The Will of Albus Dumbledore

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Chapter 7 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Will of Albus Dumbledore← Chapter 6 | Chapter 8 →

Synopsis[edit]

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

I always said he was mental. Brilliant and everything, but cracked. Leaving Harry an old Snitch... What was that about? {Ron, about Dumbledore}

Harry is awakened by Ron Weasley after Harry witnessed, as if dreaming, Voldemort's search for Gregorovitch, an unknown but slightly familiar name. Today is Harry's seventeenth birthday, the legal age to perform unmonitored magic. Excitedly, he successfully casts some spells to test whether the Ministry's "Trace" still monitors him. At breakfast, he receives many presents from friends and mentors. The Weasleys give him a gold watch, a wizard's traditional seventeenth birthday gift. Mrs. Weasley explains that it belonged to her late brother, Fabian Prewett. Harry gives her a grateful and understanding hug. Later, Ginny Weasley ushers Harry into her bedroom. Rather than a present, she wants to give Harry something to remember her by, in case he meets someone else, though Harry says dating opportunities will be slim; she kisses him and he begins kissing her back, but they are abruptly interrupted by Ron. He and Ron leave the room as Ginny turns away, apparently crying. Upset, Ron warns Harry not to give Ginny any false hope about renewing their romance. Harry, realizing Ginny's future is unencumbered whereas his is blocked by Voldemort, promises it will never happen again.

At the birthday party, newlyweds Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks congratulate Harry, though Lupin appears rather sad while Tonks looks radiantly happy. Halfway through the festivities, Arthur Weasley's Patronus arrives announcing that Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour is accompanying him to the Burrow. Lupin and Tonks leave abruptly upon hearing this, puzzling many.

Scrimgeour arrives and speaks privately to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Albus Dumbledore's will bequeaths them several items. Hermione wryly comments that the Ministry probably took the maximum time allowed to thoroughly examine Dumbledore's estate so they could test objects for any Dark Magic. Ron receives a Deluminator, a magical device that captures and releases light. Queried by Scrimgeour as to why Dumbledore would leave him such a rare instrument, Ron responds he never thought Dumbledore was particularly fond of him; Hermione, to counter Scrimgeour's suspicions, disputes this, claiming Ron is being too modest. She receives a book, The Tales of Beedle The Bard, which seems to be an early edition written in runes. She is unable to answer why Dumbledore left her this. Harry inherits the Quidditch Snitch he caught during his first-ever Quidditch match at Hogwarts. Hermione mentions the Snitch's "flesh memory"; it remembers the first player that touches it during a game, a property used to resolve any disputes. Nothing happens when Harry touches it, to Scrimgeour's apparent disappointment: possibly expecting it to reveal something hidden inside. There is a second bequest for Harry: the sword of Godric Gryffindor. However, Scrimgeour claims the sword is a "vital historical artifact," and the Ministry is unwilling to relinquish it to Harry. A heated argument erupts between Harry and Scrimgeour, alarming Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Scrimgeour, offended, abruptly leaves.

Later that evening, Harry remembers catching the Snitch in his mouth. Pressing it to his lips, a cryptic inscription in Dumbledore's handwriting appears on it: "I open at the close." None can decipher its meaning. Neither Harry nor Hermione know that The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a famous Wizarding nursery book. Raised by Muggles, they have never heard of "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump." Unable to determine what their bequests mean, the Trio heads off to bed.

Analysis[edit]

While Voldemort's dark cloud increasingly threatens the Wizarding world, Harry's birthday party offers a happy, if momentary, respite, as well as some insight into several characters. Lupin and Tonks' differing emotional expressions at the gathering seems a bit odd and could be interpreted several ways, but Tonks' radiant happiness suggests she may be pregnant. That this comes at a very difficult and dangerous time is likely deeply distressing to Lupin, who already had troubling doubts about his suitability as a husband. He may be harboring similar fears regarding fatherhood and is worried that he and Tonks will not survive the war, leaving their only child an orphan.

The Weasleys' birthday gift to Harry is far more than a traditional token commemorating a wizard's entry into adulthood. Giving Harry her deceased brother's watch shows that Mrs. Weasley loves Harry like a son; Harry understands its significance and is deeply grateful, and he considers the Weasleys as his family. It weighs on Harry that Ron's being on the mission is putting the entire Weasley family at greater risk from Voldemort, should he find out that Ron is helping Harry. Ginny, meanwhile, is still in love with Harry, but she has nearly abandoned hope that they will ever be together. Ron's concern for his sister's emotional well-being indicates an emerging maturity and shows that he is thinking about others, not just himself, though he still has some ways to go before fully reaching adulthood. Ron is also learning about romantic relationships, having read a book the Twins gave him on girls and dating. He has been applying its advice to Hermione, who seems to respond favorably. Ron, who had repeatedly remarked that he needed lessons about girls, is impressed enough with the results that he gives Harry a copy for his birthday, though he asks Harry to avoid showing it to Hermione.

That Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour would personally deliver Dumbledore's bequests to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at The Burrow is not just unusual, but highly suspicious. Other than the Sword of Gryffindor, these are fairly innocuous objects, but having once belonged to an extraordinary wizard makes them exceptional, at least to the Ministry of Magic. Clearly, the Ministry suspects there is some ulterior motive as to why Dumbledore left the Trio these particular items, which is why it took the Ministry so long to examine Dumbledore's estate. The Ministry's suspicions are probably correct, but there is no way for us or the Ministry to know yet what those motives might be. It is doubtful that the Sword of Gryffindor belonged to Dumbledore, but he obviously wanted to bring it to Harry's attention, though for what purpose is yet unknown. He may be hinting that the Sword must somehow come into Harry's possession. It seems odd that Dumbledore bequeathed Harry so little considering their close relationship; it is unknown just what his entire estate entailed or what, if anything, was left to Albus' brother, Aberforth. The Ministry is also suspicious as to why Dumbledore would leave Ron and Hermione anything, suspecting his connection to either was minimal. However, Dumbledore obviously left the Trio these specific objects for a reason, and additional bequests to Harry would have overridden those items' particular significance.

The Trio realizes that Dumbledore is communicating to them posthumously, but they are are unable to decipher his enigmatic message. By speaking to Harry from beyond the grave this way, Dumbledore shows that death is not always a finite ending. Those who have died can continue to affect the living in many ways—through memories, possessions they owned, their personal legacy, and so on. However, in the Wizarding world, the dead often play a more substantial, cognitive, and interactive role, as we have seen not only by the Hogwarts' Ghosts, but in other ways, such as through the living portraits, spirit echoes, vivid memories in a Pensieve or a diary, etc. It is understandable why Harry continually hopes magic can reunite him with his dead parents. Dumbledore has obviously left a cryptic trail for Harry to follow, though Harry has no idea where that trail begins or where it will eventually lead.

The Golden Snitch from Harry's first Quidditch game having been caught in an unusual way seems to play a significant part in this chapter, seven books later. One must wonder whether the plot arc for the series was developed with this level of detail before pen was ever set on paper, or whether the Snitch's availability and its unconventional means of initial contact with Harry was fortuitous.

Harry testing to see if the Ministry of Magic's Trace for underage magic has expired may be inconclusive. The Trace does automatically disappear when a witch or wizard comes of age, but the Ministry is unable to detect underage magic in a Wizarding household where the adults are constantly casting spells. In wizard homes, it is the parents' responsibility to monitor their children for improper use. Although the Trace on Harry does disappear on schedule, if Voldemort's followers within the Ministry had somehow kept it active, Harry would likely be unaware, and it could have revealed the Trio's location once they left the Burrow and began their mission. There may, however, be something else that can reveal their presence to Voldemort.

It is perhaps useful to note that the author had perhaps deliberately written herself into something of a corner here. She never intended to write anything else in the Potter universe, and so appears to have simply pulled the names of the Tales of Beedle the Bard out of thin air. Whether it was her purpose to make the Tales difficult to write or not will never be known, but she has stated that when she did choose to write the Tales as a separate book, she found it nearly impossible to create a story to fit the title, "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump."

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

Review[edit]

  1. Why is Ron upset that Harry kisses Ginny?
  2. Other than marking Harry's seventeenth birthday with a traditional gift, why would Mrs. Weasley give Harry her late brother's watch? What is Harry's reaction and why?
  3. Why would Lupin and Tonks abruptly leave the party before Scrimgeour arrives?
  4. Why did the Ministry wait so long to reveal Dumbledore's will?

Further Study[edit]

  1. What might be the significance of each bequest that Dumbledore left the Trio?
  2. Considering Dumbledore's affection for Harry, why wouldn't he leave him more in his will?
  3. Why would Dumbledore leave Gryffindor's Sword to Harry, an object that probably never belonged to him?
  4. Why does the Ministry withhold Gryffindor's Sword from Harry? Is it really because it did not belong to Dumbledore as they claim, or is there another reason?
  5. Ron, who has always been slower to develop emotionally than Harry or Hermione, shows signs that he is maturing into adulthood. Give examples of this.
  6. Why would Lupin appear sad while Tonks looks happy?
  7. What might the inscription, "I open at the close," that is engraved on the Snitch actually mean?
  8. Why would Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour personally deliver Dumbledore's bequests to the Trio?

Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

We will note here that the Gregorovitch that Voldemort is searching for has previously appeared in the series. Who he is, and why Voldemort is looking for him, will not be entirely cleared up until late in this volume; we note him here, though, as this is the first mention of him in this book, and he does have a role to play.

Each object Dumbledore left the Trio proves vital to their mission to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes. The Deluminator that Ron received was called a "put-outer" in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Initially, its only purpose seems to be to extinguish and later re-illuminate lights. However, it is later revealed that it also detects other peoples' conversations about its owner and guides the holder to their location. After Ron deserts Harry and Hermione later in the book, the Deluminator will lead him back to them.

Hermione's bequest is a well-known book of wizard fairy tales containing a story about the Deathly Hallows, which are three powerful magical objects; someone, probably Dumbledore, marked the fable, "The Tale of the Three Brothers," with the Deathly Hallows' symbol. One Hallow will prove vital to combating Voldemort, who is seeking it.

Unknown to Harry just yet, another Hallow is hidden within the Snitch. Its inscription's meaning, "I open at the close," is revealed near the book's conclusion when Harry realizes that 'the close' means death.

Although it is never known if Dumbledore ever actually owned Gryffindor's Sword, his bequeathing it to Harry in his will is a vital clue that the Trio will need the sword to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes. We already know that Basilisk venom will destroy a Horcrux; as the only known source is in the Chamber of Secrets deep under Hogwarts, it is not immediately certain how useful that information will be. We later discover that Gryffindor's Sword was used to destroy a Horcrux, and perhaps Dumbledore intends that the Sword be available to Harry to destroy the other Horcruxes. In fact, two of the remaining four Horcruxes will be destroyed with it.

A note on Tonks and Lupin is in order here, as some readers have voiced concern over their distinct appearances – Tonks happy, and Lupin glum. We learn later that their son, Teddy, was likely born in late March or early April (Draco was home from Hogwarts when Harry was captured by the Snatchers, so it must have been Easter break; Lupin's appearing at Shell Cottage was soon after that). So Tonks would have "caught" nine months previous, in June or July. Not having an exact date for Teddy's birth, we equally lack a precise date for conception. But based on this, we know that Tonks would only have just become pregnant, and possibly was not quite certain yet if she was when we see her at the party, though, judging by her happiness, she must at least have suspected she might be, and Lupin confirms it to the Trio a few days later.

Lupin, though somewhat railroaded into the marriage, was never forced. In addition to believing he is unworthy and too old to be Tonks' husband and have children with her, he simply feels that it is irresponsible to bring a child, especially a Werewolf's child, into the world when it is such an insecure future. One gathers he is uncertain if his son will be Lycanthrope; likely no Werewolf has ever married and had children with a human before, and it is unknown if the child will inherit his father's condition. It is his uncertainty about the child's future that is eating at him. He may or may not know that Tonks is pregnant before she tells him; when she is, her scent will change, and if he had transformed since she caught, he will likely know it, perhaps even before she does.

One thing is certain, though: reluctant as Lupin is, he would not have gotten Tonks pregnant until they were married. Lupin is emotionally the most mature of the Marauders, and will have behaved himself. But it is that same maturity and responsibility that makes him unsure whether or not he has done the right thing by surrendering to Tonks' importuning and produced a child.