Back to the Burrow

chapter four of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

After some anxious hours at the Dursleys’, Arthur, Ron, and the twins show up to retrieve Harry – but have to blow apart the fireplace to get in. Finally they begin heading back to the Burrow, but first Fred drops a sweet that Dudley eats, and his tongue grows to an enormous size as Harry departs through the fireplace.

Vernon Dursley, by Laurence Peguy

Uncle Vernon had put on his best suit.


Petunia Dursley, by Laurence Peguy

Aunt Petunia… seemed to be chewing her tongue, as though biting back the furious diatribe she longed to throw at Harry.


Searching for Dudley, by gerre

[Arthur] moved toward Uncle Vernon, his hand outstretched, but Uncle Vernon backed away several paces, dragging Aunt Petunia. Words utterly failed Uncle Vernon.

(by gerre)


Dudley Dursley, by gerre

Dudley edged along the wall, gazing at Mr. Weasley with terrified eyes.

(by gerre)


Arthur, by anguinea

“Ah yes, I can see the plugs. I collect plugs,” he added to Uncle Vernon…. “My wife thinks I’m mad, but there you are.” Uncle Vernon clearly thought Mr. Weasley was mad too.


Dursleys, by Mae Uy aka Blastedgoose

Aunt Petunia hurled herself onto the ground beside Dudley, seized the end of his swollen tongue, and attempted to wrench it out of his mouth; unsurprisingly, Dudley yelled and sputtered worse than ever, trying to fight her off. Uncle Vernon was bellowing and waving his arms around, and Mr. Weasley had to shout to make himself heard.


about the chapter


The poor Dursleys. Not that I actually feel bad for them, but *something* awful seems to happen to them just about every summer that Harry’s around. Between Dudley’s tail, a smashed pudding ruining a business deal, Aunt Marge blowing up, and now Dudley’s engorged tongue, it’s a miracle they ever let Harry come back for the summers at all.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

When Arthur screams his offers of assistance, the Dursleys completely ignore him – and when you think about it, you can’t really blame them. After all, the last time something like this happened to Dudley, Hagrid didn’t bother to undo it, and they had to take Dudley to the hospital to get his tail removed. What’s more, it’s easy for Harry to laugh because he knows the charm is a joke that can be quickly undone, but the Dursleys have never really seen a counter-charm performed on anything at all. Again, there’s no doubt they deserve it, but I’d be freaking out too!

The Final Word

“‘Now look at you being nasty to Dudley.’ I get letters from parents saying I’m mean because I make Harry be nasty to Dudley. And I’m like, have you read Dudley? do you understand what Dudley’s like? I mean, there’s turning the other cheek and there’s just being a moron!”–J.K. Rowling, October 1999

31 Responses to “Back to the Burrow”

  1. I laughed so much at Jo’s last quote there, although Gerre’s Dudley makes me feel just a tad bit sorry for him.

  2. I’ve always been. . . put-off by Jo’s treatment of the Dursley’s. While they have mistreated Harry throughout his life (although there are worse things they could’ve done), the treatment they receive in retaliation smacks of “two wrongs make a right”.

    There seems to be a conflict here; as humans its natural to feel empathy for other humans and despite the Dursley’s actions many readers feel sorry for how they’re treated by magical folk (as evidenced by the first line “The poor Dursleys…”), but its clear from the text that we’re not meant to feel that way about them, that instead we’re meant to feel good and laugh that “they got what was coming to them”.

    And that quote from Jo at the end bothers me because she seems to be saying that there are people like the Dursleys in the world (and there are)and its appropriate to be mean right back (or more specifically to let other people be mean back for you).

    This (among other things) may be why Ursula LeGuin called the books “ethically mean-spirited” (and she only read Book 1) -and I hate to say it, but there are moments in the books when I agree with her.

  3. I think some people may take it too seriously, thinking that’s obviously the way to act. But if everything in the book was “the way we have to act”, then it would be boring. No pig-tails, smashed puddings, blown-up Aunts, swollen tongues, sneaks through the castle, Filibuster fireworks during potions and way more. The mistakes and bad behaviour makes the book seem more human. Harry couldn’t possibly be a little saint, otherwise who would read the book?
    And yes, some things are mean-spirited, but I think we’ve all got a bit of that, don’t you?

  4. in addition to that i would like to add that Mr. Weasley had no part in that and also punished Fred and George. We see later that Fred and George encouraged others to do the same…but those children are of the wizarding world and had a heads up about magical candy. It could also read as a lesson to not eat candy you find laying around it could turn your tongue into a whale’s tongue (i am soooo going to tell my children that someday after they read the books) I think he would have loved the sugar quills…. or even the Canary cremes if given warning first. To note, Hermione’s parents probably didn’t scream with the arrival of the candy and presents that Hermione sent them 1. because they were not affraid of owls and 2. because they had a proper introduction to the Wizarding world by Hermione and the Weasleys. (wonder if her parents ever went to the burrow for tea with Molly to drop Hermione off) so if the Dursleys had been given a better reception they may have taken it a bit better…but slightly.. in all honesty Hagrid should not have given Dudley a tail. very naughty :) or, Dumbledore (who i ‘m sure was aware of what was going on should have removed the tail and had a conversation with Petunia…which i think he did anyway)
    so my response: all in the name of fun…Mr. Weasley might have promised to take him even earlier the following summer. bet Petunia wished she could do the scourgify spell or Tergeo. I can almost see her eyes getting wide with wonder about those spells. and don’t eat random candy. :) good rule of thumb
    Lovely pictures

  5. Though I agree that the Dursley’s aren’t treated well by Harry or by Jo, it takes a pretty exceptional person to be treated as badly as they treat Harry and to be nice back. But we do see that, as Harry matures, he becomes less enthused about the idea of hurting the Dursleys–or anyone, for that matter. I think part of it is that the books deal with children, growing into adults. Children are, almost by definition, quite cruel. I’m certain I was a little jerk. Until we realize how to see the world from the other person’s perspective, we don’t realize how cruel we are being. I always found Harry to be quite compassionate, really. Ron and Fred seem much more vindictive to me. Not that it stops me from loving them. Everyone has flaws.

  6. Courtney has a point. Harry really doesn’t express much desire to hurt anyone, esp. later on.
    I think I’ve always associated Jo’s brand of magic with some of that incredibly funny revenge – that’s just the way the wizarding world works, but I knew it wouldn’t really happen that way here in the Muggle world.

  7. I also very much enjoy this piece: However, I do not know the artist personally so I don’t know if there are better ways of contacting other than through DeviantArt.

  8. And, I posted the wrong link. Sorry about that:

  9. I don’t think JKR intends for her readers to react to the Dursleys viciously or mean-spiritedly – in my opinion she’s just using narrative to show how meaness and narrow mindedness (by the Dursleys) have a tendency to come around and bite you in the ankle. Pretty much everything that happens to the Dursleys is due to their own actions, for example spoiling Dudley so that he can’t resist a single candy on the floor. There’s an element of cosmic irony in what happens to Dudley.

    Besides, children are children and the wider moral of the books is strongly in favor of very ethically laudable principles such as mercy, compassion, remorse for wrongs and courage in the face of evil.

  10. You just have to love Arthur Weasley!

  11. I still laugh at this chapter! It’s just so stinkin’ hilarious to watch the Weasleys and Dursleys interact. I really like Rowling’s metaphors too, like Uncle Vernon looking as if he’s aged thirty years from the chimney dust or when he bellows like a wounded rhinoceros. I was really disappointed that they left this out of the fourth movie (and how they left out Crouch’s story, and Bagman, and Rita Skeeter’s backstory, and….)

  12. SPOILERS Mentioned

    The cruelty to the Dursley’s is something that isn’t talked about enough. Not that I’m saying it wasn’t deserved, in many ways. But I agree with someone who posted above in saying that it has to do with children becoming adults. I don’t believe children are inherently cruel, but they often just don’t think beyond themselves. They learn. If Harry had been inherently cruel, I think through all the many times his own magic saved him from Dudley’s gang he would’ve done much more damage. Instead, he ended up on the roof of the school or with broken glasses from being punched in the face. If he truly wanted to see them hurt, why hadn’t his magic done something more bias, like Snape’s did with Petunia when they were children?

    It seemed to me that Mr. Weasley was pretty horrified at what the twins did, and explained that even though they hadn’t meant it to be an attack on muggles, it could easily be percieved as one. I think JK shows us many characters who grow up through abuse and/or truama and who make the choice to do better (Harry, Dudley, Andromaeda*sp*), but she also shows characters who struggle with growing up and making good choices, whether from abuse, illness or incarcaration, some of her characters just can’t break away from their molds (Sirius, Snape, Dumbledore etc). Is this a bad thing for kids to read? Well, I don’t think so. But maybe it’s why JK has said that she imagines readers to be Harry’s age or older when reading any given book. For younger kids, exercise liberal guidence and discussion.

  13. About the cruelty towards the Dursleys’…if you had grown up as Harry, wouldn’t you harbour some animosity towards them? Of course he’s not going to be the nicest person in the world… But it’s shallow cruelty. It’s only funny to him when there’s no real chance of anything bad happening, such as the pig tail or the ton tongue toffee. In the face of real danger (Dudley and the Dementors, convincing them to leave the house when Voldemort will be able to reach them there) he shows real desire for them to not be hurt.

  14. I agree with Adele. Also though, when he did those he was more grown up. The books grew up in the 4th. But we truly see Harry becoming an adult after he see’s Cedric die. I don’t think he would have let Dudley get hurt any time. But he might have been more vindictive afterwords. Such as how Dudley pokes fun at Harry’s nightmares.

  15. I agree with a lot of what has been said above. Dudley isn’t just a brat, he spent ten years reguarly hitting Harry. As for the parents, if social services had come to call Harry would have been put into care and they would have been charged with neglect and mental abuse. Feeding the toffee to Dudley may not have been right, and it might be better to take the high road, but it was deserved and you can’t blame Harry for enjoying it, especially since as others have said he knows there’s no danger involved.

    Having said that I do feel sorry for Dudley in general because he is a product of his parents. As Dumbledore said, in some ways they mistreated him worse than Harry.

  16. First of all, I just adore this website! It’s both beautiful and fascinating.

    Regarding the treatment of the Dursleys, I do feel that they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. If they’d been people who treated Harry as their own son, giving him real love and care, he’d have made sure they were kept up to date on everything that was going on; he’d have told them all about the wizarding world and perhaps shown bits of it to them.

    But as it is, they refuse to discuss magic or the wizarding world at all; they take no interest in Harry’s activities – in fact they do the very opposite. They approach magic and everything connected with it with unconcealed hostility. I think that even if they’d only been uninterested, incidents like this wouldn’t have happened. Fred and George feed Dudley the toffee because they’ve heard about the way he treats Harry and to them that’s a little bit of a comeback. If the Dursleys had ever deigned to talk to the Weasleys when they’d met them previously (at Kings Cross) there might have been some effective communication about the best way to travel!

    I really do think that the Dursleys’ attitude and behaviour is the cause of most of the hassle they have from the wizarding world.

  17. Let’s just remember that the Dursley’s raised Harry in a CLOSET, barley fed him and mentally and emotionally abused him. That is neglect and abuse, and I think Jo makes that clear. If that was happening in the real world, these people would deserve far worse than a pigs tale or a swollen tongue. While the retaliation against Dudley is at times cruel, I believe it is an accurate representation of how kids (especially kids like Fred and George) would treat someone like Dudley. And I think Jo shows her real feelings about it, by having Arthur be upset with their behavior. These books are entertainment and are not the moral code. I was always impressed with Jo’s ability to understand the human condition and how flawed we truly are, while still entertaining us and making us love the characters.

  18. I agree that the Dursleys deserve a little bit of magical fun being poked on them. They don’t deserve torture, or death, or anything extreme. Nobody does. But, as it’s been said, they did put Harry through a lot of abuse, including physical if you count ignoring the fact that Dudley beat him up as a child. Their own ignorance and prejudices of the magical world leads them to a lot of what happens to them, and even throughout the years never change or realize this. But in the very end, we see a little bit of reconciliation with them, before we leave them forever. So I think Jo has really done this fantastically. She has fun with them, but handles it appropriately. Any parent that doesn’t see that isn’t really trying hard enough to see it in the first place, in my opinion.

  19. Another important thing to remember about the Dursleys is that they don’t really respond well to kindness and understanding–certainly not from people they have decided they don’t like. Arthur is one of the kindest people in the series, and you see how they react to his overtures. But more tellingly, the only one of them who ever makes substantial personality changes is Dudley–after nearly having his soul sucked out by a dementor. That’s the level of intervention it took to make an impact. While we can certainly critique various characters for engaging in less-than-ideal behavior toward the Dursleys, it’s also important to remembert that even if those characters HAD been saints toward them, it probably wouldn’t have done any good.

  20. Reebus, you have a good point (that I entirely agree with), but it’s worth remembering that the way they first met Arthur was when he blew out their fireplace. I can’t entirely blame them for failing to notice how friendly he was in the immediate aftermath of that….

  21. I get tired of people saying how Dudley is just a product of his parents. You can’t take that definition and run with it. If you went witth that, then Uncle Vernon is a product of his parents and Aunt Petunia of hers, and them of theirs, and so on, and so it’s no one’s fault. Sure, if Dudley had been raised differently, he might have been nicer, but to expect meanness of someone who’s been raised wrongly isn’t right. Dudley still had the potential to be kinder to Harry, but he preffered having power, so…

    I can’t help but enjoy Dudley’s tail and the ton-tongue toffee and all that because they show some retribution. Harry never does anything to hurt the Dursleys, but does that mean that he should gasp and feel sorry whenever something bad does happen to them? Who really could?

    Dudley just wanted more and more and more and that leads to some natural retribution, including the… physical extreme he reaches as shown by gerre. It’s not all a product of his parents’ spoilings. Look at Sirius and Regulus and how they differed dramatically from their parents, being brave and noble.

  22. After 3 years the Dursley’s still have thier fireplace boarded up. What, do they expect more Hogwarts acceptance letters to come out of the fireplace?

  23. I’m not saying it’s right, but In a way the Dursleys do get what they deserve, in the sense that they did so much wrong for so many years. A pig’s tail and a growing tongue, in exchange for eleven years in a cupboard? Come on, that’s almost fair.
    Imagine the Dursley family never having anything bad like this happen to them – I think that would be worse, stating that it’s ok to lock a kid up in a closet, never giving him anything of his own and allowing him to be bullied for years.

  24. In the debate about the Dursley’s,
    Some of y’all act like Harry shoved the candy down his throat. If he had I would understand why people would call him mean-spirited. But no one *made* him eat the thing! Dudley picked it up off the floor and ate it. (And if I remember correctly he watched the candies falling out of their pockets right? So he knew where it came from.) What happened was mostly because of his own greed and stupidity. So Harry’s wrong for laughing? After all that they’ve put him through I really don’t see why that’s so horrible. Harry turned into a extremely good person considering how he grew up. Of course he’s going to laugh. HE knows it’s all ok. He trusts the Weasley’s. And sometimes, no matter what’s happening a situation is just so ridiculous that you gotta laugh. Almost every event involving the Dursley’s falls directly on them in some way, and Harry’s had nothing to do with it.
    Book1- Hagrid shouldn’t have done it, but hey when you’re all up in someone’s face (figuratively) spewing insults something’s bound to happen.
    Book 2- What happened it book 2? Oh yeah, Dobby. You gotta admit all they had to do was treat him like actual person and allow him to sit at dinner. If they had Dobby wouldn’t have been able to talk to him alone. He would’ve got his attention eventually but the, Mason’s I think? wouldn’t have been there and it wouldn’t have been as bad.
    Book 3- This time it was on Harry but you can really only take so much verbal ABUSE before you snap.
    I find what happens in the books kind of like karmic justice when you think about it.

  25. I think part of the reason that Harry Potter is unpopular wtih authoritarian types is that they *really don’t* believe that abused children have the right to stand up for themselves. This is how the Dursleys treat Harry.

    (1) They make him sleep in the cupboard, even though they have two unused bedrooms.
    (2) They barely feed him.
    (3) They spend no money on clothing him, although they do allow him to wear Dudley’s cast-offs.
    (4) Dudley is allowed to beat him up for no reason; we once see Aunt Petunia hit Harry with a frying pan; and Uncle Vernon once threatens to “knock the stuffing out of” him in a way that suggests he has beaten Harry before now.
    (5) They disparage and insult his biological parents.
    (6) They constantly berate him and call him names.
    (7) They lie about him to the neighbours, claiming he is a juvenile criminal or mentally disturbed.
    (8) They show no sense that he is a family member by showing such basic courtesies as celebrating his birthday, including him on family outings, letting him sit up for dinner or sending him to an equivalent school to their own son’s. (The latter is superficially down to money; but if they had treated Harry correctly, don’t you think Dumbledore would have seen to it that they were reimbursed?)

    Harry doesn’t retaliate; he just tries to look invisible and/or run away.

    But once he discovers he is a wizard, he does try to stand up for himself.

    (1) At 11, he demands his letter and shouts angrily when Vernon won’t give it to him. Bratty? Why was Vernon stealing another person’s letter in the first place?
    (2) At 12, he pretends to be doing magic in order to frighten Dudley into not hitting him.
    (3) At 13, he tries to cut a deal with Uncle Vernon in order to get a permission slip signed.
    (4) At 14, he uses Sirius Black to frighten all the Dursleys into not abusing him.
    (4) He escapes as often as he can to the Weasleys’ house.

    Yes, there is a vindictive edge to some of Harry’s humour, but HE wasn’t the one who gave Dudley a pig’s tail or a TT toffee. Yes, there is an attitude that smacks more of demanding justice than passively accepting abuse, but Harry IS the one who will one day defeat Voldemort. And this is nothing in comparison with the way the Dursleys have treated him.

    The following catalogue of Harry’s insubordinate, disrespectful behaviour reads like a satire; but a quick browse through the whole site suggests that this hilariously ignorant and vindictive writer is actually serious.

  26. I like how Aunt Petunia shields herself in front of Dudley the same way Lily had shielded herself in front of Harry. Only Petunia was shielding Dudley from someone trying to help him and Lily was shielding Harry from a murderer.

  27. @GhV- I hadn’t thought about it, but Harry’s actions DO seem a bit vindictive at times. I can’t really get all up in arms about it though because it seems… normal, I guess when I try and think about it in a real life situation. Not about the abuse but the interactions between him and Dudley at least, or really some of his interactions between anyone his age. Vindictive, but something expected with children.
    On another note, I haven’t finished the article you linked yet but… Wow, you said she was serious!?

  28. I think we all have to stop and look at this from a different angle. I’m saying this on a couple of levels, too.

    All of Harry’s life, prior to finding out about his history, has been subjected to abuse, physical + emotional, whether it be abuse from the boys at school on Dudley’s command or from the constant negative commentary delivered by his aunt and uncle. His whole life he was made to be felt as an unwanted presence.

    Yes, they did provide him a “roof over his head, clothes on his back, and food on the table” lifestyle, but to the point of extremity. He wasn’t wanted, face it.

    When Hagrid came bursting through that hut and told the Dursley’s off about how they wrongfully fed lies to Harry about his parents and their death, Hagrid became quite angry with them for disrespecting the memory of the Potters — as well as giving a Dudley a pig tail — which, mind you, he was doing something quite piggish. That was the first time ANYONE had stood up to Harry.

    Let’s face it. This series, Harry is still young. The amount of responsibility and challenges Harry has faced since his admission to Hogwarts has escalated, and to not even be able to talk to his “family” about it would be rather tough, wouldn’t you agree?

    So when the Weasleys arrive, they meant no disrespect — especially Arthur. Ron wasn’t inappropriate and let’s face it, although the twins should’ve known better than to “accidently” drop charmed candies on the floor, it really should have taught Dudley a lesson — notice how Dudley gets into this trouble because he simply cannot contain himself?! Dudley’s gluttonous ways are meant to be redirected, either by the school nurse, his mother, or getting a pig tail and/or swollen tongue, because he has no self-control.

    It’s all a matter of fun. Let’s face it, Harry could be a real mean person if he wanted to, considering all the situations he’s been through — and although he has a knack for trouble, he’s now a teenage boy experience a growth in emotions and doubled with the hardships of school and friends, he has an ever-going challenege of fending off those who already hate him and wish him dead. It’s not easy. In any case, Harry isn’t quite a respectful young boy and he chose to be that way.

    It’s karma, essentially. Would I wish harm the Dursleys? No. But do they get what they deserve? Yes, in retrospect. They aren’t terrible people; they don’t do terrible things per se, but they just are incredibly narrow-minded and if they showed an interest in Harry’s life and supported him through these tough times, then many of their struggles would have been lifted. Albeit that wouldn’t make as a juicy story, but still. They have brought on a lot of these problems themselves due to their ignorance and their unwillingness to open up their minds.

  29. I see some errors in my post… I meant *Dursleys and that is the first time anyone stood up FOR Harry — on Harry’s behalf…

  30. Re Jeremy: I may be a bit slow here, but that’s the first time I’ve thought about that. I wonder if that is the reason they boarded up the fireplace, and exactly how long after receiving the first set of letters did they decide to do this? Doesn’t Harry get a letter from MoM in OOTP via the fireplace though?

  31. Regarding cruelty and morals, children and adults, muggles and wizards. In another book we see some cruelty carried out by wizards against muggles. The acts were carried out by adults, and were far more pernicious than any Wheezes Fred and George could come up with. Who or what do I mean? Can you say Mundungus Fletcher and the cauldrons dodge? Or Willie Widdershins and the exploding loos? Fletcher put a ‘business deal’ above providing wizard protection for Harry, and by extension for Dudley. Exploding toilet fixtures sound funny to read, but would you want to be in the vicinity? Or clean up the aftermath? Even using Scourgify spells? And besides, the bloke’s name is slang for ‘turning the wrong way’, which explains how screwed up his sense of morals are!

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