"But Aunt Marge suddenly stopped speaking. For a moment, it looked as though words had failed her. She seemed to be swelling with inexpressible anger — but the swelling didn’t stop. Her great red face started to expand, her tiny eyes bulged, and her mouth stretched too tightly for speech — next second, several buttons had just burst from her tweed jacket and pinged off the walls — she was inflating like a monstrous balloon, her stomach bursting free of her tweed waistband, each of her fingers blowing up like a salami…"
— Description of Marge Dursley's inflation[src]

This incident took place on 6 August, 1993, when Marjorie "Marge" Dursley, the sister of Harry Potter's uncle, Vernon Dursley, visited the Dursley family at Privet Drive in Little Whinging.[1]

Marge's insults to the memory of both Harry Potter's parents, James and Lily Potter, got the thirteen-year-old wizard upset, and he lost control of his magic, unintentionally casting an inflating charm (possibly Inflatus) on his aunt, making her blow up like a balloon and float about the room. Harry, then, grabbed his trunk and left the house in a fit of rage, heading to the Leaky Cauldron, in wizarding London.[1]

History

Background information

Vernon Dursley: "I'd better be off in a minute, Petunia. Marge's train gets in at ten."
Harry Potter: "Aunt Marge? Sh—she's not coming here, is she?"
Vernon Dursley: "Marge'll be here for a week, and while we're on the subject, we need to get a few things straight before I go and collect her."
Harry Potter and Vernon Dursley discuss Marge's visit[src]

Marge Dursley over dinner at Privet Drive

In the summer of 1993, Marge arranged with her brother so that she could spend a week at Little Whinging, where he and his family lived. She arrived on 31 July, Harry Potter's birthday. Once there, she hugged her nephew, Dudley, and kissed her sister-in-law, Petunia, while thrusting her suitcase into Harry and voicing her views that violent punishment should be applied in the case of hopeless delinquents, as she saw him.[1]

On the third day of her visit, 2 August, Marge rudely insulted Harry's mother over lunch, while going on about "the way the boy's turned out": "If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup —". At that moment, Harry lost control of his magic and the wine glass that Marge was holding exploded in her hand, sending shards of glass flying in every direction. Marge, oblivious to what had happened, dismissed this on account of her "very firm grip", having squeezed the glass too hard. Remembering the Ministry of Magic warning about using magic outside school sent to him the previous year, and seeing Vernon and Petunia glaring at him, Harry skipped dessert and left the table.[1]

The incident

Marjorie Dursley: "Go on, boy, go on. Proud of your parents, are you? They go and get themselves killed in a car crash (drunk, I expect) —"
Harry Potter: "They didn't die in a car crash!"
Marjorie Dursley: "They died in a car crash, you nasty little liar, and left you to be a burden on their decent, hardworking relatives! You are an insolent, ungrateful little —"
Harry Potter and Marge Dursley's heated exchange[src]

Harry got through the remainder of the week thinking about a Broomstick Handbook to block out Marge's insults. On the last day of Marge's visit, the 6th of August, the Dursleys had a fancy dinner, without any mention of Harry. During dessert, Vernon spoke about his business. Afterwards, Marge, drunk on wine and brandy, proceeded to make rude, biased remarks about Harry's parents yet again; this time, she said Lily Potter was a "bad egg" who had run off with a "wastrel", and James Potter a "no-account, good-for-nothing, lazy scrounger", while implying that they had managed to get themselves killed in a car crash while drunk.[1]

Marge Dursley floats to the ceiling

Harry's strategy was no longer working, and he had had enough. He rose to his feet and, shaking all over as he had never felt angrier in his life, contradicted her, saying she was wrong. Marge, swelling with fury, began to scream at him, but suddenly stopped speaking. She started to swell, her mouth stretched too tightly to speak. As she started floating towards the ceiling like a monstrous balloon, several buttons burst from her tweed jacket and her stomach bursting free of her tweed waistband. As she floated there, entirely round, with only her hands and feet sticking out, Vernon tried to grab her and pull her down, only to get lifted from the floor himself. Ripper, Marge's bulldog, leapt forward, biting on Vernon's leg.[1]

Harry, however, tore from the dining room and seized his trunk that had been stored in the cupboard under the stairs. He then grabbed his things from his bedroom and left the house, but not before Vernon (with a bloody leg) shouted at his nephew to come back and put Marge right, which Harry bluntly refused.[1]

Aftermath

"Well, Harry, you've had us all in a right flap, I don't mind telling you. Running away from your aunt and uncle's house like that! I'd started to think... but you're safe, and that's what matters. Eat, Harry, you look dead on your feet. Now then... You will be pleased to hear that we have dealt with the unfortunate blowing-up of Miss Marjorie Dursley. Two members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad were dispatched to Privet Drive a few hours ago. Miss Dursley has been punctured and her memory has been modified. She has no recollection of the incident at all. So that's that, and no harm done."
Cornelius Fudge to Harry Potter at the Leaky Cauldron[src]

The incident led to Harry Potter running away from Privet Drive and coming across a mysterious black dog that stared at him. Harry, however, managed to board the Knight Bus, and got off safely at the Leaky Cauldron, where he spent the rest of the summer holidays.[2]

According to Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, two members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad were duly dispatched to Privet Drive, and successfully punctured and modified her memory so that she had no recollection of the event. Fudge also informed Harry that while Vernon and Petunia were still quite furious about the incident, they were still prepared to take him back the following summer per the agreement with Dumbledore. Fudge then offered Harry a place to stay at the Leaky Cauldron for the remainder of the summer. Harry was relieved about all of this, as he had been expecting to face, at minimum, expulsion from Hogwarts, and possible arrest as well, for the incident, although Fudge assured Harry that it was completely accidental, and certainly wasn't severe enough to warrant sentencing to Azkaban.[2]

Later on, Harry decided the reason he got off so easily was because, at that time the Ministry was worried about his safety, as the escape of prisoner Sirius Black was the main issue on their minds at the time. Especially considering how two years later, when the Ministry was targeting Harry and Dumbledore to silence their claims of Voldemort, Fudge brought up the incident again, during Harry's trial for using a Patronus charm in the presence of Muggles, as evidence against Harry. However, Dumbledore reminded Fudge that he himself had ruled it an accidental loss of control and did not press charges.[2]

Behind the scenes

  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Marge is blown up like a balloon, her mouth does not stretch to the point where she is unable to speak. Rather, she begs Vernon to help her, and she shrieks in terror as she floats. In addition, she floats out of 4 Privet Drive and into the cloudy evening sky through the open door of the conservatory. A bit later in the film, as Harry was walking on the street after storming out, she was still seen floating around while screaming. Later in the film, Fudge says she was found circling a chimney in Sheffield by the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, which directly contradicts the events as told in the novel.
  • It is never made clear why Harry was not expelled or otherwise prosecuted for this incident. Ron assumes that Harry was let off due to his celebrity status, while Mr and Mrs Weasley assume the Ministry wouldn't want him to leave the safety of Hogwarts due to Sirius being on the loose. When Fudge brings up the incident during Harry's disciplinary hearing, Dumbledore assumes Harry was never prosecuted due to not being accountable enough at the time.
  • In the film, Tom laughs when Fudge mentions how people are not sent to Azkaban for inflating their aunts, only for Fudge to glare at him in response. This may imply Fudge once blew up his own aunt like a balloon before too.

Appearances

Notes and references

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