Chapter 2: Harry Potter The Vanishing Glass

Synopsis Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass

Ten years have passed since baby → Harry was left with → the Dursleys. The living room is full of pictures of → Dudley, but none of Harry. Harry, who sleeps in a spidery cupboard, is awakened by his → aunt Petunia, who is telling him to cook breakfast. It is Dudley's birthday and the kitchen table is covered with presents. We are told that Dudley enjoys punching Harry but doesn't usually catch him. Harry is described in detail. Dudley comes into the kitchen and almost throws a tantrum because he has fewer presents than the year before.

The Dursleys find out that → Mrs. Figg, the cat-obsessed lady nearby who usually watches Harry while the Dursleys take Dudley on his birthday trip, has broken her leg. They discuss what to do with Harry, and Dudley wails that he doesn't want him to come. Dudley's friend, Piers Polkiss, arrives and because they don't know what else to do with him, Harry gets to come along to the zoo. → Uncle Vernon warns Harry that if anything strange happens, Harry will be in major trouble. (Strange things seem to happen around Harry, and the Dursleys don't believe him when he says he didn't cause them.)
On the way to the zoo, Uncle Vernon becomes angry when Harry mentions he dreamed about a flying motorcycle.

The zoo goes well at first, and Harry even gets some ice cream. When they get to the reptile house, Harry has a conversation with a large boa constrictor. When Dudley pushes Harry out of the way so he can see the snake's strange behavior, the glass enclosing the snake vanishes. The snake slides out, saying that it will go to his natural environment in Brazil and thanking Harry.

In the car, Dudley and Piers greatly exaggerate their encounter with the snake, and when they are home and Piers is gone, Harry is sent to his cupboard by a furious Uncle Vernon. Later, Harry is lying in his cupboard, thinking. The only thing he remembers about his past is a flash of green light and a pain in his forehead. He also remembers how sometimes, when he's out with the Dursleys, strange looking people seem to recognize him.

Greater Picture Harry Potter The Vanishing Glass Chapter 2

The scene with the snake could be construed as a hint of what is to come in the next two chapters. Harry and the snake are in almost the same position, as both are prisoners and are cut off from the world in which they belong: Harry, stuck with the Dursleys, is being prevented from joining the Wizarding world, just as the snake, captive in the zoo, cannot enter the world of the Amazon jungle. Also, both were raised away from their home, and so have no knowledge of their native worlds. And finally, each in turn is released from their prison, and head for an unknown future, somehow believing that it must be better then what they are leaving behind. In this chapter we learn of Harry's → ability to speak to snakes, a fact that will be extremely important in future books.

While it seems that these early signs of magic could be the trigger which sent the active phase of Albus Dumbledore's great plan into action, we must recall that Harry is about to turn 11, and it is in the September after they reach the age of 11 that magical children are invited to attend school. The author has stated that Hogwarts is the only Wizarding school in the UK, thus every magical child will receive the opportunity to attend when he or she reaches 11. Not all children do attend; some, like → Marvolo Gaunt, who we will meet later, likely would not trust the established school system with their children.

Under the pretext of telling us why the Dursleys are afraid to leave Harry home alone, we learn how Harry used his powers before he knew he was a Wizard, basically in self-defense. This story is contrasted in → Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with the story of how the boy → Tom Riddle (later known as → Lord Voldemort) used his powers to terrorize others before he knew he was a wizard. This comparison adds another layer to the good vs. evil theme

Muggles Guide Harry Potter Chapter 1 The Boy Who Lived

Synopsis Chapter 1 The Boy Who Lived

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of → number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

→ Mr Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills. He was a big, beefy man with hardlyany neck, although he did have a very large moustache. → Mrs Dursley was thin and blond and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbours. The Dursleys had a small son called

→ Dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere.

Mr Dursley notices strange events on his way to work: a cat on Privet Drive happens to be reading a map, and people dressed in colourful robes are walking in the streets. Mr Dursley attempts to disregard these oddities. During his lunch break, he sees another group of curiously robed people, and hears mention of the Potters and their son, Harry.

He is reminded of the Dursleys' shameful secret, and the reason why they pretend the Potters don't exist. When Mr Dursley arrives home, he hears reports of unforeseen shooting stars and flocks of owls flying during the daytime. Previously unwilling to discuss the Potters with Mrs Dursley, he finally verifies with her that their nephew's name is Harry. Mr Dursley sleeps uneasily.

Later that night, a mysterious man by the name of → Albus Dumbledore appears in Privet Drive. He removes from his robes a → Put-Outer with which he extinguishes the street lights. Dumbledore addresses the cat which seemed to be reading a map earlier as → Professor McGonagall, prompting the cat to transform into a robed woman. The couple talk about how recent celebrations have left "→ Muggles" inquisitive. Dumbledore confirms with McGonagall that → James and → Lily Potter are dead, and their infant son → Harry was apparently involved in the defeat of their assailant, an entity named "You-Know-Who" or → Voldemort. Harry, according to Dumbledore, is due to arrive at Privet Drive soon by means of someone named → Hagrid.

Hagrid arrives transporting himself and Harry on a flying motorbike. Dumbledore leaves the baby on the doorstep of number four with a letter. McGonagall despairs at the fact that Harry, a definite celebrity, will spend his childhood with such people. Hagrid re-mounts his motorcycle, McGonagall once again becomes a cat, and Dumbledore re-illuminates the streetlights, and they all depart.

Greater Picture Harry Potter Chapter 1 The Boy Who Lived

This chapter provides the framework for the contrast that will be echoed throughout the series between the magical and the mundane. The events that immediately result in Harry's being orphaned are not discussed in this chapter, but are gradually revealed throughout the series. They are included here by way of reference.

Harry Potter is orphaned when the Dark → Lord Voldemort murders his wizarding parents, → Lily and → James Potter. Voldemort breaks into the Potters' house in the village of → Godric's Hollow and duels with James.

Voldemort kills James and attempts to do the same to Lily and Harry. He is successful in killing Lily, ignoring her pleas to spare their lives, but his attempt to kill Harry backfires and Voldemort is apparently killed instead. When Harry is older and, during his first year at Hogwarts, → meets with Voldemort, Voldemort states that Harry's mother need not have died. Lily's sacrificial attempt to save Harry, however, causes the → curse, which Voldemort consequently attempts on Harry, to backfire. This forms a connection between attacker and victim, during which, parts of Voldemort's powers are transferred to the infant, and give Harry a lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead.

The protection that Lily gives her son — which → Albus Dumbledore later explains as her "love" for Harry — destroys Voldemort's physical body and would have killed him completely had it not been for the Dark magic he had been using to split his soul, called → Horcruxes. The downfall of Voldemort renders Harry an extremely popular figure in the wizarding world.

It is entirely possible that, because of the → Fidelius charm that was meant to protect the Potters from Voldemort still being active, Hagrid would have been unable to find the place until one of the parties to the secret was there. We can safely assume that Sirius, as one of James' closest friends, would have been aware of the Potters' location; in fact, he does say, in → Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, that he had seen "the bodies and the destruction" of the house, so he must have known the secret, either before the Fidelius charm was performed, or by → Peter Pettigrew (who we will not meet until → the third book) informing him of it afterwards. It has been conjectured that Hagrid was unable to enter the remains of the house to recover Harry until Sirius appeared on the scene, and it could have been Sirius who actually removed Harry from the wreckage and passed him to Hagrid to carry back to Little Whinging. Hagrid does say, however, in → Chapter 4, that he took Harry from the wreckage himself, so we have to assume either that Hagrid was in on the secret, or else that the Fidelius charm ends automatically when the secret it is designed to protect (in this case, the whereabouts of James and Lily) is no longer operative.

We could speculate as to
Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived 8
which it is, but given that the house is apparently visible to all wizards by the time of → the seventh book, it is most likely that the charm had simply ended with Lily's death. The fact that Sirius had seen "the wreckage" was also thought to be significant; the Killing Curse does not affect things, only people, and so does not leave wreckage. So the house would have been intact when Voldemort died,
giving us a standing house, three dead bodies, and Harry.

Add to this the fact that in → Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort had his wand back, and we are drawn inescapably to the conclusion that someone, most likely Peter Pettigrew, was there with Voldemort, was aware of his downfall, recovered his wand (and perhaps concealed his body), and destroyed the house, either in revenge or in frustration, while leaving Harry untouched, likely out of fear that whatever had felled Voldemort would kill anyone who tried to attack Harry.

We have found out since that the destruction in the house was restricted to the room in which Lily was killed and Harry was sleeping; it is possible that Pettigrew blasted his way out of the house carrying Voldemort's body rather than trying to carry it back down the stairs. The fact that Voldemort, in his memory of that night as viewed in → the seventh book, does not recall Peter accompanying him is inconclusive; Voldemort does not seem to pay much attention to his Death Eaters, unless they are directly in his way.