I’ve pondered the concept of prophecies a great deal since I began more seriously putting my thoughts together on the wizarding world. In an editorial I wrote on the subject of prophecies I highlighted several reasons why I am wary of them, to say the least. Nonetheless I cannot get around the fact that Trelawney’s major prophecy cannot be ignored simply because it matters immensely to Dumbledore.
A routine comment on the prophecy is that it is not surprising in the least. By the time we reached that part at the end of OotP, I think it is fair to say that most of us had already surmised that Harry would play a crucial role in the demise of Voldemort, if that indeed is how the series ends. We, as readers, were prepared for the news. And so too, I believe, was Harry. Dumbledore may have felt unable to tell Harry about the prophecy until he was close to 16 years of age. However, Dumbledore was instrumental in cultivating a messianic complex in Harry from the moment he came to Hogwarts.
“This isn’t a criticism, Harry! But…dont you think you’ve got a bit of a saving people thing?” Hermione said.
Why does Harry have such a “saving people” complex? Compare Harry to the Weasley twins, for example. Both have a “certain disregard for the rules” and both have been given a seemingly huge amount of license by the Hogwarts faculty (any other boarding school and they would have surely been expelled). However, Harry has interpreted this license, not as freedom, but as responsibility.
Only part of Harry’s motivation when it comes to saving people is his personal vendetta against Voldemort; he has this urge even in situations unrelated to fighting the dark side. Harry doesnt seek attention nor crave the spotlight. There may be many psychological explanations for why Harry feels so strongly the burden of taking care of others. But I believe a main reason is that Dumbledore has encouraged Harry to feel such responsibility from the beginning.
I was always a little taken aback with Dumbledore’s recklessness and encouragement of Harry’s activities. Why didn’t Dumbledore himself save Sirius Black or the Philosopher’s Stone? When Ginny Weasley was in the Chamber of Secrets, where were McGonagall and Flitwick? Even Snape? As many problems as I have with the prophecy, it put several important pieces together. Dumbledore, believing that it was up to Harry to vanquish Voldemort in the end, acted not out of recklessness or leniency, but rather as part of a careful plan to instill in Harry a sense of responsibility for his fellow wizards, and perhaps to give Harry confidence in his own ability to protect them.
On Christmas of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore sends him his father’s Invisibility Cloak. “Use it well,” says the note. As intimate as Dumbledore may have been with James, giving Harry an Invisibility Cloak was giving him license to patrol the school at his will. Ron may have been made a Prefect fifth year, but Harry had all of those powers and more early on. Dangerous as situations became, Dumbledore never warned Harry not to go out after dark nor refrain from using the cloak. Even when Dumbledore finds Harry at the Mirror of Erised, he does not reprimand him for being out of bounds, but rather for “dwelling on dreams.” Harry was granted the freedom, if not encouraged, by the Headmaster to follow his own rules, and thus involve himself in affairs which were not his immediate concern.
This is not to say that Dumbledore never chastised Harry; he threatened to expel Harry after he and Ron rode the flying Ford Anglia to school in CoS. But Harry was never disciplined by Dumbledore when he broke rules out of curiosity pertaining to the goings-on at Hogwarts.
At the end of PS/SS, the trio determines that Dumbledore knew all along that they were going to attempt to protect the stone. I have quoted it before, but here it is again.
“D’you think he meant you to do it?” said Ron. “Sending you your father’s cloak and everything?”
“Well,” Hermione exploded, “if he did — I mean to say that’s terrible — you could have been killed.”
“No, it isn’t,” said Harry thoughtfully. “He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance…instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…”
This passage demonstrates how Dumbledore tacitly attempted to prepare Harry for acting on his concern for others by facing Voldemort, which is exactly what Dumbledore believes the prophecy requires of him.
The Next Four Years
I don’t intend to bore with details, but the next several years indicated that Dumbledore’s attitude did not change, and he remained devoted to his agenda of preparing Harry for the actualization of the prophecy. Books 2 through 5 are littered with such examples. Asking Harry and Hermione to save Sirius in PoA is an obvious one; others include:
In GoF, Moody says to the trio:
“Now, Dumbledore’s told me you three fancy yourselves as investigators, but there’s nothing you can do for Crouch.”
The impression I get from this is that Dumbledore asked Moody to be accommodating to the trio, rather than attempt to stop them from carrying out their “investigations.” Later, in the second task, Dumbledore also lobbies to give Harry maximum points to credit his “moral fiber” in his desire to rescue all the hostages.
In OotP Dumbledore does not discourage Harry et al. from establishing the DA, though he is aware of it and the consequences for himself and the students if they are caught. I do not think Dumbledore let the DA continue because he was ignorant of the likelihood of Umbridge finding out about the meetings; it was obvious that they would be found out eventually with that many students involved. Rather, I am convinced that Dumbledore believed that it was more important for Harry and his main resources (meaning his friends) to learn how to arm themselves fully against Voldemort.
Prior justifications that I had regarding Dumbledore’s leniency towards Harry were:
1. Dumbledore possesses such a great wisdom and knowledge of the happenings at Hogwarts that he recognized the trio was going to involve themselves in dangerous affairs no matter what.
2. Dumbledore holds equal respect for all people, thus he has not been deterred by Harry’s age in giving him responsibility.
These explanations, though valid, were not enough. I now think the true key to Dumbledore’s decisions is that he has been preparing Harry for what he believes, based on the prophecy, the future holds for him by encouraging Harry to feel responsible for the continuance of their world.
Perhaps this notion may provide explanations for Dumbledore’s seeming misconceptions over the years. While Dumbledore admittedly is human and makes mistakes, there have been quite a few occurrences where I, for one, was surprised that Dumbledore did not involve himself nor other faculty, and left Harry as the last defense. He is described as being such a brilliant wizard that I doubt he was ever entirely impotent. However, Dumbledore’s belief that Harry must ultimately be the one to face Voldemort to a great extent justifies his desire to put Harry in the forefront of the action.
In conclusion, I believe Dumbledore is largely responsible for Harry’s messianic complex. Although he was reluctant to tell Harry about the prophecy, Dumbledore used his own subtler tactics to prepare Harry for ultimately facing Voldemort in the end. As a result Harry has become exactly the type of person that the prophecy requires him to be.