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Uncle Vernon, still ashen-faced but looking very angry, moved into the firelight.

‘He’s not going [to Hogwarts],’ he said.

Hagrid grunted. ‘I’d like ter see a great Muggle like you stop him,’ he said.

The Dursleys hated Harry, yet oddly refused to ship him off to Hogwarts, where they could have been free from Harry's presence for a full nine months per school year. I would have thought the Dursleys would have been more reluctant to send Diddy Diddy Duddykins off to Smeltings than they would be with kicking Harry to the curb for any reason that wouldn't make the neighbors talk ("Harry? Why, he's off to Smeltings with Dudley -- oh, yes, the boys are having a marvelous year!" etc.).

I know Uncle Vernon had promised to stomp the magic out of Harry, but are there any other canon-based reasons the Dursleys would so vehemently reject Hogwarts in lieu of having to put up with him 24-7, 365 days per year for more than seven years from the time the books began? The Dursleys are not characters I have studied in depth -- they're so awful! -- so their motivation for both hating Harry and refusing to arrange it so he'd be far away from them doesn't make sense to me.

So, why didn't the Dursleys gladly ship Harry off to Hogwarts?

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Great question. I’ve thrown in my two cents, but I’m looking forward to the other answers on this one. –  alexwlchan Aug 7 at 5:50
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The only answer is really that they hated magic and didn't want Harry to go off, be happy, learn magic, and come home to torment them. –  TylerH Aug 7 at 19:14
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My thoughts are also, it would empower Harry. Something the Dursleys didn't want. They don't know and hate magic, knowing that Harry in the end would know and control magic scared them. –  DoStuffZ Aug 8 at 5:48
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Every time I read the books, I though the answer was pretty clear: going to Hogwarts would make Harry happy, which was unacceptable. –  asteri Aug 10 at 23:06
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I've only read the first book long, long ago, but didn't they also make Harry do a bunch of chores? So they'd be losing the free labor? –  jpmc26 Aug 11 at 0:14

9 Answers 9

I can think of many reasons.

  1. Chamber of Secrets reveals (well, technically the very end of Philosopher's Stone reveals) that the Dursleys are unaware that you aren't allowed to do magic outside of Hogwarts at Harry's age. So as far as they're concerned, the boy they abused for 11 years is going to stay in their house for three months out of the year with the ability to torment them.
  2. The Dursleys are shown to be absolutely obsessed with normalcy and with what their neighbors think of them. They live in constant fear that the neighbors will discover that Harry is magic, which of course would be exacerbated by him actually learning magic.
  3. They really, really hate magic. Like, a lot.
  4. They really, really hate Harry. When he asks permission to go the Quidditich World Cup, the narration describes that Uncle Dursley is torn. He'd really like Harry out of his hair for a month... but it would also have the side effect of making Harry happy.
  5. For Petunia, I think it's a straightforward case of jealousy. She always wanted to be a witch and go to Hogwarts, and she simply despises Lily and Harry and Severus for being able to go while she can't.
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Source for 5? She wanted to be a witch? –  WernerCD Aug 7 at 6:37
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ITYM "exacerbated." "Exasperated" means something else entirely. –  fluffy Aug 7 at 7:12
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@WernerCD The Prince's Tale, one of the last chapters in Deathly Hallows. –  Anthony Grist Aug 7 at 8:19
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#1 May be you are right but I guess Aunt Petunia should be aware that magic isn't allowed outside of Hogwarts since her sister was a witch. –  hims056 Aug 7 at 9:28
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+1 awesome answer! Especially the fact that if you truly hate someone you do not want them to be happyy so you stop them from going places or doing things that would make them happy even if it would make you happy ;-) Yep Human Beings are strange! –  AquaAlex Aug 7 at 9:53

It could be any number of reasons (or a combination thereof). Here are some examples:

Denial

Remember, Mrs. Dursley loathed the fact that her sister was a witch. She called it unnatural and said it made her sister a freak. Now, along comes the nephew. Guess what, he's just like his mother. But wait, if he doesn't go to that "wizard school", he isn't a real wizard, right? If he doesn't receive training, he isn't allowed to use magic. That's the law, right? You know what, I think I like it better if we keep him here, in this tiny little room, right where I can see him.

Blind Hatred

Here comes Hagrid, a seven-foot-tall personification of everything you've been denying exists for the last decade, and he wants to take your nephew off and make him into a big boy wizard. But first, he asks your permission. Hmm, let me think. This giant freak and this scumbag spawn of wizards wants nothing more than to go off to Fairyland and have a nice cup of tea. You know what would really piss them off? What would make Harry absolutely miserable? How about I say no? (Remember, the Dursleys weren't particularly smart. They may not have thought through the whole "wizard can kill me" thing.)

Torture

Harry hates the Dursleys, but by far, the Dursleys hate Harry more. They would like nothing more than for Harry to be locked up in that closet for the rest of his life, because they know he would hate it. Now, here comes this freak barging into our vacation uninvited and offers him a free ticket out? You know what? I think Harry would like that. That's the thing he's been wanting his whole life, right here in front of us. That's something I can't let him have. I hate him, therefore, I will exercise every control I have over him.

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Hagrid's only 7 foot tall? I thought he was like 11 feet –  user13267 Aug 7 at 10:07
    
Aunt Petunia wrote to Dumbledore. This is referred to while Harry is experiencing the late Severus Snape's memories in the pensieve. I'm sure Dumbledore was polite but Petunia could never go to the school, the rejection and jealousy subsumed her personality and was reinforced by her xenophobic choice of husband. –  Ian Lewis Aug 7 at 13:17

Because the Dursleys hated magic more than they hated Harry. And as time does past they do like him going to school. Remember that they do want him gone in the seventh book.

Petunia's reason: Jealousy and she wanted no reminder of how she was treated "unfairly" as she was not allowed to go to Hogwarts, and this broke her relationship with her sister and made her bitter. After her sister died she probably wanted to forget the whole magic thing as it only caused her pain:

  1. She spent her childhood never getting over that slight at not going to school.

  2. And her sister was dead.

  3. She also might have been scared of magic.

Pg. 53 of Sorcerer's Stone, The Keeper of the Keys

'Knew!" shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. "Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that - that school- and came home every vacation with her pockets full of frog spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was - a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"

She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed she had been wanting to say this for years.

"Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you, and of course I knew you'd be just the same. just as strange, just as - as - abnormal - and then, if you please, she went and got herself blown up and we got landed with you!"

Sounds jealous.

Vernon's reason: I think that in keeping from going to school Vernon was the real mastermind. I mean he was the one who stopped or tried to stop Harry from going to school most actively. I think that Petunia if not to please her husband would have caved and let Harry go to school.

  1. Vernon wanted a non-freak family

    Chapter 4, The Keeper of the Keys, pg.53

    "We swore when we took him in we'd put a stop to that rubbish," said Uncle Vernon, "swore we'd stamp it out of him! Wizard indeed!"

    Chapter 17. Sorcerer's stone, The Man with the two faces.

    It was Uncle Vernon, still purple faced, still mustached, still looking furious at the nerve of Harry, carrying an owl in a cage in a station full of ordinary people.

    Chapter 1, Prisoner of Azkaban, Owl Post

    "HOW DARE YOU GIVE THIS NUMBER TO PEOPLE LIKE - PEOPLE LIKE YOU!" Uncle Vernon had roared, spraying Harry in spit.

  2. He was scared of the unknown. He hated not understanding.

    Chapter 3, The Dursleys departing

    "Well, I don't believe it," repeated Uncle Vernon, coming to a halt in front of Harry again. "I was awake half the night thinking it all over, and I believe it's a plot to get the house."

    So he creates a outrageous tale.

    And the whole of chapter 3 is basically Vernon trying to understand the situation and him wondering how he can manipulate the situation.

  3. And he was interested in not paying for anything that didn't give him a gain and include Dudley or Petunia, he was greedy.

    Chapter 4, pg. 59 The Keeper of the Keys

    "I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS"

    Also, the above quote about Harry stealing the house. That situation is something that Vernon would do.

    And they got over the fact that he had to go school really fast. After leaving him at platform 9 3/4 Vernon says:

    "Have a good term," said Uncle Vernon with an even nastier smile. He left without another word. Harry turned and saw the Dursleys drive away

What Vernon says goes, in most cases.

Chapter 3, The Dursleys Departing, Deathly Hallows

"Don't you take that tone-" began Aunt Petunia in a shrill voice, but Vernon Dursley waved her down."

And similar event like this did happen as well.

And Dudley was just following his parents

Chapter 3, Deathly Hallows, The Dursleys Departing

It seemed that Dudley was struggling with concepts too difficult to put into words. After several moments of apparently painful internal struggle he said, "But where's he going to go?" ...

"I don't think you're a waste of space."

Again, Dudley appeared to grapple with thoughts too unwieldy for expression before mumbling, "You saved my life."

He didn't hate Harry and would have probably befriended him if his parents had not abused Harry.'

This goes to a quote:

"You meet the parent when you meet the child."

You might not care for this source. But they had a interesting point of view.

However, they disliked him and treated him badly, while spoiling Dudley.

When Harry was sent a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Vernon got very angry, as he detested anything to do with magic.

"There's no such thing as magic!" —Vernon trying to convince Harry Potter to forget about the wizarding world.

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+1|I don't think the money one can be underestimated; it was certainly the first I thought about it. –  N.Soong Aug 11 at 1:50

A few suggestions from me:

  1. Fear. As far as the Dursleys know, Harry is free to use magic outside school:

    “Oh, I will,’ said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. ‘They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley this summer…”

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)

    Suddenly those eleven years of abuse seem rather foolish. Now Harry can come back and seek revenge for how they treated him.

    One of the most blatant cases of magic while Harry was in their care involved him releasing a Boa Constrictor in the zoo while their son was at that particular cage. They may already see this as an act of aggression, and worry about what he’d do when actually trained.

    They may also have some idea of just how pivotal Harry and his parents were in the wizarding war. They’re probably just as afraid (if nor more afraid) of Harry’s friends and teachers turning up to seek retribution for the way they treated him. If they can keep Harry away from Hogwarts, then they believe that nobody will ever find out.

    (This is a legitimate fear – look at how they crumple at the sight of Moody et al. escorting Harry at the end of Order of the Phoenix.)

  2. Love of normality. From the word go, they’re shown to hate the Potters and their magical ability:

    The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 1 (The Boy Who Lived)

    Life on Privet Drive is very carefully constructed to be normal. Handing Harry over to Hogwarts means giving up some of that control, and allowing the possibility that something abnormal will creep into their lives.

    Listen to how Petunia describes Lily at Hogwarts:

    “Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that – that school – and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was – a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!”

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 4 (The Keeper of the Keys)

    If that’s the sort of thing that young wizards and witches bring home, then the Dursleys definitely don’t want it in the house. Part of this was exaggeration on Petunia’s part, but I think here we also see a bit of jealousy. She’s never quite recovered from being left out when Lily went to Hogwarts, and allowing Harry to go means doing it all over again.

  3. Ignorance is bliss. They have vague notions of what goes on in the magical world, but have never had to interact with it directly. For the last decade, they’ve probably tried to forget it entirely. Allowing a training wizard to live in their house means they’re almost certainly going to find out more about the wizarding world than is proper, and that just won’t do.

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Fear of magic is the key, and it's the strongest motivation of all the ones suggested. +1 –  Mr E. Upvoter Aug 8 at 12:45
    
Fear of magic is definitely Vernon's motivator. I think for Petunia though, although there's fear (because magic killed her sister), there's also a lot of envy (because she never forgave Lily for being a witch when Petunia wasn't). Harry getting the letter from Hogwarts reopens all that pain for Petunia, which was probably buried under a more superficial hatred of the magical world which she built to help herself cope with the rejection. And you have to sympathise, it must be hard for muggle siblings of muggle-born wizards and witches. –  Matthew Walton Aug 11 at 12:09

They didn't want him to become a "freak" like his parents. From the moment they took him in, they swore to "stomp out" his magic, to try stop him from becoming a wizard. So allowing him to go to Hogwarts and be taught magic is quite the opposite of their intentions.

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Right, it's that simple. Just like Luke's uncle didn't want Luke to go the way of Luke's father. –  Joe Blow Aug 10 at 9:09
    
Luke's uncle wanted Luke to help him work, he needed him. The Dursleys simply hated Harry and, even more so, hated magic. –  ZenLogic Aug 10 at 11:41

Dursleys didn't hate Harry. They hated that Harry was a sliver of magical world.

As such, Harry being more magical would be a significant deterioration of the Status Quo for them.

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Yup. Presumably they feel, that the 3 months he would have to spend with them would be way worse when he's trained and aware of the whole world of 'freaks' than when he's not. –  Shisa Aug 7 at 2:51

You say the Dursleys would send Harry to Hogwarts “in lieu of having to put up with him 24-7, 365 days per year for more than seven years from the time the books began”. I don't think that's so.

The Dursleys were probably already planning to send Harry to a boarding school from the same September, so they would see Harry very little during the year anyway.

See Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone chapter 3:

When september came he would be going off to secondary school and, for the first time in his life, he wouldn't be with Dudley. […] Harry, on the other hand, was going to Stonewall High, the local comprehensive.

Also chapter 4, where Uncle Vernon says:

‘He's going to Stonewall High and he'll be grateful for it. […]’

This doesn't clearly tell me whether Stonewall High is a boarding school or not, but I don't see why it wouldn't be, given that Dudley is sent to one as well.

(Incidentally, they were never actually planning to send Harry to the St Brutus's Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys: that was just a lie Uncle Vernon invented when Harry was already going to Hogwarts and Uncle Vernon wanted to keep this secret.)

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I'm not British so I'm not sure either, but I doubt there are comprehensives that are boarding schools. They are the equivalent of your local community school that you mandatorily attend if you live in the area - as long as you are not going to a boarding school (as far as I understand). I think the Dursleys would love to constantly humiliate Harry year round, after all: complaining about his nephew IS Vernon's favourite passtime (PS-Ch.2 if I recall correctly). –  BMWurm Aug 7 at 7:59
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@BMWurm: I asked at a separate question scifi.stackexchange.com/q/65116/4918 Is Stonewall High a boarding school? –  b_jonas Aug 7 at 12:44
    
Cool, thanks, so apparently I wasn't that far off with my assumption :D –  BMWurm Aug 7 at 13:48
    
Indeed, a 'local comprehensive' is definitely not a boarding school. Smeltings, I would assume, is - it sounds like some kind of abusive version of Eton with no academic standards. –  Matthew Walton Aug 11 at 12:06
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I looked at this list of secondary schools in Surrey and while I didn't read every secondary entry, I did check out the ones labeled "high" or "high school". They don't appear to be boarding schools, but rather day schools. Interestingly, though, the house system is heavily represented. I even found one house called "Sirius" :) –  Slytherincess Aug 13 at 3:03

Here's another perspective about it. Petunia lost her sister and she believed that it would have not happened if her sister wasn't a witch. She envied her sister, still there was some sisterly affection. She feared the same fate for Harry and so the Dursleys didn't want Harry to study in Hogwarts

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From reading through the books, my impression (along with the obsession for normalcy) was that magic is a source of power which they had no control over. They witnessed the power of magic through Lily, while not understanding it. This leads to their fear, and frantic attempts to prevent Harry from learning it. The Dursleys have several motivations for not sending Harry to Hogwarts to learn magic.

Maintaining control:

As mentioned by Alex, the Dursleys "carefully constructed" their life. Image means everything to them, and they exert all their power to maintain it. Magic to muggles, by definition, is disorder and chaos, and threatens to change the life that they have manufactured. And that perhaps, is what not just the Dursleys, but you, me, and everyone else fears in the world: change that we cannot control. Sending Harry to Hogwarts introduces this element and, having witnessed its effects on Lily, imbibes their lives with this uncontrollable force. In Vernon's words, they would rather 'stomp it out' than tend and nurture it.

Preserving the balance of power:

The Dursleys have absolute control over Harry. To them, he is an object, a dark secret that must be stowed away and hidden. Harry currently only has one possible outlet to upset the Dursley's tyrannical hold on his life: Magic. If he learns how to use it, he upsets the balance of power in the Dursley household. Magic is the Dursley's greatest threat, and Harry's only hope. It is the key to acquiring his freedom.

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