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Harry discovers his true nature of wizard when Hagrid comes to see him at the chapter 4 of the first book. Yet, it is a shock to him that Harry doesn't know anything about the magical world he belongs to.

I can't understand how Dumbledore could let it happen. It seems very unlikely he didn't know as I think he was watching over Harry closely, at least to make sure he was safe. Plus, a quote from Hagrid seems to confirm that, as he says that Dumbedore warned him it could be tricky. (In addition to the old cat lady story several books later.)

'I never expected this,' he said, in a low, worried voice. 'I have no idea, when Dumbledore told me there might be trouble gettin' hold of yeh, how mmuch yeh didn't know. Ah, Harry, I don' know if I'm the right person to tell yeh - but someone's gotta - yeh can't go off ter Hogwarts not knowin'.'

Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 4: The Keeper of the Keys

I do know that Dumbledore was thinking it was better for Harry to be far from all the wizards, as he was famous, but it wasn't a reason to let him know nothing about his parents and his true nature.

'It's the best place for him,' said Dumbledore firmly. 'His aunt and uncle will be able to explain everything to him when he's older. I've written them a letter.'

'A letter?' repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. 'Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter? These people will never understand him! He'll be famous - a legend - I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in future - there will be books written about Harry - every child in our world will know his name!'

'Exactly,' said Dumbledore, looking very seriously over the top of his half-moon glasses. 'It would be enough to turn any boy's head. Famous before he can walk and talk! Famous for something he wont even remember! Can't you see how much better off he'll be, growing up away from all this until he's ready to take it?'

Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived

He never states that it would be wrong to let him know he's a wizard and even says that his aunt and uncle could tell him once he's old enough to understand the news. He didn't want another wizard family to take him in but not that he didn't want Harry to know about his heritage (or even the fact that he is famous).

So my question is how Dumbledore could let Harry be ignorant of this, until he was to go to Hogwarts? I do know many students don't know what a wizard is until they get their letter, but Harry's circumstances is huge and Dumbledore had left a letter more or less for Harry.

As Dumbledore knew that Harry didn't know anything, it seems weird that he didn't go himself to the Dursleys' house to tell Harry everything - as he once did for Tom Riddle - years before the letter to Hogwarts.

(I guess an answer to why Dumbledore didn't came in person would be that he was afraid to mess everything up as he once did with Tom, but it does seem like a bit extrem reasonning.)

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    Not a full answer, but Dumbledore shows a general indifference towards others unless they are immediately useful to him. Harry was a nothing at that point to him, so he just did his own thing until it was time to retrieve him. – JMD Aug 9 '14 at 4:25
  • Then why was Dumbledore keeping an eye on him? – user35971 Dec 22 '14 at 16:51
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    Dumbles had plans for Harry, it seems likely that Harry not knowing the wizarding world, not growing up with his fame and influence, fits into those plans well. There's no way of knowing if he meant Harry to not know anything, or just not about his fame...but I doubt Dumbles objected. – Megha Jan 19 '16 at 1:12
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When Dumbledore sends Harry to the Dursleys, he also left instructions that Harry was to be raised like their own son and shown love. Obviously, that was also ignored.

"I left him upon your doorstep fifteen years ago, with a letter explaining about his parents' murder and expressing the hope that you would care for him ; as though he were your own... You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands..."

I think Dumbledore basically underestimated the Dursleys, the extent of their hate towards Harry, and the extent of their hate towards magic. He knew that children started displaying magic at a young age, and assumed that at some point there would be a "talk." He could have never guessed that the Dursleys were naive enough to think Harry could go his entire life thinking he was a normal Muggle.

You bring up the fact that Dumbledore was keeping tabs on Harry, which I don't doubt was probably the case. But even if Harry had known he was a wizard, he would have kept it secret in public. I don't know how Dumbledore could have known for sure that Harry didn't know he was a wizard without basically interrogating him.

  • Well, I guess you're right. He knew there was trouble because the letters were not received but that didn't mean necessarily that Harry knew nothing. (Maybe the Dursleys simply didn't want Harry to go - thus he sent the big Hagrid to help Harry? Or Harry himself didn't want to come - after some Dursleys propaganda?) And ten years do fly quickly after all. I think too highly of Dumbledore and his all-knowing! – Ananas Aug 11 '14 at 12:18
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    Dumbledore is a wise guy, with a vision for the long term. I think he knew exactly how Harry would be treated by the Dursleys. He must have been aware of Petunia's resentment towards her sister, and Vernon's hatred of everything magic. Worrying that Harry's "celebrity" status may go to his head, he may have deliberately chosen to place him with a family he knew would be outright hostile to the boy. Plus, it sure helped build Harry's character. – Chahk Aug 11 '14 at 16:46
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    Could you add a reference for the quote please? – Möoz Nov 25 '14 at 2:02
  • Doesn't Hagrid say that Harry's name had been down for Hogwarts since he had been born? Also Harry showed signs of magic very early on--he could fly a toy broom stick when he was only a year old, and James and Lily were still alive to mention it to other people. The books give a pretty good indication that Dumbledore was certain Harry was a wizard long before it was time to send out Hogwarts acceptance letters. – E. J. Jul 20 '15 at 23:39
  • "without basically interrogating him." -- Legilimency? (no idea if I spelled that right) – Kevin Sep 11 '15 at 13:58
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Dumbledore didn't tell him because he wanted the Dursley's to raise them. He had other things to do and he couldn't make the Dursley's raise him the way he wanted them to. He also wasn't really keeping watch on Harry that much.

And he throughout the books shows that he doesn't want to intervene in Harry's upbringing that much.

He leaves Harry on the doorstep with his letter and leaves.

He sends Hagrid to collect Harry instead.

He waits until Harry is older to tell him about his life.

He doesn't sign the Hogsmeade card for him.

Another thing is that Dumbledore later says that he realized the way he handled the situation was wrong, meaning that he saw that he should have intervened, but he didn't.

I will get some canon quotes.

And as another thought he might have known

I am not saying that he knew a lot about it. But I am saying that he might have known enough, but decided not to intervene. He might have known that Harry didn't know a lot. I mean it is impossible to think that leaving someone in the care of people that don't like them will not get even slight abuse.

"You don't mean--you can't mean the people who live here? Dumbledore, you can't. You couldn't find two people who are less like us. And they've got this son--" —Minerva McGonagall

He knew something. But he had no choice, and as he avoided Harry in the 5th book he might have ignored him then.

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While I haven't ready any of the books and I only saw like the first 3 or 4 movies, I'd still like to add my view on this, especially considering I might skip nuances or maybe even false assumptions arising from things mentioned in the books:

To me the Dursleys always appeared to be the typical small family living in a small house having big ambitions for their own children.

This leads to the first problem: Harry doesn't fit in there. In his own way he's superior to his stepsiblings and there's no way they could ever surpas him in that regards.

But even if they didn't know about his abilities (IMO this isn't depicted that great in the movies and I didn't really know until recently), they wouldn't allow Harry to visit Hogwarts due to the same reason: Why would they allow Harry to visit some "elitist" invite-only school, while their own children are probably visiting public schools only? This also fits pretty well in the whole abusing theme.

So if you assume the Dursleys knew about Harry's true nature (which they obviously did), they probably wouldn't want to tell him: They don't like magics, but they also wouldn't want to give Harry a potential tool to completely ignore or amend their attitude towards him. A typical example would be the scene at the zoo with the terrarium glass disappearing thanks to Harry. I don't think they'd like to have Harry in their house while he's trying to pull off that kind of mischief (even if it's unintentionally again). But they couldn't give him away either, as this would most likely have consequences of its own for them (and also prove in some way or another that their family essentially failed, again contradicting their ambitions).

So they're stuck with him, and at the same time they try to keep him down as much as possible, possibly due to fear (of his abilities) as well as envy (comparing him to their own childen) and hate (since he's able to use magic).

This leaves the question why Dumbledore didn't intervene: I think this has similar reasons (telling Harry could make his live even harder, e.g. due to being even more restricted) and also to keep him save, essentially hiding him. When Harry is introduced to the magic world, it's pretty apparent, that people recognize his name. As such he probably wouldn't have been save somewhere in the magical realm (or in other families knowing about it). But placing him just somewhere in the Muggle world (like an orphanage) could have been risky considering his origin and ancestry. While the Dursleys might not be perfect, they're obviously at least aware of potential problems and they'd know "who to call" just in case - plus they try to stay away from all things related to magic to not get anyone to see or learn about Harry by accident.

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The reason is because of the blood protection. His aunt Petunia had the same blood flowing through her veins as her sister. It was that which protected Harry until he turned 17 — which is when he moved. Where Harry lived was to always be called "home" — also why he always had to go there for a month or 2 every summer.

  • That's the reason why Harry lived there - not the reason why the Dursleys were allowed to keep his wizardness quiet from him. – Rand al'Thor Jan 18 '16 at 12:06

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