Tom Riddle and becoming Voldemort

Today, we are moving forward with my case against Albus Dumbledore. We know about his Youth, about his relationship be it sexual or just friendship with the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald who he later defeated (PS:6, 109) by putting him in his own prison. We are going to look at Tom Riddle, how he came to be, how he was at school, and what Dumbledore could have done. But that last one isn’t his style as we saw in the last post. This one is a tragic tale of lost opportunity.

Tom Riddle’s family and a bit of a side quest.
In the Wizarding world, children are very like their parents in visage as well as personality. Boys for some reason tend to look a lot like their fathers especially when they are an only child (how that last one works, I cannot begin to speculate). In general, there is a whole nature vs. nurture debate and honestly, I don’t know how that would translate to magical society. Harry seems to have inherited Lily’s kindness and stubbornness and James’ undying loyalty to trusted friends for example. Why then are we in the least surprised about Tom Riddle’s character when his father and grandparent are described as ‘unpopular, rich, snobbish and rude’, with Tom Sr. (Our Tom’s dad) being the worst of the lot (GOF: 1, 2). We don’t know that much about Merope did she charm Tom Sr. in her bed by having a great personality, a version of persuasive natural legilimency (my personal favourite idea), some type of purposeful or least likely accidental magic, or maybe as Dumbledore thinks (I’ll circle back to this) a love potion. No matter how she did it, she was very much successful at first. My point is that you must be a very special sort of person to do this type of thing and I mean this in the least flattering way possible. In addition, we learn that Tom’s uncle on his mother’s side had a hobby of attacking Muggles while his grandfather favours attacking ministry personnel he sees as inferior (be it being a muggle lover or being a mudblood) for seemingly no reason. Also, he physically and mentally abuses his daughter, in addition, he doesn’t open or read letters. Which sounds like the lesser crime and it is but he might as well have deprived his children of an education by not opening letters sent to him. Thus, between the Riddle and the Gaunt lines we have a match made in hell, I mean truly. Arrogant, rude, snobbish, no empathy for other’s wants and beliefs and taking these things away (by use of the imperius for example), believing you are above the rules, placing your wants and desires above that of anyone else, resorting to torture and dead to get your way. Laughing at others. Truly that is how we could describe a child born and raised into these two families and they fit Tom Riddle like a glove, now I do not believe people are born evil. But his core personality comes from his genes together with the fact that his upbringing was bad. Should we be surprised at the boy we meet when he is eleven? Would it have been better to be raised by his family, maybe not but the true horrors of his childhood shouldn’t be understated. Before we talk about his upbringing though, let’s talk a bit more about his Mum.

Love potions and Tom’s conception
A love potion is a NEWT level potion (HPB: 9, 155) consisting of quite a few ingredients one can assume. How is a girl that is viewed as a squib, able to brew this potion? When she has no money and to be quite frank the possibility of her being illiterate is quite high. She had these expensive ingredients and the ability to brew this potion over and over again before Tom Riddle Sr. ‘broke free’. That feels like a stretch if I am honest. Because she needs equipment as well while living with this muggle in a muggle house. She must have been some mastermind to pull all of that off. Now I don’t think she was a squib, there is no proof. What we see of her she is flustered and cannot do a spell quickly enough. But she has had no formal training in magic and due to their money issues, she is probably using a wand from a family member. The wand might not at all be suited, she might not be able to say the spells correctly (we see her mutter). Inability does not mean the ability to learn isn’t there. I find it far more likely that she used a form of persuasion with her magic, that wasn’t all that conscious (we see Tom do it later when he meets Dumbledore and we hear of him being a persuasive person). It is thus more likely that pregnancy prevents this type (or any type) of magic from being used to its fullest extent making Tom Senior wake up from his ‘enchantments’ and flee the scene. This doesn’t make it alright of course but it’s a less harsh reality than being dosed with love potions and raped, I cannot believe that is written down in a children’s tale if I am honest. If Merope had a good wash, got a bit of confidence by being alone, and took Riddle senior unaware he might have gone with her ‘sort of’ willingly while also feeling hoodwinked when the ‘enchantment’ broke (HPB: 10, 177). It’s difficult I find to truly write down all my feelings on this whole situation. Tom Riddle Senior didn’t want to be married to Merope and we can assume didn’t want children either with her or in general. He was sexually assaulted which resulted in a pregnancy. His walking out is thus understandable but on the other hand, I feel bad to make it a scenario where it is a but.. Here is the thing, leaving a defenseless child in an orphanage is some other thing I feel. Especially in London during the war. They lived in this lavish house right, I mean he could have at least sent some money or put aside money for his schooling. It’s difficult because it wasn’t his choice and I would never want to victim blame on the other hand I feel for our Tom as it was also not his fault. Merope truthfully made a right mess of it. The conception of Tom Riddle and what led up to it was a tragic and horrible mess which has no winners only loss. Also, the idea that someone conceived via a love potion which is a euphemism for rape is not able to ever be loved or feel love is disgusting and also so stupid I cannot even begin to explain why it makes no sense.

Meeting Magic and Tom at school
We have now set the scene, we have seen the stage and here is where Dumbledore comes in I want to reiterate that a lot of people failed Tom Riddle and we will not, ever put that solely at Dumbledore’s feet as that would not be fair. Yet. There is some blame though. He was his teacher. In fact, Albus Dumbledore was the teacher who went to the orphanage Riddle grew up in to tell him about Magic. The fact that no one did anything can be explained. For the muggles, this was just the way it was in such circumstances. The Ministry of Magic might not have known about Tom and his magical ability and for Albus he might not have cared to look in the book and investigate any children’s living conditions. When Albus meets Tom he finds him for lack of a better word disturbed or so Dumbledore wants Harry to believe in his ‘lessons’ in HBP. But with gentle guidance and a lot of eyes on the kid, things might not have turned out quite so bad. At this point, he is an eleven-year-old boy who has just learned he has magic. The biggest issue I have with this whole situation is that it gives off a weird message. Tom has to lie to everyone even if he has friends up until this point. It’s not hard to believe he would lose them after this. He goes to some fancy boarding school but can never say one word about it. It makes him look even more strange.

The personality we see Tom show isn’t his fault. An orphanage isn’t a place where one gets a lot of toys everything is shared. Most stuff such as clothes is donated or secondhand. Children can also be quite mean and Tom was different and different to children is wrong. Besides this, he is quite smart and he has this weird and special power that no one else seems to have of course he thinks he is better than others, arrogance over one’s self doesn’t equal muggle hating. He probably learned to not show it if he was hurt by any of this, this hard exterior Dumbledore sees as the whole of his personality can just be a glimpse. Now back then when Tom was born a lot of orphanages were run through the churches now any type of accidental magic wouldn’t have been received well. Say about Tom what you want but he was a very magical child. Also, why was he there in the first place? There is no Wizard orphanage? There is no way for Wizards to simply take a Witch or Wizard child in an environment like that and put it up for wizard adoption. How odd. The boy is in the book for Hogwarts, they know he has magic. I am sorry but an orphanage in the 30s wasn’t the best place for a child to grow up, never mind a magical child. I cannot begin to imagine a society where no one wants to adopt anyone and a muggle orphanage is there for the only place for a child to be. Not only the first eleven years of his life which we could explain but the subsequent 7 years after that. Especially the years 1940-1945, you know the years of the Second World War. Tom Riddle for all his faults had enormous powers as a young boy, he was also sardonic and did not know love. Now, I do not mean he didn’t know HOW, I mean that people didn’t GIVE it to him. Which we know can cause severe issues in young people, especially if it has happened in infancy. Imagine if you will that you never had a hug, nor have you ever really seen people hug others. Maybe you read about it in a book or saw it that one time in a park. But other than that, never. Would you know what to do? To whom to give a hug and to whom to give a handshake. In England in the 30s and 40s, I imagine people especially men to be quite a bit stiffer especially with each other than people are now. Meaning that there is a possibility that Tom Riddle never received a hug in his memory, as you don’t remember being held as an infant. Meaning he probably doesn’t know a kind touch if it happened to him. How different would things have been if Tom had had a safe and fun place to go to for the summer? If he had magical people around he could ask questions to them. That could tell him how some things are stupid and shouldn’t be done (such as splitting one’s soul). It might sound a bit odd to you, but we know the effects of places such as orphanages back then because it affected children’s mental health. We cannot put that aside because we don’t like who Tom Riddle became.

Back to Dumbledore, he shows up at this orphanage where children look somewhat cared for but the place is very grim. Dumbledore then hexes or confounds the Matron of the place who turns out to be quite a fan of a drink (HPB, 13: 220). That is an unsafe situation for anyone, especially young children. They talk about Tom that he was a ‘funny baby’, how he never cried, and how he grew up to be odd. She explains the other children are scared of him and Dumbledore’s first reaction is “You mean he is a bully?”. But the woman by this point is sloshed with drink and says that he must be although he hasn’t been caught out. She talks about a rabbit that obviously didn’t hang itself. The thing is the rabbit itself might have been retaliation for something. Is that behaviour right? No, but it’s also not as ominous as it is made out to be. The scariness of Tom doesn’t mean anything as regular accidental magic can be really scary just ask the Dursleys. Dumbledore takes her word for it though, which is strange, to muggles magic can be scary so I would take it with a grain of salt personally (HPB: 13, 222). He also doesn’t take this woman into the secret, where she could have understood the oddness of Tom if she had known, it would have made Tom’s life easier (especially when he is older and doesn’t sign up for war but goes to school. People probably had some words for Tom about that). Tom is awarded no such courtesy. The matron then allows a grown man into the boy’s bedroom his personal space and closes the door, if I was Tom Riddle I would be scared out of my mind (HPB: 13, 224). Tom says he didn’t do anything he was accused of and I am inclined to believe he didn’t do most of what he is accused of. In a place such as an orphanage, you have to be hard to be sure to not be picked on and he is already such an outsider. We assume that Tom knows how he was named and that there is a chance he has family out there. Not only his father but his grandparents on both sides. No one ever comes for Tom and that is something in such an environment to be bullied over. Besides that the poor boy thinks he will be shipped off to an asylum, now those are even worse than orphanages especially because you cannot escape them. The lack of care in such facilities at the time is heartbreaking. Then Dumbledore tells him about Magic and sets his stuff on fire, everything he has ever owned. It would be setting Harry’s cupboard on fire. He might not like the cupboard but he would be devastated. This brings me to the ‘stolen toys’, are they really stolen? Were they handed out and he didn’t get any? He is a thin eleven-year-old the older boys surely, he would have just been punched in the face if he stole from the other children. To me, it feels a bit like Harry’s toy soldiers. If Tom’s box had been stolen it meant the other children all had toys but he didn’t? Even so, imagine saying ‘I stole this from you I am ever so sorry’ I do not believe it would be received well. All that aside though, let’s say he did steal it. His stuff is set on fire (at the time he thinks it’s all going up in smoke), and then he is threatened with expulsion and exclusion from this new world if he ever does it again before stepping one toe into the magical world (HPB: 13, 225-227). That is a great way to build up this child’s confidence in authority figures. Dumbledore lets this child go off into London on his own, no matter what the child says why would you do that? And sure, I mean I wouldn’t want a bloke that set my stuff on fire and judged me to go with me to buy new stuff but Tom is eleven (HPB: 13, 228-229). I understand why he doesn’t want to, I don’t understand why Dumbledore goes along with it. Also, I understand why he wouldn’t like it that the barman is also called Tom. Tom Riddle probably has dreams of making it big, he is ambitious he probably has dreamed of getting out of the orphanage since he can remember. He wants to be great, and having someone essentially say, this is a barman he is just like you probably just stung the pride of the eleven-year-old. Kids are like that, they grow out of it. Not to mention Tom knows there is a possibility his father is still alive. He knows his name is Tom and has probably looked at every Tom he has ever come across with the idea they might be his father. He might have heard a couple with the name Tom and thought ‘They are here for me’. For him to be disappointed. I think where other boys would be prideful of their name it is difficult for Tom. ‘I am named after these two people who never cared enough to take me away’. It’s heartbreaking and would make Tom not like other Toms (HPB: 13, 228).

To conclude Tom’s pre-Hogwarts attitude where Dumbledore sees the collecting of trophies I see a child that hear me out wants toys to play with. Where he sees friendlessness as something bad I see a lonely child that is ostracized for being different. Where he describes cruelty, secrecy, and domination. I see an orphan in a horrible place not right for him and his abilities. It might be a mixture of both. Dumbledore might be right but imagine if he wasn’t. He met a boy, set his stuff on fire, and then held an eye on him for the next seven years. Even if he had been the best person since this meeting he probably felt the judgment. Tom Riddle couldn’t do anything right in the eyes of Albus Dumbledore since this meeting. And Tom knew that expulsion would mean exclusion from this world he loved so much. A place where for the first time, he was at home. Where Albus Dumbledore could have offered guidance and a kind word he offered scorn, judgment, and suspicion. Dumbledore gave up on Tom before he even acquired his wand and that’s just sad. It makes you wonder, why was this guy a teacher in the first place?

Tom at Hogwarts and Horcruxes
Now the timeline is all over the place but I’ll do my best. Tom’s introduction to the magical world is worse than Harry’s and his was pretty bad. Tom doesn’t learn about the houses or the money system. He also doesn’t have any money except what the school gives out to children like him. There are probably a lot of good tips teachers would have such as buying telescopes secondhand are fine but try to buy new scales as they get bad over time. Or make sure your initials are on your trunk and invest a bit so no one can get into it and you can use it even after school when you travel. There are probably also unwritten rules and customs that would be nice to have lined out in a pamphlet or a short book. He gets none of that and goes in blind.

So, Tom Riddle arrives in his second-hand robes probably a bit resentful and jealous of other children with new robes, a normal emotion at eleven. He is then sorted into Slytherin and I bet the whole of Harry’s vault that he was severely bullied at least at first. Tom is described as being obsessed with his genealogy, which I understand if I was called a mudblood on the regular I would want to know where I came from to shove it in everyone’s face too. Also, Dumbledore does know that the Slytherin family has Parseltongue so he could have simply told Tom when they met but he didn’t. It’s small things like that which would have made Tom distrustful of the man especially when he found out. Tom has top grades, he works hard and all the teachers love him. He is polite and thirsty for knowledge (HBP: 17, 300). He doesn’t have many or as Dumbledore puts it any friends. Yet, I wouldn’t want to be friends with people that bullied me either. From what we know of Tom up until now he probably liked that these purebloods that have sneered at him, now bow down to his every whim. I mean being an arrogant teenager and being mean to people who kiss your behind isn’t exactly a crime. On another note, in the graveyard, Tom Riddle says “But look, Harry! My true family returns…” (GOF: 33, 544). Meaning that he does share a connection with these people. Everything Tom does is seen by Dumbledore as manipulation, where there is a possibility that he just likes learning about magic and he might be socially awkward when making or interacting with friends. The way Albus Dumbledore goes about it, it looks as if Tom had this grand scheme going on at eleven. The hierarchy that Tom implements also isn’t that odd if you think about how he would have most likely learned interactions with others from books. There is always a hero, a prince, or a king, there is only one main character and Tom sees himself as such.

In the period where Tom starts school, the whole Grindelwald thing is either brewing on the surface or happening thus muggle relations and being from a muggle is not something good. Which would have resulted in bullying, Tom is also the smartest child in school which could have possibly led to a lot of resentment. Especially as he is muggle-raised. He also might have just had friends in the house but not really outside (so older or younger years) or he might have not wanted friends. We do not know, Dumbledore certainly doesn’t. Every year Tom has to go back to the orphanage but in 1940 (the summer of his second year) World War Two broke out. Between his 2nd and 7th year, the war raged on and London was bombed. Not only that but children were evacuated to the country side and young men were encouraged to enlist. Imagine the stares and the questions the summer of 5th year onward (as he was quite tall). He was probably looked at as a coward and he had no way to explain that even if he had wanted to fight in the muggle war. He couldn’t he had to finish school if he wanted to keep his wand. Not only that imagine sitting there in the dead of night while bombs drop all around you and you know you can save your own life but you can’t. Because if you use magic to save your life they will come and kick you out of this world that you love. The absolute trauma of sitting there helpless and able to defend yourself but not be allowed. I mean is it that weird he went a bit mental? He wants to be immortal because he is scared of dying which given his history isn’t that weird (HPB: 23, 417). He also sees the absolute worst of humanity, Tom is smart and rumors are flying around in this time period. Rumors of mass murder and working camps. He has been treated horribly for being different, but here they are the muggles slaughtering each other for perceived differences. It is not a weird stretch sitting there with alarms blaring to think. If these people find out about us, we are doomed. Nowhere in the series is it mentioned that Tom and Grindelwald share ideas, so the whole showing yourself to the muggles and enslaving them was probably not in the plans Tom was drawing up.

In Tom’s fifth year he opens the Chamber of Secrets and Myrtle gets killed. What I find strange is that no one ever asked her how she died. We do not know if it was deliberate or not, it might have been. Hagrid is then framed for opening the chamber of secrets now this was maybe a bit harsh but he did have an acromantula (that when fully grown eats people) in the castle and it is hardly Tom’s fault that no one is smart enough to know that acromantula’s don’t petrify people. In either the summer of his fifth or the summer of his sixth year (so either ’43 or ‘ 44), Tom travels to little Hangleton. Where he meets his uncle who tells him he looks like the muggle up the road. This is the summer when he kills his father and grandparents. Now I am not making excuses but if I lived in an orphanage all my life with little means during a war and I find out my father has been living it up in the countryside. With knowledge but no care about me, I don’t know how I would react. We don’t know what happened in that house, we don’t know what was said, why Tom came there in the first place. I do not believe he came there to kill everyone but in his anger he did. There are no excuses for this of course but I do sympathize with the incredible hurt he must have experienced (also the trace doesn’t make sense as no adult wizard is nearby thus to me the summer of 6th makes the most sense with him being 17 but he would be head boy then so it must be earlier as he has the ring the year after and is called a prefect. See the trace makes little sense). After Tom gets the ring he is already interested in Horcruxes because he read about them in school.

But he did not read the passage Hermione did about the instability of the soul so was that book not in the library at that time? (DH: 6, 82). While in school or school age Tom makes two Hocruxes the Diary and the Ring. Before 1981 he made three more the locket, the cup, and the diadem. When Tom is 18 he asks Headmaster Dippet for the DADA job but by the persuasion of Dumbledore, he does not get the job. He then starts working at Borgin and Burges instead of the ministry which people thought he would do (HPB: 20 359). Dumbledore thought he didn’t want to be a teacher. But is this true? The ambitious child started working in a shop, isn’t that odd? I am not sure about what he wanted what I do know is that Tom didn’t have connections other children might have had, and he might have not had the ‘right background’ to work at the ministry or anywhere else he also didn’t have a home or money. We don’t know how elitist the ministry is, we only know one person getting a job there right out of school (Percy Weasley) and he is a pureblood with familial connections in the ministry. Living in the castle still probably would have been a dream for Tom. So, he works at Borgin and Burkes and kills Hepzibah Smith who was a bit creepy towards Tom not going to lie. She is also not very flattering towards his mum, he probably doesn’t care about that but still (HPB: 20, 363). He also hasn’t changed in visage at this point, he then leaves the job and presumably the country. He does things, and rumours are flying but we don’t what he has been doing during this time. After ten years he comes back to apply again for the defense against the dark arts job, it is speculated he cursed the position then BUT wouldn’t it have been a hood if the professor who thought Tom was a teacher for years left a curse behind for a teacher worth there salt to get rid of. It sounds way more fun. Anyway, the position is still/again open and he does not get it. Tom looks very different now his voice is also higher and colder. It is thought he puts the diadem in the castle on this night (HPB: 22, 399). I do wonder why Dumbledore allowed such an item into his school and let it stay there for years, you would think that the magic of the school would alert him. Tom isn’t secretive at all he goes by a different name which is interesting (HPB: 20, 367), and is accused of never really wanting the job. I dare say he comes across as upset and disappointed. I also find it funny that Dumbledore is quite mean about Tom traveling with his ‘friends’. On the other hand, he keeps saying to Harry that doesn’t have friends nor does he want any friends. I mean good for Tom for having made some friends, right? Then nothing much happens for another 15 years. It’s also interesting that Tom’s friends went to school with him knowing about his upbringing, in addition, Tom himself is at least ten years after making up his cool new nickname and open about the two names. But when Harry goes to school no one seems to remember that Voldemort is Tom Riddle.

A quick circle back to the Horcruxes I think he didn’t have access to the specific book Hermione mentioned. She states “… the more horrible they seem. and the less I believe that he actually made six. It warns in this book how unstable you make the rest of your soul by ripping it and that’s just by making one horcrux!” But to Slughorn (We learn this in HPB) Tom says “What I don’t understand -just out of curiosity- I mean, would one Horcrux be much use? Can you only split your soul once? Wouldn’t it be better, make you stronger, to have your soul in more pieces? I mean, for instance, isn’t seven the most powerfully magical number, – wouldn’t seven – ?” and then we have Slughorn with the whole ‘seven’ routine. But the answer is simple. No Tom it isn’t because it makes your soul and thus mind and magic unstable. So, my belief is actually that Tom didn’t have that specific book because he at that point wasn’t insane nor stupid. Also, lastly, if Hogwarts had given classes on common sense things in the wizarding world such as the importance of souls they wouldn’t have been in this predicament. Because they would have had minister Tom Riddle or he would have died years ago from doing something else plain stupid. That didn’t happen, but here we are on the eve of the war. Let’s recap.

Today, we dove into Tom Riddle’s upbringing, his past, and his interaction with Dumbledore. Tom made some bad choices. Making horcruxes and doing whatever he had been doing in those ten years filled with rumors. The thing I keep wondering is why didn’t anyone do anything? Why was Tom Riddle sent back to a muggle orphanage during a time of war? Why were there books about Horcruxes in a school to begin with? Why did no one guide young Tom Riddle toward understanding harmful magic and urge him not to do anything? Why did no one explain to Tom that if he was in real danger and a bomb was about to drop on his head the statute of secrecy wouldn’t matter and he should raise his wand to save himself?  As I said a lot of people failed Tom Riddle but Albus Dumbledore never even gave him a chance. The idea he would be tossed out if he was found out doing anything bad was made by Albus in the first place. But that was a one-off right? Dumbledore didn’t normally meddle in children’s affairs? Right? The teacher became a headmaster and had a whole lot to say about Hogwarts and its students. In the upcoming war did he use this influence for good? Or did he coerce children into fighting his war for him? That’s what we will look at in the next post.

Read the rest of the series:
Part 1

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