Professor Albus Dumbledore is the 'wise old mentor' of the Harry Potter series. He's the one who guides Harry through the trials of being the Chosen One, helps him to understand the world around him, and ultimately sends him on the quest that would help to defeat Voldemort once and for all. He's beloved both by characters in the Harry Potter world and by the series' devoted readers.
However, Dumbledore also made a lot of messed up decisions over the years. Some of them were silly, but others put a lot of innocent people in danger.
From silly off-the-cuff moments to bigger, more life-threatening moments, there were many points throughout the series where Dumbledore's logic seems to fall apart if you think about it too hard. (Especially when it came to decisions about running a school for underage children.) Similar to the way that Harry discovered his beloved mentor wasn't perfect, readers are slowly starting to figure out that some of Dumbledore's decisions can only be described with a solid, "Wait, WTF?"
Here are 20 Most WTF Things Dumbledore Has Ever Done.
20 Nitwit, Blubber, Oddment, Tweak
Of course, we have to start off with the original ‘WTF’ moment from Professor Dumbledore. By the time Harry arrives at Hogwarts for the first time in Sorcerer’s Stone, he and the readers have already learned about Dumbledore from other characters. Hagrid is in awe, of course, and Harry sees Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card on the train. But he doesn’t actually see him in person until he arrives in the Great Hall with the rest of the first year students for the Sorting Ceremony.
McGonagall is the professor who runs the Sorting, so Dumbledore doesn’t actually say anything to welcome the new students until they’re all seated with their new houses. By way of welcome, he rises to say, “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not supposed to. It kicks off the whimsical nature of both the books and of Dumbledore himself. However, his later “Huh?!” moments would take a bit of a darker turn.
19 Not removing the jinx on the DADA position
For the first few Harry Potter books, it seemed like the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor each year was a running joke. Although Hogwarts students (and readers) joked that the position was cursed, we didn’t actually get confirmation of that until Half-Blood Prince. In one of the Pensieve memories Harry witnesses, we learn that Tom Riddle jinxed the position because Dumbledore wouldn’t allow him to apply for it. Ever since then, no one has been able to stay in the job for more than a year.
However, this begs the question -- if Dumbledore knew that the position was cursed, and whoever he hired would be out of a job or dead by the end of the year...why not remove the jinx?
Dumbledore is the most powerful wizard to ever live. One would think that his natural prowess combined with the Elder Wand would allow him to remove the magic that put potential professors in harm’s way. So why did he allow so many to cycle through the job for decades?
18 Placing multiple death traps on the third floor of a school
Imagine this. You’re a parent about to send your eleven-year-old child off to boarding school for the first time. You get their school supply list, their required reading, and a notice that if your son or daughter sets foot in the third floor corridor, they’ll meet a painful death.
What the hell?
In the first book, Dumbledore keeps the Sorcerer’s Stone at Hogwarts because that was ostensibly the safest place for it to be. However, it was definitely not safe for the underage minors who had to go to school there. Kids do stupid things; that’s just part of growing up. In this situation, if you tell them not to do something, they’ll probably do it anyway, just because it’s forbidden. (Harry, Ron, and Hermione certainly ignored the orders to stay away.) It’s mind-blowing that the headmaster of a school would put all of his pupils in danger like that.
17 Only using names of candies as the passwords to his office
Fitting with the lighthearted tone of the first three Harry Potter books, at first, Dumbledore is characterized as the wise, whimsical old man. He says silly things at speeches! He eats earwax Bertie Botts beans! He...uses the names of candies as passwords to his office?
Harry first learns the password to Dumbledore’s office when McGonagall hauls him there in his second year, after he literally trips over the body of Justin Finch-Fletchley. At that point in time, the password was “Sherbet Lemon.” Later, Dumbledore explains to Harry that sherbet lemon (or lemon drops, for Americans) is his favorite candy.
Apparently, he never changes the theme of his passwords. When an angry Harry tries to access Dumbledore’s office in Goblet of Fire, he cycles through all the names of candies he can think of to get the gargoyle to let him in. One of them -- "Cockroach Cluster" -- actually works. You’d think with all the expensive trinkets and important information Dumbledore keeps in his office, he’d think of some stronger passwords.
16 Keeping the Whomping Willow after Lupin graduated
When you have a child werewolf attending your school, it makes sense to ensure that no other curious students will follow him to their demise. And so the Whomping Willow was planted on the Hogwarts grounds to protect the entrance to Remus’ secret passage to the Shrieking Shack. It served its purpose -- between the violent tree and the haunted house rumors, no one wanted to get close to where Remus went to transform.
However, after he graduated from Hogwarts, it’s hard to see why you would keep a murderous tree on school grounds. It no longer served a purpose other than potentially taking out a student’s eye, so why not remove it?
In all likelihood, he probably didn’t care enough to do anything about it - but that’s not exactly a point in his favor. If you’re going to run a school for children, you should maybe pay attention to magical objects that are specifically meant to harm them.
15 Letting Gryffindor win the House Cup every year
Most readers wanted Harry and his friends to win the House Cup for their accomplishments. However, the way Dumbledore lets them win makes it seem like blatant favoritism. (Hint -- because it kind of is.)
Think about it. Harry was in the hospital wing days before the end-of-year banquet. Instead of awarding Gryffindor their well-earned points before the banquet, Dumbledore waits to suddenly award them points while Slytherin is celebrating their win. It’s great for the Gryffindors, but kind of a messed up thing to do to the other houses. What, there weren’t any Hufflepuffs who had committed some random acts of kindness worthy of a last minute ten points?
It makes us wonder what the other houses thought of Dumbledore’s constant intervening. “Don’t bother trying to win the House Cup this year. Professor Dumbledore will give it to Potter, anyway.”
14 DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?!?
This WTF moment from the Goblet of Fire movie still has fans talking nearly twelve years after the film’s release. In the book, Dumbledore is still very much the ‘wise and whimsical’ authority figure. When Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, he doesn’t blame him or jump to conclusions. Instead, he calmly asks him if he put his name in the goblet or not. Key word -- calmly.
So when the scene played out on screens, fans were shocked when Dumbledore came galloping into the room, yelled a question at Harry, and practically shoved him into the wall. What happened to just asking a simple question?
Michael Gambon has been blunt about not reading the books, and it was pretty obvious in that scene. Dumbledore’s emotions were completely out of character. Those few seconds will probably rub fans the wrong way until an inevitable remake happens in the next fifteen years.
13 Not closing the school with a basilisk on the loose
Since Muggle schools close for bad weather, it seems difficult to imagine a school that stays open when multiple kids have near-death experiences. But Hogwarts does stay open throughout Chamber of Secrets, despite the fact that a murderous basilisk is slithering through the school’s plumbing.
Just a normal day at Hogwarts, nothing to see here.
In a flashback provided by Riddle’s diary, we can see that the previous headmaster, Armando Dippet, was on the verge of closing the school to keep children safe. Learning this was what led Riddle to frame Hagrid for Moaning Myrtle’s death, since the last thing Riddle wanted was to leave Hogwarts. Dumbledore, on the other hand, leaves the school open for the entire year. By the time Harry and Ron descend into the Chamber to save Ginny, it’s nearly time for exams. We know Dumbledore wanted Harry to strengthen his ‘saving people’ abilities, but he put other students’ lives in danger in the process.
12 Leaving infant Harry on the Dursleys' doorstep
At first, it seemed ridiculous that Harry had to live with the Dursleys. After he rid the Wizarding World of Voldemort, it would have been almost too easy to find a family willing to take him in. Can you imagine how quickly people would line up to adopt the Boy Who Lived? But eventually, we learned that there was a reason Harry had to live with his relatives. Only by living with Lily Potter’s blood relative could the protection of her love live on.
Okay. That’s all well and good. But Dumbledore didn’t have to leave an infant on a doorstep.
In the first chapter of the entire series, Dumbledore brings the Boy Who Lived to his new guardians. Voldemort barely disappeared twenty-four hours ago, and Harry is only a year old. He’s arguably the most important infant in all of magical Britain. And instead of...knocking on the door or making sure that someone takes this child inside, Dumbledore just leaves an infant on the doorstep.
Seriously, what the hell.
11 Only leaving a letter for Petunia Dursley
To continue Dumbledore’s series of bad decisions on November 1, 1981, he chooses not to explain the entire complicated situation to Petunia in person. He has some heavy news to share. Not only has her only sister been murdered, she is now expected to be guardian to another child for the next sixteen years. That’s a lot to take in for even the most saintly, kindhearted person. It would be respectful to take at least ten minutes to chat about this, right?
Not if you’re Albus Dumbledore. Then, you can just write a letter and call it a day.
Sometimes the small details get lost in his grand visions, but this is an awfully large detail to forget about. You’d think that a man who has also lost a sister would understand what painful news that must be to receive, regardless of how much the sisters may have argued. Putting that message in a letter is messed up.
10 Hiring Gilderoy Lockhart
Gilderoy Lockhart, the DADA professor during Harry’s second year, is not exactly as wonderful as he’d like everyone to believe. Although his books about his many adventures made him into a bestselling author, he didn’t actually accomplish any of those feats himself. Instead, he extensively interviewed the people who did and then wiped their memories of the encounter. He fumbles the second anyone asks him a tough question, but people are willing to forgive a lot for a great smile.
However, as many people as Lockhart may have fooled, we’re willing to bet that Dumbledore wasn’t one of them. There is no way that he didn’t see through Lockhart’s bluster and know that he was lying. So why even bother hiring someone that's so grossly incompetent? We know the job is jinxed, but that doesn’t mean ‘hire someone who will just stare at himself in the mirror the whole time.’
The only conclusion we can draw is that Dumbledore must have been thinking, “Oh, this will be hilarious.”
9 Never stops Snape from verbally abusing his students
We’re given a reason for why Snape was so awful to Harry. Snape was in love with Lily, had been mercilessly bullied by James Potter, and Lily’s son happened to look exactly like his tormentor. When you add in years of being wracked with guilt over the death of the love of your life, you get a pretty unpleasant person. But if you’re going to teach in a school, you should maybe consider not terrorizing your students.
Snape isn’t just nasty to Harry -- he seems to have a vendetta against every student not sorted into Slytherin. He’s so bad that he’s Neville’s worst fear in third year. So why doesn’t Dumbledore step in and make him lay off of the students? It seems ridiculous to let a professor continue taking out his personal issues on children.
Granted, we’ve just established that this is the same headmaster who hired Lockhart, so another WTF moment it is.
8 Requiring parental consent for Hogsmeade but not Quidditch
In Prisoner of Azkaban, one of the minor plot points is Harry’s desire to go to Hogsmeade. Uncle Vernon claims he’ll sign the permission slip after Aunt Marge’s visit if Harry behaves. Of course, that visit ends in Marge expanding into a balloon version of herself, so that permission slip was never signed. Without a guardian’s consent, Harry can’t go to the village. He’s stuck listening to Ron and Hermione’s stories until the twins give him the Marauder’s Map.
When you stop to think about it, though, it’s awfully ridiculous that this is the activity where students need a permission slip. They need permission to go to a safe wizarding village, but they don’t need permission to fly on broomsticks hundreds of feet above the air? Parents didn’t have to sign a consent form that demonstrated knowledge of a third floor death trap two years before? Dumbledore is running a weird school.
7 Locking Sirius in the house where he'd been abused for years
To Harry, Grimmauld Place represents Sirius. It’s the place his godfather called home, and a house Harry returns to at the beginning of his quest to find Voldemort’s Horcruxes. So it’s easy to forget that to Sirius himself, 12 Grimmauld Place meant a return to a place where he never felt loved.
Sirius was the black sheep (black dog?) of his Slytherin pureblood family, and his mother never let him forget it. He was already depressed throughout the fifth book because he wasn’t allowed to go out and contribute to the fight. Being cooped up in a house that held so many painful memories didn’t exactly help.
This is probably another instance where Dumbledore was so busy with the big plan that he forgot about what seemed to be a small detail. However, his pent-up emotions made Sirius’ last days miserable. His story already ended in tragedy, and it doesn’t help that he couldn’t enjoy the last few months of his life.
6 Allowing the Forbidden Forest to be used as a detention location
The Forbidden Forest is completely off-limits. Unless, of course, you need to send some eleven-year-olds in there for detention. Then you can go ahead.
The punishment really doesn’t seem to fit the crime, either. Harry, Hermione, Neville and Draco were all caught out of bed after hours. A furious McGonagall deducts fifty points from each student before giving them detention. And for detention, the four students are sent out of bed...after hours...into the forest where no students are allowed to set foot.
...Does this make sense to anyone else?
We don’t actually know who the specific person was that decided what the students would be doing in detention, but the fact that this is commonplace enough for no one to blink an eye means detentions like this probably happened before. The Hogwarts school board has some power, as we see in Book 2 -- but Dumbledore is clearly not worried about parents suing for putting their children in mortal peril.
5 Either doesn't know or care about Voldemort on the back of Quirrell's head
The biggest reveal of Sorcerer’s Stone is that it wasn’t Snape who was trying to steal the Stone -- it was Quirrell. Not only that, but he had been playing host to Voldemort for the entire school year, providing the Dark Lord with a body as he tried to procure one of his own.
This presents us with two possibilities. Either Dumbledore had absolutely no idea that Voldemort was in Hogwarts the entire time...or he knew and just didn’t care. One possibility implies that Dumbledore’s powers of perception are maybe not up to Sherlock’s standards. The other would mean that he just let Voldemort roam around Hogwarts without doing anything...for the lulz? To see if an eleven-year-old child would figure it out and save the day? Neither option is very forgiving. If you stop and think about his potential motivations for too long, the story starts to fall apart.
4 Allowing Harry to suffer the abuse from the Dursleys
Earlier, we mentioned that it was necessary for Harry to live with the Dursleys for the magic of Lily Potter’s love to live on. That’s an accepted fact, and not a situation that anyone, including Dumbledore, would be able to change. However, just because Harry had to live with his aunt and uncle doesn’t mean that he had to endure the constant abuse they dished out for ten years.
We know that Dumbledore had eyes on Harry as he grew up. The Dursleys’ neighbors, Mrs. Figg, is a Squib who works with Dumbledore. She had been sending him information about Harry as he grew up. Dumbledore might not have known the extent of the abuse, but he definitely knew Harry was being maltreated. Why would he allow adults to continue emotionally and physically abusing an innocent child? We’ll come back to that later, but we didn’t come up with any positive answers.
3 Didn't prep Harry for the fact that he would die
Before the events of Half-Blood Prince begin to unfold, Dumbledore already knew that he was going to be dead before the end of the next year. He may not have been sure how -- either from the curse placed on the ring or from Snape stepping in to finish the job -- but he knew that his days were numbered.
Inexplicably, he doesn’t share this information with Harry, even though he knew that Harry had just lost a father figure quite recently.
He didn’t have to let him in on the plan with Snape, if he wanted to keep his deal with Snape a secret. He could have simply told him the truth about the cursed Horcrux. That way, Harry could have begun to prepare emotionally, similar to the painful but necessary process you go through when a close family member is sick.
Instead, Harry is literally forced to watch Dumbledore die, without any guarantee of an explanation.
2 Letting people die so he wouldn't have to fight Grindelwald
We learn the most about Dumbledore’s life in Deathly Hallows, when Harry starts uncovering pieces of information as he searches for first Horcruxes and then Hallows. One of the most shocking revelations was that he was friends with Gellert Grindelwald as a young man, and the two of them planned to search for and unite the Hallows. This friendship later took a turn for the worse as Grindelwald became more power-hungry, and when the two began to fight, Dumbledore’s sister Ariana got caught in the crossfire. Dumbledore didn’t face Grindelwald again until their legendary 1945 duel.
He didn’t confront Grindelwald out of fear of finding out who cast the spell that was fatal to Ariana. But in avoiding a confrontation, he also allowed countless numbers of innocent people to die while Grindelwald cemented his title as one of the most dangerous Dark wizards of all time. Dumbledore was obsessed with the greater good, but that obsession left him at a pretty crucial time.
1 Grooming Harry from ages 1 to 17 to die
While some of the other items on our list were funnier ‘WTF’ moments, this one is far from funny. The series takes on a much darker turn when you consider the fact that Snape was right -- Dumbledore raised Harry like a pig for slaughter.
From the moment Harry sets foot in Hogwarts, it seems like almost everything is a test. Dumbledore gives him the Invisibility Cloak to see what he can achieve. He hangs back in situations to allow Harry to get himself into and out of danger repeatedly. But through all of this, he makes sure that he remains someone who Harry trusts. He does his job a bit too well -- when Scrimgeour accuses Harry of being "Dumbledore’s man through and through," Harry says defiantly that he is. He has difficulty thinking of his mentor as a fallible person, which makes the truth that much harder to swallow.
Dumbledore pulled strings throughout Harry’s Hogwarts years to make sure he’d be courageous and skilled enough to make it all the way to the end of the road, and then loving enough to die.
Did we miss any of Dumbledore's WTF moments from Harry Potter? Let us know in the comments!