Could Dumbledore Have Done It Better?

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Having just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I feel compelled to write about it (it’s a good thing I have this website!), but what can I say about Harry Potter that hasn’t already been said? For real. My Goodreads review went something like this, “Four Stars-Come on, it’s Harry Potter“. With that being said though I still want to write something up because I’m all types of excited. A review on how wonderful the book is is easy, but trying to start a discussion on events on the book.. well that’s where the fun is at Geeklings. It’s important to those of you who have been living under a rock for years or just hate joy to be weary as there are Spoilers for the entire series ahead. If you haven’t read the books but plan on doing so somewhere in life then today’s post probably isn’t for you (there is a certain person who I have in mind and if she’s reading this then I know she’s (a) laughing (b) thankful I didn’t call her out by name and (c) should stop reading this immediately)…

Okay, I think she’s gone. Whilst reading The Sorcerer’s Stone, immersing myself in general Harry Potter glee, I started thinking about the relationship between Harry and Dumbledore. Pushing aside the obvious, it’s one of the key relationships of the entire series, there were things that were sticking out to me as a bit suspect (“You’re suspect. Yeah, you.”). I believe a large part of the story wants to convey that Dumbledore is the adviser/father/mentor/friend that Harry has been searching his whole life for, and that’s because the story is told through the perspective of Harry and not Dumbledore. I would imagine if we read the series through the eyes of Dumbledore we’d see things a bit differently. As a matter of fact I’m just going to throw this out there. When reading the Harry Potter books can you honestly say that Dumbledore had the best intentions for Harry the entire time or was he using him as a pawn since jump street? Whoa. I know those are some Sirius allegations, but hear me out.

Let’s look at the facts. When we’re first introduced to Dumbledore he’s dropping Harry off at the doorstep of the Dursleys. You know, that awful human family that makes Harry live under a staircase. And can we just point out that Dumbledore doesn’t even ring the doorbell, I know it was late at night, but leaves a one year old child in a basket outside someone’s front door with a letter. Now yes the Dursleys are aware that magic exists but choose to ignore it to the point where they cut off ties from family members. You would think that Dumbledore would owe it to Harry, and the Dursleys, to explain the situation instead of the old drop the baby and bounce trick. Who knows maybe their entire perspective of Harry could have changed with a simple conversation…nah those fatties just suck. Now why would someone, well not just someone, arguably the world’s greatest wizard, just leave a child that is so important to wizardkind at the door steps of such awful people without an explanation? I’ll tell you why fellow muggles because from the very start Dumbledore is playing a high risk game of chess and Harry is the most important pawn on the board.

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Here are the facts. Dumbledore is one of the few wizards who never believed that You-Know-Who wasn’t killed but biding his time. Dumbledore is also one of the few wizards who know the prophecy pertaining to Voldemort and Harry. You know that pesky prophecy that says one can’t live while the other is alive, they’ll be marked as equals, and oh yeah, they’ll have to battle to the death! Those are some important cards to be holding. So Dumbledore did the smartest thing he could think of and sent Harry to a muggle house hold. My belief (at least currently) was Dumbledore knew how Harry would be received which means he would also know how Harry would be treated. This is slightly cruel when you take into account how shitty Harry’s up bringing was. But this shitty up bringing is part of the master plan. When Harry is finally called into Hogwarts, it’s this brand new world where he’s not only accepted, can be himself, but he’s freakin’ famous! Dude took down the Dark Lord when he was a baby. No doubt he’s got mad skills. Taking this child from his crappy living environment and thrusting him in this world where everything is, for lack of a better word, magical; wouldn’t you think it would be fairly easy to convince him to fight to the death for it? Dumbledore was counting on that.

Dick move, right? There’s more.

As early as book one Dumbledore is manipulating the strings and putting Harry in position to battle Voldemort. Why else give him the cloak of invisibility which, oh by the way, happens to be one of the Deathly Hallows! While reading book one I noticed that at least two of the Hallows are physically at Hogwarts which I found curious. Clearly Dumbledore couldn’t give Harry the cloak and the Elder wand, he’d have to win the wand anyway, so wouldn’t the cloak be a nice and convenient Hallows startup kit? There’s almost something innocent about secretly giving it to Harry. “Oh it was your fathers, and you can get into mischief with it. What fun! Side note, you’re going to need this to kill the Dark Lord again so try not to lose it. What? No, I didn’t say anything?”

Let’s also not be overly naive to believe Dumbledore was stupid enough to be tricked into leaving Hogwarts and heading to the Ministry of Magic on the same night that Voldemort tried to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. This was Harry’s biggest test and while Dumbledore arrives, quite conveniently, to save the day the bigger score was seeing that Harry was willing to step up on “his own” to battle Voldemort. Hogwarts the school of Magic and Inception.

The years that followed saw more of the same. Dumbledore putting the idea of Harry saving the wizard community by defeating the Dark Lord and Harry embracing this idea as if it was his own. Up until year five when Dumbledore goes all Carmen Sandiego and just vanishes leaving Harry on his own. An action that is both cruel and committed with the intent of Harry deciding his path on his own. Dumbledore had set up the dominoes so to speak but Harry had to knock them down.

Do I think Dumbledore knew Harry would find out the prophecy during year five? No. But with everything that had been happening, Dumbledore, chose year five (arguably the most emotional year for Harry…damn puberty) as the year Harry had to make up his own mind. Was this the path he was going to choose or would he shy away? Dumbledore had done enough work at this point to know the answer, but still needed Harry to come to this conclusion himself. If seeing the return of the Dark Lord wasn’t enough the loss of Sirius was the tipping point. I’m not saying Dumbledore was happy about these events, but let’s not think he didn’t benefit from them either. Did he think Voldemort would try and make a return during the Goblet of Fire? Yes I think he did, the stage was too grand for Voldemort to pass up. Although I would argue that Dumbledore believed this return would take place at Hogwarts this way he could chase the Dark Lord away and the public would be all “oh snap he’s back”. Voldemort thew him off guard there, but it still furthered the cause with Harry.

Don’t get me wrong Geeklings, I’m not saying Dumbledore didn’t care for Harry, I actually think that was the biggest problem here. Dumbledore placed him out of sight and out of mind, orchestrated his return to the wizarding world using Harry clearly as a pawn. Events at Hogwarts helped further his cause (a certain journal perhaps), and made it easier for him to believe Harry would take this battle. What Dumbledore didn’t really count on was how fond he would become of Harry. I do believe that there was a love there, but it was strained because of Dumbledore’s actions. Dumbledore pushed his love aside for the greater good, and quite easily it seemed, in order to bring about the wizard worlds equivalent of Thunder Dome.

The saddest part of Dumbledore’s treatment of Harry comes in year six, Half Blood Prince, where he starts to treat Harry as a peer. Together they learn about the horcruxes and go on adventures. Something Harry desperately needed in year five. By then it was too late. Dumbledore was dying and Harry would have to finish his quest without him. One could argue that this was more of Dumbledore manipulating, and maybe to an extent it was, but I think he was finally allowing himself to embrace his compassion for Harry. He had spent all of Harry’s life using him, and it worked. Harry had chosen to fight Voldemort despite the consequences. Now that he was dying he allowed himself to treat Harry as an equal. But it was too late in the game. It’s all rather sad.

Now I guess this begs the question are Dumbledore’s actions tragic/heroic or dickish? I think it’s a mixture of both. The problem is despite his actions Dumbledore is extremely likeable to the point where we almost turn a blind eye to the actions he’s committed. I think enough time has passed where we can call a spade a spade and embrace Dumbledore for what he was. A flawed wizard who really wanted the best for Harry and the wizard community, but who didn’t take the time to nurture the boy who lived and instead manipulated a child who revered/worshiped him. I want to believe that the bigger price was paid on Dumbledore’s heart here, and that it actually caused him pain to be committing these actions. But again if that’s the case…why didn’t he stop?

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