Did Dumbledore Cause His Own Death?

Updated on October 30, 2019

Once the course of the Harry Potter series unfolds, one could argue that the protagonist is less the hero of the piece, but more of a willing pawn. The tale spans roughly 36 years from the moment of Harry Potter's arrival at his aunt and uncle's to when Harry and his wife, Ginny Weasley, send their second son, Albus Severus Potter, off to Hogwarts.

It begins with the defeat of Lord Voldemort—whose real name is Tom Riddle—a sudden shock, his death revealing a surprising turn of events after he killed James and Lily Potter at their home in the village of Godric's Hollow. Voldemort's act of murder came as a result of hearing a snippet of a prophecy relayed to Dumbledore by Sybil Trelawney, which was delivered by Severus Snape (who served Voldemort at the time).

The prophecy referred to a boy born at the end of July with the power to destroy Tom Riddle. James and Lily Potter were among the bitterest of Voldemort's enemies—and members of the Order of the Phoenix. For that reason, Voldemort assumed their son was the boy of Sybil Trelawney's warning, as opposed to Neville Longbottom, so headed to Godric's Hollow to kill them, tipped off by the Potter's friend Peter Pettigrew. Pettigrew replaced Sirius Black as their protector at the last minute, probably as a double bluff and against Dumbledore's advice to have him as their guardian.

When Voldemort went to kill the infant Harry, Lily placed herself between him and her son; the act of selfless love rebounded the death curse away from Harry and tore Voldemort away from his body, forcing the remnant of his soul remaining in him to flee. The vast majority of the wizarding world believed that Riddle was no more, save for Dumbledore and the remnants of the Order of the Phoenix, which now included reformed double agent, Severus Snape.

Meanwhile, Harry was given into the care of his aunt and uncle, Vernon and Petunia Dursley, because Petunia carried the blood of her sister that conjured the ancient magic of love protecting her son's life. Petunia's blood also kept him safe, and its magic and would last until Harry matured at 17.

Vernon and Petunia Dursley were small-minded people who hated the magical side of their family (although much of the reason was rooted in Petunia's jealousy that she had no magical ability herself) and they treated Harry poorly, keeping him in a cupboard under the stairs until age 11. The caveat of his mother's protection was Harry needed to return every summer until the age of 17, the age of maturity for witches and wizards.

By the time Harry arrived at Hogwarts, Dumbledore already knew that Tom Riddle planned his return, Snape understanding that Professor Quirrell's disappearance and subsequent return in Albania had links to Voldemort. However, it was only by the end of the fourth year of Harry's studies at Hogwarts, when Cedric Diggory's murder and Harry's Triwizard Cup victory coincided, that it became evident Voldemort had returned.

Harry's entry in the Triwizard Tournament was thanks to Barty Crouch Jr. disguised as Alastor Moody. It is at this point that even mighty intellects and powerful sorcerers like Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore can even falter. Despite Moody's irascible and paranoid demeanour, alarm bells should have rung for Dumbledore when there was an attack outside Moody's house, an attempted break in to capture the hardened Auror.

Barty Crouch Jr. managed to trap Harry into competing in the Triwizard Tournament and also hinted at ways for him to overcome the tasks. When Harry reached the cup, it turned into a portkey, transporting him to Tom Riddle Senior's grave; thus, Tom Riddle Junior was able to get a body back. From this point forward, Dumbledore's time was limited, with secret plans that he should have seen through, but did the mighty wizard—perhaps the most powerful since Merlin—plan his downfall?

When Voldemort's Death Eaters lured Harry to the Ministry of Magic by tricking him into thinking they'd captured Sirius Black, the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters became locked in battle, culminating with Dumbledore defeating Voldemort in a duel and capturing all his devotees save Bellatrix LeStrange. Albus Dumbledore was the biggest thorn in Voldemort's side, and it became apparent Dumbledore would soon figure out Riddle's use of Horcruxes if he did not suspect their use already.

Dumbledore's major error came when he discovered the Horcrux Tom Riddle created from the ring of his grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, which contained the Resurrection Stone that legend said Death gifted to Riddle's ancestor, Cadmus Peverell. Eager to try and right the wrongs of his youth that led to the death of his sister Ariana, Dumbledore thoughtlessly wore the ring, activating a deadly curse that would eventually be fatal and kill him, even though Snape was able to delay its effects.

Snape's double agent credentials then received the greatest test when Voldemort ordered Draco Malfoy to kill Dumbledore. Partially due to punishing the Malfoys for failing him and also down to the fact that Riddle knew that recruiting Draco as the assassin would lure Dumbledore into a trap because he would not kill a child, not least one of his students. Draco's mother, Narcissa, and her sister, Bellatrix LeStrange, turned to Severus Snape to be the one to kill Dumbledore should Draco fail. Dumbledore saw this eventually and bade Snape to do it if the event transpired as such, especially as he had around a year left to live anyway.

Dumbledore's biggest mistake was placing Marvolo Gaunt's ring on his finger, arrogance, and folly only equalled by not intercepting Alastor Moody to ensure it was the real person. Furthermore, one meaningful oversight led to his murder—forgetting about the Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement, although broken, he ignored the possibility of its repair.

Had Dumbledore exercised greater caution with Marvolo Gaunt's ring, ensuring the destruction of the Vanishing Cabinet, then Voldemort's foothold over the Ministry and Hogwarts would be impossible; the Horcruxes uncovered much faster, too. Until the Death Eaters burst in on Draco, Dumbledore managed to reason with him, informing Draco that he could protect his family much in the same way that he could have defended James and Lily Potter, had they accepted.

Chief among his aims in death was to await Harry on the other side when Voldemort cast the death curse on him a second time. When he killed Lily Potter, Tom Riddle created an unintentional Horcrux when the original death curse rebounded, a part of his soul attaching to Harry by using Harry's blood to return to a body. Killing Harry ensured the protection granted by Lily Potter would eradicate itself from Voldemort's blood.

Dumbledore's death provided that he could allow Harry the ability to return, providing the Resurrection Stone. So the court is out—was it blunders, or an intentional assassination on Dumbledore's part? Did his sacrifice ensure the greater good, saving Malfoy, Harry and the world by letting Voldemort think he had outsmarted the greatest wizard in the world?


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