Would Voldemort Have Had the Same Fate if He Was Raised in a Loving Home?

August 27, 2018

In Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore use the pensieve to travel back to Dumbledore's first run-in with (then) Tom Riddle.

11-year-old Tom was living at Wool's Orphanage in London, England. Harry himself noted that it was "a grim place in which to grow up." Despite annual summer trips, adequate cleanliness, and a matron who provided the orphans with a place for happiness "for the most part," it's difficult to imagine a young child being born - literally - and raised in a building filled with the color grey. Young Tom was surrounded by muggles who did not understand the signs of his magical abilities, and, in fact, were scared of him because of what he could do.
Tom Riddle's mother, Merope Gaunt, wasn't given a loving home to grow up in either. As the last surviving descendants of Salazar Slytherin, the Gaunt family were prideful and looked down upon all things muggle. Through the abuse and neglect that she suffered, Merope seemed to have a difficult time with magic around her father. He called her disgusting names, and compared her to a squib or muggle because of her suppressed magical abilities.
Once her father and brother were taken to Azkaban, Merope pursued her crush on the local handsome snob, Tom Riddle Senior. Of course, there is a lot of speculation as to what actually happened, but Dumbledore believes that Merope used a love potion to ensnare Tom. They were soon married and when - as far as Dumbledore believes - Merope freed Tom from her forced love, he left her despite her pregnancy. Tom Riddle Sr. never loved Merope, and just like that, Voldemort lost some of his chance at a normal, happy life.
Voldemort - then Tom - was born on New Year's Eve in the orphanage. His mother died hours after giving birth:
Before she even knew him, Tom's mother had given up on him. As Dumbledore said, it's hard to blame her - she lived a life of much suffering, and she wasn't even 20 yet when she died. And thus, Tom was raised in the same place he was born. He was raised in the same place where his mother had died. He was named after his muggle father who wanted nothing to do with him, and his pureblood grandfather who - it's safe to assume - wouldn't have wanted anything to do with him either.
Just like Harry, Voldemort was raised an orphan. He too had not known his parents. He too had felt isolated and unloved by his caretakers. But then why are their stories so different?
Was Lily's love and sacrifice for Harry the defining factor of his fate? If Merope had chosen her son's life over her own, would Voldemort have lived happily (eventually) just as Harry had?
It's hard to place blame - or give praise - for the mothers of these two children. It simply comes down to your opinion on the nature vs. nurture debate. In my not-so-humble opinion, none of us become who we are solely by nature or solely by nurture. You cannot pinpoint who a person will become through their biology, nor can you establish who a person will become through the way that they were raised.
Voldemort's family had a long history of hatred towards anyone that was less than pureblood. We know that he wasn't raised with this mindset, however. At fifteen years old, Voldemort opened the Chamber of Secrets. And at just sixteen years old, Voldemort murdered his father and his paternal grandparents, framing his mother's brother for their deaths. Where did Voldemort learn such hate? Where did he learn to despise half of who he was? At a young age, Tom Riddle learned of his heritage. He became obsessed with Salazar Slytherin's ideals, and he acted upon them.
Not all Slytherins are hateful, bloodline-obsessed, and murderous. In my opinion, forcing 11-year-olds into a Hogwarts house and assuming that that is all that they can ever be is dangerous. It can be argued that Harry was raised in an even more problematic "home" than Lord Voldemort. Harry's family hated him. He himself was abused, neglected, and ignored. But Harry had heard of Slytherin's reputation and did not want to take part.
Harry, who had every right to be as hateful as Voldemort, chose not to. Harry chose to focus on the good in his life. Harry loved Hogwarts just as Tom Riddle did, but Harry knew of its importance for all young witches and wizards, not just pureblood ones. Harry and Voldemort both received a fairly equal amount of "nurture," but Harry's nature pushed through. Harry had no desire to hate. His mother had died in love, and he chose to honor that.
But just as Voldemort was intrigued with his lineage, so was Harry. And although they did not know them, both wizards followed their ancestors' examples. I think that if Voldemort had discovered an ancestry of love and respect, he would've had a better chance at a normal life.
In Sybill Trelawney's prophecy, we learn that "either must die at the hand of the other, for neither can live while the other survives." By the end of the Harry Potter series, we know that Voldemort self-fulfilled her prophecy. He was obsessed with who he had been, who he was, and who he could become.
Harry, however, had humility. Harry wanted to be the best that he could be, but he didn't ask for the life that he got (as a result of Voldemort's stupidity). He didn't like being called "the chosen one." He didn't want the fame and attention, and he especially did not want the heartache and suffering that came with it.
Neither knew that they were wizards until the age of 11, but they chose their different fates. They observed their parents' examples (in the only way that they could) and acted upon them. Even when Harry found out that his father had been a bully as a teenager, he chose to focus on the positives - how his father was a good friend, how he grew up, and how much he loved Lily.

So, would Voldemort have had the same fate if he was raised in a loving home? I say yes. Voldemort's nature played a large part in who he became, but he chose hate over love. He ignored the home that he was given, both in the orphanage and at Hogwarts. He was nurtured less than any child should've been, but he was inherently evil. He allowed his nature to take over the life that he was given. And as Professor Trelawney prophesied, unfortunately, things had to happen as they did.

Do you agree or disagree? Let's hear it in the comments.

Yours truly,
McKay

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