The Schemes Behind the Spite: Why Voldemort Really Jinxed the DADA Job
As early as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we learn that Dumbledore has trouble finding people for the Defense Against the Dark Arts job since people think it’s jinxed. In Harry’s sixth year, Dumbledore confirms the existence of the jinx by saying that “we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort” (HBP 446). Dumbledore seems to be implying that Voldemort instated the jinx merely out of spite. But could there be a more sinister plan at play?
Based on Dumbledore’s comment, we know that Hogwarts has been replacing its DADA professor every year for around 30 years. However, we never hear what happened to any of the DADA professors before Harry arrived at the school. This may be because we see the world through Harry’s perspective, but even Fred and George don’t give us any more information. In Order of the Phoenix, George says that it’s not surprising Dumbledore had trouble finding a DADA teacher “when you look at what’s happened to the last four.” Harry responds by saying, “One sacked, one dead, one’s memory removed, and one locked in a trunk for nine months […] Yeah, I see what you mean” (OotP 161). This could be an easy moment for Fred and George to reply with “and the last two professors before that got eaten by the giant squid and attacked by a Venomous Tentacula,” but they say nothing. This makes me think that nothing particularly interesting happened to at least the two DADA professors before Harry arrived. In general, you would think that if all DADA professors from the past 30 years have had horrific things happen to them, then Harry and his friends would know about it. This leads me to believe that most DADA professors did not meet terrible ends but perhaps just quit or retired for mysterious reasons.
Why, then, do such terrible things happen to the DADA professors once Harry arrives at the school? I believe it’s because the DADA jinx has another purpose besides just punishing Dumbledore for rejecting Voldemort’s job request. Its secondary purpose is to act at the school to promote Voldemort’s agenda and to attempt to ensure that his plots succeed.
Let’s look at the facts of how each of the DADA professors is forced out of their job. First, we have Quirrell, who is killed by direct contact with Harry’s body. Although Quirrell is a follower of Voldemort’s, his death is actually important for Voldemort since if Quirrell survived and were captured by Dumbledore, he could have revealed top-secret information that would be useful to the Order of the Phoenix. Next, we have Lockhart, who attempts to stop Harry from going into the Chamber of Secrets (which is where Tom Riddle wants him) and loses his memory as a result. Lupin loses his job because of his untimely transformation into a werewolf, and this transformation allows Peter Pettigrew to escape and return to Voldemort. Barty Crouch, Jr. is just about to corroborate Harry’s story about Voldemort’s return when a Dementor swoops down on him and gives him the Kiss. Professor Umbridge is keeping Harry from going to the Department of Mysteries when she gets attacked by centaurs, and Snape loses his DADA job by fulfilling his promise to Voldemort to kill Dumbledore. At every step of the road, the DADA professors lose their jobs in unpleasant ways in order to help Voldemort succeed.
So how, exactly, does this part of the jinx work? There’s no loud, showy bang that knocks the DADA professors off their feet every time they accidentally interfere with Voldemort’s scheme. In fact, from the outside, it looks like everything is going normally and without magical interference. My guess is that the jinx has the power to subtly influence the direction that events are already heading. It might cause Quirrell, already weakened severely by burns, to die before Dumbledore can save him. Or it could decide to make a broken wand backfire instead of just send out random sparks. It might make Lupin forget to magically clear the Marauder’s Map or make Snape take a few extra minutes to bring Lupin his Wolfsbane Potion. It could influence a Dementor to give someone the Kiss without permission or give Hermione inspiration on getting rid of Umbridge. In some situations, it might not need to do anything, like with Snape whose fate is already planned by Dumbledore. We see other spells and potions that both subtly and not so subtly influence behavior (e.g., the Imperius Curse, the Muggle-Repelling Charm, and Felix Felicis) so why not a jinx that tweaks situations to make them benefit Lord Voldemort?
The jinx clearly does not have too much power – it does not ensure Voldemort’s success – but it does seem to be working to Voldemort’s advantage. And to add to Voldemort’s spiteful message, it’s his ultimate way of proving to Dumbledore that even the people who are supposed to be defending the school against Dark magic can still be used to promote its purposes.