“The problem was, strange things often happened around Harry and it was just no good telling the Dursleys he didn't make them happen.
Once, Aunt Petunia, tired of Harry coming back from the barbers looking as though he hadn't been at all, had taken a pair of kitchen scissors and cut his hair so short he was almost bald except for his bangs, which she left "to hide that horrible scar."
Harry winced at the memory. He had truly thought he would have to attend school half bald. He shuddered not wanting to think of what would have happened. Then again, it might have been better than the punishment he had received. Draco, on the other hand, smirked at the idea of golden boy looking even more ridiculous than he already did!
“Dudley had laughed himself silly at Harry, who spent a sleepless night imagining school the next day, where he was already laughed at for his baggy clothes and taped glasses.”
Everyone in the room, including Snape who remembered his own baggy clothing, turned to glare at the Dursleys who coward together even more.
“Next morning, however, he had gotten up to find his hair exactly as it had been before Aunt Petunia had sheared it off.”
“Hey, that’s some pretty cool accidental magic,” Tonks called over to a now blushing Harry, “almost like my metamorphic abilities.”
“He had been given a week in his cupboard for this,”
A few people wore shocked expressions but didn’t say anything due to the look now on Harrys face. He was finding this most embarrassing and really hadn’t wanted everyone to know about his childhood, especially not Snape and Malfoy.
“even though he had tried to explain that he couldn't explain how it had grown back so quickly.
Another time, Aunt Petunia had been trying to force him into a revolting old sweater of Dudley's (brown with orange puff balls)”
Dudley winced at the memory of that horrible sweater ignoring the hurt look on his mum’s face.
“-- The harder she tried to pull it over his head, the smaller it seemed to become, until finally it might have fitted a hand puppet, but certainly wouldn't fit Harry. Aunt Petunia had decided it must have shrunk in the wash and, to his great relief, Harry wasn't punished.”
Some laughed at the idea of the now tiny sweater, but others in relief that harry hadn’t been punished.
“On the other hand, he'd gotten into terrible trouble for being found on the roof of the school kitchens. Dudley's gang had been chasing him as usual when, as much to Harry's surprise as anyone else's, there he was sitting on the chimney.”
Ron’s voice trailed off as he slowly looked up at Harry with his mouth slightly open. In fact, this seemed to be the reaction of most of the room, apart from Snape who looked almost bored, and Malfoy who was scowling.
“What?” asked Harry, with a slight note of irritation.
“Harry,” began Dumbledore, “apparition is a sign of a very powerful wizard.”
Harry was slightly confused, “But Sir, I don’t think I apperated, I think I flew.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Sirius gently said. Snape however, was remembering what Lily had done on the swings and knew that it was a possibility. But before he could decide to say something or not, Ron continued to read.
“The Dursleys had received a very angry letter from Harry's headmistress telling them Harry had been climbing school buildings. But all he'd tried to do (as he shouted at Uncle Vernon through the locked door of his cupboard) was jump behind the big trash cans outside the kitchen doors. Harry supposed that the wind must have caught him in mid- jump.”
“Harry, it’s not physically possible-,“ began Hermione.
“Yes I know that now Hermione,” Harry replied in an exasperated voice.
“But today, nothing was going to go wrong.”
Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, Luna and the Weasley twins all burst out laughing at this, whilst Sirius, Remus and McGonagall groaned slightly.
“What?” asked a bewildered Harry.
Finally Neville replied, “Well, it’s not your fault, but when you say something like that, something will always go wrong.”
After Ron had managed to calm down, he began reading again.
“It was even worth being with Dudley and Piers to be spending the day somewhere that wasn't school, his cupboard, or Mrs. Figg's cabbage-smelling living room.”
Remus frowned. Was Harry exaggerating, or had he really never been anywhere else. Judging by the uncomfortable looks on the Dursley’s faces, it was the latter.
“While he drove, Uncle Vernon complained to Aunt Petunia. He liked to complain about things: people at work, Harry, the council, Harry, the bank, and Harry were just a few of his favorite subjects. This morning, it was motorcycles.”
“Wow,” said Fred, “I think he likes to complain about Harry?”
“Really?” replied his twin, “I had no idea!”
"... roaring along like maniacs, the young hoodlums," he said, as a motorcycle overtook them.
I had a dream about a motorcycle," said Harry, remembering suddenly. "It was flying."
Sirius winced, that hadn’t been a good idea to say that.
“Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beet with a moustache: "MOTORCYCLES DON'T FLY!"
Harry turned and gave a pointed look to Vernon which clearly said, ‘who was right?’ He then gave a small smirk when Vernon’s face began turning and interesting shade of purple to match his description in the book.
“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.”
“Yeah,” said Neville sarcastically, rolling his eyes, “how on earth would you get dangerous ideas?”
Harry grinned at him and shrugged innocently.
“It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded with families. The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolate ice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady in the van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry him away, they bought him a cheap lemon ice pop. It wasn't bad, either, Harry thought, licking it as they watched a gorilla scratching its head who looked remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn't blond.”
Dudley sat there with his mouth slightly open. The cheek of his cousin, he didn’t look anything like a gorilla. Petunia and Vernon glared at Harry, how dare he insult their son, after all they had done for him as well!
Between gasps of laughter, George managed to say, “blimey Harry, I never knew you could be so funny!”
“Harry had the best morning he'd had in a long time. He was careful to walk a little way apart from the Dursleys so that Dudley and Piers, who were starting to get bored with the animals by lunchtime, wouldn't fall back on their favorite hobby of hitting him.
Sirius scowled over at Dudley who kept quiet after remembering that this was a mass murdered, the one from the news.
“They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory didn't have enough ice cream on top, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first.
Harry felt, afterward, that he should have known it was all too good to last.
After lunch they went to the reptile house.
Hermione glanced sympathetically at Harry, realizing what was going to happen.
“It was cool and dark in there, with lit windows all along the walls. Behind the glass, all sorts of lizards and snakes were crawling and slithering over bits of wood and stone. Dudley and Piers wanted to see huge, poisonous cobras and thick, man-crushing pythons. Dudley quickly found the largest snake in the place. It could have wrapped its body twice around Uncle Vernon's car and crushed it into a trash can -- but at the moment it didn't look in the mood. In fact, it was fast asleep.
Dudley stood with his nose pressed against the glass, staring at the glistening brown coils.
"Make it move," he whined at his father. Uncle Vernon tapped on the glass, but the snake didn't budge.
"Do it again," Dudley ordered. Uncle Vernon rapped the glass smartly with his knuckles, but the snake just snoozed on.
Dudley paled as he remembered what had happened.
"This is boring," Dudley moaned. He shuffled away.
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 -- no company except stupid people drumming their fingers on the glass trying to disturb it all day long. It was worse than having a cupboard as a bedroom, where the only visitor was Aunt Petunia hammering on the door to wake you up; at least he got to visit the rest of the house.
“Did you just compare yourself to a snake?” Sirius asked slowly.
Harry shrugged in reply and looked pointedly at Ron to keep reading.
“The snake suddenly opened its beady eyes. Slowly, very slowly, it raised its head until its eyes were on a level with Harry's.
Hermione opened her mouth but Harry beat her to it, “Yes Hermione, we know snakes can’t blink, but this one just did.” Then turned away not seeing the indignant look on her face.
“Harry stared. Then he looked quickly around to see if anyone was watching. They weren't. He looked back at the snake and winked, too.
McGonagall groaned and put her head in her hands. In a slightly muffled voice she said, “only you Harry, only you.”
“The snake jerked its head toward Uncle Vernon and Dudley, then raised its eyes to the ceiling. It gave Harry a look that said quite plainly:
"I get that all the time.
"I know," Harry murmured through the glass, though he wasn't sure the snake could hear him. "It must be really annoying."
The snake nodded vigorously.”
“Wait a second,” Remus interrupted, “do you mean that you’re a parselmouth?”
Harry gave a curt not in reply then anxiously glanced around the room. Most people already knew, but Moody was looking at him almost as if he was trying to figure him out. The Dursleys looked horrified and Sirius was grinning at him. A feeling of relief lifted off his chest as he gave Sirius a small smile.
"Where do you come from, anyway?" Harry asked.
The snake jabbed its tail at a little sign next to the glass. Harry peered at it.
Boa Constrictor, Brazil.
"Was it nice there?"
The boa constrictor jabbed its tail at the sign again and Harry read on: This specimen was bred in the zoo. "Oh, I see -- so you've never been to Brazil?"
As the snake shook its head, a deafening shout behind Harry made both of them jump.
"DUDLEY! MR. DURSLEY! COME AND LOOK AT THIS SNAKE! YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT IT'S DOING!"
Dudley came waddling toward them as fast as he could.
"Out of the way, you," he said, punching Harry in the ribs. Caught by surprise, Harry fell hard on the concrete floor.
Mrs Weasley clucked disapprovingly at Dudley’s behaviour whilst McGonagall yet again sent a glare directed at him.
“What came next happened so fast no one saw how it happened -- one second, Piers and Dudley were leaning right up close to the glass, the next, they had leapt back with howls of horror.
Harry sat up and gasped; the glass front of the boa constrictor's tank had vanished.”
Everyone, apart from the obvious started laughing. Even Draco had to hide a small smile.
“Again, that is very powerful magic Harry, you should be proud,” Dumbledore commented, his eyes twinkling. Harry tried to stop himself from blushing and smiled shyly at the compliment.
The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly, slithering out onto the floor. People throughout the reptile house screamed and started running for the exits.
As the snake slid swiftly past him, Harry could have sworn a low, hissing voice said, "Brazil, here I come.... Thanksss, amigo."
“I wonder if he ever made it to Brazil,” Luna said dreamily.
“The keeper of the reptile house was in shock.
"But the glass," he kept saying, "where did the glass go?"
“Poor muggle,” Arthur murmured.
“The zoo director himself made Aunt Petunia a cup of strong, sweet tea while he apologized over and over again. Piers and Dudley could only gibber.”
Dudley scowled as that horrible redheaded family sniggered at him. He would have liked to see them be put face to face with a giant snake that could’ve crushed them to pieces.
“As far as Harry had seen, the snake hadn't done anything except snap playfully at their heels as it passed, but by the time they were all back in Uncle Vernon's car, Dudley was telling them how it had nearly bitten off his leg, while Piers was swearing it had tried to squeeze him to death. But worst of all, for Harry at least, was Piers calming down enough to say, "Harry was talking to it, weren't you, Harry?"
“Git,” muttered Tonks.
“Uncle Vernon waited until Piers was safely out of the house before starting on Harry. He was so angry he could hardly speak. He managed to say, "Go -- cupboard -- stay -- no meals,"
“You can’t punish a child with no meals-“ began a furious McGonagall, but was cut off from her rant by Ron reading.
“before he collapsed into a chair, and Aunt Petunia had to run and get him a large brandy.
Harry lay in his dark cupboard much later, wishing he had a watch. He didn't know what time it was and he couldn't be sure the Dursleys were asleep yet. Until they were, he couldn't risk sneaking to the kitchen for some food.
He'd lived with the Dursleys almost ten years, ten miserable years,”
Sirius muttered some rude words about the Dursley’s under his breath but shut up when Remus clamped a hand over his mouth.
“as long as he could remember, ever since he'd been a baby and his parents had died in that car crash.”
Yet another silence filled the room. Finally Dumbledore broke it by raising an eyebrow and asking the Dursley’s in a cold voice, “did you not read the letter I left you?” A chill seemed to settle over the room causing everyone to shiver. Sirius was sitting there just staring at Harry’s relatives with disbelief written all over his face. In fact, Remus was in a similar position. When it seemed no one was going to say anything else, Ron carried on reading.
“He couldn't remember being in the car when his parents had died. Sometimes, when he strained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came up with a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burning pain on his forehead.”
“You remember that?” questioned Moody. Harry nodded in response. He didn’t feel the need to add on that he could also remember his parents being killed. They would probably find out soon enough anyway.
“This, he supposed, was the crash, though he couldn't imagine where all the green light came from. He couldn't remember his parents at all. His aunt and uncle never spoke about them, and of course he was forbidden to ask questions. There were no photographs of them in the house.”
Ginny looked curiously at Harry, “when did you find out what they looked like?” she asked cautiously.
Harry thought for a moment then replied, “I think it was at Christmas in my first year,” but didn’t elaborate. He had a small smile on his face and it grew when Ginny gave him an encouraging grin.
“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.”
Sirius grew very quiet here and looked almost apologetic.
“Yet sometimes he thought (or maybe hoped) that strangers in the street seemed to know him. Very strange strangers they were, too. A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowed to him once while out shopping with Aunt Petunia and Dudley.”
“I wonder if that was Dedalus Diggle,” McGonagall mused.
“After asking Harry furiously if he knew the man, Aunt Petunia had rushed them out of the shop without buying anything. A wild-looking old woman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus. A bald man in a very long purple coat had actually shaken his hand in the street the other day and then walked away without a word.”
“Sounds like Kingsley,” Tonks laughed.
“The weirdest thing about all these people was the way they seemed to vanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look.”
“That’s a bit rude,” Hermione said with a frown.
“At school, Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley's gang hated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and broken glasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley's gang.”
A slightly awkward silence followed those words in which no one quite knew what to say. In the end Harry sighed and said, “are we going to read this or not?”
“I’ll read if you want,” came a dreamy voice. Everyone looked over at Luna who held out her hand for the book. With a shrug, Ron got up and handed the book to her who flipped to right page and began to read.