Well, the reasoning in much of this essay got pretty well hosed by DHs. Not that the extrapolations in it are necessarily wrong — although a few of them certainly are — but the motivations and intentions ascribed to Albus Dumbledore clearly turn out to have been off-target. After all, over the period that this article was developed we were still being misled to regard AD as the epitome of “all that was good”.
He still isn’t evil. But he’s turned out to be a conceited, self-righteous, and self-indulgent old hypocrite. And, if anything, an even bigger coward than Horace Slughorn. (Who at least doesn’t pretend to be anything else.)
And he really doesn’t learn from his mistakes. Where Severus Snape fell in with a bad lot and, in attempting to gain favor, made a horrendous mistake that ended in the death of someone he deeply cared about (even if she didn’t love him), and then spent the following 16–17 years, i.e., the rest of his life, actively attempting to make at least some kind of amends, penitently taking direction from the two masters who had each welshed on their promises to spare or to protect her, Albus Dumbledore got swept up into bad philosophy under a bad influence — which he actively supported and advanced, even to the point of trying to take command of it — ending in the death of someone for whom he was responsible (whether he deeply loved her or not. He may claim to value the concept of love, but he doesn’t seem to be very familiar with the thing itself), and spent the following 98 years taking direction from no one, declining to take any responsibility for other people’s welfare, and attempting to do nothing at all for fear of doing something else wrong.
Still, I think I may be out of step with a lot of the revisionist views in that I still do not actively dislike Albus, but I’ve come to think the whole whoop-de-do over his “great wisdom” is as bogus as Tom Riddle’s grandiose Muggle-style title. Yes, I’m sure that young Albus was once an academic and magical prodigy, but how often does the ability to dazzle the standard testing procedure translate to anything like an intelligence that’s fit for daily use? The kind of brilliance that excels in classrooms and fails at life is legendary. (And Rowling really doesn’t much value intelligence in this story. The whole outlook is about as anti-intellectual as you can get.)
Plus of course Rowling’s eventual deconstruction was vastly in excess of the requirements, which made her ultimate flip-flop of turning around and giving him a pass anyway all the more insulting to the reader. But it doesn’t mean that some level of deconstruction wasn’t necessary. It was. When dealing with the classic “mentor” figure of an adventure tale, it always is.
I’m inclined to think that what really needed deconstruction here wasn’t his intentions. It was his judgement. Looked at in retrospect we can all see that Albus’s behavior was an absolute compendium of bad decisions, going just about all the way back to the minute he left school.
What also isn’t so obvious is that by the time Harry started Hogwarts Albus’s reputation was already in decline. But it certainly turned out to be the case. Most of the wizarding public’s veneration had dwindled to lip-service and only the fact that he was patronizing Fudge (and that Fudge allowed himself to be patronized) kept him in the game. His greatest fans had always been the people who had been dazzled by him when he was the shining new star, and how many of those were left? Others were the near-contemporaries who were used to living in his shadow, and those were being thinned out by attrition as well. He had somehow quite failed to enlist more than a handful of followers from any of the generations of students who knew him as Headmaster, and only a handful more who were of an age for him to have once taught. He’s been isolating himself at Hogwarts for so long that he doesn’t even realize that he is on the brink of irrelevance. An “obsolete dingbat” acto Rita Skeeter. Rita turns out to have been right after all!
But, really, while a lot of readers now are measuring him against Tom, and, I agree, that it is not without some justification, I really do think a more relevant comparison is probably Slughorn. He and Albus are a matched pair of vain old popinjays who are both convinced that they know what is best for everyone else. But where it is obvious that Sluggy is weak, often foolish, and faintly ridiculous, far too many people take Albus at his own estimation. Both of that pair are rather clever fools, but the reader somehow keeps looking past the obvious in Albus’s case, probably because he does such a nice star turn at self-depreciation.
Admittedly Albus has probably done far more damage overall than Horace has, despite that unfortunate interview that Harry had to pry out of Horace, and even though Albus clearly exerts himself far less on his favorites’ behalf than Horace does.
I think Horace also has a clearer view of how the ww really works and a much longer list of past protégés who are willing enough to keep in touch and to let him pull their strings for the benefit of his current crop of up-and-comers. Albus, on the other hand, tends to back losers who will never outgrow his “assistance”, and sooner or later the people in charge figure that out. Being one of Albus’s favorites is probably not a high recommendation. Given a choice in the matter, I think I’d invest in a stock of candied pineapple.
But no, having fallen in love with Gellert Grindelwald at the age of 18 is neither a convincing explanation for Albus’s failings of character, nor relevant to the situation at hand. It’s a complete non-sequitur and an unnecessary distraction. And it’s completely out of scale.
IMHO, the books would have played better if Albus had indeed been the charming and well-intentioned eccentric he appeared to be and turned out to be acknowledged to have made a whole series of really bad decisions. What was necessary to the story arc was for the protagonist to discover that his mentor had limits and that blindly following his advice would not solve the problem. It wasn’t necessary for Albus to turn out to be knowingly selfish/blind/feeble/manipulative/evi. All that was necessary was for him to be proved wrong in some relevant and fundamental issue. Young Gellert Grindelwald was neither relevant nor fundamental.
Well, there is a new essay related to the Dumbledores over in the main collection, even if it doesn’t confine itself to Albus. The rest of this one is what I had managed to thrash out back when we were still expected to believe that Dumbledore was the epitome of goodness. Like just about everyone else I may have given him a bit too much credit. But I hadn’t completely missed the hints that were actually there.
It also pays homage to a lot of dead fanon issues which occupied rather a lot of people for rather a lot of time.
It used to be (lo, these many years ago. Well going on 10, anyway) that regardless of what general HP list you subscribed to, every few months it could be depended upon that there would be yet another round of young newbies determined to debate whether the Headmaster was an Animagus, and if so, what sort of animal could he turn himself into. I haven’t heard much of this particular debate for the last few years. Evidently most of the fandom has moved beyond this issue.
For the record: there is no clear indication in canon as to whether Albus Dumbledore either was or was not an Animagus. We know that Professor McGonagall, the most recent Transfigurations mistress is one. We know that Dumbledore had been Transfigurations master some 50 years earlier, but the one case doesn’t prove the other. And it certainly hasn’t ever been stated to be a job requirement.
We also know that Hermione Granger looked up the information regarding registered Animagi during the course of PoA and found that only 7 Animagi had been registered in the 20th century (McGonagall among them). But if Dumbledore had been a registered Animagus (and if he was one at all, he would almost certainly be registered) he might have been on the 19th century list, and Hermione didn’t think to check that far back. (Although Rowling’s sudden decision to scale back Dumbledore’s age by about 40 years would make this prospect far less likely.)
Post-HBP, we still didn’t even know whether Harry had yet twigged to the fact that wizards are capable of living much longer lives than Muggles. One might expect Miss Granger to have come across this information in her studies and research by that time, but she does not seem to have passed the information on to Harry. At least not in our hearing. Although, since it is becoming clear that the average wizard does not enjoy the sort of freakishly long life of a Griselda Marchbanks or a Bathilda Bagshott, perhaps this oversight does not matter.
Still, I am reasonably confident that the Headmaster was not an Animagus. I also rather think that although the study of becoming an Animagus is perfectly legal, it is emphatically not encouraged by the Ministry. In fact, I suspect that the official Ministry view on Animagi is that the fewer of them the better. If for no other reason than that the skill is one which it is all too easy to put to unethical uses — hence the (not particularly successful) attempts to register and identify them.
I think that we can depend upon the fact that although there may have been only 7 Animagi registered during the 20th century, we have almost certainly NOT encountered all of the unregistered ones that are running about loose. Wizards, so far as we’ve seen to date, are not in general particularly law-abiding. And the concept of enlightened self-interest is not a broadly popular one in the Wizarding World.
Also, it’s not THAT useful a skill in normal, ethical, day-to-day life, in the first place.
Besides, Dumbledore had other fish to fry.
If Dumbledore’s defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald was not something already in his job description — and from the 1945 date of that event it sounds very unlikely to have been — then it is almost certain to have been a fluke. A notable accomplishment, yes, no question about that, but not one which grew naturally out of his own interests and existing body of work. The same cannot be said for the other two signal achievements listed on his chocolate frog card. Those achievements are the discovery (or publication) of 12 uses for dragons’ blood and his Alchemical research in partnership with the unquestionably great Nicholas Flamel. Neither of these sound like the sort of thing one distinguishes oneself in by accident.
As to the first of these achievements: we have been handed more than one clue which should cause any reader to suspect that Albus Dumbledore was, at the very least, one of the leading authorities on blood magic in Great Britain, if not all Europe, or if you are inclined to hyperbola, the entire wizarding world. He produced a body of research work on dragon’s blood, still in use today, the “Ancient Magic” he invoked as a protection for Harry was dependent upon Harry being in the company of his mother’s “blood” kin, and that gleam in the eye when he learned that Voldemort had used blood taken by force from Harry to facilitate his return strongly suggests that he knew something about the use of an enemy’s blood that Voldemort has not considered — and it is something that is probably not to Voldemort’s advantage.
Including, but not limited to the possibility of Voldemort having inadvertently introduced a major paradox into the continuum wherein Harry is “protected” from Voldemort so long as he is in the company of persons who are related to him through his mother’s blood; and that Voldemort having used Harry’s blood to create his simulacrum, may, consequently, according to the magical laws of similarity and contamination, now be regarded as another such of Lily’s “blood” kin. We may, in fact, have been given other hints regarding Dumbledore and blood magic as well, but I can think of no more right off the top of my head.
The paradox above could be one possible reason why Voldemort made no plot to murder Harry in Year 6. If he had figured this out, or was listening in on the debriefing session between Harry and Albus at the end of OotP, then he is waiting for the protection to wear off when the boy either leaves home or attains his majority.
Ergo: we may tentatively conclude that Dumbledore’s personal interests may lie more in the field of Alchemy than in Transfiguration, despite the fact that he spent much of his prime teaching Transfiguration to the Hogwarts student body. At this point we have been given no indication that the Hogwarts curriculum includes classes in Alchemy.
So. Dumbledore is a Master of the study of Alchemy.
Alchemy, and... Potions? Where, apart from the study of Alchemy itself, does one most expect to be using dragons’ blood? (Even given that one of those uses is as an oven cleaner.) Not in pure Transfiguration, certainly. It really ought to be noted that even though he takes care to put Harry on his guard about Slughorn’s probable desire to “collect” him, Dumbledore introduces Horace Slughorn, a very skilled brewer of Potions to Harry, not merely as a colleague, but as a friend.
I have stated many times that I believe that Potions and Transfiguration are related disciplines of magic, both dealing in matters of “change” and transformation. Alchemy clearly is a third related branch of this same general magical “family”, about equally connected to both, and one that might reasonably be classified as falling somewhere between the two.
Perhaps significantly, both Potions brewing and some specialized varieties of Transfiguration (such as the Animagus transformation, and, apparently, Apparation) are all complex forms of magic which may be performed wandlessly. It would be interesting to know whether certain procedures of Alchemy share this characteristic, or whether these disciplines form a “spectrum” of transformative magic in which wandless operation is only possible at the extreme ends.
Another matter which evidently needs to be drawn to the attention of the reader and so far as I have seen has not been, is the fact that a large part of the information we have regarding Headmaster Dumbledore’s background is the information printed on his chocolate frog card. And that information is in serious need of re-evaluation.
By all indications, the information on that card is considerably out of date.
What is more, the information on that card is egregiously misleading.
Consider; the three signal achievements noted on that card are; one professional association, one research-related high point and the defeat of one Dark wizard back in 1945. Plus the puffery which notes that in some people’s opinion he is “the greatest wizard of modern times”.
So what were his public efforts, if any, during VoldWar I, chopped liver?
Particularly given that VoldWar I lasted for about 20 years.
The supposed efforts that (according to fanon) a significant faction of the Wizengamot presumably wanted to appoint him Minister of Magic over don’t even rate a mention?
Post-HBP we realize that we have been assuming that Dumbledore’s efforts during VoldWar I had something to do with Dumbledore’s broad popularity and the desire of a grateful nation to make him Minister for Magic, on little or no actual textual support. It now turns out that Dumbledore had already been offered, and had refused the Post of Minister for Magic three times before VoldWar I ever properly began. Indeed he had been offered the post three times while he was still serving as the Transfiguration instructor at Hogwarts Academy. Before he was even appointed Headmaster.
There is absolutely no direct mention of his role — any role — during VoldWar I on that chocolate frog card. Which strongly suggests that the chocolate frog cards, once issued are never updated by their publisher, and that Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card has been in circulation since before Voldemort’s first rise started making waves.
Or, possibly, that He-Who-We-Do-Not-Mention is not mentioned in the accolades accorded to the people who worked to defeat him, either. For example: why isn’t there a card for Lily Potter?
That Dumbledore’s card identifies him as the current Headmaster of Hogwarts Academy would give us the earliest probable date of issue as having been some time around 1957, the year that Minerva McGonagall came on staff as Transfigurations mistress, making a strong inference that Headmaster Dippett had either died or retired during, or by the end of, the Autumn term of 1956.
But, in fact, we do not know this to be the case. The fact that Albus was once and Minerva is now the Transfigurations instructor of the school does not prove that Minerva directly replaced Dumbledore in the position. Indeed, the only real calculation point we have to pin Albus’s ascension to Headmaster to is that it took place some 10 years after Tom Riddle’s first disappearance from the ww. And we have no data to establish that date. All we know of it is that Tom was still visibly young when he absconded after murdering Hepzibah Smith and stealing two of her treasures. Ergo; he was probably not above 25. But beyond that we cannot say.
This calls for a reality check.
The whole point of trading cards — from the point of view of the people who publish them — is to keep people buying them. In order to keep people buying them, you have to keep issuing new ones. Of anybody that you can justify basing a card upon.
In as small a community as wizarding Britain, the Headmaster of the only magical training school is automatically an official on a high enough level to justify the issuing of a card in his name. Regardless of how humdrum a life he may have led, he is still a “public figure.” Hold that thought. It is part of the shell game that is being played here.
To be the “defeater of the Dark wizard Grindelwald” twelve years or so earlier, by itself, apparently, was not sufficient reason to issue a card in Albus Dumbledore’s name, or the bloody card would have been issued back in 1945 or 1946. (Assuming that Famous Wizard trading cards existed back then. It is possible that they are a more recent innovation.)
And, if you are a publisher of Famous Wizard Trading Cards, what is your target audience? Who are the capsule blurbs on those cards written for? Who are they designed to impress? Who do the blurbs need to connect with?
Or, adolescents anyway.
And — reality check here — just who is this particular card about? What is his day job?
He’s the Headmaster.
Oh that’s going to impress a lot of 12-year-olds
And just how much is his also being the junior partner to Nicholas Flamel or having discovered 12 uses for dragon’s blood going to impress them? Will that make their little hearts go pit-a-pat? Hardly.
But defeating a Dark wizard? Oh yeah, the kiddies can really get behind that one!
Never mind that this “defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald” might have been something more akin to a barroom brawl (in the Hog’s Head, yet, for all we knew!) than any sort of an official battle. Dumbledore was a teacher in a school in 1945, for heaven’s sake, not off blipping around the continent in the middle of a Muggle war like some kind of wizarding Hiram Holiday. And by the time the school broke up for the summer in 1945, the Muggle war on the continent was over.
Despite Rowling’s comments in the joint interview of 2005; that Grindelwald was indeed connected to a wartime situation in the mid 1940s (despite the utter refusal of such a statement to make any kind of sense), in the absence of further information, what seemed just as likely was that the whole Grindelwald distraction was intended to be a “meta” trick. The “defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald” was designed to associate and conflate Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore with the hero Beowulf. He who settled the Grendels, after which adventure he was given the rule of the land, and ruled it well, and was much beloved.
And finally in his old age must arm himself to face the dragon, the wyrm, which is laying his kingdom to waste.
With the help of his young squire.
We finally got a bit of hope in that July 2005 interview that we may eventually get at least something more on Grindelwald than we had to date.
It was far and beyond time that we ought to, if it matters to any significant degree. Which I suspected that it probably didn’t, really. But it would be nice to get it sorted and out of the way. (ETA: it turned out to have absolutely nothing to do with the problem presented by Tom Riddle. But it made a masterful distraction to facilitate stringing out the general inaction over the course of the endless camping trip from Hell.)
In fact, I believed that much of Dumbledore’s continuing pleasure in that card may well have been precisely because so it tickled him to see himself painted as the sort of dashing “action hero” that he so manifestly was not. In fact, I still think so.
As to the people who considered him possibly the greatest wizard of modern times; I rather thought that evaluation was more likely to be a perception of greatness in the manner of a Winston Churchill, or at least an Albert Einstein or a Stephen Hawking. This is not a distinction that is necessarily a quality accessible to the perceptions of 12-year-old boys. For that matter, the fact that he had already been offered the post Minister of Magic three times before he was even appointed Headmaster, tends to suggest to me that his backers were people like Griselda Marchbanks who had encountered him around 1899, and had been singing his praises ever since. His run-in with Grindelwald had little to do with it.
Regardless, it seems transparently evident that the puffery on that card, namely the assertion that Dumbledore is believed by many people to be the greatest wizard in modern times, was certainly not based upon his role in VoldWar I. Indeed, in light of the revelations of DHs we can no longer be sure he even played a public role in VoldWar I.
Which is just as well. Because Albus Dumbledore, although possibly an inspirational Schoolmaster, in my opinion anyway, is a piss-poor war leader.
We can readily accept that during VoldWar I Albus Dumbledore was an inspirational figure, but in that go-round it was the Ministry that was calling the shots. Dumbledore was not running the show himself.
Or was he? Hold that thought, too.
If you look back over his track record, I mean really look, you can easily see a whole string of misunderstandings and poor decisions. The man is an educator not a General.
In fact, for an example: Let’s go back to this whole moldy fig of a Prophecy. There, at the height of Voldemort’s first rise to power, Albus Dumbledore is the inadvertent recipient of what appears to be a bona fide Prophecy which implies that the person with the power to destroy the Dark Lord is a child yet unborn.
Okay. Think about that. A child yet unborn. What is the WW supposed to do then, hunker down and try to stick it out until that child grows up?
Well, yes, apparently, according to Albus Dumbledore. That’s exactly what they are supposed to do. This is a war leader?
Never mind that the established policy of the Ministry is to suppress Prophecies.
Even dismissing the gaudy invitation to ill-considered actions that a Prophesy represents, you can do better than that.
Like reflect that even though the Prophecy claims that the foretold child is the “one with the power” it never claims he is the ONLY one with the power. Particularly not if “the power” is that of basic human attachment.
Come on here! There have got to be more ways to limit the damage potential of a terrorist group than to concentrate all your efforts on assassinating their leader!
For what it’s worth, we were also handed a clue in OotP that it is all too likely that Voldemort fears Dumbledore, not for his power as a wizard, considerable as it may be, but for what Dumbledore knows about the background of one Tom Riddle.
So why wasn’t that knowledge made public so it can do damage to Riddle rather than giving Riddle another good reason to try to neutralize Dumbledore and keep the information from escaping?
Most of Voldemort’s followers apparently do not know — and at any rate do not admit — that their leader is a halfblood. His potential recruits (considering the demographic that he’s deliberately targeting) certainly do not know this. And it would matter to them! Why the hell didn’t Dumbledore go public with this information? Just whose agenda was being advanced by all this secrecy?
I wondered in the period between OotP and HBP if this was finally going to be made an issue in Book 6.
Every DE still alive and walking free — apart from Snape, Karkaroff, and Crouch Jr, witnessed the effect of Tom and Harry attempting to use brother wands against one another. Now that Harry’s story has been made public and has made the leap from the Quibbler to the Prophet, why wasn’t there a follow-up article featuring an interview with an expert witness and conspicuously neutral source such as Mr Ollivander describing and explaining the phenomenon that Harry has reported and — given that Ollivander remembers every wand he has ever sold, describing those two wands and their known original owners? Thereby revealing just whose wand the Dark Lord must have been using? And follow up that article with one examining just who and what this Tom Riddle, ex-Head Boy of Hogwarts was, and just under what circumstances Tom Riddle supposedly disappeared from the wizarding world some 40 years or so earlier? Or at least publicly blow the lid off the Chamber of Secrets and the hanky-panky that Riddle got up to with that.
Is that why Mr Ollivander has so conveniently disappeared?
Well, that particular possibility for getting the news out was foreclosed upon by the opening of HBP, when Mr Ollivander, and his stock had been taken out of the equation. We thought his disappearance might be voluntary at the time, but we couldn’t be sure. Maybe the Quibbler ought to have followed the matter up. There were 3–4 months between the Quibbler running the original story and Ollivander’s disappearance.
Voldemort’s current followers are stuck. They signed a contract with this particular devil and cannot get out of it. But there are only a few dozen of them, and the news that their Dark Lord is a Muggle-raised halfblood could have certainly slowed down his recruiting drive!
But, if the conditions required to produce a sociopath in the Potterverse are such as described in the companion piece ‘The Premature Prediction’, then we may conceivably have another issue interfering with getting that particular message out. If the requirements for producing a sociopath are as described, then although the wizarding world is able to turn out, or generate any number of maladjusted wizards, a true wizarding sociopath would be very uncommon— inside the wizarding world. Any sociopathic wizard almost has to have been raised outside the wizarding world. By Muggles.
And since we were originally led to believe that Voldemort is apparently not the first Dark Lord candidate that the wizarding world has had to deal with. (There were allusions in the first couple of books to another about a century earlier.) If the previous Dark Lord candidate was also known to be a Muggle-raised outsider, the implications of the news that “Lord Voldemort” is yet another Muggle-raised outsider might just be a can of worms that Dumbledore was reluctant to open.
What I suspect, however, is that Dumbledore was seriously out of his depth.
Nor, by the end of HBP, was I the only one to think so. And I am not talking about those sillies who were convinced that Dumbledore is eeeeeeevil.
I think the old man was simply getting past it.
And he made another one of his “huge mistakes”.
We had yet another go-round on the semi-perennial Evil!Dumbledore debate over on WIKtT (some time ago). I’d noticed that this particular debate has shifted its emphasis from the original, rather crude “gleam=evil” reading based on Harry’s maybe-observation in Goblet to a sleeker, updated “Manipulative Bastard” model who uses children to do his dirty work.
It’s a more sophisticated reading certainly, and allows for a great many more additional supportive examples, such as an open forum for the long-standing irritation at Dumbledore’s tactlessly public humiliation of the entire Slytherin House by awarding points to Harry and friends at the last minute — actually at the leaving feast — at the end of PS/SS, rather than awarding them quietly the day after HRH had stormed the Labyrinth, and handing the Gryffs the House Cup through conventional channels.
Of course, if he had done that, Gryffindor probably wouldn’t have taken the Cup at all. Either a Slytherin would have managed to earn his House some extra points or someone, probably Snape, would have managed to deduct one from Gryffindor, putting them behind again.
I didn’t support Manipulative Bastard!Dumbledore any more than I did the crude, Evil!Dumbledore iteration, earlier. But I definitely do not see Dumbledore as having been either all-wise or all-powerful.
Or all-truthful. We are being misled by the Harry filter again. (And by that bloody chocolate frog card.)
Which is something that we are going to have to go on dealing with. Up to some point in Book 5, according to the Harry filter, Dumbledore could do no wrong — just as Snape could do nothing right. Once Harry hit the very worst stage of adolescence in Book 5, I suspected that for the first half of Book 6, Dumbledore would probably not manage to do anything right either.
It turns out I was mistaken. Apparently the problem throughout Book 5 is that I probably was correct in my suspicion that most of our episodes of CAPSLOCKS!Harry was the result of having Voldemort waltzing in and out of his head, at will. (Which says something very unflattering regarding Voldemort’s emotional maturity, as well.) Now that Voldemort has walled off the psychic “leakage” from his end Harry seems to be back to being a reasonable extrapolation of his GoF self, and Dumbledore is once again his hero.
As for the main arguments that the Evil!Dumbledore proponents generally field regarding the chinks in Dumbledore’s shining armor; well, yes. I rather suspect that those flaws are really there. And they are probably even there with JKR’s full knowledge and intent. She hasn’t pulled many punches with the rest of the cast’s human flaws and character weaknesses, has she? Why should we expect Dumbledore to remain exempt?
But up to the end of OotP we hadn’t ever officially looked at this head-on, because up to that point, Dumbledore was Harry’s “hero”. Moreover, until HBP, Dumbledore had been a rather distant figure. If Harry had been sitting in a classroom in front of him two days a week over the previous five years we might have gotten a slightly different view of him by then. And, now that Harry was actually learning something from Dumbledore, we were bound to get a different perspective.
And in HBP, Dumbledore, frankly, came across as a self-congratulatory show-off with a strong trace of the narcissist about him. And a fine turn at faux modesty. Nevertheless, he was arguably still a “Great Man” even if a little too complacent about his greatness, someone of reasonably good character with a fine mind, who is beginning to overlook details, and is failing to keep all of his stories straight and all the balls in the air at the same time. The house at No. 12 Grimmauld Place isn’t the only secret Dumbledore was keeping. And he didn’t trust most of them to Harry.
But, before we get any farther away from the issue; back to that track record:
Three schoolboys (and possibly a girl) hoodwinked the Headmaster about their Animagi status and he didn’t find out about it until one of them ’fessed up nearly 20 years later. (He may not have ever known about Rita, unless Hermione, or someone else, finally got around to telling him about her.)
He really believed, or chose to believe, that Sirius Black was the Potter’s secret keeper who had betrayed them, despite the long-term, virtually “foster-brother” relationship between Sirius and James. And despite the fact that he knows that Voldemort is a master Legilimens who could possibly have extracted that information by force, or stealth. And, apparently, once Sirius had been arrested for murdering Peter Pettigrew and a dozen Muggles, he didn’t even try to question Sirius afterward to find out how or why he had suddenly betrayed his friends.
Did he simply decide that Sirius was “one of the Blacks” and had reverted to type? Did Snape have some influence there that we have not yet heard about? Did Peter Pettigrew hedge his bets by firing off a lying Patronus message that “All is lost! Black has betrayed us!” before staging his own “murder” and slipping off the board? Did Albus regard Sirius’s status as Harry’s godfather an unwanted complication and attempt to limit Black’s opportunities for interference? Or, more to the point, did Albus simply dislike Sirius Black enough not to care? It’s possible. Black certainly gave him cause.
What is more, even after he learned differently at the end of PoA, in the following month or two, when Albus must have been working in close consultation with Barty Crouch Sr over reviving the TriWizard Tournament, he never once thought to comment; “By the way, in the brief period that I had Black in custody, I discovered the disturbing information that Sirius Black was not the Potter’s Secret Keeper as I had been informed. What steps were taken to verify that it was Black’s wand which caused the explosion that killed all of those people?” ?
I mean, it’s all very well to claim that no one would believe a couple of 13-year-olds and a werewolf, but really, as the Chief Warlock of the blooming Wizengamot, that is a reasonable question for him to have asked. Dumbledore is a Legilimens after all, and Black had been in his custody. He could reasonably have implied that he had discovered the Black/Pettigrew switch himself. In fact, given the rapidity with which he turned up in the hospital wing after questioning Black the indications are that he did discover it himself. Why not at least bring the subject up if he believes Black now? (And in strict accuracy, Hermione was 14 by that time. Closing on 15.)
I have recently begun to suspect that Albus probably had at least broached the subject, not with Crouch, but with Fudge, who Albus was still in the habit of regarding as an ally at that time. The rapidity of the Ministry’s turn-about from blanketing Black’s suspected whereabouts in Dementors to putting the hunt for him in the hands of a single Auror, to conduct in the course of his other work, as well as the rapidity with which Sirius was exonerated after he was safely dead, now looks just a bit suspicious. I certainly don’t recall anyone catching sight of Pettigrew in the raid on the DoM to have raised the obvious questions in the right offices.
But Fudge, who I suspect had already been gotten to by Lucius Malfoy, and who was steadily having his confidence in Albus chipped away by Dolores Umbridge, refused to comply fully. He willingly withdrew the Dementors — particularly in view of the public relations nightmare that had been narrowly averted when they gratuitously attacked Harry Potter, but he flatly refused to call off the hunt on Albus’s say-so. And Albus did not press the issue. Or, evidently raise the matter with Crouch.
So. Albus has done nothing to undermine Voldemort’s position vis-à-vis any of his potential followers (and why not? Voldemort would do it to him — and has!).
He publicly humiliates a quarter of his own School at a leaving feast.
And that’s only the beginning. Looked at critically his actions and apparent beliefs turns up a long-standing string of blind spots, misunderstandings and examples of just plain bad judgement.
Yet he clearly means well. He is simply not, or is no longer, up to the magnitude of the job at hand. No single human being could be. But he doesn’t share information and he doesn’t seem to know how to delegate authority. He may be a splendidly inspirational figure, but he is not a war leader. (McGonagall probably beats him regularly at Wizard’s Chess.)
But he is another kind of leader. And that is something the information on Hogwarts’ stationary’s letterhead told us all the way back before we even managed to escape from Privet Drive (or even saw that chocolate frog card), and it blew right past us.
Albus Dumbledore was one of the very biggest (non-chocolate!) frogs in the very small puddle which is the British wizarding world. And from what we saw in GoF and continued to see in OotP it is clear that the British wizarding world is hopelessly corrupt. And it has continued to be so. On. His. Watch.
Dumbledore is not a visionary outsider attempting to redress wrongs. He is the quintessential insider with his own clique of devoted followers, and he’s had decades to work with them, from the inside of the system, and this is the result. One seriously has to wonder what kind of a state the place would have gotten itself into if Dumbledore hadn’t been around.
Dumbledore’s background is one of the areas where Rowling appears to have totally messed up the balance. She loaded him up with far too many honors without including the corresponding accountability for the state of Things As They Are.
(ETA: well I was right. But it is now clear that Rowling had, in fact, messed up the balance quite deliberately. Albus also seems to have felt that symbolically refusing the post of Minister for Magic let him permanently off the hook over any suggestion of misuse of power or position, for he certainly had no hesitation about collecting every other honor and high office that was floating around, and using the power therein.)
However, Rowling has now tilted the balance into complete improbability when she has Dumbledore stating that Tom Riddle is possibly the “most dangerous Dark wizard of all time”. Unless Albus was indulging in deliberate hyperbole, if Riddle is the worst problem the wizarding world has ever faced then they have got off lightly. There is far less to Tom Riddle than anyone is willing to admit. It just seems so much easier to blame him for everything that’s wrong, and think that lets everyone else off the hook.
The letterhead of Harry’s Hogwarts letter states that Albus Dumbledore is not only the current Headmaster of Hogwarts, but also the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederacy of Wizards, AND the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.
Excuse me, but the Wizengamot appears to be the Ultimate Wizarding Governing Body of all Great Britain and Ireland!
The Minister for Magic, by contrast, is merely an appointive office. He isn’t elected. He’s appointed, and it’s the Wizengamot who appoints him. He can’t legislate anything without first getting the Wizengamot’s approval. And Dumbledore headed the Wizengamot. I would not be astonished to learn that the International Confederacy of Wizards is the same thing on an international level. And Dumbledore also seems to have headed that. AND he oversees the training of every wizarding child in his national constituency as the Headmaster of the only magical training institution in that particular wizarding nation!
As I state above: according to what little internal canon evidence we have available, Dumbledore became Headmaster by some point between 1957–1963. We do not know how long it took him to pull off his hat trick and accrue the other two honors as well. I am assuming that it is unlikely that the Chief Warlock or Supreme Mugwump would have been holding down a day job as mere Staff in a boarding school, but I could be wrong. He was certainly already on the Wizengamot when he was no more than Deputy Head. And possibly even before he started teaching, decades earlier.
With that kind of a resumé It is small wonder that the publishers issued him a chocolate frog card. He virtually owned wizarding Britain. It is small wonder that there were people who regard him as “the greatest wizard in modern times”. And it is small wonder that in 1990 there was still at least one faction that seemed to think that the office of Minister for Magic would be an appropriate next step for him to take.
There is not a chance in Hades that he would have taken it. Even if he hadn’t been essentially gun-shy regarding that specific honor. Dumbledore knew that Harry Potter would be arriving at Hogwarts with the new students of ’91. And it is clear that Dumbledore had every intention of being as much in charge of Harry Potter’s training as humanly possible.
But, really, what are the odds of anyone managing to juggle that particular combination of responsibilities, for decades, without dropping the ball? And yet he seems to have held onto all of these honors right up to the opening of OotP rather than groom appropriate successors for any of them. The wizarding world is a small puddle, true, but is this kind of doubling up of authority really in its best interests?
Nor, despite his posing, am I fully convinced that the Headmaster was omniscient in the least. Or even that he was authentically “wise”. He was a very clever man, and he had access to several excellent information networks, and he knew how to use them. But they could not tell him everything, and much of his “wisdom” could just as easily be the side effect of a very long life, a good memory, and the ability to at least pretend to learn from experience (his own and other peoples’). This is certainly wisdom of a sort, but it is a sort that any intelligent wizard can put together if he pays attention and has over 100 years in which to do so. It is not some astonishing ghod-touched inborn quality.
Dumbledore was intelligent, at least. He was undoubtedly brilliant in his own field. There is ample evidence to support that conclusion. But he was not brilliant overall. And he made a great many more mistakes than the ones he admitted to.
Mind you, I mock the “Evil!Dumbledore” scenarios that litter the online community. Rowling stated in early interviews before she got so cagey about turning loose information, that Dumbledore was “all that was good”. So I really didn’t think we were likely to get any real (or lasting) surprises on that head. Although I suspected that we had some kind of a monumental one waiting in the wings for the grand conclusion of Book 7. The Manipulative!Dumbledore readings were a much fairer cop, but even those generally imply a far greater degree of conscious intent to do harm than I thought the situation really warranted.
Imho, Albus Dumbledore was an old man with a bad case of hubris.
This is a man of long experience who has chosen to surround himself with schoolchildren, and people half his age, or less, and he has done so for generations. He’d fallen into the habit of being convinced that he always knows better than anyone else does, and that he was the proper person to tell everyone what they ought to be doing, because he was so much smarter than them. Nobody among his own followers (with the possible exception of his own brother) had challenged him in decades. Of course he fell into the trap of believing that he is the font of all wisdom. Of course he kept all the reins in his own hands.
And when you come right down to it, what I suspect is that the operative term for Albus Dumbledore was, was not “evil” or even “manipulative”, but all too often, and with progressively greater frequency, simply, “wrong”.
A post on the Lj of the user “sister magpie” has another take on this. It is a fine examination of the kind of emotional failures a well-intentioned but isolated old man can make.
Another fine one regarding the Dumbledore family is this, from my “fellow-traveler”, Swythyv:
In my own reading, Albus Dumbledore was probably an authentically “Great Man” who finally overreached himself, and had only in his last year begun to truly realize how badly. And he was honest enough to be aware that the whole sorry situation was directly attributable to his inaction, where Riddle was concerned, when Riddle was a still a boy.
It is Tom Riddle who constituted one of Albus Dumbledore’s “huge mistakes”.
My take on the matter is that Dumbledore’s greatest flaw has nothing to do with trying to see the best in people. It is that he invariably refuses to take action until it is virtually always too late. He sits back, observes, analyses the events and is all-too-sure of his understanding of what is going on, but he does bugger-all about dealing with it.
This is further compounded by a determination to always catch wrong-doers In The Act before witnesses. I don’t think we’ve ever seen him take action unless he had someone in tow to back up his version of events. I think the only action we have ever seen him take on the grounds of “suspicion” only, was to stake-out the room where the Mirror of Erised had been set up in order to intercept Harry, figure out what he was made of, and give him the information he would need in order to be able to retrieve the Stone from the Mirror after the shouting was over. And since I’m sure he set up that whole little exercise for exactly that purpose it hardly counts.
Like a great many other people he expects the small problems to solve themselves, and when he miscalculates he has to scramble to play catch-up. Tom Riddle was one of his worst miscalculations.
In his defense; Dumbledore had seen any number of young bullies over his career as a schoolmaster. He may not approve of them, but he takes bullies in his stride, and he knows that many, if not most of them will eventually outgrow it (James? Sirius?). Or if they don’t precisely outgrow it, they manage to carve lives out for themselves where bullying is not the central motivation (Fred & George Weasley?). And he also knows that it’s all a matter of chance and a matter of degree. Severus Snape came up to school with an impressive collection of fully-functional homemade hexes and no social skills, and ended up being picked on. He could have as easily turned out to be the biggest bully on the playground.
Yes, Albus claims to have seen all the warning signs with Tom. But the fact remains that the version of the official Riddle backstory he gives Harry was the version he pieced together with 20/20 hindsight long after the events. In Real Time, it appears to have been only when old Hepzibah Smith was poisoned by her own devoted House Elf, and the most valuable items from her extensive collection were found to be missing that Albus realized that Tom was a problem that absolutely would not solve itself. He spent much of the next decade scrambling to pick up Tom’s back-trail.
If he even moved that quickly.
But he probably was on the job before the trail got too much colder. As a member of the Wizengamot, (which I’m fully convinced he was, even though he may not have been the Chief Warlock at that point) his retrieving of Hokey’s memory was the point at which he finally got off his fat apathy and into a game of catch-up. Possibly at the request of Madam Smith’s family who wanted to know what had become of her treasures. That’s the kind of a puzzle that you could imagine that a prominent wizarding family might very well have brought to the oh-so-clever Albus Dumbledore.
Hokey might have poisoned her mistress by accident or Imperius — if she poisoned her mistress at all. On the other hand, Riddle might perfectly well have done it himself and modified Hokey’s memory of it, as he had Morfin Gaunt’s — but Hokey certainly didn’t steal the cup or the locket. Someone else had to have gotten into the house to have done that. Hokey’s memory led Albus to Caractacus Burke, but Burke’s information — what we saw of it — wouldn’t have gotten him much farther.
However, Albus already knew that Tom was a Parselmouth, and there are very few of those, and he knew that it is an inheritable trait. And, all of the Parselmouths anyone else knows about seem to be connected to a single family, which turned out to also be connected to that locket. I think Albus wasn’t at all convinced by Caractacus’s contention that the young woman who sold Burke the locket had stolen it. He may have even had a vague recollection of poor, walleyed Merope Gaunt wearing a locket at Hogwarts.
For that matter Slughorn may have remembered Tom Riddle flashing about the Peverill ring. Slughorn would certainly have been a reasonable place to start asking questions regarding genealogy. He probably knows something about nearly all of the ww’s older families.
Either by a leap of association, or some lucky chance, something led Albus to Bob Ogden (actually, this is explored elsewhere, and may have taken place even before the murder of Hepzibah Smith), who had a run-in with the Gaunt family back in the mid-1920s. Albus may very well have already been a friend of the Ogden family. We do know of one Tiberius Ogden, one of the Hogwarts examiners, who resigned his seat on the Wizengamot in protest over Dumbledore’s ouster at the opening of OotP. Bob may even have mentioned the Gaunt incident during a discussion of Albus’s current investigation. Or he might have mentioned his experience at the time it happened, and Albus recalled it.
The fact that a sizable amount of the altercation in Ogden’s memory was conducted in Parseltongue may have forced Albus to arrange for a visit to Azkaban for an interview with Morfin to get a translation, or he may have simply been following any additional leads to the locket that figured in the memory, which was an heirloom of Morfin’s family. This led him to Morfin’s buried memory of the day of the Riddle Massacre and the theft of the Peverill ring. Which pretty much blew the lid off the whole nasty business. Since Rowling did once tell us that Albus, although not a Parselmouth himself, could understand the language when it was spoken by a human, it is possible that Morfin taught it to him over the period that Albus was campaigning for Morfin’s release. (Rowling later reversed herself by stating that it isn’t a language that one can learn, but that statement makes complete nonsense of the way it’s used in canon, and I think we can dispense with it.)
This next bit is complete speculation and the later revelations regarding the device carved into that ring necessarily shifts my original focus a bit, but the probability is that someone in Slytherin House had recognized the device on that ring. The Head of Slytherin would certainly recognize it when he saw it “in person”. In fact, to all appearances, Slughorn did recognize it, and he certainly remembers it, for he reacted to it when Albus turned up at his hideout wearing the same ring nearly 60 years later. I don’t know how dilatory Albus’s progress in this chain of testimony was since, if he had all this info by the time Tom resurfaced, it is a wonder why he did not confront him with at least some of it.
Or perhaps that was what he was referring to with his comment that rumors of Tom’s doings had reached the school and that he should be sorry to believe half of them.
Are we really sure Albus Dumbledore was a Gryffindor? These are all Ravenclaw failures. The one thing Albus is not prone to is Gryffindor-style, rash, unconsidered action. (Except when the author forces it on him, offstage, to move the plot forward.) He is every bit as much of an “armchair expert” as his friend Slughorn.
And he has been letting things fall through the cracks for decades. Important things. In fact, matters of life and death. And time was running out for him to put things right. It is just not possible to read his actions, from his first appearance in HBP on the Dursleys’ doorstep in chapter 3, as anything other than part of an extended process of “putting his affairs in order”.
By that time Albus Dumbledore knew that he was dying.
And it has finally sunk in that my use of the term “hubris” to describe Albus’s faults was absolutely, unmistakably, literally spot-on.
We are dealing with a veritable Greek tragedy here. In the full-bore Classical tradition. And this is not just a thin overlay of the problem, either. It underlies everything.
This Greek tragedy enactment goes all the way to the bone. It took me months after finally concluding that Albus must have turned that Prophecy loose deliberately, before the inherent classical tragedy underlying the series began to surface. And I really have no excuse not to have seen it earlier.
(ETA: Rowling will never admit that Albus Dumbledore turned the Prophecy loose deliberately. But, quite frankly, she’s lied to us before. And everything in the whole progression of this story from the point that it got loose supports my contention that he did indeed do exactly that.)
I mean, come on, we are dealing with the fallout from a Prophecy, here! How many Greek tragedies can you say that about? (Clue: just about all of the best-known ones.)
The central figures of Greek myths almost universally set the wheels of their own destruction in motion by first getting above themselves and attracting the attention of the Gods, and then trying to evade a fate foretold. Riddle’s actions are a perfect example of this particular road to ruin. I think that Albus also finally came to grief by trying to use a Prophecy to take down an enemy and to manipulate how it would all play out. This was unworthy. It was a betrayal of everything he had ever stood for.
Upon consideration, I think I may be way off-base in my statement above that it was only in the last year of his life that he began to realize how badly he had mismanaged things. He may have been dodging that particular bullet for the past wizarding generation. The final year was just the year when all those chickens finally came home to roost.
I’ll provisionally cut him some slack in that he may have originally hoped to spook Riddle into doing something so reckless that they could have shut him down before he could get at the child who was foretold in it. Possibly before the kid was even born. But even if Albus did never study Divination, as he claims, he really ought to have known better. Prophecies just don’t work like that.
The prophecy demons must really have caught Albus at his very weakest and most vulnerable point in order to have duped him so easily. Because Albus clearly knows exactly what a Prophecy is worth. They are all lies. He knows that they are spontaneous eruptions of Dark magic, which will turn on you if you try to do anything to direct them. Not merely turn on the person you direct them at, they will turn on you.
For years, Albus was believed by many to be the greatest wizard of modern times. And we can now recognize that he was all but certainly conceited enough to secretly agree with them. Such people attract the Prophecy demons. Particularly once they start believing their own publicity. Being the “greatest wizard” probably includes being a master of Dark magic as well as the more “domesticated” sort. But even so, to believe that he could direct the outcome of something like a Prophecy was an unmistakably, classic piece of hubris.
Right off the top, he lied to himself. He convinced himself that he could deploy the Prophecy, carefully edited, and scam Riddle into setting up his own destruction. The gamble may be paying off in the long run, but the cost is far higher than Albus ever anticipated, and much of the price is of a kind he was not really willing to pay. And any opportunity of being able to tweak the timing absolutely did not happen. By deploying that Prophecy he also created the whole unnecessary complication of the Harrycrux — which was not a part of the solution, and which now had to be dealt with as well as the rest of the Horcruxes.
He also does not seem to have realized that he trapped himself just as surely as he trapped Riddle, until after the wheels were already in motion; forcing himself into a perfectly odious line of action that was not really in his nature (and required him to take responsibility for something). However much he tried to shirk it.
First off, he couldn’t just stand back and let it all happen without him. That’s not the way an Albus Dumbledore operates. Not if he intended to remain on top of matters. Not if he intended to know who the foretold child was (assuming there even was such a child), to provide the child with some sort of protection, and to oversee his welfare. In short, he had to break a lifelong habit and get involved.
So, first he founded the Order of the Phoenix and staffed it with his most trusted associates and everyone he could find who had managed to “defy” the Dark Lord. Thinking that then he could back off, and they could all watch each other’s backs, under his direction.
But he doesn’t seem to have told them what it was really all about. The Order don’t seem to have been told about the Prophecy. (Or not until Year 5, when they were guarding the record of it.) They just knew that they had to protect each other, particularly the children. I suspect that only Albus (and just possibly Snape, who was not in the Order, and, at a stretch, Aberforth, who was) knew why.
Then he started having to treat people — people that he knew personally — as pieces on a game board, while waiting for the child to be born.
The chain of actions he now found himself engaged in must have gone completely against the grain, since Riddle wasn’t taking the bait and putting himself at risk.
And, conversely, once Albus realized that he had to oversee the Prophecy as it played out, the first phase of the whole point of turning it loose and creating some super-special, mystic hero, was for the kid to be “marked” by the enemy, so he would be qualified to solve the Dark Lord problem for them. That must have really made Albus’s day.
He is a very detached old gent, but I really did not think that he was as hard-hearted or cold-blooded as Rowling portrayed him in DHs, and the people he actually knows are real to him, not chessmen. His response was to try to protect everyone and to forestall the inevitable. By the time Harry and Neville were born, he was totally at cross-purposes with himself.
And then when Sirius Black waded in and made a pig’s breakfast of Albus’s carefully laid plans (for the second time) and Albus ended up with his future hero marked after all — and lost the kid’s parents. He tried to distance himself by laying a blood protection on the kid and dumping him on his mother’s sister (despite Minerva’s account of just what kind of people the Dursleys were), setting Arabella Figg to keep watch, and never showing his face in the vicinity again.
The basic course of action is the kind of calculating behavior you would expect from a Rufus Scrimgeour. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Albus Dumbledore is no Rufus Scrimgeour. Our Rufus would have started training Harry as soon as his magic became trainable and would have thrown him at Tom at the earliest possible opportunity. Preferably before Tom managed to make a physical return to the wizarding world at all.
But not Albus. Pro-active problem solving is really not his style.
And all of Albus’s disassociating himself turned out to be for nothing once Harry finally showed up in person, looking like a scrawny little underdog. If Albus’s track record with Hagrid (and Snape?) was anything to go by, Albus Dumbledore had a soft spot for underdogs. And then Harry completely won his heart by unnecessarily plunging into the labyrinth to save the Philosopher’s Stone.
From that point there was no looking back. From that point, everything was for Harry.
To the exclusion of just about everybody else. Even to the exclusion of any kind of common sense. I suspect that after they all (except the Flamels) managed to survive the adventure of the Philosopher’s Stone Albus was strenuously attempting to convince himself that their Dark Lord problem had effectively already been solved. That they could just keep blocking Tom’s return attempts until he never managed to return. That was his story to Harry anyway. I wonder which of them he was trying to convince?
It was only as the casualty count began to rise, and ended up including students in his care, which at the end of OotP finally forced him to return to Plan A. It was only by sheer blind luck that none of those kids at the DoM with Harry had got themselves killed.
Harry’s raid on the DoM had finally taught Albus a long-needed lesson. Leaving the boy untrained and uninformed was just too dangerous. It might be possible to keep blocking Voldemort. But it was not possible to keep blocking both Voldemort and Harry, together.
He had set this in motion. He had no excuse. He had gotten the hero he had been asking for. And, as he had admitted all the way back in PS/SS, humans have a knack for wanting exactly what is worst for them. The boy needed to be given his mission and turned loose to attempt it.
And NONE of this was ever necessary. You do not need to create a super-special, mystic hero to take out a handful of Horcruxes. You need a bunch of volunteers who are willing to commit to what may be a suicide mission. You need to share information, and you need to develop some confidence and faith in the followers you’ve already got.
And he’d have had volunteers. Even Reggie Black was willing to take a shot at it, and he was on the other side!
How may lives have been lost due to Albus having put all his eggs in the Harry Potter basket? I make it at 11 by the end of HBP, not counting *any* of the Order members from the first war, apart from James, Lily, and Sirius. And Albus, himself.
On the other hand, Lily Potter bought him nearly 14 years of peace.
Which he wasted.
It’s been pointed out to me that if the above is the case, then Albus’s statement in HBP, chapter 23 about the significance of the Prophecy to Voldemort and Harry being voluntary on their parts comes across as both dishonest and hypocritical.
I’m not convinced it proves anything of the sort. You have to consider that Albus may be playing the “sadder but wiser” card by the time that conversation took place. And he may believe he has a very good reason to not be completely forthcoming with Harry yet. He had been worn down by over 20 years of fighting against Riddle before the Prophecy demons threw temptation in his path. And I still think he succumbed in a moment of weakness.
By the end of OotP, however, Albus had obviously got a clue. That tear that Harry didn’t notice signified something. We can’t be altogether certain of what, but it may be more than just the avowed emotional mistake of getting too attached to Harry and letting things fall through the cracks elsewhere.
But I very much doubt that tear was on Sirius Black’s account.
I am suddenly flashing on Patricia McKillup’s ‘A Riddle of Stars’ trilogy wherein the Land Ruler of the whole world,
...who has been living in hiding for generations and masquerading as his own servant, states to the young hero who he has been putting through all sots of appalling situations, that he had never dared to hope that he would be given an heir that he could love.
At that point in the story arc Albus Dumbledore had just gotten it hammered home that he had created this appointed hero for a purpose, and that purpose made it a hopeless mistake to grow too fond of the boy, because; 1. he could lose him., and; 2. he had to risk him, and; 3. ultimately, when the boy learns the truth he will know that it was Albus who first betrayed him. (Which, imho, would have played far better than the weaseling cop-out that Rowling finally gave us.)
I really do believe that the statement he made about being so much smarter than most people that his mistakes were correspondingly huger than theirs, too, was an acknowledgement that he finally realizes that HE set them all on their current path, and that it was a mistake.
And they cannot bail, because Voldemort isn’t going to turn loose of his end of the rope.
And, I really do begin to wonder whether what the green potion showed him was, in detail, every single result of turning loose that Prophecy, with the full cost in human lives.