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J.K. Rowling has had an eventful couple of weeks. In between calling out the Westboro Baptist Church and reminding us that we were all at Hogwarts together, she found the time to write her latest piece for Pottermore.
On Tuesday, Pottermore released the seventh installment of its interactive guide to the
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as well as five new pieces from Rowling.
One of the new writings offers an in-depth look at Petunia and Vernon Dursley.
Rowling writes that she didn’t give much thought to picking out the Dursleys’ names.
Vernon and Petunia were so-called from their creation, and never went through a number of trial names, as so many other characters did. ‘Vernon’ is simply a name I never much cared for. ‘Petunia’ is the name that I always gave unpleasant female characters in games of make believe I played with my sister, Di, when we were very young.
She explains that Petunia longed for a normal, predictable life and that she instantly fell in love with Vernon.
He had a perfectly correct car, and wanted to do completely ordinary things, and by the time he had taken her on a series of dull dates, during which he talked mainly about himself and his predictable ideas on the world, Petunia was dreaming of the moment when he would place a ring on her finger.
Petunia was afraid to tell Vernon about her sister’s magical abilities, but he took the news surprisingly well.
Vernon, as Petunia had expected, was deeply shocked; however, he told Petunia solemnly that he would never hold it against her that she had a freak for a sister, and Petunia threw herself upon him in such violent gratitude that he dropped his battered sausage.
Rowling also revealed that James Potter’s first encounter with Vernon didn’t exactly end well.
Vernon tried to patronise James, asking what car he drove. James described his racing broom. Vernon supposed out loud that wizards had to live on unemployment benefit.
Petunia then refused to let Lily be a member of her bridal party.
Petunia did not want Lily as a bridesmaid, because she was tired of being overshadowed; Lily was hurt. Vernon refused to speak to James at the reception, but described him, within James’ earshot, as ‘some kind of amateur magician.’
Petunia severed ties with her sister after the wedding. After Lily’s death, she felt compelled to take in Harry out of affection for her late sister.
Reading the shocking contents of Dumbledore’s letter, however, which told her how bravely Lily had died, she felt she had no choice but to take Harry in, and raise him alongside her own cherished son, Dudley. She did it grudgingly, and spent the rest of Harry’s childhood punishing him for her own choice.
Rowling writes that while Petunia loved Lily, she could never push her prejudice aside and fully love Harry.
I wanted to suggest, in the final book, that something decent (a long-forgotten but dimly burning love of her sister; the realisation that she might never see Lily’s eyes again) almost struggled out of Aunt Petunia when she said goodbye to Harry for the last time, but that she is not able to admit to it, or show those long-buried feelings. Although some readers wanted more from Aunt Petunia during this farewell, I still think that I have her behave in a way that is most consistent with her thoughts and feelings throughout the previous seven books.
Rowling also explained that both Severus Snape and Vernon despise Harry for the same reason: He looks like his father.
Uncle Vernon’s dislike of Harry stems in part, like Severus Snape’s, from Harry’s close resemblance to the father they both so disliked.
The full passage, as well as the rest of the new content, can be found on Pottermore.
Thanks again, J.K. Rowling, for continuing to remind us that Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home.
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