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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.

felicitys_mindfelicitys_mind on January 20th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
I don’t follow that Dumbledore washed his hands of young Tom Riddle. Dumbledore found from Mrs. Cole and Tom himself that Tom had been using magical powers to control and hurt but without understanding that he was using magic, and he unnerved and confronted Tom by causing the box of stolen trophies to rattle. Dumbledore then gave very clear guidance that Tom was to return the items with apologies to the owners, that Tom had “no doubt inadvertently” been using his powers in a way that was not taught nor tolerated at Hogwarts, and that Tom would from that moment be subject to the laws of the Wizarding World and would be punished for breaking them. When Tom started at Hogwarts, Dumbledore gave him a chance to start over on the right foot by withholding information about Tom’s past behavior from the other members of staff:

“Though he had shown no hint of remorse, it was possible that he felt sorry for how he had behaved before and was resolved to turn over a fresh leaf. I chose to give him that chance.” HBP17

Why didn’t Dumbledore make an effort to cultivate a personal relationship with Tom for the purpose of molding him? Because Tom didn’t want it and Dumbledore had no reason at that point to believe he needed it. Tom didn’t want Dumbledore’s assistance when he made his first trip to Diagon Alley, and Dumbledore said he knew Tom always regretted spilling so much to Dumbledore during their interview at the orphanage and was ever afterwards very guarded with Dumbledore. Plus, it would have been unprecedented for the headmaster of the school to single out a student for that kind of attention when there was no evidence in the early years that Tom needed more than the scare and directives that Dumbledore had given him in the orphanage.

From Tom’s behavior at Hogwarts (“He seemed polite, quiet, and thirsty for knowledge”), there was no reason to believe Tom hadn’t taken the chance Dumbledore gave him. He drew the attention and sympathy of the staff for being a handsome, talented orphan and was surrounded by admirers from his own and higher grade levels. His behavior was good enough that he became prefect and Head Boy. There was never any evidence to connect Riddle to wrongdoing at the school. And in the Slug Club particularly, he had the flattering attention of his head of house who was open about wanting to help Tom secure a privileged position in the WW.

Young Tom did not need to be taught the difference between right and wrong; he needed to be reminded of the difference and warned of the consequences for choosing wrong over right, which is exactly what Dumbledore did before giving Tom the chance to make a fresh start. So how were Dumbledore’s actions with regard to Tom’s bad choices different from his actions after the werewolf caper when he gave Sirius a second chance and swore Sirius, Lupin, James, and Snape to secrecy about the episode? He gave Sirius a chance to start over and prove himself worthy of the second chance; there is no evidence in the text that Dumbledore took Sirius under his wing after that and became his personal moral guide and mentor any more than he had with Riddle (and Riddle was never caught tricking a fellow student and rival into a potentially fatal situation!).
kerylrkerylr on January 21st, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
All of your points are good ones, and I agree that Dumbledore did all that he could with Tom Riddle. The question is, does Dumbledore think so, especially seeing how Tom turned out?

Really, we don't know what Dumbledore thinks about his role, if any, in the creation of Lord Voldemort. He may be totally satisfied with how he treated Tom. And, if he is, I'd say he's more than welcome to feel that way. If he's not, it may explain something about why and how he treats those who have come later.
felicitys_mindfelicitys_mind on January 23rd, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
I still don’t follow your argument that Dumbledore treated people differently after Tom Riddle became Voldemort. Dumbledore always took the action he felt was best fitted to each situation. Dumbledore wanted to believe the best of people and if presented with evidence of wrongdoing, wanted to give them another chance. That was true of his treatment of Tom, Sirius, and Draco; in each case, his actions were tailored to the situation and the individuals involved. And since Dumbledore was Tom’s Transfiguration teacher, he had seven years of class contact with the boy; I expect his instruction included discussion of the ethical uses of magic and “life lessons” that he wanted to teach his charges, especially if he felt any of them were tempted to follow a dark path. Your examples and why they aren’t evidence of change:

Snape returned to Dumbledore on his own. We don’t know the specifics, but Dumbledore was confident of Snape’s contrition. This was a second chance that Snape asked for and Dumbledore gave.

Karkaroff struck a deal with the MoM after Voldemort’s fall. During GoF, Karkaroff was head of a participating school and was as entitled to be at Hogwarts as Madame Olympe. Karkaroff had admitted to being a DE, made his deal, and apparently kept his nose clean after; Dumbledore accepted his reformed status per the MoM’s. FYI - Malfoy and McNair had convinced the MoM that they hadn’t been DE’s by choice, and Dumbledore accepted the MoM’s decision to clear their names. McNair was at the school in PoA to kill Buckbeak; in CoS, Malfoy was a governor of the school. So how is Dumbledore shown to be pathologically forgiving by accepting official MoM decisions about Voldemort’s followers?

Dumbledore knew about Draco’s assignment and that he would be murdered along with his family if he failed. That’s not the same situation as Draco going bad on his own. The Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Narcissa complicated matters. Dumbledore hoped Snape would be able to win Draco’s confidence so they could thwart Voldemort because Dumbledore couldn’t take the chance of confronting Draco directly since Draco would have been killed as soon as Voldemort realized Dumbledore knew of the plan. Dumbledore and Snape both suspected the necklace and mead were connected to Draco’s task, but they didn’t have proof (Dumbledore had no proof that Tom had opened the Chamber). When Draco wasn’t able to kill Dumbledore and expressed his terror at being killed, Dumbledore offered him a way out. Draco’s epiphany was only possible when he realized he couldn’t kill Dumbledore when he had the chance, so that conversation wouldn’t have occurred if Dumbledore had confronted him during the school year.

Sirius did not get personal mentoring from Dumbledore after setting up Snape with werewolf Lupin that we know of. It was an averted disaster because James saved Snape. Snape was forbidden to tell anyone what had happened to protect Lupin (who would have been expelled if his secret got out). Perhaps Sirius did ask Dumbledore for another chance, or perhaps Sirius was threatened with expulsion if he ever again harmed a student since we know James continued hexing Snape all through their seventh year, but nothing was said about Sirius doing the same.

Umbridge was a MoM official. Dumbledore got her away from the centaurs because he’s not the type of man to leave her there and because he was probably the only one able to (Snape hadn’t been able to get her out). Dumbledore’s getting her away from the centaurs had nothing to do with his giving her a second chance.
kerylrkerylr on January 26th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
Dumbledore routinely puts others at risk with his love of second chances. This is why I describe his love of second chances as pathological.
If Snape really is a black hat, his trust of Snape got him and Emmaline Vance killed, and got a whole lot of good information into the hands of the DEs. (I do not think Snape is a black hat, but we have yet to find that out.)
By giving Draco extra chances he almost gets Katie Bell and Ron Weasley killed, Rosemerta enslaved, and a whole mess of DE's into the school. Draco is in a horrible situation, but Dumbledore’s first duty is to keep his students safe. By continuing to allow Draco to roam free at Hogwarts he is placing all the rest of the students, and the professors in danger. (Side note: Draco does not have to accept this mission, as the year goes by and he becomes reticent about his mission he could have gone to Dumbledore for help. If Dumbledore can hide him in June, he can do so in March.)
In HBP we also learn that Dumbledore can sense blood magic. This puts PS in an all new light because it means that he let Quirrel traipse about the school trailing the residue of the most heinous blood magic possible. Had Quirrel been stopped after the first of the Unicorn attacks, several Unicorns would have had a much better year, and the Trio would have had a much safer end of term.
Dumbledore hires Moody after he’s gone into what most of the Wizarding World considers a long overdue retirement. Moody on his own is such a crackpot that no one notices that it’s Croutch Jr. masquerading about in his body. Anyone else would have looked odd sipping at his own flask every hour. It’s likely Snape would have figured out Polyjuice potion was being imbibed had anyone else been in the DADA position.
We don’t know what exactly happened between Dumbledore and Sirius, but we do know that somehow Snape is made to stay silent, and no one is tossed out of school. Think for a moment about what Sirius actually did, he tried to kill Snape using his Lupin as the weapon. If James hadn’t stopped it he would have put Snape in a position where he would have to kill Lupin to defend himself or risk becoming a werewolf. He puts Lupin in a situation where, out of his mind, he’d kill or maim Snape. This is not Fred and George stuff, this is horrible! As to the long run, that second chance may have been what killed the Potters. Sirius’ action sows the seeds of distrust between Lupin and Sirius, possibly James and Sirius as well. Pettigrew is picked as secret keeper, and thus the Potters are murdered. Who knows how that would have worked out if something had happened to make Sirius understand exactly how awful what he did was? He’s not exactly repentant when we see him in the later books.
He hires Lupin who neglects to mention that little thing about his ex-pal Sirius, he can become a dog, and wander right past the castle’s defenses.
Umbridge is Voldemort with less charm and guts. She is arguably the second most evil character in the whole series. She tries to kill Harry, tries to torture him, has him carve words into his flesh, humiliates him in public. There is much in the books to indicate that she is a psychopath, literally sick, yet Dumbledore is willing to let her stay at his school and torment his students. ("But the Ministry put her there." Dumbledore is the head of an illegal organization designed to thwart the Ministry and Voldemort. Do you really think he can’t do anything about her? At least keep her from carving phrases into the students?) Then after months of inflicting pain upon the students, he goes and saves her from the Centaurs. Obviously we don’t know what she’ll do with her second chance, but I’m guessing it won’t be good.
Dumbledore is supposed to be the smartest wizard of his age, that he can’t see how much danger he puts others in is a huge blind spot. Usually blind spots that big are there on purpose.