Reading through a few questions (this one in particular) I came across this quote:

Is Aunt Petunia a Squib?

J. K. Rowling: Good question. No, she is not, but — [Laughter]. No, she is not a Squib. She is a Muggle, but — [Laughter]. You will have to read the other books. You might have got the impression that there is a little bit more to Aunt Petunia than meets the eye, and you will find out what it is. She is not a Squib, although that is a very good guess.


We all know Petunia isn't a squib, she'd have to be related to James to qualify for that title. Ignoring logic where squibs and muggles and muggle-born witches become an issue, what could JKR possibly be alluding to?

Apparently the question was hilarious, and nearly killed her. I have searched around at least a reasonable amount and I have no idea what about Aunt Petunia is more than meets the eye. It would seem that there is exactly as much to Aunt Petunia as directly meets the eye, she's Harry's aunt, that's all.

Apparently I haven't "found out what it is". Can anyone enlighten me?

  • 21
    I thought this would refer to the bit where Petunia wanted to follow Lily (Snape's flashback showed that, right?), but couldn't, and thus the "everything must be normal" was just backlash and towering resentment for all the things she couldn't do.
    – Radhil
    Feb 12, 2016 at 14:03
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    Why would she have had to be related to James in particular to be a Squib? If Lily and Petunia's parents had been magical, she would have been a Squib, with no closer relationship to James than she already has. @Radhil That's what I've always assumed as well. Feb 12, 2016 at 14:08
  • 34
    Perhaps she's a Transformer?
    – Valorum
    Feb 12, 2016 at 15:14
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    @GorchestopherH Oh, I see what you mean now; if Harry had an aunt who was a Squib, it would have to be a paternal one (i.e., not Petunia). Yes, true. Feb 12, 2016 at 18:04
  • 10
    Could be referring to the fact that her other nephew is a cosmic-ray-fueled rock monster.
    – Robert
    Feb 12, 2016 at 19:12

3 Answers 3


I've always assumed it's the fact that despite her attempt to be the most boring Muggle possible, deep down she really wished she could have been a witch.

From a Pottermore article by JK Rowling:

Petunia had some latent feelings of guilt about the way she had cut Lily (whom she knew, in her secret heart, had always loved her) out of her life, but these were buried under considerable jealousy and bitterness. Petunia had also buried deep inside her (and never confessed to Vernon) her long ago hope that she, too, would show signs of magic, and be spirited off to Hogwarts.

  • 2
    Isn't this speculation? Feb 12, 2016 at 19:40
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    @Mindwin Back when Lily was accepted, Petunia had written a letter to Dumbledore asking for admission to Hogwarts. I'd say that's a strong indication that she wanted to be a witch.
    – Eckert
    Feb 12, 2016 at 20:01
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    @Gorchestopher H - I'm afraid you're looking for an answer beyond this and the other answer but there is none. The quote in the other answer shows a big realisation for Harry about one of the people he spent more time with than any other. JKR said she wasn't a squib and there was more to her than meets the eye, not that she has "a surprising secret."
    – ThruGog
    Feb 12, 2016 at 20:08
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    @GorchestopherH: why not? It was certainly surprising to me. It comes under the heading of character development - a seemingly very one-dimensional character suddenly and unexpectedly developing depth. Feb 12, 2016 at 20:11
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    I've taken the liberty of editing a JKR quote into your answer to confirm your claim. Feel free to rollback my edit if you feel it changes your answer too much. @GorchestopherH what do you think now?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 14, 2016 at 0:33

What meets the eye?

Mrs.Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on neighbors.

So she looks like an ignorant, mean and gossipy Muggle who spends all of her time spying.

What is there?

"De-men-tors," said Harry slowly. Two of them.

"And what the ruddy hell are dementors?"

"They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban," said Aunt Petunia.

Petunia had heard Snape and Lily talking about this years and years ago, and remembered all of it. She was also able to contact Hogwarts, since she wrote a letter to Dumbledore when she was very young. She know about all of the wizarding stuff and agreed to take Harry in. Look at this scene, after Harry tells Petunia that Voldemort is back:

"Back?" whispered Aunt Petunia.

She was looking at Harry as she had never looked at him before. And all of a sudden, for the first time in his life, Harry fully appreciated that Aunt Petunia was his mother's sister. He could not have said why this hit him so very powerfully at this moment. All he knew was that he was not the only person in the room who had an inkling of what Lord Voldemort being back might mean. Aunt Petunia had never in her life looked at him like that before. Her large, pale eyes (so unlike her sister's) were not narrowed in dislike or anger: They were wide and fearful. The furious pretense that Aunt Petunia had maintained all Harry's life--that there was no magic and no world other than the world she inhabited with Uncle Vernon--seemed to have fallen away.

She understands. She is a Muggle, but she is definitely more than what meets the eye, considering what does meet the eye!

  • 23
    You have a lot of votes, and you have some good quotes, but being Lily's sister, and possessing human emotions hardly qualifies as "more than meets the eye". Her sister was killed by Voldemort, so her fear of her sister's murderer is hardly something I'd cease investigations for. Feb 12, 2016 at 18:35
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    @GorchestopherH what answer do you want then? Feb 12, 2016 at 19:40
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    @GorchestopherH 'possessing human emotions hardly qualifies as "more than meets the eye".' Keep in mind that the Dursley household set the bar pretty low for that one. But more realistically - Her notable knowledge of the magical world and its workings was probably what Rowling was referring to, and what CHEESE is attempting to convey in this answer.
    – Zibbobz
    Feb 12, 2016 at 21:33
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    @GorchestopherH "As of now, it seems that she was just confused at the time, or possibly imagined a different use for Petunia than what she ended up writing." Why would you think that? Not only is that not backed by the top answer, but there's no other answer that asserts anything like this. You may not find the difference convincing, but at least 49 others--which likely includes "Potterologists" clearly do. She appeared to be a wicked stepmother, but turned out not only only to care about Harry, but is a Muggle who knows about magic who was scared and trying to protect him.
    – trlkly
    Feb 13, 2016 at 0:11
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    I really liked this quote, it showed that Petunia is more than meets the eyes in many ways. She has a suprising knowledge of magic, which means that she was really just trying to protect her family from it. It showed a depth to Petunia that hadn't really been seen before, and showed that she is just a mother caring for her family. And that she actually has a soul. Feb 13, 2016 at 16:24

Actually, I doubt that the reference was about any possible magic that aunt petunia had. I think it was more about her hidden love and affection for lily and lilys son,buried under jealousy and disappointment. But remember their last meeting?before they parted ways? Aunt petunia looked at harry as if she wanted to say something ,she was quite emotional, but stopped herself. I believe she wanted harry to know that she wasn't entirely heartless, that she regretted her treatment of him, but she couldn't. I think this more humane side of petunia is what's being referred to here

  • This is essentially the same answer as the one with 86 votes. May 9, 2016 at 11:26

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