Professor Trelawney's second prophecy turns out in some ways to be almost as significant as her first. Crucially, it gives Harry and everyone connected with him a key heads-up notice period where they know that Voldemort will rise again. (Presumably, Harry and Dumbledore are aware of this before even Voldemort himself is). Harry clearly tells Dumbledore about the prophecy at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban:

"Professor Dumbledore - yesterday, when I was having my Divination exam, Professor Trelawney went very - very strange."

"Indeed, "said Dumbledore. "Er - stranger than usual, you mean?"

"Yes...her voice went all deep and her eyes rolled and she said...she said Voldemort's servant was going to set out to return to him before midnight...she said that the servant would help him come back to power." Harry stared up at Dumbledore. "And then she sort of became normal again, and she couldn't remember anything she'd said. Was it - was she making a real prediction?"

Dumbledore looked mildly impressed.

"Do you know, Harry, I think she might have been," he said thoughtfully. "Who'd have thought it? That brings her total of real predictions up to two. I should offer her a pay rise..."

"But -" Harry looked at him, aghast. How could Dumbledore take this so calmly?"

Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 22, Owl Post Again

Dumbledore's immediate response is to console Harry that Wormtail escaping wasn't his fault. OK, good job comforting the insecure teenager, Dumbledore. No need to alarm Harry that his evil nemesis may be on the way back. However, after that conversation you would expect him to go straight up to his office, reform the Order, notify the Ministry and try to get to Voldemort ahead of Wormtail. "All hands on deck. We're going to Albania, guys."

His response is especially criminal in the light of the fact that he basically knows where Voldemort is:

"What interests me most," said Dumbledore gently, "is how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is currently in hiding in the forests of Albania."

Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 18, Dobby's Reward

Dumbledore has sources. Wormtail only has rumours and rat-friends. Wormtail may have had a few hours head-start but you would bet on Dumbledore and the Order managing to get there first.

When Harry goes to visit Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire he gives Dumbledore the information that Wormtail has indeed managed to find Voldemort and that Voldemort is getting stronger, strong enough to hold a wand (additionally, Snape's Dark Mark was becoming stronger). This is the confirmation that Voldemort's return is a real risk but at this point he is already in hiding. The crucial point at which Dumbledore could have headed Wormtail off was at the end of Azkaban.

Assumption: Dumbledore or anyone else wouldn't have been able to do much to Voldemort in his bodiless spirit-form. Voldemort was already deprived of a body and so was essentially powerless at this point. Voldemort later says that "The Aurors were still abroad and searching for me." What those Aurors would've hoped to achieve isn't clear since spirit-Voldemort could just swoosh away somewhere else. Only once Wormtail found him was Voldemort a threat.

So why didn't Dumbledore do more in response to Trelawney's prophecy? Did he just assume that Voldemort was going to come back anyway, regardless of what he might do to prevent it?

  • 1
    How far have you made it into the series? If you have finished, you should understand exactly how pointless any actions against Voldemort at that time would have been.
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 12:35
  • 4
    Albania is quite a large country.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 12:37
  • 9
    @Skooba But not any actions against Wormtail, which I think is what is implied in the question. My own personal theory is that he actually wanted Voldemort to come back while he himself was still vigorous enough to be able to help Harry overcome him. If Wormtail hadn’t gone, it might have been another 35 years before Voldemort came back, at which point Dumbledore may well have been too frail to be of much help. Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 12:37
  • 4
    @Richard It’s 143rd in size out of 195(-ish). It’s smaller than Belgium. It’s bigger than your back yard, but it’s hardly a large country. Also, magic. Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 12:39
  • 4
    I could be way off the mark here, but is it actually possible to defy the prophecy? Both of Trelawney's prophecies come true, and if it is the nature of true prophecies that they are inevitable, and Dumbledore knew this, then he wouldn't waste time trying to stop Pettigrew because Trelawney said that "the servant would help him come back to power" - "would" not "might".
    – Ian
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 12:08

3 Answers 3


Dumbledore might not have been able to find Pettigrew

Dumbledore was very powerful. By all measures, he was one of the two most powerful wizards alive, as of 1993 (and the other candidate had a dubious claim to the title of "alive.")

But he is not omnipotent. In fact, there is very good reason to believe that Dumbledore's ability to track even wizards far less powerful that himself is quite limited.

For nearly the entirety of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore believed that Sirius Black had betrayed the Potters, much as the rest of the world did. This was of course because the Potters had changed Secret-Keepers without informing Dumbledore:

"A street full of eyewitnesses swore they saw Sirius murder Pettigrew. I myself gave evidence to the Ministry that Sirius had been the Potters’ Secret-Keeper.”

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

So Dumbledore had every reason to want to track down Sirius Black. Yet in spite of his considerable magical power, and the possession of an artifact that might have permitted him to do things beyond the capability of even other talented wizards, he was unable to.

In a similar instance, Igor Karkaroff evaded Voldemort for over a year after refusing to return to him:

“And they’ve found Igor Karkaroff’s body in a shack up north. The Dark Mark had been set over it — well, frankly, I’m surprised he stayed alive for even a year after deserting the Death Eaters; Sirius’s brother, Regulus, only managed a few days as far as I can remember.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This should cause us to seriously consider the possibility that Pettigrew could evade capture or detection by Dumbledore for the few weeks or months it took him to find Voldemort, or indeed even the several months he spent with Voldemort, preparing for his resurrection.

Dumbledore might not have been able to find Voldemort

Dumbledore had "sources" that informed him of Voldemort's general location:

“What interests me most,” said Dumbledore gently, “is how Lord Voldemort managed to enchant Ginny, when my sources tell me he is currently in hiding in the forests of Albania.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

What form could those sources have taken? Voldemort was a disembodied spirit who survived mostly by possessing snakes.

"I sometimes inhabited animals — snakes, of course, being my preference — but I was little better off inside them than as pure spirit, for their bodies were ill adapted to perform magic . . . and my possession of them shortened their lives; none of them lasted long. . . ."

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The only evidence that anyone could really have had of Voldemort was animals, and snakes in particular. Specifically,

"He sought me in the country where it had long been rumored I was hiding . . . helped, of course, by the rats he met along the way. Wormtail has a curious affinity with rats, do you not, Wormtail? His filthy little friends told him there was a place, deep in an Albanian forest, that they avoided, where small animals like themselves had met their deaths by a dark shadow that possessed them. . . ."

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

There was also the fact that Quirrell had come back from Albania possessed by Voldemort, which many people must have been aware of after Harry's first year. Perhaps it was this that led to Voldemort having "long been rumored" to be hiding in Albania.

The point is, Dumbledore, at best, had two pieces of knowledge: First, his contacts might have told him about animals dying or behaving strangely in an Albanian forest. Second, he would have known that Quirrell came back from Albania with Voldemort attached.

If Voldemort moved around within the forest, Dumbledore might not have known his current location.

But since Pettigrew could communicate with rats, he was able to find out exactly where Voldemort was at the moment, probably before humans, let alone witches or wizards, had noticed the animal deaths that accompanied his presence.

So it is entirely possible that Dumbledore would not have known where to wait for Pettigrew, whereas Pettigrew knew exactly where to go. And within a few weeks or months, of course, Pettigrew had met up with him, and they were on the move, with Voldemort able to advise Pettigrew on how best to avoid detection.

Finally, Dumbledore had to protect Harry

Dumbledore knew that Harry would be a prime target for a Voldemort with any degree of renewed power, particularly if he could guess what sort of magic Voldemort might use to resurrect himself.

By staying at Hogwarts, Dumbledore could keep Harry safe. If he had limited odds of catching Pettigrew, and perhaps worse odds of intercepting him, what good would it have done to leave Harry exposed?

Dumbledore was much more powerless to affect events than it appeared.

  • 1
    This is a fantastic answer. Thank you, @Jonah. You make some good points in particular about the difficulties of finding people in the wizarding world. I suppose that as soon as Wormtail got through the Hogwarts gates that he could have disapperated and gone anywhere. You've also convinced me that Wormtail had the edge in finding Voldemort in Albania. Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 22:26

Going to answer with heavy spoiler tags in case you haven't finished the series.

  • Dumbledore knew that Voldemort would have not been able to be fully defeated until all of the horcruxes were destroyed.

  • Also, we see in Goblet of Fire that Dumbledore is actually pleased to see that Voldemort has taken in Harry's blood because that is what ends up ensuring Harry can survive the final showdown with Voldemort.

  • 2
    Does Dumbledore know about those at this point?
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 16:15
  • 2
    Thanks for your caution but I've read all the books. Dumbledore may have known that Voldemort had to return in order to eventually be defeated. But at the end of Goblet Dumbledore only has a couple of bits of information about Horcruxes. He has yet to find or destroy a single one. Every year that Voldemort remains powerless is another year with his followers less expectant, his reputation less fearsome, his Horcruxes more exposed, Harry more trained and prepared for his task. If Dumbledore could've prevented his return it stands to reason that he would've done. Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 22:30
  • @TheDarkLord I disagree with that assessment - first of all, he is well aware of the Diary and how it was destroyed. Secondly, every year Voldemort remains powerless is another year Dumbledore grows older and weaker. The original Order members split or die off. The general public becomes less aware of, and concerned about, some old dark wizard who is probably dead. They drop their guard...if Voldemort had been less impatient, he could simply have had Quirrel move a Horcrux to some remote location and waited for all this to happen!
    – DavidS
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 17:06
  • @DavidS. Well, Voldemort sincerely believed that no-one knew about his Horcruxes so he wouldn't have seen the need to move them. Dumbledore's weakness isn't really the issue. Harry ultimately has the job of destroying the Horcruxes. But the more time Dumbledore has to collect memories, build up his knowledge base, train Harry up etc. the better. Imagine how much easier it would've been if Dumbledore and Harry had found and destroyed them together at leisure before Voldemort returned. Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 22:24
  • @TheDarkLord I still think at the end of the day, if Voldy doesn't take Harry's blood that Harry dies in the end?
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 26, 2016 at 11:30

Dumbledore is playing the long game. I think he's aware of a lot more than he let's on and is forming his end game. Part of that is setting up everyone else up and not alerting them to this knowledge.

Do you remember what happened when Voldemort last heard a prophecy? He went after the people in it.

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