“So,” said Dumbledore, slipping off the desk to sit on the floor with Harry, “you, like hundreds before you, have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised.”
“I didn’t know it was called that, sir.”
“But I expect you’ve realized by now what it does?”
“It well-it shows me my family –”
“And it showed your friend Ron himself as head boy.”
“How did you know-”
“I don’t need a cloak to become invisible,” said Dumbledore gently.1
The moment I first read this passage it caught my attention. Dumbledore’s reply to Harry about being invisible was very intriguing, but the conversation moved past this moment so quickly it was hard to decide how meaningful it truly was. After some thought, I decided Dumbledore was joking about being able to become invisible, attempting to put an understandably nervous Harry at ease. I admit I more or less forgot about this detail in the excitement of horcruxes, Snape’s loyalty and who will die, until Jo updated her website.
... which means, 'never asked question'.
Why did Dumbledore have James' invisibility cloak at the time of James' death, given that Dumbledore could make himself invisible without a cloak?
Prior to posting this I had a quick look on-line, and realised that some fans have been speculating about this question. However, nobody has ever asked me about it, and they really should have done. Just to allay the fears of the justifiably suspicious, this isn't what we in the know call 'a Mark Evans situation.'* There IS a significant - even crucial - answer.2
Okay, I am perfectly aware this question was really about why Dumbledore had the invisibility cloak, but my first reaction was: Whoa! Back up a minute! Dumbledore can be invisible without an invisibility cloak? This opens up possibilities the size of a hippogriff! How does he do it? Is it a learned spell, a potion, the result of an experiment gone wrong? Or could it be my personal favorite, an in-born trait? Magical people can be born as a Metamorphmagus,3 able to change their appearance at will, is it so unbelievable that some can be born with other natural abilities, such as invisibility?
While I should be focusing on the actual question Jo presented, (and I admit I am stumped there) I am caught up more by this power of invisibility and what it could mean. One small, but juicy, clue in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince leads me to a fascinating theory.
This essay will explore the idea of an invisible Dumbledore, and the possible ramifications of this power. Perhaps there is more to this power than we see at first glance, possibilities that apply to a character we have yet to get to know well and show us what we might expect for Harry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But, first we need to study all possible facets of this power of invisibility.
Several small details given by Jo lead me to wonder if there is more to this invisibility power than just being invisible. Note Jo’s mention of a creature we have yet to see in the actual series, the Demiguise.
The Demiguise is found in the Far East, though only with great difficulty, for this beast is able to make itself invisible when threatened, and can be seen only by wizards skilled in its capture.
The Demiguise is a peaceful herbivorous beast, something like a graceful ape in appearance, with large, black, doleful eyes more often than not hidden by its hair. The whole body is covered with long, fine, silky, silvery hair. Demiguise pelts are highly valued as the hair may be spun into Invisibility Cloaks.4
It sounds to me as though wizards skilled in the capture of these creatures must be wizards with some kind of special training or ability. These creatures are seen by wizards skilled in their capture, so it appears the wizards can see a Demiguise even after it makes itself invisible. These wizards can see invisible creatures. Sound familiar? Dumbledore knew Harry and Ron were under the invisibility cloak at Hagrid's hut in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as his eyes flickered in their direction.5 His words were meant for them when he spoke of help given when asked for, and that he would have left the school only when there are none there loyal to him. Similarly, he must have been able to see Harry under the cloak on the Astronomy Tower, because after Harry went to the door and heard footsteps coming up the stairs, Harry turned to Dumbledore as if to ask what to do. Dumbledore seemed to have noticed this, and gestured to Harry to move away from the door.6 It seems very possible that this gift of invisibility could include the ability to become invisible, and also the power to see invisible people, or at least those hidden under a cloak made of Demiguise hairs. Mad-Eye Moody has a magical eye that sees through invisibility cloaks,7 so we do know it is possible.
Sadly, due to events perpetrated by a certain greasy-haired git, Dumbledore’s invisibility powers may not seem very important; it is highly unlikely we will ever see him exhibit these powers in the final book. That is, until you consider the genetic factor.
The Amazing Dumbledore Brothers
It has been confirmed by Jo that the goat-scented grumpy bartender of the Hog’s Head Inn is indeed Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus’s brother.8 Is it possible that this power of invisibility is inherited? If Dumbledore was born with this particular ability, it could be very possible that his brother, born with a similar genetic makeup, could also possess this power. Can these brothers both become invisible without a cloak? Could both have been born with this ability as a product of magical parents, each with some sort of “V” gene? We know so very little of Aberforth, there are a lot of possibilities left open for us to theorize about. In fact, the lack of input about Aberforth is almost suspicious.
Note that while we, as readers, are aware that Albus and Aberforth are brothers because Jo confirmed that suspicion, that fact has never been brought out in the books themselves. Albus briefly mentions his brother Aberforth and his trouble with goats in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire;9 in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we see a very old photo of the original Order of the Phoenix containing one much younger Aberforth, whom Moody only met once and calls a “strange bloke;” 10 and Dumbledore lightly mentions he is friendly with the local barmen in Half-Blood Prince.11 However, nowhere has it been made known to the general wizarding world, or even to Harry, that the man with the long grey beard who runs the Hog’s Head is in fact the brother of the man considered by many to be the greatest wizard of the age, Albus Dumbledore. There is a great amount of secrecy surrounding this particular Dumbledore.
Can Aberforth make himself invisible, as his brother could? Has Jo given us any clues at all regarding this possibility? I think there may have been at least one clue left for us.
In Half-Blood Prince Harry and Dumbledore go into Hogsmeade and Apparate to the caves from outside the Hog’s Head Inn.12 As they turned the corner, “the Hog’s Head sign creaked a little, though there was no breeze.” 13
This might not seem like much; however, there are only two other mentions of the Hog’s Head sign in the entire series, and both of them specifically mentioned a breeze or wind blowing the sign.14 So the total lack of breeze to make the sign move in Half-Blood Prince is quite interesting. Jo goes out of her way to point out both the movement and the absence of wind. What, besides breeze, would cause a sign to move? Grawp’s heavy snoring drifting down from his mountain cave? A random sign-swinging charm? The door of the Hog’s Head Inn opening and shutting briefly?
But no one was there. Harry and Dumbledore saw no one as they Apparated away. They were alone in the street. Weren’t they? I think not.
If Aberforth can also make himself invisible, it could have been him outside the door to the Hog’s Head. Aberforth could have been waiting there invisible for Albus and Harry to pass. His movement out of the door, or him shutting the door on his way out just before they arrived, may have caused the sign to sway.
If this is true, why would Aberforth remain invisible as Harry and Dumbledore Apparate away to the cave? I have to believe it is something more than shyness.
Perhaps there is a reason for the secrecy surrounding the familial relationship of these two Dumbledores. Perhaps it is protection. Eight of the twenty-one people mentioned in the Order of the Phoenix picture Moody showed Harry never lived to see the day that The-Boy-Who-Lived send Voldemort into exile. Two were tortured into insanity shortly after. One disappeared and was never found. Edgar Bones and Marlene McKinnion both were killed along with their whole families.15 I think it is possible that it became clear to Albus that the best way to keep Aberforth safe and still make him useful to the Order was to place him in nearby Hogsmeade as an anonymous barkeep with a talent for overhearing conversations. His seemingly unthreatening, unimportant position would make it easy for him to pick up information among those who would never talk openly around him, especially if they knew who his brother was, or that he was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Secrecy is vital, just as Harry now knows Albus too surely knew that Voldemort had a talent for exploiting loved ones of his enemies.16
It is impossible to know whether Aberforth is aware of the Horcruxes and Albus’s search for them; but if Aberforth isn’t aware, he may well know Albus is after something dangerous and any time he is out with Harry could be a prime time for Voldemort to attempt to eliminate them both. If this is so I could well imagine him stepping out of his tavern invisibly (thereby making the sign creak a bit) to oversee Albus and Harry Disapparate to their destination and ensure their safety. Grumpy as he is, I think barring any type of estrangement or falling out between the two brothers, Aberforth would be eager to ensure that his brother is able to set off on his journey without any possible Death Eater complications. It may even be that he is quietly watching over his brother, as his brother has quietly watched over Harry all these years.
A question that might be asked is why: if Aberforth was watching Albus and Harry leave for the caves, did he not watch for them to return? Shouldn’t he have been waiting to see them return safely, and seeing his brother in such a weakened state, rushed to assist him? One would think this would be the natural instinct of a brother. Yet Albus has already asked Harry to go against his natural instincts and follow any orders he gives him, to the point that Harry had to continue to force feed his headmaster the vile green liquid from the basin. Albus seems to feel strongly that Harry is more valuable to the coming fight than he is, and it is possible he feels the same about Aberforth. A secret ability and loyalty could well come in handy. Albus was not alone coming back from the caves, he had an unhurt and capable Harry assisting him. I don’t see it as an impossibility that Albus would have told Aberforth that only in the most dire of circumstances should he give away his secret.
Another aspect to consider is Albus’s continued requests for one person to help him in his weakened state: Snape. Over and over again he states it is Snape he needs. If Aberforth knows what kind of Dark Magic his brother is up against, and knows it is considerably beyond his realm of abilities to cure, it would be folly to reveal his true identity and risk exposing his secret with nothing to gain. Indeed, had he done so, he could very well have been compromised with the appearance of Rosmerta, still under the Imperious Curse, who could easily have relayed what she had learned to Draco, or another Death Eater. By remaining safely inside his pub, perhaps watching carefully from a window, Aberforth preserved his secret. He watched his brother Albus return, observed his ill health, but remained inside as requested by his brother. He saw Rosmerta’s appearance, Dumbledore’s renewed resolve upon seeing the Dark Mark over his beloved school, and watched as he and Harry departed on brooms for the fateful meeting on the Astronomy tower.
The ramifications of this possible power of invisibility could be very far-reaching. It may have some of us combing back through the books for any clue that Dumbledore may have been invisibly present during key scenes. This may be the reason Dumbledore has always had an omniscient quality, knowing more than it seems he should as a brilliant but still mortal man. But what could this mean for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Dumbledore is truly dead,17 so his powers of invisibility are probably not a key factor anymore. However, if the swinging sign is an indication of a shared family trait, Aberforth may be even more useful than previously thought. I am almost certain Aberforth is the Order member we have not been properly introduced to,18 and I look to see him provide Harry with some important information, if not an actual Horcrux, in Deathly Hallows. However, if Aberforth can also be invisible and see through invisibility cloaks, he may be even more of an asset to Harry. An invisible spy could be very useful in a number of tight spots Harry is sure to get into in his quest to destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes and vanquish him forever. It is possible we will see things happen around Harry for a bit that cannot be explained, as another invisible Dumbledore watches over The-Boy-Who-Lived to ensure his success. Perhaps Aberforth’s power of invisibility will provide key information Harry desperately needs, or his ability to detect invisible people/creatures will avert danger Harry would otherwise not see. With Aberforth silently backing Harry up, possibly in place to hand Harry a crucial item/weapon at just the vital moment, Aberforth will have made a major contribution to his brother’s cause of seeing Voldemort defeated, and made it worth keeping his identity secret all these years.
It remains to be seen whether this theory will prove to be true or not. The Harry Potter fandom is anxiously awaiting the release of Deathly Hallows, and only then will Jo give us many of the answers we have been craving. No matter what answers we get, no matter if this theory is true or just plain silly in retrospect, I for one am looking forward to being formally introduced to this other Dumbledore, however (in)visible he may be.
1. Rowling, Sorcerer’s Stone, 213.
2. Rowling Official Site, “NAQ.”
3. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 52.
4. Ibid., Fantastic Beasts, 9.
5. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 263–64.
6. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 584.
7. Ibid., Goblet of Fire, 322.
8. Rowling Official Site, “Edinburgh Book Festival.”
9. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 454.
10. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 174.
11. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 445.
12. This was first pointed out to me by Leaky Lounge member Weirdsis in a private communication.
13. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 554.
14. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 335, 526.
15. Ibid., 173–74.
16. Ibid., Half-Blood Prince, 646.
17. Rowling, “Evening with Harry, Carrie, and Garp #2.”
18. Rowling, “ ‘Cub reporter’ press conference.”
J.K. Rowling Official Site. “Edinburgh Book Festival.” 15 August 2004. Transcript. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/...id=80 (accessed 28 April 2007).
———. “NAQ.” Extras: Miscellaneous. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/...id=23 (accessed 28 April 2007).
Rowling, J.K. “Edinburgh ‘cub reporter’ press conference,” ITV, 16 July 2005. Transcript CBBC Newsround. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/...4690800/4690885.stm (accessed 28 April 2007).
———. Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp: Readings and Questions #2, 2 August 2006. Transcribed by HPANA, The Leaky Cauldron, and Accio Quote! http://www.accio-quote.org/...radiocityreading2.html (accessed 30 June 2007).
———. Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2001.
———. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, Arthur A. Levine Books, 1998.
Weirdsis. Private communication.