Tracking the Dark Lord
by Lydia Spielberg
Lord Voldemort’s domestic arrangements are an interesting point to consider. At some time during the summer between Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, he and Wormtail move into the Riddle House, near the town of Little Hangleton. It seems that they have just arrived when Frank Bryce discovers them, as Wormtail asks his master how long they are planning to stay.
“A week,” said the cold voice. ”Perhaps longer – it would be foolish to act before the Quidditch World Cup is over.”
(GoF pg. 12 British hardback)
At some time after the Quidditch World Cup, but before September 1, they travel to the Crouch residence, where they join with Barty Jr. and overpower his father. Voldemort stays at the Crouchs house at least until Mr. Crouch’s escape. But when Harry has his dream of Voldemort torturing Wormtail, he sees the Riddle House:
“He was riding on the back on an eagle owl, soaring through the clear blue sky towards an old, ivy-covered house set high on a hillside. Lower and lower they flew, the wind blowing pleasantly in Harry’s face, until they reached a dark and broken window in the upper story of the house, and entered. Now they were flying along a gloomy passageway, to a room at the very end through they door the went, into a dark room whose windows were boarded up ”(GoF pg. 500)
This matches the description of the Riddle House exactly:
It stood on a hill overlooking the village, some of its windows boarded, tiles missing from its roof, and ivy spreading unchecked over its face.
(GoF pg. 1)
It seems that as soon as Crouch escapes, Voldemort and Wormtail move back to Little Hangleton. This makes sense; as soon as Crouch’s absence was noted, there must have been an inquiry, and it would not have done for the Dark Lord and his servant to have been discovered. They would have had to have made the move back at some point, in any case, in order to be in the right place for Voldemort’s rebirthing. But where is Voldemort’s headquarters in Book Five? The only clue we have is Harry’s vision of Rookwood:
…a dark curtained room lit by a single branch of candles. His hands were clenched on the back of a chair in front of him. Beyond the chair, in a pool of light cast by the candles, knelt a man in black robes.
(OotP pg. 515)
This is similar, but not identical to his vision of Wormtail from Book Four: a dark room whose windows were boarded up – a chair with its back to him – there were two dark shapes on the floor beside the chair The two places could be the same, but they could also be different. Looking more closely, the distinguishing characteristics of the room in the Riddle House are boarded-up windows, a grate (the only source of light in the room), an ancient armchair, and a rotting hearthrug (GoF pgs. 13-18, 500). The room where Rookwood is questioned is curtained, lit by a single branch of candles, contains a dark velvet chair, and an age-spotted mirror (OotP pgs. 515-516).
The age-spotted mirror could easily belong in the Riddle House, but it could just as easily come from any other long-boarded-up home. It would be consistent with what we know of Sirius’s house, for example. The fact that the room in the Riddle House has boarded-up windows, and that in Book Five has curtains would also work against Voldemort having made his fathers house his new headquarters. He could have moved into the house of one of his Azkaban-escapees, perhaps the Lestranges’ home. There are several reasons for believing this to be the case. Firstly, the Lestranges’ house would probably be secure to the same degree as the Black residence — Unplottable, unperceivable to Muggles, etc. The Riddle house would not have these protections, and while Voldemort could put them on, why should he bother when he can get a Headquarters where they are already in effect? By using the Lestranges’ as a headquarters, and a hideout for the escaped Death Eaters, he avoids this problem.