The Flaw in the Plan
Summary: Dumbledore had a latent plan involving Snape that went terribly awry; almost causing Harry’s mission to fail as well as getting Snape killed. As it turns out, something Harry does is the direct cause of Snape’s death.
One of the seeming unanswered questions in the final scenes of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is: Did Albus Dumbledore purposely place Severus Snape in a position to be killed by Lord Voldemort? On the surface this appears to be the case. But delving a bit deeper into the story provides an answer: A resounding no—in fact it’s exactly the opposite. Dumbledore went to great lengths, even endangering Harry, to protect Severus. Tragically, a flaw in his last plan brought about Snape’s death.
Dumbledore puts into play two separate and distinct plans, one active and one latent, to ensure Voldemort’s defeat. The complexity of events soars when one plan goes awry (very awry-at three different points) and gets tangled up in the other plan. This entanglement causes confusion, makes it difficult to tease the two apart and obscures some of what is going on. Complicating things further, Dumbledore has a penchant for killing multiple birds with one stone. He has layers of reasons for the events he sets in motion, squeezing as much mileage out of each of them as he can. Surprisingly, the plans are quite simple. How they clash when things go askew is not.
Below they are briefly outlined as are the events that caused one plan, the latent plan, to fail. Following that, a detailed examination of the sequence of events is laid out showing how and why the two plans were set up, how the latent plan fails and how that failure very nearly destroys the active plan. In the end, that failure actually gives Harry an advantage, even as it reveals Dumbledore’s deep regard for Severus Snape.
The Active Plan
The active plan is the one most familiar–it is Harry’s story. Below is Dumbledore’s active plan as originally conceived:
- Harry must hunt down and destroy all the horcruxes so that Voldemort can be finished once and for all.
- Snape is positioned to monitor Voldemort’s behavior toward Nagini and to inform Harry at the proper time that Harry is a horcrux and must let Voldemort kill him.
- Voldemort will kill Harry, destroying the unintentional horcrux.
- Harry can then return to mortal life because Voldemort used Harry’s blood to reconstitute his body.
- Harry will then confront and defeat Voldemort.
Note that the active plan does not involve the Elder Wand. The plan operates irrespective of any wand. Dumbledore depended on only two people to carry out this plan—Harry and Severus—each with separate assignments unknown to the other. This plan, fortunately, goes essentially as outlined and, as Dumbledore has hoped, results in Voldemort’s demise.
The unknown variable of the active plan is whether Harry will be able to return after Voldemort kills him. Dumbledore is never completely sure that Harry will survive the destruction of his horcrux. But Voldemort must be defeated, so Dumbledore sets up a second plan.
The Latent Plan
It is difficult to track the latent plan because Dumbledore tells no one and keeps it completely secret. The latent plan can only be inferred by where its failure interacts with the active plan. The latent plan is designed to engage only if Harry does not survive the death of his horcrux at Voldemort’s hands. If Harry returns, then the latent plan will not activate and will remain completely unknown–and it was crucial that it never be found out unless absolutely necessary, for the sake of the world on the whole, but especially for Severus’ sake.
Here is Dumbledore’s optimal latent plan as originally conceived:
- Dumbledore arranges for Snape to kill him and thereby become, without knowing it, master of the Elder Wand.
- If the active plan fails, Snape, as master of the Elder Wand, will have the power to destroy the now horcrux-free Voldemort.
- If the active plan does not fail, then the Elder Wand’s power will die when Snape dies a natural death with no one ever the wiser, including Snape.
The latent plan goes wrong for several reasons:
- Draco’s attack comes sooner than Dumbledore expected.
- After leaving the Dursley’s home, Voldemort and Harry confront each other.
- The Ravenclaw horcrux was hidden at Hogwarts.
A Change of Plans
It appears that Dumbledore originally intends to find and destroy the horcruxes himself. And, most likely, he would have taken on Voldemort after Harry’s horcrux was destroyed, whether Harry survived the encounter or not. But when he returns from the Gaunt house under a curse from the horcrux ring, he immediately recognizes that everything has to change. Severus confines the curse to his hand and gives him “maybe a year” to live, but Dumbledore is already calculating how to use this turn of events to his advantage. Within minutes he outlines two plans and begins to implement them immediately.1
It is obvious to Dumbledore that Harry is the one to replace him as hunter and destroyer of the horcruxes. Harry has already destroyed one horcrux (Tom Riddle’s diary) and has shown a remarkable ability to get to the bottom of mysterious events. He will give Harry what training, information and tools he can before his death.2
Unfortunately, Harry is one of those horcruxes and must also be destroyed at the proper time–after all the other horcruxes are gone.3 But Dumbledore suspects that because the Dark Lord used Harry’s blood to reincarnate,4 Harry is impervious to magical attack by Voldemort and will be able to return and defeat him.5
Dumbledore, however, faces another dilemma: Who will become master of the Elder Wand? He knows Voldemort has ordered Draco to kill him.6 If that mission succeeds, Draco, or one of the Death Eaters accompanying him, will become master of the Elder Wand. If Dumbledore lets the curse from the ring take him, then Voldemort will become master of the Elder Wand since he is the author of that curse. If Harry doesn’t survive, Voldemort will become immortal and unstoppable. Neither scenario is acceptable. The solution to this dilemma is sitting right in front of him and his latent plan is born. He will arrange circumstances so that Snape becomes master of the Elder Wand. If Harry doesn’t return, Snape will have the power to destroy the now horcrux-free Voldemort. When Dumbledore says to Snape “I am fortunate, extremely fortunate, that I have you, Severus,”7 he is not referring to Snape’s skills at healing (he already praised him for that.) Dumbledore knows he can trust Snape with the power of this wand.
At this point, there are three questions that need to be addressed.
Question 1: Why Not Destroy the Elder Wand?
Why didn’t Dumbledore simply destroy the wand after winning it from Grindelwald? In 1942 the Chamber of Secrets was opened and a girl was murdered at Hogwarts.8Although Tom Riddle pinned that murder on Hagrid’s spider Aragog, Dumbledore suspected Tom was somehow involved9 and surmised that another powerful Dark Lord might be on the rise. Nearly three years later, in 1945, Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald10 and became master of the Elder Wand. Dumbledore decided not to destroy the wand because it could be a valuable tool if Riddle rose to power. If such a weapon was not needed, Dumbledore would tame it by how he used it and then let the power of the wand die with him.
Question 2: Was Snape Meant to Master the Elder Wand?
Did Dumbledore want Snape to become the master of the Elder Wand? In “King’s Cross” and “The Flaw in the Plan,”11 there appears to be contradictory statements regarding Dumbledore’s intentions. Here is Harry’s conversation with him in “King’s Cross”:
“If you planned your death with Snape, you meant him to end up with the Elder Wand, didn’t you?“I admit that was my intention,” said Dumbledore, “but it did not work as I intended, did it?”
“No,” said Harry. “That bit didn’t work out.”
The creature behind them jerked and moaned, and Harry and Dumbledore sat without talking for the longest time yet. The realization of what would happen next settled gradually over Harry in the long minutes, like softly falling snow.
“I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?”12
In this conversation, Dumbledore specifically states that his intention was for Snape to end up with the wand, but Harry’s words are ambiguous, leaving unanswered the question of whether Dumbledore intended that Snape 1) be master of the Elder Wand or 2) merely possess the wand.
Note, however, that it is in pondering the conversation about Snape that Harry realizes he must go back; with the failure of the plan to make Snape master of the Elder Wand and his subsequent death, there is no one left with the power to defeat Voldemort.
A short while later, as they duel for the final time in “The Flaw in the Plan,” this is what Voldemort says to Harry:
“Dumbledore was trying to keep the Elder Wand from me! He intended that Snape should be the true master of the wand! But I got there ahead of you, little boy–I reached the wand before you could get your hands on it, I understood the truth before you caught up. I killed Severus Snape three hours ago, and the Elder Wand, the Deathstick, the Wand of Destiny is truly mine! Dumbledore’s last plan went wrong, Harry Potter!”
“Yeah, it did,” said Harry.”You’re right…”13
Harry confirms what Voldemort says–Dumbledore’s last plan was to make Snape the true master of the wand and the plan went awry. Then there is another confusing statement a few moments later:
“Aren’t you listening? Snape never beat Dumbledore! Dumbledore’s death was planned between them! Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand’s last true master! If all had gone as planned, the wand’s power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!”14
These statements seem connected to each other, since they are side by side, and we tend to read them as: Snape never beat Dumbledore (because) Dumbledore’s death was planned between them (and) Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand’s last true master! If all had gone as planned, the wand’s power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him.
But there is a problem with the meaning derived from connecting the phrases in this manner. We have the entire conversation between Harry and Dumbledore in “King’s Cross” and Dumbledore 1) admits he wanted Snape to end up with the wand and 2) says nothing about intending to die undefeated so that the power of the wand would die with him. Where is Harry getting his information? Is he lying to deceive Voldemort? None of his other statements here are false.
The closest we can get to Dumbledore saying he intended to die undefeated so that the power of the wand died with him is this statement in “King’s Cross” and even this might be a stretch:
“Maybe a man in a million could unite the Hallows, Harry. I was fit only to posses the meanest of them, the least extraordinary. I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it. I was permitted to tame and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it.”15
However, if Harry is extrapolating Dumbledore’s intent to die undefeated from this bit of conversation, then it also gives us context. Dumbledore says “…I took it, not for gain, but to save others.” But when did he take it? In 1945 after defeating Grindelwald. That was when his original intent to die undefeated would have attached. Revisiting Harry’s previous statements, they should not be read as connected narrative but as simple statements of fact while under pressure:
Snape never beat Dumbledore! (Because Draco got there first.) Dumbledore’s death was planned between them! (Snape was the intended master of the wand.) Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand’s last true master! If all had gone as planned, the wand’s power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him! (That was his plan when he first won the wand, before he was forced onto a different path.)
Question 3: Can a Consensual Death Turn the Elder Wand’s Loyalty?
If we assume that Dumbledore wants Snape to become master of the Elder Wand, then we must confront the issue of whether a planned death qualifies to turn the wand’s loyalty. In an interview Rowling said:
“The Elder Wand is simply the most dispassionate and ruthless of wands in that it will only take into consideration strength. So one would expect a certain amount of loyalty from one’s wand….However, the Elder Wand knows no loyalty except to strength. So it’s completely unsentimental. It will only go where the power is. So if you win, then you’ve won the wand. So you don’t need to kill with it. But, as is pointed out in the books, not least by Dumbledore because it is a wand of such immense power, almost inevitably, it attracts wizards who are prepared to kill and who will kill. And also it attracts wizards like Voldemort who confuse being prepared to murder with strength.”16
How is Snape to kill Dumbledore? As a Death Eater, using Avada Kedavra would be expected. He will likely be in the company of other Death Eaters and not to use that curse might raise questions. Use of other methods (pushing him off a tower or using a potion) could leave doubts as to who actually administered the killing action as well as possibly eliminating Death Eater witnesses to back up his story. And, finally, his wand could be checked and use of the killing curse confirmed.
In Harry’s fourth year the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor was Barty Crouch, Jr. disguised as Mad Eye Moody. During their first class, Crouch/Moody demonstrates the Unforgivable Curses and says this about the killing curse:
“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.”17
If the Elder Wand strictly responds to power, performing the killing curse would certainly win the wand over. Further, to perform an Unforgivable Curse, there are certain requirements as illustrated when Harry tried a Cruciatus Curse on Bellatrix at the Ministry of Magic. It was ineffective against her and Bellatrix explains why:
“Never used an Unforgivable Curse before, have you, boy?” she yelled. She had abandoned her baby voice now. “You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain–to enjoy it–righteous anger won’t hurt me for long–I’ll show you how it is done, shall I? I’ll give you a lesson–“18
Here Bellatrix plainly states that using a good intention (righteous anger) cannot produce an Unforgivable Curse. So it would seem, likewise, that the mere intent for a mercy killing, to prevent a painful death, would not produce the killing curse either.
The requirement to form a dark intent sufficient to produce an effective killing curse should also be sufficient intent to be considered conquering the previous owner of the Elder Wand. Snape was able to produce such a curse, probably using the thought control he developed as an Occlumens. And as far as can be deduced from expressions, the intent was achieved:
Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
“Severus . . . please . . . “
Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore.
A Change of Plan, Continued
Dumbledore needs Snape. As he slowly dies from Voldemort’s curse and faces an attack planned by Draco, Dumbledore knows it is impossible for the power of the wand to die with him. At this moment, sitting across from Snape, Dumbledore knows it is imperative that Voldemort be defeated, and there is no one he trusts more than Severus.
For the latent plan to work, Dumbledore must obscure his intentions from Severus while simultaneously enlisting Snape’s help to set the plan in motion. Dumbledore uses emotional appeals to engage Snape’s assistance: help him save Draco’s life and soul; protect the students; spare him from a painful and humiliating death.
This is the only time we see Severus express any concern for himself: “What about my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?”20 Snape knows what the Avada Kedavra curse does to a soul–it rips it apart.21 Only the most painful remorse can repair that wound.22 And, although this scene is very brief, it must be understood that the consequences of such a decision were not. Where Harry agrees to endure a physical death, Snape agrees, knowingly, to a spiritual one. Severus Snape willingly jeopardizes his own soul to protect others.
Dumbledore also knows what he is asking of Severus and knows how much harm performing that curse will do.23 Later, when Harry views Snape’s memories in the pensieve, the pain and grief he experiences after killing Dumbledore is shown.24 Snape is utterly alone dealing with his anguish. Any friends he had at Hogwarts believe him a murderer and a traitor. Associates on the other side would turn him over to Voldemort. Dumbledore knew this would happen, yet he still trusts that Severus can, if need be, bear that burden and never again turn to the dark side, even if he has to take possession of the Elder Wand. There is no sense getting rid of one Dark Lord just to set up another one. Dumbledore understands the burden Severus already bears; understands the additional pain that killing him will add to that burden and he is determined not to needlessly encumber Severus’s heart with the responsibility of the Elder Wand.
If Harry succeeds, Dumbledore does not want Snape to have the weight of the Elder Wand pressing down upon his soul for the rest of his life. If Harry succeeds, no one need know that Snape is the master of the Elder Wand. Instead, the wand’s power can die when Snape dies a natural death.
As his plans crystallize, Dumbledore realizes how valuable his death at Snape’s hand will be. Voldemort will trust Snape enough to permit Snape to come and go as necessary. It is imperative for the active plan that Snape be able to observe Voldemort’s interaction with Nagini and then find Harry when the time is right otherwise all will be lost because Voldemort would be able to reincarnate again.
Additionally, by killing Dumbledore, Snape will be Voldemort’s prime candidate for Headmaster of Hogwarts, which is crucial for the latent plan. Snape has to have access to Dumbledore’s portrait at the critical moment. Snape is not expecting Harry to survive after his encounter with Voldemort. If Harry dies, Snape will return to his position at Hogwarts and report Harry’s death to Dumbledore’s portrait. At that point the portrait will tell him the story of the Elder Wand and where to find it. Snape, with his skill at Occlumency, will be able to get close enough to Voldemort unawares and take him out.
Draco’s infiltration of the castle and attack comes sooner than expected. Dumbledore has taken Harry to retrieve the locket horcrux and likely plans to return to his office and dispatch it with the Sword of Gryffindor (until discovering the locket is a fake.) But Draco catches him off his guard–debilitated from the potion he was forced to drink, suffering from Voldemort’s curse and in mid-spell trying to protect Harry–Draco disarms him.25
Dumbledore then knows that his latent plan has been compromised although it has not completely failed. Draco is now master of the Elder Wand. But Snape will have access to Draco 1) through his parents—as they are friends of his or 2) when Draco attends Hogwarts the next year. Dumbledore’s portrait can inform Snape how to master the Elder Wand if the need arises. Snape can then disarm Draco and still use the wand to defeat Voldemort.
The alternate branch of the latent plan–to let the Elder Wand die with its new master, even though that is now Draco–is still viable. There is nothing Dumbledore can do now that Draco’s attack has begun. Since the plan is essentially unchanged, he lets events play out as he originally conceived. Snape arrives on the scene and immediately discerns that this is the critical moment.26 Draco is unable to produce a killing curse and unless Snape acts as previously planned and kills Dumbledore in his stead, Snape will die by not fulfilling the Unbreakable Vow he made with Narcissa.27 The other Death Eaters are there–Dumbledore will not get off that tower alive. Snape does his duty.
The Headmaster’s Portrait
It is unclear how much assistance a Headmaster’s portrait can be. According to one interview with J. K. Rowling, portraits are limited as to their abilities:
EBF: All the paintings we have seen at Hogwarts are of dead people. They seem to be living through their portraits. How is this so? If there was a painting of Harry’s parents, would he be able to obtain advice from them?
J. K. Rowling: That is a very good question. They are all of dead people; they are not as fully realised as ghosts, as you have probably noticed. The place where you see them really talk is in Dumbledore’s office, primarily; the idea is that the previous headmasters and headmistresses leave behind a faint imprint of themselves. They leave their aura, almost, in the office and they can give some counsel to the present occupant, but it is not like being a ghost. They repeat catchphrases, almost. The portrait of Sirius’ mother is not a very 3D personality; she is not very fully realised. She repeats catchphrases that she had when she was alive. If Harry had a portrait of his parents it would not help him a great deal. If he could meet them as ghosts, that would be a much more meaningful interaction . . . .”28
Portraits might be restricted to what their subjects knew prior to their deaths, and might not be able to do original thinking on their own, though they seem able to relay current facts. Their counsel probably comes from experiences in their past similar to situations that a current Headmaster is facing.
Therefore it is difficult to ascertain to what extent Dumbledore’s portrait could have assisted Snape when consequential changes to his original plans occurred. It is highly likely that the two situations in which Dumbledore’s portrait is advising Snape were planned before his death. After dispatching that information the portrait simply needs to wait for word of Harry’s death, if it comes.
Snape’s Access to the Headmaster’s Office
The circumstances surrounding Snape’s first interaction with Dumbledore’s portrait raises questions that are not directly answered by the books but which need to be examined.29 This conversation occurs after Dumbledore’s death but before Harry is moved from the Dursley’s in July and therefore before Snape is appointed Headmaster by Voldemort. The Hogwarts teachers all know, from Harry, that Snape killed Dumbledore. So:
Why does Snape risk visiting the portrait before his appointment as Headmaster?
It appears that Snape knows Draco’s attack came earlier than expected and Snape does not have all of the information he needs concerning Dumbledore’s plans.
When does Snape visit the portrait?
Snape visits the portrait before Harry is moved from the Dursley’s. The safest time would have been during Dumbledore’s funeral when everyone was out of the castle.
How does Snape get into the Headmaster’s office?
After confronting Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic, Dumbledore makes a portkey for Harry that takes him directly into the Headmaster’s office.30 Dumbledore arrives shortly thereafter by the Floo Network. The Floo Network is being watched by the Ministry, which Snape knows is infiltrated by Death Eaters, so it is possible that Snape gained access by portkey which would also provide him the greatest protection while entering and leaving the castle at this time.
Why is Snape allowed access?
This is the most difficult question. Shortly after Harry portkeyed into Dumbledore’s office, Phineas’ portrait says:
“This office is supposed to be barred from all but the rightful Headmaster. Or has Dumbledore sent you here?”31
Dolores Umbridge, though appointed by the Ministry itself, was not recognized as the rightful Headmistress of Hogwarts and thus denied entry to the office.32 After Dumbledore’s death McGonagall was acting Headmistress and was allowed access to the office. How is a rightful head of Hogwarts selected so that the office recognizes him/her? There’s a Board of Governors, but if it’s pressured into a specific selection, will Hogwarts recognize that candidate? Can a previous Headmaster appoint his successor? Was Severus secretly appointed the legitimate Headmaster or a deputy Headmaster by Dumbledore previous to his death? Despite all these interesting possibilities, suffice it to say that somehow Snape was allowed complete access to that office and later, when Voldemort appoints him Headmaster, the office accepts him again.
The Seven Potters
From the time of Voldemort’s failure to kill Harry because their wands shared the same core, Dumbledore knew that Voldemort might eventually seek out the Elder Wand. He knew Voldemort kidnapped Ollivander to find out why his wand had failed him and would find out about the twin cores. He surmised Ollivander would suggest using a different wand. But Dumbledore also knew that if Voldemort engaged Harry with another wand, that one would fail also and Voldemort would then seek out a more powerful wand–the most powerful wand.33
The weakest point in the latent plan, then, is if Voldemort finds out about the existence of the Elder Wand. If he does, and is able to track the wand down, Snape is in danger because Voldemort will kill him to obtain full power of the wand. Then, if Harry does not survive, Snape will not be around to finish off Voldemort.
Further, this weakness in the latent plan could derail the active plan because Harry will not know he has to let Voldemort kill him if Snape dies before delivering his message. During outright war Harry could be killed in another way or by someone else, destroying his ability to return from the dead. If either scenario occurs, Voldemort could possibly make more horcruxes (that ability might be in question) and no one would ever be able to get rid of him. The Seven Potters scenario is critical.
Dumbledore knows that after Harry starts hunting horcruxes he will avoid Voldemort until all the horcruxes are destroyed except Nagini.34 There is only one point before Snape delivers his message when Harry and Voldemort are sure to tangle and that is when Harry has to leave the Dursley’s house. For both plans to work, the Seven Potters scheme must accomplish three things to avoid derailing Dumbledore’s plans:
- It must move Harry safely out of the Dursleys home
- It must prevent a direct confrontation between Voldemort and Harry where Voldemort might discover that a different wand still does not work against Harry
- It must avoid altering Voldemort’s intent to install Snape as Headmaster of Hogwarts
Harry must leave the Dursley’s house before his protection expires on his seventeenth birthday. Once he leaves, the protection on the house dissolves and he cannot return.35 Because Voldemort knows about this situation his spies will be watching and an attack is guaranteed. Additionally, once Harry leaves No. 4 Privet Drive, he must arrive at another protected place as quickly as possible. The longer he is exposed to Voldemort and his minions during the journey, the more likely a direct confrontation will occur, potentially resulting in Voldemort learning that another wand is ineffective against Harry or in Harry getting killed by someone else.
The Ministry of Magic is assisting the Order with setting up the safe houses that Harry can run to once leaving the Dursley’s.36 Dumbledore knows, as a result of Snape’s espionage, that the Ministry has been infiltrated. Indeed, it is likely that the Ministry will be in Voldemort’s hands by the end of the summer (and we see what happens when the Ministry does fall during Bill and Fleur’s wedding.) 37
Snape must influence these events so that Harry is moved before the Ministry falls. Therefore Snape sets a date for the Seven Potters move to the Burrows to keep Harry under the protection of the Dursley’s home as long as possible but to get him out before safe refuge is destroyed. He uses Mundungus to plant this information with the Order, along with the idea of using decoy Potters to confuse the attackers, as directed by Dumbledore.38 Although it is not mentioned in the first discussion we see Snape having with Dumbledore’s portrait, it is likely that Dumbledore wanted the Order to use seven versions of Harry as seven is a powerfully magical number39 and would offer increased protection for the maneuver–one of the reasons he would have felt secure in the efficacy of the plan.
But why give the actual date when Harry is to be moved? Because if Snape gave the wrong date and Harry was already gone, Voldemort would likely be so angry that he would not appoint Snape as Headmaster at Hogwarts, despite the fact that Snape killed Dumbledore (he’s definitely a “what have you done for me lately” type of guy.)
In “The Prince’s Tale” we see that Dumbledore is concerned about protecting the students from the Carrows when Voldemort gains control over Hogwarts. But who are the Carrows? They are later appointed as deputy Headmaster and Headmistress to assist Snape, which means they would take over the school if Snape is found lacking. Only Snape’s continued competency can secure him the Headmaster position. Yes, Dumbledore wants Snape as Headmaster to help protect the students, but he needs Snape there for a much more important reason. Snape must have continuous access to Dumbledore’s portrait to keep it updated and to receive information essential to the latent plan.
Dumbledore’s decision to have Snape divulge the date of the move is strong evidence of the existence of his latent plan. There is no other compelling reason for Snape to be Headmaster except to be in that office if Harry dies. Disclosing the date of the move puts Harry in danger of being killed by someone other than Voldemort, yet Dumbledore will risk Harry for Severus’s sake. Snape’s assignments–to tell Harry about the last horcrux and provide him with the Sword of Gryffindor–are not dependent or aided by whether or not Snape is Headmaster. There is little Snape can do to protect Hogwarts’ students from the Carrows. Too much visible interference would lead to questions. The information relayed during both scenes where we see Snape interacting with Dumbledore’s portrait was probably given during the first conversation they had during the summer—more on that a bit later.
The Seven Potters Goes Askew
When Harry and the Order leave No. 4 Privet Drive they are immediately set upon by Voldemort. However, the Seven Potters scheme works according to plan until Harry recognizes Stan Shunpike who he believes is Imperioused into working for Voldemort. Instead of stunning him–the drop to the ground would kill Stan–Harry disarms him using, ironically, Expelliarmus–a spell he learned from Snape.40 Because of this choice he is recognized by the Death Eaters as they believe Expelliarmus to be Harry’s signature spell.41 Voldemort is called and Harry’s wand defeats Lucius’ wand, setting Voldemort off to track down the Elder Wand. 42
It’s at this point that the alternate branch of Dumbledore’s latent plan–a life for Severus after Voldemort–fails and will result in Snape’s death. It’s at this point that Snape must learn of the latent plan and the Elder Wand. Now the active plan is also endangered because it depends on Harry getting Snape’s message in time.
This is another one of J. K. Rowling’s “full circle” themes. There is a direct line from Harry’s action to Snape’s demise, just as there is a direct line from Snape’s action years earlier to the death of Harry’s parents. Neither anticipated nor wanted the consequences of those actions. Adding even more irony, some of Snape’s last words to Harry before he fled Hogwarts were:
“Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter!”43
Had Harry followed that final injunction, Snape may have survived.
Then there is the odd bit where Harry’s wand acts of its own accord while Harry is semi-conscious, battling Voldemort. Perhaps J. K. Rowling could not bring herself to have the destruction of Lucius’ wand be a deliberate action on Harry’s behalf precisely because it leads directly to Snape’s death.
Voldemort’s Search for the Elder Wand
The very hour after the failure of Lucius’ wand, Voldemort interrogates Ollivander about what happened and finds out about the Elder Wand.44 He immediately sets out to track it down which consumes approximately the next eight months.
Snape does not, however, learn that Voldemort is seeking the Elder Wand. During his search for the wand, Voldemort apparently has little or no contact with his own Death Eaters, and none with Snape. Only one Death Eater witnessed the failure of Lucius’ wand – Selwyn.45 This was one of the Death Eaters tasked with tracking down Harry,46 and it is unlikely he had any interaction with Snape at all. During the Seven Potters move, Snape was off with another group (he was the one to injure George Weasley)47 and did not witness the failure of Lucius’ wand. So that information never reached Snape and therefore never reached Dumbledore’s portrait. Dumbledore himself, if he were alive, may have deduced from Voldemort’s absence what the Dark Lord was up to, but apparently the portrait did not because it said nothing to Snape about the Elder Wand.
The Sword of Gryffindor
Snape does not need to be Headmaster to deliver the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry. A careful reading of the last scene in “The Prince’s Tale” doesn’t quite reveal the information that it seems to.48
Phineas finds out the Trio is in the Forest of Dean–but this information is gained by sheer luck. It’s hard to believe either Dumbledore or Snape would have left such a critical element to their plan so completely to chance. Furthermore, Phineas’ intelligence could not have been of much value. The Forest of Dean is approximately 110 sq. kilometers (42.5 sq. miles.) In all this acreage, and hidden behind multiple spells and enchantments, Snape has to find 2 people that have managed to hide themselves from Voldemort and the hundreds of Death Eaters and Snatchers out looking for them. Despite the apparent impossibility of this task, Severus does locate Harry and is able to get the sword to him (one possibility is that he can track the snitch Dumbledore bequeathed Harry.) So Phineas’ revelation is not that critical. Dumbledore’s portrait seems excited by the information, but Snape does not.
Snape already knows that the sword has to be taken under conditions of need and valor. The apparent repetition of the portrait’s instructions seem to annoy him as shown by his curt “I know.”
Snape already knows where the sword is hidden. The portrait talks about the sword, but says nothing indicating where it is located, yet Snape heads directly for Dumbledore’s portrait and takes the sword from its hiding place.
That Snape already knows Harry must have the sword is evidenced by his statement to the portrait: “And you still aren’t going to tell me why it’s so important to give Potter the sword?” (Emphasis added.)
As noted earlier, Snape somehow has access to the Headmaster’s office before being appointed by Voldemort. There is no reason to suspect that he wouldn’t be able to secure the sword from behind Dumbledore’s portrait if he wasn’t Headmaster. Alternatively he could have Accioed it from the office like Hermione did the books on horcruxes.49 Nothing about the active plan required Snape to be Headmaster. He only needs to be there in case the latent plan has to be put in play.
The statement that the Trio would not take kindly to Snape’s appearance after George Weasley’s mishap is rather odd. Slicing off an ear is more worrisome to them than the apparent betrayal and murder of the world’s greatest living wizard by one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters? That doesn’t seem likely. But it demonstrates three facts: 1) Snape is keeping the portrait informed of current events; 2) Snape was not present with Voldemort when Lucius’ wand was destroyed; 3) Snape was, at least for a time, still in contact with the Order after the Seven Potters scheme otherwise he would not have known it was George Weasley that was injured and not the real Harry.
Harry Disarms Draco
Harry essentially becomes master of the Elder Wand when he snatches Draco’s wand from him at Malfoy Manor.50 At this point the latent plan technically fails because there is now no way for Severus, or through him Dumbledore’s portrait, to learn that another shift in the wand’s loyalty has occurred. However, the fact that Harry is now the wand’s master is substantially a moot point because even at this juncture Snape and the portrait are unaware that Voldemort knows about, and is searching for, the Elder Wand.
Voldemort Raids The Tomb
In March Voldemort arrives at the gates of Hogwarts, intent on robbing Dumbledore’s tomb of the Elder Wand. He sends Snape back to the castle and uses a Disillusionment Charm on himself to ensure no one, not even his most trusted lieutenant, sees him.51At this point the only task Snape has left (that he knows about) is to deliver his message to Harry from Dumbledore.
There is no reason for Snape to endanger his position by following Voldemort against orders. He does not know what Voldemort has been up to, so neither does Dumbledore’s portrait. After taking the wand, Voldemort joined Snape in the castle and most likely they met in the Headmaster’s office. Since Voldemort did not let Snape come with him to retrieve the wand from Dumbledore’s tomb, he certainly wasn’t going to pull it out in the Headmaster’s office in front of all the portraits. So Snape, and therefore, Dumbledore’s portrait do not know Voldemort has the Elder Wand. Dumbledore knew that if Voldemort was in possession of the wand, not only would Snape be in danger, but so would the information Harry needs to complete the active plan and destroy Voldemort. If the portrait discerned the least indication that Voldemort had the Elder Wand, it would warn Severus, because that fact puts both plans in severe peril.
A few weeks after stealing Dumbledore’s wand, the Trio snags the Hufflepuff cup from the Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts. Voldemort is shown using the Elder Wand to kill those who delivered the news.52 But still there is no evidence that Snape interacts with Voldemort and finds out that he has Dumbledore’s wand–Snape would have recognized the wand after years of working with Dumbledore. Snape would have mentioned such a thing to Dumbledore’s portrait and it is clear that the portrait would have warned Snape about the Elder Wand if it suspected at any point that Voldemort had obtained it. There simply was no evidence that this had happened and so the portrait protected the original plan.
The Ravenclaw Diadem
Dumbledore never deduced that the Ravenclaw diadem was a horcrux or was hidden at Hogwarts. The fact that he makes sure Harry gets the Sword of Gryffindor indicates he did not believe Harry would risk going back to Hogwarts, where he would have access to basilisk fangs or even the Sword itself. Unfortunately, Harry’s return is the reason Snape is driven from the castle by McGonagall, Flitwick and Sprout.53
What would have happened if Snape had been able to remain? At some point Voldemort would have realized the wand was not working and he would probably have confronted Snape at Hogwarts, presumably in the Headmaster’s office, as that would have had significant symbolism for him. Could Dumbledore’s portrait have said something at that point to save Snape? Probably. Certainly more time at Hogwarts may have produced evidence that would have forced the portrait to tell Severus about Dumbledore’s latent plan.
It is only by sheer luck that Harry happens upon Snape as Voldemort attacks him. By using Nagini to kill Snape, Voldemort circumvents a possible problem with the Elder Wand not working against its master who he thinks is Snape. But this also gives Snape time to pass his memories to Harry thus turning the tide against Voldemort.
The Blood Tether
The Elder Wand did not change Dumbledore’s original action plan, despite the plot’s focus on the wand. In his conversation with Harry in “King’s Cross,” Dumbledore made it very clear that while Voldemort lived, no wand that he used-even a fully functional Elder Wand-could kill Harry because he was tethered to life by the blood they shared.54 Even after the horcrux was destroyed, if Voldemort had used the killing curse on him again, it would not have caused Harry’s death.
Protection for the Troops
Dumbledore lets Harry believe that his death would be irreversible (and there is a small chance that it will be) in order to protect Harry and his comrades. When Harry submits to death at Voldemort’s hands, he gains magical protection for those he was sacrificing himself for, just as his mother had done for him.55 consequently, none of Voldemort’s magic is binding upon those who fight beside Harry.
Dumbledore knew Harry would step up to the plate under any condition and fill his mission no matter the sacrifice. Through Harry, Dumbledore could protect those fighting with him and with that protection increase their chances of surviving the encounter with Voldemort and, finally, defeating him.
The Elder Wand’s Only Advantage
Having the Elder Wand seems to give Voldemort a false sense of security, because he refused to believe what Harry was telling him during their final encounter. But the only real advantage the wand has against Voldemort is that he dies when his killing curse rebounds because Harry is master of the Elder Wand.56 And that came about completely by chance because Dumbledore’s latent plan to make Snape master of the wand—fails in a way that benefits Harry.
Throughout the books, there are a few rare times when we see Dumbledore cry. His tears are shed only for those for whom he has deep feelings. In “King’s Cross” he cries for his family, particularly Ariana, and for Grindelwald. In “The Lost Prophecy” he cries for Harry. And in “The Prince’s Tale” he sheds tears for Severus Snape.57
Dumbledore loves Severus as much as he loves Harry. He wants both of them to survive the war and he does everything in his power to assure a future life for them–a physical one for Harry and a spiritual one for Severus. Just as he risked keeping Voldemort alive during the confrontation at the Ministry so that Harry could live, he risks nearly everything to ensure Severus has a life after the war unencumbered by the responsibility of the Elder Wand.
The Flaw in the Plan
It is very difficult to shine light on a plan that only one character knew about, which he kept completely secret and which could only be discerned by its failure, let alone try to fathom the reason it was put in place. However, J. K. Rowling gives us a wonderful clue.
The last chapter in Deathly Hallows is entitled “The Flaw in the Plan.” At this point the active plan, Harry’s mission, is over. It has turned out essentially as Dumbledore had envisioned and Voldemort, though he does not yet know it, is finished. He cannot kill Harry nor hurt anyone helping him. How he chooses to respond to the situation will determine his fate. As Harry attempts to explain to Voldemort where the Elder Wand’s loyalties now belong, the failure of Dumbledore’s last plan is raised. The plan they discuss is the one involving Snape and the Elder Wand.
So what is the flaw in this last plan? Points of failure are several (at least three, as discussed above) but what is the fundamental defect that prevents these failures from being corrected? Dumbledore wanted Severus to have a life unencumbered by the responsibility of the Elder Wand. He loves Severus the same way he loves Harry. He so desires that Snape be given a chance at a life, free and clear, after the war, that he even allows Harry’s mission to be endangered by not informing Severus of his intentions from the beginning.
The phrase “the flaw in the plan” is not used anywhere in the last chapter of the book, but it is used in one other place. After Sirius dies, Dumbledore shoulders responsibility for the death and explains to Harry why he is doing so. By naming her last chapter as she did, J. K. Rowling is explaining why Dumbledore’s last plan, Snape’s plan, failed. Dumbledore had fallen into the same trap with Severus as he had with Harry:
“You do not see the flaw in the plan yet? No. . . .perhaps not. . . . ”
“. . . . Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap I had foreseen, that I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid.”
“I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply. “I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act.”
“Is there a defense? I defy anyone who has watched you as I have–and I have watched you more closely than you can have imagined–not to want to save you more pain than you had already suffered. What did I care if numbers of nameless and faceless people and creatures were slaughtered in the vague future, if in the here and now you were alive, and well, and happy? I never dreamed that I would have such a person on my hands.”58
As it turned out, Dumbledore had two such persons on his hands: Harry Potter and Severus Snape.
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1 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc., 2007) 681.
2 …Harry said nothing, but Dumbledore did not seem to require an answer. He continued, “On a different, though related, subject, it is my wish that you take private lessons with me this year.”
“Private — with you.” said Harry, surprised out of his preoccupied silence.
“Yes. I think it is time that I took a greater hand in your education.”
“What will you be teaching me, sir.”
“Oh, a little of this, a little of that,” said Dumbledore airily. J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc., 2005) 51.
3 “Harry must not know, not until the last moment, not until it is necessary, otherwise how could he have the strength to do what must be done?”
“But what must he do?”
“That is between Harry and me. Now listen closely, Severus. There will come a time–after my death–do not argue, do not interrupt! There will come a time when Lord Voldemort will seem to fear for the life of his snake.”
“For Nagini?” Snape looked astonished.
“Precisely. If there comes a time when Lord Voldemort stops sending that snake forth to do his bidding, but keeps it safe beside him under magical protection, then, I think, it will be safe to tell Harry.”
“Tell him what?”
Dumbledore took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“Tell him that on the night Lord Voldemort tried to kill him, when Lily cast her own life between them as a shield, the Killing Curse rebounded upon Lord Voldemort, and a fragment of Voldemort’s soul was blasted apart from the whole, and latched itself onto the only living soul left in that collapsed building. Part of Lord Voldemort lives inside Harry, and it is that which gives him the power of speech with snakes, and a connection with Lord Voldemort’s mind that he has never understood. And while that fragment of soul, unmissed by Voldemort, remains attached to and protected by Harry, Lord Voldemort cannot die.”
Harry seemed to be watching the two men from one end of a long tunnel, they were so far away from him, their voices echoing strangely in his ears.
“So the boy…the boy must die?” asked Snape quite calmly. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 685, 686.
4 “He said my blood would make him stronger than if he’d used someone else’s,” Harry told Dumbledore. “He said the protection my – my mother left in me – he’d have it too. And he was right – he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.”
For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat behind the desk, he looked as old and weary as Harry had ever seen him. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc., 2000) 696.
5 “He took your blood believing it would strengthen him. He took into his body a tiny part of the enchantment your mother laid upon you when she died for you. His body keeps her sacrifice alive, and while that enchantment survives, so do you and so does Voldemort’s one last hope for himself.”
Dumbledore smiled at Harry, and Harry stared at him.
“And you knew this? You knew—all along?”
“I guessed. But my guesses have usually been good,” said Dumbledore happily, and they sat in silence for what seemed like a long time, while the creature behind them continued to whimper and tremble. Rowling,Deathly Hallows 710.
6 “I refer to the plan Lord Voldemort is revolving around me. His plan to have the poor Malfoy boy murder me.”
Snape sat down in the chair Harry had so often occupied, across the desk from Dumbledore. Harry could tell that he wanted to say more on the subject of Dumbledore’s cursed hand, but the other held it up in polite refusal to discuss the matter further. Scowling, Snape said, “The Dark Lord does not expect Draco to succeed. This is merely punishment for Lucius’ recent failures. Slow torture for Draco’s parents, while they watch him fail and pay the price.” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 681, 682.
7 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 681.
8 Since the tale of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets took place in 1992, the previous opening of the Chamber was 50 years previous, hence 1942. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc., 1999) 223.
9 Tom Riddle informs Harry he framed Hagrid and that Dumbledore suspected his hand in the murders. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets 311, 312.
10 Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald in 1945. Rowling, Deathly Hallows XXX.
11 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 705, 724.
12 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 721.
13 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 741.
14 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 742.
15 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 720.
16 J.K. Rowling, Pottercast #131, (http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2008/1/2/ pottercast-131 -j-k-rowling-interview-transcript)
17 Rowling, Goblet of Fire 217.
18 J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc., 2003) 810.
19 Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 595, 596.
20 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 683.
21 “How do you split your soul?”
“Well,” said Slughorn uncomfortably, “you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature.”
“But how do you do it.”
“By an act of evil — the supreme act of evil. By commiting murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage: He would encase the torn portion —” Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 497, 498.
22 “And the more I’ve read about them,” said Hermione, “the more horrible they seem, and the less I can believe that he actually made six. It warns in this book how unstable you make the rest of your soul by ripping it, and that’s just by making one Horcrux!”
Harry remembered what Dumbledore had said about Voldemort moving beyond “usual evil.”
“Isn’t there any way of putting yourself back together?” Ron asked.
“Yes,” said Hermione with a hollow smile, “but it would be excruciatingly painful.”
“Why? How do you do it?” asked Harry.
“Remorse,” said Hermione. “You’ve got to really feel what you’ve done. There’s a footnote. Apparently the pain of it can destroy you. I can’t see Voldemort attempting it somehow, can you?” Rowling, Deathly Hallows103.
23 “If you don’t mind dying,” said Snape roughly, “why not let Draco do it?”
“That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 682.
24 And next Snape was kneeling in Sirius’s old bedroom. Tears were dripping from the end of his hooked nose as he read the old letter from Lily. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 688, 689.
25 Rowling, Deathly Hallows 584.
26 Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 595.
27 “Certainly, Narcissa, I shall make the Unbreakable Vow,” he said quietly. “Perhaps your sister will consent to be our Bonder.”
Bellatrix’s mouth fell open. Snape lowered himself so that he was kneeling opposite Narcissa. Beneath Bellatrix’s astonished gaze, they grasped right hands. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 35.
28 J.K. Rowling, Pottercast #131, (http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2004/0804-ebf.htm)
29 And the scene shifted. Now, Harry saw Snape talking to the portrait of Dumbledore behind his desk.
“You will have to give Voldemort the correct date of Harry’s departure from his aunt and uncle’s,” said Dumbledore. ” Not to do so will raise suspicion, when Voldemort believes you so well informed. However, you must plant the idea of decoys; that, I think, ought to ensure Harry’s safety. Try Confunding Mundungus Fletcher. And Severus, if you are forced to take part in the chase, be sure to act your part convincingly. . . . I am counting upon you to remain in Lord Voldemort’s good books as long as possible, or Hogwarts will be left to the mercy of the Carrows. . . ” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 688.
30 “I shall explain everything,” repeated Dumbledore, “when Harry is back at school.”
He walked away from the pool to the place where the golden wizard’s head lay on the floor. He pointed his wand at it and muttered, “Portus.” The head glowed blue and trembled noisily against the wooden floor for a few seconds, then became still once more.
“Now see here, Dumbledore!” said Fudge, as Dumbledore picked up the head and walked back to Harry carrying it. “You haven’t got authorization for that Portkey! You can’t do things like that right in front of the Minister for Magic, you—you—“ Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 818.
31 Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 821.
32 “Dumbledore will be back before long,” said Ernie Macmillan confidently on the way back from Herbology after listening intently to Harry’s story. “They couldn’t keep him away in our second year and they won’t be able to this time. The Fat Friar told me . . .“ he dropped his voice conspiratorially, so that Harry, Ron and Hermione had to lean closer to him to hear, “. . . that Umbridge tried to get back into his office last night after they’d searched the castle and grounds for him. Couldn’t get past the gargoyle. The Head’s office has sealed itself against her.” Ernie smirked. “Apparently, she had a right little tantrum. . . . ” Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 625.
33 “But you expected him to go after the wand?”
“I have been sure that he would try, ever since your wand beat Voldemort’s in the graveyard of Little Hangleton. At first, he was afraid that you had conquered him by superior skill. Once he had kidnapped Ollivander, however, he discovered the existence of the twin cores. He thought that explained everything. Yet the borrowed wand did no better against yours!” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 721.
34 “We have protected him because it has been essential to teach him, to raise him, to let him try his strength,” said Dumbledore, his eyes still tight shut. “Meanwhile, the connection between them grows ever stronger, a parasitic growth. Sometimes I have thought he suspects it himself. If I know him, he will have arranged matters so that when he does set out to meet his death, it will truly mean the end of Voldemort.” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 687.
35 “The Trace, the Trace!” said Mad-Eye impatiently. “The charm that detects magical activity around under-seventeens, the way the Ministry finds out about underage magic! If you, or anyone around you, casts a spell to get you out of here, Thicknesse is going to know about it, and so will the Death Eaters.”
“We can’t wait for the Trace to break, because the moment you turn seventeen you’ll lose all the protection your mother gave you. In short, Pius Thicknesse thinks he’s got you cornered good and proper. . . . ”
“. . . . Now, your mother’s charm will only break under two conditions: when you come of age, or”—Moody gestured around the pristine kitchen—“you no longer call this place home. You and your aunt and uncle are going your separate ways tonight, in the full understanding that you’re never going to live together again, correct?”
“So this time, when you leave, there’ll be no going back, and the charm will break the moment you get outside its range. We’re choosing to break it early, because the alternative is waiting for You-Know-Who to come and seize you the moment you turn seventeen.” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 47.
36 “Where are they going to hide the boy next?”
“At the home of one of the Order,” said Snape. “The place, according to the source, has been given every protection that the Order and Ministry together could provide. I think that there is little chance of taking him once he is there, my Lord, unless, of course, the Ministry has fallen before next Saturday, which might give us the opportunity to discover and undo enough of the enchantments to break through the rest.” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 5.
37 “If he has been Confunded, naturally he is certain,” said Snape. “I assure you, Yaxley, the Auror Office will play no further part in the protection of Harry Potter. The Order believes that we have infiltrated the Ministry.”
“The Order’s got one thing right, then, eh?” said a squat man sitting a short distance from Yaxley; he gave a wheezy giggle that was echoed here and there along the table. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 4.
38 Now Snape was head to head with Mundungus in an unfamiliar tavern, Mundungus’s face looking curiously blank, Snape frowning in concentration.
“You will suggest to the Order of the Phoenix,” Snape murmured, “that they use decoys. Polyjuice Potion. Identical Potters. It’s the only thing that might work. You will forget that I have suggested this. You will present it as your own idea. You understand?”
“I understand,” murmured Mundungus, his eyes unfocused. . . . Rowling, Deathly Hallows 688.
39 “Yes, sir,” said Riddle. “What I don’t understand, though—just out of curiosity—I mean, would one Horcrux be much use? Can you only split your soul once? Wouldn’t it be better, make you stronger, to have your soul in more pieces, I mean, for instance, isn’t seven the most powerfully magical number, wouldn’t seven—?”
40 “As you see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combative position,” Lockhart told the silent crowd. “On the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course.” “I wouldn’t bet on that,” Harry murmured, watching Snape baring his teeth.
“One – two – three -” Both of them swung their wands above their heads and pointed them at their opponent; Snape cried: “Expelliarmus!” There was a dazzling flash of scarlet light and Lockhart was blasted off his feet: He flew backward off the stage, smashed into the wall, and slid down it to sprawl on the floor. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets 190.
41 As the curses came shooting across the intervening space again, Hagrid swerved and zigzagged: Harry knew that Hagrid did not dare use the dragon-fire button again, with Harry seated so insecurely. Harry sent Stunning Spell after Stunning Spell back at their pursuers, barely holding them off. He shot another blocking jinx at them: The closest Death Eater swerved to avoid it and his hood slipped, and by the red light of his next Stunning Spell, Harry saw the strangely blank face of Stanley Shunpike—Stan—
“Expelliarmus!” Harry yelled.
“That’s him, it’s him, it’s the real one!”
The hooded Death Eater’s shout reached Harry even above the thunder of the motorbike’s engine: Next moment, both pursuers had fallen back and disappeared from view. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 59.
42 As the pain from Harry’s scar forced his eyes shut, his wand acted of its own accord. He felt it drag his hand around like some great magnet, saw a spurt of golden fire through his half-closed eyelids, heard a crack and a scream of fury. The remaining Death Eater yelled; Voldemort screamed, “NO!” Somehow, Harry found his nose an inch from the dragon-fire button. He punched it with his wand-free hand and the bike shot more flames into the air, hurtling straight toward the ground. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 61.
43 Rowling, Half-Blood Prince 603.
44 And then, out of nowhere, the pain in his scar peaked. As he clutched his forehead and closed his eyes, a voice screamed inside his head.
“You told me the problem would be solved by using another’s wand!”
And into his mind burst the vision of an emaciated old man lying in rags upon a stone floor, screaming, a horrible drawn-out scream, a scream of unendurable agony. . . .
“No! No! I beg you, I beg you. . . . ”
“You lied to Lord Voldemort, Ollivander!”
“I did not. . . . I swear I did not. . . . ”
“You sought to help Potter, to help him escape me!”
“I swear I did not. . . . I believed a different wand would work. . . . ”
“Explain, then, what happened. Lucius’s wand is destroyed!”
“I cannot understand. . . . The connection . . . exists only. . . between your two wands. . . .”
“Please . . . I beg you. . . . ”
And Harry saw the white hand raise its wand and felt Voldemort’s surge of vicious anger, saw the frail old main on the floor writhe in agony—”
It was over as quickly as it had come: Harry stood shaking in the darkness, clutching the gate into the garden, his heart racing, his scar still tingling. It was several moments before he realized that Ron and Hermione were at his side. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 84,85.
45 The motorbike sped up, sucked towards the earth. Face level with the handlebars, Harry could see nothing but distant lights growing nearer and nearer: He was going to crash and there was nothing he could do about it. Behind him came another scream, “Your wand, Selwyn, give me your wand!” Rowling,Deathly Hallows 61, 62.
46 “No—no—no I beg of you!” sobbed Xenophilius. “It really is Potter! Really!”
“And now it turns out you only called us here to try and blow us up!” roared the Death Eater, and there was a volley of bangs interspersed with squeals of agony from Xenophilius.
“The place looks like it’s about to fall in, Selwyn,” said a cool second voice, echoing up the mangled staircase. “The stairs are completely blocked. Could try clearing it? Might bring the place down.”
“You lying piece of filth.” shouted the wizard named Selwyn. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 421.
47 Now Harry was flying alongside Snape on a broomstick through a clear dark night: He was accompanied by other hooded Death Eaters, and ahead were Lupin and a Harry who was really George. . . . A Death Eater moved ahead of Snape and raised his wand, pointing it directly at Lupin’s back—
“Sectumsempra!” shouted Snape.
But the spell, intended for the Death Eater’s wand hand, missed and hit George instead— Rowling, Deathly Hallows 688.
48 And now Snape stood again in the headmaster’s study as Phineas Nigellus came hurrying into his portrait.
“Headmaster! They are camping in the Forest of Dean! The Mudblood—”
“Do not use that word!”
“—the Granger girl, then, mentioned the place as she opened her bag and I heard her!”
“Good. Very good!” cried the portrait of Dumbledore behind the headmaster’s chair. “Now, Severus, the sword! Do not forget that it must be taken under conditions of need and valor—and he must not know that you give it! If Voldemort should read Harry’s mind and see you acting for him—”
“I know,” said Snape curtly. He approached the portrait of Dumbledore and pulled at its side. It swung forward, revealing a hidden cavity behind it from which he took the sword of Gryffindor.
“And you still aren’t going to tell me why it’s so important to give Potter the sword?” said Snape as he swung a traveling cloak over his robes.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Dumbledore’s portrait. “He will know what to do with it. And Severus, be very careful, they may not take kindly to your appearance after George Weasley’s mishap—”
Snape turned at the door.
“Don’t worry, Dumbledore,” he said coolly. “I have a plan. . . . ” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 689, 680.
49 “Well . . . it was easy,” said Hermione in a small voice. “I just did a Summoning Charm. You know—Accio. And —they zoomed out of Dumbledore’s study window right into the girls’ dormitory.” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 102.
50 As Ron ran to pull Hermione out of the wreckage, Harry took his chance: He leapt over an armchair and wrested the three wands from Draco’s grip, pointed all of them at Greyback, and yelled, “Stupefy!” The werewolf was lifted off his feet by the triple spell, flew up to the ceiling and then smashed to the ground. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 474.
51 And now everything was cool and dark: The sun was barely visible over the horizon as he glided alongside Snape, up through the grounds toward the lake.
“I shall join you in the castle shortly,” he said in his high, cold voice. “Leave me now.”
Snape bowed and set off back up the path, his black cloak billowing behind him. Harry walked slowly, waiting for Snape’s figure to disappear. It would not do for Snape, or indeed anyone else, to see where he was going. But there were no lights in the castle windows, and he could conceal himself . . . and in a second he had cast upon himself a Disillusionment Charm that hid him even from his own eyes.
And he walked on, around the edge of the lake, taking in the outlines of the beloved castle, his first kingdom, his birthright. . . .
And here it was, beside the lake, reflected in the dark waters. The white marble tomb, an unnecessary blot on the familiar landscape. He felt again that rush of controlled euphoria, that heady sense of purpose in destruction. He raised the old yew wand: How fitting that this would be its last great act.
The tomb split open from head to foot. The shrouded figure was as long as thin as it had been in life. He raised the wand again.
The wrappings fell open. The face was translucent, pale, sunken, yet almost perfectly preserved. They had left his spectacles on the crooked nose: He felt amused derision. Dumbledore’s hands were folded upon his chest, and there it lay, clutched beneath them, buried with him.
Had the old fool imagined that marble or death would protect the wand? Had he thought that the Dark Lord would be scared to violate his tomb? The spiderlike hand swooped and pulled the wand from Dumbledore’s grasp, and as he took it, a shower of sparks flew from its tip, sparkling over the corpse of its last owner, ready to serve a new master at last. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 500, 501.
52 The scream of rage, of denial left him as if it were a stranger’s. He was crazed, frenzied, it could not be true, it was impossible, nobody had known. How was it possible that the boy could have discovered his secret?
The Elder Wand slashed through the air and green light erupted through the room; the kneeling goblin rolled over dead; the watching wizards scattered before him, terrified. Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy threw others behind them in their race for the door, and again and again his wand fell, and those who were left were slain, all of them, for bringing him this news, for hearing about the golden cup— Rowling, Deathly Hallows 549.
53 Snape looked into her eyes.
“Have you seen Harry Potter, Minerva? Because if you have. I must insist— “
Professor McGonagall moved faster than Harry could have believed. Her wand slashed through the air and for a split second Harry thought that Snape must crumple, unconscious, but the swiftness of his Shield Charm was such that McGonagall was thrown off balance. She brandished her wand at a torch on the wall and it flew out of its bracket: Harry, about to curse Snape, was forced to pull Luna out of the way of the descending flames, which became a ring of fire that filled the corridor and flew like a lasso at Snape—
Then it was no longer fire, but a great black serpent that McGonagall blasted to smoke, which re-formed and solidified in seconds to become a swarm of pursuing daggers: Snape avoided them only by forcing the suit of armor in front of him, and with echoing clangs the daggers sank, one after another, into its breast— Rowling, Deathly Hallows 598.
54 “He took my blood,” said Harry.
“Precisely!” said Dumbledore. “He took your blood and rebuilt his living body with it! Your blood in his veins, Harry, Lily’s protection inside both of you! He tethered you to life while he lives!” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 709.
55 “You won’t be killing anyone else tonight,” said Harry as they circled, and stared into each other’s eyes, green into red. “You won’t be able to kill any of them ever again. Don’t you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people— “
“But you did not!”
“—I meant to, and that’s what did it. I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them. You don’t learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?” Rowling, Deathly Hallows 738.
56 The bang was like a cannon blast, and the golden flames that erupted between them, at the dead center of the circle they had been treading, marked the point where the spells collided. Harry saw Voldemort’s green jet meet his own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling like the head of Nagini, spinning through the air toward the master it would not kill, who had come to take full possession of it at last. And Harry, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in his free hand as Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upward. Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snakelike face vacant and unknowing. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy’s shell. Rowling, Deathly Hallows743, 744.
57 From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: She landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office, and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape. Rowling, Deathly Hallows 687.
58 Rowling, Order of the Phoenix 837, 839.