Perhaps one the silliest conventions to have grown out of the stylizations that sprung up around the classic “Golden Age” detective story — and mystery literature in general — is the one that I have dubbed the “passing parade”. In the stories which employ this convention (and it really does sometimes feel like you are attending a convention) you invariably have a broad field of suspects and a multitude of clues which have been culled from their testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and physical evidence lying around at the crime scene and elsewhere, all of which point in every conceivable direction.
Ultimately, you work your way through them all to the final summing up of the mystery, with the detailed deconstruction of the events surrounding the matter under investigation by the investigating detective(s). Generally with a grand final revelation in the library. At this point, it is painstakingly proven that upon the day, or, more typically the night, of the crime every single one of your main suspects — never fewer than three — all traipsed through the crime scene one after the other, usually never catching even the slightest glimpse of each other, making observations, seeing, speaking or quarreling with the victim and strewing clues in their wake.
The detective eventually unravels this Gordian knot and straightens out the order of events, ultimately disclosing the murderer.
The procedure is as artificial as a puppet show, and as dated as a button hook and spats, but the device is still in use today. Even, laughably enough, in the sort of “gritty,” hard-boiled, crime-in-California mystery that makes a great show of turning up its nose at the overly-mannered settings and upper-middle class pretensions of the classic British “puzzler”.
The “missing” 24 hour period between Voldemort’s attack on the Potters and Harry’s being left on the Dursley’s doorstep has all of the earmarks of a classic “Passing Parade”.
The ongoing debate over the events of these missing 24 hours has entertained the fans for years. Some are convinced that the boy was concealed at Hogwarts during this time, some are sure that he was left with the Weasleys, or alternately, the Longbottoms during this period. Others have floated the suggestion that he was in hidden locations at just about any point around the landscape. And, y’know what? Post-Phoenix, I felt this whole issue was due for yet another re-evaluation.
So, let’s go back, and from the vantage point of the end of Book 5, with all of its new information, let’s take another look at just what we think we know about what took place over that 24 hour period. (Note: there was nothing whatsoever to contradict this theory in either HBP or DHs.)
On October 31, 1981, at some point between nightfall and midnight; the following events took place, exact order of occurrence unknown:
1. Lord Voldemort shows up at the Potters’ hideaway (without Wormtail, it appears, although Peter probably followed him). He kills James, confronts Lily who, at the cost of her own life, managed to keep him from murdering Harry, with such results as to cause his disappearance.
If he had not already rendered himself deathless that would have been the end of the story. As things stand, we’ve suddenly got a situation no one anticipated.
This much is all a matter of common record by now. Less certain, but readily believable, and more likely than not are:
1b. If the destruction of the Potter’s house was not merely a side effect of Voldemort’s use of a dangerously destabilized spell, Wormtail alerted at once by seeing his Dark mark disappear, panics and Apparates to the Potters’ hideaway, creates an explosion which damages the house, in an attempt to increase the general confusion, or possibly in order to break the Fidelius Charm without revealing the identity of the Secret Keeper by destroying what the Charm had been concealing, snatches his Master’s wand (as well as James and Lily’s? There are at least a half a dozen wands unaccounted for in Pettigrew’s wake) and Apparates away, leaving Harry howling in the ruins.
Perhaps it should be noted that even though Peter is perfectly well aware that the murder of Harry Potter was crucial to the Dark Lord’s plans, he does not harm the child himself. He, himself, has nothing against Harry, and the Dark Lord is gone. Harry may live as long as he pleases, as far as Peter is concerned. Peter just wants off the game board, thank you very much.
2. Sirius Black, who claims to have arranged to check on Peter that evening, arrives at Peter’s hideout to find Peter’s quarters empty, with no sign of a struggle. The information we have been given to date states that Black and Pettigrew had both taken up “hidden” quarters at the same time the Potters went into hiding. Lupin may have done so as well, but he is just as likely to have been off with the werewolves and unapproachable. Black has a bad feeling about the situation — although apparently not bad enough to Apparate directly to the Potters’ —or to check in through the 2-way mirror and give James some advance warning that something is up — and sets out for the Potters’ house on the motorcycle which can travel both by air and, less conspicuously, by road. (Speaking of all-terrain vehicles...)
Also that night; and later:
3. Albus Dumbledore is informed of the attack. The most likely scenario at our current state of information is that Snape, who had just taken up his position as a teacher at the school at the beginning of that same term, reported to Dumbledore that his Dark mark had suddenly disappeared, signifying the fall of the Dark Lord. Dumbledore apparently also realizes that the Potters’ Fidelius Charm has failed, for he suddenly again knows the Potter’s location. Dumbledore sends Hagrid to Godric’s Hollow with instructions to collect Harry. It sounds very much as though Albus is already aware that James and Lily are dead, and that Harry has survived. He may have had the site monitored in some manner, or he has additional sources of information of which we have never been informed. Rowling’s Never-Asked-Question regarding Albus’s possession of James Potter’s invisibility cloak was suggested as being relevant to this issue. But that theory turned into a washout.
In any event Albus is definitely aware that the Fidelius Charm has been broken. His orders, according to Hagrid, are to get Harry out of the house and to take him to his aunt and uncle at #4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. Dumbledore leaves Hogwarts after giving Hagrid his orders. Since Hagrid is not a qualified wizard, and is unable to Apparate he is most probably sent via Portkey. We know that Dumbledore can create a Portkey whenever necessary, and does not hesitate to do so. In this case I do not think Hagrid traveled by either Thestral or hyppogryff. The timing was far too critical.
4. Before departing on his mission, Hagrid either directly or inadvertently tells Minerva McGonagall that he is meeting Dumbledore at #4 Privet Drive at some unspecified time “tomorrow”. Presumably this is in the course of explaining their absence from the school. He does not tell her that James and Lily are dead, nor that Harry survived. She later states that she learned this from the rumors that were flying about while she was keeping the Dursley home under surveillance.
5. Hagrid is the first to arrive at Godric’s Hollow, hears Harry crying and brings him out of the wreckage. Sirius arrives soon afterward, tries to convince Hagrid to let him take custody of his godson. Hagrid comforts Sirius but he “has his orders” and refuses to let him take the child. Sirius gives up, presses the motorcycle upon Hagrid, saying he “doesn’t need it anymore” and Apparates away, leaving Hagrid with a wailing baby and a charmed motorcycle to contend with. Hagrid makes a virtue of necessity and departs on the motorcycle (off-road or otherwise). All are away from the scene before either the Muggle authorities or the Ministry of Magic’s Magical Catastrophes Department show up.
The following events take place the next day, November 1:
6. Morning: Minerva McGonagall in her Animagus form of a cat is spotted in the neighborhood of Privet Drive by Vernon Dursley upon his leaving for work at 8:30 the morning. She keeps the house under surveillance until Dumbledore arrives at some point after bedtime.
7. Unspecified time during the day: Confrontation between Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew on an unidentified Muggle street. Pettigrew kills a dozen random Muggle bystanders, presumably by blowing up a gas main, or conversely by a purely magical explosion, and fakes his own murder. Making his getaway in his Animagus form of a rat. Magical Catastrophes Department Personnel show up immediately afterwards, Cornelius Fudge among them. They witness Sirius Black taken into custody by Aurors. Black is transferred to Azkaban without trial the same day on the authority of Barty Crouch Sr.
8. Night: Albus Dumbledore appears in Privet Drive. Darkens the street lights, greets Minerva McGonagall and confirms the rumors she has heard regarding the Potters’ deaths, Voldemort’s fall and Harry’s survival. States his intention to leave Harry with the Dursleys. At her protest he gives a simplified explanation of why. Hagrid shows up soon afterward on Black’s motorcycle with Harry. He explains where he got the motorcycle, reports that he got Harry away before the Muggle authorities showed up, and says that he needs to take the vehicle back to Sirius Black. They leave Harry on the Dursley’s doorstep and depart their separate ways. Albus restores the streetlights before he goes.
I don’t know about you, but my continuity alert is going off like a klaxon.
This sequence contains one hell of a lot of unexplained knowledge on Dumbledore’s part as well as one hell of a serious “disconnect”.
Still, one can readily account for the presumed whereabouts of nearly all of the parties involved during that particular Tuesday, November 1 (which does not match up to 1981 on any Real World calendar, by the way) by a rudimentary filling in of all the blanks according to basic probabilities.
All except two.
As for the others:
Dumbledore: if he was as deep in the Ministry’s war effort — in any capacity, either actively or as an advisor — as we were led to assume over the first 6 books, would have been at the Ministry and up to his ears in conferences or whatever else, engaged in spin control.
Sirius spent the night attempting to track down Peter Pettigrew.
Pettigrew was holed up somewhere mapping out how he was going to engineer an escape which would keep both Black and the DEs and the Aurors all off his tail.
The rest of the Ministry wonks would have had their hands full. Cornelius Fudge and the rest of the Magical Catastrophes people would have been stretched to the limit trying to wrap up both Godric’s Hollow and, later, the fallout from the Black/Pettigrew confrontation and to make sure that everyone who needed to have their memories modified had been traced and neutralized.
And ghod only knows what was going on at Hogwarts with rumors flying and both Dumbledore (presumably) and McGonagall (definitely) away.
Harry and Hagrid, however seem to go directly from the ruin at Godric’s Hollow straight to #4 Privet drive the following evening without passing “Go”, or indeed anything else. What is more, everything that Hagrid has ever had to say of the matter both in chapter 1 of PS/SS and in the Three Broomsticks in PoA supports the reading that Dumbledore sent him to rescue Harry and take him directly to his mother’s family in Little Whingeing before the following morning, without a pause.
Well. Just maybe he did.
After all, the Department of Mysteries had a Bureau of Time Management, didn’t it?
And something so intrinsically related to the fall of the Dark Lord as young Harry Potter would certainly be high enough priority to get that Bureau involved. Particularly if this is on the Ministry’s own orders.
But, if this is the case, they would hardly have gotten involved just on spec. Nor over anything that was essentially a triviality.
So; whatever happened, it was not trivial. And it probably took place on the Ministry’s own watch.
And; ask yourself, just how did Dumbledore know to send Hagrid to collect Harry at a point in time that the only thing that could be known for sure was that the Dark Lord was gone? How could he be so sure there was anything to collect? And why send Hagrid, who is not even a qualified wizard? (But who is certainly very well qualified to shift debris and dig a baby out of the rubble.)
The Changeling Hypothesis as it is detailed in the essay of that name offers one possible reason for the decision to leave Harry with the Dursleys despite their being perfectly horrible people. And it is absolutely clear that Albus Dumbledore, at least, knew very well that they were perfectly horrible people. But they were the best, and quite possibly the only, option he had. And he probably mistakenly believed that even being horrible, and being Muggles, the fact that Harry was their own nephew would prompt them to treat him at least half-way decently.
But, we mustn’t overlook the possibility that the final decision may not have been left up to Dumbledore alone. Regardless of his position as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.
The explanation that Dumbledore gave to Minerva McGonagall at the opening of PS/SS was only a part of his reasoning. The shallowest and most surface part. The explanation concerning the Dursleys’ blood relationship to Lily, and the protection that could be drawn from it, which was finally given to Harry at the end of OotP was almost certainly the primary factor. And Harry is truly protected while with the Dursleys in ways that he is not protected elsewhere.
But even that was probably not the only factor. The disappearance of Lord Voldemort and Harry’s unaccountable survival were bound to have been a major subject of discussion and speculation throughout those “missing” 24 hours.
Dumbledore knew, and had been a contributor, or at the very least, an advisor to the attempts to ensure that the child would survive. But whatever it was that Lily Potter had actually done, would have been unknown at that point, and the potential ramifications of whatever methods she had used were highly theoretical. The resources that she used may never have been invoked in that particular form before. The long-term results were also theoretical and undetermined. The examiners could not be certain what had actually taken place and they did not know whether, or how deeply the child had been affected, or in what manner.
The wiser among them may even have anticipated that the boy could be a Changeling.
They could have feared that he was a ticking time bomb.
Given the uncertainties; for all that he appeared to be no more than a normal infant human wizard, The young Harry Potter was probably determined to be both in danger from and a possible danger to the wizarding world. In fact, the more cautious — or fearful — heads at the Ministry or in the Wizengamot may even have insisted upon the child’s complete removal from the wizarding world.
For his own protection, it was necessary that he be kept well away from the magical world until he came to Hogwarts, a secure location where he could be shielded and kept under observation. And only a family of Muggles who were already aware of the existence of magic could be trusted not to raise the kind of uproar that might direct the kind of attention to him that could be fatal in the Muggle world, or at least impossible to cover up. He could not safely be turned over to an orphanage, even if one could have been found in 1981.
The Dursleys’ known opposition to magic may have been, in this instance, even a perceived advantage. They could be depended upon not to expose the boy to the wizarding world where they would not be able to protect him, and, in their home he would not be subject to undesirable magical influences. The Dursleys’ unfamiliarity with the norms of raising young wizards would also keep them from panicking over anomalies or inadvertently tipping off any remaining Death Eaters or their supporters to the possibilities of there being something strange about the child. The Dursleys would simply chalk all untoward occurrences down to “magic”. And, horrible as the Dursleys were, Dumbledore had reasonable confidence that they would not physically torture or starve the child.
Mrs. Figg, who is certainly old enough to remember both Lord Voldemort and the young Tom Riddle, was indeed set to keep watch over Harry. But not to protect him from the Dursleys, for which she had no authority. Nor was she stationed where she was only in order to detect the approach of possible ex-Death Eaters. Her primary duty was to monitor Harry’s development, keep Dumbledore posted, and to raise the alarm if Harry should show signs of turning out to be a latter-day manifestation of Tom Riddle and reverting to type.
Albus could not have been unaware that the Prophecy’s promise of the “the One” having been marked by the Dark Lord as his “equal” was a factor that could go any number of ways. It certainly did not insure the One’s alliance with the forces of Light.
With her mission in mind, Arabella Figg could not and did not take the risk of permitting herself to become deeply fond of Harry, any more than she encouraged him to become fond of her. [Irrelevant side note; from their physical descriptions, as well as other hints made in GoF, one is led to suspect that Mrs Figg’s maiden name is likely to have been Perkins, and her brother to be Arthur Weasley’s former co-worker in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department.]
Later, when it became abundantly clear that the Hogwarts letters were not getting through — Arabella Figg was probably the one to alert Dumbledore to that development, too.
It was Hagrid who was sent to collect the boy, in part because Dumbledore trusts Hagrid, but also because Hagrid was another one of the handful of people who remembers Tom Riddle as a youngster. It is uncertain how far Hagrid might have been informed regarding the possible ramifications of the situation. But, in any event, Hagrid saw no resemblance in Harry to anyone but James and Lily Potter.
We have been told by Rowling that in the Potterverse dead is dead. Time-tweaking to save James and Lily was never on the menu. In addition, from what we’ve seen, the government of the WW, like most of those in the Real World, is a corrupt system, largely ruled by expedience. The fact that the Potters’ deaths appear to have materially contributed to the fall of Voldemort assures that there was no hope of an attempt to save them. But there are an awful lot of other screwups that can be averted by time-tampering, and once averted, no one but those actually involved in the patch job will remember the original events, because those events will have then never actually happened.
I suspect that an adjustment of time was actually implemented on the Ministry’s authorization, to facilitate Harry’s removal from the wizarding world as soon after Voldemort’s attack as could be arranged.
Hermione’s Time-Turner in Year 3 is bound to have been the simplest and most basic model. It was only designed to stretch time enough to provide her with some additional class time. But that gold watch of Dumbledore’s with twelve hands and no numbers and little planets moving round the edge is now looking awfully suspicious to me.
So let’s explore the possibilities of an hypothetically aborted timeline, shall we?
The simplest and most likely reading is that the period to be adjusted roughly matched the length of time between Hagrid’s appearance at Godric’s Hollow and his appearance at Privet Drive. Or, approximately 24 hours, give or take a bit. A related probability is that to all outside appearances most other matters during that period played out without any significant changes between the two timelines.
So; things that almost certainly did NOT change between the timelines were:
1. Sirius still got to Godric’s Hollow before either the Muggle Authorities or the Ministry of Magic.
2. Pettigrew still came to the conclusion that he needed to fake his own death in a manner which would take Sirius out of circulation. Peter couldn’t depend upon Sirius accepting any “death” story, nor could he safely be left running about loose to tell his own version of events.
Things which certainly did NOT happen in the aborted timeline are:
1. Sirius got to Godric’s Hollow, got Harry out of the ruins and made tracks to Dumbledore, explained the substitution, Pettigrew’s betrayal, and petitioned Dumbledore for the custody of his godson.
2. Sirius got to Godric’s Hollow, got Harry out of the ruins and took him to Remus/the Longbottoms/any other unidentified Order members that he trusted, explained the substitution, Pettigrew’s betrayal, and left to track down Peter.
3. Sirius got to Godric’s Hollow, got Harry out of the ruins, took him to his own hideout, and stayed there until Dumbledore and the Ministry showed up, and THEN explained the substitution, Pettigrew’s betrayal, and petitioned for the custody of his godson.
If Sirius had told ANYONE of the substitution and Peter’s betrayal during that period there would have been at least enough uncertainty to justify an investigation and trial, and Remus, who knew most of the necessary pieces of the puzzle would have backed Sirius up. Clearly, this did not happen.
One theory of what I suspect COULD have happened in that aborted timeline (details may be highly inexact) is:
Sirius got to Godric’s Hollow, got Harry out of the ruins, took him to his hideout, tended his hurts and calmed him down. He sat with him for several hours, until Harry finally fell asleep. He did not think to notify anyone to bring them up to date. He spent much of the time castigating himself for his misjudgment and swearing revenge upon Peter, instead. He does not seem to have owned an owl, and his hideaway does not have an active Floo connection (too risky). Nor did he think to send a Patronus messenger. (I don’t think Rowling had invented those yet.)
Snape reports to Dumbledore that his Dark Mark has disappeared. Dumbledore alerts the Ministry of Magic that something has happened and the Dark Lord is gone. The Department of Magical Catastrophes sends a team to Godric’s Hollow. Unfortunately the local Muggle authorities got there first, having been alerted by the explosion, and there is a delay of some hours before the Ministry manages to sort out the situation enough to realize that there was a crib, but no child’s body was recovered from the wreckage. This initiates a search for Harry Potter. Dumbledore is called to the Ministry to discuss the ramifications of what appears to have happened, and the child’s disappearance. He identifies Black as the Potters’ secret keeper and a manhunt is initiated.
It should be noted that Dumbledore, as a Legilimens himself would have realized the possibility that all it would have taken would have been for a captured Black to have looked Voldemort in the eye to have inadvertently betrayed the secret. This is one of the primary reasons he had been offering his own services in the matter. At this point the manhunt is primarily intended to determine what has become of Black, who may also have been presumed to be dead.
Pettigrew, in his Animagus form, takes up a position in the neighborhood of Sirius’s hideaway. He, Sirius and Remus all know how to find one another. He lurks about where he cannot be seen from the windows or door and waits for Sirius to leave his quarters. [Note: I believe this happened in both timelines. The official canon version, according to Fudge is that “Peter tracked him down”. In the official timeline Sirius spent the hours of the night searching for Peter, and only encountered him upon returning home.]
In the morning, Sirius leaves Harry sleeping and steps out into the street. His exact errand is unknown, but presumably it is either something to do with Harry, and/or, to finally notify somebody regarding the situation by Owl Post. Peter takes his own form accuses Sirius of treachery, and when Sirius throws a hex at him, sets off explosion to fake his own death and cover his escape.
Magical Catastrophes team shows up, Magical Law Enforcement team shows up. Law Enforcement team knows there is a manhunt out for Black and leaps to conclusions. Sirius raves that “it wasn’t me, it was Peter!” and isn’t believed, or is stunned by Aurors before he has a chance to say anything and removed to Azkaban. (Note: the “taken away laughing” scenario does not fit in this timeline. Sirius now has Harry to consider and would have kept better control of himself than that.)
Conversely; explosions are difficult things to control, and Peter doesn’t really try to very hard. In this enactment of the event Sirius may have been injured and unconscious when Aurors arrive. In fact, in this version, Sirius may even have been killed along with the Muggles, as Pettigrew probably intended.
Harry is eventually discovered in Sirius’s quarters once Lupin is contacted and asked about their location. Harry, now orphaned and without a designated legal guardian is taken to the Ministry of Magic.
Which we already know to have been riddled with Voldemort’s moles.
(Although, if it was as easy to subvert and overthrow the Ministry as it was in DHs, we have no idea of why it wasn’t done that way the first time.)
By this time every Death Eater alive knows that the Dark Lord has been defeated, and they soon enough catch the rumors that Harry Potter had something to do with it. Some of these DEs are fairly clever people, and they also realize that Harry must be somehow “protected” so they don’t risk trying to kill him themselves. But that knowledge only makes the kid even more of a potential problem.
But, just how difficult can it be to deal with an infant who is too young to even tell people what happened if the plan goes wrong?
And from Snape in HBP we get the information that some of the DEs considered that young Harry Potter might be a powerful Dark wizard in his own right, and a possible standard around which they might all rally once more.
What I suspect may have happened is that at some point between Harry being brought to the Ministry, presumably by mid-morning, and that same evening, Harry simply disappeared.
And whoever was responsible did it so slickly that the panicked investigators not only didn’t have a clue, they couldn’t see any prospect of getting a clue. At least not in the foreseeable future. Possibly not for years. The boy was presumably in the hands of the enemy.
Which, on top of some of the implications of the Changeling possibility was determined to be simply too big a risk for the wizarding world and the Ministry to be expected to take. Even leaving aside the public relations nightmare such a disappearance entailed. The situation was totally out of control.
In fact, the situation was deemed bad enough to authorize a time adjustment, and to get that child out of the wizarding world and into someplace where no one else was likely to trace him, but they could keep track of him.
And to go back and do it at the earliest point it could be managed. Immediately after Voldemort’s fall, in fact.
And to do in a manner that would involve the smallest number of people.
Ultimately the only people who actively participated in the exercise were Dumbledore, Hagrid, and presumably Harry, but it is possible that some of the Ministry wonks who set the project up remember the original timeline, or scraps of it, as well. Otherwise it is difficult to account for the widespread knowledge across the wizarding world of Harry’s distinctive scar if no one else saw him after he was removed from the house in Godric’s Hollow. (Unless someone simply had the bright idea to stand Hagrid a few rounds at the Leaky Cauldron. Or chatted up Arabella Figg.)
Dumbledore, probably using some method other than that of a basic Time-Turner like the one used by Hermione, returned to his own office at a point in time immediately after his original departure for the Ministry. He sends for Hagrid at once. Dumbledore explains that he needs Hagrid to rescue Harry and take him straight to his relatives. He may or may not also explain that there will be a time adjustment. He may have also told Hagrid to let Minerva know that they would both be away from the school all day (He had already told her that he would be away before leaving for the Ministry the first time.) Hagrid leaves, and Dumbledore either departs for some undetermined destination, probably back to the Ministry, or simply retires from general view at Hogwarts. It would not do for him to be known to be in two places at once.
Hagrid passes the message, saying more than he intended, but not much more. Possibly no more than that he will be meeting Dumbledore at #4 Privet Drive “tomorrow”. He departs by portkey.
Hagrid arrives at Godric’s Hollow by way of portkey some time before Sirius arrives by way of motorcycle, although he misses Pettigrew. Indeed he may have scared Pettigrew off by his arrival. He pulls Harry from the rubble, and the following scene plays out as in canon.
The Department of Magical Catastrophes eventually shows up at Godric’s Hollow, and Post owls fly at night as well as during the daytime. Before breakfast the rumors of the Dark Lord’s fall have reached the school. Minerva is frantic to know what has really happened. Dumbledore, who is keeping out of sight is not available. Hagrid, the last person to speak to Dumbledore, is not available. She knows where Dumbledore is expected to turn up at some point during the day and leaves to stake out Privet Drive immediately after an early breakfast.
Sirius spends the rest of the night searching for Peter. He encounters him upon returning to his own hideout. Confrontation plays out as in canon.
There is the scant possibility that the Ministry did make a stab at trying to save Pettigrew. A 20-member team from the Dept. of Magical Law Enforcement personnel sounds a bit excessive to apprehend a man who is wanted primarily just for questioning. And, under normal circumstances an explosion in a Muggle street is not automatically regarded to be a matter of wizarding criminal wrongdoing. Although I will concede that during VoldWar I it probably too often was. Whether it was standard Ministry policy to deploy such a pair of teams (DMLE and Magical Catastrophes) on the report of any such public occurrence is uncertain. It is just possible that someone who was a party to the time adjustment had given the word to deploy the teams shortly before the time the confrontation was known to have taken place in the first timeline in an attempt to forestall it. But with the need to tend Harry out of the equation, the confrontation took place earlier in the day than it did the first time round and they were too late. The greater probability, however, is that they did not attempt to meddle in the timeline any more than absolutely necessary, and the confrontation was left to play out naturally.
Dumbledore arrives in Privet Drive in plenty of time to make arrangements and discovers Minerva waiting for him. He puts out the street lights in order to conceal the anticipated (silent, Portkey) appearance of a half-giant with a baby in the middle of the street. He confirms the rumors while waiting for the anticipated time of Hagrid’s arrival.
Hagrid, however, does not appear in the street by Portkey as anticipated. Dumbledore brings out the watch to ascertain that the time adjustment procedure has in fact taken place, remarks that Hagrid is late. He seems unworried, probably only anticipating some delay at Godric’s Hollow. A few minutes later the noise of the motorcycle is heard in the distance by both he and Minerva. (The shift evidently having taken place while Hagrid and Co. were airborne. They probably didn’t even notice it.)
Hagrid arrives, they leave Harry on the doorstep. They depart separately. Albus restores the streetlights before he goes.
It certainly hits all the high points.
I don’t know if it’s true.
We won’t ever be told whether it was true or not, of course.
Because it does not matter. Nothing that took place during the “missing” 24-hours has any effect upon the story as it *now* stands or how it was projected to go.
And, consequently, JK Rowling has absolutely no intention of telling us what happened during that 24 hours.
Because it never did.
Recently some additional attention was drawn to this particular period of time within the story arc.
In August of 2006, Rowling tossed us all a “theory bone” to gnaw on related to the question of why Albus Dumbledore had the keeping of James Potter’s invisibility cloak, given that Albus did not need a cloak to become invisible.
Toward the end of September of the same year Ms Rowling (mercifully) debunked the growing theory that Severus Snape had been lurking about at Godric’s Hollow under James’s cloak the night that the Potters were murdered.
So, she asked; how did Albus come to have James’s cloak?
I’ve got an even better question.
We know that James and Sirius had a pair of communication mirrors. When Sirius went to check on Peter and found him missing why didn’t he mirror James and ask whether he knew what was up? Or at least tell him that something was looking dicy so he and Lily might have at least some sort of advance warning?
Oh no, instead you get on your motorbike and ride there in analog (off-road or otherwise) and kill an hour or so on the road before you get there — after the shouting is over.
Mind you, I did think that there was something a bit dicy about the attention being drawn to that cloak all of a sudden.
But I supposed that it could be useful toward plugging a long-standing gap in our information.
From the very first book Harry has been told that he lived because his mother died to save him. Albus assures us of this.
How does Albus know?
HE wasn’t there.
Snape wasn’t there either. They were both in plain sight at the Halloween feast at Hogwarts.
So who told Albus? And how did they find out?
And Rowling has never bothered to settle that question.
We’re just supposed to accept it, on her say-so, upon no kind of evidence whatsoever.
He couldn’t do a Priori Incantum on Voldemort’s wand since Pettigrew had taken it away with him. (And when we did get a Priori Incantatum from that wand it appears to have skipped right over whatever LV threw at Harry, so that wouldn’t have been much help.)
Rowling tells us in interviews that what Lily did had not ever been done before. Indeed, she tells us that Lily did not even know that it would work. Whatever it was is not likely to have been anything that could have been anticipated; it did not fit any established pattern; Albus wasn’t there. How could he know what it was that Lily did?
And yet he did know. Or claims to. There he is, explaining how it worked to Harry by the end of PS/SS. Was he just lying again?
In fact Albus was so sure of his interpretation that he went ahead and layered his own Dursley-protection scheme onto Harry on the strength of it! That’s a mighty large assumption to be making unless you have some kind of actual information.
Or there is something about the creation of a Horcrux which is so self-evident that there is really only one way it can go wrong. But Rowling doesn’t even seem to give us any indication of that.
In short, as presented, the whole issue is balognium.
Even if it didn’t need to be.
Now over on the Spinner’s End board we went round and round on this between HBP and DHs, and came up with the rather fun theory that there was a former Headmaster or Headmistress’s portrait installed at Godric’s Hollow to serve as a messenger if the Potters needed to contact Albus or the rest of the Order, or for Albus to keep them posted on developments outside their hiding place.
The portrait overheard the confrontation between Lily and Voldemort and got out when the spell crashed and they heard Harry wailing in the rubble. As soon as Albus got to his office after the Feast it filled him in on the developments.
It plays, certainly. In fact, it plays quite well. Particularly if the house in Godric’s Hollow was actually Albus’s house, inherited from his mother, and offered to the Potters as a refuge. But we have no information which would support it.
And, for what it’s worth, I’m not altogether convinced that we do know that the Potter’s Fidelius was on the House rather than its occupants. Although it still seems to be the most likely premise.
But about that cloak.
I suspect that Lily knew James very well, and she knew he had a tendency to take silly risks. She and Albus may have talked James into loaning the cloak to Albus to have someone in the Order use on their behalf while they were in hiding. And, just coincidently, to keep James from playing at silly buggers with it and faffing about where he wasn’t safe. (Lily even suggests something of the last in the letter to Sirius which turned up at #12.)
The most widely accepted fan theory was that since James wasn’t cooperative over the choice of Secret Keeper, Albus may have decided to hedge his bets by posting someone in that invisibility cloak within view of where the house was suppose to be.
It would have certainly fit Albus’s demonstrated methods for him to have posted a sentry under an invisibility cloak. That’s what he did in OotP, after all. Even though his sentry couldn’t find the Potters, they could have seen whether anyone else showed up at the house. Or in the street. Or in the village.
And, regarding a theory posted by someone else over on one of the big fan sites, if that sentry was Frank Longbottom, it could explain why Bellatrix thought the Longbottoms might know something of what became of her Master.
But Rowling never intended to take us there. I think that August of 2006 was simply the point at which she suddenly got the brainstorm to take her backstory regarding the Deathstick — which had probably always been one of her intentions — and blow it up into a whole new theme regarding the Deathly Hallows, rolling Harry’s cloak into a package along with the stone and the wand. For the cloak certainly served no purpose over the course of that book. Or none which it had not served in any of the previous books. And its qualities, apart from exceptional durability, seem to have been no different from those any other invisibility cloak we have ever heard of.
We never got any kind of a build-up regarding the Stone whatsoever.
So I’m afraid I failed to take the bait. I certainly didn’t insist on there having been another Order member on watch at Godric’s Hollow. But Albus could have borrowed the cloak for some other operation somewhere else altogether. I suspected that Moody didn’t have two such cloaks back then (or indeed, not until he appropriated the one that had belonged to the Crouches). And what is more, in 1981, Moody was still an active Auror, not a retired one, and may have needed his own cloak himself. It fits what we’ve seen of Albus’s demonstrated methods to have posted a sentry, but he may have only developed that method, because he didn’t post a sentry in ’81.
But, if he did, the sentry would have either seen the house pop back into existence when the Charm failed, or he would have seen Voldemort arrive and known that the jig was up. And since Albus himself was evidently aware that the Fidelius had failed, a sentry is hardly necessary.
IF there had been a sentry, whoever it was not only did nothing to assist the Potters, but also didn’t see Pettigrew to recognize him. He may not have missed seeing a rat follow Voldemort into the house. (I’m remembering Swythyv’s pointing out to us that Argus Filch was boarding up the mouse holes in PoA when everyone was battening the hatches against Sirius Black.)
But clearly, there wasn’t a sentry. And Albus, even in the celestial King’s Cross, is still lying to Harry about when he borrowed that cloak. Lily’s letter states that it had already been borrowed in practically the same breath as she recounts Harry’s birthday tea, whereas Albus mendaciously claims he had borrowed it “a few days” before Tom came calling. And I doubt that it was Lily who was lying.
And we still don’t know where Albus got his assurance that Harry had survived.
Did Pettigrew, in a last gesture before disappearing, fire off a Patronus to the Headmaster reporting “All is lost! Black has betrayed us! Potters dead. Harry survived”? With his own engineered “death” the following day to underscore the accusation and his own presumed innocence?
We simply don’t have the information which is critical for filling that major gap in our knowledge. And for a while it looked like the cloak might be relevant for doing that.
In fact there was a good chance that that kind of thing is what all this sudden mystery about the cloak is in aid of in the first place.
(ETA: No such luck.)