Usual disclaimers apply.
WIZARDING COMMUNITY WASN’T SUCH A BUNCH OF NOBBLES.
Dumbledore’s mild concern that he might miss the young man in the nervous rush of First Years as they swarmed into Hogwarts proved unwarranted. Despite the crush, a clear space surrounded the boy as if he carried his own solitude wrapped protectively around him. Dumbledore stepped into the flow, which opened for him as it did for the approaching figure.
“Welcome to Hogwarts, Tom,” Dumbledore said. “Please come with me.”
Tom Riddle nodded solemnly. “Thank you, Sir,” he said, as if he had expected to be singled out.
Moving away from the anxious new students, Dumbledore swept down an different corridor, Tom deferentially one pace behind. A tall figure waited for them.
“Minister,” Dumbledore said. “Allow me to introduce Tom Riddle, the new student of which I spoke.”
“Mr. Riddle,” the Minister of Magic said, not extending his hand.
“Sir,” Tom replied, his eyes boring into those of the older man, who shifted uncomfortably.
“It’s not every student who meets the Minister of Magic,” Dumbledore said. “Perhaps you are wondering why you have been brought here?”
“I trust you will explain, Sir,” Tom said, his face betraying no emotion.
“Indeed. We must first descend to the lower levels. I have something special to show you.” Dumbledore led the way in silence. As they made their way through the dusty corridors, he caught himself several times about to point out some of the artwork and architectural features of the school he found most pleasing. Best not to, he thought. And this one would not be impressed by any of it.
The hallways became smaller and gloomier as they descended deeper below the castle. Tom still gave no hint of his thoughts or feelings when Dumbledore made him wait several yards behind while the headmaster chanted a brief incantation in a bare hall with no echo, and the wall ahead evaporated like fairy mist, revealing a dark stairwell heading ever deeper down.
Eventually they came to a long, cramped corridor of identical doors. They passed many, if Tom kept count he gave no sign, and finally Dumbledore stopped before one and withdrew from a pocket in his robe a curiously-shaped key. Unlocking the thick, iron-bound portal, he pushed it open to reveal a surprisingly pleasant room. Dumbledore was pleased to note the slightest widening of Tom’s eyes when he saw the shelves covering the walls, all filled with books.
“Is this mine?” Tom breathed.
“Yes, Tom,” Dumbledore said. “While we consider all of our students special, we have found over the years that a select few deserve extra privileges. If you don’t mind being separated from your classmates, these will be your quarters. The books cover a wide range of advanced study. They are yours to read at your own pace.”
Tom walked along the nearest shelf, his hand brushing the spines of books, and confident pleasure radiating from him like the smug certainty of finally being recognized for his own great worth.
“The staff and faculty will be occupied for a few days with the other students,” Dumbledore continued as Tom briefly inspected the bed and desk, before returning his attention to the volumes that spanned the room. “Then you and your tutors will discuss your course of study. Food will appear at mealtimes, of course. Do you object to waiting here alone?”
“No, Sir,” Tom said. “I'll be fine.”
“Yes, you will,” Dumbledore said. “I hope you find your time here agreeable.” As he closed the door, he had a final glimpse of the young man already settling into a chair with an armload of books pulled from the shelves, and a look of eager anticipation.
“Well, then,” Dumbledore said to his companion as they made their way back upward to the more populated regions of the castle. “It is done.”
“Regrets, Dumbledore?” the Minister asked. “You saw what will happen if he spends his years here with the other students.”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore sighed. “Murders, betrayal, and a brutal war. I know that the incarceration of one life is a small price to pay for peace. But still...”
“Still? You saw how pleased he was. Reliving the same day of secluded reading for the rest of his life seems far more a reward than a punishment. Hardly a cruel sentence for the heinous crimes he would have committed if not prevented.”
“True,” Dumbledore nodded. “A lifetime of happily believing he will be treated as a special wizard, each day rediscovering the books he’s forgotten he read the day before. Yet, would he knowingly choose a life of happy anticipation over his long, miserable quest for power? I doubt it.”
Years later, James and Lilly Potter sent their son Harry to Hogwarts, where he passed a wholly unexceptional seven years. Graduating in the middle of his class, he spent the rest of his life as a farmer of Singing Mushrooms.