What Happened To Harry Potter’s Grandparents?
Harry is isolated throughout the Harry Potter films due to his lack of a loving family, but the audience never learns what happened to Harry Potter’s Grandparents. Harry’s parents, James and Lily Potter, died when he was a baby, and it played a huge role in Harry’s life, particularly as he grew up very isolated when he had to live with his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. Aunt Petunia is Harry’s only known blood relative, but, as Harry saw in the Mirror of Erised, the Potter side of the family was very large, so it is strange Harry never knew any of them.
JK Rowling revealed in an interview (via Mugglenet) that both Harry’s paternal and maternal Grandparents had died, leaving Aunt Petunia as Harry’s only blood relative. Rowling explains, disposing of Harry’s Grandparents was purely to provide a more interesting backstory for Harry. Harry needed to be alone and isolated, which is a very prevalent theme throughout the series, particularly when Harry had to deal with losing people like Sirius, who became his family. Rowling explains there is nothing sinister behind any of the deaths, but having Harry’s Grandparents involved in Harry Potter would be too complicated and take away important factors about Harry’s life, such as his loneliness.
Where are Harry Potter’s Grandparents?
Harry’s maternal Grandparents, Lily Potter’s parents, were muggles and had no affiliation with the Wizarding World until Lily received her Hogwarts letter. In Snape’s flashback, during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lily and Petunia are playing as kids, before they meet Snape, and Petunia threatens to tell their mother about Lily’s magic. It can be presumed that Lily’s parents were alive then, and James and Lily married young, having Harry when they were 20 years old. Rowling says Lily’s parents died a “normal muggle death” which must have been within the 10 years or so of Lily attending Hogwarts and marrying James Potter, however, aside from dying normally there is no more information about when or how they died.
Rowling gives more backstory to James Potter’s parents, Harry’s paternal Grandparents, saying that they were quite old when they had James Potter, hence him being their only child and this being the reason James was very pampered. Sirius mentions, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that he stayed with James and his parents whenever he ran away from home, so it is likely they were alive throughout most of James’ time at Hogwarts. However, since they were “old in Wizarding terms”, Rowling says they succumbed to a Wizarding illness which meant they were never part of Harry’s life.
How Harry Not Having Grandparents Was Important For The Story
Harry not having Grandparents adds to the trauma Harry went through in the Harry Potter films, but it was important for the plot too. A major part of Harry’s struggles was his isolation, and Voldemort tried to beat Harry using this isolation until Harry had the love and support of his friends to help him. If James’ parents doted on James, then they would definitely do the same to Harry, and he likely wouldn’t have the same humility as he does in the series, particularly as James was shown to be a bully until his final years at Hogwarts.
There are questions as to why Dumbledore did not place Harry with an adoptive Wizard family instead of the Dursley’s, and if Harry’s Grandparents were in the picture this would make even less sense. Removing any blood relative, bar Petunia, meant there were no plot holes in Harry’s story and emphasized his trauma and isolation. It would also remove the safety that Harry felt at Hogwarts and his amazement at discovering he was a Wizard which was key to the events of the Harry Potter series.