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16 January 2007 @ 03:09 pm
Dumbledore's Failure  
I was reading Red Hen's Out On A Limb (I want to be Red Hen when I grow up! : ) and noticed in her discussion of what we know about Dumbledore something rather interesting.  As she points out, Dumbledore is big on second chances, and as she also points out he doesn't give one to Tom Riddle.

Now Red Hen notices that this is not in character for Dumbledore and comes up with two alternatives:
A. Dumbledore is acting out of character because that's what JKR needs to get the job done.
B. Something happened during that conversation that we don't yet understand, but will make Dumbledore's actions make sense.

I'd like to posit a third theory.  Dumbledore is acting in character, but in character for the Dumbledore of yesterday.  There's a huge hole that is Dumbledore Before Harry.  An even bigger one for Dumbledore Before Voldemort.  And from what we know of the accomplishments of Dumbledore, the Harry filtered version that's a mix between Santa, Disney's Merlin, with hints of Gandalf peaking out probably wasn't always the person he was.

So what do we know?  Dumbledore meets young Tom and is turned off within two minutes of conversation. Granted Tom's not all that likeable of a kid, and anyone who's dealt with unsavory characters can see that Tom's got a glowing neon warning sign flashing on and off over his head.  Dumbledore can see that Tom needs watching, not just for his own sake, but to protect others.  And Dumbledore does watch, but he does not shepherd.  He provides Tom with no guidance.  He sees an eleven year old in trouble and washes his hands of him.

What else do we know?  The Dumbledore of the present is known for being a trusting, guiding, redemption hound.  You were a rake, no problem, Dumbledore will give you a second chance.  Joined the Death Eaters, but now you're sorry; come to Hogwarts and teach (or come to Hogwarts for the TriWizard Tournament.)  Spent all year trying to kill me, and almost off two of your classmates; I'll hide you and your mom!  Practically get one of your classmates killed by tricking him to get near another one when he's totally out of control (and, as a side note, practically turn one of your buddies into a killer); no problem, finish out the year as if nothing happened.  Try to torture my pet student and get tricked into the Centaur's forest by your own greed; I'll go save you!

By the time we see him Dumbledore seems almost pathological in his need to give people second chances.  He's so trusting he routinely puts other people at risk.  After all, it's one thing for Hagrid to routinely bring his students into contact with critters that will kill them if given the chance; no one ever accused Hagrid of having an overabundance of brains.  But Dumbledore is supposed to be brilliant.

Other writers have bandied about the theory that Dumbledore's lack of care is the final nail in the coffin of Tom Marvolo Riddle.  I tend to disagree with this idea, but what if Dumbledore does not? 

Perhaps, in the Cave, Dumbledore's "It's my fault." mantra is his confession that he believes that if he had taken Tom under his wing he could have nipped the budding psychopath, and fostered the charming rose underneath.  Perhaps the potion allows him to see a vision of a future with Voldemort in charge.  Perhaps Dumbledore's "Not the Children." and "Kill Me." is part of a conversation he is having with the Voldemort in his head.  Perhaps I'm just tilting at windmills here...

But it is a pretty good reason for why Dumbledore forgives all these days.

kerylrkerylr on January 17th, 2007 03:13 am (UTC)
Personally I don't think there is anything Dumbledore could have done short of kill Tom Riddle that would have stopped him from becoming Voldemort.

But just because you know Riddle is a psychopath, and I know Riddle is a psychopath, does not mean that Dumbledore knows Riddle is a psychopath, or that if he does, that he believes that a person can be beyond redemption.

Also, at the time of their first meeting, Tom Riddle had stolen a few items, bullied some kids, maybe hurt/scared some of them, and killed a pet rabbit. Compared to what Dumbledore was willing to forgive Umbridge, Sirius, Snape, and Draco for this is very minor.

And, of course this is building on shifting sand, everything regarding Dumbledore's motives is similarly based because he lived about 150 years and we've seen at most 6.5 of them. The article this is a response to is an exercise in "Extreme Theory," and so is this. We don't know, and probably will never know if anything I've written here has any value other than sounding cool. But it was a fun exercise in extra-canon logic.
focusf1focusf1 on January 17th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
Personally I don't think there is anything Dumbledore could have done short of kill Tom Riddle that would have stopped him from becoming Voldemort.

Something I have always thought but never had the guts to say out loud!Bravo. You find yourself wondering, if Tom wasn't admitted to the WW, would he have become a muggle serial killer?
kerylrkerylr on January 17th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)
Eep! scary thought. Hitler Part II, this time with good looks, charm, and an uncanny ability to always know where the Allied planes are going to hit.
thelastgoodname on January 17th, 2007 06:29 am (UTC)
This is a wonderful theory and makes perfect sense based on what we know about Dumbledore, with a little bit of reasonable speculation added. Even if Riddle is completely unreachable, Dumbledore could still feel like every other boy he doesn't reach is another potential Riddle. I love this idea, and it pinpoints what I was so unsure about with that essay. I, too, assumed that something else happened in that conversation or just prior that we aren't yet privy to, but I like your idea better, that Dumbledore grows as a character over the course of 50 or so years.
★★ Gabriel Artisan ★★house_illrepute on January 18th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
but Dumbledore didn't try.

unless there's something we don't know that will be revealed in HP:DH, we can assume that, canon-wise, Dumbledore made no attempt to sort him out. And, if he feels guilty about something, that could have led him to overcompensate with Harry.

Estlandestland on January 18th, 2007 08:48 am (UTC)
Thank you for wonderful essay. I do like you theory.

While Tom was in orphanage, he thought that he is special, above others. Dumbledore gave him second chance in the way of allowing to study in Hogwarts and not mentioning the Tom`s wrong doing in the past. In Hogwarts Tom successfully mimicked socially acceptable behavior and was liked by students and professors, but I think that it probably made things even worse – since Tom decided once again that he is special, above others and learned to manipulate and to fool other people. When other students and professors liked him, it did not cure him, I think it just made Tom think once again that he is superior and that others are fools to be manipulated.

I am not sure that it was possible to cure Tom, may be it was impossible. Still since he was 11 and he was not committed any serious crime jet, then there could be some (may be very tiny) chance that Tom could become normal or just a chance for him not becoming Lord Voldemort.

Who had any chance whatsoever to succeed with Tom? Who knew real Tom? Who is considered to be most powerful wizard? Yes, it is Dumbledore. And I think that Dumbledore regrets that he did not take that chance and not did try to guide Tom, that he was just watching. If Dumbledore would try to guide Tom and failed, then he could say to himself that he did everything possible. Now that Dumbledore knows about the crimes of Lord Voldermort then Dumbledore probably regrets not using that chance that he had with Tom in the past.