Lord Voldemort’s Request

chapter twenty of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

With Ron out of the hospital wing, Hermione begins speaking to him again. Then Harry has another lesson with Dumbledore, where he apologizes for failing to get Slughorn’s memory and watches two more memories – one of Riddle meeting Hepzibah Smith and her treasures, and the other of now-Voldemort applying to teach at Hogwarts.

7th Floor Corridor, by TomScribble

The girl did not say thank you, but remained rooted to the spot as they passed and watched them out of sight; Ron glanced back at her. “I swear they’re getting smaller,” he said.


Hepzibah Smith, by haystax45

“How do I look?” said Hepzibah, turning her head to admire the various angles of her face in the mirror.


by Laura Freeman

Voldemort… picked his way through the cramped room with an air that showed he had visited many times before and bowed low over Hepzibah’s fat little hand, brushing it with his lips. “I brought you flowers,” he said quietly.


Tom Loves the Locket, by Heather Campbell

“Slytherin’s mark,” he said quietly, as the light played upon an ornate, serpentine S…. There was no mistaking it this time: Voldemort’s eyes flashed scarlet at the words, and Harry saw his knuckles whiten on the locket’s chain.


Are You Alright, Dear? by gerre

[Hepzibah] looked him full in the face and for the first time, Harry saw her foolish smile falter. “Are you all right, dear?”

(by gerre)


Tommort? Voldiddle? by Heather Campbell

Voldemort stood up. He looked less like Tom Riddle than ever, his features thick with rage. “This is your final word?”


about the chapter


The Wizarding World

Up to this point, Borgin and Burkes has always been presented as a shop specializing in Dark items – it’s in Knockturn Alley, after all, and everything Harry noticed when he was in there was certainly of a Dark nature. So it’s interesting that Hepzibah Smith, who would presumably have no interest in the “evil-looking masks,” “human bones,” or “rusty, spiked instruments” that adorn the shop (much less the cursed necklace!), would deal with Mr. Burke so regularly. Perhaps the shop has been somewhat miscast; after all, Harry was twelve at the time that he went in there, so he obviously would have been distracted by the sinister-looking items he’d never seen the likes of before. But it seems now that while the shop certainly doesn’t shy away from Dark artifacts, it really may be something more of an antique shop than anything else. It’s hard to say with so little experience, but either way it’s definitely easy to see why they make house calls – can you picture Hepzibah Smith walking down Knockturn Alley and into the shop?

Life at Hogwarts

So. Now, after years of speculation, we finally know – the Defense Against the Dark Arts job is cursed. Which, if you think about it, is kind of crazy, on a couple of levels. First of all is the obvious: how on earth would you go about cursing a position? But beyond that, this has a fairly substantial meaning for Dumbledore and the students at Hogwarts. The curse was placed something like forty years ago, which is an awful long time to be perpetually searching for teachers, but more than that means that the person teaching at any given time is probably not all that qualified. In fact, Harry and his friends are probably lucky to have had Lupin, Moody, and Snape; I’d bet that prior to Harry’s start at Hogwarts most of the teachers were more along the lines of Quirrell or Lockhart. It’s a miracle anybody ever learned anything in these classes. Which suits Voldemort just fine, of course.

The other big question this raises, naturally, is how the staff deals with this problem. Most of the other teachers have been around for a while (including McGonagall for 39 years); they’re not dumb enough to think that this level of turnover is just a coincidence. So when Dumbledore hires a new teacher, does he tell the person that it’ll only be for a year? We know he told Moody, but what about the rest? And while the kids haven’t been around long enough to see the big picture of it, surely it’s fairly common knowledge among wizards by now that this is a substantial problem? This curse really raises more questions than it answers….

38 Responses to “Lord Voldemort’s Request”

  1. On the issue of the DADA curse, I personally don’t think that it’s necessarily the position itself that’s cursed – rather, it’s the room that has the jinx.

    But then, why would he curse the room all the way from Dumbledore’s office? Surely he could have gone to the room itself either on the way or from the interview (judging from the snow, it’s Christmas time when the memory takes place, meaning that there wouldn’t be many students or staff to see him do the deed). It certainly would have been easier to have done.

    BTW, welcome back! Been reading this site for a while, and it’s nice to see updates again. Appreciated.

  2. Yes, forty different DADA teachers is ridiculous. Of course, it’s not entirely clear if they can only teach one year total, or one year at a time. Like, could you cycle through the same 8 teachers 5 times? Obviously, during Harry’s time at Hogwarts, the teachers meet nasty ends — but that is when Voldy returns, starting Harry’s first year in the back of Quirrell’s head. In previous years, did the DADA teachers all meet bad ends, or did some get lured away to other positions, go on maternity leave, etc.? Just a thought.

  3. Perhaps Voldemort cursed the position of DADA just for that reason-to ensure that SO MANY kids grew up without the skills to defend themselves against Dark Arts. Think back to what either Fred or George said in the beginning of this book to Harry-that so many Ministry employees couldn’t do a basic shield charm and so were buying Shield hats and more from the Weasleys.

    As a former teacher, I can vouch that the first year is completely the worst ever. So many unexpected problems to deal with! So exhausting! Then to teach the older students who have already had several other teachers in this subject (a 7th year would be on his/her 7th DADA teacher) is also demanding. It’s very hard to come in after people who only lasted for a year and try to fill in the holes that were left. So I think perhaps the curse somehow made it easier for those people to quit or move on to something else, rather than stay and tough it out with McGonagal and crew.
    And a question: when exactly did Voldemort curse the position? He asked to stay and teach at 18, but was refused. Then he works for Borgin and Burkes, but does it say how long he worked there? Then before the memory is shown to Harry, Dumbledore says ten years have passed. So is he 28 when he reapplies? Is he 30? 32? Then it wouldn’t be quite so many teachers that have passed through, because 40 is a ridiculous number. Any thoughts?

  4. Was Quirrel(l?) really that bad of a TEACHER? I mean, I know he had Voldemort sticking out the back of his head, but similar to how Moody was a decent teacher, despite being TOTES EVIL, he had to keep up a pretence of being an okay teacher (he was a Muggle Studies teacher for years beforehand) to avoid suspicion. Maybe we thought he was okay because they were first years and any wizard or witch could do that level of defence and teach it well… but I still think he couldn’t have been Lockhart levels of bad!

  5. I’m sure 40 is an exaggeration,mostly to demonstrate how powerful the curse is. Any wizard who can divide his soul seven times could be capable of anything! I think it was the position itself that was cursed, although the catalyst could have been the classroom. I don’t think it was revealed how long Voldemort worked at B&B, only that he took the job after Dumbledore refused his teaching offer and resigned once he stole the locket and the cup.

  6. Am I alone in thinking that Dumbledore didn’t mean that Voldemort literally put a jinx on the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts? After all, we’ve no idea what happened the most of the DADA teachers who have come through Hogwarts since Voldemort supposedly jinxed the spot. Perhaps the explanation is simply that Voldemort methodically snuffed out the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher every year until he disappeared. After that, its possible that the DADA left because they think they’re convinced to end up leaving, similarly to how Hermione suggests that the Grim doesn’t actually fortell death, but simply convinces people that they’re going to until they end up dying. In addition, Harry’s years at Hogwarts were not the safest the school has seen, what with Voldemort’s constant plots, and any Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is going to be right there in the thick of it.

    Is this too far-fetched?

  7. Reading this discussion, my first thought was to wonder if Dolores Umbridge knew about the curse before she started. Then I realized – of course she did! She came into the job fully intending to complete the year as headmistress, and she’d hire a new DADA teacher for the following year.

  8. Wonderful pictures, by the way. Heather Campbell’s Tom Riddle takes my breath away!

  9. Roslinstars: Rowling said that the job was jinxed.

    “MV: Do you– do Ron and Hermione or Harry ever return to Hogwarts in any capacity?

    JKR: Well, I can well imagine Harry returning to give the odd talk on– on Defense Against the Dark Arts. And– I– and, of course, the jinx is broken now because Voldemort’s gone. Now they can keep a good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from here on in. So that aspect of the-of the wizarding education is now provided for.”–J.K Rowling to Meredith Vieira on the Today Show.
    –http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19959323/”– linked from Accio Quote.

    That’s the way I understood it, anyway.

  10. A few random responses….

    James: It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me for the room to be cursed rather than the position. There are spare classrooms all over Hogwarts; if Dumbledore thought there was a possibility it had anything to do with the physical room, why not just move DADA classes to a different room?

    Jennifer C, Dumbledore says in this chapter that “we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort.” So Riddle must have cursed it when he came to ask Dumbledore for the job.

    Kathryn, I doubt Quirrell was as bad as Lockhart, but Harry describes his classes as “a bit of a joke” in PS8.

    As to the number of years the curse has existed: Dumbledore says in this chapter that “ten years separates” Hepzibah’s death from Voldemort’s job application. Hepzibah’s death seems to be within a couple of years of Riddle’s leaving Hogwarts (which was in 1945), which would place his applying to teach DADA (and the subsequent curse on the post) sometime around 1956-1958. In this chapter, of course, it’s 1997, so forty years is probably pretty darn close.

  11. Josie: I can certainly see where you’re coming from, and that does make sense. But, on the other hand, how do you curse something like a position? It’s not something physical or anything, so how would you go about something like that? I can’t remember anything else like that during the whole series.

  12. I’m puzzled.

    Why would cursing a position be any different than cursing an object or a person, just because there’s nothing corporeal to point one’s wand at? Lord Voldemort is the third, if not the second, most powerful wizard of the 20th century (well, the second, probably, as Grindelwald had the Elder Wand on his side during his ascent): if Dumbledore, the only one stronger than him, tells us he jinxed the position, then it can be done. After all, you and I can wish a painful pimple where the sun doesn’t shine on that nasty policeman (corporeal) who gave us a speeding ticket as well as wish that that odious class (incorporeal) on which we’ll be tested next month had never been created… If we had a great amount of magical power at our disposal, maybe both “curses” would be effectual.

    On the other hand, I don’t think the curse is necessarily dangerous to the people filling the position. The feeling behind the curse seems to be spite rather than sheer evilness: you don’t want to give ME the job, then have fun finding someone else year, after year, after year. Hence, before the year’s out, something will happen that will encourage the DADA teacher to leave, but not necessarily death or any other bodily impediment. See for example Lupin, who left of his own volition because his secret was out. Or Snape: he teaches DADA only this year, as the jinx goes, but nothing bad happens TO him and he’s actually back in school the next year, albeit in another position.

  13. About Quirrell’s competence, in Order of the Phoenix didn’t Umbridge say something that he would have been the only DADA teacher she would have given a pass during an inspection?
    Of course not that her opinion matters or anything…(She would obviously fail Moody(fake) and might even refuse to be in the same classroom with Lupin….)
    Come to think of it I guess this statement shows more of Umbridge rather than Quirrell.I just remembered it when I was trying to think of something canon.

    Now about the curse.During the 40 years, does have to be a new teacher every year? Couldn’t one teacher teach for about a year, leave for some personal reason and then come back in a couple of years time and then teach another year? The book does say that there hasn’t been a DADA teacher who lasted for more than a year but I don’t think it necessarily means that that teacher could never come back again for the post, just that the teacher wouldn’t be able to stay for several consecutive years. If this is the case then couldn’t Dumbledore have asked the same teacher to come teach another year in a few years time?(as long as they weren’t dead, obliviated, or cursed etc.)
    Of course I guess this process would eventually wear the applicant out, making them refuse the job after teaching a few years, meaning Dumbledore would have to search for a new teacher.
    Just wanted to point out that I don’t think it necessarily had to be 40 teachers in 40 years.

  14. I too wondered about cycling the DADA teachers, but what are they going to do the X amount of years they’re not teaching? They’ll find another career, of course! Not all of them are like Lupin (unable to find work) and Moody (retired). So maybe it wasn’t 40 teachers in 40 years, but I’ll be very surprised if it was less than 30.

    Also, I just thought of something! In Snape’s Worst Memory, we see Flitwick administering the DADA OWL. There was some question as to why that was. One theory was that he was DADA teacher that year (since in CoS it mentions he was a dueling champion). But what if he was actually covering for that year’s DADA teacher, who was already out of the picture? It makes a lot of sense, IMO.

  15. I had another thought-it seems to validate that 40 is a pretty good guess for the number of years. Professor McGonagal says to Umbridge that she has been teaching at Hogwarts for 39 years. It is never mentioned that McGonagal had Tom Riddle as a student, so it must have been more than 39 years ago. I think I may be as bad as JKR at math! LOL!

  16. Well! There must have been some qualified DADA-teachers before Harry had started Hogwarts. After all, there were some students in the 60s, 70s and 80s, who later became superb DADA-experts, p.e. Frank and Alice Longbottom presumly in the late 60s, Snape, Lupin and Barty Crouch jr. in the 70s and Nymphadora Tonks in the 80s. And Kingsley Shaklebolt seems also not old enough to have attended Hogwarts before the late 50s.

    @Jennifer C.

    McGonagall started teaching in Dec. 1956 at Hogwarts. At that time Riddle was 30 years old, so McGonagall couldn´t have been a teacher of Riddle. But it is possible, that Riddle was a schoolmate of McGonagall.

  17. @ hpboy13

    I always thought Flitwick was merely supervising while the kids were taking the exam (much like Umbridge in the OotP movie): it’s an outside commission that grades OWLs, just like A-levels in the muggle UK (see how much you learn from the HPC!!?). It might still be that he was there because the actual DADA professor was out of the picture, as you say, but it might also be that they don’t let a teacher sit in on his own class’ exam in case he tries to help.

    40 teachers in 40 years seems really tough and the fact that it took all that time to go through all the people Dumbledore knew before the Ministry appointed someone itself says something. But it couldn’t have been as simple as cycling a couple of people for a few years or else Dumbledore might just have employed two people who were proficient in DADA and one other subject and cycled them around each year among themselves, which would have ensured some consistency in the teaching and avoided the other person finding a different career in the meantime.

    @ Jennifer C. & Marco

    I think it has been established that McGonagall was at Hogwarts with Riddle. She might remember him, as he was so smart and dashing (and responsible for catching Myrtle’s killer), but I doubt the two had much interaction. That also means she went to school with Hagrid and Myrtle, whom she might have known better.

  18. Where has it been established that McGonall was at school with Voldemort, in the books or in fan sites/interviews? I have read the books many times, but don’t go to many fan sites or read many of JKR’s interviews unless they’re linked from here. That may be why I never thought of it until this chapter on HPC.

  19. Jennifer C, the explanation is a fairly long-winded one, but the short version is that Rowling said in an interview at one point that McGonagall was seventy years old at the time (the break between books 3 and 4, maybe? I don’t remember offhand). At any rate, when you compare that with Riddle’s story that we get in the books, it becomes clear that they were at Hogwarts together, though not in the same year – McGonagall would have been a year or two older. Of course this means she also would have been in Gryffindor along with Hagrid, though she was perhaps five years older than him, so they likely wouldn’t have interacted much, either.

    I would be surprised if this is something that Rowling was consciously writing into the books, given the offhanded nature of her comment in the interview. But it’s interesting all the same. :)

  20. How does one curse a position?


  21. Aside from the above,I love how Dumbledore mentions to Voldemort that he’s ‘merely friendly with the local barmen’. After going through this website I’m starting to open my eyes a bit more and actually READ between the lines.. as little tidbits have a way of becoming rather important later… clever Rowling =]

  22. @DADA Hard To Curse: I think you guys are forgetting who we are talking about. Voldermort is the 2nd most powerful wizard of all time. I think he can pretty much do what ever he wants magic wise.

    @Barman: I am disappointed there is no Something To Remember about the Barman being Albaforth.

    @McGonagall knowing Voldermort: Once again I think everyone is forgetting something very important. Even if McGonagall was in the exact same year as Tom Riddle they wouldn’t have known each other hardly at all. They are Grryfindor and Slytherin. So they wouldn’t have been close at all and neither of them played Quidditch so they would only have seen each other in classes. And the fact is they are probally not in the same year.

    @The Curse: I don’t think people would be able to teach DADA and than come back. Espically since Dumblodore knew that the job was cursed. So he could have hired 2 teachers to alternate ever year and he didn’t. That is a simple thing to think of and he didn’t do it cause it was impossible.

    I most of the teachers died after teaching at Hogwarts. I assume many people took the post for a year and went on to something else.

    Do you think Moody could teach again? Cause technically he was given the job as DADA teacher but he never taught. Likewise could Barty Couch Jr teach? He never was given the job.

  23. Austen, sorry to disappoint leaving out the “Something to Remember.” It was a deliberate choice to leave it out – like many things, I felt that pointing it out at all would be a spoiler in and of itself, so I chose to leave it off the page.

    Your idea of Moody and/or Barty Crouch being able to teach DADA is fascinating, though. Not that anyone could ever find out, but still an interesting idea that would get to the heart of how that type of magic works (I’m thinking the magical binding contract behind the Goblet of Fire may be in a similar family).

  24. @Josie’s Reply To STR: That is what I figured. It would have given to much away.

    @Josie’s Moody/Barty Reply: It is just an intresing idea. Not that we will ever know or that it matters but it is intresting. I have to agree that the binding contract on GoF is similar. I also think that The Unbreakable Vow is from the same “class” of spells/charms/curses.

  25. Both Moody and Barty Crouch had nasty stuff happen to them that year, of course, one after getting the job and the other after DOING the job. So it’s possible that the jinx worked on both of them. Part of the literary magic of the jinx, though, is that it’s still vague even though Voldemort caused it. Students would not know of this, and I can certainly see why, with teachers leaving every year for different reasons from the same position, why it would become a rumour when not confirmed as Dumbledore could have done.

  26. Not sure if anyone’s mentioned this, but in the Order of the Phoenix, it’s mentioned that the entrance to the Room of Requirement is on the stretch of wall just past “that tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy trying to teach ballet to trolls”, and on a seventh-floor corridor. Now, the trio walk down a seventh-floor corridor past a girl staring at a “tapestry of trolls in tutus”. Coincidence?

  27. A couple of random general musings:
    1. As her house is so cramped with clutter it seems difficult to Harry for anyone to walk around without knocking things over, how in the world does Hepzibah ever move? Maybe she just apperates.

    2. Crabbe. Goyle. Polyjuicin’ as little girls right and left. Anyone else extremely disturbed/disgusted by this??

  28. I couldn’t be bothered reading all the comments to find out if someone had mentioned this – but I presume this is one of, if not the main reason as to why Dumbledore believes Voldemort is still alive after the 1981 attack – because the curse never lifted. I assumed all the other teachers would have believed he were still alive too then, but they never witnessed Voldemort apply for the job and as you mentioned – they never seemed to notice the job never lasted longer than a year. Which begs the question: do the teachers have their own opinions? Do they ever disagree with Dumbledore (apart from Umbridge)? You’d think all these teachers would be highly respected to be able to work there, yet most of them seem like wallflowers.

  29. I think Borgin and Burkes was operated by men who would deal in anything if they could buy low and sell high. Ten galleons for a priceless locket, 500 galleons for goblin-made armor — and a sale price of 1,500 galleons for a fatally cursed necklace.

    B&B probably ended up with so many dark items because those wanting to get rid of them were desperate and would take very little for them, while those who need them would be willing to pay more than the worth.

    I like to think that the Malfoys were low-balled on the offer when they were forced to unload a lot of dark items in a hurry.

  30. If McGonagall went to school with Tom Riddle, doesn’t that mean she would have learned Transfiguration from Dumbledore? And Hagrid would have as well…
    Not very important, just kind of interesting to think abount.

  31. Well SPOILER in the 7th book Voldemort curses his name so they can tell when it is spoken and pinpoint where its spoken as well as destroy any warding or protection spells in the area immediatley, by that definition i think the curse would be on the words ‘this years defence professor’ or just ‘defence professor’ which immediatley settles bad luck on to the teacher like an opposite felix felicis potion so they attract dangerous situations or accidents or make the wrong choices

  32. Something that’s bothered me for a long time about this chapter that I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on.
    A trip into the pensieve. You’re visiting someone else’s memory. Back in OotP when Harry watches the end of the DADA OWL and then follows his dad, Sirius, Lupin and Snape out of the castle, he knows that- this is Snape’s memory so if Snape chose to go off some other direction, he (Harry) would not be able to stay and watch his dad.
    Here in this chapter, we have Dumbledore and Harry visiting Hepzibah (via the house elf’s memory). The elf goes in and out of the room doing her duties (bringing the trinkets for perusal, tea at one point, I think) yet Dumbledore and Harry stay in the room with Hepzibah and seem to see what’s going on and hear what’s being said in that room in the elf’s absence. What’s up with this? This seems a contradiction to me… maybe it’s no big deal; maybe I’m missing something. Any thoughts?

    Just to put it out there from me- this is a fantastic site- I love all the work that’s been put into it!! Thanks!

  33. Just a question: is Zacharias Smith a descendant of Hepzibah?

  34. @Ida–Smith is a common name, and it could be something along the lines of the Evans scandal, but I like to think that JKR intended Zacharias to be related to Hepzibah. They both have rather unusual Biblical names, which suggests a connection. More importantly, Hepzibah claims that her family descends from Helga Hufflepuff. Family legacy is, to me, a tidy explanation of why Zacharias was sorted in to Hufflepuff, even though he’s not very Hufflepuff-like IMO. I kept hoping it would come up later in the books, but alas.

    As for the DADA profs, I would be really interested to know who all taught during LV’s first reign of terror. Since it was a time when no one could be trusted, it must have been scary, having to grant access to Hogwarts to someone new every year. Maybe Order members took turns?

  35. I’m confused where the number 40 comes from? Did Rowling say it in an interview?
    the way i figured it was based on the places where voldemort hid his horcruxes in terms of a time line.
    bellatrix had the cup, now maybe this was done after he came back to life but lets assume note, then he would not have made the cup until bellatrix was at least one year out of hogwarts so sometime in the 70s, the same applies with Malfoy
    Regulus Black died in 1979 as a result of the locket, therefore that horcrux was hidden/made around that time.
    in order for voldemort to hide the diadem he needed to do so at a time when he was at hogwarts, which was when he applied for the job. therefore, it would have been at some in the mid-70s based on this time frame,so maybe not 40 years but perhaps 20-30 years…am i right on this? what’s everyone else’s opinion?

  36. @ann, My opinion has always been that House Elves have to have heightened senses (or even magical ones) where their masters and/or mistresses are concerned. Hokey may have been able to hear everything going on in the room while she was out of it, and her mind filled in the visual cues that would have matched it. She certainly would have had to have been listening for when her Mistress would give her a new command.

    @svland90, (Spoilers) It’s my understanding that the Horcruxes weren’t made all together, but over the years as the Dark Lord gathered the items he wished to use to make them. Dumbledore says later on (I’m not sure where, I’m re-reading along with this site as I go) that he, meaning Riddle, saved making a Horcrux for particularly meaningful murders. The example given at the time, I think, is that he was going to use Harry’s murder to make his last one, and as the murder went wrong, that was why he had to make Nagini a Horcrux.

    @no one in particular :), I realize this is a discussion on the books, not the movies (and feel free to edit off this point if you wish) but I was disappointed we didn’t get to see more of these memories in the movies. For this particular one I was hoping they’d bring out Molly Sugden (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mollie_Sugden) as the discriptions of Miss Smith always reminded me of Mrs. Slocumbe.

  37. As for the curse on the DADA job, I personally think that it is the emnity from the horcrux. We know that Voldemort doesn’t like the idea of someone else teaching DADA, as it would be a reminder of how he was turned down, so the horcrux might be moving those thoughts into actions through the magic that allows the soul section to act outside its vessel, in the form of a general curse.

  38. Something that just occurred to me: by the start of DH, Voldemort must have some kind of grudge against Amycus Carrow. I wonder what it is.

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