Who’s Buried in the White Tomb?
by Andrew Mandata
Dumbledore dead? Many Harry Potter fans had a suspicion that it would have to happen before the series ended, however few expected it would happen so soon, or did it? Many will think that the argument is wishful thinking, or ignorance, but consider the possibility that Dumbledore might not have died. There are certainly some inconsistencies regarding his death. Lets look at the scene piece by piece.
Upon landing on the tower, Harry moves towards the spiral staircase and, upon hearing footsteps, follows Dumbledore’s order to retreat and hide himself under the Invisibility Cloak. Dumbledore, apparently fearing Harry’s hero streak, freezes him to prevent him from placing himself in danger. This does not seem to fit the standard behavior of the Dumbledore we know. Frequently, Dumbledore allows Harry the option to act. In his first year, for example, Dumbledore apparently allows Harry to confront Voldemort. In fact, for Dumbledore to forcibly prevent Harry from acting seems completely out of character. There could be some debate on this, but it would seem that Dumbledore, powerful as he is, would be capable of unfreezing Harry, once he realized Malfoy was alone. It is plausible of course that this was impossible without the use of his wand. If we assume that he was capable of releasing Harry, he therefore chooses not to. Why? The answer to that question opens a discussion that is speculative, yet entirely possible.
We know several things about Voldemort. First, he fears one wizard: Dumbledore. Secondly, he is well equipped to operate in secrecy. Thirdly, Voldemort is apparently winning the war, a fact that can be found simply by reading the inside cover of the book. Now we know that Dumbledore is not a fool, even in a weakened state. He knows that something must be done to change the way the war is going. Voldemort needs to be drawn out into the open, which is something that cant be achieved until Voldemort believes he has no opposition (Dumbledore). I feel certain in saying that Dumbledore would prefer faking his own death to actually having to die to achieve this goal, therefore it seems entirely possible that he chose to do so. Of course security would be absolutely necessary in maintaining a lie like this so only those who could keep the secret would be able to know. Dumbledore and Snape are both superb Occlumens — Harry is clearly not. Therefore, Dumbledore would not even be able to tell Harry what he was planning, for fear of Harry divulging, even unwillingly, the secret.
I know I found it curious that it was Severus Snape that Dumbledore wanted. In fact, Dumbledore asked Harry to wake Severus, an odd request considering that Hogwarts was swarming with Order of the Phoenix members, Tonks, Bill, McGonagall, or Hagrid, who would do anything to protect Dumbledore. No, it is Snape he seeks, because he knows that the time has come for them to put their plan into motion.
But, I’m sure youre wondering, how could Dumbledore possibly be alive? We saw Snape hit him with a Killing Curse. Ah, but recall something that the fake Professor Moody said. Now, granted, he was a Death Eater in disguise, but I think he was speaking the truth when he said, “Avada Kedavra’s a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it — you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nosebleed.” Furthermore, Bellatrix Lestrange confirms this in Order of the Phoenix, when she says,” Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy? You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain.” Of course she’s speaking specifically about the Cruciatus Curse, but she seems to be speaking about all Unforgivable curses. In fact, Rowling italicizes the word meaning to emphasize its importance. So, this means it is possible that if Snape truly is on Dumbledores side, he could have used the curse, but not meant it, and therefore not killed Dumbledore in the act.
Those of you who have read Quidditch through the Ages know that wizards have not yet devised a way to fly unassisted. How could Dumbledore have survived being thrown off the rafters of the tower? Fawkes the phoenix would come in very handy. In fact, he’s just what Dumbledore needs. Able to carry heavy loads, able to appear anywhere in a flash of fire, healing tears to revive a wounded Dumbledore once on the ground before others arrive. Suppose that Fawkes catches him on the way down and heals his injuries.
Now there are several possibilities for what could have transpired next. First, consider something we know about Dumbledore. He was the Transfiguration professor before he became headmaster, and yet we have rarely seen him do much we would consider advanced Transfiguration. For example, McGonagall is clearly a skilled Animagus, however we have only ever seen Dumbledore conjure the chintz armchairs. I think we can assume that Dumbledore must have some extraordinary Transfiguration ability that we have never seen. That being said, I think it is entirely possible that Dumbledore was able to transfigure something on the ground, a rock for example, to look like a dead version of himself. Unfortunately, we know he did not have his own wand, but bear in mind that his likely accomplice, Snape, was the first one out of the building and apparently outside long before Harry finished battling. I think there would have been plenty of time for Snape to provide Dumbledore with a wand with which to work.
Alternatively, Dumbledore could have quite literally been playing dead for a brief period of time. The Draught of Living Death, which Snape mentioned long ago, and Slughorn brings up again in HBP, jumps to mind as evidence that wizards must be capable of using potions or magic to feign death. If Dumbledore was indeed feigning death for the time, I think it is possible that Hagrid could have been involved. This is because there would have needed to be a body switch, switching Dumbledore’s still living body with a dead body. Note that on pg. 625, Hagrid was the one who moved Dumbledores body:
”I’ve…I’ve done it, Professor,” he choked. ”Moved him.”
In fact, there was a dead body to switch with Dumbledore’s.
”And a Death Eater’s dead, he got hit by a Killing Curse –that huge blond one was firing off everywhere.”
I dare say that no one would have noticed the disappearance of a dead Death Eater, on either side, which makes him a fitting replacement for Dumbledore. Fast forward to the funeral. It is Hagrid who carries the body of Dumbledore to the White Tomb. Apparently Dumbledores face is covered in the purple velvet wrap. Rowling words it such that the wrapped body is what Harry knew to be Dumbledores body. Dumbledores face doesn’t even show, they could be burying a pile of sandbags wrapped in velvet and no one would be the wiser.
To summarize, here is what could have happened: Dumbledore knew that he would have to die before Voldemort would come out from hiding. Dumbledore, Snape, and possibly Hagrid hatched a plan to make it appear Snape had murdered Dumbledore. Dumbledore knew he would have to go into hiding so he felt it necessary to give Harry the lessons all year long. Dumbledore and Snape didnt know exactly when Malfoy would make his move, which is probably why Snape was interrogating Malfoy so frequently, but they clearly had decided to execute their plan when Malfoy was around to satisfy Voldemort’s wishes. Upon returning from the Horcrux quest, Dumbledore saw the Dark Mark and immediately knew the time had come, which is why he wished to find Snape.
Dumbledore didn’t want Harry to do anything foolishly brave that might foil the plan, even just out of ignorance, so he froze him. Once Malfoy arrived, Dumbledore knew he had to stall him long enough for Snape to arrive so he discussed with him the brilliance of Malfoy’s plan — something all villains love to do. Snape, upon hearing that Dumbledore had returned and that the time had come to “execute” their plan, rushed the tower. Apparently not expecting such a crowd (the two Death Eaters and Greyback), Snape realized he had to act fast so that no one else would sense Malfoy’s weakness and quickly killed Dumbledore. Snape sent a weak version of the Killing Curse that lifted Dumbledore up and over the ledge (bear in mind that intention plays a large part in magic, remember the dueling club when Snape used Expelliarmus, a simple disarming spell, to blast Lockhart off his feet).
Following this, Fawkes, who undoubtedly sensed Dumbledore’s need, (remember in Chamber of Secrets how Fawkes was called through Harry’s loyalty to Dumbledore and in Order of the Phoenix, when Fawkes battled alongside Dumbledore) came swooping in to catch the falling Dumbledore. On the ground, if it was even necessary, Fawkes could have healed Dumbledore and perhaps even retrieved his wand, now that there was no one on the tower. Then Dumbledore would have either played dead or transfigured something to appear as his dead body. Hagrid would have switched the body of Dumbledore with the dead Death Eater who ended up being buried in the White Tomb.
The goal of this plan, as was stated earlier, would be to instill overconfidence in Voldemort. Harry will never be able to destroy Voldemort if he can’t even find him, so drawing him into the open is key to winning the war. The aforementioned scenario may seem a bit complex, but after the Time-Turner storyline, I think we really have to give J.K. Rowling credit for being able to create and manage such a complicated scheme.
Finally, if this all seems to be too much to believe, compare the death of Sirius to the death of Dumbledore. I think were looking at the exact opposite. Harry didn’t believe Sirius was dead at first, however, he immediately believed Dumbledore was. Sirius appeared strong before he died, whereas Dumbledore appeared weak. Sirius disappeared quickly (many of us didn’t even realize what had happened the first time through), whereas Dumbledore’s death and the events leading up to it lasted several pages. Sirius’ death was secret, Dumbledore’s was made exceedingly public. And finally, Sirius’ death was real, Dumbledore’s was…fake.