A Double-Edged Sword: How Dumbledore Uses the Sword of Gryffindor to Plot Against Voldemort
The sword of Gryffindor plays a vital role in the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and during my first (several) readings, I did not question those plotlines at all. It wasn’t until I read The Life and Lies of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore by Irvin Khaytman (also known as hpboy13) that I noticed all the strange inconsistencies in Dumbledore’s plans and motives relating to the sword of Gryffindor’s role in the seventh book. Although my answers to these questions are very different from Khaytman’s, reading his book inspired me to come up with the theory for this article.
Question number one: Why didn’t Dumbledore just give the sword of Gryffindor to Harry instead of leaving it to him in his will? He knew even before his death that Harry would need the sword to destroy Horcruxes, and he must have known that the Ministry would not let Harry get the sword. The answer to this question is, I think, pretty simple if we look at what J.K. Rowling said about the sword’s history on WizardingWorld.com: “Within the magical world, physical possession is not necessarily a guarantee of ownership.” The sword of Gryffindor needs to be earned, not just given. Harry needs to be tested before he can receive it, and until then, it won’t work properly for him.
So why, then, didn’t Dumbledore at least explain to Harry why the sword was important? I believe that Dumbledore knew Harry would be questioned by Scrimgeour about the sword’s appearance in his will and wanted Harry to be able to plausibly deny any knowledge of why it was there. Harry is not a skilled Occlumens, and depending on how determined the Ministry was to figure out what Harry knew, Scrimgeour might have been able to get this information from Harry. And if Scrimgeour knew that the sword was supposed to be used for destroying Horcruxes, then Voldemort could have gained that information when he overthrew the Ministry.
In that case, why would Dumbledore mention the sword in his will at all? Doing so seems to be drawing unnecessary attention to the sword when Dumbledore could have just explained to Harry its importance and promised that he would get it eventually. This, I think, is when we get to the crux of the problem. Dumbledore was very intentional in bringing the sword to the Ministry’s attention. Why? I believe it’s because he had another plan up his sleeve, one completely separate from giving the sword to Harry.
As Dumbledore looked toward his certain death at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he knew that he was leaving Harry in a tricky situation regarding finding and destroying the rest of the Horcruxes. Dumbledore thinks that he will be able to find the locket before he dies (although, that doesn’t go according to plan), and the snake is at least easy to spot, but that still leaves two Horcruxes that he is no closer to finding. And if Dumbledore can’t find them, Harry is unlikely to be any more successful. So Dumbledore decides to put in place a plan that can only be implemented after his death, one that should cause Voldemort himself to reveal where one of his Horcruxes is hidden.
Dumbledore puts the sword of Gryffindor in his will, knowing full well that the Ministry will soon be overrun by Death Eaters and Voldemort will have access to this information. Voldemort will then become nervous about the sword’s safety because he has reason to believe that Harry might try to steal it. At first, with Snape as headmaster of Hogwarts, Voldemort isn’t too worried about the sword. Fortunately for Dumbledore’s plan, Voldemort isn’t the only one who knows about the will: So does Ginny, and she convinces Neville and Luna to help her steal the sword from Snape’s office. The enemy is inside the walls now, and Voldemort becomes paranoid enough to advocate moving the sword to the Lestrange’s vault.
This was the piece of information Dumbledore was looking for, the whole reason he set this plan into motion. He needed to know where Voldemort would hide powerful magical objects, and Voldemort, in sending the sword to Gringotts, pointed a giant finger at where to look for one of his Horcruxes. Dumbledore must be hoping that if Harry, Ron, and Hermione hear about the sword being moved to this new location, they will want to go there to steal it, and – in the process – they will find the Horcrux hidden there. However, fortunately or unfortunately, the trio learns that the moved sword is a fake and don’t immediately go running off to Gringotts. It takes Bellatrix’s complete meltdown at the sight of the sword for Harry to put two and two together.
Harry is, quite understandably, very frustrated with Dumbledore for not explaining about the sword or giving him more guidance about how to find the Horcruxes. I believe, however, that Dumbledore was being more helpful than Harry ever realized. Dumbledore knew he wouldn’t be around, and although he couldn’t predict the future, he did his best to build plans that would unfold over time, using the sword of Gryffindor to guide Harry even from beyond the veil.