MYTHTERY: James Potter Could’ve Been the Potters’ Secret-Keeper
James Potter could’ve become the Potters’ Secret-Keeper.
First, let’s refresh our knowledge about the Fidelius Charm: it is an incredibly complex spell used to hide things or places or to conceal secrets. The secret is housed inside a chosen witch or wizard’s soul who is after that referred to as the “Secret-Keeper.”
A dwelling whose location has been protected by this spell would then be invisible, intangible, unplottable, and soundproof. Only the Secret-Keeper can directly divulge the secret to another, and they would have to do so voluntarily because no method of coercion, Muggle or magical, would have any effect on the charm. Meanwhile, others who know of the secret would be able to remember it, but they cannot pass it on. However, in the unfortunate incidence of a Secret-Keeper’s demise, others aware of the secret assume the role of the Secret-Keeper.
There is quite some ambiguity about who’s qualified to be a Secret-Keeper. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we find out that Bill Weasley is the Secret-Keeper for Shell Cottage and Arthur Weasley is the Secret-Keeper for the Burrow. Assuming that these are their places of residence, this proves that a person who lives in the house being protected can also be eligible to be its Secret-Keeper. Therefore, this qualifies James as a candidate for the position of Secret-Keeper for the Godric’s Hollow cottage.
One reason why James would’ve deferred this responsibility could be that he himself was supposed to be under the radar. While we assume that the Fidelius Charm makes the house untraceable for owls and Patronus communication, Arthur and Bill at least had “Potterwatch” to keep tabs on unfolding events. Since there are no records of such a system existing during the First War, if James were to become his own Secret-Keeper and go into hiding, the Potters would be not only untraceable but also completely cut off from the wizarding world.
Alternatively, James could have assumed the role of the Secret-Keeper and divulged the secret to someone he trusted, making them the point of contact between the Potters and the Order. Given the atmosphere of extreme distrust within the Order and Sirius’s doubts regarding Remus being the spy, they would want to limit the people who knew of the secret. This would most likely be Sirius since he was James’s primary choice for Secret-Keeper. But if something untoward were to happen to him, which was most likely at the time, the Potters would again be at the risk of becoming alienated from the wizarding society. As a young family nursing a baby, this would not be an ideal position to be in.
Going back to the workings of the charm itself, there is a difference between Bill and Arthur’s context versus that of James’s. In the case of Shell Cottage and the Burrow (or even the Grimmauld Place when it was the Order’s headquarters), the Fidelius Charm protected the property and its occupants by extension. However, the charm placed on the Potters was meant to protect the family itself and not necessarily their cottage. This is hinted at by Professor Flitwick in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where he explains the Fidelius charm.
As long as the Secret-Keeper refused to speak, 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!” (PoA 10)
The charm was presumably cast to hide the family itself as they did not need to or even want to come in contact with anyone they did not have a reason to interact with. The Weasleys, on the other hand, did need to interact with the others in the Order and hence placed only the location of their homes under protection. The implications of a wizard hiding his own person in the charm are unknown, and from what we know of the charm, it’s unclear if that is even possible.
Although James (or even Lily) was technically qualified to be the Secret-Keeper for the Potters’ cottage in Godric’s Hollow since we’re unclear if the charm was protecting the property or the family itself and the implications of the latter are obscure if not unavailable, we rate this Mythtery as mixed.
– Myth Managed