The Vanishing Glass
chapter two of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
The Dursleys celebrate Dudley’s birthday with a trip to the zoo. They are forced to bring Harry, though, who finds he can talk to the boa constrictor in the reptile house – and before he knows it the snake escapes past the alarmed Dursleys, earning him a long punishment.
Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up to find their nephew on the front step… yet Harry Potter was still there.
He 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.
(by Hala Zabaneh)
Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.
Harry was frying eggs by the time Dudley arrived in the kitchen….
(by Tealin Raintree)
It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded with families…. Harry watched a gorilla scratching its head who looked remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn’t blond.
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.
The snake suddenly opened its beady eyes. Slowly, very slowly, it raised its head until its eyes were on a level with Harry’s. It winked.
(by Keith James)
“Where do you come from, anyway?” Harry asked.
(by Tealin Raintree)
As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, “Brazil, here I come…. Thanksss, amigo.”
When he had been younger, Harry had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away, but it had never happened; The Dursleys were his only family.
about the chapter
Something You May Not Have Noticed
When Harry offers to stay home alone during the day, Aunt Petunia’s response – “And come back and find the house in ruins?” – betrays more than she’s letting on. After all, the last time Harry was in a house by himself, it was after Voldemort tried to kill him – and according to Hagrid, that “house was almost destroyed.” It sounds like Dumbledore told Petunia this story in the letter he left her, and that this is what she’s remembering in her unwillingness to leave Harry home alone.
The Boy Who Lived
It’s funny that for all the Dursleys tried to give Dudley everything they had and deny Harry all they could, it’s Harry that emerges the far better person for it – capable of the enormous amount of empathy he shows the snake locked up in the zoo. Harry’s empathy will be noted by both the powerful and the small throughout his life, as a characteristic that makes him both a “great” and an “unusual wizard.” This kindness will also inspire others to help him on several occasions when he needs it most.
Something to Remember
Among all the other bizarre things that happen to Harry when he’s young, having a conversation with a snake doesn’t seem all that strange, and Harry himself thinks little of it. Several times over the years, however, he’ll learn that this ability carries far more meaning than he ever imagined.
The Final Word
“[Chapter two is] my favourite reading to do from book one – I could do that one in my sleep.”–J.K. Rowling, October 1999