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Title alert! "The Deathly Hallows," huh? Finally, we befuddled readers breathe a sigh of relief – we've been wondering about this mysterious phrase since we clapped eyes on the cover. (And for twenty whole chapters.) However, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are just as mystified as we are.
According to Xenophilius, very few wizards believe in the Hallows; there's nothing Dark about either the objects or the symbol that represents them, but it serves as a way to show your belief to fellow believers.
So what are the Deathly Hallows? The answer lies, apparently, in a story called "The Tale of the Three Brothers." And, oh yes, it can be found in the book that Dumbledore gave Hermione, The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Hermione pulls out her copy, and when asked, reads aloud.
The gist of the story is this: once upon a time, three brothers were traveling on a road, when they came to a dangerous creek. Because they're wizards, they're able to cross the water by magic. However, Death comes along and is totally miffed that they've thwarted him.
Death cunningly pretends to be pleased that the brothers escaped his trap, and offers them three gifts.
The oldest brother asks for the most powerful wand in existence, which will win any duel. Death goes over to a nearby elder tree and makes him one.
The second brother asks for the power to bring the dead back to life. Death picks up a stone and says that it will have that power.
Finally, the third brother, who's suspicious of this whole scenario, asks for something that will let him go on without being followed by Death, so Death gives the brother his very own Invisibility Cloak.
The brothers go their separate ways, each to his own fate.
The oldest brother, who received the Elder Wand, boasts unwisely about it and is killed by another wizard, who goes and steals the wand.
The middle brother uses the stone to bring the girl he once loved back to life – but she's still separated from real life, and is miserable. He kills himself to try and truly join her in death.
The youngest brother, however, evades Death for many years, until he passes the Cloak on to his son; when Death came to him, he went willingly.
The story comes to a close, and Xenophilius reiterates the Deathly Hallows – they're the three objects that Death gave to the brothers, the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility. The symbol Hermione's been puzzling over is a combination of these three things – a line for the wand, a circle for the stone, and a triangle for the cloak.
The name, Xenophilius explains, refers to the belief that the wizard who possesses all three objects will become the Master of Death.
Hermione, unsurprisingly, doesn't buy it. She raises the point that Invisibility Cloaks, for example, exist – but Xenophilius interrupts her, saying that most of them merely give the impression of invisibility. The Cloak, however, gives true invisibility, and he's certainly never seen one like it.
We have, though – on Harry.
Hermione casts doubt on the other two objects, but Xenophilius stops her at the Elder Wand, whose history is actually traceable. In order to master the Elder Wand, it has to be captured from the previous owner, which means that it's been the cause of a whole lot of wizarding murders.
Hermione has one more question – she wants to know about the Peverell family (Ignotus Peverell was the name on the gravestone in Godric's Hollow where she saw the symbol). Xenophilius tells her that they were the original three brothers of the story.
Xenophilius asks them to stay for dinner, and goes down to the kitchen.
Left alone, Harry, Ron, and Hermione debate the truthfulness of the story. Harry's the only one inclined to believe it. Ron, thinking of the cloak, starts to wonder if maybe he's right.
As they're debating, Harry is distracted by an image of his own face – he goes upstairs to Luna's room, which has a mural of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Neville, labeled "Friends." He's touched.
While he's up there, he notices that the room is covered in dust, like nobody's been there for some time.
Xenophilius comes back up, and Harry demands to know where Luna is – what's going on?
Hermione takes a look at The Quibbler editions being printed, and lo and behold, it's changed its angle – a huge picture of Harry and the words "Undesirable Number One" are on the cover.
Xenophilius admits that the Death Eaters took Luna as a punishment for what he'd been writing in TheQuibbler (exposés on Voldemort's takeover), and that if he turned in Harry, he thought they might give her back…
As he speaks, figures on broomsticks soar outside. Xenophilius tries to Stun them, but Harry pushes Ron and Hermione out of the way, just as the errant Stunning spell blows up the (indeed-explosive) Erumpent horn.
Xenophilius is blown back downstairs by the explosion, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione are covered in rubble.
The Death Eaters who arrive, Selwyn and Travers, doubt that Harry's actually there. Hermione, Ron, and Harry quietly get out of the rubble as Xenophilius loudly tries to clear the stairs to show the Death Eaters his prisoners.
Hermione comes up with a plan – first making sure that Ron's wearing the Cloak, she blasts a hole in the floor. The three of them fall through to the kitchen, where the Death Eaters catch a glimpse of them, then Disapparate in midair.