** Spoilers ahead for the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows **

Ariana Dumbledore was attacked when she was six years old, which left her severely traumatized and unable to control her magic. Her family decided to hide her condition. The father, Percival died in Azkaban without a word of explanation why he suddenly thought it'd be a good idea to assault three muggles, never telling anyone that it was revenge for those people hurting his daughter.

Adriana's mother, Kendra moved the family to the village Godric's Hollow, where Ariana was locked up in the house, not allowed to be seen by anyone, except the family. At age fourteen, Ariana accidentally killed Kendra with one of her bursts of uncontrolled magic.

But even after the accident her brothers, Albus and Albeforth continued with a course that proved ineffective instead of seeking professional medical treatment.

As for why, this is Albeforth's explanation:

"... because if the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she’d have been locked up in St. Mungo’s for good. They’d have seen her as a serious threat to the International Statute of Secrecy, unbalanced like she was, with magic exploding out of her at moments when she couldn’t keep it in any longer. “We had to keep her safe and quiet. We moved house, put it about she was ill, and my mother looked after her, and tried to keep her calm and happy. “~ Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows - The Missing Mirror

Why the Dumbledores thought there was need for such drastic measures and sacrifices? It isn't as if St. Mungo resembled the infamous muggle mental hospitals, shuch as the London Bedlam. Exactly the opposite, from what we know from Harry's visit to the place, the patients are taken care by competent staff. They found quickly enough an antidote to Nagini's venom to treat Arthur Weasley, Lockhart seems content enough and his healer is a very nice lady, nothing like nurse Ratched:

A motherly looking Healer wearing a tinsel wreath in her hair came bustling up the corridor, smiling warmly at Harry and the others. “Oh Gilderoy, you’ve got visitors! How lovely, and on Christmas Day too! Do you know, he never gets visitors, poor lamb, and I can’t think why, he’s such a sweetie, aren’t you?” ~ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -Christmas on the Closed Ward

We also know that there are no obstacles visiting the patients: Alice and Frank Longbottom are regularly visited by their son, Neville and by Augusta Longbottom, and the healer thinks it's a pity no one visits Lockhart who is located in the closed ward:

“Listen to him,” said the Healer, taking Lockhart’s arm and beaming fondly at him as though he were a precocious two-year-old. “He was rather well known a few years ago; we very much hope that this liking for giving autographs is a sign that his memory might be coming back a little bit. Will you step this way? He’s in a closed ward, you know, he must have slipped out while I was bringing in the Christmas presents, the door’s usually kept locked . . . not that he’s dangerous! But,” she lowered her voice to a whisper, “bit of a danger to himself, bless him. . . . Doesn’t know who he is, you see, wanders off and can’t remember how to get back. . . . It is nice of you to have come to see him —” ~ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -Christmas on the Closed Ward

So the patients are treated competently and nicely by the staff, not isolated completely. Even if there wasn't any hope for recovery there are many advantages of being in a hospital with a qualified medical personnel, people who could whip up a calming draught or research other potions to treat her. They probably also have medical records of similar cases - it's very unlikely that Ariana was the first kid showing magical abilities who survived an attack by muggles.

Albeforth claimed he was the one who had the most calming influence on Ariana, but by his own words, he was the one who (with the best intentions) started a shouting match in a presence of a traumatized and unstable patient, one that escalated into a fight which triggered an episode. As a result Ariana was killed by accident, so I am not so sure he qualifies either as the most competent person to look after her.

So why was the family so opposed to treatment in St. Mungo and kept an unstable patient who was danger to self and others at home? The deaths in the family could've been avoided, including that of the patient. Seems very unreasonable to me...

  • 13
    St Mungos in 1990 is probably a damn sight more "modern" in its practices than St Mungos in the 1905, when his sister was injured.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:08
  • 2
    @Valorum Wizardins society seems pretty static to me, so i am not sure we could except rapid change and progress in their institutions such as Hogwarts, the MoM and St Mungo, We're speaking of people who still use quills and keep slaves...I bet St. Mungo havent changed much in the last century :)
    – user68762
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:10
  • 4
    you also have to consider price, stigma, as well as she most likely would be placed in a closed ward / locked up. while the hospital may have been equipped to handle her, money not an issue, rowling may also be putting 1900's muggle mentality in her writting of the dumbledores, which at the time if you could "handle it yourself(or not)" you didnt go looking for outside help, thats a recent acquisition in the mindset of society thats been building the last 100 years.
    – Himarm
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:13
  • 2
    @Himarm - Indeed. None of the individuals mentioned in the OPs question are prone to self-harming or liable to commit dangerous magicks.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 18:15
  • 2
    @R.Skeeter I feel that the way the Dumbledores treated Ariana is rather historically accurate, in that mental illness and disability were once considered highly shameful (they still are to an extent, but it does not compare). There would, of course, be more than enough to analyze when it comes to wizards' treatment of disability (Squibs), illness... it seems that even at the time of the main story, there is still strong stigma attached to difference.
    – Pwassonne
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 21:35

3 Answers 3


They feared she would never be able to leave.

I think that there were several factors that contributed to the Dumbledores' decision. It really boils down to a natural sense of attachment and a fear of what would happen to Ariana if they handed her over to the authorities.

  • St Mungo's then might not be the same as St Mungo's now. As Valorum and Snazzy Swampert say, there may well be a sizable difference between the contemporary St Mungo's we see in the books and the old hospital. Even if medical care was kind and compassionate at the time (which Muggle care in many cases wasn't) then the appearance of an intimidating institution may well have contributed to Aberforth's and Kendra's concerns. Fear of the unknown may well have been part of their thinking. The thought that a loved one might be being mistreated would be enough to prompt caution in most.

  • Putting a relative into care is a difficult decision to make anyway. This is the case in real life as well. Balancing the pros and cons can be agonising. Will the upheaval of moving the person and changing their routine be worth it for the potential benefits to be gained in their having more constant and professional care? Even if they believed that Ariana was best placed in St Mungo's it would have been incredibly difficult to entrust her to strangers they'd never met. When she was at home at least she was under their supervision and they could spend time with her whenever they wanted.

You can see these concerns at play in the way Aberforth describes the life he thinks Ariana would have led in St Mungo's.

"...if the Ministry had known what Ariana had become, she’d have been locked up in St. Mungo’s for good."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 28, The Missing Mirror).

  • He thought Ariana would be "locked up". As Snazzy Swampert implies, Ariana may well have been put in some kind of solitary confinement away from the other patients if she was perceived to be dangerous. Aberforth was probably worried that Ariana would have all her freedom taken away from her. If his fears were correct then there's no way that she would've been allowed out for day trips or holidays. She'd have been trapped in the hospital for the rest of her life. Aberforth viewed this as a life of servitude and imprisonment.

  • He thought she would stay in St Mungo's "for good". Once they'd revealed Ariana to the Ministry they would not have been able to take back their decision. All their power to determine what happened to her would've been taken out of their hands. Once she was in St Mungo's she was there for good. The Dumbledores would have been well aware that the decision to hand her over to the Ministry was irrevocable.

  • Hindsight is a wonderful thing. With the benefit of hindsight, Aberforth may have indeed thought that he wasn't the best person to care for Ariana. Like Albus, he was consumed with regret as well as grief. Nevertheless, the combined factors laid out above had a bigger influence on his thinking than any doubts about his ability to care for his sister. He wasn't an unbiased authority. It was probably natural that he overestimated his own abilities to hold his sister's magic in check.


While rationally, bringing Ariana to St. Mungo's might seem the best choice (and it is), I think you have look in the way that the Dumbledore family did. Ariana was their little daughter and they loved her very much. While St. Mungo's might've been very adequate in dealing with patients in the 1990's, there is a chance that they might've been known for not treating patients well back then. While St. Mungo's might've stayed the same, there are a few things that are more plausible. It could've been that, as I said already, they loved her a lot. And while there is no shown barriers to visiting patients, I think Ariana might've been a special case. The two examples you give are Lockhart and the Longbottoms. In both of their cases, they're not dangerous. In Ariana's case though, she is extremely dangerous with her random spurts of magic and probably would be placed into some sort of medical quarantine where no one would be able to visit her. While that may seem cruel, St. Mungo's and the Ministry of Magic would've not allowed for someone so potentially dangerous to come into contact with anyone other than specially trained Healers. So, the Dumbledore family decided to keep her because they loved her so much and wouldn't want to let her go.


Their fear of her being locked away may have something to do with (Fantastic Beasts movie spoiler)

Ariana being an Obscurial.

If this ends up being true, which seems highly likely if Fantastic Beasts is going to be consistent with the rest of canon, it would definitely make a difference to how they might consider the decision to put her in St. Mungo's. For example, even if general patients are treated well, which they might not have been at that point in time, it's very possible that "special cases" like Ariana might be handled differently. Her suspected condition was definitely considered dangerous, so the Dumbledore family probably had quite good reasons to think they would lock her away there and never let her leave.

If Ariana does turn out to be what she is suspected to be, then she is also a very rare case. St. Mungo's may not have dealt with someone like Ariana for a long while, if they ever did. There may have been other cases where a wizard was attacked by Muggles, but likely it didn't have this particular effect, since the condition she is thought to have is clearly stated to be an incredibly rare one.

Even without this, it would obviously be difficult to make the decision to send Ariana to live in a hospital, rather than at home with her family. With the added information about exactly why they thought she'd be locked away and never allowed to leave, it's no wonder why they didn't want to risk sending her away to St. Mungo's.

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