Spinner’s End: Wormtail’s Secret

by Lady Lupin

The recent answer to JK Rowling’s FAQ Poll (‘What happens to a secret when the Secret-Keeper dies?’) has left me as puzzled as before about the events in Godric’s Hollow. I realize that many readers were more interested in the Secret-Keeper question as it pertains to the location of #12 Grimmauld Place, now that Dumbledore is… absent (not going there in this editorial). Since Wormtail is not dead (yet), the question did not refer directly to the events before and after the murder of the Potters. Still, the answer brings back up some nagging questions that I simply haven’t been able to answer for myself. And, I fear that aside from Voldemort himself, there is only one wizard remaining in the Potterverse who can give us definitive answers: Wormtail.

In an effort to piece together what may have transpired at Godric’s Hollow that Halloween night, as well as before and after the Potters’ murders, I have compiled a few facts, as we know them. I’ve added the new information on the status of secrets and the Fidelius Charm, and come up with a resounding, “Huh?” Further thought has led me to some possible scenarios that could explain the seemingly unexplainable course of events at Godric’s Hollow. I wish that I could say with certainty that the end of this editorial will tell all, but I fear I cannot. I hope that it will spur on your determined minds to some fruitful discussion.

Just the Facts

Between the information gleaned from the books and JKR’s answer on her recent FAQ Poll, there are a few things that we can count on as fact:

1. Professor Flitwick describes the Fidelius Charm to us in PoA: “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.”2. JKR confirms in the FAQ Poll that the only people who could have found Godric’s Hollow and, therefore, James and Lily, would have to have been told by Wormtail. Even James and Lily themselves would be unable to divulge the information under the influence of Veritaserum or the Imperius Curse.

3. Therefore, as JKR reiterates, the only people who ever knew their precise location were those whom Wormtail had told directly, but none of them would have been able to pass on the information.

4. Sirius was widely believed to be the Secret-Keeper for the Potters. According to Sirius’ story in PoA, not even Dumbledore knew of the change. Sirius was charged and imprisoned without a trial.

5. None of Sirius’ friends rose to his defense. Dumbledore, Hagrid and Remus were all mum. No one stood up and said, “Wait, Sirius is innocent. He cannot be guilty because he is not the Secret-Keeper. It’s Peter Pettigrew.” This indicates that none of these people were given the Potters’ location by Peter. If Dumbledore, Remus and Hagrid had known the location of Godric’s Hollow, it seems they would also have known that Sirius was innocent and Peter was the Secret-Keeper and therefore the guilty party. Surely they would have spoken up for Sirius. Presumably, no one but James, Lily (probably), Sirius and Peter seems to have known of the switch.

6. Dumbledore appears to believe in Sirius’ guilt during PoA, like the rest of the wizarding world.

7. Hagrid finds his way to Godric’s Hollow to retrieve baby Harry, but doesn’t know that Peter was the Secret-Keeper.

8. Hagrid goes to Godric’s Hollow on Dumbledore’s orders, but Dumbledore doesn’t know that Peter was the Secret-Keeper.

9. Alas, James, Lily, Sirius and Dumbledore are no longer able to fill us in on the details of that night. We are reliant on getting the story from the traitor Rat himself.

The Burning Question

How could Hagrid and Dumbledore know how to find Godric’s Hollow without knowing that Wormtail was the Secret-Keeper? Surely, two Gryffindors of such honorable nature would not have allowed Sirius to be unjustly punished if they knew the truth?

Should we assume that Dumbledore is such a powerful wizard that he managed to break the Charm? If no one could detect Godric’s Hollow before the Potters’ deaths, was the Charm broken by their deaths? Would not Harry have been included in the protection of the Charm? Harry was still alive, so even if James and Lily were dead, should not the Charm still have been in place to protect Harry? Since no one seems to have known of the switch, it seems that one of the Potters, Sirius or Wormtail cast the Fidelius Charm him- or herself. Given the fact that emphasis has been laid on Lily’s wand and its strength in Charms, my bet is on Lily.

Wormtail is alive, so the Secret of the location of Godric’s Hollow should still be safe with him. Is the Charm, then, still in place? Or does the lack of need for protection at Godric’s Hollow nullify the Charm? Since James and Lily are dead and Harry is no longer there, did the Charm break? Or is Godric’s Hollow only visible to Wormtail and Voldemort now?

Who else might have been at Godric’s Hollow that fateful night? I believe that it’s very likely that Wormtail accompanied his master to the Potters’ home. Indeed, it’s almost imperative that he did. Otherwise, how might Voldemort have gotten his wand back all those years later in Little Hangleton? If Wormtail was there, he saw the horrific destruction that Hagrid describes, Lily and James dead, Baby Harry left in the rubble, the Dark Lord seemingly destroyed, and he almost certainly collected Voldemort’s wand before leaving the scene to frame and destroy Sirius. Even though we heard of Wormtail’s betrayal long ago, when I began to recreate this scenario his crimes struck me as even more horrific than before. How could any human being witness this terrible act and then leave Harry, helpless and alone, in that devastation?

He must have run off, probably as a rat, with the wand between his teeth. He appears not to have used Voldemort’s wand to blast the street apart and kill all those Muggles when he framed Sirius. If he had, the Priori Incantatem spell at the end of GoF would have regurgitated that spell before we saw Lily and James come out of the wand. He must have stowed it carefully away before faking his own death and framing Sirius. Then he made his way to Percy Weasley, somehow presenting himself at the Burrow or wherever it was that Percy found him, named him Scabbers and took him home as a pet. After running away and finding the Dark Lord at the end of PoA, he could easily have retrieved the wand before we see it again at the Riddle House in GoF. It seems highly probable that Wormtail witnessed James and Lily’s murders and the Dark Lord’s downfall.

If a direct, verbal exchange is the only way to tell the Secret, there is no way to piece together all of these facts and make sense of them without incriminating Dumbledore, Hagrid, and/or Remus. Since I refuse to consider any of them culpable in Wormtail’s crimes, I cannot accept this as the end of the story. However, we have seen that there is another way to learn the Secret that does not fail under the Fidelius Charm.

When Dumbledore told Harry about Grimmauld Place, it was written on a simple piece of paper, which Moody destroys after having Harry read it. Presumably, then, if Moody felt that the paper had to be destroyed, it must be that anyone who read it would be privy to the secret location. Since this means of communication works with regard to #12 Grimmauld Place, it should also have worked at Godric’s Hollow. If we make this leap of logic, we are opened up to a whole new realm of possibilities about who knew where the Potters were, and why they did not also know that Sirius was innocent.

Who else was told about the location? Someone who might not know enough about the wizarding world to understand the ramifications of her sister’s murder? Did Petunia know the location? Would Lily have trusted her jealous, judgmental sister with the location? Or, would she have considered it a necessary protection to leave Petunia in the dark? And, protection for whom? For her family, for herself, for Petunia… or for all of the above?

Was Petunia given the information in the form of a letter or note? Could that paper still be at Privet Drive? Perhaps it is with Petunia’s letters from Dumbledore? I feel certain that Harry will find out some important information from Petunia before he leaves his unhappy childhood home for the last time. Will one thing be the paper that allows him to visit Godric’s Hollow? Remember, Moody had to destroy the paper that Dumbledore gave him for Harry to see Grimmauld Place. Ostensibly, any paper that still exists from the Potters’ lifetimes would still work to reveal Godric’s Hollow to Harry, or anyone else who reads it.

The idea that Wormtail might have written down the information opens up another possibility. Perhaps Wormtail wrote down the information for several friends of the Potters. Remember, when Dumbledore wrote down the location of Order Headquarters, Harry did not know that it was Dumbledore who had sent the note with Moody. He only had to read the words and he could see #12 Grimmauld Place.

It may be that, in an effort to further protect Lily, James and Wormtail, Sirius (the only person besides the Potters who knew of the Secret-Keeper switch) had Wormtail write down several copies of the location of Godric’s Hollow. Sirius could then have delivered those pieces of paper to Remus, Dumbledore, Hagrid, or anyone else that the Potters wanted to know their location. He need not have told them that it was Peter that wrote the information down. By delivering the information himself he perpetuated the belief that he was the Secret-Keeper and also bravely protected Wormtail from Voldemort’s detection. Tragically, he also further incriminated himself, since everyone believed that he must be the culprit. Poor Sirius. We speak a lot of Wormtail’s betrayal of James and Lily. I haven’t heard so much talk about the abominable crime he perpetrated on Sirius. What must Padfoot have felt when he realized, not only that Peter had betrayed their friends, caused their deaths and orphaned Harry, but that he had also used Sirius’ careful care of him to lay the blame at Sirius’ own feet and escape retribution himself? A rat, indeed.

To add to this, since Sirius was believed to be the Secret-Keeper, it is unlikely that Wormtail caved in and gave up the secret under pressure from Voldemort. Voldemort would have had no way of knowing that he was the Secret-Keeper. It would be at least somewhat more palatable to believe that Wormtail was threatened with horrors that overwhelmed and intimidated him into his betrayal. Unfortunately, it is more likely that Wormtail willingly sold the Potters to Voldemort, since he was already apparently spying before the murders. Sirius accuses him of looking for big friends to protect him – people who are likely to win – and of putting self-preservation ahead of honor. Will Wormtail ever live up to the Sorting Hat’s assessment of him? I cannot believe that the Sorting Hat would be so absolutely wrong as it currently seems about a student’s placement. The Hat took a long time to place Seamus Finnegan. And we saw Seamus waver in OotP, and cave in to pressure from his family and the rest of the wizarding world regarding Harry’s story. However, Seamus eventually rose to the occasion and stood up to those whom he believed to be wrong. He proved himself a Gryffindor.

Wormtail has yet to stand up to anyone, or to make one decision that I can see that was not motivated by fear. I am sure he will somehow rise to his Hogwarts heritage and pay his life debt to Harry. However, when I consider James, Lily and Sirius, not to mention Cedric’s murder and his participation in the atrocious torture of Harry in the graveyard, it’s hard for me to imagine how he can really redeem himself. Even the act of cutting off his own hand was cowardly in its way. While it would be a horrible thing to have to face, he did it to save his own life. If Voldemort could cast the Avada Kedavra curse at the beginning of GoF, I doubt he would have had any trouble in the graveyard at the end. Wormtail’s choice was clear: his hand or his life. Again, to preserve himself, he unleashed the worst nightmare the wizarding world had seen in thirteen years. Yes, Wormtail has a very big debt to pay.

A Plausible Solution

Written copies of the location would solve the problem of how Hagrid and Dumbledore knew how to find Godric’s Hollow. Surely, if Sirius had given anyone one of the pieces of paper it would have been Dumbledore. And, if he kept it, he could have showed it to Hagrid, even if Hagrid had not been given the location before. Perhaps this is what took some time during that “lost day”? Maybe there was a need to retrieve a carefully concealed note, which everyone believed to have been written by Sirius, show it to Hagrid, and send him on his way?

But if this proved so difficult, why wouldn’t Dumbledore simply go himself? He could have Apparated in, grabbed Harry and been gone in a matter of minutes. Unless Dumbledore had not been given the location either. Did Dumbledore have to scramble himself to find someone who knew the location and had kept the paper? We spend the day after the Potters’ murders with Vernon, not with Petunia. We don’t know what her day was like. Her scream upon finding Harry seems to indicate that she didn’t anticipate that event. And we are told that she had a “normal” day. She is snappy with Vernon when he asks about Lily, but that could be explained away by the fact that she doesn’t like to talk about her sister.

We all wonder what happened during that night and day between the murder of James and Lily and Hagrid bringing Harry to Privet Drive. If no one outside of James, Lily, Wormtail and Sirius could get to Godric’s Hollow, perhaps it took that long for Dumbledore to find the necessary note, and make his plans. I have assumed that we spend that day with Vernon simply because he is out and about, and witnesses the odd behavior in the world on that fateful day. I have assumed that Petunia’s day was boring and routine. But perhaps she was visited by someone other than an owl? If Dumbledore couldn’t see Godric’s Hollow himself, it explains why he did not retrieve Harry himself. He also would, presumably, not have known exactly what happened. In fact, if Godric’s Hollow was hidden from the view of wizardkind, how did anyone know that Voldemort had failed and been destroyed? Yet, Hagrid says he got Harry out before the Muggles started swarming around. So, evidently the house could be seen after the murders. Does that mean the Charm was broken? If so, why did it take so long to get Harry? Or, did Hagrid get Harry immediately and take him somewhere else before Privet Drive? That “lost day” is a puzzlement indeed…

If Hagrid believed Sirius to be the Secret-Keeper, why did he not suspect Sirius immediately? And, he did not. By the time Hagrid dropped Harry off at #4 Privet Drive on the night following the murder, he still spoke in a friendly manner about Sirius, and even accepted Sirius’ offer to borrow his motorcycle. In fact, Dumbledore did not blink when Hagrid spoke of returning the motorcycle. Surely, if Dumbledore believed Sirius to be the Secret-Keeper, he would have suspected that Sirius had some hand in the betrayal of the Potters. Yet he says nothing, does not warn Hagrid and allows events to progress. Why? I have yet to come up with a clear reason for this seeming oversight on Dumbledore and Hagrid’s part. Why didn’t they suspect Sirius immediately?

How many pieces of paper might still exist that say, “The Potters are located at Godric’s Hollow?” Will Harry even need one, now that there are no Potters at Godric’s Hollow to protect? Or, will Harry have to find Wormtail and get the information directly from him? We know that Harry intends to begin the final leg of his journey at Godric’s Hollow, so he may have a bit of a challenge to find a way to get there, if the Charm is still in place. We have all thought that Wormtail’s debt will be paid by saving Harry from Voldemort, or Fenrir Greyback, or some other horrible fate. It may be so. It could also be that Harry won’t be able to begin until Wormtail enables him to see his first home. If so, it’s a frightening thought. Wormtail is not likely to even try to hide this fact from his powerful master, and even if he tried, his Occlumency skills seem to be about on par with Harry’s. That could mean that Voldemort might have a greeting party waiting for Harry when he arrives. Will things get that active so early in the book? Will Wormtail be an early casualty of Voldemort’s wrath against Harry? Only Jo knows for sure.

There is one last idea that came to me as I looked at all these facts and theories. Many of us have surmised that Snape was present the night the Potters were killed. Let us suppose for a moment that this is true. Was Snape in the village but not privy to the secret location of the Potters? Was he waiting, unable to see the violent events taking place inside the Potter house? Was he there on Voldemort’s orders or Dumbledore’s? If he couldn’t see the Potters’ home, how did he realize something was wrong?

Or, was he given the location of the Potters by Wormtail as well? And, if he was told of the location, was he told directly by Wormtail, or was he told by a written note? The possibility that Snape knew the Potters’ hiding place is particularly horrifying. Was it Snape who alerted Dumbledore and, thereby, all of wizardkind to the downfall of the Dark Lord and the deaths of James and Lily? If so, would he have been so heartless as to leave a helpless baby in the rubble? If Harry finds out that Snape was there, and witnessed his parents’ murders without doing anything to stop it, I hate to consider the wrath he will feel against his already hated erstwhile Professor.

Even more disturbingly, if Snape knew, and if Wormtail told him directly and not through a written note, that means that Snape knew all along that Sirius was innocent, and he said nothing. Snape is, whether you believe him to be loyal to Dumbledore or not, not a nice man. But if he allowed Sirius to go to Azkaban for twelve years, and then attempted to have him kissed by a Dementor while knowing him to be innocent, it will be very hard for me to ever have any sympathy for him, regardless what else he does.

In sum, what we know about the workings of the Fidelius Charm and the Secret-Keeper raises some provocative questions. How did Sirius and Wormtail share the Potters’ location with others? Who knew the location of Godric’s Hollow? Were Dumbledore, Remus, Hagrid, Petunia and/or any others informed of the location via a written note, delivered by Sirius, which served as a further smoke screen to hide Wormtail’s identity as Secret-Keeper? If not, how did Hagrid find Harry? Why didn’t Hagrid or Dumbledore suspect Sirius when they knew the Potters had been killed? Was Snape with Voldemort when he pounced on James and Lily’s sanctuary, and if so how much did he see? Was he culpable in a horrific charade to frame Sirius and/or aid and abet in the Potters’ deaths? Would the answers to any of these questions shed light on why Dumbledore trusted Snape? Was Wormtail present at Godric’s Hollow, and how much did he see? Where did he go after he had framed Sirius and escaped detection? Was Voldemort’s wand hidden at the Burrow for twelve years while Wormtail slept on Percy’s and then Ron’s pillows? Does Wormtail have any conscience about the havoc he has wrought on so many lives? How will his debt to Harry be paid?

I smiled as I read Jo’s most recent Diary update. She says that a planned two chapters have turned into four, as she has once again overestimated how much Harry can do in a chapter. Indeed, she has much to explain, does our Jo! It’s fine with us, Jo. Bring it on. The longer, the better. We all know we are careening towards our final destination, and as much as we want answers, we do not want to cross the finish line, for riding on your roller coaster has been far too much fun.