Harry Potter Theory: What Was Dumbledore’s Actual Plan?

The Harry Potter series is one of the most beloved stories of this generation, but it’s not without its flaws. J. K. Rowling is a very good storyteller, but not a very good world-builder, and the closer you look at her stories, the more plot holes you see. The end of Deathly Hallows has always been especially difficult for me to understand. For one, it’s not entirely clear what actually happened—why, exactly, Harry survived and how he later won—but there’s a deeper problem. I have a hard time understanding what Albus Dumbledore was thinking, because Harry’s victory, which Dumbledore ostensibly prepared him for, seemed to leave far, far too much to chance to ever work.

Albus Dumbledore gets a lot of criticism for his actions over the course of the Harry Potter series. Many fans even go so far as to suggest (as Snape did) that he was acting maliciously, or at least callously and indifferently in his treatment of Harry. “[Y]ou have been raising him like a pig for slaughter,” Snape says (DH Ch.33), but on that, I disagree. I think it’s clear that Dumbledore didn’t know a lot of important things until late in the game. Voldemort had him on the back foot, and he was searching for answers that might not exist.

(That said, I do think Dumbledore made two large mistakes that he never owns up to, but both of these feel like Early Installment Weirdness in Philosopher’s Stone. These are not checking on Harry’s well-being for ten years with the Dursleys’, and then letting Harry face Voldemort alone at the end of his first year.)

Dumbledore’s ignorance, doesn’t solve the problem of his impossible master plan, though. However, by careful examination of the last books of the series, I think we can piece together his real plan, which is very different from what actually happened. The reason the ending looks far too based on luck to work is that while Dumbledore’s plan was about as good as he could come up with at the time (not having any leads on the last two horcruxes), it went badly wrong in at least four different ways. Luckily for Harry, a couple of those ways, as Harry said, backfired on Voldemort more than they did on Dumbledore.

This essay is my analysis of what that original plan was and where Dumbledore’s true mistakes were.


All Hallow’s Eve, 1981

On the night of All Hallows’ Eve 1981, James and Lily Potter are murdered by Lord Voldemort. Voldemort then tries to kill their infant son, Harry, but the spell rebounds back upon him, destroying his body. And Albus Dumbledore seems to know this at once.

How Dumbledore knows this is not really important. He has his fingers in enough pies that he could plausibly be the first to learn of Voldemort’s defeat. Naturally, his first reaction is to send Hagrid to check for survivors. Why Hagrid? It doesn’t sound like the best tactical choice, but Dumbledore trusts him with his life, and Hagrid does have one thing going for him. He is one of the few people competent to move Harry by Untraceable means, thus hiding him from any moles in the Ministry.

Hagrid, of course, reports that Harry is still alive. Dumbledore may have had some way of ascertaining this before Hagrid gets there. (See the Weasleys’ clock, for example.) But either way, he is surely mindful of the prophecy. If Voldemort didn’t kill the whole family, then he must have been killed or driven away somehow, though the details are unclear. He must find out what happened, and fast, and most of all, he must determine whether Voldemort is still alive.

The news seems good at first. Within hours, rumors start spreading that Voldemort is dead, some of them backed up by Ministry investigators. People who were Imperiused are coming out of it, for example, suggesting that the rumors are true. However, Dumbledore is immediately worried that even if Voldemort appears to be dead, he could come back. Severus Snape has been spying for him for over a year, and he has reported that Voldemort boasts of his immortality—that he has not only taken measures to overcome death, but that he has gone further than any other wizard in history. Dumbledore is well-versed enough in dark magic from his misspent youth with Gellert Grindelwald to know that there are several ways this could be accomplished.

We don’t whether Dumbledore saw Harry before the meeting at Privet Drive, but again, it doesn’t much matter. Years later, everyone seems to know about Harry’s scar, so Hagrid’s loose lips must have gotten the word out somehow. Despite what he says to McGonagall, Dumbledore surely knows at once what happened from this news. Rowling has said that Harry’s scar is in the shape of the wand motion for the Killing Curse. Dumbledore would have deduced instantly that Lily sacrificed herself for Harry, invoking a powerful magical protection on him. How can we know this? Diary-Riddle understood it at once at age sixteen when Harry told him, and Dumbledore is much more knowledgeable about that kind of magic.

Suddenly, the prophecy comes into focus. Harry survived the Killing Curse. Voldemort has marked Harry as his equal, but he has a power that Voldemort knows not: the Sacrificial Protection. Prophecies don’t always come true, but they do speak truth, and Sybill Trelawney’s prophecy tells Dumbledore that Harry is or will be capable of vanquishing Voldemort, and therefore, he must be protected at all costs. But this will not be easy because Harry Potter is in grave danger, if not from Voldemort himself right now, then certainly from his followers seeking revenge. After all, Hagrid already narrowly saved Harry from the traitor Sirius Black in Godric’s Hollow, and it’s not out of the question that Voldemort himself could come back to life in the next few days. We already know how Dumbledore handles that: extending the Sacrificial Protection over the household of Lily’s sister. This first plan goes off without a hitch, but he has his work cut out for him figuring out what to do next.


The Horcruxes

Contrary to what fans may claim, Dumbledore doesn’t know about Voldemort’s horcruxes at first. He pieces that secret together slowly, over many years. In the aftermath of Voldemort’s fall, Horace Slughorn seems particularly happy—more so than most other people. When Dumbledore asks him why, he suddenly becomes very cagey and accidentally drops a hint about horcruxes before fleeing the conversation. Now, Dumbledore is even more suspicious that Voldemort is still alive, but even then, he doesn’t know if Voldemort actually made a horcrux as opposed to other methods of cheating death (and at the time, he probably suspects only one horcrux).

So, over the next ten years, Dumbledore does what he didn’t have time to do during the war: study Voldemort’s past in detail for any clue to how he might come back in the future. He also does his best to track Voldemort’s current movements. This is detective work—very different from what he was doing before, and he has some success tracking him presently, but he reaches very few conclusions about his past.

Harry Potter comes to Hogwarts, and at the same time, Voldemort is on the move again. This can hardly be a coincidence, but it turns out that Voldemort’s real target is the Philosopher’s Stone, not Harry. Dumbledore’s plans don’t go as intended that year, but it does mostly work out in the end.

The following year is when the first bombshell comes: Harry Potter is a Parselmouth. At first, Dumbledore doesn’t know what this means, and he doesn’t get the chance to examine Harry or talk to him about it, but at the end of the year, he gets answers to all of his questions, and he sorely wishes he hadn’t. Tom Riddle’s diary was a horcrux.

This is news to Dumbledore. As he says later, “Four years ago, I received what I considered certain proof that Voldemort had split his soul.” (HBP Ch.23). Where he was just guessing before, even with Slughorn’s hint, he now knows for certain that Voldemort made a horcrux, and even worse, he made more than one. Dumbledore now knows what he meant by going further than anyone else in overcoming death. Worse still, he now knows or at least strongly suspects that Harry is also a horcrux, and that he will therefore have to die in order to kill Voldemort for good. A year later, when Harry starts getting visions from Voldemort, that’s pretty much sealed.

We never see this, but I think we can safely assume that Dumbledore then begins quietly investigating whether there is some way to save Harry, but he is delving into an area where not only does he not have clear answers, but canonically, there are no clear answers. J. K. Rowling has said, I never saw this- as in the finale, the denouement, the moment when Harry faces Voldemort, is prepared to die, and yet doesn’t die- that isn’t like a scientific equation. Harry- it’s not guaranteed.” (Link.) Raising Harry as a pig for slaughter wasn’t even on his radar before now, but now, he doesn’t have any surefire way to save him.

And just as we never see Dumbledore struggle with this, we also don’t know when he figures out the loophole that Voldemort eventually stumbles into. It must have been before the end of Goblet of Fire, but it also couldn’t have been planned. I say this because looking back, I just can’t see the “gleam of something like triumph” in Dumbledore’s eyes as a Machiavellian reaction of, “Yes, all according to plan,” as some less charitable fans might say. I don’t even think it was a reaction of, “Yes! Voldemort made the mistake I predicted he would make,” especially not if it were followed by, “Now I can checkmate him with my own clever plot.” I think it was genuine emotion breaking through at Voldemort, in his arrogance, doing the one thing that will (at least probably) save Harry’s life in the end. It’s more a reaction of (to badly oversimplify), “Wait, he did what? Yes! That solves everything!”

While that problem is as much solved as it’s going to be, Dumbledore continues searching for Voldemort’s horcruxes. Unfortunately, while he now has a better idea now of what some of them are from his research, he still has only guesses as to where they are. Just before Christmas, he gets one very big clue through Harry’s visions: Nagini is a horcrux. That is both good because she will be relatively easy to track and kill, and bad because killing her would mean getting close to Voldemort himself.

At the end of that year, Dumbledore gets another lead and goes off to find and destroy his first horcrux. At that time, he is likely planning to destroy them all himself and then break the news to Harry that Voldemort must kill him. This would make the most sense given how he admits one of his mistakes is that he cares about Harry too much. Though perhaps he is planning to read Harry in on it as soon as the boy learns Occlumency. Perhaps he will even tell Harry the truth about his probable survival since he knows the prophecy doesn’t have to come true, and he himself will be able to handle a mortal Voldemort. This would be a relatively new development, as his plans go, but it would spare them both the heartache of him sending the boy off to his death.

There is still the trouble that Voldemort has ordered Draco Malfoy to kill Dumbledore, intending that he will fail and that Snape will have to finish the job. Dumbledore will have a hard time finding a solution that keeps himself, Snape, and Draco alive, but he’s sure he’ll think of something.

And then, the unthinkable happens: he is fatally cursed by the horcrux.


The Half-Blood Prince

When Snape tells Dumbledore he has only a year to live, he outwardly smiles, looking on the bright side that at least the Draco plan is now much simpler. But inwardly, he must be in great distress. This was the first of his mistakes that nearly lost the war, and it’s ruined his plans up to this point. There is now a grave danger that he will not live long enough to destroy all the horcruxes, and that duty will then fall to Harry. With Dumbledore dead, Voldemort will take over the Ministry in short order, and any hope of a strong, organized opposition will collapse. He reluctantly abandons his plan to tell Harry the truth about the blood protection. His new plan will be to give Harry, and the wizarding world in general, every advantage he can in the inevitable final fight against Voldemort. Without the force of arms to stop him, Harry invoking the Sacrificial Protection on (possibly) all of magical Britain will be the best chance they have of winning, and he gets that for free with his existing horcrux-destroying plan if he doesn’t tell Harry.

As for the other horcruxes, he will teach Harry about them, showing him all of the information he has about them and how to track them down—and presumably how to destroy them, though he didn’t get to that point. He takes his good, sweet time with this, which is a questionable move. He probably has several reasons for it. Most practically, he needs that memory from Slughorn. He still doesn’t know how many horcruxes there are. He probably considers six (plus Harry) a likely candidate, but that is far from certain. Note how Dumbledore tells Harry that most of what they are doing in Half-Blood Prince is speculation. A second reason may well be sentimentality, still dragging his feet to spare Harry the pain—and besides, he thinks, he’s not making much progress finding them anyway. Another possible reason is to impress upon Harry that this is something that much be done with slow, methodical detective work, not fighting, although if that is a reason, he does a poor job of it.

But then, Dumbledore makes a second, even more disastrous mistake: he allows Draco to carry out his plan while he and Harry leave the castle.

It’s pretty clear that Dumbledore is not planning on dying the night he takes Harry to the cave. He certainly hasn’t told Harry everything he needs to know, especially how to destroy horcruxes. But Dumbledore doesn’t know what Draco’s plan is because Draco hasn’t told anyone what it is, especially Snape. Despite Harry’s warning, he is probably expecting another weak attempt like the cursed necklace or the poisoned mead. When they return from the cave, he is surprised to see the Dark Mark over Hogwarts:

“As they sped toward the castle, Harry glanced sideways at Dumbledore, ready to grab him should he fall, but the sight of the Dark Mark seemed to have acted on Dumbledore like a stimulant…” (HBP Ch.27).

This was definitely not according to plan, and that should be pretty obvious. Dumbledore would never have let Death Eaters into Hogwarts unchallenged, even to get a horcrux. He concludes that Draco’s plan has gone unexpectedly right, and he will have to let Snape kill him a little early and trust him to give Harry the information he needs to know afterwards. (Of course, Draco also disarms him, which was not part of the plan, but that’s a separate matter.)


The Prince’s Tale

This shows how Dumbledore’s plan went wrong, but what was it in the first place? To determine this, we have to look at the parts of his plan that are not shown clearly on-screen and extrapolate their intended results. There are three big clues to this plan: Dumbledore’s will, the flashbacks in “The Prince’s Tale,” and his conversation with Harry in “King’s Cross.”

We’ll start chronologically with “The Prince’s Tale.” In the immediate conversation after he is cursed by the ring, Dumbledore asks Snape to kill him to spare Draco the damage to his soul of having to do it. This also fulfils his wish to break the power of the Elder Wand—if that is truly his wish (more on that later).

In the next conversation, a few weeks before his death, Dumbledore tells Snape that he is giving Harry enough information “to do what he needs to do.” But then, he gives Snape a very unusual order:

“There will come a time when Lord Voldemort will seem to fear for the life of his snake…If there comes a time when Lord Voldemort stops sending that snake forth to do his bidding, but keeps it safe beside him under magical protection, then, I think, it will be safe to tell Harry [that he must sacrifice himself].” (DH Ch. 33.)

The planned order of events here is very strange. Dumbledore wants Harry to be told to sacrifice himself while Nagini is still alive, but after she is protected by Voldemort so that Harry can’t get to her. He also wants Snape, a man whom Harry hates and whom he will believe murdered Dumbledore and is a loyal Death Eater by Dumbledore’s own plan, to tell him this.

There is good reason to save Nagini for last. She is the hardest horcrux to reach, being so often by Voldemort’s side, and an attempt on Nagini, successful or not, would spook Voldemort into checking on and moving his other horcruxes, and they’d never find them. There’s also a good reason for the timing. Snape won’t know what Harry is up to or what progress he is making, but Harry (Dumbledore believes) will be able to get the other horcruxes unnoticed since they will presumably be hidden away from people. If Voldemort becomes protective of Nagini, it will mean that Harry has destroyed the rest of the horcruxes and is already coming after her, and it will be the clearest signal to Snape to put the endgame into motion.

The problem with this plan (aside from multiple assumptions that turn out to be wrong) is that Nagini will still be alive. When the time comes, Harry believes he has failed Dumbledore by not killing her yet, but it seems that Dumbledore wasn’t intending Harry to kill her, at least not before his sacrifice. Harry sees this in the memory, but doesn’t put the pieces together. Dumbledore is counting on someone, be it Harry, Ron, Hermione, or Snape, to kill Nagini after Voldemort believes Harry is dead and lets his guard down (risky, given how paranoid he is), and then for anyone to kill Voldemort himself (which would work whether Harry survives his sacrifice or not).

But Dumbledore then gives another interesting order to Snape in that conversation:

“And Voldemort himself must be the one to do it, Severus. That is essential.”

We know this is necessary because it is the only way for Harry to survive, but why, from Snape’s perspective, should Dumbledore say this? It may be because Voldemort won’t trust a report of Harry’s death unless he sees it in person. Or it could simply be due to Voldemort’s desire to kill Harry himself because of the prophecy.

Also, Dumbledore is putting a lot of trust in Harry himself with this plan:

“Sometimes I have thought he suspects it himself. If I know him, he will have arranged matters so that when he does set out to meet his death, it will truly mean the end of Voldemort.”

This can’t be literally true if Dumbledore intends for Nagini to be inaccessible to Harry at that exact moment. His death would not mean the end of Voldemort. But his faith in Harry is still well-founded. Before he goes to meet Voldemort, Harry sets the wheels in motion for others to end Voldemort after him.

These are the only conversations we see with Dumbledore himself before his death, but his portrait continues to instruct Snape after his death. Magical portraits “learn” their subjects’ mannerisms by listening to them in life, and it’s quite plausible that Dumbledore embedded explicit instructions in his portrait to be doled out at the right time, so we can assume these parts of the plan are trustworthy.

We first see Dumbledore’s portrait instruct Snape about the Seven Potters plan. Next, we see Dumbledore’s portrait telling Snape to deliver the Sword of Gryffindor to Harry when he learns that Harry is in the Forest of Dean. He also says that Harry must not know Snape gave it to him in case Voldemort reads his mind, even though he was unconcerned with that a year earlier. (This seems inconsistent, but it’s really secondary.) Dumbledore had probably planned to tell Harry about the sword before his death, but this was of course derailed. It was nearly derailed again because Harry and his friends were too good at hiding, and Snape didn’t know where to find them, but that part, at least, finally succeeded.


The Will of Albus Dumbledore

Now, we come to Dumbledore’s will. He leaves four bequests to the Trio. The Sword of Gryffindor is self-explanatory. The other three are seemingly useless at first, but later turn out to be vitally important. He leaves the Deluminator to Ron, which is troubling as a strategic move. Harry says that Dumbledore left Ron the Deluminator because Ron “would always want to come back.” But Ron is also right: Dumbledore knew he would leave Harry, and yet he still entrusted Harry’s safety to him. But Ron was still Harry’s best friend, and Dumbledore wanted to keep the knowledge of the horcruxes a secret, so his options were probably limited.

Dumbledore gives Harry the Resurrection Stone—a very dangerous artifact—but one with a very specific purpose. Remember how Dumbledore spelled out his reasoning that Harry must not be told he must sacrifice himself until the last minute:

“Harry must not know, not until the last moment, not until it is necessary, otherwise how could he have the strength to do what must be done?” (DH Ch.33.)

I think Dumbledore’s third crucial mistake, which “backfired on him” alongside the bit with the Elder Wand, was that he was not expecting one of the horcruxes to be at Hogwarts. (He also probably wasn’t expecting one to be at Gringotts either, where stealing it would tip off Voldemort early. Plus, not having any leads on that horcrux could have derailed all of his plans were it not for the sheer luck of Bellatrix spilling the secret.)

Dumbledore wasn’t planning for a full-scale battle at Hogwarts and thus didn’t anticipate Voldemort’s ultimatum to Harry. He expected Harry to have to go seek out Voldemort somewhere. But because it happened at Hogwarts, Snape could have failed to tell Harry the truth (which very nearly happened), and Harry still might have sacrificed himself and gotten Dumbledore’s plan back on track.

But how does this relate to the Resurrection Stone? In his original plan, Dumbledore was expecting Snape—the last person in the world Harry would trust—to tell a Harry who thinks he’s winning, isn’t in a major battle, and is not inclined to present himself to Voldemort to be killed, to do just that. This means that Dumbledore believes Harry will need to be convinced to let Voldemort kill him. Luckily, he has an artifact that is very good to at convincing people to kill themselves, and that artifact is the Resurrection Stone. Except, the Stone is too good at it. If he just gave it to Harry, he would go and get himself killed too early and in the wrong way. So, he hides the Stone in the Snitch. Then, in his final bequest, he gives Hermione the clues to understand the Stone and the Deathly Hallows in general. This way, Harry will not be able to use the Stone until he knows exactly what he has and why he has it.

This, then, is Dumbledore’s plan, before his untimely death screwed it up: he tells Harry everything he needs to know about Horcruxes and gives him the Sword of Gryffindor. Harry tracks down the other horcruxes (somehow—Dumbledore himself didn’t know how) and destroys them. When Snape sees Harry try to make a move on Nagini, he seeks out Harry and tells him to sacrifice himself. Harry won’t believe it at first, but sooner or later, he’ll figure out the Resurrection Stone, and it will convince him to sacrifice himself to Voldemort. With the horcrux in Harry destroyed, he can come back and finish the job, or else others can take up the cause, and Voldemort is defeated.


The Deathly Hallows

Except no, that’s not right. This all seems very neat, but there’s one big problem: the conversation at King’s Cross.

At King’s Cross, Dumbledore tells Harry a lot of things about what actually happened, and not so much about his original plan, but he does say something very surprising things about the Deathly Hallows, namely that he deliberately set Harry down the path to unite them:

“You are the worthy possessor of the Hallows…I am afraid I counted on Miss Granger to slow you up, Harry. I was afraid that your hot head might dominate your good heart. I was scared that, if presented outright with the facts about those tempting objects, you might seize the Hallows as I did, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. If you laid hands on them, I wanted you to possess them safely. You are the true master of death, because the true master does not seek to run away from death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.” (DH Ch.35.)

Why does he say this? Why would he try to give Harry control of the Elder Wand? Wasn’t he trying to break its power?

Actually, no. Dumbledore does not explicitly say in King’s Cross that he wanted to end the power of the Elder Wand. Instead, he affirms Harry’s assertion that he wanted Snape to “end up with it.” It is Harry in the final duel against Voldemort who claims that Dumbledore wanted

to end the power of the Elder Wand by dying (if indirectly) by his own hand.

Something is inconsistent about this. Was Snape meant to become the new master of the Wand, or was its power meant to be broken? Dumbledore’s portrait does affirm afterwards that if Harry dies a natural death, the Elder Wand’s power will be broken (even though he will be at very great risk to be killed or disarmed in a way that transfers the power of the Elder Wand, especially as an Auror). It seems unlikely that Dumbledore meant for Snape to become the master because he already believes that Voldemort is after the Elder Wand…or is he?

If Dumbledore’s plan had gone right, Snape would have both disarmed and killed him. Voldemort would get the Wand and deduce that Snape was now the master and kill him, possibly before he could get the necessary information to Harry. That doesn’t work.

But why does Dumbledore believe this? Why is Voldemort after the Elder Wand? Because Harry’s wand beat him in the Battle of the Seven Potters, and he wanted a better one. But I don’t think Dumbledore intended for Voldemort to confront Harry in the Seven Potters plan. After all, the ruse would have worked had Harry not outed himself by using Expelliarmus, and that only happened because he accidentally saw the face of one of the (plausibly few) Death Eaters who were Imperiused. If that slip hadn’t happened, Voldemort wouldn’t have confronted Harry and subsequently devoted his efforts to obtaining the Elder Wand. It makes more sense if he wasn’t looking for it.

However, Dumbledore says in King’s Cross that he anticipated Voldemort seeking the Elder Wand ever since the brother wands stopped him from killing Harry in the graveyard.


What’s going on, here?

 

Let’s assume that Dumbledore was being truthful when he said he wanted Harry to unite the Deathly Hallows, not just use the Resurrection Stone. Why? What’s to be gained from this? According to Rowling, being the master of death did not contribute to his survival; that was only the blood protection, which Dumbledore seems to have known. Was it pure vanity on Dumbledore’s part to see the Hallows united? Despite his lamenting that he wasn’t worthy of them in King’s Cross (or perhaps because of it), I wouldn’t put it past him, but it seems like a very bad move to distract Harry like that in the middle of a war. Was it specifically to make Harry the master of death because he would be more willing to sacrifice himself as master of death? That would be consistent, but it seems like an awful lot of work when the Resurrection Stone alone would probably do the job.

For that matter, how was Dumbledore expecting Harry to even get the Elder Wand. At first glance, one would expect Dumbledore to know that the Wand would be buried with him, not held by anyone and with Snape not “ending up with it,” but that’s not necessarily true. If Draco hadn’t disarmed him, Snape could have “stolen” the Wand from his body and hidden it somewhere. (Again, this only works if Voldemort is not looking for it.) He could then present it to Harry as a token of loyalty to get Harry to actually listen to him.

That could world, but if Dumbledore really did want to end the power of the Elder Wand (which seems iffy at this point), this would mean he wanted Snape and then Harry to own Wand, but not master it. The Wand’s power would be broken in terms of the line of mastery, so this is not the advantage of giving to Harry. But holding it would still make Harry master of death. Does this give him some kind of advantage?

Actually, it might—maybe even a couple of advantages. First, if Voldemort doesn’t have the Elder Wand, then he plausibly would still be using his old yew wand. Dumbledore never knew that he borrowed Lucius’s wand, and he was expecting Harry to still have his holly wand. If all went well, Dumbledore’s ploy would result in Harry going up against Voldemort with a different wand, thus removing the Priori Incantatem effect from play without Voldemort knowing. That’s good for the same reason Voldemort wanted to avoid the brother wands problem.

The other possible advantage is that while the Elder Wand may no longer have a master of its own, it just might answer to the master of death. And Harry is the master of death, both by virtue of possessing all three Hallows and because he has the mindset of the master of death, accepting that he must die and making peace with that fact. If this plan works, then Harry will have done what Dumbledore couldn’t: seize the Hallows at the right time, for the right reasons, and if the Elder Wand answers to him, he would have a wand that gives him a much-needed edge for the final duel against Voldemort when both of them are mortal. And in fact, this is ultimately what happens, albeit for a very different reason.

This, I think, is what Dumbledore was planning for the Hallows. They weren’t a necessary part of the plan against Voldemort, but they were one more contingency to help Harry pull it off, and he constructed his plan so that Harry was at least capable of gaining some advantage from them while Voldemort couldn’t. Dumbledore presumably thought long and hard about what to do with the Elder Wand, and his plan, in typical Dumbledore fashion, kills three birds with one stone: breaking the power of the Elder Wand, keeping Voldemort from getting it whether he could master it or not, and still using it to give Harry an advantage in the end. His plan goes horribly awry when Draco disarms him, but through an extremely lucky series of coincidences (or maybe fate), it actually works out as he intended in the end.

But of course, this only works if Voldemort isn’t looking for the Elder Wand, and in fact, that is not something Voldemort was originally planning to do. Dumbledore’s plan could still work if he was, but it makes Snape a much weaker link because Voldemort might get the Wand and kill him to become its “master” at any time. Was Dumbledore acting out of desperation at that point, or was this a mistake on Rowling’s part? I don’t know, but since it’s the only real inconsistency, I’m inclined to go with the latter.