Thinking about it while I was writing up my other question about Dudley's pig's tail, it occurred to me that I cannot think of a single instance in which the Dursleys -- Verrnon, Petunia, and Dudley -- had their memories modified, even though they have witnessed numerous incidents of a witch or wizard performing magic.

They witnessed Hagrid giving Dudley the pig's tail. They've witnessed numerous owl post deliveries. They've noticed that wherever they go, or Harry goes, they can always be found. They witness Dobby dropping the pudding on Mrs Mason in CoS (they think Harry did it, though) and of course there's the incident with Aunt Marge. Marge seems to be the only Dursley whose had her memory modified by the Accidential Magic Reversal Squad; meanwhile, the Ministry allows Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley to keep their memories of what happened to Marge. They're allowed to keep their memories of the Dementor attack, and when George, Fred, Ron, and Arthur come to Privet Drive to collect Harry in, I believe, GoF, and one of the twins feeds Dudley Ton-Tongue Taffy and Dudder's tongue grows about six feet long, there is no consequence from the Ministry, it seems. There are plenty of other examples.

Why doesn't the Ministry ever modify the Dursleys' memories?

★ I don't prefer an answer from the HP Wikia or the Wikipedia.

ETA: I really do get what people are saying about Muggle families with witches in wizards in them, and how they cannot be Obliviated for every little thing. That makes sense now that people have explained it. But I still wonder about Dudley's piggy tail because that would have essentially been introducing a magical pig's tail into the Muggle world via a Muggle hospital, to Muggles doctors who have no familial connection to the Dursleys. Would the Ministry want that happening? It truly surprises me that no one had their memory modified as a result of the pig's tail incident.

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    The Dursley's are aware of magic, as their foster child is a member of that community and attending a magical school. Mrs. Dursley has in fact known about magic since she was a child and her sister went to school. All of the muggle born student's in Hogwarts also have parents whose memories are not modified...not sure why you would expect the Dursley's to be an exception.
    – NominSim
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 18:37
  • @NominSim - I'm talking about specific incidents, such as Aunt Marge being inflated, the ton-tongue toffee, the boa in the zoo, etc. I mean, Harry got an official warning for the pudding Dobby dropped on Mrs Mason's head, for which Harry was erroneously blamed. There just seem to be some inconsistencies to me. YMMV, of course. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:04
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    @Slytherincess - no incincistencies there. Mugges who don't already know about wizarding got Lockharted. Dursleys did not, since there's no need. It's not about the incident, it's about the memory owner. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:12
  • BTW, why all the Down-Voting? The answer may be intuitively clear but it doesn't make it a bad question. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:13
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    @DVK: +1 for use of the phrase "got Lockharted". I love that and may actually start using it in my common everyday language usage :-D
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 22:54

7 Answers 7


I suspect as guardians of Harry Potter they have the right to know about the magical world. It would be crazy to expect them to raise a wizard and constantly be deleting the memories of their experiences (this isn't Heroes after all).

This may or may not extend to members outside the immediate family. It is possible that the Dursleys requested that Aunt Marge's memory be modified. If she knew they had a "freak" in the house they would lose her respect.

  • +1 MY thoughts exactly. Having to constantly wipe their memories would be a complete waste of resources on behalf of the Ministry of Magic.
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 18:37
  • Well, I didn't suggest that the Dursleys' memories would have to be "constantly" be modified. There's a handful of incidents throughout the series that I think would qualify for memory modification. It seems that's just me, though. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:07
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    @Slytherincess- the purpose of flashy-thingy...errr... memory modification is specifically to prevent the subject from knowing that Aliens Are Among Us... errr.... magical world exists... i'm mixing my universes. As such, for Dursleys, who already DO know it exists, there's zero point in any memory modification unless it's required for some high-security purposes so they can't spill the beans on Harry to Volemort. I can't recall a single case where the latter would be needed. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 19:10
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    I doubt that the Dursleys had any input in Aunt Marge's case. Fudge states in Prizoner of Azkaban that Aunt Marge's memory was modified by the same Ministry agents who deflated her, and he made it sound like one single routine set of actions, not something that was negotiated.
    – MJ713
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 5:10

Considering Hermione's parents are Muggles, and they've never have their memories wiped, it would appear that being the legal guardian of a witch or wizard grants Muggles an exception to the "no knowledge of magic" rule. I'm sure there are a variety of reasons for this, but no doubt the most important ones are:

  • So Muggles can properly raise their children. It would be very difficult to raise a wizard properly if you didn't know they were a wizard
  • So the children can attend Hogwarts. If the parents didn't know the child was a wizard they would no doubt be less inclined to let them attend a school they've never heard of, and only be permitted to see them a few weeks of every school year. Not to mention they would never be allowed to actually visit the school. I can't imagine any parent agreeing to this kind of situation.
  • It would be a waste of time. Having to constantly erase all the memories of legal guardians of magic children would be an exercise in frustration, considering they live with a wizard (who no doubt lacks full control of their powers). It would just be a waste of resources.

Sure, the Dursleys might not be good parents to Harry, but they are still his legal guardians, and the rule would apply to them as well.

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    Not to mention the challenge of sending a report card home: "Son, what exactly is Defense Against the Dark Arts?" Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 20:06
  • @mhoran_psprep -- Hahahaha, right? Good call! Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 21:25
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    Many Muggle families do not know they have a magical child until the Hogwarts letter appears (and I believe a Hogwarts representative follows shortly behind to explain the magical world). As to visiting Hogwarts, there are occasions when Muggle parents are allowed into Hogwarts (Moaning Myrtle's parents). And, again, I never suggested that all memories should be modified. For example, the Order meeting Mr Dursley? No big deal. But Dudley being attacked by a Dementor? I would think that would be a more likely candidate for memory modification. :) Commented Nov 22, 2012 at 5:22
  • They already know magic exist, they can comprehend magical occurrences, why modify their memories? Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 12:04

Addressing Dudley's tail specifically, there's really no reason to modify anyone's memory. There have been tales (pun intended) of people with very unusual birth defects which require surgery to correct (including people born with small vestigial tails). This listverse article, for example, lists some bizarre real-life instances.

So why bother taking the time modifying the surgeon's memory when the Dursley's are extremely unlikely to admit to the truth, and a non-magical explanation is readily available?

  • That works if the tail was just like a normal growth, and thus unremarkable. It's much shakier if it's something novel. Doctors are going to want to talk about it and study it. If, say, it has the actual DNA of a pig, you start getting a medical curiosity that might lead people to discovering magic. At the very least, they'd need to keep a close eye on it to start memory charming people if it got out of hand. But charming them to think it was a normal growth would be simpler.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 6:33
  • Agree. Weird things grow out of human bodies - tree-man of india edition.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/10/02/…. Plus the Dursley's being always in denial would not reveal it was placed by magic. If the doctor's could "accept and explain it in their own minds" as weird mutation; the Ministry might just let it go. If some journalist starts taking pictures without the Dursley's permission (no chance Vernon will give permission anyway) that would be another matter.
    – tls
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 11:33

Maybe the doctors were memory charmed, but it just wasn't mentioned. I, for one, can't think of a single instance where JKR could have the fact mentioned and have it remain relevant. Can you imagine?

"Oh.", Dumbldore said, pausing in the middle of his comforting speech to the bedridden boy, "By the way, the doctors that removed your cousin's pig tail have been memory charmed, so no need to worry about that.". He smiled genially at a confused Harry, who didn't really care about this fact, and indeed had forgotten about the tail until Dumbledore had mentioned it.

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    I think you have a gem hidden in that answer there, but it needs to be better written. (Note, I did not downvote you.) We do have no indication that the medical personnel were not memory charmed. It is an important part of understanding fiction that not everything is necessarily mentioned.
    – trlkly
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 6:28

With regards to the 'Dudley's Tail' incident specifically, no one was Obliviated because: (a) Only Harry, the Dursleys, and Hagrid knew about the tail, and for various reasons none of them had any inclination to mention it to anyone else [since Dumbledore evidently could track the Dursleys to that shack, it is possible he was aware of what Hagrid did, but since it was a small, hideable change, he might have let it go - he might even have approved ;-) ], therefore no one knew that Obliviation might be needed; (b) Undoubtedly the Dursleys would have kept the incident as quiet as possible by taking Dudley to a doctor who didn't already know the Dursleys, and so couldn't be aware that Dudley had not grown up with a tail.


Muggles only get a "mind wipe", if they should never know about magic. As Harry's guardians, the Dursleys are exempt from this rule.

  • Also, Harry is accused of doing magic in front of a muggle in OOTP, but Dudley knew about magic.
    – user35971
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 20:24
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    Those were unique circumstances where the ministry was trying to do him in for the slightest infraction Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 16:18

I think that some of the spells like the "pigtail incident" maybe were temporary, disappeared after a while. Or Hagrid deleted the tail after he left.

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    Fairly sure the tail doesn’t go away on its own. From Philosopher’s Stone: “‘Taking Dudley to hospital,’ growled Uncle Vernon. ‘Got to have that ruddy tail removed before he goes to Smeltings.’”
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 23:39

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