My previous question is regarding why Dumbledore refused to react after learning about Malfoy's celebratory whooping. This question is about why he and Snape together failed to make Malfoy confess his plans. This virtually endangered anybody in the castle for a whole year, given the way Malfoy operated, seriously injuring two students - Katie and Ron.

Snape did try to use Legilimency once and gave up after learning that Malfoy had learnt Occlumency.

Dumbledore to Harry, after he failed to retrieve Slughorn's memory -

"And you feel that you have exerted your very best efforts in this matter, do you? That you have exercised all of your considerable ingenuity? That you have left no depth of cunning unplumbed in your quest to retrieve the memory?"

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Chapter-20, Lord Voldemort's Request

Why didn't Dumbledore and Snape together "leave no depth of their cunning unplumbed" to get Malfoy to talk and stop the threat he posed to every other person at Hogwarts? Surely they could have outsmarted sixteen year old Draco Malfoy.


As it has been pointed out that Dumbledore was concerned for Draco's life, I am adding the following to clarify what I had in mind.

Had Draco confessed, the Order could have protected Draco, as Dumbledore himself suggested to him, and the rest of Hogwarts would have been saved from his reckless murder plans. So, why didn't Dumbledore use his cunning to achieve that?

  • The quote you referenced refers to when Harry is to get the memory of Horcrux creation as told by Slughorn to Riddle.
    – Om Joshi
    Sep 22, 2017 at 1:29
  • 6
    I’m sure the OP realizes that. The point is that Dumbledore encourages Harry to use extreme measures, while he is unwilling to do so himself. Sep 22, 2017 at 2:04
  • The correct answer in that previous question, this one already answer this question too!
    – Jan Hudec
    Sep 23, 2017 at 16:04

4 Answers 4


Dumbledore was concerned for Draco's life. As soon as it became evident that he suspected Draco was the attempted murderer, Voldemort would have simply disposed of him.

'I haven't got any options!' said Malfoy, and he was suddenly as white as Dumbledore. 'I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!

'I appreciate the difficulty of your position,' said Dumbledore. 'Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realised that I suspected you.'

Malfoy winced at the sound of the name.

'I did not dare speak to you of the mission with which I knew you had been entrusted, in case he used Legilimency against you,' continued Dumbledore. 'But now at last we can speak plainly to each other ... no harm has been done, you have hurt nobody, though you are very lucky that your unintentional victims survived ... I can help you, Draco.'

By contrast, it was inevitable that when Harry began asking pointed questions about Horcruxes, Slughorn would know what was up. There was no danger or downside to applying every conceivable pressure. But if either Snape or Dumbledore pushed too hard to get Malfoy to reveal his plans-- even covertly-- innocent lives were at stake.

  • While what Dumbledore speaks the truth here, he still isn't really honest about his motives. If he wanted to live, he would do something else to protect Draco. However he is going to die and his death has more important purpose than just saving Draco's life.
    – Jan Hudec
    Sep 23, 2017 at 15:55
  • While I agree that Dumbledore's concern for Draco's life, would have played a major role in him having handled the situation, Dumbledore himself had suggested in the conversation you've quoted that if Draco came over to the right side, the Order would protect him, and his family. So I wonder why he couldn't use his cunning to arrange that earlier, and thereby protect both Draco and Hogwarts' students. Thoughts?
    – Anya Mae
    Sep 23, 2017 at 17:44
  • 3
    @AnyaMae: At this point the Death Eaters were using Malfoy Manor as a base of operations. The Order couldn't well have evacuated the Malfoys without first reaching an agreement with Draco (at an absolute minimum; more realistically they would have had to flip Lucius too). As a result, they could not parley freely with Draco.
    – Kevin
    Sep 23, 2017 at 18:27
  • @Kevin, Agreed. That would have been a complication. Thanks, that clears my doubt.
    – Anya Mae
    Sep 23, 2017 at 18:40

A known danger is less danger

Dumbledore and Snape knew it was Draco all along (as it is revealed in Deathly Hallows, Snape knew it all from the beginning, so did Dumbledore). The only thing Dumbledore did not know was how Draco was going to lead the intruders into the castle - Draco explains that in detail during their showdown at the top of the Astronomy tower.

If Dumbledore had decided to stop Draco and reveal him, he would lose: Draco would be useless to Voldemort (and as TenthJustice correctly answered, would be killed). Then, Lord Voldemort had other Death Eaters at his command, with their children eager to gain the master's attention and reward - the most obvoius example would be Crabbe and Goyle. They could also use an Imperius'ed student to do the job. So the danger would not be eliminated, but simply postponed.

Conclusion: instead of stopping and revealing Draco, Dumbledore (and Snape) decided to monitor Draco and face him a a 'known danger'.

  • I like your theory. Voldemort making use of other Death Eater kids to finish Draco's job, even after Draco was exposed, seems to be the most reasonable explanation for Dumbledore protecting Draco at the cost of the other students' lives. Otherwise Dumbledore could have exposed him and offered him protection, thereby saving everybody concerned.
    – Anya Mae
    Sep 23, 2017 at 5:08
  • However, Draco was singled out as punishment for Lucius's deeds, and Voldemort intended to kill him in the end. I doubt he would have assigned the task to any other student (Death Eaters' kids) because they would surely fail. And Voldemort wouldn't risk losing all of his future servants one by one.
    – Anya Mae
    Sep 23, 2017 at 5:08
  • 1
    @anya that's assuming the DE and their children are rational. Voldemort's organization is filled not only with opportunists like Malfoy, but hardliner true believers like Bellatrix as well. We know that the Malfoys (at least the parents) knew that Draco's mission was punishment for Lucius' mistakes, but others DE 's might as well see it as an opportunity to rise through the ranks. We saw Crab and Goyl try to turn Harry in in the last book to gain favor with Lord Voldemort. There might be other DE's that, once they saw Draco failing his mission, could offer their children at Hogwarts...
    – user13267
    Sep 26, 2017 at 9:37
  • ...to lord Voldemort's service
    – user13267
    Sep 26, 2017 at 9:37

Well, for Snape it is obvious: he couldn't. Near the beginning of that book, he makes an unbreakable vow to Narcissa, with Belatrix as a witness, that he will protect Draco, help him in his quest and complete the quest himself should Draco fail. He definitely wouldn't reveal Draco.

That means that either Snape betrayed the Order, or that it is somehow part of Dumbledore's plan. All the books so far established that Dumbledore has pretty good idea what is going on. If he's now ignoring all the signs indicating Draco is up to something, it suggests the later.

But would Dumbledore's plan be to get himself killed? Well, remember his charred and injured hand that Harry notices near the start of the year? What if he's actually terminally cursed and would be dead in a couple of months anyway? If he's going to die, why not use his death to get some advantage for the Order against Voldemort.

Snape has been established as double agent in previous year already. By helping Draco kill Dumbledore, he would gain trust of the Death Eaters, which would make him a lot more useful. So that is the plan. Dumbledore will sacrifice himself to give important advantage to the others in fighting Voldemort. After all, self-sacrifice is important topic throughout the series from that chess game back in Book 1.

It requires Draco to almost succeed. And Dumledore knows Draco well enough to recognize he is not ready to become cold-blooded murderer yet, so he would hesitate at the end, leaving enough time for Snape to deal the killing blow. So they don't reveal him. They don't want to!

(Note: Book 7 confirms all of this, but there are many cues to this in Book 6 already.)

  • Have you read all the way through to the end of the series? Sep 23, 2017 at 16:02
  • By the way, your first point about the Unbreakable Curse is a really good one. It's just that the rest of your answer didn't sound too sure about what Snape/Dumbledore's final intentions actually were. Sep 23, 2017 at 16:04
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    @TheDarkLord, yes, I did. And that is what I understood as the intentions. However, I am writing it with the perspective of Book 6, where it is not confirmed yet, but there is already a lot of evidence supporting it.
    – Jan Hudec
    Sep 23, 2017 at 16:08
  • I think the questioner meant 'in book six', not necessarily 'from book six's perspective'. Deathly Hallows is quite important for understanding their motivations. Sep 23, 2017 at 16:33
  • It was not necessary to reveal to the world about Draco's plans. I meant, why didn't they try harder to get him to confess to them (Snape, and thereby Dumbledore) and offer him protection from Voldemort? This would enable the protection of both Draco Malfoy, and the entire Hogwarts population. Snape wouldn't be breaking the Unbreakable Vow because he would still be protecting Draco, and fulfilling the task of killing Dumbledore. Voldemort never needed to know Snape helped.
    – Anya Mae
    Sep 23, 2017 at 17:36

It has been explained in the book 6 when Dumbledore was alone with Draco on the tower just before Snape killed him. Draco told Dumbledore that he had no other choice and Dumbledore calmly told him that he knew it all along. Had the death eaters not come for 2 more minutes, Draco would have dropped his wand and gone in Dumbledore's protection.

Dumbledore knew perfectly well that no matter what other and Draco thinks, the actual reason of giving him the job to kill Dumbledore was to take revenge against against Lucius and see him die a slow painful death by seeing his son's efforts to complete the task. Narcissa knew it and she confessed her feelings about this task with Snape in the beginning of the book.

Dumbledore also knew that Draco won't be able to kill him and he and Snape had already arranged his death and the manner it will happen. So there was not a real fuss in finding out his plans as Dumbledore was just too careful and beyond reach of any 6th year student. Despite of that, he did employ Snape to find out what Draco was upto in case his efforts bring problems for other students and staff members as it did for Katie Bell and Ron.

But the main reason why he didn't push the investigation against Draco was because he wanted Draco to genuinely believe that his efforts were going unnoticed and he will succeed eventually. Voldemort's is an extremely powerful wizard and one of the best Legilimen alive. Dumbledore knew perfectly well that Draco and his family was in constant touch with Voldemort and he will be performing occlumency to find out what Draco was actual upto and extract any other information about Dumbledore from him.

Till then Dumbledore hadn't had any kind of interaction with Draco - during his entire tenure in Hogwarts so far. If Voldemort's had a slight suspicion that Dumbledore is giving even tiny interest in Draco this year or even discussing anything with him, that would have been Draco's last day. He would have killed Draco without even thinking twice and would have gone on with his plans anyways.

Dumbledore was extremely wise man and he did all this to protect Draco and his family from Voldemort. He knew perfectly well that Draco was doing this because he had no other choice and Dumbledore did his best to make Voldemort believes that it was Draco who brought him down so that Malfoy's would be spared from their earlier mistakes once he (Dumbledore) is gone.

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