(This is all spoilers, for newfags)
So a while back when I was reading Half-Blood Prince there was the plot point of the curse on Dumbledore's arm from the Gaunt's ring (with resurrection stone) that had been made one of Voldemort's Horcruxes
which 'ensured' Dumbledore's death within the year. Unfortunately this creates a problem because it would seem much more expedient to then hurry and eliminate any known horcruxes while Dumbledore and his considerable power was still around… or even use amputation to sever the maimed arm and replace it with a prosthetic. There are three in-universe options - either He didn’t think of doing so, He didn’t want to do so or Doing so would make no difference to the outcome. The simplest reason overall is Rowling simply didn't think of amputation while writing the story. She just wanted to kill off Dumbledore and didn't quite think through the means used.
The curse: https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Curse_on_Marvolo_Gaunt%27s_ring
If Amputation could have helped, an interesting short-text for the amputation written out: https://archive.is/GW8yd
Moreover Dumbledore is known to be a wizard of equal or of greater skill than Voldemort. Voldemort was capable of making a new hand for Pettigrew after he cut his off so that Voldemort could be revived. However it could have been dark magic (as the hand did turn on Peter) and unlike Peter, it would have been removed from a curse, which as injuries do not recover easily (Deathly Hallows, when George get's his ear cursed off
In Iruka and Will of Fire (mentioned in anothere post), this is also (sort of) done during the Horcrux hunt at the Gaunt Shack.
And interesting idea of why Dumbledore could simply not have thought of it is something poetic; Most Pureblood wizards don't know much about muggles, including their medicine. We've been amputating for centuries because wounds that can't be healed fester, necrotize and spread. However, the vast majority of wounds in the wizarding world are easy to heal and this is the only curse in the books that spreads this way. There would never really be a need for amputations. In other words, it never would have entered their minds. Sure, Dumbledore tends to keep abreast of the muggle world but even still I doubt he knew much about muggle medical practice. However, if he had told more than just Snape about his condition, someone who knew more about muggle medical practices (like Mr. Weasley and his stitches), it could have healed him. Dumbledore being so secretive was ultimately what lead to his death…and it certainly fits the tone the 7th book took towards Dumbledore's character…he was a great man who had faults and made mistakes. However this feels a bit too unlikely, as Mad-Eye Moody probably DID get amputated, though alternatively the clunky prosthetic may have been why Dumbledore didn't want the prosthetic during a key time.
When Harry goes into his Pensieve in Deathly Hallows, we hear Snape say two things about the curse:
- “It is a miracle you managed to return here!” Snape sounded furious. “That ring carried a curse of extraordinary power, to contain it is all we can hope for; I have trapped the curse in one hand for the time being —”
And Snape hesitated, and then said, “I cannot tell. Maybe a year. There is no halting such a spell forever. It will spread eventually, it is the sort of curse that strengthens over time.”
- (Deathly Hallows, P. 681)
Which implies that the curse was like a late-stage cancer, even removing the affected area will not remove the cell damage spread throughout the body and it will come back over time. It also resembles Brown Recluse Spider bites, wherein hideous, necrotic wounds, resistant to conventional healing and often preventing skin growth or grafting, and cutting away the bite and necrosis does not ensure it being stopped, because venom doesn't remain isolated at the place of bite. Analysis of victim's blood showed venom proteins quickly spread throughout the body; remaining active for a long time.
The withering-away or "mummification" of Dumbledore's hand, proceeds in the fashion of a Brown Recluse bite; only instead of an organic protein-based toxin, it had involved a magical toxin-like counterpart. In other words the withering of Dumbledore's hand had only been the visible and main manifestation of the "curse-toxins." Like the spider-venom counterpart, as well, a major quantity of "curse-toxins" had already proceeded up the arm, and were circulating throughout Dumbledore's body. Or it could simply be magic Gangrene. However, if that was the case, could not Phoenix tears save him?
Of course since this is magic and not science, we don’t know how the curse operates; if you chop the hand off, the “thing” that’s keeping the curse suppressed might break and then it could just continue to spread up the arm as the hand comes off. Since Dumbledore and Snape hadn't talked about having Dumbledore reprise the famous old Celtic Magister's
role, right down to the wearing of a precious-metal hand, I'd assumed the wound would inexorably continue to "mummify," no matter how high-up (how far from the "mummy-hand") they chose to amputate.
It also could have been an intentional sacrifice and a subconscious self punishment:
- Dumbledore and Snape knew that Draco was given a mission to kill the Headmaster, and if amputation was not a final solution and just a delay at best, then Dumbledore may have considered Draco’s best interests as well as his own. Knowing that he was dying anyway, amputation or otherwise, he chose death in this way would have been his way of protecting Draco from either being a murderer and from being killed for failing Voldemort.*
- Assuming that amputation would at best delay the curse and not remove it entirely, choosing death in this way was also a way of reinforcing the illusion of Snape’s loyalty towards Voldemort and reassuring him that his faux Double-agent did not switch sides.
- It may also have been to keep hidden the fact he had been cursed, so that Voldemort’s loyal spies don’t learn that Dumbledore found the ring, or that Dumbledore was already dying as that would let Voldemort get a massive upperhand morally and tactically when Dumbley shows his hand too early.
- Wormtail cut off his arm out of fear of Voldemort’s wrath; one would think Albus might have considered the path differently, considering the war of one-upmanship Dumbledore waged with Voldemort to save the wizarding world from the Dark Lord, he may have not wanted to emulate the coward. (Although this would have been an interesting parallel; Wormtail's sacrificed arm reviving Voldy, and Albus's ensuring Harry's survival).
As for why self punishment; Dumbledore had been eager to open up the resurrection stone and get to see his family that he was still guilty over. He had lived a full life and he was quite expectant to see peace and to meet his family, in death, if not in life. He had a plan and people who would carry it out and his death would aid in his bigger plan. So he wanted to hurry it up and at the same time be inflicted with pain. “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living. And above all, those who live without love.”
- Albus Dumbledore 115, he lived too long without close love.
*The Draco part is probably the silliest as innocent or not, it is one thing to attempt to protect him from failing to murder Dumbledore if it didn’t actually cost a life (as the invasion of Hogwarts did), it’s another thing to deliberately sacrifice yourself to protect an almost-adult from failing to murder you. Snape could have subtly offered Draco an “out” as an offer of protection from Voldemort, and if taken they could have tried to protect him the old-fashioned way, and it’s implied that he probably did make this offer to Draco, but that Draco refused the offer thinking that Snape was trying to steal his chance at glory.
Also; Why Dumbledore didn't use Horcruxes: https://archive.is/irp0Z