In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince book, when Draco discovered a secret way into Hogwarts, several Death Eaters agreed to join him on the quest to kill Dumbledore.

Was a way into Hogwarts really an issue? Wasn't Dumbledore himself the real issue? In the previous book, when Dumbledore appeared in the Department of Mysteries, Death Eaters (who were even more expert level than these Death Eaters) started to run away and Dumbledore captured them within a minute.

What made them confident this time? I mean, they weren't going there for other task which they could do secretly. Merlin's beard, they were going there TO KILL DUMBLEDORE.

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    Their goal was to defend the one person that Dumbledore couldn't/wouldn't kill, one of his own students. That gave them a big advantage
    – Valorum
    Mar 5, 2017 at 19:43
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    @Valorum I didn't get you. How could this fact prevent Dumbledore from freezing everyone?
    – user931
    Mar 5, 2017 at 19:49
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    Because the other Death Eaters would be able to defend Draco.
    – Valorum
    Mar 5, 2017 at 20:31
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    @Valorum But would the Death Eaters be able to defend Draco? I guess it's a matter of timing: I don't think they had a realistic chance of protecting Draco for more than a few moments, because Dumbledore was magically their superior by far and likely would've picked them off (either they're defending Draco, or each other or themselves, and neither arrangement seems any more viable to hold up against a determined Dumbledore). But if they had to keep Draco in play for only the split moments it takes for Draco to land a determined avada kedavra, well, to that extent I agree.
    – mtraceur
    Mar 6, 2017 at 3:29
  • The tactics of wizard dueling in HP are interesting to me, because there appears to be some sort of code of conduct that requires ONE wizard to duel ONE OTHER wizard at a time. Any half-trained small unit military commander would immediately advocate different tactics, so it's hard to understand why they aren't employed. Since magic appears to depend both on concentration and exact execution, even the best wizard with the best wand should be vulnerable to attack from 5 - 10 mediocre wizards. We never see that in the books, but we also never really see it tried.
    – tbrookside
    Oct 3, 2018 at 16:25

3 Answers 3


Snape told them Dumbledore was weakening, and Draco was to be the one to actually kill Dumbledore.

The Death Eaters were likely more confident about invading Hogwarts because Snape was spreading the word to them that Dumbledore was weakening with age. He tells Bellatrix that the fight with Voldemort shook him and he was injured because his reaction time is slower - though the truth was that he touched the Gaunt ring and was cursed.

“Dumbledore has been a great wizard – oh yes, he has’ (for Bellatrix had made a scathing noise) ‘the Dark Lord acknowledges it. I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2 (Spinner’s End)

There were at least five people there fighting for the Death Eaters - Amycus and Alecto Carrow, Thorfinn Rowle (the huge blond one), one who was killed by a stray curse, and the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. With the information from Snape that Dumbledore was weakening, and the knowledge that Draco was the only one who would be held responsible by Voldemort if he failed to kill Dumbledore, they likely did not see it as too risky to invade Hogwarts.


They planned to incapacitate Dumbledore, not fight him.

The Malfoy plan was not based on seeking an open confrontation with Dumbledore. They knew that they would lose in a duel with him.

The centrepiece of their plan was, as user33626 says, the element of surprise. They waited until an evening when Dumbledore was out of the school. Using Draco's contact in Hogsmeade, Madame Rosmerta, they made sure that Dumbledore was going to be away from the school for the night. On his return, they would draw him up to the Astronomy Tower and disarm him before killing him, using the Dark Mark as bait.

"You knew that I had left the school? But of course,” he answered his own question, “Rosmerta saw me leaving, she tipped you off using your ingenious coins, I’m sure.”
“That’s right,” said Malfoy. “But she said you were just going for a drink, you’d be back...”
“Well, I certainly did have a drink...and I came back...after a fashion,” mumbled Dumbledore. “So you decided to spring a trap for me?”
“We decided to put the Dark Mark over the tower and get you to hurry up here, to see who’d been killed,” said Malfoy. “And it worked!”
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27, The Lightning-Struck Tower).

Draco was right; the plan worked very effectively. What the Death Eaters could never have counted on was how weakened and exhausted Dumbledore would be on his return to the school. Voldemort's potion had had a profound effect and had weakened Dumbledore considerably, making the Death Eaters' job easier. Had Dumbledore returned to the school in full strength then its highly doubtful whether Draco would've been able to disarm him. Even in his debilitated state, it took a distraction to actually subdue him, as user931 rightly points out. Dumbledore paralysed Harry with Petrificus Totallus, which made himself vulnerable to attack and gave Draco a split-second advantage. Age also played a part; Dumbledore was a weaker man at his death than he was a year earlier in the Ministry.

“He’s not long for this world anyway, if you ask me!” said the lopsided man, to the accompaniment of his sister’s wheezing giggles. “Look at him - what’s happened to you, then, Dumby?”
“Oh, weaker resistance, slower reflexes, Amycus,” said Dumbledore. “Old age, in short..."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27, The Lightning-Struck Tower).

Nevertheless, I don't think old age was the primary reason the plan worked. The element of surprise combined with Dumbledore's weakened state was what did the trick. Regardless, the Death Eaters never planned to 'take on' Dumbledore by openly dueling him.

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    Draco was able to disarm Dumbledore because Dumbledore fired a spell to Harry at the same instant to bind him so that he couldn't get himself killed.
    – user931
    Mar 5, 2017 at 20:55
  • @user931 Quite right. I've edited to include that point. Mar 5, 2017 at 21:04
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    [SPOILERS] It's also worth noting that Dumbledore's plan seemed to specifically involve allowing Malfoy to disarm him as part of the ploy with the wand's allegiance. Mar 6, 2017 at 10:34
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    @TheDarkLord But in the end it was that "flaw" that won it. The core of Voldemort's character was the fear of death, so he couldn't conceive of defeat being different to death - he assumed that the person who beat Dumbledore (for the wand's purposes) had to be the person who killed him. This is why he was so sure that Snape was the wand's master and not Draco. Thinking he had the wand's allegiance is what made him confident enough to face Harry. Harry understood that it was Draco who defeated Dumbledore, so he knew that the wand was his, which gave him the edge in that last battle. Mar 6, 2017 at 11:06
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    @TheDarkLord Dumbledore never intended to give Elder Wand's allegiance to anyone. He wanted Snape to kill him, but it wasn't going to give Snape allegiance because Snape never beat Dumbledore. Dumbledore asked him for that. Dumbledore's intention was to die without giving allegiance of Elder Wand to anyone.
    – user931
    Mar 6, 2017 at 13:39

I suppose in this case they knew they had something of the upper hand - they would take Dumbledore by surprise, and it would be several of them against one of him. In the Department of Mysteries, they were chasing after Harry and Co. when suddenly the Order of the Phoenix showed up and alarmed them a bit, and then when Dumbledore showed they panicked because they were already losing. In this case, they were going there under the guidance of someone who knew the layout and Dumbledore had no idea about the Vanishing Cabinets. They were still probably pretty scared, though.

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