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In Chapter 1 of Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid mentioned that Sirius Black lent him his motorbike. Based on the information we now know from the earlier parts of Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore was still under the impression that Sirius was STILL the Potters' Secret-Keeper. It was only in the ending of this book that we found out that the Potters' Secret-Keeper was switched from Sirius to Wormtail. We eventually find out that Voldemort got to the Potters' on Wormtail's information.

Since Dumbledore was still under the impression that Sirius was the Secret-Keeper (a fact to which he himself gave testimony to the Wizarding body) shouldn't he have immediately blame Sirius for the Potters' death? After all, Voldemort could have only known their location with the help of Sirius. (Again, we know that this was not the case, but on October 31-November 1 that was still the only information Dumbledore had). See where I am getting to, or have I lost you?

Anyway, Hagrid mentioned again that he was going to return the motorcycle to Sirius after he dropped baby Harry off at the Dursley's, yet Dumbledore did not do anything to stop him.

Don't you think Dumbledore should have warned Hagrid and alerted the Ministry of Magic about Sirius as the betrayer of the Potters? Do you think this is just a result of JK Rowling not knowing that she'll use Sirius in future books?

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    He was in denial? Good question btw. – Don_Biglia Jan 16 '15 at 9:11
  • I'm speculating, but maybe Dumbledore only found out about Sirius being the secret keeper later? He might not have been that close to the Potter's to know that Sirius was supposed to be their secret keeper. – mort Jan 16 '15 at 9:18
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    @mort No, Dumbledore knew that Sirius was their secret keeper. He offered to be their secret keeper himself but James turned him down and told him that Sirius was good enough and that he would die before he told Voldemort the secret. Again, Dumbledore testified that he knew that Sirius was the secret keeper. – Mermish Essence Jan 16 '15 at 9:22
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    Or, Dumbledore testified that the last he knew of, Sirius was the secret keeper. Dumbledore may have suspected otherwise, but couldn't truthfully testify that he knew Sirius wasn't the secret keeper. Dumbledore wasn't present for whatever spell picks the secret keeper, or he would have known it was Pettigrew. – user31178 Jan 16 '15 at 17:13
  • @CreationEdge You're making my point. – Mermish Essence Jan 16 '15 at 17:26
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First let me congratulate you on an excellent question. Really made me think!

I'll break down your question (and my answer) into multiple issues. This is all my conjecture, with all the quotes I can find for support, but to quote from Dumbledore in HBP, "We are dealing with guesswork here" [non-verbatim].

Why didn't Dumbledore alert the Ministry of Sirius' betrayal?

Well, he did. Or at least the Ministry is aware of the security arrangements around the Potters, Fidelius Charm and all, and has probably been keeping tabs on those involved. In the conversation at the Three Broomsticks, it was Fudge who brought up the Fidelius Charm.

"Worse than that, m'dear..." Fudge dropped his voice and proceeded in a sort of low rumble. "Not many people are aware that the Potters knew You-Know-Who was after them....Dumbledore told them that their best chance was the Fidelius Charm."

PoA. Ch. X The Marauder's Map.

Fudge was, at the time, "Junior Minister in the Department of Magical Catastrophes" [ibid] and was first at the scene Wormtail and Padfoot caused with all those Muggles [ibid]. So he is well-placed in the Ministry to be aware of issues related to Voldemort.

How sure are we that Fudge did not learn of these facts retroactively? That he knew this thanks to being a Ministry official at the time?

Inference working here. A majority of the magical population only knew that Black is the most loyal supporter of Voldemort, second-in-command, etc. They did not know what role Black had in the demise of the Potters.

"Do you know, I still have trouble believing it," said Madam Rosmerta thoughtfully. "Of all the people to go over to the Dark Side, Sirius Black was the last I'd have thought...."

"You don't know the half of it, Rosmerta," said Fudge gruffly. "The worst he did isn't widely known."

[Ibid.] Emphasis added.

The worst isn't widely known, so I bet the worst was only known to (select) members of the Order and (select) members of the Ministry.

Why didn't Dumbledore alert Hagrid then?

For, probably, the same reason he did not tell everyone else, whatever that is. Moreover, he may have feared for Hagrid's safety knowing how hot-blooded and impulsive Hagrid can get. In the same chapter I have been quoting so far, Hagrid goes really emotional to the point of thinking he could take on a dark wizard mano-a-mano.

As for the motorbike, I believe Sirius already gave it to him so he wasn't planning to return it.

".... Told me ter take his motorbike ter get Harry there. 'I won't need it anymore,' he says.

"I shoulda known there was somethin' fishy goin' on then. He loved that motorbike, what was he givin' it to me for? Why wouldn' he need it anymore?..."

Hagrid at [Ibid.] Emphasis added.

However, I'd acknowledge that, in PS, the actual wording was,

"Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir," said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorcycle as he spoke. "Young Sirius Black lent it to me. I've got him [Harry], sir."

PS, Ch I, The Boy Who Lived. Emphasis added.

I'm not a native English speaker so there might be linguistic nuance to "borrowed" that I'm missing but I think this might be a wrinkle in Rowling's plot. However, it changes little of Dumbledore's possible reasons as I've outlined above.

So there. The Ministry knew but not the common folk (Hagrid included). What this implies though is that, the Order worked closer with the Ministry in the first Voldemort war than it did in the second. Details of this collaboration is, alas, another question entirely.

  • Great response. The "borrowed" there was just that. Of course, since JKR never addressed it, all we have to go on is conjecture. – Mermish Essence Feb 24 '15 at 8:19
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Dumbledore had just had a long night that proved how omniscient he wasn't, and wasn't about to throw an accusation without time to think about it.

His highest priority was to protect Harry, and seiving through events could come later. Sure, Sirius betraying the Potters was the strongest possibility, and being near enough to the scene to loan his bike to Hagrid is more suspicious. This probably leapt to mind immediately. Neither was proof though, other explanations could cover him (and much much later, did) and keeping mum could bring him more information if Hagrid would talk to him again. He also had Snape as a source to fall back on.

Sadly for Sirius, none of that played out in time to save him. Hagrid never saw him again that night, Snape knew nothing, and Pettigrew put his escape con into play quickly once he realized the trouble he was in. Dumbledore, given an open and shut sequence of events, accepted his initial instincts and moved on.

  • Your answer is not in accordance with the books, sorry. Several things: When Harry finally got to the Dursley's doorstep it was already over 24 hours since the event took place at the Potters. We know this because the wizards have been celebrating all throughout the day of November 1. Remember Uncle Vernon and the muggles kept seeing owls, shooting stars, and weirdly dressed people? JK Rowling conceded that she does not know how she could have made this blunder. This meant that Harry was in the house for hours after his parents were killed. – Mermish Essence Jan 16 '15 at 17:19
  • What is more, Hagrid DID see Sirius again! Sirius told him that Hagrid should keep the motorcycle because he (Sirius) would not need it where he was going. This means he was planning on killing Wormtail. It is inconceivable that it took a great wizard like Dumbledore over 24 hours to remember that Sirius was the secret keeper. – Mermish Essence Jan 16 '15 at 17:22
  • @Mermish - Well, I can change my answer to better fit the timeline if you've got a source for Rowlings comments, and when I get a chance i'll recheck the books for Hagrids version of events. I never said Dumbledore had forgotten though, so I stand by a majority of my answer. – Radhil Jan 16 '15 at 17:28
  • Yes, please reread the books. Google helps too. – Mermish Essence Jan 16 '15 at 17:46
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    @Mermish - i'll ignore the patronizing. Per Azkaban ch. 10 and the whole conversation at Three Broomsticks, Hagrids entire conversation with Sirius was after he retrieved Harry but before he left on Sirius' bike to get to the Dursleys. So they just talked the once. Still looking for good source for Rowlings timeline. – Radhil Jan 16 '15 at 18:02
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I think Dumbledore was concentrating on the bigger problem that is keeping Harry safe. Secondly I think he might have believed that Sirius Black's attempt at trying to take custody of Harry Potter from Hagrid was his final attempt at redemption (in the eyes of fellow death eaters).

I agree he could have informed Minerva McGonagall and Hagrid about Sirius Black deceiving the Potters but they were already sad, that James and Lilly Potter had died. Informing them that Sirius had betrayed the Potters would have hurt more.

He did not inform Hagrid earlier because he did not want Hagrid to be distracted from the task at hand which was retrieving Harry. And from the book it is clear that Dumbledore had not informed McGonagall about the murder of Potters, so logically he could not tell her that Sirius was responsible.

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Sirius had already been arrested by the time Hagrid delivered Harry to Privet Drive.

Let us reconstruct the timeline of events:

In Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter Nineteen Sirius tells Harry the following:

The night they died, I'd arranged to check on Peter, make sure he was still safe, but when I arrived at his hiding place, he'd gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn't feel right. I was scared. I set out for your parents house straight away. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I realized what Peter must have done... what I'd done....

This establishes that Sirius went to Godric's Hollow on the night of October 31st (the night the Potters were killed). Now let's turn to what Hagrid says in Chapter One of Philosopher's Stone:

"Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir," said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorcycle as he spoke. "Young Sirius Black lent it to me. I've got him, sir."

This tells us that Hagrid hat met Sirius at some point before arriving at Privet Drive, but it doesn't tell us when that point was.

In Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter Ten Hagrid gives us the additional crucial detail:

Jus' got him outta the ruins, poor little thing, with a great slash across his forehead, an' his parents dead... an' Sirius Black turns up, on that flyin' motorbike he used ter ride.

This tells us that Hagrid's meeting with Sirius also occurred on the night of October 31st.

After Hagrid tells his story, we find out when Sirius was caught:

A long silence followed Hagrid's story. Then Madam Rosmerta said with some satisfaction, "But he didn't manage to disappear, did he? The Ministry of Magic caught up with him next day!"

"Alas, if only we had," said Fudge bitterly. "It was not we who found him. It was little Peter Pettigrew — another one of the Potters' friends. Maddened by grief, no doubt, and knowing that Black had been the Potters' Secret-Keeper, he went after Black himself."

Fudge only contradicts the assertion that it was the Ministry that found Black, not the assertion that it was the next day. Thus, we can assume that Sirius was caught the next day, which would be sometime on November 1st.

Going back to Philosopher's Stone, we know that the dropoff at Privet Drive did not occur until November 1st, because throughout the first chapter we see (from Vernon Dursley's perspective) wizards celebrating throughout the day; i.e. Voldemort had been defeated the previous night. When Dumbledore finally arrives, we have the following description:

In fact it was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all.

So Hagrid borrowed Sirius's bike on the night of October 31st, Sirius was apprehended at some time on November 1st, and the meeting at Privet Drive began slightly before midnight on November 1st and it was perhaps already the early moments of November 2nd by the time Hagrid arrived. So by the time Hagrid was leaving Privet Drive, Sirius had already been apprehended. In fact, for all we know, he may have already been in Azkaban, since as we know from Goblet of Fire Chapter Twenty-Seven he was sent to Azkaban without a trial:

"Oh I know Crouch all right," he said quietly. "He was the one who gave the order for me to be sent to Azkaban — without a trial."

This being the case, there was no way that Hagrid would be able to meet up with Sirius again after leaving Privet Drive. Presumably, Dumbledore was aware of this; an incident of such proportions might have been already public knowledge even without taking into account the fact that a man of Dumbledore's influence and power likely would have been informed immediately. Additionally, we know Dumbledore was at least somewhat involved because in Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter Twenty-One he said that he gave testimony:

I myself gave evidence to the Ministry that Sirius had been the Potters' Secret-Keeper."

So there was really no need for Dumbledore to warn Hagrid and alert the Ministry. The Ministry already had Sirius in custody, and Hagrid might have already known this as well. As for why Hagrid would say that he's going to return the bike to Sirius, and why Dumbledore would not have at least told him that it would be a waste of time, I think we have to look at what Hagrid really said. Here is the quote:

"Yeah," said Hagrid in a very muffled voice, "I'd best get this bike away. G'night, Professor McGonagall — Professor Dumbledore, sir."

He doesn't specifically say that he's going to return it to Sirius. All he says is that he's going to get it away. Now a reader at that point would have no reason to suspect that Hagrid meant something other than "return it to Sirius", in hindsight it can certainly be interpreted more broadly. This is especially so, given that in Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter Ten, Hagrid says that Sirius told him he could keep the bike:

Told me ter take his motorbike ter get Harry there. 'I won't need it anymore,' he says.

Though the use of the terms "borrowed" and "lent" in Philosopher's Stone might imply otherwise, it is possible that Hagrid was not being perfectly precise.

(It would still be somewhat odd that they talk about Sirius so matter-of-factly, without anyone mentioning that he had been arrested mere hours earlier.)

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