So has JKR ever mentioned, or is it indicated anywhere in canon why Fawkes did not come to save Dumbledore when he was confronted by Draco and the four other Death Eaters on the Astronomy Tower on that fateful night in Chapter 27 of the Half-Blood Prince?

There are several instances where Fawkes was timely in saving his master and Harry.

I know there's an out-of-universe answer to every question on books (Dumbledore had to die so that Harry can continue on this path alone, albeit aided by Ron and Hermione). I'm not looking for any of that please.

Was Dumbledore simply prepared to die that night?

  • 13
    Have you not read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? The answer to your question is very much part of the storyline. Avoid the answers if you don't want spoilers for the next book.
    – Oli
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 8:52
  • @Oli I have, thank you. I've been reading the books for over 14 years now. As I've explained below, I'm at the nitpicking stage where I question everything that appears incongruous to the general story. The plan you're referring to between Dumbledore and Snape did not stop Dumbledore from saving himself to fight and die another day. Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:51
  • This is my opinion and I can't check if it's true. During the battle at the ministry Fawkes swallowed Avada Kedavra from Voldemort and was a newborn. It might be entirely possible that in a year's time he has not grown so much to be able to perform any magical feats.
    – Zikato
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    @Zikato: Your theory can easily be disproved. In Chamber of Secrets, Fawkes is reborn on page 225 and already doing magical feats (such as blinding the basilisk, healing Harry, and carrying Harry and the others back up) on pages 342 ff.
    – chirlu
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 13:05
  • @chirlu To be fair, he was reborn from natural Phoenix life cycle (old age). It might be different when he takes hit from Avada Kedavra.
    – Zikato
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 13:22

7 Answers 7


Was Dumbledore simply prepared to die that night?


In fact, as is explained in Deathly Hallows,

He planned to die. He’d worked out a plan with Snape that would result in his death, the effect of which would be to break the power of the Elder Wand and cement Snape’s place as a spy within Voldemort’s ranks. (And remember that he was already dying from the curse on the horcrux ring; he didn’t have long to live anyway.)

He could also have apparated away, or hopped on one of the brooms, or turned himself invisible, but he chose not to. He was ready to die, and he wasn’t going to run away.

  • Yes, in the first book, he was able to achieve invisibility without using invisibility cloak.
    – user931
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 16:18
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    He could not have apparated away, as you can't apparate or disapparate within Hogwarts (at least within the books, I understand the movies slightly altered this).
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 19:56
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    @Jeff Dumbledore is able to apparate to/from Hogwarts - that's how they got back to the Astronomy Tower after going after the Horcrux.
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 20:29
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    @RobWatts No, Jeff is right. They apparate into Hogsmeade, then fly to the tower. (The movies have them apparating, and cut out Rosmerta.) It’s possible Dumbledore could apparate, but I don’t think it’s ever explicitly stated, so I’ve removed it for now.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 8:20
  • 2
    @alexwlchan Dumbledore cannot apparate. Three things that tell us this: Book 1: Dumbledore was flying to the Ministry then decided to turn back. Book 6: Dumbledore temporarily lifts the enchantments on a specific section of the castle to allow for apparation classes. Book 6 again: Dumbledore specifically says he shows himself in Hogsmeades (either at Rosmerta or at the Hog's Head) so as to disguise the fact that he's leaving Hogwarts. Then he'd disapparate to where he's looking for the horcruxes. Wouldn't it be easier to disapparate from his office? No one would know he isn't there. Commented Feb 10, 2015 at 20:44


Fawkes is very bright; it's entirely possible he was told to stay away, and not attempt to help him, if the event arose. Fawkes could not cure his hand, nor bring him back to life after death by Killing Curse; those were both curses, and phonenix tears aren't a counter-spell, and instead, work on physical injuries. He had to die and chose the less painful of two death, that would achieve the greatest end.


Dumbledore was injured while playing with the Black Stone. He was getting weaker which was observed when he fought with Voldemort in OOTP. If he had continued living, there was a chance that Voldemort might defeat him and become the lawful owner of the Elder Wand.

He chose to die instead at the hands of Snape by choice so that the ownership of Elder Wand stays with him and it can not be used to cause more harm in future. Hence the Fawkes didn't come to help him.

  • (bit of a spoiler) Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 5:43
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    He wasn't weak from the stone in ootp
    – user46509
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 21:13
  • @CarlSixsmith oops :) In my mind these two statements were separate i.e. (He was getting weaker coz of Old age in OOTP and in HBP he fatally (my guess) injured himself with the stone)
    – eshaa
    Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 6:53

Yes, I think Dumblerdore was ready to die, as soon as the "time would be appropriate":

  • because he was dying anyway, because of the ring curse
  • and he had planned to use this and to choose the way he died in order to:
    • kill the power of the Elder Wand
    • increase Snape's credibility to Voldemort
    • "Save" Draco

Of course, all this was planned since a few months, and, if he did not choose to die earlier, why that night, why not try and gain a little bit more time?

My guess is that :

  1. His remaining life expectancy had lessened hugely that night. Like he said, the potion he drank in the cave was no health drink. He was awfully weakened, even struggling to stand. No certainty, but he would probably have died anyhow a few hours or days later because of that potion.

  2. It's never really precised how the Unbreakable Vow time limit functions, but the situation described in Snape's vow to Narcissa was clearly happening : Draco was in the position to kill Dumbledore, and yet seemed unable to do it. Snape was there and aware of it. I think not fulfilling his vow at this moment would have meant breaking it. So the situation itself implied that Dumbledore and Snape's plan had to happen at that moment, and they both knew it.

So, maybe, probably or certainly, Dumbledore could have fought and defend himself, with different means, even despite his weakness. But he didn't wanted to, he understood the time for his plan realization was there.
(I also think this is the reason why he immobilized Harry.)

And Fawkes, who respected Dumbledore, respected his plan and his will.


I'm rather surprised, the most obvious answer here seems to be missing.


How could Fawkes have helped him? A phoenix is a powerful magical creature, yes, but it has shown no battle prowess beyond that of a strong bird. Fawkes hurt the basilisk, sure, but only by attacking its eyes, which doesn't require any great strength. It has no offensive magical abilities that we've seen. A bird versus a bunch of armed Death Eaters - not exactly a fair fight.

It could show up and swallow the Avada Kedavra from Snape, sure (though of course by that point Dumbledore wouldn't want it to) but then what? You'd be back in the same position, save with a baby Fawkes (that the Death Eaters could perhaps kill for real, somehow? Maybe I should ask a question about phoenix mortality...). Dumbledore would still be nearly dead and wandless, surrounded by Death Eaters.

With or without Fawkes, Dumbledore's fate was sealed the moment he immobilised Harry.


It's been pointed out to me that Fawkes could have teleported Dumbledore away. I suppose this is true, though, in canon, we have no explanation of how and why Fawkes appears when he does. It's likely he has some form of autonomy, since he appears to Harry in book 2 (though at a stretch maybe you could claim Dumbledore had some sort of "help-student-who-needs-it" spell going on). He's with Dumbledore when he flees in book 5, and then appears during the duel (again, it's not clear if he appeared of his own will or was summoned, though Dumbledore's calm demeanour suggests summoned to me).

Not much info to go on! Perhaps it takes energy/strength for Dumbledore to summon him that he simply didn't have in the tower?

Perhaps the potion blocked the connection between the two? That would make sense, since Voldemort didn't want anyone being rescued from the cave.

Unfortunately, without any more canon info, it's largely just speculation. Hell, perhaps Fawkes was out on some Order business, or even just sleeping!

One slightly more informed possibility is that Dumbledore judged the risk of leaving an immobilised Harry - even an invisible one - with the Death Eaters too high. After all, if one were to trip over him, he'd be dead. Or I could absolutely see a scene where Greyback stops mid-sentence and starts sniffing the air, moving towards Harry... (Do werewolves have heightened senses in the HP world?)

  • No one is suggesting that Fawkes should have suited up for battle. Read the responses on comments above to see the general direction of this question. Your answer is, as you say, rather surprising, because (again) nobody was talking about Fawkes taking on the Death Eaters. Fawkes could have simply dissaparated with his master, who would live to fight and eventually die another day. Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 18:52
  • Ah, my bad, I'll amend the answer! It is a tricky question, since I completely agree that Dumbledore wasn't planning his death that night.
    – DavidS
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 11:20
  • @DavidS Dumbledore was planning his death. Harry says so in The Deathly Hallows to Voldemort after speaking to Dumbledore about the night Dumbledore died. Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 1:56

Fawkes may be just temporary bonded to Dumbledore as he is an effective immortal being. So Fawkes was not Dumbledores pet but his friend. A reason why Fawkes didn't save Dumbledore can be that it was fate/destiny that Dumbledore had to die, that his life is over. Also there is this curse on the Gaunt Ring/Resurection Stone which allowed him just one year to life on - and only because of Severus Snapes' quick intervention. Even Fawkes may not been able to save him and as a creature of light he was compulsed to allow Dumbledore to die without pain.

  • A creature of light, eh?
    – AJL
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 20:16
  • @AJL, probably a creature of fire too ;D Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 1:57

I think that Dumbledore just told Fawkes not to save him because if Snape hadn’t killed him that night either the Unbreakable Vow would have taken into effect or Voldemort would have killed him and Dumbledore needed Snape in Voldie’s good books.

  • A noble self sacrifice. Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 1:58

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