As the answer to this question ponders, Dumbledore seems to have left a lot of information out when giving Harry, Ron and Hermione their Horcrux assignment. Let's consider the following points.

  • Harry didn't know how to destroy Horcruxes.

    "I wonder how Dumbledore destroyed the ring?" said Harry. "Why didn't I ask him? I never really..."

    His voice trailed away: he was thinking of all the things he should have asked Dumbledore, and of how, since the Headmaster had died, it seemed to Harry that he had wasted so many opportunities, when Dumbledore had been alive, to find out more...to find out everything...

    (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6, "The Ghoul in Pyjamas")

  • Dumbledore made no plans to inform Harry of how to destroy Horcruxes.

    It was only sheer, dumb luck/quick thinking on Hermione's part that meant that the trio knew the theory of Horcrux-destruction. Dumbledore just left the Hogwarts library books lying around in his office and made no attempt to bequeath them to Harry. At the start of their quest they had no practical means of destroying them.

  • Harry felt hurt and betrayed that Dumbledore knew but didn't tell him.

    He could not hide it from himself: Ron had been right. Dumbledore had left him with virtually nothing. They had discovered one Horcrux, but they had no means of destroying it: the others were as unattainable as they had ever been.

    (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 16, "Godric's Hollow")

  • Dumbledore had no reason not to tell Harry.

    Knowing how to destroy Horcruxes is clearly an integral part of any mission to destroy Horcruxes! With the Hallows, Dumbledore later says that he had intended to be cryptic in an attempt to let Hermione's natural caution prevent Harry from going too power-hungry. This is not the case with the Horcruxes.

  • Dumbledore knew his official will would be subject to Ministry of Magic intrusion.

    Regardless of whether the Ministry's motives were kind or cruel Dumbledore clearly knew that the bylaw about the Ministry having the right to search will items could provide difficulties in terms of giving things to the trio. This is evident from the care he took to hide the true meaning of Beedle's book and the elaborate magic surrounding the Snitch he gave Harry. Dumbledore must've known that the Ministry may not allow Harry to receive the Sword of Gryffindor. Trying to give it to Harry gave him a hint but this is as close as Harry gets to finding out how to destroy Horcruxes.

  • Dumbledore had other methods of giving things to Harry.

    Even though he knew that he was dying, Dumbledore obviously took care to tailor his will to helping Harry. Yet he could've simply given things to someone he trusted at Hogwarts like McGonagall to pass onto Harry.

  • Dumbledore knew basilisk fangs would be supremely useful to Harry.

    Dumbledore knew that, if Harry didn't get hold of the sword, basilisk fangs remained the main key tool Harry needed for Horcrux-destruction. Ron and Hermione ended up going down to the Chamber anyway so Dumbledore could've saved them the hassle.

Why didn't Dumbledore give Harry more of a head-start by telling him about the Basilisk fangs? And why didn't he put the fangs, the sword, the Beedle book, the Deluminator and the snitch in a box for McGonagall to give away after he died?

"From all that I've read, what Harry did to Riddle's diary was one of the few really foolproof ways of destroying a Horcrux."

"What, stabbing it with a Basilisk fang?" asked Harry.

"Oh, well, lucky we've got a large supply of Basilisk fangs, then," said Ron. "I was wondering what we were going to do with them."

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6, "The Ghoul in Pyjamas")

  • 5
    I'd assumed he did not trust McGonagall, or anyone else (a wise attitude in a world with Veritaserum, Legilimancy and the Imperius curse). Also, he died before he expected to - it's possible he was going to show Harry how to destroy the Locket, for example.
    – DavidS
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 11:39
  • 1
    @DavidS He wouldn't need to tell McGonagall the purpose of the items. Just to instruct her to make sure Harry got them. He trusted Snape with the biggest secret of all, remember! Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 11:42
  • 9
    for one thing, Dumbledore cant open the chamber of secrets because he cant speak parsletounge. he couldn't even find it when he looked, according to Binns. he also gave harry all he needed by telling him to find the sword in his will. and since the only known basilisk is in the CoS, where was Dumbledore supposed to get more fangs? Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 18:02
  • 5
    @albusseveruspotter " Dumbledore cant open the chamber of secrets because he cant speak parsletounge." He could not speak, but at first, neither could Ron Weasley, and Ron learned enough to open the Chamber of Secrets by the 7th book.
    – RichS
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 19:58
  • 3
    If Dumbledore knew so much about horcruxes, why would he have fatally afflicted himself trying to destroy one? It seems like actual knowledge of them was fairly scant, so I doubt he'd have a ready "ACME HORCRUX DESTRUCTION KIT" at the ready to pass on. Also, he didn't anticipate the Death Eaters being able to get access to Hogworts, so he probably thought he had more time to get his affairs in order. Plus, what Valorum said. Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 20:57

11 Answers 11


I don't think there's a definitive explanation. That said, I think this can probably attributed to two facts: Dumbledore is arrogant, and Dumbledore is secretive.

Dumbledore is secretive

Albus Dumbledore has an almost pathological obsession with keeping the details of his plans hidden, even from those closest to him. As his brother says,

“I can’t leave,” said Harry. “I’ve got a job—”

“Give it to someone else!”

“I can’t. It’s got to be me, Dumbledore explained it all—” “Oh, did he now? And did he tell you everything, was he honest with you?” Harry wanted him with all his heart to say “Yes,” but somehow the simple word would not rise to his lips, Aberforth seemed to know what he was thinking.

“I knew my brother, Potter. He learned secrecy at our mother’s knee. Secrets and lies, that’s how we grew up, and Albus. . . he was a natural.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This ties in somewhat with his arrogance. If Dumbledore is more brilliant than everyone else, if he possesses greater perspicacity, then why should he trust others with the details of his designs? This is not merely some post hoc justification created for the final book, either:

  • He did not tell Harry about the magical protection his mother had placed on him until Harry had experienced firsthand.

  • He did not tell Harry that Sirius Black had betrayed his parents, though in fairness the other teachers were complicit there as well.

  • Dumbledore did not tell Harry about Voldemort's Horcruxes until he, Dumbledore, was on the brink of death due the wasting curse placed on Marvolo Gaunt's ring.
  • Dumbledore did not tell Harry he was a Horcrux until the very last minute.
  • Dumbledore clearly knew in Goblet of Fire that Voldemort's taking Harry's blood could be a great benefit, yet did not tell Harry until he was half-dead.

    “He said my blood would make him stronger than if he’d used someone else’s,” Harry told Dumbledore. “He said the protection my — my mother left in me — he’d have it too. And he was right — he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.”

    For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat behind the desk, he looked as old and weary as Harry had ever seen him.

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Dumbledore is arrogant

Dumbledore has a very high opinion of his own intelligence and wisdom. While he is indeed one of the most brilliant wizards alive, his high opinion of himself can lead him to make grievous errors, since he assumes that any plan he makes will turn out flawlessly. As Dumbledore himself says:

“Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being — forgive me — rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Dumbledore tends to place a great deal of reliance on his hunches, which (in fairness) often turn out to be correct.

In Dumbledore's mind, he had already set all the pieces in motion, and in a manner more elegant than simply handing Harry some basilisk fangs.

He had arranged for Snape to bring the sword to Harry when he could find him, so he would have a tool to destroy Horcruxes. He knew that Hermione would try to see if he had any books on Horcruxes. He had already explained to Harry what he knew about Voldemort's Horcruxes. Having already put (so he believed) all the pieces in motions, he might have been sufficiently prideful to believe there was little need for redundancy, convenience, or disclosure.

So with an obsession with secrecy, and a firm belief in the correctness of his own convoluted plan, Dumbledore might have seen keeping Harry and company in the Dark as preferable to the alternative. In addition, as seen in Philosopher's Stone, Dumbledore likes to let people do things themselves, even in lethal situations. After all, convinced as he is that his plans are infallible, what does it matter if there are some risks?

That said, Dumbledore did have some good reasons

I think we can attribute most of Dumbledore's actions to his belief that keeping people in the dark about his plans was simply better, i.e. to his secretiveness and pride, as mentioned earlier.

That said, he did have some good reasons for doing what he did.

  • As one of Voldemort's top Death Eaters, Snape had a great deal more freedom of movement and latitude than McGonagall would have had. If Dumbledore had given McGonagall the sword instead of Snape, she might have been dead, imprisoned, under house arrest at Hogwarts, or otherwise unable to give it to Harry when the time was right. Only someone on Voldemort's side could be sure of having the freedom to give Harry the sword when the time was right.
  • It was safer for Harry not to have the sword until he actually had a Horcrux to destroy. If Harry had had the sword before he found the locket, there would have been that many more chances for Voldemort's servants to take it from him, and very little benefit to having it around. Dumbledore undoubtedly counted on Snape to know enough of Harry's movements to know when to give it to him, since Snape knew how to find Harry.
  • Why not let the Ministry give Harry, Hermione, and Ron the other objects? If he had simply had McGonagall hand them over, the Ministry might have tried to take them away, in order to administer the will properly. Dumbledore would have been confident enough in knowing when the Ministry would fall that he could be assured of getting the Deluminator etc. to the Trio before that happened. Besides, some of the objects were magical. How do we know the Deluminator didn't need to be properly deeded to work?

Note: I don't think Dumbledore was worried about Voldemort reading Harry's mind. He knew that after Voldemort's disastrous attempt at possessing Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and knowing that the connection could expose his own secrets, Voldemort was trying to block Harry out.

“I, on the other hand, thought otherwise,” said Dumbledore. “Lord Voldemort has finally realized the dangerous access to his thoughts and feelings you have been enjoying. It appears that he is now employing Occlumency against you.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In fact, I suspect Dumbledore was counting on it; otherwise, Voldemort might have been able to learn Harry's location.

  • 1
    I think that everything in this answer is true. Voldemort and Dumbledore do seem to share a love of elaborate plans, which don't always work in their favour. You don't address the point about the Ministry will, however. Dumbledore knew that this would be a flawed way of passing things on. Why not use another method to give Harry and co what they needed earlier? Commented May 3, 2016 at 19:45
  • 1
    @TheDarkLord - Clearly he did not feel it was necessary to give Harry everything early. Best guess, maybe he didn't want them to have the sword until they had a Horcrux to destroy.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 20:16
  • Good job on adding the extra bullets. I think you've earned the points. Commented May 5, 2016 at 8:17
  • 'After all, convinced as he is that his plans are infallible, what does it matter if there are some risks?' The quote of his actually directly contradicts that though doesn't it? He knows he's not infallible but yes he does tend to let his mostly good guesses get to his head. That's easy to do and doesn't necessarily equate to arrogance (it's something I've had to learn the hard way after being called out on it though in my case it wasn't about anyone but myself). Being right almost all the time if not always is really toxic to the mind! It might be said also that instead he's proud.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 21:58
  • ...proud about these types of things, that is. He's clearly not proud about his mistakes in his youth but that's why he did everything he could to make amends in the way he was able to.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 21:58

Dumbledore knew of the connection between Harry and Voldemort. Hence why Snape was trying to teach Harry to block his mind from the connection. If Harry knew about the Horcruxes and how to destroy them before he could shield his mind there was a great possibility that Voldemort would find out and be able to protect his greatest assets.

As to why there wasn't just a pile of Basilisk fangs laying around... they are not a common beast. We only ever see the one in the Chamber of Secrets. Dumbledore might have thought that if Harry made the connection of the venom destroying Horcruxes he would be able to easily acesss the Chamber again because he had already done so.

  • 1
    Dumbledore must've known that Hogwarts was at risk of falling into Voldemort's hands after his death. At which point entering it becomes extremely difficult for Harry since he is a wanted man! Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 12:05
  • @TheDarkLord Of course, if he'd known the whole truth, it wouldn't have been very difficult for him at all: he would have known that really he had the support of the new Headmaster (and of course McGonagall and the others as well) who could have sneaked him in no problem. But he didn't know the whole truth. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 13:36
  • "He did not tell Harry that Sirius Black had betrayed his parents" - I was under the impression that he himself did not know this until the night the executioner came for Sirius.
    – Mage Xy
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 17:27
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    @MageXy: He had very good reason for not telling Harry the rumour that Sirius betrayed his parents, because he himself doubted that Sirius did such a thing, even if he could never find clear evidence until Peter showed up again.
    – user21820
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 3:59

I think some credit must be given to the recognition that Dumbledore didn't expect to be killed that night in the tower. He probably simply thought he had more time to explain, to plot, etc.

Of course, though perhaps Dumbledore shouldn't be judged too harshly, he should indeed be judged negatively on this score. He himself admitted that Harry was a better man.

  • 3
    Hmmm. But he did expect to be killed very soon, right?
    – Adamant
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 20:50
  • @Adamant But that's not giving him the chance to defend himself. Even if he was to die soon he would have handled things differently although we don't know how differently it's most likely it would be.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 22:01

One other point: Dumbledore was admittedly brilliant. And one failing brilliant people sometimes have is that they forget other people aren't quite as sharp as they are. I can easily see Dumbledore going over the pieces in his head and assuming that Harry, or at least Hermione, would just 'get it' immediately:

(Dumbledore thinking to himself): Harry (a) knows the diary was a Horcrux; (b) destroyed the diary with Basilisk venom straight from the fang. So it must be obvious that Basilisk venom kills Horcruxes. Hermione knows (a) the Sword of Gryffindor was Goblin-made [she's read ALL of the history books]; (b) Goblin steel absorbs only what strengthens it; (c) Harry killed the Basilisk by stabbing it from inside the mouth, which was full of venom. So it must be obvious that the Sword of Gryffindor can now destroy Horcruxes! All I have to do is get them to seek out the Sword of Gryffindor at the right time. AHA - I know! - I'll just leave Harry the Sword in my Will! Of course, the Ministry won't give it to him, but the fact that I tried will be a dead giveaway!


Remember, Dumbledore couldn't enter the Chamber of Secrets. Ron did so by imitating Harry, but Dumbledore did not speak Parseltongue. Dumbledore left Harry the Sword of Gryffindor in his will, believing that this would be sufficient. Knowing that the Ministry wouldn't give Harry the sword, it was meant to be a hint that they needed it.

Dumbledore specifically instructed Snape for give Harry the sword in the Forest of Dean. Thus, it would appear that Dumbledore believed the sword would be enough.

  • 5
    Dumbledore: "Hi Harry, this lesson you will accompany me down to the Chamber of Secrets, use Parseltongue to open the entrance and collect some fangs. Then I'll explain why they'll be so integral to your mission". Job done. Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 22:00
  • 4
    ^ don't trust this one's advice. Seems suspicious
    – Jeutnarg
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 16:08
  • @Jeutnarg On the contrary; The Dark Lord is a great bloke. Nothing suspicious in his comments or answers that I have seen. Besides... the basilisk was dead by that point and without Fawkes being tamed by Dumbledore it would be alive and a young Tom would be too! Remember that Riddle was the best student Hogwarts had ever seen and that’s said by another brilliant student - Dumbledore himself! So just because he suggested opening the chamber..well so did Ron. Otoh Voldemort suggesting this is suicidal..
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 12:27

He did not gave the second basilisk to Harry because it would need opening the chamber of secrets and one basilisk could destroy one horcrux only but the sword could be used as many times. And he himself used the sword because it was handy right in his office

  • 1
    The sword and the supposed 2nd Basilisk are not what's being asked about here.
    – Möoz
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 2:01

Dumbledore may have honestly not known

Horcruxes are not common knowledge in the Wizarding World, and knowledge of how to destroy them is even rarer. Dumbledore knew about Horcruxes, but even then he didn't have a complete knowledge and had to get memories from Slughorn in the sixth book not long before his death in order to get the whole story. Basilisk venom only comes up as obscure factoid via Hermione midway through the last book, who is well-established as a font of obscure trivia who reads about anything she gets her hands on throughout the series, and it's not clear if she learned that via information provided by Dumbledore or she just found out on her own. It's possible that while Dumbledore researched Horcruxes as much as he could he didn't manage to put together a comprehensive list of how to destroy them. Or he did and most of the options weren't very doable for someone like Harry, given that the most talked about alternative to basilisk venom is Fiendfyre, which is extremely dangerous to use. Or he did and his note with his big list of "how to destroy Horcruxes" failed to reach Harry in the chaos that was Voldemort overthrowing the Ministry.

Alternatively, Dumbledore thought that Harry getting his hands on the Sword of Gryffindor again was a much more reliable way to get ahold of a Horcrux-destroying weapon than than going back down into the Chamber of Secrets and risking his life extracting basilisk fangs that could kill him if he got nicked.


While there are other great answers here, I want to add a point not really mentioned:

Basilisks are incredibly rare and dangerous. According to Newt Scamander:

since Basilisks are uncontrollable except by Parselmouths, they are as dangerous to most Dark wizards as to anybody else, and there have been no recorded sightings of Basilisks in Britain for at least four hundred years.

Thus, it would be quite difficult for Dumbledore to have left a great pile of fangs as he would be unable to control a live Basilisk as is not a parselmouth, and dead Basilisks are incredibly rare. (Basilisks can live for hundreds of years, so there probably aren't too many dead ones anyways.)

In addition, Dumbledore would have been unable to even leave the one fang in the Chamber of Secrets, as Dumbledore is not a parselmouth and would be unable to open it.

  • There was a dead Basilisk decaying in the Chamber of Secrets, though. It wouldn't have taken a lot of time to have taken Harry down there during one of their lessons to precure some fangs. Your point about the fangs being potentially dangerous is an interesting one, though. It depends on whether the fangs are deadly to living beings (and not just souls) after the Basilisk has died. Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 20:25

From the author's point of view, giving Harry basilisk fangs would have made his mission easier, and JKR wanted to make the mission as difficult as possible. Actually she wanted Harry to be as miserable as possible, and making his mission unnecessarily difficult is part of that.

Looking at the events from an in-story point of view, most of Harry's troubles (as well as most of his suffering) are caused by Dumbledore, whether directly or indirectly. The only thing Dumbledore ever did to defeat Voldemort was to destroy the ring horcrux. Everything else he left to Harry, making an already difficult mission even more difficult.

One explanation would be that Dumbledore is stupid, but in general he is not described as stupid. So, we have to assume that the result is what he intended. Maybe he wanted an exciting game to watch from his "next adventure". Maybe he wanted to bet off of Harry like Bagman. In the end, Harry won despite Dumbledore's plans, so maybe Dumbledore didn't even want Harry to win. And even if Voldemort was defeated by an unlikely sequence of events, many people died in the war, and many Muggleborns were killed during the year Voldemort controlled the ministry.

This is in line with Dumbledore doing nothing to prepare Harry for fighting Voldemort. What Dumbledore does is preparing Harry to get killed by Voldemort. Dumbledore admits he knew that Harry would have ten dark years even before he placed him with the Dursleys. Having him there destroyed any sense of self worth that Harry would have had. He was worthless, blamed for all of their problems, and abused in other ways. Just so that when Dumbledore thought it would be the time to die, Harry would walk willingly to his death without questions.

Encouraged by the image of his mother that the stone created. She basically said that she gave her life so that Harry would not have a quick and painless death, but instead he would suffer so much for fifteen years that he would be willing to die. What loving mother would think that way, especially if being dead isn't bad?

  • 2
    Welcome to SFF! Your first two paragraphs seem to answer the question but are entirely unsourced, could you edit in some evidence to support your case? Also from your 3rd paragraph onwards you seem to go off on a tangent/rant about Dumbledore. You should probably either clarify why this is relevant to the answer or just remove the paragraphs all together.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 15:38
  • So..you think that year five would have been drastically better if Dumbledore didn’t fear being there for Harry? Perhaps but he had his reasons. He also didn’t expect to die that night so we cannot judge him wholly on what he did or didn’t do and tell Harry. That’s not to say Dumbledore didn’t withhold things but some of it had good intentions even if misguided. He probably at first suspected Harry would have to die without any way around it but he was glad when Voldemort took Harry’s blood though he didn’t tell poor Severus.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 12:32
  • And Dumbledore was one of the brightest students ever to attend Hogwarts and he is the only one Voldemort ever feared. That’s a testament to Dumbledore”s brilliance and power. And having Harry at the Dursley’s not only protected Harry but it made him humble; imagine if rash Harry wasn’t! And his mum didn’t at all imply that. The fact it had never been done makes me think she did what every loving mother would do: lay down their life for their child. And although James was a bullying git he also sacrificed himself although he was never given a choice by Voldemort.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 12:38
  • And Dumbledore’s portrait suggests otherwise that he wanted Harry to survive: indeed that’s exactly what he hoped for. Yes he made some mistakes but he didn’t just want Harry to die. At the point he told Severus that Harry would have to die I don’t think he really expected Harry to; on the contrary: Harry had to sacrifice himself but he needed the comfort and courage to do! That’s exactly what Dumbledore did.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 12:42
  • @TheLethalCarrot It is my conclusion from reading the books that JKR wanted Harry to be miserable, I don't think that there are quotes to this effect in the books. She would probably say that it makes the mission and therefor the book more exciting, but if most troubles come from someone supposedly on Harry's side, then the question is whether Dumbledore is really on Harry's side. Do you think I should list what problems Dumbledore cause for Harry? As for the rest, it's a guess about Dumbledore's motivation, although you are right, Lily and the stone doesn't belong here.
    – Ralf
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 14:40

I come to think of only one simple available answer that the basilisk might have only two fangs like other snakes used for piercing venom one was used by Harry in the chamber of secrets itself and the other by ron and hermione in the end.

  • 1
    Cause there are usually two fangs which have venom and other are just fangs or "teeth" without venom Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 16:04
  • 1
    OK. So why didn't he leave just the one?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 15, 2018 at 16:13

Because Dumbledore believed in the inference abilities of Harry, Ron and Hermione. See what we know:

  • Dumbledore had already told Harry that the Tom Riddle's Diary was a Horcrux which was already destroyed.

  • It was Harry himself who had destroyed Tom Riddle's Diary using Basilisk fang.

  • Harry knew parseltongue.

So, it was an understood thing for Dumbledore that Harry and co. could easily infer how to destroy a Horcrux and they could also obtain Basilisk fangs. He also left them hint of Gryffindor's sword in case they couldn't access Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts.

Dumbledore might have directly told Harry about it if he had lived more. He had lots of things going on in his life (including a curse which was going to kill him within a year) and such understood thing was low priority to him.

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