Is the Fidelius Charm Fool Proof?
The Fidelius Charm — such an innocuous little name for a spell that changed the course of Harry Potter’s life. In chapter ten of PoA it is described as thus:
…[a]n 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.
Notice my emphasis on the phrase “single, living soul.” Do we know of any instances when a soul is not single — or, in other words, in one piece? Horcruxes, right! By now I think we all know what Horcruxes are and how they are made. What we can infer, though we cannot directly quote, is that a wizard does not have to make a Horcrux when he/she kills. In fact, to even make just one Horcrux is very difficult. What is implied, then, is that when a wizard kills his soul is still split — even if the wizard is incapable of making a Horcrux.
We are told by Fudge in PoA that Sirius blasted a street full of Muggles to smithereens. We know now that it was not true. Peter, the real Secret-Keeper, was the one who killed all those Muggles, not Sirius. MuggleNet featured a very good editorial about the mathematics of soul splitting. I, however, am no mathematician. What I can say with certainty is that, by killing all those Muggles, Peter definitely split his soul. Whether it was split into two pieces or a hundred and two, the results are still the same. Peter no longer has a single, living soul, thus destroying/nullifying the Fidelius Charm.
Dumbledore would have been keeping tabs on the Potters. If he was able to locate the house in Godric’s Hollow, it would mean that the worst had happened, and he would have sent Hagrid at once to retrieve Harry.
I can hear some of you now — “But how can Dumbledore have been Secret-Keeper for the Order? His soul must have been split when he killed Grindelwald!” I believe we learn from the chocolate frog cards on Harry’s first train ride in PS/SS differently:
Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel.
How Dumbledore could have defeated the dark wizard without killing him is unclear, but it would keep Dumbledore’s soul in tact.
So, now we know of one way that the Fidelius Charm could be circumvented — the splitting of the Keeper’s soul. Let’s examine another possible way of sidestepping the Fidelius Charm.
In chapter six of OotP, Harry is passed a note from the advance guard that the “headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is located at number twelve Grimmauld Place.” I emphasize this part because I think we have been reading the charm the wrong way. We are all so focused on the location that we almost forget the object that is being protected. In this instance, the object that is being protected is the Order’s Headquarters. What I am asking is, would the Fidelius Charm hide Grimmauld Place if the headquarters were no longer there? I do not think so. To back up this theory, I direct your attention to the very beginning of PS/SS when Hagrid takes Harry to Gringotts to get the Stone.
Can you see where I am headed? Dumbledore’s choice of the bank is no coincidence. The bank has high security vaults. If Dumbledore places a Fidelius Charm on the vault as well, it makes the Stone nearly impossible to steal. In fact, if Dumbledore does not inform the goblins, they would not be able to blab even under torture — if they would be able to blab at all. I believe the note that Hagrid passed to the goblin clerk was the same type of note that was passed to Harry at Grimmauld Place. What odds do you want to bet the note said, “The Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone is located in vault 713 at Gringotts bank”?
It is only after Hagrid removes the stone that V/Q attempts to break into the vault. Perhaps having the Stone removed nullified the charm – and perhaps that nullification was an attempt to draw Voldemort out into the open.
JKR told us that if a Secret-Keeper dies, the effects of the charm remain the same. But she did not say that there weren’t other ways of nullifying the Fidelius Charm!