Albus Dumbledore famously decided to leave Harry with his Muggle relatives. He left Harry on the doorstep of 4 Privet Drive with a letter rather than giving him to the Dursleys in person, probably to minimise the risk that the Dursleys would say they don't want him.

However, this process involved Harry lying on the doorstep overnight, for several long hours, before being discovered.

Harry Potter rolled over inside the blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours' time by Mrs Dursley's scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles...
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1, The Boy Who Lived).

Harry was out there as a one year-old baby for the whole damn night. Lily and James died on 31st October (Halloween) so Harry was deposited on the night of 1st November, when weather and overnight temperatures can be inclement, to say the least. It was a night when conditions were known to be poor.

"But I can promise a wet night tonight."
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1, The Boy Who Lived).

Dumbledore dumps the kid on the doorstep with his characteristic thoughtfulness and compassion.

"Good luck, Harry," he murmured. He turned on his heel and with a swish of his cloak he was gone.
(Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1, The Boy Who Lived).

Good one, Dumbledore.

Did Dumbledore give any consideration to the risk of hypothermia since it was bound to be hours before Harry was discovered? Is there any evidence that magic or something else was used to keep Harry warm?

Related: Why did Dumbledore leave Harry on the Dursleys' doorstep?

  • 88
    metoffice.gov.uk/binaries/content/assets/mohippo/pdf/i/4/… i checked the weather report for oct 1981 in britatin (the canon time and place for this event) and yeah wether wasn't really great for leaving children on doorsteps. enchanted blanket perhaps?
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 13:11
  • 9
    also, many 15-months old can walk (or at least walk on all four)... imagine baby Harry waking up in the middle of the night (by the cold, or the rain for instance) and walking away ^^
    – LilyM
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 14:09
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    @MissMonicaE "In fact, it was nearly midnight before the cat moved at all." That's when Dumbledore turned up. So it must've been around midnight when Hagrid turned up and they dropped Harry off. Even if Mrs Dursley got up very early to put out the milk bottles (say, 5:30am), we're still talking around five hours out in the cold. Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 14:10
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    @Ummdustry It mentions in there that in Surrey, it got to -7.7C in Santon Downham on the 31st, only 2 hours away from Staines-upon-Thames (the speculated location of Privet Drive); The coldest October since WWII. Forget leaving babies outside, leaving anyone outside would be dangerous!
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 18:40
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    @Harper - And then by the end of the book series you'll find out that he has no compunction about training child soldiers or sacrificing a human being for his own ends.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


We know that Dumbledore is capable of casting a charm that dries (older) Harry's clothes and keeps them warm and dry for a considerable period. Presumably he's perfectly capable of casting that spell and maintaining it on a baby in a basket.

Dumbledore stepped back from the cave wall and pointed his wand at the rock. For a moment, an arched outline appeared there, blazing white as though there was a powerful light behind the crack.

‘You’ve d-done it!’ said Harry through chattering teeth, but before the words had left his lips the outline had gone, leaving the rock as bare and solid as ever. Dumbledore looked round.

‘Harry, I’m so sorry, I forgot,’ he said; he pointed his wand at Harry and at once Harry’s clothes were as warm and dry as if they had been hanging in front of a blazing fire.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX —   The Cave

Don't forget,

Dumbledore has big plans for Harry, keeping him alive until he can use him as a human sacrifice in his four-dimensional spat with his former pupil.

so he's hardly likely to allow him to die on a doorstep through mindless neglect

  • 7
    I don't remember the book, but in the movie I remember one of them (Dumbledore or McGonegall) casts some kind of protection spell around the house/neighborhood of the Dursley's. If I'm remembering correctly, it might have been more than just protection from Death Eaters and HWMNBN. Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 18:43
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    @ToddWilcox call him Voldemort. Refusing to say his name gives him power Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 19:29
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    @TheDarkLord - Nope. We do know that Prof McGonagall probably stayed with him (and presumably could keep him warm while remaining in cat form) and that he was discovered "a few hours later", far less time than would be required for a baby in a warm blanket to get hypothermia.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 21:26
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    "...he could make out a tabby cat slinking around the corner at the other end of the street." McGonagall didn't stay. And whilst I don't have any expertise in childcare I suspect that a wee blanket isn't going to make much of a difference, and that a baby is going to be very vulnerable to low temperatures. Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 21:53
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    @TheDarkLord There's no mention of the thickness or insulation value of the blankets in which he was wrapped save that there were more than just one. For all we can tell from the description he could have been bundled in enough insulation and waterproofing to be perfectly comfortable until he died of dehydration.
    – Perkins
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 0:02

Even if the weather was gruesome, bad weather wouldn't necessarily be a problem for little Harry. In Nordic countries babies are often (intentionally) left outside in the cold; it's seen as good for the baby's constitution (source 1, source 2, source 3).

Even without magical protection against cold, Harry would be fine - he's wrapped in not one, but multiple blankets.

Protection against the rain is more relevant, but could be provided in several ways. The front door could be on the leeward side of the house - we know there's at least one upper floor, as otherwise there couldn't be a cupboard under the stairs. But more likely Harry was sheltered by a porch, which are prevalent in well-off suburbs in England. The location used for Privet Drive in the films definitely has a porch, though I don't remember if one is mentioned in the books.

While no mention is made whether Dumbledore cast a charm or not, it's quite possible that a charm wasn't even needed.

Note that newborns are more vulnerable. Advice from Svante Norgren, paediatrician and director at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm:

He also offered advice to parents for babies less than two weeks old, that below zero the babies should not be placed outdoors to sleep:

We have had new-borns admitted to the ER with hypothermia.

As noted by the asker, Harry was already one year old on the night in question, so this shouldn't be an issue in this case - assuming the blankets Harry was swaddled in were appropriate for the season.

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    Do you know how well clothed those babies are! Its not just a few blankets. But yeah they sleep well this way. Being outdoors isnt dangerous, if it was nobody would be alive. Being inadequately shelded from elements is.
    – joojaa
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 9:45
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    Babies often die after being left outside with inadequate warm clothing
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 11:05
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    Yes, the keyword in your comment is inadequate. But the examples given show that it's easy to be adequate - with examples of (with presumably more well-prepared parents) down to -20°C (-4°F). England in early October doesn't suffer anything close to those temperatures.
    – pbeentje
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 11:31
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    Related BBC Magazine article The babies who nap in sub-zero temperatures you may want to include it in your answer as a refernce Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 12:31
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    Hi James, that reference is already included as reference 1 in the first paragraph. Did you mean a different article?
    – pbeentje
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 12:57

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