The Big Picture
- The Dursleys’ final scene in the Harry Potter movies was cut, disappointing fans who wanted a more thorough farewell to the characters.
- The deleted scene, which extends the Dursleys’ departure, includes crucial conversations between Harry and Petunia, adding depth to their relationship and humanizing Petunia.
- Dudley’s goodbye in the deleted scene shows his growth as a character and provides a fitting redemption for the oafish cousin, while also showcasing actor Harry Melling’s talent.
To the chagrin of Potterheads everywhere, the eight Harry Potter movies could not include every single moment and detail from J.K. Rowling‘s beloved seven books. Fans are still disappointed that the visit to St Mungo’s Hospital in Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort’s full backstory in Half Blood Prince, and the entire character of Peeves the Poltergeist never made it off the page. Even though the final book was split into two feature length films, Deathly Hallows was no exception to the time sensitive rules of adaptation. One tragically omitted scene from the final book did actually get filmed, though, but was left on the cutting room floor. An unfinished version of it is available as a deleted scene, and its depth begs questions of why the filmmakers couldn’t just leave it in.
The Dursleys’ Final Scene in the ‘Harry Potter’ Movies Was Cut
Though included in all seven Potter books, Harry’s reluctantly-adoptive family the Dursleys had diminishing representation across the movies. While they played sizable roles in the first acts of Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban, Richard Griffiths‘ Uncle Vernon, Fiona Shaw‘s Aunt Petunia, and Harry Melling‘s Dudley were nowhere to be seen in Goblet of Fire. They reappeared at the start of Order of the Phoenix, but were again left out of The Half Blood Prince. These exclusions missed out on some great moments from the books, such as The Weasleys’ uproarious visit to Privet Drive in Goblet of Fire and Dumbledore’s poignant return to the Muggle suburb in Half Blood Prince.
In the final cut of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 — the last time that Harry is ever at the Dursleys’ home of Number Four, Privet Drive — the family is only on-screen for a matter of seconds. As Harry looks out the window from his bedroom, Vernon and Dudley are seen packing up their car while Petunia sits in the passenger seat wearing a grave expression. Dudley tells Vernon, “I don’t understand why we have to leave,” to which Vernon responds, “Because, it’s not safe here.” Even if one hasn’t read the books, one can infer that they’re leaving because Voldemort and the Death Eaters will most certainly come looking for Harry at his childhood home, and they will torture or kill anyone who gets in their way.
That is all the audience sees of the Dursleys in the finished film, and from a pacing perspective, it is suitably efficient. The essential message of where the Dursleys are going and why is concisely, yet effectively communicated, allowing the main story to get going right away. However, in the context of the entire franchise, it feels rushed and underwhelming. The Dursleys are major (albeit horrible) parts of Harry’s life, as well as hugely significant characters in the earlier films. To see them exit so hurriedly is a disappointing finale to their positions of the story, but the extended, deleted version of the scene does a much more thorough job of giving the Dursleys their due farewell.
Harry and Petunia’s Exchange in the Deleted ‘Deathly Hallows Part 1’ Scene
In the deleted scene, the Dursleys’ departure is extended to a full, three-minute sequence, and it includes two crucial conversations between Harry and the family. First, after Harry sees Vernon and Dudley from his window, he goes downstairs to find Aunt Petunia standing alone in the living room. All the furniture in the house is gone, and she appears despondent. When Harry approaches her, she says with indignation, “I have lived in this house for twenty years, and now in a single night, I am expected to leave.” Harry then asserts, “They’ll torture you. If they expect for a moment that you know where I’m going, they’ll stop at nothing,” affirming the situation as we inferred it.
It is Petunia’s response, however, that sets the scene apart as one well worth keeping in the film. Petunia’s eyes dart over to Harry and with knowing confidence, she replies, “Do you think I don’t know what they’re capable of? You didn’t just lose a mother that night in Godric’s Hollow, you know. I lost a sister.” She refers, of course, to the night of Harry’s mother’s death sixteen years prior. For the entire series, Petunia has acted dismissively towards her sister’s memory. In the films, Lily Potter only really came up twice in the Dursley household — once when Petunia called her a “freak” in Sorcerer’s Stone and a second time when Petunia stood idly by as Aunt Marge insulted her in Prisoner of Azkaban. While this was more than enough to confirm Petunia’s outwardly villainy, her unique relation to Lily always kept hope alive that there might be some compassion beneath her icy exterior. This scene finally delivers on that hope, humanizing Petunia in a small, yet satisfying manner, while letting Fiona Shaw’s talents shine.
The exchange between Petunia and Harry was only inspired by the books. In the novel, the Dursleys’ departure is far longer, with Dedalus Diggle and Hestia Jones escorting them away on the Order of the Phoenix’s behalf. Petunia is the last Dursley that Harry sees before they leave, yet they don’t share any sentimental goodbye. Instead, Rowling describes their final meeting as: “She stopped and looked back. For a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that she wanted to say something to him: She gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech, but then, with a little jerk of her head, she bustled out of the room after her husband and son.” The film expands upon this moment, lending what seems like just the right words to Petunia’s speechless farewell.
Dudley and Harry’s Goodbye in the Deleted Scene Shows Big D’s Growth
The second half of the deleted Dursley departure scene is taken more directly from the novel. This is where Dudley says goodbye to Harry. Before the Dursleys drive off, Dudley asks Vernon why Harry isn’t coming with them. Shaken by Dudley’s unexpected concern for his cousin, Vernon stammeringly responds, “Because he doesn’t want to,” which Harry then confirms. Harry bitingly adds, “Besides, I’m just a waste of space,” reflecting the way the Dursleys had always seen him. In defiance of his father, Dudley then walks away from the car and over to Harry on the lawn. He shakes Harry’s hand, looks him in the eye, and says, “I don’t think you’re a waste of space” before awkwardly strutting back to the vehicle. As Dudley walks away, Harry smiles and whispers under his breath, “See ya, Big D.”
While the deleted sequence between Harry and Petunia only suggests mild humanity in the Dursley matriarch, Dudley’s farewell offers more concrete redemption for the oafish cousin. In the book, Rowling makes it more explicit that Dudley felt somewhat indebted to Harry after he saved him from the Dementors in The Order of the Phoenix. The film implies that same developed meekness. Dudley has long been depicted as loathsomely gluttonous and selfish, picking on Harry for his own amusement. In this scene, audiences get to see that he has grown from a spoiled bully into a young man with just enough humility to shake his cousin’s hand and express true appreciation. Given that so much of Harry Potter focuses on kids growing up and choosing love over hate, it is endearing to see the youngest Dursley embrace this same message.
Outside of the diegesis, Dudley’s goodbye also lets the audience see Harry Melling’s growth as an actor. Part of the joy of watching the Harry Potter series is witnessing the young performers evolve and improve upon their craft over an entire decade. We watch Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and so many other young cast members hone their talents. This scene gives us that same privilege with Melling. At last, he plays Dudley beyond a caricature, showcasing a versatility that he’s since reaffirmed in projects like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and The Pale Blue Eye.
The Deleted Scene Would Have Been a Fitting Opening to the Long Awaited Close
The obvious rationale for this full scene getting lost on the cutting room floor is timing. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was already a two and a half hour movie, and the Dursley scene had little to do with the plot. Nevertheless, the extended scene offers so much for fans of the books and movies. Not only is it nostalgic to see Harry with the Dursleys one last time, but his confidence against Vernon and his amends with Dudley show how far he’s come. At age eleven, the Dursleys were Harry’s greatest obstacle. Now, there are mere footnotes compared to the dangers awaiting him in the Wizarding World. For a story that was over a decade in the making, this deleted scene would have served as a fitting beginning to a story that focuses so much on resolutions, closures, and warmhearted farewells.