Editor’s Note –
Reading is an art that needs practice to develop. I recently tried to get my brother, a 12-year old, into reading. And there is no better way to understand what you read, I believe, than to write about it. So, here is his version of what he reads, chapter-by-chapter.
Welcome to his reading journey, I hope, it’s a long one!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone / Chapter 1
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley were the residents at No. 4, Privet Drive. Mr. Dursley was the Director of a firm called Grunnings which manufactured drills. He was a big man with a large mustache and a neck that was too short making it hardly visible. Her wife, Mrs. Dursley, was thin and had yellowish hair. Her neck was double the size of a normal person’s neck. She spent most of her time in the garden listening and spying on the neighbors, thanks to her long neck. They also had a son named Dudley who was the apple of their eyes. According to them, there was no other child in the world better than Dudley.
Unfortunately for them, they had a secret. Mrs. Dursley had a sister, Mrs. Potter, but they had not met each other in a long time. Mr. and Mrs. Potter were, for the lack of a better word, undursleyish. They were worried about what their neighbors would think of them if the Potters were to visit them. The Potters also had a son. Mrs. Dursley always wanted to maintain distance from them. She wanted to keep her family, especially her son, Dudley to not get mixed up with Potters’ son.
The story begins with just another day. It was a Tuesday; the sky was a cloudy and dull gray. Mr. Dursley started to get ready for his office and Mrs. Dursley started gossiping. Neither of them noticed the owl passing through their window. Mr. Dursley picked up his briefcase, said goodbye to his family, and left in his car like always at 8:30.
At the corner of the street, he noticed a cat reading a map. He couldn’t believe what he had seen. He looked back again and saw a tabby cat but with no sign of map. Driving around the corner of the street, he looked at the cat through the mirror of his car and saw the cat reading a board. Not reading but looking. Cats can’t read after all.
Stuck in a traffic jam and thinking about his work, he noticed something peculiar. He saw a group of people, not all young, wearing cloaks and whispering about something. He thought that maybe it was a new trend or something. He ignored the weirdness and carried on with his day. Reaching his office, everything was going smoothly as sitting in his office he was blissfully unaware of the flying owls that had caught everyone’s attention on the street until he stepped out for lunch.
He decided to walk to the bakery. He had forgotten about the people wearing cloaks but they appeared again in front of him. He felt irritated as the weirdly-dressed people made him uncomfortable. He heard them whispering about Potters and their son Harry. Even though he decided not to pay attention to any of it, he was finding it hard to concentrate. Things got worse when a stranger hugged him and babbled about You-know-who and muggles.
Driving back home, he saw the same cat that he saw in the morning, now sitting on his garden wall. The cat was sitting like a statue not moving, not even blinking. He tried to scare the cat away, but she didn’t go away. He went inside his home, his mood worse than before, and yet he was determined not to tell his wife about any of the weird stuff. Her wife had a tendency of getting upset about things like this.
He tried to act normal in front of his wife, while his wife, who had a normal day, chatted. It was after he had put his son to bed, that he came down to watch the news. But it just wasn’t his day. He heard about owls flying in daylight and shooting stars on the television. And then there were the whispers. About Potters.
Finally, he decided to ask his wife about her sister. When she denied having talked to her in a long time, Mr. Dursley mentioned the funny things happening all over but his wife didn’t think much of it. She confirmed that Potters had a son named Harry, who was about the same age as their son, Dudley. But he didn’t say anything further about the whole debacle.
As they went to their bedroom, Mr. Dursley looked outside the window and found that the cat was still there. He thought it had something to do with the Potters and their crowd. He hoped dearly to be wrong. He went to sleep, safe in the knowledge that Potters won’t come near them. Potters, after all, knew very well just what Dursleys thought about them and their kind.
Outside their home, the cat sat still until it was midnight. A man appeared on the street and the cat finally twitched seeing him. He was a very old and thin man with silver hair. He wore robes and had a cloak on. A very weird sight for a place like Privet Drive. He had half-moon spectacles over his blue eyes and was called Albus Dumbledore.
He was searching for something when he realized that the cat was watching him. He put-out all the lights in the street with a device that looked like a cigarette lighter. With all the lights gone, he came and sat next to the cat. He addressed the cat as Professor McGonagall. As he turned to look at the cat, there was no cat but a woman sitting in its place. She looked severe, had square glasses, and also had a cloak on.
The Professor and Dumbledore engaged in a conversation. Dumbledore asked the Professor why she chose to stay in Privet Drive all day when she could have been celebrating instead. Professor, however, showed her irritation towards how carelessly the celebrations were going on. The muggles aren’t stupid, they are bound to notice – she told Albus.
They talked about You-know-who, who Albus insisted they call Voldemort. Professor, however, pointed out that people were too afraid of You-know-who to call him Voldemort. Only Albus had it in him to call him that. The Professor further found out that James and Lily Potter were killed by Voldemort the night before in Godric’s Hollow. She also discovered that he wasn’t able to kill Potter’s little son, Harry. Instead, somehow Voldemort’s power broke and he just disappeared. The weird things that Mr. Dursley saw and heard on the news were actually celebrations of Voldemort disappearing. Gone at last.
What baffled both, Albus Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, was how Harry survived and why couldn’t Voldemort kill a little boy. Albus took out his watch and told Professor that Hagrid was late. Upon further questioning, he revealed that he was there to drop Harry under the care of his uncle and aunt. While Professor protested, claiming that the Dursleys were very different from them, Dumbledore countered saying that it was the best place for him to grow in without finding out how famous he is until he was ready to find out.
Professor reluctantly agreed and Hagrid eventually came on a bike (borrowed from a young Sirius Black). The man, Hagrid, was huge, bigger than any man. With him was a little boy, Harry, wrapped in blankets. Asleep and with a scar on his forehead. A scar shaped like a bolt of lightning.
After what seemed like an unwillingness to leave the boy, the three parted leaving the little boy on the front door of Dursleys. With him, they left a letter addressed to the Dursleys explaining his sudden appearance. As the morning came, Mrs. Dursley found Harry and screamed. Beginning of something chaotic.
The little boy, however, was unaware of all these things; of how people were celebrating, of his role in the cause of the celebrations, of muggles, cats turning into humans, and most of all, people secretly toasting to him – To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!