Do not pity the dead

Was there really nothing Albus Dumbledore could have done to change the destiny of eleven year old Tom Riddle? Characters belong to Rowling.

Humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things which are worst for them.
- Albus Dumbledore -

"Do not pity the dead, Harry," Dumbledore kindly said, glancing at the pitiful baby trembling under the seat at the empty train station. "There is nothing you can do for it." Harry tierdly covered his eyes.

"Was there ever?" he asked silently. "Was there ever something I could have done for Voldemort? Or that you could have done for Tom Riddle?" The old headmaster shook his head.

"I have asked myself this thousands of times. Would things have been different if I had come to young Riddle earlier? If his first impression of his true heritage hadn't been a burning wardrobe? If I had kept him under closer watch at Hogwarts. I don't know, Harry. I really don't know."

"I can't blame you for being repulsed by him, even when he was young," Harry sadly said, remembering clearly enough how the Durselys had felt about him. "You must have seen at least a glimpse of what he really was." Dumledore looked surprised.

"Repulsed? On the contrary my dear boy. Young Riddle was just the opportunity I had waited for." Harry stared at him.

"What you have to understand," Dumbledore went on in his lecturing voice, "is that by the time young Riddle came to my attention I was already fighting a war, a war that had gone on for quite some time and that had nothing to do with the darkness that Voldemort would come to unleash."

"Grindelwald," Harry said. Dumbledore nodded.

"Yes, Grindelwald. I had done my best to convince myself that I wasn't needed in the conflict, that I would only make matter worse if I were to confront my old, dear friend. But it were getting increasingly clear that this time I could not hide - that I had to take action. But I was scared, both for the confrontation itself, but even more so for how I would react to the presence of the man that once had been so dear to me, so I stalled.

"That was when I was called to welcome one of our new muggleborn students - and I can promise you that I was totally unprepared for what I encountered at that run-down London orphanage.

"Tom Riddle was a frightening young boy, I will give you that. So full of suspicion, hatred and ambition. Not to mention powerful - unschooled and untrained as he was. But he was lonely and desperate for a place to belong, desperate to know who he really was. How hard, Harry, do you think it would have been for me to take the boy under my wings, to give him what he longed for and to earn his loyalities - at least for awhile?"

"What do you mean?" Harry demanded.

"That young, broken and ambitious Tom Riddle was a resource that would only be to easy to use. A weapon I could point against Grindelwald."

"But you didn't?"

"No, I didn't. I didn't allow myself to do it. I distanced myself from him not to fall for that temptation. I had already learnt the hard way that I can't be trusted with power, and surely to manipulate a young man for my own means... Well, you know yourself how it turned out. I didn't forge Tom Riddle into a weapon of my design, and to my knowledge no one else controlled his destiny either. But nevertheless, by the end of his time at Hogwarts where I did my best to leave him to his own designs, he had struck the path that we both know the end of.

"Far too late did I realize exactly what young Riddle had become, how my ignorance had done quite the work I was afraid that my ambition would do. Of course, I can't know how he would have turned out if I hadn't turned my back to him. Even if I managed to defeat Gellard I now had another, and in some ways much more dangerous rival on my hands. And the next time circumstances handed me a young boy that could be forged into a weapon I knew that I couldn't sit idle."

"I know how you have led me, and why," Harry silently said. "I have forgiven you for it." Dumbledore bowed his head.

"I have many sins on my conscience, Harry. That I followed Gellard instead of leading him away from the paths we were taking. That I left Tom Riddle to carve his own place in a world he was badly suited for, and that I forged your destiny from even before you were born, that I used you in the way I never allowed myself to use Riddle. But I have made my last mistakes now, and you are free to make your own choices. Maybe, when everything is over, a few of my mistakes will be proven to have been amended."

"And that is it? Harry slowly asked. "Fear for acting, fear for sharing your secrets with others. Fear for asking of help - or for include those who help you in all your plans." Dumbledore bowed his head again.

"Yes, Harry. I believe you have voice at some time the wish not to be special, to be a normal person without the responsibility of the world on your shoulders. I think you can believe me when I say that so have I - on numerous occasions. But we can't deny who we are, something I could never allow myself to fully embrace when in life."

"Is there really nothing I can do for it?" Harry pleaded, looking at the splintered part of Voldemort's soul he had carried in his forehead for so long." Dumbledore sadly shook his head.

"When Tom Riddle choose to fragment his soul he put himself quite beyond salvation from any of us. What salvation still is available for him is not in the world of colours. If you really want to help him, Harry, that help lies beyond the veil."

"You take him then." Harry suddenly said. He bent down and picked up the pitiful, screaming thing, ignoring the sudden nausea that welled up in him.

"You take him. Last time he was a young boy you left him. Don't make that mistake again. You might be right that there is nothing I can do for him, but you can. At least you can try. Take him to whatever happens when you move on, and if there is a choice to be made, help him to make the right one."

Dumbledore looked shocked at first, but then his face softened in a smile. He nodded at Harry, as if he was admireing a clever chess move, and accepted the crying child.

"Well done, Harry. We all make our own destinies, one way or the other. Me and Tom has wandered quite some time together already, and perhaps this time we can get a better start." He hold the baby-thing in his arm and smiled at it, and for a moment the broken piece of Voldemort's soul met his eyes in reflective silence.