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- "Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that... that school — and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning tea-cups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was... a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"
- —Petunia to Harry Potter regarding her late sister[src]
Petunia Dursley (née Evans) (fl. 1959 – 1997) was a Muggle, the elder daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Evans and the sister of the Muggle-born witch Lily. During her childhood, she broke off contact with her sister and refused to have any contact with the wizarding world.
She married a Muggle, Vernon Dursley and they had a son, Dudley. However, when Lily was murdered by Voldemort, Petunia became guardian of her nephew, Harry Potter, who was only an infant then. She allowed him a room of his own after receiving his acceptance letters to Hogwarts (prior to this time he had been confined to the cupboard under the stairs), but for the most part neglected him. In 1991, when Harry went to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she became very angry. She and her family left their home in 1997 in order to be protected from Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
- Lily Evans: "...I'm sorry, Tuney, I'm sorry! Listen — Maybe once I'm there — no, listen, Tuney! Maybe once I'm there, I'll be able to go to Professor Dumbledore and persuade him to change his mind!"
- Petunia: "I don't — want — to — go! You think I want to go to some stupid castle and learn to be a — a — you think I want to be a — a freak?"
- — Petunia and her eleven-year old sister at platform 9¾[src]
Petunia was the elder child of Muggles Mr and Mrs Evans and had a sister, Lily. However, Lily had many unusual abilities, such as making a flower's petals move without touching them, which her sister viewed with a mixture of envy and disapproval. One reason could have been because of the fact her parents praised Lily for her abilities and Petunia might have been jealous.
Severus Snape was a boy who also lived in the town of Cokeworth who possessed similar abilities and the two (Petunia and Snape) treated each other disdainfully. Lily, however, was intrigued by Snape and soon became good friends with him. When she received a letter from Hogwarts confirming that she was a witch, Petunia wrote to Albus Dumbledore asking if she could also study there too. Even though he responded kindly, Petunia felt hurt and left out, which also in part could have been because her parents were so proud of Lily's talents. From that point on, Petunia wanted nothing to do with magic or the wizarding world and frequently called Lily a "freak".
Marriage to Vernon and estrangement from Lily
- "I have lived in this house for twenty years."
- —Petunia mentioning her house[src]
At some point in the 1970s, Petunia left her home in Cokeworth to pursue a typing course in London. This led to her getting a clerical job, where she met Vernon Dursley, a junior executive whose complete ordinariness she found appealing. Vernon also took a fancy to Petunia and the two went on a number of dates, which mainly involved Vernon discussing himself and his narrow views of the world.
Vernon proposed to Petunia in his mother's sitting room in late 1977. Petunia gladly accepted, but secretly worried what Vernon would think when he met Lily, who was then in her seventh year at Hogwarts. She eventually told Vernon about Lily being a witch on a date in his car that was parked overlooking a chip shop from which they had purchased battered sausage, and while he was shocked, he assured her he would not hold it against her.
The couple's first meeting with Lily and her boyfriend, James Potter, went poorly. Vernon tried to impress James with the car he drove and when James responded by describing his racing broom, Vernon assumed he must be living on unemployment benefits. James told Vernon about his parents' fortune in Galleons, but since Vernon could not tell whether he was being had on or not, he became angry. The evening ended with Vernon and Petunia storming out of the restaurant and Lily bursting into tears.
Petunia and Vernon were married and settled at 4 Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey by the end of 1977. Fearing that she would be overshadowed, Petunia refused to have Lily as a bridesmaid, which upset Lily. At the reception, Vernon would not talk to James, but described him as "some magician" within his earshot.
Petunia had little contact with her sister thereafter. She and Vernon chose not to attend James and Lily's wedding and the last piece of mail Lily sent her was an announcement of her son Harry's birth on 31 July, 1980, which she took one look at and promptly threw away. However, Lily mentioned having been sent a vase for Christmas by Petunia in a letter to Sirius Black dated around 31 July, 1981.
Giving a home to her nephew
- Vernon Dursley : "Their son... he'd be about Dudley's age now, wouldn't he?"
- Petunia: "I suppose so."
- Vernon Dursley : "What's his name again? Howard, isn't it?"
- Petunia: "Harry. Nasty, common name, if you ask me."
- — Petunia and Vernon dicussing their nephew[src]
Everything changed on 1 November, 1981 when Petunia opened her door to find a baby on her doorstep. The child turned out to be her sister's son, Harry Potter. A letter had been left by Albus Dumbledore, explaining the circumstances of Harry's arrival, including the death of both her sister, Lily and her brother-in-law, James. As she was the only member of the family that had her sister's blood running through her, this ensured the protection of Harry and his family from Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. She reluctantly agreed to take her orphaned nephew into her home and family, taking the responsibility to not tell Harry or anyone else about the fact that Harry was a wizard.
Petunia, however, did not treat Harry as a welcome addition to her family. A constant reminder of her sister and the world she herself had been excluded from, she treated Harry like a disease, even keeping him in the cupboard under the stairs as a bedroom for much of his childhood. She made a point of showering Dudley with gifts while completely ignoring Harry, although they were both around the same age. She forced him to do all of the chores around the house, while Dudley was free to do anything he pleased. Petunia also told Harry that his parents had died in a car crash and that the scar on his forehead came from that same accident. She did not let Harry ask any questions about his family, nor generally any questions at all for that matter.
Harry's letter from Hogwarts
- Petunia: "Vernon, look at the address... how could they possibly know where he sleeps? You don't think they're watching the house?"
- Vernon Dursley : "Watching... spying... might be following us."
- — Petunia and Vernon after the letter arrived[src]
When Harry's Hogwarts letter arrived in 1991, she supported her husband's decision to keep the truth from Harry. They constantly tried to burn or rip up the letters, but they found that nothing was helping to stop the letters coming to Harry, so Petunia and the rest of the family moved to different places in an effort to outrun this wizarding post, until finally they were tracked down by Rubeus Hagrid. When Hagrid forced the issue of Harry's origin, Petunia lost control and let loose all of the resentment she'd held in about Lily's life.
Over the next several years, Petunia still grudgingly permitted Harry to remain in her home over the summers, recharging the blood protections that kept him and her family safe from Voldemort throughout the rest of the year.
Dinner party with the Masons, Marge's visit, and Dudley's diet
Almost everything seemed to go wrong every time she and her husband had guests over when Harry was present. In 1992, Vernon invited Mr and Mrs Mason over for dinner to try and secure a deal with Mr Mason about a stock of drills. She and Vernon forced Harry to stay in his room and pretend he did not exist. Due to the appearance of Dobby, the deal did not go very well.
The Ministry of Magic threatened to expel Harry, thinking he had done the magic himself. Then, in 1993, her sister-in-law Marge visited. When Marge insulted Harry's parents, Harry used magic to blow her up like a balloon. Vernon insisted Harry return her to how she was, but was refused. The Accidental Magic Reversal Squad later fixed her.
In 1994, Petunia, along with her husband, decided to put Dudley on diet. When it was not going so well, she was forced to cut his food down to less than half of what he would usually eat. When Molly Weasley sent an invitation to the family, Vernon asked his nephew about the letter. After Harry explained, he yelled at him, but eventually said that his nephew could go. When the Weasleys came to pick up Harry by the Floo Network, she became frightened and didn't know how to react when in the presents of wizards. When the Weasleys were leaving, her son ate a Ton-Tongue Toffee, causing his tongue to swell.
Dudley's attack and contact with the wizarding world
In the summer before Harry's fifth year, Dudley and Harry were attacked by Dementors and were only saved by Harry performing underage magic. She unintentionally revealed some knowledge of the wizarding world by telling Vernon what Dementors were. When asked how she knew, she said that she heard "that awful boy" and Lily talking about them (although Harry assumed at the time that this was referring to his father, due to his ignorance of Snape's childhood friendship with his mother). When Vernon ordered Harry out of the house, she reluctantly stepped in after a howler (later revealed to have been from Dumbledore) arrived telling Petunia to "remember my last." Petunia cloaked her decision to allow Harry to stay in characteristic motives — that she knew it would appear strange to the neighbours if Harry suddenly vanished. Whether this was the true reason for allowing her nephew to remain there or perhaps a glimmer of family loyalty was left unsaid.
Hiding from Death Eaters
- "She stopped and looked back. For a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that she wanted to say something to him: she gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech"
- —Petunia fighting to say goodbye and good luck to Harry as she leaves[src]
- "I think that for one moment she trembled on the verge of wishing Harry luck; that she almost acknowledged that her loathing of his world, and of him, was born out of jealousy. But she couldn’t do it; years of pretending that ‘normal’ was best had hardened her too much."
- —J. K. Rowling on what Petunia wanted to say shortly before the Dursley's departure[src]
In later life, her only son Dudley married and had at least two children, making her a grandmother and mother-in-law to Dudley's wife. Harry has said to have been on "Christmas card" terms with Dudley and his family and went to visit them occasionally, which his children hated.
Petunia was a thin, blonde-haired woman with pale eyes and described as having "nearly twice the usual amount of neck." It is also mentioned that she looked like a horse when she pursed her lips. Many times it was also stated that she had horse-like front teeth.
Personality and traits
- "That's where you're going! A special school for freaks. You and that Snape boy... weirdos, that's what you two are. It's good that you're being separated from normal people. It's for our safety."
- —Petunia confronts her sister before leaving the train station[src]
Petunia was a nosy, hostile and repressed woman who, like her husband, was obsessed with "appearing normal". Petunia hated and was very much afraid of magic, and, indeed, anything out of the ordinary. She blindly doted on her son Dudley, but shunned Harry throughout his entire childhood because of his "peculiarities".
Much like the rest of the Dursley family, she was a spiteful bully, who was envious of those who possessed greater talent or ability than herself, particularly against her sister Lily. She often bullied and neglected Harry Potter throughout most of his childhood, often calling him a "freak" and never showed any compassion towards him, whilst constantly spoiling and praising her son Dudley. There are references that Petunia was unpleasant and snobbish,even as a child, when she made disparaging remarks about Severus Snape's low economic status, which once caused Snape to accidentally make a tree branch strike her elbow, using underage magic.
She is also portrayed to be very obsessive and a neat-freak, as she constantly kept her house clean, even to the point of cleaning the kitchen worktop surfaces before bed. She was not fond of animals either, particularly in the Prisoner of Azkaban, when she flinches at the sight of Marge's dog Ripper slobbering on her kitchen floor. She also appears to dislike owls, as she become terrified when a large number of owls come to deliver Harry his Hogwarts acceptance letter.
Petunia probably was not especially intelligent or talented, as she took on a rather uninteresting and grunt type setting course at Grunnings after leaving school, where she first met her husband Vernon. She is also unable to realise her son Dudley's lack of positive qualities, and believed him to be a gifted and clever boy, despite the fact he received abysmal school grades. She was also rather gullible to believe Dudley went to a different friend's house for dinner each night, when actually he and his gang were causing trouble and bullying younger children.
At the heart of Petunia's character was her secret regret at having not been born with magical talents like her sister. As a child, Petunia was both frightened of and envious of her sister's astonishing abilities. When Lily was accepted into Hogwarts, Petunia wrote a letter to Professor Dumbledore begging him to take her as well. He rejected her kindly, but when Lily discovered the exchange, Petunia only said that she "didn't want to go to that 'freak' school anyways".
Petunia frequently referred to witches and wizards as "freaks." However, never did she forget that Harry was her sister's son. She begrudgingly gave him room and board for sixteen years because she knew that her home was the only place that he could be safe from the hands of Voldemort.
Due to having grown up with wizards, Petunia had a somewhat greater familiarity with magic than Vernon. For example, she surprised her family by revealing that she had known about Azkaban from overhearing discussions between her sister and "that awful boy". However, this knowledge is quite limited, since Petunia was unfamiliar with subjects such as Quidditch and Transfiguration. Another example of her crude comprehension of magic was her belief that her deplorable treatment of her nephew could suppress any "abnormality" in his system.
- "I was the only one who saw her for what she was — a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!"
- —Petunia to Harry regarding Lily[src]
Petunia may have had a good relationship with her parents. However, they favoured Lily because of her special talents and Petunia felt left out (this may have contributed even more to her intense dislike of magic). It is known that they had died by the time Petunia had a son.
Lily Evans was Petunia's only sibling. When Lily's magical abilities began to manifest themselves, Petunia was torn between curiosity and disapproval. Their relationship became even more strained when Lily became friends with Severus Snape, the creepy boy next door.
When Lily was admitted to Hogwarts, Petunia secretly wrote to Professor Dumbledore begging him to let her attend as well. After that, Petunia began calling wizards and witches "weirdos" and denied the existence of her sister as much as possible. She would not admit it, but deep inside her, Petunia still cared for Lily, sending her sister a vase (however horrible) one Christmas and was in all probability devastated when her sister was murdered. As James didn't have a family, it was Petunia who arranged the funeral for her sister and brother-in-law and had them buried in Godric's Hollow, and also took in their son, Harry Potter, for his protection. In truth, Petunia may have wanted to make amends with her only sister, but to her everlasting regret she never got the chance.
Petunia met Vernon Dursley at work and married him sometime later. She identified with his narrow-minded views and was proud of his position at work. She and Vernon ignored Harry as much as possible and excluded him from most of the family activities.
They were extremely vain, materialistic, and preoccupied with status. They gave Dudley everything he wanted, allowing him to rule the house. Conversely, they kept strict control over Harry; he performed the chores, cooked the meals (or at least breakfast), and spent time otherwise locked in the cupboard under the stairs. After Harry re-entered the wizarding world, Petunia and Vernon's control over him diminished.
It is unknown if Vernon knew that his wife wanted to attend Hogwarts herself in the past, about her previously close relationship with Lily, or her childhood with the wizard Severus Snape. Given the fact that Petunia had always wanted to appear 'normal', it is possible that she did not tell him.
- "The best that can be said is that Harry has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you."
- —Professor Dumbledore admonishes Petunia's parenting skills[src]
Dudley was Petunia's first and only child. To say that Dudley was pampered and spoiled is an understatement. Petunia and her husband catered to Dudley's every whim and lavished affection on him while completely disregarding Harry. They praised Dudley excessively, despite the fact that he rarely worked hard or achieved anything noteworthy (except perhaps his considerable boxing abilities, but even that was essentially an extension of his aggressive, bullying nature). Petunia never acknowledged when her son was in the wrong and overlooked his many flaws. As a result of her indulging Dudley's gluttony, he grew up extremely obese. Petunia, however, was in complete denial about her son's size and said that it was just "baby fat."
Petunia was a poor parent because she cared more about indulging her son than teaching him how to be a good person and as a consequence, he grew up to be lazy, selfish and with no moral values. This fact came back to haunt Dudley when he encountered the dementor.
- Harry Potter: "What's this?"
- Petunia: "Your new school uniform."
- Harry Potter: "Oh, I didn't realise it had to be so wet."
- — Harry's cheekiness when talking to Petunia[src]
Petunia never showed any love and affection at all towards Harry because he reminded her of Lily and the wizarding world. She treated him as a waste of space, giving him the cupboard under the stairs at first and making him do all the chores. She, along with Vernon, ignored most of Harry's birthdays.
She didn't accept Harry as a second son and never gave him the love and affection he needed and craved from her. She kept him entirely ignorant of the wizarding world and tried to make her family look as normal as possible, as part of her attempts to hide Harry from other people. When Harry left to search for Horcruxes in 1997, Petunia was almost able to bring herself to wish him luck and admit that her poor treatment of him was born out of jealousy, but backed out at the last moment and left without saying a word.
During the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry was privy to many repressed memories of Severus Snape, after the latter's death at the fangs of Nagini, regarding his (Snape's) origins and loyalties. Many of the first memories that Harry had gazed upon depicted his future Aunt Petunia and unwittingly explained to him the reasons for her hatred of him and magic overall, such as: her falling out with his mother as children, Petunia's jealousy of Lily's magical abilities and her childhood enmity with Snape. However, Harry was more concerned about discovering Snape's loyalties and origins than he was about decrypting Petunia's hatred for him.
Petunia would later become an aunt-in-law to Harry's wife Ginevra Weasley and a great-aunt to Harry and Ginny's three children: James Sirius, Albus Severus, and Lily Luna. Although Harry's relationship with Dudley had mended to the point that they remained on "Christmas card terms" and visited occasionally, it is unknown if Petunia herself ever had contact with Harry again. In spite of everything, Harry cared for her enough to push them to go into hiding for their protection. Although it is not known if Petunia contacted Harry again after the war, it is highly possible that Petunia reconciled with her nephew and was on Christmas cards terms with him too.
Petunia first met Severus Snape during their childhood. She was the sister of Lily Evans, but Petunia was a Muggle, unlike her sister. Snape and Petunia strongly disliked each other, from the first moment they met. Petunia, who was contemptuous of anything out of the ordinary, viewed him with disdain because of his poor economic status and because he was such an oddball. Snape, on the other hand, regarded her balefully because she was a Muggle and also because she made disparaging comments about his clothes. He was never mentioned under the Dursley's roof until Dudley Dursley got attacked by dementors and he was indirectly mentioned by Petunia as "that awful boy."
- " REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA."
- —Dumbledore's howler to Petunia after the Dementor attack[src]
It can be assumed that Aunt Petunia wouldn't have gotten on well with Albus Dumbledore due to his "unDursleyness" and the fact that he is as unordinary as it is possible to be. It was also he who alerted Petunia to the death of her sister and left Harry Potter on her doorstep shortly after. After Vernon Dursley tried to throw Harry out after the attack on Dudley Dursley, Dumbledore sent Petunia an exploding, screaming letter (howler). Not even a year later Dumbledore arrived at 4 Privet Drive uninvited telling them that they had to let Harry stay until his 17th birthday for their protection, giving them drinks that constantly hit them in the head. It is unknown to how Petunia reacted to his death or if Harry, Arthur Weasley or Kingsley Shacklebolt told her about his murder.
Petunia's name is the meaning of flower and the origin of the name is English. Her younger sister, Lily, also bears the name of a flower. This could have been done accidentally or by means of demonstrating Petunia's and Lily's sisterhood. A petunia is also a flower that is a symbol of resentment and anger. Petunia was a name J.K. Rowling used for unpleasant female characters in games of pretend in her youth, and believes the name may have subconsciously came from Joe and Petunia, a series of public information films she would have seen in her youth.
Petunia flowers themselves are used to represent resentment, along with anger. The alternative meaning is wanting the comfort of another person, which is lightly implied when she asks to attend Hogwarts with her sister. It should also be noted that the flower is known for not smelling particularly good.
Petunia's maiden name was Evans. Evans is a Welsh or English surname derived from the given name Evan. As a Welsh name, Evan means "young warrior". It can also be considered a form of the name John, meaning "God is gracious".
Petunia's married surname is Dursley. Dursley is a town in Gloucestershire, England. J. K. Rowling has commented that she visited the place as a child and hated it, which likely affected her choice of surname for the awful family, remarking "I don't imagine I'm very popular in Dursley". The town is known for its Victorian history in coal mining. Rowling chose the name because it sounded "dull and forbidding".
Behind the scenes
- The role of Petunia is played by Fiona Shaw in the film adaptations of Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix, as well as Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
- Her appearance in the films is somewhat different than the books, where she is described as being "blonde and horse-toothed." In the films, however, she has dark brown hair and normal teeth.
- In a deleted scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Petunia is seen looking very solemn, standing in the middle of the empty living room at Privet Drive. Harry walks down the stairs and stops when he sees her. She says that she has lived in this house for twenty years, and now she's expected to leave in one night. Harry explains how they will torture her, and stop at nothing. Petunia replies that she knows what they are capable of, that night at Godric's Hollow, Harry didn't just lose a mother, Petunia lost a sister. After which, she hurries out the door. This is very likely what Petunia was going to say in the book, but chose not to.
- Petunia was the first female character to be introduced in the series, though in the films it is Minerva McGonagall.
- Since Petunia's sister, Lily, was a Muggle-born witch, both girls must have a wizarding ancestry, however distantly. This means that Petunia was still related to wizards, even if she pretended she did not have a sister.
- Rowling has said that Petunia's name may have come from a character in a public information film that she saw when she was a child.
- As a child, Petunia went with Lily to Platform 9 3/4 when Lily left for Hogwarts. However, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Harry asks her and Vernon about Platform 9 3/4, she apparently has no idea where it is or how to find it. Either she forgot where it was, or more likely she pretended not to know anything about it to antagonize Harry.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Appears in portrait(s))
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Appears in flashback(s))
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter for Kinect (Mentioned only)
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Pottermore backstory of Vernon Dursley and Petunia Evans
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 In a deleted scene on disc two of the Blu-ray edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Petunia tells Harry, "I have lived in this house for twenty years", indicating she settled at 4 Privet Drive in 1977, since the scene is set in 1997. Since the Pottermore backstory for Petunia mentions Lily was still in her final year at Hogwarts during Vernon and Petunia's engagement and Lily's final year was 1977-1978, the engagement must have thus occurred on or after 1 September, 1977 and the wedding and moving in together by 31 December, 1977.
- ↑ Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11
- ↑ [[Dudley Dursley|]]Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 1 (The Worst Birthday)
- ↑ [[cupboard under the stairs|]]Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 2 (Dobby's Warning)
- ↑ 1997Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Chapter 2 (Aunt Marge's Big Mistake)
- ↑ 1970sHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Chapter 3 (The Invitation)
- ↑ Evans sisters' motherHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Chapter 4 (Back to the Burrow)
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Dumbledore was referencing the last letter he wrote Petunia explaining the familiar protection Harry had in Petunia's care.
- ↑ J. K. Rowling Talks Marriage, Writing and More at Open Book Tour Stop in New York City
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- ↑ J.K. Rowling and the Live Chat, Bloomsbury.com, 30 July, 2007
- ↑ Pottermore - New from J.K. Rowling: Vernon & Petunia Dursley
- ↑ http://en.vancouverflorist.com/flower-meaning/petunia.aspx
- ↑ http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/188220/#b
- ↑ Behind the Name: Evans
- ↑ Behind the Name: Evan
- ↑ Wikipedia:Dursley
- ↑ 2001 BBC Online Chat