Harry Potter AU where someone sees Harry in his cousin’s over-sized clothing with his underfed body and hears him casually mention the cupboard in which he sleeps and calls the fucking police
This. Look, even accepting the awfulness that is Hogwarts and how they deal with abused students, he spent SEVEN YEARS at primary school.
How the ever lasting fuck were Child Protection forms being filled in EVERY DAMN DAY? How was this NEVER picked up on?
(Also, IDK much about in-family adoption- but SURELY someone would have been involved to SOME degree from social services? SURELY?)
Creepy thought - what if people did, but Dumbledore regularly derailed their attempts because ~destiny~ and ~plans~?
As a formerly abused child, a person who has worked in child protection and someone who is married to a primary school teacher, I feel entirely confident in saying that Dumbledore didn’t need to intervene to stop Harry’s abuse and neglect being reported.
For starters, as I’ve written before, the time during which Harry was at primary school was a particularly hard economic time for a lot of families in the UK. Wearing ill-fitting hand-me-down school uniform and repaired glasses was neither particularly unusual at the time nor is it necessarily a meaningful sign of child abuse or neglect. A much more potent sign of neglect would be dirty or smelly clothes; which we all know Aunt Petunia would never allow.
Arguably, the contrast to what Dudley was wearing could have given teachers pause - but again, this is not necessarily a sign of neglect or abuse - getting large sizes of clothing is more difficult, especially second hand, and it is not uncommon for the eldest child to have new clothes while the younger has hand-me-downs (as many people with older siblings will be able to tell you!)
Being slender, again, is not a sign of abuse. Especially as slenderness is clearly genetic for Harry (his father was skinny, as was his aunt; he never gained weight, even when given almost unlimited access to food at Hogwarts) and people who are smaller-framed tend to look LESS underfed, as there is less weight ‘missing’. In fact, to the casual observer, Harry has his Uncle Vernon’s dark hair and his Aunt Petunia’s slender frame, while Dudley has the opposite combination. So it’s not obvious from first glance that Harry is an abused, neglected chid.
Harry says that he had not a single friend in primary school, so it’s unlikely that a teacher would overhear him talking about his cupboard - especially as Harry would be unlikely to mention this as it betrays his low standing in the Dursley household and will likely lead to more bullying. Moreover, as I’ve pointed out before, classes in the UK have an extremely large ratio of children to adults, and this was particularly bad in the nineties (when Harry and I went to primary school) as this was before the wide acceptance of teaching assistants - meaning that Harry probably never spoke to a teacher other than to say ‘I’ve finished my sums’ or ‘how do you spell ‘because’?’
Given that there is no compulsory training for teachers on looked after children (children who are fostered or living with friends or relatives) or on the signs and symptoms of child abuse, it it extremely unlikely that Harry’s neglect and abuse at the hands of the Dursley’s would be noticed by a teacher.
Moreover, we’re shown that the Dursley’s consistently lie about Harry’s misbehaviour, characterising him as unbalanced, disruptive and a liar. As the Dursley’s appear authoritative and middle-class, it probably never occurred to the teachers to question this. Moreover, as abuse is largely considered as a working-class problem, the Dursley’s wealth and well-spoken-ness is likely to have lent to the the middle-class teachers reluctance to consider that they could be abusive or neglectful. In the scenario when Harry found himself on the school roof, we’re shown that the school does not act particularly charitably towards Harry or listen to what he says, so it is likely that his middle-class teachers believe the middle-class Dursley’s narrative of Harry as a working-class problem child, and even probably feel sympathy with them.
Please bear in mind that there were dozens of scandals across the UK in the eighties and nineties concerning the social services abusing childre in a variety of ways - from bureaucratic violence, to physical and emotional torture - not to mention the enormous disorganisation which resulted in children being taken from loving parents wrongly, children being left with abusive parents when paperwork had been processed to remove them and countless incidents of children ‘slipping through the cracks’ and being lost, ignored or left stranded. [A documentary about it here]
Given this, it is extremely unlikely that any teachers would report the Dursley’s for child abuse and neglect [PSA, in the UK, the best people to call to report suspected child abuse/neglect are the NSPCC, not the police unless the situation is urgent and certain enough for a 999 call], even if they thought it was happening out of fear that it would result in Harry being put into a violent and abusive foster home. But assuming that someone DID report the Dursley’s for child abuse or neglect, despite the many reasons why they would and should not, the next thing that would happen would be a (scheduled) visit to the Dursley’s house by a social worker.
So assuming that a social worker - in the best possible scenario, a nice person who wants to help, with an enormous case load - comes to see the Dursley’s at home with a weeks notice. The Dursley’s home is extremely clean, Harry is warned to be on his best behaviour, is wearing clean clothes, bears no bruises or signs of physical violence. The Dursley’s say Harry is lying about sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs - jealous that Dudley has a bigger bedroom. Or that he talks loudly in his sleep and disturbs Dudley. Or is prone to violent outbursts, and so is best kept away from everyone else. Assuming that the Dursley’s are asked about Harry’s clothes at all, they say that he tears or destroys his own clothes, so they cannot buy him new ones. That he eats a lot but is always hungry and skinny (true enough about many small boys to be believable, and a common lie by abusive caregivers who are denying their victims food).
Again, the Dursley’s middle-classness is in their favour, and they would be believed by a middle-class social worker, probably without question. The story the Dursley’s tell about taking in their nephew after his jobless parents died in a car crash garners them sympathy. There’s nothing to suggest that Harry is being abused. There is very little evidence to suggest he is being neglected - his clothes are clean and there is food in the fridge.
Nowadays, the social worker would almost certainly chat to Harry alone for at least a few minutes. This was not necessarily the case in the nineties. Even if the social worker does chat to Harry, ‘it just happened’ and ‘I don’t know how I got up there’ seems like lying, which they have been told Harry does a lot.
Even if the social worker does believe Harry (extremely unlikely) that the Dursleys are cruel to him, there is little they can do as the legal definitions of abuse and neglect list only physical and material things. Making it clear that you don’t love a child (i.e. emotional abuse), despite being enormously damaging, is not illegal.
There is no reason to think that Harry has been adopted by the Dursley’s (especially as they are referred to as his ‘Guardians’ in PoA). Harry is merely fostered. Even now, to foster a child who is related to you requires almost no legal checks or surveys, unless the child is being removed from an abusive home by the social services. Many children live with their grandparents or aunts or uncles without their parents necessarily losing any parental rights (guardians automatically acquire legal rights to make decisions such as permission for school trips, etc), and at the time when Harry came to be living with the Dursley’s, these were even fewer.
This is the reality of social work in the UK, both now and then. The Dursley’s treatment of Harry would not meet the legal minimum requirements of abuse or neglect. Harry would not have been removed from their home - and if he had been, he likely would have faced far worse violence (both bureaucratic and physical) in a reform school or group home than he did at the Dursley’s (not to mention losing the blood protection of living with his mothers’ kin.)
Dumbledore didn’t need to intervene to stop Harry from being removed from the Dursley’s abuse: the system did that well enough.