"One thing was certain: of all the teachers' offices Harry had visited so far this year, Dumbledore's was by far the most interesting. If he hadn't been scared out of his wits that he was about to be thrown out of the school, he would have been very pleased to have a chance to look around it. It was a large and beautiful circular room, full of funny little noises. A number of curious silver instruments stood on spindle-legged tables, whirring and emitting little puffs of smoke. The walls were covered with portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses, all of whom were snoozing gently in their frames. There was also an enormous, claw-footed desk, and, sitting on a shelf behind it, a shabby, tainted wizard's hat -- the Sorting Hat."
—Harry Potter views the office for the first time.[src]

The Headmaster's office is the office in Hogwarts Castle in which the current headmasters or headmistresses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry work during the school year. It is located in the Headmaster's Tower, accessed through Gargoyle Corridor. Although this is never mentioned, it is entirely likely that the residence of the headmaster is adjacent to the office. It is reached by means of a circular, moving stone staircase, which in turn is concealed by a gargoyle on the third floor. The gargoyle will step aside in response to a password, though the headmaster is capable of overriding the password if, for any reason, he or she desires that it will not work.[1]


Early Years

It is unknown what events took place in the office in the early years of the school, but it can be presumed that it was used by the previous headmasters of First Headmaster of Hogwarts (early 11th century), Phyllida Spore (sometime before 1408), Eoessa Sakndenberg (sometime before 1503), Ambrose Swott (sometime around the late Tudor period), Vindictus Veridian (sometime before 1703), Dilys Derwent (1741-1768), Unidentified Professor (1790s), Phineas Nigellus Black (sometime in the late 19th century to before 1926), and Newton Scamander (sometime in the early 20th century) as all of their portraits hang in the office.

Other Headmaster who have used the office (though the specific time period of this is unknown) include Basil Fronsac, Dexter Fortescue, Everard, Heliotrope Wilkins, Quintin Trimble, Unidentified Headmaster, Unidentified Headmistress, Vulpus, Limebert, Walter Aragon, and Unidentified Chessmasters and Headmasters of Hogwarts.


In Harry's second year, a memory of Tom Riddle's reveals the Headmaster's office as it had been in 1943: the time of Professor Dippet, the headmaster preceding Dumbledore. In the office, Dippet and Riddle discussed the Chamber of Secrets and whether the school was likely to be closed.. The many intricate devices are not there in this memory of the office, and neither is Fawkes.



Dumbledore's Office

Harry first enters the office in 1992 when he had just rather literally tripped over the Petrified body of Justin Finch-Fletchley. Professor McGonagall, the first on the scene, said nothing in response to Harry's pleas of innocence, except to say that it was out of her hands. She proceeded to a gargoyle in the halls, and says the password ("Sherbet Lemon"), whereupon the gargoyle leapt aside, revealing a slowly ascending circular staircase. Reaching the top of this, they found an oaken double door. Professor McGonagall left Harry there.

Harry saw that the room contained a vast number of portraits of past headmasters, all evidently asleep; many spindly tables with intricate silvery devices upon them; and the Sorting Hat resting on a shelf. After exchanging some words with the Sorting Hat, Harry notices a very ill-looking bird on a perch behind the door; as he watches; aghast, the bird catches fire. Professor Dumbledore, then entering, tells Harry that the bird, Fawkes, is a Phoenix, and that is his method of immortality; he will shortly be reborn from his own ashes. Hagrid then enters and says Harry is innocent, to which Dumbledore says he already thinks so.


In 1995, Harry again visited the headmaster's office, finding another artefact of Dumbledore's: a Pensieve.


During Harry's fifth year, Professor McGonagall again took Harry to the Headmaster's office, this time immediately after Harry had seen the vision of Mr. Weasley being attacked by Voldemort's snake, Nagini. As they approach the office doors, Harry heard a large number of voices all talking at once, but when the doors open, there was nobody there except Dumbledore himself. Over the course of the next few minutes, it became apparent that Dumbledore had been speaking with, and apparently receiving information and advice from, the portraits, even though they appear to be sleeping.

The evidence for this is that he addresses two of the portraits, who immediately awaken, and sends them off to gather information. Harry also notes that many of the portraits appear to be simply pretending to sleep. Dumbledore also made use of one of the small devices on the spindly tables, to determine something about the snake which had attacked Mr. Weasley.

In 1996, Cornelius Fudge attempted to put Dumbledore under arrest and take him to Azkaban. The attempt failed, and Dumbledore knocked out Dolores Umbridge, Fudge, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and John Dawlish and, shortly thereafter, departed. Umbridge was appointed Headmistress by the Ministry, but the Headmaster's office remained sealed to her; evidently the school itself does not recognise her authority.

Later in that same year, when the Ministry was forced to recognise that Voldemort had returned, at the end of that year, Dumbledore was re-instated as headmaster. Harry, sent to the Headmaster's office by Portkey, notes that the damage that had occurred in Dumbledore's abortive arrest had somehow been repaired. Dumbledore himself arrived shortly by means of the Floo Network. In the ensuing, rather heated, discussion, Harry destroys one of the spindly tables and the instrument sitting upon it. In this discussion, Dumbledore explained to Harry Potter the contents of the prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney, and its effects on Harry for the first time.


Another while later, in the summer of 1996, Albus Dumbledore used Godric Gryffindor's Sword to destroy one of Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes, Marvolo Gaunt's Ring, which he had retrieved in the Gaunt shack. Between the latter half of 1996, and the first half of 1997, Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter had a series of private lessons in the office. During these lessons, the two used Albus Dumbledore's Pensieve to delve into memories pertaining to Tom Marvolo Riddle in an attempt to discover a weakness. Together, the pair formulated a plan to bring down the Dark Lord. Instead of an instrument, one of the tables contains, at various times, artefacts of Tom Riddle's early life.

At the end of that year, after Dumbledore's death, a large portrait of him, asleep, appears in the headmaster's office. The portrait is already present when Professor McGonagall summons the Heads of House to discuss the future of Hogwarts, mere hours after Dumbledore has died, and without anyone else (as far as we know) having been in the office.



Harry surfacing from the Pensieve in Dumbledore's office after viewing Snape's memories

In 1998, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry Potter made use of the Pensieve, which was stored in the Headmaster's Tower, to learn the truth about what he was supposed to do to defeat Lord Voldemort entirely. While we do see the Headmaster's office several times in Harry's seventh year, we hear very little of how Severus Snape has changed the decor. The desk is present, the Pensieve was present, and the portraits were all still present on the walls, but of Dumbledore's instruments, or what had replaced them, there was no mention.

At the end of the battle, Harry, Ron, and Hermione went to the Headmaster's office, and the gargoyle (who had been a rather battered by the battle) let them in without a password. Upon entering, they were greeted with applause by the portraits. Harry informed the portrait of Dumbledore that he dropped the Resurrection Stone somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, and that he didn't know where and he wasn't planning to look for it, to which the portrait of Dumbledore agreed. He then mentioned that he was going to keep the Cloak of Invisibility until it was his time, upon which he would pass it down.

He then decided that he was happier with his old wand rather than the Elder Wand, and so he used the Elder Wand to repair the broken halves of his holly and phoenix wand. Harry then decided to put the Elder Wand back into its late master's tomb, and then when he died a natural death, the wand's power would be broken. Ron was at first reluctant at this decision, but Hermione agreed, and Harry pointed out that the wand was more trouble than it was worth, and that he had had enough trouble for a lifetime.



Gargoyle statue Chamber of secret (film) pic2

A gargoyle statue outside the Headmaster's office

Like the Hogwarts Houses, the Headmaster's tower requires a Password from anyone who wishes to gain entry to the room. The tower is guarded by a large and ugly stone gargoyle which rarely talks but is capable of doing so.

Interior of the Room

Headmaster's Office pic1

Another view at the Headmaster's Office.

The headmaster's office itself is a large circular room with many windows and many portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses. The portrait of the immediate predecessor of the current headmaster or headmistress hangs behind the head's desk. It is suggested that this is the largest of the paintings in the room, which, in turn, suggests that the paintings shrink by some degree once it is no longer the portrait of the immediate predecessor of the current headmaster or headmistress. It should be noted that despite Dolores Umbridge's tenure as Headmistress, her portrait never appeared on the wall. Additionally Severus Snape, despite being headmaster and having access to the office, did not have a portrait. Eventually one was installed in tribute to his brave deeds after Voldemort's ultimate defeat. In addition to its duties as the office for the Headmaster, the Head's Tower is the permanent home of the Sorting Hat, which belonged, originally, to Godric Gryffindor, one of the four founders.

Albus Dumbledore's tenure as Headmaster

In Albus Dumbledore's day, the office had also played host to a number of spindly tables upon which were set delicate looking silver instruments that whirred and emitted small puffs of smoke, as well as an incredible collection of books, which made up Dumbledore's private library, his Pensieve, and Fawkes the phoenix. It can be assumed that the décor of the office changes with the changing of the school heads.


The Headmaster's Office, like so many things in Hogwarts, seems to have a will of its own. In 1996, Dolores Umbridge was unable to gain entry to the office after she was announced the new Headmistress of Hogwarts; Phineas Nigellus Black, one of the previous Headmasters of Hogwarts, explained that this was because the "room is barred to all but the rightful headmaster", suggesting that even though the Ministry officially decreed Umbridge as Headmistress, the room did not.

Known Passwords to enter the Headmaster's Office

In the films

The office as shown in the films is divided into three main areas as well as a loft. The first area of the office contains the Headmaster's portraits as well as cabinets, and tables filled with Dumbledore's instruments. There is also a fireplace. The second area contains the Headmaster's desk and chair and is surrounded by bookcases. The third area is a small sitting room behind the desk. The loft, accessed by flights of steps on both sides of the desk area, contains Dumbledore's telescope. There is also another small flight of steps on the loft that lead even higher up, providing a bird's eye view of the office.

Although the overall layout of the office remained unchanged throughout the films, the set received minor modifications in nearly every film:

  • The curio cabinets in the office were modified between the second and fourth films. In the second film the cabinets were black and had grilles in the doors, in the fourth and subsequent films the grilles have been removed and the cabinets have a reflective silver finish. The cabinets were also slightly modified to allow for the addition of the Penseive cabinet.
  • Also in the fourth film, the paintings on the walls are slightly re-arranged from their position in the second film, most notably the large painting of the wizard sleeping while leaning against a chair has been removed.
  • In the fifth film, Fawkes's perch has been moved from beside the desk to the upper level next to the telescope.
  • In the sixth film a decorative plaster detail has been added to the underside of the loft.

Behind the scenes


Notes and references

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