It's ten years later and Harry and Dudley are now preteens. Dudley has become a pampered bully while Harry is unsurprisingly TheUnFavourite. All three Dursleys do their part in making Harry's life unpleasant. He is downtrodden, unloved, and [[CinderellaCircumstances forced to work as a slave]] while Dudley is spoiled rotten. In fact, Harry lives a cupboard under the stairs and apparently only occasionally gets to "visit" the rest of the house. Harry isn't happy, but doesn't really mind too much either, mostly because he's known no different.
The Dursleys have told Harry that his parents died in a car crash, which they also claim is the origin of the scar on his forehead. For reasons Harry doesn't understand, inexplicable things tend to happen around him. He regrew his hair overnight after it was sheared off, caused a sweater to shrink down to hand puppet size, and somehow found himself on the roof of his school. The Dursleys punish Harry severely for these kind of events although he does not understand how they are his fault.
It's Dudley's birthday and his parents are planning to take him and one of his "friends", meaning a member of his gang, on a trip to the zoo. However, [[ChekhovsGunman Mrs. Figg]], the CrazyCatLady who babysits Harry whenever the Dursleys go out to do anything fun, has broken her leg. This forces the Dursleys to bring Harry along for once, [[ThrowTheDogABone meaning he gets to visit the zoo for the first time]]. For Harry, this is a good day. It doesn't last, though. In the reptile house, Dudley is immediately intrigued by a sleeping boa constrictor and gets his father to try to rouse it by rapping on the glass. Harry empathizes with the creature and speaks to it through the glass. Oddly, the snake seems to understand him. There is a commotion and the glass miraculously disappears. Harry thinks he hears the snake actually thank him as it slithers free.
When Uncle Vernon hears Harry was talking to the snake before it was freed, Harry is confined to his cupboard without meals. That night, as Harry wonders if it's late enough to sneak out for food without the Dursleys catching him, he contemplates the hopelessness of his life.
* [[Recap/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenixC2APeckOfOwls Mrs Figg. plays an important role in the early chapters of ''Order of the Phoenix'']], which reveal that she was secretly working for Dumbledore.
* Harry's ability to talk to snakes is first noted here. It is important in the next book, and occasionally in a few later ones.