Dumbledore’s Master Plan: Part Five
by Steve Connolly
Greetings everyone, and welcome to Part Five of my seven-part editorial series about the behind-the-scenes, beneath-the-surface plotting and scheming of the great Albus Dumbledore. We have reached the midpoint of the Potter saga, but for our favorite headmaster, the real work is only just beginning. In Goblet of Fire, Rowling clearly cranks it up a notch. The action gets more intense, the stakes get higher, the story gets exponentially more complex, and the danger becomes very real. She gives us some of her more fantastical images, as well as the most morbid and emotionally jarring scenes to date. And yet, perhaps the most stunning aspect of Goblet of Fire is that Dumbledore is so utterly powerless against Voldemort’s plan to return to power. To his credit, Voldemort does his best Albus-impression during Harry’s fourth year, and Dumbledore’s agendas take a back seat to the Dark Lord’s truly brilliant plot. This time, it is Voldemort’s turn to orchestrate a yearlong scheme that would ultimately draw Harry into his presence unprotected, and allow himself to be restored to full physical form.
As we know, it all started when Wormtail came scampering into his midst after having just narrowly escaped from Hogwarts. Working together was mutually beneficial for both of them, and although Voldemort liked to abuse and belittle Wormtail, he needed Wormtail as much as Wormtail needed him. Peter also happened to bring with him a loud-mouthed Ministry employee, and with her help, they concocted a plan. With the knowledge of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and Moody’s appointment as DADA professor, they freed Barty Crouch Jr. from his Imperius Curse and placed his father under one. They kidnapped Alastor Moody and, with the help of some Polyjuice Potion, replaced him with young Barty. From there it was just a matter of setting up base camp at Voldemort’s father’s old house, and sitting back as Barty rigged the Goblet of Fire to assure Harry’s entry into the tournament. Once Harry was safely bound to compete, Voldemort made sure young Crouch kept a close eye on Harry so that he would not only survive the school year, but also be in a position to win the tournament. Then, on the night of the Third Task, Wormtail and Voldemort readied everything they would need to prepare the potion that would give him his body back. Meanwhile, Crouch turned the Cup into a roundtrip Portkey, and placed Krum under the Imperius Curse so as to assure that Harry would be the first to touch it. And that is exactly what happened. A great deal had to go right for the plan to work, and up to that point, it all did. It was a truly brilliant play on Voldemort’s part.
From here, we all know what happened in the graveyard. I imagine Voldemort’s plan was to reassemble all his followers and regain their respect by quickly murdering the boy who had caused his downfall. From there, they would all grab the Portkey and be transported back to the finish line of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Just try to picture that scene. A gang of Death Eaters and a reincarnated Voldemort carrying Harry’s dead body show up out of nowhere, on grounds from which no one can disapparate, right in the middle of a group of unsuspecting people that includes Albus Dumbledore, the entire staff and student body of Hogwarts, and dozens of important wizards including the Minster of Magic. Once they had infiltrated the safest building in Britain, killed the most respected wizard on the planet, and murdered every man, woman, and child in sight, they would have no trouble taking over the entire Ministry and declaring the Dark Lord’s triumphant return to power. I would have a hard time believing that his final plan for the year did not involve at least some of the preceding.
However, we will never know what Voldemort intended to do after killing Harry because, obviously, he was unable to do it. When they dueled, and the Priori Incantatem kicked in, it was the first time all year that Voldemort was not firmly in control of the situation. When you think about it, it was really a miracle that Harry was able to make it out of there alive. It must have been even further proof to Dumbledore that Harry was, indeed, the Chosen One.
So that is what Voldemort was doing all year during Goblet of Fire, and it was truly impressive right up until the last phase of the plan. But since this series is about Dumbledore, lets now take a look at what he was up to and during this time. The truth of the matter, as usual, is that we don’t know for sure. However, we can make some educated guesses about what his reactions were to the events of year four. It doesn’t take a giant leap of logic to guess that Dumbledore was worried throughout the school year, very worried. I imagine he had rarely been as shocked and scared as he was that night when Harry’s name came out of the Goblet of Fire. Not only did this mean that Harry would have to compete in the tournament, but it almost assuredly meant that there was foul play involved.
As a side note, much has been made among the Potter fan base about Michael Gambon’s performance as Dumbledore in the Goblet of Fire movie. Some say the way he acted with Harry after his name came out of the Goblet was completely out of character with canon-Dumbledore. I am inclined to disagree. This is a man who was losing control. He was worried and extremely frightened because both Harry’s safety and the safety of his entire “Master Plan” were abruptly placed in serious danger. I would bet that Dumbledore was hoping against hope that this was no more than a mean-spirited prank, and one of the students had managed to find a way to trick the Goblet. However, the intelligent wizard in him thought otherwise. He knew that there was very little chance a student had done this. It had to be the work of an extremely gifted and experienced wizard. At this point, he undoubtedly knew that someone within Hogwarts was working against him.
This must have been very unsettling, especially since he had no leads to whom it could be. What’s more, he had no choice but to sit back and wait for more information on what was really happening. Meanwhile, Harry was out risking his life in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It must have been a very anxious and unsettling year indeed for the headmaster.
At this point, you may be asking why, having had all year to figure it out, did he not discover that it was Moody behind everything? This is a valid question, especially considering that the list of suspects was rather limited. Obviously the top candidates were Igor Karkaroff and Madame Maxine, and I’m sure he kept a very close eye on them throughout the year. In addition, when Snape informed Dumbledore that Karkaroff had come to him worried about his Dark Mark, that would have lifted much of the suspicion that Karkaroff was still working with Voldemort. The problem was that it would have been very difficult to determine if all these strange events were actually connected. When Snape’s Dark Mark became increasingly more distinct, that was confirmation that Voldemort was growing in strength, and may very well have a plot in the works. However, it was just as possible that this had nothing to do with Harrys involvement in the Tournament. Furthermore, it may have crossed Albus’s mind to suspect Moody, but there is no way he considered the possibility of an impostor. As such, Voldemort could not have picked a better candidate than Alastor Moody. His history of full-fledged opposition to the Dark Arts, in addition to the way that he continually protected Harry all year, would have diverted any suspicions Dumbledore may have had about him.
The bottom line is that, although Dumbledore knew somebody was plotting against Harry and he knew that Voldemort was regaining strength, he simply did not have enough pieces of the puzzle to figure it all out. This was the ultimate brilliance of Voldemort’s plan. Stationing Barty Crouch Jr. at Hogwarts, rigging the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and transporting Harry to the graveyard was only half the battle. He also had to pull the whole thing off without Dumbledore getting wise. The fact of the matter is that Dumbledore was not fully aware of the situation until Harry came back from the graveyard with Cedric’s body. However, once he knew that Voldemort had indeed returned and had been behind Harry’s entry into the Tournament, it did not take him long to figure the rest out. Now it was time for Albus to start planning again because they still had a chance to retain the upper hand if they were to act quickly.
As soon as he realized Harry and Moody had left the maze, Dumbledore knew who the inside man had been. He immediately grabbed Severus and Minerva and raced up to the castle to save Harry. After subduing Barty and using Veritaserum to find out the whole story, Albus instantly put his next plan into action. He knew that his best bet was to make as many people as possible aware of the Dark Lords return. However, this proved to be almost impossible since the usually agreeable Cornelius Fudge refused to believe the story. Fudge and Dumbledore ultimately went their separate ways, which meant that it would be very difficult to get the word out. Having essentially lost his support within the Ministry, Dumbledore decided he had to make use of the one advantage he still had over Voldemort: a spy.
Several editorials on this fine site have been devoted to Voldemort’s speech in the graveyard. The part I am referring to is when he mentions the three missing Death Eaters. Some people say Voldemort mentioned Snape as the one who turned his back on him. Others say that Snape apparated to the graveyard with the others when the Dark Mark went up, and was there the whole time. Finally, there are a few that believe Snape was not present at the Graveyard, but was also not one of the three missing Death Eaters of which Voldemort spoke. I am inclined to believe the first scenario. I do think that, when all his remaining followers apparated into his midst, Voldemort believed that Snape’s absence proved he had abandoned him. However, things can change, and Severus Snape can be a very persuasive person.
In my opinion, after learning about Voldemort’s year-long plot from Barty Crouch Jr. and having his falling out with Cornelius Fudge, Dumbledore’s first course of action was to break the news to Snape that he would have to recommence his duties as a spy. He then sent Snape back to Voldemort with instructions to get back on his good side, giving up some information if he had to, as long as it did not jeopardize anyones life. So Snape did just that. He apparated to Voldemort, who must have been extremely angry if not on the verge of killing Snape on the spot. However, once Snape quickly explained that he could not answer the summons without blowing his cover, and informed Voldemort that by waiting to return and maintaining his cover, he would be able to provide information about not only the last thirteen years, but on Dumbledores current actions as well. Then, in order to appease Voldemort’s need for some inside knowledge about Albus, Snape told him about the argument between Dumbledore and Fudge as well as Fudge’s refusal to recognize Voldemort’s return.
The Dark Lord instantly realized that this was something he could use. He was, no doubt, infuriated with his failure to kill Harry, and probably somewhat confused about the whole situation. What’s more, they had lost the element of surprise. Dumbledore knew he was back, which meant he would tell as many people as possible. This is when Lucius Malfoy stepped in and mentioned that he and several other Death Eaters still had a great deal of influence within the Ministry as well as the Daily Prophet. With this influence and the knowledge that Fudge was not inclined to believe Voldemort had returned, they decided to launch what could best be described as a smear campaign against Harry and Dumbledore.
Voldemort decided that, instead of making his triumphant return, he would keep a low profile for the time being. He would allow Fudge to do his work for him by denying his return, and then use his influences in the Ministry to subtly but surely discredit Dumbledore and Harry with the majority of the wizarding public. Meanwhile, Voldemort was definitely curious about what had happened with his and Harry’s wands in the graveyard. He probably wondered if there was more to the connection between them than he had previously thought. He did not want to take the risk of being caught in a situation like that again. He needed to get all the information he could about the connection between him and Harry, especially if Dumbledore already knew that particular information. So Voldemort decided that his top priority would be to learn the rest of the prophecy that had ultimately led to his first downfall.
Once Snape had informed Dumbledore of Voldemort’s intentions, Albus formulated another brilliant plan. He reformed the Order of the Phoenix, and once again set up a plot to lure Voldemort into a trap. That is a story for our next episode, however. For now, Albus and Harry had survived another year. This time, it had been Dumbledore who was the focus of Voldemort’s clever plan, a plan that had worked almost perfectly. However, despite all the hardships and close calls, they had managed to endure the Dark Lord’s return. At this point, Albus was happy that Harry had faced and survived Voldemort yet again. However, he knew that difficult times lay ahead for Harry, and things would likely get worse before they got better.
Next time, I’ll take an in-depth look at the events of Harry’s fifth year and what is, in my opinion, Dumbledore’s most admirable plot so far. Until then, always remember to read between the lines.