HP Re-read: 1.2 The Vanishing Glass

OK, onto the next chapter. Quite frankly, there’s really not much to discuss in The Vanishing Glass other than what the actual fuck the Dursleys are the worst holy shit! >.<

It’s ten years later and we find Harry sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs.

I know “The Cupboard Under the Stairs” has become a rather popular snippet within the HP realm, but realistically, I’m pretty sure keeping a freakin’ human child in there warrants a lawsuit. Not to mention Harry was immensely neglected – both emotionally and physically.

When I was little we didn’t have a cupboard under the stairs. We had stairs in the house I grew up in, but there was no room nor cupboard under it – just space allocated for storing random stuff. So when I saw the movie adaptation of Sorcerer’s Stone, I remember thinking “Oh cool, Harry’s neat little hideout.”

Umm no.

I don’t remember what younger me thought about a 10-year-old child sleeping in a spider-infested, dark, little room. I suppose something along the lines of “Uhh, the neighbors should probably call Bantay Bata, which is somewhat the equivalent of CPS in the Philippines.

I was cutting Vernon Dursley some slack – given his reaction to the oddities around him in chapter 1. I called his behavior normal and human. But this chapter pretty much erases any compassion I had towards the Dursleys.

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.

“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 14 good one. There had been a flying motorcycle in it. He had a funny feeling he’d had the same dream before.

The Dursleys like to pretend Harry doesn’t exist. And if or when they do need to recognize his existence, they pretty much treat him like vermin. Dudley is such an abhorrent kid and Petunia and Vernon are utterly abusive.

Harry wakes up to Dudley’s birthday in the beginning of the chapter. He makes breakfast while Dudley unwraps piles of presents. “36? 36? But last year I had 37!” Dudley, a friend, and his parents are going to the zoo for his birthday. No one was available to look after Harry while the Dursleys are out, so they end up taking Harry along with them. They are at the reptile house and Harry talks to one of the snakes behind the glass encasing. (Yes, like holds an actual conversation with a reptile.) Dudley and his friend, Piers notice this and shoves Harry out of the way to look at the snake behind the glass. All of a sudden, the glass vanishes and the snake breaks free. Dudley and Piers reveal to Vernon that Harry was talking to the snake. Harry gets in major trouble for it.

We get brief overviews of Harry exhibiting magic without meaning to: his hair growing overnight, an ugly hand-me-down sweater shrinking so he doesn’t have to wear it and be made fun of, jumping on top of the school roof, making window glasses vanish, talking to snakes. I wonder what the Ministry of Magic’s stance on this is. What if Harry accidentally harms the Dursleys without meaning to because of magic he isn’t aware he had? Does the Ministry cover or clean up underage magic that goes too far?

Speaking of accidental underage magic, I wonder what kinds of magic other young Muggleborns like Hermione Granger and Dean Thomas (and even Lily Potter) were exhibiting before they got accepted into Hogwarts? Tom Riddle was terrorizing and tormenting other children in the orphanage he grew up in before Dumbledore came along and revealed to him that he’s a wizard.

Also, I would like to talk about Parseltongue AKA Talking to Snakes. We think that oh, since Harry is showing all these other magical abilities, conversing with animals must be normal. 

Nope.

It wasn’t until the second book in the series that it was discussed what the relevance of this ability is to Voldemort. And oh yeah, we won’t know until much later after book 2 that Harry can speak to snakes because there is a freakin’ piece of Voldemort’s soul that lives within him.

This just goes to show how exceptional J.K. Rowling’s style of writing is. In the first two chapters, she was able to scatter these tiny details that hold such deep and meaningful significance within the Harry Potter realm.

This chapter shows how deplorable the Dursleys are. Beyond that, it conveys one of Harry’s defining traits: his resilience.

Some notes:

  • Mrs. Figgs!  She’ll be more fleshed out in the Order of the Phoenix, but who would have known that this batty cat lady neighbor has been looking out for Harry all this time!
  • It’s quite sad that Harry’s earliest memory was about Voldemort and his parents’ murder.
  • Harry dreams about Sirius’ motorbike!
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