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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 2)

I think the charm works on the meaning ascribed to a building, not the building itself. The Potters cottage was not invisible when it was their home and protected by the fidelius charm because Voldemort could have put his face up to the sitting room window and not seen them. The building was still there, but the Potters were invisible to anyone looking for them when inside it...whether the person simply wouldn't see them at all or would see someone but not recognise them as the Potters...we don't know. In ly Hallows, my understanding is that anyone in the magical community can see the ruined cottage...people have grafitied the sign in front of it...and they knew it was James and Lily's their dissolved the charm which was to hide them...not the cottage.

Dumbledore was secret keeper for the order of the phoenix, but after his , all members of the order become secret keepers and any can show anyone where the building is. The building still has meaning as the headquarters of the order after Dumbledore's so the fidelius charm still holds, regardless of whether the secret keeper or the caster of the charm is alive or not.

Hermione is a secret keeper for Grimmauld place after Dumbledore's , and as such she unwittingly and uningly shows Yaxley the secret when she takes him inside the fidelius charm's boundary by side along apparition. You don't expect to be grabbed hold of by someone just as you are apparating...and normally would take precautions to avoid it happening...showing Yaxley was an accident...but it was a way of giving him the secret. Doesn't matter whether the caster of the charm is alive or not at this point I think. After Harry defeats Voldemort and the order is disbanded, I think the charm would be lifted and anyone would be able to see the house... except it also had lots of other enchantments on it to keep it invisible so presumably these would have to be lifted also.

Shell cottage...trickier. Again, perhaps the cottage would be visible but not knowable as Bill and Fleur's home unless Arthur had divulged the secret to whoever. Dobby has his own magic and as such might be able to find Shell cottage despite the charm...or as someone else suggested, he didn't manage to get inside the boundaries of the charm until Bill and Fleur went out to bring him in. Harry doesn't end up inside the boundaries of Shell cottage but just outside them. It's when he shouts for help that he gains admittance...I'm pretty sure. Hence my conjecture that the Charm works on the meaning ascribed to a location rather than the physical location itself.

Except that if Arthur is secret keeper for Shell cottage, then neither Bill nor Fleur can bring guests to their own home without getting Arthur to tell them the secret first! Hmmm...tricky...but not absolutely central to the plot...unless members of the order of the phoenix were somehow exempt from the fidelius charm when it was first cast?

Posted by Joe from England on September 28, 2007 06:36 AM

Two points.
The Fidelius Charm was not cast on Shell Cottage until Bill became aware that the Eaters knew Ron was with Harry (following their capture and imprisonment at Malfoy Manor). Regardless as to whether it was cast a moment before Harry arrived - or a moment after, Harry was still able to see and enter the cottage after burying Dobby, without having been told the secret.

"They were all sitting in the living room when he entered the little hall..." (DH 481/389)

Secondly - if it were the Potter's themselves who were protected by the Fidelius Charm at Godric's Hollow - and not the property, then technically Harry should have been invisible to all (and should have continued to be so) as he was not ed and therefore still under the charms protection - with the Secret Keeper alive and well in the form of Peter Pettigrew. Therefore the conclusion is that it is the house that was protected and that the charm was indeed broken through the of the caster. If the charm was not broken because the caster d - then the charm is even more flawed because 3 Potter's were hiding from Voldemort - and one of them survived. Does this mean that the charm just decided to 'give up' and no longer protect Harry? That sounds daft - so I think it is likely that the charm d with Lily and James because one of them cast the spell (rather like Harry being able to move again on the astronomy tower because Dumbledore had d).

Posted by Orlando from England on September 28, 2007 10:08 AM

Very good points, Orlando! Especially the one about Harry, I think we all think of the Fidelius Charm as having been put on James and Lily (quote from the book: "James and Lily went into hiding...") and we forgot the Fidelius Charm must have covered 1 year old Harry as well!

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on September 28, 2007 10:16 AM

Orlando also brought up another point I was thinking about last night.

If you had a Fidelius Charm put on you, as opposed to on the location you were hiding in, and shortly thereafter the Secret-Keeper d, and hadn't told anyone the secret, then you would remain invisible to the world, to your friends and family, your coworkers, etc., for the rest of your life or until the spell caster d. That would be a very unpleasant life, and therefore I'd think taking a Fidelius Charm on your person might not be worth the risk in any case...

I think this makes it very unlikely that James and Lily would have done that.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on September 28, 2007 10:21 AM

I think you are wrong in one area. I think they did cast the Fidelius Charm between Dobby's first trip to Shell Cottage and Dobby's second trip with Harry. Since Ron was with Harry, Hermione, and Dobby on Dobby's 2nd trip to Shell Cottage he already knew were Shell Cottage was. Couldn't he have taken them to Shell Cottage?

Anyway even if this is wrong and they cast the Fidelius Charm before that, Ron told Dobby where Shell Cottage was, wouldn't that be enough?

Also, even it they did cast the Fidelius Charm after they buried, Dobby I'd like to point out that when Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Griphook were leaving Shall Cottage, it stated that they went to the end of the Fidelius Charm's protection. Harry saw Dobby's grave. So when they cast the Fidelius Charm I think Harry was already within the boundary. I think that was why Shell Cottage didn't disappear when Harry headed back to it after burying Dobby.

This is a great website!

Posted by Hermes from San Jose, CA on September 28, 2007 11:33 AM

But WAIT! The Fidelius Charm had taken place when Dobby Apparated to Shell Cottage, because Ron had told him where it was. "Shell Cottage on the outskirts of Tinworth!" Bill had either told him where it was, or the Fidelius charm had been performed while Ron was staying there.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on September 28, 2007 12:19 PM

C.J., if the charm had already been performed before the events at Malfoy Manor then Ron could not have possibly told Harry the location - because Bill is Secret-Keeper and only he can reveal the secret.

Posted by Orlando from England on September 28, 2007 2:24 PM

I always wondered in SS after Lily and James d and the house was blown up, Harry was still there until Hagrid went to get him. It was because Harry was still protected by the Fidelius charm. But what I don't get is how Hagrid knew how to get in or how he found Harry if he did get in and Harry was undetectable to him. Sirius and Dumbledore knew where the house was, then they had to know how to get in, for Bellatrix knew where no. 12 Grimmauld Place was, but not how to get in. The place just wasn't there for her.

So I am going to do a Hermione, Fidelius was on the Potters, making them invisible as long as they remained inside the house, like harry was at no. 4 Privet Drive, as long as Harry was inside the home he was undetectable, it was when he went outside the home when he was at risk, hence why every one kept telling him to stay inside.

Now, when Hermione took Yaxley on the doorstep, she and he were inside the Fidelius charm. Which also means as soon as dumbldore was , Snape could have took whom ever he wanted to there.

As for Dobby he, like Kreacher, could apparate in and out of places people can't. In DH, all Ron had to do was tell Dobby where it was. In DH, Harry asked Dobby if he could take Luna and Dean with him. He said yes. When him and Dobby were going to shell cottage, after Dobby got stabbed, Harry apparated and felt Dobby steer him in the right direction to shell cottage. Kreacher couldn't tell a eater how to get into no. 12 Grimmauld Place when he left it in OotP because he was inside the place when the spell was cast.

Posted by Pamela sue from Ar on September 28, 2007 3:25 PM

I think that JK must have gotten confused and made some mistakes. If the Fidelius Charm were so weak, it wouldn't be so trustworthy. JK has been known to make mistakes before.

Posted by Ariadna from Mexico on September 28, 2007 6:00 PM

I am confused--if a Secret-Keeper can tell others about the secret, does that not lessen the point of the charm greatly? Technically, if Voldemort wanted to find James & Lily, and someone else knew, he could have forced that person to tell him where, no? I suppose that is a bad example, seeing as that is not a secret that one would, under NORMAL circumstances, spread around (obviously, Pettigrew told Voldemort, but he is an exception... the traitor!).

I originally wondered why anyone who is told does NOT become Secret Keeper automatically, but now I think I understand why... but it still makes me wonder about the charm itself. Well, I suppose one of the ways in which it works is that actually finding OUT who the Secret Keeper is difficult.

This makes me wonder something else entirely--was Voldemort just EXTREMELY lucky that the Potters--or was it Dumbledore?--decided to switch the Secret Keeper to Pettigrew at the last minute? Could he have found out otherwise?

Posted by Katie T from California on September 28, 2007 11:09 PM

Excellent points as usual Dave! I just noticed a big point.

If Yaxley who knew the secret was able to apperate and bring other eaters in then why did Peter Pettigrew have to wait to become the new secret-keeper, why not just apparate to voldermort and then apparate back?!

There are only two possible answers to that:

One. Peter hadn't been told as the potters wanted to be as safe as possible. But Peter was one of James best friends, surely Peter must of been told, Or was James all ready suspicious of him.

Two: Peter was still loyal to the Potters and couldn't bring himself to tell of them to Voldermort. But then if this was true why when James gave him the biggest act of friendship and made him their secret-keeper did he tell? Was Voldermort on to Peter?

Posted by Alex B. from London on September 29, 2007 12:26 AM

What I don't understand is that Bill and Arthur Weasley are their own Secret Keepers and James Potter wasn't.

I don't think the Fidelius charm was put on Bill's cottage between the arrival of Dobby and Harry. The Eaters knew already that Ron must be with Harry. Dobby has his own magic.

Posted by veerle from Belgium on September 29, 2007 04:12 AM

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