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Unanswered Dumbledore Questions

by David Haber

These are elements of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that would seem to be related to either the Dumbledore or Snape mysteries, but they have loop-holes or unresovled bits of information, and we're not sure about them and are still checking into them...

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Reader Comments: (Page 9)

Yes, that is my dilemma. I have a gut feeling that all three are involved, and that the words "either", "neither" and "other" are pronouns for certain individuals, but who?
And how? I have a feeling that a blood sacrifice be required in order for Harry to do away with Voldemort. Knowing Harry, he not sacrifice someone else, so he stand in for the sacrifice, and doing so, as his mother did for him, he end Voldemort.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on January 28, 2007 5:17 PM

"and either must at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives"

That is the exact wording in English. I suppose it could mean "and either (Neville or Harry) must at the hand of the other (Voldemort), for neither (Neville or Harry) can live while the other (Voldemort) survives". Perhaps. Maybe. Possibly.
I'm pretty sure Rowling intended the prophecy to be ambiguous in the extreme.
The idea of Harry sacrificing himself to save Neville is perfectly possible. I'm really hoping we haven't seen the last of Fawkes! Remember the way he took that ing curse Voldemort fired at Dumbledore in the ministry?

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on January 28, 2007 8:20 PM


I have come to the same conclusion regarding the wording of the prophecy, with either and neither referring to Harry and Neville, and other referring to Voldemort. But the logic (or illogic) of it keeps tripping me up.
If neither Harry nor Neville can live if Voldemort survives, why does it have to follow that one of the boys must at the hand of Voldemort. Of course Voldemort does not need a reason to , but why would the voice speaking the prophecy make the fact that someone survives dependent on someone else ?
I am reminded of the scene in GoF when Voldemort told Pettigrew to " the spare". Will there be another person present when Harry finally faces Voldemort, and the seer saw one of them ?

I am also drawing parallels with the situation of Dumbledore and Harry going after the locket in the cave.

A blood sacrifice was required to enter and exit the cave.

Three people were necessary to successfully retrieve the locket -- Dumbledor drank the poison, Harry made sure he finished and got him back to safety, and Snape would have counteracted the poison if the Dark Mark was not there. I am sure Voldemort would not have made himself dependent on anyone else and so made provision for getting the locket without endangering himself. He probably would have brought a child with him and forcefed him/her the poison and then left them to . That would solve the dilemma of the boat being made to carry one grown wizard and yet more than one person was needed to retrieve the locket. Of course, he probably could have just brought an antidote to the poison, but a sacrifice seems more in character. If Dumbledore had not been ing to risk the sacrifice of his own health in favor of Harry's, the locket would still be in the cave.

At the beginning of HBP, Dumbledore reassures Harry that he be safe while Dumbledore Apparates them both because "You are with me". At the end of the ordeal in the cave, Dumbledore tells Harry he is not worried, "Because I am with you" I am sorry if the quotes are not exactly right but this is the gist as I remember it. My point is there is a symbolic shift in power and authority from Dumbledore to Harry. Dumbledore recognizes that Harry's time has come, the final showdown be in Harry's hands, however well Harry is prepared. Harry be in the position to make the sacrifice in the end and how he chooses to proceed be "the power to vanquish the Dark Lord", " a power the Dark Lord knows not", that is, the power of self sacrifice for the good of someone else.

I am still puzzled by how the wording of the prophecy relates to the characters, I can't seem to come up with a way for it to make sense, which of course was JKR's plan all along. I also remember that Dumbledore told Harry that prophecies come true because people believe they . Voldemort started them all on the path of this prophecy. Can Harry put a stop to it?

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on January 29, 2007 06:38 AM

I have not seen a mention of another large clue to the potential fake- conspiracy: Dumbledore brings Slughorn in as Potions Master. When we first meet him in HBP, he is demonstrating his s at faking his own demise. Who's to say that Dumbledore doesn't fill his niche in Potions and gain a useful confidante and teacher in faking one's at the same time.
What's more, Slughorn is very good at brewing the Luck potions. We've seen Harry use it, does it not strike anyone else as convenient that EVERYTHING seems to fall into place for Snape that night? After leaving the dungeons (and Slughorn, if I remember) he arrives just in time to assume slaying duties from Draco. He skates past the wizards who fight the eaters and helps Draco escape. None of Harry's spells have any effect on him, although Harry has gotten the better of him before. I believe he's on the Felix (considering the difficulties of his narrow schedule and apparent triple-agent status, if it were me, I'd use it, too).

Posted by James Graham from Huntsville, Alabama on January 29, 2007 2:11 PM

It's almost poetic the way you've restated the prophecy...and sad. It means that while Voldemort either Harry or Neville, no one necessarily defeat Voldemort. In reading your posting, Voldemort clearly has the upper hand. I wish I could see in the wording that "either can defeat the other" [in between the lines]but I don't yet.

You have well organized thoughts. I loved that dialogue from DD to Harry at the beginning and end of H.B.P. ["you are with me", "I am with you"] To me it is quintessential Dumbledore. I took it to mean that Dumbledore and Harry are equals now...reciprocal. But you seem to think that there is a "changing of the guard" implied which would mean that Dumbledore knew his final hour was approaching.

Elizabeth and Patty,
There is something that is nagging me. Dumbledore keeps telling Harry not to put too much stock by the prophecy; that Voldemort was foolish to put too much stock by the prophecy. Is J.K. telling us something here?

Posted by Mikey from New Jersey on January 29, 2007 6:26 PM

Great point about Snape and Felix. It seems obvious now that you mentioned it. It fits with my opinion that Dumbledore planned for all that happened after the Dark Mark appeared. His was somehow necessary to the plan to bring down Voldemort, and Snape had to appear loyal to Voldemort and has a task to complete while in Voldemort's camp. He had the chance to Harry, and yet gave him advice about closing his mind and using silent incantations.

I am starting to think that Harry must find some way to set aside the prophecy. It comes down to a question of free or predetermination. We know Harry has the strength of character to prevail, but is his fate determined by a prophecy, which, if not heard by anyone but Dumbledore, may or may not have had the same impact on the wizarding world?

Does anyone else see the similarity between the situation Draco finds himself in, and Harry's situation?
Draco is in danger of losing his parents to Lord Voldemort. (If you play with fire, you get burned), and if he himself can survive be an orphan.
Wasn't Draco the first Hogwarts student that Harry met in Diagon Alley in book 1? I don't see how the whiny brat can be anything besides a pawn for Lord Voldemort, if he lives long enough, but if he flies under the radar he might just wreak enough havoc to hurt Harry's friends and slow him down. I can also imagine a scene where Harry is placed in a position to be able to exact some revenge on Draco but shows mercy instead, as Dumbledore did on the tower. I don't think Draco has true evil in him as his father does. He is too petty and afraid and has been coddled his whole life. He probably does not even have the aptitude of any of the other students. Being Snapes favorite, and Lucius' son has carried him further than he could get on his own. He wants to be more than he is, but is probably afraid of what Voldemort require of him to get there. I wonder why Voldemort expected Draco to be able to Dumbledore? Does he have an overrated view of Draco's ability and talent based on Lucius' word? Will he be the weak link that Harry be able to use to bring down Voldemort?

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on January 30, 2007 06:13 AM

Regarding the wording of the prophecy again:

Maybe "neither" refers to Harry, the boy who lived,

"neither can live while the other survives"

meaning Neville is the other who survives because he escaped Voldemort's notice. This interpretation means that some of the prophecy has already happened, which we have been assuming take place in the future. Remember, the prophecy was made before Harry and Neville were born, so all of it was in Dumbledore's future when he heard the prophecy. So that means that the only part which has not happened yet is

"either must at the hand of the other"

If Neville is the other, and Harry is neither, (neither the Dark Lord, nor the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord), then "either" is Voldemort who must at the hand of Neville. This is the only way I can come up with where Voldemort s and the prophecy still holds.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on January 30, 2007 06:25 AM

I too have been perplexed by the wording of the prophesy. Of course, JKR planned it that way. My first interpretation was as Elizabeth stated so well--"and either (Neville or Harry) must at the hand of the other (Voldemort), for neither (Neville or Harry) can live while the other (Voldemort) survives". If Neville s (sorry Neville), then Harry who has the power the DL knows not, may then go ahead and Voldy.

However, I thought that perhaps this was too easy.

I have read theories (dare i say on other sites) that Neville may actually be the living Horcrux---based on his poor memory and other things (another discussion in itself). If this is the case, then the prophesy could be interpretted as "either (Neville or Voldemort) must at the hand of the other (Harry) for neither (Neville or Voldemort) can live while the other survives". However, if this were true, then really both Neville and Voldemort would have to be ed by Harry. At least Harry would live in this one:)

Similarly, for those who believe that Harry is a Horcrux "either (Harry or Voldemort) must at the hand of the other (Neville) for neither (Harry or Voldemort) can live while the other (Neville) survives". I hope I'm wrong about this one--yes, i do feel more attached to Harry, as do most readers. Also, Dumbledore seems pretty confident that it be Harry who need to (or destroy) Voldemort. Also, the books have not really lead us to believe that Harry and Voldemort need to be ed in order for Neville to live.

One slight change to this last theory is that perhaps "other" could be Snape. "either (Harry or Voldemort) must at the hand of the other (Snape) for neither (Harry or Voldemort) can live while the other (Snape) survives". :( i think this one least likely, and besides i still think Snape is good.

So, we're back with the first interpretation (thank you, Elizabeth). Will Voldemort Neville, leaving Harry to or destroy Voldemort? Or, Voldemort Harry, leaving Neville to or destroy Voldemort?

Posted by Heather from NJ on January 31, 2007 10:41 AM

I somehow don't think we are going to get a totally happy ending. But I think it be emotionally real and satisfying. Life happens. happens. There's a wonderful line in LOTR spoken by Aragorn; "There are some things that it is better to begin, even though the ending may be dark." I'm referring to the book here not the movie.
I think the ending of DH might be like that. There is no way that Voldemort go down without a sacrifice. Not his idea of a sacrifice of course, but someone who is ing to for others. I think that would fit either Harry or Neville.
I have also wondered about if Harry does survive; he retain all his powers after V's defeat?

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 1, 2007 07:05 AM

I was listening to the HP audio book of HPaCS and heard some thing that I didn't notice before and after taking out the book to check, this is what I heard and later read again.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ( US Version ).
Chapter 7: Mudbloods and Murmurs. pg. 112 last 3 lines.

"A loud bang echoed around the stadium and a jet of green light shot out of the wrong end of Ron's wand, hitting him in the stomach and sending him reeling backward onto the grass."

If I'm not wrong, this is a spell with a green color to and the description is similar to what is described in the the Head Masters by Snape.

Don't know what you make of this but I'm glad to give some more light in the matter.

Posted by David Llorens from Hatillo, Puerto Rico on February 2, 2007 08:51 AM

David: You have a very good point, we are never told that green light produces . In OotP, it's clear that when Bellatrix performs Accio to get the prophecy, she sends green light flashes towards Harry (the book says she sent "another flash of green light"). We know that Avada' produces green light, but we are never told about the reverse. That makes a huge difference from red light, which is always related to stunning spells (for instance, when Harry sees red lights towards Hagrid, then Mc Gonagall, then the centaur, he knows it is a stunning spell).

Then, every time we see a green light, and nobody is in the Avada' manner, we have to question whether it really was an operating Avada'.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on February 2, 2007 09:43 AM

About "either" and "neither" in the prophecy, I had a look at french translation to make sure (Jo was french teacher, she must have checked it, at least for the prophecy). "either" is translated as "l'un d'eux" which literaly means "one of those", and "neither" is translated as "aucun" which means "none of them". Than, in "either", you can only include two persons, the "one" and the "other", and it can't refer to anyone else but the "one who can vanquish the Dark Lord" and the "Dark Lord" himself, Harry and Voldemort.

The prophecy just states that:
- Voldemort has to at the hand of Harry, OR
- Harry has to at the hand of Voldemort, so that Voldemort can live and be ed by another wizard.

I think I prefer the first one.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on February 2, 2007 12:47 PM

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