Note: This is NOT a question about why Dumbledore left Harry with the Dursleys, which he himself answers pretty well.

But I've always wondered about the manner of how Dumbledore left Harry with the Dursleys. In seems like it would have been pretty easy of Dumbledore to knock on the door and explain the entire situation to the Dursleys. But instead he leaves a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, places the Chosen One on the doorstep, and hopes that perhaps the most thoroughly unpleasant Muggles in Britain won't abandon him, push him off on someone else, etc.

One thing that's always struck me as a bit callous is that Dumbledore tells Petunia her sister is dead in a letter. A letter attached to Lily's orphaned baby. Way to soften the blow, Albus.

Was there some reason Dumbledore left Harry and explained everything in a letter?

  • 12
    I assumed it was because he wanted to present them with a fait accompli. Knowing their hatred of wizards, if he knocked on the door he risked them refusing to take Harry in.
    – Valorum
    Aug 7, 2014 at 20:14

3 Answers 3


I figured it had to do with the fact that it was much more likely that Petunia would take in Harry if she felt like she was all he had. If Dumbledore had stuck around, I very much doubt he could have convinced her to take him over her saying simply "you take him, I don't want him". Also, it's possible that she and Vernon would have just freaked out if they saw Dumbledore. He clearly didn't have time for that. But I don't doubt for a moment that a watchful eye was always on Harry to make sure he did indeed get in safely.

To be honest, as awful as she is to Harry, I don't think she ever would have abandoned him. As Dumbledore said, she did take him in after all and didn't immediately take him to an orphanage. Actually, thinking of it, I would imagine that was the most selfish thing she would have ever done. You can bet your ass Vernon didn't want anything to do with him. And why would he, he hates everything he represents (actually I'm curious if he would know anything about magic up to this point. I can't fathom a reason Petunia would have ever told him until he demanded answers of where this child came from).

Anyway, we all know how timid Petunia is to Vernon and how his word is law. I would guess it took some serious guts on Petunia's part and determination to stand up to Vernon to tell him they were keeping Harry, which for anyone would be no small feat. Granted, his living situation was awful, but you wouldn't do that for someone if you didn't truly care (now whether it's for Harry or, more likely imo, Lily, I'm not sure).

Albus put his faith in his guess for how much Petunia actually cared about her sister and that she generally, deep down, is a good person.

Edit: not sure if my answer got a little bit too of topic. In short, I think Albus had a pretty good guess at how Petunia would react. His guess was then obviously verified by the events that happened. Albus is, after all, fairly wise ;)

  • 2
    "actually I'm curious if he would know anything about magic up to this point. I can't fathom a reason Petunia would have ever told him until he demanded answers of where this child came from" Uncle Vernon already knew about Petunis's magical relatives, I think he even recalled Harry's name somewhat. He reveals his while talking to Aunt Petunia before bed after seeing weird people the whole day
    – user13267
    Aug 7, 2014 at 23:30
  • “I would imagine that was the most selfish thing she would have ever done.” – I’m not sure I understand the various woulds in this sentence, so it may be that; but is selfish really the word you wanted to use? Sounds rather the opposite.
    – chirlu
    Feb 6, 2016 at 17:00
  • I can't fathom a reason Petunia would have ever told him (about magic) until he demanded answers of where this child came from Well, that doesn't really require her to explain about magic. You can manage with just some birds and some bees...
    – xDaizu
    Feb 6, 2018 at 8:39

It's very hard to say "no" to someone who isn't there.

If Dumbledore had tried to hand over the baby Harry in person, Petunia could have simply refused to take him, knowing that her refusal wouldn't have much by way of repercussions: Harry wouldn't be any better off, but crucially, he wouldn't be any worse off, either.

On the other hand, in the doorstep scenario, what options did Petunia have? Leave him outside on her doorstep? For all the neighbors to see when they got up in the morning? Right, so that leaves bringing him inside, possibly (probably?) with the intention of getting rid of him some other way. Problem is, getting rid of him involves way too much personal involvement and talking to strangers. Strangers who will demand explanations that Petunia simply cannot give.

Bottom line is, Dumbledore knew what he was doing.


From the book it simply seems that Dumbledore was to busy to take the time and properly inform the Dursleys of the situation. We know that it was quite hectic that night and that Dumbledore was probably between the ministry, and the order of the phoenix verifying laying plans in motion to take out the followers of Voldemort before it was 100% certain he was gone. He's got a nice window to act between the time he drops off Harry till the morning paper to clean up some loose Deatheaters who won't believe that their lord is actually dead. Dumbledore also shows throughout the books that he simply doesn't care about the majority of people, which helps explain why he doesn't personally talk to Petunia. Again i'm sure he also knew that she and Lily had grown apart since Lily found out she was a witch.

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