Against the Grain

Slightly more than just jibba jabba

Petunia’s Secret

Posted by Patrick on 24 Apr 2007

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains theories about HP:DH which give away information that is relevant at the end of HP:HBP. If you have not completed book 6 in the series and do not want to have your happy day spoiled, I suggest against reading this post. You have been warned

I couldn’t think of a good name for the post so I chose something you’d recognize. I want to speculate about Aunt Petunia, about Dumbledore’s protection and what it may mean. Of course, we will find out in about 3.5 months how precisely wrong this may be, but I think it’s a solid theory.

We know very, very well that Dumbledore placed a protection on #4 Privet Drive which would last as long as Harry could call it his home and until he comes of age in book 7. In my reading and re-reading I can’t find exactly what that protection is — we know only that it is something of Dumbledore’s creation, so it must be good and strong. So, we also know very well from several HP-centric sites and from JKR herself that we are going to learn something about Aunt Petunia in book 7 — we are going to learn something very important about Aunt Petunia.

Here’s what I think. Petunia Evans Dursley, a plain-Jane muggle (we have been told she is not a squib) with a witch sister, has a wizard son. Yes, Dudley. I think she knows and Vernon doesn’t know about it, and that the protection Dumbledore cast was designed to suppress Dudley’s magical abilities for as long as Harry was allowed to stay there. Doesn’t it make sense?

Have we noticed that Petunia, and not Vernon, is always lightning-quick to quell Dudley’s anger? It starts on that pattern as early as book 1 when Dudley is about to pitch a fit about how many Christmas presents he got until Petunia interjects an appeasing line to satisfy him. I think she knows that he exhibits some magical tendencies when he’s angry much like we’ve read about Harry (the aunt Marge incident, for one), and her continual desire to satisfy him is only to help suppress who he really is.

What’s out there that Petunia wants to protect more than Dudley? If Dumbledore sent her a howler saying to “remember my last” and she immediately buckled to let Harry stay (without explaining the reason why to Vernon, no less), could you deduce that she is trying to protect the thing she holds most dear? It’s hardly the house itself, as they seem snooty enough to proudly buy another house if something happens on Privet Drive. No, I believe she is protecting Dudley – well, that she thinks she’s protecting Dudley by allowing his magical ability to continue in suppression mode.

Let’s talk about something else. Why else would the dementors attack Dudley in the alley when they were sent by Umbridge to attack Harry instead? I thought this was a pretty large giveaway. Surely dementors can sense magical ability — they are hypersensitive to positive magic. They didn’t bother with Mrs. Figg because she’s a squib (and perhaps she was a little out of the scene at the time), so why bother with Dudley at all, unless…?

The curious part: if Dumbledore is dead, did the protection die with it? Because I think Dumbledore did little more than place a charm which suppressed Dudley’s magical abilities, I think the charm may have expired when Dumbledore died, but that’s a bit of a stretch and there’s a solid chance that the protection will still be in place when Harry gets to their house early on. Now, not all charms expire when their caster dies, otherwise the permanent sticking charm in Sirius’ house would have been a snap to remove, and more simply put, Harry would not have had Lily’s love charm protection for the first 14 years of his life, either. But, we know book 7 will open with Harry still several months away from being 17, and I think we’re going to see Harry show up at his aunt and uncle’s house with that knowledge. I can’t decide if I want him to hold that fact over their heads – at least Petunia’s head – or if I want him to play dumb about it and see what happens on his birthday.

So, what say you to my theory? Petunia’s secret is that Dudley is a wizard whose abilities are being suppressed by Dumbledore’s protection.

edit — 18 April 2007: I think my theory has further backing than I initially thought. During Harry’s hearing in OotP, we hear from Fudge that Muggles can’t see dementors — noone argues that so it must be true. But, if Dudley couldn’t see a dementor, why would Dudley have let out a “horrible, squealing yell” during the attack if he couldn’t see anything?

edit 2 — 24 April 2007: I guess I have found some extra wadding for this theory’s cannon blast. I recall very distinctly reading that JKR said someone in book 7 would manage magic later in life. All this time I have been under the impression that it’s either of our resident squibs — Argus Filch or Mrs. Arabella Figg, since we know it isn’t Petunia. But, what if JKR is referring to Duddypopkins instead? He’s going to be 17 in the story just like Harry — perhaps when he “comes of age” he is subjected to a reintroduction to magic for repressed wizards, or something of the like.


8 Responses to “Petunia’s Secret”

  1. snpnmnmi said

    Hmmm… interesting. Maybe, maybe. I do think mommas can be way more protective of children and even of father/child relationships… so I’m not sure about that being her secret. But maybe it DOES have something to do with Dudley… maybe, he’s an only child for a reason. Maybe P couldn’t have children without magical help, even though she didn’t like it. Hmmm… will ponder.

  2. toshspice said

    I could see that. i could also see everyone hovering about the street waiting for Harry to leave and Dudley protecting him (accidently).
    But I do not think that Petunia and Lily came from a witch or wizard family. I think they came from some kind of other magical family. They could both be fairies.

  3. leslie said

    I don’t know how I feel about this. You could be right, but I think it would be vile to have someone like Dudley become a wizard! blech

    I don’t understand WHY Dumbledore would suppress his magical abilities though. Wouldn’t Dumbly be against that kind of behavior?

  4. Patrick said

    Yeah Leslie I tossed this around as well. What I’ve decided in my mind is that Dumbledore’s main focus was protecting Harry. If he knew in advance that whatever protection he leveraged on Dudley would expire when he became of age, then Dumbledore would have seen that as an acceptable trade. I think it’s only further solidified that he had this belief when he pays the Dursleys a visit and tells them how displeased he is with how they’ve treated Harry — he’s mainly talking to Petunia there and implying that they should treat Harry as a son, but we can infer that it’s because their own son is a wizard as well.

  5. Patrick said

    I was so wrong. So, horribly, unequivocally wrong, with this theory that seemed to have such traction. But I think the truth is right in front of us all this time ~ JKR says Petunia “is not a squib” and “will never be able to perform magic” and then says she’s being shockingly indiscreet. It dawned on me what this means; maybe it’ll dawn on you before Saturday. Please think more simply.

  6. ruhi said

    Wow..quite a theory 🙂 Well even those Muggles can’t see dementors, they can feel the dread and gloom. Dudley only felt the dread and he felt all happiness being sucked out of him, I think. The person who showed some magic late in life was Merope, because there was no one in Book 7.

    Btw, what was “Remember my last” all about? Was he only referring to the letter he left at Petunia’s doorstep? There was such a hue and cry about this phrase.

  7. Patrick said

    right ruhi. I wish I’d been even close to right about this one. I was so deeply convinced that this was it, even though I read the same thing in a fanfic which usually means it’s not true.

    I dunno wtf that was about with the “remember my last” bit. Alas, since Harry didn’t think to ask about it in the kings cross chapter, we will probably never know. Maybe it was something about the protection itself, that they’d be hunted down if Harry couldn’t live there or something that played out in book 7 which we never had enough info to connect together.

  8. ruhi said

    Alas, since Harry didn’t think to ask about it in the kings cross chapter, we will probably never know.

    LOL. Probably she wants to do another book on unsolved mysteries of HP. There is a chat show on 7/30. She might answer some questions then, you never know.

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