The Significance of Albus and Aberforth
by Erin Stewart
“My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No he did not! He held his head up high and went about business as usual! Of course, I’m not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery…”
To understand the relationship between Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore, we must first understand them individually. Dumbledore is a great man (as Hagrid would say), and while we know a lot about him, there’s a lot that we don’t know. Dumbledore has a way of knowing a lot of things that are happening, and it’s been debated whether or not Dumbledore knows more than he lets (think of the prophecy, and there’s bound to be even more information coming). Dumbledore is a loving man; that fact has been mentioned throughout the Harry Potter series. He has a manner of speaking which nobody else has, each of his words are weighed down with the wisdom he has gained throughout the 150 years he has lived. He’s done a lot for the magical world: he defeated Grindelwald, discovered the 12 uses for dragon blood, he was awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class and a lot of other things that I won’t bother mentioning now. Albus is eccentric, and I believe he was often misunderstood in his youth (he’s still misunderstood at the age of 150). He has achieved a lot throughout his life and still hasn’t lost the touch of the common man (chamber music, ten pin bowling).
Then there is Aberforth, whom we know very little about, but is also most likely misunderstood. Mad Eye Moody even commented that he was a “strange bloke.” There have been theories that Aberforth might be the bar tender at the Hogs Head, which isn’t to be ruled out, but I consider it being unlikely. I think the most important thing we know about Aberforth is that he is part of the Order, and therefore isn’t too jealous of Albus. If he is, he puts it aside in the name of unity.
The thing that intrigues me the most about Aberforth was his practicing of inappropriate charms on a goat, because the only other reference to a goat I can think of was from the first book. Snape says that a bezoar is a stone that comes from the stomach of a goat which will protect you from most poisons. That being said, if Aberforth was trying to get a bezoar, why was he in danger of being poisoned? He may be the paranoid sort, or it may have been real protection from something (he was part of the Order), but then again, that’s another issue altogether.
I do not think for a moment that Albus and Aberforth are close; after all, Albus isn’t even sure if Aberforth is literate. I think (for some reason) that Albus is the eldest of the brothers, so they had the same relationship Ron has with his brothers. They love each other, but there’s a certain tension in their relationship due to jealousy. Maybe this is why Albus is such a dominant proponent for unity; though he had difficulties with his brother, they were able to make amends for the good of their relationship and perhaps even the entire wizarding community (both being members of the Order).
Unity in the face of conflict takes strong people, and both Albus and Aberforth are strong (Albus has shown strength many times throughout the Harry Potter series, and Aberforth showed strength during the time he was prosecuted for the practice of inappropriate charms on a goat). To me, this relationship foreshadows the unity Hogwarts must have if they are going to ward off evil. Although Albus and Aberforth (I believe) don’t have the best relationship, they are fighting on the same team; and although Gryffindor and Slytherin have the most tension between each other, they should be able to put that aside in the name of unity.
The Dumbledore brothers show (based on the argument I have provided here) that unity is possible, and the Hogwarts houses must follow in their footsteps. JK Rowling has shown us that people can come out very differently, even if they are from the same family. She is showing us that even if they’re from the same school, the Gryffindors, Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs are encouraged (or expected) to act a certain way and turn out differently in life then they would have if they were mixed with several different influences. Albus and Aberforth turned out differently because of their roles in their family, just like Harry will turn out differently than Draco because of their roles in the school. I think both Dumbledore and the Sorting Hat realize that splitting up the students into four different houses based on one quality (for example, we know Luna is brave, but she ends up in Ravenclaw) isn’t the best idea. The different influences the people have at such a critical age will stop them from developing into people that they have the potential to be (Slytherins will grow up to be biased against “mudbloods,” Hufflepuffs will grow up to be doormats, etc.). This will ultimately stand in the way of unity.
Albus and Aberforth are 2 different people from the same family who may have broken their barriers for good. Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor are 4 different houses in the same school that must break their barriers in order to come out on top of the war. And it is possible.