Did Tom Riddle have "The Trace" on him when he was at Hogwarts? While he was still underage

he murdered his father and grandparents

It seems to me that even though he covered up his crimes that the ministry might do some sort of detective work when it comes to murder. With the trace on him wouldn't the ministry be alerted that in Tom Riddle's vicinity there was a stunning spell cast, a few killing curses performed, and then a memory modification done. You would think any killing curse done near an underaged wizard would be investigated.

Has JKR ever commented on this?

  • Good question. I am on an HP series reread/listen now (May 2020 during Coronavirus) and was struck by this in chapter 1 of Goblet of Fire. I think Alex's answer below is the correct answer, however, citing Dumbledore in HBP.
    – user62159
    May 4, 2020 at 17:32

4 Answers 4


As discussed previously, The Trace was place-localized, NOT person-localized (e.g. Harry was blamed for Dobby's magic).

In your example, Riddle blamed it on Morphin who was obviously nearby, and therefore wasn't under suspicion.

  • 2
    @Dason - precise rules on trace stickiness vary. Note how Harry was NOT at the home when the trace went off during Dementor attcak. Also, Voldemort just might have brought Morphin with him specifically for the purpose, to have a magical trace of him having BEEN in the Riddle house - that is never addressed in canon but would be quite plausible. Feb 10, 2012 at 16:13
  • 2
    What makes you think the Trace is place-localized? Everything I can find in the books says it's person-localized. To give just a couple of examples, in DH Ch3, Moody refers to the Trace as "The charm that detects magical activity around under-seventeens"; and in Ch11, Lupin says "They'd know for sure Harry was here if he still had the Trace on him", which wouldn't be true if it was centered on the Dursleys'.
    – Joe White
    Feb 12, 2012 at 6:10
  • 1
    Also, Tom Riddle used Morphin's wand, which served to cover up his tracks pretty well. No one ever knew that Tom was even there, and since it was easy and made sense that Morphin did it (since he'd attacked Muggles in the past), the Ministry didn't see any reason to look into it further.
    – morganpdx
    Mar 12, 2012 at 23:10
  • 1
    I'll accept this since it does answer the question about the trace but I'm still not satisfied with this. Wouldn't there at least be an investigation into why Tom was there in the first place since it would have been Tom's trace going off?
    – Dason
    Apr 1, 2012 at 20:36
  • 1
    Probably? You don't think it might raise a few eyebrows that Tom was out in the middle of nowhere. And it just so happens that when he's out there a few murders occur around the same time as a memory modification spell was cast.
    – Dason
    Apr 1, 2012 at 23:18

Harry asks Dumbledore why the Ministry couldn't detect Tom Riddle's magic:

"But how come the Ministry didn't realize that Voldemort had done all that to Morfin?" Harry asked angrily. "He was underage at the time, wasn't he? I thought they could detect underage magic!"

"You are quite right — they can detect magic, but not the perpetrator: You will remember that you were blamed by the Ministry for the Hover Charm that was, in fact, cast by —"

"Dobby," growled Harry; this injustice still rankled. "So if you're underage and you do magic inside an adult witch or wizard's house, the Ministry won't know?"

"They will certainly be unable to tell who performed the magic," said Dumbledore, smiling slightly at the look of great indignation on Harry's face. "They rely on witch and wizard parents to enforce their offspring's obedience while within their walls."

As for why the Ministry didn't investigate, well they actually did investigate, and the investigation led them to Morfin. As Dumbledore explained:

"The Ministry, on the other hand, knew at once that this was a wizard's murder. they also knew that a convicted Muggle-hater lived across the valley from the Riddle house, a Muggle-hater who had already been imprisoned once for attacking one of the murdered people.

"So the Ministry called upon Morfin. They did not need to question him, to use Veritaserum or Legilimency. He admitted to the murder on the spot, giving details only the murderer could know. He was proud, he said, to have killed the Muggles, had been awaiting his chance all these years. He handed over his wand which was proved at once to have been used to kill the Riddles. And he permitted himself to be led off to Azkaban without a fight.


Although canonical support is sketchy, what we know already from the Trace leaves the following explanations (and perhaps others):

The Ministry does not monitor underage magic use at all when school is in session.

If Riddle did his dirty work at that time, he escapes detection. So he managed to sneak away from the school for a few hours during the night, or perhaps on a weekend. I don't see what he did as taking more than a few hours to accomplish. We already know (from Prisoner of Azkaban) that students can leave the school grounds without being detected.

Riddle found a way to suppress the Trace.

The nearest we come to canonical support for this is the established fact that Riddle was an extraordinarily gifted wizard. If any student found a way to get out from under the Trace, it would be he. Since the Trace is a restriction on his activities, he would certainly be motivated to negate its effects.


Perhaps because the time period in which Tom Riddle performed his first acts of crime were concurrent with the time period in which Grindelwald was still gaining power, and from what we have learned in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, there are people like Credence Barebone (Grindelwald's weapon) and Grimmson (a bounty hunter who takes orders from both the British Ministry of Magic and Grindelwald. So, quite literally, an INNER) who posed a threat, a secret threat in the case of Grimmson, against Britain. Who knows, maybe Grindelwald told Grimmson to Imperius other wizards in Britain during Grindelwald's reign? We also knew that even the members of the British Ministry of Magic were afraid of Grindelwald. Grindelwald easily dealt with more than a couple dozen Aurors with ease, and none of his followers were killed by his enemies, save for the girl who got shot with a Killing Curse. Also, none of his followers fought. As such, magical Britain might have been in a similar state to what it was in the First and Second Wizarding War as even the Aurors had a hard time. Also, that similar ministries of magic had fallen already against Grindelwald.

Here's an excerpt from Half-Blood Prince:

— — ISSUED ON BEHALF OF — — The Ministry of Magic PROTECTING YOUR HOME AND FAMILY AGAINST DARK FORCES The Wizarding community is currently under threat from an organization calling itself the Death Eaters. Observing the following simple security guidelines will help protect you, your family, and your home from attack.

  1. You are advised not to leave the house alone.
  2. Particular care should be taken during the hours of darkness. Wherever possible, arrange to complete journeys before night has fallen.
  3. Review the security arrangements around your house, making sure that all family members are aware of emergency measures such as Shield and Disillusionment Charms, and, in the case of underage family members, Side-Along-Apparition.
  4. Agree on security questions with close friends and family so as to detect Death Eaters masquerading as others by use of the Polyjuice Potion (see page 2).
  5. Should you feel that a family member, colleague, friend, or neighbor is acting in a strange manner, contact the Magical Law Enforcement Squad at once. They may have been put under the Imperius Curse (see page 4).
  6. Should the Dark Mark appear over any dwelling place or other building, DO NOT ENTER, but contact the Auror office immediately.
  7. Unconfirmed sightings suggest that the Death Eaters may now be using Inferi (see page 10). Any sighting of an Inferius, or encounter with same, should be reported to the Ministry IMMEDIATELY.

For these reasons, the Trace may have simply been suppressed or removed during the Global Wizarding War against Grindelwald. Therefore, Tom Riddle's magic may not have been sensed by the Ministry as they had more trying events in their hands, and by the looks of it, in as early as 1927, the multinational Aurors were already losing.

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