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Things you may not have noticed about… Albus Dumbledore

We all know that Dumbledore favoured sherbet lemons and had a fondness for knitting patterns – but here's a few finer details about the headmaster of Hogwarts.

Dumbledore sitting in a chair from the Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Oh, and if you haven’t finished the books, beware of a few spoilers.

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was so much more than the headmaster of Hogwarts. While you might know all about his discovery of the uses of dragon’s blood, his London Underground-shaped scar or his fluency in Mermish, there is much about the powerful wizard you might have missed…

He didn’t really see socks in the Mirror of Erised

After Dumbledore told Harry he saw himself with a nice pair of socks when looking into the Mirror of Erised, Harry later reflected that he might have been lying, but that it was a rather nosy thing to ask:

It was only when he was back in bed that it struck Harry that Dumbledore might not have been quite truthful. But then, he thought, as he shoved Scabbers off his pillow, it had been quite a personal question.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

After it was revealed that Dumbledore was devastated by the accidental death of his sister during a fight with Grindelwald and his brother, Aberforth, it became clear that Dumbledore’s deepest desire, and regret, involved his family. J.K. Rowling confirmed this after the final novel, revealing that when Dumbledore looks into the mirror he sees his family ‘alive, whole and happy – Ariana, Percival and Kendra all returned to him, and Aberforth reconciled to him’. Excuse us while we ugly sob.

Harry looking into the Mirror of Erised
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

His name is a bit of a buzz word

Dumbledore is an eighteenth-century word for bumblebee, and J.K. Rowling said she liked imagining Albus wandering around the castle humming like a bee himself, which is frankly adorable. Speaking of J.K. Rowling’s musings on the headmaster, she also revealed on Twitter that Albus is her favourite character of the series (besides Harry, of course)!

His friendship with Grindelwald was complex

One of the most famous revelations about Dumbledore after the books were published was that he was actually in love with Gellert Grindelwald. J.K. Rowling said: ‘Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was… Do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extent? But he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him.’

Dumbledore and the Goblet of Fire
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

His death was foreshadowed in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

While enjoying Christmas dinner in the third book, Professor Trelawney freaked out because she believed that, should she join the table, it would mean 13 people would be seated and so the first person to stand would be the first to die. What she didn’t realise was that there were already 13 witches and wizards sat at the table, if you included Peter Pettigrew in Ron’s pocket…

Dumbledore stood up to greet Trelawney, therefore making him the first of the 13 to get up from dinner. Sure, it could be a coincidence, or it could have been a nod about Dumbledore’s fate from J.K. Rowling. Clever!

Dumbledore, at one point, possessed all three Deathly Hallows

From Dumbledore’s letters to Grindelwald in Deathly Hallows, it is obvious that the headmaster of Hogwarts was obsessed with the idea of the Hallows in his youth. It seems fitting then that he should become the only character besides Harry to have owned all three at some point in his life. After winning the Elder Wand in his famous duel with Grindelwald, he came into possession of James Potter’s cloak after borrowing it to study, and kept it safe to give to Harry when he was old enough, meaning that it was in his possession for about a decade. He also came to own the Resurrection Stone, though it came with terrible consequences when he attempted to wield its power and fatally cursed himself.

‘Why,’ said Snape, without preamble, ‘why did you put on that ring? It carries a curse, surely you realised that. Why even touch it?’
Marvolo Gaunt’s ring lay on the desk before Dumbledore. It was cracked; the sword of Gryffindor lay beside it.
Dumbledore grimaced.
‘I … was a fool. Sorely tempted …’
‘Tempted by what?’
Dumbledore did not answer.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

He can be rather detached

Although the Dumbledore we know and love is always there to help with a twinkle in his eye, J.K. Rowling has admitted that Albus can be a little, well, cold. Back in 2005, she said: ‘I see him as isolated, and a few people have said to me, rightly I think, that he is detached. My sister said to me in a moment of frustration – it was when Hagrid was shut up in his house after Rita Skeeter had published that he was a half-breed – and my sister said to me, “Why didn't Dumbledore go down earlier?”… I said he really had to let Hagrid stew for a while and see if he was going to come out of this on his own, because if he had come out on his own he really would have been better.’

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Dumbledore is a huge part of J.K. Rowling’s favourite fan theory

When asked about her readers’ ideas, J.K. Rowling referred to the theory about the Peverell brothers, who, according to the legend, each received a Hallow for cheating death. The theory stands that Voldemort was the eldest brother, who was murdered after seeking power with the Elder Wand. Snape was the middle brother, who pined after a dead girl he once loved, and eventually died to join her; while Harry was considered to be the youngest brother, who greeted ‘Death as an old friend’. Since Dumbledore was the one waiting for Harry after the piece of Voldemort inside him was destroyed, one fan suggested that Dumbledore was Death in the tale. Referring to this concept after a fan asked her about her favourite theory, J.K. Rowling tweeted: ‘Dumbledore as death. It's a beautiful theory and it fits.’