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"I Am With You"

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 578

By Nina de Boo

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Read the archived discussion of this essay here.

One of the most important relationships Harry has formed in his young life must be the one with the Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. From that cold, wet night in the Hog’s Head Inn, when Sybill Trelawney made the fateful prediction that would define Harry’s life before he was even born, Dumbledore stepped up as Harry’s protector. When Harry grew up and went to school, Dumbledore’s role in the child’s life changed from protector to teacher. Finally, as teacher and student grew closer, the teacher became the mentor, creating a deep and enduring bond between the two wizards that would prove to be one of the most powerful influences in Harry’s life.

Dumbledore continued to act in his roles as protector, teacher and mentor to Harry right up until the moment of his untimely death on the top of the Astronomy Tower. But now the headmaster has passed on, how is Harry to succeed in the task set before him without this vital force in his life? Has his mentor fully prepared him for what is to come? Let us take a look at the ways Dumbledore has influenced Harry’s life and how he may continue to protect, teach and guide his pupil from beyond the grave.

“You Are With Me”1

Throughout Harry’s entire life, Albus Dumbledore has been his main protector. However difficult and dangerous life got for Harry, Dumbledore “watched [him] more closely than [he] can have imagined.”2 Dumbledore was Harry’s protector well before the boy can remember; before he knew about the prophecy, before he came to school, before he even knew he was a wizard.

We don’t know when exactly Dumbledore realized that Voldemort became aware of the prophecy made about him and decided to act on it, but we do know that as soon as Dumbledore understood that Voldemort had singled out Harry as the most likely candidate for being “the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord,”3 he stepped in and started planning protection for Harry and his parents. It was Dumbledore who suggested placing them under the Fidelius Charm. He even proposed to be their Secret-Keeper himself, though the Potters decided against it.

When he learned that his protection had failed, and that Lily and James Potter had been killed, Dumbledore sprang into action once more, getting the infant Harry to safety. Not only did he remove the defenseless toddler from the ruins of his parental home, he made sure that Harry would be protected at his aunt’s house until he would come of age at seventeen. Dumbledore never allowed Harry to be unprotected and as the child grew up and his life became progressively more dangerous, Dumbledore increased his protections on Harry accordingly. After Voldemort’s return, he employed members of the Order of the Phoenix to keep watch over Harry during the summer holidays—though it could be argued that leaving Mundungus Fletcher in charge may not have been the wisest decision he could have made. As Voldemort was regaining his hold on the wizarding world and his army increased, Dumbledore stationed members of the Order directly at Hogwarts. Finally, moments before his death, a weak and injured Dumbledore realized the danger they were in and rendered Harry invisible and immobile, allowing him to go unnoticed by the Death Eaters who were raiding the school.

Dumbledore never made it a secret that his protégé had a special place in his heart. In fact, he confessed to loving the boy so deeply that he became overprotective of his young charge. Instead of telling Harry the hard truths of the prophecy at a young age so that Harry could prepare for the perils he would be facing, Dumbledore cared for Harry so much that he could not bring himself to place this burden on him.

“I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply. “I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act. […] What did I care if numbers of nameless and faceless people and creatures were slaughtered in the vague future, if in the here and now you were alive, and well, and happy? I never dreamed that I would have such a person on my hands.”4

Though Dumbledore himself readily admitted to being an old man who made mistakes, and that at times he was being overprotective, the truth is that under his watchful eye, Harry stayed alive and well. What will happen to Harry now his protector has passed away?

There are many who refuse to believe that Dumbledore is really dead. Countless innovative theories have been developed explaining how the Avada Kedavra cast by Severus Snape did not kill the only wizard Voldemort ever feared; theories that include such things as Polyjuice potion, nonverbal spells or curse deflection. There are whole websites dedicated to the notion that our beloved headmaster simply cannot have passed away. However, the author herself is plain and clear about this, and has recently simply stated that “Dumbledore is definitely … dead.”5 It is hard to argue with that, isn’t it!

Dumbledore must have realized he was not going to be around to protect and teach Harry forever. He had reached the ripe old age of 1506, and there have been a gradually increasing number of references to Dumbledore looking old, weary and fragile throughout the series. But there are other subtle clues that may indicate that he thought his time was coming soon. At the start of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince he was sporting a blackened, withered hand—the result of destroying the ring Horcrux—which many have speculated was caused by a slow-acting curse that would have killed him had his end not been brought about by the Avada Kedavra. Another popular theory is that Dumbledore knew about the Unbreakable Vow Snape made with Narcissa Malfoy. This would mean that he knew that he must die at the hands of either Draco or Severus. Throughout Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore had several conversations with Harry—which infuriated Harry severely—in which he indicated that he was well aware of both Draco’s and Snape’s plans. Did he know he would leave this earth before the year was through? Even if none of the above will turn out to be true, the truth remains that there was a war on, with Dumbledore being a high level piece on the side of the white. In a game of chess, pieces have to be sacrificed. It is therefore not unreasonable to assume that Dumbledore may have made preparations for the eventuality of his death. “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”7

There aren’t many clear signs that Dumbledore may have left protections on Harry that would last after his death. The protection on Privet Drive that was invoked by Lily’s sacrifice and sealed by her sister’s agreement to give Harry a home will expire once Harry comes of age in the summer before his would-be final year at Hogwarts. It has been argued that Dumbledore, by giving his life on the lightning-struck tower, may have invoked a new blood protection—like Lily’s sacrifice placed a protection on her sister’s house—this time upon the walls of Hogwarts. However, this theory is yet unproven.

One thing Dumbledore did do was leave Harry with a solid support system. It is uncertain if the members of the Order know about the mission Harry is facing. We don’t know if the Order knows about the Horcruxes, and at the start of Half-Blood Prince, there were only two people who knew the exact wording of the prophecy—Harry and Dumbledore. But it is safe to say that the Order, which is comprised mostly of Harry’s closest friends and loved ones, will do their utmost to ensure that the Boy Who Lived remains just that: alive.

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Read the archived discussion of this essay in Unfogging Deathly Hallows!