Reading Chapter Two: The Vanishing Glass
“Chapter Two: The Vanishing Glass” McGonagall began to read.
Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up to find their nephew on the front step, but Privet Drive had hardly changed at all. The sun rose on the same tidy front gardens and lit up the brass number four on the Dursleys' front door; it crept into their living room, which was almost exactly the same as it had been on the night when Mr. Dursley had seen that fateful news report about the owls. Only the photographs on the mantelpiece really showed how much time had passed. Ten years ago, there had been lots of pictures of what looked like a large pink beach ball wearing different-colored bonnets –
Several people started to laugh and McGonagall waited until all the snickers had died down before continuing.
but Dudley Dursley was no longer a baby, and now the photographs showed a large blond boy riding his first bicycle, on a carousel at the fair, playing a computer game with his father, being hugged and kissed by his mother. The room held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too.
“And why is that?” Remus demanded in a cool tone that scared Harry more than if he had yelled.
Yet Harry Potter was still there, asleep at the moment, but not for long. His Aunt Petunia was awake and it was her shrill voice that made the first noise of the day.
Snape winced, having heard Petunia’s shrill voice all to often in his childhood and he knew that it wasn’t a pleasant sound to begin with, let alone early in the morning.
"Up! Get up! Now!"
Harry woke with a start. His aunt rapped on the door again.
"Up!" she screeched. Harry heard her walking toward the kitchen and then
the sound of the frying pan being put on the stove. He rolled onto his back and tried to remember the dream he had been having. It had been a good one. There had been a flying motorcycle in it. He had a funny feeling he'd had the same dream before.
“Have to tell you Harry –” Fred began
“ – the reason for that is because –” George continued
“You have” They said in unison.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Thanks guys, but I already know that now.”
His aunt was back outside the door.
"Are you up yet?" she demanded.
"Nearly," said Harry.
"Well, get a move on, I want you to look after the bacon. And don't you dare let it burn, I want everything perfect on Duddy's birthday."
“How often did they make you cook?” Hermione asked in a tone that matched Remus’.
“Not often. Only a few times realy,” Harry answered quickly and Snape frowned. He had the feeling that Potter was lying, and not in a good way.
"What did you say?" his aunt snapped through the door.
Dudley's birthday -- how could he have forgotten? Harry got slowly out of bed and started looking for socks. He found a pair under his bed and, after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on. Harry was used to spiders,
Ron shivered. “Did you have to mention the spiders?” He asked.
Fred and George grinned, but quickly winced when Ginny smacked the both of them on the back of the head. “Ow! Ginny!”
because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them,
“What does that have to do with anything?” Hermione wondered.
and that was where he slept.
“WHAT?!” Everyone exclaimed. Before Harry could blink, both Remus and McGonagall were in front of Dumbledore.
“A cupboard? Are you telling me that he slept in a cupboard for ten years and you didn’t know about it?” Remus snarled. Like before, he wasn’t yelling, but his tone and glare were deadly.
Unlike Remus, McGonagall had no reservations about yelling. “ALBUS DUMBLEDORE! YOU SAID THAT HE WOULD BE WELL LOOKED AFTER BY THOSE MUGGLES!” She yelled.
Everyone else’ protests had died down as they watched the two Professor’s yell at the Headmaster.
“Harry, why didn’t you say anything?” Hermione asked him, taking advantage of the break.
“It never really came up. Besides, it wasn’t for much longer.” Harry answered. By that time, Dumbledore had said something that seemed to have placated Remus and McGonagall enough for them to sit down, but both were still shooting glares at the headmaster every so often.
When he was dressed he went down the hall into the kitchen. The table was almost hidden beneath all Dudley's birthday presents. It looked as though Dudley had gotten the new computer he wanted, not to mention the second television and the racing bike. Exactly why Dudley wanted a racing bike was a mystery to Harry, as Dudley was very fat and hated exercise -- unless of course it involved punching somebody.
“He’d had better not mean you,” Ginny said.
Dudley's favorite punching bag was Harry,
Ginny started muttering what sounded like various curses under her breath.
but he couldn't often catch him. Harry didn't look it, but he was very fast.
Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age.
Remus shook his head. “No that’s just the way your father was. He didn’t really fill out until about our sixth year. I think that helped his chances with Lily.”
“So they were both scrawny gits?” Fred asked and Remus chuckled but nodded.
He looked even smaller and skinnier than he really was because all he had to wear were old clothes of Dudley's, and Dudley was about four times bigger than he was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes.
“Just like James, except for the eyes, Lily’s eyes,” Remus sighed, thinking back on his brother and sister.
He wore round glasses held together with a lot of Scotch tape
“Why?” Ron asked him.
because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose.
The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a bolt of lightning.
“You liked it?” Neville asked curiously. As long as he had known Harry, he seemed to hate the scar.
“Yeah, but that was before I knew what it represented. At the time, I liked it because it made me different.”
He had had it as long as he could remember, and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had gotten it.
"In the car crash when your parents died," she had said. "And don't ask questions."
“Car crash?” Remus asked. His hands were clenched and it appeared that he was speaking through gritted teeth. “They didn’t even tell you how your parents died?”
Don't ask questions -- that was the first rule for a quiet life with the Dursleys.
“But how were you supposed to learn?” Luna asked.
“I think the point was so that I wouldn’t,” Harry mused.
Uncle Vernon entered the kitchen as Harry was turning over the bacon.
"Comb your hair!" he barked, by way of a morning greeting.
About once a week, Uncle Vernon looked over the top of his newspaper and
shouted that Harry needed a haircut. Harry must have had more haircuts than the rest of the boys in his class put together, but it made no difference, his hair simply grew that way --all over the place.
“Curse of the Potter’s that is,” Remus said nodding at Harry’s unruly black hair. He noticed that Ginny too was staring at Harry. “That and marrying red heads,” he added under his breath and Hermione smirked.
Harry was frying eggs by the time Dudley arrived in the kitchen with his
mother. Dudley looked a lot like Uncle Vernon. He had a large pink face, not much neck, small, watery blue eyes, and thick blond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head. Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel -- Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.
“We’ll corrupt you yet!” Fred said in between fits of laughter.
“Yeah, by the time we’re done with you, you might be worthy of the Mauraders!” George added.
Remus leaned over to Harry. “You never told them?” He asked in a whisper.
Harry shook his head. “To be honest, it slipped my mind.”
Harry put the plates of egg and bacon on the table, which was difficult as there wasn't much room. Dudley, meanwhile, was counting his presents. His face fell.
"Thirty-six," he said, looking up at his mother and father. "That's two less than last year."
“Spoiled brat,” Professor Sprout muttered to McGonagall who nodded in agreement.
"Darling, you haven't counted Auntie Marge's present, see, it's here under this big one from Mommy and Daddy."
"All right, thirty-seven then," said Dudley, going red in the face.
Harry, who could see a huge Dudley tantrum coming on, began wolfing down his bacon as fast as possible in case Dudley turned the table over.
“Smart thinking,” Ron said seriously while the rest of the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione all rolled their eyes. Ron and his stomach.
Aunt Petunia obviously scented danger, too, because she said quickly, "And we'll buy you another two presents while we're out today. How's that, popkin? Two more presents. Is that all right?''
Dudley thought for a moment. It looked like hard work. Finally he said slowly, "So I'll have thirty ... thirty..."
“He can’t even do simple math!” Flitwick exclaimed.
"Thirty-nine, sweetums," said Aunt Petunia.
"Oh." Dudley sat down heavily and grabbed the nearest parcel. "All right then."
Uncle Vernon chuckled. "Little tyke wants his money's worth, just like his father. 'Atta boy, Dudley!" He ruffled Dudley's hair.
“Again, he is encouraging that?” Sprout asked out loud.
At that moment the telephone rang and Aunt Petunia went to answer it while Harry and Uncle Vernon watched Dudley unwrap the racing bike, a video camera, a remote control airplane, sixteen new computer games, and a VCR. He was ripping the paper off a gold wristwatch when Aunt Petunia came back from the telephone looking both angry and worried.
"Bad news, Vernon," she said. "Mrs. Figg's broken her leg. She can't take him." She jerked her head in Harry's direction.
“Did they always talk about you like that?” Ron asked.
Harry thought about it. “Majority of the time. Though there was a few times when they actually said my name.”
Dudley's mouth fell open in horror, but Harry's heart gave a leap. Every year on Dudley's birthday, his parents took him and a friend out for the day, to adventure parks, hamburger restaurants, or the movies. Every year, Harry was left behind with Mrs. Figg, a mad old lady who lived two streets away. Harry hated it there. The whole house smelled of cabbage and Mrs. Figg made him look at photographs of all the cats she'd ever owned.
“I didn’t know why I was looking at pictures of the same cats every single time.”
"Now what?" said Aunt Petunia, looking furiously at Harry as though he'd planned this. Harry knew he ought to feel sorry that Mrs. Figg had broken her leg, but it wasn't easy when he reminded himself it would be a whole year before he had to look at Tibbles, Snowy, Mr. Paws, and Tufty again.
“Harry,” Hermione sighed in exasperation.
“Can you blame me?” Harry asked defensively and Hermione reluctantly shook her head.
"We could phone Marge," Uncle Vernon suggested.
"Don't be silly, Vernon, she hates the boy."
“The feeling’s mutual,” Harry said.
“Wasn’t she the one –” Ron began but Harry cut him off.
“We’ll get to that.”
The Dursleys often spoke about Harry like this, as though he wasn't there -- or rather, as though he was something very nasty that couldn't understand them, like a slug.
"What about what's-her-name, your friend -- Yvonne?"
"On vacation in Majorca," snapped Aunt Petunia.
"You could just leave me here," Harry put in hopefully (he'd be able to watch what he wanted on television for a change and maybe even have a go on Dudley's computer).
“Nice try Harry,” Ginny told him.
Aunt Petunia looked as though she'd just swallowed a lemon.
“So her normal expression then,” Snape said, a little bit louder than he thought. He couldn’t believe that Potter hadn’t had the spoiled life he had imagined… In fact, Potter’s childhood almost reminded him of his own, and that was not a good thing.
"And come back and find the house in ruins?" she snarled.
"I won't blow up the house," said Harry, but they weren't listening.
"I suppose we could take him to the zoo," said Aunt Petunia slowly, "...and leave him in the car...."
“That’s illegal!” Hermione said.
“He’s not a dog!” Neville said at the same time.
"That car's new, he's not sitting in it alone...."
Dudley began to cry loudly. In fact, he wasn't really crying -- it had been years since he'd really cried -- but he knew that if he screwed up his face and wailed, his mother would give him anything he wanted.
Everyone burst into laughter after that one. And just when the laughter would stop, one of the children would look at another and it would begin again. Finally, the calmed down enough for McGonagall to continue.
don't cry, Mummy won't let him spoil your special day!" she cried, flinging her arms around him.
“Did they fit?” Ron asked.
“It was only around his neck, and it was pretty close,” Harry informed him.
"I... don't... want... him... t-t-to come!" Dudley yelled between huge, pretend sobs. "He always sp- spoils everything!" He shot Harry a nasty grin through the gap in his mother's arms.
Just then, the doorbell rang -- "Oh, good Lord, they're here!" said Aunt Petunia frantically -- and a moment later, Dudley's best friend, Piers Polkiss, walked in with his mother. Piers was a scrawny boy with a face like a rat. He was usually the one who held people's arms behind their backs while Dudley hit them. Dudley stopped pretending to cry at once.
Half an hour later, Harry, who couldn't believe his luck, was sitting in the back of the Dursleys' car with Piers and Dudley, on the way to the zoo for the first time in his life.
“Really?” Hermione asked sadly, and she sighed when Harry nodded.
His aunt and uncle hadn't been able to think of anything else to do with him, but before they'd left, Uncle Vernon had taken Harry aside.
"I'm warning you," he had said, putting his large purple face right up close to Harry's, "I'm warning you now, boy -- any funny business, anything at all -- and you'll be in that cupboard from now until Christmas."
Remus growled. “He didn’t.”
“Relax Remus, most of the things he said were empty threats.” Harry tried to reassure his ‘uncle’ but Remus caught the almost in Harry’s statement.
"I'm not going to do anything," said Harry, "honestly…”
But Uncle Vernon didn't believe him. No one ever did.
The problem was, strange things often happened around Harry and it was just no good telling the Dursleys he didn't make them happen.
Once, Aunt Petunia, tired of Harry coming back from the barbers looking as though he hadn't been at all, had taken a pair of kitchen scissors and cut his hair so short he was almost bald except for his bangs, which she left "to hide that horrible scar." Dudley had laughed himself silly at Harry, who spent a sleepless night imagining school the next day, where he was already laughed at for his baggy clothes and taped glasses. Next morning, however, he had gotten up to find his hair exactly as it had been before Aunt Petunia had sheared it off He had been given a week in his cupboard for this, even though he had tried to explain that he couldn't explain how it had grown back so quickly.
“Cutting the hair never works. It’s like a hedge,” Remus said in a mock wise tone.
Another time, Aunt Petunia had been trying to force him into a revolting old sweater of Dudley's (brown with orange puff balls)
Nearly all the witches winced at the description of the sweater.
-- The harder she tried to pull it over his head, the smaller it seemed to become, until finally it might have fitted a hand puppet, but certainly wouldn't fit Harry. Aunt Petunia had decided it must have shrunk in the wash and, to his great relief, Harry wasn't punished.
“Good.” Ginny said and everyone nodded their agreement.
On the other hand, he'd gotten into terrible trouble for being found on the roof of the school kitchens. Dudley's gang had been chasing him as usual when, as much to Harry's surprise as anyone else's, there he was sitting on the chimney. The Dursleys had received a very angry letter from Harry's headmistress telling them Harry had been climbing school buildings. But all he'd tried to do (as he shouted at Uncle Vernon through the locked door of his cupboard) was jump behind the big trash cans outside the kitchen doors. Harry supposed that the wind must have caught him in mid- jump.
“Harry…you apparated,” Hermione said in a faint voice.
“No, I think I just flew,” Harry mused.
Petunia should have known that was accidental magic, after all, Lily did nearly the same thing, Snape thought.
But today, nothing was going to go wrong. It was even worth being with Dudley and Piers to be spending the day somewhere that wasn't school, his cupboard, or Mrs. Figg's cabbage-smelling living room.
While he drove, Uncle Vernon complained to Aunt Petunia. He liked to complain about things: people at work, Harry, the council, Harry, the bank, and Harry were just a few of his favorite subjects.
“Wow Harry, he sure loves to talk about you!” George beamed.
This morning, it was motorcycles.
"... roaring along like maniacs, the young hoodlums," he said, as a motorcycle overtook them.
“I had a dream about a motorcycle," said Harry, remembering suddenly. "It
There was a collective groan.
“Harry, why cant you keep you mouth shut?” Hermione moaned.
“Because otherwise he wouldn’t be Harry?” Ron guessed than shrank back at the look his best friend sent him.
Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a mustache: "MOTORCYCLES DON'T FLY!"
“Well you see Vernon, perhaps in your crazed mind they don’t –” Fred said.
“ – but here in the real world,” George continued.
“They do!” They finished together.
Dudley and Piers sniggered.
“I know they don't," said Harry. "It was only a dream."
But he wished he hadn't said anything. If there was one thing the Dursleys hated even more than his asking questions, it was his talking about anything acting in a way it shouldn't, no matter if it was in a dream or even a cartoon -- they seemed to think he might get dangerous ideas.
“No, you do that on your own,” Ron said. Hermione nodded and Remus looked at her.
“Do I want to know?” He asked.
She shook her head. “But you’ll find out.”
It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded with families. The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice pop. It wasn't bad, either, Harry thought, licking it as they watched a gorilla scratching its head who looked remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn't blond.
Fred and George laughed at that and had a spark in their eyes that made Harry think there would be a new prank coming soon.
Harry had the best morning he'd had in a long time. He was careful to walk a little way apart from the Dursleys so that Dudley and Piers, who were starting to get bored with the animals by lunchtime, wouldn't fall back on their favorite hobby of hitting him. They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbockers
“His what?” Neville asked.
“Muggle treat,” Hermione answered.
glory didn't have enough ice cream on top, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first. Harry felt, afterward, that he should have known it was all too good to last.
After lunch they went to the reptile house. It was cool and dark in there, with lit windows all along the walls. Behind the glass, all sorts of lizards and snakes were crawling and slithering over bits of wood and stone. Dudley and Piers wanted to see huge, poisonous cobras and thick, man-crushing pythons. Dudley quickly found the largest snake in the place. It could have wrapped its body twice around Uncle Vernon's car and crushed it into a trash can -- but at the moment it didn't look in the mood. In fact, it was fast asleep.
Dudley stood with his nose pressed against the glass, staring at the
glistening brown coils.
"Make it move," he whined at his father. Uncle Vernon tapped on the glass, but the snake didn't budge.
"Do it again," Dudley ordered. Uncle Vernon rapped the glass smartly with his knuckles, but the snake just snoozed on.
"This is boring," Dudley moaned. He shuffled away.
Harry moved in front of the tank and looked intently at the snake. He
wouldn't have been surprised if it had died of boredom itself – no company except stupid people drumming their fingers on the glass trying to disturb it all day long. It was worse than having a cupboard as a bedroom, where the only visitor was Aunt Petunia hammering on the door to wake you up; at least he got to visit the rest of the house.
“That is a very optimistic way of looking at it Harry,” Luna said and most people looked around, having forgotten about her.
The snake suddenly opened its beady eyes. Slowly, very slowly, it raised its head until its eyes were on a level with Harry's.
“You do know that snakes don’t have eyelids?” Hermione asked.
“Actually, they have a film protecting their eyes which does occasionally move,” Remus corrected causing people to look at him. “What?” He asked and they all shook their heads.
Harry stared. Then he looked quickly around to see if anyone was watching. They weren't. He looked back at the snake and winked, too.
“Harry, you are not supposed to wink back at a snake,” Ginny groaned.
The snake jerked its head toward Uncle Vernon and Dudley, then raised its eyes to the ceiling. It gave Harry a look that said quite plainly:
"I get that all the time.”
"I know," Harry murmured through the glass, though he wasn't sure the snake could hear him. "It must be really annoying."
“And now you’re talking to it. Didn’t you find that weird at all?” Ginny continued.
Harry shrugged. “I was ten, lonely, and used to weird stuff happening.”
The snake nodded vigorously.
"Where do you come from, anyway?" Harry asked.
The snake jabbed its tail at a little sign next to the glass. Harry peered at it.
Boa Constrictor, Brazil.
"Was it nice there?"
The boa constrictor jabbed its tail at the sign again and Harry read on: This specimen was bred in the zoo. "Oh, I see -- so you've never been to Brazil?"
“You were talking to a snake about Brazil?” Remus asked faintly. “And you never thought to mention this to anyone?”
“Well I didn’t think it was that weird until people started accusing me of being Slytherin’s heir,” Harry snapped. “Second year.” He said before Remus could ask.
As the snake shook its head, a deafening shout behind Harry made both of
them jump. "DUDLEY! MR. DURSLEY! COME AND LOOK AT THIS SNAKE! YOUWON'T BELIEVE WHAT IT'S DOING!"
Dudley came waddling toward them as fast as he could.
Fred and George snickered.
"Out of the way, you," he said, punching Harry in the ribs. Caught by surprise, Harry fell hard on the concrete floor. What came next happened so fast no one saw how it happened -- one second, Piers and Dudley were leaning right up close to the glass, the next, they had leapt back with howls of horror.
Harry sat up and gasped; the glass front of the boa constrictor's tank had vanished. The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly, slithering out onto the floor. People throughout the reptile house screamed and started running for the exits.
As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, "Brazil, here I come.... Thanksss, amigo."
The keeper of the reptile house was in shock.
"But the glass," he kept saying, "where did the glass go?"
The zoo director himself made Aunt Petunia a cup of strong, sweet tea while he apologized over and over again. Piers and Dudley could only gibber. As far as Harry had seen, the snake hadn't done anything except snap playfully at their heels as it passed, but by the time they were all back in Uncle Vernon's car, Dudley was telling them how it had nearly bitten off his leg, while Piers was swearing it had tried to squeeze him to death. But worst of all, for Harry at least, was Piers calming down enough to say, "Harry was talking to it, weren't you, Harry?"
Again there was a collective groan from everyone, minus the Ministry officials who were mostly upset that so far this book had done nothing but prove Potter actually had something to admire, not that they would admit that.
Uncle Vernon waited until Piers was safely out of the house before starting on Harry. He was so angry he could hardly speak. He managed to say, "Go -- cupboard -- stay -- no meals," before he collapsed into a chair, and Aunt Petunia had to run and get him a large brandy.
Harry lay in his dark cupboard much later, wishing he had a watch. He didn't know what time it was and he couldn't be sure the Dursleys were asleep yet. Until they were, he couldn't risk sneaking to the kitchen for some food.
“Smart.” McGonagall said and she gave Harry a rare smile, although it was a rather tight one.
He'd lived with the Dursleys almost ten years, ten miserable years, as long as he could remember, ever since he'd been a baby and his parents had died in that car crash. He couldn't remember being in the car when his parents had died. Sometimes, when he strained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came up with a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burning pain on his forehead.
“That’s more than you should have to remember,” Remus said sadly and Harry shifted uncomfortably, thinking about what they would say when they reached third year and heard what he did whenever a Dementor was near.
This, he supposed, was the crash, though he couldn't imagine where all the green light came from. He couldn't remember his parents at all. His aunt and uncle never spoke about them, and of course he was forbidden to ask questions. There were no photographs of them in the house.
When he had been younger, Harry had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away, but it had never happened;
“Believe me Harry, I tried,” Remus said sadly. “If it wasn’t for some rather ridiculous laws –” He glared at the Ministry representatives, particularly Umbridge, “I would have taken you away from there.”
“Thanks Remus,” Harry said, giving the man a grateful smile.
the Dursleys were his only family. Yet sometimes he thought (or maybe hoped) that strangers in the street seemed to know him. Very strange strangers they were, too. A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowed to him once while out shopping with Aunt Petunia and Dudley.
“Diggle,” McGonagall sighed.
After asking Harry furiously if he knew the man, Aunt Petunia had rushed them out of the shop without buying anything. A wild-looking old woman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus. A bald man in a very long purple coat had actually shaken his hand in the street the other day and then walked away without a word. The weirdest thing about all these people was the way they seemed to vanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look.
“Of course, they didn’t want to be caught.” Ron said.
At school, Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley's gang hated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and broken glasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley's gang.
“That’s the end of the chapter.” McGonagall said, closing the book after marking the page. “Who would like to continue?”
“I will!” Flitwick said in his high voice. He levitated the book down the table to where he was sitting before settling down in his chair.