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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 7)

Orlando: I'm not sure it is so. Harry wasn't told that Potter's location was unknown, he was told, as far as I remember, that anyone could look inside James's house but nobody would see James or Lily or Harry inside. Things appeared as if they had left Godric Hollow for a while. Then nobody would suspect that they are still there, even if the house belongs to James. That reminds me of a traditional detective story motto: "the best hiding place is often the most obvious".

According to Fidelius Charm, unless you have heard or read the correct formula, you be able to see the house, but not to get in, neither to see Potter family inside the house.

How could Hagrid find Harry then? It can be explained as follows:
First, the charm could have disappeared when the caster d. I doubt it, would James cast a protective charm that would be broken if he d?
Second, the charm could have disappeared when the house was destroyed. If the secret formula stands that the Potter are inside their house, it doesn't work anymore in the case of a destroyed house. As a matter of fact, Harry was found among the ruins, not inside the house.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 12, 2007 05:10 AM

Herve - Harry was in the ruins yes, but I suspect he was in the 'ruins of the house' - so technically on the inside, and not in the garden. Also, if the charm broke with immediate effect and Harry was visible to all it was extremely remiss of an entire village to ignore a baby for 24 hrs in early winter.

It is all very complicated as the events of the night before had already spread far and wide - and yet Harry was still in the ruins! People were celebrating the downfall of Voldemort - how did they know?

Posted by Orlando from England on October 12, 2007 11:47 AM

Orlando: there is a strong mist about these events. We don't even know when Harry was retrieved from the ruined house. But you're absolutely right on one point: if the wizard community was celebrating the morning after, then wizards knew that Harry survived and Voldemort was gone. Who told them? Certainly not Pettigrew. Shouldn't we assume that Harry was retrieved by Hagrid early in the morning, and Hagrid looked after Harry along the whole day, before riding him towards Privet Drive?

We could also assume that, since the Potter were threatened, the house was regularly checked by OP members.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 13, 2007 06:07 AM

Herve, Hagrid knew early enough in the day to be able to inform McGonagall, and we know she was sat outside 4 Privet Drive from at least say 8am - probably sooner. But clearly Hagrid had not at that time collected Harry - which means Harry had been in the ruins all night at the very least.

If Hagrid did collect Harry by say 8.30am - where the heck did he go?

Posted by Orlando from England on October 14, 2007 5:57 PM

Those missing 24 hours have been the subject of much discussion for a very long time. Even now, we don't have a clue. But, we do know that Hagrid got to Godric's Hollow soon after the Potters were ed from his statement to Professor Dumbledore when he (Hagrid) brought baby Harry to Privet Drive. On p. 15 of SS (Am. edition), Hagrid says, "--house was almost destroyed, but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin' around." So, Harry was with Hagrid, wherever that was, until the following evening. Maybe, the lack of clarity is just due to JKR's change of mind about whether the missing day was important enough to dwell on. Or, maybe, it has something to do with the breaking of the Fidelius Charm. Like, a missing puzzle piece, could we solve the mystery of the missing day if we knew exactly when the charm breaks, meaning what is it that caused the breaking of the charm at Godric's Hollow?

The more I think about it and read comments on this site, the more inclined I am to think that perhaps the murkiness of the lost day and the events surrounding the breaking of the Fidelius Charm are due to the fact that these might have been important clues to something at the start of the HP series but became realatively unimportant to the author as the series neared its end. So, we might speculate, but unless there's a reference on her site or in the someday encyclopedia JKR may write, we may never really know.

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 14, 2007 9:33 PM

Hannah: I totally agree. I believe that at the beginning, Jo wanted to write a perfect detective story novel extended to seven books, and she wrote the first ones very carefully, with a lot of hidden clues, some of them having a meaning in the same book, some of them refering to further ones.

But for some reason she changed her mind, and as the series progresses, it fits more and more with the classical adventure book thema (inspired by heroic fantasy) and less and less with detective story. In DH, there are very few hints and she introduces a new concept -Hallows - that has never been hinted before (though the three objects were introduced). Moreover, she never really fouls us, there is very few suspense, which is quite different from books 1 to 4.

So, maybe there was a good reason for the one day journey with Hagrid and Harry, maybe there was not and Jo had Hagrid bring along Harry at midnight just to set the scene (the wizards, Dumbledore, Mc Gonagall) and add to the drama. Nevertheless, we're never told how Hagrid managed to provide food (milk) to a one year old baby without any help and no right to produce magic.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 15, 2007 12:06 AM

Hannah, I wonder if the Muggles ever did swarm around - seeing as how there is a sign in DH saying that the house is invisible to Muggles.
Not important I know - but all the contradictions....

Posted by Orlando from England on October 15, 2007 07:03 AM

I wondered, too Orlando, about the Muggles swarming which is what got me thinking that maybe during the fifteen or so years Jo planned and wrote the HP series, some of her original clues had to be discarded in favor of others. I suppose we have to take her most recent information as dogma, so as the sign popped up saying Muggles couldn't see the house in DH, whatever we believed in SS/PS must be discarded since there are contradictions. It's interesting that some ideas are relatively new revelations like Harry saying in DH that maybe the house couldn't be rebuilt like being unable to repair injuries from dark magic and I think that idea is wholly consistent with everything we've learned over seven books. While, as herve states, Jo seems to have changed her mind about the direction she was taking us in while she was doing it.

We may never know all the answers but the analysis of the books sure beats a regular literary analysis class!

Posted by Hannah from Los Angeles on October 15, 2007 7:09 PM

Actually, Herve, since Hagrid has constantly been caring for magical creatures all his life, he would have some fine supplement for Harry, from one of his creatures. At age one, Harry wouldn't need his mother for food.

I'm guessing in his post-horcrux (newly made horcrux?) stage, Harry would need to rest for a few days before traveling anywhere. Especially as a baby, he would be weak and pained. He wasn't in any fit state to travel any way by the time Hagrid found him.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 15, 2007 7:44 PM

Dear Hannah and ParnParn,

Indeed, it would be logical that Harry was under the Fidelius charm as well. Maybe it was not supposed to be cast on persons, but on structures (i.e. houses) as has been suggested often. This would explain why James could not leave the house. Furthermore, since the house was (partially) destroyed by the Avada Kadavra from Voldemort, this might have let to the lifting of the Fidelius charm (as has also been suggested). Personally I like the suggestion made that Sirius and Dumbledore had been told by Peter Petigrew, and knew already, but of that we cannot be sure.

Posted by Flavius from Delft on October 16, 2007 02:57 AM

Orlando: I don't remember quite well and my book is far away. Didnt't the sign mention that the house was made invisible to Muggles so that it would be preserved from them? In this case, it was probably made invisible days after James and Lily's , and it was still visible when Hagrid (and Sirius) came up.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on October 17, 2007 12:07 AM

"And along a new and darker street he moved, and now his destination was in sight at last, the Fidelius Charm broken, athough they did not know it yet...." DH (US p343, Bathilda's Secret)

It would appear from the above passage that Wormtail did not merely tell Voldemort the Secret, the spell was broken somehow before the attack even happened.

About the missing 24 hours, Dumbledore suspected Voldemort was not but he did not know what had happened to him. I would imagine that Hagrid was told to take Harry into hiding until Dumbledore was sure there was no one following him. Even though McGonagall sat on the wall all day, she was aware of the rumors of the Boy Who Lived. Someone witnessed Harry's survival and talked of it soon after the attack. It was a time of suspicion. Anyone could have been a Eater. So Dumbledore protected Harry by making him "disappear" from all witnesses in Hagrid's protection. Then, under cover of darkness, Harry was left at Privet Drive.

Posted by Patty from Quincy,Massachusetts on October 17, 2007 05:56 AM

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