Godric’s Hollow and Other Mysteries

by Carolyn

One of the biggest secrets that J.K. Rowling has been carefully concealing through five novels is a detailed account of what happened the night Harry got his infamous scar. Our knowledge of the events surrounding Lily and James’ death has been cobbled together bit by bit from information given to us by a handful of sources, some or all of which may not be reliable. For starters, we know next to nothing about Godric’s Hollow, the hiding place of Lily and James as named by McGonagall in PS/SS. However, I believe JKR has dropped at least one clue that raises some very interesting questions. While re-watching the PS/SS movie on television a few weeks ago, this seemingly insignificant exchange between Dumbledore and Hagrid leapt out at me and I was shocked that I hadn’t noticed it before.

“Hagrid,” said Dumbledore, sounding relieved. “At last. And where did you get that motorbike?””Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir,” said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorbike as he spoke. “Young Sirius Black lent it me. I’ve got him, sir.”

“No problems, were there?”

“No, sir – house was almost destroyed, but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin’ around. He fell asleep as we was flyin’ over Bristol.”

— PS/SS, p16 (Canadian Ed.)

I’m sure Hagrid’s mention of Bristol is supposed to go unnoticed like so many subtle clues JKR drops for us — Hagrid’s mention of his borrowing Sirius’ motorbike, for instance. But wait… that turned out to be a prelude to some very important revelations in Book Three. Coming back to our quote of interest, right on the heels of Sirius’ mention, let’s think about the implications of Hagrid passing over Bristol. Surrey, the county in which Little Whinging and number four Privet Drive reside, is in the southeast corner of England. Bristol is almost due west of Surrey, on the opposite coast… so where exactly was Hagrid coming from? Unless he took the Mad Eye Moody-esque scenic route to the Dursleys’, this suggests that Godric’s Hollow is on the west coast of England, in Wales, or possibly even in Ireland.

Hiding the Potters somewhere relatively far away like Ireland doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense: Flitwick tells us in PoA that “You-Know-Who could search the village where Lily and James were staying for years and never find them, not even if he had his nose pressed against their sitting room window!” (p152). With the Fidelius Charm in place, why bother hiding far away when you could stay close to the protection of Dumbledore and the Order? It doesn’t seem to make any difference, unless there was a specific reason they chose the village where they hid… the place where James grew up, perhaps?

So, supposing that Godric’s Hollow is located as least as far from Little Whinging as the west coast of England, this brings up another question: why would Dumbledore send Hagrid of all people to fetch Harry after he learned of Voldemort’s attack? Hagrid can’t apparate or fly a broom; Dumbledore may have sent him to the Potters’ (by portkey, for example) but he is clearly surprised when Hagrid turns up on Sirius’ flying motorbike, though he seemed to expect him sooner than he arrived. How was he expecting Hagrid to travel at least the entire width of Britain, without magic?

With any luck, HBP will answer some or all of these questions, but until then we’ll have to make due with the few tantalizing clues JKR has dropped for us and hope for more to come.