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.

Harry Age 10, by Chantelle

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.


The Vanishing Glass, by Hala Zabaneh

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 mneomosyne

Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.


Harry Frying Bacon, by Tealin Raintree

Harry was frying eggs by the time Dudley arrived in the kitchen….


Dudley and Harry, by MartinTenbones

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.


The Vanishing Glass, by NicoPony

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 Vanishing Glass, by Keith James

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.


Budding Parseltongue, by Tealin Raintree

“Where do you come from, anyway?” Harry asked.


The Vanishing Glass, by FrizzyHermione

As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, “Brazil, here I come…. Thanksss, amigo.”


Lonely, by Chantelle

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

If Only, by FrizzyHermione


28 Responses to “The Vanishing Glass”

  1. I never thought about the “find the house in ruins?” part. Good point.

  2. mneomosyne’s cupboard under the stairs is exactly how I imagine it.

  3. Always loved mneomosyne’s art! You know, many people have pointed that Petunia believed she was doing what was good for Harry: trying to deny the magic in him she was keeping him safe… she did have a way to show her love, didn’t she?

  4. I have always wondered what kind of care he received, and where he slept before he was older. A one-year-old baby need more care than just sticking him into a closet if he is going to stay alive. Any thoughts?

  5. The story mentions several wizards recognizing Harry (shaking his hand, waving, etc.) and then disappearing (but I’m sure we can take this to mean disapparating). I’ve always been a little curious–if Harry’s location is so well-guarded, how does the wizarding world stop wizards from completely paparazzi-ing his home once these other wizards ‘accidentally’ happen upon him?

    Pam: I’ve wondered that, too! I can’t think of anything except her completely doting on Dudley and leaving Harry in a bassinet with a pacifier (binky). And she can’t have ignored him for too long as a baby or he would have cried and, while she seems to be able to tolerate whatever Dudley dishes out, she wouldn’t have wanted ANOTHER baby crying.

  6. The last fanfart piece by FrizzyHermione was lovely! And I never saw connection with Petunia saying, ‘and find the house in ruins?’ – that was well spotted.

  7. I remember I had this brilliant theory after book 4. I thought Nagini was the boa constrictor Harry released from the zoo and the snake would turn on Voldemort when it realized Harry was the person who set her free. But . . . . no. Didn’t happen. :)

  8. Roonit, I like that theory!

  9. Considering the level of neglect Harry endures, I think it is amazing that he ever was fitted for glasses. Are eye tests mandatory at British primary schools?

  10. Going back and rereading the books again, I was struck by a sudden thought as I read this: “Harry got slowly out of bed and started looking for his socks. He found a pair under his bed and, after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on.” Isn’t it amazing, that with the cleaning that Aunt Petunia does at all times, cleaning even in her nightdress and housecoat before she goes to bed, that there are SPIDERS in her closet? Granted, Harry lives there so she probably doesn’t care as long as Dudders doesn’t go in there, but…who do we know from this series that is friendly with SPIDERS????

    So my sudden thought was, perhaps the spiders were “planted” by Hagrid with Dumbledore’s blessing to watch over Harry and report back somehow. I know it’s never answered in the series, but as spiders come up so frequently, and seeing as Hagrid is friends with acromantulas, maybe it’s one of the ways Dumbledore kept watch over Harry. And it just amazes me that Petunia doesn’t get rid of the spiders in her own home!!!

  11. Jennifer C. that is a brilliant theory!

  12. Natalia, all of the people who Harry recalls meeting or encountering when he was younger all fit descriptions of people we later find to be members of the Order of the Phoenix; I wouldn’t be at all surprised whether Harry has always had his every move watched by others well before Mrs. Figgs and Mundungus Fletcher. If they were all sent by Dumbledore, though, I can only assume it was by choice they all let themselves be seen…

  13. 1 thing has always struck me about this chapter. Harry says the only thing he really likes about his appearance is the funny shaped scar on his head. 2 things I find intresting are 1: This is his only connection to the magical world. 2: How he would come to loath the scar as he got older.

    I really like Jennifer C’s theory as well. Not so sure of it’s true because the spiders try to kill Harry in book 2. You’d think if they watched over him they wouldn’t want to kill him but maybe it’s just there animal instinct.

    Roonil theory about Nagini. That would have been very ironic to see.

  14. The other i noticed that has not been pointed out, this Brazilian snake, while speaking Parseltongue to Harry says: ‘Thanks AMIGO’ does that mean that while it was born in England it has learnt the English language but may have learnt other languages from other snakes and do snakes from other countries speak Parseltongue but that is translated to the local native language – except with Nagini who is from Algeria who apparently only translates to English! How does this work, it would fascinate me to find out, I mean this snake has an accent even though its never been to its native country but Nagini? No accent AT ALL when she was born in a different country!

  15. That’s brilliant, Emma – what a good catch!

    I’d always assumed that the snake was doing what some human adults do when talking to a child: using the kind of language the child will understand and enjoy. Like a shared joke, almost. All kids know about Portuguese and Spanish speakers saying ‘amigo’ instead of ‘pal’ or ‘buddy’ in books or TV programmes, so whatever it said in Parseltongue would sound like English to Harry, but it would say it in such a way that he’d hear it as if it was the English spoken by, say, a cartoon bandit. Parseltongue with a Portuguese accent! Nagini would never be kind to a child, so she’d speak to everyone in the same way.

    Remember that Harry doesn’t know for a long time (a) that he can understand Parseltongue and (b) that when he speaks to snakes, he can’t be understood by humans, wizarding or otherwise. Nagini, when she’s impersonating Bathilda, only speaks when Harry is alone, so he doesn’t realise it’s Parseltongue – it’s ‘obvious’ that it’s English!

  16. I also noticed with the Parseltongue that while both Voldemort and Harry share this ability there is something weird that is unmentioned about. I’ll try to explain myself clearly because it’s not really straight in my head yet, it just occurred to me.

    Parseltongue is the language of snakes, the Slytherins are often refered to as SNAKES (I’ll use the CAPS when i mean Slytherins) too throughout the book. Voldemort uses his understanding of the SNAKES to play on their greed and fears and he has a great understanding of this side of them.

    On the other hand, by the end of the book series, Harry, the only other snake speaker also is the only one alive who seemingly has a greater understanding of the SNAKES as well but he understands the other side of them, their family needs, (in the case of the Mlafoy’s), the need to save themselves (in the case of Pansy when she tries to get everyone to take him)their loves (in the case of Snape)and Hates (in the case of Voldemort).

    So the Parseltongue has a much greater area of influence than I first thought.

  17. I think it’s a real stretch to imagine the spiders in Harry’s cupboard as guardians sent by Hagrid. I think it more likely that Petunia just didn’t care about the state of a place that couldn’t be seen by visitors and therefore wasn’t going to impress or disgust anyone – her fastidiousness is rooted in the need to present order and normalcy in her home, not out of any sensible desire for her home to be clean.
    I also think that Harry would have been fitted for glasses because his eyesight was really so bad that it would have been noticed by teachers and other adults that he was having trouble, and Vernon and Petunia always stopped short in their neglect of Harry of bringing attention to their unusual behaviour. Above all, their concern was appearing normal.
    It’s interesting to consider Harry’s ability to understand snakes on the metaphorical level of his empathy for Slytherins, and the way he will come to understand and sympathize with Malfoy and Snape. That’s really cool!

  18. Just found this website, its really great, had not thought of alot of the small details in the book. So decided to re read them. While reading this chapter I was woundering what everyone else thought of p24 where Harry was trying to get away from Dudley and ended up on the roof of the school… In the book it says ‘Harry supposed that the wind must have caught him in mid-jump.’

    Could he have disapperated onto the roof?

  19. I wonder how much Vernon makes working at Grunnings since he and Petunia already bought Dudley 36 presents not counting the one from Marge and the two they plan on buying for Dudley later since I don’t remember Petunia having a job.

  20. I agree with gobi12 – it’s hard to imagine the spiders as guardians. I do think that Dumbledore kept an eye on Harry – but as it is later described he mainly uses witches and wizards for this purpose i.e. Arabella Figg.

    As for LillyPinks comment: I never really understood that part. Apparition is difficult magic, which is not to be tried until the age of 16 (and even then it is not taught by a teacher, but by an expert). To me apparition just doesn’t seem like an uncontrolled outburst of magic. However, I don’t know how else he ended up on the roof.

  21. I think he apparated. He was determined to get away from them and probably subconsciously thought he would be out of their reach on the roof. He would also have had to turn to go behind the bins so there’s the turn which is usually required. So he had determination and destination but not deliberation. However, as with many young wizards, I think he was able to do it even though he didn’t realise what he was doing. Perhaps he subconsciously thought about doing it which was enough for him to actually do it.

  22. On “Something to Remember”: I think this is a fine touch of Rowling’s. She sets up the stage for Harry being a Parseltongue, which will eventually turn out to be one of the signs that he’s one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. But in this scene, she makes it look as if it’s just part of Harry’s wizarding abilities manifesting itself, like making the glass disappear or growing his hair back. So we come to the end of the book believing that the question “How could Harry talk to the snake?” has been answered, and only when we read the next book do we discover that there was something deeper at work.

  23. LillyPink and Amy, I’m much more rather inclined to believe he unintentionally and unconsciously levitated himself to the roof (quickly, it seems). I don’t know… it’s what occurred to me upon reading it. Plus, Apparition for first-timers seems to be an uncomfortable experience and what Dumbledore later says as “takes quite some time getting used to”. The ten-year-old Harry here surely must have remembered experiencing such an unpleasant sensation, if he did Apparate. Anyway, he does think that the “wind had caught him in mid-jump”, so surely, he must have levitated himself without knowing he did so.

    Funny how at an early age, Dudley already loves punching Harry. Later on, we’ll see how boxing will help control Dudley’s weight problem. :)

  24. May good point about apparating being uncomfortable, i had forgotton that. But i didnt think there was such a thing as levitating? Has anyone else done it in the book and i have just forgotton about it?

  25. The Wingardium Leviosa thing acts to levitate stuff, doesn’t it? Makes stuff hover. I dunno… with Harry’s magic being unstable at such an early age, he might not have needed to recite the spell, in order to “magically” appear atop the roof in the blink of an eye.

  26. Harry Potter had a scar from when Voldemart tried to kill him. Why did Voldemort try to kill Harry? My favourite part of chapter two was when Harry used magic to make the glass disappear and made Dudley fall in where the snake was that he let free to go to Brazil, its home.

  27. LillyPunk,
    Yes, I do think we have seen someone levitate. Pre-Hogwarts Lily seems to do so. She had jumped off a swing, “and flown into the air, quite literally flown…staying up far too long, landing far too lightly.” (DH23)

    Harry seems to inherited that bit of magic from his mother.

  28. I always wondered it the spiders in the cupboard were attracted there by Harry’s accidental magic because he was lonely. I mean, I’ve heard of people feeling comforted by ants in a prison cell, so why not spiders in Durzkaban?

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