The Lost Day Part 1: Why It Took So Long
by Brandon Ford
In her Edinburgh Book Festival chat, Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling, told her fans they are not asking the right questions. I, for one, agree with that assessment. In the many articles and editorials that I have read, one question never seems to rise to the top for exploration: what happened during the lost day and what are its implications? As astute Harry Potter fans know, in the beginning of Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn that an ENTIRE DAY passes between the deaths of Lily and James Potter and the discovery of Harry by Hagrid and his safe delivery to Dumbledore. That’s a long period of time for a baby to just be sitting in a pile of flaming rubble. I submit that to analyze and fully comprehend the events leading up to, including, and immediately following “the lost day” is to fully comprehend what may potentially happen in books six and seven as well as shed light on cryptic events in books one through five.
**Note that all page citations are based on the American paperback editions with the exception of Order of the Phoenix, which is American hardback.**
1. The Stipulated Facts
What do we know for a fact were the exact events of the famous Monday? InPhilosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn in “Chapter 1 – The Boy Who Lived” that the day after Voldemort’s “death” was a Tuesday: “When Mr. and Mrs. Dursley woke up on the dull, gray Tuesday our story starts… (2).” Thus the grisly events at Godric’s Hollow take place on a Monday. These small details are necessary to keep the chain of events in sequence. Now, we also know that Harry was approximately one year old when his parents were killed. Though we are not given an exact date, Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone “Chapter 2 – The Vanishing Glass” tells us that “[Harry had] lived with the Dursleys for almost ten years, (29)” and since he is about to have his eleventh birthday, he was approximately one when his parents died. This becomes significant because Neville would be the same age (but one thing at a time).
First off, a week prior to the Potters’ death, Dumbledore performs the Fidelius charm (Prisoner of Azkaban, 205) making Peter Pettigrew Secret-Keeper for the Potters at the behest of Sirius Black (PoA, 368). When the time was right, Pettigrew went to Voldemort and told the secret.
Then, less than a week later, sometime Monday night, we know that Voldemort, having been informed by Peter Pettigrew, arrived at Godric’s Hollow, murdered the Potters and attempted to murder Harry but was thwarted by the ‘love mark’ left on Harry by his mother’s sacrifice. Voldemort’s body was destroyed but his spirit fled.
Our next fact comes a day later. Tuesday, news spreads throughout that Voldemort is dead at the hands of baby Harry. Almost twenty-four hours AFTER the Potters’ death that Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, Hagrid is dispatched by Dumbledore to go to Godric’s Hollow and get Harry. Hagrid retrieves Harry from the ruins (noting the fresh scar on his forehead). Meanwhile, Sirius Black goes to Pettigrew’s hiding place to check on him and instead finds him missing. Sirius immediately heads to Godric’s Hollow on his flying motorcycle to find the ruins of the house and baby Harry in Hagrid’s arms (PoA, 365). After some argument, Sirius allows Hagrid to take Harry and offers Hagrid his motorcycle (PoA, 206-7). Hagrid takes Harry to Dumbledore late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, where he is then left in the ‘care’ (and I use the term loosely) of the Dursleys.
Now, according to Cornelius Fudge and Sirius Black’s combined information, sometime Wednesday (“during broad daylight,” says Stan Shunpike, but Stan also thought Harry was Neville Longbottom so take that one with a grain of salt), Sirius caught up with Pettigrew and cornered him on the street. According to Sirius, Pettigrew (with ‘a’ wand behind his back) blew up the street leaving nothing but a crater full of dead Muggles. Pettigrew transformed into Wormtail the rat and disappeared into a sewer, but not before he severed his own pinky to leave as evidence. Moments later, the Department of Magical Catastrophes, led by Cornelius Fudge, arrived at the scene. Fudge (one of the first on the scene) sees the crater, the finger, and a laughing Sirius Black. Moments later the Magical Law Enforcement Squad arrived and took Sirius to Azkaban.
This is what we know happened in those few days. But what are the implications? What does it all mean?
2. The Fidelius Charm
In order to shed new light on what we know, we have to figure out how certain things happened. Now, we ask ourselves why it took twenty-four hours (an estimation) to find Harry. For your consideration, if we are to assume that Harry was never moved prior to Hagrid’s arrival, then we must therefore assume that no one could get to Harry because no one could see where he was. That leads us to the Fidelius Charm. According to Professor Flitwick, the Fidelius charm is:
“…an immensely complex spell involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, or Secret-Keeper, and is henceforth impossible to find-unless, of course, the Secret Keeper chooses to divulge it (PoA, 205).”
In Order of the Phoenix, we see this spell in effect in the form of 12 Grimmauld Place. Harry cannot see the Black house until he reads the note from Dumbledore (the Secret-Keeper). By applying that knowledge to the secret of Godric’s Hollow, we learn that 1) since the location of Godric’s Hollow was a secret being kept, people could only see it if Pettigrew (the Secret-Keeper) told them.To our knowledge, the only person Pettigrew told was Voldemort. Therefore, 2) no one but Voldemort should be able to see Godric’s Hollow (with the exception of the Potters, Dumbledore, and Sirius, which I will now explain). Since we are to assume that no one could see the house, no person could see the ruins, thus no one should know anything is wrong for at least a few hours. Which raises another question: how did the rumors of Voldemort’s death start? We’ll get back to that.
Back on topic, 2a) as the conjurer of the Fidelius Charm, we can assume that Dumbledore would be able to see Godric’s Hollow (there is no direct evidence to say he CAN see it, but Dumbledore can do a lot, so we give him the benefit of the doubt here). We also know from Order of the Phoenix, that once a person is told a ‘secret’ by the Secret-Keeper, that person can always find it thereafter (people didn’t have to be retold by Dumbledore the location of 12 Grimmauld Place every time they left it and came back). Therefore, one can infer (but by no means prove) that 2b) since it was Sirius’s idea to use Pettigrew as Secret-Keeper, Sirius had already known the location of Godric’s Hollow. One can also assume that 2c) since Hagrid probably didn’t know it’s location or wasn’t present at the time the spell was cast (to our knowledge)), and since Pettigrew didn’t tell him, that Dumbledore had to find some way around the Fidelius Charm so that Hagrid could retrieve Harry. This would obviously take some time. But that raises another question: why not go and get Harry himself? My only guess is that he would also have to go to the Dursleys to seal the ‘Evans Blood Charm’ mentioned in Order of the Phoenix, in addition to finding a way around the Fidelius Charm so that the ruins could be investigated by the proper authorities. That being said, I believe we have some valid reasons as to why it took so long to get Harry to the Dursleys’.
IF YOU THINK HAVE FOUND ANY GLARINGLY OBVIOUS ERRORS HERE, PROCEED IMMEDIATELY TO THE LOST DAY ADDENDUM, WHICH SHOULD PERHAPS CLEAR UP ANY CONFUSION!