Dumbledore explains to Harry in Order of the Phoenix that he is protected so long as he returns once a year to the Dursleys’ home:

While you can still call home the place where your mother's blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort. He shed her blood, but it lives on in you and her sister. Her blood became your refuge. You need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, there he cannot hurt you.

If Voldemort, or one of his Death Eaters, had killed the Dursleys (perhaps while Harry was away from Hogwarts), then Privet Drive would not be “the place where your mother’s blood dwells”. There are no other relatives of his mother that he could stay with, which would mean that nowhere else would qualify for that magic.

Wouldn’t that mean that the following year, Harry would have nowhere to go and the protection would not renew, thus he would be vulnerable to Voldemort?

  • In the quote you have it says you and her sister. Presumably this means Harry was safe anywhere he was living until the age of 17. On the other hand, that makes no sense, because otherwise he wouldn't have to live with the Dursleys.
    – CHEESE
    Mar 1, 2017 at 1:34
  • The magic protects the Dursley family as well, not just Harry. They had to go into hiding too, remember, but not until the spell was broken. Mar 1, 2017 at 2:38
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    Would voldemort have any reason to know about this protection charm? Mar 6, 2017 at 4:44
  • @user2813274 That would be a good question for this site! Mar 6, 2017 at 5:09

2 Answers 2


It's not clear, but it's not obvious that this would work, I don't think.

It's obvious where your question is coming from, but I would like to look at the paragraphs before:

'She doesn't love me,' said Harry at once. 'She doesn't give a damn -'

'But she took you,' Dumbledore cut across him. 'She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwittingly, bitterly, yet still she took you, and in doing so, she sealed the charm I placed upon you. Your mother's sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I could give you.'

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - p.737 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 37, The Lost Prophecy

So I have a couple of observations, the first is that there's a bit of Dumbledore magic in there. And the second is that part of the magic seems to be Petunia agreeing to take Harry in and so the house became his sanctuary.

Another aspect to this, it seems to me, is that if Voldemort were to slay Lily's blood relative, it may even strengthen the protection Harry has in 4 Privet Drive.

However, partly set against this is the way Harry and the Dursleys leave the house in book 7:

'We are attempting to time your departure from the house with your family's Disapparition, Harry; thus, the charm breaks at the moment you all head for safety.'

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - p.37 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 3, The Dursleys Departing

This makes it look a bit like the Dursleys leaving the house for good might also contribute to the breaking of the charm. I certainly think if Aunt Petunia had upped sticks and moved to Aberdeen, Harry would probably have had to have gone with her in order to have stayed safe. But I think it's more about Harry and the Dursleys going their separate ways which breaks the charm, rather than the fact that there will be no living Evans at number 4 Privet Drive.

In any case, I think the Dursleys were safe due to Voldemort's lack of understanding of this type of magic and his contempt for and lack of interest in the Muggle world. I can't see Tom Riddle thinking of his route to vanquishing his deadly foe being through hunting down his worthless Muggle relatives.

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    Regarding the quote about timing Harry's final departure with the Dursleys' escape, to me this implies that the protection goes both ways. Harry could've broken the charm by leaving at any time, but this would've left the Dursleys vulnerable. Even if Harry hadn't cared about that, this would have given Voldemort leverage.
    – Deacon
    Mar 21, 2017 at 21:48

No, this wouldn't have worked; the charm protected the Dursleys in the same way it protected Harry.

For a start, magic in the Harry Potter universe just doesn't work that way. Spells have counters, weaknesses, but they don't have loopholes. Killing the Dursleys to get at Harry would violate the intent of the magic in the same way as, say, flying over McGonagall's chessboard, or destroying all the houses in Godric's Hollow instead of trying to figure out which one the Potters were hiding in, and with Harry Potter magic it is always the intent of a spell, not the literal wording, that counts.

But that's just guessing, and we don't need to guess.

These are Harry's own words, in Chapter 2 of Deathly Hallows (emphasis mine):

Harry pressed on remorselessly. 'Once I'm seventeen, the protective charm that keeps me safe will break, and that exposes you as well as me.'

If breaking the charm exposed the Dursleys to attack, it stands to reason that the charm was indeed protecting them as well as Harry up until that point.

To follow up on some of the discussion in the comments, note that in the quote in the question, Dumbledore talks about "the place you call home" which does not necessarily imply that the protection is limited to the inside of the house.

While you can still call home the place where your mother's blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort.

If he'd said "the house you call home" then, yes, we'd indeed have to assume that the protection lapsed the instant you walked out the front door, and conclude that the Death Eaters should by all rights have captured or killed Harry long before he had his run-in with the Dementor in Order of the Phoenix. But the place you call home is a broader concept. It can mean a house, a neighbourhood, a town, sometimes even an entire country.

Of course, Dumbledore's choice of words doesn't prove that Harry and the Dursleys were protected while they were out of the house. But they're consistent with it, and I think this interpretation makes more sense, given that the Death Eaters weren't camped outside Harry's door all summer.

  • A wonderful answer to be sure, although what I think Thunderforge was getting at is the fact that clearly the protection is on the dwelling. Harry could be killed outside of the house, e.g. in Little Hangleton or the Ministry of Magic or Hogwarts, but 4 Privet Drive was his sanctuary. I think what the OP is asking is that, clearly getting at Harry is difficult, protected by Dumbledore as he is. So could not Voldemort have polished off the Dursleys while they were out shopping where they would not be protected by the charm anymore than Harry was in Little Hangleton
    – Au101
    Mar 21, 2017 at 21:39
  • Had Voldemort done that would 4 Privet Drive cease to be Harry's great sanctuary?
    – Au101
    Mar 21, 2017 at 21:40
  • @Au101, the protection is based on the dwelling, but that doesn't mean you're vulnerable the moment you walk out the front door. Harry was vulnerable during the school year because he was living at Hogwarts. During the holidays when he was living with the Dursleys, he was protected whether he was actually in the house or not. The same applies to the Dursley family, so they couldn't be killed while at work or out shopping or whatever. Mar 21, 2017 at 22:14
  • (Dudley might have been vulnerable while he was at his boarding school, though.) Mar 21, 2017 at 22:16
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    Well, if that's true, I'd be fascinated to know how we know that, only I never thought of it that way. Dumbledore only says "there he cannot hurt you"
    – Au101
    Mar 21, 2017 at 22:37

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