Young Hagrid was probably already known to have a track record of trying to turn monsters into pets, and it was obvious to anyone who laid eyes on him that he was at least part Giant. If there ever was a Hogwarts student unequipped to keep a low profile it would have been Rubeus Hagrid.
Whose parentage would be immediately confirmed as soon as anyone snuck a look at his school records. Tom may have had more than one bird to kill with that particular stone-turning monster. And accident had nothing to do with either of his targets.
I would imagine that; my speculations regarding Caractacus Burke regardless, having landed in Slytherin as a Muggle-raised outsider, Tom Riddle was, nevertheless, quickly VERY well aware of the sort of prejudices concerning both part-wizards and part-humans that were shared by a lot of people in positions of authority within the wizarding world.
Young Tom was prepared to make use of any of those prejudices whenever he could turn them to his own advantage. And the prejudice against part-humans is one that its holders don’t even seem to try to conceal.
Well, I think we all know what kind of people are determined to advance themselves by upholding and vehemently defending the belief that other persons who are (usually visibly) different are necessarily inferior. Some of them even make a practice of running about after dark in hoods and masks and setting off flaming symbols of their disapproval. Some of them were doing so even back when Riddle was a tiny tot. Not necessarily in the Potterverse. Or in Great Britain.
Regardless of whether anyone knew of Tom’s half-blood status or not — Headmaster Dippett certainly did not recall it; Tom himself could not have known it when he arrived at Hogwarts. I imagine that he only was fully convinced of it once he finally tracked down Morfin Gaunt — and that wasn’t until he was 15 — even Dumbledore claims he only pieced the official Riddle backstory together after Riddle had finished school and had embarked upon his life of crime. Prior to that, Tom would probably have been at pains to discover who could safely be thrown to the wolves should a sacrifice be required.
Riddle was very clever; brilliant even. Or, at any rate, he passed for it when he was a boy. He might merely have been precocious. But he wasn’t — in his middle teens — particularly subtle. Neither, for that matter, was Hagrid. Hagrid still isn’t.
Even if Tom didn’t set the wheels in motion himself over the business of that acromantula egg, as a newly appointed Prefect, Riddle probably very soon stumbled across the fact that Hagrid was trying to hide yet another one of his appalling “pets” inside the Castle. Acromantulas do talk after all, and baby Aragog had no reason not to (you will have to forgive me if I avert my eyes from the prospect of a spider the size of a cocker spaniel cooing and gurgling in baby-talk). In fact, I would imagine that Riddle had a track record of quickly discovering any number of students who were probably trying to hide secrets, and he probably would have made use of those too, over the course of his school career.
• • • •
So, Hagrid already had two counts against him and Riddle knew that anyone with the typical wizarding attitude towards giants would automatically be disposed to believe Hagrid capable of anything. From where Riddle was standing, Hagrid was simply begging to be set-up, and this had probably always been an intrinsic part of Riddle’s general fall-back plan. Indeed, back in the days that Tom was working alone, he tended to make a point of assuring that there would always be someone else in the vicinity who could readily take the blame.
• • • •
Which brings us around to Dumbledore’s intervention on Hagrid’s behalf.
That wasn’t the first time, after all.
One of the members of one of my lists reminded us all that Dumbledore tells us in CoS that it is the Heads of House who are responsible for any punishments carried out upon their students. If Dumbledore was the Head of Gryffindor House back in 1943 (which I don’t believe), he doesn’t seem to have been able to keep Hagrid from being expelled. Either feelings were running far too high at the time to dissuade the Powers That Be, or perhaps I am not talking through my hat when I keep insisting that Albus certainly doesn’t act like any other Gryffindor we’ve met.
For that matter, all of the information regarding Albus which we had dumped upon us over the course of DHs suggests that Albus was probably never the Head of any House. Albus is highly reluctant about taking responsibility for other people’s welfare. He’d tried that once and it didn’t end well. He never wanted to do that again, although as long as he insisted on maintaining his “smartest person in the room” reputation he got shamed, or pushed into the situation more than once. And if he had ever been a Head of House, Hermione would not be invoking sources like; “they say” about which one he had been in. Everyone would simply know.
But in any case, as one of the Staff, Albus not only had good reason to already know Hagrid (since you can just tell that Hagrid was the sort of fecklessly fearless child who was ALWAYS blundering into some sort of hot water or other) and to have been absolutely confident that Hagrid had not been in any way responsible for the death of another student.
What is more, we’ve got very good reason to believe that this was not the first time that Dumbledore had weighed in over the welfare of young Rubeus Hagrid, whether he was the boy’s Head of House or not. Or at least to have made a few helpful suggestions regarding the boy. Indeed, I suspect that Dumbledore had already taken considerable responsibility for Hagrid’s welfare (well, considerable by Albus’s reckoning at least).
Which I think may have contributed mightily in painting that target on Hagrid’s back in the first place.
I’m not altogether sure that Riddle may not have had a personal grudge against Hagrid, dating from the year earlier.
If you stop and think about it, you will remember that Hagrid’s father died during the previous academic year, leaving the 12/13-year-old boy effectively an orphan. The boy also appears to have been left with no remaining human relatives.
There do not appear to be any wizarding orphanages, and the Ministry was hardly going to send Hagrid to a Muggle one. So, in the course of the general flapping over what to do about this situation, who can we think of that is the most likely candidate for having been the one to have stepped forward and make the suggestion that Hagrid be allowed to remain at the school, or in the village, over the previous summer, under the supervision of someone Albus could have talked into obliging (Aberforth, not impossibly, now that I think of it). He may have even volunteered to stay about and keep an eye on the situation himself, effectively taking on Hagrid as his ward?
We have never heard Hagrid mention any relatives apart from his dead father and his absent mother (and, nowadays, his younger half-brother). But he sure talks about Dumbledore a lot. And his gratitude to Dumbledore sounds like it could well be based on something more than Dumbledore’s simply having found him a job inside the wizarding world after he was expelled from school.
And, given Hagrid’s tendency to tell all of the world his business, Dumbledore’s “patronage” of Hagrid was probably already widely known throughout the school by the following year. So widely known that it even raises the possibility that to get Hagrid expelled may have been an intentional dig at Albus Dumbledore.
By another boy who was also an orphan, and consigned to Muggle hell over the summer break. A boy at whom Dumbledore had taken one look, and distanced himself.
Could Riddle have simply been jealous of Hagrid? By Riddle’s 5th year he must have known the weight of influence that Albus Dumbledore’s name carried in the wizarding world. Even before the Grindelwald business. Is that why Hagrid’s prospects within the ww were summarily demolished within a year of his having been taken under Albus’s patronage and shown his favor?
Again, Echo answers us nothing.
• • • •
And just what about that job that Dumbledore arranged for Hagrid?
Groundskeeper. Right there at Hogwarts, under Albus’s eye. Where Hagrid could roam the Forbidden forest all he wanted and visit his pets, chat with the Centaurs, and find monsters to make friends with. A job that Hagrid would love.
What is more, it is a job that he would be extraordinarily good at. Working with Ogg (who Molly Weasley recalls at length with some fondness) to look after him and train him.
I am absolutely convinced that Dumbledore had either already discussed Hagrid’s future with Ogg, or had already been planning to do so well before Tom Riddle had even found the entrance to Salazar’s Chamber. If Hagrid was already effectively Dumbledore’s ward, even if only by default, Dumbledore had every reason to be taking a hand in providing for the boy’s future.
And besides, did anyone really want Hagrid wandering about at (very!) large outside of a wizarding district if anyone could avoid it?
He couldn’t keep the boy from being expelled, however. Because, despite the general perception that Riddle “framed” Hagrid, in strict accuracy, Riddle did nothing of the kind. The infraction for which Riddle had reported Hagrid, Hagrid was absolutely guilty of, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Riddle had reported that Hagrid was trying to raise a dangerous monster inside the castle. And Hagrid was.
Unfortunately, since it was (also quite correctly) believed that Myrtle had been killed by some variety of monster, the authorities chose to connect the dots and assume that it was far too unlikely to propose that more than one child was leading monsters around Hogwarts to feel they needed to look any farther. Riddle had gambled that this would be the case. Hagrid was not “officially” expelled for being suspected of accidentally killing another student. He was expelled for recklessly endangering other students by raising dangerous monsters inside the castle.
Given that the expulsion probably had to go through the school authorities, the Board of Governors, and the Wizengamot before it was approved, the likelihood that there were more people involved in this “coup” than merely Riddle, Hagrid, Dumbledore and Dippett is fairly high. And Riddle already had plenty of “friends” with powerfully-placed families whose support could be enlisted.
They might have even had connections who could have procured an acromantula egg.
• • • •
Another suggestion made quite a long time ago by another member of one of my lists looked rather promising for a while as well. That suggestion was; given Hagrid’s obvious discomfort at all of the questions Mr. Ollivander asked about Hagrid’s broken wand, there seemed at least some possibility that the wand actually snapped at Hagrid’s expulsion was a substitution. And that Hagrid’s pink umbrella was not merely concealing the pieces of his broken wand, but was the (unbroken) wand, itself, transfigured.
This was at least partially clarified in Rowling’s March 2004 interview in honor of World Book Day. Hagrid’s wand apparently was snapped. But the umbrella is the once-broken wand repaired and transfigured. An umbrella is the sort of thing one might expect a groundskeeper in Scotland to need to keep always available. That the umbrella in question is pink sounds like a bit of pure Albus-style flippancy. The “umbrella” disguise conceals the fact that Hagrid has access to a functional wand — when he is not supposed to.
Had Hagrid’s wand not been the one snapped, I think the most likely wand to have been snapped in its place would have been poor Myrtle’s. As a Muggle-born, her family had no use for a wand. It might have been left with the school.
But that is a line of reasoning that is no longer required.
What we do not know, is precisely when Hagrid acquired that pink umbrella. The Elder wand seems to have been perfectly capable of mending Harry’s broken holly wand. And by some point in 1945 Albus had possession of the Elder wand. So it is entirely likely that if the broken wand had been transfigured into an umbrella in ’43, by the time Hagrid came of age in ’46 that umbrella may have contained a perfectly mended and functional wand.
• • • •
For that matter, I am also not convinced that there was anything even remotely accidental about the selection of Moaning Myrtle as one of the targets for the Basilisk, either. Yes, that was targets, plural. Myrtle’s was the only death, but hers wasn’t the only attack. And I suspect the fact that she was Muggle-born may have been purely in the nature of a value-added bonus. I think that Riddle had very close, very personal reasons to want to make an example of young Myrtle, for her very own sake.
I suspect she’d had the nerve to try to make him look bad in public.
Think about it.
It really isn’t very likely that Myrtle’s typical behavior was any different in life than it is in death, is it? Particularly since I suspect that ghosts are incapable of learning anything new. And hers isn’t the kind of “act” that has ever benefited anyone but herself.
Myrtle likes being the center of attention, and she discovered early in life that the easiest way to broadcast a bid for sympathy and attention is by making yourself out to be the victim of others’ unkindness. Nor is she at all ethical about setting up her performances. And she doesn’t play the least bit fair.
So here is Tom Riddle, 5th year Slytherin Prefect and all-round Golden Boy of Hogwarts, with a fine romantic background as a poor orphan, raised by cruel Muggles, and nevertheless is still the most brilliant student of his year, yadda, yadda.
And this misbegotten mudblood brat hadn’t the slightest compunction about setting up a howl that he has insensitively “hurt her feelings” over some possibly quite readily justifiable action or remark made, possibly in the course of his Prefect’s duties!
You know she pulled that one on him.
She did it to everybody. She’s still doing it.
To be frank, Little Miss Myrtle was a menace to everyone who had to deal with her, and Riddle wouldn’t have appreciated having his carefully-tended glowing reputation held hostage by anyone. It’s almost surprising that Myrtle survived to her second year.
Given the odds, Tom was probably not exactly innocent the first time he took a poke at that particular sniveling younger year. But he provoked far more of an uproar in response than he had bargained for. And it made him look bad, and that offended him. He expected to be the one in charge of any uproars in his vicinity, thank you.
Of course she’d weighted the dice so you couldn’t win, either. If anyone tried to dodge that particular bullet by avoiding her she would be just as likely to set up the howl because they hurt her feelings by not speaking to her. And people couldn’t simply discount everything she yowled about because there were people (like Miss Hornsby) who had clearly figured; “well, screw that”, and did deliberately go out of their way to torment her, very much in the light of performing a public service. Professional victims do frequently manage to attract quite genuine bullies.
Like Tom Riddle.
What I think finally happened is that at some point, around the time he had finally found the entrance to the Chamber, and had been setting his new pet at his schoolmates for a week or so (he hadn’t managed to actually kill anyone — which didn’t particularly disturb him, the uproar alone was more fun), At some point earlier that year, Riddle had also come across the information regarding the creation of Horcruxes in one of the banned books stored in the Room of Hidden Things — which he had been steadily working his way through for some time.
The spell which Slughorn had been hyperventilating over was only a part of the equation. In order ensure that the damaged fragment of soul would fully detach, it was necessary to possess the victim before killing them. The actual spell documented may have been designed for accomplishing possession before murdering the victim during the process.
Only… possession, like Parseltongue, seems to have been one of Tom’s innate talents. I think he may have taken that information as a “sign” and started extrapolating out whether it might be possible to create a Horcrux, using possession only — which would produce no residue of a banned spell, and create no wand record. At worst, he wouldn’t manage a Horcrux, but he’d pay that annoying little brat back, and be rid of her. In case of repercussions, he’d throw that oaf Hagrid under the Knight Bus.
So, the next time he overheard someone (possibly Olive Hornsby) snickering about Myrtle being off howling in that particular bathroom, yet again, he felt it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
He made sure that the room was empty except for Myrtle (not difficult. The other girls were probably no fonder of sharing a loo with Myrtle alive than they are about sharing it with her dead), slipped in, called the Basilisk and simply waited until she popped out of her stall like a jack-in-the-box to set up a howl about there being a boy in the girls’ loo.
And then he possessed her, and forced her to look at the Basilisk. Which did produce a detached fragment which he trapped in his heirloom ring.
If he’d really thought it through he might have just let the Basilisk eat her and avoided most of the subsequent uproar. A disappearance of an unpopular student, probably wouldn’t have closed the school. But perhaps he wanted to see what the School would do about it. Or maybe he didn’t really want his tool to start getting the idea that students were food. It would obey him, but there is no point in stretching one’s luck.
Or, possibly, he was worried that after a full meal of 12-year-old the Basilisk might not be able to get back down the pipe.
• • • •
For the record, despite the probability of there having been all sorts of wild rumors flying about, it is now clear that no one at the time (not even Dumbledore, perhaps) was altogether convinced that the legendary, and generally regarded as apocryphal Chamber of Secrets had actually BEEN opened back in ’43. Otherwise more people would know about it now than just Lucius Malfoy — until Draco Malfoy got the opportunity to spread the information around. And when the roosters were slaughtered (very quietly the first time round, I suspect), the significance was probably not evident to anyone on staff until well afterwards.
This is the kind of detail that Dumbledore may have only recollected when the Chamber was reopened in Harry’s time, confirming his suspicions that, yes, there evidently had been something in a few of the whispers that were floating about fifty years earlier.
And at this point we come up against another major piece of missing information. We don’t know how long Riddle’s little terrorism campaign with the Basilisk had gone on fifty years earlier. We were told that there was a similar series of close-calls back then. But we don’t know just when in the school year it had started.
We can also pretty well assume that whatever form of “death to mudbloods” rig that Tom Riddle may have been running at the time (if any), Salazar Slytherin or the Chamber of Secrets was never mentioned in connection with it.
In fact, on the (very!) off-chance that Riddle may have been known or been suspected of being the last descendant of Salazar Slytherin — and Albus Dumbledore was already aware that Riddle was a Parselmouth — any association of Slytherin’s Chamber with this sudden threat to the school would have been extremely dangerous to Riddle. And Riddle has always been very reluctant to endanger himself. (Apart from creating Horcruxes, which is reckless endangerment taken to a whole new level.)
For which reason I also very seriously doubt that Riddle would have gone around writing his intentions on the walls in chickens’ blood when he was out and about taking the risk of discovery on his own. He didn’t have someone else to do the dirty work for him that time.
Post-HBP we now know with some certainty that Tom was not ready to publicly admit to any connection with the Chamber, or to its monster or possibly even to Salazar Slytherin, himself (although he was willing to flash the Peverill ring about) while he was actually in school and likely to be suspected. He also probably deeply regretted having confided his ability to speak to snakes to Albus Dumbledore.
Diary!Riddle claims that he already had intimate friends by the time he was a fifth-year student, who we assume to be his early followers. It seems fairly evident to me that he did not confide in these friends about having actually found Salazar’s Chamber. (That, I think only a very select few were told — and only told many years later. i.e., quite possibly only Lucius, or more likely, Abraxis Malfoy in 1981) All that seems to have been known in ’43 is that something in the Castle was attacking students.
In fact, given that Diary!Riddle claims that it took him 5 years to find the Chamber, he may have initiated his reign of terror at Hogwarts only a couple of weeks before Myrtle’s death, quite late in the academic year. Rapidly bringing about the attendant threat that the school was to be closed early and himself sent back to London.
[Note; I’ve always been of the opinion that the scene he shows us inside the diary of his having gone to ask to stay at Hogwarts over the summer break was actually a fishing expedition to discover what Dippett and the staff intended to do in response to the death of a student, rather than a simple request to not be sent back to London. The request to stay, much as he might have liked the opportunity to make himself free of the Castle over the summer, was primarily a cover. A very good one, too, given that his orphanage was in London, from which, in our world, children were being evacuated in 1943. The evacuation of children from Greater London seems not to have happened in the Potterverse, however.]
• • • •
Until the release of HBP, I was never convinced that Dumbledore necessarily suspected Riddle of being behind the attacks at the time they were taking place.
He did NOT believe Hagrid was responsible for the attacks. But to suspect Riddle wasn’t necessarily an automatic alternative.
While Dumbledore clearly wasn’t blinded by Riddle’s charm like the rest of the staff, I thought that he may very well have thought that Riddle had made an honest, if spiteful, mistake. The boy was only 16, and there was no question that Hagrid’s having brought an acromantula into the Castle was an extremely dangerous piece of mischief on a high enough level that an inexperienced, Muggle-raised 5th year might quite reasonably have concluded that he had found the source of the attacks on the students (well, they were looking for a monster, weren’t they?). And, in fact, it was clearly judged to be mischief on a high enough order that even after Hagrid was ultimately cleared of all suspicion of involvement in the matter of Myrtle’s death, 50 years later, he has not been re-instated as a wizard and permitted to officially replace his wand.
Post-HBP it is much easier to believe that Dumbledore might have suspected that Riddle was somehow behind the attacks. But did not speak of the matter because he could not prove it.
However, it should be noted that he does conspicuously not count Myrtle as one of Tom Riddle’s own murders, either, however much he may consider Tom responsible for her death.
That there was no further such trouble in the Castle once Hagrid was no longer living in it would have gone a long way toward adding uncertainty to even Dumbledore’s understanding as to just what had been going on. If nothing else, he would have concluded that whoever was responsible had been frightened enough by the results of his mischief to make an end to it.
These days, I rather think that Albus Dumbledore only felt a burning need to try to locate Tom Riddle — and his ring — after interviewing Morfin Gaunt in Azkaban at some point after his meeting with Grindelwald in 1945. Around which time, Albus no doubt felt himself forced to reevaluate everything he knew of young Tom Riddle from a different perspective.
That the danger at the school had apparently ended after Hagrid’s expulsion might have also gone some way among the people who kept records toward the impression that perhaps it wasn’t Hagrid’s monsters which had made the attacks, but Hagrid himself. An impression that came back to bite him when the Chamber was opened the second time.
As for Hagrid’s “secret” parentage; at least two generations of Hogwarts students have grown up familiar with the presence of the groundskeeper’s overgrown assistant, or, later, with the overgrown groundskeeper. Some of them no doubt concluded, like Hermione, that he must have giant’s blood. But, until Harry’s 3rd year, he was the groundskeeper, not a part of the staff that the students needed to deal with on any kind of regular basis, so they thought nothing much about it. It was only when the fellow became a teaching member of the faculty that this became an issue. And, really, considering what a feckless teacher he proved to be, you have to conclude that this was not one of Dumbledore’s better decisions. One seriously has to wonder what Albus thought he was playing at.
Given that the appointment was only made after Harry had filled out his class choices for 3rd year, you also have to wonder whether it was made primarily to give Harry a bit more of an opportunity to interact with Hagrid. And for Hagrid to be in a better position to keep a protective eye on Harry whenever he was outside the castle.
• • • •
And it was only when suspicions of Hagrid’s parentage were confirmed in the most blatantly sensational way possible, that the wizarding world seemed to have felt it needed to kick up a fuss.
And that the fuss, when it came, wasn’t nearly as big or even as long-lasting as the brouhaha over Hermione’s romantic “treachery” toward their hero, Harry Potter, would tend to indicate that it was no more than an eight-days’ wonder for anyone who actually remembered Hagrid.
(Which would have been just about everyone who was anywhere near Hogwarts since about 1940. Hagrid is memorable.)
And, given that the larger percentage of the letters received were in support of Hagrid, it would be reasonable to suggest that the end result was more in the nature of a benefit than otherwise.