It's a milestone year for the famous faces from Hogwarts, as one by one, the main characters in Harry Potter hit their 35th birthdays. We've already had Draco's special day earlier this month, and Harry's is coming up at the end of July, but today is time to celebrate with a Muggle; Dudley Dursley.
Ok, so maybe fans of the series wouldn't exactly be celebrating with the spoiled bully that we met in Privet Drive, given that he's pretty much as loathsome a human being as they come. However, Graphic Nerdity on Tumblr has a theory that may explain why the Durselys were quite so horrible, and stir up some sympathies for Harry's relatives.
While these amazing images sum up the theory all on their own, Graphic Nerdity also includes some further explanation of her Horcrux-exposure theory.
It’s all Harry’s fault. Well, partially. I suppose Voldemort can be saddled with an equal portion of the blame. The point is, the Dursleys were just minding their own business when a horcrux was dumped on their doorstep. For the next decade it proceeded to warp their minds, turning them from your garden variety insufferable human beings into horrible, heartless monsters. The fact that they survived such prolonged horcrux exposure without delving into insanity or abandoning a helpless child only solidifies their place among the pantheon of noble and virtuous heroes in the Harry Potter universe.
Makes you think, doesn't it?
Backing Up The Theory
On the face of it, this makes perfect sense. Harry is, after all, a horcrux, and Graphic Nerdity is right; the other horcruxes clearly demonstrate a kind of evil pull on those around them. They also amplify and distort the fears and worst aspects of those who come in contact with them - given Petunia's history and Vernon's need to be normal, it's no surprise that the trait most enhanced by prolonged exposure would be her feelings of rejection and their subsequent hatred of magical people.
Then consider that because of the family's fear of Harry and his abilities, Harry was kept in the house with them every minute he wasn't at school. When Harry, Ron and Hermione were travelling with the Locket, they found that it's effects were directly linked to physical proximity - when they were wearing it, it was worst. When Ron left the camp entirely, the effects wore off almost immediately. By keeping Harry locked in the cupboard, the only times that Mr and Mrs Dursely were free of his influence was when he was at school. Dudley, on the other hand, was around him almost all the time - and he was the worst of them.
The effect of his proximity is also shown in how the family changes after Harry leaves to go to Hogwarts. As the years go by (and the family sees him less and less), they seem to mellow somewhat - the horcrux effect wearing off? Petunia begins to show some remorse and emotion over the death of her sister. Harry is moved slowly out of the cupboard and into the house, and spoken to with more humanity as the books progress. This is explained in the books as Vernon's fear of mistreatment leading to magical punishment, but could also be the effect of time away from that part of Voldemort's soul. Finally, the biggest change occurs in Dudley, who goes from a brat to a bully, but then to someone who treats both Harry and the magical community with respect - even standing up to his parents to do so. Again, this is explained away as the aftereffect of being attacked by, and saved from, a dementor, but could it be something more?
If this is the case, the Durselys should be elevated to hero status - no other managed to withstand the presence of the Dark Lord, even in a horcrux, for nearly so long. Yes, it twisted and warped them, but it does the same to our heroes in only a matter of weeks.
My favorite part of the theory, however, is that it means that there is hope for the Durselys yet. With the horcruxes destroyed, could they recover their humanity and even rebuild a relationship with their nephew?
Of course, there are some flaws to the theory as well.
For one thing, this effect isn't seen in anyone other than the Durselys, no matter how much time Harry spends around them. Surely Ron and Hermione would be affected after seven years at his side, especially as we know how easily the locket damaged Ron's mind. Or, perhaps, it did. As the books progress, we see both Ron and Hermione becoming more reckless, emotional and angry - teen angst, or horcrux poisoning?
It's also worth pointing out that while Harry is referred to as "the Horcrux Voldemort never intended to make", he's not quite as much of one as any of those that were intentional. We learn that the process for making a Horcrux involves some specific spells and instructions - otherwise every witch or wizard who killed someone would have bits of their soul all over the place. Harry became one accidentally, but only because Voldemort had already made so many, and had a soul in tatters.
The fact that he was never intended to be a horcrux means that the part of Voldemort's soul residing in him has a very different effect to that in the other objects. It affects him, but doesn't appear to affect anyone around him.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, The Durselys are under the same protective magic that keeps Harry safe from Voldemort until he comes of age. This magic is based on Lily's sacrifice, and on her love, and comes through the blood of his family. By taking Harry in, Petunia continued that protection, and it expanded to cover the Dursely's as well. This is why Harry had to continue to visit Privet Drive over the holidays, and why he was never attacked at home directly - the protection was too powerful for Voldemort to break.
Meaning, of course, that when Harry was at home, this protection from Voldemort could theoretically prevent the kind of effects described in the theory. The Durselys would have been safe from the part of Voldemort that lived in Harry, at least until his seventeenth birthday.
Which, sadly, would mean that they were warped simply be jealousy, mediocrity, and straightforward prejudice rather than dark magic.
What do you think of this theory? Were the Durselys just horrible people, or were they simply unable to cope with the presence of such dark magic in their homes for a decade? Comment and let me know!