“Petunia Evans, forever embittered by the fact that her parents seemed to value her witch sister more than they valued her, left Cokeworth forever to pursue a typing course in London.”
Petunia left the family house literally the first chance she had. We don’t know much about her teenage years. It’s not hard to imagine that she was lonely and she and Lily grow apart more and more. Lily came home with all these magical objects and doing spells like making animals out of the kitchen ware. By that time magic already disgusted Petunia, which made it harder and harder to be around her sister.
She moved to London, away from Lily, away from a home, where she felt more sad than happy and most of all – away from magic. After a while, she started an office job, where she met her future husband.
“Large and neckless, this junior executive seemed a model of manliness to young Petunia. He not only returned her romantic interest but was deliciously normal.”
Deliciously normal. I don’t know if there is a better word to describe her thoughts. Wait what about deliciously not magical. That’s it. That’s what Vernon Dursley was to her. He was a perfect representation of everything non-magical, in other words – boring. He had the right car, the right world views and right ignorance about the magical world, she wished to escape.
It was heaven for Petunia when he finally proposed. And then her fears came back running. She had always thought she isn’t good enough. She wasn’t good enough to go to that stupid school, she wasn’t good enough for her parents and she wasn’t good enough for her sister. What if Vernon met her family and realizes they were right – she is not good enough. What if, despite his blissful ignorance about magic, he sees what her sister can do and realizes that he likes Lily more than her. Or what if he finds out about their dirty little secret, which is how she saw magic and sees it as exactly that – dirty. Or weird, abnormal and disgusting…What if that’s how he will see her and he wouldn’t want to marry her anymore. What if he sees her as a freak? Because this is exactly how she felt growing up. She might have called Lily that word a million times but we know how the insults we throw at others are usually what we think of ourselves. Petunia was the freak in a family that adored magic.
But she couldn’t believe her luck when she confessed her secret to Vernon and he wanted to marry her anyway. Why did he, is an interesting question for another time. She had found a perfectly normal man, with a perfectly normal job and perfectly normal plans for the future, who knew about her sister and still chose her.
One crisis was averted, but another came afterward. No matter how awful she was feeling about her childhood and about her sister, Petunia still cared for her and secretly wished things between them were better. Which is why she agreed for Vernon and her to meet Lily and her magical boyfriend for dinner. But it was a disaster. In my opinion, when she met James Potter, she couldn’t help but feel the same way she did when she met Snape. Crazy reference, ha? Hear me out. James was a dark haired boy, like Snape, who knew a lot about magic and kept talking about it, like Snape, liked Lilly, like Snape and took her sister even further away in this other world, like Snape. James was another smack she felt from this magical world that rejected her over and over. Why was she the one who always had to suffer, why was she the one who had to change, so her and Lily can be close again. Didn’t her sister notice how yet again she choose someone else instead of her? Could she for one second not talk about magic? It was something Petunia couldn’t handle and she felt she didn’t have to anymore. She had a man, who loved her and wanted to have a normal life with her. Finally, she wasn’t alone. She saw Lilly at the wedding because she couldn’t uninvite her own sister, but afterward, she did the best she could to erase her from her new perfect ordinary life.
I think Petunia was always confused about who she was. She knew who she wasn’t – she wasn’t anything her sister was. But ‘who she was’ was a question she could never answer. After the marriage she became more and more like her husband, sharing his dreams and his views. She was a housewife, a perfectionist one. Everything had to be in its place, because otherwise, it will be chaos, just like the chaos Lily brought to her life with her magic.
When she found out she was pregnant, Petunia must have been full of joy. I think imagining having someone who will always love you unconditionally and will always need you, finally gave her what she desired. Her happiness was full with this little twitching exception.
“Petunia had also buried deep inside her (and never confessed to Vernon) her long ago hope that she, too, would show signs of magic, and be spirited off to Hogwarts.”
Even though she had little to no knowledge of how magic works or is inherited, she still hoped she might get her place in the magic world at the end. Not only the little girl inside still believed that she can be a witch, but she also missed her sister from time to time.
However, when she got her last piece of correspondence from Lily and found out that she had a little boy as well, she felt that her sister tried to outshine her again.
“The very last piece of correspondence she received from Lily and James was the announcement of Harry’s birth, and after one contemptuous look, Petunia threw it in the bin.”
J.K Rowling had said that Petunia felt guilty about how she treated Lily and might have even wanted to patch things up but those lovely feeling were buried very deep under a considerable amount of jealousy and bitterness. If she knew what would have happened to Lily closely after her last letter, would have she tried to make up with her, while it was still possible? I believe we can find the answer to this question looking more closely at Harry’s first eleven years in the Dursley’s house.
That is going to happen next week. Until then you can check out the video and share your thoughts in the comments. See you next week, bookdragons.