18

The Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone was removed from Gringotts to be placed under the most impenetrable of protections at Hogwarts under Dumbledore's custody. But it seems clear Dumbledore took protections which could have been impenetrable, and deliberately made them less so, such that at best they would only slightly slow down anybody trying to access the Stone, rather than just plain block them.

For example, after the Devil's Snare, you have a locked door enchanted such that it cannot be opened by any charm or other means except its own assigned key. That's a great protection, potentially an impassable barrier if the key is not available.

But the key is then left right there in front of the door in the same room.

At least the key is flying around the ceiling. But there are broomsticks right there in the same room, too.

The room with the fires front and back—that could also have been a solid defense—deadly fires that cannot be passed through unless you drink very specific potions tailored to each particular fire's properties.

Except that those potions providing safety are put right there in the same room.

At least, perhaps, they're surrounded by other bottles, some of which contain poison. With no way to know which bottle is safe, that could still almost be a solid protection.

Except that a piece of paper with a logic puzzle detailing exactly which bottles are which is put on the table with them.

Dumbledore always had reasons, and those reasons were always virtuous. What was he up to, deliberately weakening the protections in this way?

  • Possible dupe? scifi.stackexchange.com/q/63243/3567 – alexwlchan Mar 17 '16 at 21:03
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    @alexwlchan Not really a dupe. That question is asking whether the Stone was really that well-protected; this one is based on the (very reasonable) assumption that the protections were deliberately made easier than they could have been, and asking why this is so. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 17 '16 at 21:40
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    You seem to have failed to take into account that Dumbledore is a complete and utter crackpot with the common sense of a drunk toddler. His actions almost certainly made total sense the night before, while he was high on alihotsy leaves and billywig stings – Valorum Mar 17 '16 at 22:43
  • We'll agree to disagree and stop right there. – Isaac Mar 17 '16 at 22:51
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    Here's my interpretation - The logic of the security doesn't seem to based on keeping unauthorised wizards out; it's about allowing worthy ones in. Given that the Mirror is already an absolutely foolproof defence, the rest of the obstacles only function is the slowing down and testing the character of the intruder. In this way, if Dumbledore is around, he can investigate. if not, it doesn't matter, since the person at the Mirror will either want to use it and not be able to, or not want to use it but be worthy of it. – DavidS Mar 18 '16 at 9:51
10

I've always thought it was because he was using it as a test for Harry. It seemed very appropriate for his and his friends' specific talents and he didn't try very hard to keep kids out of there. Also, Gringotts may have been broken into a few times, but surely it's still far more secure than Hogwarts, which seems to be infiltrated constantly, as well as holding some of the children of Voldemort's supporters, who could have broken through.

Sure, you could only get it from Erised if you didn't want to use it yourself, but arguably, you would have been able to get it if you just wanted to obtain it for Voldemort. Also, given my personal theory that it was all a test to see Harry's abilities - bear in mind that Harry already knew about the Mirror of Erised, and Dumbledore and he had talked about it - it makes sense to use a final obstacle that Harry, with his already existing knowledge of the mirror could have worked out.

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    We don’t know what Dumbledore meant by “but not use it”. I doubt it was limited to just not wanting to use it to make the Elixir of Life to use for oneself; more likely, taking the Stone to give it to Voldemort would also be considered ‘using it’; basically ‘having a plan for the Stone that involves it being used’ as opposed to ‘getting it out of the Mirror with no intention of having it be used at all’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 17 '16 at 21:46
  • "Using it as a test for Harry" is sort of along the lines I was thinking of. Certainly some of the protections seemed targeted at the trio's particular skills—the troll, after all, would be something they actually had experience with. Still, I feel Dumbledore's motives were something more subtle than that. – Isaac Mar 17 '16 at 22:01
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    The fact that he was testing them is backed up by the actual text - Harry says the following. "I think [Dumbledore] sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could." – Lydia Mar 17 '16 at 22:09
  • Now, that is a strong point. The only question is how accurate the eleven-year-old's perception that "he knows more or less everything that goes on" really is. If Dumbledore really was more or less omniscient as to events within the bounds of Hogwarts, then it wasn't much of a risk at all, and he very well could have orchestrated every detail to test Harry. – Isaac Mar 17 '16 at 22:47
  • Dumbledore is shown again and again to be the near omniscient puppet master and he wasn't great at sharing information. It's always struck me as suspicious that he decided to fly to the ministry that night, flooing and apparition are faster, and warmer! He wanted to see what would happen if he left Harry to face Voldemort/Quirrell. Also, quoting from the text again, Dumbledore says, "Oh, you know about Nicolas?... You did do the thing properly didn’t you?" This clearly implies that he was expecting this. He also tells Harry about Erised, "If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared" – Lydia Mar 18 '16 at 1:50
8

He arguably didn't make it easy.

The final protection (the Mirror of Erised) could have - should have - been insurmountable to Voldemort, or anyone working for Voldemort. This was only NOT the case because Harry (unforseeably, from Dumbledore's perspective) arrived on the scene.

Clarifications and further support for my answer, further to the comments below:-

The stone is meant to be difficult to retrieve, not impossible. Initially, Dumbledore is holding it in trust for his friend Nicolas Flamel. This is clarified at the end of the book when it is stated that it is only after the incident with Quirrell that the decision is taken (jointly with Flamel) to destroy the stone. They did not want to make the stone unreachable initially, only to keep it from Voldemort.

Ultimately the tasks are meant to preclude both a) incompetent wizards with good intentions, and b) competent wizards with bad intentions from obtaining the stone. If the stone ended up in the hands of either of these types of people, it would be a bad thing. The preceding tasks weed out the incompetent, and the final, most important task (the Mirror of Erised) weeds out the unworthy, those with bad intentions.

But it is not necessarily Dumbledore's goal to stop competent witches or wizards with good intentions from obtaining the stone, should they know where to go looking. E.g. in the event Dumbledore died, or was otherwise indisposed, and the stone would need to be obtained, this may not be possible if the instructions or key were hidden somewhere only Dumbledore knew about.

Finally, it is easy with hindsight to pick holes in every little thing that Dumbledore did wrong. In truth, the events in the book were extremely unlikely to play out the way they did. The stone's presence in Hogwarts itself was supposed to be a secret. An agent of Voldemort is not supposed to have access to Hogwarts. Voldemort/Quirell was not supposed to get as close to the stone as he did at the final task. Only Harry's (unexpected) presence made that possible.

In an alternative scenario in which Harry does not show up, Voldemort/Quirell is presented with an insurmountable obstacle by the Mirror, with limited time to resolve the problem before Dumbledore arrives on the scene and mops up. After which additional security measures and a new hiding place could be found - placing Voldemort, or any agent of Voldemort, right back at square one.

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    It’s a very hard argument to make that it wasn’t made easier than it could have been. Keeping in place the exact same protections, they would only have needed to not have the keys flying around in the room at all and not have the potions (much less the instructions!) in the room in order to make it infinitely more difficult to get through. If you lock something valuable in a safe, would it not be considered facilitating break-ins to leave the combination on a piece of paper on the table in front of the safe? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 17 '16 at 21:44
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    @JanusBahsJacquet and yet, the accepted answer to this question states the stone was very well protected: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/63243/… – The Giant of Lannister Mar 17 '16 at 21:47
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    It was quite well-protected. But not as well as with the very same protections it could have been. This question isn’t why Dumbledore made it easy to get to the Stone, but why he made it easier (than it could have been). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 17 '16 at 21:49
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    Well, he could have kept the key and the potions on his own person if that was all. – Isaac Mar 17 '16 at 21:54
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    My opinion ultimately is this: the Mirror of Erised is an insurmountable obstacle to Voldemort, or anyone acting on his behalf, because they would wish to use the stone for themselves. Everything else is just gravy. – The Giant of Lannister Mar 17 '16 at 21:58
1

It's a plot hole and you are supposed to suspend disbelief pretty hard on that part of the book and attribute it to history development and, to a certain extent, Rowling inexperience as writer.

Yes, I know there's every attempt to come up with a viable in universe justification for this but not everything can be justified in universe and there's simply no plausible explanation for ANY security system that an 11 year's old kid can evade but "the greatest dark wizard of all times" can't. It simply makes not sense and any attempt to rationalise it (even from Rowling herself) will come out as a pretty forced attempt.

The analogy would be having a system that an expert bank robber with years of experience is unable to break into but my niece can. If a kid can go through, it was never safe to begin with.

Edit: The only extremely forced in universe reason I can think of would be Dumbledore wanting to have the stone under his personal surveillance, him being "the only wizard Voldemort has ever fear". That would make sense but we have to suspend disbelief as to why he doesn't simply carry it around on his pocket. The secret to security (in any scenario) is that it should be easy for the right person to get in but imposible (or almost imposible) for anyone else... In that sense, "ability" or "knowledge" are reallly crappy security systems as those are easy to aquire.

To further go into this, the "challenges" are specifically designed to cater for each and every ability of our young children. Fluffy is already gone (why that would be a good protection when you can just avada kedavra him is more suspension of desbelief), the second challenge requires Hermione wit, third Harry's flying ability and fourth Ron's chess skills, all traits that had already being introduced (how convenient).

We need to remember this was a children book before it became a mass selling success and children will not doubt this or question validity. As such, as I said, any attempt to reconcile rationality with facts will come sort. Not only because of the above but also because Voldemort himself didn't seem to find too much trouble getting through. We have to assume that, had Harry not interrupted he would have eventually managed to get the stone.

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    You are, of course, correct. It wasn't that great a book, and I remain surprised at the massive perception that it was. Nonetheless, Rowling turned out to be perfectly competent writer, and her earlier work remains canon with the better-crafted stories of the last few Harry Potter books. The original cartoony characters were gradually fleshed out and became more human, and while the depth of Dumbledore's character became quite remarkable, it was always consistent with his original appearance. Rowling justified many things after the fact. I'd like the in-universe justification for this one. – Isaac Mar 18 '16 at 1:35
  • I doubt you'll find it, see edited answer. – Jorge Córdoba Mar 18 '16 at 9:19
0

There was the whole "find it, but not use it" clause to getting it out of the Mirror. As other answers have said, only someone with pure intentions for the Stone could actually retrieve it. And in addition to @Lydia's answer, Dumbledore DID mean for Harry to at least know/understand how to get the Stone, if not rescue it if the time came outright. He gifted Harry his father's Invisibility Cloak, and right around the time he knew Harry would be curious to test it, had the Mirror of Erised placed in an empty classroom where any First Year could waltz into it.

One reason why he could have had all the 'answers' available is for the case that someone needs to retrieve the Stone. Such as if Flamel asked for it back, if he learned that Voldemort had actually died and no longer wanted to keep it in the school, or if something urgent came up and he needed to change hiding places. No run-of-the-mill clueless wizard/witch could go, but those who were meant to know of the Stone could go down without worrying about picking up a key from a hidden drawer or memorizing the order of potions. They could figure it out when they got down there (hopefully quickly because they knew of the challenges awaiting them). In this case, retrieving the Stone itself isn't a big deal, as they would only have to move the Mirror, and the Stone remains safe.

0

Perhaps I haven't given it enough thought, but I always assumed that they outer defenses had to be passable, because they were set by different Wizards and Witches over a period of time, and possibly not in reverse order. Dumbledore's reasoning for this is unclear, but the implication from the book was that you had the "best of the best" setting the most cunning traps and enchantments from their areas of expertise. Even though Dumbledore was a very powerful Wizard, there are certain powers he did not have (at least as far as we know), such as being an Animagus. We might assume then that the overall defenses were presumed more thorough with the benefits of a team effort - since no one Wizard/Witch would have the skill to defeat all of the defenses. In fact both Quirrel and the kids cheated with bits of inside information, and in the case of the kids it was a collaborative effort of 3 involving individual sacrifice at times. Layered enchantments seems to be the "go to" style of defense for all things Wizards/Witches want to protect - and I think Rowling is also emphasizing the exceptional nature of Dumbledore, Voldemort, and the kids by explaining how they break through these defenses.

Consider the same question about some of Voldemort's other Horcruxes. Why didn't Voldemort make them impossible to reach? I think the simple answer in both cases is: they tried to, but failed.

-1

Harry's touch turned Quirrel into stone. The protections were designed to let only Harry and Voldemort's henchman in so that Harry would kill him in a confrontation. Dumbledore likely predicted that there would be that type of outcome based upon setting the tasks to suit the skills of Harry and his friends.

  • Um... noooo. Harry's touch didn't turn him to stone... – Mithrandir Dec 10 '17 at 7:25
  • What was it that killed Quirrel? – guest Dec 10 '17 at 15:21
  • That "turning to stone/ashes" thing is from the movie. In the book, Harry's skin was causing heavy burns to Quirrel. Which might or might not be equally lethal. At any rate, Quirrel wasn't yet dead when Harry fell unconscious. – Egor Hans Jul 27 at 18:48

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