HARRY POTTER: THE PREQUEL
"Not many people are aware that the Potters knew You-Know-Who was after them. Dumbledore, who was of course working tirelessly against You-Know-Who, had a number of useful spies. One of them tipped him off, and he alerted James and Lily at once. He advised them to go into hiding. Well, of course, You-Know-Who wasn't an easy person to hide from. Dumbledore told them that their best chance was the Fidelius Charm."
Part One - Before Hallowe'en 1981
5. THE HIDING
(Cornelius Fudge, PoA, 152)
"And then, barely a week after the Fidelius Charm had been performed -"
(Cornelius Fudge, PoA, 153)
Questions Without Answers
This, to me, was THE MOST CONFUSING aspect of this editorial. (And that includes Part Two, which I haven't even started, let alone properly analyzed yet.) None of it made sense to me. I thought and searched and thought again, and yet I found no answers. I spent lectures going over all of this in my head rather than listening and taking notes on the principles of psychology. I had long discussions about this with Harry Potter obsessors (thanks Tennille and Caitlin), and yielded no results but a sore throat. I even tried introducing the basic outline of Harry Potter to my HP-uneducated friends (kudos to Jessie for putting up with that) in order to ask them about these issues. And it was mostly fruitless.
If the Potters planned to go into hiding at the point of Harry's christening, which was most likely in 1980, why did they only use the Fidelius Charm in October 1981? And if Voldemort planned to kill Harry as soon as he knew of him without thought of what terms there might be in the rest of the prophecy, why didn't he do it much earlier than Hallowe'en 1981, like when the Potters weren't yet using the Fidelius Charm and he could have easily found them? Why wasn't Voldemort even actively pursuing the Potters until October 1981?
(The point that Voldemort could have found the Potters easily is derived from the above quote from Cornelius Fudge - that "You-Know-Who wasn't an easy person to hide from." If the Fidelius Charm was their "best chance", all other forms of hiding were inferior.)
But as I completed the other sections, thinking through each one, an idea of a way to resolve the complexity struck me. For that reason, I'm just going to recap some of the main conclusions I've drawn that relate to this section. If you want to see how I came to those conclusions, read sections one and four, the prophecy and the Longbottoms.
The Potters in Hiding
- Voldemort didn't learn the full prophecy, and didn't realize that it might not be safe to just attack.
- He knew of both Harry and Neville, and was trying to keep tabs on both.
- He was inclined to attack Harry (whom he perceived as being his equal) but also planned to attack Neville immediately after, to be sure that he was safe.
Let's deal with the Potters first. (In answering that, I should also adequately cover why Voldemort didn't pursue them sooner.) Why didn't they go into hiding sooner? Considering all the information they had, you'd think hiding would seem a reasonable option. By the christening, hiding was their plan, and I can think of many reasons why it would be. They knew that their son might have to kill Voldemort someday, that Voldemort would want to kill Harry before that day came, that they would have to keep him particularly safe, and that if Harry was "the one," then Voldemort was going to "mark" him. They also knew that one of their close friends was a spy for Voldemort, that the spy was giving Voldemort their movements, and that the spy would probably be in a good position to hurt or even kill Harry. (I know the prophecy prevents anyone other than the Dark Lord killing "the one", but Harry wasn't "the one" at that stage, he was just a candidate. Plus, Voldemort and the spy didn't know that part of the prophecy anyway, and could definitely try to hurt Harry.)
#1. Last Resort
Fortunately, much consideration and many drafts have resulted in some possible explanations. (This has been in progress over a few weeks, and only yesterday did it all really begin to fall into place. Yay, I'm nearing the end!!) The first is that the Potters don't want to use the Fidelius Charm until absolutely necessary. Who wants to be completely cut off from the world while Voldemort reigns supreme outside, until Harry shows some talent which suggests he's ready to fulfill his destiny? That could be decades, maybe even a century. So, if they'll only use it as a last resort, it seems that at least at this point, it's not absolutely essential. If that's the case, though, we've got to wonder how they know that it's not yet necessary, and what other form of hiding provides a good substitute in the meantime.
#2. Early Knowledge
The second explanation is a way of reconciling their christening plan with their actions - "At that point it looked as if the Potters would have to go into hiding" with "barely a week after the Fidelius Charm had been performed". Perhaps at the christening, it looked as though they would have to hide, but they weren't sure. Or, hiding was the plan "at that point" but they later discovered it wasn't yet necessary. Or, the hiding they had planned for after the christening was not the Fidelius Charm, but something else. (I find that not very plausible because Fudge says that the Fidelius Charm was "their best chance". But perhaps they just planned to lay low until they got word that they were in grave danger.)
Both of those explanations are dependent on Dumbledore getting reliable information that Voldemort did not yet pose a threat to the Potters. Perhaps Voldemort couldn't come to kill Harry yet, or perhaps he just didn't consider it a high priority yet. (As I concluded earlier, it's not that he didn't want to kill Harry yet - in other words, that Voldemort was wary of catches, conditions, or dangers - because as Dumbledore says on page 743 of OotP, "Voldemort never knew that there might be danger in attacking you, that it might be wise to wait, to learn more.") Dumbledore does have Dspies who may have been able to discover such information. I'm a little concerned, though, at how Dumbledore could be so sure as to be able to tell the Potters that the Fidelius Charm was not yet necessary. Also, neither of these explains why Dumbledore and/or the Potters didn't consider it important that they hide from the spy.
#3. Fudge's Fabrication
Another possibility is that Fudge was wrong in saying that the Potters only used the Fidelius Charm in October 1981. Perhaps they used it straight after the christening. Fudge says that "not many people knew", and I doubt Fudge was one of the people who did at the time. It sounds more like he was updated by Dumbledore after Sirius had been arrested for murdering the street of Muggles. Dumbledore may have adjusted the information to keep the prophecy secret, so that Fudge wouldn't know they'd been hiding for a year and wonder why.
However, we also have McGonagall and Hagrid present. Hagrid was a member of the Order back then. He, however, didn't even know that the Potters had had a Secret-Keeper (he says so in the Three Broomsticks in PoA), let alone that it was apparently Sirius, so he wouldn't be able to contradict Fudge. McGonagall is a member of the Order now, but as for bH81, it's hard to tell. She wasn't in the photo of the original Order of the Phoenix, but she may have just not been there for that. I'm thinking she probably was a member, because she seems to have been privy to some very significant information: she says on page 153 of PoA, "Dumbledore remained worried. I remember him offering to be the Potters' Secret-Keeper himself." If she remembers it happening, rather than remembers that it happened (implying that she was told), then she was probably right in Dumbledore's inner circle in the Order at the time. And as she didn't know about the prophecy at the time (suggested by the opening chapter of PoA, where she speaks as though Dumbledore wouldn't remember Harry's name, and says that Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow "to find the Potters", not Harry, and where Dumbledore seems less than eager to refer to it), her story can't be a) a fabrication of her own to keep the prophecy secret, or b) a fabrication of Dumbledore's to keep the prophecy secret. McGonagall tells the truth. On top of that, if Hagrid was close to Lily and James, and hadn't seen them for a year when he went to rescue Harry, surely he'd have realized the Potters had been in hiding, but he appears not to have known.
Besides, it doesn't really work to say that they used it for a year. It couldn't have been with Pettigrew as Secret-Keeper for a year, because Pettigrew would have either given up the Potters sooner, or mentioned in PoA that he hadn't betrayed them for a year as a way of proving his innocence. Plus, Sirius would have had a year to tell Dumbledore that they'd switched Secret-Keepers. I created an outline in When the Prophecy Was Made where Dumbledore is the Secret-Keeper for a year, gives the location to the spy circle, and then after a year they decide to redo it so that the Potters can hide properly from the spy (whom they think is Lupin). However, this just isn't supported by any evidence in the text, and in all cases where this time is referred to, there's nothing to suggest this scenario is true. Also, I remember thinking of evidence against it, although I can't remember what it was.
#4. Successful Then Switch
The next idea is that the Potters were successfully in hiding up until October 1981, and then switched over to the enhanced security of the Fidelius Charm. I have a few ideas why they might switch, too. One is that their previous hiding technique was enough to keep them safe from the general dangers of the wizarding war, but not enough to protect them from Voldemort pursuing them, which only came later. That ties in to why Voldemort didn't pursue them earlier. Another is that Voldemort found a way to penetrate their previous hiding technique. If he did, though, I doubt he'd give the Potters warning that he was coming, and a chance to use the Fidelius Charm - but a Dspy could learn of it in time. Another (less likely) option is that their previous hiding technique has expired. (I got that from a fanfiction entitled "Dark Memories: The Tragedy of Lily and James" by an author named 'logicalraven', on the site www.harrypotterfanfiction.com, where Dumbledore transfigures the Potters' house to resemble a tree on the outside, and the effect only lasts a year.) We know that, for example, the Vanishing Charm on Fred and George's Headless Hats isn't expected to have a very long life, and Polyjuice Potion lasts an hour, so some spells can wear off, but I don't think this option is probable.
My last idea for this option is that their previous hiding was successful, but they had to use the Fidelius Charm for a reason other than security. The idea here is that the Fidelius Charm was simply a charade for Voldemort so that it would be more obvious that they were hiding (maybe previously it wasn't obvious). This would be because a Dspy is giving Dumbledore information that the Potters aren't in danger from Voldemort yet, and Voldemort begins to wonder how the Potters know that they don't yet have to hide. He begins to think that perhaps one of his Death Eaters is communicating with Dumbledore, and so Dumbledore tells the Potters to use the Fidelius Charm so that the Vspy can tell Voldemort that they're hiding, so that Voldemort is less likely to suspect one of his own of betraying him. In other words, it's a charade to protect a Dspy from suspicion. While this is plausible to me, though, it just doesn't seem like something JKR would do, and for that irrational reason alone I am dismissing it. Feel free to support it though.
What Voldemort Didn't Know
A variation of the idea of Voldemort penetrating their hiding technique is that Voldemort didn't know certain information which was significant enough to keep the Potters safe, and he later learned it, which forced them to use the Fidelius Charm here. For example, the ways in which the Potters defied Voldemort those three times is the kind of information that could keep the Potters safe by default. I doubt this idea though, because Pettigrew could easily tell Voldemort that Harry fits the description, and I can't think of any other hidden information that would keep the Potters safe.
Then, a variation on that idea: that Voldemort was given misleading information which protected the Potters. Perhaps the Potters told their friends that Voldemort would die if he killed "the one", and the only way to protect himself was to get Harry on his side so Harry wouldn't vanquish the Dark Lord. Then the Vspy would tell Voldemort, and Voldemort wouldn't want to attack Harry. Later, in October 1981, Voldemort learns that the prophecy doesn't say that at all. The problem here is how Voldemort later discovered he was wrong, because it seems unlikely that he could discover what the prophecy didn't say without discovering what it did say.
#6. Purposely Unprotected
I don't much like this next idea, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. The prophecy says that Voldemort will "mark him as his equal", which suggests he has to have the opportunity to act on his choice (of Harry over Neville). Perhaps Dumbledore wanted them safe, but still slightly available, so that Voldemort would have a chance to mark one of the boys. The trouble here is that it puts the Longbottoms and Potters at great risk, and Dumbledore probably knows prophecies well enough to know he doesn't have to interfere for them to come true. (The fact that he knows Voldemort has to mark one of the kids, though, supports Courtney L. Kathrys' idea that Dumbledore prepared Lily and Alice for the possibility that they would have to sacrifice themselves to protect their sons. More on that in the last section.)
#7. My Best Explanation
The best idea that I have, the one I most strongly support, ties a few of the above theories together. First, Dumbledore has ways of knowing for sure that Voldemort either is or isn't pursuing the Potters at any one time. Second, the Potters were keeping safe with a form of hiding that didn't protect them entirely, but was enough as long as Voldemort wasn't actively pursuing them, which Dumbledore informed them he wasn't. Third (one of the conclusions drawn earlier), Voldemort wanted to kill Harry over Neville, but to be certain that he was safe, he planned to kill Neville immediately following his murder of Harry. He therefore had informers for both families, which allowed him to pursue both. This idea should also hopefully answer my burning question of why Voldemort didn't try to kill the Potters in the year preceding their use of the Fidelius Charm.
Well, the Fidelius Charm was supposedly the Potters' "best chance", but it ended up leading Voldemort straight to them. If you were Voldemort, what would be an easier way to kill Harry than have your spy be his Secret-Keeper? Therefore, you'd want the Potters to use the Fidelius Charm, and you'd help Pettigrew subtly manipulate them and Sirius into making him the Secret-Keeper. That gives you a clear path to Harry. So, the Potters using the Fidelius Charm was, in this scenario, originally Voldemort's idea. The issue was how to manipulate them into setting it up for you.
In all likelihood, Voldemort knew who the Dspy was. (I'll bet there was someone other than Snape; if not, Snape's in more danger than we realize.) But he pretended not to. In fact, he probably made the Dspy his confidante for the "plans" he had. He says clearly to the Dspy, "I'm not going to bother with the Potters and Longbottoms for ages. I've got other things I'm going to do first." The Dspy then tells Dumbledore that this is Voldemort's definite plan. Dumbledore can then tell the Potters that they are safe for now.
Remember that Voldemort wants to kill Neville straight after Harry, so he's also manipulating the way the Longbottoms view their safety. Remember also that Voldemort is developing these things over the course of a year. The best plan is to have the Potter and Longbottom families both under the Fidelius Charm, with his own Death Eaters (or at least weaklings whom he can capture, torture, and perform Legilimency on) as Secret-Keepers. But, as I discussed in section four, odds are that Pettigrew wouldn't be the Longbottoms' Secret-Keeper, and there's only one Vspy in the Order. So Voldemort has to begin some experimenting.
Step One. First he makes it obvious to the Dspy that he was after the Longbottoms. The Longbottoms react by using the Fidelius Charm. Pettigrew learns who their Secret-Keeper is, and tells Voldemort. Voldemort decides whether or not he can target that person and learn the Longbottoms' location from him/her. Probably he can't.
Step Two. He makes it obvious to the Dspy that, as he can't access the Longbottoms right now, he's going to do something else for a while. The Dspy tells Dumbledore. Dumbledore has the Longbottoms' Secret-Keeper lift the Charm.
Step Three. Voldemort kills the Secret-Keeper. I'd say maybe the Secret-Keeper is Dorcas Meadowes (who we talked about in section four). When she's no longer Secret-Keeper (although I have no idea how the Charm can be lifted), Voldemort pursues her and "[kills] her personally" (Moody, OotP, p.158).
So that Dumbledore wouldn't catch on to his plans, Voldemort then did something else for a while. Later, he repeated Steps 1-3. Again, this new Secret-Keeper won't be broken. The person is killed.
Now that two of the Longbottoms' Secret-Keepers have been killed, Dumbledore is going to start getting suspicious. It really has to work this time, Voldemort knows. But this time he waits ages. Maybe he even goes after the Potters in the middle somewhere. He's really got to throw Dumbledore off track. The last thing Voldemort needs is for Dumbledore to next be the Longbottoms' Secret-Keeper.
Finally, Voldemort performs Step One again. I'm going with the idea that Caradoc Dearborn - the guy who vanished - was the Secret-Keeper this time. Voldemort captures poor Caradoc, tortures, coerces, breaks him down... remember, the most trustworthy friends of the Longbottoms would have been the original Secret-Keepers, so odds are this guy is less trustworthy or less of a friend to them. Voldemort gets the Longbottoms' location. Caradoc is the only one who can lift the Charm (I'll go into more of that in Part Two: After Hallowe'en 1981) but he won't, of course. He might even be dead.
Now, Voldemort performs Step One again, but this time making it clear to the Dspy that he's after the Potters, "because I just can't get to that pureblood Longbottom". The Dspy tells Dumbledore. It's October 1981. Dumbledore's a little suspicious that Voldemort has kept up this behavior, and doesn't want the danger of a person from the spy circle being made the Secret-Keeper, so when he tells the Potters the circumstances, he suggests that he should be made the Secret-Keeper. Pettigrew has been prepared for this moment, has framed Lupin, and maybe has also given James a little push towards not making Dumbledore the Secret-Keeper. James tells Dumbledore it will be Sirius. Pettigrew subtly convinces Sirius that it should be him. Sirius convinces the Potters to make Pettigrew the Secret-Keeper. (If Sirius remained Secret-Keeper, though, Pettigrew could manipulate him into saying the location out loud to Pettigrew, while Voldemort is concealed nearby and can overhear.)
Pettigrew gives Voldemort the location. On Hallowe'en night, 1981, Voldemort goes to Godric's Hollow. He kills James, then Lily. The plan is to kill Harry, then go after the Longbottoms to kill Neville. Harry, however, can't be killed. Game Over.
I'm really rather proud of that theory!! :-)
Two last possibilities are that JKR was inconsistent when writing about the events preceding Hallowe'en 1981 and didn't notice the plot holes. Needless to say, I don't like that one much. And lastly, there could be another explanation that just hasn't occurred to me. Well, there could be heaps of other explanations, actually, but only one explanation can be right anyway.
I still can't answer how the Potters hid without the Fidelius Charm. I couldn't know that unless I was a witch in Harry's world with experience in hiding from Dark Lords, or at least access to books on the topic. As for how Dumbledore knew Voldemort's plans, my theory is heavily reliant on the Dspy having accurate and reliable information, when this might not be the case, but it does make sense.
Posted by: Nicole
If you would like to contact Esther, you may do so at eskimoe_girl at hotmail dot com.