Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry waited, but Dumbledore did not speak, so he prompted him. ‘So you’d given up looking for the Hallows when you saw the Cloak?’

 ‘Oh yes,’ said Dumbledore faintly. It seemed that he forced himself to meet Harry’s eyes. ‘You know what happened. You know. You cannot despise me more than I despise myself.’ 

‘But I don’t despise you –’ 

Then you should,’ said Dumbledore. He drew a deep breath. ‘You know the secret of my sister’s ill-health, what those Muggles did, what she became. You know how my poor father sought revenge, and paid the price, died in Azkaban. You know how my mother gave up her own life to care for Ariana. 

‘I resented it, Harry.’ Dumbledore stated it baldly, coldly. 

He was looking, now, over the top of Harry’s head, into the distance. 

I was gifted, I was brilliant. I wanted to escape. I wanted to shine. I wanted glory. 
‘Do not misunderstand me,’ he said, and pain crossed the face so that he looked ancient again. 

‘I loved them. I loved my parents, I loved my brother and my sister, but I was selfish, Harry, more selfish than you, who are a remarkably selfless person, could possibly imagine. 

‘So that, when my mother died, and I was left the responsibility of a damaged sister and a wayward brother, I returned to my village in anger and bitterness. Trapped and wasted, I thought! And then, of course, he came ... 

Dumbledore looked directly into Harry’s eyes again.

 ‘Grindelwald. You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me. Muggles forced into subservience. We wizards triumphant. Grindelwald and I, the glorious young leaders of the revolution.
‘Oh, I had a few scruples. I assuaged my conscience with empty words. It would all be for the greater good, and any harm done would be repaid a hundredfold in benefits for wizards. Did I know, in my heart of hearts, what Gellert Grindelwald was? I think I did, but I closed my eyes. If the plans we were making came to fruition, all my dreams would come true.

‘And at the heart of our schemes, the Deathly Hallows! How they fascinated him, how they fascinated both of us! The unbeatable wand, the weapon that would lead us to power! The Resurrection Stone – to him, though I pretended not to know it, it meant an army of Inferi! To me, I confess, it meant the return of my parents, and the lifting of all responsibility from my shoulders.
‘And the Cloak ... somehow, we never discussed the Cloak much, Harry. Both of us could conceal ourselves well enough without the Cloak, the true magic of which, of course, is that it can be used to protect and shield others as well as its owner. I thought that if we ever found it, it might be useful in hiding Ariana, but our interest in the Cloak was mainly that it completed the trio, for the legend said that the man who united all three objects would then be truly master of death, which we took to mean, invincible.
‘Invincible masters of death, Grindelwald and Dumbledore! Two months of insanity, of cruel dreams, and neglect of the only two members of my family left to me.

‘And then ... you know what happened. Reality returned, in the form of my rough, unlettered, and infinitely more admirable brother. I did not want to hear the truths he shouted at me. I did not want to hear that I could not set forth to seek Hallows with a fragile and unstable sister in tow.

The argument became a fight. Grindelwald lost control. That which I had always sensed in him, though I pretended not to, now sprang into terrible being. And Ariana ... after all my mother’s care and caution ... lay dead upon the floor.’

Dumbledore gave a little gasp, and began to cry in earnest. Harry reached out, and was glad to find that he could touch him: he gripped his arm tightly, and Dumbledore gradually regained control.

Well, Grindelwald fled, as anyone but I could have predicted. He vanished, with his plans for seizing power, and his schemes for Muggle torture, and his dreams of the Deathly Hallows, dreams in which I had encouraged him and helped him. He ran, while I was left to bury my sister and learn to live with my guilt, and my terrible grief, the price of my shame.

‘Years passed. There were rumours about him. They said he had procured a wand of immense power. I, meanwhile, was offered the post of Minister for Magic, not once, but several times. Naturally, I refused. I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power.’

‘But you’d have been better, much better, than Fudge or Scrimgeour!’ burst out Harry.

‘Would I?’ asked Dumbledore heavily. ‘I am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well. ‘I was safer at Hogwarts. I think I was a good teacher –’ ‘You were the best –’ ‘You are very kind, Harry. But while I busied myself with the training of young wizards, Grindelwald was raising an army. They say he feared me, and perhaps he did, but less, I think, than I feared him.

Oh, not death,’ said Dumbledore, in answer to Harry’s questioning look. ‘Not what he could do to me magically. I knew that we were evenly matched, perhaps that I was a shade more skilful. It was the truth I feared. You see, I never knew which of us, in that last, horrific fight, had actually cast the curse that killed my sister. You may call me cowardly: you would be right. Harry, I dreaded beyond all things the knowledge that it had been I who brought about her death, not merely through my arrogance and stupidity, but that I actually struck the blow that snuffed out her life.

I think he knew it, I think he knew what frightened meI delayed meeting him until, finally, it would have been too shameful to resist any longer. People were dying and he seemed unstoppable, and I had to do what I could.

‘Well, you know what happened next. I won the duel. I won the wand.’

Another silence. Harry did not ask whether Dumbledore had ever found out who struck Ariana dead. He did not want to know, and even less did he want Dumbledore to have to tell him. At last he knew what Dumbledore would have seen when he looked in the Mirror of Erised, and why Dumbledore had been so understanding of the fascination it had exercised over Harry.






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