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In the end of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry says that perhaps Professor Dumbledore deliberately didn't hide the Mirror of Erised, so Harry could stumble on it, and then deliberately let Harry face the Dark Lord as a test.

'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. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don't think it was an accident he let me find out how the Mirror worked. It's almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could...'

Was Harry right about this? We find out in Prisoner of Azkaban that the Headmaster generally doesn't know everything that goes on in the school: he didn't know about the Marauders becoming Animagi, or about their cloak and map. So I'm not sure if Harry guessed right about the rest here.

See also Why did Dumbledore make it less difficult to get to the Sorcerer's Stone?

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    Did ALbus know that Voldy was on Quirells head? – Mithrandir Jan 4 '17 at 12:43
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    If Dumbledore willingly employed Voldemort as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher then... I mean, that's just straight up dangerous negligence at that point. – Dr R Dizzle Jan 4 '17 at 12:47
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    @DrRDizzle "Oh, and Severus, do keep an eye on Quirrell, won't you?" – user68762 Jan 4 '17 at 13:15
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    @R.Skeeter I mean, that's just irresponsible. I don't care how much faith Dumbeldore had in Snape, allowing the Dark Lord to sit in on a lesson is just absurdly stupid. – Dr R Dizzle Jan 4 '17 at 13:36
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    @DrRDizzle it was a long campaign D planned, he wanted to study his enemy, to test Harry, not just his competence and bravery, but also his selflessness. By D. logic it was worth to keep Quirrell and force a confrontation between him and Harry. I myself think all the situation was unfair to Voldy. finally he gets to teach DADA and he has to feign incompetence. Poor guy... – user68762 Jan 4 '17 at 13:59
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Generally speaking, yes. But not in this case.

Dumbledore certainly had no problem with the notion of Harry facing Voldemort. He confirms as much to Snape.

"We have protected him because it has been essential to teach him, to raise him, to let him try his strength," said Dumbledore, his eyes still tight shut.
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince's Tale).

Because of the prophecy, Dumbledore knew that Harry would have to face Voldemort at some point. I think that, with the benefit of hindsight, he was secretly delighted that Harry had a dry run in his first year. However, he would never have deliberately allowed Harry to face the risks that he did alone.

I think that there are three main reasons for this.

  1. Dumbledore came straight back to Hogwarts when he knew Harry was in danger.

He wouldn't have done this if he wanted Harry to fight Quirrell by himself.

"You got there? You got Hermione's owl?"
" We must have crossed in mid-air. No sooner had I reached London than it became clear to me that the place I should be was the one I had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you-"
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17, The Man With Two Faces).

Clearly Dumbledore realised that an attempt was being made on the Stone. I'm not sure it's clear whether he even knew that Harry was challenging Quirrell. If he did know then he may well have had confidence in Harry's abilities. But the way in which he motored back up to Hogwarts indicates that he wanted to stop Quirrell as soon as possible. If he'd been happy for Harry to fight Quirrell/Voldemort alone then he would've stayed in London.

  1. Dumbledore really cared about protecting the Philosopher's Stone. And about preventing the return of Voldemort.

As a close personal friend of Nicolas Flamel's, Dumbledeore cared about protecting the Stone on his behalf. He also had something of a stake in preventing the return of Voldemort. This wasn't something that he was prepared to be cavalier about. I think that Dumbledore strongly believed that the combined defenses that were put in place were enough to defend the Stone. He put a lot of time and effort into placing the various barriers between a thief and the Stone. If Hagrid hadn't have blabbed the secret about Fluffy the defences would've held. Indeed, Quirrell never did manage to find a way around the Mirror of Erised. In addition to the obstacles, Dumbledore also tasked Snape with tailing Quirrell in order to thwart him.

Dumbledore turned a page, and said, without looking up, "Keep an eye on Quirrell, won't you?"
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince's Tale).

This all suggests to me that Dumbledore took protecting the Stone very seriously and didn't believe that Harry would ever be called upon to save it.

  1. He says so himself.

The passage quoted by Slytherincess I think settles the issue.

"You rose magnificently to the challenge that faced you and sooner – much sooner – than I had anticipated, you found yourself face to face with Voldemort."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy).

Dumbledore intended for Harry to face off with Voldemort one day. But he never dreamed that he'd do so at 11 years old. As it happens, he was pleasantly surprised with how Harry acquitted himself. That doesn't mean that Dumbledore planned for things to happen that way.


I think that what Harry is hinting at with his statement in Philosopher's Stone is that Dumbledore doesn't mind Harry breaking the rules in order to further his development as a wizard. Dumbledore isn't a disciplinarian like McGonagall. When he finds Harry out of bed, fascinated by an object that tantalises him with visions of a family he's never known, Dumbledore's first instinct isn't to dock points from Harry or put him in detention. Instead, he explains how the Mirror of Erised works whilst gently warning him of its dangers. He is more concerned with advancing Harry's natural curiosity (which sometimes gets him into trouble, but which is basically a good thing) than with telling him off. Hence, when Harry gets caught helping Norbert the dragon escape Dumbledore lets McGonagall come down on him like a tonne of bricks for rule-breaking but still gives him the Invisibility Cloak back 'just in case'.

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    I quite agree. There’s no doubt that he let Harry find out about the Mirror and the Stone and whatnot, but there’s also no doubt that he was not prepared to let Harry face Voldemort. Or if he was, he certainly didn’t want it to happen under those circumstances. It’s simply Harry’s assessment of the situation that we’re seeing here, which, while fairly close to accurate, is not at all an infallible picture of Dumbledore’s motivations. – Adamant Jan 4 '17 at 22:47
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I think the following passage from Order of the Phoenix suggests Dumbledore was prepared to allow Harry to face Voldemort alone, although it seems Dumbledore was not aware of exactly when this would occur:

‘And then ... well, you will remember the events of your first year at Hogwarts quite as clearly as I do. You rose magnificently to the challenge that faced you and sooner – much sooner – than I had anticipated, you found yourself face to face with Voldemort. You survived again. You did more. You delayed his return to full power and strength. You fought a man’s fight. I was ... prouder of you than I can say.’

Order of the Phoenix - Page 738 - Chapter thirty-seven, The Lost Prophecy - Bloomsbury

Dumbledore indicates that he was anticipating Harry rising to the challenge of facing Voldemort; canon demonstrates that Harry indeed did face Voldemort at the end of Philosopher's Stone, albeit with some minor monitoring by Dumbledore (Dumbledore ultimately swooped in at the last minute and saved Harry from imminent death; however, he let Harry go on his own as long as Harry could handle it). For an eleven-year-old, that's no mean feat.

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    Your first sentence seems a little self-contradictory. It looks like Dumbledore didn't expect Voldy to be there, based on that quote. – Mithrandir Jan 4 '17 at 13:26
  • I don't think it's contradictory -- Dumbledore knew Voldemort would eventually show himself at Hogwarts, but he miscalculated when that would actually occur. But I can reword the sentence. :) – Slytherincess Jan 4 '17 at 13:30
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    By your last part do you mean Dumbly knew Harry was down there the whole time, and was ready to swoop in at the last minute (rather than it being pure luck he arrived in time), and that his ministry story was B.S (I ask, cus his ministry story stinks of BS in the first place) – Mac Cooper Jan 4 '17 at 14:53
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    @MacCooper -- No, I believe it's in Philosopher's Stone where Dumbledore recounts to Harry that he (Dumbledore) was away from Hogwarts when Harry faced Voldemort, and he returned to Hogwarts just in time to rescue Harry. But do I think Dumbledore was prepared to let Harry face Voldemort on his own? Yeah, I think he probably was. I do think, further, that if he knew Harry would ultimately need assistance, it wasn't smart for him to leave Hogwarts, knowing a show down between Harry and Voldemort was imminent (It was the end of the school year, after all. He had to have known it was imminent.). – Slytherincess Jan 4 '17 at 15:41
  • @Mithrandir -- I have reworded that first sentence. Hopefully it is more concise. :) – Slytherincess Jan 4 '17 at 15:45

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