Dumbledore, presumably knowing that house elves have powers that wizards do not, (such as being able to apparate within Hogwarts), could have asked them to help search for the chamber of secrets, since he knew it existed and Tom had opened it, though he could not find it. He also knew that Myrtle died when it was opened, so I expect that he asked her about it. If she told him the same that she told Harry (that she was in the bathroom, heard a boy's voice and died instantly after seeing a pair of great big yellow eyes), he would definitely have guessed that the bathroom had a lot to do with the chamber. The tap for the sink in front of her toilet had a copper snake engraved, and she said that the tap never worked. This is more than enough for Dumbledore to surely want to investigate the tap, so even if he could not sense the concealed entrance (though he certainly could by the time he entered the locket cave), he would know where to start searching. So why did he not get all the help he could? He was certainly not ignorant of the house elves and could understand them quite well (witness how he knew Winky's involvement in Barty's case).

Occam's razor tells me that it was a plot hole. But is there a good possible explanation consistent with the rest of the story? If he never asked Myrtle, why not? If he asked, why did he not find the tap and then the entrance? If he found the entrance but could not open it, why did he not ask the house elves to help? (And their apparation abilities would be useful here.) Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes was also able to apparate into the chamber of secrets when Harry mentioned Dumbledore to Tom (he appeared atop a pillar). There were just too many ways Dumbledore could have gotten into the chamber once he found the entrance, so is there evidence for why the house elves could not have helped him find it?

  • If what you say about Dumbledore finding the taps that don't work via Myrtle is right, why would he need to work with house elves?
    – CHEESE
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 12:26
  • @CHEESE: In case he could sense the entrance but could not open it, as already stated in my question.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 12:31
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    The Harry Potter novels are chock full of plot holes of the, "Why didn't [adult character] do this?" variety. Worrying about them is, basically, missing the point.
    – Buzz
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 17:01
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    Another issue is that it was established that Dumbledore, although not a Parselmouth, learned Parseltongue (it's implied "as a foreign language", basically), so unless we're supposed to think that Dumbledore is so terrible at imitating the sounds that he could never do as well as Ron, even if he tried his hardest, he really should have been able to say "open" in Parseltongue.
    – wyvern
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 23:30
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    @sumelic: Right. There are many reasons why he should have been able to get into the chamber. If we exclude plot-hole, then my best explanation is briefly described here (he wanted Harry to face Voldemort) or here (he couldn't bring himself to talk to the dead).
    – user21820
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 4:38

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: Just because House-Elves can Apparate to places where wizards cannot, it doesn't mean that they can Apparate to every destination.

The exact location of the Chamber of Secrets was unknown and unseen for centuries. No one, except from the Heir of Slytherin, has ever visited this place and as far as I am concerned, there was no known indication in in-universe written material describing the interior of the place.

Although House-Elf Apparition is not bound to the same restrictions as the wizards' counterpart, the elf might still need to visualize the target location. JK Rowling has already confirmed that this the case for wizards:

Apparition requires knowledge of the terrain to which one is moving, or the ability to visualise it clearly.

JK Rowling FAQ, 20 December 2016

Keep in mind that Kreacher, who was able to Apparate to the cave with Regulus Black, has first visited the location with Voldemort himself. Kreacher didn't just "imagined" where they would like to go, with the elf magic doing the rest.

By taking this into account, Dumbledore couldn't just ask the House-Elves to try to Apparate there, even if he had managed to stand in front of the Chamber's gate. No House-Elf would have seen what's inside the gate, thus preventing them to Apparate. If that wasn't the case, Dumbledore would have used a House-Elf to enter the cave that the Locket-Horcurx was hidden and wouldn't travelled there or spent so much time searching it across the country, gathering memories of people close to Voldemort.

Moreover, the Chamber of Secrets was probably being protected with some sort of Anti-Apparition charm that was preventing the Apparition of House-Elves too, apart from wizards.

Note regarding Fawkes's Apparition

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets we see that Fawkes is able to Apparate into the Chamber, without the prior knowledge of the interior of the place. It is also stated that Fawkes did not fly all over from the Headmaster's office through the hole that Ron had made, as he was surprised seeing the phoenix there:

"Where'd that bird come from?!"

Chapter 17, "The Heir of Slytherin", Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Yet again, the magic of Fawkes might be different than the magic of House-Elves. Moreover, don't forget the fact that according to Dumbledore, Fawkes was summoned there due to his loyalty to Harry. That implies that Fawkes Apparated straight to where Harry was being located at that time, regardless of the lack of knowledge of the interior of the Chamber, the exact location of it or possible prevention charms that were put in place.

Phoenixes are probably able to find specific people without knowing the location of them, as Owls can find specific people to deliver letters, even if they were never given their address. The difference is that the former ones use Apparition to get there while the latter ones travel to them by flying.

(The assumption I've made previously about Dumbledore not using a House-Elf to directly Apparate into the cave of the Horcrux without knowing the location of it, applies here also.)

Note regarding Dobby's Apparition to Shell Cottage

Others have suggested, that Dobby was able to Apparate to Shell Cottage without ever seeing it. That's totally not true. First, Shell Cottage was being shielded by the Fidelius Charm thus no one, not even a House-Elf, could have entered the Charm's field if the Secret-Keeper hasn't revealed them the secret. Secondly, Dobby Apparated somewhere near Shell Cottage, following the instructions Ron explicitly gave to him (emphasis mine):

"Right. Dobby, I want you to grab Luna, Dean and Mr Ollivander, and take them ‒ take them to ‒"

"Bill and Fleur's", said Ron. "Shell Cottage on the outskirts of Tinworth!"

The elf nodded for a third time.

Chapter 23, "Malfoy Manor", Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Ron provided something like an "address" to Dobby which made them Apparate near the house of Bill and Fleur and not inside it.

  • I was careful in my question to state exactly how they would be useful, in the case when Dumbledore can sense the entrance (and hence the empty space on the other side) but can't get into it for some reason. I also mentioned Fawkes who was definitely able to apparate into the chamber.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 13:18
  • @user21820 As for the House Elves part, I think that my answer covers your question. The only thing that might seem useful to Dumbledore, was the Elves Apparition that was not affected by the same restrictions as wizards'. Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 13:29
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    Yes so how do you know they are unable to apparate without seeing? Fawkes was able to, despite not having seen the chamber of secrets before! The in-universe evidence seems to be weakly not in your favour.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 13:32
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    The problem is that the canon evidence is against your assumptions. It is an important plot point that elves and goblins have magic that is foreign and even largely unknown to wizards, so what is the case with wizards is irrelevant here. Now there is actual evidence of a creature that (I think) can't even cast spells (namely Fawkes) who can apparate into the chamber of secrets without having seen its interior before, so presumably many other magical creatures can too. It is also a crucial plot point that house elves can apparate within Hogwarts, so why not like Fawkes?
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 13:42
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    I’m not sure owls can find people without address. Otherwise you would just write the name of the person you want and follow the owl to locate them. There would be no hiding Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 12:23

It would be too dangerous for them. Dumbledore's attitude towards his students may be criminally reckless on occasion, but he never forced anyone to risk their lives. Sending house-elves into the Chamber of Secrets would be tantamount to a death sentence.

Besides, the Chamber has been part of Hogwarts ever since it was first built, about a thousand years ago, and has been served by house-elves all that time. If they were capable of finding the Chamber, they would surely have already done so. We have to assume that it was simply too well-protected. Perhaps Salazar Slytherin was not as complacent about (or ignorant of) the abilities of house-elves as his heir.

You argue that Dumbledore would have spoken to Myrtle and deduced where the entrance to the Chamber was, at least approximately, enough to aid in a search. Even if he did know where the entrance was it would not necessarily provide enough assistance to the house-elves to make a new search worthwhile, but I'm not convinced that he did.

For one thing, the Basilisk roamed freely throughout the castle, so it was only a coincidence that Myrtle was killed at the very entrance to the Chamber - not something Dumbledore could have reasonably been expected to guess. Also, we don't know whether Myrtle would even be willing to talk to an adult. In the books, the only times she speaks there are no adults present. (That might just be a coincidence, of course.)

Had Dumbledore known where the entrance was, he would surely have been able to break in one way or another, or failing that, blocked the entrance so that the Basilisk couldn't get out. Or set a trap for it. I conclude, therefore, that he didn't know - and probably didn't even know that the monster was a Basilisk - and that a house-elf search of the castle would be both dangerous on the one hand and futile on the other.

  • That's a good point but it is never implied that Dumbledore knew that the Heir of Slytherin controlled a Basilisk which resided in the Chamber of Secrets. As you yourself wrote, had he known, he would have blocked the entrance or he would have shielded the pipes of the water supply network inside the castle, let alone the fact that he would have tried to capture it or kill it. Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 10:49
  • I didn't really assume he knew where the chamber was. Even if he didn't, why isn't there any mention that he asked the house elves to search for it? Your answer suggests to me a possible reason that even searching for the chamber might be dangerous, and might serve as a reasonable answer, though as I explained in my question I'm quite sure that if Dumbledore had asked Myrtle (which anyone investigating ought to have!) then she would have told him what she told Harry. Oh well. I think my guess that it is a plot hole is the right one.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 14:03
  • Don't be quick to flag it as a plot hole. While in my answer I mentioned this possibility, we are analyzing the story from the eyes of a "god". We have seen the entire story, we have heard conversations and opinions throughout the books that no single person have had. Dumbledore may be a wise and gifted wizard but he doesn't know everything. Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 14:26
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    @HarryJohnston: Sorry I didn't get notified of your comment. I'm not sure Dumbledore didn't know, but now I'm thinking there's another possibility, namely that he knew much more than it appears. For example, after they open Colin's camera and it melted, he tells McGonagall as a matter of fact that the chamber was indeed open again, and that the question is not who but how. As hinted at the end, he must have known throughout that Voldemort was hiding in Albania and could not figure out how he could enchant a student to open the chamber. And then there was Pettigrew's life debt to Harry...
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 8:28
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    Anyway if we assume that Dumbledore really didn't know where the chamber was, then perhaps the reason he didn't ask Myrtle was because he was afraid of speaking to the dead due to his family history. Otherwise I really would have expected him to ask her about it at least once the chamber was opened the second time.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 8:34

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