In our previous article about the unhappy childhoods that the many characters of Harry Potter experience, we discussed one of the most contentious characters of the series: Albus Dumbledore. Given the way Muggles changed his life, it was no wonder that he was seduced by Grindelwald’s quest for world dominance, labeled “for the greater good”. His partnership with Grindelwald doesn’t last; he dueled the wizard in 1945, won, and put him away in Nurmengard. But I don’t think he ever forsook the idea of doing whatever is necessary, for the greater good. I even discussed this idea in Episode 2 of Mimblewimble but I thought I’d expound on my theory a little bit more here.
We first meet Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore in the first chapter of the first book of the Harry Potter series, as he waits to deliver Harry to his uncle and aunt. Even though he and Professor McGonagall have a long conversation about various events, little light is shed on Dumbledore himself. In fact, it isn’t until Hagrid appears in the Hut in The Keeper of the Keys that we even know that Dumbledore is, in fact, the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (amongst other things).
It’s clear when Hagrid mentions Dumbledore that he admires him tremendously and he’s proud to have been entrusted with not one but two tasks by him. For someone as ostracised from society like Hagrid post his expulsion from Hogwarts, this must have been everything. One of them is to deliver the letter to Harry and take him shopping for school supplies in Diagon Alley and, the other is to retrieve a mysterious parcel from vault 713. It’s this incident that kickstarts the “adventure” plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, a plot that ends with Harry confronting Voldemort and almost dying.
An incident that I think Dumbledore engineered. Dumbledore designed the events of the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone so that it would lead to a confrontation between Harry and Voldemort.
For the greater good
“My brother Albus wanted a lot of things,” said Aberforth, “and people had a habit of getting hurt while he was carrying out his grand plans."
Of all the people Dumbledore could have sent to execute a discreet mission - people like McGonagall and Snape (who was a double agent and practically CIA levels of mysterious) come to mind, he chooses Hagrid. You don’t have to know Hagrid really well to know he’s a blurter. It’s obvious the minute Hagrid ‘importantly’ announces to Gringotts at large that he’s there to pick up the You-Know-What from vault 713, even though it’s supposed to be secret Hogwarts business.
Later on the same day, the vault is broken into as though someone was just waiting for the information. Clearly, it was a trap for anyone who might be looking for eternal life, something Dumbledore suspected Voldemort of. Someone who was aware that Dumbledore was going to move the stone.
The stone is removed from Gringotts and a month later, a corridor is off limits at Hogwarts for no specific reason even though, as Percy notes in The Sorting Hat, Dumbledore is usually good about explaining about why something is off limits. He might as well have lit up the entire path to it from the front door with neon lights. Which Dumbledore does too. Or at least the auditory equivalent of it i.e he announces that a particular corridor in the third floor is out of bounds to a bunch of teenagers. If the Marauders had still been at Hogwarts, they’d have taken it as a challenge to be overcome. If you did know that Hagrid’s errand involved the Stone, it’s not hard to put two and two together as well.
There’s also the question of why he picked Hogwarts. Why didn’t Dumbledore just place the Philosopher’s Stone in a remote location like the cave Tom Riddle placed the cup in? Instead, he placed it in a school where hundreds of children live. He moved it from a place where it’s almost ungettable to somewhere where you can get to it, provided you pass through some trials.
The trials are devised by various teachers at Hogwarts. Professors McGonagall, Sprout, Quirrell (hahaha), Flitwick, Snape and...not-a-professor Hagrid. Instead of asking Professor Kettleburn, the actual Magical Creatures expert, Dumbledore asks Hagrid. Hagrid who provides a three-headed dog and then reveals the information on how to tame it to both a random person wearing a hood in a card game and an 11 year old boy. Hagrid who has a reputation for drinking and a well known weakness for card games. Dumbledore himself takes efforts to familiarize Harry with the trial he sets - he arranges for the Mirror of Erised to be in a place Harry can find. He even gives him the cloak so that Harry will wander around.
The final piece in this puzzle is the cloak. Dumbledore claims he’s delivering James’ property to Harry but it’s a Deathly Hallow. Why would you give this to an 11 year old unless you wanted him to use it to sneak around and discover some things that might end up precipitating a story that ended six books later? In fact, when Harry loses track of the cloak and leaves it in the Astronomy Tower, it somehow ends up on his bed again with a note that reads ‘Just in case’.
By the end of the series, we’re aware that Dumbledore was basically grooming Harry to grow up, face Voldemort and die in the process, for the greater good. Could the plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone have been the first step in Dumbledore’s training process? Or was it Dumbledore’s way of trying to force a confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, when he was weak and bodiless, to get rid of Voldemort once and for all time?
Harry nearly died during the ordeal, yes, but isn’t it convenient that Dumbledore appears just when he’s needed? Just as Harry passes out, to save the day?
This is something that even the trio think of!
"Well, I got back all right," said Hermione. "I brought Ron round -- that took a while -- and we were dashing up to the owlery to contact Dumbledore when we met him in the entrance hall -- he already knew -- he just said, 'Harry's gone after him, hasn't he?' and hurtled off to the third floor."
"D'you think he meant you to do it?" said Ron. "Sending you your father's cloak and everything?"
"Well, " Hermione exploded, "if he did -- I mean to say that's terrible -- you could have been killed."
"No, it isn't," said Harry thoughtfully. "He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It's almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could...."
We know that, at this point in the series, Dumbledore has some suspicions about Voldemort using Horcruxes. He doesn’t have proof yet so for all he knew, this encounter could have been the one to finish Voldemort off for good. An experiment that could show how it came about to be that Harry survived Voldemort when he was a baby. His mother's sacrifice? Perhaps encountering it again could be enough to finish Voldemort or was it something more intrinsic?
So, he designed a plot so that he could lure Voldemort to the school and have Harry face him in a safe (as safe as it could get), controlled environment so that he could test his mettle, settle the issue once and for all, and spook out Voldemort. Two birds, one stone.