Legion of the Lost Day Part 1: Remember My Last, Petunia!
by Brandon Ford
THE LEGION OF THE LOST DAY MISSION STATEMENT
The Legion of the Lost Day is a group dedicated to uncovering the deep and expanse mysteries of Mrs. J.K. Rowling’s literary masterpiece Harry Potter. While there are many who view her work as the stuff of simple children’s literature, those select few who possess the predisposition know that it is the stuff of dreams and fantasies, hopes and dreams, pain and sorrow, and universality. This select group is comprised of all who believe there is more going on than what is on the page. It is for those who believe that buried in the text, in the deep black markings on off-white paper, is something sinister, something wonderful, and something awe inspiring.
The “Lost Day” theory I invented was the subject of my first editorial that blossomed into the legions that are hopefully reading now. The “Lost Day” theory is the name given to the “lost day” between when Voldemort arrived at the Potter’s hiding place in Godric’s Hollow and murdered the Potters and the day that Hagrid arrives at the ruins of the home, retrieves Harry, and transports him to Number 4 Privet Drive. By my meticulous reading and re-reading of the passage in Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, I determined that an entire day elapses before Harry arrives at Number 4 (for a fully detailed explanation, see the first half of The Underground Lake #1: The Lost Day, Part 1 – Why It Took So Long). It was at that moment in reading, that I realized that something more was happening during that missing day besides the celebration of the wizarding community. Anyone who has read any of my articles knows that I am not one for simple explanations (See The Underground Lake 6: The Lost Day Addendum – Goofs and the Timeline – YES, FOLKS, I KNOW ABOUT PRIORI INCANTATEM FOR THE 5 MILLIONTH TIME!!!). Therefore, I have started this Legion of the Lost Dayas a society to uncover the mysteries buried within the Harry Potter universe.
The subject of our first is about the last, Dumbledore’s last. There was nothing more enigmatic in Order of the Phoenix (well, except maybe the veil) than the strange Howler received by Petunia:
“An awful voice filled the kitchen, echoing in the confined space, issuing from the burning letter on the table.‘REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA.’
– Order of the Phoenix, US, page 40
I, for one, had to read it twice. I thought it was a typo. “Remember my last”? What in the world is that? Then JKR had the brilliant foresight to put that on her FAQ poll and, sure enough, it won. JKR told us that it refers to the letter left with Harry on the Dursleys’ doorstep the night of… the Lost Day. She then gave us the meanest of hints by saying that what we should focus on is that he said “last” which implies that Petunia and Dumbledore had a correspondence of sorts. This is what got me going. Petunia is a Dursley, and JKR always said that there was not more to the Dursleys than meets the eye (there’s less). But let’s not forget that Petunia is first and ALWAYS an Evans. It is this fact that connects her to Harry and puts ALL the wheels in motion (I know you guys missed my little mantra). Therefore, I submit for your entertainment and consideration: REMEMBER MY LAST, PETUNIA!
NOT A SQUIB, BUT…
We know a lot about the DURSLEYS. Dudley was a spoiled, fat child who matured into a spoiled, large-and-in-charge child who has had several affairs with the refrigerator and its contents and is particularly fond of making Harry’s life a living hell. Vernon works on the NINTH floor of a company called Grunnings that sells drills. His pastimes include longs walks to the refrigerator, intercepting other people’s mail, and fortifying his home against owls, flying cars, and mysterious people who travel through chimneys.
And then there’s Petunia, who… well come to think about it, 1) Petunia is REALLY an Evans and 2) there’s not much we REALLY know about her. She’s a homemaker and she’s Harry’s mother’s sister. She is quite anal retentive when it comes to messes that everyone but Dudley makes. But JKR never really lets us into the fortress of solitude that is Petunia. So I thought I would look at the story from her perspective. I’m not sure we know which sister is older, but they could only be a year or so apart. She obviously suffered from “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” syndrome based on the way she talks about her sister. Lily was obviously seen as the Evans’ favorite child, doted after and praised while ordinary Petunia went to ordinary school and had ordinary friends. Petunia meets a rather rotund and ambitious salesman named Vernon Dursley. I can’t really see their romance as quite chick-flick caliber, but we’ll say they had their fun and – whoopsie daisy – out pops Dudley (which was easier said than done based on his description as a baby killer whale; he no doubt gave his mother quite a bit of trouble in the delivery room). A year passes. Then one morning, the Dursleys wake up and open their front door to find next to the paper and bottles of milk… A BABY! This particular baby had a letter and scar, both of which would figure prominently into the story.
Now here is where the analysis begins. What do we know? Based on data from OotP and PS/SS, James Potter and Lily Evans began dating in their seventh year. That gives them all of their seventh year plus an additional five years (approximately) before Voldemort kills them. After seven years at Hogwarts, Petunia’s loathing of her sister was cemented. According to Petunia, Lily and James “ran off and got married” sometime after school was over. This gives Petunia roughly five years of bliss before the nightmare that is Harry Potter creeps into her life.
Now, Vernon and Dudley are 100% Prime Grade A Muggle. They have not a drop of magical blood in them. Lily Evans is a Muggleborn witch, meaning, of course, that her parents are Muggles but for whatever mystical or genetic reason, she was a witch. But what is Petunia? JKR said in her FAQ that Petunia is NOT a squib. By definition, she cannot be if both her parents were Muggles. JKR then went on to say that Petunia is a “Muggle, but…” and then stopped herself saying that she was giving away too much. HOW INFURIATING! So what could Petunia be? I first thought that perhaps she, too, was a witch, but rejected her powers and didn’t want to be associated with such things-like a homophobe who is secretly gay or a Nazi who is secretly Jewish. But the fact that JKR SAID that she was in fact a Muggle, eliminated that possibility. Or did it?
What always got me was the “but.” JKR has proven herself to be very Obi-Wan Kenobi in her logic: what she says is true… from a certain point of view.” Therefore, Petunia COULD be a secret witch (what I’ll call a closet broomstick). Think about it. All the references to the surgically clean house are one thing. But what really got me is that she knows things she shouldn’t. Her big giveaway was the Dementor slip. We ALL know she’s lying. There is no way she overheard James tell Lily unless James came to visit sometime in the last remnants of their last year of school before they “ran off” to get married. Not to mention, nothing in Petunia’s character would allow her to stay in a room with James Potter and Lily for any length of time since she hates the idea of magic so much. Even Harry didn’t buy that as much as she pretends both her sister and magic don’t exist, that she would remember a little thing like Dementors. Even if the parents invited James, bringing your new boyfriend home to talk about soul-sucking prison guards on island fortresses isn’t exactly a good icebreaker. Not to mention, if Petunia is older than Lily like I think she is, it would have had been more time away from her sister.
To me, the most confounding variable is Vernon. Before Harry landed on their doorstep, Vernon knew that his sister-in-law was a witch. But why? If it is true (and safe to assume) that Petunia and Lily didn’t speak for five years, and during that time Vernon and Petunia courted and married (can you actually see Petunia and Vernon dating as teens?), Petunia would never have any reason to tell Vernon about her sister’s abnormality. Since Vernon did know of Lily and that she had a child, I imagined that sometime during or right before Harry’s first year (of life not school) that Lily and Petunia’s parents died and both sisters attended the funeral but of course did not speak unless absolutely necessary. But again, there is still no reason to tell Vernon that he’s marrying into a family where one of the members is a witch. JKR told us that when Muggles have a witch or wizard child, a liaison comes and talks to them. I imagine that during this conversation, they stress the importance of secrecy so there would be no reason for Lily’s parents or sister to ever tell anyone outside of the immediate family. So why Vernon? What could be gained by telling him? The simple answer is that he caught Lily in a magical act. But the idea I like is that Petunia accidentally did something magical around him (that is to say, magic she could not control because she never learned how) and had to explain her way out of it (more on this in Legion of the Lost Day: Part 4), causing her to spill the beans about her family. She assured him that she hates and rejects magic of all forms and that she wants to be normal.
So based on the “Obi-Wan POV Theory,” it is possible that she too had powers and was sent a letter of Hogwarts acceptance when she was 10 or eleven. JKR could have been giving us a clue when in another FAQ she said that people can elect NOT to go to Hogwarts. Petunia is the kind of person who does not respond well to change. The idea that everything you’ve known for the past ten years is a lie and that magic exists and you possess it could easily freak her out, especially if Lily WAS older and she wanted nothing to do with her sister (though personally, Petunia seems older). She wanted to be normal so she considered herself a Muggle. As the story is told from Harry’s point of view, if Harry thinks she’s a Muggle, then she is. Because for Harry, why would anybody NOT want to be a wizard or witch? We ALL would love it if an owl arrived on our doorstep and told us we were wizards and witches. The concept that someone wouldn’t want have magic powers would never enter into Harry’s thought process. In that case, it is possible that the last and largest Dursley revelation is that Petunia is a closet broomstick.
Now for those of you who think that is ludicrous, I do have a theory in reserve. She could be something we haven’t seen yet. Not a muggle but not a witch and not a squib but some whole new category of person. What that is, I have no idea cause I put all my thought into the first theory, but I will entertain all notions that do give respect to the possibilities of the first one.
I believe that Petunia still has the letter. I’m not letting Petunia off the hook because now we know that Dumbledore sent the Howler and has been corresponding to Petunia. I think in Book Six or Seven (probably Seven) a real, honest conversation between Harry and Petunia will take place. I don’t think she’ll apologize, but I think we (and of course, Harry) will be made to realize that there are reasons why Petunia made the choices she made and why she is the way she is and what that letter said. I thought for a while about what Dumbledore could possibly put in that letter. It is my belief that the letter was one of the more difficult things Dumbledore has had to do. In fact, I think a good portion of the lost day was spent writing the letter. In a nutshell, I think this is what the letter contains:
- Condolences on the loss of her sister
- Full, detailed explanation as to how and why her sister died
- Who the child on her doorstep is and the significance of the scar
- The warning about Voldemort and his Death Eaters: at this point Dumbledore won’t have known whether Voldemort is gone, never to return, or just resting. This section probably warns Petunia that Voldemort killed her sister in order to get to Harry and that he or his followers may find her and try again to kill Harry and that they (the Dursleys) could be in danger.
- THE EVANS BLOOD CHARM: I have made many references to this but never explained it. The Evans Blood Charm is the protection Lily gave to Harry by dying for him. The charm was cemented when Petunia took Harry in. By taking Harry in, she sealed the charm so that “while [he] can still call home the place where [his] mother’s blood dwells, there [he] cannot be touched or harmed by Voldemort.”
I firmly believe that in a box somewhere in Number 4 is Dumbledore’s last along with perhaps the other letters Dumbledore has sent Petunia (perhaps a Hogwarts acceptance letter???).
PETUNIA AND THE FINAL CONFRONTATION
The reason I think that Petunia is a closet broomstick is because of the creak in the stair. I LOVE FORESHADOWING! And JKR has beaten us over the head with that creak in the stair bit. For those of you with no clue what I’m talking about, one of the stairs at Number 4 creaks when stepped on, so much so that when someone walks up them in the middle of the night they can be heard. Harry always listens for this when he is scared at night or on the alert (of course this would not apply to Dementors because they hover so let’s hope they never get inside). I believe that at the end of Book Six or the beginning of Book Seven, NUMBER FOUR PRIVET DRIVE WILL BE DESTROYED! You read correctly. Dumbledore’s condition was that VOLDEMORT could not harm Harry at Number 4, but it says nothing about the Death Eaters or Dementors. I believe one of two things will happen. JKR made a statement in (I believe) the Edinburgh chat that Books Six and Seven were really one really long book and that Seven picks up where Six leaves off. It occurred to me that when/if the Dursleys picked up Harry from the train station in previous books, we never go back to Number 4 before those books end.
In my first scenario, the Dursleys plus Harry will arrive in Little Whinging, Surrey, turn down Privet Drive and find that Number 4 has been obliterated. The lot of them will be forced to stay in the Leaky Cauldron until Dumbledore or a member of the Order can find another place for them. In my other scenario, during the Dursley episode in the beginning of Book Seven, Harry will hear that creak at the bottom of the steps and spring into action, but before he does Petunia will do a little wandless magic to defend herself and Dudley and Vernon, thus revealing herself as a closet broomstick.
The destruction of Number 4 is a necessity for Harry and Voldemort (though mostly Voldemort). As I have said repeatedly, Harry can have NO HELP in the final confrontation. Anything viewed as an advantage to Harry in the final confrontation must be eliminated by Voldemort. Voldemort knows now that Lily’s protection has been severely crippled by his resurrection (he can touch Harry now). Harry’s only remaining protection outside of Dumbledore’s care is Number 4 Privet Drive. Voldemort will send his Death Eaters to destroy the house so that Harry “can no longer call home the place where his mother’s blood dwells.” Does this mean Petunia is in danger? I expect that was also touched on in the letter. But even more importantly to her, it means that Dudley is in danger. Lily’s blood is in Petunia. Petunia’s blood is in Dudley, which means merely killing Petunia accomplishes nothing if Dudley is alive because his mother’s blood will still be there. Vernon is totally expendable. The quickest, most convenient way to eliminate this would be to destroy the house, preferably with the Dursleys inside (preferably to Voldemort, not to me; horrible as the Dursleys are, they provide such good comic relief) so that the last of the Evans Blood Charm will no longer be an issue to Voldemort.
The significance is also that this will be the end. If the Dursleys die or Number 4 is destroyed, Harry will have no place else to hide. He will have no one else to protect him (especially if Dumbledore is already dead). It will be the last wake up call that Harry receives that this is not only serious, but that it’s going to come down to just the two of them.
Petunia has a lot of reason to be worried. It seems that all who figured prominently into the Lost Day (the Potters, Sirius, Hagrid, the Dursleys, Dumbledore) seem doomed. The next book should tell whether Petunia truly remembered Dumbledore’s last.