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Petunia Dursley Character Analysis: Personality Traits, Family & Patronus

Petunia Dursley Character Analysis: Personality Traits, Family & Patronus

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Petunia is the older sister of Lily Evans, the mother of Harry Potter, who developed a bitter resentment of the wizarding world after losing her sister to it. She later married Vernon Dursley and created the most normal, non-magical life that she could. That was challenged when Lily and James Potter died, and Petunia was asked to take Harry in.

About Petunia Dursley

BornPre 1961 – pre 2020
Blood StatusMuggle
Zodiac SignLibra (speculative)

Petunia’s Early Life

Sisters Petunia and Lily Evans grew up together somewhere in England in a normal muggle family. But while Petunia was a muggle, Lily was a witch. Lily seems to have started being able to use her powers at a young age, as at least once she showed some magic to Petunia, who reminded her that their parents had told her not to do magic.

While Lily and Petunia were still young, a young Severus Snape who lived nearby in the town of Cokeworth saw Lily practicing magic. A wizard himself, he became infatuated with Lily and would often watch her.

Snape introduced himself to Lily and befriended her, sharing with her what he knew of the magical world. Petunia distrusted Snape and resented that he and Lily could bond over magic, leaving her on the outside.

When Lily received her letter from Hogwarts at the age of eleven, Petunia wrote a letter to Professor Dumbledore asking if she could study there too. She received a polite refusal from the headmaster. But she was mortified when she discovered that Lily and Snape had found and read her letter.

Petunia felt left out and abandoned by her sister, and nothing Lily said could change Petunia’s mind. She was still feeling resentful when Harry received his Hogwarts letter years later.

Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that… that school – and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning teacups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was… a freak! But for my mother and father oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family.

Petunia Dursley, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Petunia and Lily Evans

Petunia becomes a Dursley

Rejected from the magical world, Petunia set out to make for herself the most normal life possible, as far from magic as she could get. This included marrying Vernon Dursley, the most normal and mundane man she could find.

She was working at a clerical job in London when she met Vernon. He took her on a number of dates, which mainly involved Vernon discussing himself and his views on the world, which were very unmagical!

Vernon proposed to Petunia in his mother’s sitting room in late 1977, when Lily was in her seventh year at Hogwarts. Petunia resolved to tell Vernon about her sister before going through with the wedding. He was shocked but assured her that he would not hold it against her and that he also wanted nothing to do with any of that funny stuff.

Petunia and Vernon went on to marry and moved into a home at 4 Privet Drive. In June 1980 they had their first and only son Dudley.

Petunia lost contact with her sister when she married Vernon. They chose not to attend James and Lily’s wedding, and the last piece of mail that she received from her sister was the announcement of the birth of her son Harry.

Petunia Takes in Harry

On 2 November 1981 Petunia opened her door to find an abandoned baby on her doorstep. There was a letter from Albus Dumbledore explaining that Lily and James had been killed by a powerful dark wizard and that the only way to keep Harry safe was for him to stay with a member of his mother’s bloodline, which meant Petunia.

Dumbledore’s letter also said that he hoped Petunia would treat Harry like her own son, but this was not to be. Petunia and Vernon treated Harry badly, forcing him to stay in a closet under the stairs so that Dudley, the son Petunia doted on, could have two bedrooms.

Harry was only ever given Dudley’s second-hand clothes, leftovers that Dudley wouldn’t eat, and they constantly criticized Harry. Their hope was to squash the magic out of Harry.

Petunia and Vernon also never told Harry about his parents, instead they told him that they had died in a car accident.

It is unclear whether Vernon or Petunia was principally responsible for this poor treatment of Harry. Vernon seems to have been the main decision-maker and disciplinarian, with Petunia following his lead.

But it is clear that Petunia got little pleasure from Harry’s presence, which probably just reminded her of the sister that she had now lost twice, once to Hogwarts, and then to death.

Harry goes to Hogwarts

When Hogwarts started sending letters to Harry to invite him to Hogwarts, Vernon Dursley was insistent that they should ignore the letters.

Petunia also did not like the letters, and was most shocked when she saw that they were addressed to Harry “under the stairs”, indicating that they knew where Harry slept. Harry was soon moved up into Dudley’s second bedroom.

When the letters persisted, Vernon dragged his family to increasingly remote places to try and avoid them. While Petunia was scared by what was happening, she seems to have agreed with her son Dudley that Vernon had gone a little mad.

When Hagrid finally burst into the cabin where they were hiding from the owl post and revealed the truth to Harry that he was a wizard, Petunia also finally revealed her knowledge about the wizarding world and her resentment towards her sister Lily.

Nevertheless, Vernon and Petunia gave in and let Harry attend Hogwarts and return to their home in the summer. Outside of this, they largely ignored him. They did not send letters to him at school, and they let him stay over Christmas and sent no presents. During the summers, they ignored Harry and focused on hiding the truth from their neighbors.

Petunia reveals her resentment

Petunia receives a Howler

The most significant incident to happen at Privet Drive during Harry’s years at Hogwarts occurred in the summer of 1995. Two Dementors attacked Harry and his cousin Dudley in the street.

Harry managed to drive off the Dementors with a Patronus. But Dudley was unable to see the Dementors, so he assumed it was Harry who had cast the cold feeling over him. When he reported this to his parents, Vernon wanted to expel Harry from the house.

But news of the attack had reached Dumbledore already, and he sent a howler to Petunia, anticipating that this might be the reaction of the Dursleys. The letter simply said “remember my last”.

Despite Harry’s inquiries about who had sent the letter and what the message meant, Petunia would say nothing. But she did tell her husband that the boy would have to stay. When he looked at her in surprise she said that it would be impossible to explain to the neighbors.

In fact, Dumbledore’s message was a reminder that it was only her willingness to let Harry stay with her that protected his life, and of the sacrifice that Lily had made to save Harry.

The following summer Dumbledore visited the Dursleys to collect Harry and take him to the Burrow. While there he spoke to the Dursleys, explaining what would happen the following year when Harry came of age. He rebuked the Dursleys for their treatment of Harry.

Petunia goes into Hiding

The following year, in the summer of 1997, Harry was set to come of age. The home of the Dursleys would no longer be safe for Harry, or the Dursleys who could become Death Eater targets as close relatives of Harry.

The Order of the Phoenix organized to move Petunia, Vernon, and Dudley to a safe location. Vernon was very reluctant as he mistrusted the wizards. Petunia was more willing as she remembered stories that Lily had told her. But what clinched the decision to go was Dudley telling his father that he was going.

Dudley seems to have grown significantly as a result of his encounter with the Dementors, and trusted Harry and the wizards. He was the only one of the Dursleys to say goodbye to Harry, and thank him for saving his life. Petunia was moved emotionally by this transformation in her son.

Petunia was unable to say anything to Harry when they parted, but there does seem to have been unspoken words on her mind.

She stopped and looked back. For a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that she wanted to say something to him: she gave him an off, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Petunia left with her family, and it is unknown where they went into hiding or what exactly they did after the threat was over.

At some point before 2020 Petunia died. At this time, it was revealed that she had kept the blanket that Harry was brought to her in as a baby. This was given to Harry after she died, though he would never know why she had kept it.

Petunia Dursley Personality Type & Traits

Petunia Dursley comes across as someone desperate to belong. As a child, she was desperate to belong in the wizarding world alongside her sister Lily. She was also jealous of the attention that Lily received because of her magic.

As an adult, following her rejection, she was desperate to belong in the muggle world and put up boundaries between herself and anything magical.

This need seems to have overridden her natural maternal instincts as far as Harry was concerned, although she certainly doted on her son Dudley.

She was willing to maintain her world by following her husband’s lead, even when it was apparent that she did not agree with him completely. It is a rare and surprising moment when she stands up to Vernon and tells him that Harry must stay.

Petunia Dursley Zodiac Sign & Birthday

Petunia was older than her sister Lily, so was probably born in 1959. We are not told her birthdate, but fans suggest that her zodiac sign may be Libra. People born under this sign are very community-oriented and have a deep desire to “belong”.

Why isn’t Petunia a witch?

It is not uncommon for muggles to have a magical child. Lily Evans, Hermione Granger, Dean Thomas, and Colin Creevey are all muggle-born, just to name a few. But it is very unusual for a muggle family to have more than one witch or wizard child. A notable exception are the Creevy brothers. So, just because Lily is a witch does not mean that Petunia should also be a witch.

While these witches and wizards are called muggle-born, they must have some magical blood somewhere in their bloodline. But it can take many generations for genes to appear in just the right combination for a witch or wizard to emerge from a bloodline with very little magical blood.