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Blogging The Deathly Hallows: Chapter 3

Off schedule already.  ::facepalm::  Well, I do have a good excuse.  I have been spending the last couple of days brainstorming with a colleague half a continent away on a potential collaboration in which we bring complimentary approaches to a very vexing scientific problem - one all but abandoned by the big labs because it requires a long term investment of resources and personnel that most of the really ambitious people in those labs aren't willing to make.  It has the potential to do very good things for both of our careers (not to mention answering a fundamental question about RNA synthesis),  but it is something of a risk.  And right now I'm a bit short in the personnel department.  But it may just be too important to pass this up.  At the beginning of September, we will both be at the major scientific meeting in our field, and between now and then, we have a lot more ground to explore before we decide to make this official and do some preliminary experiments for proof of principle before we seek (if it's possible to get) grant support.  Oh well, it's exciting to me, anyway.  :-P  Enough with teh science geekery - let's go get our last look at the Dursleys.  :-)


The chapter begins with Uncle Vernon bellowing for Harry ("Oi! You!") and Harry resisting a bit by taking his good old time appearing at the top of the stairs, slipping that mirror fragment from the last chapter into his rucksack before he goes.  It's just a short time before the Order is coming to collect the Dursleys and take them to a safe, presumably secret-kept, place and Vernon, who has apparently been vacillating between staying and going, has decided they are staying.

I found the dynamic of the confrontation between Harry and Vernon (with some side-shrieking by Petunia and an important contribution by Dudley - more on those in a tick) to be a very different one than their usual.  Vernon is still all bullying bluster, but seems a lot less sure of himself and thus a lot less intimidating than is normal.  Considering the situation they are in, I suppose that is to be expected - they are about to become refugees - but I think, too, that it's also a reflection of the diminishment of the power he once held over Harry, seen through Harry's more grown-up eyes.

Once upon a time, Vernon Dursley *was* the Dark Lord in Harry Potter's eyes, especially before he knew what he was.  This man, not his blood relation but married to his mother's sister, with the full consent and collaboration of his wife, abused and neglected him from infancy.  They did just enough for him to see that he survived.  (I can't help but wonder where the British equivalent of Child Protective Services was during all of this.  And Harry's primary school teachers - where were they?  In the U.S. teachers are required to report any signs of abuse and neglect to the authorities.  Is there no such requirement in the U.K.?  And don't get me started on Dumbledore's complicity in all of this.  ::grimaces and reins in incipient rant::)  It's pretty amazing, given his home life, that he didn't grow up to be a complete psychopath.  Yet he did not grow up to hate all Muggles for what his relatives (and all of the adults whom he had reason to expect to protect him but did not) did to him.  He is 'inherently' good, and remained so even in the face of an environment designed to crush him.

We know this because, in spite of everything the Dursleys did, he wants them protected and cares what happens to them.  He seems detached in the beginning, reacting with amused disdain to Vernon's arguments against leaving, calmly countering each objection.  And in the course of this there is even speculation on both sides about whether Harry *would*, in fact, attempt to rescue them should they fall into Voldemort's hands.  But that little uncertainty is effectively dealt with a few paragraphs later when he gets in Vernon's face and shouts "Don't you understand?  They will torture you and kill you like they did my parents!"  So, he is not willing to leave them to whatever fate befalls them, and not because of the danger their being captured would represent to him,  but because he does not want them to die the way his parents did, whether they deserve it or not.  How many of us would be as generous to people who maltreated us so?

In the end, it is Dudley who decides the argument.  Dudley who well remembers the dementors and has been very much changed by his encounter with them, has decided he is going, which means that his parents will go with him.  Harry walks away after that, back up to his bedroom with the following thought:  'The prospect of parting - probably forever - from his aunt, uncle and cousin was one that he was able to contemplate quite cheerfully, but there was nevertheless a certain awkwardness in the air.  What did you say to one another at the end of sixteen years' solid dislike?'  What, indeed?

At this point the Order's escort for the Dursleys arrives, and he decides to greet them himself.  We have meet Dedalus Diggle before.  Several times, in fact.  He is very much Harry's admirer and, since he doesn't know any better, as of yet considers it to be a great honor to look after Harry's relatives.  We have met Hestia Jones, too, as she was one of the contingent who came with Mad-Eye Moody to take Harry to Grimauld Place.  Other than the fact that she is 'pink-cheeked and black-haired' (OotP) we know nothing about her, or whose contemporary at Hogwarts she might be.  In spite of the fact that she took part in that operation, she, for some reason, seems to believe that there exists some affection between Harry and the Dursleys and quite takes offense on his behalf that there isn't, though it is pretty obvious that both sides (except for the shell-shocked Dudley) can't get away from each other fast enough.  

Dudley, on the other hand, does something extraordinary.  He wants to know why Harry isn't coming with them, where Harry will be going, expresses (awkwardly) his thanks for Harry saving him from the dementors, shakes Harry's hand and parts with him on friendly-ish terms.  Lumbering, slow-witted and ham-fisted he may be, but in those moments, he shows himself to be more of an adult than either of his parents.

And Petunia - what of her?  During Harry's 'discussion' with Vernon, she is reduced to cut-off shrieks at Harry's insults to his uncle.  She has nothing more to say until it is time to leave, when she begins fussing in her usual, infantilizing way over her son, puzzled at his concern over his cousin and overwhelmed at the saintly Dudley's gratitude to Harry.  After all the rest have gone out to the car, she finds herself alone with her nephew.  She cannot even look at him as she says only two words:  "Well - goodbye."  Harry responds and for an odd moment it seems as if she might say more, but she does not.  She just hastens to follow her husband and son.  What would she have said, do you think?

From her behavior and the few words she has said, it is obvious that she has no love for this boy, the son of her dead sister who she was forced to take into her home by Dumbledore.  She hasn't changed from when we first met her.  She is still cruel, willfully blind, full of anger and jealousy of her sister and more than willing to take it out on her son - the evil stepmother of fairy tales personified.  It seems unthinkable that she would have had any word of apology or remorse for sixteen years of unrelenting meanness, unlikely that she would have wished him well.  My imagination failed me here, but I'd expect that you all might have some ideas.  :-)

This is the last time we see or hear of the Dursleys.  They are gone from the story and from Harry's mind for good.  We don't know where they go ( but catsintheattic  has a missing moment drabble from Petunia's POV, the first in a series of eight that look at DH from the female characters' perspective.  It's called Faces of Pride, Feelings of Fear and well worth the read).  The epilogue gives us no hints as to what becomes of them.  Ideas?   

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
lash_larue
Jul. 14th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
I think Petunia might actually have said, "good luck" or even "I'm sorry", could she have brought herself to do it. I think she truly loved and idolized her sister, and it was her crushing disappointment at not being able to go to Hogwarts with her combined with her grief over her death that led to her rather overdone hatred of all things magical. She did write and ask to be admitted to Hogwarts, and I don't think it was purely from jealousy.

I admit that I could be wishing. Pollyanna, that's me.

Agreed that Dudley is worth more than his parents. Vernon is a loss, alittle insecure man reduced to bullying a child out of fear.

There were some deleted scenes from that encounter on the DH1 dvd, they were very well done, particularly by Dudley, and they should have left them in.

I suspect they returned to their lives, except for Vernon, who, relieved of the need to work for a living or indeed leave the house, soon enough ate and drank himslf to death. Petunia was relieved, and became a volunteer at St. Mungo's, was found to be a squib and given entre to the magical world at last, winding up as Irma Pince's assistant and carrying on a discreet liason with both her and Filch.

Dudley pusued a career as a professional boxer, and achieved some measure of fame before embarking on a career as an action movie star. He married a transgender tennis player, and never quite understood why they never had kids, but he was otherwise happy.

I suppose I'll cave and go see DH2 tomorrow. It's either that or housework and Twilight fic-writing...

L
squibstress
Jul. 14th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
And that, my friends, is indeed what became of the Dursleys. It is now my personal canon, and I thank you.

albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
She did write and ask to be admitted to Hogwarts, and I don't think it was purely from jealousy. I'm not sure jealousy is the right word at that point - maybe longing is better. It's hard not to draw the conclusion that Lily has always been the special one in everybody's eyes. She's pretty, whereas every description we get of Petunia emphasizes her unattractiveness. She's kind, she's smart, she's the apple of her parents' eyes, she's everything Petunia wishes she was. All of this and magical powers, too? Well, if you were Petunia, wouldn't you feel as if you wanted there to be something special about you, as well? And since Lily is her sister, maybe that means she has these powers, too, and she never knew it. What if the school made a mistake? Shouldn't she be going to Hogwarts, too? Then maybe her parents will look at *her* like she hangs the moon, too. What a crushing disappointment it must have been to get Dumbledore's reply! And it's humiliating enough to be told, once again, that she is merely ordinary without her perfect sister and her creepy little friend - who just happens to have that special thing that Petunia doesn't have and can never have - knowing it too. And since she can't be special in that way, isn't it better to not want it, to decide instead that this is abnormal and disgusting and who in their right minds would want to be a witch? She had a right to be angry, I think, to some degree. But while most of us would have eventually realized that Lily can't help being what she is, and that it's not her fault their parents play favorites and forgiven the breach of privacy and made up with the sister who obviously loves us, Petunia did not. She instead completely rejected the world that didn't want her, and the sister who belonged to that world to boot. We know from the stories that Lily eventually hardened her heart against Petunia, and her sister's household would probably have been the last place she'd have chosen for her son to go after she sacrificed her life for him. So the rift between them was pretty deep and wide by the time Harry came onto the scene. If Petunia had had an ounce of love left for her sister, I just don't see how she could have treated her sister's infant son as she did. If she truly still loved her, wouldn't she have taken her son and raised him as her her own? Or at least, not treated him as some loathsome stray she's being compelled to keep. I suppose, for the sake of the story, it's a good thing that Harry Potter did not turn out to be the spoiled over-indulged brat that was Dudley Dursley. Someone who is that convinced of their position as the center of the universe would not be a good candidate for self-sacrifice, after all. ::g:: Maybe she would have made some token attempt to apologize for all the wrong she's done to her nephew, but the way she's behaving just before the two of them find themselves alone with each other doesn't make me hopeful.

I have the DH1 DVD, but I've never watched the extras . . . I'll have to go haul it out and watch them. :-)

I love the ending you gave them - you're too good! ::g::
squibstress
Jul. 14th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
Nice analysis! Not much to add here (given lash_larue's brilliant wrap-up on the family Dursley.

I would think that, in later years, Harry would come to loathe Dumbledore and utterly regret naming one of his sons after the git. Then again, Harry, for all his big heart, was never the brains of the operation.

Good luck on the project. It sounds tremendously exciting, and I hope it pans out!
albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
I would think that, in later years, Harry would come to loathe Dumbledore Considering all he has to answer for concerning the intersection of his life and Harry's, I am stunned that Harry was generous enough to name his son after him, period. But, as you say, introspection has never been Harry's strong suit, and he is a very forgiving soul. :-)

Good luck on the project. It sounds tremendously exciting, and I hope it pans out! Thank you! My potential collaborator and I have been burning up the internet brainstorming ideas, and I think we've got some really great directions to head in. He has more $$ and people than I do now, so he'll probably be doing the majority of the preliminary work, but in a few months I'll have hired another post-doc and we can pick up things on our end. ::hopes the government gets its collective head out of its arse soon::
therealsnape
Jul. 15th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC)
I'm with lash_larue, in that I think the Petunia scene really was leading up to the discovery Harry makes later: that she once wrote to be admitted to Hogwarts, and that she once loved her sister. I suppose we get this one look to bring a shade of grey to her character. I can't say I found it convincing.

After the ghastly abuse Harry suffered, and Petunia's part in that, it feels like something JKR wanted to introduce so that the whole Petunia/Lily thing was halfway believable.

I quite agree with squibstress that at some point Harry may well come to loathe Dumbledore. Then again, he survived the dramatic home situation without too many scratches.

albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
After the ghastly abuse Harry suffered, and Petunia's part in that, it feels like something JKR wanted to introduce so that the whole Petunia/Lily thing was halfway believable. I wrote a treatise for Lash about this, but having said all of that, I will say that I found the Petunia/Lily dynamic very believable. It's the Petunia/Harry dynamic - specifically that she feels some sort of remorse for the way she treated him - that I remain unconvinced of.

I think that if Harry doesn't loathe Dumbledore after he discovers the truth about him, then he never will. He's a generous and forgiving soul - much more so than me ::g:: - and there will always be this part of him that looks up to the old man as surrogate grandfather. Thus he will overlook the arrogance that lead to so many of the failures which placed Harry in the positions he was forced to be in, and forgive him because he truly believes that Dumbledore loved him and that's all that matters. It's much more than Dumbledore deserves, frankly.
busaikko
Jul. 17th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
Re Child Protective Services, I think the Dursleys got a free pass because of the parallel JKR was drawing with James and the Giant Peach (where orphan James Henry Trotter was raised by his horrid aunts Spiker and Sponge [i.e., the thin one and the fat one]). No one saved young James, either, until he met the magical old man....
albalark
Jul. 24th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
Hello there! It's nice to hear from you again - I've missed your wonderful HP stories. :-) It's funny that you should mention James and the Giant Peach, as I have always had the idea of Petunia being a spiritual descendent of Aunt Spiker. :-)

IDK, maybe I think too much (who, me? ::g::), but it seems that it would be a lot harder to escape the Child Welfare authorities in a modern, middle-class London suburb with 2 children living under your roof who are in demonstrably in different condition going to the same local school, than it would be when you are living on an isolated property and the child living in your house has never gone to school.
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