Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has elaborated on yet another aspect of her enormously successful fantasy series, revealing why the Dursley family hated their magical nephew so much.
In a post on Pottermore, Rowling explains that it all stems from Vernon and Petunia Dursley’s first introduction to Harry’s father James when he and Lily were still dating. During that time, Vernon was still trying to cope with the fact that his girlfriend’s sister was a “freak” witch, and this opened the door for James to start messing with Vernon’s fear and hatred of everything magic.
“James was amused by Vernon, and made the mistake of showing it,” writes Rowling. She also writes that two eventually got in an argument and this didn’t sit well with James after the fact. “James [a little ashamed of himself] promised to make things up with Vernon at the earliest opportunity.”
Unfortunately, the Potters and the Dursleys never got the chance to make amends. The next time James would see Vernon would be at Vernon and Petunia’s wedding, where James wasn’t in a hurry to salvage the relationship after overhearing Vernon call him “some kind of amateur magician.” When it came time for James and Lily to tie the knot, the Dursleys were not in attendance and didn’t try to reach out when Lily gave birth to Harry. Only a year later, James and Lily were dead and a baby Harry was on the Dursleys doorstep.
Rowling explains that Petunia loved her sister deep down but was always jealous of her magical ability. Petunia took Harry in because she had no other choice after Lily sacrificed herself to save her son’s life, but Harry would end up being a living reminder of how Petunia failed her sister in life, which helps explain why she never showed any affection for her nephew. That, and the fact that Harry was a living representation of their worst fears of the wizarding world.
“The Dursleys are reactionary, prejudiced, narrow-minded, ignorant and bigoted; most of my least favourite things,” continues Rowling. “I wanted to suggest, in the final book, that something decent (a long-forgotten but dimly burning love of her sister; the realisation that she might never see Lily’s eyes again) almost struggled out of Aunt Petunia when she said goodbye to Harry for the last time, but that she is not able to admit to it, or show those long-buried feelings. Although some readers wanted more from Aunt Petunia during this farewell, I still think that I have her behave in a way that is most consistent with her thoughts and feelings throughout the previous seven books.”