Essay: Philosopher’s Stone – Dumbledore’s Perspective

by John Kearns, March 2009.
 

“He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could….” – Harry Potter (Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 17)

Part of J.K. Rowling’s genius is the stories that lurk just off the edges of her pages; nearly every book has a subplot “off-screen.” In most cases they’re resolved within the book (as with Barty Crouch’s confession in Goblet of Fire) or at least by the end of the series (as with Snape’s Pensieve scene resolving the mystery of Half-Blood Prince). But in Philosopher’s Stone, a huge subplot is just left hanging. That is: what, exactly, did Dumbledore know of the things that happened at Hogwarts that year?

Really this is not one mystery but two, each with the same basic question. The first is, how much did Dumbledore know about Voldemort’s attempt to get the Stone? And the second, more interesting question is, how fully did he realize that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were trying to thwart that attempt?

Let’s start with the easier question: Quirrell.
 

“Keep an eye on Quirrell, won’t you?” – Dumbledore to Snape (Deathly Hallows, chapter 33)

At some point in the past few years, Quirrell took a one-year sabbatical from Hogwarts. During that time he supposedly ran into trouble, and he has been nervous and stuttering ever since. In reality, of course, we know he ran into Voldemort – and the stuttering is a ruse, presumably invented to avoid suspicion. However, Dumbledore is the wisest wizard in a generation. And he is Not Fooled.

After all, Quirrell clearly doesn’t realize it, but he’s really not putting on a very good act. Dumbledore is an accomplished Legilimens. He may or may not use that skill on a regular basis, but he knew instantly, for example, when Harry discovered that Snape was the one to overhear the prophecy. Quirrell has shown up acting strangely, and it would only take the briefest of forays into his mind to realize that he’s up to something. Considering that Quirrell has morphed into a caricature overnight with no plausible explanation, it probably doesn’t even take that much. Dumbledore has to know; something’s going on.

But what?
 

“I taught Tom Riddle. I know his style.” – Albus Dumbledore (Half-Blood Prince, chapter 27)

In Chamber of Secrets we learned that Dumbledore keeps tabs on Voldemort’s location. He admittedly probably followed a little more closely once the Chamber was opened; but he didn’t develop his network of “sources” overnight. Dumbledore almost certainly has a rough idea of where Voldemort is hiding. And it wouldn’t take long to figure out that Quirrell went there on his trip.

It also wouldn’t take long to figure out that Voldemort disappeared from that spot right about the time Quirrell left.

Even if he doesn’t know these things, it would certainly be reasonable for Dumbledore to suspect that Voldemort might be behind Quirrell’s sudden change. When someone starts acting as crazy as Quirrell, Dumbledore always suspects Voldemort. He’s seen the worst of what Voldemort can do to someone, many times over.

There’s also another thing Dumbledore knows for certain. Someone is trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Gringotts. We don’t know how he found out – perhaps Quirrell tipped off Dumbledore’s buddies while running reconnaissance missions on the bank? – but we don’t have to. Dumbledore has to know. Because he chooses to have the Stone moved.

So Dumbledore has lots of information at his disposal: his common sense tells him Quirrell is lying; Legilimency confirms the hunch (and perhaps even reveals the full story); Quirrell bears all the classic signs of being overcome by Voldemort; Quirrell visited Voldemort’s hiding place during his sabbatical and Voldemort immediately disappeared from it; and someone is trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone from Gringotts.

Perhaps Dumbledore didn’t make every one of these connections. But he certainly made some of them – if he didn’t, he’s not the Dumbledore I’ve been reading about for seven years – and he doesn’t really even need half of this information to have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. He knows that Quirrell is working with Voldemort. And he knows this before the book even starts.

How can we be certain he knows so soon?

Because Quirrell introduces himself to Harry as his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.

Back to that in a moment.
 

“Yes, the Dark Lord thought that I had left him forever.” – Severus Snape (Half-Blood Prince, chapter 2)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin lies Voldemort. He’s not in an ideal situation with Quirrell, who’s a “mediocre wizard” at best. But it’s all he’s got, so he’ll have to do.

When Voldemort has Quirrell bring him back to Britain, clearly his main goal in using Quirrell is to get the Philosopher’s Stone. But there’s a flaw – the Stone is tucked away in Gringotts, while Quirrell is stuck at Hogwarts. So Voldemort is faced with a choice: either Quirrell can quit and devote his time to the Stone; or, he can wait for summer so that Quirrell can then steal the Stone without losing his job.

Given these options, it seems that Voldemort chooses to delay his return to power, and has Quirrell return to his old post of Muggle Studies professor [as an aside, he has to have gone back to that post for a least a year, because when Hagrid introduces Quirrell, he says he’s “always” nervous and stuttering, and it doesn’t make sense if Quirrell is just coming off of his leave]. So why would Voldemort choose to wait?

He waits because he has more than one use for Quirrell. He wants Quirrell not only to steal the Stone and help Voldemort return to power, but also – I’m willing to bet –to serve as his spy at Hogwarts once he returns. After all, Voldemort no longer trusts Snape, his old spy, enough to ask him for help. So when they arrive in Britain, Quirrell returns to Hogwarts, leaves Voldemort somewhere else (no turban yet), and works hard on ensuring he won’t be suspected.

Except unlike Voldemort (or Snape, for that matter), Quirrell has no talent for deception. He’s not even sharp enough to realize Dumbledore’s on to him, so after a year of Muggle Studies he returns to Voldemort and proudly announces that he’s been promoted to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.

The position that Voldemort himself cursed. And that Dumbledore knows he cursed.

In other words, Dumbledore has almost certainly figured Quirrell out. Why else would he put him on the fast track out of Hogwarts? Plain and simple, Quirrell screwed up. And Voldemort is Not Pleased.

When Quirrell breaks into Gringotts and finds the Stone already gone, Voldemort realizes far too late just how bumbling Quirrell has been – after all, it’s now clear he tipped Dumbledore off both that he was working with Voldemort and that he was going after the Stone. So Voldemort possesses Quirrell. The man’s usefulness as a spy is gone if Dumbledore’s on to him, so the fact that possession will destroy him is irrelevant. All that matters now is getting the Stone, and after that Quirrell won’t be needed. It’s too important that Voldemort keep watch over the situation himself, because the stakes just got a lot higher.

The Stone has been moved to Hogwarts.

And with Quirrell teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, Voldemort has exactly one year to try and steal it. He and Dumbledore both know it, and the stage is set for an epic battle of wills.

Oh yes, there’s one other small detail too. Harry Potter just turned eleven. This year will be his first at Hogwarts.
 

“Unless I’m much mistaken, [Voldemort] transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to do, I’m sure….” – Albus Dumbledore (Chamber of Secrets, chapter 18)

Harry doesn’t realize it, but Dumbledore is keeping a very, very close eye on him. After all, he isn’t certain what Harry’s encounter with Voldemort will have done to him. Dumbledore probably breathed a sigh of relief when Harry was placed in Gryffindor, but he also noticed the minute or so it took the Sorting Hat to decide. And while Harry’s teachers are reporting (with the exception of Snape, naturally) that the kid is “modest, likeable, and reasonably talented,” Dumbledore’s probably also gathered that Harry’s no Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff. So what was the Sorting Hat seeing in him that caused a debate? Perhaps Dumbledore is able to ask the Hat, perhaps not; either way the kid is worth keeping an eye on. There’s no question he got a little too close to Voldemort for comfort.

So Dumbledore asks Harry’s teachers to report on him, and probably some of the portraits and ghosts, too; perhaps he keeps an eye on him with his own version of the Marauder’s Map or even follows him around invisible on occasion. While all of these are great, though, what Dumbledore really needs is to find out not just what Harry is doing, but what sort of person he’s becoming. Someone who can get to know him not as a teacher, but as a friend.

Enter Rubeus Hagrid.
 

“Well, yeh might’ve bent a few rules, Harry, bu’ yeh’re all righ’ really, aren’ you?” – Rubeus Hagrid (Goblet of Fire, chapter 22)

Dumbledore certainly encourages Hagrid’s friendship with Harry. After all, it’s not a stretch – he and Harry have a lot in common. And with Hagrid himself fiercely loyal to Dumbledore, Dumbledore can be confident he’s getting the inside scoop. The friendship has other benefits, too; while he certainly wants to ensure Harry doesn’t become the next Tom Riddle, Dumbledore also wants to ensure Harry will be okay at Hogwarts (there’s no telling how other students will react to his fame). Hagrid is essentially picking up where Arabella Figg left off, checking in to make sure Harry’s okay both for the sake of the wizarding world and simply for the sake of Harry. And Hagrid reports the same thing Mrs. Figg does: he’s doing just fine. It’s not unexpected, but Dumbledore breathes a sigh of relief all the same.

However, this isn’t all that’s interesting about Hagrid. During Harry’s first year, he also jump-starts virtually every step Harry takes towards finding the Philosopher’s Stone. He gets the Stone out of Gringotts in plain view of Harry; he leaves the newspaper clipping on the table the day he invites Harry to tea – five weeks after it was published – so Harry learns of the attempt to steal the Stone; he lets Nicholas Flamel’s name slip out; and he sends Harry off alone in the Forbidden Forest, where he just happens to encounter Voldemort and then Firenze. If any of these four things hadn’t happened, Harry might not have gone after the Stone.

It’s because of this that conspiracy theories involving Hagrid are fairly common. The idea is that Hagrid was intentionally giving Harry all this information to secretly encourage him to go after the Stone. Despite the evidence I just laid out, however, I don’t buy this.

The fact remains that Hagrid didn’t control when he removed the Philosopher’s Stone from Gringotts (Dumbledore asked him to do it); he clearly doesn’t tell Dumbledore that he’s let Flamel’s name slip (Dumbledore is surprised by Harry’s knowledge of it); and he bawls uncontrollably when he thinks he’s put Harry in harm’s way by setting up his meeting Voldemort. What’s more, this is Hagrid we’re talking about – the one who makes it clear in about ten seconds that his wand is hidden inside his pink umbrella. If Hagrid is intentionally giving Harry information, he’s doing it secretly, connivingly and convincingly, in a way that I think is wildly out of character. It just doesn’t fit.

On the other hand, it does seem that someone is encouraging Harry to go after the Stone. And there just happens to be someone else with a vested interest who we know isn’t above a bit of conniving and secrecy.
 

“Oh, you know about Nicolas? You did do the thing properly, didn’t you?” – Albus Dumbledore, “sounding quite delighted” (Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 17)

From Harry’s perspective, Dumbledore is a most mysterious character. Consider his actions toward Harry during this school year:

  • He has Hagrid retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone from Gringotts while Harry is with him.
  • He gives Harry the Invisibility Cloak for Christmas, effectively encouraging him to wander the school after hours.
  • He secretly watches Harry interact with the Mirror of Erised, and then explains it to him.
  • The same night Firenze explains the Stone to Harry, Dumbledore gives him the Invisibility Cloak again. We know it’s him because in the U.S. editions of the book, the handwriting is the same as his first note.
  • He arranges protections for the Stone that are unbelievably easy for three eleven-year-olds to get through. And these were supposed to keep out Voldemort?
  • He also knows instantly, and seems completely unsurprised, when Harry has gone after the Stone.

There are a few other strange things going on too, that also seem to have Dumbledore’s stamp on them:

  • Harry’s detention takes place in the Forbidden Forest, where his job is essentially to learn how Voldemort is staying alive. Who do we think decided this would make a good detention? McGonagall? Hagrid? Seems unlikely. It’s awfully dangerous, and it’s not as though four eleven-year-olds are actually remotely useful in this task.
  • While on this detention, Harry runs into Firenze, who explains the unicorn blood and the Philosopher’s Stone. How does Firenze know about the Stone when the information is top secret? And why would he tell Harry?
  • Oh, and what is Hagrid doing with a five-week-old newspaper clipping on his table, anyway?

This has all the markings of a classic Dumbledore plot. Everything happens under-the-radar, Harry is convinced that the ideas handed to him are in fact his own, and in the end, Dumbledore gets exactly what he wants.

The question is, supposing Dumbledore indeed wants Harry to go after the Stone, why on earth does he want it?
 

“And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives….” – Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy about Harry and Voldemort (Order of the Phoenix, chapter 37)

Because of the bloody prophecy, of course.

Let’s go back to what happened just after Voldemort’s Killing Curse rebounded. Snape had told Dumbledore that Voldemort intended to let Lily live. This information seemed innocuous enough at the time, but once Voldemort was gone it was priceless to Dumbledore, because it meant he knew how Harry had survived: Lily’s sacrifice. It must have been. An Avada Kedavra is unblockable; what else is even possible? So Dumbledore proceeded to cast a spell that protected Harry from Voldemort as long as he lived with Lily’s blood relatives. Harry is now completely protected from Voldemort for sixteen years.

And Voldemort doesn’t know it.

In other words, a Harry-Voldemort confrontation is the best possible scenario. After all, one of them is going to end up killing the other someday, so why not give Harry a go while it can only work in one direction! Dumbledore isn’t completely sure what’s keeping Voldemort alive – he doesn’t start to suspect multiple Horcruxes until he sees the diary a year later, remember – but it’s at least worth a shot. Remember, Harry has “power the Dark Lord knows not.” Worst case scenario, they both live, and Harry has some valuable Voldemort-battling experience under his belt. Best case scenario, Voldemort is gone. Forever.

Oh yes, and thanks to Dumbledore’s ingenious spellwork, neither Quirrell nor Voldemort will ever be able to get the Philosopher’s Stone out of the Mirrror of Erised.

Knowing all this, how could Dumbledore not give it a try?
 

“Secrets and lies, that’s how we grew up, and Albus… he was a natural.” – Aberforth Dumbledore (Deathly Hallows, chapter 28)

So Dumbledore devises a plan. His first goal is just to get Harry thinking about the fact that there’s a valuable object in the third-floor corridor and someone is trying to steal it, just to get the boy paying attention. So Dumbledore has Hagrid retrieve the Stone from Gringotts while Harry is with him, puts on a big show about the forbidden third-floor corridor, and then sets about ensuring Harry makes the connection. Perhaps he even does so by visiting Hagrid just before Harry does, and leaving the Daily Prophet article on the table. Granted this is far from fail-proof, but if Harry doesn’t see it Dumbledore can always try other methods later on. Anyway, regardless of how the article got there, Dumbledore learns from Hagrid that Harry has seen the article, and is content to let that stew in Harry’s brain for a few months.

Fast forward to Christmas. With most of the school out of the way (and possibly Quirrell away for the holiday as well!), Dumbledore takes out the Mirror of Erised, gives Harry the Invisibility Cloak, and steers him to the Mirror. Perhaps he enlists Snape’s help to get him there (which would explain his patrolling the corridors), perhaps he magically lures Harry to the room, perhaps he simply follows Harry and figures out a way to put the Mirror in front of him. It doesn’t really matter. The idea is just what Dumbledore cryptically tells Harry: “If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared.” He knows Harry will run across it. He’s planning for it to happen. And now, he knows that when he does, Harry won’t be distracted. Master plan, part two, is complete.

All that is left, then, is for Dumbledore to wait until Quirrell is getting close, and then be sure Harry knows the significance of the Philosopher’s Stone (remember, he doesn’t know that Harry has the Nicholas Flamel clue). Harry then presents Dumbledore with a golden opportunity – he lands himself in detention. So Dumbledore sends Harry into the Forest, after the unicorn, and enlists Firenze to explain it to the boy.

Oh yes. And Dumbledore also puts his stamp on the “protective spells” around the Stone. Perhaps he even tailors them specifically to Harry, Ron, and Hermione (I mean seriously, broom-flying, chess, and logic?). But either way, he makes sure the kids can get through. He also ensures the potion bottles at the end refill themselves – so Quirrell and Harry can both go through the flames – but there’s only enough potion for one person at a time. After all, Harry’s friends don’t have the blood protection he does, and Dumbledore knows Harry will be the one to go on and send them back for help.

All in all, the stage is set for a showdown between Harry and Voldemort. Dumbledore’s plan has worked, from start to finish.

Until the last minute, when it very nearly all falls apart.
 

“Harry, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror?” – Albus Dumbledore (Half-Blood Prince, chapter 23)

The flaw in Dumbledore’s plan, of course, isn’t that he underestimates Voldemort. It’s that he underestimates Harry. Because when Harry looks in the Mirror of Erised, he no longer sees his family. He sees – and thereby receives – the Philosopher’s Stone.

And this presents a big problem. The Stone is no longer safe. And neither is Harry. Harry would be fine if Voldemort tried to attack him, but now Voldemort’s instead trying to take something from him. And as Dumbledore will later tell Harry, it’s not Voldemort that “nearly kills” him. It’s “the effort involved” in keeping him off the Stone.

In the end, Dumbledore and Harry were both fortunate that Dumbledore arrived when he did. In fact, even though the plan didn’t keep Harry as safe as Dumbledore expected, it actually had a rather fortunate byproduct. Dumbledore now knows, beyond doubt, that Harry’s heart is both pure and good. In fact he must be rather flabbergasted – I mean seriously, the deepest desire of this kid’s heart, at age eleven, is to keep Voldemort from getting the Stone? In other words, he possesses the one weapon that Voldemort doesn’t have, and the one that Dumbledore knows is the only way to destroy him. Love. The “power the Dark Lord knows not.”

Maybe this whole thing will turn out alright after all.
 


66 Responses to “Essay: Philosopher’s Stone – Dumbledore’s Perspective”

  1. In the words of Ronald Weasley: “Bloody Brilliant!!” This is the precise reason why I love PS so much- you can gather new clues and start seeing Dumbledore’s secret plan behind the scenes each time you read it. I think it is what draws be back to the beginning again and of course once you start, you can’t stop! I had great fun reading this and seeing some of my own theories discussed in writing. Loved it! Thank you!!

  2. I actually adored reading this.
    Each little bit of background fascinates me.
    :)

  3. Wow, this essay was so insightful. I never realized how much back story there was to The Philosopher’s Stone. This all explains why I love these books so much. Nothing happens without a purpose. Thank you for writing this.

  4. I would love to see a debate started about this! Because I just love reading these – as Hannah said above, SO INSIGHTFUL!

    I can only sit here and be in awe, though. This is absolutely brilliant, thank you!

  5. Very well researched and put together! Thank you!

    I thought I had actually read somewhere that Dumbledore had intended for Harry to go through the trap door, but it might have been on a fan-site. Or maybe it was something that I had interpreted, because Dumbledore gave Harry the Invisibility Cloak – twice.

    However, here are some quotes that support your theory:

    “‘And then … well, you will remember the events of your first year at Hogwarts quite as clearly as I do. You rose magnificently to the challenge that faced you [...]. Yet there was a flaw in this wonderful plan of mine’” said Dumbledore.”
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Lost Prophecy

    “‘We have protected him because it has been essential to teach him, to raise him, to let him try his strength’, said Dumbledore.”
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Prince’s Tale

  6. This was an incredibly insightful essay. However, I would like to debate the end. You say that Dumbledore never intended for Harry to get the Stone out of the Mirror of Erised. However, why not just keep the Stone in the Mirror despite what anyone sees in it? It would’ve been fool-proof: Harry never gets the Stone and just has a one-on-one battle with Voldy. So I think Dumbledore meant for Harry to get the Stone and fight it out with Voldemort for it; quite possibly, it would have given Harry more incentive for fighting if he knew that Voldemort’s return to power hinged on him getting the Stone.

  7. wow, this tied up a lot of questions for me… Very logical written and very, very insightful.
    One question: Where is it said in the books (or maybe by JK?) That Quirrel was at first the teacher of Muggle Studies? I always figured he was first just Quirrel as DADA-teacher, then took a vacation and became Quirrel-mort as DADA-teacher, thus being two different people. However, I could never place the “Always” Hagrid mentioned, like you said too….
    keep up this very, very good project! It’s wonderfull how I can still find new things in books that I have been reading for almost 8 years with your help!
    x-kim-x

  8. kim, thanks for your kind words! The background on Quirrell is a bit complex. Hagrid’s first quote about him always made me assume he’d been teaching D.A.D.A. for at least one year as himself, and then at least one year post-sabbatical. The quote I’m looking at comes right as he and Harry leave the Leaky Cauldron in PS5 (p70 in the Scholastic edition):
    “Is he always that nervous?”
    “Oh, yeah. Poor bloke. Brilliant mind. He was fine while he was studyin’ outta books but then he took a year off ter get some first-hand experience…. never been the same since.”

    Once we learned that the position was cursed, though, this didn’t make a lot of sense. You can sort of get it to work if you do some twists and turns with it, but not really. A year after HBP came out though, Rowling cleared it up in an online chat (July 30, 2007):
    “Incidentally, I know some have asked about Quirrell with regard to this question. He was teaching at Hogwarts for more than a year, but NOT in the post of D.A.D.A. teacher. He was previously Muggle Studies professor.”

    There’s a transcript of the chat on Bloomsbury’s website if you’re interested.

    Hope that helps!

    John

  9. hpboy13, I typed a reply to yours earlier too but it looks like it didn’t post. My apologies!

    I think if Dumbledore could have kept the Stone in the Mirror despite what anyone sees, he would have, but we see over and over again in the wizarding world that it’s impossible to make an enchantment completely fool-proof. Think of the Horcruxes: you can separate your soul, but you must store a part of it in an object, which is still vulnerable to destruction. My reading is that Dumbledore had a choice of ways to protect the Stone, but didn’t want to choose one that could be undone by magic, since Voldemort is such a powerful magician. Instead he chose a method that could only be undone by purity of soul, something that may be easy for others (like an 11-year-old Harry) but impossible for Voldemort. That way it was kept safest. Does that make more sense?

    It’s also hard for me to imagine Dumbledore wanting Harry to “fight it out with Voldemort” – to me, putting that Stone and someone as cunning and powerful as Voldemort in the same room at all is just too darn risky. But it’s most definitely up for debate.

  10. Very helpful–there’s a lot more to Book 1 than I thought!

  11. I agree with Michael’s comment above. I had always thought book one just as the introtuction book where J.K. just shows us the world only. But your essay shows that there was a lot going on in the back-ground. It was very insightful! Thanks for putting it up on your website :)

  12. Wow, this is incredibly interesting! Never realized so much was going on in PS, going to have to read it again now in the light of your essay.

  13. I just came across this essay, which is brilliant, but I know I’m a bit late to the game, so this comment may not be seen.

    But I don’t agree with this:

    “So Dumbledore proceeded to cast a spell that protected Harry from Voldemort as long as he lived with Lily’s blood relatives. Harry is now completely protected from Voldemort for sixteen years.”

    Here is what Dumbledore says in OotP (American, page 836):

    “While you can still call home the place where your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort.”

    “There you cannot be touched.” Harry is only protected at the Dursley’s. Voldemort could harm him elsewhere.

  14. Hey jay ferguson – thanks for your comment! You have an interesting point, but I don’t think it’s a simple matter of black-or-white, protected-or-not-protected. Here’s a quote from Voldemort in GF33:

    “For he has been better protected than I think even he knows, protected in ways devised by Dumbledore long ago, when it fell to him to arrange the boy’s future. Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy’s protection as long as he is in his relations’ care. Not even I can touch him there…. Then, of course, there was the Quidditch World Cup…. I thought his protection might be weaker there, away from his relations and Dumbledore….”

    This agrees with what you’re saying on one level – “Not even I can touch him there.” But it also makes it sound like Harry is still pretty darn well protected by this magic elsewhere, as Voldemort only “thought” it “might be” weaker when Harry was nowhere near either Dumbledore or the Dursleys, but apparently wasn’t sure. So you definitely have a point, but I’m not sure my conclusion on that front is entirely wrong.

  15. My take is that Voldemort was talking about Harry’s protection in general, which included several components, one of which was the Aunt Petunia protection. There was also protection at Hogwarts, in the form of Dumbledore, the teachers, and various enchantments. At the World Cup Harry would be between these two major protections, but Voldemort didn’t know what might be in place. He thought Harry might be more vulnerable, but he wasn’t strong enough to attempt kidnap when there were hundreds of Ministry wizards around.

    I’m not completely convinced that your conclusion is wrong though. I can understand how it can be seen both ways.

  16. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because this whole Potter world really is quite maddening. I still don’t believe that the protection at the Dursley’s extended beyond their home. But I realized that I was focusing on the wrong thing, and that the protection didn’t need to extend, because Lily’s sacrifice was not one-dimensional; it already kept Voldemort from touching Harry. This was why Dumbledore felt it was okay to let Harry face Voldemort (other than the effort of keeping him from the stone almost killing him part).

    So my focus on the Dursley protection was irrelevant, because Harry is protected by the complex protection from his mother, of which Dumbledore’s spell making him safe at his aunt’s is just one part of.

  17. I think I’ll print this out and glue it to the inside cover of my HP1 book! It’s awesome!

  18. “And this presents a big problem. The Stone is no longer safe. And neither is Harry. Harry would be fine if Voldemort tried to attack him, but now Voldemort’s instead trying to take something from him. And as Dumbledore will later tell Harry, it’s not Voldemort that “nearly kills” him. It’s “the effort involved” in keeping him off the Stone.”

    I think it’s also possible that dumbledore could have purposely jinxed the mirror to give the stone only to those who do not wish to use it as a test to really and truly find out about harry’s true motives/desires. I don’t know, that’s just a thought – I hadn’t thought about this at all until I read your essay.

    Great job!

  19. Incredibly insightful observations for the events leading up to where we pick up the story in PS & beyond! Reasoning is not my strong suit, but there is always something niggling at the back of my mind whenever I read the books. It’s easy to take for granted that Dumbledore just “knew” things, but it’s maddening when I can’t work out “how.” That’s where you come in, Mr. Kearns.

    Given that Ms. Rowling has said she has TONS of back-story regarding plots, characters, etc., I’m sure your essay is in-line with her information (or very close to it). Like Harry, I’m willing to gamble 10 Philosopher’s Stones that I’m right. ;)

    I’m immensely enjoying the site, your notes, and the fan postings. Thank you for taking up this project and sharing it with all of us. It’s my little reprieve from work when I need a little magic in my life…:)

  20. This is the reason why I love the HP books there is always something going on in the background, always something off Harry’s radar. it’s like real life because ther is always something else going on when we don’t realise it!!!!!!
    LOVE IT!!!!! :P

  21. Okay, well I think the essay did give me some things to think about.

    I enjoyed your insights, but I find it so difficult to believe that Dumbledore would ever push an 11 year old Harry into a fight with Voldemort, even if Harry could not be harmed. I think of The Order of the Phoenix in particular, where we learn of the lengths Dumbledore went to in order to keep Harry out of the fight.

    A Dumbledore like the one in the fifth book who is trying so hard to preserve Harry’s innocence cannot be consistent with one who is trying to force a fight between Harry and Voldemort, even if he thinks Harry can win, which I think he probably doesn’t. Voldemort is still incredibly crafty. And if he can survive for as long as he has so far, he surely will continue to do so.

    And I think the protection laid in place for the Philosopher’s Stone is genius! Remember, the teachers each laid down their own defense and really, the only defense that mattered was Dumbledore’s, which was the Mirror, which was flawless. As for Harry, Ron and Hermione breaking through it so easily, that’s no different to book 6. Dumbledore could not have retrieved the fake-horcrux without Harry’s help. You can’t underestimate underage wizards.

    Oh and I’m sure Quirrell was a celebrated wizard who won several awards of some kind. (Lacking proof here, disregard if you happen to know otherwise). I’m pretty sure he was not mediocre. His ability to jinx Harry’s Broom in front of Dumbledore and Snape was good enough. He said he would’ve been able to knock Harry off if Snape’s robes had not caught fire (Hermione ftw) and broken his eye contact.

    I’m just saying. I don’t think that means anything though. I’m pretty happy to accept that Quirrell was a rubbish occlumens with a suspicious turban like that. And I bet the back of his head had the stench of dark magic dripping all over it. Dumbledore said dark magic leaves marks, and I reckon he of all people would be able to spot it right away.

    Enjoyed your essay by and large, thanks.

  22. Hi Caleb, thanks for commenting.

    Your thoughts about Dumbledore are definitely valid. The conclusions I drew in this essay that contradict what you’re saying I only came to because, after thinking about it a long time, I couldn’t come up with an alternative explanation that seemed nearly as viable to me. But I definitely share your hesitations.

    I do disagree with your comment on the Philosopher’s Stone being well protected. If “the only defense that mattered was Dumbledore’s,” why have the others at all? And while it may be folly to underestimate underage wizards, the fact remains that the maze was passable using only magic and magical knowledge that is learned in the first year of wizarding schooling. That doesn’t make any sense to me at all, if the intent was truly to protect the stone as well as possible.

    In terms of Quirrell – the only comment on his ability one way or another is the word “mediocre,” which is spoken by Voldemort in the graveyard in GF, so that’s where I got it from. We also know that he had been the Muggle Studies teacher previously, and was only allowed to teach DADA after he took a year off to gain experience. Also, remember he didn’t jinx Harry’s broom in front of Dumbledore; Dumbledore only turned up to Quidditch matches after he had tried this in the first one. I also give him less credit, perhaps, given the knowledge that DADA professors are so hard to find annually (look at Lockhart, and in Harry’s fifth year Dumbledore found nobody at all). So I’m not sure I’d buy that he was all that great.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

  23. John–

    I think you underestimate the challenges the maze represent.

    Remember, the very first defense is Fluffy, and even Snape apparently has difficulty getting past him (Halloween). Quirell and the kids have to trick the secret out of Hagrid. Similarly, Quirell’s own challenge, the troll, would’ve been a serious challenge to most wizards (we were earlier told that not many full grown wizards could have handled a troll; the trio lucked out earlier, and Harry lucks out the second time in not having to deal with it). The troll is obviously not a challenge for Quirell, but it would have been challenging enough for most intruders.

    Sprout’s defense seems the weakest–as you say, it involves knowledge that apparently is taught to first years.

    Flitwick’s is slightly harder, but not just any 11 year old could do it–at 11 Harry is already noted as an exceptional seeker, and he needs the help of Ron and Hermione to “herd” the right key towards him. It’s not clear that an ordinary wizard, working alone, could have done as well (though Quirellmort was obviously up to the task as well).

    McGonagal’s challenge required strategy rather than magic to bypass. Snape’s required powers of logic and deductive reasoning. None of the trio could have made it through all of these challenges by themselves, they only make it as far as they do by pooling their various strengths and skills.

  24. I’ve just been going through the “chapter by chapter”-thingy and loved it. And now I found this. I mean, wow. There is always more. It’s true in more than one sense that the Harry Potter-series will never end.

  25. jay ferguson, the way I understand it is: The protection is within Harry, but he needs to charge it, like a battery, for a certain amount of time every year.

  26. Further to the discussion about Quirrell being a “mediocre” wizard… in the graveyard scene in Goblet of Fire, Voldemort only says that Quirrell was “young, foolish and gullible” and easy to bend to his will. It is Snape who refers to Quirrell a “mediocre wizard” while talking to Bellatrix Lestrange in the second chapter of Half-Blood Prince.

    I’m not completely convinced though by Snape’s comment that Quirrell was “mediocre.” It seems that Quirrell was actually a very capable wizard. Hagrid tells Harry after his first meeting with Quirrell in the Leaky Cauldron that Quirrell has a “brilliant mind.” And I think the biggest testament to Quirrell’s abilities is his robbery at Gringotts. The robbery takes place before Quirrell’s possession by Voldemort, so presumably he is relying solely on his own magical powers. We know that vault 713 (which held the Stone) is located deep within the wizard’s bank (much deeper than Harry’s vault), and Griphook reveals that only a Gringotts goblin can open the vault door. This implies that Quirrell must have used a wide range of dark magic to get in and out of the bank undetected, including more than likely the Imperius Curse to get a goblin to open the vault door for him. After reading about Harry, Ron & Hermione’s disastrous heist at Gringotts in Deathly Hallows, this makes Quirrell’s accomplishment seem pretty impressive.

    Quirrell’s biggest problem was, of course, that the Philosopher’s Stone was no longer in vault 713 when he broke in. Dumbledore already suspected someone was about the steal the Stone, and it seems that Quirrell (for the reasons outlined in the essay above) was high on his list of likely suspects. I don’t think this makes Quirrell a mediocre wizard necessarily, but undoubtedly a mediocre actor.

    I guess you could argue that Quirrell was a mediocre wizard because he was not a skilled Occlumens like Snape, and therefore Dumbledore was able to tell that something fishy was going on with him. But it seems that few other wizards (even those who are otherwise very talented) were anything close to being as good at Occlumency as Snape (who must have been outstanding if he was able to deceive even Voldemort).

  27. The insight of this is marvelous. I love essays sites like this that keep the fandom alive.

    Just one additional bit of support for your argument was the flute Hagrid gave Harry for Christmas. It may even be one of the strongest points in support of your views on Hagrid, considering that there was nothing previously shown that would’ve told Hagrid that Harry had any interest in music.

  28. I never thought of the story in this much depth before. This essay is really good. It had so many points I never saw before.

  29. Reading through all the notes again, I have just come across this essay – absolutely brilliant! And it was interesting to read through all the replies as well – so many different thoughts which are valid. Certainly gives a lot to think about when I start to read through HP again.

  30. All the essays are very good and this one is no exception, I really enjoyed it. Next time I read PS I’m sure I’ll pay more attention on the details. I would never have thought that Dumbledore planned this and it still seems weird considering how much he fought to keep Harry safe in further years.

  31. I have a question for any HP fan, where does it say or imply that Voldemort left his hiding place in Albania at the same time as Quirrell leaves to return to Hogwarts? I haven’t read the books in a while, but after finding this site I am well ready to start again! Oh and excellent point about the protective spells being tailored to HRH! I know some have commented that it’s not the case, however, I can see how you would come to that conclusion.

  32. Chrissie, I don’t think the books explicitly say anywhere that Voldemort left Albania at the same time as Quirrell – it was just an assumption I made since we know that Voldemort was stuck in Albania until Quirrell happened upon him there. So when Quirrell left, he took Voldemort with him – and Dumbledore would have heard of Quirrell’s departure and Voldemort’s disappearance from separate sources and perhaps realized that the two could be connected since they were concurrent. Does that make sense?

  33. First, I think that not telling us exactly how much Dumbledore knew makes the story more realistic instead of tying up all the loose ends. Yes, I think that Dumbledore knew Harry would eventually have to face Voldemort and was grooming him from day one for that possibility and most likely was even aware that something suspicious was going on with Quirell, however, I don’t believe that Dumbledore could have knows that Quirell was possessed by Voldemort because if he had known he would never have exposed the kids to him and would have dealt with it on his own (just because Harry has to face Voldemort some day and Dumbledore knows it doesn’t mean it had to be then) and Dumbledore is smart enough to know that an eleven year old is no match for the most evil wizard alive. In fact, Harry would not have survived had his mother’s protection not saved him once again. So, yes, I think he must have knows that something was going on and that Harry was in danger but I don’t think he meant for anything more to happen than beginning to groom Harry to become a great wizard and to be able to deal with the horrible things that were bound to happen to him at some point in his life as Voldemort fought to come back to power.

  34. If Dumbledore knew Harry would have to deal with Voldemort, wouldn’t want Harry to do it as soon as possible? At the time that Harry entered Hogwarts there wasn’t much information about the strength of Voldemort, nothing much had happened at that time that would lead one to believe that he would be very strong. Dumbledore could have believed that Harry’s prior protection and the help of his friends (love) may be enough to defeat “he who shall not be named”.

  35. Brillant. Best thing I have read on this entire site.

  36. I was wondering why getting to the stone was so easy for the trio, now it makaes sense. Thank you so much, this is magic.

  37. When I read this, I was like, “Wow! The first book makes so much more sense now!”
    Very well done.

  38. Oh…My….GOD. You just completely blew my mind with this essay. Everything was so well explained and it made plenty of SENSE. You cleared up so many thing for me that used to buzz in the back of my mind. You are BRILLIANT.

  39. Great essay, John! I find it interesting that Dumbledore “pushed” Harry to confront Voldemort. Never put those points you listed together before, but it makes so much sense. I too feel as you do that Dumbledore’s plan all along was to use the “boy who lived” to his advantage and to give Harry as many opportunities and tools as possible to accomplish the seemly monumental task.

  40. The most fascinating essay ever! I always suspected something was up, but I never got to this level of analysis. I guess there’s more to everything in Harry Potter than meets the eye…

  41. This is absolutely brilliant and does seem to fit with the character of Dumbledore that we all know. Indeed, he would put Harry in this whole situation on purpose. But then again, I can’t help but wonder (and it pains me) if we’re completely over-analyzing it. A big part of me thinks that J.K Rowling did not even consider that Dumbledore was behind any of this, and the clues were dropped simply to forward the plot. What kind of story would it be if Harry did not figure out Voldemort was after the stone and confront him? The obviousness of the ‘dropped’ clues could also be for the benefit of the reader, who, seeing as the book is geared more towards children would not think of Dumbledore being behind all of it, but instead would be excited about the obvious clues because it makes it a lot easier for them to feel involved and like they too figured out what was going on. That seems like the most likely explanation, though it is highly amusing to dig deep into the mysteries of Harry Potter and pretend there are secrets hidden everywhere. I dunno brah.

  42. Calli Freedman, your question is a good (and broad) one. I think about it this way: there’s a spectrum of how to approach these questions. On one end, we could always try to interpret Jo’s intent about everything. What was she thinking? What did *she* think happened in the background? On the other end of the spectrum, we could completely ignore her intentions and focus instead on what best fits the plots in the books, i.e. the books are published and therefore not hers any more, so her intentions are irrelevant.

    I try to strive for a happy medium between these two. I think discerning her intentions is important, but especially in the earlier books, there are lots of things that she clearly just didn’t think through all the way and, as you said, wrote in simply because they made the plot work. I think these problems are at their worst in Chamber of Secrets, where there are puzzles that simply make you go round in circles. Truthfully, I think this essay hits that medium – I think she intended for Dumbledore to somehow be behind it all, but I don’t think she thought through every point I raised here. But if it gets at the heart of her intentions, and also fits what’s written in the books, then isn’t that the most fun way to look at it? That’s what I think, anyway. :)

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  43. First off, great essay. The points are well laid out, and your evidences and thought processes are all very convincing. I am converted. However, seeing as I first read this book in 9th grade, it’s actually a little disappointing to me that this ‘behind-the-scenes-story’ is so convincing. It takes some of the thunder away from Harry, Hermione and Ron. It takes away from their cleverness and the greatly diminishes the very ‘detective’ nature of the book. It’s almost as if it was inevitable that The Gang find out about and proceed to prevent the theft of the Stone. In that sense, the ‘mystery’ aspect of the novel is completely gone, not only has someone been leading them around by the nose (unbeknownst to the trio) but Dumbledore might as well have thrown Harry in a pit together with Quirrel just to see what happens. :(

  44. This was brilliant! I never thought about any of this before, I just assumed that all the clues were dropped to advance the plot. It certainly seems like something that Dumbledore would do: knowing that someone is trying to steal the stone, he would employ Harry (albeit secretly!) to discover the truth and attempt to thwart the thief, so as to test his own strength, abilities, love, and fortitude!
    However, I do find one flaw with this whole thing: it really seems to me to be entirely out of character for Dumbledore to (knowingly) allow Voldemort, a serious threat even if he has been reduced to attachment to the back of someone’s head, to roam the halls of Hogwarts. Dumbledore cares deeply about his students and their safety; for evidence, see PoA when Dumbledore moves all of them (not just the Gryffindors) into one room after Sirius breaks in and shreds the Fat Lady’s portrait. If he reacts like that to Sirius, Voldemort’s supposed right-hand man, breaking in that one time, how could he possibly allow Voldemort himself to remain a whole year at Hogwarts?
    It seems more likely to me that Dumbledore thought/knew Quirrel was in league with Voldemort, but that Quirrel merely left Voldemort at home or somewhere other than Hogwarts.
    Other than that, though, I thought your essay was spectacular! Leave it J.K. Rowling to snooker us all into believing Harry & co. were brilliant detectives, when really Dumbledore was pulling the strings every now and then! :)

  45. Mandy, I think that Dumbledore figured that Quirrel and Voldemort did not seem likely to harm any of the students at Hogwarts, as Quirrel is supposed to be putting up the front that he is a respectible educator.

    Also Voldemort was defintely not powerful enough without the stone to try and take Hogwarts while it was under Dumbledores control.

    As with the Sirius incident, everybody knew that Sirius was (apparently) a cold blooded murderer; questions would have been raised if he had not done anything. Whereas with Quirrel he was perhaps the only one who would know about his association with Voldemort.

    Furthermore, Dumbledore probably only found this out AFTER Quirrel returned from his sabbatical, at which time he had just appointed him Defence Against The Dark Arts Professor. An immediate dismissal would alert Voldemort that Dumbledore was onto him, something which he wanted to keep from Dumbledore.

    Keep in mind that Dumbledore knew the Dark Arts position was cursed, and got Quirrel to take the position so that Quirell would most defintely be gone by year’s end.

    Finally, Dumbledore and Voldemort have known each other for a long time, and Voldemort knows Dumbledore’s style. Voldemort would have accepted, if not welcomed the battle of wits that he fought, and would not have foresaken his whole plan for the sake of some Hogwarts students.

  46. Lovely essay…. Its great to see this stuff after watching the end. Very well done.
    But I’m not sure that JKR had intended this to be Dumbledore’s grand plan rather than just random events coinciding, culminating in Harry and Voldermort’s first battle.

  47. Firstly, JK is a genius. I mean OMG
    Secondly, YOU are a genius. I have NEVER noticed all this! I must go back and read them again!!!!
    Thanks for this wonderful site
    Xxxxx

  48. Brilliant, Thoroughly enjoyed reading this essay and the chapter by chapter, it was nice to think that Dumbledore was watching out for Harry right from the very beginning. Thanks x

  49. I truly enjoyed reading this essay, as I have enjoyed the rest of this fantastic website. I agree with your comment above, that though JK may not have planned out all of this detail, it doesn’t make filling in the blanks, and so masterfully at that, any less meaningful. I’m doing a reread of the series, now that I’ve seen the seventh movie, and I’m using the Harry Potter Companion as I go along. I’m doing my best do take it a chapter at a time, but the constraints of my job have made that impossible, and I have to catch up on your website a few chapters at a time. I wonder if anyone has tried incorporating these works into digital versions of the books. I know I would be delighted by such a thing.
    You should know that I am currently working on a fanfic that begins during Harry’s confrontation with Quirrell. It is not published yet, but will be called The Horcrux Within. In it, I have written an introspective on Dumbledore that draws heavily on this essay, as I feel your theories are too perfect not to use, and are too in line with the Albus Dumbledore that I want to write. I will of course cite you and your works.

  50. I had thought about some of the things you discuss here but I would just like to thank you for putting them (and a lot I hadn’t thought about) into such a well thought out and beautifully written essay.

  51. This clearly explains all d mystries of book1. Brilliantly written.

  52. It is a marvellous essay, and all of it makes sense to me. The only thing that bothers me is the same as what Calli Freedman brings up – maybe the fans are just overanalyzing. But then I think of the complexity of this series and I don’t think that’s true. It makes far much more sense if this sub-plot was something JKR had in mind but never included in the book, since it would be a bit too much to handle for the reader, especially considering the young audience the book would get.
    But since reading this essay I am convinced that this theory – or at least something similiar to this theory – did happen behind the scenes. It fits. And my hat is off to you for showing me the possibility. Thank you, John!

  53. I’m not so sure about all of this. Dumbledore Shows he doesn’t judge people based on the house’s they get sorted into. I don’t think he was worried about Harry like you present it. Besides If Dumbledore KNEW a professor had Something bad about them (especially with Voldemort) his reaction would not be to Just give them the defense against the dark arts job, it would be to get them out of Hogwarts and stop it instantly! You are forgetting one VERY crucial thing. Dumbledore cares deeply about his students. He would not willingly let them be exposed to danger. Also you say Quirrell was an “average” wizard. This is not the case at all. Hagrid said he was rather “Brilliant” in the past. It is almost certain he knows oculemency, or Voldemort did it for him. This also fits much better with d\Dumbledore telling Snape to “keep an eye” on him. He suspects there might be something up with him but does not know it for sure

  54. Great essay John !
    Another thing .. I have often wondered how did Voldemort escape from Hogwarts after his confrontation with Harry? Did Dumbledore arrive after he had escaped ? Did they have an altercation ? Would like to hear your thoughts.

  55. Megha, I don’t know that I have a great insight into that one… I just sort of picture him slithering out of the school in his vapor-state and heading back to Albania.

  56. I don’t buy this,

    Though I hand it to you that it is well thought out(I don’t think JK ever put so much thought in the book,as there are so many inconsistencies and flaws in the world and the plot line she has created).

    A much better strategy would’ve been to capture Voldemort and I’m sure Dumbledore knew that he is in a very weak condition.And then he could have thought of a ploy and tried Harry against him while ensuring that LV doesn’t have any means to escape if it doesn’t work.

  57. Mmmm…interesting, but some conclusions are quite a leap.
    1. Quirrel wasn’t average. Hagrid mentiones that he is “brilliant”.
    2. Dumbledore telling Snape to keep an eye on Quirrel is to me a sign that he wasn’t sure about Quirrel. He thought that something might be up, but above all, Dumbledore never judges people without a good reason. Without proof or knowing for sure that Quirrel was up to something, he wouldn’t have kicked Quirrel out.
    3. The point with all the “traps” is that there were THREE wizards with very different talents needed to overcome them. Neither Harry nor Ron nor Hermione would have managed alone (and they were lucky that the Troll was already knocked out when they came). It’s unlikely to find ONE wizard who is a good flyer, good chess player, good in fighting, good in logic aso. Quirrel as well as Harry and his friends wouldn’t even be able to overcome Fluffy, if not for Hagrid telling them accidential. Plus, to me all those traps look mostly like smokescreen. It’s like Dumbledore intended someone (suspecting the someone would be Quirrel) trying to get to the stone, to get ultimatively trapped in front of the mirror. He couldn’t expect Harry to barge in, providing what was needed to retrieve the stone from the mirror.

  58. This essay is pure genius and it does fit in with the detailed way we know Jo works. I would say that: some of this analysis must be true of Jo’s thinking; most of it is probably true; and all of it may be true!

    My take on Petunia’s blood protection: I think it makes good sense that so long as Harry stayed with the Dursleys’ a couple of weeks a year that made 4 Privet Drive his ‘home’ and the blood protection lasted all year – everywhere! Otherwise what use is it after age 11 to only protect him for the few hours a year he is indoors at No.4? He might as well stay at Hogwarts. No, Harry freely walked the streets of Little Whinging, visited the zoo and the park, even went to a muggle school as a kid. Dumbledore made no attempt to provide any other protection. He merely assigned an old lady with no magical powers at all and the most unreliable of wizards (Dung) to ‘keep an eye on’ Harry. Seriously? Jo is throwing out obvious hints that no other magical protection is needed. Compare the Battle of the Seven Potters once that protection is over.

    In movies, we take it as a given that the hero cannot die except possibly right at the end. Jo does not rely on that but gives a hidden but valid explanation as to why a mere schoolboy can keep escaping death by inches. Let’s take one example in Little Whinging: the Dementors. The Prophecy cannot keep Harry alive – it only passively predicts what will happen (Harry can only die at the hands of Voldemort) but it is not a cause. Logically, Harry could have been killed (totally disabled) by a Dementor but he wasn’t. I think the blood-protection works not by throwing up some magical shield as needed but by ‘influencing destiny.’ So Harry would always escape danger while he is underage and protected.

  59. Many people here seem to have a hard time believing that Dumbledore would knowingly put Harry in danger due to his effort to keep him safe in later books. I agree. However, maybe it was this incident that made DD so cautious. Sending Harry into something that, as you say, had the worst case senario of giving him some genuine experience fighting Voldemort, seems like a safe enough plan. Sure, Dumbledore’s not exactly comfortable with this, but can see it’s the best long term solution. But he underestimates Harry, and the plan nearly goes badly wrong. So lesson learnt. Dumbledore now knows that where Harry is concerned, there is no such thing as a foolproof plan.

    Also, I agree that most people seem to be underestimating the defenses. I think one of the things that most people seem to be forgetting is that faced with a massive three headed dog, a giant chess set that attacks you if you make a wrong move, a plant that attacks you, and a troll, most people would simply panic, which eliminates some problems before we even get onto magic. Indeed, this nearly happens with the devil snare. It’s only Hermione (who is actually against the wall by this point and not in as much trouble as the boys) who does something, and this is after the “But there’s no wood!” line.

    And on idea that these defenses use spells that first years could get past, I think we’re all forgetting that Hermione is far from normal first year standard.

    In fact, if you think about it, not a lot of magic is actually needed. Music, chess skills, logical thinking, the ability to fly, decent reflexes and a cool head. But the paradox is that most wizards would not think to use these, relying instead on magic. Perhaps that was the reasoning? Hermione actually says “Most good wizards don’t have an ounce of logic” Of coarse, this unwittingly made the task a lot easier for young wizards who don’t have much magical skill, and are use to relying on other things.

  60. I was wondering, John, how or whether you feel J.K. Rowling’s backstory about Quirrell on Pottermore affects your theory. It seems to tell a different story about how Quirrell started working for Voldemort. The impression from the book is that he was a normal young man who went travelling round the world, happened across Voldemort in Albania and Voldemort talked him into sharing his views on power and convinced him to serve him of his own free will. Quirrell came back apparently now nervous and stuttering and Voldemort didn’t possess him until after he failed to steal the stone from Gringotts. But Pottermore says that Quirrell was always timid and nervous and that, partly out of curiosity and partly out of a desire for recognition, he went looking for Voldemort. But as soon as Voldemort found out Quirrell worked at Hogwarts he overpowered and took immediate possession of Quirrell, who could only put up feeble resistance on occasion,

    What do you make of the apparent contraditions? Are they contradictions or can they be made to fit together?

  61. IMO things were not as simple for Dumbledore as you have outlined in this excellent essay of yours.

    We have to keep in mind that Dumbledore had only one priority task- to finish Voldemort off as early as possible. By the first year, Dumbledore hardly had had any data. I mean to say Dumbledore suspected, only suspected, that Voldemort made Horcrux (es). So he doesn’t completely understand how Voldemort is continuing to live despite the Avada Kedavra rebounding on him. Dumbledore at this point probably suspected other kinds of Dark Magic, too, giving the same effect against Avada Kedavra. Also Dumbledore is not even sure Voldemort is alive or not. But as you say, the sorting hat does see a bit of Slytherin in Harry. This does not necessarily mean Dumbledore suspected Harry to be a Horcrux; he might have thought Harry was Slytherin in nature. I would say, in Harry’s first year, Dumbledore thinks that the chance of Voldemort being alive because of his Horcrux (es) is 51%. Also knowing Voldemort as only Dumbledore did, he knew a safeguard against death would have been most appealing to Voldemort and so it is likely Voldemort acted towards that end; so he was still alive even though the Avada Kedavra against Harry had backfired.

    Now comes the hard part for Dumbledore. Voldemort has not re-surfaced for like 12 years. Also Harry Potter, the one who the prophecy states to have the power above the Dark Lord, joins Hogwarts. There are also all these teachers at Hogwarts. Under this situation, Dumbledore needed to groom Harry and see what the prophecy had meant by the strange power attributed to Harry. Although Dumbledore might have had the inkling that this power would be love, the same that Lily had demonstrated, he needed to be sure. So he had this plan to test Harry through the Mirror of Erised. He had to do this undetected so he gave Harry the Cloak and remained hidden till he knew Harry to be a truly benevolent wizard. He now knows Harry’s edge over Voldemort. But pushing Harry into harm’s way so early on when his skills were at his nadir, was extremely foolhardy. Moreover Dumbledore hardly had any proof against Voldemort being involved in the PS stealing fiasco. He probably didn’t have complete understanding about the forms to which Voldemort can possess people and the degree and extent of it. Remember he had known that Voldemort could be charming but he never knew his possession expertise. We have to give some credit to Voldemort at this point. Lying low was his forte. Even at the peak of his powers, he had evaded Dumbledore successfully. Keep in mind that then, Dumbledore had no shackles in the form of Harry Potter’s safekeeping or the knowledge of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. So Dumbledore likely enough went in full force after him and was unsuccessful! Attributing that Dumbledore knew about Quirrel all along goes against this balance of probability. Because had Dumbledore known, he would have made an effort to confront Voldemort. You may say he was trying to keep Quirrel alive just like he did to Draco in the 6th year. But if that was the case setting up a confrontation between Harry and Voldemort as you say, would have promoted the same end to Quirrel and Dumbledore knew that. Dumbledore only wished to give Harry the information. Harry went after the PS on his own. A hundred things could have gone wrong for Harry if Dumbledore wished to goad Harry to fight Voldemort. One, Dumbledore discovers afterwards the PS stealing bit was coming from someone who is just working with Voldemort, not being possessed by him or is not working at all for Voldemort. Then Harry had no immunity. Harry would be killed instantly. Not on Dumbledore’s watch, you say? But if Dumbledore had thought Harry would go after the PS on his own, he would never have left for the Ministry at the receipt of a highly suspicious owl. Besides this also suggests Dumbledore was not impossible to fool. Also, Dumbledore seems to implicitly trust Snape no matter what. He leaves the entire Quirrel checking to Snape. What if Snape had turned against him or Voldemort had possessed Snape? We have to give thought to this fact because Dumbledore was extremely brilliant. He was also calculating and detached. I am not ready to believe he trusted Snape blindly all through just because Snape had confessed his love for Lily to him. Also, Dumbledore was a sufficiently accomplished Legilimens, not a very great one. But if Snape can lie to Voldemort, so can he lie to Dumbledore. I mean Snape was the best Occlumens in the world! Dumbledore probably didn’t discount the fact that Snape was a false double agent and probably was working for Voldemort all along and given the slightest chance would supply Voldemort with the PS and then finish Harry off himself! Please remember that the Patronus stag bit cam much much later. That was the only sure proof about Snape’s loyalties. Till then Dumbledore had to be cautious. And you say that despite knowing that Voldemort was on the loose in the castle, he let him carry on! Preposterous! What if Voldemort had possessed other teachers? There are loads of things that could have spelled the doom for everyone in Hogwarts. So it is much more likely that Dumbledore wished Harry to be informed but didn’t expect that he would display such hot-headedness and go after the PS on his own.

  62. I would only add that I find it fishy that after however long Flamel has been living with the Stone, it would only be in Harry’s first year that he felt it needed to be moved. Also, given everything we know about Voldemort and his horcruxes, it seems out of character for Voldemort to try and return through the use of the Sorcerer’s Stone. Voldemort does not strike me as the sort to want to rely on an external source to keep him alive (with the horcruxes it’s a bit different, as they are parts of him and it’s not as if he has to keep drinking the elixir of life). I would suggest that once Dumbledore started suspecting Quirrel to be in league with Voldie, he asked Flamel to move the Stone to Hogwarts as to lure Voldie out of hiding and to keep Voldie focused on trying to steal the Stone, rather than say creating that potion he does in GoF.

    [Dumbledore realizes that at some point Voldie will come back (and needs to) to be defeated. But at this point, Dumbledore is still trying to figure out exactly what measures of protection Voldemort took. In OotP, Dumbledore tells Harry he "suspected" the link between him and Voldie, and it became clear once Harry came to Hogwarts that Dumbledore's suspicions were correct. I would guess that Dumbledore suspected Harry was an unintended horcrux the night Lily and James died.]

    I think that by setting such an elaborate obstacle course, Dumbledore was trying to ensure that Voldie would be focused on the Stone and not on anything else. The only real and valuable protection against the Stone was the Mirror. Dumbledore didn’t actually need any of those other obstacles–he knew Voldie wouldn’t be able to get it. But by putting those obstacles in place, he made the Stone seem that much more valuable and that much more difficult to steal.

    I really like your interpretation of Harry’s blood protection as a kind of insurance policy for Dumbledore–it fits with everything Dumbledore did in Harry’s first year. I only wonder to what extent Dumbledore wanted Harry to encounter Voldemort–at one point (I no longer remember where) Dumbledore says something to the effect of, “you rose to the occasion magnificently, and sooner much sooner than I had expected…” (OotP maybe?). The “sooner” part makes me hesitate…

    But as to Dumbledore concocting such an elaborate plot, I’m not too surprised. Remember OotP? Why did that prophecy actually need so much protection? Especially, Dumbledore knew that only Voldemort or Harry could retrieve the prophecy. What was the point of guard-duty? And was there anything in that prophecy that would actually be of great use to Voldemort? The only thing would maybe be, “and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives” (but would Voldemort realize this refers to the double connection between him and Harry–as sorts of horcruxes for each other? Likely, he would interpret it as Harry did…). Plus, as Dumbledore puts it in the HBP, prophecies are self-fulfilling–he didn’t put much store into it.

    I think what Dumbledore did in OotP was set the Order up to guard the prophecy to make Voldie think it was of great importance (knowing of course, that Voldie would seek to find out how to destroy Harry before attempting to do so again), when in fact it wasn’t. That way, Voldemort would use all of his efforts on procuring the prophecy, rather than blowing up bridges or infiltrating the Ministry or trying to kill Dumbledore, leaving Dumbledore time to find out what and where the horcruxes are. Not unlike Sorcerer’s Stone, if you think about it. I would only add that it greatly bothers me that Dumbledore wouldn’t tell the Order of his actual plans–they don’t seem to have any idea that guarding the prophecy could really only be a decoy. Certainly, it would make guard-duty really realistic, but the Order considers this of utmost importance and as Sirius says, “there are some things worth dying for….” A bit callous of Dumbledore to not trust the Order enough–especially, considering Nagini attacks Mr. Weasley.

  63. Does that mean Dumbledore knew before Harry even STARTED school that Harry would become friends with the youngest Weasly boy (Ronald Billius Weasly) or the Muggle-born Hermione Jean Granger (who just happens to be a brown hair copy of Harry’s mom) ?

    Since in my opinion its very obvious all the traps with the exception of the Mirror of Erised were already put into place between the time of July 31st, 1991-December 27/28 1991.

  64. I believe that, as well as the Stone coming out of the mirror, the flaw in this plan of Albus’ is that he forgot Fudge. That is, he didn’t think to warn anyone else that the third-floor corridor would need extra watching while he was away. I’ve stated this on Dumbles’ character page, but I believe Albus thought he would be, say, two mins behind Harry and the rest, rather than two hours. But then, he was so fed up with Fudge that he took a thestral, got possibly delayed at the Ministry then disapparated back to find things getting out of hand. He only just arrived in time.
    Oh, wait. Maybe he told McGonagall, so she fobbed the Trio off then got Stunned or something by Quirrellmort? We don’t hear of her for the rest of the day. Or maybe Qmort trapped all the teachers teachers in the staffroom…
    Anyway, my view is that Dumbles gave Harry a chance to show his true colours and fight Voldie on his home turf, when V was still weak. This prepared Harry for possible later battles. But Dumbles proved he’s human and can make mistakes, by miscalculating about the timing.
    And as Harry hovered between life and death in the Hospital Wing, Albus told himself that the boy was not a weapon but a child, so should given a childhood. In short, after ten years of watching Harry from afar and another of watching him closely, Albus began caring too much.

  65. John, if I haven’t thanked you already for this essay, thank you. It’s fantastic. I have another thought that further supports the point: when Harry first discovers the Mirror of Erised, it’s in a room the door of which is ajar. I highly doubt this is a coincidence, especially as it’s inferrable that Harry passed several doors which weren’t ajar on his way to the room.

  66. About the one year sabbatical Quirrell took, wasn’t the job supposed to be jinxed so that no one lasted more than a year. How did he survive?. Did he take the sabbatical to heal from any injuries he might have hav over the year?

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