Podcast Question of the Week – Episode 79

It’s not just the heat wave that’s affecting the Dursleys’ thought process. This week, we’re asking you to explore the reasons behind one of Aunt Petunia’s most surprising decisions.

In this chapter, after multiple revelations, Aunt Petunia and Harry share a meaningful moment as the only two in the room who fully understand the consequences of Voldemort’s return. Following this, Aunt Petunia asserts that Harry must remain at Number 4, Privet Drive. Is her motivation behind this simply due to Dumbledore’s orders? Does she actually have Harry’s best interests at heart? Or are there, perhaps, other motivations that factor into her decision to protect Harry, knowing that doing so puts her own family’s safety in jeopardy?

Leave us your response below & we just might read them on the next episode of Alohomora!

  • surprisinglyswishy

    I think Petunia’s actions here were done out of love for her sister. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Dumbledore explain to her that the protection spell on the house was the result of Lily’s sacrifice? We know they weren’t on the best of terms when Lily died, but they were still sisters and I think being reminded of her sister’s sacrifice would be enough to keep Harry at the house, even if it wasn’t enough to make her treat Harry with much kindness. Also, and this may be a stretch, but doesn’t the protection work because of Lily’s blood running through both Petunia and Harry? Some part of Petunia, some very small, very deep part of Petunia may be quite proud to have this connection to magic–to be “magical” in some capacity. We know she was jealous of Lily when she was younger, and that she begged Dumbledore to be let in to Hogwarts. She remembered not only remembered the word “dementor” but she could still recall that they guarded Azkaban–not just the “wizard prison’– she specifically recalled the name “Azkaban.” She heard about this once, a few decades ago. Sometimes I can’t even recall my current roommate’s name. It takes a lot of effort to remember something like that. For all of her huff and puff, Petunia still wants to be a part of this world. The spell that protects Harry is as much a part of her as it is a part of him, and I don’t think she’d want to lose that magic.

  • Saiyangirl

    For one, I’d like to point out that her decision to protect Harry does NOT put her own family’s safety in jeopardy. The protection goes both ways; as long as Harry is still able to call their house home, Voldemort is unable to harm the Dursleys. This will continue until Harry reaches the age of seventeen. As Petunia is related to Lily and associated with Harry through him having lived there since he was one year old, she and her family are an obvious target. Keeping Harry with them keeps them safe as much as it keeps Harry safe. I believe Dumbledore explained this in his letter to her.

    Do really like surprisinglyswishy’s point that since this protection spell is related to Petunia’s blood, it’s like Petunia has that connection to the magical world she longed for since she was young. But I don’t believe she is keeping Harry with them out of love for Lily, or rather, I don’t think she would have done that if keeping Harry would have put herself, her son and husband in danger. Self-preservation seems to be a very strong trait for all the Dursleys, and I think fear of especially her son being put in mortal peril would be enough to override any remnants of love she may harbour for her sister. Therefore I really think that the fact that the protection spell protects them as much as it protects Harry is the most important factor here.

  • Honeydukes Empire

    I think Petunia’s motivation had something to do with Dumbledore’s orders. She was shaken by her sister’s death and didn’t want the same to happen to her and her family, so the best way to do that was to keep Harry in her home. So, she probably felt following Dumbledore’s orders would do that best. Also, she must have felt some connection towards Dumbledore that made her trust him, since he was the first person from the wizarding world to show her kindness (he apparently wrote a kind letter to her about why she couldn’t go to Hogwarts). And as for her having Harry’s best interests at heart, if she actually cared about him to that extent, she would have actually shown him love. She’s behaving in a manner similar to Snape. While Snape passed his hatred of James onto Harry, Petunia passed her jealousy of Lily onto Harry. She was repulsed that she had to care for a baby that belonged to a person she wanted nothing to do with. I would say she kept Harry in the home as a favor to Lily, but if she really wanted to do a favor to Lily, she wouldn’t have treated her son the way she did.

    • Dan Sharp

      I like to think that while the Dursleys are horrible people, they are not evil and Dumbledore’s letter reminds Petunia that kicking Harry out of the house is in essence sending him to his death. No matter how much Petunia dislikes Harry and everything he represents to her she is unable to cross the line of doing something she knows will get him killed. She may have been jealous of Lilly and completely cut her out of her life but she never wanted her sister dead. He is her last connection to Lilly and at least wishes for his survival.

  • Well Dumbledore must have had some influence in a way with the letter he left. Also her family is important to her. That much has always been clear. However, I do not think that these were the main influences.
    Petunia knows and understands how dangerous Voldemort is.
    The main questions I have to ask you, is have you ever fallen out with someone or were jealous of someone? Were you able to apologise? Were you able to have some form of reconciliation? Were you able to avoid estrangement?
    Petunia, had no remaining family except for her sister, whom she was jealous of. I don’t think she despised her sister. She was just jealous. Jealousy never stretches as far as wanting someone dead. Lily then gets murdered. Petunia had not made reconciliation, nor was she able to apologise, nor was she able to explain her actions. Imagine how it would feel if something like that happened to you? Me, my brothers and my sister used to have moments where we’d snipe at each other, but in the end we united and protected each other. Blood, when needed to, sticks together well and creates a stronger bond which reduces bad sentimental feelings. It’s amazing at what you choose to do in order to protect what’s remaining if the rest is destroyed, no matter what you feel towards it. Although Petunia may not have ever wanted to admit her feelings to Vernon, I think maybe she, like Snape, had a strong sense of guilt, remorse and shame with her regards to how she treated her sister. At the end of the day, she never wanted her sister dead, so maybe she vowed secretly to herself that it wouldn’t happen to her nephew.

  • Halfbloodprincess

    Petunia definitely did it out of fear. She remembers the last time she went against a wizards interests, and has no desire to repeat the experience. Also, she would’t want to upset Dudley, especially since he saved his life mere minutes ago.

    • I’m inclined to disagree for most of this point. Yes there’s fear, but the fear is because she knows just how dangerous this man is. He took the last of her immediate blood relative. Her main tie to the magical world that she wanted to be a part of.
      I’d like to say that by taking Harry in she’s the one sealing the magical link. I could see Petunia would love or aprreciate that it’s her that’s making the charm happen. She just treats Harry the way she does for face value. She had conditioned Vernon and herself to not mention the wizarding world, so she wants it to remain so on the surface.
      Plus it’s one last thing she can do for her sister and Harry is all she has left of lily.

  • HedwigsTheme

    I think that Aunt Petunia took pleasure in receiving special instructions from a wizard, nonetheless from Albus Dumbledore himself. She was desperate to get into Hogwarts as a young girl, and that attraction towards magic, something that she has been denied her whole life, has not disappeared even after all these years. She allowed Harry to stay because someone from this exclusive world from which she has been denied suddenly needed her. She felt special for once and probably would have done almost anything asked of her in that moment.

    • Also she’s part of that magic. Her involvement and her blood seals the charm. She would have loved the idea of serving the wizard world deep down, despite what she shows on face value.

  • pygmypuff26

    Petunia’s decision of making sure Harry stayed put was definitely for Lily. She only took Harry in on Dumbledore’s orders and, up until this point that’s pretty much her only reason for having Harry around. Her relationship with Lily was very strained and I can imagine that since Lily’s death, she’s felt some guilt for being so distant towards her. With Voldemort being back, perhaps this is her of taking some kind of action and making things right in a way that she couldn’t or wouldn’t when Lily and James were killed. By protecting Harry, it’s her way of making sure that her sister did not die in vain.

  • thegiantsquid

    So far it looks like I’m alone on this, but I always thought that deep down… deep, deep down, Petunia cared for Harry. Hear me out.
    Petunia loved Lily. Lily was her younger sister and she felt very protective of her. Before Lily went to Hogwarts and before she met Snape, we see that the two young girls are very close. Lily’s magic is a betrayal to Petunia. Petunia’s only other knowledge of magic is “that awful boy” who is dirty, ragged, and likes Lily more than her, and *gasp* Lily hangs out with now instead of her. What little girl wouldn’t be crushed and upset? Lily goes to school and her parents praise her, the special one, and Petunia might be smart or talented, but she could never be magical. She loved her sister, and when Lily discovered a part of her life Petunia couldn’t share, Petunia resented that the magic stole her sister.
    Fast forward… Lily’s dead. Petunia never spoke with her, to our knowledge, to explain her distance. She has married a man who detests everything magical, which gives Petunia validation to also detest it, because as much as she wants to, she probably honestly never could. So Lily’s dead, Petunia never got to reconcile, and now she’s got this magical boy on her doorstep. She has a son, and she doesn’t want another, particularly one who would have the thing she couldn’t have for herself (or maybe even give to her child). (Also, Harry is younger than Dudley just like Lily was younger than Petunia – coincidence I just noticed.) But Harry is all that’s left of her sister. I feel like Petunia’s feelings mirror Snape’s very much. They both loathe Harry. Harry represents everything they couldn’t have and had taken away. But they both cared for Lily so much that they care for him in some capacity. I do not think these emotions are solely based on their ideas about what Lily would think of their actions. I think they understand that she has gone, and they would want to honor her, but Harry is still the only living remnant, so he is important too.
    So Petunia is told by Dumbledore to “remember [his] last” and she knows what this means. MOST IMPORTANTLY here though, I think the Howler gives her validation to allow Harry to stay. Just like she married Vernon for validation of her hatred of magic, the Howler gives her validation to express a concern for Harry, however closed off and distant it may seem. Petunia is a needy person. She dotes on her son to get validation, Vernon validates her hate, snooping validates her suspicions and insecurities… etc.

    I do not say all of this to assert that Petunia ONLY responded the way she did out of her feelings for Harry, because I am quite certain she did out of fear as well. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  • LadyNorbert

    As much as I dislike the Dursley’s, even more so with this recent re-read of the series, I can’t be convinced of the idea that Petunia is as calloused as she appears to be. There has to be love for Lily somewhere in her and she is very much aware of the threat Voldemort poses. I honestly think Petunia is confused and frightened with what happened to Dudley and not understanding if Harry is connected to the events or not. Dumbledore’s howler came at an opportune moment, in a way making the decision for her that yes, she must allow Harry to stay. I’m a firm believer that deep down (like really deep) underneath all the bitterness, hatred for magic, and jealousy Petunia still keeps love for Lily. She must have memories of their childhood spent together before Lily got her letter, before magic became the fissure between them, memories of the relationship that comes naturally between siblings. Essentially I’m also in the camp where Petunia considered the safety of her family as well. If Harry stays, can still call their place home, they too have protection against any threats. Overall though, I stand with my reason that she was motivated by a distant tugging of her heart, a foreign idea of protecting her sisters son.

    • Susan Lyons

      This comment made me think of Frozen! Same thing happens once Anna’s memories are erased of Elsa’s magic. They had a great sibling relationship until then. However, Anna took the opposite direction of Petunia. Even though she was confused as to why she couldn’t play with Elsa anymore, Anna decides to keep trying to reach out and continue to love Elsa. Petunia decided to let the jealousy and confusion take over her feeling of love for Lily, but Petunia did and does love Lily.

    • Some Reader

      I have no idea who this person claiming to be LadyNorbert is, but that’s the name I’ve been using online since 1999, and I just want to clarify that it’s not me. I have never been to this site before and only found it because I was Googling my own pen name.

  • The Lost Remembrall

    I think that this act was more of an act of love than fear. This is shown through the very start of the series where she decides to look after Harry and not put him in an orphanage. If she had not loved either Lily or Harry she would not of taken Harry into her care. The less strong emotion of fear is the fear of the danger that could harm the family. Therefore this link of fear is linked to love as it is to protect both her and her sisters family from the Death Eaters.

  • Raven

    Well after Harry leaves the Dursley’s home for good in DH the Dursley’s have to go into hiding. So, I think that in the letter, Dumbledore might have insinuated to Petunia that the Dursley’s could possibly be a target of Voldermort’s because of their connection to Lily and James and that by letting Harry live with them they were keeping him safe as well as themselves.

  • Ofcitishappeninginsideyourhead

    Her fear (and maybe respect) for Dumbledore must be one reason. However, the death of her sister must have been a truly shocking event for Petunia and she knows (at least I think she does) about Lily sacrificing herself in order to save Harry. I don’t think Petunia would want to undo the benefits of Lily’s sacrifice and live with the guilt of making her death worth nothing. I have hard time believing she could live with such guilt.

  • the head girl

    I was thinking along the same lines as Saiyangirl – I think Petuna’s decision is motivated by fear and love for her immediate family. As long as Harry can call 4 Privet Drive ‘home,’ the protection works for him as well as for her, Vernon, and Dudley. Lord Voldemort can’t find any of them there, and if the protection breaks, then that means not only is Harry in danger, but there’s a chance – slim though it may be – that they would be targeted as well. If Voldemort can’t find Harry, he might go after the people who hid him for so long – or he might just go after them anyway.

    Furthermore, it’s not like there’s a lot of love for the Dursleys among the people in the wizarding world who love Harry, so she wouldn’t have any sort of magical protection to rely on once the charm broke. At a time like this, when things are getting bad, it would be a fool’s errand to heedlessly put your family in unnecessary jeopardy – and if it protects your nephew at the same time, well, so be it.

  • CentaurSeeker121

    For my very own reasons I, like Petunia, have relatives that I have not had anything to do with in exceptionally long time. When I was younger, we were around each other a lot more often (just like Lily and Petunia were hanging out with each other all the time) and then one day it all just stopped (much like Petunia’s disconnecting of herself from Lily, except no magic was involved). The thing is though, the thing that I miss the most are the things that were missed out on. What COULD have been, and I wonder if that’s how Petunia feels. Lily is dead and all of the chances that Petunia had for any sort of reconciliation are gone now. The only piece of Lily left now is Harry and I just started wondering if maybe that was part of the reason why Petunia overrides Vernon and says that Harry has to stay, that it was because Harry was part of a world that Petunia wanted nothing to do with, but it was also because every time she looked at him she saw her sister’s green eyes staring back at her. This is where I feel I also have to note that this is when I think that they should have kept that scene in Deathly Hallows Part 1 where Petunia tells Harry that he not only lost a mother that night, but she lost a sister.

    Also, I have to agree with some of the others here when it comes to what they are saying about the protection charm. Petunia was the only other person in the room besides Harry that understood exactly what Lord Voldemort and his followers were capable of and I think she knew that Harry would be a definite target, and that they (the Dursleys) could be targeted by association, so she makes the decision for Harry to stay because she knows that if he no longer calls their house “home” the protection goes away and that could leave the rest of them vulnerable. There is no telling exactly what Dumbledore put in the letter that he left on Harry’s doorstep, but it’s obvious that it had a deep enough effect that Petunia made the decision to take Harry in and for her to say that he has to stay when Dumbledore’s howler arrives for her in Order of the Phoenix.