Petunia Dursley, despite all that she may seem, is a complicated woman. She is torn between jealousy and intrigue when it comes to her sister's enchanting abilities. She ultimately deals with these emotions by becoming the bitter magic-hating woman that she is. Her days as a Dursley may seem picturesque, but deep down, Petunia is constantly fighting the urge to (as Dumbledore so eloquently puts it) do what is right instead of what is easy.
When Harry lands on the steps of her home at Number 4 Privet Drive, it would have been easy to send him off to an orphanage. It would have been right for her to treat him like a second son, but as audiences see, that isn't something that comes easy. In the end, Petunia is still regarded as a nasty woman, but if look at her background from the books, there is more to her than you'd think. Here are ten things you didn't know about Petunia Dursley.
Petunia doesn't hide her resentment towards her sister. In the first installment, she tells Harry, "My mother and father were so proud the day she got her letter. 'We have a witch in the family! Isn't it wonderful?'"
The truth is, Petunia holds a grudge against her sister because she's jealous. She actually wanted to be a witch at one point, which is proven when the Pensieve reveals that Petunia wrote to him asking if she could attend Hogwarts. He kindly responds that Petunia can't attend without magical abilities, which simply devastated her. To deal with the rejection, she began hating anything that resembles magic... including Lily.
After her own schooling (sometime in the 1970s), Petunia leaves her hometown. She takes typing courses and becomes a clerk at an office. It's here that she first meets Vernon Dursley. They go on a few dates and eventually get married in 1977.
At this point, she had not told Vernon about Lily and her secret, as she's afraid that he'll leave her because of his narrow-minded views. As we all know, Petunia somehow convinces him to stick around, even after learning about the wizarding world.
Petunia introduces Vernon to James and Lily that same year. Vernon tries to impress James with his car, but James (being equally egotistical) brags about his family fortune. This makes Vernon angry and he and Petunia leave on bad terms.
Because of this nasty introduction, Petunia doesn't even have Lily as a bridesmaid, although they are invited to the wedding. Petunia and Vernon, on the other hand, simply decide not to go to James and Lily's wedding. Whether this is out of genuine dislike or jealously is something audiences may never know.
If there is one thing that should have been in the films, it's this bit of information about Harry's Aunt Petunia. To some, it may seem bewildering that the Dursleys take Harry in at all considering their views of the wizarding world. Why not just send him off?
Petunia holds the secret to that for a long time. It all has to do with that letter than Dumbledore left with Harry on that fateful night all those years ago. It explains about Lily's passing and the circumstances that protect Harry and the Dursleys while he lives with them. Because she is a blood relative of Lily's, Petunia's blood acts as a protection against Voldemort.
On a lighter note, one major thing that only book readers are privy to is the fact that Petunia is blonde. Weird, right? It's hard to imagine Fiona Shaw as a brightly-haired housewife. Nevertheless, in the books, J.K. Rowling writes,
"Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful." The latter of which is referencing Aunt Petunia's relentless need to peer through the curtains to spy on (and gossip about) her neighbors.
Petunia tries to avoid the wizarding world at all costs. Despite her best efforts, however, she is still forced into random meetings with various witches and wizards. She briefly sees Ron in Harry's second year, during his infamous escape, and even Dumbledore drops in for a visit later down the line.
In one of her most memorable magical encounters, the Weasleys pop into the Dursley's living room via Floo Powder. Molly Weasley had previously written to the Dursleys to ask their permission to take Harry for the summer so that he could go to the Quidditch World Cup. That's why the entire Weasley clan comes to scoop Harry up. On top of the visitors ruining the Dursley's fireplace, Fred and George also left Dudley a Ton-Tongue Toffee, which causes his tongue to swell immensely.
After Dudley is attacked by Dementors, Aunt Petunia lets slip that she knows more about the wizarding world than she lets on. When Vernon sees the state his son is in after a run-in with these creatures, he asks Harry what Dementors are.
To everyone's surprise, it's Petunia who answers. She remembers "that awful boy" (meaning James Potter) mentioning Dementors being the guards of Azkaban, the wizard prison.
After the Dementor attack, Vernon is so outraged he demands that Harry leave. Before he has a chance to react, a Howler is sent whizzing into the Dursley home. It's addressed to Petunia and, considering the nature of Howlers, the entire household gets to hear its contents. Dumbledore simply tells Petunia to, "remember my last."
This, of course, is in reference to the letter he sent with Harry as a child, about the protection that Petunia offers. Dumbledore later explains the full extent of the situation by telling Harry, "You need return there only once a year, but as long as you can still call it home, there he cannot hurt you. Your aunt knows this. I explained what I had done in the letter I left, with you, on her doorstep. She knows that allowing you houseroom may well have kept you alive for the past fifteen years.”
The Dursleys are forced to go into hiding right before Harry's 17th birthday, when the protection spell dissipates. The Order of the Phoenix believes that Voldemort would capture and torture the Dursleys about Harry's whereabouts, so leaving Number 4 Privet Drive is their only option. There is one moment where Petunia stops and looks at Harry. She opens her mouth like she is about to say something, but stops herself. Rowling told Bloomsbury what was going through Petunia's mind at that telling moment:
"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."
For anyone who has read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, you will have learned that Harry's Aunt Petunia dies before Albus Potter's first year at Hogwarts. That means that Petunia dies in the year 2020. Before her death, she has two grandchildren from Dudley and his wife.
After her death, Harry is also given the blanket that he was wrapped up in when Dumbledore first delivers him to Number 4, Privet Drive. For some reason, Petunia Dursley felt inclined to keep it for all these years.