64

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Uncle Vernon says:

We even let you have Dudley's second bedroom purely out of the goodness of our hearts.

There is plenty of evidence that there's no "goodness in their hearts" when it comes to Harry. They had no problem with him living under the stairs for almost 11 years. Why did that change?

Did someone in the wizarding world force them?

Did they decide to use the cupboard under the stairs for something else?

Or (much less likely), did they develop a tiny bit of sympathy for Harry?

  • 9
    I think it's more a joke, since it implies that previously, not only did Harry not have a bedroom, but Dudley had two for some reason, so it further emphasizes their cruelty, since Harry's lack of bedroom was not due to lack of space in the house, but just to overall dickishness. – Darrel Hoffman Jul 8 at 15:25
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    It's called guilt. – Karl Jul 9 at 22:00
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    @Karl it is absolutely not guilt, the books are extremely clear on that. – DavidS Jul 10 at 10:04
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    For the remainder of "Philosopher's Stone" Dursleys had nightmares about Hagrid in Child Protection Services hat. – Darth Hunterix Jul 10 at 10:28
  • @DavidS I've just stumbled over the first book in my basement an read it again. Please tell me: where is the book so clear about that? – Karl Jul 10 at 19:04
115

The Dursleys moved him because they were worried that Dumbledore (or whoever was sending them Harry's acceptance letters) had made it clear that they were aware that Harry was being kept in a cupboard.

Mr H. Potter
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
Little Whinging
Surrey

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Shortly after they moved him, the letters reflected the change, even if they were still a bit sarcastic.

‘Er – yes, Harry – about this cupboard. Your aunt and I have been thinking … you’re really getting a bit big for it … we think it might be nice if you moved into Dudley’s second bedroom.’
‘Why?’ said Harry.
‘Don’t ask questions!’ snapped his uncle. ‘Take this stuff upstairs, now.’

and

‘There’s another one! Mr H. Potter, The Smallest Bedroom, 4 Privet Drive –’


If we're talking specifically about the films, there was also an additional exposition scene in the original Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone screenplay that was written but not filmed that shows how concerned his aunt and uncle are about the fact that the letter-sender can see where he sleeps.

enter image description here

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    So it was a "oh crap, this wizard knows and might kill us for being such horrible parents"? Awesome – LevenTrek Jul 8 at 6:18
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    @LevenTrek - It's also a middle class 'keeping up appearances' deal. They don't want people to think badly of them, even people they don't like. – Valorum Jul 8 at 6:31
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    You might also want to mention that the constant moving of both Harry and the family as a whole was an attempt to throw the letter-senders off the trail. "If they don't know where he lives then they can't reach him" as well as hoping that not replying would deter them enough to stop. – The Dark Lord Jul 8 at 8:31
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    Note - that dialogue from Petunia is in the book somewhere, I'm pretty sure. – DavidS Jul 8 at 8:44
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    @LevenTrek - Vernon and Petunia Dursley could be accused of many things, but being "parents" to Harry Potter would not be one of them. – Bob Jarvis Jul 8 at 16:21
32

They gave it to him in the first book, after the incident with the letters.. but as to keeping it, I don't remember it being expressly stated, but I believe it was due to them being afraid of what he might do with his magic, once he learned he had it, and how to use it.

From the same book:

Underage wizards weren’t allowed to use magic outside of school. Harry hadn’t told the Dursleys this; he knew it was only their terror that he might turn them all into dung beetles that stopped them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs with his wand and broomstick.

(Emphasis added)

Since that was where he stayed before, it seems pretty consistent with that being the reason.

In the first book, near the end, we see:

“Hope you have—er—a good holiday,” said Hermione, looking uncertainly after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant.

“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…”

Beyond that, I think they were somewhat afraid of what the Wizardling World might do in response to their 'Hero' being abused.. That didn't result in good treatment, but at least the over-the-top 'keep him under the stairs' issue went away. Overall, a lesser version of the protection he gets at the end of Prisoner.

“It’s not,” said Harry cheerfully. “It’s a letter from my godfather.”

“Godfather?” sputtered Uncle Vernon. “You haven’t got a godfather!”

“Yes, I have,” said Harry brightly. “He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of wizard prison and he’s on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though… keep up with my news… check if I’m happy…”

And, grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off toward the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last.

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    To clarify they were “somewhat” afraid: A giant that can render rifles useless and can create piggy tails on their sons back. – atayenel Jul 8 at 10:34
  • Of course, this quote "he knew it was only their terror that he might turn them all into dung beetles that stopped them from locking him in the cupboard under the stairs with his wand and broomstick" doesn't make any sense. Being scared of his magic is a reason to do what they did (lock his wand away), not to not lock him up with the thing that allows him to do magic. – Anthony Grist Jul 9 at 12:56
  • @AnthonyGrist The Dursleys have no idea of the rules of magic and have seen lots of magic being performed without wands, both by Harry on many occasions and by Hagrid with his umbrella. – 520 Jul 9 at 14:53
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    @520 Petunia grew up with a witch, she knows more than she likes to pretend (as we see on a few occasions in the books). Depriving Harry of his wand, books, etc. is clearly intended to prevent him from doing magic. If they think he doesn't need a wand then locking it away is pointless, and that's still not a good reason to then put him in the same location as spellbooks, a wand, potionmaking supplies, etc. – Anthony Grist Jul 9 at 15:35
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    @AnthonyGrist That's called a figure of speech. – Karl Jul 9 at 22:08

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