People have turned on Dumbledore, you guys. Since books six and seven of the Harry Potter series were released, articles and comments have gone from describing him as a lovable kook with serious skills, to an evil mastermind raising Harry for the slaughter like veal. I was recently reading the comments section on an article in which people were tearing apart every move he made, from sending Harry to the Dursleys to taking him horcrux hunting. These same commenters described Dumbledore as an irredeemable plotter even while calling him an author’s pet.
This got me thinking, what would Harry’s life have been like if Dumbledore had never become involved? I’m going to do a little inferring, and it’s bound to be riddled with spoilers. You have been warned.
Harry’s Dumbledore-Free Life:
1. Voldemort kills Harry’s parents. Perhaps even more quickly, if you considered Dumbledore performing the Fidelius charm interfering in Harry’s life. Hagrid never brings Harry to the Dursleys. Maybe he goes into an orphanage, maybe he goes to the Dursleys as next-of-kin, or maybe a wizarding family adopts the Boy-Who-Lived.
2. If Harry goes to:
- the Dursleys and Dumbledore does not interfere, he never goes to Hogwarts. Voldemort regains his strength, and kills an unsuspecting Harry after his seventeenth birthday. Voldy kills mixed-blood wizards with abandon.
- an orphanage, the story would be quite similar except that the power of Lily’s mom-magic would have faded. Voldy regains his strength and is able to kill Harry sooner. Mixed-blood genocide.
- a wizarding household, he’d know who he is to the wizarding world and arrive at school a cocky git or crippled with anxiety. He would likely not end up close friends with Ron and Hermione, since he would not be alone on that first train ride.
3. At Hogwarts, Harry would never receive the invisibility cloak. He would not discover the Mirror of Erised, which might actually keep the Sorcerer’s Stone safe. Let’s say Voldy doesn’t get it, just so we can continue our fun.
1. Harry is no longer best friends with Ron. He goes to school as normal and not in a flying Ford Anglia.
2. Ginny might still have a big crush on Harry, but when she is taken into the Chamber of Secrets he might not feel the need to go after her personally. Not being close friends with Hermione, Harry doesn’t meet Moaning Myrtle and wouldn’t know to look for a basilisk in the pipes or where the entrance to the Chamber might be found. Ginny dies underground, the basilisk lives, the diary horcrux is lost and not destroyed, Dobby remains a servant of the Malfoys.
Prisoner of Azkaban:
1. The Dursley timeline having been extinguished, Harry never rides the Knight Bus. He gets a permission slip to visit Hogsmeade and has no immediate need of the Marauder’s Map, which Fred and George probably wouldn’t give him anyway since he is not close to the Weasley family.
2. Harry is not close to Hagrid either, since Dumbledore never sent him to fetch Harry as a baby or an eleven-year-old. Buckbeak is executed because Dumbledore never tells Harry and Hermione (who aren’t friends) to use the time-turner to save him. Harry never finds out who Scabbers really is, or that he has a godfather. Sirius probably continues to hunt Pettigrew around Hogwarts until Pettigrew can’t take the stress and goes to find Voldemort.
Basically Harry has a totally normal school year while the mechanism of his eventual destruction grinds onward in the background, unbeknownst to him.
Goblet of Fire:
1. If Harry is at an orphanage, he doesn’t go to the Quidditch World Cup. If he’s with a wizarding family, he might, but he probably doesn’t sit in the same box as inviso-Barty-Crouch. The Dark Mark is not set with his wand.
2. Harry would probably still be entered in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. However, he would probably take a zero on the first two challenges. Hagrid would not show him the dragons, Dobby wouldn’t be free to hear about and provide him with gillyweed (if he even knew he needed to breathe underwater, with no help from Cedric as payback for the dragon hint). He might reach the cup in the final challenge, since Barty Crouch disguised as Moody would still be taking out his opponents.
3. In the graveyard, Pettigrew takes Harry’s blood. Harry never learned the Summoning Charm from Hermione for the first task, so he is unable to reach the portkey and escape the graveyard. He is killed by Death Eaters. No one knows what happened to him or Cedric for some time, giving Voldemort a head start. Voldemort rises to power and rules wizarding society with a racist, iron fist indefinitely (since he’s basically immortal). Dumbledore may continue searching for horcruxes independently, but dies from the ring curse before he is able to destroy them all.
4. Harry never gives his winnings to the Weasley twins, and their joke business remains strictly mail-order.
Let’s say, just for fun, that Harry ran faster than he’s ever run in his life and all the Death Eaters shoot like Stormtroopers. He makes it to his fifth year:
1. No one is watching Harry on Dumbledore’s orders, so he fends off a dementor attack alone and lives in fear and confusion.
2. Unless the Weasleys were the family to take him in as an infant (unlikely, given the number of children they already had), Harry has no knowledge of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order does not meet at Grimmauld Place, since Sirius remains on the lam as a presumed criminal.
3. Harry rides to the castle with his friends, probably Dean and Seamus, and never meets Luna.
3. Harry’s scar is killing him and he appears to be going loony, but Madame Pomfrey only offers painkilling potions. He receives no Occlumency lessons and when he dreams of Mr. Weasley being attacked by Nagini, he doesn’t know who he’s seeing. He brushes it off as a bad dream and goes back to sleep. Mr. Weasley dies undiscovered. Harry is later wracked with horrible guilt upon discovering a classmate’s father died in the way he dreamed.
4. Harry has no Hermione to shush him or suggest forming Dumbledore’s Army, so he continues to get in trouble with Umbridge and carve his hand up nightly. His classmates never learn basic defensive spells. Dumbledore remains at Hogwarts, but so does Umbridge.
5. Voldemort retrieves the prophecy from the ministry himself, almost unimpeded. Harry has no knowledge that there is a prophecy, or what it might mean for his future. Ministry workers never see Voldemort fighting Dumbledore in the ministry, granting Voldemort more time to gain power.
1. Snape remains Potions master and Umbridge continues to not teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Slughorn never returns to Hogwarts and Dumbledore is unable to retrieve the memories about Tom Riddle and horcruxes. Harry is unable to continue with Potions, dashing his hopes of becoming an Auror.
2. Harry never learns about horcruxes or Voldemort’s bid at immortality. He never dates Ginny, who died years before. He knows that the world’s most evil wizard has made repeated attempts to kill him, but he has no real hope of defending himself.
3. Dumbledore dies drinking cursed water containing a fake horcrux. It looks as though he simply disappeared. When Death Eaters invade Hogwarts later that night, they have the run of the place.
1. The Order does not make elaborate plans to keep Harry safe. He is tracked and killed by Death Eaters. George keeps his ear and Moody lives a little longer, but eventually the entire Order is wiped out by Death Eaters along with wizards of mixed heritage.
1. The Order are told they must protect Harry. Some of the adults know a little about the horcrux situation, since Dumbledore thought he should tell someone. He is moved from location to location, protected, while the adults try to hunt horcruxes. Harry never discovered Ravenclaw’s diadem or Riddle’s diary. Even if all of the members of the Order found all of the other horcruxes, ultimately they have to decide if they kill Harry themselves to save the world or let him live (and by extension, Voldemort). If they decide to send him out to fight alone, it is no different than the result of Dumbledore’s actions…
…except that with Dumbledore’s preparation Harry had the hallows, the key to his survival. He had full knowledge of the weight of his choices. He had grit and courage, along with an excellent support system of wizards strong in both power and character. He had skills hard-won through countless confrontations through the years. He had a life worthy of sacrifice. In a Harry Potter without Dumbledore’s interference, Harry is an orphan hounded by constant and unexpected attacks. What little adult guidance he might have would come from people who do not truly understand the complexities of his situation: the connection with Voldemort, the prophecy, his family history.
This is why it annoys me when people say Dumbledore raised Harry like a fatted calf. Harry escaped death many times over by virtue of Dumbledore’s interference. Though Dumbledore made Harry aware of what lay in the balance of his life or death, Harry ultimately had to face that decision alone. What’s more, he faced it after learning that his mentor was as fallible as anyone else. That he had made mistakes and questionable statements, and that those mistakes were on a scale to equal his exceptional power and intelligence. Dumbledore didn’t ask Harry to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. When you think about it, he didn’t ask Harry to do anything at all. He showed him the facts and let him choose.