So, did Dumbledore know what was going on in Defense Against the Dark Arts class during Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts? I have a hard time believing that Dumbledore would have allowed the Unforgivable curses to be used on students, even if he did harbor a soft spot for an old friend.

I believe he would have been trusting enough to not investigate, but something like the Unforgivable curses would surely have become a topic of conversation among the students, and thus likely for Dumbledore to get wind of? Is it possible that he let that happen knowingly?

Is there any canon proof one way or the other?

  • The curses weren't actually used ON students were they? I don't recall that, though I, of course, remember their use on the spider in front of students. Admittedly, it's been quite awhile since I've had time to read any of my HP books so I may have simply forgotten.
    – Meg Coates
    Mar 13, 2012 at 18:48
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    @MegCoates He used the imperious curse on all the students. Harry was one of the students to show real ability in resisting the influence of the curse. Mar 13, 2012 at 18:57
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    Isn't that the same book where he's trying to keep away from harry so he can't be mind spied on by you know who? Stands to reason then he wouldn't be interfering with students too much, if one might be harry and might let YKH see him...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Mar 13, 2012 at 22:11
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    @Pureferret Not at all. I'm talking about The Goblet of Fire, before Lord Voldemort is back. You are referring to The Order of the Phoenix, after he is back.
    – Sheph
    Mar 14, 2012 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14:

" [...] Now, according to the Ministry of Magic, I'm supposed to teach you countercurses and leave it at that. I'm not supposed to show you what illegal Dark curses look like until you're in the sixth year. You're not supposed to be old enough to deal with it till then. But Professor Dumbledore's got a higher opinion of your nerves, he reckons you can cope, and I say, the sooner you know what you're up against, the better. How are you supposed to defend yourself against something you've never seen? [...] "

From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 15:

"But-but you said it's illegal, Professor," said Hermione uncertainly as Moody cleared away the desks with a sweep of his wand, leaving a large clear space in the middle of the room. "You said-to use it against another human was-"

"Dumbledore wants you taught what it feels like," said Moody, his magical eye swiveling onto Hermione and fixing her with an eerie, unblinking stare. [...]

From this, it leaves little doubt that Dumbledore is aware what's going on, and may even have suggested it himself.

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    Doesn't necessarily infer that he approved of Fake Moody using the curses at all. Teaching about them is one thing, no? Mar 14, 2012 at 3:39
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    Hmm. Was Fake Moody being truthful is now the question. He obviously wasn't always so honest... Mar 14, 2012 at 3:50
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    Wow I totally did not get that impression from Dumbledore, but being as omniscient as he was about his school, I imagine it is more likely that he knew than that Fake Moody was lying about this. Doubt he would have risked his Job and spot at Hogwarts just to have some fun torturing kids. Nice quotes!
    – Sheph
    Mar 14, 2012 at 6:14
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    Moody's claim that Dumbledore wants you taught what it feels like does not mean that the headmaster knew it. He was the impostor, remember? He may have lied. Maybe it was just an old Death Eater trying to relive the old memories. Sep 9, 2014 at 11:58
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    @Krumia See the comment right above yours. He was the impostor, which makes it all the more likely that he’s telling the truth here. Word that he’s subjecting them to the Imperius curse would with complete certainty carry throughout the school, and Dumbledore would with equal certainty hear about it. The real Moody might not have been too concerned about that (worst case scenario, Dumbledore raises a stink and Moody goes back to retirement), but the impostor would definitely be (if Dumbledore kicks him out, Voldy’s plan goes down the drain—not good for his personal health). Feb 10, 2016 at 18:56

According to Harry, yes. But we don't know.

I'm going to start by disagreeing with Toomai's answer. Barty Crouch Junior, under the guise of Mad-Eye Moody did claim that he had Dumbledore's blessing for showing them the Unforgivable Curses. That is not to say that Dumbledore was cool with it. I'm not prepared to take the word of a crook as given. Bearing in mind Crouch's allegiance was not to Dumbledore, I don't think he'd be above lying to cover his tracks. If a teacher says Dumbledore's fine with something then the kids are hardly going to doubt him. It's a very easy lie to pull off - if it was a lie.

So what did Dumbledore know about lessons, and the school in general? Harry certainly thought Dumbledore was omniscient about Hogwarts.

"He's a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know."
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17, The Man With Two Faces).

And Dumbledore himself says that he's been keeping a close eye on Harry (and, by extension, his lessons).

"I defy anyone who has watched you as I have - and I have watched you more closely than you can have imagined - not to want to save you more pain than you had already suffered."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy).

How Dumbledore did his watching we can't be sure. It's likely that he communed frequently with the teachers but he may have spied on Harry in some other ways.

But there were plenty of things that went on at Hogwarts of which Dumbledore was utterly oblivious. For instance, James, Sirius and Peter became Animagi under his very nose without his knowledge.

"But I sometimes felt guilty about betraying Dumbledore's trust, of course...he had admitted me to Hogwarts when no other Headmaster would have done so, and he had no idea I was breaking the rules he had set down for my own and others' safety. He never knew I had led three fellow students into becoming Animagi illegally."
(Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 18, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs).

Dumbledore also had no idea about the Room of Requirement (which he unwittingly used as a toilet), Rita Skeeter's methods for sneaking into Hogwarts, the use of Polyjuice Potion by the trio in Chamber of Secrets, Draco Malfoy's plan to use Vanishing Cabinets and - of course - the fact that Mad-Eye Moody was being impersonated by Crouch all along.

So, whilst Harry thought Dumbledore knew everything that happened at Hogwarts, there were clearly things he didn't know. We can't say definitively whether Dumbledore knew about Crouch-Moody's lessons or not. However, I would err on the side of guessing that he didn't. There are a few factors behind why.

  • Dumbledore trusted Moody. He had no idea that Moody was not to be trusted until the very end of Goblet of Fire. Up until that point, Dumbledore would have had no reason to be suspicious of Moody's lessons than anybody else. He trusted Moody enough to appoint him as a teacher. It would've been strange if he then immediately begun to investigate his lessons for wrongdoing.
  • Dumbledore doesn't seem to take a great interest in the curriculum. Teachers in the series are always shown to have pretty-much the final say in what they teach and what they don't. Dumbledore is never shown interfering with lessons.
  • Dumbledore doesn't really speak to the students. Student feedback at Hogwarts appears to be approximately nothing. Dumbledore is never shown asking the students whether their lessons are any good or not. (They frequently aren't: see Lockhart and Trelawney).
  • Learning about Dark Spells is OK. The passage Toomai quotes appears to show that learning about Dark Magic is part of the curriculum (at least for older students): "Now, according to the Ministry of Magic, I'm supposed to teach you countercurses and leave it at that. I'm not supposed to show you what illegal Dark curses look like until you're in the sixth year." Even the Ministry of Magic is fine with showing students what Dark Magic looks like. As Moody says, if you don't know about the spells, how can you defend yourself against them?
  • Dumbledore wouldn't have stood for it. I've argued elsewhere that Dumbledore himself performed Unforgivables. But only when the situation demanded it. I suspect he would've been fine with Moody demonstrating the Curses on spiders. But performing them on students as Moody did was illegal and unnecessary. If Dumbledore had known what was going on he would have put a stop to it.
  • Agreed, I don't think Dumbledore would've let it happen, or that he knew about it.Plus teaching Unforgivables is a DE thing (see the teaching and practice of the Cruciatus under Snape in DH). Maybe they believe that teaching it to the young makes them more susceptible to the "Dark Side"...
    – Cartolin
    Jan 9, 2017 at 13:28

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