The Burrow: The Obsolete Secret
I am going to focus on a narrow portion of the Godric’s Hollow mystery. (Hopefully, this way I can’t make too many mistakes!) I want to explore only the question of whether Peter Pettigrew is necessary to finding the location of Godric’s Hollow and give my reasons as to why I think he isn’t, and why I think the Fidelius Charm no longer protects the house at Godric’s Hollow. Specifically, why I think that the Fidelius Charm expired exactly 24 hours after Lily and James Potter were killed.
Early on in Book Seven, probably while still at the Dursleys’ home, Harry is going to try to find out how to get to Godric’s Hollow. Assuming he knows that it was Hagrid that brought him from there, his first action will be to send Hagrid an owl asking for directions. If it is still protected, Hagrid will not be able to tell Harry anything and Harry will need to get the Hollow’s location directly from Peter. I don’t believe this will be the case, for I think Hagrid will be able to tell Harry what he needs to know; I think the Fidelius Charm will have expired. I’ll explain why.
We learned that the Fidelius Charm holds information secret inside a person – no one may know that information unless the Secret-Keeper chooses to reveal it. What happens when the secret becomes obsolete? Peter Pettigrew was keeping the location of Godric’s Hollow secret because it was where the Potters were hiding. Once Voldemort killed James and Lily and Hagrid took Harry, the Potters were no longer hiding at Godric’s Hollow, and the secret Pettigrew was enchanted to keep no longer was true. At that point, was the Fidelius Charm broken?
I was struck by an interesting quote from Book One. Hagrid brings Harry to Dumbledore. Dumbledore asks if there were any problems. Hagrid answers:
“‘No sir-house was almost destroyed, but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin’ around.'”
I’ll admit I didn’t find anything interesting about that on my first read… but after learning about the Fidelius Charm, I couldn’t help but wonder about these points:
1. How did Hagrid find Godric’s Hollow if Pettigrew didn’t tell him its location (and I’m assuming he didn’t)?
2. If the Muggles were about, could they see the destroyed house?
In Brandon Ford’s article, The Lost Day: Part 1, he speculates that Dumbledore had to find a way to circumvent the Fidelius Charm in order for Hagrid to go there and retrieve Harry. My hypothesis is that maybe it didn’t need to be so complicated. He could tell Hagrid because there was no secret or Secret-Keeper anymore. Not to discount Dumbledore’s powers in the least but, if it were possible to work around the Fidelius Charm, wouldn’t Voldemort have been able to do it also?
Brandon also reminded us that, undoubtedly, a full day had passed before Hagrid retrieved Harry from Godric’s Hollow. I’ve struggled with the reason for Dumbledore’s hesitation. For the life of me, I could not think of any reason for Harry, a one-year-old child, to be left in the aftermath of his parents’ murder for an entire day. But now I think I’ve stumbled upon the answer. I think the Potters’ murder did dissolve the Fidelius Charm, but – for some reason – it didn’t end abruptly. It needed 24 hours to fully disappear.
Since Harry was still there when Hagrid arrived, it is possible that even in my scenario, Godric’s Hollow was still protected. I think it’s important to know the wording of the Fidelius Charm. If the charm was holding only the location of Lily and James Potter secret, and not specifically Harry, then when Lily and James were killed, the secret was unnecessary and, I presume, the Fidelius Charm broken. It gets a little sticky, however, if the charm included Harry too, since he was still there and hence, the charm should still have been in effect. We don’t have the exact wording, however, so I’ll move on to my second question.
Hagrid says Muggles are around. That doesn’t have to mean they can see the ruins. He may have been afraid of them seeing himself, Harry and his giant flying motorcycle.
If they could see the remains of the Potters’ home, then we’re assured that the Fidelius Charm had been broken. However, if they couldn’t, we’ve got little to go on. Muggles can’t see the Leaky Cauldron either, but that location isn’t held by a Secret-Keeper; it’s visible to any wizard. There are enchanted buildings or locations which keep Muggles out, and we’ve seen evidence of them before: the Weasley’s house, St. Mungo’s, Platform 9 3/4, the World Cup Quidditch pitch and Hogwarts itself.
Since Hagrid described the Muggles as swarming, I’m led to believe that they had only recently seen something worth coming to investigate – that only recently they were able to see the house in Godric’s Hollow. I think exactly 24 hours after the murders happened, Dumbledore was able to tell Hagrid where to find Harry. He told him to get Harry and bring him to Privet Drive. The small delay Dumbledore commented on in his conversation with Professor McGonagall at the Dursleys’ doorstep was due to Hagrid’s argument with Sirius over what should be done with Harry. Sirius turned up at the same moment as Hagrid because he also was just then able to find the Potters’ hideaway.
At any rate, we won’t have to wait long into Book Seven to find out whether I am correct or whether this will go the way of many of my previous (if undocumented) theories.