It was said in Prisoner of Azkaban that the Potters used Peter instead of Sirius as a Secret Keeper for the Fidelius Charm on their house because everyone would have expected them to use Sirius and so the secret would be better protected.

This made sense at the time, but Rowling has added some information about Secret Keepers in Pottermore that seems to cause a problem with this:

The Fidelius Charm is not without its weaknesses. If the Secret Keeper wishes to do so, they may divulge the information at any time (although the secret cannot be forced, bewitched or tortured out of a Secret Keeper who does not wish to give up their secret; it must be given voluntarily).
(Secret-keeper, Pottermore Book 3 Chapter 17 Moment 2)

If it cannot be forced, surely it didn't matter (protection-wise) if others knew who the Keeper was. Voldemort could have crucio-ed Sirius for months and he wouldn't get anywhere. Under these conditions, the only thing you need to consider to make someone a secret-keeper is that you trust them. Which means Sirius was a far better option than Peter.

One might think at first glance that they wanted to protect Sirius (as being tortured isn't a good thing whether or not it will reveal a secret) but since people thought he was the keeper anyway that's no protection for him.

So if Pottermore is correct, why would they pick Peter?

(I think Rowling messed up with that fact, personally. There was no reason to add it at all, as it doesn't help explain anything else I can think of)

  • 3
    Nice question :) – tls Jan 16 '15 at 9:40
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    What about legilimency? I'm not sure that would fall under any of the categories mentioned, and Voldemort was a legilimens. – Brian S Jan 16 '15 at 15:02
  • I'm thinking that Peter's cowardly and sarcastic thoughts on Sirius' plan (that Voldemort will target Sirius) "Brilliant Sirius! Voldemort goes after you - and you can't reveal the location of the Potters because you're not the secret Keeper. But what happens if Voldemort catches you and pours Veritaserum on your flea-bitten carcass and asks you. "Who is the Potter's Secret Keeper then?" – tls Jan 16 '15 at 15:36
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    why hasn't Slytherincess striked yet ???? – RicoRicochet Sep 17 '15 at 7:50

The goal was not only to keep the secret safe, but also to send Voldemort off track.

It was not a matter of trust between Sirius or Pettigrew because up to that point the Potters trusted both of them equally.

However, Sirius knew that Voldemort would come after him thinking he is the secret keeper and even though it might not be possible to get the secret out forcefully, it would keep Voldemort away from where the secret really was.

Moreover, Sirius was probably better at escaping and hiding than Pettigrew was, and he could keep Voldemort busy trying to go after him, while the secret keeper was apparently safer, the point being to divert Voldemort's attention to somewhere unnecessary.

Moreover, Sirius and Lupin didn't trust each other and that left Peter among the Marauders.

  • But it is irrelevant if Sirius actually is the secret keeper or not. If he did get caught, Voldemort would not be able to get the secret out of him, no matter what. So why make Peter the secret keeper? – Lars Ebert Jan 16 '15 at 11:52
  • As we see from the last book it is possible for the secret keepers to unintentionally bring someone else into the fields protection. Also in Order of the Phoenix we see Moody burning the letter from Dumbledore after Harry reads it, suggesting that it someone else managed to read it, they would also know about the secret. If Sirius really was the secret keeper and he got caught, Voldemort already has the "vessel" of the secret with him, it is just a matter of finding a way to get him to divulge it. However, if Peter was the secret keeper and Voldemort came after Sirius, he ... – user13267 Jan 16 '15 at 11:58
  • ...wouldn't have the secret even if Sirius got caught, and would only waste his time. – user13267 Jan 16 '15 at 11:59
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    No! See the quote from pottermore: "it must be given voluntarily". That means imperio is useless. And I would argue that being forced to reveal the secret unter torture is also not considered voluntarily. The quote sounds like it has absolutely no loophole. – Lars Ebert Jan 16 '15 at 15:33
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    also, you're forgetting about coercion. He might be willing to give up the secret voluntarily if one of his loved ones or friends was being tortured. Pettigrew was mentioned to be very unpopular. I suspect there were few people that Voldemort could have hurt to coerce him to tell the secret (thinking through the standpoint of Sirius and the Potters) – WizardKnight Jan 16 '15 at 17:04

The book takes precedence over Pottermore (hard canon v. soft canon). It was foolish of her to post that on secret keepers precisely for what you have pointed out. If Wormtail's trustworthiness can be taken for granted (as the Potters unfortunately did), there would be no difference between having him as a secret keeper or Sirius. Indeed, Sirius seems the better choice. I just know that the switch occurred mainly because they suspected Remus of being the spy so they switch at the last minute to confuse him. That's the best explanation given in the book.

  • While this is the correct canon reason, there is no line in the book that I am aware of which contradicts Pottermore's statement. So you're both correct ^^ – ThreeFx Jan 18 '15 at 10:54

Maybe it was just bad judgement/mistake by them? It's neither impossible nor too improbable for someone to trust one of his best friends. Considering the specifics of the Fidelius spell, the Secret Keeper is the weakest point is the protection. So choosing a cowardly and quite incompetent Peter was really a bad decision even if he wasn't a traitor.

Going out of the lore - this decision it is one of the cornerstones of the main plot and it can't be considered just pulled out of thin air. There are many things in the books that people just decide to do. Same goes for real life.

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