Chapter Two: The Vanishing Glass
In which we get to know Harry, who has been subjected to a terrible life with the Dursleys and is often punished for making strange things happen, though he can’t imagine how he is doing them …
For someone who has suffered ten years of abuse, Harry is surprisingly normal.
He’s learned not to let the Dursley’s get to him too much. He doesn’t live in fear of what they might do to him next. He has found ways to cope, and just gets on with his life, flying under the radar as much as possible. He doesn’t even seem to get angry at them, although we know that will change in a big way in a couple of years. (Boy, does it EVER.) By the next summer holidays, he will spend his time being depressed and missing his life at Hogwarts terribly, but right now, he doesn’t know any different. He just pulls the spiders off his socks and puts them on.
Dudley’s favourite punch-bag was Harry, but he couldn’t often catch him. Harry didn’t look it, but he was very fast.
I suppose you’d have to be. Poor Harry.
The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning.
It’s interesting that Harry likes his scar at this point. It comes to mean so many things to him over the years—it causes him pain, it’s a focal point for his fame, it’s his point of connection to Voldemort and it’s a constant reminder of the night his parents died. I think this is the only time in the books that he expresses any kind of appreciation for it.
Physically, Harry is the polar opposite to Dudley, and in fact to all of the Dursleys. He is “small and skinny for his age”; he has black hair when all three Dursleys are blonde, and it’s perpetually messy while Dudley’s lies smooth; his eyes are green while Dudley’s a blue. (They must serve as a reminder for Petunia like they do for Snape, by the way—I wonder what she thinks of them?)
Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel – Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.
Oh Harry, I love you. One wonders who he was saying this too? He probably got into a lot of trouble for it. It shows that he’s not afraid to risk getting in trouble to point out the Dursleys’ ridiculousness.
The juxtaposition between spoiled Dudley opening his thirty-seven presents and Harry quietly cooking them breakfast was a powerful one when I was eight. I’m not sure I was even allowed to prepare food when I was that age; housework would have seemed like the worst thing ever to my naïve mind. Furthermore, I couldn’t imagine what I would do with all those presents! We have to remember that this was written in the Nineties, so the new computer, video camera, video recorder and sixteen new video games would have been a HUGE deal.
Now we get another mention of someone who will turn out to be important: Mrs Figg. Knowing what we do about her, it’s sad that Harry “hated it” at her place. Maybe she was oblivious to it, like a lot of old, eccentric women seem to be, but it almost makes me wonder whether Dumbledore was deliberately trying to keep Harry as miserable as possible.
So Harry gets to go with the Dursleys and Piers to the zoo. His excitement is rather endearing, and depressing at the same time.
We get a list of all the unwitting magic Harry has performed over the years: growing back hair overnight, shrinking a jumper, Apparating (presumably) onto the roof after being chased by Dudley’s gang … The sad thing is, the Dursleys know more than Harry does about what he’s doing, but they think they can somehow get him to stop doing it if they punish him enough.
‘I had a dream about a motorbike,’ said Harry, remembering suddenly. ‘It was flying.’
Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turn right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beetroot with a moustache, ‘MOTORBIKES DON’T FLY!’
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.
- Keep your eyes on the road, Vernon. Gosh.
- The “gigantic beetroot with a moustache” line is classic. Somehow I don’t remember this from the last fourteen times I read this book.
- The whole “Don’t ask questions” thing is really sad. It’s part of the Dursleys’ paranoia that Harry will found out about his abilities, but it tells him that the things he really wants to know about (his past and his parents) are unimportant. Later in the chapter it says that Vernon and Petunia never talk about his parents, and there are no photographs of them in the house. That’s pretty messed up for a ten-year-old. How is Harry not completely screwed up?
- Not only that, Vernon isn’t angry because Harry is remembering something from his past, and might realise what is going on. Vernon doesn’t know about Hagrid’s motorbike. He’s just obsessed with normality, full stop. (Incidentally, this is an aspect of his character that isn’t really brought out in the film.)
- “They seemed to think he might get dangerous ideas.” Well done, Harry, that’s exactly what they’re afraid of. If only you knew …
Okay, zoo time. It’s so depressing that Harry is satisfied with his “cheap lemon ice lolly”, and that he has “the best morning he’d had in a long time”. Little kids immediately identify with this kind of treatment. But it’s also interesting that the Dursleys are more worried about appearances than systematic abuse of Harry—when the ice cream lady asks what Harry wants, they give in to avoid looking as though they are mistreating him.
… they watched a gorilla scratching its head and looking remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn’t blond.
I always forget how snarky Harry is at this age. It’s wonderful. Of course, his particular brand of humour is always dark and sarcastic, but in this chapter he just states the truth, and it’s hilarious.
Right, so we all know what happens next. Harry is winked at by a snake (which is hilarious in itself, since snakes are physiologically incapable of moving their eyelids), and accidentally sets it on Dudley and Piers. It’s interesting that, before the glass disappears, this is the only positive experience Harry really has with a snake. They come up a lot in the books, but this is the only time he has a casual chat with one!
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.
Oh Harry, if only you knew what was coming!
Now, for today’s fan art: Dudley and Harry by MartinTenbones.