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It seems that much lesser talented wizards such as Wormtail and Quirrel had managed to find him.

Quirrell set out deliberately to find whatever remained of the Dark wizard, partly out of curiosity, partly out of that unacknowledged desire for importance. At the very least, Quirrell fantasised that he could be the man who tracked Voldemort down, but at best, might learn skills from Voldemort that would ensure he was never laughed at again. [Source]

Even if Dumbledore suspected the presence of Horcruxes and knew Voldemort could not be killed until those were found and destroyed, he could've found and captured him to indefinitely delay his return.

Dumbledore had spies among Dark creatures who had presumably relayed to him that Voldemort was hiding in the forests. Albania is no small place and heavily covered in forests so this would be no mean task. But it does not seem Dumbledore tried at all. His efforts to stop Voldemort seem to be reactive (thwart the effort to steal the Philosopher's stone, re-open the Chamber of Secrets, sabotage the Triwizard tournament), not proactive. Not until the Half-Blood Prince did he really actively start seeking out Voldemort's horcruxes.

This is not to criticize or belittle his contribution in Voldemort's demise, but to address a curiosity as to why he didn't begin earlier.

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    Quite possibly finding Voldemort had nothing to do with the searcher's talent and a lot more to do with what Voldemort wanted? – Jack Feb 27 '19 at 2:45
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    Dumbledore had no way of knowing what state Voldemort was in - if he had no body, how could he be captured? It wasn't necessarily obvious what to do with an undead evil wizard. As long as Dumbledore knew where he was, and knew that he was biding his time, why proactively go and hunt down something you don't yet know how to beat? – Luna Mar 7 '19 at 20:15
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We have no reason to believe that Dumbledore wasn't looking for Voldemort

(I apologize for the double negative)

In the first several books we see very little of what Dumbledore does. He does not confide in Harry until Book 6, and presumably takes many actions that Harry is unaware of. For example, we only know of his plan to recruit the giants because Hagrid can't keep a secret to save his life.

Dumbledore tends towards subtly in his plans. If he had people searching the Albanian forests he would be using one or two quiet agents disguised as regular wizard hikers, rather than sending in waves of wizards to scour the forest. There is no reason to believe that anyone would hear anything unusual from their fruitless searches. Harry is even less in touch with the wizarding world than the average wizard. Why would he know?

Dumbledore couldn't have found Voldemort

"I was ripped from my body, less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost..."

-Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Ghosts are translucent and capable of moving through solid objects. Voldemort was even less substantial as that. Here you can see the movie interpretation of that state, and I think that it's a fairly reasonable interpretation. But remember, that's after months of being strengthened by Quirrell's aid (possessing his body, consuming unicorn blood, etc). When Voldemort was in the woods he was probably even more wispy than that.

Ghosts are notoriously difficult to hurt (I believe there were comments to that effect in Chamber of Secrets when Nick was petrified), and Voldemort was even less than that. Even assuming that Dumbledore could track a grey mist in a large, dark forest, he has no reason to believe that he could catch or hold Voldemort. Maybe if he had a basilisk handy, but that's impractical for any number of reasons.

Add to this the fact that Voldemort was capable of possessing animals. We know that he spent a year undetected on the back of Quirrell's head, so presumably he cannot be easily detected while possessing creatures. Even if his ghost form could be spotted, that's another way he could escape that pursuers would likely not expect.

How did Quirrell find Voldemort?

Quirrell didn't find Voldemort, Voldemort found Quirrell.

"Then. . . four years ago. . . the means for my return seemed assured. A wizard - young, foolish, and gullible - wandered across my path in the forest I had made my home. Oh, he seemed the very chance I had been dreaming of. . . for he was a teacher at Dumbledore's school. . . he was easy to bend to my will. . . "

Voldemort, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It's possible that Voldemort is misconstruing events here in order to appear more powerful in front of his Death Eaters. But his words have a ring of truth to them. Even if Quirrell was searching for Voldemort, he is unlikely to have found him without aid. It seems more plausible that Voldemort discovered Quirrell's search of the Albanian forest and decided to reveal himself to Quirrell of his own free will, in order to gain for himself a servant.

How did Voldemort know he could trust Quirrell?

Voldemort was a skilled Legilimens, and capable of reading the minds and hearts of those he approached. Even if Quirrell was trained in Occlumency he would be unlikely to use it since he wanted Voldemort to trust him.

Even if Voldemort couldn't practice Legilimency as a sub-ghost (which seems unlikely, since he was able to detect Harry's lies while possessing Quirrell), his experience as a Legilimens would still contribute to making him a good judge of human character. He has some serious blindspots (love), but those wouldn't apply here, since Quirrell was interested in power and knowledge, axes in which Voldemort was the most insightful.

Even so, approach Quirrell was possibly a bit of a risk, but after 11 years it's possible that Voldemort was a bit desperate, and Quirrell probably seemed unlikely to have the skills to trap Voldemort even if he proved to be an enemy.

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  • Good answer, but this answer could be improved by citing the evidence that Voldemort sought out Quirrell originally. I don't recall this being mentioned in canon. – Akshat Mahajan Mar 17 '19 at 19:56
  • @AkshatMahajan it wasn't my intention to imply that Voldemort sought out Quirrell, but instead that he could not have found Voldemort without Voldemort's willing cooperation. I don't know if there's any direct textual support for this, but it seems logical to me given what we know of their abilities. – Arcanist Lupus Mar 17 '19 at 22:15
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Dumbledore heard the prophecy about Harry/Neville defeating Voldemort first. He knew that Voldemort couldn't be killed/maimed by anyone other than the duo.

He even took steps to ensure that Voldemort wouldn't come back (albeit indirectly), by giving Harry liberties that other students could only dream of.

We must also remember that he wasn't in Godric's Hollow on the night of Hallow's Eve, 1981.

"I must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on my way here."

He wouldn't know the extent of the damage done to Voldemort's soul. He wouldn't dare actively seeking out Voldemort to find out. Remember, Dumbledore's the greatest wizard in the world, and all that jazz, but Voldemort does a lot more dark homework, as is evidenced in the Battle of the Ministry of Magic.

So, there's kind of a Cold War between Dumbledore and Voldemort at this point. Besides, he's got an entire school to run without making field trips every now and then.

tl;dr: Dumbledore won't make the first move when it comes to bashing voldy because he knows that he doesn't stand a chance.

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    Voldemort could be killed by other people; the validity of the prophesy is only in that Voldemort believed in it. Others being able to defeat Voldemort is successfully discussed in this question. – Ongo Mar 17 '19 at 17:00

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