In Deathly Hallows Hermione says that she brought a Death Eater within the Fidelius Charm's protection of Grimmauld Place through Side-Along Apparition. Since she was a Secret-Keeper, she's shared the secret with him. This is a major plot point: they can't return to Grimmauld Place, nor can they call Kreacher for help, because they believe it would help the Death Eaters find them.

Her guess isn't discussed further in the story. The narrative heavily implies that Hermione is right. But reading the Pottermore extract about the Fidelius charm on another question:

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)

She definitely didn't give up the secret voluntarily, and in fact, was trying to get the Death Eater to let go of her clothes until the last second.

Does this mean that Hermione didn't actually bring a Death Eater within the charm's protection, and they wouldn't have had to suffer as much if they'd taken a risk by, say, having a quick look at the house or at least calling Kreacher?


4 Answers 4


The phrasing in the Pottermore description of the Fidelius charm sounds to me like it applies to the sharing of the secret as information, while I'd say that the way Hermione accidentally divulged the secret to Yaxley was as experience. So if the Death Eaters had managed to stop Hermione from apparating and then tried to get her to tell them the secret through use of the Cruciatus or Imperius curses, they never would have been able to.

In this case though, the secret is divulged incidentally. What actually happens is that Hermione brings Yaxley to 12 Grimmauld Place. It doesn't really matter whether she intended him to be there or not, he was in contact with her when she apparated, and the Fidelius Charm isn't "smart" enough to protect against that. Once he's there, it doesn't make sense (even in the wizard world, which sometimes defies logic) that he wouldn't have the information of where he is. He's been made aware of the existence of the house by a Secret-Keeper, and that's all that matters.

  • Hm, they were aware of the houses existence, even though they couldn't see it, much earlier. There was a mob of them out-front laying siege... Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 17:38
  • 1
    @Deduplicator That's true. I guess I should say that he was shown into the house by a Secret-Keeper. They knew it existed, they just couldn't see it or enter it.
    – ptfreak
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 19:07

Magic can interact in odd ways, and Hermione is their expert in such things.

(Seriously, only Dumbledore appears to outclass her in non-standard theory. And he's not available)

If Hermione was being forced to talk, the protection of Fidelius would probably help her. If she was running to the front door, simply being where her pursuer couldn't would scrape the Death Eater off, handhold or not.

Apparition doesn't work like that. There's nowhere for the attached Death Eater to go, and the spell doesn't include punting the unauthorized. It just hides the existence of a place, it doesn't shield it like a bunker (even if it makes a cool bunker). If the concept behind Fidelius had included such a thing, they would have been safe. Hermione was the one in a position to know it didn't.

  • 1
    Technically, Dumbledore is available. He is in his Hogwarts painting, and they can move from one painting of themselves to another. Which somewhat begs the question of why Hermione didn't find a portrait of Dumbledore to haul around rather than Phineas.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    I don't remember Dumbledore having a portrait in Grimmauld Place
    – user13267
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 14:57
  • @user13267 it makes sense that characters in paintings might only be able to move between their own paintings, but then at Hogwarts, it seems that they can move between paintings rather indiscriminately...
    – user11521
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 19:23
  • 1
    “Professor Dumbledore’s portrait—couldn’t you bring him along, here, into yours?” Phineas Nigellus turned his face in the direction of Harry’s voice. “Evidently it is not only Muggle-borns who are ignorant, Potter. The portraits of Hogwarts may commune with each other, but they cannot travel outside of the castle except to visit a painting of themselves elsewhere. Dumbledore cannot come here with me, and after the treatment I have received at your hands, I can assure you that I will not be making a return visit!”
    – user13267
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 21:37

I guess the most straight answer is "yes".

The "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" part can have many interpretations. For example the secret keeper could be threatened with somenthing like "either you tell me or you die". Then he or she WANTS to tell it just to avoid being killed.

Same with apparation. Hermione WANTS to apparate to Grimmauld and knows that Yaxley holds her i.e. she tells him the location. The fact that she has little choice is not important.

  • That interpretation would mean that a secret most certainly CAN be tortured out of a secret keeper as "Tell me and I'll stop torturing you" is how torture works.
    – Josh
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 8:36
  • Actually the "can't be forced, bewitched or tortured out of a Secret Keeper who does not wish to give up their secret; it must be given voluntarily" is a contradiction. People want and don't want to do things based on their needs. Most of the things that we do are not "voluntarily". They are done as an exchange for something. Even the most benevolent things are done to fulfill an internal need.
    – vap78
    Commented Nov 26, 2018 at 14:53

It doesn't matter if Yaxley knows the secret or not; Grimmauld Place is still compromised.

A frame challenge, but I think you'll see what I'm getting at. Assume that Yaxley doesn't know the secret. Once he's kicked out of the front door, it'll not take him long to work out that his enemies are using a house somewhere in Grimmauld Place. Hermione's fear is that Yaxley will Apparate other Death Eaters in to the house and attack, but that doesn't need to happen. All that Yaxley needs to do is tell Voldemort what he's discovered, and Snape will be able to Apparate the other Death Eaters in. Grimmauld Place is therefore compromised even if Yaxley doesn't know the secret.

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