In a much earlier iteration of the site I once mentioned that someday when Rowling had finished off the series, I might take the essay collection and build a .pdf project from it. One in which I would include a section on theories which did not make it. It only occurred to me as I was coming into the home stretch on one Autumn’s semi-annual update of the essay collection (now some years ago itself), that I had a perfectly good place to collect such material in the essay entitled ‘The 7th Son’.
For the following couple of years various up-ended theories found a new home in that article which became sort of an omnibus of dead ends and missed connections. All of these theories were included primarily for entertainment value, since they turned out to be no place that Rowling had ever intended to go. But I was once rather pleased with them, and had been sorry to see some of them shot down. That essay eventually outgrew its page and has since been split up into several others.
But the ‘7th Son’ collection originally had nothing to do with this theory.
The theory related to the Grindelwald Conspiracy was arguably the oldest in the whole collection. It was also one of the ones to take the longest time to be shot down. And, in the event, it did not even stay shot down — having abruptly lurched back into relevance under another guise in the summer of 2008, a full year after the series was complete.
• • • •
It was easy enough to postulate an alternate scenario wherein Grindelwald — and his associates — really were a threat. Just not the variety that fanon was determined to paint them. Instead, I postulated that he and his cohorts were a very familiar threat. Positively pedestrian, in fact. And that defeating him was an accomplishment for which, ironically, Albus Dumbledore must share much of the credit with a certain young Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Shall we all take another look at just what — until the release of HBP — we thought we knew for certain to have taken place, in connection with the wizarding world, in the year 1945?
(And by the time HBP was released, I was inclined to just forget about WWII. I was pretty sure that date didn’t relate to WWII at all. I was convinced that it related to young Tom Riddle.)
The main events that most of us were convinced took place in 1945, more or less in this order, were:
- Tom Riddle finished his 7th year at Hogwarts at the end of June. He was legally “of age” and no longer being monitored under the reasonable restrictions of underage magic.
- Tom Riddle murdered his father and paternal grandparents in the village of Little Hangleton, during the summer of that year by means of the killing curse. We were sure of this because the means used was recognizably described in our summary of the mundane newspapers, although the existence of a killing curse was not information available the mundane investigators describing its effects.
- Tom Riddle then, apparently, dropped off of the face of the earth. (I did not think that one could do this, even if one is a wizard, without at least some help.)
- Albus Dumbledore defeated the Dark wizard Grindelwald.
I found it extremely difficult to believe that the first three of these events could be so closely interconnected without the fourth being so as well.
• • • •
For that matter, I also couldn’t really believe that you can set off three AKs in a Muggle village and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement won’t mount some level of investigation. Even if you, personally, are no longer under the (as of that time still not officially acknowledged in canon) Trace.
Well, in the wake of HBP, we can see that I was at least right about that last point. Although we’ve still no official explanation for how Tom managed to disable his Trace.
Nor did we know at that point that the murders took place, not in the summer of 1945, but in the summer of 1942, i.e., before the death of Moaning Myrtle at Hogwarts the following spring, nor did we know that Tom Riddle evidently stuck around the wizarding world, in plain sight, after finishing school for some 2–3 years, and that when he actually disappeared he was not yet even a fugitive. I also did not know, any more than anyone else did, that well before 1945 Albus Dumbledore felt he had already been given ample reason to be paying close, specific attention to Riddle.
Until HBP was out however, we also did not know of the existence of Morfin Gaunt, nor that Tom Riddle had someone in the neighborhood available to take the rap for his father and grandparents’ murders.
• • • •
In the absence of any of this fairly key information, Let’s wander down this particular road a bit further, following my original reasoning:
Tom Riddle is still spoken of (even by Dumbledore) as “probably the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen”. We were given to understand that during Tom Riddle’s years at the school just about the whole staff were united in singing the boy’s praises. His OWL and NEWT scores must have been impressive. (Even though old Griselda Marchbanks reserves her praise for Albus himself.) The name “Tom Riddle” is bound to have been mentioned, probably more than once, around whatever Ministry Department headhunts each year’s crop of the most promising 7th year students. Plus, post-HBP we now even have Horace Slughorn stationed at the school pulling strings to advance his “favorites”.
Given all of this probability, can you seriously believe that the name of this massacred Muggle family; “Riddle,” isn’t going to ring a bell somewhere in the Ministry? Some of the younger employees at the Ministry would have been at school with Tom Riddle. Can we believe that Frank Bryce’s testimony of having seen a pale, dark-haired, teenaged boy hanging about the property on the night of the murders would not have been noted by the Ministry investigators? That no one is going to put 2+2 together and follow this maybe-trail back to Hogwarts? Where we have Riddle’s own admission to Headmaster Dippitt that he had a witch mother and a Muggle father?
I honestly thought that the real significance of 1945 is that it was at that point in time that Albus Dumbledore finally realized just exactly what Tom Marvolo Riddle was: a very dangerous Dark wizard with a thirst for vengeance who was unlikely to remain in hiding forever.
(Well, no. If the murders took place in the summer of ’42, and Tom Riddle didn’t even sit his OWLs until June of ’43, no one in the Ministry was likely to make any kind of connection. Particularly since they already had someone who confessed to having murdered a family of Muggles who were named Riddle.)
And now, let’s jump back another seven years from 1945. In fact, let’s go back even farther than a mere seven years. Let’s go back to around 1920–1925 before Tom Riddle was even born, and see if we can pick up this trail from the other end. The Grindelwald end.
• • • •
The Dark Arts are not formally taught at Hogwarts (only Defense). But we don’t know how long this has been the case. It seemed quite possible that this is a comparatively recent policy that was only established when Dumbledore became Headmaster. In fact, if this was not the case in Headmaster Dippett’s day, Tom could have learned something of the Dark Arts quite openly. In fact, it is strongly implied in CoS that by his 5th year he was quite accomplished in the Dark Arts.
We still have no indication one way or the other in canon as to just when or if the formal study of the Dark Arts may have been eliminated from the curriculum. But so far as we know, the study of the Dark Arts has always been discouraged at Hogwarts.
So where did Riddle learn them?
If the Dark Arts had already disappeared from the Hogwarts curriculum by the 1940s doesn’t it stand to reason that Tom, as a Muggle-raised halfblood with no prior knowledge of, or connections to the wizarding world would have had to learn them from somebody?
• • • •
At this point I also invoked part of the main premise of a fanfic; the LiveJournalist going by the name of Minerva McTabby’s unfinished ‘Two Worlds and In Between’’s backstory, wherein it is postulated that a “great Dark uprising” took place in the late 19th century, following a groundswell of resistance to the (recently established?) Ministry policy of aggressively seeking out, training and admitting Muggle-born wizards into the wizarding world. McTabby also postulated a second, lesser reprise of such an open conflict occurring in the early 1900s.
We started out with some canon support for at least the first part of this reading in the assertions within canon that Lord Voldemort was regarded to be the “most dangerous Dark wizard in 100 years”, for all that Rowling seems to have dispensed with this particular piece of background and is determinedly pretending that she never said anything of the sort. We do not know who the nameless Dark wizard that caused such a stir one hundred years earlier was supposed to have been, but clearly Grindelwald, defeated some 50 years afterward, and whose activities never touched Great Britain, didn’t rate.
The Grindelwald Conspiracy does not insist on this “two Dark wars” scenario, but it would fit easily into the impressions that we are given in canon of the kind of social situation which might have prevailed by 1920. By 1920, all such uprisings have been suppressed and the established policy of the Ministry of Magic is to seek out, educate and assimilate all magical children into the wizarding world regardless of their parentage.
There is a faction who do not believe that this is to the greater benefit of the wizarding world as a whole, although they have grown to realize that another open rebellion in opposition to this policy cannot succeed.
I postulated that around 1920 there was a small group of such wizards who were also dabblers (in a perfectly legitimate manner — so far as the Ministry knows) in the Dark Arts, who were willing to use such arts to get what they want. Given that various iterations of common forms of blood-status bigotry have been deliberately seeded throughout the whole HP series, it was no stretch to suppose that these gentlemen were a cadre of die-hard blood purity fanatics who have already lost the battle, but refuse to accept that the war is over.
• • • •
I feel it ought also to be mentioned that at this point in my theorizing I was attempting to comply with Rowling’s earlier stated intentions (in interviews) that she did *not* want a cardboard baddie dressed in black, but a villain whose motivations one could understand. (In Lucius Malfoy, back when he was standing in for the villain of the piece, she had one. Tom Riddle, on the other hand, is more 2-dimensional each time we encounter him.)
When I first started building theories with the intention of posting them, I also was not postulating Tom Riddle as having been an irredeemable sociopath from the get-go. But it rapidly became unavoidable to conclude that, yes, he was indeed a sociopath.
• • • •
Rowling stated in passing in an early 2003 interview before the release of OotP that the Death Eaters had developed from a similar, pre-existing organization that Voldemort had taken control of. This group had once been known as the Knights of Walpurgis. I drew a straight line between two points and suggested that this particular group of wizards was composed of members of that organization. It may have been only a small number of the members of that organization, however.
I gave a deal of thought to my suspicions regarding what kind of faction might have recruited Tom Riddle as a poster child of the “Ancient Lineage” hard-liners, despite the fact that the boy was quite literally a halfblood. And I attempted to determine just what such a faction’s agenda is likely to have been. I also did a fair bit of wondering just how they might have been most likely to have planned to deploy him.
I came to the conclusion that the group was probably a dangerously pragmatic offshoot of the isolationist hard-liners. One that considered stopping the influx of Muggle-borns into the wizarding world more important than the ejection of the ones that already were there. And one that also was prepared to accept that halfbloods could serve a useful purpose if properly trained, and kept in their “place”.
By that point in time the aggressive recruitment of Muggle-born magical children had been underway for scarcely half as long as it has been today, and the percentage of Muggle-borns and halfbloods in wizarding society would have been a good deal smaller. Nevertheless, every year would not only have seen an additional handful of Muggle-borns enrolled at Hogwarts, but it would also see any number of pureblood families in good standing loose cadet branches due to young pureblood wizards and witches marrying “outside” and producing mixed-blood children, weakening the pureblood sector of the population by erosion. This could have only been regarded by the hard-liners as deplorable.
And into this situation, we then insert a sudden wave of Muggle-borns from the “baby boom” following the end of WWI and the Spanish influenza pandemic (assuming that these were duplicated in the Potterverse) who started showing up at Hogwarts in the Autumn term of 1931.
• • • •
The year 1920’s birth records for Great Britain in the Real World registered some 1,126,800 births. This was the highest annual birth record for the whole 20th century. If the percentage of magical births within recorded mundane births was anything close to what it is as at the end of the century, this year would have accounted for well over a dozen Muggle-born First years a decade later, rather than the usual 7-8 or so. This baby boom would have continued for at least a few years to follow, gradually tapering off. Such a sudden increase of Muggle-born students at Hogwarts would have struck pureblood isolationists as a situation which required some sort of a response.
My contention was that this group was indeed intending a “takeover” of the British wizarding world. But not the kind of flashy, dramatic takeover that most fanfics have painted. Despite their own pureblood background and their conviction that pureblood wizards and witches were inherently superior to any other sort, I thought that Grindelwald’s geezers may have been prepared to deliberately capitalize on Tom’s halfblood ancestry to initially broaden their faction’s appeal to the wizarding public. They may have intended to use it as a selling point to make their message more palatable to the wizarding world as a whole, by presenting him as the perfect blend of the most illustrious wizarding ancestry and true “hybrid vigor”. At least at the outset of their campaign.
In fact, the more I considered the matter, the more likely it seemed to me that Grindelwald’s geezers were above all, a bona fide political faction. One which was intending a perfectly legitimate political takeover of the Wizengamot, and by extension the Ministry of Magic and all of its policies.
— And yes, I agree that it would probably have been very dirty politics, by the time it was done, but it would have been made to look legitimate. Ultimately ending with Tom established as the Minister for Magic, and they, as they believed, his “handlers” ruling the ww from the Wizengamot. (More fools they!)
In short, Grindelwald and his geezers really were representative of a “legitimate” Nazi party, in contrast to the Death Eaters’ “Klan”.
The group, however wrong-headed, were not fundamentally stupid. They could see that their pureblood distinction was progressively being “eaten away” by the concessions that the Ministry was supposedly making to Mudbloods and they believe that unless this trend was checked, ultimately no wizard would be free of Muggle “contamination”, and, as far as that goes, they were right about it, too. They just cannot bring themselves to roll over and accept it.
Nevertheless, they realize that another open rebellion will neither succeed nor serve their ends. That they must somehow manage to work within the System to change the Ministry’s policy. In order to do that, they realize that they must necessarily suborn the greater wizarding public as well as the Wizengamot into being led around to their point of view if they ever expect it to stick. And in order to do this they must make the supreme sacrifice and stoop to associating with and enlisting the active assistance of persons who do not meet their standards of purity of ancestry. They do not like this conclusion, but once reached, their leaders are pragmatic enough to not waste an excessive amount of time attempting to explain it away.
Some of these wizards may even be old enough to remember a time that the wizarding world regarded itself as being all but universally led by purebloods and, in fact, considered itself primarily composed of purebloods and “almost” purebloods (a viewpoint which was in itself a fallacy perpetrated by the Seclusion) and are drowning in nostalgia for their golden youth. In aid of all this they invoke, and probably distort, the memory of Salazar Slytherin and his known anti-Muggle biases as the justification of their “mission statement”. [900 years earlier, considering the political situation in the mundane world, Salazar Slytherin may have had strong, rational, compelling reasons for his biases. We may never know for sure.]
Quite a few, although probably not all, of these geezers had been Slytherins in their school days, and, well, get a lot of the Old House boys together and eventually somebody is bound to drag out that old moldy fig of the legend of Slytherin’s heir and the Chamber of Secrets. At this point they haven’t a clue as to exactly they want to do about what they regard as being what is wrong with society, only that they know they want to do “something”.
• • • •
It was the sudden influx of much higher than former numbers of Muggle-born students, born immediately after the conclusion of WWI, descending on Hogwarts in 1931 and afterwards that goosed the geezers into a redoubled determination to Do Something.
Some years prior to that point in time, they had been aware that there was still at least one known descendent of Salazar Slytherin left alive in the present day. A young witch.
[Until HBP, after all, we were led to understand that Tom Riddle’s mother had been the very last of her family, not that she had both a brother and one surviving parent who both outlived her.]
And, unfortunately, this was a young witch who had walked away from her heritage after leaving Hogwarts in favor of life in a Muggle village. Which does not speak highly of either her appropriateness as their faction’s “poster child” or say much for the likelihood that she would agree to being enlisted into the service of their goals in the first place. I suspect that these factors were quite enough to delay this gaggle of geezers from seeking her out, in favor of first trying to trace some more promising poster child for their budding movement.
By the time the sudden influx of the “wave” of Muggle-borns reaches Hogwarts, it is clear that there is no alternative Slytherin “heir” and they are too late. The witch is dead in childbirth, and her halfblood infant son is lost in some Muggle orphanage, which at that point in history characteristically changed the names of the children entrusted to them. (Certainly they changed the names of infants.) This development stumps the geezers temporarily, and the fact that the boy is a literal halfblood becomes an issue of considerable debate among them.
Somebody in their little clique, however, is placed fortunately enough to be able to get a look at the Hogwarts quill’s enrollment list. He determines that if the missing child is listed, he is most likely to be the boy registered as Tom (Thomas?) Marvolo Riddle, born at the right general time, and since his name is on the list he will be getting a Hogwarts letter for the Autumn term of 1938. It’s probable that it took the group a few years before they were resigned to tracing his mother (and him), and didn’t locate him until he had been at the orphanage for some time.
• • • •
Here’s where things grow a bit murky. If the geezers had indeed decided to sponsor the boy for the sake of his Slytherin descent, we would have expected this group to send some plausible couple to adopt him out of this mundane institution, and see to it that he was raised within the wizarding world and taught some of his own history. Right? But, no. Nothing. They did absolutely nothing.
Maybe none of them could bear the thought of having to deal with Muggles (or had no idea of how to approach them). Maybe none of them really wanted to take on the responsibility for a small child. Maybe they collectively regarded the boy as no more than a potential tool and anyone else was welcome to raise him until he was old enough to be of use. If he came to grief before then, well, he obviously wasn’t “worthy” of their attention, then, was he?
They might even have hoped that he would be made miserable by the Muggles who were in charge of his upbringing, since to them that would mean he would be all that much more willing to embrace their cause. We are talking about wizards who were sometime practitioners of the Dark Arts, after all, and subject to the sort of callous outlook and skewed perceptions that such practices tend to foster.
In any case, they didn’t do a damn thing to get young Tom out of that orphanage. Instead, they either set one of their group in place at Hogwarts, or won a member of Hogwarts’ staff over to their cause and waited for young Tom to show up at the school.
And when he did, they pounced.
• • • •
We are talking about a child whose early upbringing was probably no kinder than Harry Potter’s. In fact we are talking about a childhood that was probably much colder and less “personal” even if it might have entailed less direct hostility on the part of his caretakers. (Although if Tom had anything like the kind and number of magical breakthroughs that plagued Harry, such hostility might certainly have developed.)
And Tom’s upbringing could well have been far less “normal” than Harry’s. Where Harry had to cope with deliberate malice on the part of the Dursleys, and knew that their dislike for him was personal, Tom would more likely have been dealt with by the cool hand of indifference and an institutionalized atmosphere amounting to an exercise in dehumanization. And, as I’ve pointed out in various list postings, this was a child who did not get Harry’s advantage of an early grounding of 15 months as a loved and wanted child. Nobody alive had ever loved Tom Riddle.
It must also be noted that, as horrible as the Dursleys are, they have no difficulty demonstrating love and affection to each other. In fact, Harry aside, they are a stickily affectionate family. Harry could still have recognized it by example, even if not by experience.
Much as the Dursleys may resent and fear Harry, his childhood was not spent in an environment which treated all children as interchangeable cogs in a machine, or which made a fetish of some majestic “impartiality”. Current psychological research often suggests that if a child survives that kind of institutionalized “care”, their emotional development may not proceed normally. Some literally do not know how to love anything, and often never develop the feeling that other people’s emotions matter. This is the clinical definition of a sociopath. It is certainly a working definition of Tom Riddle.
I still contend that — the possibility of additional 3rd party tampering aside — most, if not all, of the psychological differences between Harry and Tom can probably be traced to that critical 15 months of early parental love.
• • • •
It must also be noted that most of the children raised in such impersonal circumstances as the young Tom Riddle were, do *not* develop this type or this degree of pathology. But a few unquestionably do. Tom appears to have been one of those few unlucky ones. He might have still been a monster and a menace even if he had been a Muggle like his father.
What is more, this boy — whom no one had ever loved — chose “greatness” and was sorted into Slytherin.
Into Slytherin, with all the “advantages” of mixed blood, grinding poverty and a Muggle upbringing. I really don’t think that the qualities that are valued in Slytherin House have changed markedly since Riddle’s day. You can imagine what his reception must have been. He may have managed to conceal the full truth of his parentage, (easy enough, since he did not know it himself) but his poverty and Muggle upbringing were plain for all to see.
And now, suddenly, there was an adult here who takes an interest in him! One who seems to like him! Somebody who knew his family! (Family: which is highly important in Slytherin House.)
Somebody who feeds him a grand tale of his noble, tragic mother and her perfidious Muggle husband. (And how would they have known anything of the sort? Did they make the tale up from whole cloth? No. They may have known that the witch’s paramour was alive, and yet her child was turned over to an orphanage. The cloth was provided. But the rest was embroidery.)
... Somebody who can indoctrinate him in the traditions of his proud Slytherin heritage. Someone who can coach him, and teach him, and guide his choices.
So long as he performs well.
And he does. Oh, he does.
• • • •
His treatment at the hands of the Muggles who ran his orphanage gave him no defenses against this sort of approach. His inherent Legilimency skills were still rudimentary, and none of what his mentor tells him is a direct lie. When it turns out that he is a Parselmouth as well, this is hailed as a sign and a portent. His mentor flatters him by dubbing him the Heir of Slytherin.
Events in the Muggle world also conspired to give his new mentors an opportunity to take charge of him away from the halls of Hogwarts. At the start of Tom’s 2nd year, children were already being evacuated from larger urban areas to places of greater safety in the countryside. A 2nd wave of such evacuations was initiated with the German bombing of London in December of 1940, the following year. It is entirely possible that Tom’s London orphanage agreed to his being fostered in Hogsmeade or elsewhere in the countryside, although apparently Headmaster Dippitt did not remember this detail amidst the uproar related to the Chamber of Secrets in June of 1943. At that point Headmaster Dippitt did not even recall that young Riddle was not one of Hogwarts’s Muggle-born students.
Like all children sorted into Slytherin, Tom soon hears about the legend of the Chamber of Secrets and begins his search for it as a symbol with which to prove his worth to his mentor and the rest of his patrons. Tom, most interestingly, apparently does not share this information with his sponsors once he finally locates Salazar’s Chamber. Had he already seen through their intention to use him by then? Had he already begun to form his own goals separate from those of his patrons? This seems very likely.
For, unfortunately, their poster child was both a budding sociopath and a developing Legilimens, and he turned out to be much more intelligent, and far less grateful than they had assumed he ought to be.
A child to whom nothing in his earliest life was ever merely offered, who needed to take every advantage he has ever gained by means of subterfuge and stealth, does not typically learn the virtue of gratitude. At some point before his 5th year at Hogwarts he must have discovered how to hone his natural skills as a Legilimens to the point that he eventually saw through his mentors’ rhetoric to their real opinions of the worth of a halfblood, however brilliant.
• • • •
I thought that this discovery must have come as a profound disillusionment. One more in a series of already far too many personal betrayals, none of which he has ever been inclined to either forgive, or to overlook. By that point in the series (i.e., the 3-year summer), in all of his appearances on stage, if you try to squint past the bombast of what is always at least partially a “performance” (even if only to an audience of one) Voldemort’s utter contempt toward wizards is just as clear to the reader as is his resentment of Muggles.
From all we had been told to that point, it also seemed to me that the young Tom Riddle was clearly being “groomed” for some purpose. Much as Harry is being groomed now.
Riddle’s would-be handlers no doubt harped continually upon his early mistreatment at the hands of Muggles, intending ultimately to point him at Muggle-borns and tacitly tell him to eliminate them from the wizarding world. Quite overlooking the fact that Riddle would have had no inborn reason to love wizards, who had knowingly denied him his presumed birthright by abandoning him to that orphanage.
But I think Grindelwald’s geezers never actually saw the boy as anything more than a potentially useful tool. These were, after all, Dark wizards. And their blunted capacity for empathy gave the game away.
And, in any event, the fundamental damage to young Riddle had been done long before they ever got their hooks into him. The only way that anyone could have saved Tom would have been to have gotten him out of that orphanage and into an affectionate foster family before he had the chance to develop a sociopathic personality disorder in the first place.
But I suspected that once Tom saw through their intent to use him for their purposes, in a fury over this latest betrayal, he began to take steps to make himself much more powerful than they ever could anticipate or than they had ever intended, in order to prevent them from ever benefiting from any of his actions.
I suspected that it was at this exact point, the point that he finally saw through their plans, that Defiant-Adolescent!Tom decided that he did not choose to be useful. He would not have his deplorable Muggle parentage paraded across the wizarding world, or his talents exploited to advance the aims of a lot of has-been losers.
No. He would use them!
And, at his earliest convenience, he shed the lot of them along with their plans for him with a public act of private murder, thereby killing four birds with three AKs.
And before the geezers had their wits about them enough to realize exactly what Tom had just set in motion, he had sweet-talked them into helping him disappear, and left them holding the bag.
• • • •
Think about it. If Tom, no more than 18 years old, without any wide experience of the wizarding world (and where would he have gotten that, even if he had spent some summers and other term breaks in a wizarding household, having been evacuated from war-time London?) “disappeared” immediately upon leaving school — apart from that brief guest appearance in Little Hangleton — then he had almost certainly been in contact with someone who was able to help him do it. Even wizarding fugitives cannot typically “drop off the face of the earth.” Or, not without expertly placed help.
But by then he knew their party line backward and forward and could quote it chapter and verse. He knew who they were and the name of their organization. And when he decided it was time to make his move towards setting up his very own personal bid for power, he was able to reel the geezers and their descendants right back to his side, to serve him as his tools. Phrased in terms that they certainly “could” have, but probably “would” not manage to refuse. He has no intentions of ever fulfilling his promises to them. When they have served his purposes, he will see them slaughtered like sheep.
• • • •
It seemed very clear to me that Albus Dumbledore and Tom Riddle may not have been the only people to disbelieve that Hagrid had any part in Myrtle’s death. But Tom had escaped and the 3rd party still wasn’t talking.
Another of the details attendant upon that particular miscarriage of justice that we still didn’t know, is whether or not Dumbledore was serving as Head of Gryffindor House at the time of Hagrid’s expulsion. Nor do we know if I am correct in my contention that, by that point, Hagrid was effectively Dumbledore’s ward, having been orphaned the year before. If this is the case, it stands to reason that Dumbledore would have known Hagrid. He would have known him very well, in fact, since you can just tell that Hagrid was the kind of youngster who is always in trouble of some kind or other, and had probably been so from the day he stepped onto the Hogwarts Express. But Dumbledore would have been convinced that Hagrid was no killer.
And, where Dumbledore had originally simply been somewhat cooler than the average Hogwarts instructor toward Riddle prior to Riddle’s part in Hagrid’s expulsion (due to a lack of sympathy with the family, or staff member who had taken the boy up, perhaps? This seems likely. He may in fact have regarded Riddle’s mentor as a bad influence and had some reservations regarding Tom himself because of the association), afterwards he took a more personal interest in the boy. Enough that we can conclude that Dumbledore, who was certainly on Hogwarts staff in the spring of ’43, when the Chamber was first opened, remained on staff there at least until the end of the summer term of ’45 merely by the fact that the Chamber remained closed, primarily due to the eye that Dumbledore kept on Riddle.
• • • •
Where I departed from most of the other fanon interpretations at that point is that I thought the incident which finally set Dumbledore on Riddle’s track was not Hagrid’s expulsion — which Albus, with his apparent habit of always making allowances, would have had to admit to himself could just as easily have been due to a well-intentioned misinterpretation of appearances on Riddle’s part — but the massacre of the Riddle family in the summer of ’45, which could not have been anything but a deliberate act of murder.
This event probably took place within a week after the summer term had ended and the Ministry investigators showed up at the Castle before the staff, or at least before Dumbledore, had departed for the summer.
Dumbledore may or may not have been reading Muggle newspapers at that point in his career, but it stands to reason that three AKs in a Muggle village would have eventually alerted some Ministry watch-dog.
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement is not run by a passel of Keystone Kops. Whoever is in charge of that Department is very well aware that once the borders maintaining wizarding Seclusion had become permeable enough to allow for a general recruitment of Muggle-born wizards, the proximity of a vast population of magically defenseless Muggles — many of them in affluent circumstances — will periodically prove to be an irresistible temptation to a certain element within the wizarding community. The additional disruption of a shooting war among these Muggles could have only worsened the inherent temptations attendant to the situation.
The DMLE almost certainly employs a group of people whose chief duty is to scan all Muggle newspapers for articles which indicate suspected use of magic outside the boundaries of the wizarding world. A “Mysterious No Cause of Death!” report being trumpeted about the tabloids in connection with a particularly sensational triple murder would certainly have prompted an investigation of some sort, even if only one which was attempting to more effectively cover up the probable use of magic in the attack. Frank Bryce’s reported sighting of a pale, dark-haired teenage boy hanging about the place the night of the deaths would have led investigating Aurors back to Hogwarts where the name Riddle would have made a solid connection. It was this connection that marked the point of, and was the true reason for, “Tom Riddle’s” long disappearance. Murdering Muggles is somewhat frowned upon, after all.
• • • •
Dumbledore had never much cared for Riddle’s mentor or his mentor’s world view, and once the Aurors showed up, he started following Riddle’s backtrail. Somewhere, in this investigation I believe he, or they, came across Grindelwald (by whatever name. “Grindelwald” might have been no more authentic a name than “Voldemort”).
I also believe that something, somewhere, in this investigation intersected with another matter that was already under investigation by the Ministry. Probably an ongoing investigation to do with indications of Dark Arts activity outside prescribed Ministry guidelines.
Dumbledore’s information helped them to crack their case, and it was Albus, who, happily joining in on all of the excitement, was able to get close enough to come to grips with Grindelwald himself, and, when Grindelwald put up a fight, to defeat him.
Grindelwald was quite possibly not the same person as Tom’s mentor at Hogwarts, or even the ringleader of the group, but it makes for a better “story” if he was one or the other, and he would at any rate have been the culprit that showed up in the cross-hairs of the two investigations.
Since it was not Grindelwald who had murdered the Riddle family, it would have been some other activity altogether for which he was prosecuted. And since the only thing we know of him is that he was a Dark wizard, it seems most likely that the shoal that Grindelwald wrecked himself upon was something to do with his practice of the Dark Arts.
• • • •
As to Grindelwald himself; he was duly packed off to Azkaban, and, as usually happens, went barking mad there. He probably either died before his sentence was served, or he was transferred to St. Mungo’s upon its completion. Certainly Grindelwald himself is no longer an issue today. And who cares about the minor political scandals of 50 years ago?
As to Grindelwald’s geezers; well, it certainly isn’t illegal to believe that pureblooded wizards are better than any other sort. It isn’t illegal to stand on a soapbox and preach that viewpoint in the middle of Diagon Alley, either. Nor is it illegal, however despicable, to indoctrinate unwitting schoolboys with the same views. Whatever Grindelwald, or his associates had ultimately planned may not even have gone far enough to have been shared throughout their own little clique. Let alone the whole of the Knights of Walpurgis.
To be sure, some of the other Old Boys in their private little clique undoubtedly had also been up to something which got them a stint in Azkaban, or a stiff fine, or a slap on the wrist. Others had broken no actual law and were merely somewhat publicly embarrassed. There wasn’t necessarily anything the Ministry could do about them. And as far as the Ministry was concerned they had “nipped it” (whatever “it” was) in the bud, and there was no further danger.
• • • •
I’m sure that Dumbledore who if nothing else, is a keen observer of human behavior, wasn’t entirely convinced. And there remained still that small nagging detail of a fugitive parricide who had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. I firmly believed that tracking Riddle’s further suspected activities became Dumbledore’s own little pet project for the next 25 years, whether in some official capacity or as one of his private interests. (This was also back when we all thought Voldemort had first surfaced around 1970.)
I think that, since that day, whenever some charismatic figure raised his head in the WW outside the sanctions of some official Ministry position, Albus was quick to subject that figure to close examination in order to determine whether this might be Tom Riddle; and in 1970, he finally hit pay dirt.
In fact, Grindelwald’s now largely forgotten aims are quite likely to have been very different from Riddle’s current ones. We do not know anything of them for certain. And I suspected that Rowling would probably never fill us in. But, I thought that if Grindelwald was to be shown to have had any real significance in Rowling’s story arc, it was well past time that his name be reintroduced. And that it had not tended to support the view that he was a minor nuisance that had been banished to the status of a mere footnote in history.
But I also suspected that If Grindelwald’s plans had come to fruition, as he and his geezers intended, there would never have been a Lord Voldemort.
Of course, Muggle-borns would also no longer compose any part of the current student body of Hogwarts, either. Or the under-30 age group of the wizarding world in general. Wizarding Seclusion would be all but total. And Muggle-born wizards would be raising unintentional havoc out in the Muggle world, unable to get proper training.
And a certain Tom Marvolo Riddle, combining in one person both the Heir of Salazar Slytherin himself and the perfect “token” role model for wizards of mixed blood, would still be the Minister for Magic, wealthy, charismatic, popular, and set up with a fine house and a handsome, well-born, figurehead wife/hostess; actively — in fact, tirelessly — and most effectively furthering the aims and consolidating the advantages of Lucius Malfoy and his ilk.
• • • •
Well it was fun at the time, anyway. A bit overheated and more fiction than theory. But given the vacuum we were working in as regards to any solid information, it wasn't all that bad. And if anyone is interested, like I say, the undelying reason for this particular theory abruptly revived itself in the summer of 2008, and has lurched back into play, now sans Grindelwald, and also sans a conspiracy. It now is living under the name of ‘Minding the Gap’.
Frankly, I think that in most respects the revival is much better built than the version above, or, for that matter, the version that Rowling gave us, but the series isn’t called “Tom Riddle and the Knights of Walpurgis”, or even “The Adventures of Albus Dumbledore”.
Although during parts of DHs you almost wondered why not.