A Complete Timeline Of The Harry Potter Headmaster’s Backstory

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Summary

  • Dumbledore’s early life and family history, including his father’s imprisonment, had a significant impact on his character and beliefs.
  • His relationship with his younger sister, Ariana, and her tragic death played a major role in shaping Dumbledore’s life and choices.
  • Dumbledore’s role as a teacher and leader, his battles with Grindelwald, and his mentorship of Harry Potter were crucial in the fight against Voldemort and the Second Wizarding War.

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Albus Dumbledore is one of the most important characters of the Wizarding World franchise, and his story stretches back far further than the Harry Potter series. It was told, in part, in the books as the Boy Who Lived began to learn about the good and bad of his hero and headmaster’s story. Then the Fantastic Beasts movies attempted to fill in the details, outlining the years leading up to Dumbledore’s defeat of the Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.

Though Dumbledore was seen as a wise and good character throughout most of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows began to reveal the darker truths. He was seen to be an intelligent but flawed man whose upbringing resulted in a prejudice against Muggles that was uncharacteristic of the old man he would one day become. What’s more, Dumbledore’s intelligence and belief in the “greater good” meant that he was responsible for the difficult decisions of Harry Potter’s journey. This ultimately made for a character that wasn’t all good nor bad—and this is seen reflected throughout his long and complicated backstory.

Dumbledore’s Early Life & Father’s Imprisonment (1881 – 1891)

HP Details Dumbledore Family History (1)

Though the exact year of Albus Dumbledore’s birth isn’t known, it has been confirmed that he was over 100 years old when he was killed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and based on the events of his life, Albus was likely born in the early 1880s (1881 is the commonly excepted approximation). At this time, Kendra and Percival Dumbledore lived in the village of Mould-on-the-Wold, and this continued through the birth of all three of their children—Albus, Aberforth, and Ariana.

Ariana Dumbledore Is Attacked By Muggles – Circa 1890

A couple of years before Albus left for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, his little sister, Ariana, was seen doing magic by a group of Muggle boys. It’s never revealed precisely what they did to her. Still, the assault resulted in Ariana being too afraid to perform magic again, so she tried to suppress her power, resulting in her becoming an Obscurial. Percival Dumbledore attacked the Muggle boys in retribution and spent the rest of his life in Azkaban as a result.

Hogwarts & Early Adulthood (1892 – 1899)

Dumbledore and Grindelwald as young lovers (1)

After Percival’s imprisonment, Kendra relocated her family to Godric’s Hallow in an attempt to start anew. Ariana was kept inside for most of the day, but neighbor Bathilda Bagshot observed Kendra taking her out into the yard occasionally. Unfortunately, Ariana’s condition continued to worsen, and Kendra was preoccupied with her care, so Albus and Aberforth were mainly left to their own devices. This was around when Albus started school at Hogwarts, which he saw as an opportunity to escape his tragic home life and finally shine.

Albus Dumbledore Begins School At Hogwarts – Circa 1892

Albus Dumbledore started school near the end of the 19th century. His father’s crime against the Muggles that assaulted Ariana was a very public affair, so Albus’ presence at Hogwarts created a similar amount of buzz to that of Harry Potter’s. Still, Albus kept his head down and quickly developed a name for himself as a stupendously gifted student.

Kendra Dumbledore Is Accidentally Killed – Circa 1899

Albus’ school career was full of accolades, and when he graduated, he was eager to begin his life and truly exercise his exceptional talent. However, just as he went to leave home for a year traveling the world, Kenda Dumbledore was tragically killed in an accident involving Ariana’s explosive powers. To Albus’ disappointment, he was left responsible for his family.

Albus Meets Gellert Grindelwald – Circa 1899

As discussed in Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts, this was when Albus met Gellert Grindelwald—an equally gifted youth who was staying with his relative in Godric’s Hallows, Bathilda Bagshot. The pair developed a friendship and romance, bonding over their shared belief that they would make the world a better place by ruling the Muggles and bringing the wizarding world out of hiding.

Ariana Dumbledore Is Killed During A Duel – Circa 1899

When things inevitably turned sour with Grindelwald, a duel broke out between the budding Dark wizard, Albus, and Aberforth. A frightened Ariana attempted to help but was tragically caught in the crosshairs and killed. No one ever learned whose spell had hit poor Ariana—a question that would haunt Albus Dumbledore for the rest of his long life.

Dumbledore’s Teaching Career & Battle With Grindelwald (1927 – 1966)

Dumbledore-Teaching-Harry-Potter

Albus learned through Ariana’s death that he couldn’t be trusted with power. He had neglected his family to obtain it and had allowed his prejudice against Muggles to cloud his judgment. Despite being offered prestigious jobs at the Ministry of Magic, Albus accepted a post at Hogwarts School. He found this to be the better expression of his skills since he could pass on the lessons he had learned to the next generations of witches and wizards.

Dumbledore Begins Teaching At Hogwarts – 1927

Dumbledore’s first job at Hogwarts was Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, but he ultimately switched to Transfiguration, which was truly the subject he was the most skilled in.

Dumbledore Meets Tom Riddle – 1938

Among Dumbledore’s jobs at Hogwarts was contacting Muggle-born students and explaining to their families that their child was a witch or wizard. One such prospective student was Tom Riddle, who had grown up in an orphanage in London. The boy was highly talented—something his future teachers would eventually praise him for. However, Dumbledore sensed darkness there and kept a close eye on Riddle throughout his school career.

Dumbledore Famously Defeats Gellert Grindelwald – 1945

According to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore avoided a fight with Grindelwald out of fear of learning who had been the one to kill Ariana. Of course, theFantastic Beasts movies have a different story involving a blood pact. Regardless, come 1945, Dumbledore could no longer avoid the fight, and he took Grindelwald down and sent him to prison.

Becoming Headmaster & The First Wizarding War (1966 – 1980)

An image of the Order of the Phoenix in a group photo in Harry Potter

In the years following Grindelwald’s defeat, Dumbledore rose through the ranks at Hogwarts. Around 1966, Armando Dippet stepped down as headmaster, and Dumbledore was the next clear choice. Though he knew he could not be trusted with power, Dumbledore carefully took on several leadership roles as well as Hogwarts headmaster. As Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Dumbledore worked to lead the wizarding world through Voldemort’s rise and the First Wizarding War.

Dumbledore Interviews Tom Riddle At Hogwarts – 1967

Now an adult, Tom Riddle came to Hogwarts and interviewed for the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position. Dumbledore, who turned the future Dark wizard down, observed the physical changes Riddle had already begun to take due to his magical experimentation. Riddle was denied the job, and Dumbledore found he could no longer fill the post for longer than a single year.

Dumbledore Starts The Order Of The Phoenix – Circa 1975

Once Lord Voldemort’s movement went public, Dumbledore established the Order of the Phoenix to take down the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters.

Dumbledore Interviews Trelawney & Hears Her Prophecy – 1980

Dumbledore, who held little regard for the subject of Divination, interviewed Sybill Trelawney to fill the teaching job. Unexpectedly, she had a true prophecy outlining the birth of the boy destined to take the Dark Lord down. Severus Snape heard this prophecy and reported it to Lord Voldemort.

Raising Harry Potter & The Second Wizarding War (1981 – 1996)

Harry potter and Dumbledore

Thanks to Severus Snape, Lord Voldemort acted on Trelawney’s prophecy and murdered the Potters, who he believed to be the parents of the Chosen One. Of course, the young Harry Potter survived, and Voldemort fell, thanks to the protection left on Harry by his mother, Lily Potter. Thus began the most crucial period in Dumbledore’s life—the upbringing of the Boy Who Lived.

Dumbledore Leaves Harry Potter On No. 4 Privet Drive – 1981

Dumbledore left Harry Potter with his maternal aunt, Petunia Dursley, whose blood continued the protection that had kept Voldemort from killing the Boy Who Lived. He left a note on the doorstep with the infant, explaining to Petunia that she could protect her sister’s son simply by housing him. Despite her resentment, Petunia agreed.

Dumbledore Begins To Test The Young Harry Potter – 1991

Harry Potter started at Hogwarts in 1991, but Dumbledore wasn’t entirely sure who this boy had become. Given all Harry Potter had gone through, he would have been easily influenced by evil. However, through Dumbledore’s tests in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he saw that the boy had a pure and good heart.

Dumbledore Begins To Deduce Voldemort’s Horcrux Plan – 1992

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry destroyed Tom Riddle’s diary with a basilisk fang. It was then that Dumbledore began to realize the extent Voldemort had gone through for immortality in the years leading up to Harry Potter.

The Second Wizarding War Begins – 1996

Though Voldemort’s body was resurrected in 1995, the Second Wizarding War didn’t officially begin until 1996 when the Dark Lord was seen at the Ministry of Magic—thus proving his existence. Dumbledore dueled Voldemort for what is believed to be the only time before the evil wizard escaped.

Dumbledore’s Horcrux Search & Death (1996 – 1997)

HP Details Dumbledore Death (1)

When the Second Wizarding War was fully underway, Dumbledore began to truly dive into the details of Voldemort’s immortality. With Harry’s help, he could confirm the suspicion that had started in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that Voldemort had created several Horcruxes. Dumbledore knew then that if Harry were to defeat Voldemort, each fragment of the Dark Lord’s soul, including the one stored within the Boy Who Loved, would need to be destroyed.

Dumbledore Begins His Horcrux Search & Is Cursed – 1996

Dumbledore found one Horcrux in the summer between Harry Potter’s fifth and sixth years at Hogwarts. The Peverell ring had been hidden at the Gaunt house, and when Dumbledore found it and recognized that the stone was none other than the Resurrection Stone, he couldn’t resist but put it on, hoping to see his deceased family members. Instead, Dumbledore wound up with an incurable curse that would claim his life within a year.

Harry & Dumbledore Leave Hogwarts To Find A Horcrux – 1997

Dumbledore managed to find what he suspected to be the location of one more Horcrux in a cave that Voldemort had used to torment his fellow orphans when he was a boy. The headmaster took Harry there, though they were only successful in retrieving a replacement locket left by Regulus Black.

Dumbledore Is Killed By Severus Snape – 1997

Severely weakened by the Emerald Potion used to protect what was supposed to be Voldmeort’s Horcrux, Harry and Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts to find that it was under attack by Death Eaters. On top of the Astronomy Tower, the headmaster was confronted by Draco Malfoy, who disarmed Dumbledore (unknowingly gaining the allegiance of the Elder Wand in Harry Potter). This was when Severus Snape, who had been ordered by Dumbledore to kill him so that Draco could be spared, reluctantly cast the Killing Curse. This meant the end of Albus Dumbledore’s life in Harry Potter, though his legacy would continue to guide Harry on his quest to defeat Lord Voldemort a year later.