The Riddle House

chapter one of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

We hear the fifty-year-old story of the Riddle House, of its occupants who were mysteriously found dead, and of their gardener, Frank Bryce, long suspected of the killings. Today, though, Frank Bryce sees a light on in the Riddle House, and when he investigates, he discovers Voldemort and Wormtail, plotting to kill people. Before he can do anything about it, however, Frank is killed himself.

Riddle House, by Sebastian Theilig

Once a fine-looking manor, and easily the largest and grandest building for miles around, the Riddle House was now damp, derelict, and unoccupied.


Frank Bryce, by Tealin Raintree

Frank… picked up his walking stick, which was propped against the wall, and set off into the night.


by FrizzyHermione

Out in the corridor, Frank suddenly became aware that the hand gripping his walking stick was slippery with sweat. This man with the cold voice had killed a woman. He was talking about it without any kind of remorse – with amusement….


Peter Pettigrew, by Laurence Peguy

A short, balding man with graying hair, a pointed nose, and small, watery eyes stood before Frank, a mixture of fear and alarm in his face.


Lord Voldemort, by Laurence Peguy

And then the chair was facing Frank, and he saw what was sitting in it…. He was screaming so loudly that he never heard the words the thing in the chair spoke as it raised a wand. There was a flash of green light, a rushing sound, and Frank Bryce crumpled. He was dead before he hit the floor.


about the chapter


The Power of Magic

One thing that had escaped my notice before this reading is the fact that Voldemort seems to be reading Frank Bryce’s mind in this scene instantaneously, and without the benefit of eye contact. It’s certainly possible he isn’t actually practicing Legilimency so much as guessing that Bryce is lying (or perhaps he’s already sent Nagini to investigate him, who knows). But it’s similar to what he did with Harry when he was possessing Quirrell as well. We’ll always be told that eye contact is essential for reading someone’s mind, so at least on the surface, it would seem that this is another area in which Voldemort is able to extend his powers beyond the usual reaches of magic. Despite not having a body! Scary guy.

Something to Remember

Unlike in the first three books, a huge amount of information about the central plot to Goblet of Fire is spelled out in this first chapter – but it’s done in the form of veiled, mysterious hints and clues that we don’t have enough information to put together. All the same, it’s worth remembering the references to Bertha Jorkins, to a spy at Hogwarts, to an action that must wait for the completion of the Quidditch World Cup, to a plan involving Harry Potter, and much more as you read the rest of the book; it’s certainly possible to piece together more information than Harry is able to simply from what Frank Bryce overhears.

26 Responses to “The Riddle House”

  1. I love the last drawing, but isn’t it supposed to portray bellatrix? What was your motivation to put it in this chapter?
    Or is it supposed to portray the death-curse?

  2. It’s a drawing of Lord Voldemort (the link is here) by Laurence Peguy. I don’t know whether it was drawn specifically for this moment or not (the caption is simply “Lord Voldemort”) but I liked it for this moment because of the way he sort of dissolves into mist, and right now he’s only got a partial human body.

  3. Okay, I’m a bit behind, but I’ve now started listening to GoF and here’s what came to my mind concerning this chapter:

    This is the first time the story is not told from Harry’s POV (except The Boy Who Lived, but that at least had Harry in it).

    At first I was pretty confused. I knew that Voldemorts name had been Tom Riddle and now Tom Riddle and his parents have been dead for 50 years? I simply didn’t pick up on the handsome teenage boy whom Frank Bryce had seen. And Frank didn’t recognize him either, as he hadn’t been with the family when the older Tom Riddle was a teenager.

    So the Riddles had not been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangled or suffocated. When I read this I immediately tried to think of causes of death that JKR left out here. I found drowned and slayed. Who can think of others?

    Who’s the current, wealthy owner of the Riddle house? Might it be Voldemort? But then how did he keep paying Frank?

    So Wormtail is not, as we were led to believe at the end PoA, Voldemorts most faithful servant. Who is? We will find out at the end of this book.

  4. Nagini was a horcrux and had made eye contact with Frank? That was how Voldy could do legilemency without eye contact?

  5. Good idea Sheri.

  6. SPOILER: Have you ever thought about the timeline in this book? In this chapter Voldemort talks about his “faithful servant” who is Barty, as we all know by now.
    But in the end of the book, Barty says that his “lord and master” came to free him after the events at the World Cup, which happens later. In other words, the things that takes place here happens after the World Cup. It turns out Harry saw all this while dreaming, so maybe he actually is a Seer?

  7. Ida, remember that while Voldemort hasn’t yet retrieved Crouch, he *knows* that Crouch is still faithful to him, because he found that out from Bertha Jorkins (who he’s already killed by this scene).

  8. One thing that I didn’t realize in this part until my third read-through earlier this year is the significance of this passage:

    “And for that you will have your reward, Wormtail. I will allow you to perform an essential task for me. One that many of my followers would give their right hands to perform.”

    Just another example of Rowling slipping little things through under the radar.

  9. Yes, that little bit of black humour on Voldemort’s part doesn’t register at first. Oh he’s a sadiastic guy.

    I was confused about this chapter at first too, but later I thought it’s brilliant. The writing is solid, it makes the reader nervous and we get to know Voldie and Wormtail better. Wormtail doesn’t seem to like the idea of murder, not just Harry’s but Bertha’s. I see Wormtail as being seduced by this man into doing all these terrible things for him in the belief that life at this wonderful person’s side will be glorious, only to find once he’s done the deed that the man is not wonderful at all, he’s monstrous, and now he has to lie in this bed he’s made day after day. Doesn’t justify what he did to the Potters of course but it does shed more bad light on Voldemort. Draco was going down the same path, though saved by the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to do his assigned deed.

  10. Voldemort and Wormtail talk about “one more murder”. Who are they talking about? Harry Potter (after the rebirthing?)? Or someone else? they need the real Moody to stay alive. Were they thinking of Barty Crouch Sr.? They could not have predicted Cedric.

  11. That’s a good question lexicon6. In the UK edition it says “curse”, not “murder”, and I wonder which was Jo’s original word.

    The exact quote was, “One more curse/murder… my faithful servant at Hogwarts… Harry Potter is as good as mine, Wormtail.”

    Voldemort seems to be talking about the things he has to do to get to Harry, so if it was meant to be “murder” then the murder they’re talking about isn’t Harry’s. Bertha’s has already happened and as you said, it can’t be Frank’s or Cedric’s. So I really don’t know who it could be. Unless he’s talking about making his seventh Horcrux at last before taking on Harry, which we know he then did.

    If it was meant to be curse, then he must have been thinking of putting Imperius on Crouch Sr. That one more curse will lead directly to the faithful servant at Hogwarts, which will lead in turn to Harry being as good as his.

  12. Actually “curse” makes a lot more sense. Because Wormtail also said, “Bertha Jorkins’s disappearance will not go unnoticed for lon, and if we proceed, if I kill/curse – ” Wormtail didn’t kill anyone until Cedric, who they didn’t know would be there, but he did curse Crouch Sr. I don’t know why the wrong thing got printed in the US edition.

  13. I always thought that Voldemorts ability to detect a lie had more to do with his animalistic qualities; drawing on things like Anita Blake books in which wereanimals like there animal counterparts can detect changes in scent and blood pressure which change when people lie, to me it made him closer to animal than human and just that more creepy

  14. I wonder why Frank didn’t recognize “the handsome teen boy” as looking like Tom Riddle Sr. after all when he visited his mothers old home, Morfin thought he was his father for a minute.

  15. The Voldemort we see in this chapter is such a contridiction. He seems surprisingly weak when he says to Wormtail, “How am I to survive without you, when I need feeding every few hours?” And then in the next breath, he easily commands Wormtail into silence. I realize that even in his weakened state, Voldemort is capable of casting a killing curse, and then there is always Nagini to be fearful of… but still, I have to wonder if Wormtail had somehow managed to slip away from the Riddle house would this version of Voldemort just have died from neglect like a helpless baby? I think Voldemort is wrong in saying that Wormtail has no brains (he was clever enough to frame Sirius and fool the wizarding world into believing he was dead after tall), but Voldemort is completely correct that Wormtail is a giant coward… beginning to end.

    Also, maybe someone can remind me… when or where did Voldemort get Nagini? Has Nagini been around since Voldemort’s last rise to power, or is she a new pet? When did he make the snake into a Horcrux?

  16. Andrea, I don’t think we’re ever told of Nagini’s origins. It’s interesting to think about, though. If she was his pet prior to his first downfall, what’s she been doing all this time?

    In terms of Voldemort, he wouldn’t have died if Wormtail had left him (the Horcruxes are keeping him alive), but probably would have returned to the phantom-state he was in in Albania. I imagine most of his power over Wormtail is psychological, though, rather than any type of actual physical power. It’s saying something that Wormtail went to fetch him in the first place.

  17. I may just be pulling this out of thin air, but doesn’t it mention that Voldemort joined his soul with a snake in the forest to survive before Pettigrew came along? I always assumed that the snake was Nagini.

  18. I think when he said murder he did mean Mad-Eye because they were essentially murdering him and J.K. knew they would have murdered him in the end. She probably just didn’t really think about it too much. She also may have meant curse and the murder replacement was not what she intended.
    Snake slither through dust
    To Ida, no Harry can just see into Tom R.’s mind, remember?. Harry’s dream about this was probaby from Tom’s POV, and when he says he couldnt remember what Ton looked like that was most likely because he never saw him. I expect that we were told through Frank’s POV for intrests sake.

  19. Also, if Nagini slithered out of the room to explore, wouldn’t there also she have cleared a path through the dust on her way out as she did going in. Unless she didn’t get to that room until then. And Wormtail would have had to apparate into that room with Tom to not make footprints himself. Always kind of bothered me.

  20. In OotP, when Snape is discussing Occlumency and Legilimency, he states that Voldemort is such a highly skilled Legilimens that he was always able to detect a lie right away. I think this has less to do with actually reading minds, and more about his knowledge of the way someone looks when they’re lying. Because if he sees lies a lot inside someone’s head after a while, he’ll start to put the pieces together of facial features, and the way someone’s voice sounds, and things like that when someone lies. I believe that’s why he’s able to detect lies without looking directly into the eyes and using Legilemency. It’s just his vast knowledge of the human condition that allows for it.

    As for Nagini, I’m also pretty sure that Voldemort meets Nagini in Albania when he’s in hiding. It’s never stated, I don’t think, but I think I remember Voldemort talking about being able to possess animals, the snake being his favorite. I think it’s highly possible Nagini just became faithful to him, and he kept going back to her for possession, and then eventually became his Horcrux.

  21. I am always a bit annoyed when I read the description of Wormtail in this chapter, Rowling describes him as a pretty old man (dont know how exactly because I dont have my GoF in english with me) and he is around 34, surely he wouldnt be almost bald and the rest of his hair wouldnt be grey. Wizards and witches live for over a hundred years, they cant age that quickly. Maybe the fact that he lived as a rat for 12 years has something to do with it?

  22. Zaneta, there’s a lot of evidence that says graying hair has a lot to do with stress, just as much as it has to do with age. Wormtail has been stressed out ever since the beginning of PoA, and he’s been losing hair since then as well. Therefore, I think Jo meant for this to be more of a sign of him being *extremely* stressed out, rather than how old he is.

  23. I think the reason that Frank was the only one to see the teenage Voldemort is because Voldemort performed a Disillisionment Charm on himself while moving through the town and took it off when he got to the Riddle House.

  24. I think it would be interesting to know how the villiage reacted to Franks death for he died in the exact same way the former inhabitants had. Is there ever a comment about it anywhere? Or did they get rid of Franks corpse? (he might have been Naginis dinner, even). Any ideas?

  25. As for Voldemort knowing that Frank was lying without having to look at him — I am sure he is quite skilled to know more that we know; for Heaven’s sake, (dispite the fact that he is a Wizard) he is {one} of the most powerful wizards of all time. It’s kind of like that show Lie to Me… there are more than just facial cues and clues to when people are lying; there’s body language and the selection of diction plays a major role, even how the person stresses those words, too. Let’s not forget, Voldemort isn’t a stranger to the Muggle world, as he did grow up in that environment (to an extent) and knows when people can say they’ll go tell the police; that’s not an unusual or new thing to him. Also, wouldn’t he know that Frank was lying because he was employed when Tom still lived on the grounds, and let’s face it, Frank wanted a quiet life, so of course he knew that meant Frank wouldn’t be married, either… it was all just bluffing and Voldemort called it, regardless of his skilled talents.

    As for Wormtail “greying out” and looking old — could it be possible the aging process of a rat became mixed in with Pettigrew’s “human DNA” — may be out there but could possibly play a role. And it is very true to start having white hairs at an early age. My boyfriend had them since he was 18+. Doesn’t matter, stress plays a large role and really does shorten life.

    Just a few thoughts…

  26. Re: elizabethauthor and lexicon6 about “curse/kill”… that had also bothered me for a long time. I read in some interview by JKR that “kill/murder” was simply a typo and was replaced in later additions of the book with “curse”. If I could remember which interview I’d tell you, but I believe it was one of the on-line chats she did.

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