mirror again. He had imagined it, he must have done. He glanced over his shoulder,
but the wall was a sickly peach color of Aunt Petunia’s choosing: There was nothing blue
there for the mirror to reflect. He peered into the mirror fragment again, and saw nothing
but his own bright green eye looking back at him.
He had imagined it, there was no other explanation; imagined it, because he had
been thinking of his dead headmaster. If anything was certain, it was that the bright blue
eyes of Albus Dumbledore would never pierce him again.