Dumbledore’s Master Plan: Part 3
Greetings Potter fans, and welcome to the third installment in my seven-part analysis of the great Albus Dumbledore. In our last episode, everyone’s favorite headmaster successfully deterred the Dark Lord’s first attempt to return to power. For the second (although not the last) time, Dumbledore had baited Voldemort into falling right into the trap that he had set. Clearly, if there is one thing that Albus excels at, it is commanding and manipulating the attentions of the Dark Lord. But more on that in Part Six. As we stand now, everything was back to relative peace and security. Dumbledore was aware that Voldemort had been reduced to his essentially helpless spirit form. For all he knew, it would take him another ten years to find someone to assist him again. So for now, it was back to business as usual. After all, Professor Dumbledore has an extremely important job, being the head of the only wizard school that we know of in all of Britain. In addition, he now has Harry Potter, his future protégé, under his wing, and protecting and educating him is of the utmost importance to his plan.
In both Part One and Part Two of this series, one of my goals was to hammer home the importance of perspective in the Harry Potter saga. The fact that everything filters through Harry has a significant impact on the way we interpret the story. As I’ve said, sometimes whats not written on the pages can be just as important as the story itself. In this case, another important item to keep in mind is that this is all really only one story. It’s one extremely long story, and it’s not finished yet. Obviously JK Rowling has chosen to break up the story into seven segments, and what other choice does she have? To her credit, she does a fantastic job of making each book self-sustaining. In other words, each book holds up very well by itself. My point here is that since each book is excellent in its own right, and the books are typically released 2-3 years apart from each other, it is easy to forget that this is not only one story, but one continuous, uninterrupted story.
Well almost uninterrupted. In the pattern that Rowling employs, she usually skips about a month after the conclusion of each school year. Thus, we pick up the next book about halfway into summer, usually right around Harry’s birthday at the end of July. Since this is one continuous story, we must not forget that even though we skip a month between books, it does not mean nothing happens during that month. In fact, on more that one occasion there are important events that take place during this time that we have to learn about second-hand. Such is most definitely the case for the month between the end of Philosopher’s/ Sorcerer’s Stone and the beginning of Chamber of Secrets.
With this in mind, let’s fast-forward a month from the end of Philosopher’s/ Sorcerer’s Stone. With Voldemort gone once again, Albus has been enjoying a relatively uneventful summer. He hired a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Lockhart is completely in love with himself, but his exploits are impressive and legendary. Although Dumbledore can most-assuredly see that this guy is totally full of it, there are not exactly legions of wizards lining up for this job. Beggars cannot be choosers, so Gilderoy will have to suffice. However, of all the new characters that are introduced in Chamber of Secrets, Lockhart is certainly not the most important to the overall story. It could be argued that that distinction goes to Dobby. After all, Dobby is unquestionably significant to the Potter saga. He helps Harry out immensely in books 2, 4, 5 and 6. In addition, he is the first house-elf introduced, and the existence of house-elves allows Rowling to make some clever social comments through the motifs of elf rights and SPEW.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s stop and take a look at that famous scene where we first meet Dobby. It’s all a little odd, isn’t it? Okay, so heres what we know for sure. House-elves cannot disobey their masters. On top of that, their interpretation of free will is very limited. It seems that house-elves do not generally possess the prerogative to do anything unless their master directs them to. By this logic, Dobby must have been singularly determined in order to be able to leave the Malfoy manor and go warn Harry. Add this to the fact that Dobby has been intercepting Harry’s mail all summer, and it all equals the conclusion that Dobby’s attempts to protect Harry by keeping him away from Hogwarts were extremely pre-meditated efforts. First, he would have had to find out about the plot against Harry. Then he would have had to find a way to obtain all Harry’s mail, and leave to go warn him without conflicting with his magical enslavement.
Okay, fair enough. We all know Dobby is not your average house-elf. But part of that sequence still doesn’t make sense. Why would Dobby be so worried about Harry’s safety that he would take such extreme measures to protect him unless there was a direct plot against Harry? However, by all accounts, there was never really a plot against Harry. Hold that thought. We are now entering the realm of guesswork thanks to that missing month of canon.
So what do we know? We know that Lucius Malfoy was in possession of Tom Riddle’s diary. We know that, according to Dumbledore, Lucius did not know the diary was a Horcrux. He knew that it belonged to the Dark Lord and that if it were released into Hogwarts, it would cause the Heir of Slytherin to reopen the Chamber of Secrets and release a murderous monster that loves to prey on Muggle-borns. We can presume that at the end of Harry and Draco’s first year, Lucius decided to release the diary so it would cause some beautiful havoc and bloodshed at Hogwarts, which, if he was lucky, might get Dumbledore fired. We can presume that Dobby found out about this, which is why he was able to warn Harry before school started.
Of course, this brings us back to the original question, why warn Harry? If the above is all true, then Harry would not be in that much danger; certainly no more than any other Hogwarts student. After all, he is not Muggle-born. He is not a full pureblood either, but he would definitely not be near the top of the Heir of Slytherin’s list of targets. And yet, according to Dobby:
“…if Harry Potter goes back to Hogwarts, he will be in mortal danger.”
(page 16, CoS, U.S Hardcover)
Huh? How is it that Harry, in particular, is in mortal danger? Why would Dobby risk so much to warn Harry and Harry alone? It would seem that the only person who is really in mortal danger from the onset is Ginny Weasley. She is the one in possession of the diary at Hogwarts.
Ah , now we’re getting somewhere.
Maybe, just maybe, Ginny was never supposed to get the diary. Maybe the diary was supposed to go to Harry. This is really the only way to explain Dobby’s frantic pleas and warnings that Harry must avoid Hogwarts. It also makes perfect sense from Lucius Malfoy’s end. After all, he probably doesn’t even know who Ginny Weasley is. It seems unlikely that he would plan this whole thing around a first-year student of little consequence to him or Voldemort. Harry, however, is another story. Making The Boy Who Lived the target of this plot would be right up Lucius’ alley. He probably hoped that if Harry were in possession of the diary that caused the Heir of Slytherin to reopen the Chamber, Harry would be blamed for whatever carnage the Heir wreaked. (He was right in that sense since Harry was suspected of the attacks anyway). If all went as planned, the Heir would open the Chamber, some mudbloods would be murdered, Harry would be expelled if not imprisoned or killed, and Dumbledore would be fired. This would have delighted Lucius, and been a major problem for Albus’s Plan.
However, once again, as fate would have it, Harry did not receive the diary (at least not initially). Lucius Malfoy, again proving that he is not particularly proficient at carrying out Voldemort’s plans, allowed his emotions to get the best of him. When he and Arthur Weasley got into a fight at Flourish & Blott’s, he forgot all about Harry, and apparently decided to spite the Weasley family by giving the diary to young Ginny. Of course, all this happened during the summer holidays. So when school started, Dumbledore had a whole new bag of problems to deal with, and there was a whole new set of wrinkles in his plan that would need to be ironed out.
We now know that it was Voldemort who opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago, when he was at school. Dumbledore now knows this as well. In fact, it is possible that he knew it back then, or at least suspected it. We know that Albus likes to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially students. He also does not like to accuse, at least not without proof. Fifty years ago, he was not completely sure who was behind the death of Moaning Myrtle, and he certainly had no proof of anything. As a result, he was never more than suspicious of Tom Riddle, and when Tom did nothing else after that to incriminate himself, Dumbledore chose to give him the benefit of the doubt. That is, at least, until years later when he learned what Riddle had turned himself into. During the course of his search into Voldemort’s past, Albus undoubtedly became certain that it was Tom who had opened the Chamber, and it was Tom who was the Heir of Slytherin.
Ergo, when the first message (the one declaring the opening of the Chamber and warning enemies of the Heir to beware) was written on the wall in rooster blood, during Harry’s second year, Dumbledore immediately knew it was somehow connected to Voldemort. Not surprisingly, there was no investigation done at the school because Albus already knew who the Heir was. For most of the time, Harry suspected Draco or maybe one of his Slytherin cronies. Meanwhile, Harry had been all but convicted by the court of public opinion, thanks to his Parselmouth exhibition at the Dueling Club. Dumbledore knew better. However, he also knew that the Dark Lord could not personally be behind this since he had only recently been reduced to a barely-existent form. Someone close to Voldemort, someone who would want to carry out his work, and someone who knew about the Chamber had to be responsible. That pretty much ruled out every student at the school, but it definitely did not mean the students were safe.
In fact, quite the contrary was the case. He knew this was an extremely dangerous situation. After all, this was the second time he had dealt with the Chamber of Secrets, and last time, a student had been killed. Once people (and cats) started getting petrified, he must have known that history was repeating itself. Now let’s not forget that Albus Dumbledore may be the most intelligent wizard on the planet. It seems very unlikely to me, if not impossible, that he had never heard of a Basilisk before. So let’s see. A mysterious threat was attacked people at the school. One person had been murdered and several had been petrified. Whatever was responsible has been alive for fifty years and possibly much longer. Salazar Slytherin, who was famously a Parselmouth, had built the Chamber of Secrets. Tom Riddle, the last person to open the Chamber, was also a Parselmouth. There simply cannot be many monsters that can live for such a long time, kill and petrify people instantly, and respond to Parseltongue.
I am convinced that Dumbledore knew he was dealing with a Basilisk. I am convinced he knew Tom Riddle had opened the Chamber and released the beast fifty years ago, and was somehow connected to the current situation. What Dumbledore did not know was who was facilitating the Heir of Slytherin this time. Unfortunately, he also did not know about the diary, and it almost cost several students their lives.
For the first time since Voldemort’s fall eleven years ago, Albus was not completely in control of the situation. He had never found the entrance to the Chamber, he had no idea who was controlling the Basilisk this time, and he definitely did not know that he was dealing with one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. His best and only plan at this point was to allow the events to unfold until he could get some more information, and simply hope that there was minimal collateral damage to the Hogwarts students and staff. I imagine that he did seriously consider closing the school when it became clear that the monster might kill again.
We really have no idea how Dumbledore was spending his time during most of Harry’s second year, but my guess is that he was searching frantically throughout the castle for possible clues to the entrance of the Chamber. He may have spent some time combing through his Pensieve memories from fifty years ago, to gain some insight into the current problem. He might have even perused the castle for signs and traces of Tom Riddle’s magical style, since we learn in Half-Blood Prince that Albus is apparently familiar with it. However, whatever he was doing during that year, it did not pay off. He obviously never discovered what he needed to know about the Chamber. Finally, toward the end of the term, in a move that I’m sure he expected, Hagrid was arrested and Dumbledore himself was forced to step down by Lucius Malfoy and the school’s governors.
At this point, I’m sure Dumbledore was truly worried for the first time since the night of James and Lily’s deaths. Once he was removed from the castle, I imagine Albus was hoping against hope that they would be able to get through the school year without any more attacks so he could figure things out during the summer. I imagine the last thing he wanted to do was thrust Harry into another potentially life-threatening situation. But with Harry’s propensity for solving mysteries and his ability to speak Parseltongue, Albus must have decided that Harry might be the only one with a chance to find the Chamber. So when he sensed Harry under the Invisibility Cloak in Hagrid’s hut, he gave him one last bit of reassurance and wisdom.
From here, we all know what happened. For the second straight year, Harry proved himself to be truly special indeed. He displayed not only tremendous bravery, but his loyalty to Dumbledore was what ultimately saved him from the Basilisk. Albus went from being extremely worried about how this situation would play out, to being incredibly proud of the qualities Harry displayed. In fact, I imagine he had rarely been as pleased as he was at the end of Harry’s second year. When Harry first came to Hogwarts, Dumbledore knew he would have to mold him into a young man that would be capable of taking on Lord Voldemort. Amazingly though, at the age of twelve, Harry was already showing that he possessed many of the qualities Dumbledore thought would need to be developed over time. Albus must have thought of this as an extremely good sign; a sign that he was right to put so much credence in the prophecy because Harry might indeed be capable of defeating the Dark Lord for good.
Dumbledore finished the school year yet again with a sense of satisfaction about the state of things. They had once again averted disaster, and Harry was coming along better than he could have possibly hoped. Dumbledore undoubtedly hoped that they would have a few uneventful years before he would have to break the news of the prophecy to Harry. Obviously, this would not be the case because not long into the summer, a certain prisoner escaped from Azkaban, and once again, events from the past thrust themselves into the forefront. In the next installment, well take a look at how Dumbledore handled the Sirius Black situation. Until then, always remember to read between the lines.