In the Buckbeak execution scene, I'm almost certain that Dumbledore is in on the mission for the hippogriff's "break-out"; The scene makes it very clear that Dumbledore is purposely stalling the Minister from looking towards Buckbeak, which would reveal the escape - He does it over and over, just barely giving Harry and Hermione enough time to escape with the hippogriff unseen by the Minister.

Later that night, Dumbledore, upon hearing of Sirius's innocence, suggests that Harry and Hermione go back in time to save "two innocent lives", one being Buckbeak, and the other Sirius.

How was it possible for Dumbledore to have been in on the plan that he didn't set in motion (or know to set in motion) until many hours later?

  • 1
    Film or book? I remember the film shows this very explicitly (tomatoes and so on) but can't remember in the book. Dumbledore may have had the plan in mind already. IIRC he says Sirius explained the situation and it was new to him, plus he couldn't know he'd be captured. Thus I would say that he had the Buckbeak saving part of the plan in mind already. Alternatively (wild speculation) he himself went back in time (super wild speculation) and this is Dumbledore: if anyone could survive a conversation with a future self it's him, and he could have told himself. First idea is suggested more inbook
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 21:56
  • @MacCooper Film. That's the only option that makes sense to me. One way or the other, that's Dumbledore's second self, backwards in time in Hagrid's hut.
    – user26060
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 21:58
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    If I remember the scene properly the film exaggerated the whole time travel thing and was kinda weird altogether. Alternatively, dumebledore may have merely been waiting for harry and Hermione to escape, not with buckbeak, having guessed they'd have come to see hagrid. Or he saw them going down from the castle. Or lupin or Snape told him depending on the timings, having seen it on the map
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:02
  • @MacCooper Lupin with map: not quite - Hagrid mentions that Dumbledore planned ahead. He had already told Hagrid that he was coming by the time Lupin might have seen them had he been looking at the map (if Lupin had been worried about that sort of thing after just hearing of Peter's existence)
    – user26060
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:11
  • @MacCooper Dumbledore waiting for them to escape - That one can't be ruled out; however I have trouble believing that Dumbledore, who always seems to leave Harry's survival to Harry, would have bothered with helping him escape light trouble. I imagine Dumbledore would know Harry and his friends to be more than capable of avoiding detection if their own escape was all that was on their minds. No, I think the only thing that would merit Albus stalling as seriously as he did would be to aid in a more difficult escape, involving the hyppogriff
    – user26060
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:16

3 Answers 3


A possibility is that Dumbledore knew that Harry and Hermione had traveled back already. At least early on in the series there's a general sense that he knows pretty much everything that goes on in the school. He may even have charms set up to notify him when someone time travels within the school grounds (or something along those lines).

Although he has no knowledge of the plan, he is aware that Harry and Hermione have traveled back in time, and that at the very least Hermione would never misuse the Time Turner unless there was a very good reason. Putting that together with the timing of Buckbeak's execution he may have deduced what their goal was, and that it is most likely being carried out under his orders.

After that he simply stalls the execution, not knowing the exact outcome, but reasoning that it will assist the two in stopping the execution.

  • Quite speculative but makes sense
    – Envite
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 12:48
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    +1 for "carried out under his orders". I always loved this scene: Dumbledore seems to know himself well.
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 16:28

Knowing Dumbledore as well as I do, I would say he already knew about the plan well at least partly.

  • Dumbledore already knew about Hermiones' Time Turner.
  • Dumbledore loves Hagrid and we can very easily say that he was against the execution of buckbeak regardless of his feelings for Hagrid anyway.

Based on this information it's safe to say that Dumbledore will have already had a plan in his mind about how to save buckbeak. After the events of the Shrieking Shack, the lake and Sirius's capture, Dumbledore speaks to Sirius and realises he is innocent. Thereafter he plans to include Sirius in his plan.


There always has to be a start to something. When a being travels back in time, or forward in time, it keeps repeating, but it had to start somewhere when the being decided to travel in time.

There's nothing different about this scenario. Dumbledore already knew Hermione had her Time-Turner, and perhaps before the first time he thought of the plan, Buckbeak really was executed, and Sirius and Harry were given the Dementor's Kiss (they would not have been saved by Harry's Patronus).

But then, he could have been thinking in his office about how things could have gone much differently, and put two-and-two together and come up with the plan to save everyone. This theory, however, creates a paradox because Harry would have been useless in the rescue of Buckbeak and himself and Sirius because he would have already received the Kiss, making him unable to produce a Patronus.

Of course, this is all pure speculation as there does not seem to be any canonical evidence from the books, movies, or interviews with J.K. Rowling. There are hundreds of possibilities of how Dumbledore thought of it in the first place, and how to avoid a paradox in every situation.

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