Harry Potter sat in the office of Albus Dumbledore, deep in thought. It was his sixth year at Hogwarts, he needed to prepare for the fight against Voldemort, and he had just watched the memory of Albus Dumbledore's first meeting with Tom Riddle. It was somewhat eerie seeing an eleven-year-old version of a person who would day take on the name of Lord Voldemort and cause so much evil to befall the world. He wasn't sure what he was going to get out of these memory watching sessions, but he was sure that Dumbledore had a plan to eventually train him in the esoteric magics he would need for the coming battles. For now, he supposed it was important to better know his enemy.
Thinking about such a young version of Voldemort reminded Harry of his encounter with the 16-year-old version of Tom. That version of Tom had clearly had any remaining innocence stripped away. He still remembered Tom's bragging about framing Hagrid for the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, and the death of Moaning Myrtle. Poor Hagrid had been expelled, had his wand snapped, and ended up having to work as groundskeeper for Hogwarts. Making Hagrid one of the earliest victims of Voldemort.
"What has you so bothered, my boy?" spoke the quiet and calm voice of Albus Dumbledore.
"Sir… can I ask you something?" replied Harry in a tentative voice.
Albus smiled at Harry kindly. "Obviously, you have just done so." He then chuckled slightly. "Forgive me Harry, I recalled you asking me the same thing in your first year and couldn't help reusing my small joke. Please, ask your question."
Harry smiled weakly at the joke and the memory of his conversation with Dumbledore in front of the Mirror of Erised. "I was wondering… Why hasn't Hagrid ever had his expulsion overturned?"
Albus's eyebrows rose slightly, and then crinkled in confusion. "Harry… why do you think Hagrid's expulsion should be overturned?"
Harry felt his nervousness disappear. Hagrid was his friend, and defending his friends was a place where Harry felt comfortable and confident. His eyes rose up to meet Albus's eyes, a glint of defiance tinging his tone of voice. "How can you ask that!? Hagrid was setup by Voldemort! The memory of the sixteen-year-old Voldemort told me everything. He set up Hagrid to take the fall for opening the Chamber of Secrets, so that Hogwarts wouldn't be closed. And it worked! But, once Voldemort came out into the open, why didn't you tell people that the man calling himself Slytherin's Heir was the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets? All you had to do was show them that the person who turned in Hagrid was Tom Riddle, and that Tom Riddle was Voldemort. It wouldn't have been that hard to convince them that Hagrid was innocent. So, why didn't you tell people!?"
Albus sighed wearily. "I didn't widely spread Voldemort's true name because I considered it an unwise course of action. However…"
"Unwise!?" Harry spoke loudly, just shy of yelling at the Headmaster. "Unwise!? How could it possibly be unwise to let people know his real name? If it was common knowledge, then Hagrid could be using a wand, and maybe Ginny wouldn't have been possessed by the bastard!"
"Your anger is understandable, Harry. Indeed, Miss Weasley's traumatic experiences haunt my dreams nightly. Had she known, perhaps she would have done something different. Although, there is every chance she would have still fell victim to its allure. Tom's enchantments can be quite…" Albus eyes flickered towards his withered black hand, and the back to Harry's eyes. "…effective. As for the wisdom of withholding the information, I feared how people would react."
"What do you mean? At worst, nothing would have happened except for people knowing the truth. At best, a few of his potential followers would stop following him."
Albus chuckled. "The fact that you have maintained such optimism, despite your experiences with our society, is quite refreshing. However, Harry, I fear that my faith in our society is not nearly as strong as yours. I suspect that a fair number of Tom's inner circle are aware of his roots but choose to only pay attention to his rightful claim as Slytherin's Heir and his fearsome power. Further, many of his lower level followers would still choose to follow him because he has power and is offering them power over others. Perhaps a small number would choose not to volunteer, but not enough to make a difference."
Albus sighed before he continued speaking. "The truth is, I was afraid of the response from those not following him. I am not happy about this, but I am sure you have noticed that even some of the best purebloods out there are still somewhat bigoted. Oh, they don't necessarily actively think that non-purebloods are inferior, but they still passively believe purebloods are superior. Your mother did something amazing, something unknown, something singular when she performed whatever protective magic she used, to protect you from Voldemort. And yet the people choose to give you credit, because subconsciously they dismiss the idea that a Muggleborn discovered and utilized unknown magics to defeat Voldemort. Miss Granger receives derision for how she shows off her vast intellect, when past highly intelligent purebloods acted the same as her and received accolades. Even Arthur Weasley, who is an extremely kind and open-minded man, executes his job in a manner that suggests that he subconsciously believes that it is not important to understand the simplest aspects of muggle life, despite that being one of the primary facets of his job."
Albus closed his eyes, took a breath, and opened his eyes. "I apologize for my tangent, Harry. Suffice to say that wizarding society has a demonstrated subconscious prejudice against those who are not purebloods. If I were to reveal Voldemort's heritage, I feared that people would believe that his evil nature clearly came from his muggle parentage. They would then use that to justify creating new laws that would greatly disadvantage the non-pureblood citizens of our society, perhaps to deadly effect."
Harry looked back at his Headmaster in aghast horror. "Surely you can't believe that would happen. I mean… the Wizard World has problems, but it's not that bad! Is it?"
Once again, Albus sighed. "Perhaps not, Harry. Perhaps I was just being paranoid. And, I will admit, I did not think that my worst-case scenario would come to pass. As far as I could tell, the medium risk outweighed the negligible potential gain from revealing Voldemort's true name."
"Except for helping Hagrid?"
"Ah, I see you managed to maintain your grasp on your original question. A skill that is often high in demand and yet low in supply. I often find myself unable to stay on topic, so I commend you. Now that we are back on topic, it is at this point that I must inform you that you are laboring under a false assumption. Hagrid was not expelled for opening the Chamber of Secrets."
Harry's eyes widened in surprise, as he responded with an incredulous "What? But Tom told me he framed Hagrid! That's why he was expelled."
Albus stared at Harry for a long moment. "Harry… to be honest, I shouldn't be sharing this with you. Hagrid is well aware of the circumstances of his expulsion, and it is his story to tell. However, he is not likely to tell it, and I fear that you have just enough influence to make life difficult for him if you started a campaign to have his expulsion overturned. As such, I require your word to keep what I say between the two of us, including keeping it private from your friends."
Too curious to walk away now, Harry could not help but agree. "Agreed, Headmaster. Though, I reserve the right to talk to Hagrid about this if I feel it necessary."
Albus nodded slowly. "That is a reasonable caveat, Harry. Very well. Tell me, in brief, what do you know about the evidence that Tom provided to frame Hagrid?"
"Well, I didn't get to see what he said personally, but I know that he revealed the existence of Hagrid's pet acromantula, Aragog. And then he convinced those in charge that it was Aragog who came from the Chamber and then killed Myrtle. They bought it, and then Hagrid was expelled and had his wand snapped."
"That is a surprisingly accurate summation of what happened, or at least Tom's presentation of his evidence. Your guess on how easily it was 'bought' is a touch wrong. And what do you suppose was Hagrid's response?"
Harry snorted. "He probably told them that Aragog was a good acromantula and that he never hurt no one."
Albus's smile brightened slightly. "Again, that was a fairly accurate summation of Hagrid's defense. I also appreciate you refraining from attempting to mimic Hagrid's voice. So, it falls on to me to supply you with what the response was of those listening to the testimony of young Tom and young Hagrid."
Albus leaned forward, his expression a mixture of sadness and earnestness. "You must first understand, Harry, that if Hagrid had truly been found guilty of Myrtle's death, he would have found himself in Azkaban. However, there was no evidence that Myrtle died by acromantula bite, so it was clear that he was not guilty of her death. Indeed, both Headmaster Dippet and I were mostly certain Tom was to blame."
Harry's confusion increased. "But… the memory made it seem like Dippet believed Tom."
A wheezing laugh came from one of the portraits. Harry looked up to see an even older version of Dippet than he remembered from Tom's memory. "You thought I believed that smarmy git!? Tom was a charming young lad, to be sure, but he was a one-dimensional liar. His main gift was in determining what people already believe, and then wrapping his lies inside of what they already wanted to believe. A technique that works wonders when recruiting followers or buttering up politicians. A quality that is highly valued in both Slytherin and in a candidate for Head Boy. However, it is a horrible technique to use when lying to people with decades of experience listening to arrogant teenagers tell bald faced lies."
Albus sighed. "Armando, please leave the storytelling to me."
After the portrait nodded his head, Albus continued. "As I said, we suspected the guilty party was Tom. But we had no evidence and no hope that the authorities would look past Hagrid's heritage as a half giant, over the charming and handsome Tom Riddle. Given that Tom was implicitly vowing to no longer open the Chamber, we decided to pretend like we believed him and hope that it meant the danger of the Chamber had passed. Tom got his award for services rendered to the school, and we then began working to limit Hagrid's punishment."
Harry looked at Albus with disgust. "So, you just let Hagrid take the blame and let Voldemort go?"
"We let Tom Riddle go, because we had no proof of his guilt and it would allow the school to stay open. It was not ideal, but Hogwarts serves an important role in our society and its closure would be disastrous. Hagrid, however, we were able to silently get all charges dropped for the opening of the Chamber and killing Myrtle."
"Dropped? But… then… why was he expelled!?"
"Harry, Hagrid freely admitted to raising an acromantula in the school. He knew it was wrong, because he hid the creature from the staff. Do you know what the normal sentence is for illegally raising an acromantula?"
The confusion on Harry's face faded, replaced with a dawning understanding. "Is it long?"
"Actually, no. It is a fine and one month in Azkaban, for each creature. The sentence would be longer if the fine can't be paid."
"Oh! Well, one month is not so…"
Albus, continued, interrupting Harry's response. "Do you know what the normal sentence is for exposing an underage child to an acromantula, without proper safety precautions and signed authorization?"
Harry gulped and shook his head slowly.
"One year in Azkaban"
"Thirteen months!? In Azkaban?"
"One year for each child"
Harry's eyes widened. "So… that would mean…"
Albus's face was very grave. "That would mean that Hagrid was facing spending the rest of his life in Azkaban. Being expelled and revoking his wand rights was the least of his worries. And yet, Armando and I succeeded in using a massive amount of our political favors to keep a fourteen-year-old boy from spending the rest of his life in Azkaban for a stupid mistake. Honestly, the fact we were able to get him a lifetime of paid community service to the school is a miracle."
"But… that was so long ago. Couldn't you show that Hagrid has changed and get him his wand rights?"
Albus sighed. "Harry, I love and trust Hagrid. He is a wonderful man. But do you honestly think he has changed? I seem to recall you serving a detention in your first year because you were 'telling a story' about Hagrid raising a dragon, along with your friend Ronald being treated for an 'animal bite' that mysteriously was filled with the venom of the Norwegian Ridgeback breed of dragon. I also have heard unverified rumors that an acromantula colony was formed in the Forbidden Forest shortly after Hagrid's expulsion. There are also the mysterious Blast Ended Skrewts which one might think is an example of illegal cross-breeding of dangerous creatures, though I assume are simply a previously obscure breed of creature."
"If anyone were to press for Hagrid to receive wand rights, then investigators from the Ministry would be obliged to reopen his case and then investigate these unverified rumors. If these rumors were verified, then it would indicate that he is unrepentant for the crimes for which he received the initial leniency. If those investigations were to go in that direction, Hagrid might find the Wizengamot reassessing the wisdom of that initial leniency. Do you imagine that reassessment would result in an outcome that Hagrid would find desirable?"
A shocked Harry tried to speak, but words failed him. He just shook his head.
"I agree with you, Harry. As does Hagrid. I hope that when the time comes when you choose to wield your political influence, you keep that in mind when deciding what sort of help you should provide for Hagrid's benefit."
Albus smiled. "I am glad I could address your concerns, Harry. It is getting late, I am afraid, so I believe you would do well to get some rest."
Harry stood and began to make his way out of the office. At the door, he paused and turned back to the Headmaster. "Sir, why did you help him in the first place? If he really deserved Azkaban, why keep him out?"
Albus smiled sadly. "As you are well aware, Harry, our justice system is often perverted to protect evil people from answering for their crimes. It's a fact I detest. However, the only thing worse then having a broken system where the guilty go free, is a broken system where only evil people take advantage of that broken nature. Hagrid is a good man, and while Death Eaters walk free, I have no qualms about breaking the system to keep him from receiving the punishment that he technically deserves."
"But, isn't that hypocritical?"
Albus chuckled. "Yes, it is. I have never claimed to be free of hypocrisy."
Albus opened the door for Harry, led him to the threshold, and then put one hand on his shoulder. "Do you know one of the primary differences between a Dark Lord and a Light Lord, Harry? A Dark Lord will break the law to achieve their personal goals, without regard to the cost to the good people of the world. A Light Lord will break the law to protect good people, without regard to the hypocrisy of their actions. Some people call me the Leader of The Light, but I consider myself more of a Light Lord. Good night, Harry."
That night, Harry Potter went to sleep with a racing mind. The next morning, Hogwarts became the home a new wizard walking the path of a Light Lord.