JK Rowling has revealed more about the "reactionary, prejudiced, narrow-minded, ignorant and bigoted" Dursleys in a story released on Pottermore to mark Dudley's 35th birthday.
In it we learn the backstory behind why the Dursleys disliked their nephew so much that they made him live in a cupboard under the stairs. Petunia met Vernon at work where she was immediately attracted to his "delicious" normality in contrast to her magical sister. When the couple were engaged, her one fear was how he would react to Lily. The first meeting with Lily, James Potter and the Dursleys did not go well with Vernon suggesting wizards lived on benefits, and the relationship only deteriorated from there. The Dursleys did not attend the Potter wedding and threw out the announcement of Harry's birth.
Petunia took in her newborn nephew "grudgingly" after finding out her sister had died to protect him but Rowling writes she "spent the rest of Harry's childhood punishing him for her own choice". Vernon's dislike of Harry is less complicated - Rowling says that like Severus Snape's reaction to Harry it was based on his "close resemblance" to his father James.
As for the couples' names, Vernon Dursley was so-called as Rowling "never much cared for" the moniker, while Petunia was the name she gave "unpleasant female characters" while playing make-believe with her sister as a child. The surname 'Dursley' comes from a town in Gloucestershire that Rowling says she has never visited but expects is "full of charming people".
It was the sound of the word that appealed, rather than any association with the place.
Rowling also revealed we could have seen a softer side to Petunia during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, saying she had wanted to suggest a "long-forgotten but dimly burning love of her sister" when the character when says goodbye to Harry for the final time. However she decided to keep Petunia "consistent", to the upset of some fans. "Nobody ever seemed to expect any better from Uncle Vernon, so they were not disappointed," Rowling s.