I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course - but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing.
Dumbledore in the Order of the Phoenix

This, and many more instances, show us that Dumbledore was an immensely powerful wizard and was the only person Voldemort was afraid of.

However, Dumbledore chose to die at Snape's hand rather than suffering through the curse of Gaunt's ring. This would leave the impression that this immensely powerful wizard could not defend himself against Snape and a couple of other Death Eaters.

Since the truth didn't come out until the end, this would leave those who admired him with the belief that Voldemort's forces are far more powerful than they thought, disheartening them and making them less inclined to fight back (if Dumbledore couldn't fight them and win, how could I possibly do so?)

Why would he choose to do this?

  • 2
    What is the question exactly? I'm only asking as right now it's quite broad and rather opinion based. Perhaps you could edit it a bit to flesh out the question?
    – Hans Olo
    Jun 4, 2018 at 19:46
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    did you read the books - it's spelled out pretty clearly. He admits it was a foolish mistake to get cursed by the ring. Knowing his death was imminent anyway, he sacrificed himself to save Draco's soul. As he told Snape, only he [Snape] alone know[s] whether it will harm [Snape's] soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation". Thus - Dumbledore's manner of death was actually to avoid humiliation
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 4, 2018 at 21:05
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    Hello, please also consider the part 2 of the question and then both parts as whole! I mean to ask that why does Dumbledore die in a way that portrays him weak! The ring is a part which is not known till the end, but the way he is killed by snape, it seems as though he was cornered and could not fight his way out which insults his skills and his image! For another thing, this question is not duplicate, and Valorum should first actually read both questions!
    – Harsh
    Jun 5, 2018 at 19:55
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    did you read my comment @HarshSavergaonkar? The book makes it very clear that Dumbledore knew exactly what he was doing, and why, when he asked Snape to be the one to kill him [Dumbledore] - months before the event actually happened. Dumbledore knew Malfoy was ordered to kill Dumbledore, and Dumbledore wanted to make sure that Malfoy was saved from doing so
    – NKCampbell
    Jun 5, 2018 at 20:27
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    @HarshSavergaonkar At the time of his death, he was weak. That potion he drank in the cave with Slytherin's locket had a clear and visible effect on him, and IIRC, by the time Snape arrives he can barely stand.
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 5, 2018 at 20:28

6 Answers 6


Dumbledore did not consider his method of dying weak. Furthermore, He needed Snape to appear strong and loyal to Voldemort.

Firstly, Dumbledore himself did not consider his method of dying weak - in fact he refers to it as avoiding humiliation:

You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,” said Dumbledore. “I ask this one great favor of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year’s league. I confess I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved – I hear Voldemort has recruited him? Or dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before she eats it.”

However, although it's possible that not all went to plan and Dumbledore did not intend to die looking weak on top of a rooftop in full view of onlookers, there's another more important, unstated reason to believe that this is exactly what Dumbledore intended:

Dumbledore was the only one who Voldemort truly feared. And Snape was his devoted spy. And his post-mortem mission required that Snape's apparantly loyalty to Voldemort be reinforced in the eyes of onlookers, and more importantly, Voldemort himself. Dumbledore needed to prove to everyone that Snape was not his spy. Killing Dumbledore accomplishes just that. Furthermore, by killing Dumbledore while he looked weak, it makes Snape appear even stronger in the eyes of Voldemort. Dumbledore's supreme consideration at his time of death was to ensure Snape's survival. Why? So Snape would remain alive to pass on to Harry his most important mission of all:

“That is between Harry and me. Now listen closely, Severus. There will come a time – after my death – do not argue, do not interrupt! There will come a time when Lord Voldemort will seem to fear for the life of his snake.”

“For Nagini?” Snape looked astonished.

“Precisely. If there comes a time when Lord Voldemort stops sending that snake forth to do his bidding, but keeps it safe beside him under magical protection, then, I think, it will be safe to tell Harry.”

“Tell him what?” Dumbledore took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“Tell him that on the night Lord Voldemort tried to kill him, when Lily cast her own life between them as a shield, the Killing Curse rebounded upon Lord Voldemort, and a fragment of Voldemort’s soul was blasted apart from the whole, and latched itself onto the only living soul left in that collapsed building. Part of Lord Voldemort lives inside Harry, and it is that which gives him the power of speech with snakes, and a connection with Lord Voldemort’s mind that he has never understood. And while that fragment of soul, unmissed by Voldemort, remains attached to and protected by Harry, Lord Voldemort cannot die.”

Snape needed to survive and maintain Voldemort's trust until the time comes 'when Voldemort fears for the life of his snake' so he could pass this message on to Harry. And this was Dumbledore's most all-encompassing need: To ensure Voldemort's belief in Snape, and that overrode, no, even required, that Dumbledore look weak while dying.

Snape's apparant strength over 'The only one Voldemort ever feared' ensured Voldemort's eternal respect for Snape (for he had accomplished what Voldemort could not) and also reassured Voldemort that Snape was not a spy for Dumbledore. And this overrode any concerns about any loss of morale.

  • Thanks for the bounty! Can you accept my answer as well?
    – TheAsh
    Jun 26, 2018 at 15:49
  • 2
    The person who offered the bounty wasn’t the same person who asked the question.
    – Obsidia
    Jun 26, 2018 at 23:57

He didn't

Well, firstly, Dumbledore chose to die at Snape's hand because he was already all but guaranteed to die.

You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation,’ said Dumbledore. ‘I ask this one, great favour of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year’s league. I confess I should prefer a quick, painless exit to the protracted and messy affair it will be if, for instance, Greyback is involved – I hear Voldemort has recruited him? Or dear Bellatrix, who likes to play with her food before she eats it?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This also served to cement Snape's reputation with Voldemort, making him a far more valuable spy. Indeed, it's a sign of his intellect that Dumbledore was able to make his death serve not only those purposes, but to drink the deadly potion in Voldemort's sea cave as well. Oh, and it helped Draco not get killed.

Those motivations are important, because not looking weak would have to be extremely important for Dumbledore to neglect drinking the potion, not give Snape his opening, and suffer longer—even assuming that Dumbledore's death did make him look weak.

However, it didn't.

Dumbledore was the most powerful wizard alive. He knew it, Voldemort knew it, and the Order, who had been working with him for decades, certainly knew it. They were not about to reach inaccurate conclusions of his strength just because he slipped up and got killed.

Nor would his death give the impression that Voldemort's forces were far more powerful than they actually were.

To start with, the Order had actual information about the capabilities of Voldemort and his Death Eaters to go on, not just speculation. Some of this information came from Snape's spying, but other portions came from the work of various Order members. I can't see why they'd throw this out the window in favor of assumptions based on one event.

They also have a little bit of information, what Harry was willing to tell them:

‘Snape killed him,’ said Harry. ‘I was there, I saw it. We arrived back on the Astronomy Tower because that’s where the Mark was … Dumbledore was ill, he was weak, but I think he realised it was a trap when we heard footsteps running up the stairs. He immobilised me, I couldn’t do anything, I was under the Invisibility Cloak – and then Malfoy came through the door and Disarmed him –’ Hermione clapped her hands to her mouth, and Ron groaned. Luna’s mouth trembled. ‘– more Death Eaters arrived – and then Snape – and Snape did it. The Avada Kedavra.’ Harry couldn’t go on.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Sure, Harry didn't tell them what he was doing with Dumbledore, but it's not like they were stupid. They knew that Dumbledore had gone on some mission, and if he came back ill and weak, it wasn't just the flu. They'd have viewed Malfoy disarming as evidence of how weakened Dumbledore had been by whatever happened, not as evidence that Malfoy was secretly an extremely talented wizard or Dumbledore was a hack.

Even further, there's no shame in being overcome by several Death Eaters, one of whom was very talented, including two (apparent) personal traitors who might catch one by surprise. Personal power matters in the Potterverse, but numbers do too: it only took three talented witches and wizards to duel Voldemort nearly to a standstill, remember.

Finally, it's not as Dumbledore had an alternative where he could "fight him and win," thus looking appropriately strong for his allies. It was dying at the hand of one of Voldemort's Death Eaters, committing suicide some other way (possibly much more disheartening for the Order) or dying from the Gaunt Ring curse (set by Voldemort, if he bothered to mention it). None of these would make him look terribly strong if people were inclined to jump to conclusions, but being betrayed by a trusted ally certainly would leave his image mostly intact.

And indeed, there's not much evidence that the Order did react this way. Dismayed that Dumbledore, the strongest among them, was gone, yes. Convinced that Snape or Malfoy possessed hitherto unknown powers, or that Dumbledore was lacking in some sense? No. I can't find a passage where they hint at having those thoughts.

So, in summary: Dumbledore chose to die the way he did because it was highly convenient for his plans, and because he knew that the Order wouldn't reach any inaccurate conclusions from his death.


Harry was more important than the morale of Dumbledor's followers

I think I got what you mean. You argue that the way he died could (and possibly did) have a negative influence on the morale of those who had to wage a war against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. I would partly agree that it had that effect on parts of the British wizarding community.

However, he knew that this second war wasn't a war of equal weapons (military experts would call it something of an asymmetric war given the presence of Horcruxes) that depended on how many (skillful) witches/wizards were on each side and how strong their morale was. It would rotate around the battle between the two protagonists, and its outcome would crucially depend on Harry, the MVP. As Dumbledore states:

“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. “Meanwhile, the connection between them grows ever stronger, a parasitic growth: Sometimes I have thought he suspects it himself. If I know him, he will have arranged matters so that when he does set out to meet his death, it will truly mean the end of Voldemort.”

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, page 778)

Since Voldemort's moves were kinda foreseeable (because of the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy mechanism), the most important variable to keep under control was Harry, and Dumbledore did make sure that Harry would make the right steps, also by selecting the pieces of information he would give him (emphasis mine):

“Can you forgive me?” he said. “Can you forgive me for not trusting you? For not telling you? Harry, I only feared that you would fail as I had failed. I only dreaded that you would make my mistakes. I crave your pardon, Harry. I have known, for some time now, that you are the better man.”


“Why did you have to make it so difficult?” Dumbledore’s smile was tremulous.

“I am afraid I counted on Miss Granger to slow you up, Harry. I was afraid that your hot head might dominate your good heart. I was scared that, if presented outright with the facts about those tempting objects, you might seize the Hallows as I did, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. If you laid hands on them, I wanted you to possess them safely. You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.”

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pages 808, 816-817)


He had higher priorities than how his death could be framed.

It didn’t matter to Dumbledore’s plan for stopping the Dark Lord what the wizarding world thought of him or how strong he was, and didn’t even really matter what most Order members thought of him. While it was somewhat important for people (mainly in the Order) to be willing to attempt to fight the Dark Lord’s forces, it wasn’t the most important. Dumbledore’s most important plan centered around a few individuals rather than the entire Order. The Order wasn’t even involved. He wanted Snape in place to stay at Hogwarts so he could protect it, help Harry, and tell Harry about the Dark Lord’s soul in him and how he must die - Snape was the only one he’d told about the soul piece.

“If there comes a time when Lord Voldemort stops sending that snake forth to do his bidding, but keeps it safe beside him, under magical protection, then, I think, it will be safe to tell Harry.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince’s Tale)

He also wanted Harry, Ron and Hermione to find all the Horcruxes. He was planning on them finding all the Horcruxes, and then Harry killing the Dark Lord when he faced him.

“If I know him, he will have arranged matters so that when he does set out to meet his death, it will, truly, mean the end of Voldemort.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince’s Tale)

Dumbledore had arranged that Snape would kill him in within a year from when his hand was cursed, but he hadn’t planned exactly when - he’d said the moment would present itself. He was already weak from the potion, so when Draco brought the Death Eaters to Hogwarts, he probably considered it the moment presenting itself, and didn’t see any reason to put off the inevitable.

“Oh, not quite yet,’ said Dumbledore, smiling. ‘I daresay the moment will present itself in due course. Given what has happened tonight,’ he indicated his withered hand, ‘we can be sure that it will happen within a year.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince’s Tale)

As for the manner of his death being framed in such a way to make things seem hopeless to the rest of the people fighting the Dark Lord’s forces, his main plan was to take out the Dark Lord himself and that was his highest priority to make sure it succeeded. The Order members didn’t even know about that plan or the Horcruxes, so they didn’t really matter to whether the Dark Lord would ultimately be killed. In addition, there wasn’t likely anything that would convince the Order to stop fighting them, no matter how hopeless they perceived it to be. They were fighting out of “moral convictions” and weren’t the type to give up. It wouldn’t have mattered if they thought it hopeless. It’s unclear if Dumbledore had intentionally planned it or not, but the way things ended up happening the Order members got the story directly from Harry, and were all more shocked that Snape “betrayed” him than losing confidence in Dumbledore’s or their own ability - so his death didn’t end up affecting their opinions.

“Snape killed Dumbledore,’ said Harry.

She stared at him for a moment, then swayed alarmingly; Madam Pomfrey, who seemed to have pulled herself together, ran forwards, conjuring a chair from thin air, which she pushed under McGonagall.

‘Snape,’ repeated McGonagall faintly, falling into the chair. ‘We all wondered … but he trusted … always … Snape … I can’t believe it …”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 29 (The Phoenix Lament)

However, the general public wouldn’t have known what happened that well, and were also being given misinformation by the newspapers that the Dark Lord controlled. Some of the people who weren’t in the Order might have gotten discouraged, but in the bigger picture, that really wouldn’t matter if they were less inclined to fight. Trying to die in a way where the general public would still believe in his strength, and try to prevent against them being told rumors, wasn’t as important as making sure things were properly in place for the Dark Lord to be properly killed.

“Which leads us neatly to the many rumours still circulating about Dumbledore’s final hours. Does Skeeter believe that Potter was there when Dumbledore died?

‘Well, I don’t want to say too much – it’s all in the book – but eye witnesses inside Hogwarts Castle saw Potter running away from the scene moments after Dumbledore fell, jumped or was pushed. Potter later gave evidence against Severus Snape, a man against whom he has a notorious grudge. Is everything as it seems? That is for the wizarding community to decide – once they’ve read my book.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 2 (In Memoriam)

Dumbledore wouldn’t want to risk his greater plans to try to make sure he dies in a way that would be more encouraging to the general wizarding public, since his plan was important to ensure the Dark Lord’s downfall, and the Dark Lord’s allies would find a way to make it suit their side no matter how he’d died (and he knew he must).

He also may have been too weak to do much different.

Dumbledore was quite weak after having drank the potion in the Horcrux bowl. Harry had to Apparate him back, and he was so weak at that point, he’d collapsed on the ground.

“I’ve been better,’ said Dumbledore weakly, though the corners of his mouth twitched. ‘That potion … was no health drink …’

And to Harry’s horror, Dumbledore sank on to the ground.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)

He did actively choose not to fight that being when he’d be killed, since he’d immobilized Harry so he couldn’t help fight, but that may have also been in part because Dumbledore knew he was in no shape to fight himself out of the situation even when Harry’s help. He was in bad shape, and he knew dying at some point soon was inevitable, so he probably didn’t consider it worth the effort to try fighting, possibly fail, and possibly die in a different way than he’d intended and ruining his plan.


He didn't care

I think there were several different reasons that he chose to die, first, this might be a minor one and possibly nonexistent but he was greedy and chose to die to rid himself of the ever worsening world and he was also very very very old so he was probably declining in power and wanted to settle down and have some peace which was seemingly lacking throughout his life and was too prideful to actually die in combat so he made one of his minions kill him so that word would spread that he chose death rather than dying in combat or at the hand of Voldemort.

"You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation.I ask this one great favor of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year’s league."

Also, he could have done this to teach Harry a lesson about death because he knew Harry had to die and was trying to show him that death isn't always an unwelcome concept and the most powerful wizards have weak moments. Finally, he would provide a flame to follow in the darkness through his death where it was portrayed that he was taken unaware and unprepared and slaughtered without a fair fight increasing rage towards the death eaters and Voldemort which may or may not have actually worked but we do know Harry felt the anger towards Snape until he learned that it was all staged.


I don’t think Dumbledore’s death was weak at all. He was already dying from the cursed ring, which in consideration to his age likely affected h greatly. I think his death was well planned out. Draco disarming him resulted in the Elder Wand owing it’s alegance to Draco. Where as because Snape killed Dumbledore, like so many others had killed to get the Elder Wand. Assuming Dumbledore got the wand from Gilbert Grindelwald, possibly by disarming him rather then killing him, Dumbledore would know that that works as a method of gaining the Elder Wand, where as the greater public (I.e. Voldemort and his Death Eaters) would assume that the Elder Wand is only obtained by who ever kills its former master, holder, person, whatever. So they’d assume that Snape would now control the Elder Wand, distracting from the fact Draco now has it.

I won’t pretend that Dumbledore somehow foresaw Harry disarming Draco, giving him possession of the Elder Wand, or that Harry would then become the Master of Death, but I do think that Dumbledore knew that Draco had been ordered to kill him, and thus because of the unbreakable vow Snape was under that Snape could step in and kill him instead. And I do think that Dumbledore wanted to save Draco from committing and act of that magnitude.

But mostly, I think Dumbledore was dying, so, knowing this, he decided to control his death and how it happened. He died how he planned to die, quickly and (probably) painlessly, where as he’d probably have had a long drawn out, painful death due to the curse on his hand. I think he was saving himself from that fate.

And I don’t think that’s cowardly at all.

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