Albus Dumbledore may be the greatest wizard that ever lived, but he hasn’t always been the nicest. But a tombstone that reads, “Here Lies Albus Dumbledore: A Nice Wizard” probably wouldn’t make for a great book, let alone movie. (Or would it? It seemed to work pretty well in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!)
Like every great hero, Dumbledore has his share of skeletons in his closet. He’s also made plenty of mistakes throughout his life, which is perfectly normal. Nobody’s perfect, even in the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
While we still love Dumbledore, warts and all, we can also both learn from his mistakes as well as just wonder what the heck was he thinking. Normally of sound mind and seemingly always with a plan in place, a stumbling Dumbledore is simply jarring to watch. No matter how many times our heroes screw up, it’s still disconcerting just because we are so used to them being brilliant and saving us all.
Pointing out these occurrences helps us remember that they, too, are human, and that any of us can be hero no matter our history and mistakes we’ve made, even if we come out looking like a jerk in the process.
From poor decisions made to significant failures, here are Harry Potter: 16 Worst Decisions Dumbledore Ever Made.
16. He Set The Trio Up For Failure
Remember how annoyed everyone was when they read about how Harry, Hermione, and Ron wandered around in the woods during half of The Deathly Hallows, unsure of exactly what to do during the Second Wizarding War? Some fans even say that it’s the most boring part of the entire series.
Much of that could’ve been prevented with a little more direct guidance from Dumbledore, who already suffers from a not-the-best-mentor complex.
He left behind the most stupidly obscure clues to help the trio find the Deathly Hallows, which took them all (even Hermione) a ridiculous amount of time to solve.
15. He Let Snape Treat Kids Like Crap
Sure, when you are a double agent suffering at a great cost for your cause, you should be able to get a few perks– maybe free coffee and donuts when you get back from missions, for example. It should not come with a free pass to terrorize, ridicule, and otherwise scar children for life, which is what Severus Snape did.
It doesn’t matter how awesome he ended up being at the end of Deathly Hallows. Snape took out years of his own frustration on his students, particularly the easy targets like Neville Longbottom. We’ve all known a teacher or two high on this kind of power trip, but in the wizarding world there should be higher standards– especially with a Headmaster like Dumbledore, who doesn’t miss a thing.
He knew how Snape treated his students and didn’t do a thing to stop it. Some might argue that it was “character building,” but bully teachers are a common occurrence that fuel nightmares into children long into adulthood.
14. He Enforced The House Points System
The House Cup system is so much fun to for fans to identify with their own House pride. The thing is, the House Cup system is even more divisive than the social hierarchy in many high schools, promoting stereotyping and unnecessary competition between the Houses. The system promotes so much stereotyping that Cursed Child is based upon it, decades after Harry himself graduated.
From Eddie Redmayne filming that Hufflepuff-defending video to just about every Slytherin being stereotype as evil, House Cup culture is promoted in just about all things Harry Potter. Ask any child who has just read the books which House they wish to belong to and they will have a ready answer.
Much of it does come from the fans (how many people begged to not be sorted into Hufflepuff before Newt Scamander came along?) but how easy would it have been to unify the children of Hogwarts without their Houses? Sure, much of their distrust of one another comes from at home (particularly the Muggle hatred) but the system seems to simply reinforce it at school, and Dumbledore, with his history and status, would have been the perfect Headmaster to dismantle it.
13. He Hired A Squib To Do Magic-Free Labor
If there’s one perk about being a wizard, aside from Apparating, it’s being able to obtain a spotless home with the flick of a magical wand. As many mouths to feed as Molly Weasley has, it cheers up many a mother to see that she can at least magic her house clean without even whipping out the Mr. Clean.
You’d think that cleaning and general maintenance at Hogwarts would be conducted in a similar fashion, but Dumbledore instead chose to hire a squib to do the cleaning without magic.
Argus Filch’s days are filled with laborious toil and drudgery, which seems rather cruel when any witch or wizard could keep the school clean by much easier means. It’s hard to see Dumbledore’s reasoning behind the decision, but whether Filch was grandfathered into the job, given it to remain in the wizarding world despite his squib status or simply enjoys doing it so he can pick on the kids (see #15 about how that is problematic!), it still seems like a lousy lot in life.
12. Used 12 Grimmauld Place as Order of the Phoenix headquarters
If you’re a falsely accused Animagus (ahem, were-dog) imprisoned in Azkaban, surrounded by Dementors and dreaming of nothing but escape for over a decade, once you have your freedom, you’ll never want to relinquish it again. The very thought of being cooped up again might drive you insane, but if you were sent to the childhood home where you were hated and abused repeatedly and told to never leave, would it be any better?
That’s exactly what happened to Sirius Black when Dumbledore decided to use Number 12, Grimmauld Place as the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. Sure, it was a convenient and well-hidden spot, but the ever-perceptive Dumbledore must have known that it would simply imprison Sirius once again, driving him mad without his freedom all over again.
Plenty of people blame themselves for Sirius’s death after he impetuously led the battle against the Death Eaters that threatened his godson, and while ultimately his lbood remains on the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange, Dumbledore definitely helped to inspire Black’s wanderlust.
11. He Abandoned Harry Potter
Not only did Albus Dumbledore leave Harry Potter with his terrible aunt, uncle and cousin for most of his life, but he dumped him on their doorstep to boot.
Sure, you can argue that it was the best decision for several reasons, from Harry’s need to remain with blood relatives in order to stay protected (great reason!) to keeping Harry level-headed, away from all of the fame that awaited him in the wizarding world (which is silly, since that would effect a kid around the age of 11 or 12 much more than a toddler or young child), but it still remains a pretty jerk move, especially when you consider the unlimited alternatives at Dumbledore’s disposal.
As the most powerful wizard on the planet, Dumbledore sure looks powerless. How hard would it have been to Owl him sooner at the very least, or magically arrange some secret meetings to get to know Harry and offer him at least a bit of comfort?
He could have staged any number of witches to give Harry a bloody sandwich once in a while, or even go as far as to meet Harry, explain the truth to him about his parentage, and allow him to look forward to something in his miserable life.
10. He Let Harry Compete In The Triwizard Tournament
Even if we forget movie-Dumbledore shouting, “Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire!!!” at a bewildered Harry Potter (which was uttered quietly in the book), he still allowed Harry to participate in the Twiwizard Cup in both the film and book versions of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with zero investigation as to who entered him into the tournament and why.
Underage by three years, Harry was completely ill-equipped to enter the tournament (as were most of the participants, as it was a ridiculously dangerous competition that no school, magical or not, should host) and yet Dumbledore failed to even attempt to keep him safe.
Perhaps he figured that Harry had faced Voldemort a couple of times and lived, so he could make it through the tournament unscathed. Maybe he poured over law books, hoping to find a loophole behind the scenes where no readers or viewers could watch.
9. He Used A Deadly Forest To Punish Students
It’s one of the most popular Harry Potter memes on the Internet. Dumbledore explicitly tells all of the students at Hogwarts that the Forbidden Forest is totally out of bounds. It’s called the Forbidden Forest for a reason, folks. There are mutant spiders, murderous centaurs, and all kinds of creepy crawlies ready to eat out your eyeballs or gut you like a fish for no reason other than the fact that you are in the Forbidden Forest. So when Dumbledore allows detention in this terrible place of mayhem and death, it speaks volumes about his character.
Not only should a Headmaster put his students’ safety first at all costs, but he should also be able to stick to his own rules. “Do what I say and not as I do!” We imagine Dumbledore chuckling over a lemon drop candy as he pictures the kids traipsing through the forest (at night, no less!), searching for whatever monster is killing unicorns – because that’s the perfect thing for youngsters to do at night.
8. He Gave Harry The Invisibility Cloak in First Year
When Severus Snape attempted to confiscate the Marauder’s Map in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we not only got one of the series’ most hilarious scenes that led to even more hilarious Potter memes, but we also saw an example of a teacher attempting to enforce the rules and keep kids safe in the school. Of course, it was also another instance of Snape just wanting to get Harry into trouble, but that’s beside the point.
A map that shows you everyone’s location is bad enough, but Dumbledore made sure that Harry had the means to get into trouble any day of the week by giving the young wizard the invisibility cloak that his father had left in his possession.
Anyone can see how irresponsible this was of Dumbledore. Could he not wait until Harry was a bit older in order to keep him from landing himself into more mischief? Perhaps he thought it would come in handy while Harry sacrificed his life for the world (more about that later), which is why his note advised him to “Use it well,” but in a practical sense we really think that it would’ve made a better graduation present.
7. He Wouldn’t Bend The Rules For Hogsmeade
There’s a rule at Hogwarts about students in their third year and up attending Hogsmeade, which seems pretty silly. You don’t need a parent’s permission slip to enter the Forbidden Forest or handle dangerous creatures or sleep in a castle with a poltergeist, but you sure need it to enter a magical village filled with joke shops, candies and yummy food.
Dumbledore knew that Harry’s family would never give him this permission; he even admits to knowing how poorly the Dursleys treated him throughout his childhood during the final book of the series. It is, in fact, Dumbledore’s fault that Harry has them for guardians to begin with, yet he never offers to help the kid out when it comes to visiting Hogsmeade.
Harry specifically asked Professor McGonagall to sign his form but was denied as well. Dumbledore still enforced the Hogsmeade permission slip rule, despite knowing about Harry’s terrible guardians.
Apparently he avoiding “favoritism”, even though he sure didn’t mind bending the rules for plenty of other infractions (see number four!). Sirius Black finally signs his permission form, which is “good enough for Dumbledore.”
6. He Refused To Speak To Harry
When Dumbledore didn’t talk to Harry for nearly a year during Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it was like a parent putting a kid in time-out and totally forgetting about him. Potter, already an angsty teen at this point, understandably grew angry and upset over the Headmaster’s refusal to meet with him, particularly after he discovered his role in taking on He Who Must Not Be Named.
As with many of Dumbledore’s “for your own good” and “my intentions were pure” decisions, the purpose of ignoring Harry in this case was simply to seem as if he and the child had no deep connection – in order to keep Voldemort and his spies in the dark. On the surface this seems like it’s done to further protect Potter, but when you think about it, it really seems like it’s done more out of self-preservation.
Dumbledore also tried to force Harry into taking Occlumency lessons with Snape, which proved to be an epic failure (who could’ve predicted that?). Finding another teacher, or teaching Harry himself, would have yielded such better results. Dumbledore knew how painful the lessons would be for both participants, but he never seems to mind asking for impossible favors.
5. He Hired A Werewolf
Despite how wonderful Remus Lupin is, the fact remains that it was heinously irresponsible to hire a werewolf to teach students, no matter the safety precautions taken. Remus nearly killed several people when he failed to take his wolfsbane potion, and Dumbledore had to know that was a possibility. It’s admirable that he wanted to break the stigma, and otherwise Remus was the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Hogwarts has likely ever seen, but sometimes even the best intentions just aren’t enough.
At the very least, Dumbledore should have arranged a means for Lupin to leave Hogwarts during each full moon to ensure both his safety and the safety of his students. How could Hogwarts hold an entire Chamber of Secrets and not a safe room for werewolf transformation? Dumbledore could have easily made a safe place for Lupin to take refuge during his transformations.
Speaking of werewolves, Dumbledore also tasked Lupin with the dubious errand of talking the werewolves into joining the Order, which put him at great risk and caused a lot of stress in the teacher’s life, seemingly without any success.
4. He Rewarded Harry For Breaking Rules
Hermione Granger reminds us in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone about keeping our eyes one the prize when she says, “Now, if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed or worse… expelled!”
Getting kicked out of Hogwarts is a pretty big deal. Rubeus Hagrid can attest to that it definitely happens, even to the gentlest wizards (particularly those with poor decision-making skills or easy scapegoats). Dumbledore didn’t kick Harry out for breaking the rules but rewarded him instead, often giving him House points for deliberately violating Hogwarts rules. It makes every “Ten points from Gryffindor!” look like a joke.
Not only that, but what was Dumbledore thinking making Ron Weasley a prefect? While the appointment of Hermione makes perfect sense, Ron struggles with his studies, breaks rules just as frequently as Harry and doesn’t show any initiative or common sense that surpasses that of, say, Seamus Finnigan or Dean Thomas.
3. He Sat On That Time-Turner While Everyone Died
It’s the one that causes every head in the entire fandom to explode: Dumbledore was hoarding a Time-Turner the entire time. He didn’t use the time turner to save anyone’s lives except for a Hippogriff and an escaped convict, prompting everyone to demand why Voldemort was still alive in the first place. Why not save everyone? Why not go back in time and prevent the entire First Wizarding World?
Fans of Doctor Who and Back to the Future can explain that it’s just not that simple. Between the possibilities of a temporal paradox to cracks in the space-time continuum, changing major events in time can create problems ranging from small to the catastrophic variety. Had Dumbledore used the Time-Turner to save more people, he could’ve destroyed the world as we know it, and he knew it.
2. He Kept Mum On Harry’s Impending Doom
Dumbledore didn’t tell Harry he was destined to die, which was a total jerk move. The wizard continually groomed Harry for the boy’s death throughout the entire series without ever telling him, putting his cause and perhaps his own guilt before the young man’s life. He all but admitted that he knew Harry was a Horcrux at the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (and to Snape much later) without actually revealing it to young Potter at the time.
Dumbledore knowing how Harry’s life was supposed to play out makes #11 even worse. “Per this prophecy, I know that you are going to have to die defeating the darkest wizard of all time, whom I helped to put in power. I know! I’ll make your childhood terrible so when you die, you won’t know what you’re missing.”
Obviously that wasn’t the Headmaster’s intention… or was it? Perhaps another reason why he left the child with his muggle relatives was to keep himself as detached as possible from the Chosen One, whom he knew was chosen to die.
1. He Followed The Dark Arts And Let His Sister Die
As much as he’s willing to orchestrate the best fight against Voldemort, practically declaring himself the general of the good wizards, Dumbledore has a shady past that would indicate the opposite.
His brother Aberforth declared Dumbledore to be a “natural” at secrets and lies, which makes total sense, since Dumbledore was obsessed with the Dark Arts. When he made friends with Gellert Grindelwald, he began to chase the Deathly Hallows and attempt to dismantle the laws that kept the wizarding world a secret from the muggle one and replace them with wizard domination over muggles.
The partnership turned ugly, and during a three-person duel between both Dumbledore men and Grindelwald, Ariana Dumbledore was caught in the crossfire and killed. Many readers speculate that Dumbledore, who was once in love with the dark wizard that he battled and ultimately defeated, may have never found love again out of his guilt over his sister’s death.
Although it was an accident and we don’t know all of the details (which will likely be revealed during the Fantastic Beasts films, as Jude Law was recently cast as young Dumbledore), Ariana would likely still be alive had Dumbledore never attempted to rule over mankind with Grindelwald.
What other terrible decisions did Dumbledore make in Harry Potter?
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