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The Secrets of the Fidelius Charm

by Christine Kendrick

The Fidelius Charm is a powerful charm that is central to the Harry Potter tale. The house at Godric's Hollow, 12 Grimmauld Place, and Shell Cottage are three properties that are protected by the Fidelius Charm, three properties that have been secured against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. But within each property we see differences in the way the Fidelius Charm works.

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Reader Comments: (Page 12)

OK, my question is...
Why did the Potter's choose Peter as their secret keeper when they could have chosen themselves?!
I mean, Bill chose himself for shell cottage, Dumbledore for the Order and Arthur after he d. So why didn't James or Lily just choose themselves?

Oh and another thing -
The secret is supposed to with the secret keeper, as in the people they confided in still know but no one else find out, right? Then how can the people the secret keeper told become secret keepers and be able to tell others?

But I suppose maybe that wouldn't work because it might give people an incentive to their secret keeper to ensure they stay hidden.

Posted by Libby from Australia on June 13, 2008 06:24 AM

In answer to your first question - if only the Potter's had chosen one of themselves, or even if they had accepted Dumbledore's help they would still be alive... but there would be no story to tell.

Your second point - well, yes, that is what the article is about - how the Fidelius Charm seemingly mutates throughout the series and what we thought we knew about the Charm is not what is used in ly Hallows.

It does indicate that the charm is not as powerful as we were led to believe initially, and that a lot is left to trust - and chance!

Posted by Orlando from England on June 17, 2008 09:32 AM

I just want to say that the whole Dobby thing, you have to remember elves have different kind of magic that don't require wands. I think it's completely possible that house elves and other magical creatures (non witch/wizard) can apparate within the Fidelius charm. Basically meaning the Fidelius charm does NOT protect you from creatures, only people.

Posted by Trey C from Jacksonville, Fl on June 28, 2008 12:48 PM

Dobby is a houself, meaning that he has higher powers that can withstand ordinary wizard charms. We all read where Dobby can enter Hogwarts (ie. Fidelius Charm and other enchantments are cast on that so how do you explain into that?and the students?) and even Grimmauld Place, and even the Malfoy Mansion (though, technically he had lived/worked there) and now Shell Cottage. So that means that even if the Fidelius Charm is casted on Shell Cottage he would still be able to enter even without being given the secret, because he is a HOUSELF (agreeing with the above that creatures can still enter into the charm zone).

also don't forget that even the Dursley House might have had it casted on too, seeing as Voldemort and others could not find Harry during his summer holidays (or was it Aunt Petunia who was charmed or was it the house?)

So maybe the charm was cast quite a while before when Fleur and Bill got the house and moved in after the wedding and had given Harry and family members the required address and made them also secret-keepers (i think at some point, Bill or a Weasley family member would have given the trio information on Shell Cottage, letting them know that it is safe for them to rely and be safe at during their secret journies).

Godrics Hollow and every other magical neighborhood is protected somewhat by charms (muggle repellant, mapping?, and even Fidelius). The Potter's House had been charmed and as they DID trust Bathilda Bagshot, they must have had her as a secret keeper also besides Sirius. Sirius was maybe the original secret keeper, meaning that night he had made Peter Pettigrew a secret keeper too when he told him where the Potters were. So if you think about it, Sirius gave Pettigrew the information while he (and maybe a few trusted others) was a secret keeper.

Thus, the secret keeper on the Fidelius Charm is like a chain that almost never ends even after the caster or the original secret keeper s. And I'd like to remind you guys that HARRY was also part of the Charm in which he resided within the enchantment even if he was a baby at that time, he would be able to see it and Hermione knew because Harry hold her and also that it's already told all over the magical community where the Potters were found and d (seeing as they all left messages there on the spot).

The Fidelius Charm works simple, but has it's complications in the severance of caster and keepers. I assume the caster might , but the keepers still know of the secret place so the charm can never truly , until all know where it is.

Posted by Pang from Lansing, MI on August 12, 2008 10:12 AM

Interesting Pang.

I don't think that Hogwarts is under the Fidelius Charm, it wouldn't be at all practicle. Nobody ever tells Harry the exact location of the school - just how to catch the train to get there. The school may be unplottable and invisible to the 'Muggle' eye, but I don't think that the Fidelius Charm is part of its protection.

4 Privet Drive is also not under the protection of the Fidelius Charm because Voldemort and his gang DO know where Harry lives - but Harry cannot be touched whilst there due to the complex magic Dumbledore performed following Lily's sacrifice. The protection only lasts whilst Harry is under age though - hence why he has to be removed in DH and the resultant attack from the DE's.

It is anyones guess when the Fidelius was cast on Shell Cottage - but one thing for sure is that Bill Weasley is the Secret Keeper for the cottage,as he tells Harry as much himself.

One thing I would like to add to the debate is IF Dobby IS able to apparate beyond the controls of the Fidelius Charm then it is yet again a major flaw in the charm itself, for Dobby was not just taking himself there- he was taking people with him. Thus, it suggests that any Eater at any moment could apparate into any property under the Fidelius Charm as long as they went side along with their House Elf.

Posted by Orlando from England on August 14, 2008 07:53 AM

The Fidelius charm certainly has weaknesses. I agree houselves are able to apparate beyond itas controls. It also seems likely houselves can take people into the boundries of a Fidelius Charm, even if that person does not know the secret. I don't agree the charm was cast on Shell Cottage when Bill and Fleur first arrived there. Based on what Harry goes in and hears after digging Dobby's grave, it seems that the charm was cast only after the Weasley's knew the Eaters had learned Ron was with Harry. I think this means the charm was cast when Harry was digging the grave. It could not have been cast before because Ron told Dobby where to go. Ron was not the secret keeper. He Would not have been able to say the name of the place.

Posted by Anonymouse from Arizona on August 14, 2008 5:46 PM

It's my understanding that the fidelius charm is about the secret.

Grimmauld Place's secret was shared with all the order members including harry by dumbledore, but they could not give up the secret until after he d. Once he did, everyone was then capable of telling others.

A lot of the information from the article is out of context. Most of what we know comes from speculation by Harry or Hermione, or inferred from informal conversation between characters. That being said, Hermione must have been wrong about yaxley being able to find Grimmauld. Moody, (an accomplished Auror) had the idea to tie up Snapes tongue to keep him from exposing the secret. He still could have shown the secret through side along apparition, or just writing the secret down.

Consider the importance of intent when it comes to the fidelius charm. Perhaps Pettigrews intention to betray the Potters ended the charm and exposed the world to the Godrics Hollow house, leaving only a couple of anti muggle charms.

Or when the secret keeper tells someone else the secret, such as Dumbledore to the rest of the order, not to betray but to provide sanctuary, the charm holds up. Shell cottage has been explained in the first couple pages of posts.

I've thought about it, and anyone performing the fidelius charm should immediate do the unbreakable bond, making the secret keeper swear to never give up the secret for malicious reasons. If this had been done by james to peter, peter would've have d when he dimed to voldemort, or (more likely) never done it at all.

Posted by Christopher from Boone on September 20, 2008 3:23 PM

Godric's hollow was destroyed and James and Lily were , hence the Spell ceased to be. It had no more purpose,very much like the curse on the DADA post stopped after Voldmort d.

I suspect a part of Bill work in Egypt consited of finding Pyramids and ancient Tombs under fidelius.

Posted by Geoffrey Laforge from Paris, France on February 19, 2009 12:47 PM

Sorry but to me, this article makes no sense. As the person above said the house could be seen as it was destroyed, there was very powerful magic.

What JKR said may have been wrong, but to me this whole article was contradictory and has no point to it.

Posted by Dave from England on May 31, 2009 1:54 PM


The article is not contradictory - the Fidelius Charm itself is contradictory, hence the point of the piece, to show the flaws and contradictory elements.

On the basis that the story of Harry Potter takes place through Pettigrew selling out the Potter's to Voldemort through the Fidelius Charm, it makes sense to question the charm and its flaws.

The 'point' to such an article is to merely create debate. Of course there is no point in overly arguing it, because in the end it went the way it did - but the article creates the ground for so many other possible outcomes and therefore room for discussion and debate.

Posted by Orlando from England on July 8, 2009 08:02 AM

Isn't is possible that when you cast the Fidelius Charm that the person you are protecting and other people included in the charm do not have to be right there when it is cast? It has been a while since I have read the book, but it is possible that when they cast the spell, they included Harry as one of the people that held the secret and, therefore, could enter the shack freely.

Posted by Caleb from Houston, TX on July 8, 2009 10:14 AM

Strong arguments, but as many people have said, we need to asume a few facts before knowing.

First of all everyone knew that James and Lily HAD DIED, now where they (or their corpses) where. I might be wrong but I don't remember a visit to Harry's Parent's grave.
So the spell didn't dissapear, no one knows where James and Lily's bos are. The spell did not protect their state (they being ).

The effects of the secret keeper are reasonable. We can argue that when the secret keeper s, the secret goes to the graveyard with him. BUT all the people in on the secret wouldn't forget it (it's never told). The logical conclusion is that they are all Secret-Keepers, or maybe we could argue that anyone on the secret (either told by the original secret keeper or a new one) becomes a secret keeper if the original secret keeper s. There are various ways to interpret this.

Finally on the ways to spread the secret. We are never told what is "telling" someone else a secret. I could tell a secret fully ingly but indirectly (with a secret code, indirect messages and so forth) without ever actually saying the secret word for word. What about writing? What about actions? I can show someone where I keep my secret diary without telling them anything, and I would have release the secret to him.

This may explain why Harry Potter found the house by being brought in without being told. It may also explains Hermione's fear of releasing the secret inadvertently.
The complexity of the spelling comes out in how hard it is to define what is releasing a secret. What is to do something ingly? If I'm trick to releasing a secret without knowing what I'm doing, does that count? One would argue that if I were ing but unknowing it would work. Others would argue that I didn't explicitly told the secret to the trickster, so, would it work?

More over the way the spell works, with certain effects disappearing at certain events (like the exclusivity of the secret keeper at his ). I don't really understand how a complex-compound spell might work. We could argue that if there are different spell effects working in tandem we could get chaotic reactions, which might be extremely hard, or impossible to fully understand and predict (such as with chaotic systems in physics).

Because of this the spell should be done carefully, understanding as fully as possible what the effects would be. So it's not a matter of a slow spell, but of careful casting of it. Of course the wizards at the cottage are grade A spellcasters, and could do it quicker than most people.

More issues:
The secret-keeper can't be the secret kept. As soon as the spell is cast no one would be able to see the secret-keeper and learn the spell! So while the caster might generally keep himself the secret-keeper, this is not such a good idea as they would become disconnected from the world forever (unless that is what they want).

Posted by Charlie Lobo on August 10, 2009 12:45 AM

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