Something fluid and silvery gray went slithering to the floor where it lay in gleaming folds. Ron gasped.
“I’ve heard of those,” he said in a hushed voice, dropping the box of Every Flavor Beans he’d gotten from Hermione. “If that’s what I think it is – They’re really rare, and really valuable.”
“What is it?”
Harry picked the shining, silvery cloth off the floor. It was strange to the touch, like water woven into material.
“It’s an invisibility cloak,” said Ron, a look of awe on his face. “I’m sure it is – try it on.”
The great thing with the Harry Potter series is that the title formula makes it very easy to write bizarro-scenario titles like the one I just wrote. (And if anybody wants to use “Harry Potter and the Invisible Man” for a fanfic, be my guest!)
Even though the Dursleys often treat Harry as if he’s invisible (and even though Severus Snape pretends he’s invisible after Harry witnesses a memory of his father humiliating Snape), Harry Potter never actually does not meet up with a literal Invisible Man in the course of JKR’s series. However, he does acquire an object that gives him invisibility at will. And there are “invisible” men willing to stay in the background as Harry moves to the foreground in the war against Voldemort.
Remember way back in January? We talked in one of the first re-read posts about the comparison between Harry and Cinderella. As a Cinderella figure, Harry has never really experienced a proper Christmas since his parents were killed. And his first Christmas at Hogwarts begins to set things right.
But a little backtracking is in order. When the Trio concludes that Snape tried to kill Harry during the Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match, Hagrid accidentally lets it slip that what Fluffy is guarding is a matter “between Professor Dumbledore an’ Nicolas Flamel.” Naturally, the Trio becomes obsessed with finding out more about Flamel – setting up Harry’s first adventure with the Invisibility Cloak.
In fact, it should be noted that before that adventure, the Trio spends considerable time in the Hogwarts Library looking for Flamel… in all the wrong places. Harry even goes into the Restricted Section, and gets shooed out of the Library entirely by Madam Pince, the Hogwarts Librarian. Whatever possesses them to assume that Flamel is famous, I don’t know. But he is, and they do.
Before we get to Harry’s first Cloak adventure, however, let’s talk more about his first real experience of Christmas and his acquisition of the Cloak.
On Christmas Eve (six years to the day before his nearly fatal visit to his birthplace of Godric’s Hollow), Harry goes “to bed looking forward to the next day for the food and the fun, but not expecting any presents at all.” Instead, when he wakes up in the morning, he is stunned to find that he has a small stack of presents at the foot of his bed.
“Will you look at this?” [Harry exclaims] “I’ve got some presents!”
“What did you expect, turnips?” said Ron.
As it turns out, Harry gets a hand-carved flute from Hagrid, a 50-pence piece from the Dursleys (from which we learn that Muggle money fascinates Ron), a Weasley sweater from Molly Weasley (signaling the beginning of his unofficial adoption into the Weasley family), a box of Chocolate Frogs from Hermione, and the Invisibility Cloak. The Cloak comes with a mysterious note, written in a “narrow, loopy” hand:
Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well.
A Very Merry Christmas to you.
Since this is a re-read, I am going to assume that we all know that the note is from Albus Dumbledore and that it is his first direct outreach to Harry since Harry arrived at Hogwarts.
The Cloak not only belonged to Harry’s father, but his father inherited it from one of his parents… going all the way back to his ancestor Ignotus Peverell, with whom the Cloak originates, and who is buried not far from Harry’s parents in the graveyard at Godric’s Hollow.
Through Ignotus Peverell, Harry is distantly related to Voldemort (a direct descendent of Ignotus’ older brother Cadmus Peverell, who possessed the Resurrection Stone). The oldest brother, Antioch Peverell, possessed the Elder Wand – which is currently in the possession of Albus Dumbledore.
The reason I have mentioned the Cloak’s background is that I’d like to draw attention to something rather remarkable – the fact that Albus Dumbledore actually returns the Cloak to Harry, even though legend claims that the person who unites the three Hallows will become the Master of Death.
For 10 years, Dumbledore has held two of the Hallows in his possession. But rather than seek out the final Hallow, he instead relinquishes the Hallow that rightfully belongs to another. He could have kept it, and Harry would have been none the wiser. But Dumbledore allows himself to be merely the custodian of the Cloak until he can safely pass it on to Harry, its rightful owner.
Such an action would be remarkable for any Wizard who made a study of the Hallows. It is even more remarkable for Dumbledore, whose youthful fantasies specifically involved uniting the Hallows to create a world ruled by Wizards… or more specifically, by himself and Gellert Grindelwald. Returning the Cloak to Harry shows the extent to which Dumbledore has turned his back on his past failings.
Though Dumbledore is later fatally tempted by the Resurrection Stone, it’s not through an attempt to unite the Hallows. It’s just a moment of weakness in which he succumbs to the temptation to bring back his dead sister (a point that is indirectly related to the second part of this chapter).
Regardless of Dumledore’s failings, returning the Cloak to Harry shows significant character growth since his sister’s death. In a very real sense, Dumbledore is one “invisible man” in this post’s title – a man willing to remain anonymous, willing to guide Harry from the background, willing to let the boy ultimately move into the spotlight.