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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:

WOW, once again Beyond Hogwarts has shown pure genius and talent in their ways of making everything so clear. I finally understand the secrets of the fidelius charm. I'm speechless.

Posted by amy from seattle, washington on September 27, 2007 3:03 PM

This does not make sense to me:

"When a Secret-Keeper s, their secret s with them. Everybody in whom they confided continue to know the hidden information, but nobody else. UNLESS the Secret-Keeper s, then all those who know the secret become Secret-Keepers."

Not really with what you said, but with J.K. Rowling. Technically, she should have said, "When the Secret-Keeper s, the secret *goes* with them, but all the people in whom the Secret-Keeper confided BECOME Secret-Keepers."

Her only saying, "... continue to know the information" sounds like it implies that, though they KNOW the information, they do not actually become Secret-Keepers.

So, is THAT a mess-up in the writing?

Posted by Katie T from California on September 27, 2007 6:27 PM

On the issue of when the Fidelius Charm on Shell Cottage was cast:
It is possible that when Dobby, and next Harry, apparated to Shell Cottage, they did not actually end up within the boundaries of the Fidelius Charm. They might have come as close as possible, but could not come within the boundaries. Bill and Fleur would still be able to see them, and would obviously come out to help them, and take them inside, thus passing the secret on to them. This opens up the possibility that the Fidelius Charm was performed much earlier, eliminating the theory that if you are within sight of the area when the spell is cast, you know the secret.

Posted by Trevin from Billings, Montana on September 27, 2007 7:37 PM

Trevin: That's possible, but we know from how Harry was let in to 12 Grimmauld Place for the first time that the Secret-Keeper has to actually tell you the secret, not simply show you in. Remember, Harry reads the note from the Grimmauld Place Secret-Keeper, Dumbledore. We see neither Bill or Fleur do this for Harry to let him into Shell Cottage.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on September 27, 2007 7:38 PM

The article is great. I didn't know this much about the charm. Great work.

Posted by MUKILAN from TAMIL NADU on September 27, 2007 7:59 PM

Very nice! I can see now, Dave, how you are going to carry the HP legacy on and on at beyond Hogwarts. I agree with Ďsmí (in thread of we were all correct) that you are like Dumbledore to us, bringing new light, new wisdom with the same facts. Hats off to you!

I think the information that was hidden were the Potters, not their home, as somewhere in series (I Think in PoA, I Donít have it right now) someone said that voldemort could not have found potters even if he stuck his nose to the windows of their drawing room or so.

I think only the secret keeper (not all those who have been told) can bring anyone with him through side along apparition (which is equivalent to telling the secret to him). Otherwise yes, I agree that it was just a matter of time for potters. The only chance for potters could have been Dumbledore as secret keeper which would have been wise too. It be interesting to know whether the newly (self) appointed secret keepers (after of original one) can pass on the information (other than by side along apparition) in the same manner as the original one can?

Can a fidelius charm be cast on same secret (property etc.) twice, say when Dumbledore d, someone could have cast another fidelius charm with someone else (say harry) as secret keeper, than 12 Grimmauld place would be safe again as headquarters, and even snape could not have got there because now he would not know the secret. I mean can fidelius charm be overwritten?

Posted by swati from India on September 27, 2007 9:59 PM

I honestly think that Hermione was wrong about giving Yaxley the secret. Someone should ask Jo about that. I think she was just being careful, and they couldn't go back just in case she had given Yaxley the secret. If you can take someone inside where the Charm has been performed my apparation, it doesn't seem very safe.

Also, where exactly does it say that the caster has to for the secret to be revealed? In DH, it says "the Fidelius Charm must have d with James and Lily." I think the Charm s when the person/people it is supposed to be protecting . Although it would make sense for the charm to fail if the caster s, like Dumbledore's Full Body-Bind curse on Harry. But in the case of Lily and James, I think it d because they did, and there was no longer a need for it.

And I agree with Trevin. I think Jo just didn't bother putting it in because some of us (I know I was) were upset over Dobby's and honestly couldn't be bothered about things like that. But now I'm going to contradict myself and say, what about in HBP and Dumbledore brought Harry to the Burrow? He didn't tell him the location of it or anything, they apparated there. Wasn't Dumbledore the secret keeper for it, because it was supposed to have all the protection of the Order? So maybe you can give someone the secret by apparating there with the secret keeper.

Posted by Lauren from Atlanta, Ga on September 27, 2007 10:43 PM

Yes, the passage about "Voldemort could stick his nose on the window and not see them" implies the spell was on the potters, not on their house. But the passage in DH about the fact that they shouldn't be able to see the house but now they can contradicts that. JK comes right out and says Harry believed they could see the house because "the Fidelius Charm must have d with James and Lily".

Also, every other example we have in the books of the Fidelius Charm is on a location, not a person or persons.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on September 27, 2007 11:28 PM

If the of the caster ended the charm, I'd say it is fairly useless as a defensive mechanism unless the caster casts the charm and then never leaves it's confines -- If all you had to do was off the caster, then there are essentailly two secret keepers -- the keeper themself and the caster.

Also, there is no textual foundation for Snape having cast the charm at 12 Grimmuald place, so I don't think I can accept that theory just yet.

Before I read the real DH, I read a fan fic that was being touted as the real thing...I can't recall if it was in that or in the real DH, but someone mentioned the Fidelius charm as not being as secure as it leads us to believe. If it was in the real book, then JK already gave us the conclusion Dave drew. If it was in the fake I read, sorry for bringing it up:) Regardless, the conclusion is right -- it isn't as great a protection spell as we might believe.

Posted by Tim from Flagstaff, AZ on September 28, 2007 12:20 AM

David Haber: your comment to Trevin: "we know from how Harry was let in to 12 Grimmauld Place for the first time that the Secret-Keeper has to actually tell you the secret, not simply show you in."

How do you explain how Yaxley was given the secret then? If you have to tell someone the secret, then how did yaxley gain entrance by just side-along apparition? or is it you become a secret keeper if by side along apparition OR you have to be told the secret?

Posted by missy from chicago, il on September 28, 2007 12:52 AM

Missy: The side-along apparition thing is a loop-hole. The apparitioner gets in because he knows the secret. The side-along person just comes along for the ride. I suppose that even though the side-along person gets in, they still don't know the secret, and could not later get back in on their own.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on September 28, 2007 12:53 AM

I think the Fidelius Charm was on the Potter's house, not on them. In her letter to Sirius, Lily mentions James' frustation when he was not able to leave the house because Dumbledore had his Invisibility Cloak. If he was protected personally by the charm, couldn't he have wandered freely?
Also, if the house was unprotected, Voldemort could have destroyed it on the chance they were inside so it wouldn't have been a safe place to hide at all.

Posted by Patty from Quincy,Massachusetts on September 28, 2007 05:59 AM

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