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In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37, the following conversation takes place:

“He chose the boy he thought most likely to be a danger to him,” said Dumbledore. “And notice this, Harry. He chose, not the pureblood (which, according to his creed, is the only kind of wizard worth being or knowing), but the half-blood, like himself. He saw himself in you before he had ever seen you, and in marking you with that scar, he did not kill you, as he intended, but gave you powers, and a future, which have fitted you to escape him not once, but four times so far — something that neither your parents, nor Neville’s parents, ever achieved.”

It seems as if Albus Dumbledore was wrong here:
It was not a choice. If Lord Voldemort was the same man who created 7 Horcruxes because he did not want to rely on one, he would have ensured he killed both Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Could it be that Lord Voldemort only knew the location of the Potters (due to Peter Pettigrew) as both the Potters and the Longbottoms were hiding under the Fidelius?

So who he set out to kill was not a matter of blood, rather it was a matter of convenience?

  • 7
    One of the key things Harry (and that means the reader) learns during part 6 is that Mr Voldemort is not about logic and mechanically making high percentage decisions, but quite the opposite. He is heavily inspired by fascism. He is all about being powerful and superior, about creating mythical heroic tales, in a twisted way about being honest and facing your enemies head on. His key weaknesses are inflated self-esteem and superstitiousness which of course are key weaknesses of real fascist rulers. I don't think you got his character tbo – Raditz_35 Aug 23 '18 at 11:36
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    I might not have but there is no doubt that if he killed succeeded in killing Harry on Halloween 1981, he would have gone for Neville. As you did point out, for a person who got all O's including one for divination, he never realized that there is something such as a self-fulfilling prophecy. – Mohammad Zuhair Khan Aug 23 '18 at 11:50
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    Also he created 7 horcruxes just because 7 is a very magical number, that's all. Not because he didn't want to rely on 1. Important things are mythical to Voldermort instead of rational. He will go for magical treasures and heirloom as his horcruxes although ordinary objects would have a better chance of survival and can blend in better. – Bernard the Bear Aug 23 '18 at 12:09
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    He probably knew the location of the Longbottoms. If you remember, Bellatrix tortured them until madness, shortly after Voldermort's downfall. I doubt that they happened to discover their wereabouts then. – Lefteris008 Aug 23 '18 at 14:38
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    Related: Did Voldemort mark Harry as his equal? – Mast Aug 23 '18 at 15:33
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Yes, he did.

In an interview, J.K. Rowling confirmed that Dumbledore was right.

book: Why did Voldemort pick Harry and not Neville?

JK Rowling replies -> Dumbledore explains this in 'Order of the Phoenix'. Voldemort identified more with the half-blood boy and therefore decided he must be the greater risk.
- World Book Day Chat (March 4, 2004)

The Dark Lord did choose Harry because he identified more with the half-blood boy.

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    Rowling might have too high an opinion of Dumbledore. – Alex Aug 23 '18 at 15:12
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    Rowling was using Dumbledore as a way to get information to the reader. – Bellatrix Aug 23 '18 at 16:07
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    You can also infer from the text that Voldemort made a choice. He obviously could not simultaneously personally kill both Neville and Harry. So he would either have to kill one then the other, or send death eaters to kill one of them while he killed the other one. He may have chosen option A, (certainly not B), but then he still decided to kill Harry first. Once Harry was killed, people would have been aware of his plans, and killing Neville probably would have been harder. It only makes sense to kill the one he thought most dangerous first. And that child was Harry. – Kai Aug 23 '18 at 18:22
  • @Kai "people would have been aware of his plans, and killing Neville probably would have been harder" -- really? Everyone already knew he was in the business of killing families; that's why the Potters were in hiding in the first place. And, as far as they knew, hiding was the best defense they had against Voldemort; I don't see how Neville could have been better protected than Harry was, even if Harry had been killed and Dumbledore knew Voldemort was coming for him. – Kyle Strand Aug 23 '18 at 20:55
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    @KyleStrand their secret keeper was probably not a traitor so they might be more protected. – Mohammad Zuhair Khan Aug 23 '18 at 23:23
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It makes no difference

When Voldemort originally came after Harry, there are two options:

  • He came after Harry and not Neville because he had specifically chosen Harry as the threat.
  • He was planning on coming after both of them and only coincidentally got to Harry first.

In the first option, Harry is definitely chosen. In the second option, there are two further possibilities:

  • The mere fact that Voldemort ended up attacking Harry first is by definition considered as Voldemort having chosen Harry for the purposes of the prophecy (or at least that Voldemort thinks this).
  • No "choice" was registered when Voldemort first went after Harry.

If the first of these latter options is correct then Harry was chosen. If the second option is correct then no one was chosen. However, that just means that the choice wasn't made until Voldemort came back to power. At that point Voldemort deliberately pursued only Harry and not Neville. Therefore, even if until then there had not been an official choice, once Voldemort regained his power he did make an official choice.

Thus, no matter how you look at it, by the time we get to the second half of the series Harry is chosen and Neville is not. Whether Dumbledore is correct about whether Voldemort's original attack on Harry was an official choice, is basically immaterial.

Therefore, to whatever extent it matters, Harry is the Chosen One and Neville is just Neville.

As a side note, it is possible that Harry did not accept Dumbledore's proffered reason as to why Voldemort chose Harry over Neville:

Neville’s childhood had been blighted by Voldemort just as much as Harry’s had, but Neville had no idea how close he had come to having Harry’s destiny. The prophecy could have referred to either of them, yet, for his own inscrutable reasons, Voldemort had chosen to believe that Harry was the one meant.

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The in-universe answer to that is that of course Albus Dumbledore was not wrong here, because Albus Dumbledore is never wrong.

From an interview:

Oh yes, very much so. Dumbledore often speaks for me.

Bellatrix also provided a quote where Rowling confirms that the general statement above is also true in this specific case.

However his brother knows him best, and he says about Albus:

"I knew my brother, Potter. He learned secrecy at our mother’s knee. Secrets and lies, that’s how we grew up, and Albus. . . he was a natural." (DH)

Albus Dumbledore himself told Harry in the hospital at the end of the first year

"The truth." Dumbledore sighed. "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."

It is possible to lie by omission, causing those listening to reach wrong conclusions, without telling anything that is technically a lie. That is why witnesses swear to tell the whole truth. As his brother points out, for Albus lying by omission is natural.

For example, Snape thinks that he is protecting Lily's son (Harry), until Dumbledore finally reveals his plans.

"You have kept him alive so that he can die at the right moment?... You have used me... I have spied for you and lied for you, put myself in mortal danger for you. Everything was supposed to keep Lily Potter's son safe. Now you tell me you have been raising him like a pig for slaughter" (DH)

And Dumbledore doesn't deny it, because it is the truth and he avoids lying. So instead in his typical style he tries to distract from the truth.

"Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many men and women have you watched die?"

"But this is touching, Severus," said Dumbledore seriously. "Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?"

So we have to ask ourselves, what are Dumbledore's motives at the moment, what does he want to achieve? Dumbledore knows that the prophecy is not binding.

"You are setting too much store by the prophecy!" ... "Would it have meant anything? Of course not! Do you think that every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy has been fulfilled?" (HBP)

"But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him – and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him!" (HBP)

Even knowing this, Dumbledore does exactly the same, he is setting too much store by the prophecy, but what the prophecy says is only significant because Dumbledore believes it is.

At this point Dumbledore tries to convince Harry to follow the path Dumbledore selected for him. And somewhat untypical for Dumbledore, he tries to motivate Harry not with love but with revenge.

"Imagine, please, just for a moment, that you had never heard that prophecy! How would you feel about Voldemort now? Think!"

Harry watched Dumbledore striding up and down in front of him, and thought. He thought of his mother, his father, and Sirius. He thought of Cedric Diggory. He thought of all the terrible deeds he knew Lord Voldemort had done. A flame seemed to leap inside his chest, searing his throat.

"I’d want him finished," said Harry quietly. "And I’d want to do it."

"Of course you would!" cried Dumbledore.

Just yesterday I asked Did Voldemort mark Harry as his equal?. If you read the answers there, you can see that several people are convinced that Voldemort did mark Harry as his equal. And that means the Dumbledore also can convince himself that what he says is (a useful part of) the truth, from a certain point of view (to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi).

So from Dumbledore's point of view, saying this is not wrong, as it furthers his goals and it is not technically a lie.

Aberforth's comments refer exactly to this topic:

"I can’t. It’s got to be me, Dumbledore explained it all –"

"Oh, did he, now? And did he tell you everything, was he honest with you?"

Harry wanted with all his heart to say "yes", but somehow the simple word would not rise to his lips. Aberforth seemed to know what he was thinking.

Note that "honest" here means whether Albus told the whole truth, not whether the parts he told were a lie.

Even Harry, who really wants to believe that Dumbledore told him the whole truth, can't honestly say so.


Personally I agree with you that it doesn't make sense for someone like Voldemort to choose just one and ignore the other. It's not like there is a limit on the number of people he can kill. If there is just a slight chance that someone may eventually grow into a danger, it is a natural decision to remove the danger, like it is a natural decision for him to kill Amelia Bones because she might be an obstacle to his plans.

But to consider someone (or something) a danger doesn't mean to consider them "his equal".

You can say that he chose to attack Harry because he had the opportunity to attack Harry, but that doesn't mean he chose him as "his equal". The Potters made the mistake to choose Peter as their secret keeper, this allowed Voldemort to attack them. The Longbottoms didn't choose a Death Eater as their secret keeper. It doesn't matter from Voldemort's point of view. He has waited for almost two years since he heard the prophecy till he had the opportunity to kill Harry. Within the next years an opportunity to kill Neville would arise, before he could become a danger.

Dumbledore here claims that for Voldemort, a pureblood is the only kind of wizard worth being. Voldemort has an inflated ego, he certainly doesn't consider himself worthless. He might pretend for his followers, but the word "creed" implies that he himself believes it.

So it seems that Dumbledore is stretching the truth quite thin in his attempt to guide Harry to his ultimate suicide.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. – Mohammad Zuhair Khan Aug 23 '18 at 23:20
  • You're welcome. Unfortunately, as you can see from the downvotes of your question and this answer, some people don't appreciate it when Dumbledore's behavior is questioned. – QuestionAuthority Aug 24 '18 at 5:31
  • If I am right I did not receive a single downvote so far. It is +85 rep and is showing 17 upvotes. I was not necessarily anti-dumbledore just believing he was mistaken. – Mohammad Zuhair Khan Aug 24 '18 at 6:19
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    @QuestionAuthority I downvoted not because you question Dumbledore, but because I think your conclusions are wrong. Just like you jump to the conclusion that you are downvoted because of one thing, your answer does not support the conclusion you make. Whether or not Dumbledore tells the truth or whether or ot the prophecy is real has no bearing whatsoever on answering the question whether Voldemort chose harry as his equal. Your criticism of Dumbledore is spot-on and I share it. But it doesn't support your conclusion, imho. – Polygnome Aug 24 '18 at 6:22
  • @Polygnome Thank you for the explanation. Without further information I can only guess, I think it is useful to explain why you think something is bad. I think whether the prophecy is real is important, because if it is, then it is true by definition of being real. If Dumbledore tell the truth, then Voldemort did choose Harry, because Dumbledore says so. – QuestionAuthority Aug 24 '18 at 6:31

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