Perhaps one the sillier 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 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 a 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 guilty party.
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”.
Once examined, the “missing 24 hour” period between Voldemort’s attack on the Potters and Harry’s being left on the Dursley’s doorstep has a great many of the earmarks of a classic “Passing Parade”.
• • • •
The ongoing debate over the events of that 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.
However, if you go back and take another look at what we are directly told in canon, at the very opening of the story, the whole situation turns out to be much worse than we thought.
It isn’t a mere 24 hours that are missing.
It’s more like three days.
Yes, we all know by now that Rowling notoriously cannot count. And doesn’t appear to be able to read a calendar. But what purpose would possibly have been served by being so insistent that the story opens with Vernon Dursley heading off to the office on a dull grey *Tuesday* morning, if she didn’t mean that the story opens on a Tuesday morning?
Was she just saying “Tuesday” for effect? (ETA: by this time I am fairly convinced that spouting off for effect was exactly what she was doing. But for the purposes of this essay we’ll continue to act as if she knew what she was talking about.)
And as we watch the action, or lack of it, over the course of the day, we have no choice but to conclude that Harry Potter was dropped off on the Dursley’s doorstep after dark on a Tuesday evening.
In 1981, Halloween was on a Saturday.
• • • •
Like I say, the easiest patch of course is simply, to ignore the fact that Rowling tries to say that it’s all happening on a Tuesday. Since she never gave us the slightest hint for *why* it needed to be happening on a Tuesday, the statement is easy to ignore. But to come out and state that we should all be ignoring canon, right from page 1, sets a very bad precedent.
Although, now, downstream of DHs, maybe that wouldn’t be the worst idea.
• • • •
Of course, even ignoring the fact that this is supposed to be happening on a Tuesday, we still have a missing gap in the timeline. A couple of books later, Hagrid appears to claim that he took baby Harry directly from Godric’s Hollow to his aunt’s house in Little Whinging and that he was left on their doorstep before the next morning.
Establishing that the only way in which it could have happened like that would have been for Minerva to have been waiting on the Dursley’s wall since the morning before Voldemort’s attack on the Potters, and that on Privet Drive, Halloween festivities evidently were canceled, for otherwise she’d have been sitting there right in the middle of them.
And it still would have been taking place on a Saturday.
By PoA we’d all become accustomed to the reading that Hagrid tends to blurt out information that would be better kept confidential, but we never got the impression that he was a liar. And, at that point, if any of his statements were inaccurate, it was transparently due to his own biases. What he did know, he clearly knew.
However, we spent most of the whole first chapter of the first book watching Vernon Dursley have a very strange day at the office, and Minerva McGonagall sitting on the Dursley’s front wall in the form of a cat.
In view of this, the problem isn’t that we’ve got a missing 24 hours, its that we’ve got, at the very least, an additional 24 hours inserted into the storyline where it has no business.
• • • •
Nor is it just the raw time involved that is the problem. By the time that Albus meets them, neither Minerva nor Hagrid appear to have any idea of what has supposedly taken place over the course of the day that has just passed.
In Hagrid’s case, there was no such day. Albus sent him off to Godric’s Hollow, he met Sirius Black there, borrowed the motorcycle when Sirius couldn’t convince him to hand over the baby, took the baby, and flew on the motorcycle directly to Little Whinging.
In Minerva’s case it all starts getting problematic. In the first place, why is she even there? Albus wasn’t surprised to find her there, but she wasn’t there on his orders. By the time he shows up she has somehow already heard that the Potters have been attacked and murdered, but she knows nothing about the arrest of Sirius Black.
More to the point, where did she get the information which she immediately starts questioning Albus about when he shows up? She was sitting on the wall in the form of a cat all day. I doubt that everyone in the wizarding world knew about the attack on the Potters until some time the following morning at the very earliest. Indeed, if the attack had been particularly late at night, the news may not have been released until the following afternoon in a special edition of the Prophet.
But Minerva turned up in Privet Drive before Vernon left the house to go to work. Why?
• • • •
After the fact, the “why” of it is clearly that Rowling arbitrarily sent her there to flip the on-switch of the series exposition machine. But she provided no real motivation for her presence, nor any explanation of how she knows to ask the questions she does ask but seems to know nothing of the arrest of Sirius Black, which has also taken place by the time Albus turns up at #4.
Admittedly, we did not watch her there all day. We went off to the office with Vernon Dursley. Who happened to notice rather a lot of weirdos in cloaks over the course of that Tuesday. I’m of the opinion that these were Order members. Any of them might have noticed Minerva sitting on the wall and brought her up to date. Presumably early enough in the day that the news of Black’s arrest had not yet broken.
Albus knew that the Potters were under threat. He’d been shut out of their arrangements by James’s having declined his offer to be their Secret Keeper. But he knew the entire Prophecy. If the Potter’s son was this foretold child, and the foretold child was to be marked, then it was practically a sure thing that he would survive whatever had marked him. Arrangements would need to be made for his care. Harry Potter had a godfather, but no godmother, and I daresay that Albus didn’t think highly of Sirius Black’s likely competence at raising a child.
Nor, perhaps the likelihood of his surviving to do it. Black was known to be reckless.
I rather think he’d had various Order members periodically keeping an eye on the Dursleys ever since Harry was born. That could be why Minerva knew where to find them. Although since Vernon saw her consulting a map, she had probably not been a part of the Dursley watch rota.
It’s probably also how the WW knew about that famous scar. Harry had spotted Order members at least once during his childhood. In fact he’d probably been under their observation more often than that, but only Daedelus Diggle went out of his way to call attention to himself.
• • • •
Consequently, any theorist, or fanfic author has to chose whether they are going to try to take Rowling at her word, even though her word does not add up to a rational timeline and she blatantly contradicts herself, try to make her inconsistencies somehow be consistent, or to ignore the whole contradiction.
For decades, those who tried to make it make sense, would take Hagrid’s word for it. He isn’t lying. He’s honestly telling us his recollection of the events, and the whole business of Vernon Dursley’s strange Tuesday and Minerva’s losing a day on a wall were nothing more than an authorial hallucination which took place in some parallel universe.
Inside this reading, at some point after the Halloween feast, Snape reported his Dark mark disappearing, Albus sent Hagrid off to Godric’s Hollow and left to notify the Ministry. Hagrid spoke to Minerva on his way out, she left the castle and Apparated directly to Little Whinging where she waited on the Dursley’s wall as a cat. Albus turned up as some point during the night, Hagrid joined them, they left Harry on the doorstep before the sun came up, and it all took place before dawn on Sunday morning.
Black, meanwhile is on a rat hunt. The other shoe on that issue doesn’t drop until some time later, at least not until mid-morning.
Minerva couldn’t be sure that the Potters had been attacked until she was able to ask Albus about it, but she isn’t stupid. The fact that Hagrid had let it out that his orders were to take Harry Potter to his aunt’s house would certainly have her suspecting as much.
Eliminating the references to wizards celebrating all over Britain and the Muggle radio announcer who evidently cannot read a calendar any better than Rowling can, is a loss which I think nobody would much miss.
I’ll be returning to this matter at the end of this piece. But the actual contradiction in canon is clearly irresolvable.
• • • •
Which isn’t to say that a great many fans have not invested a whole lot of effort in trying to *make* it all make sense over the years. And I’m as guilty as any of them. Not that my own efforts were necessarily intended to be taken altogether seriously. Such as this one, which is emphatically NOT.
For example; post-Phoenix, I felt this whole issue was due for yet another re-evaluation.
So, we’ll now 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 thought we knew 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 are understood to have taken place, exact order of occurrence unknown:
- Lord Voldemort shows up at the Potters’ hideaway (without Wormtail, it appears, although Peter certainly 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 own disappearance.
If he had not already rendered himself deathless that would have been the end of his 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:
- 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, whether 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 might be 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 this particular game board, thank you very much.
- 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:
- 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 (probably because he does know the whole Prophecy). 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 was a washout. She was just belatedly trying to make the Cloak seem more mysterious than she had ever bothered to write it.
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. Hagrid probably also had a Portkey to get from Godric’s Hollow to Little Whinging, but did not use it.
- 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.
- Hagrid is the first to arrive at Godric’s Hollow, hears Harry crying and gets 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 allegedly take place the next day, which is presumably November 1:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 a rudimentary filling in of all the blanks according to basic probabilities, amended by what we were later told in PoA.
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, he 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 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 later 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 sun comes up 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? And why send Hagrid, who is not even a qualified wizard? (But who is certainly very well qualified to shift debris and dig any survivors out of the rubble.)
The original Changeling Hypothesis as it is detailed in the essay; ‘Redeeming the Potterverse’ 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 the 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 (at least in the Rowlingverse). And Harry was truly protected from Voldemort 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 any attempts understand how the child had survived. 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, and Albus would have absolutely nudged any discussion or debate away from any suggestion related to Horcruxes. 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.
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, in 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 actually 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.
One belatedly wonders what contribution the Dursley’s steady campaign of character assassination against their unwanted nephew might have had upon Mrs Figg’s decidedly unsympathetic treatment of him.
Albus could not have been unaware that the Prophecy’s promise of “the One” having been marked by the Dark Lord as his “equal” was a factor that could go any number of different directions. 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, as well.
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. Consequently, 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 many 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.
Therefore; I propose that an adjustment of time was implemented on the Ministry’s authorization, in order 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 a 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. Generally assumed to be approximately 24 hours, give or take a bit. A related probability is that to all outside appearances most subsequent matters during that period played out without any apparent changes between the two timelines.
So; things that almost certainly did NOT change between the timelines were:
- Sirius still got to Godric’s Hollow before either the Muggle emergency services or the Ministry of Magic.
- 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:
- Sirius got to Godric’s Hollow, got Harry out of the ruins and made tracks to Dumbledore, explained the substitution, Pettigrew’s betrayal, and took custody of his godson.
- 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.
- 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 took formal 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. (Peripherally, I don’t think Rowling had invented those yet. We never heard of them until HBP.)
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 by neighbors, and there is a delay of some hours before the Ministry manages to sort out the situation enough to realize that there was a child’s 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 should have realized the possibility that all it might 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 be 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 either 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 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 had 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, possibly as a ward of the Ministry.
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 good explanation 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 smoothly 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 someone in authority could keep track of him. (Albus, of course, offered to do the honors.)
And to go back and do it at the earliest point it could be managed. Immediately after Voldemort’s fall, in fact.
And also to do it 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. These days, I’m more inclined to believe that much of the Order had known of the Dursley’s location and had occasionally looked in.)
Dumbledore, probably using some method other than that of a basic Time-Turner like the one used by Hermione, returns to his own office at a point in time immediately after his original departure to 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, his arrival may have scared Pettigrew off. 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 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 to 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 time 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.
• • • •
Well, it certainly hits all the high points.
There is not much likelihood that it’s true.
We wouldn’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.
• • • •
Toward the end of the days of open canon 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 had a pair of communication mirrors ever since Hogwarts. 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 our attention being drawn to that cloak all of a sudden. And rightly so, because the cloak turned out to be completely irrelevant to the whole issue.
But at the time I supposed that it might be useful toward plugging another 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.
Given the number of times Rowling has been caught out lying to us, I’m not inclined to accept her say-so without at least some supporting evidence.
Albus couldn’t do a Priori Incantatum 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 anything 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. So whatever it was is not likely to have been anything that was either documented, or 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 evidently 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 of events 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 in the absence of any kind of actual information.
Or perhaps there is something about the creation of a Horcrux which is so self-evident to the informed 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.
Over on the (now defunct) 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 of the frame 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 extremely 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 in canon which would establish that, either.
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 that nature 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 large official 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 by this time, I would say that 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 planned reveals for Book 7 — and pump 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 unique purpose over the course of DHs. Or at least 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 the Order was involved in somewhere else altogether. I suspected that Moody didn’t have two such cloaks back then (or indeed, not until 1995 when 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 does fit what we’ve seen of Albus’s methods to have posted a sentry, but he may have only developed that method in ’95, 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. (Now, long after the fact, I conclude that Albus was sure that Harry had survived, because the Prophecy required that he survive.)
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 this major gap in our knowledge. And for a (very short) while it looked like the cloak might be relevant for doing that.
In fact there appeared to be a good chance that that kind of thing is what all this sudden mystery about the cloak was in aid of in the first place.
Well, no such luck.
• • • •
And, as stated at the beginning this article; I repeat, in the year 2021, over the course of an email correspondence, I was been given cause to take yet another look at the problem of the “missing” 24 hours.
Particularly since there is a fighting chance that it isn’t just 24 hours that we were missing. It’s more like 72.
Which we ought to have already known. We were, after all, aware of it. In the Scholastic edition of PS/SS (I don’t know about the Bloomsbury editions), it quite clearly states that the story opens with Vernon Dursley setting off to work on a dull grey *Tuesday* morning.
Which, according to any real world calendar, if this was 1981, would have been November 3.
The main issue is that Rowling notoriously cannot read a calendar. And she absolutely never makes even the most cursory attempt to cross-check her storyline against any kind of real-world calendar and make the dates match up.
Although, in fairness, when she sat down to write this story in or around 1990, I seriously doubt that she had access to a computer with a handy calendar program where it would take all of two minutes to enter in a date and have it show you what day of the week that was. If she had truly wanted to line up her days/dates for 1981 it would have taken some legitimate research. Plus, I suspect that she was assuming that no one would read it but little kids, and the kids wouldn’t care.
Plus, it has to be admitted that the text never actually does come out and say that Harry was dumped on Petunia’s doorstep on the morning of November 1. It’s very strongly implied, but much of that implication stems retrospectively from Hagrid’s account in PoA, where he makes it sound like he took Harry from the house at Godric’s Hollow, refused to let Sirius have him, and carried him off straight to Little Whinging. We also get a false note from Minerva, and another minor glitch with a radio announcer noting the fireworks that the wizards were setting off and pointing out that Bonfire Night “wasn’t until next week, folks.”
Which would be wrong even if Harry had been dropped on the Dursleys doorstep on the First. Halloween was on Saturday. Whether the story opens on the first or the third, you just don’t get Bonfire Night not happening until “next week”. Bonfire Night will be this Thursday. I think we can safely dismiss the radio announcer, he’s a fool.
We can readily fanwank Minerva’s comment, and easily reinterpret Hagrid’s multiple statements on the subject, and we can just ignore the radio announcer’s lack of accuracy.
However, this time I‘m going to try to work the problem from the other end. This time it’s Hagrid’s account which I will dismiss. And we’ll see if we can make that work any better.
• • • •
In this iteration we cannot in any good conscience dismiss the statement of the omniscient narrator who tells us that this is all taking place on a Tuesday. If it was Tuesday in 1981, then it had to be November 3. And, upon closer examination, it’s really not that difficult to see how it might very well be exactly that.
Which would also explain the amount of information that Minerva was spouting to Albus about what had been going on across the WW once he showed up in Little Whinging.
Once the scene was set, and there was another character available to generate dialogue, she basically became an exposition machine for much of the chapter. It’s Minerva who gives us whatever background Rowling was willing to let us have. The WW’s reaction to current events, the existence of the Statute of Secrecy, Albus’s public image, and a capsule summary of the murder of Harry’s parents. There’s probably other information as well, but those all seem to be the main points. Compared to Minerva, Albus actually gives us very little useful information at all. (Typical.)
But all of this is information that Minerva would have had no way of knowing yet if it really was the day after the attack and she’d been sitting on a wall all day. With the timeline we are encouraged to believe this was taking place in, there is no way that she could have known anything of the current happenings. She basically got dropped into the story like a Deus ex Machina to tell the reader what was going on, and what we were all supposed to think about it. At that point, we had no choice but to accept it. But it really doesn’t hold water.
The whole missing 24 hours business is intractable, and the fact that, acto the omniscient narrator, Harry was clearly stated as being dumped on the Dursleys on Tuesday night (or early Wednesday morning) is non-negotiable.
So let’s go back and take another look at all of it with a view of this all taking place some three days after the Potters were murdered.
Admittedly, Hagrid has not ever been what anyone could call a reliable witness, even if he is a truthful one. Plus, it was his account in PoA which sets up the “missing” 24 hours conundrum in the first place. So its reliability is already compromised.
If we completely disregard Hagrid’s statements for the moment, the rest of what we are left with falls into place fairly easily, and does actually make sense of everything else that we are shown.
The Potters are murdered Saturday night. Snape reports his Dark Mark’s disappearance. Albus realizes that the Fidelius no longer affects him, and sends Hagrid, probably by portkey to investigate and give assistance to any survivors.
Albus already knows that Snape had asked Tom to spare Lily. He may very much doubt that Tom did so, but it was still a possibility. And he really needs to know what has become of Harry. For all Albus knows at that point, the Prophecy may now have been fulfilled, and both Harry and Tom are no longer an issue. Although he no doubt considers that unlikely, too.
Meanwhile Albus, states his decision to place Harry with Lily’s sister, if he has survived. He tells Hagrid about it, gives him the Dursley’s location, and says that he will send word to let him know when to bring Harry and have him meet him there. Either he or Hagrid also lets Minerva know something of this plan. Albus, after all, was told that Sirius was supposed to have been the Potters’ Secret Keeper. Consequently, Albus is absolutely not going to turn Harry over to *him*. Particularly since there is every likelihood that Sirius had been captured by DEs and is already dead.
Hagrid gets Harry out of the ruin, Sirius turns up, Hagrid comforts him (Hagrid doesn’t know that Sirius is supposed to be the Secret Keeper, after all), but refuses to turn Harry over to him, accepts the motorcycle, and takes Harry back to Hogwarts and brings him to Poppy.
Poppy deals with Harry’s injuries and probably puts him into a healing sleep. One of the Hogwarts Elves probably takes charge of tending him.
Albus has already gone off and spends all of Sunday at the Ministry engaged in a search for Sirius Black, and matters of public disclosure, and spin control.
The rumors may or may not make it to Hogwarts over the course of Sunday, but The Prophet breaks the news with the Monday edition, and probably continues with various reiterations of the story for most of the following week. Meanwhile, Albus who flooed off to the Ministry before breakfast, does not return to the school all day, being still engaged at the Ministry. There are a lot of brush fires to be stomped out at the Ministry, Plus a lot of mustering of Albus’s allies on the Wizengamot. There are going to be a lot of investigations and trials to schedule. This process spills over into, and eats up, the following couple of days.
The level of disruption at Hogwarts is such that classes are canceled for part of the week, leaving the staff a bit at loose ends. Meanwhile most of the WW is partying in celebration of the end of the war. This also spills over into the next couple of days.
The confrontation between Black and Pettigrew does not take place until early on Monday. We do not know how long Sirius spent hunting Peter before returning to his own flat and running into the ambush that Peter had set up.
At that point in the century, most of London businesses would have been closed on a Sunday, which the first of November was. There would not have been the kind of crowds out on the street for an explosion to been able to have killed as many as a dozen bystanders on a Sunday. Given the casualty count, I would hazard a guess that Sirius’s flat was probably on an upper floor of a building in a predominantly commercial area, rather than off in a quieter residential district. I would also be inclined to suspect that it was near a major Underground or railroad station, and, consequently would get a lot of foot traffic. Particularly during morning rush hour.
Or, not impossibly, evening rush hour. Cornelius Fudge’s account of the confrontation gives no suggestion as to when during the day the murder of Pettigrew and a dozen Muggles took place. If Sirius Black made any statement in the Shrieking Shack regarding precisely when Peter had tricked him, the fact that virtually no statement that we have ever been given by Sirius Black has ever held up to closer examination, renders his testimony problematic, from the get-go.
Meanwhile, Albus had assigned at least some of the Order to sentry duty in or around Little Whinging to be on the alert for Sirius Black, who they all knew by sight. Vernon spotted at least a few of them.
Whatever time of day the confrontation with Pettigrew takes place, and however quickly Sirius is apprehended and packed off to Azkaban, the Ministry is still likely to be keeping a tight hold on what is released to the press, and when. The whole business is also likely to generate a lot of red tape, and Albus is there until quite late in the evening. He probably had dinner in London with members of the Wizengamot that he wants to influence going forward, given the pending circus of DE trials. He returns to the castle very late, and departs for London early enough on Tuesday, that no one in the castle, that we know of, had a chance to speak with him.
The story regarding Black’s arrest did not break before Tuesday. Hagrid seems not to have read it yet, as of Tuesday night. Minerva also seems to have already taken up her position on the Dursley’s front wall before she got her copy of the Prophet, for Hagrid’s mention of having borrowed Black’s motorcycle prompts no reaction from her.
On Tuesday, with Albus still not available, Minerva goes off to Little Whinging and stakes out the Dursley’s house, to take a turn of sentry duty, herself.
Once Albus is finally free of his obligations, he sends a Patronus to Hagrid asking him to bring Harry and meet him at #4 Privet drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, at a specific time. The time specified would be after dark, when Hagrid would be less likely to draw attention.
Since I doubt that Hagrid had ever been to Privet Drive, at this point we can happily endorse the Deluminator (which in the Scholastic edition is referred to as a “Put Outer”) as a tracking and monitoring device theory, which has sprung up in the wake of DHs, and let it guide Hagrid to the proper location.
The fact that those members of the Order who have been watching the place since the Potters’ murder now know where it is, explains how Harry managed to catch sight of a few of them during his childhood. It also explains how the information regarding that distinctive scar of his got out into common knowledge.
Even Hagrid’s statement regarding having got Harry out of the ruin before the Muggle emergency services showed up, inviting us to believe that he has brought Harry to Little Whinging directly from Godric’s Hollow, which one would otherwise expect to be out of place, turns out to be more understandable if assumed to be a bit of talking at cross-purposes. Hagrid, after all, hasn’t seen Albus since Albus gave him his first orders, so he is finally making his initial report.
Albus, who had probably given Hagrid a portkey for the purpose, wasn’t expecting him to arrive on a motorcycle. He asks about it. Hagrid says he borrowed it from Black, and Albus asks if there had been any trouble about that. Hagrid, of course, misunderstands the context, and assures Albus that no, there was no trouble, he got Harry away before the Muggles showed up. Hagrid doesn’t realize that the question had actually been whether Sirius Black had given him any trouble. And, since by this time Sirius Black is already packed off to Azkaban, Albus does not pursue the matter further.
Ergo: Hagrid brought Harry back to Hogwarts on the motorcycle on Saturday night, but he didn’t bring the motorcycle into the castle, Albus never saw it, and wasn’t around for some days during the crisis. Hagrid didn’t think to mention he had it at any point, and wouldn’t have seen Albus to mention it anyway.
Now that Albus has seen it, and asked whether Black gave Hagrid any trouble, Hagrid thinks Albus is asking whether he had any trouble in general, and says no, he got away before the Muggles showed up.
Albus has enough on his plate at that point that he never stops to consider the contradiction of treacherous DE Sirius having helpfully given Hagrid his precious motorcycle, and gone off leaving Hagrid with the baby, rather than mounting an attack against the child. Albus has made his plans, formed his justifications, and is not going to see anything which conflicts with them.
As to the false note from Minerva; Minerva raises the issue of rumors that Voldemort was defeated “last night”.
Minerva, in general, is a much more reliable witness than Hagrid, but this is clearly inaccurate. The statement is not completely unsalvageable, however. She says “last night” but she hasn’t slept since Monday night. And she’s been sitting on the Dursleys garden wall for a good 18 hours. She may be rigid and upright, but she wouldn’t be human if she weren’t tired. And we don’t know just when the Prophet broke the story of Voldemort’s defeat. By “last night” she may still be thinking of Sunday night, and it’s only when she returns to the castle that she realizes that the attack had actually been on Halloween.
Just about all of our information regarding the actual attack, after all, only comes to us in retrospect, and years later. And usually from Hagrid, too. Either to Harry, when Hagrid takes him to do his school shopping, or at the 3 Broomsticks a dozen years after the event.
(I completely disregard that totally crackfic “flashback” of Tom fantasizing about how the attack on the Potters ought to have gone, while on his way to Godric’s Hollow to intercept Harry who has fallen into the Bagshott trap.)
Regarding Hagrid’s 3 Broomsticks account; it might be simplest to draw a line between two points and just assume that Hagrid left out the bits of the story that he considered uninteresting.
Digging Harry out of the ruin, and speaking with Sirius Black was interesting. Taking Harry to meet Albus at his aunt’s house in Surrey later on was also interesting. Taking Harry back to Hogwarts and waiting around until Albus sent word to bring him to Surrey, wasn’t.
So he didn’t bother to tell people that part. Minerva, at least, would have already known it, in any case.
Or, in any case, that’s about the least convoluted way that I can see that you can have Harry being dumped on the Dursleys on a Tuesday. As the 3rd-party narrator claims he was.
Like I say, these days, I’m usually more inclined to just take Hagrid’s work for it and regard most of Book 1 Chapter 1 as a “likely story”, told by a narrator who makes things up.