Dumbledore’s Master Plan: Part 2
by Steve Connolly
He’s a funny man, Dumbledore — I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here.
-Harry Potter (p. 302, SS, U.S. Paperback)
Welcome back, everyone. I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of Dumbledore’s Master Plan, and I would now like to introduce Part II of my seven-part series of editorials. When we last left our enigmatic hero, he had successfully baited a trap for Lord Voldemort using the prophecy delivered by Professor Trelawney and the espionage skills of young Severus Snape. He had ultimately caused the physical body of the Dark Lord to be destroyed, resulting in mass celebration throughout Wizarding Britain and ten years of naught but happiness and security for all. But now the time for waiting was over. Harry Potter had reached the age of eleven, and would be commencing his tenure at Hogwarts in the upcoming school year. Albus knew that it was time to begin the second phase of his plan. He must study the boy, help him along the path of magical learning, eventually provide him with as much knowledge as possible about his enemy, and most importantly, protect him until he was old enough to protect himself.
Unfortunately, right from the onset, that final duty proved more difficult than Dumbledore hoped it would be. You see, some (as yet unspecified) time ago, a young man applied for the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. He was quite smart, but had little experience in the field. As such, Dumbledore was wary of hiring someone for this important position without being sure of his proficiency in the subject. He suggested that the young man take some time to gain real-world experience, and when he came back, the job would be available to him. So he did as Dumbledore requested, and went off to travel around Europe, learning about various forms of Dark Magic. However, when young Mr. Quirrell returned from his travels ready to teach, albeit with a stutter, a shiny new turban on his head, and a fear of his own shadow, Albus immediately knew something was wrong.
This is where that ever-significant aspect of the Potter series known as perspective rears its ugly head again. We, the readers, are not present for any of this since we are busy following Harry around in the days leading up to his realization that he is a wizard. We really have no idea what Dumbledore was up to during the summer before Harry’s first year (or during Harrys first year, for that matter, but more on that later). So allow me to fill in the blanks for you once again, because as young and naïve as Harry is, the situation is still extremely dangerous. For better or worse, Harry and the readers spend most of Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone learning about the Wizarding World, meeting new people, and becoming accustomed to Hogwarts. Unlike the later books, Harry participates very little in the important events that took place during his first year. He and his friends were no doubt very suspicious about what was happening, but they really had no information. And when all was said and done, they were pretty far off base in their assessment of the situation. However, just because Harry was not very much involved until the last couple chapters, it does not mean that there was nothing significant taking place. In fact, Dumbledore’s plan during Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone was one of his most brilliant schemes, and it ultimately delayed Voldemort’s return by three years.
Here is how I think it went down:
Shortly into the summer, Dumbledore met with Professor Quirrell to discuss Quirrell’s new position at Hogwarts. Let us not forget how brilliant Albus Dumbledore really is. He has a better understanding of even the subtlest magic than any wizard on the planet (think back to the cave at the end of Half-Blood Prince), and he is much better at reading people that we like to give him credit for. I imagine he instantly saw that something was not right. He instantly recognized the influence of Dark Magic on young Quirrell. And it’s possible, if not probable that he sensed Voldemort’s presence on Quirrell as well.
Dumbledore had been waiting for this day for ten years. The Dark Lord was finally making an attempt to return. It has been postulated by several theorists that Voldemort was not terribly keen on the idea of regaining his strength by use of the Sorcerer’s Stone. He would not want to be totally reliant on something physical and external. In fact, I would argue that his original plan had nothing to do with the Sorcerer’s Stone. He probably intended to use Quirrell to get his body back in the same fashion that he used Wormtail at the end of Goblet of Fire. However, his plans changed slightly when he found out that the Stone would be at Hogwarts. It may not be ideal, but it would certainly help him regain power until he was able to fully return. And that is exactly what Dumbledore wanted him to do.
Once again, Albus set a trap for Voldemort. Once he discovered what he was dealing with, Dumbledore set his priorities in order. His first priority was to protect the students, most especially, Harry. His second priority was to maintain Snape’s cover that Snape was only working at Hogwarts out of necessity, and his true loyalties were still very much with the Dark Lord. His third priority was to distract Voldemort from seeking out his former followers and from pursuing more permanent means of regaining a body. His fourth priority was to buy himself some time. After all, the whole point of his plan was to delay Voldemort’s return as long as possible to give Harry a fighting chance. So he had to try to draw this out as long as he could. Finally, his fifth priority was to keep an eye on Voldemort. As long as he could keep track of him, there was not much Voldemort could do that would be a threat to anyone (except Quirrell, that is). So Albus called up his old friend Nicholas Flamel, and concocted a plan that would satisfy all his goals for the upcoming school year.
The whole point of bringing the Sorcerer’s Stone to Hogwarts was to entice Voldemort into trying to steal it. Since Dumbledore knew that Voldemort had gotten to Quirrell, he figured that the lure of the Stone being so close to his grasp would be too much to ignore. With the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore already had a foolproof way to magically protect the Stone from Voldemort. He knew there was no way Voldemort or Quirrell could ever get it because they would undoubtedly desire to use the Stone. It was like an unbreakable safe. So why, then, did Albus find it necessary to establish six additional protections for the Stone? The answer is that it was all part of his plan.
Readers have been wondering for ages why Dumbledore would use all those extra protections. After all, they were so easy to bypass that three 11-year-olds were able to manage it. Many assume it was simply a plot device to give Harry and his friends a challenge to test what they had learned. I don’t buy it; Rowling is much cleverer than that. Others say that Dumbledore added all the extra protections to give Harry a chance to face Voldemort and be the one to save the Stone. This is certainly Harry’s reading of the situation. As he says in the final chapter of Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone:
“I think [Dumbledore] wanted to give me a chance . It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could.”
(page 302, SS, U.S. Paperback)
I don’t buy that either. It’s fine for Harry to think that, but it seems very unlikely that Dumbledore intended for Harry to go down the trapdoor and come face-to-face with Voldemort. There was simply too much at stake to risk Harry’s life at such a young age. When discussing Harry’s first year with him after the battle at the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore says:
“You rose magnificently to the challenge that faced you, and sooner – much sooner – than I had expected, you found yourself face-to-face with Voldemort.”
(p. 837, OOTP, U.S. Hardcover)
This leads me to believe that Dumbledore would have preferred it if Harry had stayed out of it altogether. Harry was very young, and Dumbledore’s plan for that year really had nothing to do with him (other than protecting him, of course).
The only reason that he created the six additional barriers was to trick Quirrell into thinking he would be able to get the Stone. He called a meeting with his staff members and informed them that his friend Nicholas Flamel asked that the Stone be kept at Hogwarts that year where he was sure it would be safe. He then said that although he was certain that no one would be able to infiltrate the school, he would like to set up some protections just to be safe. So he asked Hagrid, Sprout, Flitwick, Quirrell, McGonagall, and Snape to use their own areas of expertise to create some traps for anyone who happened to try to steal the Stone. What he did not tell them (or at least not Quirrell) was that it was he who asked Flamel if he could borrow the Stone. Nor did he tell them (or at least not Quirrell) that he would be employing the use of the Mirror of Erised, which would make all their other protections obsolete.
With the protections set up and the trap baited, all he could do now was wait for Quirrell/Voldemort to make a move. At this point, the only thing preventing Quirrell from making a run at the Stone was Fluffy. Of the six barriers, Fluffy was really the only legitimate threat. Of course, the secret to getting past him was really quite simple; it was just a matter of acquiring that knowledge. Fortunately for Dumbledore, it took Quirrell most of the term to discover how to neutralize Fluffy. This was a bonus for Dumbledore since it did indeed buy him some time, and allowed for his plan to last the entire school term.
Thanks to the fact that all we get is Harry’s perspective, we forget that there was actually no real mystery to solve during Harry’s first year. The kids may have spent the whole year trying to figure out what was being hidden, who was trying to steal it, and why. However, Dumbledore knew exactly who was going to try to take the Stone from day one. He set the whole thing up. At this point you may be asking yourself, if Albus knew Quirrell was the threat from the beginning, why didn’t he just confront him and drive Voldemort from the school? The answer is that there are a great deal more dangerous things Voldemort and Quirrell could have been doing than hanging out at Hogwarts trying to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone. With the proper assistance, Voldemort could have returned to physical form that very year.
By keeping them both preoccupied with getting the Stone, Dumbledore was doing the Wizarding World a service. At Hogwarts, he could keep a close eye on them. Since Voldemort would surely not hang around once he knew his cover had been blown, Dumbledore undoubtedly wanted to wait until the last possible moment to let Voldemort know that he knew what was going on. As the school year came to a close, Dumbledore became worried that Quirrell would never make an attempt at the Stone. So he sent Snape to have a forceful discussion in the woods to basically make Quirrell think that he, Snape, was trying to get the Stone as well. (Harry doesn’t understand this at the time, but he doesn’t have the proper context. This is almost assuredly the aim of the conversation between Quirrell and Snape in Chapter 13. It doesn’t hurt that it helped Snape maintain his cover with Voldemort that he was working at Hogwarts against his wishes.) Albus hope was that some competition for the Stone by a former Death Eater would not only avoid raising suspicions with Voldemort about Snape’s loyalties, but also give Quirrell more of an incentive for trying to get the Stone. In addition, Dumbledore tried to lure Quirrell into going down the trapdoor by taking frequent trips away from Hogwarts to assist the Minister for Magic.
When Quirrell/Voldemort finally took the bait, I’m sure Dumbledore was thrilled. When McGonagall or Snape or whoever informed him that Quirrell had finally entered the trapdoor, he immediately came back to Hogwarts to confront them. However, a piece of most unwelcome news was that Harry and his friends had ventured through the trapdoor as well. If one of them was injured or killed, it would ruin everything he had worked for all year. As fortune (or providence) would have it, though, the kids passed the tests with flying colors and Harry exhibited courage that Dumbledore had certainly not expected from him so early. Albus was very pleased to find out that his blood charm was still very much in effect, and Harry had been able to successfully get the Stone from the Mirror of Erised.
This no doubt made Dumbledore extremely proud and relieved, as well as removed any questions he may have had about Harry’s trustworthiness. Once again, his plan had been a complete success. Not only had no harm come to any students, but Harry had also faced Voldemort, and once again survived. He had given Voldemort no reason to believe that Snapes loyalties had shifted. He had managed to keep Voldemort at Hogwarts for the entire year, and he delayed the Dark Lord’s inevitable return.
The reason I say inevitable is the same reason why Dumbledore never tried to kill Voldemort while he was vulnerable during Harry’s first year. He knew it would do no good. He knew Voldemort had one if not multiple Horcruxes, and until those were destroyed, his spirit (Vapormort, if you will) would remain. Knowing that the best he could hope for was to keep Voldemort in this weakened and powerless state, his plan was a complete success. He prevented Voldemort from getting the Stone. In addition, Voldemort lost his host body. He lost the one man who might be able to help him return, and he was forced to once again flee, and wait for another follower to return and assist him. That follower would eventually come, but not for another two years. All in all, Harry’s first year could not have turned out better.
Unfortunately, however, the time for celebrating was short-lived. Another plot was in the works already. A plot that threatened the lives of Harry and every other Hogwarts student, and a plot that, if successful, would facilitate the Dark Lord’s return. Once again, preventing disaster would require all of Dumbledore’s intelligence, as well as a significant bit of help from a House Elf. However, that is a story for another day. There was still a long way to go, but for now Albus’s Master Plan had been a success.
Next time, in Part Three of Dumbledore’s Master Plan, we will delve into the events ofHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Stay tuned, and until next time, remember to always read between the lines.