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After the death of Lord Voldemort, Harry was taken to the Dursleys and became known as "The Boy Who Lived".

We know that the Wizarding World found out pretty quickly that Voldemort was dead and undoubtedly it was Dumbledore that advised people that Harry had somehow survived the attack and caused Voldemort's death. According to Snape (in HP:HBP) there were even persistent rumours that Harry was a powerful Dark Wizard in the making until he turned up at Hogwarts a decade later.

My question is : Where did the Wizarding World think Harry was for the intervening 10 years?

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    And a supplementary question: Why did anyone believe he was The-Boy-Who-Lived if there was no evidence that he was still alive? – Valorum Mar 27 '15 at 23:24
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    But there was evidence; Dumbledore saying so should've been good enough for everyone. – Atsby Mar 27 '15 at 23:48
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    @Atsby - Fair enough, but the absence of an actual survivor seems very suspicious to me. – Valorum Mar 27 '15 at 23:54
83

The truth: that he was living with Muggles.

We only get brief snippets of what people thought he might have been up to, when he’s just on the cusp of re-entering the magical world. Once he’s at Hogwarts, the shock factor of his mere presence wears off a little.

There are a few things that were definitely well-known before he came to Hogwarts:


He was living with Muggles

There are several references to this:

  • The barkeeper in the Leaky Cauldron:

    “Bless my soul,” whispered the old barman. “Harry Potter… what an honour.”

    He hurried out from behind the bar, rushed towards Harry and seized his hand, tears in his eyes.

    “Welcome back, Mr Potter, welcome back.”

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)

  • And when Harry meets Ron on the train:

    “I heard you went to live with Muggles,” said Ron. “What are they like?”

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)

It’s not clear whether people realised that he’d gone to live with Muggle relatives, or merely some Muggles that were trusted to look after him.


He had a lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead

We also know that people were aware of the lightning scar as a distinguishing feature, before he rejoined the magical world. When he shows up at Hogwarts, everybody wants to see it, and the Weasleys seem to be well aware of it:

  • As Fred and George help him get his trunk onto the train:

    With the twins’ help, Harry’s trunk was at last tucked away in a corner of the compartment.

    ‘Thanks,’ said Harry, pushing his sweaty hair out of his eyes. “What’s that?” said one of the twins suddenly, pointing at Harry’s lightning scar.

    “Blimey,’ said the other twin. ‘Are you –?”

    “He is,” said the first twin. “Aren’t you?” he added to Harry.

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)

  • And when they tell their family, both Molly and Ginny seem to be aware of it:

    “Oh, Mum, can I go on the train and see him, Mum, oh please ...”

    “You’ve already seen him, Ginny, and the poor boy isn’t something you goggle at in a zoo. Is he really, Fred? How do you know?”

    “Asked him. Saw his scar. It’s really there – like lightning.”

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)


He’s definitely alive

He gets spotted in the street (either by resemblance to James, or from his lightning scar). Not only would this confirm the story that he was living with Muggles, but it would also be a strong suggestion that he was still alive.

  • When Harry first visits the Leaky Cauldron, he meets one of his admirers:

    “I’ve seen you before!” said Harry, as Dedalus Diggle’s top hat fell off in his excitement. “You bowed to me once in a shop.”

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)

    Given how excited people seem to be to see or hear of Harry, I’m sure a story about meeting him on the street would have gone down well in the pub. I imagine Dedalus Diggle wasn’t buying his own drinks for quite a while.

  • And earlier in the book, we hear about a whole laundry list of such people:

    Yet sometimes he thought (or maybe hoped) that strangers in the street seemed to know him. Very strange strangers they were, too. A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowed to him once while out shopping with Aunt Petunia and Dudley. […] A wild-looking old woman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus. A bald man in a very long purple coat had actually shaken his hand in the street the other day and then walked away without a word. The weirdest thing about all these people was the way they seemed to vanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look.

    Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 2 (The Vanishing Glass)

  • 3
    An awesome answer. You have my +1. – Valorum Mar 28 '15 at 9:29
  • This really is a great answer - I agree with @Richard and you have my +1 – Raystafarian Mar 28 '15 at 10:33
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    I think the final passage suggests that they also knew he was being kept in-the-dark about the magical world, hence why nobody ever mentioned it to him explicitly. That’s only a guess though. – alexwlchan Mar 28 '15 at 12:38
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    @alexwlchan That seems unlikely. Hagrid was shocked, and then furious, when he found out the Dursleys hadn't told Harry the truth, so I doubt random wizards would have known. – Anthony Grist Oct 7 '15 at 14:39
2

I suppose there is no cannon info about this in the books but here goes my take

I think that most of the wizarding world who cared about these things probably knew where Harry was, and some even knew who he was (that is, recognized him if they saw him; in the first book when Harry is at The Leaky Cauldron with Hagrid Daedalus Diggle is happy to know that Harry remembered the last time Diggle bowed to him, which means Diggle could recognize Harry when he saw him). I believe Dumbledore probably told the wizarding world at large not to disturb Harry or the Dursleys until Harry turns 10 and officially returns to the wizard world to be trained at Hogwarts (this was also probably enforced by the Ministry, as per their policy of keeping the wizarding world hidden from muggles, hence we do not see wizards flocking in droves to the Dursley's house to get a glimpse of the boy who lived during the said 10 years). Dumbledore at that time commanded great respect from the people and perhaps the Ministry as well, due to his reputation and the fact that he was the leader of the Order of Phoenix, the group seriously dedicated to opposing Lord Voldemort. It is not illogical to assume that the Ministry or the people in general would believe him when he says that Harry is actually alive and is under the protection of his only relatives, nor that they would leave Harry and the Dursleys alone on Dumbledore's request

However I also think that Dumbledore (or perhaps the Ministry) had someway of keeping check on how Harry was doing (note that Dumbledore had stationed Mrs. Figg in Harry's neighborhood before Harry even realized he was a wizard; also the wizards somehow know when the Dursley's change Harry's room in the house, as well as the fact that Harry has not been able to read even one of the hundreds of letters from Hogwarts)

  • There wouldn't likely be droves of wizards flocking to the Dursleys’ doorstep to see Harry—remember that Dumbledore was secret-keeper for the Dursleys to protect him from Voldemort and his followers, so apart from Mrs. Figg (whom Dumbledore must have told himself), no one would be able to find Harry as long as he was at the Dursleys’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 28 '15 at 12:44
  • Dursley's house was not under Fidelius charm – user13267 Mar 28 '15 at 13:03
  • No, you’re quite right, it’s not. Not sure what exactly I was getting mixed up there. There is even an instance where someone who has definitely not been told about Harry’s location still finds him: when Ron and his brothers come to pick up Harry in the flying car. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 28 '15 at 13:21
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes years old. But I suspect that somehow you conflated the extra protections that Dumbledore gave Harry from Voldemort while he could call it home. Easy to do - all you have to do is be tired or be distracted or many numerous other causes. And it did have to do with the Dursleys. – Pryftan Jul 27 '18 at 1:37

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