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On Harry's final night at Number 4 Privet Drive, the Death Eaters were ready to ambush him when he left. The Order arrived to protect Harry on his journey to the safe-house. At that time, the Order was led by Alastor Moody, one of the most cautious wizards ever. Why did he or one of the other powerful Order members, like Kingsley, not check that the area was clear before they landed? If the Death Eaters were hidden with disillusionment charms, would Moody not have spotted them using his magic eye?

5

The Death Eaters probably did not Apparate

Here is Harry's impression of the Death Eater ambush:

And then, out of nowhere, out of nothing, they were surrounded. At least thirty hooded figures, suspended in midair, formed a vast circle in the midst of which the Order members had risen, oblivious.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Note that Harry says that the Order members have "risen, oblivious" into the circle of Death Eaters. This seems to give the clear impression that there was a circle to rise into, especially given that the Order members are described as "oblivious." In this context, "out of nowhere, out of nothing" seems to be figurative: Harry believes that the Death Eaters have been lying in wait, not that they simply Apparated. This seems likely, since, had the Death Eaters Apparated, Harry would probably have heard the distinctive "crack" of Apparition, multiplied by thirty.

Further, it is unclear that the Death Eaters would know exactly where to Apparate to. They know the date and general time that the Order will depart, but not exactly how they will fly on their way to the safe houses (probably).

So how did they remain hidden?

Simple: They did indeed Apparate, but while the Order were in the house. They knew the time well enough for that. If they had flown in beforehand, the Order would have spotted them. If they had hidden nearby, Mad-Eye probably would have spotted them. One can certainly Apparate while on a broom: Mundungus did it.

Moody did not see the Death Eaters, nor did the rest of the Order, because they formed a "vast circle," and it was night. Moody certainly can see through solid objects, and in the dark at least at short distances, but at long distances I suspect darkness might still impair his vision. Certainly distance would.

  • 1
    do you mean that Moody's magical eye doesn't work so well at night, even though it can penetrate solid objects? It seems weird to me. However, you could argue that his magical eye might have been stuck: “it keeps sticking — ever since that scum wore it" (OotP, US edition, page 50) ,thus preventing Moody from seeing the Death Eaters. But then, that was years before the Battle of the Seven Potters. – A. Darwin Apr 7 '16 at 8:04
  • No, I mean that Moody might not have much better visual acuity that the average person when it comes to seeing in the dark. – Adamant Apr 7 '16 at 23:17
  • it's definitely possible, but he also has a magical eye, so why would he not use it in such a dangerous situation? – A. Darwin Apr 8 '16 at 5:32
  • Oh, I was saying that his magical eye might not be able to see in the dark, or at least not as far as it can during the day. – Adamant Apr 8 '16 at 5:33
  • Once inside wasn't Moody watching Mundugus to stop him running off. – Bellerophon Apr 8 '16 at 21:04
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I believe the DE were not hiding there (at least not in large numbers) in case Harry came out, and instead they just apparated there when it was time to attack

The book just says the DE just appeared and it could have been either way, but the important point to note is that it was not the intention of the order to fight them at Privet Drive. First of all, the Order did not know that the DE had found out the exact date and time of Harry's transfer, and even if they did, the Order were more going along the lines of distracting the DE by having multiple Harry's going in multiple directions

All in all, I suppose they did some basic check of the surrounding, but didnot go into much detail as fighting the DE there was not their strategy at the time

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    because Snape told them – user13267 Apr 6 '16 at 16:12
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    in fact, it was Snape's idea to brainwash Mundungus and tell him to suggest the Order to move Harry on that particular date and have multiple Harry's – user13267 Apr 6 '16 at 16:14
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    Snape told them a rough time but the Death Eaters appeared as Harry took off suggesting they knew the exact time. Also even a skilled wizard would struggle to go straight into high speed flight straight after apperating and not all the Death Eaters were skilled enough at flying to manage this. – Bellerophon Apr 6 '16 at 16:15
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    @Bellerephon That was the first Apparition for Harry, and Dumbedore said "The sensation does take some getting used to". Death Eaters, on the other hand, are used to apparating, so that may not be a problem for them. However, I do recognize that it may be difficult to start flying just after standing still. – A. Darwin Apr 6 '16 at 16:29
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    @user13267 Snape told them it would happen "at nightfall", it's not really precise... And it could hardly have been more precise, the exact time depended on how much chatting they did in the Dursleys kichen, how long it would took to Harry to accept the plan + Moody and the Order arrived in the Dursley's garden when it was already night, so I think the DE were already there, above the house. They could not take a risk to miss them. Like Moody said, even without the right time, there would always have been some of them there "just in case" – LilyM Apr 7 '16 at 12:05

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