"Harry Potter" Fan Theories: The Dursleys - Horrible People? Or Innocent Victims of the Power of the Horcrux?
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Were they horrible people? Or were they the victims of magical side effects? The Dursleys weren't the best. I mean, they were awful to Harry Potter. But in this fan theory, we unpack the idea that maybe the Dursleys were influenced by the piece of Voldemort's soul that had taken up residence inside of Harry Potter.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we meet our first true Horcrux. Many argue that Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone was the first Horcrux encountered.
However, when I think of this fan theory, Quirrell is possessed more than being counted as a Horcrux. But Tom Riddle's Diary takes over Ginny Weasley. The Diary is the first time we see one of Voldemort's splintered soul fragments and its effects on the person who keeps the Horcrux.
After this, it isn't until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that we learn the name and a basic understanding of a Horcrux. We discover with Harry and his friends each of Voldemort's Horcruxes from this point forward. Voldemort made six Horcruxes intentionally, apart from the piece of his soul that he keeps. But one, the last one, he made accidentally.
The night that Voldemort attacked the Potters, Harry's mother and father sacrificed themselves to protect their son. When Voldemort killed Lily Potter, he didn't know that her sacrifice placed protection over her son so that Voldemort could not kill him.
When the Dark Lord attempted to use the killing curse, it rebounded, and part of Voldemort's already fragile soul broke off and settled into Harry Potter. Voldemort's soul had already been fractured and unstable from creating his other Horcruxes.
Effects of a Horcrux
Horcruxes each have different effects on the person in possession. But since these particular Horcruxes contain fragments of Voldemort's soul, the side effects usually aren't rainbows and unicorns. The darkness in Voldemort's soul enhances the negativity of the people that grow close to the object that has become a Horcrux.
"While the magical container is still intact, the bit of soul inside it can flit in and out of someone if they get too close to the object. I don't mean holding it for too long…I mean close emotionally. Ginny poured her heart out into that Diary, she made herself vulnerable. You're in trouble if you get too fond of or dependent on the Horcrux."
-Hermione, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Ginny made herself vulnerable to the Diary. She trusted the Diary and opened up to it. The piece of Voldemort inside the Diary was able to manipulate and even possess Ginny because of this. As a result, the Chamber of Secrets opened.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione experienced increasing negativity, fighting, and short tempers while they have to carry the Locket Horcrux for weeks. On the other hand, when Delores Umbridge wears the Locket, she is a perfectly content version of herself. She is already horrible and nasty, and the bit of Voldemort inside the Locket is only encouraging the horrible and nasty.
Many different fan theories surround the Dursleys' treatment of Harry Potter being caused or influenced by Harry having been made a Horcrux as an infant. One fan theory is that the Dursleys aren't terrible people. They only treat Harry horribly because of the corrosive emotional impact of living with a Horcrux for so long.
Initially, I can understand this train of thought. When you think back over the books, the storyline of how difficult it was for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to deal with the Locket is a significant event. Ron ultimately leaves his friends because of the tension of the Locket.
While he does eventually come back, Ron is driven to near insanity by the Horcrux's sway. If this were the only piece of evidence, I would agree that it seems the Dursleys were only mean because they were living with a part of the Dark Lord.
However, Rowling herself has posted several things over the years in addition to the information about Petunia Dursley's relationship with her sister Lily Potter that we are given in the books. One of the most influential articles that J. K. Rowling has written on Pottermore regarding this fan theory provides us with a glimpse into Petunia and Vernon's first meeting.
Petunia was interested in Vernon specifically because he was as plain and ordinary as anyone could be. But this article also disproves the theory that ALL of the Dursleys' terrible treatment of Harry Potter is CAUSED by him being a Horcrux. In the article titled "Vernon & Petunia Dursley" by J. K. Rowling on Pottermore, Rowling details the first time Vernon met Petunia's sister, Lily, and her boyfriend, James.
"The first meeting between Lily, her boyfriend James Potter, and the engaged couple, went badly, and the relationship nose-dived from there. James was amused by Vernon, and made the mistake of showing it. Vernon tried to patronise James, asking what car he drove. James described his racing broom.
"Vernon supposed out loud that wizards had to live on unemployment benefit. James explained about Gringotts, and the fortune his parents had saved there, in solid gold. Vernon could not tell whether he was being made fun of or not, and grew angry.
"The evening ended with Vernon and Petunia storming out of the restaurant, while Lily burst into tears and James (a little ashamed of himself) promised to make things up with Vernon at the earliest opportunity."
-J.K. Rowling, Pottermore
This accounting explains how very much Vernon disliked James and Lily from the first time he met them. We are also aware of how very ashamed Petunia has always tried to be of her sister. The reality is that Petunia was jealous and bitter for not having magic of her own and getting to go to Hogwarts.
Rowling also goes on to point out that when Petunia took Harry in as a baby, she did it "grudgingly." She and Vernon resented Harry Potter from the very beginning. If the Horcrux in Harry influenced their treatment of him, it would be similar to Umbridge with the Locket.
The piece of Voldemort's soul inside Harry would only have enhanced the hatred, resentment, and bitterness the Dursleys felt for Harry already. It would not have created feelings of loathing and neglect that were not already in the Dursleys' hearts.
The final nail in the coffin for this fan theory is that Harry Potter went to Hogwarts, essentially a boarding school. Harry lived in Gryffindor Tower during the entire school year, even through as many holiday breaks as they would allow him to stay. Harry lived, worked, ate, and learned close to all of the students in his year, especially the Gryffindor boys. Harry also spent all of his time with both Ron and Hermione. He stayed at The Burrow several times.
None of the other people in constant proximity and exposure were as bitter, hateful, or spiteful to Harry as the Dursleys were, with the obvious exception of Malfoy, etc. So the relationship between Harry and the Durselys was not CAUSED by the Horcrux. But the Horcrux doesn't appear to have been responsible for INFLUENCING their treatment of the boy either. They're just plain awful!
Do you think the Dursleys are terrible? Do you think they were worse because of the Horcrux than they would have been otherwise? Let me know if you agree or disagree with my fan theory! And stay with us for the third and final article in this small Harry Potter Fan Theories series! Look for the article on whether Dumbledore is the Master of Death next Monday, April 12, 2021.