In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, after drinking the potion from the basin Dumbledore starts having hallucinations or nightmares.

Do we know what he saw? Why was he crying?

  • 5
    His sister, presumably – Jason Baker Nov 2 '15 at 14:12
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    The answer is in Deathly Hallows, have you read it? – George T Nov 2 '15 at 14:23
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    Expanding on what @George T said: Harry gives his guess on this question when the three speak with Aberforth before returning to Hogwarts. If you have an electronic version, the keyword is “He was never free”, if I recall correctly. – chirlu Nov 2 '15 at 14:36

He was seeing (a nightmare version of) the night Ariana died.

Harry gives his thoughts on this during a discussion with Aberforth in Deathly Hallows (thanks to @chirlu for the keyword, saved me a search!).

"He was never free," said Harry.

"I beg your pardon?" said Aberforth.

"Never," said Harry. "The night that your brother died, he drank a potion that drove him out of his mind. He started screaming, pleading with someone who wasn't there. 'Don't hurt them, please . . . hurt me instead.' "

Ron and Hermione were staring at Harry. He had never gone into details about what had happened on the island on the lake: The events that had taken place after he and Dumbledore had returned to Hogwarts had eclipsed it so thoroughly.

"He thought he was back there with you and Grindelwald, I know he did," said Harry, remembering Dumbledore whispering, pleading. "He thought he was watching Grindelwald hurting you and Ariana...It was torture to him, if you'd seen him then, you wouldn't say he was free."

If we look at some of what Dumbledore said in Half Blood Prince, this fits pretty correctly.

"Its all my fault, all my fault," he sobbed. "Please make it stop, I know I did wrong, oh please make it stop and I'll never, never again ..."

"This will make it stop, Professor," Harry said, his voice cracking as he tipped the seventh glass of potion into Dumbledore's mouth. Dumbledore began to cower as though invisible torturers sur-rounded him; his flailing hand almost knocked the refilled goblet from Harry's trembling hands as he moaned, "Don't hurt them, don't hurt them, please, please, its my fault, hurt me instead ..."

  • That's undoubtedly a good reference but it's Harry's guess. He could also have made the thought up to convince Aberforth. Is there anything more definitive (e.g. JKR's interviews)? – algiogia Nov 2 '15 at 15:03
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    It may be Harry's guess, but it was a guess that JK wrote into the story. It therefore is pretty damn likely to be the answer. – Escoce Nov 2 '15 at 17:24
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    TBH, I am not convinced that this is what Dumbledore saw. I've always chalked it up to Harry going for an emotional angle with Aberforth. Dumbledore's words in the cave did not fit very well with the scene I had in mind (where three boys duel, pretty evenly if Aberforth was a bit behind, while Ariana watched bewildered) nor do they have enough foreshadowing for Harry's explanation to click in. – skytreader Nov 2 '15 at 20:12
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    It doesn't quite fit for Harry's character to make something like that up. Granted - he is guessing, but Harry's best guess is likely going to be the answer. Has there ever been a point where Harry made a guess that didn't turn out to be true? (according to JKR but not revealed in the books?) – DoubleDouble Nov 2 '15 at 22:58
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    Skytreader, I don't think he's imagining that he's reliving the duel with Aberforth and Grindelwald. I think rather he's hallucinating it from outside, seeing Grindelwald hurting Ariana and Aberforth, but powerless to do anything about it. IRL, Dumbledore did not look on powerlessly while Grindlewald hurt his family, but in the vision, he did. – Adamant Nov 3 '15 at 0:35

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