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Doge looked wretched. Auntie Muriel cackled again and answered Harry.

Dumbledores mother was a terrifying woman, simply terrifying. Muggle-born, though I heard she pretended otherwise

She never pretended anything of the sort! Kendra was a fine woman, whispered Doge miserably, but Auntie Muriel ignored him.

proud and very domineering, the sort of witch who would have been mortified to produce a Squib

Ariana was not a Squib! wheezed Doge.

So you say, Elphias, but explain, then, why she never attended Hogwarts! said Auntie Muriel. She turned back to Harry. In our day, Squibs were often hushed up, thought to take it to the extreme of actually imprisoning a little girl in the house and pretending she didnt exist

I tell you, thats not what happened! said Doge, but Auntie Muriel steamrollered on, still addressing Harry.

Squibs were usually shipped off to Muggle schools and encouraged to integrate into the Muggle community much kinder than trying to find them a place in the Wizarding world, where they must always be second class, but naturally Kendra Dumbledore wouldnt have dreamed of letting her daughter go to a Muggle school

Ariana was delicate! said Doge desperately. Her health was always too poor to permit her

to permit her to leave the house? cackled Muriel. And yet she was never taken to St. Mungos and no Healer was ever summoned to see her!

Really, Muriel, how can you possibly know whether

For your information, Elphias, my cousin Lancelot was a Healer at St. Mungos at the time, and he told my family in strictest confidence that Ariana had never been seen there. All most suspicious, Lancelot thought!

Doge looked to be on the verge of tears. Auntie Muriel, who seemed to be enjoying herself hugely, snapped her fingers for more champagne. Numbly Harry thought of how the Dursleys had once shut him up, locked him away, kept him out of sight, all for the crime of being a wizard. Had Dumbledores sister suffered the same fate in reverse: imprisoned for her lack of magic? And had Dumbledore truly left her to her fate while he went off to Hogwarts to prove himself brilliant and talented?

Now, if Kendra hadnt died first, Muriel resumed, Id have said that it was she who finished off Ariana

How can you, Muriel! groaned Doge. A mother kill her own daughter? Think what youre saying!

If the mother in question was capable of imprisoning her daughter for years on end, why not? shrugged Auntie Muriel. But as I say, it doesnt fit, because Kendra died before Arianaof what, nobody ever seemed sure

Yes, Ariana might have made a desperate bid for freedom and killed Kendra in the struggle, said Auntie Muriel thoughtfully. Shake your head all you like, Elphias. You were at Arianas funeral, were you not?

Yes I was, said Doge, through trembling lips, and a more desperately sad occasion I cannot remember. Albus was heartbroken

His heart wasnt the only thing. Didnt Aberforth break Albus nose halfway through the service?

If Doge had looked horrified before this, it was nothing to how he looked now. Muriel might have stabbed him. She cackled loudly and took another swig of champagne, which dribbled down her chin.

How do you? croaked Doge.

My mother was friendly with old Bathilda Bagshot, said Auntie Muriel happily. Bathilda described the whole thing to mother while I was listening at the door. A coffin-side brawl. The way Bathilda told it, Aberforth shouted that it was all Albus fault that Ariana was dead and then punched him in the face. According to Bathilda, Albus did not even defend himself, and thats odd enough in itself. Albus could have destroyed Aberforth in a duel with both hands tied behind his back.

Muriel swigged yet more champagne. The recitation of those old scandals seemed to elate her as much as they horrified Doge. Harry did not know what to think, what to believe. He wanted the truth and yet all Doge did was sit there and bleat feebly that Ariana had been ill. Harry could hardly believe that Dumbledore would not have intervened if such cruelty was happening inside his own house, and yet there was undoubtedly something odd about the story.

And Ill tell you something else, Muriel said, hiccupping slightly as she lowered her goblet. I think Bathilda has spilled the beans to Rita Skeeter. All those hints in Skeeters interview about an important source close to the Dumbledoresgoodness knows she was there all through the Ariana business, and it would fit!

Bathilda would never talk to Rita Skeeter! whispered Doge.

Bathilda Bagshot? Harry said. The author of A History of Magic?


:

  1. A blank silence greeted Hermiones words. She looked around at all the faces upturned to her, rather disconcerted.
  2. A few moments later, Mr. Weasley came into the warm living room carrying his dinner on a tray. He looked completely exhausted.
  3. A few of the centaurs looked worried now. Hermione, however, gave a gasp.
  4. A few people looked around. Rita Skeeters eyes widened behind her jeweled spectacles as she saw who had spoken.
  5. A mixture of gratitude and shame welled up in Harry. Had Lupin forgiven him, then, for the terrible things he had said when they had last met?
  6. A whistling in Harrys ear told him the Bludger had just missed him again; he turned right over and sped in the opposite direction.
  7. All three of them raised their wands again, but none of them struck: they were all gazing, open-mouthed, appalled, at what was happening to the mans head.
  8. Almost against his will he glanced from Ron to Hermione, both of whom looked devastated.
  9. An aged witch stood in front of him, holding a tray of what looked horribly like whole human fingernails. She leered at him, showing mossy teeth. Harry backed away.
  10. And as everybody looked at her, she addressed the dead elf at the bottom of the grave.
  11. And Harry fell again through the silver surface, landing this time right in front of a man he recognized at once.
  12. And he looked eagerly around as though hoping to see a signpost.




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A chill that had nothing to do with the iced champagne was stealing through Harrys chest. | The name was printed on the front of one of Harrys textbooks, though admittedly not one of the ones he had read more attentively.

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