Most of this discussion involves events at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so if you haven't read that book and don't want spoilers, then stop reading right now.

Yes, now.

It's not clear whether limbo is something everyone moves through in Harry Potter when they die, but when Harry is killed, he not only ends up there, but Dumbledore is there, waiting for him.

Did Dumbledore wait for him all that time, in limbo, until Harry showed up? Did he have any way of watching what Harry was doing in that time? Or did he have a way to enter limbo when Harry did to meet him there?

And once Harry was gone, was Dumbledore able to move on, or would he be stuck there?

5 Answers 5


I am not sure Dumbledore actually is in limbo: as he says himself, all of this is happening in Harry's head... the way I understand this part of the book, Harry already knows the things Dumbledore is explaining him, but his imagination (or subconscious, whichever you prefer) shapes this "unknown knowledge" into a conversation with his mentor.

I'm probably too rational. :)

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    I think you're correct, there was never any suggestion that it was Limbo, just Harry's mind controlling what was going on as he wasn't really dead (or at least had the choice it seems)
    – AlasdairCM
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 10:20
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    Well if JKR said that the reader may believe what they want, then I believe that the dead can cross over to the limbo (the middle world) in order to greet the newly dead, to welcome and guide them over. Dumbledore simply went to the middle world (limbo) to talk with Harry. I also believe this is how the resurrection stone works, it is a kind of portal between the living world and the middle world, which allows the dead to visit the living. Commented May 24, 2012 at 18:25
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    There's no such thing as "too rational". +1 Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 19:53
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    @ApproachingDarknessFish Tell that to pi! Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 17:20
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Ah, I didn't make the connection that it was Pi itself that was expressing judgement. Very well! Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 8:40

JK Rowling has said:

Elisabeth: In the chapter of Kings Cross, are they behind the veil or in some world between the real world and the veil?
J.K. Rowling: You can make up your own mind on this, but I think that Harry entered a kind of limbo between life and death.

If it's a place of limbo between life and death, then it makes sense that Dumbledore, being dead (perhaps being a very powerful wizard helped too), could reach it from the 'other' side. He couldn't travel all the way back to the land of the living, but he could go halfway to meet someone who'd travelled halfway in the other direction.

After their meeting, we can assume that Dumbledore returned to the land of the dead, where his family were. His would be a terrible fate otherwise, stuck forever alone in limbo-land. This is shown more clearly in the film, where Dumbledore disappears into the whiteness before Harry leaves 'Kings Cross' to return to the Forbidden Forest.


I had gotten the feeling that Dumbledore had been waiting for Harry. He had been keeping an eye on Harry by interviewing dead people as they pass through. He seemed to have too much information that Harry didn't know for it all to be Harry talking to himself. It's certainly possible that he can go and visit limbo from the other side, but given how little information about the afterlife reaches the world of the living, it's probably a one-way trip.

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    That might answer "Why?" but it does not answer "How?"
    – Tango
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 5:55

Based on the movie (having not read any of the books)...

As presented, it is largely open to interpretation as to exactly what is going on. Dumbledore does say that it is all happening in Harry's head. Dumbledore states that Harry could board a train; Harry puts the question about where it will take him; Dumbledore simple answers "on". This would seem to suggest that the Dumbledore Harry sees really knows nothing more than Harry himself already knows, and so could just be a facet of Harry appearing as Dumbledore.

The scene ends with Harry making a decision; this would suggest that the whole point of Harry's visit to the station was to make a decision: fight for life or be carried away by death. Leading up to it was Harry having chosen to forfeit his life in order to defeat Voldemort. Harry's station visit was coincident with his revelation that the piece of Voldemort inhabiting his soul had just died, but Harry himself didn't have to. It all seems to be just a dream-like vision in which Harry is conversing with himself in order to process what just happened and decide which path to take.

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    I'm sorry, but I see no point in reading past "having not read any of the books," since there is always a large amount of information in books that never makes it to the movies. That makes this answer a guess and the point of the site is to present clear answers with backing. Beyond that first sentence, though, starting with "largely open to interpretation" is another way of saying, "We don't know." So this essentially is an answer saying we don't know.
    – Tango
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 18:07
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    @Tango, I agree that not having read the books leaves you with substantially less information, that said I do very strongly disagree with your attitude. Small chance or no, he could alway think of something we didn't, perhaps the information of the movies is enough, or we might be overthinking... Even when there's almost no chance at all... Not listening is an ignorant treat, and especially picking on someone for that is wrong. If you truly believe otherwise you should encourage him to read those books instead...
    – Jarno
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 17:58
  • In the book, Dumbledore said to Harry: This is happening inside your head, but why should that mean it's not real?
    – Invoker
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:48

I don't think we should perceive wizarding Limbo in terms of "Newtonian physics". Now can you even be sure there is such concept as time in there? There maybe no such things as "waiting" or "stuck" there.

But in general I think Dumbledore in Harry's Limbo similar to those appeared from a Resurrection Stone or from the wand after Priory Incantatem (see discussion on Priori "echos" here), or even Riddle in the diary. Some sentient imprints of dead people. We do not assume they were actually sitting somewhere in some ghostly waiting room, reading magazines while waiting to appear. Riddle do not seem to experience time when he was trapped in the diary (that would be damn boring). Though Riddle is a bit different case as he never was on "other side" to return, but he still may be similar in terms of perceiving time and "being".

They are either like shadows of the people summoned from "other side" when needed, or projections that are not summoned from anywhere, but rather just are when some magical act put them to be.

Does that make sense?

  • Events happen in sequence there. Harry says something, then Dumbledore responds. There is cause and effect. Therefore there is a flow of time. But I think your point about it being more of a sentient imprint could be worth considering.
    – Tango
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 4:20

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