As it turned out, Dumbledore was - with clear conscience - planning to let Snape kill him instead of Draco Malfoy, so that

  1. Draco wouldn't get killed by Voldemort

  2. Draco wouldn't rip his soul in two by killing Dumbledore.

He was quite sanguine about the idea as he only had 1 year to live due to the curse he had spreading from his hand to the body after brilliantly putting on a Horcrux that also happened to be a Hallow.

(Source: Snape's flashback of conversation with Dumbledore as viewed by Harry Potter, DH).


Is there any in-universe indication (from books, or JKR herself) of what would Dumbledore have done had he NOT had a 1-year-death-sentence on him at that point? Would he have still asked Snape to kill him? Or worked more diligently to escape being killed by any Death Eater, Malfoy and Snape included?

In other words, was the fact that he only had 1 year left to live merely making the choice he would have made anyway easier for him, or decided that choice for him?

  • 1
    Does murder always result in the soul being ripped in two? I know it's necessary to rip the soul but I can't seem to recall anything that says any killing will automatically tear the soul in two.
    – Dason
    Apr 18, 2012 at 18:38
  • 1
    @Dason - no. He was pretty strongly implying that Snape's soul is in no danger from killing himself instead of Draco. My pet theory is that this has to do with whether you feel remorse at the moment of murder (e.g. would you rather have preferred to NOT have to murder the person if you had other options). But that's just a guess Apr 18, 2012 at 20:50
  • 4
    I'd add "3. Draco wouldn't become master of the Elder wand". Apr 20, 2012 at 15:15
  • 1
    @DVK Well, I don't think so, and the timelines in the canon are not well definied too. We don't know if whether Dumbledore was cursed first, or whether Draco was given orders by Voldemort first. Dumbledore could have saved Draco Malfoy by offering him protection, him and his parents. With Dumbledore it was always for 'The Greater Good'. I'm sure had Dumbledore not been cursed, he would have continued to seek and destroy Horcruxes as his first priority. Jun 2, 2012 at 11:46
  • 6
    Lol, "accidentally" put on the ring. I can just picture Dumbledore making that excuse to Snape.
    – Möoz
    Mar 21, 2014 at 1:41

5 Answers 5


For a number of reasons, I think we can conclude that it would have been different had Dumbledore's death not been impending:

  1. Dumbledore had other ways of protecting Malfoy:

Remember that on the top of the Astronomy Tower Dumbledore tells Malfoy that he and the Order can protect him...that he should join the side he truly belongs to. That seems to be an authentic offer, as Dumbledore [accurately] believes that he can protect almost anyone from Lord Voldemort. So, if he weren't dying, he probably would have approached Malfoy with this offer earlier when his back wasn't quite literally against the wall. Of course, at that moment, he wanted Malfoy to get out of the way so Snape could fulfill his plan with the Elder Wand...

  1. All of Dumbledore's measures in HBP are put into effect rapidly and seem out of character:

For this question, a really important scene is when Dumbledore and Harry are in the Burrow shed, and Dumbledore begins to tell Harry about changes for this school year. Harry is surprised to hear that Dumbledore endorses him telling Hermione and Ron the contents of the prophecy (Dumbledore knows they will be vital on his journey) and shocked to hear he will be having private lessons with Dumbledore. Now, these private lessons might be the result of Dumbledore realizing his "Flaw in the Plan" from OOTP, but even in that discussion in his office, he isn't perfectly candid with Harry about what he has to do. Why not just explain about the horcrux(es) at the end of 5? Because he didn't plan on doing it so quickly. When he poisons himself, he realizes he must put everything into action and FAST. Importantly, he anticipates after that discussion in 5 that he has several years to expound upon Harry what he needs to know.

  1. Dumbledore makes a pivotal quote which--although it seems simple--answers this question:

    “Well, really, this makes matters much more straightforward” (DH, The Prince's Tale, Hardcover).

This quote implies that things were previously not straightforward, and he needed to deduce a plan by which he could train Harry over time and still have Snape "kill" him.

In other words, "I had another long-term plan about when you will need to kill me for the sake of the Elder Wand, Snape, but now we can just do it now and protect Malfoy, too."

A final thought: I do not think JKR would have had Dumbledore curse himself in the manner he did if the events of HBP would have happened anyway. She could have had Dumbledore simply die of old age in HBP, but know he was dying and thus need to train Harry and have Snape kill him. By having Dumbledore put on the cursed ring, JKR is attempting to show the dangers of the Hallows, that Dumbledore did in fact have a tragic flaw, and that his tragic flaw almost jeopardized his whole 16-years-in-the-making grand plan.


I strongly suspect that Dumbledore would have found something out to keep him alive, should he had not been forced to die because of the curse. We do know that Dumbledore could go into hiding quite well, and had done so on numerous occasions.

It does seem quite apparent that Dumbledore thought more of Snape's life than his own, and likely would have sacrificed himself to save Snape, as he believed that Snape was more important than himself. Snape was pretty much forced to take the Unbreakable vow in order to preserve his cover story, and I doubt that that would have changed, had Dumbledore not been about to die anyways. Dumbledore probably would have made Snape kill him all the same, although he might have been a bit more likely to escape, it just doesn't seem Dumbledore's style...


The answer is yes. He still would have asked Snape to kill him, because otherwise Draco would have been killed instead of Snape. Wiether Snape knew he was going to die, I don't know.

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    Is that a guess, or confirmed in the books? Jun 3, 2013 at 0:04

I agree with PearsonArtPhoto that Dumbledore would've probably found a way to save Draco either way, him touching the ring and getting the curse that would eventually kill him was just "luck".

But I don't think that Dumbledore would've sacrificed himself to save Snape, he (Dumbledore) was extremely smart (we're witness to that on several books), so he would've found another way, specially because he thought a great deal of himself, we also see that several times on the books, specially on the last one, when we learn about his old ways and his friendship with Grindewald. So my interpretation of the events and based on what I've read of Dumbledore on the different books is that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him and save Draco just because he was already going to die, he would not have sacrificed himself like that to save Draco if there was some other alternative, since he was too important to the world.


first off, Draco would not have been able to kill Dumbledore, so the question is a little bit moot, but not unworthy of discussion. He saved Draco from being forced to try. Had he not alredy had a death sentence, I think he just would have disarmed draco, with Draco being a cry baby about it, but a little bit more scared of a soul for the attempt at murder.

  • Seriously? this is a highly subjective question, which is fine but if you are going to down vote then at least have the courtesy to mention why. I feel my answer is perfectly in line with how the potter verse and characters have developed. We all know Draco is a cry baby, and Dumbledore would do anything to avoid harm to any of his students, disarming him in this circumstance is the only real alternative.
    – Escoce
    Feb 27, 2015 at 16:18

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