The Cave

chapter twenty-six of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Dumbledore and Harry enter a cave, where they sail across a lake to the Horcrux’s hiding spot. There, Dumbledore orders Harry to force-feed him a terrible potion; they are then able to grab the locket but are attacked by an army of Inferi. Dumbledore casts fire to allow their escape, though, and then tells Harry that he trusts him to get them to safety.

by Laurence Peguy

The water was icy; Harry’s waterlogged clothes billowed around him and weighed him down.


Horcrux Cave, by salamandersoup

A misty greenish light shone far away in what looked like the middle of the lake.


by Laurence Peguy

There was no sound other than the silken rus­tle of the boat’s prow cleaving the water.


Inferius, by Sanna Lorenzen

The wandlight had slid over a fresh patch of water and showed [Harry], this time, a dead man lying faceup inches beneath the surface, his open eyes misted as though with cobwebs….


In the Cave, by Pen-Umbra

[Harry] turned his head to look at the greenish glow toward which the boat was still inexorably sailing. He could not pretend now that he was not scared. The great black lake, teeming with the dead….


by Caladan

“You… you can’t stop, Professor,” said Harry. “You’ve got to keep drinking, remember? You told me you had to keep drinking. Here…”

(by Caladan)


by Laurence Peguy

Hating himself, repulsed by what he was doing, Harry forced the goblet back toward Dumbledore’s mouth and tipped it, so that Dumbledore drank the remainder of the potion inside.


Harry vs the Inferi, by Katie Hillman

The surface of the lake was no longer mirror-smooth; it was churning, and everywhere Harry looked, white heads and hands were emerging from the dark water, men and women and children with sunken, sightless eyes were moving toward the rock: an army of the dead rising from the black water.


Dead Guardians, by FrizzyHermione

Harry… felt arms enclose him from behind, thin, fleshless arms cold as death, and his feet left the ground as they lifted him and began to carry him, slowly and surely, back to the water, and he knew there would be no release, that he would be drowned, and become one more dead guardian of a fragment of Voldemort’s shattered soul…


The Headmaster, by Jeni Malament

But then, through the darkness, fire erupted.


The Cave, by Caladan

“Don’t worry, sir,” said Harry at once, anxious about Dumbledore’s extreme pallor and by his air of exhaustion. “Don’t worry, I’ll get us back…. Lean on me, sir….”

(by Caladan)


With You, by Beeeb

“I am not worried, Harry,” said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. “I am with you.”

(by Beeeb)


about the chapter


The last line of this chapter – when Dumbledore tells Harry, “I am not worried…. I am with you,” is the final passing of a torch. Throughout the series we’ve consistently heard lines like these:

“Knew he was goin’ ter come back,” said Hagrid… “Well, now [he] has, an’ we’ll jus’ have ter get on with it. We’ll fight. Migh’ be able ter stop him before he gets a good hold. That’s Dumbledores plan, anyway. Great man, Dumbledore. ‘S long as we’ve got him, I’m not too worried.” (GF37)
“‘It’s no laughing matter,” said Mr. Weasley sharply…. “While You-Know-Who knows Dumbledore’s out there and wise to what he’s up to he’s going to go cautiously. If Dumbledore’s out of the way – well, You-Know-Who will have a clear field.” (OP5)
“What!” said Ron, goggling at Hermione. “But Hogwarts is safer than their homes, bound to be! We’ve got Aurors, and all those extra protective spells, and we’ve got Dumbledore!” (HBP11)

And even in the chapter just before this one:

“‘No!”‘ said Hermione, “We don’t want [the Felix Felicis], you take it, who knows what you’re going to be facing?”
“I’ll be fine, I’ll be with Dumbledore,” said Harry. (HBP25)

All along, the person above all others who makes everybody calm and who they all believe has the situation under control has been Albus Dumbledore. But by the end of this chapter, Dumbledore is extremely weak, and the person he looks to for reassurance and protection? Harry Potter. Dumbledore has been working on giving Harry the knowledge he needs to carry on the fight against Voldemort. And with one simple, beautiful sentence, he indicates that it is now with Harry, and not with him, that our trust should lie.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

One thing I always wonder when I read this chapter is how far into the cave Dumbledore got the first time he came – that is, when he discovered its existence. His reaction to the entrance that requires blood payment to pass certainly makes it seem as though he hadn’t gotten this far on his first attempt, so it seems likely that he only got far enough to feel confident that a Horcrux was hidden here, and then left so he could get Harry and bring him along. Harry mentions that the tunnel they swim through would be completely filled at high tide, so perhaps when Dumbledore first came he couldn’t get that far (which would help explain the urgency of his invitation for Harry to come along!). Either way – I wonder what it was he saw that convinced him this was the place he’d been searching for?

The Wizarding World

We’ve been told several times that Voldemort had an army of Inferi at his disposal. However, given the number of Inferi that seem to be inhabiting this lake, it’s hard to imagine there are, for example, several more lakes filled with more armies. Even Voldemort couldn’t have killed that many people, could he? Regardless it seems clear to me that this cave is intended for more than just Horcrux protection – likely it also doubles as Voldemort’s personal stash of Inferi. It’s curious he doesn’t seem to have used the Inferi as part of his crusade this time around, isn’t it? Is it possible that losing his body has made him more paranoid than he used to be, and he’s scared to remove the protection of the Inferi from his Horcrux?

The Power of Magic

I can’t help but wondering, as I read about this mysterious cave, what its origins are. Dumbledore tells Harry that “it has known magic,” which on some level seems to imply that it’s an ancient magical cave of some sort, and the basin in which the Horcrux is stored is clearly a very old artifact. But that basin is just the sort of thing that we already know would get Riddle’s attention, so it’s equally possible he found it, brought it here, and enchanted the whole place himself. Something just feels wrong to me about that explanation, though, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Is this perhaps a place that Dark wizards have employed for their uses over the generations?

The Boy Who Lived

The one thing I can’t help but fear for Harry is, when looking at all the knowledge that is required of Dumbledore to get to this Horcrux, how on earth he’s ever supposed to be able to eventually hunt down Horcruxes himself? He would have no idea how to get in the cave’s entrance, find the boat, get rid of the potion, or take down the Inferi. But when you think about it, this is why Harry needs his friends – perhaps Ron, who grew up with wizards, would know an old story in which blood payment was required to pass through a door, and perhaps even know of potions that must be drunk. Hermione would certainly know how to deal with Inferi, and perhaps together they could even come up with the boat. Dumbledore acknowledges that one of Voldemort’s great failings is his underestimation of underage wizards; but clearly another failing is that it doesn’t seem to ever have occurred to Voldemort that more than one wizard would even come to this place. He underestimates friendship, too, or in other words: love. And it’s becoming more and more clear what Dumbledore means when he says that that is the power that Harry will always have over Lord Voldemort.

33 Responses to “The Cave”

  1. Fan-freaking-tastic! I feel the same as you Josie, wanting to jump up and scream at the end of these chapters! SO MUCH happens, the storytelling is beautiful, and even when there are inconsistencies, I don’t even care. I just love it. When Dumbledore tells Harry that he is not worried, because Dumbledore is with him, I get goosebumps every time. So much has just been transferred to Harry, and on some level I think he knows it. To have the greatest wizard who ever lived to seek out your thoughts and place trust in you…Harry must want to keel over when he gets a chance to ponder all that happens. Of course, he doesn’t get that chance for quite some time, but can you just imagine? In one evening he has found out more about what lies ahead of him than ever before! So many pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and his path forward is clear. Wonderful artwork-and I love that piece by Beeeb….gorgeous!

  2. Dumbledore passes the torch to Harry in this chapter – and he knows that this is the time to do so. Earlier, it wasn’t time. In chapter 4, Dumbledore tells Harry that he doesn’t need to worry about Death Eaters on their way to see Slughorn, because “You are with me.” Dumbledore’s saying “I am not worried, Harry . . . I am with you.” took my breath away the first time I read it.

  3. This chapter has so many elements representing a passing of the torch it’s painfull to read knowing what comes next.
    Dumbledore is really sensitive to traces of magic, it comes natural to him but we never learn of any other wizard capable of identifying magic and whose ‘style’ it is. I guess that once one gets used to a magical enviroment (like Hogwarts), one notices “something” missing from the atmosphere when in the muggle world. Dumbledore must have really trained himself to detect that and he made a point of recognazing his students’ styles.
    I had never given a second point to the cave’s history or the basin.

  4. That last line gives me goosebumps every time!! And the last drawing by Beeb is absolutely stunning!

    And I too was somewhat disconcerted by the absence of Inferi in the Final Battle. It certainly seems like a good ally to have. But perhaps they just can’t move very fast…maybe the Dark magic that created them makes it impossible to transport them via portkey or whatever…or maybe they are forever bound to the place where they were transformed into Inferi…I dunno, any other theories? we really don’t know enough about these things. And I also felt that Jo missed a good storytelling opportunity by not having Harry come face-to-face with the Inferi versions of his parents. Just imagine the anguish! Kinda like Katniss at the end of “Hunger Games.”

  5. “Even Voldemort couldn’t have killed that many people, could he?”
    I was under the impression that, even though Voldemort couldn’t care less who he killed, he was a little exclusive during his first bout of power. Something in one of the books makes me think it . . . something that went along the lines of, he took the time to kill her himself (I’m thinking 5th, when Mad-Eye is talking about the Order.) I also didn’t think that you had to kill the people that you were turning into Inferi–it was more of a spell that you used on them to make your own personal zombie army.

    Love the thought about the cave being an ancient gathering ground for bad wizards.

  6. The final line is stunning!! =D

    re: Inferi

    Is it ever specified that you have to personally kill someone in order for him/her to become your Inferius? I always figured any dark wizard could raid a random cemetery and build up an army… It’s probably just very, very complicated magic.
    And then the army is probably self-feeding, in that whoever the Inferi kill becomes one of them. So there’s no chance Harry could have seen his parents (sorry hpboy, but the idea is simply appalling, so that’s good), but there’s a good chance our friend R.A.B. is still in the Cave. That might have been interesting.

  7. We know that Voldemort visited the cave back at the time he was living in the orphanage and took those two children to explore it, who were “never the same afterward”, so there may have been traces of dark magic already. I was on the edge of my seat when I read this chapter. It was somewhat disturbing to read the part where Harry made Dumbledore drink the potion. Harry had to be thinking: “What have I got myself into?”

  8. The only thing wrong with the cave having been used before for dark magic rites is that that would mean other dark wizards would know of its existence. Would Voldemort really put one of his horcruxes in a place that other people would know about?

  9. Irene, of course the idea is appalling – that’s what would have made it such a good plot twist! But you bring up a scary point about the Inferi turning their victims into more Inferi…that truly is terrifying, because all you’d need was to create a few and set them on a rampage.

  10. OH MY GOD. That would be so freaky if Harry had come face to face with inferi versions of everyone. Arghh especially Dumbledore, since his grave was on school grounds and Voldemort broke into it anyways.

    And yes, the artwork by beeeb is beautiful.

    Thanks Josie!

  11. I totally agree with you! HBP is my favorite book as well and i love all of the passages you pointed out on the update page!

    And i always thought that the line about the cave having known magic referred to the magic Voldemort had done when he was young.

  12. I’ve always wondered how Tom Riddle found the cave in the first place. That rock would have been virtually impossible to get to for someone that couldn’t apparate due to the cliffs and rocky shoreline. And even if he could get there, how did he bring the Muggle children? It’s not like Tom Riddle lived there and had time to explore extensively.

    I think that the inferi were the bodies thrown there by Voldemort as he killed them, or perhaps also the bodies his followers killed, but I think Voldemort would have taken them back to the cave himself. He doesn’t trust anyone, not even his followers, with the secret of the cave.

    Harry’s parents’ bodies couldn’t have ended up there because Voldemort couldn’t have taken their bodies back to the cave since he had lost his body and was powerless to do so any longer.

  13. Yeah, BestSeriesEver, I agree with you about Harry’s parents. Their bodies would have been found by Sirius and given a proper burial – and in fact we know they were, because Harry visits their graves.

  14. Does the wizarding world have ways of guarding against magical graverobbing? If so, the case of Dumbledore’s tomb being broken open is intriguing – would Voldemort have been able to remove his body as well as the wand? By the way, this idea is awful. Just awful. Awful.


  15. Josie, Sirius was around for only a day after J&L’s deaths before his encounter with Pettigrew and subsequent incarceration. Plus he spent that day tracking Peter down. If I had to pick a burier-of-their-bodies, it would be Lupin or Dumbledore. And another thing – Sirius confronted Wormtail “the very next day” after Sirius’ encounter with Hagrid at Godric’s Hollow – were Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid aware of this encounter as they gathered in Privet Drive that night?

  16. I love your analogy of the passing to the torch…I agree totally. This was when I knew that Harry Potter would be able to somehow take down Voldemort. It truly was a beautiful sentence.

  17. How WOULD Tom Riddle have managed to bring himself and two other children to the cave if they had to swim there? He forced them, didn’t he? I can’t quite remember… but you’d think if they had to swim over, the kids would manage to escape.
    I never thought about the cave being a dark wizards hangout, just that Tom performed some dark magic there. Interesting theory.

  18. @Passing Of The Torch: Brillant analysis. And I completely agree. One thing I have often discussed with people is wether or not Dumblodore (and Sirius for that matter) needed to die. And the answer, as much as it has always pained me to say this, is yes. Dumblodre was the final thing keeping Harry a child. Keeping Harry proteced. W/o Dumblodre Harry has to go into the fight alone. And there was no possible way Harry could have defeated Voldermort with Dumblodore still around. B/C Dumblodre would have been a crutch for Harry. “At least Dumblodre is still around. So maybe it will be okay”. He doesn’t have that anymore which is all the more reason Harry has to finish Voldermort once in for all.

    Also, the final piece of art by Beeeb is stunning.

  19. I don’t have my books right now (I’m at work) but I was pretty sure DD mentions that the trip down the side of the cliffs alone would have been enough to terrorize anyone. Riddle and the other kids didn’t necessarily have to go into the cave (or all the way into it.) Voldemort also had other opportunities to go back explore. We don’t know how many time the orphans visited that area or what Riddle did once he was older.

  20. Also, I’m pretty sure that Dumbledore said that the kids could get down the rocks because ‘Magic would serve better than any ropes’ or something to that effect, correct me if I’m wrong though. :)

  21. Interesting idea presented in “The Power of Magic,” Josie. The first time I read this chapter, it made me think of “The Once and Future King.” Knowing Voldemorts prediliction for the grandiose and historical, I think its possibly the cave Nimue imprisoned Merlin in. Perhaps young Tom felt an attraction to this place that drew him there because of ancient lingering magical residue.

  22. One thing that bothered me when reading this chapter was that Harry could swim. I mean, it’s hard enough trying to picture an old man having strength to swim (but it IS Dumbledore) but in those conditions? I almost drowned in a similar situation when I was a kid – water in those areas are extremely unsafe (regardless of how JKR described it in the book). And we all know Harry was never taught to swim – this has been mentioned in Goblet of fire. I think JKR underestimated how terrifying it is for those who can’t swim to get into water – let alone in that situation. Or at least, it highlights how Harry is brave (or a typical, reckless Gryffindor haha!)

  23. Whenever I read this chapter now (and when watching the movie), I think about how this must have been the last thing Regulus ever saw – hundreds of Inferi closing in on him, wrapping their clammy arms around him, and dragging him into the water to drown. It’s just…horrifying.

  24. I noticed some similarities to Lord of the Rings in this chapter, mainly the inferi and the door to the lake. There is a hidden door to Moria in the Fellowship of the Rings that lights up to reveal its presence, but becomes invisible (or at least diminished) until the password is said. The inferi in the water remind me of the dead people in the swamp in (the Two Towers?). I’m not sure if it was strictly in the movie. I remember something about “lights” in the book, but not dead bodies. That picture by Sanna Lorenzen looks exactly like that scene in the movie, though.

  25. I always thought the “this place has known magic” comment referred to the magic that the Dark Lord did. For all intents and purposes, they are in a plain stone cave carved by the waves and tide, save for the magical door that is hidden from the naked eye. Think of it as like a gas leak, or a faint noise. You know it’s there, but you have to rely on the sense of hearing or the sense of smell to track down it’s source.

    Aside from that, if you want to make that cave magical before Tom Riddle found it, your comment made me think of Merlin in his cave, as well.

  26. I get the “passing of a torch” thing and the events certainly underline that the last sentence was meant that way. But it has always bothered me that if emphasized differently, “I am with you.” could mean the opposite: Harry sounds distressed when telling Dumbledore that they will make it and Dumbledore wants to reassure him by telling him that he (Dumbledore) is there for him (Harry), just like he had his back with the Inferi and the fire.

  27. I always hate reading this chapter because although it is so beautifully written, I know what’s going to come next and that’s so sad :(

    Like Samantha, It always bothered me too that Harry could swim. JK mentions it in book 4 that Harry could not swim and was dreading going into the lake for fear of drowning, so how was he able to swim now? And in such terrible conditions too (wearing his heavy robes, and high tides)

    By the way, fantastic site Josie. I have been a lurker here for quite a while now but this is my first comment. Even though all the books are finished and you have analysed them all I still cannot stop myself from coming back here! :)

  28. @Michelle: GoF never says he can’t swim. The exact train of thought that Harry has is, “he wasn’t a very good swimmer; he’d never had much practice.” The part of drowning had to do with Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia’s reasoning for denying him lessons, (“no doubt hoping that Harry would drown one day”).

    If I remember correctly, we had a large-ish discussion about that in book four. :) But, just in case, being a pro and getting places quickly vs not being able to swim period still leaves a lot of room in the middle for different capabilities. :)

  29. Quick thought on Dumbledore’s discovery of known magic, I always just assumed that he’d discovered evidence of Voldemort’s magic, like a residue that had been left behind. As Dumbledore says ‘I taught Tom riddle. I lknow his style.’ so It’s likely that he was looking out for such telltale signs.

  30. I couldn’t help but think that there were so many loopholes regarding Dumbledore and the potion. Since the goblet could go into the potion, couldn’t Dumbledore simply have scooped up the Horcrux to start with? Did the potion actually need to be drunk or could Dumbledore have scooped out gobletful after gobletful and just tipped it on the ground? Also, when Dumbledore needed water and Harry couldn’t fill the goblet … could Harry not have simply pointed the wand into Dumbledore’s mouth and used the Aguamenti spell? I expect there was some sort of magic preventing all this, but hey, just some ideas. Great website by the way, love it!

  31. I have to agree with Tsunamicharly on this one.
    Dumbledore said that the cave has “known” magic. Implying that he is not the only wizard to know this.
    I think that J.K.R was trying to say that there are simply magical places in our world like the Bermuda Triangle or The Black Forest in Germany?
    Even platform 9 3/4 kind of feels this way.
    It’s probably why Tom was drawn there and it may have even enhanced his ability somewhat.
    I love it how Dumbledore simply states that it has known magic and then doesn’t elaborate^_^ It’s just part of his enigmatic nature..

  32. Was just going through “Goblet of Fire” again — the part when the soaked first-years were brought into the hall. It’s a shame that Dumbledore couldn’t have waved his wand and dried them off, too.

  33. One thing that always comes to mind when reading the chapter about how Harry tries to fill the goblet with water from his wand, and then it disappearing from the goblet. Why couldn’t he have just aimed the wand into Dumbledore’s mouth? The water doesn’t have to appear into an object like a bowl or glass for the magic to work. This is proved during in “Flight of the Prince” when Harry puts out the fire on Hagrids’ house just by pointing his wand there. Maybe Harry just was to much in a panic to think that literally and skipped over the obvious answer to Dumbledore needing water….

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