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|"Are you a wizard or not?"
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- Albus Dumbledore: "Draco. Years ago, I knew a boy who made all the wrong choices. Please, let me help you."
- Draco Malfoy: "I don't want your help! Don't you see? I have to do this. I have to kill you... or he's gonna kill me."
- — Draco Malfoy trying to kill Dumbledore[src]
The plot to assassinate Albus Dumbledore was a series of events that took place over the 1996–1997 school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These attempts on Albus Dumbledore's life were the events that led up to the Battle of the Astronomy Tower on 30 June, 1997. In the action, Dumbledore was killed by Severus Snape and not the primary perpetrator of the plot, Draco Malfoy.
In 1994, the Triwizard Tournament took place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Two schools participated along with Hogwarts: Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. Lord Voldemort found out through Bertha Jorkins that the Triwizard Tournament was taking place that year. He also learned that Barty Crouch Jr was still living and under the Imperius Curse by his father. However, he broke free of it and captured Auror Alastor Moody. Once the school year began, he began to impersonate Moody and teach Defence Against the Dark Arts to the students of Hogwarts.
Three students were picked to participate in the tournament from each school: Viktor Krum, Fleur Delacour, and Cedric Diggory. However, Crouch Jr confunded the Goblet of Fire to believe there were four schools entering, placing Harry's name under the fourth false school. Harry was forced to take part in all three tasks. Barty Crouch Jr (disguised as Alastor Moody) helped Harry through the first two tasks, and, before the third one (a giant maze with the Triwizard Cup in the middle) commenced, he offered to place the cup in the middle, and made it into a Portkey.
He monitored the maze and due to Moody's magical eye he was able to see through the maze. He stunned Fleur and imperiused Viktor. After that, Cedric stunned Krum. Cedric and Harry soon reached the cup, and decided to take the cup together, deciding that it would still be a Hogwarts victory.
Return of the Dark Lord
- "Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son. Flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master. Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe."
- —Peter Pettigrew reviving Lord Voldemort[src]
Immediately upon arriving at the Little Hangleton graveyard, Cedric Diggory was murdered by Peter Pettigrew. Harry was tied to Tom Riddle Snr's grave, and forced to watch (and help by being forced to give his blood) as Voldemort regained a rudimentary body. Voldemort's Death Eaters were called to the graveyard and he expressed his anger that nobody tried to find him.
Harry and Voldemort soon duelled, and they experienced Priori Incantatem. This happened because they shared the same wand core — a phoenix feather from the same bird. Harry saw echoes of his parents, Bertha Jorkins, Frank Bryce, and Cedric Diggory. They gave him time to get Cedric's body and return back to Hogwarts. He alerted the wizarding world of Voldemort's return, but the Ministry of Magic did not believe him.
This dichotomy was rectified when the Battle at the Department of Mysteries took place in mid-summer 1996 between 6 members of Dumbledore's Army and Voldemort's Death Eaters to retrieve a Prophecy which concerned both Harry and Voldemort. Soon, after the Prophecy was smashed, Voldemort himself came to the Ministry of Magic. He was rapidly confronted by Dumbledore, a situation which culminated in a duel between the two great wizards. Voldemort fled the Ministry after briefly possessing Harry, but not before being seen by Fudge and some of the Aurors, compelling them to finally accept that Lord Voldemort had indeed returned.
Having been seen by the authorities at last, Voldemort officially started the Second Wizarding War. He was furious beyond measure with Lucius Malfoy for the failure of the mission to retrieve the prophecy, and Malfoy allowing himself to be captured in the process with 10 other Death Eaters, reducing Voldemort's ranks once again. So, during the summer between his fifth and sixth years at Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy was tasked with the assassination of Albus Dumbledore to restore his family to Voldemort's good graces. Also at this time, Draco was branded with the Dark Mark. This killed two birds with one stone for Voldemort. First, he would have another agent acting at Hogwarts. Second, Voldemort could punish the Malfoys for their failures, such as their disloyalty and failing to retrieve the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries. However, it was noted that if Draco succeeds, his family would be forgiven and be honoured beyond.
The Unbreakable Vow
- "Will you, Severus, watch over my son, Draco, as he attempts to fulfil the Dark Lord's wishes? And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm? And, should it prove necessary... if it seems Draco will fail... will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?"
- —Narcissa Malfoy on the conditions of the Vow[src]
The news of Draco's assignment was leaked to a few Death Eaters including Draco's mother Narcissa Malfoy, his maternal aunt Bellatrix Lestrange, and Severus Snape. Wanting to keep Draco safe, Narcissa sought out Severus Snape for help, while defying Voldemort's order of keeping this mission an utmost secrecy; fortunately for her, Snape was one of the few who knew of the plan. Narcissa first attempted to persuade Snape to persuade Voldemort to change his mind, which was declared an impossibility due to Voldemort's anger over Lucius's failures, so she challenged him to make an Unbreakable Vow, with her following sister Bellatrix as the bonder, to which he complied. She asked him to swear to the following:
- To watch over Draco as he tried to carry out the task.
- To do his best to protect Draco from harm.
- If Draco were unable to carry out the task, to do it for him.
In preparation for such a difficult task, Draco was trained in various fields of by his Aunt Bellatrix, such as Occlumency, Nonverbal spells, and the Unforgivable Curses, turning the already talented Draco into a very powerful wizard. She also noted that Draco was excited at having such an important task placed on his shoulders, while Narcissa noted that it was because he was too young and naive to know the deeper dangers that lie within.
At the same time, Snape, his true loyalty to Dumbledore, informed the headmaster of this plot, and both knew that it was no more than an excuse to see Draco fail and kill him in punishment for Lucius' failure. To prevent Draco's soul from being ripped apart from success or be executed for failure, he had Snape watch over the boy and help, and intended for Snape to commit the murder instead. All this proved to be compatible with the Vow he made with Narcissa, allowing him to succeed on both sides.
- "Wow... look at that... he’s not here now! So why not have a go? They might be able to find you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband!"
- —Draco Malfoy and his mother confront Harry Potter in Madam Malkin's[src]
Late in the summer, Draco visited Diagon Alley with his mother. While there, he ran into Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ronald Weasley in Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. Harry noticed that Draco flinched when Madam Malkin brushed his left arm.
Afterwards, Draco gave his mother the slip and headed for Borgin and Burkes. He proceeded to bully Borgin into helping him repair an unknown object and to keep the "other one" safe. He told Borgin that Fenrir Greyback would be checking in on his progress. This exchange was witnessed by Harry, Ron, and Hermione who had sneaked away from their escorts under Harry's Cloak of Invisibility. From the information thus gathered, Harry surmised that Draco Malfoy was now a Death Eater and was up to something, a fact debated, and eventually dismissed, by his friends.
First two attempts
The first attempt took place on 12 October, 1996, when Madam Rosmerta who, under the Imperius Curse, Imperiused Katie Bell and forced her to deliver a package containing an Opal Necklace to Albus Dumbledore. She was thwarted when she got into an argument with her friend Leanne. As Leanne tried to grab the package from Katie, it fell to the ground and opened. Katie accidentally touched the cursed necklace through a tiny hole in her glove and was dragged into the air, gracefully holding her arms aloft as in a cross. She then screamed terribly and fell to the ground. She was rushed off to the school by Hagrid. When questioned about the incident, Harry, Ron, and Hermione who had witnessed what had happened, Harry accused Draco Malfoy of cursing Katie, much to the chagrin of his friends, and dismissed by Professor McGonagall due to lack of evidence. Katie was sent to St Mungo's where she remained for months.
In the second attempt an Imperiused Rosmerta gave Horace Slughorn a bottle of mead to deliver to Dumbledore. Unbeknownst to Slughorn, who forgot to give it to the expected recipient and surmised by Hermione Granger that he would keep something tasty for himself, it was poisoned. The attempt was thwarted when Slughorn unfortunately gave the mead to Ron Weasley on his seventeenth birthday, on 1 March, 1997. Harry Potter knew to shove a bezoar down his throat and saved him.
Both of these attempts stem from Draco's increasing anxiety, as he feared that his main plot of repairing the broken Vanishing Cabinet to allow him to smuggle Death Eaters into the castle to assist his mission would fail, and therefore resorted to such crude and poorly calculated attempts. Dumbledore had deduced that Draco was responsible for both, but did not expose and apprehend him in fear that Draco would be executed by Voldemort, and due to both attempts did not actually kill the unintended victims, which prevented Draco from being implicated by the law. Dumbledore did not confront Draco head-on due to fearing Voldemort would use Legilimency to discover Dumbledore's discovery of this assassination mission.
Over the year, the stress of this mission's success was taking a toll on Draco's psyche and physical health, as he began to neglect his schoolwork, reject his prefect duties that he once would happily abuse, lost interest in Quidditch, spent less time mocking Harry and his friends despite the opportunities, and began to lose weight and his skin greying. All of this frustrated Harry, who could not figure out Draco's plan despite his best efforts. Draco had also rejected Snape's offered assistance, believing the professor had plans to usurp the glory.
- "I was tempted."
- —Albus Dumbledore on why he put on Gaunt's ring[src]
Albus Dumbledore was under the assumption that Voldemort had made Horcruxes. Due to this assumption, he asked Horace Slughorn to return to Hogwarts to teach Potions, believing that he held an important memory regarding Voldemort and his Horcruxes. After retrieving the memory from Horace Slughorn, he knew he was correct. He had already found a ring that was a Horcrux, but it held the Resurrection Stone in it. Forgetting that it was a Horcrux, he put it on his finger, hoping to see his parents and little sister again. Thanks to his skill and Severus Snape's skill, Snape was able to hold off the curse from spreading. He gave him a year to live. Knowing that Voldemort had given Draco the task to kill him, and knowing that he would fail but not wanting his soul broken if he did, he asked Snape to do it instead. Snape reluctantly agreed. This voluntary death had a secondary purpose, as Dumbledore hoped that it would cause his Elder Wand to lose its allegiance from not being won via force, thus losing its power forever.
Knowing his time was short, he set out to tell Harry everything he knew regarding the Horcruxes and Voldemort's quest to become immortal.
The boat started moving on its own terms, and took them towards the green light which was on an island. The green light turned out to be a potion, that could only be drank by the person who had travelled across the lake. Harry and Dumbledore tried in vane to get what lied beneath the potion, Dumbledore decided that the only way to dispose of it was to drink it. Dumbledore, telling Harry to force the potion down him, said it would not kill him but probably cause him severe pain, or make him forget why he was there. Harry argued, hating the idea of causing his mentor so much pain, but relented. Dumbledore conjured a goblet and started drinking it, seeing nightmares and feeling severe stomach pains and dehydration while probably seeing the duel between him, his brother, and Gellert Grindelwald that led to his sister's death. This time Dumbledore protested against himself drinking the potion, but Harry managed to force it down him. Dumbledore. Severely weakened and feeling incredibly thirsty, Harry tried casting the Aguamenti Charm in the goblet, to no avail. Soon realised that Voldemort had made it so, Harry filled the goblet with water from the cave. The Inferi came and attacked, Harry unsuccessfully using Sectumsempra on them. Dumbledore recovered and intervened by using fire. Retrieving the locket that they assumed to be the Horcrux, they left the cave and arrived back in Hogsmeade. Madam Rosmerta alerted them that the Dark Mark had been cast over Hogwarts, and they immediately flew back after she supplied them with broomsticks.
Battle of the Astronomy Tower
- "I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!"
- —Draco Malfoy attempts to kill Albus Dumbledore[src]
On 30 June, 1997, Dumbledore and Harry Potter left the school in search of one of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes. Rosmerta saw Harry and Dumbledore heading through Hogsmeade village and informed Draco Malfoy. Dumbledore was greatly weakened by a potion he was forced to drink, during their adventure. He and Harry Apparated back to Hogsmeade afterwards. Once Rosmerta informed Dumbledore of the Dark Mark above the school, he and Harry flew back to the school on Rosmerta's broomsticks. Once they had arrived, Dumbledore was cornered by Draco on top of the Astronomy Tower. He attempted to kill Dumbledore, but Dumbledore tried to convince Draco not to perform the task. Draco said that he had no choice. Otherwise, Lord Voldemort would murder him and his family. Dumbledore told Draco that he shouldn't do this, and that Draco was not a killer. He offered to protect Draco, leading Draco torn between the two paths, saying he had gotten so far, having been expected to die in the attempt, which led him desiring the honour and glory from Voldemort himself, but at the same time seemingly unable to take a human life. Then, all of a sudden, Death Eaters appeared in the room. They tried to convince Draco to carry out the task, but Draco seemed to not know what to do. Fenrir Greyback attempted to take over but was blasted aside by Yaxley.
The teachers of Hogwarts and the members of the Order of the Phoenix who had been in Hogwarts Castle that night sent for Snape. They believed he could help them in the battle. After being summoned, Snape headed to the Astronomy Tower. Once he arrived, Draco lowered his wand. Dumbledore pleaded with him. Snape hesitated, then cast the Killing Curse, killing Dumbledore. After he killed Dumbledore, Snape ordered the Death Eaters out of the school and took Draco with him. They had to fight their way through the defenders of Hogwarts to get to the grounds. They were also pursued by Harry Potter who had been in a Full Body-Bind Curse the entire time. He caught up by the time the Death Eaters reached the grounds. In an attempt to avenge his fallen hero, Harry attempted to curse Snape, but Snape managed to disarm Harry, revealed that it was he, Snape, who was the Half-Blood Prince, and escaped before Harry could regain his wand.
Harry realised that the locket was fake and felt that everything had been for nothing. He told the professors that it was Snape who killed Dumbledore. They all agreed that Dumbledore deserved to be laid to rest at Hogwarts, and many people from the wizarding world attended, such as Cornelius Fudge, Rufus Scrimgeour, Dolores Umbridge, Madame Maxime, Rita Skeeter, the Merpeople and Centaurs of Hogwarts, and many other witches and wizards.
Due to what was witnessed, the Order and Death Eaters believed Snape killed Dumbledore out of malicious intent, and the corrupted Ministry would take advantage of this to brand Harry as "Undesirable Number One", under the pretence of questioning him about this death. It was only until Snape revealed his memory to Harry one year later, near his own death, thus clearing his name and reputation.
For the rest of the said school year, Draco could no longer return to Hogwarts, as he was guilty of attempted murder, allowing Death Eaters entering the castle, and being a Death Eater himself. With an official criminal status placed on him, he was forced to go on the run. Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle were left oddly lonely without Draco to boss them around, while Harry, knowing Draco did not have the heart to commit murder, felt some sympathy for him.
The ultimate success of this plot had a huge impact upon the wizarding world, as the only wizard who was able to stand up to Voldemort is now gone, thus appearing that no one can stop him. Furthermore, this proves that there is now no safe place from the Death Eaters, as they have managed to penetrate the castle's defences, much less they were permitted entrance by a student, and a staff (at the time in public's eyes) committed the murder.
Behind the scenes
- Curiously enough, Professor Trelawney had on more than one occasion been seen to have foreseen the events on top of the Astronomy Tower through her card shuffling. She apparently was unaware of the actual tragedy, and if she had in fact foreseen the omen or had made it up is unknown, but she had told her premonition to Harry after being thrown out of the Room of Requirement, though her warning fell on deaf ears. She referred to a "tragedy" on the "lightning struck tower", "coming nearer all the time!".
- Professor Trelawney might have tried to warn Dumbledore about the events of the Astronomy Tower, but, apparently, Dumbledore asked her not to visit his office unless there were something urgent, which, considering it was regarding to Dumbledore's impending doom, indeed was. This may be mitigated by the fact that Dumbledore was already fully aware of his approaching death and had fully accepted it.