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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

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::