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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 5)

The Fidelius Charm doesn't work the same way for Potter's location and 12 Grimmauld Place.

In the first case, the house is still visible for anyone, Muggles included, but Harry, James and Lily are not visible from the outside. To see them, you need to be informed, by the secret-keeper, that they are hiding inside the house. Of course, if they were walking in the street, the Charm wouldn't apply.

Then, the house is destroyed. You can't hide yourself "inside" a ruin. Even "inside" and outside" are no more meaningful. Then, the Charm doesn't apply any more.

12 Grimmauld Place is unplottable and invisible for anyone, but the people who know (from the secret keeper) that it holds the OP headquarters. That's pretty different.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 4, 2007 02:26 AM

Yes, they do seem to be different, Herve, but is that because the Fidelius Charms are different, or is it because 12 Grimmauld Place has multiple different spells protecting it?

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on October 4, 2007 02:27 AM


If the Fidelius Charm only worked until the physical structure was destroyed, what would stop Voldemort from destroying the house on the off chance the Potters would be inside? I think that would be the last place they would hide if the only thing protecting them was the integrity of the house. I think the Secret concerned the house, and worked so that Voldemort could approach the house and not see them inside it.

Concerning Hagrid seeing Harry, the Fidelius Charm did not stop people who already knew that they were there from continuing to know they were there. No one but Peter could reveal the secret, but many peoply knew the Potters were at home. Sirius knew where to send Harry's birthday gift and arrived right after the attack, Bathilda attended Harry's birthday party, Hagrid rescued Harry almost immediately. The Fidelius charm does not make people invisible to all, but only the Secret Keeper can pass on the information.

I think the Charm at Godric's Hollow d with the spell caster, who was Lily or James.

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on October 4, 2007 05:58 AM

But in PoA, we find out in Hogsmeade that a week after the Fidelius Charm had been performed, James and Lily d.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 4, 2007 7:37 PM

herve - the house at Godrics Hollow is not - and never be visible to Muggles.
When Harry and Hermione see the house (the house that it is said can be seen because the charm d with James and Lily) a sign comes up out of the ground and amongst the information on the sign is: This house, invisible to Muggles, has been left in its ruined state as a monument to the Potters... (DH US 332)

Posted by Orlando from England on October 5, 2007 05:40 AM

Dave, we'd better ask Jo for that. She has the answer. But I would say:

12 Grimmauld Place is protected by many charms that make it invisible. 12 Grimmauld Place is in fact only a location. It logically leads to a place between 11 and 13. But since it's a location, it's of no use because the house is unplottable. I mean that even if there is a 13 Grimmauld Place and an 11 Grimmauld Place, you can't be sure that the 12 Grimmauld Place exists. Maybe it has never been built, or it was destroyed. To see the house, you must be aware that the house really exists, and refer to it as being something specific: here, the headquarters for OP.

Potter's house wasn't protected by the same charms, and then it was visible for everyone. But "you could watch through the window, sticking your nose to it, and see noone inside". Then, the Fidelius couldn't be written the same way: not "Potter's family house is...", but "Potter's family is hidden inside...". The charm operates as long as James or Lily are inside the house; when James gets out, he's no longer hiding and everybody can see him (which is fortunate), when he steps in, only people who know the secret can see him.

So I would say both: spells are different and the wording for Fidelius is different.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 5, 2007 10:13 AM

this makes soo much sense! it ingenius! beyondhogwarts has done it again...

Posted by chelsea from b.c. on October 5, 2007 5:39 PM

Orlando, you're right. I have to modify my last post: the Potter's house was visible for everyone in wizarding world.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 6, 2007 02:19 AM

Patty, you make a good point about Voldemort wanting to destroy the house just to get at the Potters if only the integrity of the house protected them. I'm going to have to rethink my idea but I have to admit once I get to a certain point, logic seems to disappear. Perhaps, as this world is magical, only magic makes sense. It seems, increasingly, that with the Fidelius charm, there is very little parallel in the muggle world.

From the clues we have been given, doesn't it seem that Lily would have been the caster?

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 6, 2007 4:00 PM

Hannah: weren't we told in the first book by Ollivander that James had the better wand for spell casting, and later by Sluggy that Lily was better at potions? So it was probably James who cast the Fidelius charm, no?

Also, another reason it was more likely James is because of their first choice for secret keeper was Sirius, James' best friend, who was at the last minute changed to Pettigrew, another of James' gang. Sounds like James was in charge of the Fidelius charm to me...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on October 6, 2007 5:28 PM

Dave, you had me doubting myself until I went back to the book to check.

In the American, hard cover edition of SS, p.82, Ollivander, in referring to Lily, tells Harry about her wand, "... Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of ow. Nice wand for charm work.... Your father, on the other hand, favored a mahogany wand. Eleven inches. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration."

Lily's wand was the wand for charm work and isn't the spell that was cast a charm--the Fidelius Charm?

I do agree that Slughorn said she was a natural at Potions. But, in his first ever class with Harry, Snape tells the class, "As there is little foolish wand-waving here [in Potions class], many of you hardly believe this is magic." (SS. Am. ed. p.157). So, Lily's talent in Potions really has little to do with her wand.

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 6, 2007 9:25 PM

James Potter: a mahogany wand. Eleven inches. Pliable. A little more power and excellent for transfiguration. (PS UK pg.63)

Lily Potter: Ten and a quarter inches, swishy, made of ow. Nice wand for charm work. (PS UK pg.63)

I also have a vague recollection - and could probably find the exact quote that JK once said that the fact that Lily's wand was good for charms was important. So on that basis I would suggest that it was Lily who cast the Fidelius Charm.

Posted by Orlando from England on October 7, 2007 07:41 AM

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