Dumbledore’s answers

Harry receives a visit from Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing after his battle with Quirrell and Voldemort

Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

by J.K. Rowling

‘Good afternoon, Harry,’ said Dumbledore.

Harry stared at him. Then he remembered. ‘Sir! The Stone! It was Quirrell! He’s got the Stone! Sir, quick –’

‘Calm yourself, dear boy, you are a little behind the times,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Quirrell does not have the Stone.’

‘Then who does? Sir, I –’

‘Harry, please relax, or Madam Pomfrey will have me thrown out.’

Harry swallowed and looked around him. He realised he must be in the hospital wing. He was lying in a bed with white linen sheets and next to him was a table piled high with what looked like half the sweet-shop.

‘Tokens from your friends and admirers,’ said Dumbledore, beaming. ‘What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows. I believe your friends Misters Fred and George Weasley were responsible for trying to send you a lavatory seat. No doubt they thought it would amuse you. Madam Pomfrey, however, felt it might not be very hygienic, and confiscated it.’

‘How long have I been in here?’

‘Three days. Mr Ronald Weasley and Miss Granger will be most relieved you have come round, they have been extremely worried.’

‘But sir, the Stone –’

‘I see you are not to be distracted. Very well, the Stone. Professor Quirrell did not manage to take it from you. I arrived in time to prevent that, although you were doing very well on your own, I must say.’

‘You got there? You got Hermione’s owl?’

‘We must have crossed in mid-air. No sooner had I reached London than it became clear to me that the place I should be was the one I had just left. I arrived just in time to pull Quirrell off you –’

‘It was you.’

‘I feared I might be too late.’

‘You nearly were, I couldn’t have kept him off the Stone much longer –’

‘Not the Stone, boy, you – the effort involved nearly killed you. For one terrible moment there, I was afraid it had. As for the Stone, it has been destroyed.’

‘Destroyed?’ said Harry blankly. ‘But your friend – Nicolas Flamel –’

‘Oh, you know about Nicolas?’ said Dumbledore, sounding quite delighted. ‘You did do the thing properly, didn’t you? Well, Nicolas and I have had a little chat and agreed it’s all for the best.’

‘But that means he and his wife will die, won’t they?’

‘They have enough Elixir stored to set their affairs in order and then, yes, they will die.’

Dumbledore smiled at the look of amazement on Harry’s face.

‘To one as young as you, I’m sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things which are worst for them.’

Harry lay there, lost for words. Dumbledore hummed a little and smiled at the ceiling. ‘Sir?’ said Harry. ‘I’ve been thinking ... Sir – even if the Stone’s gone, Vol– ... I mean, You-Know-Who –’

‘Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.’

‘Yes, sir. Well, Voldemort’s going to try other ways of coming back, isn’t he? I mean, he hasn’t gone, has he?’

‘No, Harry, he has not. He is still out there somewhere, perhaps looking for another body to share ... not being truly alive, he cannot be killed. He left Quirrell to die; he shows just as little mercy to his followers as his enemies. Nevertheless, Harry, while you may only have delayed his return to power, it will merely take someone else who is prepared to fight what seems a losing battle next time – and if he is delayed again, and again, why, he may never return to power.’

Harry nodded, but stopped quickly, because it made his head hurt. Then he said, ‘Sir, there are some other things I’d like to know, if you can tell me... things I want to know the truth about...’

‘The truth.’ Dumbledore sighed. ‘It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. However, I shall answer your questions unless I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg you’ll forgive me. I shall not, of course, lie.’

‘Well ... Voldemort said that he only killed my mother because she tried to stop him killing me. But why would he want to kill me in the first place?’

Dumbledore sighed very deeply this time.

‘Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you. Not today. Not now. You will know, one day ... put it from your mind for now, Harry. When you are older ... I know you hate to hear this ... when you are ready, you will know.’

And Harry knew it would be no good to argue.

‘But why couldn’t Quirrell touch me?’

‘Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realise that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.’

Dumbledore now became very interested in a bird out on the window-sill, which gave Harry time to dry his eyes on the sheet. When he had found his voice again, Harry said, ‘And the Invisibility Cloak – do you know who sent it to me?’

‘Ah – your father happened to leave it in my possession and I thought you might like it.’ Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. ‘Useful things ... your father used it mainly for sneaking off to the kitchens to steal food when he was here.’

‘And there’s something else ...’

‘Fire away.’

‘Quirrell said Snape –’

Professor Snape, Harry.’

‘Yes, him – Quirrell said he hates me because he hated my father. Is that true?’

‘Well, they did rather detest each other. Not unlike yourself and Mr Malfoy. And then, your father did something Snape could never forgive.’


‘He saved his life.’


‘Yes ..’ said Dumbledore dreamily. ‘Funny, the way people’s minds work, isn’t it? Professor Snape couldn’t bear being in your father’s debt ... I do believe he worked so hard to protect you this year because he felt that would make him and your father quits. Then he could go back to hating your father’s memory in peace...’

Harry tried to understand this but it made his head pound, so he stopped.

‘And sir, there’s one more thing ...’

‘Just the one?’

‘How did I get the Stone out of the Mirror?’

‘Ah, now, I’m glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that’s saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life. My brain surprises even me sometimes ... Now, enough questions. I suggest you make a start on these sweets. Ah! Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans! I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavoured one, and since then I’m afraid I’ve rather lost my liking for them – but I think I’ll be safe with a nice toffee, don’t you?’

He smiled and popped the golden-brown bean into his mouth. Then he choked and said, ‘Alas! Earwax!’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

by J.K. Rowling