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Essays

How Safe is Privet Drive?

"Have either of you been attacked by Dementors this summer?"
     -- Harry Potter (OP4)

by Jen Reese
Harry in swing, OP1

After the events of book five, one can't help but wonder whether Harry is really safe now in Privet Drive. Has the protection reached critical mass at this point, and are the risks beginning to outweigh the benefits? Obviously when Voldemort was Vapormort, and the most loyal Death Eaters were incarcerated in Azkaban, the protection held up very nicely. But now...

From the discussion with Dumbledore at the end of book five, it seems that Harry must actually be in the house for the protection to work. Dumbledore says, "While you can still call home the place where your mother's blood dwells, there you cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort... She {Petunia} knows allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years (OP37)". That would imply that all the time Harry is cruising around Magnolia Crescent he is in danger, yes? It is not clear exactly how far the "protection" extends. There is additional canon that the protection is only in the house, since both Arthur and Sirius insist Harry stay in the house after the Dementor attack, and Petunia/Vernon then lock Harry in his room.

Regardless of the exact boundaries, we know the protection is only from Voldemort, given Dumbledore's statement above.

Incursions into Privet Drive are a staple now during Harry's summers. Dobby and the Advance Guard were able to enter the house with seemingly minimal effort. We don't know if Dobby apparated in, but do know he apparated out . We don't know for certain that the Advance Guard apparated either, but it seems likely. Harry asked Lupin, "How're we getting...wherever we're going?" and Lupin responded, "Brooms. Only Way. You're too young to Apparate (OP3)." Then most ominously, Arthur illegally connected the house to the Floo Network in GF4 (that action made me very uncomfortable, anyone else?).

Do these incursions imply other protections in place, ones that can be lifted for the 'good guys'? Voldemort does say, "But how to get to Harry Potter? For he has been better protected than I think even he knows, protected in ways {emphasis mine} devised by Dumbledore long ago, when it fell to him to arrange the boy's future (GF33). "Ways" (plural) implies more than one type of protection, but that wouldn't explain how Dobby entered Privet Drive. If there were other protections, they wouldn't be lifted for Dobby to convince Harry not to go to Hogwarts, or incite Harry to use magic.

So that leaves the option that the blood protection is the only protection, and Harry must be confined to the house for this protection to work. Yet the house is easily accessible to anyone but Voldemort. Harry apparently sees the flaws inherent in the system:

"I think he thought you were safest with the Muggles--" Ron began.
"Yeah?" said Harry, raising his eyebrows. "Have either of you been attacked by dementors this summer?"
(OP4).

Of course, I guess the whole idea is 'no place is safe' when Voldemort is around, and Privet Drive is just the latest to join the list. Hogwarts seems to be the last remaining bastion, and there's been a slow erosion of protection there as well. The war has just begun, and it seems likely indeed that Privet Drive will become a battleground. Now how will Uncle Vernon handle that, I wonder?

© 2003 Jen Reese, used by permission

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