Will and Won’t

chapter three of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry waits for Dumbledore as we read the Daily Prophet articles about Voldemort’s return – and then Dumbledore arrives, scolds the Dursleys for their mistreatment of Harry, determines that Harry is the owner of Grimmauld Place, and takes Harry off with him to depart Privet Drive for the year.

by Maria Abagnale

Harry Potter was snoring loudly.


Will and Won't, by Chantelle

The minute hand on the alarm clock reached the number twelve and, at that precise moment, the streetlamp outside the window went out. Harry awoke as though the sudden darkness were an alarm.


Dumbledore, by FizzingWhizbees

“Judging by your look of stunned disbelief, Harry did not warn you that I was coming,” said Dumbledore pleasantly. “However, let us assume that you have invited me warmly into your house. It is unwise to linger overlong on doorsteps in these troubled times.”


Dursleys and Their Drinks, by Heather Campbell

The Dursleys, after quick, scared looks at one another, tried to ignore their glasses completely, a difficult feat, as they were nudging them gently on the sides of their heads. Harry could not suppress a suspicion that Dumbledore was rather enjoying himself.


Dursleys Uneasy, by Sheena Kristen Sy

Before he could do anything else, Uncle Vernon shouted, “Will you get these ruddy things off us?” …. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Dumbledore politely, and he raised his wand again. All three glasses vanished. “But it would have been better manners to drink it, you know.”


Dumbledore and Harry Set Off Into the Night to Find, Once Again, 'That Flighty Temptress, Adventure', by Drew Graham

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”


about the chapter


Something You May Not Have Noticed

The idea that wizards come of age at seventeen – which, as Uncle Vernon points out, is a year earlier that their counterparts in the Muggle world – has been well established from the earliest books of the series. But it’s interesting to think about why that would be. One benefit of this rule, of course, is that all wizards are able to use magic from the moment they leave Hogwarts – whereas if they had to turn eighteen first, Harry (as one of the youngest in his class) would have to wait a couple of months after graduating before he could use magic in the real world. But I suspect there’s a more practical reason for the difference, and it has a lot less to do with the wizards and a lot more to do with the author – who had the series planned out well enough from the start that she knew her characters would need to be able to use magic in her final volume.

The Boy Who Lived

At first glance, it seems remarkable that despite his expecting Dumbledore’s arrival, Harry doesn’t even pack his belongings. Doesn’t he trust Dumbledore to keep his word? But when you think about it, I think it has a lot less to do with Harry’s faith in Dumbledore and a lot more to do with the emotional toll Privet Drive has on him; he says himself that he wasn’t able to “face” the thought of having to unpack again if Dumbledore didn’t show up. So, no matter how small the odds may be, he doesn’t want to take the chance. It has to be hard for us to imagine what that must feel like. But it does provide a brilliant ten minutes of Dumbledore sitting alone with the Dursleys while Harry throws his belongings into his trunk. Oh, to be a fly on the wall….

Something to Remember

There are about a dozen ways that Harry could have gotten to the Burrow far more easily than being personally escorted by the most important wizard in Britain. Harry began to learn just how important he is to the wizarding world a few weeks ago, when he first heard the prophecy. And he’s so unique that occurrences like this have become almost commonplace in his bizarre life. But for any other student, Dumbledore’s personally showing up on their doorstep would be unbelievably remarkable, and point to the idea that there’s even more going on than Harry knows.

The Final Word

(When asked, “Is there more to Dudley than meets the eye?”)
No. [Laugher] What you see is what you get. I am happy to say that he is definitely a character without much back story. He is just Dudley. The next book, Half Blood Prince, is the least that you see of the Dursleys. You see them quite briefly. You see them a bit more in the final book, but you don’t get a lot of Dudley in book six—very few lines. I am sorry if there are Dudley fans out there, but I think you need to look at your priorities if it is Dudley that you are looking forward to. [Laughter] –J.K. Rowling, August 2004

36 Responses to “Will and Won’t”

  1. First to post! Wow! :)

    Always nice to see more art by Sheena Kristen Sy.

  2. “And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” That may very well be my very favorite line in the entire series. I can remember going back a reading it a few times because it is just so perfectly worded.

  3. I started laughing out loud the moment Uncle Vernon opened the door. “I must say your agapanthus are flourishing.” Ha, ha!

  4. Dumbledore interacting with the Dursleys has to be one of my favorite scenes.
    As for wizarding ages, it seems odd to me that despite the fact that they have long lifespans, they become of age early and have to choose careers in their 5th year. I think there was a discussion about this on the site somewhere in an earlier book.
    I always love Chantelle’s drawings.

  5. “Kreacher, shut up!”–first order Harry gives his new house-elf. I think I applauded or cheered when I read that!

    Yes, to be a fly on the wall of the sitting-room while Harry was upstairs “finishing up” packing his trunk.

    Half Blood Prince is one of my favorite in the series, for the simple fact that we do see more of Dumbledore in this book than we had previously. For all his faults, I still like Dumbledore very much.

  6. I crack up every time I read this scene. Dumbledore + Dursleys = HILARIOUS!!!

  7. I’m usually a lurker, but this chapter gave me the push to post.
    First of all, your site is amazing. Thank you for all the work you put in this.
    Secondly, this chapter is one of my favorite. Dumbledore’s actions toward the Dursley’s are everything I wanted to do to them myself. I think Phineas Nigellus’s words from OOTP are perfect here “you cannot deny he’s got style”.

  8. “However, let us assume that you have invited me warmly into your house.” “- yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often.” Ha, ha!
    This is simply my favorite chapter of the series.

    Wasn’t it Aunt Petunia who pointed out that Dudley won’t come of age until he’s 18?

  9. Yes, Petunia was the one that spoke up and said that Dudley wouldn’t come of age for another year–on his 18th birthday. I have always wondered why the legal age for the Wizarding world was 17.

  10. this was one of my favorite chapters i loved seeing dumbledore with the dursleys but what i loved was the scene with kreacher and his tantrum it just gave me laughs he made the chapter and dumbledore too. that was my favorite part
    i was upset that they cut this out the movie

  11. I loved the picture of Maria Abagnale, but whenever I read this chapter, I always have to think about the image makani/heather campbell drew of Harry drooling against the window ^.^ This was one of my favorite dursleys-scenes, alond with the one from book 7 :). Great pointing out how special Harry actually is for being escorted by dumbledore!

  12. I like this chapter, too, but as much as I myself have wanted to give the Dursleys a piece of my mind for their treatment of Harry, I always thought Dumbledore’s behavior towards them bordered on being over the line. He doesn’t insult them to their faces, but he is actually quite rude and snotty to them — inviting himself into the house, speaking to Harry as if the Dursleys were not in the room, dragging a house-elf into their sitting room, and banging them on the head with glasses of mead. Certainly not equal to the years of abuse that Harry suffered at their hands, but I always thought the reason Dumbledore acted like this was to assuage his own guilt about leaving Harry in an abusive household for so much of his life. The first step in the slow but steady revelation that Dumbledore is far more flawed and human than we had any idea of.

  13. Wow, Meri, I never thought of Dumbledore as being rude to them. The way I read it, Dumbledore was being more mischievous than rude and snotty. He is reacting and capitalizing on their rudeness and ignorance of good manners. I think of it as he is trying to teach them a lesson on good manners, as they so clearly have none. I never feel too sorry for whatever the Dursleys get, because they are really awful people. They abused Harry for his entire life simply because he was magic-if you take out the word magic and substitute another word (choose a group that is frequently abused simply because they are from that group) and I wonder if people would still feel like the Dursleys somehow have goodness in them. They don’t.

    As for Dumbledore being flawed and human, yes, he is, and I think he’s been trying to get Harry to realize that for a while. At some point he says that he comes up with truly ingenious ideas, but correspondingly, his mistakes are also much huger than others.

    I wonder if Dumbledore really had that much true guilt about leaving Harry with the Dursleys. He clearly knew what horrible people they were, but chose to leave him there anyway so that he would be as normal as possible. If he had been raised by another family, he would’ve known about his greatness far earlier in his life and it would’ve been impossible for him to be as humble as he turned out to be. I think Dumbledore certainly felt badly that this was the choice he had to make, but remember, he was for the Greater Good always. I just don’t know if guilt was the emotion he was feeling. Dismay, sadness, probably. Guilt? I just don’t know. Any other thoughts on that?

  14. I had a serious problem with the actions of Kreacher here. What no one in the chapter seems to realize is that IF he has passed to Bellatrix instead of Harry, he can follow Harry’s orders VOLUNTARILY, to fool Harry and Dumbledore into thinking they can control him when they can’t. All through the book, I was expecting this to backfire on our heroes; I figured Bellatrix had gotten control of Grimmauld place and was concealing the fact for her own evil purposes. So during Xmas break, say, she and the other Death Eaters could break in and destroy the Order of the Phoenix all gathered together.

  15. I think Dumbledore probably regrets that the Dursleys were such horrible guardians, but as you say Jennifer C., leaving Harry with them was the better option. From the outset, Dumbledore has a very good idea that Harry will have an unfair life, and will experience a lot of terrible things ‘for the greater good.’

    Though Dumbledore initially asked Petunia and Vernon to raise Harry as their own son, in the end he considers their treatment of Dudley more detrimental than Harry’s. Had Harry been raised by a family in the Wizarding world -where he was famous and praised with defeated Voldemort-, he could likely have turned out as spoiled as Dudley. The ideal option, having him raised by loving parents, ignorant of his fame, sadly wasn’t available.

    I don’t see how Dumbledore would feel he made the wrong choice, so I don’t see how he would feel (legitimately) guilty. Leaving Harry with his aunt ensured his physical safety. Though I do wonder, with Dumbledore so aware of Voldemort’s upbringing, and likely at least partially aware of Snape’s, wasn’t it gambling a lot that Harry would turn out to be a decent human being?

    Jennifer, regarding Kreacher – I never realized that possibility. Hm…

  16. It occurs to me that if it weren’t for the whole “mother’s blood protects him” thing, Harry could easily have been adopted (technically, he was, but you get the point). Muggle adoptive parents would love him as much as his own parents did. I suppose there would be too much chance of him ending up like Tom Riddle, though, stuck in an orphanage and nobody wanting him.

    Actually, something else occurs… Harry was literally left on the Dursley’s doorstep. How the heck did that get past the British equivalent of Child Protective Services? Even if the Dursleys didn’t jump at the chance to hand the infant Harry over to the police, someone must surely have looked into the circumstances of his adoption. Normally when a child is given a new guardian, even if it’s a relative, there is a ton of paperwork. I wonder how many Muggle civil servants were Obliviated to get around THAT.

  17. @Jennifer

    The Dursleys would not have dared to land Harry in an orphanage, since they could not afford to run afoul of Dumbledore. You remember the howler of Dumbledore, as Vernon had attempted to throw Harry out of the house in OoP.

    Since Vernon was a manager of a company and somewhat wealthy and so a good taxpayer, officers of Juvenile Services wouldn´t make much trouble.A problem would it be, if mew guardians are unemployed or poor.

  18. @ Jimma, most likly so Harry could legally use magic during Book 7.

  19. I would say that maybe Bellatrix could have ordered Kreacher to obey Harry’s orders so that the Death Eaters could capture the Order, but remember that the order that Harry gave Kreacher was simply to “shut up”. After that, Kreacher still threw his tantrum on the floor, except silently. He didn’t want to obey Harry, but he had to because Harry WAS his master now.

    So that told me that Harry was legitimately Kreacher’s owner after Sirius left him to Harry.

  20. Jennifer, I don’t think the Muggles ever found out about the baby-left-on-the-doorstep. It was dark for most of the time, so the only person who would have seen him before Petunia did would have been the milkman. I’m sure Dumbledore could have Obliviated ONE Muggle.

    I think the Dursleys probably did have to fill out a mountain of Muggle paperwork. But the bottom line is – they WERE his next-of-kin, so the Muggles would encourage them to adopt Harry. Petunia would have been too frightened of Dumbledore to admit that she didn’t want him.

  21. I really wish some part of this chapter had made it into the movie. It makes me really appreciate Dumbledore!

  22. You know, I never assumed the Dursley’s had *adopted* Harry. Maybe filled out paperwork to be his legal guardian, but no more. Is there anywhere JKR indicates that he was adopted?

  23. Sorry, I didn’t mean that they literally adopted him. I don’t think they did. But as you say, they probably would have had to be appointed as his legal guardians. It would have been more than simply a fostering arrangement, which is legally and psychologically unstable for everyone.

  24. I don’t even think the milkman would have noticed because didn’t Petunia find Harry and scream when she was putting out the milk bottles for the milkman? Before he arrived?
    And, yes, I think it was a real crime that this chapter was not included in the film instead of the ridiculous scene on the railway cafe and platform!
    Sorry, I know this is about the books – but had to say it! Thank goodness for the books to get the true perspective.

  25. I loved reading this chapter! The Dursley’s reactions to Dumbledore’s wizardish behaviour are comical.

  26. After reading some of these comments I’ve realized Dumbledore was really, REALLY lucky with the Dursleys.
    Sure, they could have been lovely relatives and guardians for Harry and that would have made him lucky as well, but from Dumbledore’s perspective the Dursleys’ abuse of Harry could have been much worse and have much direr consequences (do you even say “direr”?!).

    Who are the other kids we know who went through abusive childhoods?

    Snape: abusive Muggle father Who would beat his mother (and maybe him as well) – turned out to be too fascinated with the Dark Arts for anyone’s good and losing the only good thing in his life made him topple over to the Dark Side.

    Sirius: crazy racist parents and other relatives who turned on him when he got sorted into the wrong house – ran away from home at 16, tried to have a classmate killed, bordered on delinquency, sold his best friend to Voldemort and killed 13 people before being dragged laughing to Azkaban (as far as Dumbledore knew, when he left Harry with the Dursley).

    Voldemort: conceived in a fake-love union, an orphan within his first day of life, grew up in abandonment – well, we all know how that went.

    Ariana: beat up because of her magic – her mind and consequently her powers got screwed up to the point where she killed her mother and was unable to take care of herself.

    This last case in particular, of which Dumbledore had cause to be more aware than anyone, should have made him think twice before leaving The Boy Who Lived with just anyone. Vernon says it himself: “nothing a good beating wouldn’t have cured”. What if the Dursley really had tried to beat magic out of Harry?? Their fear of Dumbledore’s wrath? Petunia might have been swayed by that, but what about Vernon? I don’t think he was that impressed with magic before the letters started arriving and Hagrid showed up…

  27. One of the most brilliant things Dumbldore ever says is (this is NOT verbatim) “At least Harry isn’t as damaged as Dudley”. Pure Brillance.

  28. Hidden gem alert!! I’m just rereading this book for (I believe) the 8th time, and I finally decided to look up what “agapanthus” was. According to Wikipedia, it is a flower known as “LILY of the Nile.” Make of that what you will – Dumbledore being clever, Jo being clever, symbolism, or pure coincidence (which are quite rare in the HP books, btu they do occur). Just thought I’d point this out.

    My take on this one is that Dumbledore is saying that Harry (the son of Lily) is flourishing despite the Dursleys best efforts. Thoughts?

  29. That is great observation about the flowers!

    I don’t think DD had much choice about leaving Harry with the Durselys. Harry needed protection from Voldemort, and Lily’s blood was the strongest possible protection, so he had to leave Harry with the Durselys. (That said, I sometimes imagine Harry growing up with the Weasleys – it always gives me some great mental pictures;-)

    While the Dursleys are truly horrible to Harry, I don’t see them as completely evil. They did take Harry in and they did at least give him some nominal care. He wasn’t routinely beaten, for example.

  30. So I know it’a been a while since anyone has commented on this chapter, but I thought I would post something I noticed while rereading this book.

    Well, I’m not positive about this, but wouldn’t this be the first time that Petunia has ever actually met Dumbledore? I just think it would be interesting to know what is going on in her mind during this scene.

    I mean this is the man she wrote to, begging to be admitted to Hogwarts. It must bring back a lot of memories from her childhood that are unpleasant for her. I know that she has heard from him since then, in his letters regarding Harry, but it must have been startling for her to finally put a face to the name.

  31. Nat, that’s a brilliant observation. Petunia is fascinating, and I keep meaning to write an essay about her. One of these days….

  32. Oh, I just grin my way through this entire chapter. Dumbledore is awesome. Nuff said.

  33. This is my first time commenting on the site, and I have to say, I love it. I’ve been following it since I started my re-read in July.

    I just wanted to say that I always found it significant when Dumbledore says to Aunt Petunia, “We have corresponded, of course.” Harry notes that this is an odd way of reminding her that he sent her an exploding letter, but that Aunt Petunia doesn’t challenge the term.

    It seems like Dumbledore wouldn’t use the word “Correspond” for just 2 letters in 15 years, do you think that they actually have had additional letters? Harry never seems to leave the Dursleys on good terms, maybe he needs to send a little note EVERY year to remind Petunia that she needs to take him back?

  34. Dumbledore reveals to Harry that he now has Kreacher for an house-elf, and then calls the Dursley’s out for not treating Harry with proper kindness. I think he was trying to subtlety teach Harry a lesson about his responsibility to someone now in his care.

  35. Re: Dumbledore risking a potentially abusive situation for Harry by placing with the Dursleys: It looks like there were some protections in place for that. For one thing, Mrs. Figg is close by, and I would bet that she’s specifically charged with watching for signs of abuse. For another, the one time (I think) that we see Vernon actually lay hands on Harry in an aggressive way (Book 5 where he tries to strangle him through the window), there’s an interesting occurrence–the “force” that seems to surge through Harry, “making him impossible to hold.” I don’t think that Harry’s own magic caused that. It may be an extra magical protection that’s been placed on him. We see something similar when Umbridge begins shaking Marietta in the same book, although that happens in Dumbledore’s physical presence.

    In summary, I think Dumbledore made sure that Harry was at least protected from physical abuse and severe neglect. And just imagine what he might have done to the Dursleys if there ever had been such an incident…

  36. Dumbledore over the line in his remarks and actions to the Dursleys? I rather think not. Uncle Vernon stares at Dumbledore in silence at the door. Does not tell him to leave, does not invite him in. What should Dumbledore have done? He is quite courteous, sort of gives Vernon D the benefit of the doubt, as it were. Clanking glasses of mead at their heads? That is because they refused a very polite offer! So what were the glasses to do? They were meant to be taken. As Harry did with pumpkin juice in Umbridge’s office in last book, they could have taken them and not drunk out of them. But they did nothing, once again. No, Dumbledore is giving them an opportunity, first, to be gracious. Second, absent that, he admonishes their inaction, in a rather bemused way. They could laugh it off, if they chose. But they choose to be insulted.

    Their offense at Kreacher showing up in their living room has again to do with their choice. They chose, in their little lives in Little Whinging, to pretend that the wizarding world of their sister/sister-in-law does not exist. They get confronted with it in ways that affect them, as with Dudley being endangered through no fault of Harry’s two years ago (not their fault either, but it is real, it is there, it has become dangerous; might be dangerous to ignore it). They don’t have to resent its existence. The Grangers chose to accept it. So what is Dumbledore to do? Harry is the beneficiary of his god-father’s will. That entails inheriting not just property, but the service of an elf. Choices, choices. Over the top? On the contrary, I think Dumbledore behaved as politely as it was possible with such hosts.

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