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Petunia Dursley

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Petunia DH
Petunia Dursley (née Evans)
Biographical information
Born

In or prior to 1959

Blood status

Muggle

Marital status

Married

Also known as

Tuney (by Lily Evans)

Physical information
Species

Human

Gender

Female

Hair colour

Blonde

Skin colour

White

Family information
Family members
Affiliation
Occupation
Loyalty
"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.[src]

Petunia Dursley (née Evans) (fl. 19591997) was a Muggle, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Evans, and the older 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 killed by Lord 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 Voldemort and his Death Eaters. After the Second Wizarding War, she had several grandchildren and remained on civil terms with Harry.

Biography

Early life

Areilla Paradise

A young Petunia (in 1970)

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 Evans: "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?"
Lily Evans: "I'm not a freak. That's a horrible thing to say."
Petunia Evans: "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 you're being separated from normal people. It's for our safety."
— Petunia and her eleven-year old sister at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters just before the latter boards the Hogwarts Express for the first time.[src]

Petunia was the oldest child of Muggles Mr. and Mrs. Evans, and had a sister, Lily, who was younger than she. 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.

Petuna and lilly

Petunia with her sister Lily.

Severus Snape was a boy who also lived in the town of Cokeworth[1] 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.[1]

Vernon proposed to Petunia in his mother's sitting room[1] in late 1977.[2] 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.[1]

Dursleys 1980s

Petunia with her husband and son.

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.[1]

Petunia and Vernon were married and settled at 4 Privet Drive in Little Whinging, Surrey by the end of 1977.[2] Fearing that she would be overshadowed, Petunia refused to have Lily as a bridesmaid, which upset Lily.[1] At the reception, Vernon would not talk to James, but described him as "some magician" within his earshot.[1]

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.[1] However, Lily mentioned having been sent a vase for Christmas by Petunia in a letter to Sirius Black dated around 31 July, 1981.[3]

Petunia and Vernon's only child, a son named Dudley, was born on 23 June, 1980. The couple took pride in being a "normal" family, unlike Lily's.

Giving a home to her nephew

BabyHarryLeftAtPrivetDrive

Harry Potter is left on the Dursleys' doorstep.

Vernon: "Their son... he'd be about Dudley's age now, wouldn't he?"
Petunia: "I suppose so."
Vernon: "What's his name again? Howard, isn't it?"
Petunia: "Harry. Nasty, common name, if you ask me."
— Petunia and Vernon on 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

HarryPooter

Petunia's nephew causing 'trouble'.

Petunia: "Vernon, look at the address... how could they possibly know where he sleeps? You don't think they're watching the house?"
Vernon: "Watching... spying... might be following us."
Petunia: "But what do we do, Vernon? Should we write back? Tell them we don't want..."
Vernon: "No. No, we'll ignore it. If they don't get an answer... yes, that's best... we won't do anything..."
Petunia: "But..."
Vernon: " I'm not having one in the house, Petunia! Didn't we swear when we took him in we'd stamp out that dangerous nonsense?"
— 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 Lord Voldemort throughout the rest of the year.

Dudley's attack and contact with the wizarding world

Petunia Dursley OOTP

Petunia upon seeing Dudley Dursley after a Dementor attack in 1995.

Vernon: "And what the ruddy hell are Dementors?"
Petunia: "They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban"
Harry: "How d'you know that?"
Petunia: "I heard - that awful boy - telling her about them - years ago"
— Petunia speaks of her knowledge of the wizarding world.[src]

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."[4] Petunia cloaked her decision to allow Harry to stay in characterstic 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]
Petunia alone

Petunia saying goodbye to her home.

In the summer of 1997, the blood protections were due to expire. Petunia, Dudley, and Vernon were placed under the protection of Dedalus Diggle and Hestia Jones, both members of the Order of the Phoenix.

Just before the group left Privet Drive, Petunia watched her son offer the first words of acceptance Harry had ever heard from a Dursley, and she burst into tears on Dudley. Petunia walked towards the door to leave, looked back at Harry and opened her mouth to speak, but shortly after she pursed them back up and walked out. Petunia had wanted to wish Harry luck with his quest, but suppressed it and left Privet Drive with her family. They went into hiding from Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort, who probably would have tried to torture them into giving away Harry's whereabouts.

Later life

"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.

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.[5]

Physical appearance

Petunia was a thin, blonde-haired woman with pale eyes, and described as having "nearly twice the usual amount of neck."[6] 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

Petunia was a nosy, 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".

Aunt Petunia looking shocked

Petunia - shocked to see numerous owls delivering Hogwarts acceptance letters for Harry.

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 Lord 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.

Relationships

Family

"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[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 and Harry-PS

Lily and her son, Harry.

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 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. In truth, Petunia may have wanted to make amends with her only sister, but to her everlasting regret she never got the chance.

Vernon Dursley

Vernon Dursley OOTP

Vernon Dursley.

Petunia met Vernon Dursley at work, and married him sometime later.[1] 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 and 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.

Dudley Dursley

"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 during his second visit to Privet Drive
PetuniaszzeE

Petunia with her son on her lap.

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

Harry Potter: "What's this?"
Petunia Dursley: "Your new school uniform."
Harry Potter: "Oh, I didn't realise it had to be so wet."
— Petunia Dursley[src]
Harry Potter Promo HBP

Harry Potter, Petunia's nephew

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[7].

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 Ginny 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.

Severus Snape

Young Snape DH2

Severus Snape

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.

Etymology

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's maiden name was Evans. Evans is a Welsh or English surname derived from the given name Evan[8]. As a Welsh name, Evan means "young warrior"; it can also be considered a form of the name John, meaning "God is gracious"[9].

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".[10][11]

Behind the scenes

Petunia Dursley

Petunia Dursley as a LEGO minifigure.

  • The role of Petunia is played by Fiona Shaw.
  • 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 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.
  • Ariella Paradise portrays the young Petunia Evans in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
  • 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 ancestory, however distantly. This means that Petunia was still related to wizards, even if she pretended she did not have a sister.

Appearances

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Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Pottermore backstory of Vernon and Petunia Dursley
  2. 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.
  3. Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11
  4. 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.
  5. J. K. Rowling Talks Marriage, Writing and More at Open Book Tour Stop in New York City
  6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  7. J.K. Rowling and the Live Chat, Bloomsbury.com, 30 July, 2007
  8. Behind the Name: Evans
  9. Behind the Name: Evan
  10. Wikipedia:Dursley
  11. 2001 BBC Online Chat

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