Summary: Chapter Eighteen: The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore

Harry is desolate at the loss of his wand, and frightened. Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands both had cores made from the same source—tail feathers from Albus Dumbledore’s pet phoenix, Fawkes. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry had been saved by the fact that his wand shared a core with Voldemort’s, because Voldemort’s curse did not work properly with Harry’s wand defending against it. Harry is sure that his wand, not his own magic, had somehow been responsible for his successfully evading Voldemort in the flight from the Dursleys’ house to the Tonkses’. Now that his wand is ruined, Harry feels unprotected.

Harry is filled with anger toward Dumbledore, who failed to tell him what he needed to know to complete his quest, and who left him no clue how to find the sword. By simply trying to figure out the meaning of Dumbledore’s bequest, Harry has now lost his wand and given Voldemort an important clue to whatever it is Voldemort’s looking for.

Hermione brings Harry Rita Skeeter’s book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, having seen it in Bathilda’s house and picked it up. In his anger at Dumbledore, Harry looks forward with relish to the prospect of reading about his dead friend’s dirty secrets—without even having to ask Dumbledore’s permission.

Harry flips through the book, looking at the pictures, and discovers that the young man who stole the wand from Gregorovitch—the man Voldemort is now searching for—is Gellert Grindelwald. This fact is astounding to Harry and Hermione, because Grindelwald is the Dark wizard whom Dumbledore defeated in a duel decades earlier, yet in the photographs in the book, the teenage Grindelwald and Dumbledore seem to be the best of friends.

Harry and Hermione look for an explanation in the text of the book, and we see the excerpt they read. In it, Rita Skeeter claims that after his graduation from Hogwarts, Dumbledore was called home by news of his mother’s death, and that he went home to ensure his sister’s continued imprisonment. Bathilda Bagshot was at the time the only resident of Godric’s Hollow on speaking terms with Dumbledore’s mother, and that same summer that Dumbledore returned home, Bathilda was visited by her great-nephew, Gellert Grindelwald, a brilliant student of the Dark Arts at the Durmstrang Institute, who had recently been expelled for his illicit experiments. At Godric’s Hollow, Grindelwald and Dumbledore quickly struck up a close friendship.

Skeeter’s book reproduces a letter from Dumbledore to Grindelwald from this period, in which Dumbledore expresses the view that wizards should dominate and control Muggles for the Muggles’ own good—views that would have been anathema to the older Dumbledore, contradicting everything that he stood for. The book goes on to note that Dumbledore and Grindelwald parted ways two months later, not because Dumbledore had a change of heart, but because of Ariana’s sudden death. According to Bathilda, Dumbledore and his brother Aberforth got into a fistfight over her coffin, with Aberforth breaking Dumbledore’s nose and blaming him for Ariana’s death. Grindelwald quickly departed Godric’s Hollow to begin his terrifying career on the Continent, and Dumbledore did not intervene to stop him for a full five years. Rita Skeeter speculates about the role that either man might have played in killing Ariana, and at the meaning of the hitherto unknown bond between the two wizards.