Quick Thinking or Plan B?
My theory explores the idea that both Lily and Dumbledore knew of Lily’s impending sacrifice before Voldemort ever arrived at Godric’s Hollow. Furthermore, Dumbledore used this knowledge to ensure that Lily’s blood protection would last long after her death and Voldemort’s downfall.
J.K. Rowling recently said on her site that the letter Dumbledore left with Harry was not the first letter he wrote to Petunia. It’s odd that Dumbledore would be communicating with Petunia and she with him just as casual correspondence. If he was communicating with a Muggle who hated magic and everything about it, and she was returning his letters, then there had to be a very important reason.
We’re told in Philosopher’s Stone/ Sorcerer’s Stone that Petunia pretended she didn’t have a sister. Clearly there was a rift in Lily and Petunia’s relationship. Dumbledore is not one to interfere in the interpersonal relationships of others. He never forces Harry and Malfoy to work out their differences, nor does he coerce Harry and Snape into harmony. Therefore, he wouldn’t try to mend the broken fence of the Evans sisters’ relationships. Thus, his motive in contacting Petunia is not as a mediator, but something else.
Dumbledore seems to understand what Petunia is like as well, because he uses words like “grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, and bitterly” to describe Petunia’s attitude towards taking Harry in. This shows that Petunia displays these traits in her communication with Dumbledore. It’s something that Dumbledore wouldn’t be able to see from leaving a singular letter on her doorstep explaining what happened. He would have to have suggested Harry coming to live with her to know these traits about her. He knew her reaction to the possibility of Harry coming to stay with her in advance.
Petunia Dursley is against magic and anything “abnormal” in all ways, shapes, forms, and fashions. An owl from her sister’s former Headmaster would not engender positive feelings. Based on her behavior in Philosophers Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry’s Hogwarts letter arrives, it isn’t a stretch to say that Petunia was apprehensive at best when Dumbledore’s first correspondence arrived. In order to motivate Petunia to respond, Dumbledore would need to say something compelling. A simple letter informing her of her sister’s marriage or her nephew’s birth would not be enough. A letter explaining to her the circumstances surrounding her nephew’s birth would be.
Dumbledore would’ve needed to explain to Petunia that Voldemort was after Lily, James, and Harry. He would’ve needed to tell Petunia what it meant that Voldemort was after her family, even if she didn’t like the fact that they were family. And he would have needed to tell her why she should care. Taking in the child of a sister whom she hated was not likely to be high on Petunia’s list of things do to. She would have needed a solid reason to make such a drastic decision that affected both her and her family. From her reaction to discovering that Voldemort had returned, Petunia knew the dangers of having Harry in her home as well as what it truly meant that Voldemort was back:
“She was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the very first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother’s sister. He could not have said why this hit him so very powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister’s) were not narrowed in dislike or anger: They were wide and fearful. The furious pretense that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry’s life–that there was no magic and no world other than the world she inhabited with Uncle Vernon–seemed to have fallen away.”
(Order of the Phoenix, pg. 38)
Since Petunia knows how dangerous Voldemort is when she hears the news of his rebirth from Harry, she had to have known what a threat he had been until October 31, 1981. This means that Dumbledore must have explained the situation to her and, because Vernon recognized the name, she in turn explained a part of it to him.
Petunia understood how important it was for Harry to remain alive, but there was still a problem. Petunia’s primary concern is her family, more specifically, her son. Dudley is her world, and anything that threatens him is not allowed in Petunia’s life. Harry’s presence in her home creates a threat to Dudley because of Harry’s prominence in the Wizarding world.
Dumbledore magically extended to Petunia the protection that Lily gave to Harry in her last moments. Lily’s blood saved Harry, Lily and Petunia share the same blood, and Dumbledore was able to manipulate the ancient magic so that Lily’s blood can continue to protect Harry, even if the blood is alive only in Petunia. Dumbledore told McGonagall that what saved Harry was a mystery: “‘We can only guess,'” said Dumbledore. ‘We may never know.'” (Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone, 12). However, we know that at the very least he knew that what saved Harry was Lily’s sacrifice. Otherwise, there would be no need or safety for Harry in living with his aunt because, as a Muggle, she wouldn’t be able to offer him any protection. Those in the magical world would be more capable of protecting Harry should the need arise.
“‘I knew that Voldemort’s knowledge of magic is perhaps more extensive than any wizard alive. I knew that even my most complex and powerful protective spells and charms were unlikely to be invincible if he ever returned to full power.‘But I knew, too, where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated- to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother’s blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative.’
‘She doesn’t love me,’ Harry said at once. ‘She doesn’t give a damn- ‘
‘But she took you,’ Dumbledore cut across him. ‘She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother’s sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest I could give you.’
‘I still don’t- ‘
‘While you can still call home the place where your mother’s blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there only once a year, as long as you can still call it home, whilst you are there he cannot hurt you. Your Aunt knows this. I explained what I had done in the letter I left, with you, on the doorstep. She knows that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years.'” (Order of the Phoenix, pg. 835-836).
That is something that would provide an incentive for Petunia to take Harry in. If Voldemort could not harm Harry in her home, she need not worry about Voldemort apparating into her sitting room and attacking Harry. However, as Muggles, the Dursleys would still be vulnerable to Voldemort or his followers.
In the above quoted excerpt, Dumbledore says that he explained everything in the letter he left with Harry. This does not mean it was the only time he explained the situation to Petunia. He says that the Dursleys would be able to explain the situation to Harry: “‘It’s the best place for him,’ said Dumbledore firmly. ‘His aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to him when he’s older. I’ve written them a letter.'”(Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone, pg. 13).
Years later, when Hagrid comes to deliver Harry’s Hogwarts letter to him, he is astounded at Harry’s lack of knowledge about the Wizarding world: “You never told him? Never told him what was in the letter Dumbledore left fer him? I was there! I saw Dumbledore leave it, Dursley! An’ you’ve kept it from him all these years?”(Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone, pg. 50).
This all proves that the letter explained the magic that Dumbledore had performed. The letter was intended for Petunia, but the explanation was intended for Harry.
Dumbledore said that he thought Petunia would need reminding of the pact she agreed to by allowing him houseroom. A pact is defined as: a compact; a bargain. If Petunia took Harry into her home, Dumbledore, Harry, and the entire Wizarding World gained something from it. However, in order for there to be a pact, she would have to gain something as well. It would not be enough that Harry remained safe, because her family would be infinitely safer without him there.
Since Dumbledore manipulated the ancient magic so that anyone with Lily’s blood would protect Harry, and Petunia also gained something from accepting Harry into her home, it stands to reason that the magic was also manipulated to extend to the Petunia and Dudley as well. Otherwise there is nothing stopping Voldemort from killing Petunia, thereby destroying the protection Dumbledore has made and creating the opportunity to kill Harry.
Dumbledore seemed fairly positive Petunia would take Harry in. He wasn’t apprehensive or outwardly worried about what would happen if Petunia chose to refuse Harry houseroom. The only way he could be so sure Petunia would accept Harry into her home is if he knew in advance that she would do so. In order for him to know in advance, he would have needed to talk to her about it and inform her of her role in protecting Harry. Her role, of course, being her blood.
Petunia’s blood only protects Harry because Lily’s did. Unless Dumbledore knew that Lily would die protecting Harry, he would have no need to ever ask Petunia to provide Harry with any protection because her blood would be useless for protection purposes.
Consider the speed with which Dumbledore acted upon discovering the fate of the Potters. He dispatched Hagrid to retrieve Harry with such haste that Hagrid was able to make it to Godric’s Hollow before the Muggles had crowded around. A house in ruins, two dead bodies, and a baby who was likely crying is enough to draw the immediate attention of any person, be they Muggle or magical. However, the only person to be at the scene besides Hagrid was Sirius Black. This means that Dumbledore’s orders and Hagrid’s response were immediate.
No one has ever noted the positions of Lily and James when they were killed. Sirius is the first to arrive, followed closely by Hagrid who is following the orders already given to him by Dumbledore: take Harry to his aunt’s house. Without ever seeing who was with or close to Harry, Dumbledore would have to have had some sort of prior knowledge in order to know that it was Lily who sacrificed herself. He had to have some idea that it wasn’t James who sacrificed himself.
It has been speculated in the past that Dumbledore stationed Fawkes to watch the Potters’ house. We know that Dumbledore and Fawkes do communicate, so the phoenix may have informed him of Lily’s sacrifice. Dumbledore knew that two boys could fulfill the prophecy, one being Harry Potter and the other being Neville Longbottom. Until Voldemort attacked the Potters, Dumbledore did not know to which boy the prophecy referred. If he was worried enough to station Fawkes to watch the Potters’ house, he would have to do something similar for the Longbottoms as well. Since Frank and Alice were kidnapped and tortured shortly after Voldemort’s fall, and the Order was unable to get to them before any permanent damage had been done, it would seem that there was no such watch on the Longbottom home. Dumbledore would have given equal concern to both families. If there was no watch on the Longbottom home, it is unlikely there was one on the Potter home.
This isn’t simply a matter of the magic only being achieved by a mother. Harry Potter is the only person to ever survive the Avada Kedavra curse; therefore it is impossible to say that only a mother’s love could protect him from it. The most Dumbledore could know was that one of Harry’s parents invoked an ancient magic by willingly giving up their lives for his.
The only way he could know beyond all doubt that Lily was the one who refused to step aside was if she and he communicated about it. Most parents do not make one plan and think it’s enough when their child’s life is in the balance. It’s possible that Lily trusted Sirius and Peter, and yet still made plans in the event that Voldemort overcame those barriers.
It seems that sheer luck would have been involved had Lily acted purely on the spur of the moment. It wouldn’t have lessened her love for Harry or the enormity of what she did for him, but do we really want to think that when all is said and done Lily was just lucky? I prefer to think that she knew what she was going to do. And so how then did she know about the ancient magic unless someone wise and learned in such things told her? That’s where Dumbledore would come in of course.
If Lily spoke with Dumbledore about a plan that would work should Voldemort find them, if she spoke with him about the ancient magic, this would give Dumbledore reason to contact Petunia and offer her a deal; Dumbledore would manipulate the magic so that Lily’s blood will protect Harry through Petunia, and in exchange Dumbledore would offer Petunia and her family protection from all ill-intentioned witches and wizards.
Lily knew, before Voldemort ever showed in Godric’s Hollow, that she would give up her life for Harry’s. Any loving mother would. However, she knew about the protection it would provide to her son, if only that one time. Dumbledore acted on this information to make the protection lasting.
This was the reason Dumbledore communicated with Petunia prior to the night he left Harry on her doorstep. This was the reason Dumbledore was so sure Petunia would accept Harry into her home, even if every fiber of her being was against it. Both Dumbledore and Lily knew in advance what would happen should Voldemort ever find the Potters.