Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’: Chapter 28
In the twenty-eighth chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Death Eaters surround the trio in Hogsmeade, and an unlikely friend saves them from capture and death. When this man does, the pieces start falling into place. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 28: THE MISSING MIRROR
- Harry’s feet touched the road. He saw the achingly familiar Hogsmeade High Street: dark shop fronts, and the mist line of black mountains beyond the village and the curve in the road ahead that led off toward Hogwarts, and light spilling from the windows of the Three Broomsticks, and with a lurch of the hear, he remembered with piercing accuracy, how he had landed here nearly a year before, supporting a desperately weak Dumbledore, all this in a second, upon landing — and then, even as he relaxed his grip upon Ron’s and Hermione’s arms, it happened.
I stepped out of the garage, sweat beading on my forehead and temples, and I went to rub it away with my hand, but I stopped when I saw my blackened fingers, freshly sullied from the hours of cleaning I’d just finished. Instead, I turned around and gripped the splintering wood of the garage door and gave it a heave down to shut it. It closed with a bang that echoed in the yard and I stood there, still, and I placed my hand on the door, feeling the remaining vibration linger and then fade away.
I had been here for almost a year and I was recalling those first meetings in the backyard, in the makeshift chapel, when I tried to find God. The chapel was still there, the long rectangular canopy peaking at the top, one of the plastic flaps of the door blowing to the side in the spring wind. I moved away from the garage, toward the entrance, and I could see the faded statue of Mary against the western wall, her hands clasped in prayer, and the sight of her made me sweat more and I could feel the tingling growing in my face.
I remembered entering this place a year ago, my eyes dropping to the floor often in shyness, shocked at how willing these people were to hug me, to smile with dopey grins, to tell me that I mattered and that what I did mattered. But that was some time ago and the memory of what had happened in the garage just a few days ago made the chapel seem hollow.
The sound of the door flapping reminded me that I was just as empty as the building before me and as I heard the dreadful crunch of gravel and hum of a car motor, I turned away from this place and somehow knew I wouldn’t ever be back here again.
- The air was rent by a scream that sounded like Voldemort’s when he had realized the cup had been stolen: It tore at every nerve in Harry’s body, and he knew that their appearance had caused it. Even as he looked at the other two beneath the Cloak, the door of the Three Broomsticks burst open and a dozen cloaked and hooded Death Eaters dashed into the streets, their wands aloft.
Harry seized Ron’s wrist as he raised his wand; there were too many of them to run. Even attempting it would have give away their position. One of the Death Eaters raised his wand, and the scream stopped, still echoing around the distant mountains.
I watched my godfather’s dad get out of his long white van, his company’s logo plastered on the side and I could see his dark eyes boring into me. The goofy smile he usually greeted me with was absent; in its place, he kept chewing on the inside of his cheek, as if concentrating too hard.
The voice that came from his stocky frame was racked with fear and anger. “Mark, I need to talk to you,” he said forcefully, with no trace of his usual accent, as if he’d been practicing this line over and over all day.
There was no point ignoring the inevitable anymore. I nodded to him and he followed me into the house.
- Harry had had no idea where they were, but now he saw, by the stuttering light of a single candle, the grubby, sawdust bar of the Hog’s Head Inn. They ran behind the counter and through a second doorway, which led to a trickery wooden staircase, that they climbed as fast as they could. The stairs opened into a sitting room with a durable carpet and a small fireplace, above which hung a single large oil painting of a blonde girl who gazed out at the room with a kind of a vacant sweetness.
Shouts reached from the streets below. Still wearing the Invisibility Cloak on, they hurried toward the grimy window and looked down. Their savior, whom Harry now recognized as the Hog’s Head’s barman, was the only person not wearing a hood.
My godfather’s house always seemed cramped and no doubt living with six other people contributed to that. I shuffled quietly into the kitchen and sat on a stool; it was silent in the house, as the rest of the family was off with the mother. I knew he was taking advantage of the opportunity because he was not the kind of man to confront people in most situations and certainly not one like this.
His thick, black hair sat pressed to his scalp from wearing a hat all day and even when he nervously ran his fingers through his hair, it sprung back into place. “There’s something we need to talk about he said,” after a few more sweeps through his hair. He paused unnaturally before coughing.
I couldn’t meet his eyes at first; mine wandered around the kitchen, with shelves overflowing with utensils and silver bowls, spices sitting precariously on the edge, a sink filled with dishes spotted by dried food. I couldn’t seem to say anything at all.
- The barman entered the room.
“You bloody fools,” he said gruffly, looking from one to the other of them. “What were you thinking, coming here?”
“Thank you,” said Harry. “You can’t thank you enough. You saved our lives!”
The barman grunted. Harry approached him looking up into the face: trying to see past the long, stringy, wire-gray hair beard. He wore spectacles. Behind the dirty lenses, the eyes were a piercing, brilliant blue.
“It’s your eye I’ve been seeing in the mirror.”
There was a silence in the room. Harry and the barman looked at each other.
“You sent Dobby.”
The barman nodded and looked around for the elf. “Thought he’d be with you. Where’ve you left him?
“He’s dead,” said Harry, “Bellatrix Lestrange killed him.”
The barman face was impassive. After a few moments he said, “I’m sorry to hear it, I liked that elf.”
Days ago, I sat in the garage, spinning on the office chair in the back room. Invoices and strange blueprints littered the floor near the desk, but the filing cabinet stood empty and unused. I heard the garage door open and I knew it was my godfather and I knew this was my last chance to to turn back, to keep my secret to myself and to keep living how I used to.
But then he came into the office, that same dejected look on his face that I’d become accustomed to, his long black hair resting over his forehead. He was wearing that same charcoal button-up shirt he depended on and I hated that I was telling him this because it was my favorite shirt of his. And it made me feel stupid to realize this.
He didn’t sit down. He had a piece of ruled paper that he was folding over and over again and his eyes refused to look my way. “So what is it you want?” he asked in a monotonous tone.
Well, I said slowly, I just needed to tell you something kind of important.
He looked at the paper, his long fingers folding one corner to another. There was a short beat before he said it, matter-of-fact.
“I know who you are, Mark.”
- He turned away, lightning lamps with prods of his wand, not looking at any of them.
“You’re Aberforth,” said Harry to the man’s back. He neither confirmed or denied it, but bent to light the fire. “How did you get this?” Harry asked, walking across to Sirius’s mirror, the twin of the one he had broken nearly two years before.
“Bought it from Dung ’bout a year ago,” said Aberforth. “Albus told me what it was. Been trying to keep an eye out for you.”
What? What do you mean?
Fold. Crease. Fold. Crease. Unfold.
“I know what you want to tell me. It’s not like it isn’t obvious.”
I felt the thumping in my chest quicken and the air in my throat seemed to disappear, but I had to say it and do it my way.
I’ve been trying to change it and I’ve been trying to find God and be a good Christian and I just want to feel ok, but…I can’t. I need your help.
I was twisting the chair back in forth so fast that it was squeaking. I think I’m attracted to guys.
Fold. Crease. Fold. Crease. Unfold.
“I know. I’ve always known who you really are.”
- “My brother Albus wanted a lot of things,” said Aberforth, “and people had a habit of getting hurt while he was carrying out his grand plans. You get away from this school, Potter, and out of the country if you can. Forget my brother and his clever schemes. He’s gone where none of this can hurt him, and you don’t owe him anything.”
Oh. Really? It’s that obvious?
Fold. Crease. Fold.
I know why you moved here. I know why you want to be friends with me.
Fold. Crease. Fold.
I…I didn’t always know. I just wanted help, dude. I thought maybe I was missing God and getting him into my life would solve this. I thought getting confirmed in the Church would take it away. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Fold. Unfold. Pause.
“I can’t help you, Mark.”
Why not? I said, my voice cracking.
“I don’t want anything to do with what you are. That’s an issue between you or god.”
But…but you’re my godfather. I thought you were supposed to help me.
Fold. Fold. Crease.
“I only did that because you had no one else.”
I sat back into the office chair, my arms limp at my sides.
“I’m not going to help you. You need like…professional help. I can’t fix your soul. You’re better off without me.”
Unfold. Fold. Crease. Fold. I stare at him but I can’t see well through the blurring tears.
“Are you done? I have stuff to do.”
I nod and he turns away and I hear the garage door shut behind him and I realize he didn’t look at me once.
- “You don’t understand.” said Harry again.
“Oh, don’t I? said Aberforth quietly. “You don’t think I understood my own brother? Think you know Albus better than I did?”
“I didn’t mean that,” said Harry, whose brain felt sluggish with exhaustion and from the surfeit of food and wine. “It’s… he left me a job.”
“Did he now?” said Aberforth. “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 gave a rather grim laugh. Hermione was looking strained. “I-it’s not easy, no,” said Harry. “But I’ve got to – “
“Got to? Why got to? He’s dead, isn’t he?” said Aberforth roughly. “Let it go, boy, before you follow him! Save yourself!”
My chair squeaked as I stood up quickly and followed my godfather outside. I shoved the garage door open as it creaked in protest and I saw him, still folding that goddamn piece of paper.
Dude, hold up!
He spun on the spot and he looked at me with eyes red in anger, his face contorted as if he was holding everything back. “What?” he said. “What do you want?”
I stopped, standing just a few feet from him and I lost the ability to speak. I stood there, dumbfounded.
“I don’t have anything to say to you. You need to get out of here and ask God for forgiveness because I can’t help you. The best thing you can do is just let it go. I don’t want anything to do with you.”
It all felt so familiar, the same type of rejection I’d been used to for years, that I simply let him walk away without another word from me.
The door to the house shut and I walked along the side of the house, out towards the street, and just started walking, no destination in mind, desperate to get far away from this place..
- Harry kept quiet. He did not want to express the doubts and uncertainties about Dumbledore that had riddled him for months now. He had made his choice while he dug Dobby’s grave, he had decided to continue along the winding, dangerous path indicated for him by Albus Dumbledore, to accept that he had not been told everything that he wanted to know, but simply to trust. He had no desire to doubt again; he did not want to hear anything that would deflect him from his purpose. He met Aberforth’s gaze, which was so strikingly like his brothers’: The bright blue eyes gave the same impression that they were X-raying the object of their scrutiny, and Harry thought that Aberforth knew what he was thinking and despised him for it.
I kept quiet and listened because I knew that it was hard enough for him to speak to me at all.
He leaned over the counter, resting his forearms on the cold white tile. “I need to talk to you about…some things.”
Ok, I said. I shifted my weight on the stool and it scraped against the floor. He looked up at me awkwardly and continued.
“I’m worried about you being in this house.”
Fuck. It was worse than I thought.
Why is that?
He stood up and walked over to the sink and his whole body seemed to shrink down in front of the dirty dishes. It sounded like he was trying to say something and the terror started to settle in my chest.
When he turned back to me, his eyes were misty and raw and I knew that the next words out of his mouth would change my life here in this house with these people that I’d once viewed as my family.
“I’m afraid for my family,” he finally said.
I stayed quiet. There wasn’t anything else I could say that would change his mind. I had made my choice days earlier and I wanted to believe that I had made a decision that would empower me and give me answers, that I would be walking a path full of answers and catharsis and that I’d start feeling whole again.
Instead, I just stayed silent.
- “When my sister was six years old, she was attacked, by three Muggle boys. They’d seen her doing magic, spying through the back garden hedge: She was a kid, she couldn’t control it, no witch or wizard can at that age. What they saw, scared them, I expect. They forced their way through the hedge, and when she couldn’t show them the trick, they got a bit carried away trying to stop the little freak doing it.” Hermione’s eyes were huge in the firelight; Ron looked slightly sick. Aberforth stood up, tall as Albus, and suddenly terrible in his anger and the intensity of his pain.
“It destroyed her, what they did: She was never right again. She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it; it turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless.
“And my father went after the bastards that did it,” said Aberforth, “and attacked them. And they locked him up in Azkaban for it. He never said why he’d done it, because the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she’d have been locked up in St. Mungo’s for good. They’d have seen her as a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy, unbalanced like she was, with magic exploding out of her at moments when she couldn’t keep it in any longer.
“My youngest son is just turning 7. I can’t have him around you.”
I’d heard of stories like this and couldn’t believe they were true, that people could actually react this way and I could look into his eyes and he wasn’t making any of this up.
“I have to protect my family.”
- And now a positively dangerous look crept over Aberforth’s face. “Grindelwald. And at last, my brother had an equal to talk to someone just as bright and talented he was. And looking after Ariana took a backseat then, while they were hatching all their plans for a new Wizarding order and looking for Hallows, and whatever else it was they were so interested in. Grand plans for the benefit of all Wizardkind, and if one young girl neglected, what did that matter, when Albus was working for the greater good?
“But after a few weeks of it, I’d had enough, I had. It was nearly time for me to go hack to Hogwarts, so I told ’em, both of ’em, face-to-face, like I am to you, now,” and Aberforth looked downward Harry, and it took a little imagination to see him as a teenager, wiry and angry, confronting his elder brother. “I told him, you’d better give it up now. You can’t move her, she’s in no fit state, you can’t take her with you, wherever it is you’re planning to go, when you’re making your clever speeches, trying to whip yourselves up a following. He didn’t like that.” said Aberforth, and his eyes were briefly occluded by the fireflight on the lenses of his glasses: They turned white and blind again. “Grindelwald didn’t like that at all. He got angry. He told me what a stupid little boy I was, trying to stand in the way of him and my brilliant brother . . . Didn’t I understand, my poor sister wouldn’t have to be hidden once they’d changed the world, and led the wizards out of hiding, and taught the Muggles their place?
The look that spread over his face was one of conviction; after stating this, it seemed to give him power, confidence, the ability to look at me and continue telling me that I was a danger to his family.
“My two youngest are–how do you say it?–they are easily swayed by things. They are already starting to think you are cool.”
He stood upright and I was watching him transform before my eyes. His posture was erect and his eyes weren’t glassy and strained anymore.
“I cannot have them thinking that you–and what you are–is ok. I can’t. And I can’t think about leaving them alone with you and what would happen to them and their innocence.”
I gulped hard and fought back the creeping sensation that I would suddenly explode and do something stupid.
“You understand, then?” he said. “I’m doing this for the good of my family. This family I have is more important than you.”
I simply nodded and looked away from him.
- “And there was an argument . . . and I pulled my wand, and he pulled out his, and I had the Cruciatus Curse used on me by my brother’s best friend – and Albus was trying to stop him, and then all three of us were dueling, and the flashing lights and the bangs set her off, she couldn’t stand it – ”
The color was draining from Aberforth’s face as though he had suffered a mortal wound.
” – and I think she wanted to help, but she didn’t really know what she was doing, and I don’t know which of us did it, it could have been any of us – and she was dead.”
His voice broke on the last word and he dropped down into the nearest chair. Hermione’s face was wet with tears, and Ron was almost as pale as Aberforth. Harry felt nothing but revulsion: He wished he had not heard it, wished he could wash is mind clean of it.
“I’m so . . . I’m so sorry,” Hermione whispered.
“Gone,” croaked Aberforth. “Gone forever.”
I wished I had not heard him say this, heard him insinuate that I’d do something to his kids and I felt there was something wrong with me and the way I was; I wanted so badly for someone to listen to me, but I could escape the futility I felt deep in my stomach. There was no convincing this man.
I wanted to feel clean instead of thinking that I was less of a man, blaming myself for this, agreeing with the man before me. I wanted to have the temerity to challenge him, to tell him he was wrong, but it was like yelling into an empty room. No one was listening.
I just wanted to go back to a time when I felt loved and wanted, to those first few months in my godfather’s house, when the family was excited to have me around, when I could make myself useful, even if it meant washing the dishes or folding laundry or cleaning out the knee-high weeds from the backyard by hand and doing things because they mattered and I mattered.
I wish I had not heard it.
- “He was never free,” said Harry.
“I beg your pardon?” said Aberforth.
“Never,” said Harry. “The night that your brother died, he drank a potion that drove him out of his mind. He started screaming, pleading with someone who wasn’t there. ‘Don’t hurt them, please . . . hurt me instead.’ “
Ron and Hermione were staring at Harry. He had never gone into details about what had happened on the island on the lake: The events that had taken place after he and Dumbledore had returned to Hogwarts had eclipsed it so thoroughly.
“He thought he was back there with you and Grindelwald, I know he did,” said Harry, remembering Dumbledore whispering, pleading. “He thought he was watching Grindelwald hurting you and Ariana . . . It was torture to him, if you’d seen him then, you wouldn’t say he was free.”
I’ll leave tomorrow, I said to him, with a tone of finality.
His eyes widened quickly. “Tomorrow?” he exclaimed. “But where will you go?” I don’t think you really care about that.
His bashful eyes looked away, guilt spreading on his face, and I continued. I just want to say one thing before I go.
“Sure,” he said, and he reached over and put his hand on top of mine, thinking it would comfort me, but it made the revulsion for myself and for his hatred rise in my throat.
I have only ever cared for this family and if you think I would have ever done something to hurt you guys, you’re wrong. I have never done anything to disrespect you.
“Well, that’s not what I meant by–”
I’m done. I’ll be gone tomorrow.
And I stood up, leaving him behind in silence, as I headed straight for where I lived: the laundry room. Someone had left a load in the washer for the full day and the heat of that room had a scent like a dog left out in the rain. I sat on the rickety excuse for a bed, staring at the window that looked in on the kitchen. My godfather’s dad was still standing in the exact spot, motionless. I sat there, staring at the back of his head, my thoughts whirring with anger, until he finally left the house and I heard the van start again, the gravel soon crunching under the tires, and I was alone in that household for the very last time.
- Aberforth seemed lost in contemplation of his own knotted and veined hands. After a long pause he said. “How can you be sure, Potter, that my brother wasn’t more interested in the greater good than in you? How can you be sure you aren’t dispensable, just like my little sister?”
A shard of ice seemed to pierce Harry’s heart.
“I don’t believe it. Dumbledore loved Harry,” said Hermione.
“Why didn’t he tell him to hide, then? shot back Aberforth. “Why didn’t he say to him, ‘Take care of yourself, here’s how to survive’ ?”
“Because,” said Harry before Hermione could answer, “sometimes you’ve got to think about more than your own safety! Sometimes you’ve got to think about the greater good! This is war!”
“You’re seventeen, boy!”
“I’m of age, and I’m going to keep fighting even if you’ve given up!”
I was lost in my thoughts, sitting inside the chapel. The wind had just picked up and I could hear the plastic beating against itself with every gust.
The statue of the Virgin Mary, faded and worn, her face forlorn and sympathetic, rested in front of my face. In all the years of my education with the church, I could never quite believe why she was so important or why I needed to venerate her, but I felt a strange desire to speak to her and to God at that very moment, because I knew that my meeting with my godfather had gone terribly and I needed to feel that I was doing the right thing, that there was something caring for me out there and that even if it was some day far away in the future, I’d be a real man again.
I had never done it before, as hard as I’d been praying the last year, and I wasn’t even sure if it was the right thing to do. I’d been to Mass more times than I could count and I’d read more of the Bible than ever before, but I still couldn’t figure out how to pray correctly, to make it seem authentic.
So I got down on my knees, feeling like a fool, and I just starting talking outloud, maybe thinking that if I spoke aloud, I’d have a better chance of someone hearing me.
God, I need you so badly right now, like I have never needed you before. I need you because I don’t know what to do anymore and I don’t know why these feelings and thoughts won’t go away. I need you and Mary and maybe some of those saints up there to just make one thing go my way. I need someone to understand that I didn’t choose this and that I can’t control any of the things in my head.
Please listen to me. Please, please, I don’t even think I’ve asked you for anything in a long time and I know there are worse things in the world but I need a sign…I need something to tell me I’m ok and this is ok and that people care about me. Please just show me something, anything to let me know you are real and you care about me. Please.
I stood up, my knees sore from the cement underneath me, and I crossed myself like I was supposed to. I left the chapel without looking back and headed to the garage, pulling open the splintered wood door, staring at the mess left behind that I was told to clean up. I thought of grabbing some work gloves, but I wanted to work with my hands, get them dirty.
Everything will be fine, I thought. I’ve got God on my side.p>——————————————————————————————–
I know I don’t usually amend these type of reviews with anything outside of the autobiographical narrative, but this chapter is way too important to the entire series for me not to say a bit more.
It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? I had a sinking feeling throughout this book that Deathly Hallows was about the loss of faith and this chapter has pretty much confirmed that. I know it was set up to reach this point, but I’m still devastated to find out that Rita Skeeter might actually have told the truth. Dumbledore is not the man I thought he was.
I don’t think that Rowling is going to write another scene that essentially says, “JUST KIDDING GUYS, DUMBLEDORE IS TOTES AN ANGEL.” Part of Harry’s growth as a person is realizing that the world around him, and most especially the people too, are imperfect and flawed.
This is a huge moment for Harry because his childhood is gone forever and he’s got nothing left to cling to in order to maintain that sort of hope. And it triggered the moment I felt my faith crack years ago, when I realized things were not getting better and the world wasn’t right. Christ, Rowling. YOU ARE MAKING EVERYTHING SO TRAGIC AND SAD.
Oh, and because I couldn’t possibly fit it in the review: HOLY FUCKING SHIT NEVILLE WHAT THE FUCK HOW IS THAT FUCKING POSSIBLE oh my god