The entire Harry Potter series centered around Harry’s quest to kill Lord Voldemort. While in the earlier books, the way to doing so seemed nearly impossible, he eventually learns about the Horcruxes and how Voldemort can be defeated. Voldemort was a dark, manipulative wizard since childhood, and he began making Horcruxes while he was at Hogwarts. While his path to becoming the most powerful evil wizard ever started early, there were still ways that he could have been stopped before Harry’s story began.
Here are 10 things that could have stopped Voldemort before the Harry Potter books started.
Before Voldemort was even born, his mother, Merope Gaunt, married Tom Riddle Sr. after giving him a love potion, at least according to Dumbledore. Love potions are really gross when you think about them, and while they were outlawed at Hogwarts, they don’t seem to be illegal in wizarding society.
While this likely wouldn’t have stopped Merope since she was determined to make Riddle love her if love potions were illegal, it made have made it more difficult for her to conceive Voldemort in the first place.
This might be the darkest option on this list considering it involves a child, and even though he is set up as an evil child, he was still a child.
However, if he would have died somehow as a child, he wouldn’t have grown up to be the evil murderer that he was as Lord Voldemort. Alternately, if some sort of intervention had happened to him as a child, maybe he would have turned out differently. However, as Dumbledore pointed out, it’s all about choices, not circumstances.
Merope Gaunt shows up at an orphanage in London with no money and very sick. She gives birth to Tom Riddle Jr. there, and she dies right afterward. This left Tom Riddle without a mother and with a father who didn’t want anything to do with him. Without any parents and no one really to take care of him, his natural tendencies to do evil are likely exacerbated. It’s possible that if he had a better support system he could have turned out better, although Harry didn’t have parents either and he didn't become evil.
Dumbledore went to visit Tom Riddle in the orphanage to tell him he’s a wizard and about Hogwarts. Even at this visit, Dumbledore sees that Riddle is a manipulative and calculating child. It seems strange that Hogwarts just allows anyone in and doesn’t have any sort of help for students who clearly have mental health issues or issues dabbling in dark magic.
While Dumbledore wasn’t the Headmaster at the time of this visit, there must have been a way he could have prevented Tom Riddle from entering Hogwarts.
Slughorn might not be evil, but he’s not a great judge of character either. When he taught potions while Tom Riddle was at school, Riddle was his favorite student. Riddle manipulated Slughorn into telling him about Horcruxes, and this conversation was also the first time Riddle discussed the idea of creating more than one. While Voldemort likely would have figured out how to create Horcruxes at some point, this information allowed him to make them while still in school, making it more difficult to stop him.
Voldemort was making Horcruxes since he was around 14 years old. After he murders his father and grandparents, he uses the Marvolo ring to create his first Horcrux. This is just the start of the awful things he did while still at school.
Voldemort also framed Hagrid for opening the Chamber of Secrets and more. While he was clearly able to manipulate most people around him, if he had been caught for any of his crimes, he could have been put in Azkaban before he got too powerful, giving people like Dumbledore time to figure out about the Horcruxes.
Dumbledore was one of the only people who was suspicious and wary of Tom Marvolo Riddle from the start. Since he visited him in the orphanage, he was able to see the dark side of him before Riddle learned how to mask who he truly was. Dumbledore didn’t trust him, but he didn’t know exactly what was going on either. If Dumbledore had followed more of his instincts, he might have been able to stop Voldemort as a teenager before he grew too powerful.
After the fateful night at the Potter’s house, Voldemort was left weak and nearly dead. The Horcruxes were still keeping him alive, but he barely even had a functional body anymore. He had to be nursed back to health by Quirrel and then Peter Pettigrew. If Dumbledore had been able to locate him during this time, he could have kept him from getting back to his full power. This would also have given him time to learn about the Horcruxes and destroy them, instead of not really putting all the pieces together until Harry was in his sixth year at Hogwarts.
Before The Order of the Phoenix was rebuilt when Harry was in his fifth year at Hogwarts, there was the original. The original Order of the Phoenix was created to help fight against Voldemort and the Death Eaters during his rise to power. Members of the original group included Dumbledore, the Potters, Sirius Black, the Longbottoms, and more. In a different world, this group of powerful witches and wizards might have been able to figure out the horcruxes and kill Voldemort before he tried to kill Harry.