pqotw 166

Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 166

Dumbledore & Harry’s pasts are strikingly similar – but why did they never discuss it?

Why did Dumbledore never tell Harry of their shared history in Godric’s Hollow? They both have a lot of family tragedy connected with this village, and they both have meaningful reasons to return to this village, and to learn more about themselves and their history by visiting it. Harry instead has to learn it through gravestones, and books, and passed down stories – rather than a personal connection. So why did Dumbledore choose to keep this particular emotional story from Harry, when it is so obvious that Harry has been yearning for some connection to his family, for so long?

Let us know what you think in the comments below or by sending us an Audioboom!

  • You always seem to talk about things that I’m thinking about while reading another one of the books. Circles.

  • When would Dumbledore have told Harry? There were always more immediate topics in discussion between the two. Dumbledore really never told Harry anything about himself.

    • ISeeThestrals

      The best times I can think of to reveal this, off the top of my head, is following the events of the Triwizard tournament in book four. Harry had admitted to seeing some form of his parents spew out of Voldemort’s wand, so there, Dumbledore could have brought up this connection they have in Godric’s Hollow. However, the problem with Dumbledore revealing it here would be too much for Harry who was beyond exhausted with the events that took place at Voldemort’s rebirth.
      So if not in book 4, most likely book 5, without it being too late by putting in in the sixth one. Dumbledore said then he was about to tell Harry everything he should have long ago. Also Sirius had just died, and Harry didn’t believe Dumbledore when he said he knew what Harry was feeling. There, Dumbledore could have finally revealed this part of his past. The best moment for Dumbledore to bring up the mention of family is when something family related comes up.

      • IamHuffeldorhearmeroar

        My thoughts are that Dumbledore could have told Harry of this connection as early as Christmas time during Harry’s first year of Hogwarts. He could have given him his cloak of invisibility and told him about their connection of Godric’s Hollow. This might have been an nice way of showing Harry that he had belonging in a strange new world that Harry was still trying to find connection in. I find it very interesting that Dumbledore was so silent about the subject of the subject. He could have brought up the subject so many times to Harry. Is suggests to me that Dumbledore had much more deep seeded emotional reasons for keeping this from Harry. Even just beginning to talk about the subject must have brought up so much pain and shame for Dumbledore. Maybe this was a chapter in Dumbledore life he could not bring it up even all those years later. I am also wondering if Dumbledore blames himself for the deaths of Lilly and James. He had the Cloak of Invisibility which is the Deathly Hallow that hide’s its owner from death. Dumbledore had it in his possession when Lilly and James were murdered. This not only could have cause Dumbledore pain and shame but also could have caused old feelings of his sister’s death as well. I think this would have been the motivator to keep the connection between him and Harry a secret. Dumbledore needed to be able to trust himself to teach Harry about his destiny. At the end of the day it might have just been to painful for him to bring up.

        • ISeeThestrals

          Personally I think Harry’s first year would have been too soon. They hadn’t quite yet formed a bond so I wouldn’t imagine Dumbledore sharing something that personal with Harry until they had gotten to know each other better. If the reason he kept quiet was because it was so painful, then he couldn’t have mustered the courage to bring it up then. I also don’t know if it would have had a great impact on Harry then as it does now as Dumbledore was still a stranger to him and he was still coming to terms with all the new people and magical things he was encountering. It would’ve made a nice connection though like you said.

        • 11 is WAY too young to tell a kid he’s got to commit an ostensible suicide. Take it from a thirteen year old. Then again, he’s Harry freakin Potter!

          • IamHuffeldorhearmeroar

            I do agree that 11 is way to young to be telling harry that he has to be the one to kill Voldemort. In my comment I was talking about Dumbledore sharing the fact that they are from Godric’s Hollow. He could have given the cloak to Harry and then shared the fact with him in order to help him feel more connected knowing that he and Dumbledore have some things in common with their pasts. This would have made this moment more special.

      • It definitely would have made sense if Dumbledore brought up Harry and his connection to Godric’s Hollow during their discussion after the events at the Ministry of Magic in “Order of the Phoenix”. Harry was definitely in a very rough spot emotionally after Sirius’ death, so if Dumbledore had brought up the information regarding his family history during their conversation, then it might have quelled Harry’s rage and outbursts towards him sooner than it happened once Harry learned about Dumbledore’s experience with loss. However, I think that at that point he probably didn’t want to overwhelm Harry with too much information, since the discussion of the prophecy was the large part of that particular conversation, and Dumbledore admitted that he thought Harry “had enough responsibility to be going on with.” In Harry’s first few years at Hogwarts, Dumbledore’s first priority regarding him was to protect him from certain truths that might have been too much for Harry to handle at the time (even though I think he sorely underestimated Harry’s emotional stability and maturity). The “right time” to reveal such personal information would definitely have been in Harry’s later years at Hogwarts.

  • Yo Rufus On Fire

    This is such a great question. I love questions about Dumbledore.

    I think that there are a lot of reasons why Dumbledore did not tell Harry about this. The biggest one for me is that if Dumbledore had brought it up then Harry would have asked him to take him there and I don’t think Dumbledore would have wanted to take Harry there. If Dumbledore went with Harry, he would be going back to the place where he lost his entire family especially Ariana and would have to relive all of the awful things that happened there. Emotions would come flooding back about Grindlewald and how he in the end defeated him.

    This sounds like pretty selfish reasons for Dumbledore not wanting to go back or tell Harry about Godric’s Hollow but I don’t think it is. If he went back with Harry then he would realize that Harry is really his only family left and that would make them closer right? No, Dumbledore knows that Harry must die, I think that it would drive Dumbledore farther away from Harry or it could be the complete opposite. If he takes him to Godric’s Hollow they’re connection would become even greater and I think that would have screwed up Dumbledore’s mission. He tells Harry all the time that he cares too much for him and that some times his emotions get in the way.

    Harry must experience Godric’s Hollow without Dumbledore because visiting this village is a huge part of him growing up. He sees the house and the sign that people have been writing on and it starts to amp him up after he’s been depressed. It helps him grow to know that there are other people out there that truly believe in him, not just Dumbledore trying to protect him from the outside world the same why he has tried to before.

    Dumbledore wants to tell Harry everything, I’m sure of it, but he knows he can not. He is the only one that can carry out this mission. Harry must die in the end to bring down Voldemort. Dumbledore has taken it upon himself to make sure that it comes true, so if they were to have this deep conversation and emotional experience then the series might have end differently.

  • Buckbeak is my spirit animal

    I think Dumbledore didn’t take Harry because he needed to distance himself. When Dumbledore finally tells Harry about the prophecy in Order of the Phoenix, he admits to waiting for so long because he loves Harry too much. If Dumbledore had taken Harry to this place that was so important to the both of them, I don’t think he would have been able to keep distancing himself. Dumbledore needed to maintain distance so he could stick with the plan to destroy Voldemort.

    We know Dumbledore struggles with these mistakes he made with his family for his entire life. I think it would have been too hard for him to deal with going back. Maybe, he also didn’t want to lose face in front of Harry because it would have been so emotional for them both.

    I think it’s really important that Harry goes with Hermione, too. She was probably the only one he felt completely comfortable enough around to let go the way he does when he sees his parents.

  • RoseLumos

    Honestly, I don’t think Dumbledore would even visit Godric’s Hallow on his own. While he does seem to still love and miss Ariana, I think he tries his best to push down those emotions to focus on the larger goal of defeating Voldemort. Although he is a Gryffindor, I can also see him leaning a lot towards the Ravenclaw side of being logical at all times. I think he would consciously decide that the past is in the past and that he needed to move on for, dare I say, the greater good. Maybe that is why he didn’t tell Harry about their connection or bring him to the graveyard – it wasn’t essential to the current fight.

    • ISeeThestrals

      That’s my thought as well. Aside from that it might be painful, I get the feeling that Dumbledore has put this in the past and wants to focus on the future. Throughout the series, he reminds us that the dead can not be brought back. He can see him finding it more important to keep loved ones in his hearts as opposed to visiting their bodies in the cemetery.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Dumbledore and Harry do share a history with Godric’s Hollow, but I think it is a superficial connection. Godric’s Hollow was never really home to Harry anymore than the Dursley’s was. For Harry, visiting Godric’s Hollow was less about learning and more about accepting his past and finally being able to come to terms with his parents’ deaths as a real part of his history rather than an abstract story.

    Additionally, I really don’t think that Dumbledore would have been the best person to teach Harry about the Potter’s. Sirius or Remus would have been much better choices given that they actually knew his parents on a personal level and were, well, best friends. I also don’t see why Dumbledore should have revealed anything about his past to Harry. This point been brought up before, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Dumbledore and Harry really weren’t as close as we sometimes think. Dumbledore’s tragic family history was an extremely intimate part of his personal life and Harry wasn’t mature enough to respond appropriately to vulnerability or understand the finer distinctions between good and evil.

  • PuffNProud

    I think that Dumbledore’s not sharing his past with Harry is a result of Dumbledore’s life experience and early choice to live a life of isolation rather than make true connections. Dumbledore felt true pain after he lost Ariana, and believed that his craving for power and love for Grindelwald blinded him to the needs of those around him and thus did not seek power or love again. So after that, Dumbledore returns to the safe haven of Hogwarts, the place he resided before love and its attendant despair were absent. So although Dumbledore may have been a caring man and a proponent of love, he ultimately chose isolation for himself. Dumbledore could have easily chosen to befriend and develop a close relationship with Snape given that both of them lost someone they loved but Dumbledore continued to chose isolation. So I think that Dumbledore (even though he probably loved Harry) was simply too afraid to really let down his guard and develop a true, close relationship with Harry which could have easily entailed discussing their shared past including Godric’s Hollow.

    • Buckbeak is my spirit animal

      I totally agree. Living a life of isolation was his penance to Ariana, in a way.

      • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

        But is that what Ariana would have wanted him to do? I think not. She would have hated her brothers fighting with each other and not geting along after her death.

        • Buckbeak is my spirit animal

          That’s totally true, but Dumbledore felt too much guilt to get there.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      The idea of Dumbledore making himself pay a penance for Ariana’s death is interesting and tragic. I think that we get some insight into Dumbledore when we see him push the importance of love so strongly, it’s almost as if he is screaming for Harry and the others to love all they can because Dumbledore himself cannot.

  • My first inclination about this question was along the same lines as many of the other commenters’ thoughts that Dumbledore did not trust himself in these sorts of emotional matters and perhaps feared that he would reveal too much too soon. Harry needed to learn the entire story in bits and stages to make the difficult yet right choice at the end. Dumbledore getting overly emotional during a Godric’s Hollow field trip may have spoiled those plans. But in reading the previous responses, I’m wondering whether Dumbledore’s own emotional state was the most important in his own mind. Perhaps he felt that it would be too much for Harry and he wanted to spare him the grief, just as he says during their chat after Sirius’ death. He cared for Harry “too much” and envisioned a trip to Godric’s Hollow would “cause him [more] pain.” It’s conceivable that despite the logical reasons for his not wishing to go listed above and by several others that Dumbledore actually really wanted to share this with Harry but reserved that information and those emotions so as to spare Harry the heartache for as long as possible. Perhaps Dumbledore hoped that if he could survive Voldemort’s defeat, he would share this with Harry after it was all said and done.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      I agree with you here!

    • Heh, Field Trips and After School Specials…
      I don’t think Dumbledore ever thought he could survive the Second War. The Battle of the Lightning Struck Tower wash’t supposed to happen, but Snape would still have killed Dumbledore at a later date.

  • SnapesManyButtons

    Godric’s Hollow is the site of Dumbledore’s greatest shame and failure. It represents his failure to take care of his family and protect his sister. It reminds him of how he put his own ego and his feelings for Grindelwald above his responsibilities to his family. And, mostly, it would force him to face the question of whether it was he who actually cast the curse that killed his innocent sister, Ariana. It was there he lost his sister, lost the respect of his brother, who never forgave him, and lost the only person he would ever love, Grindelwald. If it were simply a matter of having this place in common, I’m sure Dumbledore would have told Harry about it. Especially when he was first trying to gain Harry’s trust (so he could use him against Voldemort.) But he needed Harry to believe in him and do as he asked. He needed Harry to see him as wise and honorable. Telling Harry about Godric’s Hollow would have been too risky – and painful. He wouldn’t want to lie to Harry so even if he just told him what he wanted him to know, there was a chance Harry would ask questions and delve deeper. He knew that Harry would never have done the things he did, in a way he felt inferior to Harry, but he couldn’t let Harry know this. (Well, until King’s Cross…) So he continued to pretend Godric’s Hollow didn’t exist, just has he had all the years preceding. He couldn’t admit his faults to Harry, couldn’t admit Harry was the better man, couldn’t bear the look in Harry’s eyes when he learned what Dumbledore had done and had been. So he didn’t tell him, and I’m not sure he ever would have.

    • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

      See, this is why we get along :) I just posted a long comment along these lines, and then scrolled down and read yours. Very nice.

    • ISeeThestrals

      Totally agree that he would see Godric’s Hollow as such. But I wonder how important it is that Harry see him as wise and honorable. I found that line of your comment striking. It does fit with Dumbledore’s ultimate plan for Harry, but places him in a more sinister position as opposed to someone whose come to care. But he does desire Harry’s trust.
      This also made me think of book 5 where Dumebledore wanted Harry to put his trust in Snape’s ability to teach him occlumency, but there Harry couldn’t follow through.

      • SnapesManyButtons

        I say that because I think Dumbledore can’t afford for Harry to doubt him in any way, he needs him to do what he is told, even if it is going to his own death. I do see Dumbledore as sinister in a way, but in a “for the Greater Good” way. Look at how he sends Hagrid to the Giants, knowing that they could easily kill the much smaller man and knowing that Death Eaters were also headed there. But Hagrid trusts him completely and goes. Or how he tells Snape that he wants Snape to kill him to protect Draco and give himself an easier death, when his real reason is to keep ownership of the Elder Wand from Voldemort. He doesn’t even tell Snape that Voldemort will now see him as the only obstacle to his mastery of the wand, just sends him to his death unaware. Not that Snape didn’t expect to die, but why not tell him the truth? If Harry doubted his wisdom and honor, perhaps he’d think twice about following his every request or going willingly to his death.

        I do think Dumbledore absolutely cares for Harry, but he must care for the outcome of the war more, and I think he ended up caring for Harry more than he had planned. I would guess that it probably hurt to realize that Harry was someone who would never have done the things Dumbledore did that resulted in losing his mother and sister. But knowing that about him made Harry special in a way Dumbledore couldn’t have foreseen. I think it would have been easier for Dumbledore to keep Harry at arms length if he’d just been another kid who would have done the same, or worse. Although he tells Harry that he is not perfect, I don’t think he would risk telling him his darkest secret. Look at how shocked Harry is when he learns about Dumbledore’s past, he wonders if he ever even knew the man. Because the man he knew was just the part of Dumbledore that he was willing to let Harry see.

        • ISeeThestrals

          That’s the good thing about a second re-read; a second chance to look at the characters again.
          For his ultimate plan to work, Dumbledore is putting faith in Harry to trust him. At any time, Harry could have turned away, after being so frustrated with Dumbledore. Some teenagers can get so frustrated with the adults and become determined to go their own way. Things wouldn’t have played out well for the wizarding world if that occurred.

          I feel like it was in book 5 that Dumbledore admitted to Harry that he cared too much about him, when he wasn’t explaining why he didn’t tell him about the prophecy. I didn’t imagine Dumbledore would share his darkest secrets either, although I hoped. In this case, I feel Harry expected Dumbledore to share his past not only because they have Godric’s Hollow in common but he felt they had become close enough and he felt Dumbledore would trust him enough to share personal secrets.

  • daveybjones999 .

    I think it’s for a few reasons. The first is that for the sake of his plan, Dumbledore can’t get too close with Harry emotionally because he ultimately needs to send Harry to die for the sake of the wizarding world. Dumbledore had suspected horcruxes since the diary, and although it wasn’t confirmed to him until book six, he definitely is operating under that assumption since book 4 when on page 696 of the U.S. edition Harry, “saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes,” after telling him about Voldemort taking Harry’s blood. Dumbledore actually does fail in trying not to get emotionally attached to Harry, but that’s probably how Dumbledore rationalizes not going to Godric’s Hollow with Harry in his head.

    In relation to that it could also be the same reason he didn’t tell Harry about the prophecy until book five, specifically that he kept pushing it back until it was too late because he thought that Harry wasn’t ready for the information emotionally. Another reason could be that Dumbledore just never found, or even tried to find, the time to tell Harry about all this stuff given that he was so focused on finding a way to kill Voldemort.

    However the real reason, I suspect, is probably that it would just be too painful for him to go back, and for Harry to see a real personal glimpse into who Dumbledore really is, might have just been too much for Dumbledore to take emotionally. Dumbledore’s never gotten over what happened to his own family, and really that would be something I think people might not be able to get over. I think Dumbledore is a lot more lonely, and sad than anyone in the series ever thinks, and it’s really not until this moment that we get a real glimpse into that fact.

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      I think that Dumbledore has accepted what happened, but I guess whether or not he’s completely ok with it is up for some debate. Some evidence in your favor is the scene from the cave when Dumbledore drinks Voldemort’s potion, but I think the potion forces the drinker to relive his worst experiences and fears regardless of how accepted they are. I do agree that I think Dumbledore is incredibly lonely and heartbroken, in more ways than we get to see in the books.

  • Slyvenpuffdor

    Perhaps Dumbledore thought it best that Harry do this himself. There is a definite contrast between this experience of discovery either being lead by Dumbledore or being lead by Harry himself. I think it’s more meaningful for Harry to take the initiative in this search than for Dumbledore to just bring him there and show him. Also, maybe Dumbledore thought it insensitive to do this to Harry, along the lines of “Who am I to show him this?” sort of a thought. I don’t think Dumbledore would be motivated to revisit the village himself at this point in life, I can imagine that he has gone back many times to ruminate on his mistakes and his broken home. Lastly, I can see this as the sort of thing that sits in the back of the mind, on of those “I should really do this one day” sort of things that never gets done – we all have those.

  • DreamGalleon88

    When it comes to these questions that fans always wonder about, I think rarely do people look at it through Dumbledore’s perspective. Dumbledore knows that he has a limited amount of time with Harry before Harry will have to eventually die in order to defeat Voldemort. Un till then, Dumbledore probably had a primary objective of introducing Harry to the world of horocruxes so that Harry would be able to hopefully defeat Voldemort and save the wizarding world. However, Dumbledore knew that Harry and himself would be exempt from this mission of ultimate protection. I view Dumbledore as the sort of “mentor” to Harry who would never force Harry to do something Harry wouldn’t want to do. He seems in favor of free will, hence his positive, unusual behavior towards house elves and muggles, so I would be surprised if he suddenly went to Harry and told Harry his entire life story. How would he have ended that, with ordering Harry to come to Godric’s Hollow with him to cry over gravestones? Dumbledore didn’t seem to have that overly-emotional relationship with Harry, after all, he was first and foremost Harry’s teacher. Perhaps Dumbeldore even thought that Harry visiting his parents’ graves was a singular journey Harry would have to take, as Harry and his parents were a family, just the three of them. Harry has had problems in the past with opening up to Dumbledore, such as in the Chamber of Secrets when Harry considered asking about the similarities he shared with Tom Riddle, but Harry never appeared to consider that Dumbledore might of had the same problem communicating. Maybe Dumbledore didn’t know how to bring up such depressing memories. As Harry has noticed before, Albus Dumbledore is known to be an extremely private person.

  • fizz buzz

    I think it would have been really weird for Dumbledore, who never discusses himself with Harry – indeed Harry reflects how the only personal thing that Dumbledore ever discusses with him (his Mirror of Erised reflection) was likely a lie, to divulge something so personal as his family tragedy.

    Dumbledore never talks to Harry about anything but Harry and preparing Harry for his future. In what way would it have prepared Harry for his upcoming mission to destroy horcruxes to know of the terrible things that happened to Dumbledore in Godric’s Hollow? Sure, information about the Deathly Hallows might have been useful, but I’m not sure whether the personal connection would have been.

    Dumbledore is ashamed of himself and how his hunting for the Deathly Hallows resulted in the loss of his sister. So ashamed he can’t bring himself to talk about it, but especially not with one of his students, who has problems of his own and a destiny far more important to discuss. It would have been very weird of Dumbledore to burden Harry with tales of his own tragedy and also give reason to think so much less of him. Sure, Dumbledore tells Harry that he makes mistakes himself, but it works massively in Dumbledore’s favour for Harry to think of him with the utmost respect and not to massively question his judgement.

    Dumbledore needs Harry to focus on himself and his future, not his past. If Dumbledore had reason to suspect a horcrux of being in Godric’s Hollow, then perhaps he would have brought it up, but he doesn’t. I don’t think Dumbledore ever wanted Harry to go to Godric’s Hollow as part of his hunt for the horcruxes – perhaps he foresaw a trap such as Voldie’s Nagini/Bathilda.

    Furthermore, it is clear that Dumbledore didn’t want Harry to know that he was a horcrux until the very last moment, “when Voldemort is at his weakest” as he instructed Snape. So going on a little trip to Godric’s Hollow with Harry might have triggered him discovering or realising that sooner than he’d hoped…

    “Let’s go to Godric’s Hollow.”
    “Do you think there may be another horcrux there, professor?”
    “What? No. No horcruxes there. What makes you think that? Nope. No horcruxes in Godric’s Hollow…”
    “Okay…”
    “…”
    “So why are we going?”
    “So we can both share a deep and emotional connection that we have never discussed or even briefly contemplated before now.”

  • FwooperTunes

    I understand the connection between Dumbledore and Harry was in a realm that crossed the line of a “normal” student-teacher relationship. But I propose that this student-teacher manner was the thing that prevented Dumbledore from diving into his personal life; Just as the Christmas when Dumbledore did not reveal his mirror of Erised truth (and his history of his family tragedy). Maybe after Sirius Black had entered Harry’s life (however briefly), Dumbledore silently allowed and assumed that Sirius would tell Harry of his family’s history. We have to remember that even though Dumbledore knew James and Lily, he was not a super-clode family friend. They were just Order members who worked and respected eachother. Maybe Dumbledore wanted Harry’s family-his Godfather- to reveal the past. Dumbledore was maybe unaware that Harry wasn’t told.

    • FwooperTunes?! Yay! Fantastic username.
      I think that this is actually a very interesting idea, that Dumbledore just supposed that Sirius would go over his family history with him. The reason I think Sirius didn’t is he simply didn’t want to go to that point in time. He wanted to feel as though he was back in the school days, the Marauder days, not around the time James died. And going over the family history would be going over James’s death.

  • George’s Holey Ear

    In my honest opinion, despite their unique relationship, i don’t think Harry and Dumbledore were as close as we like to think they were. We forget that prior to the sixth book, Dumbledore and Harry only spend a moment or two together each year and though Harry does get to know Dumbledore a little better during his sixth year it’s only really in terms of personality. And ultimately as we learn in life, getting a mere sense of the kind of person someone is, doesn’t actually mean you know them.

    It all comes down to Dumbledore not wanting Harry to know about his biggest regret. It probably did cross his mind a few times but there’s just no looking back with some things. Revisiting his past at Godric’s Hollow would have opened up a whole new can of worms. Also, Dumbledore never once mentions or lets slip that his own brother works AND lives in Hogsmeade. If he wasn’t able to reveal those little facts, keeping Harry from knowing about his connection to Godric’s Hollow in retrospect, doesn’t seem like such a surprise.

    • SnapesManyButtons

      I think you’re right. If you think about it, Dumbledore spends far more time without Harry than he does with him. He has other aspects of the war to deal with, the school to run, other people to interact with. Harry feels close to Dumbledore but never once thought to ask him about his past. And Dumbledore comes to care about Harry, but he doesn’t exactly let himself get too close, or he wouldn’t have been able to let him play out his ultimate destiny.

  • CentaurSeeker121

    Perhaps the reason why Dumbledore never revealed this to Harry was because the subject would have been too painful for him to. Kendra was killed by an accidental outburst from Ariana and Dumbledore was mad because he did not get to go on his “grand tour” with Elphias, instead ending up having to stay home and take up the duty of being the head of the house. Albus became fascinated with Grindelwald and he probably thought that Grindelwald could potentially be his “ticket out” so to speak. Grindelwald and Dumbledore wanted to find the Deathly Hallows, only to have their partnership fall apart during the duel that eventually ended in Ariana’s death. He might have never known which of their curses was the one that killed his sister, but he blamed himself tremendously.

    Maybe the same could be said about the Potters too. Dumbledore had possession of the Cloak before the Potter’s death which could possibly be explained by saying that he might have taken it because he did not want James to be tempted to try to do anything risky, but he tells Harry in chapter 35 that he only took it out of vain curiosity. IF James could have remained in possession of the Cloak, it’s slightly possible that the Potters could have had some extra proctection. If this is true than that’s twice that the Hallows and Dumbledore’s inability to resist them have been at least partly responsible for the death of people that Dumbledore was close to. Not to mention the fact that Dumbledore offered to be the Potters’ secret keeper and they refused, eventually going with Pettigrew instead of Sirius, which he probably also blamed himself for. I can imagine that Dumbledore knew that if he did mention Godric’s Hollow to Harry, Harry would want to know more which would cause Dumbledore to have to bring up all of those painful memories along with the reminders that had he not been so eager and swept up by temptation, these people might still be alive today.

    Does that make sense?

    • Slyvenpuffdor

      I think it makes sense, but I also think that it isn’t Dumbledore’s pain that he’s trying to avoid, but Harry’s pain and the tainting of Harry’s image of him. Let’s face it, Dumbledore has had a century (more?) to come to terms with the follies of his youth. I do think that you’re right that he didn’t want Harry to start asking all the questions, but I think he didn’t want that because it may have lead Harry to resent Dumbledore which he couldn’t afford.

      • SnapesManyButtons

        Coming to terms with something doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Sure, the pain is not as sharp or always at the surface, but it can come roaring back at times no matter how much time has passed. I really think Dumbledore is still in pain over his past, it seemed really apparent that he was in pain talking about Ariana in the King’s Cross chapter. I think it is both of their pain he wants to avoid as well as keeping Harry from finding out he wasn’t the man he thought Harry needed him to be.

        • CentaurSeeker121

          I can see Dumbledore concealing all of this from Harry because he did not want the image that Harry had of him to be tainted and for Harry to resent him. Dumbledore even tells Harry that he had fallen into the trap of caring for Harry too much, that he cared more about Harry’s happiness then he did about anything else and I think that his not revealing all of this has a lot to do with that too.

  • I think Dumbledore knew that Harry had to figure out how to destroy the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort on his own, and he had to significantly grow up to do so. And part of that is realizing that he shouldn’t be idolizing Dumbledore. Though it would have probably brought Harry some comfort and connection to have Dumbledore tell him about their shared past, I think it would have made it even harder for Harry to take Dumbledore off the pedestal. Harry needs to be able to have confidence in himself to complete his epic journey, and part of gaining that confidence and drive is to be able to strike out on his own out of Dumbledore’s shadow. I think the takedown of Harry’s perception of the headmaster during this book greatly prepares Harry to learn how to think on his own and ultimately complete his epic task; learning from both Dumbledore’s and his own mistakes better prepares him to take on Voldemort in the end.

  • ISeeThestrals

    When I thought about this question, I was reminded of the time Dumbledore surprised
    Harry when he was sitting before the Mirror of Erised. He told Harry, “It does not do
    to dwell on dreams and forget to live…” I can see the quote linking to the reason why
    he never told Harry about his past. Dumbledore warns that one should not dwell in a
    false reality when time is better spent living and accepting a harsh truth. I can’t imagine
    Dumbledore returning to Godric’s Hollow to visit a place where the bodies of loved ones
    laid. I can see him finding it more meaningful to keep those loved ones in his heart.
    Thus, he would not dwell on the tragedy by returning to the cemetery, feeling regret
    and desiring them to live. I feel throughout the years, Dumbledore has been trying to
    instill in Harry the importance of surviving, despite the great difficulties he encounters.

    Though they have this in common, I wonder if Dumbledore saw great relevance in the
    fact that both their families lived and were buried in the same place. Perhaps he might
    have considered it a sad coincidence. However, I think Dumbledore would have told
    Harry this emotional story if Harry was at risk for making the same mistakes as
    he did.

  • WhoDoYouKnowWho’sLostAButtock?

    The last sentence of this question is very telling to me… and I’m sure I’ll invite ire and impatience with my stance. But, here goes.

    “Why did Dumbledore choose to keep this particular emotional story from Harry, when it is so obvious that Harry has been yearning for some connection to his family, for so long?”

    In other words, why did Dumbledore do something that didn’t have Harry at its center? Why did Dumbledore do something that was about him, his own relationship with his family, and his personal feelings about it, rather than putting Harry’s need for connection above his own desire for personal boundaries?

    I know that we all have our conflicted views of Dumbledore. To some, he is benevolent, wise, and ultimately good, to others he is devious and manipulative, and to others, he’s a mean old man who didn’t love Harry enough. (I’m exaggerating, I know.)

    To me, Dumbledore was a flawed human with deep personal issues and struggles with his own pride. He is brilliant and has known that his whole life. He is arrogant at times, and he is ambitious. And all of those things he surely admired about himself led to the downfall of his family. And no, his father’s imprisonment wasn’t Albus’ fault, nor was his sister’s condition, nor was his mother’s death. But his life was quite a few tragedies, one after the other, until the major one arose that he engendered himself. And, we know, he blamed himself forever after that.

    Dumbledore has clearly come to terms with his own issues — he moved on, he became a successful, brilliant man who knew that he had to police his own tendencies closely. But he also learned to be very careful with his boundaries. To protect himself, or to protect others? Probably both. And probably justifiable, in many ways. Whether or not that was the best call is up to debate. But it is how he has learned to cope and live with himself.

    And then Harry comes along. And certainly Dumbledore sees some of himself in Harry’s past, but he also hopes that Harry will be better than he. Why would he put his own past onto Harry? And why would he tear down those carefully constructed boundaries, after all this time, because it would make Harry feel a stronger connection? If it was because HE desired that connection as well, and felt strong enough to brave it, then that would be a different matter. But that’s not what this question is really asking.

    I know we want characters to do what is best for Harry, but we sometimes want to rob those characters of their own autonomy and their own right to their personalities and problems. “How could he do that,” and always we add, “to Harry?”

    Dumbledore is not a flat character, and so he cannot exist solely for Harry. He makes choices to maintain his own emotional well-being. His connecting with Harry might mean a lot to Harry, but speaking about his past might be too much for Dumbledore. We know it is certainly painful for him. His relationship with his brother is civil but clearly fraught with emotional pain as well. Dumbledore feels deeply about so many things — this is surely one of those, and he has a right to keep his boundaries in place. And I believe that he trusted that, if Harry ever did find out, being the better man, he would find it in his heart to still respect Dumbledore. I do not believe Dumbledore expected forgiveness. At best, he hoped that if Harry found out, he would eventually be merciful in his ultimate opinion of Dumbledore. And he was fine with that. But he could not, clearly did not want to, and should not NECESSARILY have had to share his past with Harry for the sole reason that it would have been helpful to Harry.

  • Awesome Hufflepuff

    I feel like Dumbledore would have told Harry when Harry was older and could understand the complex relationships. However, I think that Dumbledore would have gone as long as he could without facing his family’s story. He never talked about them nor did he want to. He had to wait for Harry to no longer see him as a hero and more as a person. Dumbledore’s family is Dumbledore’s lowest point in his life and he would have had to explain his first relationship to Grindelwald and explain his want for power (which all ended in his sister’s death).

  • Septumseverus

    “Do you see, Harry? Do you see the flaw in my brilliant plan now? I had fallen into the trap that I had foreseen, I had told myself I could avoid, that I must avoid.”

    “I don’t —”

    “I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply. “I cared more for your happiness than your knowing the truth, more for your peace of mind than my plan, more for your life than the lives that might be lost if the plan failed. In other words, I acted exactly as Voldemort expects we fools who love to act.

    I think it’s just this, Dumbledore had forseen that for “the plan” to succeed he needed to try and maintain some distance from Harry. How on earth could he have shared something so deeply personal and private, have opened up to Harry about his biggest regret, revealed that he and Harry shared something so private and personal without forging a bond and connection so strong that Dumbledore could never have asked Harry to do what was needed of him. Dumbledore obviously made the “mistake” of growing to care about Harry, But I believe the reason Dumbledore made the choice not to share this with Harry was in an effort to not fall into the trap that he had told himself he could/must avoid. Or this would at least have been his justification for not sharing even if the real reasons were perhaps more seated in emotion and insecurity than rationality.

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    As their shared connection to Godric’s Hollow is just one of many things that Dumbledore didn’t tell Harry, I can imagine him taking a page out of Hermione’s book when she uses Phineas Nigellus as a source for information and making Dumbledore’s portrait answer him all his questions. No cop-outs.

  • thequeerweasleycousin

    Why didn’t Harry visit Godric’s Hollow before? He knows how his parents died for six years, yet he never wants to go and see the place where it all happened? He never asks Dumbledore whether there are graves he could visit? Not even after he saw them in the graveyard in Little Hangleton? Why?

    Maybe he couldn’t imagine there would be a grave, since they were murdered by magic and had no living relatives who cared for them.
    Maybe he felt it would hurt to much.
    Maybe he was afraid.
    Maybe it didn’t occur to him first, and them he was to busy saving everyone, and then it seemed to dangerous.
    Maybe he was waiting for Sirius’ name to be cleared so they could go there together.
    Maybe he asked Dumbledore, and Dumbledore told him it was not a good idea to go there, that when he will be older and more mature, there will be time for that.
    Maybe Dumbledore lied and told him there is no grave, afraid that Harry would find out about his family otherwise.

    What would Dumbledore have done if Harry found out about his family while he was still alive?