“Harry Potter” fans recently learned a bit more about Harry’s relatives the Dursleys with new information from “Potter” author J.K. Rowling.
According to The Guardian, a new piece by Rowling published on the interactive site Pottermore discusses the lives of Harry’s Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia and their feelings towards Harry and his parents.
In the “Potter” books, Harry’s parents are killed by the evil wizard Voldemort when he is an infant and he is taken in by his aunt and uncle. However, his aunt and uncle mistreat him, including forcing him to sleep in a cupboard and denying him food.
Vernon and Petunia never got along with Harry’s parents Lily and James, writes Rowling.
“James was amused by Vernon, and made the mistake of showing it,” the author wrote of a dinner with the two couples. “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. James explained about Gringotts, and the fortune his parents had saved there, in solid gold… The evening ended with Vernon and Petunia storming out of the restaurant, while Lily burst into tears and James (a little ashamed of himself) promised to make things up with Vernon at the earliest opportunity.”
But things never improved from there.
As for how the characters were named, Rowling writes, “Vernon is simply a name I never much cared for. Petunia is the name that always gave unpleasant female characters in games of make believe played with my sister, Di, when we were very young.”
She also discussed a section of the final “Potter” book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” in which Harry says goodbye to his aunt, uncle, and cousin Dudley. The family is going into hiding so the evil wizard Voldemort won’t harm them as a means of getting to Harry. When the family is leaving, Rowling’s book reads that “for a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that [Petunia] wanted to say something to him: she gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech, but then, with a little jerk of her head, she bustled out of the room.”
Rowling discussed this passage in her writing on Pottermore. “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,” she wrote.
One villain which Rowling showed to be more sympathetic than readers might have imagined was Harry’s cousin and Vernon and Petunia’s son Dudley.
In the last book, Dudley references how Harry rescued him from the evil creatures dementors, who attacked Dudley. “I don’t think you’re a waste of space… You saved my life,” Dudley tells Harry, and expresses worry over Harry’s safety. According to the Telegraph, Rowling has stated that Harry and Dudley maintained contact later on and were at least “on Christmas card terms.”