Dumbledore’s Master Plan: Part 6
by Steve Connolly
I hope you have all enjoyed my editorial series to this point, and more importantly, I hope you have been paying attention. This is because now, as we embark on this sixth episode, which will focus on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, things in Potterville are getting crazier than ever. So without any further delay, let’s keep this train rolling.
When we last left off, our “Master Planner” had been forced to stand idly by as his arch-nemesis carried out a genius plot to return to full strength and kidnap Harry Potter, the one person whose survival was absolutely essential to Albus’s Plan. What’s more, the Minister for Magic had refused to accept the Dark Lord’s return. Not only was the Ministry vehemently denying Voldemort’s existence, but they had also made it their mission to discredit both Dumbledore and Harry, and turn the wizarding public against them by making them out to be senile and attention-seeking, respectively. All in all, Dumbledore had lost this particular battle. But as the saying goes, the war had only just begun. Albus still had several things going for him. He still had Severus Snape, his most loyal agent, firmly cemented in the Dark Lord’s camp. He still had Harry, who had miraculously survived his showdown with Voldemort in the graveyard, and would soon be ready to play an active part in the war. Most importantly, he still had one major advantage over Voldemort: the knowledge of the contents of the prophecy. More on that in a moment.
Before we commence with our analysis of Order of the Phoenix, there are a few issues I need to address. It struck me as somewhat odd that Dumbledore knew from the onset of book five, Harry’s mind had been infiltrated by Voldemort. Before Harry or the readers even know what is happening, Dumbledore takes steps to prevent this mental violation from becoming a problem. When we first see him during Harry’s trial, he is already avoiding eye contact with Harry. Dumbledore seems to know before he even sees Harry that his mind is no longer secure. How can he know about this so quickly after Voldemort’s return? I have a hunch about this, but unfortunately no more than that.
By now, I have made up my mind about almost every controversial topic and question, and eagerly await the resolutions in Deathly Hallows:
- Dumbledore is definitely dead.
- Severus Snape most certainly is, and has always been, completely loyal to Dumbledore.
- Regulus Black is probably R.A.B.
The one thing I am still very unsure about is the identity of the sixth mystery Horcrux, and accordingly, what Harry’s fate will ultimately be. My gut tells me that Harry will probably survive the series. However, I think Rowling could write an excellent story in which Harry must die in the end as well. I do think it is possible that Harry or his scar was made into a Horcrux on the night his parents died.
Unfortunately, we do not have enough information about Horcruxes, more specifically the spell that is used to create them, to conjecture intelligently about this. However, I am fairly sure about one thing. We may not know how a Horcrux is made, or exactly what happened the night Voldemort tried to kill baby Harry, or whether Harry’s scar is a Horcrux, but Albus Dumbledore does know. Think about it, he knew about the mental and physical connection between Harry and Voldemort before either of them even realized it. The Dark Lord has tried and failed four times to kill Harry because he does not fully understand the nature of their connection. Meanwhile, Harry only knows as much as people will tell him. However, Dumbledore knows exactly what the nature of their connection is. He knows exactly what magical phenomenon took place the night Voldemort lost his body. Finally, I suspect that he knows whether Harry is, in fact, a Horcrux. Now, none of this really helps us at this point, but it is important to keep in mind.
Okay, back to our story. As I’ve said, perhaps Dumbledore’s biggest strength is his vast knowledge about Lord Voldemort, and his ability to put it to use. He has the uncanny knack for knowing exactly what the Dark Lord desires and for exploiting that desire. This is never more obvious than in Order of the Phoenix, when he executes the most brilliant and deceptive phase of his “Master Plan.” After Harry’s fourth year, Voldemort was tired of running into unexpected occurrences whenever he crossed paths with Harry, and Dumbledore knew this. Voldemort was exasperated at not knowing the full extent of his connection with Harry. Dumbledore knew this as well. Finally, Voldemort wanted to know the entire contents of the prophecy that had caused him to go to Godric’s Hollow on that fateful night, thinking perhaps it would shed some light on this uniquely odd situation. And Dumbledore knew this, too.
So now let’s do a little “State of the Union” check. Heading into Harry’s fifth year, Voldemort had decided to use the Ministry’s denial of his return to his advantage, and keep a low profile while he reassembled his forces. Dumbledore’s first priority, as always, was to protect Harry because it would soon be time to reveal the prophecy to him. In addition, he needed to keep Harry as removed from the war as possible because Voldemort’s ability to access his mind and influence his thoughts could jeopardize the whole operation. His second priority was to protect the general public. Sure, he wanted to alert the nation to the Dark Lord’s return, but for now, Voldemort wasn’t hurting anyone. Albus wanted to keep it that way. As long as Voldemort was preoccupied with something else, he would not unleash terror upon the world. So it was Dumbledore’s job to keep him preoccupied. He knew Voldemort wanted the prophecy, and he knew that he was wary about taking any further action without knowing its contents. Most importantly, Albus knew that he had nothing to lose by letting Voldemort hear the prophecy. That’s right; Dumbledore had no problem with Voldemort knowing the entirety of the prophecy at this point. So why, you may ask, did he spend so much time and risk so many Order members’ lives protecting the Department of Mysteries? Ah, therein lies the brilliance of the plan.
In case you may have forgotten it, here is a complete reproduction of the prophecy:
(1) The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … (2)Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies …(3) And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … (4) And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … (5) The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…
(page 841, OOTP, U.S. paperback)
I added the bolded parenthetical numbers for the sake of convenience. So let’s see, Voldemort already knows parts (1) and (2). We can thank Snape for that. He already marked Harry as his equal, so part (3) doesn’t really matter anymore. Voldemort already intended to kill Harry, so part (4) is nothing new to him. Plus, it gives no new information about why he has been unable to kill Harry in the past. Finally, part (5) is simply a repetition of part (1), presumably for symmetry or artistic appeal, and brings nothing new to the table. So there it is. That’s everything. As I said, there is nothing there that Voldemort does not already know, or that could jeopardize Dumbledore’s plans or Harry’s life any further. So I pose the question again. Why go to such excessive measures to protect the prophecy, when the knowledge of its contents represents absolutely no advantage over the enemy?
Here is where I hope you have been paying attention. Remember the Sorcerer’s Stone? Remember how keeping it at Hogwarts was really just a decoy to lure Voldemort into a trap, and distract him from seeking out his followers? Well, during the summer after Harry’s fourth year, Dumbledore decided that if it worked once, why not try it again? So before the Dark Lord had even become accustomed to his shiny new body, Albus had already launched Operation: Decoy Voldemort, Part Deux (trademark pending).
Dumbledore knew that the remainder of the prophecy (that is, the part Voldemort had not yet heard) really brings nothing new to the table. But Lord Voldemort did not know this, and it was his desire to attain the rest of the prophecy that Dumbledore decided to exploit. So he set up a massive protection of the Department of Mysteries where the prophecy was housed. The thinking here, of course, is that Voldemort would realize Dumbledore’s agents were protecting the prophecy and it would validate his assumption that there was some valuable information to be gained. In reality, the whole business of guarding the prophecy was just a distraction to keep Voldemort preoccupied.
Remember the beginning of the sixth book, when we learn about the multiple murders, giant attacks, and other forms of violent terror that Voldemort had committed in the mere fortnight between the end of Order of the Phoenix and the beginning of Half-Blood Prince? Well, the only reason that was not happening throughout Harry’s fifth year was that Dumbledore’s brilliant decoy sufficiently diverted the Dark Lord’s attentions for the better part of the school year. Of course, in order to pull off this truly Byzantine diversion, all the Order members had to sell it completely. This meant they had to constantly guard the entrance, even when their own people were getting arrested and attacked while on duty. It also meant that they had to take every conceivable measure to make sure Voldemort did not get wise. I imagine Dumbledore had a meeting with the Order immediately after launching this plan in which he informed them that Harry’s mind was no longer secure, and when in his presence, they had to act as though they were speaking to Voldemort himself. This is why Sirius and Lupin refer to the prophecy as a weapon, even though in reality, it is nothing of the sort.
Once this scheme was set up, they only thing they could do was play their part, see how long it would last, and hope nobody messed it up (ahem Harry). Now, many readers have pointed out that Order of the Phoenix can be a very difficult book to read at times, and some say that it is their least favorite of the six. I will admit that I felt similarly after my first reading of the series. It is truly an emotionally jarring book. Half the time, Harry’s temper is completely out of control, and we only find out after the fact, that it is due, in no small part, to the influence of Voldemort’s thoughts and emotions on his adolescent mind. In addition, pretty much every scene with Dolores Umbridge is unbearable. Harry has his first experiences with romance, which at any age causes more strife than joy. Add all this to the fact that most of the wizarding world doesn’t believe a word he says, the Ministry itself is launching a publicity campaign against him, and he has to witness his godfather, the closet thing he ever had to a family, murdered in cold blood. All in all, it was a trying school year to say the least. The problem, however, is that the readers often get so caught up in the emotional roller coaster that we tend to gloss over important plot elements. This is why I implore everyone to read the series at least twice. When you know what is coming, Order of the Phoenix is a much more enjoyable book, and it allows the reader to appreciate the brilliance of the writing. I would actually argue that it is the best book of the series. But I digress.
Ironically, Order of the Phoenix is well over eight hundred pages, but the most important action that Dumbledore takes to protect his “Master Plan” happens before we ever see Harry listening restlessly outside the Dursleys’ window for news reports about Lord Voldemort. Once his decoy is set in motion, the rest is left up to fate. In the meantime, we get to tag along while Harry prepares for his OWLs, deals with the insufferable High Inquisitor, courts the lovely Cho Chang, dreams about corridors and doors, clashes horns with Snape during Occlumency lessons, learns about thestrals, teaches the DA, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. As I said, it was a difficult and frustrating year for our young protagonist, but on the battlefront, everything was going quite well.
That is, until Voldemort decided to up the stakes. Once he realized he could manipulate Harry’s thoughts and he would never be able to retrieve the prophecy unless he or Harry personally removed it from the shelf, he decided it was time to force Dumbledores hand. Now with 20/20 hindsight, we know that if Harry had only been able to close off his mind, Voldemort might still be trying to get a hold of the prophecy and Albus and Sirius might still be alive. Unfortunately, Harry did not have the luxury of knowing what we know, and he did what he thought was right at the time. Of course, by jetting off to the Department of Mysteries, he effectively put an end to Dumbledore’s brilliant decoy plot. However, by that point it had lasted the better part of a year and had effectively served its purpose. Dumbledore must have been reasonably pleased with this.
With this phase of the plan over, it was time for Albus to shift his priorities. Now that decoying Voldemort with the prophecy would not longer be possible, his main goal was to finally bring the Dark Lord out into the open. In addition to this, he had to make sure to protect Harry and as many Order members as possible. So once he received word that a battle had broken out in the Department of Mysteries, he knew he must have a showdown with Voldemort. At this point, he knew that he would not be able to murder the Dark Lord because of his Horcruxes, but that was not his intention anyway. I’m sure he was extremely worried when he heard that a group of students were attempting to fight a gang of Death Eaters. They could have easily gotten themselves all killed. But as fate would have it, they all survived, the Order managed to capture several Death Eaters and Albus was able to protect Harry from Voldemort and Bellatrix in the Atrium. Voldemort, once again, ran into an unexpected component of his connection with Harry when he painfully tried to possess the boy. Dumbledore was then able to engage the Dark Lord long enough for Cornelius Fudge to arrive, witness the whole thing, and be forced to finally admit that Voldemort was back.
From start to finish, everything had gone swimmingly for Dumbledore. His plan to use the prophecy as a decoy worked perfectly, and it distracted Voldemort for almost an entire year. Albus managed to force the Ministry into a situation in which they had no choice but to accept his assertions about Voldemort’s return as fact. Harry had again come face to face with his enemy and had lived to tell the tale. In addition, Dumbledore had revealed the contents of the prophecy to Harry, who, although bewildered, did not shy away from the challenge it presented. At this point, Albus knew that Harry would soon be ready to embrace his role as the Chosen One. He knew that the time was drawing near when he, Dumbledore, would be expendable, and it was time to enact the final phases of his plan, and hand the future of the wizarding world over to his two faithful protégés: Harry Potter and Severus Snape.
In our seventh and final chapter, we’ll analyze the events in Half-Blood Prince, as both Voldemort and Dumbledore make their final moves towards the inevitable end-game. Until then, always remember to read between the lines.