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Dumbledore once said:

'I knew that Voldemort's knowledge of magic is perhaps more extensive than any wizard alive. I knew that even my most complex and powerful protective spells and charms were unlikely to be invincible if he ever returned to full power. ...'

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - p.736 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy

So in this quote was he trying to be modest or could he really not defend Voldemort in his full power?

marked as duplicate by Ward, Jason Baker, KutuluMike, Meat Trademark, Null Jan 25 '16 at 19:58

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  • Could you add a source for the quote? Context is king. – DavidS Jan 25 '16 at 15:13
  • @DavidS i guess that's somewhere in the fifth part, before the chapter the second war starts, when Dumbledore is telling Harry about him........ – Manu Jan 25 '16 at 15:16
  • @DavidS Added. It's just after the scene in the ministry of magic with Sirius' death, where Dumbledore tells Harry 'everything'. Specifically, here, why he was sent to live with the Dursleys. Note the exact quote (unless I've messed up and used a very similar one, in which case I apologise), is a little softer than the one originally provided – Au101 Jan 25 '16 at 15:26
  • @Au101 thanks a lot, and I got that sarcasm :D – Manu Jan 25 '16 at 15:35
  • (...) `But I knew, too, where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated - to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother's blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative.' -- I think Albus is talking about wards, not a duel. – David Banner Jan 25 '16 at 15:35

Nowhere is it indicated that Dumbledore was inferior to Voldemort or unable to beat him. He is simply acknowledging that Voldemort is a powerful and brilliant wizard and that any protective spells and charms will ultimate crumble if Voldemort were to work on them.

This is quite analogous to data security paradigms. No matter how strong the protections put in place, someone who has the knowledge and resources will be able to eventually break that security.

One thing to note here, is that the protection spell caster is at a disadvantage, because once the spell is in place, it is there for the spell hacker to start working on and eventually crack.

Same thing is in the reverse: no matter what protective measures Voldemort took, Dumbledore had almost two decades to work on it and was eventually able to crack every layer of Voldemort's protections. The Harry Potter books are almost entirely about how Dumbledore engineered it, but we experience it through the experiences of Harry and his friends.

  • +1. That's the key: he's not talking about a one-on-one battle: he did rather well against Voldemort in the fight in the Ministry of Magic. (Though you could argue it was the arrival of the Aurors that caused Voldemort to flee, not Dumbledore's power. On the other hand, perhaps Dumbledore was trying to prolong the battle so that the Aurors would arrive and witness Voldemort.) He's talking about protective measures put in place that need to last for years. Like his protection of the Dursley's house or Voldemort's protection of his horocrux. – Wayne Jan 25 '16 at 16:56
  • @Wayne I think Voldemort implicitly admitted defeat when he possessed Harry during their duel. – DavidS Jan 25 '16 at 17:27
  • @DavidS I don't know if I agree with that. It was just another way for a evil person to win or at the very least not lose if he couldn't win. – Escoce Jan 25 '16 at 17:28
  • @Escoce I agree that it was tactically a good move, but if he could have beaten Dumbledore without possessing Harry he would have done so (this desire to prove himself as the most powerful without any outside help is one of his key characteristics). – DavidS Jan 25 '16 at 17:38
  • @DavidS I don't know, that sounds and aweful lot like gamers complaining that someone did this or that to win and that it's a newb move as if real wizards will handicap themselves in a life or death situation. He possessed Harry, that is not needing outside help, he did it, he didn't get help. – Escoce Jan 25 '16 at 17:55

The key point of this quote is that Dumbledore is not talking about protecting himself, but rather about protecting others, from Voldemort. This is one of the asymmetries between the two wizards, making Dumbledore's position quite rickety: Voldemort considers everyone else dispensable, so he ultimately has only himself to protect; Dumbledore, on the other hand, not only would not use others as pawns in his game, but often seems to feel responsible for the world at large as potential target of an attack. From this perspective, the magnitude of the 'protection' problem is not difficult to appreciate.

This quote appears to be ultimately about protecting Harry, who is a likely target (and considered "valuable", as we learn in HBP), but it is arguable that Dumbledore is quite sensitive to loss of innocent lives in general, so the principle behind it applies to other potential targets as well.

So the quotation is really not about beating Voldemort in combat: rather, it is about potential aggregate loss on either side.

  • Dumbledore, on the other hand, not only would not use others as pawns in his game - one could argue that Harry was played as a pawn right from the start... – Jon Clements Jul 5 '17 at 19:12

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