Albus Dumbledore and the Mysterious Forceful Spell – Part 4
by Gregory Hughes
Let us quickly recap the critical points of all the previous sections of this essay and then, finally, hypothesize the nature and purpose of Dumbledore’s forceful spell:
- Albus arrives in the Ministry Atrium with the objectives of keeping Harry Potter alive, exposing Voldemort’s return to the broader public, and – if possible – learning something that might reveal how many Horcruxes Voldemort made and where they might be.
- After securing Harry behind the statue-guard and needling Voldemort into a rage, Albus’s very first spell aimed directly at the Dark Lord is the forceful spell.
- Voldemort intuited the forceful spell to be nonlethal and conventionally unblockable and so is forced to conjure a physical object to deflect it.
- Avada Kedavra is the only other conventionally unblockable spell in the entire series that we know of, and we can reasonably guess it works by acting on the connection between body and soul.
Dumbledore’s Forceful Spell
Albus Dumbledore’s forceful spell is a spell of his own invention intended to reveal the number of times one’s soul has been split and detached and possibly even the location of those split soul fragments.
It’s like a weird version of Homenum Revelio but – you know – for souls. Spiritus Revelio maybe but in Aramaic. A Horcrux detection spell.
First, it fits with Albus’s motive: The forceful spell is the first spell he casts after safely protecting Harry behind the headless statue, the first spell he casts directly at Voldemort. If it had successfully landed, if Voldemort had been just a second too late to conjure that shield or failed to intuit the nature of the spell as unblockable (and say, attempted unsuccessfully to defend himself with a Shield Charm), it would have revealed the number and possibly the location of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, putting an end to a years-long search. And that is something Dumbledore very strongly, desperately wants to know.
Second, it fits with our reasonably solid theory of Avada Kedavra and our speculation on magic and souls. A spell to reveal the state and position of the target’s soul would, like the Killing Curse, seek to act on the soul, revealing information about it instead of detaching it. This attempt to act on the target’s soul would account for it being conventionally unblockable, and its intended purpose to reveal, not detach, would account for Voldemort intuiting its nonlethal nature.
Third, Albus Dumbledore inventing a soul-revealing spell himself fits with his unique motivation to discover Voldemort’s Horcruxes. After all, why would any witch or wizard have needed such a spell before Voldemort, before the first and only wizard in history to create multiple Horcruxes? We would do well to remember that Albus invented several other spells and magical objects, including the talking Patronus Charm and the Deluminator (or if you’re a Potterless-ite, the “put-outer”). And who else would have the knowledge of such ancient magic – love, death, souls – to create such a spell if not Albus Dumbledore?
Finally, we should account for the most obvious bit of criticism of this hypothesis: that Dumbledore attempting to use a soul-revealing spell on Lord Voldemort would give away Dumbledore’s knowledge of Horcruxes. By extension, this would have sent Voldemort into a tizzy of moving or redoubling protections on his Horcruxes to prevent Albus from finding and destroying them. This criticism is perfectly valid, though it does not account for a few key considerations:
- Voldemort would have had to know not merely that the forceful spell was nonlethal and conventionally unblockable but also exactly what the spell was and what it was intended to accomplish. We see Dumbledore, after some probing and study, come to correctly guess the nature and purpose of the blood toll enchantment protecting the entrance to the cave and again the emerald potion protecting the locket in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But this is after several minutes of evaluation and thought. Voldemort, in the duel with Dumbledore, had just seconds to intuit the nonlethal nature of the forceful spell and devise a means of blocking it – not, I would guess, nearly long enough to somehow sense it was a spell to do with his soul.
- The second point missed by this criticism is something of an inverse of the first: Surely, if there were a spell that existed (prior to Dumbledore inventing it) that would reveal the state and position of one’s soul, Lord Voldemort would have known it. What greater threat to the secret of his immortality would exist after all? Yet again, however, why – why on earth for any reason – would a spell to reveal the state and locations of one’s soul ever have existed or even needed to exist prior to Albus Dumbledore’s investigation of Tom Marvolo Riddle?
- If Dumbledore invented the spell, we might also reasonably conclude he would have designed it to act surreptitiously. So if the spell had actually struck Voldemort, Dumbledore would have received knowledge of Voldemort’s Horcruxes without Voldemort himself being aware of what had happened.
We should, however, finally remind ourselves that this hypothesis is just that: a hypothesis that, though it fits the facts we have and relies on reasonable speculation elsewhere, must be tested and then either confirmed or refuted. Until it can be tested (*cough* encyclopedia *cough*), however, we must acknowledge the possibility that Dumbledore’s mysterious forceful spell might be nothing more than a souped-up Anti-Disapparition Jinx or a thoughtless disregard for consistency for the sake of a momentarily compelling bit of story (a phenomenon more and more common in Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films). Or just as likely, it could be a spell intended to transfigure Voldemort into Albus’s deepest desire, a pair of thick woolen socks.