I'm confused when reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because Dumbledore states that it was his charm that kept Harry safe while living at the Dursleys.

‘But I knew, too, where Voldemort was weak. And so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always, therefore, underestimated – to his cost. I am speaking, of course, of the fact that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in your veins to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother’s blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative.’

‘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, unwillingly, 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, Chapter 37 "The Lost Prophecy"

So does this mean it was Dumbledore's doing that Harry was safe at his aunt's house? There Voldemort could never touch him. If Dumbledore had never made this ancient magic, Voldemort could have found him?

Lily's sacrifice made it impossible for Voldemort to physically touch Harry, but would that have been the limit to his protection if not for Dumbledore? Lily's sacrifice made it possible for Dumbledore to do this, but was it still down to him to create this magic of safety with Harry's relatives?

If Harry went to live with the Dursleys and had Dumbledore been gone or dead, or did not care enough to create the spell, would Harry still have been protected where his mother's blood dwells?

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    scifi.stackexchange.com/a/129381/23243 might be of interest to you.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 17:09
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    I really like this question because it provides a bit of headcanon for me around how Harry didn't turn out to be evil despite the years of abuse he suffered at the hands of relatives. Magic! :D Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:30
  • Thank you. Plus it expands on Lily's protection and how Dumbledore played a role, placing Harry in the care of his mother's relation. Not matter how cruel or horrible they were to Harry, that is where he had to be. He would be safe where the blood of his mother dwell's.
    – Flitoangel
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 3:35
  • @WayneWerner There's a fanfic about a more 'realistic' mind set for Harry to have after years of abuse - 'Brutal Harry'. It's honestly not bad, although still has the usual fanfic lack of polish and editing. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 12:52

4 Answers 4


It appears that there were two parts to the protection

From various sources throughout the books it becomes apparent that there were two separate aspects to the protection Harry had. The first was a more specific protection. This had nothing to do with Dumbledore, and was solely the result of Lilly's love. This specific protection prevented Voldemort's original curse from killing Harry, and it also prevented Quirrel from touching Harry. This aspect of the protection is dealt with in several places:

In the end of Philosopher's Stone Dumbledore partly explains the protection from Lilly's sacrifice:

“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign ... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”

In the end of Chamber of Secrets Tom Riddle says the following:

“So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that’s a powerful counter-charm. I can see now ... there is nothing special about you, after all.

In the graveyard in Goblet of Fire Voldemort says:

“His mother left upon him the traces of her sacrifice.

. . . This is old magic, I should have remembered it, I was foolish to overlook it . . . but no matter. I can touch him now.”

Harry felt the cold tip of the long white finger touch him, and thought his head would burst with the pain.

We see from the above quotes that the protection from Lilly's love was limited to two things: It blocked the original Killing Curse, and it prevented someone who "has no love" from physically touching Harry. And in fact once Voldemort came back and took some of Harry's blood, he apparently overcame this part of the protection. As Dumbledore himself noted on that occasion:

“Very well,” he said, sitting down again. “Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier. Harry, continue, please.”

The second aspect of the protection is more general. This part essentially made Harry's home a "safe zone". This protection was derived from Lilly's love, but was ultimately implemented by Dumbledore. What Dumbledore did was essentially apply Lily's love protection to the Dursley's home by channeling it through Harry's blood relation to Aunt Petunia.

At the end of Order of the Phoenix Dumbledore explains how this worked:

“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. Your aunt knows this. I explained what I had done in the letter I left, with you, on her doorstep. She knows that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years.”

As you note in the question, this is what Dumbledore said was his own implementation:

“She may have taken you grudgingly, furiously, unwillingly, 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.”

In the beginning of Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore explains this aspect of the protection to the Dursleys:

“The magic I evoked fifteen years ago means that Harry has powerful protection while he can still call this house ‘home.’ However miserable he has been here, however unwelcome, however badly treated, you have at least, grudgingly, allowed him houseroom. This magic will cease to operate the moment that Harry turns seventeen; in other words, at the moment he becomes a man. I ask only this: that you allow Harry to return, once more, to this house, before his seventeenth birthday, which will ensure that the protection continues until that time.”

Thus, it seems clear from all the above quotes that Dumbledore implemented a magical protection in addition to the protection Harry already had from his mother's sacrifice. Dumbledore's protection was based on the original protection, and indeed could probably be termed an extension of the original protection.

It is interesting to note, though, that it is possible that other characters did not fully understand this distinction. In the beginning of Deathly Hallows there are several references to the protection of the Dursley home:

Moody dropped his sacks at his feet and turned to Harry. “As Dedalus probably told you, we had to abandon Plan A. Pius Thicknesse has gone over, which gives us a big problem. He’s made it an imprisonable offense to connect this house to the Floo Network, place a Portkey here, or Apparate in or out. All done in the name of your protection, to prevent You-Know-Who getting in at you. Absolutely pointless, seeing as your mother’s charm does that already. What he’s really done is to stop you getting out of here safely.

“Now, your mother’s charm will only break under two conditions: when you come of age, or” — Moody gestured around the pristine kitchen — “you no longer call this place home. You and your aunt and uncle are going your separate ways tonight, in the full understanding that you’re never going to live together again, correct?”

In these two quotes, Moody apparently conflates Lilly's protection with Dumbledore's protection. It is possible that Moody was not fully aware of the mechanism of the protection, it is possible that he was simply being imprecise in his speech, or it is possible that a minor authorial error crept in here.

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    +1 for the source references. I'd always assumed Dumbledore was just making Lily's protection last longer by optimizing the conditions it was operating in; I still think is the case actually, but you've made a good case for a 2nd magical act. So far as I can tell, Dumbledore didn't create/cast any additional magic (he says evoked, not created or cast), he just put existing magic into play and made sure the Dursleys did their part in enabling Lily's protection to last as long as possible.
    – brichins
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 22:43
  • "Thus, it seems clear from all the above quotes that Dumbledore implemented a magical protection in addition to the protection Harry already had from his mother's sacrifice" Actually no, it just seems clear that Dumbledore did some action to ensure the sacrifice will protect Harry. The action might be just recognizing the perks and giving Harry to the Dursleys without applying any additional charms.
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Sep 25, 2018 at 20:56
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    @ShanaTar she sealed the charm I placed upon you
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 2:13
  • A good and comprehensive answer (+1). The only part I take issue with is this: "What Dumbledore did was essentially broaden the love protection by broadening the love." This isn't true. Dumbledore didn't broaden the protection at all. He used a charm to tie the protection to Privet Drive - as the rest of the answer explains. What mattered wasn't the breadth of the sacrificial protection but its application. The love/sacrifice (of Lily) didn't change. This is the only point that could be made clearer in the answer. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 15:48
  • @TheDarkLord What I meant by "broadened the protection" was that the protection was broadened in that it went from being inside Harry to being on the house. What I meant by "broadening the love" was that it went from being directly Lily's love for Harry to being Lily's love for Harry filtered through Petunia. Perhaps not the best wording, especially as it might imply that the protection was increased and that Petunia loved Harry, neither of which are strictly speaking true. I will edit to make it more clear. Thanks for pointing it out.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 16:18

Dumbledore’s charm is what protected Harry at the Dursleys’.

When explaining to the Death Eaters how he made a plan to capture Harry Potter, the Dark Lord says that Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic to ensure Harry was protected at the Dursleys’.

“For he has been better protected than I think even he knows, protected in ways devised by Dumbledore long ago, when it fell to him to arrange the boy’s future. Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy’s protection as long as he is in his relations’ care.”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)

Dumbledore doing this is what ensured Harry’s protection while in the care of his relatives. If no one had done the charm he did to invoke the ancient magic, then Harry wouldn’t have any special protection at the Dursleys’ despite his mother sacrificing herself.

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    Based on this I think it's safe to speculate that the magic was there already, due to Lilly's sacrifice. Dumbledore simply used that magic to create the charm. Basically this "ancient magic" can be used to create a protection charm, but of course there's a prerequisite of the sacrifice before the charm can be created.
    – Zip Zap J
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 17:32
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    @ZipZapJ Agreed - I don’t think Dumbledore could have done the charm without the sacrifice having happened first. However, the “ancient magic” wouldn’t have been activated in such a way as to create the protection charm if Dumbledore didn’t cast the necessary charm.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 17:36
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    So there are at least two different pieces of ancient magic which protected Harry: the one which resulted in Voldemort's curse rebounding and prevented him from touching Harry, and the other which Dumbledore invoked, which somehow depended on the first one.
    – Ruslan
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 18:17
  • @Ruslan Yes, that’s exactly right! :)
    – Obsidia
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 18:18
  • Perhaps I should ask this as another question, but one thing that has always bothered me is why Harry is so unique in being the only one to survive a killing curse. Surely there must be more than self-sacrifice required for that? Has nobody in the recorded history of magic ever sacrificed themselves for the sake of anyone else before?
    – Muzer
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 22:04


Short answer: both. Dumbledore's spell merely extended the protection that Lily's sacrifice gave him. Look closely at the very last sentence you quoted:

Your mother’s sacrifice made the bond of blood the strongest shield I (Dumbledore) could give you.

So, Dumbledore was merely extending the protection that Lily's sacrifice enabled.


No, there was only his mother's shield that was protecting him. J.K. Rowling used this in the question sense that it was such a strong shield that even Dumbledore cannot give that shield to anyone and could not break it.

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    Do you have textual evidence for this? Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 13:15
  • No right now but i will find some
    – Muhammad
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 14:48
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    I don't understand your wording? Dumbledore did not try to break the charm. He only used it to enhance Harry's protection with a charm of his (Dumbledore's) own. It was a strong shield but Dumbledore advanced on it. And it could be broken. One way was when Harry became of age, that would break it. Another way to break it would be Harry going to live on his own or with someone other than the Dursleys.
    – Flitoangel
    Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 3:23

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