Essay: What Did Dobby Know?

by John Kearns, November 2009; substantially modified and updated August 2011.
 

When Dobby hits the scene in the second chapter of Chamber of Secrets, there’s a big mystery behind where he comes from, what he knows, and exactly what he’s divulging to Harry. Most of that mystery is resolved by the end of the year, of course, but on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that there are still a couple of loose ends hanging out there. And the closer we look at those loose ends, the more intriguing Dobby’s interactions with Harry become.

On the face of it, Dobby’s story is simple: he’s overheard Lucius discussing his plot to open the Chamber of Secrets; Dobby fears for Harry’s safety and comes to warn him that he’s in danger; Harry eventually figures out what’s happened and Dobby is freed. Straightforward enough, right?

Until you really start thinking about it. Because when you start to consider things like the laws governing house-elves, the precise nature of Dobby’s motives, or what exactly Dobby must have overheard (and when), it turns out there are some pretty large inconsistencies in Dobby’s story.

For example:

  • How was Dobby able to stop Harry’s mail all summer without the Malfoys noticing his absense?
     
  • How did Lucius know Ginny would be at Diagon Alley so he could give her the diary?
     
  • What was so darned special about Ginny anyway, that Lucius would plot so carefully to give her the diary?
     

These sorts of issues can very nearly be satisfactorily explained. Many people, including yours truly, have made attempts to do so. But every time I’ve read one of these explanations, I’ve come away with a deep-down feeling that something still just isn’t right.

After a lot more thought, I’ve decided that the reason I’m not satisfied with these explanations is because we’ve all inadvertently ignored the key question of the entire situation:

Why does Dobby believe that Harry Potter is specifically in danger?

Because he has to believe that, doesn’t he? Why else would he go to so much trouble to warn Harry about it, and then try to prevent the poor kid from attending school?

The answer to this question, of course, lies in the conversations that Dobby overhears at Malfoy Manor. So let’s begin with a look at Lucius Malfoy.

The first sign we get that something funny is up with Lucius (aside from the fact that his house-elf is following Harry, anyway) is when Harry happens across him and Draco in Borgin and Burkes. He’s selling his Dark items, which is innocuous enough on the surface. But then he makes a very interesting comment:

”In that case, perhaps we can return to my list,” said Mr. Malfoy shortly. “I am in something of a hurry, Borgin, I have important business elsewhere today –“ (CS5)

Important business elsewhere? Then why do we see him an hour and a half later, still with Draco, hanging out at Flourish and Blotts?

It’s possible of course that his “important business” was at another shop or office (the Daily Prophet is headquartered in Diagon Alley…) and that he then continued his shopping afterward. It’s also possible that he was simply making an excuse that he thought would help his bargaining power with Borgin. But we later discover that while he was in Flourish and Blotts, Lucius did something that he would have considered quite important – he slipped Riddle’s diary in with Ginny Weasley’s schoolbooks, setting in motion the very chain of events that had Dobby so worried in the first place. It’s not a stretch to suggest that this is the important business he was referring to, especially given J.K. Rowling’s tendency to drop little hints like that in her writing.

But just what was Lucius’s plan here?

It’s clear that Lucius has a grudge against Arthur. And there’s a surface explanation that reflects this. Dumbledore himself provides it for us:

”But [Lucius] went ahead and carried out the old plan for his own ends; By planting the diary upon Arthur Weasley’s daughter, he hoped to discredit Arthur and get rid of a highly incriminating magical object in one stroke.” (HBP23)

This itself raises some funny questions. For one, if Lucius was intending to give the diary to Ginny, how did he know when she would be in Diagon Alley? For that matter, how does he even know that the girl exists, or that she’s starting Hogwarts this year?

There are explanations, of course – Lucius could have had someone in the Ministry do a little snooping for him, for example. It’s also fully possible that Lucius didn’t have any specific kid in mind, but simply went to Diagon Alley that day looking for a little Mudblood, and when he happened across the Weasleys decided in the moment to use Ginny instead. These explanations work, in the sense that they aren’t blatantly contradicted anywhere. But they still leave open questions.

Most important is that lingering question of Dobby. If Lucius has been plotting for months to give the diary to any old kid (or to Ginny, for that matter), then why is Dobby so intensely worried about Harry Potter? Does he just think Harry is that important, that he has to be protected from any danger, no matter how slight?

Hardly. Dobby didn’t show up when a notorious mass murderer was breaking into Hogwarts in search of Harry, did he? And during the Triwizard Tournament, he gave Harry gillyweed – which unquestionably put Harry in more danger than he’d have been in sitting on the banks of the lake!

It seems odd, doesn’t it?

So it’s worth considering the idea that everything may not be as it seems. In fact, there’s another explanation that fits the facts much better. And that fits Lucius much better. And that explanation happens to revolve around another Hogwarts student, who was roaming Diagon Alley on that same fateful day that Lucius slipped the diary to Ginny. A student who everything always seems to revolve around. And who Lucius’s servant had been following for months.

Lucius intended to give the diary to Harry Potter.

So why the heck would Lucius do that?

Lucius is a shining image of everything Slytherin. Every time we see him, he’s doing something to bring himself attention and power. He’s ambitious. He’s incredibly self-centered. And he’s cunning. If Lucius is trying to bump off Harry, you’d better believe it’s because he has something to gain from it. So what does Lucius stand to gain from killing Harry?

In his life as it is now, he doesn’t really gain much of anything. Maybe a few of his Death Eater buddies would be impressed, if that. But he certainly doesn’t end up with more power, money, or prestige than he currently possesses.

No, what Lucius stands to gain from Harry’s death revolves entirely around a hypothetical, but very real, possibility: what if Voldemort comes back?

The Death Eaters have to know it’s on the table. Voldemort openly bragged about making himself immortal before his disappearance – Bellatrix even shouted about it during her trial, well after he was gone.

And Lucius knows that if Voldemort comes back, the Dark Lord won’t be pleased with him. After all, he was supposed to be one of Voldemort’s most favored servants; yet in eleven years, despite having his freedom (unlike Bellatrix), Lucius has made a conscious decision not to help Voldemort return to power.

It makes sense that he wouldn’t want to, of course. Lucius has probably long regretted signing up as a Death Eater, given the prestige and power he holds in the wizarding world today. But the fact remains that if Voldemort shows up again, Lucius knows he won’t be at all pleased that it was without Malfoy assistance.

But: What if, in the meantime, Lucius has seen to it that Harry Potter has been killed? Using Voldemort’s own weapon, no less! What better way to get on Lord Voldemort’s good side than to say you were the one who finished off Harry Potter?

Lucius is hedging his bets. By killing Harry Potter, he’s ensuring that if Voldemort does return, he will once again be a most favored Death Eater. At the end of the day, the death of Harry (and knowledge that he’ll be in good shape for a potential return of the Dark Lord) is far, far more advantageous to Lucius than the death of Ginny Weasley, which is really just an underhanded blow in a petty feud. Of course Lucius wants to give that diary to Harry!

Granted, the timing seems a little funny. It’s not like Lucius doesn’t know when Harry is scheduled to start at Hogwarts. So why not enact this plan during Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, instead of waiting for his second?

Because this isn’t the first plan Lucius has concocted that revolves around Harry Potter. He’s beginning to sound a bit like Voldemort in this respect, no?

Consider what Snape later said about Harry, while talking to Bellatrix and Narcissa:

”I should remind you that when Potter first arrived at Hogwarts there were still many stories circulating about him, rumors that he himself was a great Dark wizard, which was how he had survived the Dark Lord’s attack.” (HBP2)

Lucius didn’t know how Harry had killed Voldemort; all he knew was that he was happy the Dark Lord had gone. When Harry and Draco were preparing for their first year at Hogwarts, it seems there was a very real possibility that Harry was destined to grow up to be a powerful Dark wizard himself (who would also defeat Voldemort if he did return).

From Lucius’s perspective, this was perfect. Not only might Harry get rid of his Voldemort problem for him, but Lucius was perfectly positioned for a powerful position in this new Dark wizard’s world order. After all, his son was in Harry’s class, and probably house, at Hogwarts.

So Lucius sent Draco to Hogwarts with explicit instructions to befriend Harry Potter.

How’d that work out?

At any rate, by the middle of the school year it’s clear that it doesn’t matter that Draco failed to befriend Harry; to the contrary, it’s apparent that Harry is decidedly not a Dark wizard of any type. He’s a Gryffindor, for crying out loud.

So it’s time for Lucius to resort to plan B. While Harry and Draco are still in their first year (“months” before the summer, just as Dobby describes), Lucius begins plotting to get the diary into Harry’s hands. The Chamber of Secrets will open; Harry will hopefully be killed; nobody in government will ever trace it to Lucius; and if Voldemort ever does return, he will know immediately who was responsible and reward Lucius. Heck, maybe Lucius can even get rid of Dumbledore in the process!

All Lucius has to do is get that diary into Harry’s hands. It’s simple enough; at some point the boy will have to go to Diagon Alley, and Lucius can bring Draco along so he has an excuse to get close to Harry while Draco needles him. He simply has to find out when Harry will be there. The easiest way to do that? Sending his servant to read the boy’s mail, of course.

So Lucius orders Dobby to spy on Harry, read his mail, and learn when he will be in Diagon Alley. It doesn’t occur to him to specifically forbid Dobby from talking to Harry, or from keeping Harry’s mail for that matter, because it wouldn’t have occurred to him that Dobby would want to. And Dobby, much the way Kreacher will years later, seizes the opportunity and uses it for his own ends, warning Harry that something is afoot.

Meanwhile, Lucius does meet up with Harry in Flourish and Blotts, just as planned. But then, his plans go completely awry:

“Clearly,” said Mr. Malfoy, his pale eyes straying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who were watching apprehensively. “The company you keep, Weasley … and I thought your family could sink no lower –”
 
There was a thud of metal as Ginny’s cauldron went flying; Mr. Weasley had thrown himself at Mr. Malfoy, knocking him backward into a bookshelf. (CS4)

Arthur Weasley, who Lucius Malfoy absolutely despises, goes and tackles him. In public. And in a fit of rage, Lucius decides last-minute to drop the diary not into Harry’s book, but into Ginny’s instead.

And everything backfires spectacularly. Harry thwarts Tom Riddle, Dumbledore is reinstated as headmaster, and Lucius is kicked off the board. And two years later, Voldemort returns, and Lucius’s downfall really begins.

It’s interesting to imagine what might have happened had Lucius not had a moment of Malfoy stupidity and changed his plan. Would Harry have fallen for the diary the same way Ginny did? Regardless, I think it’s safe to say Lucius will regret that particular moment of weakness for a long, long time.

 


48 Responses to “Essay: What Did Dobby Know?”

  1. It works, it totally works. Great analysis, John!

  2. :O wow. You are a genius! So insightful. Thanks ;)

  3. I love the mail theory, really amazing!

    Actually, the whole essay is well written, but I want to add my 2 cents… I think Malfoy did give Harry the diary, only Harry decided to give his books to Ginny. I can see how Malfoy, knowing about the new DADA teacher, with a simple imperio, made sure Harry would get the book. Because, really, why would Lockhart give Harry books for free?

    And then Harry went and spoiled the fun by giving his books to his best friend’s sister.

  4. Much better explained. It makes much more sense now. =)

  5. Hi, John! I would appreciate being able to re-read the old version of the essay and its comments, for comparison purposes. Could you post a link to it, please? (I know it wasn’t THAT bad!!)

  6. I had written a post stating that it might have been possible that Lucius thought the books in the cauldron belonged to Harry as Harry had put his free books in the cauldron giving them to Ginny. Lucius may have saw this but not heard the exchange. I thought I had it sussed until I decided it would be best to double check the book. Turns out it was Ginny’s second hand Transfiguration book he slips the diary into. Oh well, bang goes that theory.

  7. Hi John,
    I love your essay and the way you present your case: it is just plain clear that you are right. Taking Dobby’s point of view really brings something to our general understanding of the story.

    However, there is a part of the secrets that is not unveiled: You say why Dobby warns Harry and not Ginny, but why does he warn Harry only when the whole school was threatened?

    I think that the key is to understand what Lucius did know about the Diary.

    Through your contribution on Dobby’s perspective, we know that Lucius very likely said that he was targeting Harry (otherwise, why would Dabby come to warn him?), and that he was targeting Harry only (since Dobby warns only Harry).

    Dobby clearly believes that Harry is the only student threatened by Lucius and he comes to warn Harry alone, nobody else, and his warning includes no mention of other students being in danger. Is it because Dobby eavesdropped only to pieces of Lucius’s evil plan, or because Lucius himself does not appreciate the full extent of the Diary’s powers?

    I’ll bet for the latter: (i) Lucius would not have unleashed a lethal basilisk on his son’s school. (ii) Even if Lucius knew the basilisk was supposed to attack only muggle-born wizards, I don’t think he’d put his son in such a perilous situation. (Still, if Lucius knew about the basilisk, Dobby did not.) (iii) Lucius is, like you said, ambitious, but he is not an indoctrinated mass-murderer, he does not want to kill dozens of muggle-borns, he just wants to kill Harry and believes that the Diary is a suitable weapon for this task.

    If Lucius thought that the diary would only kill Harry, then what was the reaction of Lucius and Draco when they discovered that all the students were potentially endangered, including Draco? What did Draco know about his father’s plan? What did Lucius confided to his 12-year-old son?

    Lucius, like the other parents, was surely worried about his son when he saw how his plan was going awry. But, unlike the other parents, he was responsible for all the troubles. I think it gave him a few sleepless nights, not to mention Narcissa, who loves her son so dearly.

    What I like in this scenario, is that Lucius appears not as a master of evil, but rather as an arrogant who childishly uses forces far stronger than he is, and it nearly costs him his son (and it actually costs him his servant).

  8. Nice.

  9. Brilliant! This totally makes sense.
    Although I had always thought of Lucius as a bit of a bumbler.

  10. I still like the element of Lucius possibly mistaking Ginny’s cauldron for Harry’s, as he had possibly seen Harry tipping all the free Lockhart books into it earlier, that I believe you mentioned in the first essay. I probably need to go back and re-read that chapter and the previous essay (I bet the Wayback machine has it.)

  11. daddybug, the original version of this essay lives at http://hpcompanion.com/essays/csessay-old

    There are definitely alternate theories about *why* Lucius changed from Harry to Ginny that read equally well with this interpretation. I formerly prescribed to the idea that a couple of you have mentioned, that he tried to give the book to Harry but didn’t realize that Harry had given all of his free Lockhart books to Ginny. I switched for this version of the essay mainly because this one fits slightly better, and because a number of people were distracted by that element of my theory, which I didn’t want to continue. ;)

    Another theory that I really like is that Lucius had ordered Dobby to follow him in Diagon Alley without being seen, and slip the book in among Harry’s. Dobby then saw that Harry gifted his books to Ginny, and took advantage of the situation by sticking it in those books himself. But while these are fun and certainly fit, the first theory is the simplest, the most commonly adhered to, and reads the best with the rest of the series.

  12. Okay, John, this time you have me pretty much convinced. :) I was one of the ones who had trouble with the original essay… I just couldn’t reconcile the action in the bookstore with the idea that Lucius had intended the book for Harry. But what you’ve argued here makes a lot of sense. Count me among the converted!

    And I am such a hypocrite to point out a typo (as I make lots on this site), but you’ve written dairy instead of diary in your third bullet point example above.

  13. I always wondered why Dobby was hiding Harry’s letters. This makes so much sense. Thanks John

  14. Dear John,
    You’ve done it again.
    You are awesome.
    Sincerely, André
    :)

  15. What really cracks me up about this whole scenario is the fact that we now know that the diary is so much more than just a diary or a potential weapon. At the time of CoS, the diary was one of five Horcruxes that Lord Voldemort knew he had created (Nagini was still to come; he didn’t know about Harry). Malfoy didn’t know this, obviously, and as Dumbledore points out, surely if he had he would have been more careful throwing around bits of his master’s soul – and he surely was punished terribly for letting the diary get destroyed. I can just picture Voldemort, newly risen, checking up on the Horcruxes and Lucius Malfoy having to explain what happened to the diary. Whoops.

  16. I was one of the skeptics last time, but I fully believe this – it makes perfect sense! I’m rereading the series and just reread CoS last week, and this fits in perfectly with everything in the book. Great job, John!

  17. I should add, I really like the part where you clear up why Dobby is involved with Harry’s mail in the first place.

  18. Yup- it makes sense. I’ll have to admit, I never really thought about that scene very much simply because I was reading a work of fiction and figured- Oh well, the author will make the characters do stuff just to make the end come out right.
    And- as JKR has proven time and time again- her books were much better planned than all that. So- thanks for putting forth the effort to re-write the essay and post it! Love the explanation.

    And- re Meri- Not that it matters too much, but I’ll take issue with the bit that Voldemort, newly risen, checked up on his horcruxes. I don’t think so. He’d have known immediately that the locket was fake, would have opened it and seen Regulus’ note and Dumbledore and Harry would never have gotten it from the middle of the lake. However, Voldy obviously did find out that the diary was no longer with Malfoy. Now that’s an interesting point- why and how did he happen to check that out…

  19. Meri/ann, I can see other ways Voldemort could have found out about the diary – after all, word had surely gotten around that the Chamber of Secrets had opened. Voldemort could have found this out, perhaps from another Death Eater, and immediately realized what happened. Lucius clearly isn’t good at Occlumency, unlike Snape or Bellatrix, so once Voldemort had the inkling to ask, he’d have known.

    It’s an interesting idea also because Dumbledore’s description of Voldemort’s anger makes it sound like Snape was there when it happened. I wonder if Snape was the one who let the Chamber of Secrets bit slip? Maybe Voldemort was asking for an update on the fourteen years that went by at Hogwarts while he was in Albania? Snape officially wouldn’t know about the diary, of course, though Dumbledore might have told him. It would certainly help explain the Malfoys’ hostility towards him later.

  20. Ann – I stand corrected. Most likely Voldemort did not check up on the Horcruxes. Though we do know that Malfoy manor became something of a headquarters for the Death Eaters, and that is where the diary was supposed to be, so it would have been much easier to check up on that particular one in any case. I also agree that Occlumency most likely played a role in Voldemort’s discovery of the loss, though whether or not Malfoy would have even tried lying to the Dark Lord is questionable.

  21. @John- Of course! Voldemort would have realized that almost the only way anyone could have discovered the chamber of secrets and let loose the monster was via the diary. And- I like the thought that possibly Snape was the snitch.

  22. I always thought that Dobby held on to Harry’s mail for his own reasons. More than once in the series you hear how other beings in the wizarding world view Harry Potter, Griphook even quotes him as famous among Goblins. Also our pov of the wizarding world is jaded, we really have no clue how terrible it was, except the pain and fear that it left behind. So given Dobby’s (who’s no ordinary houseelf) masters reign of terror was thwarted by Harry, who wouldn’t Dobby want at Hogwarts if murders are about to occur! So by making him feel isolated from the only place that welcomed him, he had hoped Harry would make the decision on his own.

    I think from the time that Harry Potter vanquished the Dark Lord, Dobbys world changed, there was now rising hope in place of darkness. Which could mean there was hope that one day this child, that freed the world, would free everything else including him. (I was touched that she had Harry be the one that freed him) You don’t really think of Dobby as abnormal until you meet Winky and Kreacher to fully understand whats so different about him, and why Harry Potter is his idol. So any threat to Harry i think Dobby wouldve tried to step in as much as he was allowed. So i totally went along with your first essays idea of having tricked Malfoy into lettin him spy on Harry, because this would extend him that freedom, as well as intercept his mail (houseelves have magic we know not so i don’t think he needed premission for that). Didn’t Harry end up letting him keep those letters anyway? i don’t remember him gettin them back but i haven’t read this in YEARS.

    I also think that Lucius would have known Harry was along with the Weasleys in Diagon Alley, because they used the Ministry monitored Floo Network to travel. As far as how Ginny ended up with the book, I chalked it up to good old Dad rushing Lucius and sending the books askew. I figured that his diary got dumped off in the shuffle, and scooped up with the rest of Ginnys books. By the time he noticed it went missing he had killed two birds with one stone. After all he didn’t know what the diary was, only that it would open the Chamber or Secrets, and the last time it was opened ‘someone’ died. If Lucius had intended Harry to get the diary i think it would have only been to discredit him and the glowing reputation he is gaining, which eventually renews everyones faith in him being ‘the chosen one’ instead of the next Dard Lord. But Chamber of Secrets is one of the books in the series i haven’t repeated read. Really great Essays!

  23. Maybe I need to re-read the books, but I can’t remember how/why the Malfoys had the book in the first place. Wouldn’t Voldemort have it in safe keeping since it was a horcrux! Also if he had entrusted it with the Malfoys woudn’t he of explained the importance of it so they wouldn’t dare use it or give it away? I have a feeling Voldemort would never give his diary to someone like the Malfoys. I can see how maybe Lucius just wanted to get rid of it because he was scared of something with such great magic. I do agree with your main points though, great job!!

  24. Finally… a CoS theory that makes sense!

  25. This is brilliant, like all of your essays!
    However, you wrote that one reason for Lucius` intention to pass Harry the diary was that he probably hoped he would be honoured for contributing to Harry`s death in case Voldemort would return. But then, if he thought there was a chance Voldemort would return, wouldn`t he be too scared to give away the diary without his master`s explicit order? Dumbledore thinks Lucius believed Voldemort dead: “He (Voldemort) was counting too much upon Lucius` fear of a master who had been gone for years and whom Lucius believed dead” (HBP, Horcruxes) Of course, Lucius didn`t know what that diary really was, but what Dumbledore says about the matter in HBP rather suggests that had he suspected Voldemort`s return, he would have kept the diary safe and not taken such a risk.

  26. Sophia, you’re right that that detail is a bit sticky. I think in my mind, it works out because of what Lucius knows about the diary. He doesn’t know it’s a Horcrux, but he does know that deploying it will open the Chamber of Secrets, and he has been asked to keep it safe. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for him to think, “The Dark Lord wanted me to keep this safe until he was ready to deploy it, but surely with him gone circumstances have changed. However if I deploy it now and use his own weapon to take out Harry Potter, how could he be angry with that? After all, he was planning to deploy it *sometime,* and surely this situation merits it.” But yes, it’s not perfect, especially given Dumbledore’s comment that he thinks Lucius thought Voldemort dead.

    In fact, I would say that the biggest flaw with this whole theory is that Dumbledore so blatantly contradicts it. It’s unfortunate, but even given that, I still think it’s the one that makes the most sense.

  27. Interesting points, but I’m not so sure how much of what you say is conclusive.

    We should ask ourselves: What are Lucius’ defining characteristics?
    He likes to talk big and appear superior but generally lacks courage, traits that undoubtedly rubbed off on Draco. They have all the appearances of wealth, connections, and pedigree but no backbone. We see this throughout the series. Both Lucius and Draco have gotten in too deep.

    Here’s the situation at the beginning of COS.
    A. Draco did not make friends w/ HP
    B. Voldemort was foiled by HP again
    C. It’s getting dangerous to be in possession of dark objects

    Without a re-read (sorry I’m waiting for Pottermore) I can’t say how much I feel Lucius knew about the diary. My guess is that he knew or at least hoped it would curse someone.

    Perhaps when Voldemort was still in power and had less to fear, for he had not tasted death, he informed Lucius that the book was the key to the COS. We do know that he entrusted one horcrux to another loyal follower. But as mentioned above I think Lucius had little anxiety about Voldemort putting his feet to the fire regarding a dark diary as he was again beaten and perhaps even less likely to return. Lucius is a chicken so he discards the diary with a hope to get back at A. Weasley at the same time.

    My feeling is that Dobby overheard Lucius talking big, in agreement with what others have said, and felt a connection to HP for what he had done. He acted on this connection. If Lucius were spying on Harry I think he might have not tipped him off by cutting off his mail etc. I think this was all Dobby’s initiative. Dobby is consistently overprotecting Harry.

    In the end I think we’re over thinking the point past what Jo intended. A recent read indicated the parallels between COS and the Perseus and Andromeda story (i.e. the lady held captive by a sea serpent who is freed by the hero riding a Pegasus). Given Jo’s background, I think mimicking this myth pulls Ginny into the story to the level of importance that she intends.

  28. Daniel, I’m 100% certain that I’m over thinking past what Jo intended. In my mind, trying to figure out her intentions is rather boring; she simply couldn’t have thought everything through on this level when she was planning the books (I’m pulling evidence from places that she wrote a decade or more apart, as well as off-the-cuff comments she made, in some cases). But what makes it fun for me is to spot inconsistencies, and when I do, try to figure out an explanation that makes the most sense using the evidence we’ve got.

    Your reading of the situation is probably what Jo intended. But as I say in the essay, it has some big holes in it. Most especially, I don’t buy that Dobby overheard Lucius “talking big” about a general threat and immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had to spend his entire summer at Privet Drive withholding Harry’s mail so as to prevent Harry Potter from returning to Hogwarts on the off chance that the threat somehow impacted him. Dobby will later be aware of much more direct threats to Harry than this, and will act much less protectively. So in my mind, something more has to be going on, whether Rowling intended it to be or not. And that’s what I set out to explain. :)

  29. As for Voldermort finding out the COS had been opened, everyone is forgetting a certain DE was at Hogwarts in his animagus form that year living in Harry’s dorm. Considering the Basilisk survived as long as he did on rats, Wormtail might have been extra nervous, but he certainly knew about major happenings at Hogwarts. Wormtail also could have overhead numerous conversation Molly & Aurthur had regarding Ginny throughout the summer following COS.

    It isn’t mentioned specifically, but Ron could have even had Scabbers in his pocket when they went down to the COS; otherwise, I’m certain Harry told Ron more about what happened & what Dumbledore told him after everyone else left, which Scabbers/Wormtail could have overheard. When you actually think about, Wormtail probably had a lot to tell Voldermort about conversations he overheard between Harry, Ron & others.

  30. Thanks for the clarification. I can see the enjoyment in knowingly pursuing explanations that were not intended. Thanks for developing such a fun site.

  31. I love these essays! Please keep writing them, since they are always interesting and bring up new possibilities!

    I agree with Ashlee and others about Dobby’s motives for worshipping Harry. I don’t think that his attachment to him demands any further explanation than that Harry treats him well and stopped what was probably the worst time of Dobby’s life. (We don’t often think of the things he must have seen and even been involved with.)

    I also don’t think that we (any of us) are reading too much into the books. Life and art are complex and we know that JK Rowling planned the whole series well before publishing it. She knew a lot more about the story than she ended up publishing and she clearly meant to show the reader certain details at certain times. (Just think of the mentions of Aberforth and Grindelwald early in the series!)

    Although I don’t agree with your whole argument, this particular question is pretty open-ended. I think your most compelling point is how Dobby managed to spy on Harry so long without the Malfoys noticing. It is entirely possible that they were using him to keep tabs on the people they considered enemies, especially Harry.

    Lastly, we don’t know that Lucius didn’t forbid Dobby to speak to Harry, since Dobby has to physically punish himself whenever he disobeys orders, and he does so frequently when warning Harry. This leads to another question of what Lucius’ orders were, which could potentially support your theory!

  32. Anna Lee-Diemert, thanks for the kind words! Regarding your last point: remember what we’ll learn later through Kreacher – house-elves *can’t* disobey a direct order. They don’t have a choice. Dobby can punish himself for not doing a good enough job, or for disobeying his masters’ wishes or intentions (and I suspect that he’s at least partially putting on a show for Harry, as well), but if Lucius had ordered Dobby not to talk to Harry, Dobby wouldn’t have had a choice.

  33. I just found your delightful website and have spent much of the last two days and one sleepless night trying to read everything. I wanted to respond to this essay in particular, though. I disagree with a few points. Consider:

    1) The essay implies that it would be time-consuming and possibly all-encompassing for Dobby to intercept Harry Potter’s mail (and therefore Dobby had to be doing so on the Malfoys orders). But we don’t know how long that particular task actually takes.

    We know house-elves have magic to help themselves complete household chores and that they have different rules for their magic than the rules for wizards. We also know that house-elves can hear their masters’ call anywhere in the world. It would not be a stretch of canon to say that house-elves have the ability to know when the owl post is arriving, and Dobby could apparate to Privet Drive to stop all Harry’s mail with only a few minutes commitment each day.

    However, I’ve gathered from your writing that you’re reticent to rely on explanations involving non-canon magic, so even assuming Dobby does not magically know when owl post is arriving, he would have a pretty shrewd idea of the time of day it arrives. The Malfoys would not necessarily miss Dobby if he were to go missing for hours at a time. House-elves do most of their work unseen. As Nick says, “That’s the mark of a good house-elf, isn’t it, that you don’t know it’s there?” (GF12) In year 4, Dobby works at Hogwarts for several weeks before Harry discovers Dobby. How long do the Malfoys go without seeing Dobby during year 2?

    I’ll assume for the sake of argument, however, that the Malfoys gave Dobby orders to spy on Harry and read his mail. If Dobby had been keeping Harry’s mail of his own volition, why did Dobby let the one piece of mail through that would have almost certainly derailed Lucius’s plan? If Dobby had confiscated Hermione’s letter to Ron, then the Grangers and the Weasleys would not have coordinated their visits to Diagon Alley, and Dobby could truthfully report that he has no idea when Harry plans to buy supplies. (And for your hypothesis to work, Dobby has to have seen this letter; that’s the letter that tells us when Harry and the Weasleys will be in Flourish and Blotts.)

    2) We have canon of at least one instance of a house-elf disobeying a direct order. In Kreacher’s Tale, Harry tells Kreacher, “I forbid you to call anyone ‘blood traitor’ or ‘Mudblood.’ ” There’s not a lot wiggle room for Kreacher to intentionally misinterpret that order. And yet a few pages later, and during the same conversation, Kreacher calls Hermione a Mudblood again. While Harry reminds Kreacher of his direct order, Kreacher starts punishing himself. (DH10) I take that to mean that a house-elf cannot intentionally disobey an order, but they can do so accidentally.

    A house-elf can also follow the letter of an order while intentionally ignoring the spirit of an order. When Harry order Kreacher to follow Draco, Harry definitely gets the impression Kreacher is looking for a loophole. (HB19) When Kreacher reports back to Harry, Kreacher gives Harry completely mundane and useless information knowing full-well that that was not the information Harry wanted. (HB 21).

    Put those two together, and Dobby actually has a great deal of latitude in his interaction with Harry. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Dobby is visiting Harry and giving Harry information, as long as Dobby isn’t knowingly and intentionally breaking a direct order from the Malfoys. (It seems that Dobby is forbidden to speak ill of the Malfoys. That incites Dobby to punish himself twice during the encounter.)

    3) I initially really liked your hypothesis that Lucius had been planning what to do about a possible return of the Dark Lord since before Draco entered Hogwarts, and that his initial plan was to have Draco befriend Harry. But I just can’t bring myself to accept a sticky problem: If Lucius really had tired of the Dark Lord’s methods, then he had no reason to hold animus toward Harry Potter (at that point.) Harry had almost certainly done Lucius a favor by vanquishing the Dark Lord.

    However, I really think Lucius thinks the Dark Lord is gone. For good. Lucius is a true-believer that muggle-borns and blood-traitors are a threat to wizarding society. And it’s a shame that the Dark Lord fell. Lucius may have lost some political clout after Lord Voldemort’s first reign, but that has everything to do with the Dark Lord’s sudden downfall. If Lucius thought the the Lestranges were correct—that the Dark Lord could come back—then he would actually attempt to bring him back. But Lucius doesn’t really believe that.

    What I imagine Dobby overheard, then, was Narcissa telling Lucius how spectacularly Draco and Harry had clashed that spring. The mention of Hogwarts turned the conversation toward the Chamber of Secrets. I really think that’s why Dobby made a connection between the Chamber of Secrets and Harry.

    Anyway, I’ve immensely enjoyed your website and I thank you for the forum to discuss ideas.

  34. Nathaniel Shafer, thanks for your kind words and thoughtful comments.

    I’ve struggled some in knowing how to respond to comments on this essay, because many of them seem to disagree with my supporting points, yet don’t address the fundamental questions behind them. For instance, your first point is completely valid. But the assertion you’re contesting is really a secondary one, and I don’t think altering it would change my overall argument. To me, the point isn’t so much “Dobby *must* have been sent to stop Harry’s mail, because if he’s doing it on his own then his absence would be noticed,” as it is “If Harry is Lucius’s target, then Lucius needs to find out when he’ll be in Diagon Alley, so now we have an explanation for Dobby’s stopping the mail. And after all, if he were doing it on his own, mightn’t they notice, too?” Does that make sense?

    I think on your second point, we’re in complete agreement, unless I’m missing something. It makes sense that Dobby has been ordered not to speak ill of his masters – he has to punish himself when he nearly does so by mistake. But several people have pointed out to me that Dobby could have been forbidden to speak with Harry, yet chosen to do so anyway and then punished himself. I think you and I both disagree with this, and would argue that house-elves absolutely cannot make a conscious choice to disobey.

    And to your third point, you’re forgetting that we *know* Lucius won’t seek out the Dark Lord. After Harry’s first year, “the whole school knows” that Harry stopped Voldemort from capturing the Philosopher’s Stone. Lucius then has three full years to seek Voldemort before he actually returns, and never does so. To the contrary, he immediately sets his Chamber of Secrets plan in motion, which would be incredibly stupid if he weren’t doing so in an attempt to garner the Dark Lord’s favor, don’t you think? And what better way to garner his favor than to use Harry Potter?

  35. Thank you for your quick reply, John!

    As to the final point, as to whether Lucius really thinks the Dark Lord will return, perhaps that is where our most fundamental disagreement lies. The whole school knows *something* happened with regard to the Philosopher’s Stone, but, as with all rumors, bystanders are going to have wildly differing stories as to exactly what. During the end-of-year feast, Dumbledore never gives a full account of what happened, and he never mentions or implies Voldemort was involved.

    During year 5, much of the wizarding world is in denial that Voldemort has returned; that includes a seeming majority of Hogwarts students, who are the best positioned to get the straight scoop. If everyone literally knew that Voldemort had tried to steal the Philosopher’s Stone, I can’t imagine that Fudge’s official denial would have gained much traction. And when Harry defiantly tells Umbridge that Quirrell had Voldemort sticking out the back of his head, he draws another week of detentions.

    If, as you argue, Lucius knew the Dark Lord would return, it would have been foolhardy for him to do nothing from the time of the Chamber of Secrets fiasco until his eventual return. Lucius had two years to at least make a show of trying to bring him back, but instead he runs at the sight of the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup.

  36. Hallo.
    Sorry if someone’s already said this in a bit of the later comments and I just didn’t notice. I merely skimmed over them, see.
    Anywho, I just wanted to state neither an opinion nor fact, but the questions of a slightly slow and easily confused fourteen-year-old. Was it not stated within the books that Lucius did not know of the book being a Horcrux? Was he not merely trying to rid himself of all Dark Arts possessions at Borgin and Burkes? And, because the diary was the Dark Lord’s and… (would I dunno, sprain his dignity…?), he decided he could not give it to Borgin. So, he skips off, finds the Wazlib bunch, and throws (not the last, but one of the most Dark) evidence away from him. And, just to emphasize my unsureness of even daring to post this, I shall add a final question mark.
    ?

  37. PrinceA., thanks for your post! You should definitely not feel shy about posing questions or your own thoughts – we’re all reading the same books, so no one person’s opinion is more right than another’s (as long as we’re using the same set of facts :) ).

    Dumbledore does say that Lucius didn’t know the object was a Horcrux, but remember that while he doesn’t know this, Lucius does know two things about the diary:
    1. He was told by Voldemort to keep it safe; and
    2. He knows that deploying it will open the Chamber of Secrets.
    So I doubt he would throw the diary away just to be rid of it; he knows that more will happen than that. But it does make sense that the MInistry raids would be a factor, as he CERTAINLY wouldn’t want them to find it in his house.

  38. hi!
    i was wondering how dobby knew to come warn HP and thats how i stumbled across your essay which was quite a delightful read btw!
    my question is:
    IF Malfoy knew that the diary would and could open the chamber, and in turn somehow help the dark lord come back, why wouldnt he make Draco do it? Being as ambitious as he is, he would want the glory to come to his son. definately not to a weasley.
    im not sure if my doubt is clear enough
    i hope you get it.

  39. There is a big hole in your explanation: It’s even more unlikely that Malfoy would meet Harry in Diagon Alley.
    I think Ginny (or any other Weasley child) was the intended target from the very beginning. The “urgent business” was most likely to attent the book signing of Lockhart, knowing that it would be very likely to meet the Weasley’s there. It was in fact only happenstances that the Weasleys chose this day to visit the alley (though Arthur might have mentioned his plans for the day in the ministry), but overall, it was very likely that they would be there when something special happens at Florish and Blotts.
    Lucius had a lot of reasons to bring Arthur down beforehand, because Arthur was pushing the raids, forcing him to treat carefully.
    Another thing is: If Dobby was warning Harry because he thought that Harry would end up with the diary, why bothering to keep him from entering the hogwarts express after Ginny became the target?
    Plus, would Lucius even recognice the possibility to use a house elve this way?
    But it might be possible that, yes, Lucius originally planed to target Harry, but when Harry left privet drive and the Weasley’s became more and more annoying, he might have changed his plans long before he entered Florish and Blotts.

  40. I’d like a shot at your question, Myrtle.

    Lucius is a consummate Slytherin. If using the diary was potentially dangerous, it wouldn’t have mattered to him how much glory Draco could have won that way. Slytherins are *all about* getting other people to do their dirty / dangerous work. They consider it a sign of intelligence, whereas risking yourself or your family unnecessarily is not. Anyway, I think he didn’t want Voldemort getting interested in his son. Lucius was a Death Eater, there was no escaping that commitment, but it’s likely that he was trying to keep Draco from becoming one. “Pureblood supremacist” doesn’t automatically equal “servant of Voldemort”. Apart from the fact that Voldemort was more interested in gaining power for himself than he was in furthering the pureblood agenda, Malfoys in general would rather give orders than take them. So I can see why Lucius joined him, but the fact that he didn’t try to resurrect him suggests that in retrospect, he considers it a poor bargain.

    There’s also the political angle to consider. When Harry and Ron drank polyjuice potion and impersonated Crabbe and Goyle, they were surprised at how little Draco knew. He complained a lot about being left out, when clearly, there was dark magic afoot. Lucius seems to have done all he could, while Draco was little, to ensure he couldn’t be implicated in the criminal intrigues of the Death Eaters. Whether that’s because he didn’t trust a little boy to understand the importance of secrecy, or because he didn’t want the Aurors to have any reason to interrogate his son is unclear. But Draco … wanted to be included a in lot more than his father allowed.

    Additionally, you see what opening the chamber nearly cost Ginny. If Lucius suspected that there were *any* chance that such a sacrifice would be necessary, he would only give the diary to someone he considered expendable. He definitely wouldn’t want to put Draco in the position of raising the Dark Lord or saving himself.

  41. This is a brilliant essay, although I disagree with the idea that Lucius had planned to give the diary to Harry for several reasons:

    -Lucius, if I had to guess, picked the weakest, least experienced of the kids to plant the dark artifact on because he wanted it to overpower its user. He needed someone too naive to realize in time the trouble it could cause them, or confess to an adult that they were interacting with something potentially dangerous. He needed someone who would be worried about having an interesting, mysterious thing confiscated because “you’re too young for this,” and protect it fiercely on those grounds, long before they got any inkling of its deviousness. In that respect, he didn’t have to know Ginny in order to consider her the obvious target.

    -Harry had shown ample ability not only to take care of himself, but also to defeat dark magic. I don’t think Lucius would have given him the diary directly unless he wanted it a) traced back to him and b) utterly destroyed. The reason it was able to work in the background for most of the year was specifically because it was exploiting someone who took a long time to understand what was going on, and was beneath Harry’s (and to a lesser extent, Dumbledore’s) notice. They suspected a lot of people of opening the Chamber of Secrets, but not Ginny. Thanks to her inexperience, Ginny managed to do a perfectly convincing approximation of innocence – the whole time she was in control of her body, she wasn’t the person they were looking for. And I don’t think the first-years were prime suspects to begin with. Harry, at least, was mostly looking at kids who were his age or older. In aggregate, the fact that she was a little girl, a new student, a Gryffindor, a Weasley (i.e. from a family that was well-known for befriending mixed-bloods and muggles) … all made her a good conduit for the evil the book was unleashing. First, because she only had a theoretical idea of how the Dark Arts worked, and no experience, and second, because it seemed ludicrous to anyone else that she’d be the culprit.

    -Lucius didn’t need to give Harry the book directly in order to make it very likely that Harry would be one of its casualties. Even by the end of book 1, Harry was developing a reputation for sticking his nose into things that didn’t remotely concern him. So just by turning loose a homicidal snake inside Hogwarts, Lucius could have a pretty good idea that The Boy Who Lived would be one of the people trying to defeat it, not to say … the main student sneaking around after hours, trying to solve the mystery and defeat the monster, in typical Gryffindor form. If there’s one thing Draco could have easily told his dad, it’s that you don’t have to target Harry Potter. You just have to start hurting innocents and he’ll make it his business to challenge you.

    I do think that it’s quite plausible that Lucius’ ultimate target was Harry, and if that’s true, it would adequately explain Dobby’s reaction. I just think he would have wanted Harry facing the basilisk’s eyes and teeth – not giving it orders in Parceltongue. And I think the inherent risk, of giving a dark artifact to a boy who might have recognized it as Lord Voldemort’s, would have seemed too great. From Lucius’ point of view, Potter was Dumbledore’s little favorite. That’s definitely not something to recommend him, if the objective was surreptitiously opening the Chamber of Secrets, killing off a lot of undesirables, and pitting Harry Potter against one of the deadliest magical creatures in existence.

  42. Some great ideas here but which are most likely?

    c Conjecture
    . Implied from the books
    * Explicitly stated in the books (albeit by eg, Dumbledore.)

    . Voldemort trusted Lucius in the early days. (HBP23)

    * He gave Lucius the diary to safeguard. (HBP23)

    * Voldemort intended Lucius to smuggle the diary into Hogwarts. (HBP23)

    c He only told him it would open the Chamber of Secrets & a monster would kill muggle-borns.

    * He was supposed to wait for Voldemort’s say-so but thought him dead. (HBP23)

    * Just after Voldemort’s death there were rumours that Harry might become a Dark Lord (HBP2)

    c I’m inclined to trust Dumbledore’s summings-up much as we trust Hercule Poirot at the end of a Christie whodunnit. Writers frequently misdirect the reader early but they don’t lie at the end because there is no reason to. I have to believe Lucius intended to discredit Arthur and the Weasleys and also thereby, the Muggle Protection Act. It makes sense too. Arthur was trying to get evidence against Lucius. Lucius is getting rid of dark artifacts. He would be annoyed at Arthur. Eureka! Let’s turn the tables on Arthur and get rid of an artifact and fulfil Voldemort’s original intentions to cause havoc at Hogwarts.

    c Don’t underrate or disregard movie canon. Jo was involved with production on every movie. In PS for example, she insisted they include the troll scene because it bonded Hermione with the other two. So when we saw Lucius slip the diary into Ginny’s cauldron I have to believe it was intended by Jo. That’s another reason to believe the discredit Arthur story.

    *”So long has Dobby wanted to meet you, sir…” (CoS2) Dobby would likely have seen Voldemort visit the manor and know first hand he’s a bad dude. He would have overheard conversations too. Harry vanquished him. So no doubt about Dobby’s motives. He idolizes Harry and hates the dark side. And this is before he’s affected by Harry’s courtesy towards him.

    *’Dobby heard tell … Harry Potter met the Dark Lord for a second time just weeks ago…” (CoS2) Surely he must have heard it at Malfoy Manor? So it is compelling to think Lucius knew. Which conflicts with what Dumbledore said about Lucius thinking him dead – unless Lucius assumed he was only driven away the first time. This kind of makes sense. Voldemort disappeared the first time – there was no body (which in itself has always been odd.) Nobody was entrusted with knowledge about the multiple horcruxes so even if Lucius heard the Dark Lord had appeared again surely now Potter has actually killed him? The first time he just drove him away somewhere; this time it was fatal. Another reason for Lucius not to hate Potter but consider him a possible Dark Lord himself (so yet another reason to support the discredit Arthur story.)

    * “…If Harry Potter goes back to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger.” (Dobby CoS2) “But I’m not Muggle-born – how can I be in danger from the Chamber?” (Harry CoS10) “Dark deeds are planned in this place, but Harry Potter must not be here when they happen…” (Dobby CoS10) “are planned” – implies Tom’s new plan to target Harry. How could Dobby know that? Draco seems to be in the dark about the heir of Slytherin so likely he knows nothing. Could the possessed Ginny sneak out of Hogwarts and speak to Lucius? Why? And how? All extremely unlikely. No, we know Dobby is checking up on Harry and events at Hogwarts (rogue bludger, etc.) so more likely he, knowing the book had always been targetted at Ginny, was checking on her and overheard or saw something of her writings in the diary. This is difficult to believe but possible. Dobby could apparate anywhere in Hogwarts and presumably eavesdrop while remaining invisible. For many months now, my new target has been–you.” (CoS17) Note that Riddle says ‘many months’ so probably before Dobby speaks to Harry in the infirmary after the rogue bludger incident. I can’t think of any other explanation for Dobby’s response to Harry’s question: “how can I be in danger?” than that he must have known Tom’s new plan and could only have got it from a Ginny/Tom interaction. This makes me think his original reason to stop Harry going back to Hogwarts was simply the slighter danger of seeing the Basilisk by chance in a corridor – or more likely Dobby did not know enough about the dangers. He simply knew something dreadful would be unleashed at Hogwarts. He venerates Harry. He doesn’t know the other kids so doesn’t feel the overwhelming urge to protect them that he does towards Harry. This is much like a parent. First thing they’d think of is their own kid’s safety.

    c The only crucial letter is from Hermione to Ron, ‘and Harry if you’re there.’ (CoS3) This is addressed to The Burrow not Harry. This is the letter saying to meet in Diagon Alley – she is going to buy new books. This letter was received OK but look at this:

    c “Percy … sat down in the only remaining chair but leapt up again almost immediately, pulling from underneath him a moulting, gray feather duster – at least, that was what Harry thought it was, until he saw that it was breathing. “Errol!” said Ron, taking the limp owl from Percy and extracting a letter from under its wing. “Finally – he’s got Hermione’s answer…” (CoS3) We know Errol is a rubbish owl but he was only carrying a single letter! And he was nackered before Percy almost sat on him. Could it be that poor Errol was hijacked en route? This further supports the idea that Lucius was targetting the Weasleys and monitoring THEIR mail, not Harry’s. Dobby’s hijacking of Harry’s mail was a red herring – and exactly what he said it was – to persuade Harry his friends didn’t care about him so reducing his wish to return to Hogwarts.

    . “Because you gave it to her,” said Harry. … “Prove it,” [Lucius] hissed. (CoS18)He didn’t hesitatte – nor deny it – nor give any hint it was not as planned. Again supporting the theory that he Lucius had aimed the diary at the Weasleys, not at Harry. In fact in the movie he regarded Harry as interfering in, not as an escapee from, his plan. He said something about “No doubt someone will be here to save the day.” (looking at Harry.) Harry replies “Don’t worry – they will.” (as an aside I believe these were adlibs by Jason and Dan but still…)

    . My father told me all the Weasleys have … more children than they can afford.” (Draco PS6) In the movie he says ‘handme-down robes? You must be a Weasley.” Clearly Lucius knew to expect Ginny to have secondhand books – much easier for a secondhand diary to be accepted amongst that lot than in Harry’s squeaky-new books.

    So the conclusion I draw is that Dobby initially only knew there would be some unknown danger at Hogwarts and his admiration for Harry led him to try to warn him away. Later, he learned that Harry was now a direct target so Dobby got Harry injured using the rogue bludger.

    The main weaknesses in my argument are how much would Dobby care about Harry whom he had never met and how he might have heard Tom’s later plan to target Harry. Consider Dobby living in a household for years – treated brutally by wizards steeped in the dark arts – including Voldemort himself. He must have loathed them. And how must have idolised the ‘Boy who lived.’ The diary interaction is harder to visualize.

    I agree when Lucius said he had other business to attend to he meant Flourish & Botts – but he didn’t know the exact time the Weasleys’ would be there so he would need a window of opportunity and have to get there as soon as possible.

    I rest my case. :)

  43. A little late, but I wanted to add a point to John and Nathaniel’s discussion about whether Lucius (or anybody else besides the trio and Dumbledore) knew that Voldemort had almost come back at the end of Year 1. I don’t have Book 1 in front of me, but doesn’t Dumbledore say that “the whole school knows” what happened between Harry and “Professor Quirrell”? NOT between Harry and Voldemort. Therefore, it is NOT widely known that Voldemort was involved. I think this must be the case, because Snape is later able to plausibly deny that he had any idea Voldemort had attempted to come back that year–he tells Bellatrix and Narcissa that all he saw was “greedy Quirrell” attempting to steal the Stone for his own ends.

    If I’m right about this, it would correspond with Dumbledore’s assertion (which presumably comes from Snape’s information-gathering) that Malfoy believed that Voldemort was dead.

    Therefore, there would be no harm in using one of the old boss’s possessions for his own ends, and plenty of potential political gain, but that’s a topic for another comment.

  44. Although these points seem quite valid, I must reinforce my beliefs here at once. Although it isn’t a mystery that house elves are to not disobey their masters, this comes to no surprise that Dobby would find a loophole in order to ensure Harry remained safe. I have not once ever felt that Dobby was working for or with Lucuis, and I say this because Lucius knew that the diary was able to open the chamber, let alone it belonging to Voldemort, obviously letting us know it was a strong artifact of dark magic that he knew must be “disposed” of in means where it must not be discover by the Ministry and that it will be put into the hands of a student (and what better than a first year who is impressionable, in close contact with Harry, and is a Weasley?) who had the means of being within close proximity to the chamber. Why would Lucius initially give the diary to Harry? I have without a doubt that it was meant to be given to Ginny simply because you all are forgetting something: although Harry does find the diary and has a chance to see a memory (that of course which leads you to believe it was Hagrid, but no one could fool Dumbledore, so that was a weak point on Riddle’s part to sabotage the truth and fool Harry), do you really think that Harry would be so easily subdued like Ginny? Think about it: a young girl with no sisters going to a new school and having not many people to talk to, who wouldn’t write in a diary and confess the deepest of secrets, all while being charmed by a boy who listens to everything? Her weaknesses allowed her to be controlled. Harry is a little more developed in regards to being so easily convinced, let alone with Dumbledore watching Harry like a hawk, do you really think he could hide much more than he did? No. It was intended for Ginny and Dobby intended to confiscate the letters and set up chains of events in orders to halt Harry for entering Hogwarts, let alone being injured. All these things Dobby initiated allowed for CLUES to be set up for Harry to follow. Once realizing the importance of the diary, and learning about the death of Myrtle and even meeting the preserved memory of Tom, Harry was able to put the clues more appropriately together, right down to the very end, showing his loyalty to Dumbledore. Ginny was meant to be the victim in order to allow these clues to be solved by the Trio. Dobby and Lucius worked desperately. Dobby just had an advantage because he could have a one up on Lucius’ plans, without having to be found out. Just as Dobby says in chapter 18, “Dobby’s Reward”, and as in chapter 2, “Dobby’s Warning”, Dobby had mentioned that it didn’t involved Voldemort, but it was clue towards Riddle and how he could be freely named, allowing Harry to know that the possession of the diary was in the name of Tom Riddle, and he knew this because it was in the hands of his masters. So all along, Dobby’s clues were meant to be solved. Ginny was the one to be within the chamber forever, and without the help of Harry, it might as well have been. After all, would Voldemort truly want to destroy Harry when hasn’t regained all his strength yet? Better yet, considering the death of his parents and the fall of his reign, to the ending of the Sorcerer’s Stone, could Voldemort truly defeat Harry, considering how weak his attempts in 11 years have been? No, I don’t think so. The endings of the first two years are meant to set up a stage of how Harry has the upper hand against a weakened Voldemort, as well as learning all about the past that he now shares with the Dark Lord. These are lessons in which carry over until the end of Voldemort is clear. Harry is meant to be taught a lesson.

  45. swanpride, I don’t understand why you think it unlikely that Lucius would know Harry would be in Diagon Alley, but likely that he would know the Weasleys would. His servant is reading Harry’s mail, so we have an explanation for that one – but I don’t see any reason he should know this about the Weasleys. Am I missing something?

    Aquila, your idea about Lucius picking on a weak child makes TOTAL sense to me, but I think you’re overstating Lucius’s opinion of Harry. Remember that Harry is only a year older than Ginny, and Lucius (like Voldemort later) thinks of him only as lucky, not an accomplished Dark Arts-fighter. In my mind your argument for why he would choose Ginny works equally well for Harry – except that in Harry’s case he also has substantial additional incentive.

    Hippothestrowl, I still don’t buy it for two reasons. First, as I mention in the essay, if Harry isn’t the target I don’t think it makes sense for Dobby to believe he’s in such danger (he’s in far more danger during the Triwizard Tournament, when Dobby is actively helping put him in harm’s way). Second, I think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that we have more evidence of Dobby monitoring the Weasleys’ mail than we do that he was monitoring Harry’s. I don’t see any evidence that Lucius was actively seeking to learn when the Weasleys would be there.

  46. I haven’t chosen a side on this debate yet, heh. But this essay is great and has sparked some interesting discussion. I just wanted to add in my two sickles on the point you keep bringing up, John, about Dobby trying to help Harry that year, but not later on when he is also in danger.

    In Harry’s second year, Dobby is still enslaved by the Malfoys and is fully aware of a plot that will put Harry in danger (whether or not he was the intended target – he was still going to Hogwarts where the danger was). Dobby himself said that Harry is a very important symbol for him and the other Houseelves because he helped end an age of terror and the worse than usual treatment of their kind. So he wanted to help Harry out, to protect him, even if he wasn’t specifically targeted at first because Dobby is in a position to do something about it. Really, he was the only one who could do something at that point. So he did.

    Later, such as during the Triwizard Tournament, Dobby no longer has access to information concerning the plots of Death Eaters. He doesn’t know that the Triwizard Tournament is a plot to get at Harry and take him to Voldemort. He just sees that Harry is stressed and seemingly unable to complete this task set before him, so he helps him out. And he wasn’t there when Sirius Black was supposedly after him because, again, he doesn’t have that useful information that allows him to work out how to help Harry. What was Dobby supposed to do that year to protect him that was better than what was already in place at Hogwarts? He was spending that time looking for new work anyway (but nobody wanted to pay him). Dobby does help Harry whenever the opportunity presents itself after CoS (Gillyweed, Room of Requirement for the DA etc – he jumps at the chance), he just isn’t privy to the secret information that he was at the time of the second book.

  47. Lucius Malfoy is certainly cunning, but he’s not a particularly smart. I doubt he would’ve cooked up such an elaborate plan when he was so comfortable with the role he had in the Wizarding World at that moment. I can certainly see him wanting to plant the diary on Harry, getting angry at Arthur and in the heat of the moment, giving it to Ginny. But like Dumbledore, I’d see it more as Lucius’ own self-interested goals of opening the Chamber of Secrets. He didn’t know it was a horcrux, and likely he had no idea how it functioned. The bit about Dobby is certainly possible (although could Lucius have assumed that Harry, not receiving his letters, would still arrive in Diagon Alley with the Weasleys?). His original goal may have been to give it to Harry, but he probably saw it as almost a vindictive sort of joke to play on the Weasley’s by giving it to Ginny. I doubt he knew what the effects of that diary actually were.

    But we could all be reading into this too much. Dobby after all from the moment he meets Harry to the moment he dies, absolutely worships Harry. If he knew Lucius was planning on giving that diary to someone (whether Harry or not) he would have likely wanted to warn Harry. In the case of the other books, he just didn’t know what was going on.

  48. John, I love this idea, but I have to say I think I largely agree with Daniel. Lucius was getting rid of an incriminating object while discrediting Arthur W.
    But he could’ve been trying to discredit/ attack Harry too! Think about it: apart from Mrs Norris – used as an accidental scare tactic – all victims have a connection to Harry. It’s not implausible to suggest that L targeted Harry through Ginny. Two birds in one fell swoop! Both, by the end of the year, either dead or guilty. That would burst the balloons of the Light to be sure!

    Also, while reading the essay I got an image in my head of Snape explaining to Dumbledore that he’d let the CoS knowledge slip.
    .Lucius is my….good acquaintance, but really, even he should’ve known better than to let a Dark object into a school his son was attending without doing any research….”
    And also, I believe L was the one to introduce S to the idea of Death Eater, and we all know how much Snape regrets listening. Lucius would’ve known he was young & gullible, so Snape gets to get his own back through Voldemort!

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