398 Life and Lies

"Try again . . . Slow and steady this time, Sol," Chris stood in a defensive stance as Sol closed his eyes and held up his hands facing Chris.

Tiny flames started to move in Sol's hand and for a moment it looked like he might make a fireball this time but he lost control. Sparks shoot out from his hands to Chris's face. With a flick of her hand, Chris stopped the sparks inches away from her face, and a second later, the sparks drizzled on the ground.

"It's fine, Sol. We are fine," Chris smiled at Sol but he looked scared. "This is just the fifth time you are trying, Sol. It's okay."

"I —"

"Who is hungry?" Luna came into the view with a cheerful sing-song tune, followed by Colin.

The next morning, after Chris, Ginny, Luna, Colin, Sol, and Oziyat had settled into a tent near the riverbank, where the Portkey transported them; Colin and Luna went to bring some food from the village near them, while Ginny decided to take a nap and Chris lured Sol out in the name of training his new powers, but in reality, she was trying to distract him.

"We can take a small break," Chris told Sol and he looked relieved.

Luna entered the tent humming a sweet tune and Sol quickly followed her. Colin lagged back and Chris approached him.

"I guess the trip to the village went well since Luna is in such a joyful mood," Chris eyed the tent with a small smile.

"You know Luna, she knows how to find joy in everything," Colin's eyes were filled with admiration. "But today's reason is she found some pudding toffees and scotch eggs in the village and there weren't many dementors here either."

"That's odd," Chris's smile turned into a frown. "If we thought this is close to where Harry should be, shouldn't they think the same?. . Unless they already know where he is. . . crap!"

"Before getting into that question, Chris, I found something, you should see," Colin pulled out a folded paper from his pocket and handed it to Chris. "I saw it in Charlie's place and took it."

Chris unfolded the paper and realized it was a little bit old Daily Prophet newspaper. Across the bottom half of the front page a smaller headline was set over a picture of Dumbledore striding along, looking harried:


Coming next week, the shocking story of the flawed genius considered by many to be the greatest wizard of his generation. Striping away the popular image of serene, silver-bearded wisdom, Rita Skeeter reveals the disturbed childhood, the lawless youth, the life-long feuds, and the guilty secrets that Dumbledore carried to his grave, WHY was the man tipped to be the Minister of Magic content to remain a mere headmaster? WHAT was the real purpose of the secret organization known as the Order of the Phoenix? HOW did Dumbledore really meet his end?

The answers to these and many more questions are explored in the explosive new biography, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, by Rita Skeeter, exclusively interviewed by Berry Braithwaite, page 13, inside.

Chris ripped open the paper and found page thirteen. The article was topped with a picture showing another familiar face: a woman wearing jeweled glasses with elaborately curled blonde hair, her teeth bared in what was clearly supposed to be a winning smile, wiggling her fingers up at him.

"Well, of course, Dumbledore is a biographer's dream," says Skeeter. "Such a long, full life. I'm sure my book will be the first of very, very many."

Skeeter was certainly quick off the mark. Her nine-hundred-page book was completed in a mere five months after Dumbledore's mysterious death in June. I ask her how she managed this superfast feat.

"Oh, when you've been a journalist as long as I have, working to a deadline is second nature. I knew that the Wizarding world was clamoring for the full story and I wanted to be the first to meet that need."

The advance publicity for Skeeter's biography has certainly suggested that there will be shocks in store for those who believe Dumbledore to have led a blameless life. What were the biggest surprises she uncovered, I ask?

"Now, come off it. Betty, I'm not giving away all the highlights before anybody's bought the book!" laughs Skeeter. "But I can promise that anybody who still thinks Dumbledore was white as his beard is in for a rude awakening! Let's just say that nobody hearing him rage against You- Know- Who would have dreamed that he dabbled in the Dark Arts himself in his youth! And for a wizard who spent his later years pleading for tolerance, he wasn't exactly broad-minded when he was younger! Yes, Albus Dumbledore had an extremely murky past, not to mention that very fishy family, which he worked so hard to keep hushed up."

I ask whether Skeeter is referring to Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth, whose conviction by the Wizengamot for misuse of magic caused a minor scandal fifteen years ago.

"Oh, Aberforth is just the tip of the dung heap," laughs Skeeter. "No, no, I'm talking about much worse than a brother with a fondness for fiddling about with goats, worse even than the Muggle- maiming father – Dumbledore couldn't keep either of them quiet anyway, they were both charged by the Wizengamot. No, it's the mother and the sister that intrigued me, and a little digging uncovered a positive nest of nastiness, specifically the sister Ariana Dumbledore – but, as I say, you'll have to wait for chapters nine to twelve for full details. All I can say now is, it's no wonder Dumbledore never talked about how his nose got broken."

Family skeletons notwithstanding, does Skeeter deny the brilliance that led to Dumbledore's many magical discoveries? The importance of some of Dumbledore's achievements cannot, I venture, be denied. What of his famous defeat of Grindelwald?

"Oh, now, I'm glad you mentioned Grindelwald," says Skeeter with such a tantalizing smile. "I'm afraid those who go dewy-eyed over Dumbledore's spectacular victory must brace themselves for a bombshell – or perhaps a Dungbomb. Very dirty business indeed. All I'll say is, don't be so sure that there really was a spectacular duel of legend. After they've read my book, people may be forced to conclude that Grindelwald simply conjured a white handkerchief from the end of his wand and came quietly!"

Skeeter refuses to give any more away on this intriguing subject, so we turn instead to the relationship that will undoubtedly fascinate her readers more than any other.

"Oh yes," says Skeeter, nodding briskly, "I devoted two chapters on Potter and Norton's relationship with Dumbledore, each one got a respective chapter about their unnatural mentor-student relationship with Dumbledore. Again, your readers will have to buy my book for the whole story, but it's certainly an open secret that Potter and Norton both have had the most troubled adolescence."

But what does it mean? We are aware that Skeeter knew Harry Potter and Christina Norton personally, and though Harry Potter's connection to the You-Know-Who makes him an obvious favorite pupil for Dumbledore, we still don't understand what connection the Muggle-born witch Christina Norton has with this wizarding war and Dumbledore, to become his absolute favorite?

"Oh, Christina Norton, that girl is an interesting piece of mystery, herself. We were quite close before her disappearance. But the first time that I met her, I was skeptical, assuming that she is just another Potter admirer, desperately wanting to get his attention by helping him. However, as I dived deep into Dumbledore's life, I found more interesting things about her which will truly surprise your readers. If your readers think Potter and Dumbledore had a strange relationship, they will be shocked to hear about Dumbledore's favoritism towards the Muggle-born witch."

Which leads us neatly to the many rumors still circulating about Dumbledore's final hours. Does Skeeter believe that Christina Norton was there when Dumbledore died?

"Well, I don't want to say too much – it's all in the book – but eyewitnesses inside Hogwarts castle saw Norton running away from the scene moments after Dumbledore fell, jumped, or was pushed. Meanwhile, Potter gave evidence against Severus Snape, a man against whom he has a notorious grudge. Is everything as it seems? That is for the Wizarding community to decide – once they've read my book."

On that intriguing note, I take my leave. There can be no doubt that Skeeter has quilled an instant bestseller. Dumbledore's legion of admirers, meanwhile, may well be trembling at what is soon to emerge about their hero.

⟦To be continued⟧

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