Petunia Dursley (née Evans) is the Muggle sister of the Muggle-born witch Lily Potter, thus making her the aunt of half-blood wizard Harry Potter. She is in the minority of Muggles to know of the wizarding world's existence. She lives in Little Whinging, Surrey at 4 Privet Drive with her husband, son, and nephew.


Early Life

The Prince's Tale

Petunia looks on with worry at her sister and Snape.

Petunia is the oldest child of Muggles Mr. and Mrs. Evans, and had a sister, Lily, who was two years younger. When her sister received a letter from Hogwarts confirming that she was a witch, Petunia wrote a letter to Albus Dumbledore, asking if she could also study there. Even though the Headmaster rejected her kindly, this created a certain disdain and loathing for the Wizarding world, one she frequently took out on her sister, often calling Lily a "freak." After that point, she barely talked to her sister; well into adulthood, she even pretended that Lily didn't exist.

Petunia was also acquainted with Severus Snape, even before Lily received her Hogwarts letter. Snape treated her disdainfully and she heartily disapproved of him, and never made any secret of it.

Petunia had little contact with her sister once they had grown up (though she did send her a horrible vase over Christmas), partly to do with her jealousy of Lily being a witch. At some point before 1980, Petunia married Vernon Dursley, and their son, Dudley was born on June 23, 1980. The family settled into Little Whinging where they took pride in being "normal."

Harry Potter arrives


Petunia's nephew causing 'trouble'.

This changed on November 1, 1981 when Petunia opened her door to find a baby on her doorstep. The child turned out to be her sister's son, Harry Potter. A letter had been left by Albus Dumbledore, explaining the circumstances of Harry's arrival, including the deaths of her sister, Lily, and her husband, James Potter. She was the only member of the family that has her sister's blood running through her which ensured the protection of Harry and her family from Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters so she reluctantly agreed to take her orphaned nephew into her home, she then took into the family's responsibility not to tell Harry or anyone else about the fact that Harry was a wizard.

Petunia, however, didn't treat Harry as a welcome addition to her family. A constant reminder of her sister and the world she herself had been refused entrance to, she treated Harry like a disease, even keeping him in the cupboard under the stairs as a bedroom for much of his childhood. She deliberately spoiled Dudley and neglected Harry, who were both around the same age, in turn, showing him no affection or love. She forced him to do all of the chores while Dudley was free to do anything he pleased. Petunia also told Harry that his parents had died in a car crash and that the scar on his forehead came from that same accident. She didn't let Harry ask any questions about his family.

The Wizarding World, again

When Harry's Hogwarts letter arrived in 1991, she supported her husband's decision to keep the truth from Harry. They constantly tried to burn or rip the letters but they found that nothing was helping to stop the letters coming to Harry, so Petunia and the rest of the family moved to different places to try to outrun wizards until finally being tracked down by Rubeus Hagrid. When Hagrid forced the issue of Harry's origin, Petunia lost control and let loose all of the resentment she'd held about Lily's life.

Throughout the next several years, Petunia still permitted Harry to remain in her home over the summers, recharging the blood protections that kept him and her family safe from Lord Voldemort throughout the rest of the year.

Petunia Dursley OOTP

Petunia upon seeing Dudley Dursley after a Dementor attack in 1995.

In the summer before Harry's fifth year, Dudley and Harry were attacked by Dementors and only saved by Harry performing underage magic. She exposed some of what she new by telling Vernon what Dementors were. When asked how she new she said that she heard that aweful boy and her talking about it. They are later revealed to be Severus Snape and Lily Potter. When Vernon ordered Harry out of the house, she reluctantly stepped in after a Howler (later revealed to have been from Dumbledore) arrived telling Petunia to "remember my last."[1] Petunia cloaked her decision to allow Harry to stay in that she knew it would appear strange to the neighbours if Harry suddenly vanished. Whether this was the true reason for allowing her nephew to remain there or perhaps a glimmer of family loyalty, was left unsaid.

In the summer of 1997, the blood protections were due to expire. Petunia, Dudley, and Vernon were placed under the protection of Dedalus Diggle and Hestia Jones, both members of the Order of the Phoenix.

Just before the group left Privet Drive, Petunia watched her son offer the first words of acceptance Harry had ever heard and burst into tears on Dudley. Petunia walked towards the door to leave, looked back at Harry and opened her mouth to speak, but shortly after she pursed them back up and walked out. Petunia wanted to say to Harry, "I know what you're up against, and I hope it turns out okay." but decided against it because of her resentment to the wizarding world and she thought it showed weakness.

Later life

In later life, after the wizarding war and when Harry Potter had grown up, Harry has said to have been on "Christmas Card" terms with the Dursleys and went to visit them occasionally, which his children hated. Her only son, Dudley had also married and had at least two children, making her a grandmother.

Appearance and Personality

Petunia is a thin, blonde-haired woman, and described as having "nearly twice the usual amount of neck."[2] It is also mentioned that she looked like a horse when she pursed her lips. She is very nosy and often spends her time spying on her neighbors and has to have everything very clean. Petunia over loved her family and it showed, her son was spoiled and both her husband and son were overweight. Petunia's role in her family was to be a housewife and wait hand and foot on the men of her house, excluding Harry.

Attitude Towards Magic, Wizards, and Witches

Petunia is frequently heard referring to wizards and witches as "freaks." When Lily left for Hogwarts for the first time she referred to it as a place for "weirdos," a place where they may be "separated from normal people" for the safety of the latter. In 1995 she received a Howler from Dumbledore not helping in her liking for the wizarding world.

Petunia's attitudes toward the wizarding world most probably stem from her deep desire to attend Hogwarts only to be rejected. After Lily's invitation to attend, Petunia wrote Dumbledore, asking that she also be permitted to study there. Dumbledore's kind rejection seemed to have resulted in severe jealousy towards Hogwarts and the wizarding world in general.


Lily Evans

"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 to Harry[src]


Lily Evans was Petunia's only sibling. They were very close and always played together. When Lily started developing her magical powers Petunia was torn between her curiosity and her disapproval of magic. She tried protecting Lily when she became friends with Snape, a young boy who lived nearby and called Petunia a "Muggle", which to her was an insult even though she had no understanding of the meaning of the word.

Come the time of her sister's Hogwarts acceptance letter, Petunia was heartbroken she hadn't been asked to attend. She wrote to Hogwarts headmaster asking if she could attend and received a polite and kind letter saying she had no magical ability. Upset with her rejection Petunia went on to loathe the wizarding world and her sister. She called her sister a freak on her visits back from Hogwarts. Though despite her new hate for her sister Petunia would later bring up her only son in the event of her death.

Vernon Dursley

Vernon Dursley OOTP

Vernon Dursley.

Petunia was married to Vernon Dursley. She has always shown love towards Vernon. Petunia's role in her family is to do all the housework whilst her husband Vernon works. She obviously cooks all the meals, and seems to overfeed her family, excluding Harry Potter.

Neither Vernon or Petunia had the say in their house. Their lives were controlled around the 2 children, Dudley and Harry. Dudley's word was final, whatever he says goes and Harry, since her nephew was a wizard, this meant that Petunia and Vernon had no control over the matters involving the Wizarding world. So both Petunia and Vernon are the adults, but neither really has control of the family.

Dudley Dursley


Petunia with her son on her lap.

Dudley was Petunia's first and only child. Petunia did however bring up two boys, one who was her sister's. The amount of love and affection she gave was not shared equally and it was obvious that she didn't like Harry. Petunia gave in to every demand of Dudley's, one summer McGonagall spotted Dudley kicking his mother so she would buy him sweets, which she did. Petunia massively spoiled Dudley, resulting in him being very overweight; she denied it for many years though, calling it baby fat. She gave him anything he wanted and comforted him through tantrums. Petunia and Vernon would awfully spoil Dudley as if their family was a millionaire.

Petunia also deliberately put Dudley's word before Harry's even if Harry was right. She appears to have loved him very much and burst into tears every time he said something that wasn't cruel or mean. Even when Dudley was a teenager she called him "Diddy-kins" and names that one would call a baby.

Petunia over loved her only son and as a result his upbringing was spoiled and he turned out to be a nasty piece of work, this was until his cousin Harry rescued him from a Dementor attack, which Dudley thought of highly. Dudley was the one to bring the family back together and Petunia showed how proud she was of him when she burst into tears and sobbed when Dudley showed affection for Harry.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter: "What's this?"
Petunia Dursley: "Your new school uniform."
Harry Potter: "Oh, I didn't realize it had to be so wet."
— Petunia Dursley[src]

Petunia never showed any love and affection at all towards Harry only because he reminded her of Lily and the wizarding world. She treated him as if he were a waste of space, giving him the cupboard under the stairs at first and making him do all the chores. She, along with Vernon, ignored most of Harry's birthdays and gave him something minor like a toothpick when they didn't.

She didn't accept Harry as a second son and never gave him the love and affection he needed and craved from her. She also helped to keep him out of the Wizarding world and tried to make themselves look as normal as possible as part of her attempts at hiding Harry from other people. However when it came down to it Petunia felt she owed it to her sister to look after him. When it came to the time of them splitting Petunia was overly emotional and so upset that she couldn't speak. She later would be on "Christmas card" terms with Harry.


Petunia's name is the meaning of flower and the origin of the name is English. Petunia's maiden name was Evans. Evans is a Welsh or English surname derived from the given name Evan[3]. As a Welsh name, Evan means "young warrior"; it can also be considered a form of the name John, meaning "God is gracious"[4].

Petunia's married surname is Dursley. Dursley is a town in Gloucestershire, England. J. K. Rowling has commented that she visited the place as a child, and hated it, which likely affected her choice of surname for the awful family, remarking "I don't imagine I'm very popular in Dursley".[5][6]

Behind the scenes

  • The role of Petunia Dursley is played by Fiona Shaw.
  • Her appearance in the films is somewhat different than the books, where she is described as being "blonde and horse-toothed." Actress Fiona Shaw is neither of these things, nor do the film makers attempt to do so with wigs or prosthetics.


Notes and references

  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore was referencing the last letter he wrote Petunia explaining the familiar protection Harry had in Petunia's care.
  2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
  3. Behind the Name: Evans
  4. Behind the Name: Evan
  5. Wikipedia:Dursley
  6. 2001 BBC Online Chat
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