Web Counters
counterGo to Publications CollectionGo to Graphics CollectionsGo to Commentary CollectionsGo to All Things RelativeConcerning the Potterverse Go to The Potterverse UNhallowed

The Quirrell Debacle:

By now it ought to be clear to any reader of PS/SS over the age of about 15 that Dumbledore and the staff of Hogwarts were on the alert throughout the school year for an attempt to be made to steal the Philosophers’ Stone. Or at any rate Dumbledore was. Why else would there have been a Labyrinth of challenges set up to protect it?

After all, you cannot assume that Albus just suddenly took it into his head to show up on the Flamels’ doorstep one summer morning and talk his friend and former partner, into giving up the Philosopher’s Stone — possibly forever — so he could take it off to the school and use it as bait for a Voldy-trap purely on spec.

It is also clear to the adult reader that there was a lot more going on that year than Harry and his friends ever knew, and more than they eventually managed to figure out. We probably still do not know everything about what was going on behind the scenes during Harry’s first year. And we probably never will. Harry and his friends were just too young to consider the big picture, and they were the ones asking all the questions.

What we are given to understand, however, is that the situation was set in motion by the folly of young Professor Quirrell.

One of the many things that we do not know about Quirrell is just how young Professor Quirrell actually was, nor for how long he actually was a teacher at Hogwarts Academy. Although we have a much better idea now, given the revelations of HBP, and the timeline adjustments forced upon us in DHs.

Neither do we know — for certain — how long Quirrell had been the stammering wreck that we met when Harry did.

Some of our confusion is based upon various statements made by Rubeus Hagrid, who, however sincere, is simply not the most credible of sources. We really do just seem to have a continuing problem accepting “the world according to Rubeus Hagrid”. For one thing, objectivity is a foreign concept to him, and his biases keep getting in our way.

Hagrid first tells us that Quirrell was “all right while he was studying out of books”, but, then, he went off for a year to get practical experience, and came back “frightened of his subject, frightened of his students” and then went on to do a great deal more grumbling in that vein. Which, to me sounds remarkably as though Quirrell had already been a teacher at the school before taking that fatal sabbatical. Given that we now know that Dumbledore has never, over his entire 30+ years as Headmaster, managed to keep a teacher in the DADA position long enough to actually finish out a year, this suggestion offers a distinct level of “disconnect”.

On the other hand, it is just possible that Quirrell’s appointment as DADA instructor in Harry’s first year was in the nature of a rematch.

By contrast, however, at the end of Goblet of Fire, Voldemort paints Quirrell as young, foolish and over-confident. Easily taken over. I’m not sure but that a rematch sounds even more likely from this account.

After all, we don't know whether the DADA position jinx disappates when you leave the castle. Nor is Quirrell the only survivor of that jinx (if he had indeed previously tried to teach the subject at Hogwarts) who ended up taking on Tom himself in one form or another before the year was out.

We just don’t care about Umbridge.


Our only other source of information is Percy Weasley who comes across sounding very much as though he already knew Quirrell prior to Harry and Ron’s first year, and seems to have regarded him with a great deal of personal admiration. Well, if there is one thing that has become clear over the course of the series, it is that Percy thoroughly admires competence when he is shown it. Rather more than he does character, unfortunately. You really don’t get the impression that Quirrell was ever a strong one.

Percy’s input on this subject is also our first introduction of the persistent “Snape wants the DADA position” rumor, which was originally presented in the context of a modified crowing session over it having been Quirrell who got the position rather than Snape.

Which originally suggested to me that if Percy is still inclined to crow about it, he may have been acquainted with Quirrell when Quirrell was a student himself. Quirrell was introduced as a young man, after all.

This reading just does not work, however, since it was Quirrell who first introduced the Severus-hated-James-too theme to the series, and he could scarcely have been in a position to do so unless he had witnessed at least a part of it. Voldemort would hardly have bothered to tell Quirrell about that. For that matter, Voldemort had been nowhere near Hogwarts during the Snape/Marauder cohort’s era.

Quirrell would have to have been relatively new to the Hogwarts staff, which, given his alleged youth is hardly a surprise. But then had he been on staff before his “sabbatical”? Is that why Percy was so gleeful over the fact that they had Quirrell teaching DADA instead of Snape? Was he simply the first of the string of one-year wonders to have volunteered to come back?

It is at least a possibility. And since we are never going to actually know one way or the other, I am going to adopt it as a tentative hypothesis. (Allegedly Rowling has since claimed that Quirrell formerly taught Muggle Studies. That’s another subject with an unfortunate record on retaining instructors.)


As to Quirrell’s character; when the different accounts are compared I am somewhat more inclined to believe Voldemort’s reading of Quirrell’s original character than Hagrid’s. A wizard whose nerve is already broken is unlikely to have been exploring dangerously haunted forests in Albania. And one who is inclined to overconfidence is more likely to have been willing to return to what is generally rumored to be a cursed position. Particularly if the curse has already bitten him once.

Nevertheless, while Hagrid’s reading of the situation seems likely to be highly inaccurate when applied to any specific details, it sounds basically true at its heart. Quirrell probably was “all right” when he was still studying (or teaching) out of books. But the jumpiness he was showing by the time Harry met him was probably a very recent development and Hagrid’s statement regarding his performance on the job now sounds more in the nature of a prediction than an observation. The nerve-shattered Quirrell had not yet been put to the test in the classroom.

But Hagrid had already encountered him that state in whatever meeting Dumbledore had called with the groundskeeper, the Heads of House and the DADA instructor in preparation for setting up the Labyrinth of challenges to protect the Philosopher’s Stone, and Hagrid no doubt formed his opinion at that point.

And, so long as we are at it, Hagrid’s “prediction” on the subject was a good deal more accurate than most of Trelawney’s. Hagrid is not what anyone will ever regard as clever. But he is often fairly shrewd.

As to Quirrell’s jumpiness being due to an encounter with a vampire or a Hag, I think we can safely put this, and indeed his whole performance down to being a preemptive cover story that Quirrell had turned loose himself, expecting it to explain any potential “strangeness” in his behavior (like muttering to himself) that might be observed in the future. For that matter, I think that the jumpiness itself was at least partly a performance to disguise any possible slip-ups which might occur during the upcoming year, and that it was always a good deal more than half an act. Poor Quirrell was inherently a very sharp young man. At the end of the year, with his body failing and his will completely overwritten by that of his master, Quirrell finally discarded his stammering wreck impersonation and revealed his true nature to be cool-headed, clever and, above all, competent.


The capture, enslavement, and death of young Professor Quirrell is one of the series’s unacknowledged tragedies. And it is at least a tragedy on the same level as the murder of Cedric Diggory. And this is one of the issues upon which Rowling seems to have fumbled the ball. She has never given open acknowledgement that Quirrell’s death was a tragedy, nor that it is yet another of the crimes to be laid to Voldemort’s account. It was her very first book, so perhaps allowances may be made at the time. But she has had ample time to point it out since then either in subsequent books or in her interviews, and she hasn’t. Quirrell was never “real” to her.

Before the publication of HBP, wherein we learned that the DADA position really is jinxed, I had already chosen to take a stand and say that although we never heard about the DADA position being jinxed before year 2, there had probably been a string of 1-year holders of the post, of which Quirrell was only the latest one. In this case, if his sabbatical year to gain experience in the field was the year before Harry started at Hogwarts, then the year that he actually held the position before would have been the year before that. Which would have been the academic year of 1989-90. (Possibly not coincidentally, this would have been the Weasley twins’ first year at Hogwarts.)

Given the difficulty that Dumbledore was having staffing the position, Quirrell’s DADA appointment, the original one that is, may have been arranged a while in advance. It is not out of line to suppose that one of the earlier holders of the position — or, as we now must also consider; Horace Slughorn, in retirement — may have chosen to pull a few strings.

Or, simplest of all: Quirrell heard of the opening through the conventional channels, applied for it on the strength of his DADA NEWT and several years independent theoretical study, was accepted, and teaches it for a year, doing a perfectly competent job up to May or June. As always, however, something unforeseen comes up. This turns out to be a situation where his lack of practical experience is a serious, possibly dangerous, disadvantage. He or a student might even be injured as a result. Quirrell announces that he is taking a year to get the sort of experience in the field that might have prevented the occurrence, and is willing to try again. All three of the accounts we have, from Hagrid, Percy, and even Voldemort make it sound very much as though Quirrell had already been a teacher before he took his ultimately fatal sabbatical.

Another one of my own early suspicions was that Dumbledore had steadfastly refused to hire as an instructor for this position anyone who has a known history of being a Dark wizard. This reading no longer really plays. It might have explained some of his difficulty in staffing the post, and it certainly offered a “public” reason for his reluctance to give the position to Severus Snape, but it simply does not play. The Dark Arts may not be a formal study offered at Hogwarts, but the study is neither illegal nor even socially taboo. Albus himself would appear to have had more than a passing understanding of the Dark Arts, himself, and Snape’s expertise in Dark magic is a resource that Albus all too clearly regarded as highly useful in an emergency.

Nevertheless, Quirrell, as a young man trained under his own eye would have been a perfect fit for the profile of Dumbledore’s preferred type of instructor for this class.


In any case, we can still extrapolate that Quirrell holds the position the expected single year, and then goes off on sabbatical and performs very well in the field. So well, in fact, that he is distinctly over-confident by the time he gets to Albania (which by this time is sounding like a popular wizarding holiday destination. Everyone seems to go there) and decides to investigate the tales of a forested area where, over the past decade, there have been reports of beasts, particularly snakes, which exhibit ominously unbeastly behavior.

I tend to see young Professor Quirrell as Percy Weasley’s “shadow twin”, much in the way that Harry and his friends sometimes appear to echo the Marauders. Very bright, very upright, very conscious of his own good intentions, very, very good at going by the book and following all the rules of how things are “supposed” to work — and completely out of his depth if he comes up against something that doesn’t bloody care about rules.

But the toxic levels of “hatred, greed and ambition” about which Dumbledore disparaged QuirrellMort probably did not originate with young Professor Quirrell. But, then, by this time we have seen it amply demonstrated that Albus Dumbledore rather consistently blames victims for their own defeat. And the passive support of and obedience to his Master that was demonstrated by Quirrell at the end of the book were the result of his will having been completely overwritten and devoured by that of his Master. He was owned to his very soul, by his conqueror. This was our first glimpse of a man spellbound by the effects of something in the Imperius class of totally controlling magic. We did not have the context to recognize it at the time. We do now.

And it is horrifying.

What Quirrell did not know, and so couldn’t warn his Master of was that Dumbledore had probably long kept some form of monitoring on Voldemort’s refuge in Albania to take note of and report any wizards who might enter that part of the forest. (This surveillance may be accomplished through a trusted agent, or by one of the mysterious instruments in his office.) This had been going on for years, and when Quirrell went into the forest and came out haunted and faintly twitching, Dumbledore was informed at once.

And even failing that likelihood, he would still have been made fully aware that Quirrell had somehow been “got at” as soon as he came face to face with him. Even before Tom actually took up residence inside his skull. There was never any mystery on Dumbledore’s part as to who was serving as Voldemort’s agent at Hogwarts.


The real question regarding the adventure of the Philosophers’ Stone is why it ever was set up the way it was. That the whole charade was set up as a trap, is obvious to any reader. But since we see everything from Harry’s point of view it is not so glaringly obvious that in the normal way of things, there was no reason whatsoever for the Philosophers’ Stone to have ever been brought to the school.

Particularly now that we have been told in HBP that during his first rise, Voldemort had dismissed the option of extending his life by way of stealing Flamel’s Stone, or of attempting to create one himself.

[Note: the plan to bring the Stone to Hogwarts had to have been announced to the staff some time before the Stone was actually brought to the school, in order for the labyrinth to be created to guard it. Voldemort, who had already enslaved, but not yet completely possessed Quirrell, learned of it at a slight delay and ordered Quirrell to make his attempt on Gringotts to see if he could nip in and get it ahead of Hagrid. Quirrell was still able to shake Harry’s hand at that point without harm to either of them, but he had already adopted the stammering wreck persona.]

What I think the staff’s objective was — in addition to rescuing Quirrell, and capturing Voldemort if they could — was to distract Voldemort from setting any of his other suspected goals in motion.

Dumbledore (and I would have thought most of the rest of his senior staff — although Rowling does not seem to agree with me) already knew that Quirrell had been got at and overpowered by Voldemort. Dumbledore and his closest colleagues probably also knew that if Voldemort had actually physically possessed Quirrell, rather than simply overcoming his will and haunting him psychically, then they were engaged in a race against time before the body he was possessing failed.

I suspect that Dumbledore may have also believed that according to the parameters of the Trelawney Prophesy he had no hope of actually destroying Voldemort at this time. That they must content themselves with capturing and neutralizing him. From his statement at the end of the book, he seems to think that repeatedly blocking the Dark Lord’s return was in itself a sufficient goal to attempt to maintain.

By this time it must have been fairly widely known in the ww that Lord Voldemort had been seeking immortality. He had boasted of it to his followers, and their testimony had been recorded whenever there had been an arrest. Consequently, particularly in his current, rather precarious condition, Dumbledore gambled that waving the Philosophers’ Stone under his nose like bait might well prove to be irresistibly attractive. Getting QuirrellMort to assist in setting up the series of challenges guarding the Stone might give him a false sense of security and keep him concentrated on capturing the Stone rather than, say, regrouping his followers, or directing too much of his attention to his unfinished business with the Potter child, who was expected to arrive at the school with the upcoming term.

And, if they could manage to trap Voldemort quickly enough, they might be able to affect a rescue of their young colleague. That’s something else I don’t see anyone bringing up. They were dealing with a hostage situation.

The Labyrinth of Challenges also constituted a rescue attempt.

One that failed.

Hopes of such a conclusion must have faded as the school year progressed. And with the death of the first unicorn, Dumbledore knew that Voldemort had effectively killed his hostage and it was too late.


Indeed, Dumbledore must have been waiting for an attempt on the Stone to be made at any point after Hagrid showed up with that dragon’s egg. I am absolutely convinced that Dumbledore knew all about Norbert. That transaction with the hooded stranger had taken place in the Hog’s Head under Albus’s own brother’s eye, for heaven’s sake. (And I am not convinced that Hagrid wasn’t coached to let the information of how to get past Fluffy escape, in that exchange. The whole point was to get QuirrellMort into the Labyrinth, where he could be trapped, after all.) And Albus certainly knew about the dragon once it had hatched. If the children hadn’t managed to talk Hagrid into sending Norbert away, he would soon have intervened himself. Canon Hagrid, after all, does live in a wooden hut, and keeping a dragon is illegal. Particularly if you are doing it on the grounds of a school.

Voldemort, however, may not be altogether sane but he is not stupid (or, not at that point of the series, anyway). Nor is he always reckless. All too often he is cautious to a fault. And he knows a trap when he sees one. So long as he had Quirrell as a hostage, he could be confident that he would not be harmed. He suspected that Dumbledore was aware of at least part of what was going on. What he could not be sure of was just how far Dumbledore had taken the rest of the staff into his confidence. Dumbledore has a history of playing his cards very close to his vest.

I think that the Heads of House who had also contributed to the protections on the Stone may have known the whole of it and played dumb in order not to give the game away. Or at any rate, they would have in a series where grown-ups act like grown-ups. The more junior members of the staff may have honestly been expecting an attack to come from outside the School.

As the school year progressed, the waiting game between Dumbledore and Voldemort must have become nerve-wracking for everyone concerned. I imagine that Dumbledore quite shamelessly used all those owls asking for advice and assistance from the new-at-his-job Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, as an excuse to make frequent absences from the school in attempts to tempt QuirrellMort into making his move. (A bit more on that issue in the following essay related to the following year.) And the arranged confrontation between Snape and Quirrell in the Forbidden forest mid-way through the Autumn term was an additional goad intended to spur QuirrellMort to action by convincing him that another prospective thief was also after the prize. All of their efforts were aimed at convincing Voldemort to make his attempt before the year ended, and the School was vacated (which I think had been Voldemort’s own intention if his host’s body could be made to last that long).

I very much suspect that either the alleged Ministry owl that “lured” Dumbledore away during the two weeks of examinations in June was by pre-arrangement, or, just possibly, a fabrication altogether. The Trio’s panicky report to Professor McGonagall that “Snape is after the Philosophers’ Stone!” was a welcome bit of news, which she must have relayed to Dumbledore in order for him to have returned so fortuitously.

This head’s-up was no doubt accomplished by way of the unique magical communication method peculiar to the Order of the Phoenix, that of sending one’s Patronus to indicate that one needs assistance. If it was within her power, she would have also warned him of the danger that Potter and his friends might follow QuirrellMort into the Labyrinth in an attempt to protect the Stone. He does seem to already have that information before returning to the castle and encountering Ron and Hermione on their way out of the labyrinth in search of help.

The certain knowledge on the part of the senior staff, that Voldemort was present in the school from the beginning of the year, would add some additional shading to those careful ambiguities regarding Snape’s words and actions over the course of the year. Despite Rowling’s later determination to undermine her own story, he ought to have known from Albus that he was dealing with his old Master, and he was very careful to say or do nothing that year which would unequivocally mark him as being on anyone’s “side” apart from his own.

How successful he was remained undetermined until the fifth book in the series. But the indications are that if Snape did not convince Voldemort of his absolute loyalty to himself, in Year 1, he certainly managed to deflect any permanent suspicion that he might by then have been loyal to Dumbledore. From HBP, we learned that with the removal of Lucius Malfoy from the game board, Snape has succeeded to Malfoy’s (presumed) former place as “most favored follower”.


Snape and Dumbledore also probably had something planned concerning that Gryffindor/Hufflepuff match which Snape refereed. We do not know whether this was in case there was a threatened repeat of the broom hexing incident, or if there was some other skit intended to offset the appearance of Snape having voluntarily attempted to rescue Potter in the last one. When Potter “got in the way” and the match ended prematurely Snape’s disgust was made comically obvious. Snape was also forced to move on to his pre-arranged confrontation in the forest without part of his intended “groundwork” in place.


I also believe that Snape took a much more grudging part in yet another of Albus’s little performances on Harry’s behalf during year 1. And this one did segue into a clear piece of favoritism on Dumbledore’s part, one of perhaps several that Harry was not aware of, but which go at least a small way towards Snape’s continuing resentment of the boy.

But it didn’t start out as a piece of favoritism. I’m sure that Albus considered it an absolutely necessary step. One upon which most of his future plans depended.

This incident was that odd little sequence on the evening of Christmas day wherein Snape and Filch effectively “herded” Harry (in James’s invisibility cloak) into the room where the Mirror of Erised was set up and waiting for him.

Dumbledore was taking a tremendous risk in showing Harry how the Mirror of Erised worked. True, by that point he was 99% certain that he understood what Harry was made of, and that it was only Quirrell who had been possessed by the entity that they had known as Lord Voldemort. Particularly after the broom hexing incident the month before.


And “set-up” is the correct term for that whole episode, too. If the Mirror was Dumbledore’s final “challenge” to get to the hidden Stone, then its proper “place” that year was in the heart of the Labyrinth, not in some unused room down the hall from the library.

So, what in the world was it doing there over the Christmas holidays?

It was a test.

For Harry.

Harry seems to think that because he survived the labyrinth, that the labyrinth had been offered to him as a test. He is wrong. The labyrinth was intended as a trap for Voldemort. Harry was not wanted there and would have done much better to have kept away. All his messing with the labyrinth did was to endanger the Stone more than it had been already.

Harry’s test was the Mirror of Erised.

Albus had not yet risked confronting the boy himself. And he did not intend to do so until he knew what he was dealing with.

Albus remembered the full text of the Trelawney Prophecy perfectly well, and he is old enough and clever enough to have realized that for the Dark Lord to have marked this boy “as his equal” was no guarantee that the boy was Tom’s opposite. Or that he would be on Albus’s “side”.

And while up to DHs one could theorize that Albus may have had a soft spot for young Dark wizards, he had no soft spot for Tom Riddle, and by now we all know that he had grave suspicions about the nature of Harry’s scar.

So he needed to know what he was dealing with. He needed to know whether this was another fledgling version of Tom. He needed to know what the boy was made of.

He needed to know what the boy wanted.

Well, he had a perfect tool at hand to discover that, didn’t he?

It was a test on several levels. First, would the boy share the discovery of the mirror, or would he keep it to himself, as Tom would have done? How would seeing his heart’s desire affect him? What was the boy’s heart’s desire?

Harry passed his test with flying colors. He was fascinated by the vision the Mirror showed him, but not smug or gloating, he brought Ron to see it too, and they discussed what it was they each saw.

And, as a reward, Albus came forward and opened negotiations with him.


I am convinced that Dumbledore deliberately had the Mirror moved to that room (without Quirrell’s knowledge) during the Christmas break for a reason. And the most likely reason was to find out just what motivated Harry Potter. But Albus had a secondary reason, too, and that was the matter covered by Harry’s “reward”. Dumbledore knew that if they managed to keep QuirrellMort from capturing the Stone — which seemed likely — then at the end of the adventure, they would need to retrieve the Stone from the Mirror. And, given that Dumbledore now regarded the Stone as a danger to everybody for as long as it continued to exist, and knowing something of his own nature, he suspected that he would not be able to retrieve it himself. He knew that even if he didn’t see himself using it, he would probably only be able to see himself destroying it.

Consequently, somebody else, preferably a student, whose personal responsibilities extended no farther than to make a good performance in his studies, might more readily be motivated to form a desire to simply “find” the Stone rather than to form a wish to “use” it. Particularly if finding it, in itself, was presented as a challenge. Almost any student might have served for this purpose. But, having passed his test of character, Albus chose Harry to be that student.

Once Dumbledore had given the boy a chance to get a good look at what the Mirror would do, he came forward and gave him the necessary coaching to enable him to understand how the Mirror worked. After this interview he had the Mirror moved back into the labyrinth before QuirrellMort realized that it had been shifted.


Retrieving the Stone from the Mirror after the shouting was over was probably the extent of Dumbledore’s plans for Harry in regards to the adventure of the Philosopher’s Stone. He never intended for Harry and his friends to risk their lives by following QuirrellMort into the Labyrinth. He admits as much when he tells Harry, at the end of OotP, that Harry found himself confronting Voldemort far earlier than Albus had ever anticipated.

The kids’ raid on the Labyrinth nearly upset all of Dumbledore’s plans to a fatal degree. Voldemort came very close to capturing the Stone, and that would not have happened but for Harry’s meddling. There is no way that either Quirrell or Voldemort could have gotten that Stone out of the Mirror.

I suspect that Hagrid’s Christmas gift of the wooden flute had not been in Dumbledore’s plans, either, and I doubt that he knew about it. I am inclined to think that Hagrid may have simply hoped that Harry might like to eventually make friends with Fluffy.

It also finally clicked for me on just why Harry’s plunging into the labyrinth to save the Stone finally won Albus’s heart.

Albus still didn’t know about the scar connection. Not until Harry woke up in the hospital wing and told him about it afterward. All he could see was a kid with James’s face, his flying skills and Lily’s eyes. And the fact that he had made a friend of Ron Weasley (and a rival of Malfoy). Which, in the main, was a good sign. You don’t get much more “ordinary” than the Weasleys.

But Albus does know about the nature of Horcruxes, and he would have expected a child who had been inadvertently turned into one to have shown some effect from it. It is possible that the real purpose for the blood protection that he had layered upon Lily’s sacrifice by leaving him with the Dursleys was to doubly prevent the suspected soul fragment from “touching” him.

But Harry braving the Labyrinth clinched it. Even though it was completely wrong-headed and unnecessary, even though it turned out that there was a connection to Tom, Harry’s act of throwing himself into danger to save the Stone from Tom was absolutely convincing evidence that Tom was not working through this kid. In fact, you would have to search long and hard to find anything less like Tom’s childhood behavior than to go courting danger for no personal gain.


The news that Harry had entered the Labyrinth in pursuit of the Stone must have been highly unwelcome, but it is clear from Dumbledore’s reported response to that news that he had already considered it a possibility. Or that Minerva McGonagall (or even Snape) had already alerted Albus to the kids’ unwelcome interest in the matter at the same time that he was informed that QuirrellMort had finally taken the bait.

That when found, Harry and Voldemort were discovered to be locked in mortal combat seems to have cleared Harry of any lingering suspicion of being a willing tool of the enemy, regardless of whatever else he might be. It was now solidly established that to the entity which knew itself as Voldemort (VaporMort at that point in the series), Harry Potter was still nothing more than the child that he wanted dead.

It also seems to have completely eliminated from all of Albus’s future calculations that the fact that Harry had been marked as Tom’s “equal” could potentially be regarded as a threat.

But it also became clear from the boy’s statements after he regained consciousness that there was indeed some kind of connection between the two of them. At any rate it was clear that the boy was able to sense Voldemort’s presence. But Dumbledore was not further inclined to regard Harry with suspicion.


Harry’s impression that Dumbledore deliberately arranged things so that he could make the raid on the Labyrinth as a “test” is almost certainly in error. Harry sincerely believes it. But then Harry also sincerely believed that Snape was trying to kill him and was after the Stone himself.

Indeed, if Harry and his friends had managed to restrain themselves. Dumbledore’s plan would have gone through pretty much as intended. Voldemort and his hostage would have been stuck before the Mirror, ready to be captured red-handed, unless they had the presence of mind to abandon the scene without the Stone. Which Dumbledore had cannily realized was very unlikely.

At that point of the series we had not yet taken Dumbledore’s measure. What now appeared to be clear to me was that if Dumbledore has a besetting weakness as a strategist (or perhaps I mean a tactician), it is his refusal to confront an opponent upon the basis of suspicion. As well as a reluctance to get involved at all, although he can be pressured into it.

In every possible instance over the course of the series, he has been determined to capture any wrong-doers in the very act, before witnesses, under circumstances where the burden of proof is beyond question. This has worked against his interests in both Book 1 and Book 4, and even in Book 5 one is left with the impression that his giving way to the Ministry’s pressure over the Dumbledore’s Army business could not have been his only option.

If Quirrell, who was enslaved, but not yet possessed, had been taken into custody as soon as he returned to the school there may have been a way to save him. But Voldemort would have unquestionably escaped.

At that point he would probably have merely returned to the Albanian forest, and never made contact with any of his followers, and we would all still have been waiting for the shoe to fall until Book 4. For Voldemort’s absence would have had no effect at all upon the actions of Books 2 & 3.

And Quirrell would be alive, and fighting for the Light.

Chalk up another casualty to the Headmaster’s unfortunate decision to “spare Harry”. List Quirrell’s name right above those of Cedric Diggory and Sirius Black. And add the names of both Crouches in parenthesis. And, in the list of actual volunteers, mark down Nicholas and Perinelle Flamel.