12

Towards the end of Half Blood Prince, Dumbledore invites Harry to his office offering to take him along to the sea cave, and Harry runs into Trelawney on the way to his office. Trelawney then narrates an incident where she was thrown out of the Room of Requirement by Malfoy (acc to Harry's deduction) who was celebrating.

Harry in turn narrates this incident to Dumbledore, who assures him that he would never leave the school unprotected.

"Enough," said Dumbledore. He said it quite calmly, and yet Harry fell silent at once; he knew that he had finally crossed some invisible line. "Do you think that I have once left the school unprotected during my absences this year? I have not. Tonight, when I leave, there will again be additional protection in place. Please do not suggest that I do not take the safety of my students seriously, Harry."

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price, Chapter-25, The Seer Overheard

While this may very well be the case, Malfoy had already proved to make dangerous and reckless attempts in trying to murder Dumbledore, poisoning and seriously injuring two of Hogwarts' students in the process (despite all the extra protection on the school ensured by Dumbledore)

He knew it was Malfoy that almost killed Ron and Katie -

"Oh, yes, I do," said Dumbledore mildly. "You almost killed Katie Bell and Ronald Weasley. You have been trying, with increasing desperation, to kill me all year. Forgive me, Draco, but they have been feeble attempts ... so feeble, to be honest, that I wonder whether your heart has been really in it..."

We know that he didn't warn anyone, because of what he says the following, upon return from the cave -

"Rosmerta, please send a message to the Ministry," said Dumbledore, as he mounted the broom nearest him. "It might be that nobody within Hogwarts has yet realised anything is wrong ... Harry, put on your Invisibility Cloak."

....

"Go and wake Severus," said Dumbledore faintly but clearly. "Tell him what has happened and bring him to me. Do nothing else, speak to nobody else and do not remove your Cloak. I shall wait here."

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Price, Chapter-27, The Lightning Struck Tower

Why did Dumbledore not bother to find out before leaving the castle (or have someone else do it), the reason Malfoy was whooping and celebrating secretly, while he is known to be on a reckless murder mission?

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    Who says he didn't? He had Snape trying all year to find out Draco's plans. – Anthony Grist Sep 21 '17 at 10:31
  • @AnthonyGrist, Because when they return from the cave, Dumbledore says, "Rosmerta, please send a message to the Ministry," said Dumbledore, as he mounted the broom nearest him. "It might be that nobody within Hogwarts has yet realised anything is wrong ..." Once they reach the school, he says to Harry, "Go and wake Severus," said Dumbledore faintly but clearly. "Tell him what has happened and bring him to me. Do nothing else, speak to nobody else and do not remove your Cloak. I shall wait here." I am referring to this specific incident, and not the year long investigation. – Anya Mae Sep 21 '17 at 10:41
  • @AnyaMae You do know that the Dark Mark was also put into the sky at that point don't you? – Pryftan Jul 19 '18 at 19:39
  • one thing I don't see mentioned in any of the answers is that Dumbledore also knows that if Malfoy fails completely, Voldemort will kill Malfoy for said failure. Dumbledore is also trying to protect Malfoy's soul from being either a murderer or being dead. – NKCampbell Jun 3 at 18:15
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He seemed to believe that Draco's plans were doomed to failure.

The question is right to say that Dumbledore didn't take Harry's warning seriously. The protection from the Order of the Phoenix which amflare describes had been arranged before that conversation. Dumbledore did take additional precautions before leaving with Harry but, as the quote in the question demonstrates, he did this every time he left the school that year.

Dumbledore did not expect an attack of any sort that evening.

"...yes, you have managed to introduce Death Eaters into my school which, I admit, I thought impossible...how did you do it?"
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27, The Lightning-Struck Tower).

He had introduced protective spells over the summer holidays and asked the Order to guard the school when he wasn't there, but this was generic protection. It couldn't be clearer from his words and his reaction that the Malfoy attack took him completely by surprise.

So why didn't he take Harry seriously?


Out-of-universe:

From a literary perspective, this is just tragic irony. Dumbledore's death was (on the face of it, from the point of view of a pre-Deathly Hallows reader) entirely preventable. If only Dumbledore had listened to Harry it could all have gone so differently. The same thing could be said of the other deaths in the series. What if Harry hadn't let Cedric touch the Triwizard Cup? What if Harry hadn't believed the fake vision of Sirius? And so on and so on. It just makes Dumbledore's death sadder and more pitiful.


In-universe:

Dumbledore seemed to conclude that Draco's attempts at killing him were doomed to failure. This turned out to be a fatal error of judgement. But Dumbledore underestimated Draco, pure and simple.

After all, Draco's efforts up to that point had hardly been exemplary.

"You have been trying, with increasing desperation, to kill me all year. Forgive me, Draco, but they have been feeble attempts...so feeble, to be honest, that I wonder whether your heart has been really in it..."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27, The Lightning-Struck Tower).

Dumbledore was more worried about Draco and any unintended victims of his plots than he was about himself.

"Your first priority will be to discover what Draco is up to. A frightened teenage boy is a danger to others as well as to himself. Offer him help and guidance, he ought to accept, he likes you...I am concerned less for myself than for accidental victims of whatever schemes might occur to the boy."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, The Prince's Tale).

The fact is that Dumbledore had enough faith in his own abilities that he didn't consider Malfoy a true threat. He had no way of knowing that he would return to the school under the influence of a dreadful potion which would weaken him considerably. He believed that he'd be able to control Malfoy in any direct confrontation and certainly prevent Death Eaters from wreaking havoc in the school in the way in which they did. He knew what he was capable of and how powerful he was. He's Dumbledore, remember. He's used to getting his way in any fight he finds himself in, and in being able to protect the people he cares about when he's around.

He was worried more for Malfoy and the other Hogwarts students than he was for himself. As far as he was concerned, he'd put Snape in charge of monitoring Malfoy and the Order were going to be around, so the school was safe. Any threat from Malfoy wasn't going to be a real cause for concern.

Why not go down to the room and check on the off-chance? Well, Harry's warning wasn't exactly delivered in the most effective way. He had just discovered that Snape directly betrayed his parents (resulting in their deaths) and that Dumbledore had never told him. This caused him to fly off in a rage. Harry was furious, irrational and full of hatred. His warning about Malfoy was mixed in with a rant against Snape.

At last [Dumbledore] said, "I am sure. I trust Severus Snape completely."
Harry breathed deeply for a few moments in an effort to steady himself. It did not work.
"Well, I don't!" he said, as loudly as before. "He's up to something with Draco Malfoy right now, right under your nose, and you still -"
"We have discussed this, Harry," said Dumbledore, and now he sounded stern again. "I have told you my views."
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25, The Seer Overheard).

That Harry had mixed up a legitimate concern with his rambling personal grievances against Malfoy and Snape didn't help. Dumbledore also knows that Harry has already come to him with this concern before, and he didn't inform him of anything he wasn't already aware of. Dumbledore thought they were covering old ground.

He did go as far as trying to ascertain what exactly Harry was alleging, though.

"You're leaving the school tonight and I'll bet you haven't even considered that Snape and Malfoy might decide to -"
"To what?" asked Dumbledore, his eyebrows raised. "What is it that you suspect them of doing, precisely?"
"I...they're up to something!" said Harry, and his hands curled into fists as he said it. "Professor Trelawney was just in the Room of Requirement, trying to hide her sherry bottles, and she heard Malfoy whooping, celebrating! He's trying to mend something dangerous in there and if you ask me he's fixed it at last and you're about to just walk out of school without -"
"Enough," said Dumbledore. He said it quite calmly, and yet Harry fell silent at once; he knew that he had finally crossed some invisible line.
(Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 25, The Seer Overheard).

So he gives Harry a chance to explain himself. The fact that he asks "with his eyebrows raised" I think indicates that he is not exactly asking with an open mind. He's trying to diffuse Harry's anger, and demonstrate that he's being irrational. He doesn't expect Harry to tell him anything meaningful. But he does at least give Harry the space in which to tell him his suspicions.

As I say, Harry doesn't help himself. When given the chance to tell Dumbledore the truth he just says that Malfoy and Snape are up to "something". Immediately, it sounds as if he's clutching at straws. The only concrete detail in his story is that Professor Trelawney was thrown out of the Room of Requirement by a gleeful figure. Yet why should this be Malfoy? How can Harry know that he's trying to fix something dangerous? His accusations descend quickly into wild speculation ("if you ask me"). No wonder Dumbledore says that he's heard enough.

An additional factor may be that Dumbledore himself has become angry. He doesn't intervene until Harry suggests that Dumbledore is leaving the school unattended. This provokes a stern response. Dumbledore has the patience to listen to Harry's story but snaps at the suggestion that he doesn't care about the welfare of his students. This, after all, is something that is close to Dumbledore's heart.

Of course, even if he had gone down to the Room of Requirement he would've been confronted with the same thing as Harry had been all year - a locked door with no means of entry.

Finally, Dumbedore isn't the only one to blame here. Harry too heard a clear warning of what was to come and shrugged it off. Trelawney shared her premonition about the lightning-struck tower with Harry and he thought that she was talking nonsense when she was actually seeing the future.

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    Yes, Dumbledore probably ignored Harry's warning because he didn't think Malfoy was capable of bringing outside help. And that he thought Malfoy wasn't a threat to his life. However, he disregarded the safety of others residing at Hogwarts. Malfoy had already almost killed two students, and was celebrating some victory. Wouldn't it be natural course of action to check on what made him jubilant just to make sure he didn't hurt anyone else currently living in Hogwarts? How could he ignore their safety because Malfoy's plans to kill Dumbledore was doomed to fail? – Anya Mae Sep 22 '17 at 7:06
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    I think Dumbledore is wise enough to not take into consideration Harry's personal grievances and appreciate the information conveyed. Yes, he would have encountered a blank wall if he'd tried to crash into the Room of Requirement. But he could have alerted members of the Order, and asked someone to stand guard outside before leaving the castle, to catch Malfoy in the act. Instead we see that the Order was taken by surprise and Snape was asleep and had to be woken up after the Death Eaters arrived. – Anya Mae Sep 22 '17 at 7:11
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    @AnyaMae He had no way of knowing that Malfoy was up to anything. Trelawney didn't see Malfoy. Neither was she able to identify him. She simply heard him celebrating. It could've been anyone. And Dumbledore's getting a very jumbled version of events from Harry second hand. Plus, even if it is Malfoy celebrating, so what? The boy's allowed to celebrate if he wants to, isn't he? There was no indication from what Trelawney said that an obviously dangerous situation was developing. – The Dark Lord Sep 22 '17 at 16:07
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    Ah ok, I have to give it to you. Indeed, Harry had no concrete evidence, and Dumbledore might have been irritated by his constant accusations about Smape and Malfoy. Plus, he might have been convinced that there was already extra security at the castle. – Anya Mae Sep 22 '17 at 17:29
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Dumbledore did take it seriously. Or at least the danger as a whole even if not Draco's celebration specifically. He had ordered the Order of the Phoenix and the teachers to patrol the school while he was gone.

‘I don’t know exactly how it happened,’ said Professor McGonagall distractedly. ‘It’s all so confusing … Dumbledore had told us that he would be leaving the school for a few hours and that we were to patrol the corridors just in case … Remus, Bill and Nymphadora were to join us … and so we patrolled. All seemed quiet. Every secret passageway out of the school was covered. We knew nobody could fly in. There were powerful enchantments on every entrance into the castle. I still don’t know how the Death Eaters can possibly have entered …’
Half-Blood Prince - Chapter 29: The Phoenix Lament

(emphasis mine)

They were watching every entrance they knew of. Remember, even Dumbledore didn't expect the cabinet being a means of transportation into the castle.


Regarding why Dumbledore didn't warn the Order of Malfoy's action specifically. Remember that he had the whole thing planned out. He was going to die anyway. Snape was to kill him before Malfoy could, and for Malfoy to get into a position to kill Dumbledore, he had to succeed at whatever he was doing. Everything was going as planned, no cause for alarm.

This is like asking a Grandmaster why he didn't do anything about the pawn that captured the queen. He didn't do anything about it because that was part of his plan.

Either way, you can't say Dumbledore didn't take the danger seriously. He had left safeguards and explicit instructions in place to protect the rest of the school from Malfoy's machinations. Even if he did set them up before Harry told him about Malfoy celebrating. And that's another reason Dumbledore seemed dismissive, because he had foreseen the danger and already prepared for it.

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    All that was arranged before Harry told him of Malfoys celebrations; it does not answer why Dumbledore still thought his precautions sufficient after Harry told him that Draco had just achieved something. Since Dravo was celebrating that very moment, Dumbledore certainly did not knew about his success when he arranged these precautions. – d_hippo Sep 21 '17 at 17:06
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    As d_hippo says, my question is why Dumbledore didn't investigate or warn anyone about Malfoy's celebratory whooping, while fully aware that he was on a murder mission and didn't care who he took down in the process. – Anya Mae Sep 21 '17 at 17:20
  • @AnyaMae - As mentioned before, Dumbledore had already tasked Snape to handle Malfoy. There was no reason to devote any more attention to it since he had already written the end of the play, as it were. Everything was proceeding as planned. Why worry about that action specifically? – amflare Sep 21 '17 at 17:42
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    @armflare, "Snape was to kill him before Malfoy could, and for Malfoy to get into a position to kill Dumbledore, he had to succeed at whatever he was doing. Everything was going as planned, no cause for alarm." I think that sounds plausible. He might have hurried from the castle to finish the Horcux mission before Malfoy's plan unfolded, and eventually caused Snape to step in. – Anya Mae Sep 21 '17 at 18:36

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