Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up tofind their nephew on the front step, but Privet Drive had hardlychanged at all. The sun rose on the same tidy front gardens andlit up the brass number four on the Dursleys' front door; it creptinto their living room, which was almost exactly the same as ithad been on the night when Mr. Dursley had seen that fateful newsreport about the owls. Only the photographs on the mantelpiece reallyshowed how much time had passed. Ten years ago, there had been lotsof pictures of what looked like a large pink beach ball wearingdifferent-colored bonnets -- but Dudley Dursley was no longer ababy, and now the photographs showed a large blond boy riding hisfirst bicycle, on a carousel at the fair, playing a computer gamewith his father, being hugged and kissed by his mother. The roomheld no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too. Yet Harry Potter was still there, asleep at the moment, but notfor long. His Aunt Petunia was awake and it was her shrill voicethat 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 kitchenand then the sound of the frying pan being put on the stove. Herolled onto his back and tried to remember the dream he had beenhaving. It had been a good one. There had been a flying motorcyclein it. He had a funny feeling he'd had the same dream before. His aunt was back outside the door. "Are you up yet?" she demanded. "Nearly," said Harry. "Well, get a move on, I want you to look after the bacon. Anddon't you dare let it burn, I want everything perfect on Duddy'sbirthday." Harry groaned. "What did you say?" his aunt snapped through the door. "Nothing, nothing..." Dudley's birthday -- how could he have forgotten? Harry gotslowly out of bed and started looking for socks. He found a pairunder his bed and, after pulling a spider off one of them, put themon. Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairswas full of them, and that was where he slept. When he was dressed he went down the hall into the kitchen. Thetable was almost hidden beneath all Dudley's birthday presents. Itlooked as though Dudley had gotten the new computer he wanted,not to mention the second television and the racing bike. Exactlywhy Dudley wanted a racing bike was a mystery to Harry, as Dudleywas very fat and hated exercise -- unless of course it involvedpunching somebody. Dudley's favorite punching bag was Harry, but hecouldn't often catch him. Harry didn't look it, but he was very fast. Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard,but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. He lookedeven smaller and skinnier than he really was because all he had towear were old clothes of Dudley's, and Dudley was about four timesbigger than he was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair,and bright green eyes. He wore round glasses held together with alot of Scotch tape because of all the times Dudley had punched himon the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearancewas a very thin scar on his forehead that was shaped like a boltof lightning. He had had it as long as he could remember, and thefirst question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia washow he had gotten it. "In the car crash when your parents died," she had said. "Anddon't ask questions." Don't ask questions -- that was the first rule for a quiet lifewith the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon entered the kitchen as Harry was turning overthe bacon. "Comb your hair!" he barked, by way of a morning greeting. About once a week, Uncle Vernon looked over the top of hisnewspaper and shouted that Harry needed a haircut. Harry must havehad more haircuts than the rest of the boys in his class put together, but it made no difference, his hair simply grew thatway -- all over the place. Harry was frying eggs by the time Dudley arrived in the kitchenwith his mother. Dudley looked a lot like Uncle Vernon. He had alarge pink face, not much neck, small, watery blue eyes, and thickblond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head. Aunt Petuniaoften said that Dudley looked like a baby angel -- Harry often saidthat Dudley looked like a pig in a wig. Harry put the plates of egg and bacon on the table, which wasdifficult as there wasn't much room. Dudley, meanwhile, was countinghis presents. His face fell. "Thirty-six," he said, looking up at his mother andfather. "That's two less than last year." "Darling, you haven't counted Auntie Marge's present, see,it's here under this big one from Mommy and Daddy." "All right, thirty-seven then," said Dudley, going red in theface. Harry, who could see a huge Dudley tantrum coming on, beganwolfing down his bacon as fast as possible in case Dudley turnedthe table over. Aunt Petunia obviously scented danger, too, because she saidquickly, "And we'll buy you another two presents while we're outtoday. How's that, popkin? Two more presents. Is that all right'' Dudley thought for a moment. It looked like hard work. Finallyhe said slowly, "So I'll have thirty ... thirty..." "Thirty-nine, sweetums," said Aunt Petunia. "Oh." Dudley sat down heavily and grabbed the nearestparcel. "All right then." Uncle Vernon chuckled. "Little tyke wants his money's worth,just like his father. 'Atta boy, Dudley!" He ruffled Dudley's hair. At that moment the telephone rang and Aunt Petunia went toanswer it while Harry and Uncle Vernon watched Dudley unwrap theracing bike, a video camera, a remote control airplane, sixteennew computer games, and a VCR. He was ripping the paper off a goldwristwatch when Aunt Petunia came back from the telephone lookingboth angry and worried. "Bad news, Vernon," she said. "Mrs. Figg's broken her leg. Shecan't take him." She jerked her head in Harry's direction. Dudley's mouth fell open in horror, but Harry's heart gave aleap. Every year on Dudley's birthday, his parents took him and afriend out for the day, to adventure parks, hamburger restaurants,or the movies. Every year, Harry was left behind with Mrs. Figg, amad old lady who lived two streets away. Harry hated it there. Thewhole house smelled of cabbage and Mrs. Figg made him look atphotographs of all the cats she'd ever owned. "Now what?" said Aunt Petunia, looking furiously at Harry asthough he'd planned this. Harry knew he ought to feel sorry thatMrs. Figg had broken her leg, but it wasn't easy when he remindedhimself it would be a whole year before he had to look at Tibbles,Snowy, Mr. Paws, and Tufty again. "We could phone Marge," Uncle Vernon suggested. "Don't be silly, Vernon, she hates the boy." The Dursleys often spoke about Harry like this, as though hewasn't there -- or rather, as though he was something very nastythat couldn't understand them, like a slug. "What about what's-her-name, your friend -- Yvonne?" "On vacation in Majorca," snapped Aunt Petunia. "You could just leave me here," Harry put in hopefully (he'd beable to watch what he wanted on television for a change and maybeeven have a go on Dudley's computer). Aunt Petunia looked as though she'd just swallowed a lemon. "And come back and find the house in ruins?" she snarled. "I won't blow up the house," said Harry, but they weren'tlistening. "I suppose we could take him to the zoo," said Aunt Petuniaslowly, "... and leave him in the car...." "That car's new, he's not sitting in it alone...." Dudley began to cry loudly. In fact, he wasn't really crying --it had been years since he'd really cried -- but he knew that if hescrewed up his face and wailed, his mother would give him anythinghe wanted. "Dinky Duddydums, don't cry, Mummy won't let him spoil yourspecial day!" she cried, flinging her arms around him. "I... don't... want... him... t-t-to come!" Dudley yelledbetween huge, pretend sobs. "He always sp- spoils everything!" Heshot Harry a nasty grin through the gap in his mother's arms. Just then, the doorbell rang -- "Oh, good Lord, they'rehere!" said Aunt Petunia frantically -- and a moment later, Dudley'sbest friend, Piers Polkiss, walked in with his mother. Piers wasa scrawny boy with a face like a rat. He was usually the one whoheld people's arms behind their backs while Dudley hit them. Dudleystopped pretending to cry at once. Half an hour later, Harry, who couldn't believe his luck, wassitting in the back of the Dursleys' car with Piers and Dudley,on the way to the zoo for the first time in his life. His aunt anduncle hadn't been able to think of anything else to do with him,but before they'd left, Uncle Vernon had taken Harry aside. "I'm warning you," he had said, putting his large purple faceright up close to Harry's, "I'm warning you now, boy -- any funnybusiness, anything at all -- and you'll be in that cupboard fromnow until Christmas." "I'm not going to do anything," said Harry, "honestly.. But Uncle Vernon didn't believe him. No one ever did. The problem was, strange things often happened around Harry andit was just no good telling the Dursleys he didn't make them happen. Once, Aunt Petunia, tired of Harry coming back from the barberslooking as though he hadn't been at all, had taken a pair of kitchenscissors and cut his hair so short he was almost bald except forhis bangs, which she left "to hide that horrible scar." Dudley hadlaughed himself silly at Harry, who spent a sleepless night imaginingschool the next day, where he was already laughed at for his baggyclothes and taped glasses. Next morning, however, he had gottenup to find his hair exactly as it had been before Aunt Petunia hadsheared it off He had been given a week in his cupboard for this,even though he had tried to explain that he couldn't explain howit had grown back so quickly. Another time, Aunt Petunia had been trying to force him into arevolting old sweater of Dudley's (brown with orange puff balls) --The harder she tried to pull it over his head, the smaller it seemedto become, until finally it might have fitted a hand puppet, butcertainly wouldn't fit Harry. Aunt Petunia had decided it must haveshrunk in the wash and, to his great relief, Harry wasn't punished. On the other hand, he'd gotten into terrible trouble for beingfound on the roof of the school kitchens. Dudley's gang had beenchasing him as usual when, as much to Harry's surprise as anyoneelse's, there he was sitting on the chimney. The Dursleys hadreceived a very angry letter from Harry's headmistress telling themHarry had been climbing school buildings. But all he'd tried todo (as he shouted at Uncle Vernon through the locked door of hiscupboard) was jump behind the big trash cans outside the kitchendoors. Harry supposed that the wind must have caught him in mid-jump. But today, nothing was going to go wrong. It was even worth beingwith Dudley and Piers to be spending the day somewhere that wasn'tschool, his cupboard, or Mrs. Figg's cabbage-smelling living room. While he drove, Uncle Vernon complained to Aunt Petunia. He likedto complain about things: people at work, Harry, the council, Harry,the bank, and Harry were just a few of his favorite subjects. Thismorning, it was motorcycles. "... roaring along like maniacs, the young hoodlums," he said,as a motorcycle overtook them. I had a dream about a motorcycle," said Harry, rememberingsuddenly. "It was flying." Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turnedright around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like agigantic beet with a mustache: "MOTORCYCLES 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 thingthe Dursleys hated even more than his asking questions, it washis talking about anything acting in a way it shouldn't, no matterif it was in a dream or even a cartoon -- they seemed to think hemight get dangerous ideas. It was a very sunny Saturday and the zoo was crowded withfamilies. The Dursleys bought Dudley and Piers large chocolateice creams at the entrance and then, because the smiling lady inthe van had asked Harry what he wanted before they could hurry himaway, they bought him a cheap lemon ice pop. It wasn't bad, either,Harry thought, licking it as they watched a gorilla scratching itshead who looked remarkably like Dudley, except that it wasn't blond. Harry had the best morning he'd had in a long time. He wascareful to walk a little way apart from the Dursleys so thatDudley and Piers, who were starting to get bored with the animalsby lunchtime, wouldn't fall back on their favorite hobby of hittinghim. They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrumbecause his knickerbocker glory didn't have enough ice cream on top,Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finishthe first. Harry felt, afterward, that he should have known it was alltoo good to last. After lunch they went to the reptile house. It was cool and darkin there, with lit windows all along the walls. Behind the glass, allsorts of lizards and snakes were crawling and slithering over bitsof wood and stone. Dudley and Piers wanted to see huge, poisonouscobras and thick, man-crushing pythons. Dudley quickly found thelargest snake in the place. It could have wrapped its body twicearound Uncle Vernon's car and crushed it into a trash can -- but atthe moment it didn't look in the mood. In fact, it was fast asleep. Dudley stood with his nose pressed against the glass, staringat the glistening brown coils. "Make it move," he whined at his father. Uncle Vernon tappedon the glass, but the snake didn't budge. "Do it again," Dudley ordered. Uncle Vernon rapped the glasssmartly with his knuckles, but the snake just snoozed on. "This is boring," Dudley moaned. He shuffled away. Harry moved in front of the tank and looked intently at thesnake. He wouldn't have been surprised if it had died of boredomitself -- no company except stupid people drumming their fingerson the glass trying to disturb it all day long. It was worse thanhaving a cupboard as a bedroom, where the only visitor was AuntPetunia hammering on the door to wake you up; at least he got tovisit the rest of the house. 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. Harry stared. Then he looked quickly around to see if anyone waswatching. They weren't. He looked back at the snake and winked, too. The snake jerked its head toward Uncle Vernon and Dudley, thenraised its eyes to the ceiling. It gave Harry a look that saidquite plainly: "I get that all the time. "I know," Harry murmured through the glass, though he wasn'tsure the snake could hear him. "It must be really annoying." The snake nodded vigorously. "Where do you come from, anyway?" Harry asked. The snake jabbed its tail at a little sign next to theglass. Harry peered at it. Boa Constrictor, Brazil. "Was it nice there?" The boa constrictor jabbed its tail at the sign again andHarry 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 Harrymade both of them jump. "DUDLEY! MR. DURSLEY! COME AND LOOK AT THIS SNAKE! YOU WON'TBELIEVE WHAT IT'S DOING!" Dudley came waddling toward them as fast as he could. "Out of the way, you," he said, punching Harry in theribs. Caught by surprise, Harry fell hard on the concrete floor. Whatcame 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'stank had vanished. The great snake was uncoiling itself rapidly,slithering out onto the floor. People throughout the reptile housescreamed 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." The keeper of the reptile house was in shock. "But the glass," he kept saying, "where did the glass go?" The zoo director himself made Aunt Petunia a cup of strong,sweet tea while he apologized over and over again. Piers andDudley could only gibber. As far as Harry had seen, the snakehadn't done anything except snap playfully at their heels as itpassed, 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, whilePiers was swearing it had tried to squeeze him to death. But worstof all, for Harry at least, was Piers calming down enough to say,"Harry was talking to it, weren't you, Harry?" Uncle Vernon waited until Piers was safely out of the housebefore starting on Harry. He was so angry he could hardly speak. Hemanaged to say, "Go -- cupboard -- stay -- no meals," before hecollapsed into a chair, and Aunt Petunia had to run and get him alarge brandy. Harry lay in his dark cupboard much later, wishing he had awatch. He didn't know what time it was and he couldn't be sure theDursleys were asleep yet. Until they were, he couldn't risk sneakingto the kitchen for some food. He'd lived with the Dursleys almost ten years, ten miserableyears, as long as he could remember, ever since he'd been a babyand his parents had died in that car crash. He couldn't rememberbeing in the car when his parents had died. Sometimes, when hestrained his memory during long hours in his cupboard, he came upwith a strange vision: a blinding flash of green light and a burn-ing pain on his forehead. This, he supposed, was the crash, thoughhe couldn't imagine where all the green light came from. He couldn'tremember his parents at all. His aunt and uncle never spoke aboutthem, and of course he was forbidden to ask questions. There wereno photographs of them in the house. When he had been younger, Harry had dreamed and dreamed of someunknown relation coming to take him away, but it had never happened;the Dursleys were his only family. Yet sometimes he thought (or maybehoped) that strangers in the street seemed to know him. Very strangestrangers they were, too. A tiny man in a violet top hat had bowedto him once while out shopping with Aunt Petunia and Dudley. Afterasking Harry furiously if he knew the man, Aunt Petunia had rushedthem out of the shop without buying anything. A wild-looking oldwoman dressed all in green had waved merrily at him once on a bus. Abald man in a very long purple coat had actually shaken his hand inthe street the other day and then walked away without a word. Theweirdest thing about all these people was the way they seemed tovanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look. At school, Harry had no one. Everybody knew that Dudley's ganghated that odd Harry Potter in his baggy old clothes and brokenglasses, and nobody liked to disagree with Dudley's gang.