Dumbledore and powerful magic users never believed that Voldemort was killed by Lily. They suspected that Voldemort would return in some way.

After returning, it’s likely that loyal Death Eaters would team up again to form Voldemort's army. So, why didn't Dumbledore hunt down Death Eaters meanwhile? It could be a great step to disable or to slow down the upcoming attack wave of Voldemort.

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    What would you want dumbledore to do that the ministry didn't already do? Essentially all of the death eaters were either imprisoned or somehow were able to avoid a jail sentence. Would you like Dumbledore to hunt down the ones that avoided Azkaban and take matters into his own hands?
    – Dason
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 5:06
  • 4
    @Dason - Yes, that's really what anyone with half a brain should have done. It's a war, not an exercise in jurisprudence. If Malfoy is a resource for Voldemort, and you know Voldemort will return, you take Malfoy out. Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:11
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    @DVK - Yeah, that seems exactly like Dumbledore's style...
    – Dason
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:24
  • 3
    Dumbledore was not Judge, Jury and Executioner. If he killed any DEs at any time, it would have been to stop or deter them. He was not a hunter... Notice that he killed neither Grindelwald OR Voldemort but dueled them both; and arguably overcame them both! Also, remember that he said "There are worse things than death"...
    – Möoz
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 3:18

7 Answers 7


The Aurors and the Ministry handled that.

Dumbledore wouldn’t have needed to hunt down Death Eaters himself - that was the Aurors’ job. They caught Dark wizards, which included Death Eaters. One of the Aurors at the time was Dumbledore’s friend Mad-Eye Moody, so he’d likely have trusted the Aurors to handle.

“He’s an old friend of Dumbledore’s, isn’t he?’ said Charlie.

‘Dumbledore’s not what you’d call normal, though, is he?’ said Fred. ‘I mean, I know he’s a genius and everything …’

‘Who is Mad-Eye?’ asked Harry.

‘He’s retired, used to work at the Ministry,’ said Charlie. ‘I met him once when Dad took me into work with him. He was an Auror – one of the best … a Dark-wizard-catcher,’ he added, seeing Harry’s blank look. ‘Half the cells in Azkaban are full because of him.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 11 (Aboard the Hogwarts Express)

It was also the Ministry’s job to figure out who was under the Imperius Curse, and who was working for the Dark Lord of their own free will.

“Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse,’ said Moody, and Harry knew he was talking about the days in which Voldemort had been all-powerful. ‘Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act, and who was acting of their own free will.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14 (The Unforgivable Curses)

There wasn’t much reason for Dumbledore to get involved.

Also, Dumbledore wouldn’t want to.

Dumbledore also wouldn’t want to hunt down anyone. He considered using certain types of powers immoral.

“I know you haven’t,’ said Professor McGonagall, sounding half-exasperated, half-admiring. ‘But you’re different. Everyone knows you’re the only one You-Know – oh, all right, Voldemort – was frightened of.’

‘You flatter me,’ said Dumbledore calmly. ‘Voldemort had powers I will never have.’

‘Only because you’re too – well – noble to use them.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1 (The Boy who Lived)

He refused a job as Minister because he didn’t trust himself with power.

“I, meanwhile, was offered the post of Minister for Magic, not once, but several times. Naturally, I refused. I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power.’

‘But you’d have been better, much better, than Fudge or Scrimgeour!’ burst out Harry.

‘Would I?’ asked Dumbledore heavily. ‘I am not so sure. I had proven, as a very young man, that power was my weakness and my temptation. It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King’s Cross)

Because of his temperament, it’s very unlikely that he’d choose to hunt down Death Eaters, because he didn’t quite trust himself with power.


Because that's something the Aurors are paid by the Ministry to do.

Edited as suggested by @DVK-

It wasn't in his nature to "hunt down" because Dumbledore valued life,love and everything that Voldemort,the Death-Eaters and anyone-who-wouldnt-hesitate-to-kill didn't.

  • 3
    While this was highly voted, this is completely WRONG. Dumbledore and DA did the fighting against DEs during both the first and second wiazrding war, despite most of OOP not being Aurors. Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:06
  • 4
    @DVK The question seems to have an implicit constraint that the answer cover the time period between Voldemort's fall and his subsequent return, in which case this answer seems appropriate.
    – TGnat
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:25
  • 2
    @abhiii5459 - Why would Dumbledore refrain from doing something that Aurors are paid to do after the fall of Voldemort, if he had no issues with doing something Aurors were paid to do before it, considering HE knew that Voldemort is not permanently gone? Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:32
  • 4
    @DVK Because,he,Dumbledore was personally and primarily concerned with Voldemort's antics, rather than the stunts the Death Eaters were pulling in the absence of Voldemort (the highlight of which was the Dark-Mark-firing and the Muggle-taunting during the Quidditch World Cup;to deal with which, Dumbledore wasn't present ,I might add.Nor was his presence necessary).No. Dumbledore knew he only had to nip the root - Voldemort.He kept himself busy trying to do that ever since he got wind of Tom's diary and suspected it might be a horcrux. My point is, the Death Eaters were NEVER his priority
    – lightsong
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:40
  • 1
    @abhiii5459 - what does muggle-baiting have ANYTHINg to do with the question which was explicitly about "hunt down Death Eaters" "to disable or to slow down upcoming attack wave of Voldemort." And the question pertains to all the 11 years BEFORE he knew of the diary, NOT just since Harry entered Hogwarts, it seems Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:48

3 reasons:

  • Because Dumbledore is afraid to use (and therefore be temped to ABuse) his power. he was firmly convinced not to trust himself with power; and the power to go hunt down DEs was the ultimate power, of life and death.

    He also states so re: Deathstick, that he was worthy of only keeping it safe, not using it for offense.

  • Because Dumbledore is afraid of getting even close to the "end justifies the means" line, after being entanged in Grindelwald's plans. Since going all vigilante to take out Malfoy etc... is really close to that line, he would be extremely loathe to think this way.

  • Because he has this extreme moral and ethical views, "imposed" on him by JKR. Witness people who opposed putting Al Qaeda terrorists under military justice system and insiting on ONLY dealing with them as a police matter, in civilan courts (or, more closely aligned to the question, people who strongly oppose rocket strikes on terrorists). Whether their moral/ethical/political convictions are right or wrong, they exist, and in great numbers.

  • Can you please elaborate "end justifies the means" line?
    – user931
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:37
  • 4
    @SachinShekhar - Grindelwald's motto was "For the Greater Good." - a version of "The ends Justify the means" Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:42

Because even without Dumbledore's help, all the Death Eaters were captured, or killed, or exonerated, or not known to be Death Eaters. Consider this dialogue from The Goblet of Fire:

"Use your brains, Ron," said Bill. "If they really were Death Eaters, they worked very hard to keep out of Azkaban when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of lies about him forcing them to kill and torture people. I bet they'd be even more frightened than the rest of us to see him come back. They denied they'd ever been involved with him when he lost his powers, and went back to their daily lives.... I don't reckon he'd be over-pleased with them, do you?"

Note also what Karkaroff said when naming names before the Ministry, in the scene Harry saw in the Pensieve:

"--we never knew the names of every one of our fellows--He alone knew exactly who we all were--"

It seems clear that while some Death Eaters were hunted down, others asserted that they had been Imperioused or otherwise coerced, and were cleared on that basis; while still others were simply not known to be Death Eaters by anyone willing to testify before the Ministry.

Given that, there may not have been much for Dumbledore to do. Plus he had a school to run.

  • Mind it, Malfoys were also Death Eaters under nose. Dumbledore had powers with Elder Wand to detect even unknowns.
    – user931
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 3:23
  • Plus he had a school to run. ~> Still, war was had high priority. Mind it, he still had involved in searching Horcruxes despite he had a school to run.
    – user931
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 3:25

Because the books describe a universe where latent evil is tolerated.

Slytherins, whose credo is to use their powers to dominate and terrorize others, especially with respect to Muggles, are a 'respected' one-quarter of the population at Hogwarts school.

At the end of the books, the Malfoys are accepted back into the community, because they put Family above their Evil ways - even though they tortured people to death.

So Death Eaters, as long as their evil ways did not get out of hand, were accepted in the community in the Harry Potter universe. What kind of comment is this on our real world out here? I have never been able to figure it out exactly.

  • I am asking for in-universe answer...
    – user931
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 16:07
  • 5
    @SachinShekhar - It IS in-Universe. The Wizarding world voted on Meta that Malfoys are on-topic, to use our parlance. So Dumbledore couldn't just go all-Vigilante and take out Malfoys. Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:07
  • I wouldn't say "evil is tolerated", and certainly not by Dumbledore. Dumbledore was a very trusting and forgiving person though; but that is a different thing to tolerance.
    – Möoz
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 2:43

Being a Death Eater in itself was not a crime. If we look back at the trials, the charges were for crimes committed, and the joining the Death Eaters was not among them. There would be lack of evidence, as most of the crimes were done masked and with those giant thick black robes. My guess is that he would rather keep Snape as a spy for a future war, as he had a focus on Voldemort, rather than have him as a witness, therefore losing any hold in their organization.

The short of it: he didn't view Death Eaters as a problem, but rather a symptom. As such, he focused on the long view, and that was winning the next war completely.


I am not a Potter expert, however logical I believe that the Ministry would believe the threat gone since the remaining Death Eaters would be in hiding and would take some time and effort to locate.

I am not sure if Dumbledore was head of Hogwarts at this time, I think he was so I assume he had other duties that prevented him from looking for them on his own since I assume that he would require money and other resources to do this.

Lastly from the books it always seemed to me that the Ministry as a whole didn't hold Dumbledore in high favor. And the Ministry being stereotypical government where probably move that happy to sweep the nasty business about Voldemort and the Death Eaters under the rug. Hence the whole move to say "He who shall not be named"

  • Yes, Ministry didn't believe that Voldemort was alive until end of 5th book. +1, but you've skipped the main part. Voldemort was still searching Horcruxes...
    – user931
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:14
  • I thought Voldermort had created all the Horcruxes by the time of the books since I seem to remember Harry was a accidental 7th one. Which is a plot hole of sorts (or maybe my bad memory) why did he only create 6 I seem to remember that the only real issue with a Horcrux was the ability to kill someone in cold blood to split the soul but I think it was also stated or inferred that the soul could be split infinite times. Commented May 24, 2012 at 14:59

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