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Harry Potter Plot Holes: Why Dumbledore Shouldn't Know How Voldemort Killed the Potters

Updated on March 4, 2018
Freya Yuki profile image

Freya is an avid book reader who loves analyzing the plots, themes and characters of novels like the Harry Potter series.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling Is Not Perfect

The 7-book Harry Potter (HP) series written by J.K. Rowling was really popular and well-loved by so many people. I like the magical and fantasy story about wizards just fine too.

But did you know that the HP series isn't perfect?

There are a lot of things in the books that can really make you ask questions or that can cause you to frown and wonder if you maybe missed some stuff because not everything is as it seems and not all of this makes sense.

This is a very long topic though so this particular article will only focus on one aspect or one question. This is regarding the reason why it doesn't make sense for Albus Dumbledore to know about what Voldemort did to James, Lily and Harry Potter. What exactly is going on?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling | Source

Who are James, Lily, Harry Potter, Voldemort, etc?

If you're a fan of the HP series, then you no doubt already know the answer to this question. But let me give a short summary anyway for reference and because this is related to what this hub is all about.

This is also for the benefit of those who may not know much about the HP series. If you want, you can just skip right to the point by scrolling further down below.

Harry Potter is the main character in the HP series (I know, you could have guessed that since all the books have his name on them). He's the son of James and Lily Potter. He was still a baby when the incident I'm talking about happened.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
This is the first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. This is where we find out that Harry's parents, James and Lily Potter, had been murdered by the Dark Lord Voldemort.

What happened to James, Lily and Harry Potter?

The Potters live in Godric’s Hollow (it's just the 3 of them) under the Fidelius Charm(this is a magical spell that's supposed to hide the location of the family so that no one can find them unless that person knows the secret of their whereabouts).

Harry Potter was only a baby when his parents, James Potter and Lily Evans, were murdered by the Dark Lord Voldemort
Harry Potter was only a baby when his parents, James Potter and Lily Evans, were murdered by the Dark Lord Voldemort | Source

They were hiding from the Dark Lord Voldemort (he's the villain / bad guy / antagonist of the HP series) who was after their son thanks to a prophecy.

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t know that their Secret Keeper*, one of their close friends Peter Pettigrew (it was supposed to be Sirius Black, another one of their friends, but they decided otherwise), was actually working for Voldemort.

Thanks to Pettigrew’s betrayal, the Dark Lord knew exactly where to find the Potters (without Peter's help, he never would have found them). As you can expect, he went to Godric's Hollow so he could kill Harry.

*Secret Keeper - this is part of the Fidelius Charm; the Secret Keeper is the only one who knows the location of the Potters and he is the only one who can reveal their location to other people

What Happened to James, Lily and Harry Potter When Voldemort Arrived in Godric's Hollow?

When Voldemort arrived at the house, James tried to stop him from advancing further. He attempted to defend and protect his family to the best of his abilities.

Unfortunately, he didn't succeed as Voldemort easily killed him. The Dark Lord then searched for Lily and Harry.

Of course, Lily tried to defend her son. She begged Voldemort to spare her baby and to take her instead.

Tom Marvolo Riddle or the Dark Lord Voldemort was the one who killed James and Lily Potter. He wanted to kill baby Harry, but was unable to do so
Tom Marvolo Riddle or the Dark Lord Voldemort was the one who killed James and Lily Potter. He wanted to kill baby Harry, but was unable to do so | Source

While Voldemort refused to listen to her, he did offer her a chance to live if she would only step aside and let him have Harry.

Lily refused to move and she ended up dying as Voldemort killed her to get to her son.

As soon as Lily falls, the Dark Lord turns to young Harry and attempts to end his life like he did with the kid's parents.

He ends up failing spectacularly and epically (if this isn't a word, then it should be because epic fail is a pretty good way to describe exactly how Voldemort failed).

How Does Albus Dumbledore Know What Voldemort Did To James, Lily And Harry Potter from the HP series by J.K. Rowling?
How Does Albus Dumbledore Know What Voldemort Did To James, Lily And Harry Potter from the HP series by J.K. Rowling?

How does Albus Dumbledore and the Wizarding World know what happened in Godric's Hollow?

How in the world does Albus Dumbledore* and what seems to be practically the entire Wizarding World know what happened in Godric’s Hollow on that fateful Halloween night?

That doesn't make sense at all and that shouldn't have happened. In fact, this might even be considered a plot hole. Why?

*He's the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry but he has a lot of other titles and positions as well.

Some of the HP movie 1 plot holes:

Reason why this Harry Potter incident could be a plot hole?

There were only four people (James, Lily, Harry and Voldemort) in Godric's Hollow when the incident happened. No one else was there.

James and Lily Potter are dead

At the end of the Potters’ encounter with Voldemort, James and Lily are both dead so, even if they wanted to talk about the events that transpired / happened in their home, they wouldn’t have been able to.

Voldemort is the villain; why would he talk to his enemies?

Voldemort became some sort-of undead creature thing or whatever you want to call him (he was some ghost or something that was barely alive) and he was severely weakened thanks to his failure to kill Harry so it wasn't like he could just talk to people and tell them what happened.

Godric's Hollow

This is where James, Lily and Harry Potter lived before Voldemort showed up and ruined everything
This is where James, Lily and Harry Potter lived before Voldemort showed up and ruined everything | Source

Even if he was unharmed and unhurt, why would he tell Albus or his enemies what happened in Godric’s Hollow? Why would he tell anyone how he killed James first then offered Lily a chance to live before killing her when she refused him? Why would he tell people how he failed to kill Harry?

Harry may be alive, but he's just a baby who can't talk

While Harry Potter was still alive, he was just a baby when all this happened so, even if he wanted to talk, he wouldn’t have been able to.

Besides, as we later find out, he doesn’t really remember the incident all that well. He recalls the green flash of light but it isn’t until later on that he even finds out what that is supposed to mean.

Harry Potter - Years 1-3 Collection (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone/Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets/Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) (6-Disc DVD Set) (Full Screen Edition)
Harry Potter - Years 1-3 Collection (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone/Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets/Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) (6-Disc DVD Set) (Full Screen Edition)
Harry Potter was only a baby when the Dark Lord Voldemort killed his parents. This is why he didn't even know what had happened to James and Lily until Hagrid told him the story.

He also hears his mother’s voice when Dementors (these are dark creatures that can suck the happiness out of people and make them sad and depressed) are nearby but that hardly tells him much of anything and certainly doesn’t give him any idea as to what happened to his dad.

It's not possible for Albus to know any of this at all

In short, none of the 4 people that were in Godric's Hollow could have told Dumbledore anything.

So how does Albus know all of these things then right down to the exact details like who was killed first? How can that make an ounce of sense?

For all he knew, it could have been the other way around. In fact, many other things could have happened before the Potters were killed.

What if Voldemort had decided to play with them first before using the Killing Curse (Avada Kedavra; this spell is an Unforgivable Curse that instantly kills anyone it hits) on them?

What if the Dark Lord wanted to torture them first and use spells like the Cruciatus Curse (this spell causes people pain) on them before ending their lives?

Voldemort is the bad guy. He’s the antagonist, the villain, so doing despicable and horrible things like torturing people and making them suffer is only to be expected of him.

How well do you know the HP series by J.K. Rowling? Take this short quiz to find out:

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If Albus Dumbledore knew what Voldemort was doing to the Potters, then why didn't he help James, Lily and Harry?

But the point is really how Albus Dumbledore could have known exactly what happened to the Potters when Voldemort attacked them in Godric’s Hollow.

Does he have the Potters under surveillance? If he doesn't, then there's no way he should have known about what happened.

Yes, Order of the Phoenix is also the title of the 5th HP book and movie. In fact, this is where we first find out about this group

But if he does have them under surveillance, then he should have known that they were in trouble.

And if he knows that Voldemort was attacking the Potters, then why didn't he send people (like members of the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society or group that's against Voldemort) or go there himself to help them?

Does it make sense for Albus Dumbledore to know exactly what Voldemort did to the Potters?

See results

What do you think?

Does any of this make any sense to you? Do you think this is a plot hole or something?

You can share your thoughts or opinions by answering the poll to the right. You can also explain or elaborate on your poll answer below via the comments section (if you want to).

But if you feel that you have a lot more to say about this topic or if your answer isn't listed in the poll section, then feel free to leave a comment below.

Photo credits:

© 2014 Freya Yuki


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This is going into headcanon territory, but we've seen quite a lot of creative and powerful spells in the books. There's plenty of chance that there's some spell or another, on a similar vein to Priori Incantatem, that let's you see events that happened recently in an area. Dumbledore could have easily gone there himself, or sent someone there, who used the spell and saw what happened.Or the Ministry could have.

      Given just how useful a spell like that would be to Auror investigations, it just wouldn't make sense for the spell to not be invented already. And that could give an explanation of why the whole Boy Who Lived phenomenon became so viral. Someone from the Ministry, a bit after Hagrid left Godric's Hollow but before he reached Little Whinging, could have used the spell, seen what happened there, and then rushed back to the Ministry and spread the news. The information would then spread like wildfire, and countless parties had started by the time Hagrid met Dumbledore and McGonagall at Number Four Privet Drive.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Dumbledore knew about potters beacuse it was told in Prisoner of Azkaban that when Sirius went to check on Peter pettigrew, who had presumably went into hiding after being made Potter's secret keper on his request, before going into hiding himself he discovered that Peter was gone and on basis of instincts went to check on Potters and discovered what had happened and must have informed dumbledore.

    • profile image

      Benjamin LJohnson 

      3 years ago

      Alex is wrong on both counts.

      You don't need the Secret Keeper to enter a Fidelius Charm, you only need to know the secret. So, no; Pettigrew did not have to be present.

      That flashback scene with Snape is movie only, it didn't actually happen in the books.

      This is indeed a plot hole.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      The assumption that there were only the four of them at Godric's Hollow that night is decidedly wrong.

      LV would at least need the secret keeper to enter the house - remember that the death eaters couldn't see Grimmauld Place 12 even when they stood right in front of it. It's not enough for LV to be at the correct location but Peter had to be with him.

      Now we can suspect that other people were oresent as well. There is a whole lot of conspiracies, the most likely one being that Snape was there as well (remember the flashback when Snap hugs and cries over dead Lily).

    • profile image

      Brody Going 

      3 years ago

      Dumbledore could of searched through Young Harry Potters mind to know exactly what happened and the Neighbors

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      The potters' neighbour (Bathilda Bagpipe) saw. It's that clear !

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      In terms of the order in which they died it's fairly obvious James died first as he was found dead in the hallway and surely even Voldemort was not foolish enough to think James would not attack if he went straight after Lily and Harry.

      Lily was found in front of Harry's cot so again it is easy to summise that she died defending her child.

      As Dumbledore had Harry collected by Hagrid whom undoubtably would have recounted the scene of devastation, he would have heard the whole story and as Sirius knew he was not rhe secret keeper why should he have kept away? To do so would only have justified suspicions of guilt from others.

      I don't call it a plot hole - it's a work of fiction and fiction as in real life is not perfect. Rather than bash J K Rowling for not being perfect ( and believe me even the Bible isn't perfect) why don't we just embrace the fact that this author has written a series of amazing books that have encouraged an awful lot of previously uninspired readers to pick up a book and turn a page. She deserves to be commended, not vilified.

    • KevinCheng profile image

      Kevin Cheng 

      4 years ago from Hong Kong

      I could be wrong but, I'm not sure he did for sure at first. There were other residents in Godric's Hollow, like the little boy who who saw Voldemort before all that. It's possible that some neighbors would hear or even see some of it.

      Plus it was known fact that Voldemort was after the Potters, and Dumbledore knew about the prophecy. One day they both turn out dead, it's easy to figure out who did it. And the fact that Harry survived with a magical scar means something went wrong for the baddie.

      As for the details of Potters' death, I don't believe anyone knew that until Voldemort himself told Harry through Quirell.

      Dumbledore suspected that Voldemort might have lived because knew he might have had Horcruxes. But the wizarding community didn't share that opinion, because the majority didn't believe it when he returned until the end of Book 5. As far as they're concerned , Potters died and by some miracle, Voldemort also died trying to kill Harry.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This question (how Dumbledore knows what happened) and the one following (why would Dumbledore share this knowledge with the whole WW ?) is hard to explain with in-story (or lack) elements and in fact I believe it should have been the author duty to make sure that the readers can find a certain and unalterable answer -or THE answer intented by the author- without trouble and doubting it, just by reading the text (or re-reading as many times needed until seen it). Otherwise it's putting the burden of working an explanation onto the readers while reaping the benefices of the efforts.

      I want to scream plothole, deus ex-machina too, because honestly it's the true reason of the whole story imho. And it raise so many else issues, like why didn't the Potters became their own Secret Keeper ? Why didn't Lily use apparition with Harry to go somewhere else safe ? Why didn't they planned emergency plan(s) "in case of breach of their house" ? Why the invisibility cloak wasn't used ? How could Sirius came at the same timing as Hagrid if he was the supposed Secret Keeper from Dumbledore&co pov and thus the most supposed suspect of betrayal at the time but Dumbledore didn't warned Hagrid neither sent someone more prepared for a magical fight ? Why Harry as been dropped so casually right after the fatal night without a time of delay to be sure that Harry wouldn't suffer of after effects of explosion ? Why why why...) but let's try anyway. Warning : english language isn't my native language, sorry in advance for mistakes and hard to understand sentences.

      First, the murder and house destruction (the house was destroyed and Harry among the rubbles.) happened in a semi-wizarding village during Halloween night, which means in a populated area during a festive time for both WW world and non magical world, so everything that happened this night could have been fully witnessed by outsider coming afterwards.

      In DH, chapter 17 p.404-406 (french edition), there is a decription of the night from Riddle pov (through Harry's connexion) that can be used as the main and most reliable source of informations in-story. He was witnessed walking in the town by a child (and he let the boy go live because killing him was useless) and walking towards the Potters house. I quote : "And along a new and darker street he moved, and now his destination was in sight at last, the Fidelius Charm broken, though they did not know it yet..."

      Coupled with infos from PoA, chapter 10 page 215 (french version) about the Fidelius charm itself : " As long as the Secret Keeper refused to speak, You-Know-Who could search the village where Lily and James were staying for years and never find them, not even if he had his nose pressed against their sitting room window!" I can assume without too much strech that the house itself wasn't necessarily invisible (except perhaps the usual anti-muggle charms), just that no matters which efforts they put in, no one could see and notice that this house in particular was where the Potters were still living hiding under fidelius charm (the house could appears empty perhaps to the non-initied ones ? So I believe the secret Pettigrew was supposed to guard was something along "Potters family are hiding in their home at Godric's Hollow". It's the Potters itself that are under the charm, not the house itself contrary to the Order Quarter fidelius one for example). In the next page we learn that only 1 week is spent between the casting of the fidelius charm after the warning of the spy (Snape) and the killing of the Potters (thought the timeline in HPverse isn't very reliable so...). With informations from other books (DH, OotP mainly) I can imagine a situation where Dumbledore knew about the list of potentials hidings (maybe prepared theses places himself) for the Potters and put some spy/devices to keep a watch in the area, and the Secret Keeper was the only one to know which hiding was chosed by the Potters in the end. So as soon as the attack blasted the house, Dumbledore was alerted ("hiding at Godric's Hollow destroyed, Potters dead, baby alive"situation) and sent Hagrid (totally illogical choice but whatever) fetch the baby to meet at Privet Drive. With the potential witnesses (the boy that saw Riddle in the town wasn't probably the only one to saw him, magical folks living in the area that took care of the situation afterwards (and spread the rumors) maybe have witnessed the situation and reported it, a potential speel/device put in each hiding area(s) alerted Dumbledore....plenty of possibilities that can happens all together.

      And Dumbledore "brilliant mind" (as much as the author can be, not more sadly) speculating (as he said himself in PS/SS chapter 1 page 19 french version "We can only guess," said Dumbledore. "We may never know.") that if Voldemort was witnessed near the GH hiding it wasn't probably for playing trick-or-treat but for more serious business, and if the baby was alive, great chance that the parents were killed by Voldemort and the latter been either killed trying to kill the last occupant in the house because evil wanted to keep record clean (one of the rumors in-book) or was rendered too weak to do anything since he didn't manifested himself to anyone after this night (another rumor in-book). And how the WW know about Harry lightning scar ? Well Hagrid don't know how to keep a secret for long, few celebrations, some drinks, and the whole things is knew (which can also explain the witches/wizards meeting Harry time to time even if the area isn't specially magical-people populated.)

      Thanks to the prophecy saying "the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal [...]" (the scar witnessed by Hagrid, Dumbledore and McGonagall), doubts could still lingered in Dumbledore mind that maybe the baby was either a future Dark Lord in waiting, so better dump the baby in an area that won't have any magical interferences and casualties, put a spy here (a Squib, really ?), and wait to see if anything happens or not. Or either that his theory of a protective blood old magic dwelling in Harry, the sort that is actived when a willing sacrifice is made, was true, and it would be like a stone two blows to put him with his muggle relatives to further it. And if the other theories (Voldemort truly defeated, or too weak to do anything) was true, whatever place Harry would live wouldn't really make a change from a tactical point of view. And at the end of PS/SS, Harry himself report to Dumbledore what Voldemort told him about this night (way to spill the beans Voldy, really), and it validates the sacrifice theory, Dumbledore can gloat over is amazing deduction skills and pretend that everything was for the greater good as usual.

      That is a bit grim to think that Dumbledore toyed with Harry's fate and many lives over theories. But that the only way to make sense a bit of all the mess outside of the whole "Rowling wasn't really thinking throught all the details". Don't know if this reply will satisfy the OP or anyone, but I tried...I tried... *take a lemon drop and disappear*

    • Freya Yuki profile imageAUTHOR

      Freya Yuki 

      4 years ago

      @Irfan - thanks for your comment. This sounds like a good way for Albus Dumbledore to find out what really happened. But I think there are some issues with this that would need to be addressed in order for the idea to be plausible and believable.

      For one, if Albus could go back in time to watch what Voldemort did to the Potters, why didn't he just go back even earlier, before the Dark Lord showed up, so he could take James, Lily, and Harry and bring them somewhere safe?

      As for changing the course of history - how does Dumbledore know for sure that his interference would change the course of history for the worse, that he would be doing a bad thing if he interfered?

      As it is, if he's shown standing there, watching Voldemort kill James and Lily and trying to kill their son and yet doing absolutely nothing - this just makes Albus come across as cruel, especially since these people were loyal to him. They were members of the Order of the Phoenix and they chose to be on his side, so for him to abandon them just like that just sounds terrible and bad, and even something that a villain might do.

    • Freya Yuki profile imageAUTHOR

      Freya Yuki 

      4 years ago

      @Ron - thanks for your comment. As I mentioned to @M. T. Dremer, while it may be possible to extract or look into baby Harry Potter's memories, wouldn't Albus Dumbledore be limited to what Harry can see and hear?

      This would mean that Dumbledore would have no idea how James Potter was killed since Lily took Harry with her when she went upstairs. And when Lily was killed, she wasn't carrying Harry, right? So, how much was baby Harry able to see and hear regarding this incident?

      As such, even if Dumbledore can see into baby Harry's memories, how can he accurately piece together exactly what happened the night Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow?

      I think it's entirely possible for Harry to remember about the flying motorcycle since he experienced it himself.

      Yeah, Hagrid went to Godric's Hollow on Albus' orders and that's also why he brought Harry to Privet Drive.

      "maybe AD went to GH" - if Albus did go there, was it after James and Lily were killed? If it was before, why didn't he help them out?

      If it was after and only baby Harry was there, why did he bother calling Hagrid to get the kid?If he was already there anyway, then why didn't he take Harry himself?

      I think this would have made more sense because Dumbledore is a powerful wizard and he can easily apparate from place to place, which means, if he'd taken Harry from Godric's Hollow, he could easily bring him to Privet Drive without the need to get on a flying motorcycle or some other means of transportation. And Harry would have been much safer with him.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      He used the time turner to go back in time to witness the events hiding under the invisibilty clocke or invisibility charm. He didn't intervine as it would have changed the course of history like it did in Cursed Child.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Maybe AD twinkled his way into Harry's mind to see what happened which caused that memory to be strong enough for Harry to remember, even if it's only in his dreams. The flying motorcycle may be explained by Harry's subconscious doing everything it can to hold onto a happy memory while he's exiled at the Hellsleys. It's always implied that Hagrid went to GH on AD's orders while the two were at Hogwarts...maybe AD went to GH and summoned Hagrid to take Harry away?

    • Freya Yuki profile imageAUTHOR

      Freya Yuki 

      6 years ago

      M. T. Dremer - thanks for your detailed comment :). While it may be possible to extract baby Harry's memory, wouldn't they be limited to what Harry could see at that time? So they'll only see what Voldemort did to Lily and they wouldn't know what happened with James.

      Also, I have to wonder, since Harry doesn't / hardly remembers the incident very well (he can hear his mom's voice when dementors are nearby and he recalls the green flash of light but he doesn't know the full details of what exactly happened), even if they can extract the memory from him, wouldn't they only be able to find out what he knows and understands or would it be possible for them to extract the full memory from baby Harry?

      Neither Pettigrew nor Snape were there when this happened though, right? And, if Snape was actually there, then why didn't he do anything to help? He could have secretly helped without blowing his cover as a spy for the light side.

      About Priori Incantatem - Dumbledore doesn't have access to Voldemort's wand so he can't use that. Apparently, neither James nor Lily were able to use their wands against Voldemort so Dumbledore can't use the priori spell on those wands either even if he has them in his possession. Harry was too young to have a wand then so he's out.

      Good point on the placement of Lily and James' bodies, which could be a good indication on who was killed first. And Dumbledore does seem wise enough to know about the magical protection Lily put on Harry though it does seem odd that he knows so many details and aspects on exactly what happened since, technically, only the people in Godric's Hollow should know the full story and none of them can or would tell Albus the story (James and Lily are dead, Harry's just a baby, Voldemort's the enemy).

    • Freya Yuki profile imageAUTHOR

      Freya Yuki 

      6 years ago

      revolutionbjj - thank you :). I looked at the HubPages mobile preview for the article and it does look okay. Why? Is something wrong with looking at it via mobile device?

    • revolutionbjj profile image

      Andrew Smith 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Hub looks great! Have you looked at it on a mobile device yet?

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 

      6 years ago from United States

      Well, as we know, there is a lot more to the wizarding world than it seems. Dumbledore was the only one who heard the prophecy surrounding Harry and Voldemort, and J. K. established the idea of the pensieve and 'viewing' someone else's memory. It wouldn't work for three of the people in the room, but could they have extracted baby Harry's memory? Or maybe someone else who was closer to the event like Pettigrew or Snape. There are also spells, like Priori-incantatem, that can reveal certain aspects of the past. While none of these are a definitive solution to why Dumbledore knows the specifics, they are all possibilities in a world of magic. Plus, a certain amount of detective work could also tell the story. The placement of Lily and James's bodies, plus the magical protection Lily inadvertently put on Harry by protecting him (Dumbledore would be able to recognize and understand such magic). Again, none of it is explicitly stated, but I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility for the book.


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