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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 4)

The charm could not have been cast on the Potters for two reasons that I can see: if so, Harry would not have been visible to Hagrid when he went to Godric's Hollow to rescue Harry, as Harry was one of the Potters; and if it were cast on the people, James should have been able to leave the premises but we know from Lily's letter to Sirius that James was cooped up in the house (as Dumledore had his cloak).

The fact that Harry was seen, crying in the rubble tells me he was visible. And, we know the MoM was on the spot but we also were told in Book 1 by Hagrid that he got Harry out before the Muggles swarmed all over the place which I think supports the idea that the charm "d". Assuming that JKR wasn't careless, the charm was broken because the secret-keeper divulged it and the location was invaded. The crime the place was being protected from had been commited. We've never been told if the Potter's bos were seen by Muggle authorities or who removed them and buried them. Perhaps it was Hagrid? Could that have been what he was doing during a part of the missing twenty-four hours?

And so, on we trudge, trying to make sense of all the details no author in history has ever had to sort out before printing the next word!

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 1, 2007 08:16 AM

Siena: Telling someone doesn't break the spell, it just lets them in on the secret. When Dumbledore told Harry (via the slip of paper) the location of the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, the spell continued to protect the place...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on October 1, 2007 09:39 AM

Perhaps we are only thinking of the magical, not physical, what if the Fidelius Charm broke because the house was destroyed, and Voldemort got in because Peter told him the secret?

This also could explain why Hermione doesn't cast the Fidelius charm in DH while the trio are in hiding; a tent is not a formal structure.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 1, 2007 9:30 PM

One shouldn't rely on JK's website too much, it has proven erroneous before. So let's stick to the books.

Only the secret keeper can reveal the secret to anyone. This can be done by different means (showing, telling, writing etc). Dumbledore wrote to Harry about Grimmauld Place (he couldn't tell him or show him, since he was not there). Bill, as has been suggested, has shown Harry Shell Cottage (and shown the others on Dobby's previous trip).

Ok, so far so good, pretty tight such a Fidelius charm. Now the bottle necks:

-Harry's parents house is visible, the conclusion is that the Fidelius charm lifts when the subjects concerning the charm are (is it suggested that the charm in this case was not on the house, but on Lily and James themselves?). When they d, the charm was lifted, since there was nobody to be protected by the charm. Voldemort was told the whereabouts by Wormtail, who as Secret Keeper could do so in normal way of the Fidelius charm.

-When the secret keeper s (Dumbledore in case of Grimmauld Place), the charm is 'inherited', so to say, by those who the secret keeper has told (disregarding whatever JK said on her website). Thus, everybody who Dumbledore has told, can tell others in the normal sense of the charm (showing someone the house, by taking them there in side apparition is 'telling' in the normal sense of the Fidelius Charm).


The Fidelius charm is a charm that locks the secret of the whereabouts of a place (or persons?) into a single living soul. This living soul (the secret keeper) can let other living souls in on the secret, but those whom he has told cannot tell anyone else.
The Fidelius charm is lifted when the persons who are to be protected are all .
When the secret keeper s, the secret he carries (which requires a living soul) is diverted to all the living souls whom the secret keeper has told the secret, thus making them all secret keepers.

Hopefully that's closer to the Fidelius charm properties, since the definitions in the article are contradictory in themselves. However, since also JK seems to change her mind on Fidelius charms sometimes, it is not easy to analyze them.

Posted by Flavius from Delft, The Netherlands on October 2, 2007 05:23 AM

Voldemort was able to find the Potters because Peter Pettigrew was secret keeper and he told the secret of the Potters whereabouts to Voldemort. Only Peter could reveal the secret of their whereabouts. So Hagrid might have known where they were, but he would be unable to tell anyone else (peter could have told him the secret between the time the charm was cast and the time he betrayed the Potters to Voldemort...similarly he could have told both Sirius and Dumbledore, both of whom knew where Harry was, probably with the Potters' permission). The Charm could have been cast on the Potters, but Hagrid and others could have been told the secret....and hence were able to see Harry in the house.

Even if Bill had told Ron the whereabouts of Shell cottage, Ron would not have been able to tell anyone else how to get there as he is not secret keeper and only the secret keeper can do this...perhaps as someone has said, they apparated to the general area and Bill came out and brought them in i.e. told them the secret.

There seem to be lots of ways the secret keeper can tell someone the person, in writing, by showing them either purposefully or by accident. The more secret keepers you have the more likely the secret is to get out either on purpose or by accident.

The reason the charms in 12 Grimmauld place were cast against Snape only after Dumbledore's was that everyone in the order thought him a traitor and a eater and most likely to betray the place to Voldemort. The charms were to prevent him doing so, even though he became a secret keeper after Dumbledore d.

Posted by Joe from England on October 2, 2007 05:25 AM

12 grimmauld place is unplottable to anyone anyway, by sirius' dad, thats why harry couldn't see it, as it was the orders new place. Dumbledore (secret keeker) wrote it down for harry so he could see it. the Fidelius charm was on the house, so none of the eaters, ie: sirius ex family, couldn't find it and tell Voldemort where they were.
shell cottage, well ron knew where it was, told dobby and dobby can get in anyones house.

Posted by DRACO LOVER on October 2, 2007 3:35 PM

Flavius, thanks for a really clear explanation. I have only one question. You said the Fidelius Charm is lifted when all the people it's meant to protect are . While James and Lily d, Harry didn't. Wouldn't Harry have been one of the people to be protected by the charm?

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 2, 2007 10:05 PM

Dear Joe from england,
Peter Pettigrew did not tell anybody else the secret other than voldemort otherwise they would have known that peter was the secret keeper not Sirius Black.

Posted by swati from India on October 3, 2007 12:26 AM

Flavius from Delft, i agree with all the points you said and that's basically what i think as well. the only point i really can't understand is:

when the fidelius charm was casted on Godric's Hollow, in addition to Lily and James, Harry must also be under protection of the charm as well. as Harry is alive, the Charm couldn't possibly be lifted, and therefore Hagrid still shouldnt be able to see him.

anyone thinking along my lines?

Posted by parnparn from hong kong on October 3, 2007 05:53 AM

peter didn't tell anyone but voldemort---everyone but peter and sirius thought that sirius was secret keeper, thus the reason they thought it was sirius that betrayed lily and james. what i like to know is did james and lily know that peter was the secret keeper and not sirius. i still think harry was still undetectable by the charm. hagrid could have seen where lilly had fallen and figure where harry was. my thoughts is maybe harry reached out and grab hagrid thus makin hagrid like yaxley inside the charmed areas. i don't think the muggles knew about what happened until harry was taken from the house. petunia wasn't informed by police about her sister, dumbledore left the news along with harry on her door step. if muggles knew harrry was in the house wouldn't have child welfare got into the mix.

Posted by Pamela sue from ar on October 3, 2007 10:07 AM

Yes, parnparn from hong kong, I basically said the same thing two posts before yours.

Harry believed the charm d with his parents but maybe it d with the invasion and destruction of the house. This is one of the reasons i believe the charm is placed on the house not the people. Once the house was blown apart, and the charm was penetrated, the people inside who are being protected are exposed and vulnerable and the charm has broken or "d" as Harry put it.

Obviously, I'm not questioning Pettigrew's role as secret-keeper, nor the fact that he told the secret to Voldemort. But, if the charm was placed on the people (James, Lily, and Harry), James should have been free to go out even without his cloak. We know he could not do that from Lily's letter to Sirius. And, the charm d BEFORE everyone who was being protected d-eg. Harry.

So, as I stated in an earlier post, I believe the Fidelius Charm is much like a security system: it protects the structure from invaders and while it does so, it also protects the people living inside that structure. Its protection ceases when the property it protects is "invaded" in some way.

Harry was visible in the rubble to Hagrid because he was no longer being protected by the broken charm, therefore Hagrid was able to retrieve him.

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 3, 2007 12:33 PM

Wow. Though I am now thoroughly confused, this proves that even well-known and publicised authors can make mistakes...

Posted by Keira from SA on October 3, 2007 9:44 PM

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