|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Major Event|
|Time Period||Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, late June|
|Important Characters||Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy|
Weakened by the potion in the cave where the locket was found, Dumbledore returns with Harry by side-along Apparition to Hogsmeade. There, they see the Dark Mark floating above the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts. Borrowing a pair of brooms from Madam Rosmerta at the Three Broomsticks, they fly back to the tower, arriving to find the top of the tower empty. At Dumbledore's instruction, Harry dons the Invisibility Cloak and prepares to head down the stairs seeking Professor Snape's assistance for Dumbledore's illness. Hearing footsteps pounding up the stairs, Dumbledore quickly freezes Harry, as Draco Malfoy charges out the tower door, and disarms Dumbledore. Having gotten this far, however, Draco seems uncertain of the next step, and pauses, while Dumbledore reasons with him as to what he should do next. It seems Draco is partly convinced to change allegiance when four Death Eaters, Amycus Carrow, Alecto Carrow, Fenrir Greyback, and an unnamed fourth Death Eater who we later find out is Yaxley, charge up the stairs. They try to taunt Draco into killing Dumbledore, without success; then Severus Snape arrives, and seeing that Draco is incapable of continuing, he kills Dumbledore.
Now no longer frozen by Dumbledore's spell, Harry is still frozen by shock, and can only watch as the Death Eaters, Snape, and Draco depart; finally, he freezes the last departing Death Eater (Yaxley) and descends to enter the fray. Snape, departing, calls out that it is done. Harry, attacked by Fenrir, freezes him, then blasts Amycus Carrow aside from where he is attacking Ginny. Snape and Draco, hotly pursued by Harry, depart through the front doors; Snape counters every curse Harry throws at him, but stops the other Death Eaters from harming him, saying that the Dark Lord's orders are that Potter should not be harmed. The remaining Death Eaters escape while Harry is looking for his wand, which Snape has blasted out of his hand.
The only wizard believed to have experience and power that matches that of Voldemort, and Harry's friend, protector, and father figure, is now dead.
Severus Snape has revealed himself to be a Death Eater, firmly on the side of the Dark Lord. Steps will now have to be taken to secure those parts of the Order of the Phoenix to which he was privy, to prevent his revealing more than he already has to Voldemort. Likely Headquarters, at Grimmauld Place, will have to be abandoned, as Snape knows about it and can allow Death Eaters into it.
While Snape had earlier put his life at risk by making an Unbreakable Vow to complete Draco's task if Draco could not, he has completed that vow and nullified that risk.
As far as we are aware, apart from Harry, Dumbledore was the only one who knew about Voldemort's plan for immortality via the creation of multiple Horcruxes. Harry now has the mission, which he must accomplish aided only by those he can recruit, of finding and destroying the remaining Horcruxes.
After the release of book 6, this event became one of the most widely discussed issues in the Potter fan community. It seemed unthinkable to all the fans that Dumbledore could have been killed off so casually, and many theories were put forward to suggest what had really happened. One of the principal theories is that Dumbledore and Snape had conspired to make it appear as though Dumbledore were dead, but that he would remain alive behind the scenes, to direct the resistance against Voldemort. Primary evidence for this theory was based on the idea that the spell Snape used against Dumbledore was not, apparently, the killing curse, that Snape had spoken the killing curse, but thought and cast the Disarmament curse "Expelliarmus", which would have had the effect of throwing Dumbledore over the battlements. This flew in the face of announcements from the author that Dumbledore quite definitely was dead. The spectre was again raised when the author admitted to having had trouble with writing some of Dumbledore's speech in book 7. It was promptly decided that either the author was lying about Dumbledore's death, or (more likely) one of the techniques of keeping an image of the dead, such as ghosts or portraits, was involved. The latter supposition was given strength by the appearance in the Headmaster's office of Dumbledore's portrait after his death.
To readers of heroic fiction, like the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore's death should have been expected. Dumbledore, the last in a series of father figures, represents the wise old teacher, the one who passes on his knowledge to the young student so that the student can then defeat the villain. The hero cannot be heroic if there is an older and stronger hero standing behind him; once he is instructed, he must enter onto his final adventure entirely alone, to be the hero.
One major argument against this, however, is that, except in retrospect, Dumbledore does not seem to be preparing to pass on his knowledge. While it has been commented that he acts out of character, being uncharacteristically harsh with the Dursleys, for instance, it is not apparent to us that he does this because he thinks his time might be limited. Harry's thought at the beginning of the year is that Dumbledore will be teaching him specific spells that will aid him in his battle against Voldemort, and is slightly disappointed to find that instead they will be learning about Tom Riddle's childhood. While it is true that in this manner, Harry learns much more about Tom and what drives him, and of the nature of Horcruxes and why Tom is interested in them, than he (and therefore we) would have gotten if Dumbledore had simply expounded at us, none of this has the feel of the teacher preparing his final lessons for his student. We expect Dumbledore to continue on, up to the final battle, or at least to the eve of that battle, teaching Harry the spells of rare power that will be used to defeat Voldemort; and so his sudden demise at this point, with no such magic taught, comes as a shock. We are left with the feeling that Dumbledore's life is uncompleted, that Harry has not been properly taught for his role, and like Harry, we are left wondering what is to come.
- Is Dumbledore actually dead?
- Did Dumbledore have more to explain to Harry?
- With this death, will Harry be able to overcome Voldemort and his followers?
- Who killed Dumbledore and why?
Of course, what Dumbledore knows is that spells of rare power will not be effective against Voldemort, his power is too great to be overcome by any wizard or witch in head to head combat. Dumbledore knows that the only power that can defeat Voldemort is a power he discounts, and knows that the one person who has prevailed against Voldemort so far, Harry, did so because of the power of love, an emotion Voldemort does not feel and therefore cannot fully understand. It will be seen in the final book of the series, that Voldemort's death is a spell he casts himself, again being reflected onto him by the protection originally afforded to Harry by his mother's love, then extended by Voldemort's use of Harry's blood to reanimate himself.
What Dumbledore has been teaching Harry is Voldemort's weakness, and the steps Voldemort has taken to shield that weakness. Harry has learned that Voldemort fears death, and has created Horcruxes to prevent his death, and has provided invaluable help in determining the number of Horcruxes that must be destroyed to put a final end to Voldemort. In this way, Harry learns the importance of the Horcruxes and the need for their destruction, and in so learning, willingly accepts the mission Dumbledore has for him, that of finding and destroying the remaining Horcruxes. Harry will later find that this mission requires that he allow Voldemort to kill him, a fate he accepts possibly because he has accepted the mission wholly, rather than having had it assigned to him.
We will also learn that Dumbledore had carefully concealed knowledge of another set of supposedly death-defying artifacts, the Deathly Hallows, in order to prevent Harry getting distracted in his quest for the Horcruxes. In this latter, Dumbledore is remembering how his own imagination had been fired by the belief in the Hallows, when he was the age Harry is in this book, and is trying to prevent Harry from falling under that thrall. Dumbledore knows, however, that knowledge of the Hallows will become necessary for Harry's quest, and so arranges clues to the Hallows for the Trio to find.
We find out in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that Dumbledore, cursed by contact with the Horcrux ring containing the Resurrection Stone, is saved from immediate death only by the actions of Severus Snape. Dumbledore, already aware that Voldemort had set Draco the task of killing Dumbledore, and now aware that the curse had given him at most another year of life, then arranged with Snape that Snape was to kill Dumbledore when the time came, presumably when Draco Malfoy failed. This is what compelled Snape to kill Dumbledore by cursing him off the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts in front of numerous Death Eaters, after Dumbledore and Harry had returned from Voldemort's cave. This is likely also why Snape was prepared to make the Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa that he would complete Draco's mission if he were to fail; he knew that he had already given his word to Dumbledore to do so. (The timing is implicit in the story, rather than explicit; in conversation with Narcissa and Bellatrix at Spinners' End, Snape comments that Dumbledore has received an injury due to his slowing reflexes, and in Snape's memories later we see that immediately after he received that injury, he was discussing Draco's mission with Snape. Thus Dumbledore must have been aware of Draco's mission, and Snape will have promised Dumbledore that he would complete Draco's mission, before Snape talked to Narcissa.) Dumbledore knew it had to be Snape in order for Snape to 'prove' his fealty to Voldemort; also, he preferred his death to be at the hands of someone nominally sympathetic, rather than someone (like Bellatrix or Fenrir Greyback) who would choose to humiliate him as well as kill him. This would put Snape in a good position to remain in control of Dumbledore's school, which Dumbledore thought would give the school and the students a better chance than if anyone else had taken over as headmaster.
Dumbledore also had major concerns about the Elder Wand, one of the three Deathly Hallows. Dumbledore felt, justifiably given its history, that having a wand with the reputation of being undefeatable in a duel would be a very bad thing for the world. He expected that the Elder Wand's power would die with him; Snape would win its allegiance by killing Dumbledore, and then the wand would rest in Dumbledore's tomb. When Snape passed, undefeated, the power of the wand would end. Dumbledore, apparently, had made the common mistake of believing that the wand transferred its allegiance on the death of its holder, despite the fact that two previous holders of the wand were still alive at the time. As Harry found out from Mr. Ollivander in Shell Cottage, a wand's allegiance is not won by the death of its master, but by having control of the wand wrested from its owner. (This is why the stubby wand Ron had taken from the Snatcher never worked for Harry; Harry had not taken it away from anyone, so it had not shifted its allegiance away from Ron, who had stolen it from the Snatcher.) Thus the Elder Wand had transferred its allegiance to Draco Malfoy when Malfoy spelled it out of Dumbledore's hand. A somewhat tenuous link then allows it to transfer its allegiance to Harry, who will re-entomb it with Dumbledore.