On the night of October 31st, 1981, Lily and James Potter were murdered by Lord Voldemort who wanted to kill their one-year-old son. He killed James on their doorstep but when he tried to kill Harry, Lily came in between and took the curse. Lily’s sacrifice for Harry created a protective shield for him. When Voldemort aimed to kill Harry again, but because of Lily’s sacrifice, the killing curse backfired and aimed to kill Voldemort instead. Voldemort vanished leaving Harry an orphan.
Albus Dumbledore made the decision that Harry be raised by his mother’s muggle sister Petunia Dursley. This was because, Lily’s sacrifice could protect Harry until he was an adult, and in order to keep Lily’s sacrificial shield intact, Harry should be closely in touch with someone who shared Lily’s blood, and their only option was Petunia.
Petunia and her husband Vernon lived in No. 4, Privet Drive, Little Whinging Surrey, and hated anything which was even slightly out of the ordinary, so it was obvious that they hated everything related to magic. They hated Lily and James too. So when they were suddenly tasked to raise their child, they didn’t like it and did it only to keep him alive. They were really hard on Harry and were the exact opposite of their son Dudley, who was a month older than Harry. Harry was living in a cupboard under their stairs while Dudley had two full rooms of his own.
Harry always had to wear Dudley’s hand me down clothes which were several sizes big for him. Dudley used to bully Harry in both home and school and they never stopped him. They never told Harry about his magical abilities, and told him that his parents died in a car accident. They wanted to squeeze the magic out of him. They even tried to prevent Harry from going to Hogwarts, but thanks to Hagrid, Harry was able to attend Hogwarts and was away from the Dursleys for a good portion of the year but he still had to return to Dursleys for summer every year.
This system, however, came to a halt a few days before Harry’s 17th birthday, the year he would finally be an adult. This meant that Lily’s sacrifice would no longer protect Harry. At that time, Voldemort had risen again and had killed Dumbledore. The wizarding world was in complete turmoil and the danger wasn’t just limited to the wizarding world. Knowing full well that Voldemort would target the Dursleys in order to reach Harry, Harry explained to them that their lives were in danger. He told them that they would have to relocate for the time being and the Order of the Phoenix will be protecting them.
“The order is sure Voldemort will target you, whether to torture you to try and find out where I am, or because he thinks by holding you hostage I’d come and try to rescue you. You’ve got to go into hiding and the Order wants to help. You’re being offered serious protection, the best there is.”
But Vernon Dursley was still not ready to put his trust in the Order. He asked Harry about the Ministry of Magic and why wasn’t the Ministry involved in their protection. He thought that because of the extremity of danger that they were in, they “ought to qualify for government protection”. It was so very typical of Vernon to put his hopes in an establishment, even if was in a world that he mistrusted and despised.
Harry laughed hearing this and then explained that the Ministry has also been infiltrated and that they are the safest with the Order. This leads to the Dursleys leaving their beloved home in Privet Drive, escorted by Hestia Jones and Dedalus Diggle. It is believed that Hestia and Dedalus were in-charge of their protection until the Battle of Hogwarts.
Did the Dursleys and Harry ever reconnect with each other?
Throughout the year’s Harry lived with the Dursleys, the Dursleys have been nothing but abusive towards him. Vernon didn’t like Harry’s parents and hated the fact that he was stuck taking care of their child all of a sudden. And he never tried to hide his dislike for “the boy”. It is highly unlikely that Harry and Vernon ever tried to reconnect with each other on their own. But, they might’ve seen each other through Dudley or Petunia.
Growing up, Petunia was jealous of Lily because of her magical abilities and the extra attention she gained from their parents. After Lily started attending Hogwarts, the relationship between the sisters kept getting sour and sour. While she shared this dislike with her husband towards Lily and James, Lily’s death was certainly shocking and full of grief for her. She had an affection for Harry deep within but she never sorted out her feelings, and even if she did, she did it too late. Se also had a pre-conceived notion that everything related to magic was freaky.
These might be the reasons that she behaved that way towards Harry. While parting their ways, it appeared that she wanted to say something to Harry but decided against it. She may have wanted to talk or maybe even apologize to Harry and that could’ve opened paths for their future reconnection. But because she didn’t resolve the things between Harry and herself, it is unlikely that they reconnected. Though either of them may have tried to get in touch with each other in the future, to try and sort things out, we will never know.
Petunia died sometime before or during 2020, and this was revealed in The Cursed Child.
“You’re fourteen years old now, Albus, and I wanted to give you something which -meant something. This -is the last thing I had from my mum. The only thing. I was given to the Dursleys wrapped in it. I thought it had gone forever and then -when your Great Aunt Petunia died, hidden amongst her possessions, surprisingly, Dudley found this – and he kindly sent it on to me…..”
This points to them never being reconciled because, if they did, it would make more sense if Petunia gave the blanket to Harry herself. Though we will never know what happened, it is highly probable that they didn’t reconnect, not properly, and this is heartbreaking.
But unlike his mother, Dudley made efforts to make things up with Harry before they went into hiding. Dudley had always bullied his cousin when they were growing up. It was because of Dudley that Harry didn’t have any friends in his school. But Dudley wasn’t raised better than that. Harry was always treated like a burden in the Dursley household and as a child, Dudley also grew up thinking that Harry is inferior to him.
He was even encouraged by his parents, especially Vernon, to treat Harry that way. Before going into hiding, he started to amend his ways. He subtly started by placing a cup of coffee outside Harry’s room every day, but it was interpreted as a prank by Harry. On the day of departure, he bid Harry a proper goodbye and admitted that he didn’t think that Harry was a “waste of space”. They shook hands and bade farewell.
This courtesy on Dudley’s part was the reason that Harry and Dudley stayed in touch. They were on “Christmas Card terms”. Harry visited Dudley and his family so that his children could meet their cousins. Although they used to sit in silence most of the time, they did see each other often. This may also mean that Harry could’ve met Dudley’s parents at some point. This is a happy ending for an otherwise sour relationship between the cousins.