Musings on the Mirror
“I want you to take this,” he said quietly, thrusting a badly wrapped package roughly the size of a paperback book into Harry’s hands.
That package was, of course, the two-way mirror, which Harry later smashes in a burst of frustration. JK Rowling has, on more than one occasion, indicated that the mirror will appear again. One of the clearest statements about it is in the FAQ section of her website:
Why did Harry have to forget the mirror he had been given by Sirius in Order of the Phoenix?
I can’t give a full answer to this, because it is relevant to books six and seven. [ …] The mirror might not have helped as much as you think, but on the other hand, will help more than you think. You’ll have to read the final books to understand that!
As a result, I, and I suspect many others, were expecting to hear more of the mirror in Half-Blood Prince, and yet there was no sign of it. At first, I assumed that, as the FAQ answer was written quite a while before HBP came out, there had simply been a minor change of plan on JKR’s part, and that the whole plot strand involving the mirror had been postponed until Book 7. Recently, though, I’ve begun to wonder whether we might already have learnt something that is a clue to the possible future use of the mirror.
Before that, however, some preliminaries: first and foremost, where is the mirror now? The last time it was explicitly mentioned was in Chapter 38 of OotP. Harry unwraps the mirror, learns what it is, and tries to use it to contact Sirius. When nothing happens, we’re told that “he hurled the mirror back into his trunk where it shattered” (OotP pg. 756).
So at the moment, the mirror is broken. We see Harry’s trunk again early in HBP, while Harry is still at Privet Drive:
A large trunk stood in the very middle of the room. Its lid was open: it looked expectant; yet it was almost empty but for a residue of old underwear, sweets, empty ink bottles and broken quills that coated the very bottom.
(HBP, pg. 45)
It looks very much as though Harry’s trunk has not been cleared out over the course of the summer. And it also seems that the layer of clutter is still there when Harry leaves Privet Drive: having not wanted to pack earlier because he couldn’t quite believe he would actually be leaving. When Harry sees Dumbledore approaching, he starts ”snatching anything and everything within reach from the floor and throwing it into the trunk” (HBP pg. 47) he certainly doesn’t waste time taking anything out first. So I think we can safely conclude that the mirror fragments are still in the bottom of Harry’s trunk.
At some point in Book 7, I expect one of two things to happen: either some external event will remind Harry of the mirror’s existence, or he will stumble across some of the pieces by accident (perhaps cutting his finger on one of them while rummaging in his trunk for something), and will realize what they are. By that point a need for the mirror may have become apparent, or Harry may simply regret smashing something given to him by Sirius: whichever is the case, a swift Reparo, and the mirror is as good as new.
And what about the other half of the pair? Assuming Harry is right in his surmise that Sirius didnt have the mirror with him when he went through the veil (OotP pg. 756), then Sirius almost certainly left it somewhere in 12 Grimmauld Place probably somewhere easily accessible. But more on that later.
How might we expect to see the mirror used? As the mirror was given to Harry by Sirius, and as Harry has already tried to use it to communicate with him since his death, I originally thought that Harry might ultimately find a way of somehow using it for that purpose. It would be undeniably useful for Harry to have access to those people who are now beyond the veil: not just Sirius, but Lily and James, and perhaps most importantly, Dumbledore. I had wondered if at some point Harry might revisit the Department of Mysteries with the pair of mirrors, and if he would push one of them through the veiled archway, thus opening up a link between the living and the dead. However, while this possibility perhaps cannot be ruled out entirely, the more I think about it, the less satisfied I become with this theory for two reasons: one practical, and one literary.
First, the veil has been there for an extremely long time. The archway from which the veil hangs is said to look “so ancient, cracked and crumbling that Harry was amazed the thing was still standing” (OotP pg. 682), and JKR confirmed in her interview with Emerson and Melissa that the veil is very old:
MA: How and when was the veil created?
JKR: The veil’s been there as long as the Ministry of Magic has been there, and the Ministry of Magic has been there, not as long as Hogwarts, but a long time. We’re talking hundreds of years. It’s not particularly important to know exactly when, but centuries, definitely.
MA: Was it used as an execution chamber or just studying?
JKR: No, it’s just studying. The Department of Mysteries is all about studying. They study the mind, the universe, death…
So, wizards have used the veil for studying death for centuries. It seems impossible that in all that time, some of them wouldn’t have wondered whether it was feasible to set up some kind of communication link with the people on the other side. If it were as simple as pushing one of a pair of magic mirrors through the archway, surely it would have been done long ago?
Secondly, JKR has made it very clear that its important that Harry proceeds to the final part of his quest alone. Later in the interview with Emerson and Melissa, she said, regarding Dumbledore’s death:
JKR: [… ] I think if you take a step back, in the genre of writing that I’m working in, almost always the hero must go on alone. That’s the way it is, we all know that, so the question is when and how, isn’t it, if you know anything about the construction of that kind of plot.
ES: The wise old wizard with the beard always dies.
JKR: Well, that’s basically what I’m saying, yes.
The deaths of Sirius and Dumbledore, while painful and desperately sad, are necessary for the plot to proceed as it should. For the books to reach a satisfying conclusion, it is essential that Harry should not have too much help: if JKR had wanted to tell the story of how Harry’s mentor defeated Voldemort, we would now all be wondering what was going to happen in the final book of the Albus Dumbledore and the series. But she didn’t: this is Harry’s story, and he must be the driving force in the final stages. If he has ready access to counsel from Sirius, Dumbledore, his parents, and goodness knows who else through a mirror small enough to be kept in his pocket and carried everywhere, that puts a serious dent in his independence. In fact, this scenario might ironically result in Harry being able to call on Dumbledore for help and advice more frequently than he could when the headmaster was alive. Instead of having to wait for an invitation, or go in search of him and hope he isn’t absent from Hogwarts, he can simply speak his name into the mirror. (I am not saying that I think there will be no input from those characters who are no longer alive – Dumbledore’s portrait, for example, seems likely to play some sort of significant role. But there is a huge difference between help arriving at key moments, and guidance from beyond the grave being available on tap.)
So what other purposes might the mirror serve? The major task of Book 7 is going to be locating and destroying the Horcruxes: is there a way that the mirror can help with that? I think there might be.
Let us return to the question of the current location of the second mirror. As I noted above, Sirius almost certainly left it somewhere in 12 Grimmauld Place. It seems very probable that Harry will return to 12 Grimmauld Place at some point in the course of Book 7 – once he leaves the Dursleys for good, he may even choose to make it his base. While he is there, it may occur to him to look for the mirror, especially if he has already found and repaired the first one by this point. He, Ron, and Hermione are about to embark on a difficult and dangerous quest, and we can easily imagine that it would be extremely useful for them to have a portable, easy-to-use means of communication something that, in short, appears to be the wizarding world’s equivalent of a pair of walkie-talkies or mobile phones. But I think if he does look for the mirror, he may well find that it is missing.
We did not visit 12 Grimmauld Place in the course of HBP, but we did catch a glimpse of some of the contents of the house – during a visit to Hogsmeade, in a suitcase being carried by Mundungus Fletcher.
The street was not very busy; nobody was lingering to chat, just hurrying towards their destinations. The exceptions were two men a little ahead of them, standing just outside the Three Broomsticks. One was very tall and thin; squinting through his rain-washed glasses Harry recognised the barman who worked in the other Hogsmeade pub, the Hog’s Head. As Harry, Ron and Hermione drew closer, the barman drew his cloak more tightly around his neck and walked away, leaving the shorter man to fumble with something in his arms. They were barely feet from him when Harry realised who the man was.”Mundungus!”
The squat, bandy-legged man with long straggly ginger hair jumped and dropped an ancient suitcase, which burst open, releasing what looked like the entire contents of a junk shop window. [ …]
”Are you selling this stuff?” asked Harry, watching Mundungus grabbing an assortment of grubby-looking objects from the ground.
“Oh, well, gotta scrape a living,” said Mundungus. ”Gimme that!”
Ron had stooped down and picked up something silver.
“Hang on,” Ron said slowly. ”This looks familiar…”
(HBP p. 230-231)
It rapidly becomes apparent that the silver goblet Ron spotted has the Black family crest on it. Harry gets angry, pins Mundungus to the wall, and accuses him of stripping 12 Grimmauld Place after Sirius’s death. Mundungus makes a feeble attempt to deny the charge, and then Disapparates (pg. 231).
We don’t get much of a chance to examine the contents of Mundungus’s suitcase, but I think its at least possible that the mirror is or was in there. Its small enough to be portable, and might well have been left on open display, rather than being hidden away in a drawer or a cupboard Sirius wouldnt want to risk missing any attempts Harry made to get in touch with him. Its questionable whether Mundungus would have recognized the mirror for what it was, but it does seem likely that Dung is more than capable of spotting a saleable magical object when he sees one (and its not unknown for one of a pair of magical communication devices to be put up for sale even if the other is out of commission consider the vanishing cabinet in Borgin and Burkes). All in all, it seems that the mirror is just the sort of thing Mundungus might well have scooped into his suitcase as he looted 12 Grimmauld Place. When Harry first unwraps the mirror, he notes that ”It looked old; it was certainly dirty” (OotP pg. 755). The collection of objects that falls out of Mundungus’s case is likewise said to be grubby-looking. By itself, of course, this proves nothing – we know from the early chapters of OotP that almost everything in 12 Grimmauld Place needs cleaning but the recurrence of this trait is perhaps suggestive.
So if Mundungus did steal the second mirror, where is it now? The most likely possibility is that he sold it to someone either at the time he bumped into the trio when he had just completed a transaction with the barman of the Hog’s Head, or that he later sold it on to someone else. The former is perhaps the more probable option. There have been hints that Aberforth will be playing a much more substantial role in Book 7 than he has so far in the series, and this would provide a reason for Harry to seek him out. There must also be some strong plot-related reason for Mundungus and the barman of the Hog’s Head to be meeting at all, as we know Mundungus was banned from the Hog’s Head some twenty years ago, and as Sirius tells us, “that barman’s got a long memory” (OotP pg. 329). Another advantage of this theory is that it gives an easy explanation of why Harry didn’t notice a mirror like the one Sirius had given him in the suitcase: it simply wasn’t there, having departed a few moments earlier, hidden under the cloak we see the Hog’s Head barman drawing around himself. (On the other hand, its not impossible Harry wouldn’t have noticed the mirror even if it was there: he wasn’t expecting to see it, and he only caught a brief glimpse of the contents of the suitcase.)
However, even if Aberforth (if indeed it is Aberforth) did take the mirror off Mundungus’s hands, I suspect he no longer has it. As the proprietor of a rather shady pub, he is ideally placed to fence stolen goods, and I wonder if perhaps he is willing to overcome his aversion to Mundungus and meet him in Hogsmeade because he realizes there may be a lucrative deal to be done. Let us suppose for a moment that Aberforth did buy the mirror from Mundungus, and later sold it (no doubt making a healthy profit in the process) to a customer. What else might he also have bought and sold?
I may as well lay my cards on the table at this point and say that I am firmly of the belief that RAB is Regulus Black, and that the locket seen in Grimmauld Place in Chapter 6 of OotP is indeed the missing Horcrux. I also think its likely we will discover in Book 7 that the locket was among the objects that Kreacher managed to hide, and that it was subsequently stolen by Mundungus. The locket, like the mirror, is precisely the sort of thing he would have been looking for – easily portable and obviously valuable. We may wonder how he came to find it, if Kreacher had it hidden away, but I think its entirely possible that after Sirius’s death, Kreacher became more careless about where he kept his treasures one can even imagine him bringing them out from his cupboard and proudly displaying them to the portrait of Mrs. Black in the entrance hall.
Harry will discover all this, probably fairly early in Book 7. If Mundungus did indeed sell the locket to Aberforth, Harry’s investigations will lead him to the Hogs Head. But what if Aberforth is unable or unwilling to divulge the identity of the locket’s purchaser? The quest for the Horcruxes will have reached a dead end.
Unless, that is, the one thing Aberforth is able or willing to reveal – wittingly or unwittingly – is that he also sold Sirius’s mirror to the same customer. If that is the case, the pair of mirrors then becomes an essential tool in tracking down the Horcrux: Harry need simply mend his own mirror (if he hasn’t already done so by this point), and speak into it to contact the current owner of the locket.
One potential problem with this plan is that the note that Sirius gives Harry with the mirror implies that one needs to speak the name of the person one wishes to establish contact with. However, we don’t know for certain that this is necessary; perhaps if one speaks clearly and deliberately into one mirror, anyone in the vicinity of the other one will hear what is said. Alternatively, perhaps Aberforth or someone else will be able to reveal the name of the locket’s purchaser, but not his or her current location.
We may still have much more to learn about the mirrors and the use or uses to which they will ultimately be put, but it seems certain that they will play some significant role in the final book: JKR herself tells us in the passage quoted at the beginning of this essay that the mirror Sirius gave Harry will help more than we think. And what could be more significant, and more helpful, than being the means of tracking down one of the Horcruxes?