So what if Aberforth Dumbledore liked goats? A goat was his Patronus. He kept goats. Tended to them. Was fond of goat-related fiction. But we don’t need to dwell on that.
The point is that Aberforth Dumbledore was also an unsung hero in the Harry Potter books. After all, he helped Harry during a pivotal point in his story, and was never afraid to butt heads with others.
So Aberforth wasn’t a people person. He proudly refused entry to, and maintained a longstanding grudge with, nefarious swindler Mundungus Fletcher, for example. He’d been alleged to sling dung – goat dung, naturally – at people he had disagreements with. He’d frequently been inclined to describe close associates as ‘bloody fools’ or ‘old berk(s)’.
But this crotchetiness is understandable when you consider his life story.
As a child Aberforth saw his innocent younger sister attacked by Muggles just for being different. His sister – Ariana – went on to shun most people, apart from Aberforth. Struggling to keep a lid on her magical abilities, Ariana went on to accidentally kill their mother during a violent outburst. All the while his older brother, the illustrious Albus Dumbledore, was able to focus on his work, proceed to become headmaster of Hogwarts, and go down in history as one of the greats.
Aberforth was certainly entitled to be a bit grouchy, and grouchy he definitely was. His moodiness meant Aberforth was keen on fighting, with a fondness for duelling over debate. He was certainly not perfect, and was quite possibly illiterate – according to his own brother.
But Aberforth’s pivotal role in fighting the forces of darkness cannot be overstated.
He sneaked Harry, Ron and Hermione into the Hog’s Head under the cover of his hircine (meaning ‘goat-like’, word-fans) Patronus to escape the Death Eaters. Ever the pessimist, he locked horns with Harry, questioning Albus’s good judgement in entrusting the fate of the world to the young Boy Who Lived.
He also maintained a vital lifeline supplying food to the Room of Requirement, without which Dumbledore’s Army would likely have floundered.
Need more convincing? Students could never have escaped Hogwarts in their relieved hundreds during the final vicious Death Eater attack without the passage to the Hog’s Head, accessed via his beloved sister’s portrait.
More? Dobby would never have saved the day at Malfoy Manor, had Aberforth not dispatched his elfin buddy to rescue Harry and friends from the clutches of Bellatrix Lestrange.
Still more than those heroics, even, Aberforth’s main contribution to civilisation was all too often overlooked. Were it not for Aberforth’s brave conduct in a wand battle decades ago, evil would have triumphed long before Harry was even born.
When the Dumbledores still lived at home, Gellert Grindelwald paid Albus a visit. High-achieving Albus was drawn to young Grindelwald’s striking ability and charisma. Soon, Dumbledore was embroiled in Grindelwald’s plans to subjugate Muggles on a global scale. Pooling their considerable resources, they could well have changed history. Protective of Ariana, Aberforth ended up in a duel with Grindelwald and Albus – to disastrous results.
Of course, this was the duel where a stray curse killed Ariana. Nobody knew for sure whose wand was to blame, but Grindelwald fled, having incapacitated Aberforth with an agonising Cruciatus Curse.
After Aberforth broke Albus’s nose at their sister’s funeral, decades of brooding resentment between the two brothers followed.
But Grindelwald was gone, and Albus soon turned from what could have been a dark path. Quite simply, every Muggle alive today owes Aberforth a debt of gratitude. Probably.
Sure, he was no saint. He threatened to take Slytherin pupils hostage during the final battle for Hogwarts. And his interest in goats drew official censure from the Wizengamot. Not that we need to focus on that.
But look at the wider picture. Without Aberforth Dumbledore the fate of Harry, his friends, Hogwarts and, indeed, the world would be a very different place. Because Aberforth Dumbledore truly was the GOAT.
As in: Greatest Of All Time.
Each month Pottermore will shine a spotlight on a character from the Harry Potter stories who we feel deserves more credit. Come back next month when we celebrate Filius Flitwick.