Harry dreaded the few steps he had to take until he turned the doorknob of Number 4 Privet Drive that Tuesday. At 7 years old, his hair already stuck up at weird ends and his arms dangled in the too big jumper he had on. He had his teacher’s note carefully folded into his notebook and he knew he had to have his aunt or uncle sign it. Aunt Petunia was sitting in the living room attached to the phone, and when she saw Harry walk by, she hissed at him and pointed to the kitchen. Harry knew what that meant. He left his schoolbag in his cupboard and hurried to the kitchen to turn the kettle on to fix aunt Petunia’s tea. When everything was ready, he went back to his schoolbag and retrieved his teacher’s note. He set the platter in front of aunt Petunia, who was finally off the phone. She looked him over with pursed lips.
“Well, why are you standing about for?”, she asked. Harry took a deep breath and handed her the note. Aunt Petunia stiffened as she reached out to grab the piece of paper, seeming as if anything coming from Harry would be either riddled with disease or about to explode. She read the words twice before looking over to Harry with a slight smirk on her face.
“It seems your intelligence has peaked, now doesn’t it?”, she whispered. Harry focused his eyes on the immaculate carpet.
“I told you before aunt Petunia, I have difficulty seeing the words written on the books or on the board, they look rather blurry to me.” Aunt Petunia let out a gasp and put down her tea a bit more forcefully than she would normally do.
“Are you talking back to me boy?”, she hissed. Harry retreated a few steps before replying.
“No, I’m just trying to explain why the teacher sent that note saying that I’m not performing well in class.” Petunia let out a derisive snort and sat up straighter.
“It’s not a surprise, really, but you will do whatever you must to keep your grades up, because we will NOT tolerate a school failure in this house.” She signed the note and gave it back, picked up her tea again and turned towards the phone to dial another number, signaling the conversation over. Harry slumped even further down.
“Yes aunt Petunia”, he murmured as he walked back out and into his cupboard to complete his schoolwork.
It wasn’t really his fault, Harry thought, because he was actually one of the brightest in his class when it came to remembering dates or speaking up. It’s just that from his far seat in the classroom he had to squint his eyes to make out what the teachers were writing on the board, and it made him very tired. If he didn’t hunch over his notebooks, his handwriting just came out awful. Harry had mentioned this to his aunt and uncle a few times before, but they had just laughed at him saying that maybe first grade was well above his reach, so he had stopped mentioning it. Now the teacher had noticed too and despite Harry’s insistence that she did not need to write a note, she had demanded to get it back signed by his aunt or uncle. With great effort given the dim light that emanated from the single lightbulb in his cupboard, Harry managed to finish his schoolwork that afternoon.
The next day at school, when Harry handed his teacher the note back, she asked him if there were going to be any changes made at home. He shook his head and went to take his seat, not noticing how his teacher crumpled the note in her hand. At the end of the day, the teacher held him back after everyone had left. Harry was afraid he had done something wrong again, even though he had tried extra hard to read and copy everything from the board as fast as he could. Mrs. Bolt handed him another note and seeing the fear in Harry’s eyes, she was quick to reassure him.
“This one Harry is a little bit lengthier than the last, so that your aunt and uncle can understand that I just want to help you do better. I believe you need glasses Harry, and that’s why you’re having such a hard time completing your work. They have to take you to an optometrist to be fitted for prescription glasses and you will be thriving again in no time.” She smiled at Harry, who was still unsure about what this note would accomplish. Nevertheless, he took it, folded it carefully and went home. This time, he waited until later in the evening to deliver the letter to both aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon. It was after dinner and they were having a nightcap in the living room after tucking Dudley in, so Harry ventured in with the note firmly in his hand. Uncle Vernon looked at him and narrowed his eyes.
“What is it?” Harry walked forward with the note stretched in front of him and handed it over to his uncle.
“My teacher sent this for you.” Aunt Petunia eyed the letter curiously as Vernon unfolded it and they both read it. Their faces were inscrutable as they exchanged a glance. Aunt Petunia raised an eyebrow just a bit, but it seemed to be enough for uncle Vernon. He turned towards Harry again, clutching the note in his hand.
“As if we don’t do enough for you in this house, now you also want glasses? Unacceptable!”, his mustache started to twitch as his tone reached dangerous lows. “If you’re having difficulty reading, it’s your own bloody fault and we will not waste my hard earned money on your or your teacher’s whims! And that’s final”, he finished with a grunt and tossed the note into the fire. Harry waited a moment until they took their eyes off of him before retreating into his cupboard. He felt the tears rising and he slung on his bed and silently cried. Harry didn’t know how to face his teacher the next day or what to say. He supposed he could tell her that the Dursley’s had taken him to the doctor and he had declared Harry to be physically fine, just a bit of a dud. But he liked his teacher very much and did not feel comfortable lying to her.
When he talked to his teacher, Mrs. Bolt listened to Harry’s story without interrupting him and when he was done, she squeezed his shoulder and made him take his seat and that was that. For the rest of the week Harry continued to struggle, but he had gotten quite good at hiding it and now he could sometimes guess what was written on the board so he got his work done faster. That Saturday afternoon, Harry heard the phone ring and aunt Petunia’s voice get all high and proper as it always did when she was talking to a stranger. After the mere minutes of the call, his aunt was banging on his door telling him to get out fast. When Harry arrived at the kitchen, he sensed the anger in the air and thought twice before going through the threshold. Uncle Vernon cleared his throat.
“That was your teacher, saying she’d like us to come in for a chat on Monday regarding you. What. Did. You. Do.” Uncle Vernon’s eyes were shooting daggers at Harry, who frantically searched his memory for anything he may have done to deserve this call. His mind came up empty.
“N-n-nothing uncle Vernon”, he stammered. Aunt Petunia narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips.
“You do understand this is very inconvenient for us both”, Harry nodded because it seemed like the only thing to do.
“I understand, I’m sorry”, he was looking at the floor again, hoping he could avoid any further punishment. Uncle Vernon leaned forward and the seat underneath him creaked menacingly.
“There WILL be consequences for this, boy. You mark my words.” Harry could feel uncle Vernon’s breath in his face because he was so close. After aunt Petunia muttered “out”, Harry walked back to his cupboard as fast as he could without breaking into a run. It wasn’t until he was safely in his bed that he allowed himself to breathe normally again.
Harry didn’t sleep much that weekend because every time he closed his eyes he had an image of his aunt and uncle in a room with his teacher talking about what a waste of space Harry was. When Monday came, Harry was made to wait outside the office while Mrs. Bolt and the Dursleys had their chat. He swung his feet nervously as he felt the minutes tick by. In his mind, the longer they stayed in that room, the longer the punishment he’d have to endure for this would be. After 20 long and seemingly endless minutes, the door creaked open again to reveal a purple faced uncle Vernon and a flushed aunt Petunia, neither of whom gave Harry even the slightest inkling that they knew he was there. Mrs. Bolt however, was smiling and shaking hands and talking about how this was the right thing to do. She looked over at Harry, who stopped his leg swinging in midair, and she beamed at him. When the Dursleys turned around to leave, aunt Petunia hissed at Harry to come along now, and off they went.
No one was talking in the car, and Harry thought it best. He peered out the window at the whirring streets and shops. He didn’t recognize this road and he feared they were taking him somewhere where they could leave him. Maybe another school where he would stay trapped? When they stopped in a busy street, his heart stopped as well. This did not seem like a place for a school. What if it was something worse? Aunt Petunia looked back at him as she unbuckled her seatbelt. “Stay close and do not touch anything.” He nodded as he was let out of the car and he walked half a step behind his aunt and uncle, who turned left suddenly and entered a shop that had many shelfs filled with glasses. A little bell announced their entrance and a bald man in a white robe came out to greet them. Harry hardly heard the words being spoken, as he was looking around mesmerized by his surroundings. There were rows and rows full of glasses in every imaginable color. Then there were sunglasses, some with funny looking patterns. To his right, he saw cases and mirrors everywhere. The bald man motioned for him to follow, and after a small nod and shove from uncle Vernon, Harry followed the man towards the far end of the shop. There was an odd contraption there, and the man sat behind it and asked Harry to sit in front, placing his chin in a cold metal bar. He looked through the machine with his right eye and saw a blurry little red house on top of a green hill. He heard the man’s voice.
“Now hold still please, Harry.” The machine gave an odd sound and the house suddenly came into view for a second before disappearing. The man did the same thing with Harry’s left eye before asking him to turn around and read some letters off the wall, covering one eye with a sort of wooden spoon. Harry could only read the first three rows before stopping and squinting a bit to get the rest. He was afraid he had failed some sort of test, but the man simply smiled and thanked him.
“Now, we’ll put this on and you tell me when the letters start to look a bit sharper.” The man rummaged through some drawers before putting a strange mask on Harry’s head. It was cold and heavy, and he was looking through a pair of glasses that looked nothing like those on the shelves. Harry feared he was going to be made to wear this everywhere, and hoped that wasn’t the case. After tinkering with different knobs on the metal mask, the man seemed satisfied when Harry said that yes, he could indeed see all the letters now. When the man removed the metal mask, Harry felt a bit lightheaded. Even though the mask was very uncomfortable, he had been able to see things more clearly than ever before, and he thought the burden of the mask was well worth the trouble if it meant he could read from afar. The man turned towards aunt Petunia.
“Now he just needs to pick up a pair of frames and we can get started.” Aunt Petunia sighed and turned towards the shelf, asking for prices and looking at the choices. She finally settled for a pair of black round spectacles on the bottom shelf. After uncle Vernon haggled for a bit about the price, he paid for them and the man said it would take a half hour for them to be ready. Uncle Vernon turned towards Harry.
“You sit here and do not move until your aunt and I are back, do you understand me? Not even if there is a fire.” Harry nodded and slumped back in his seat as the Dursleys left the shop. He swung his legs back and forth while he waited.
After about fourty minutes, the Dursleys returned carrying shopping bags. Harry supposed they were for Dudley, since he had long ago stopped hoping to get anything from his aunt and uncle. They talked to the bald man, who handed them a small case and then turned towards Harry. Uncle Vernon shoved the case in his direction.
“Here. And don’t bloody lose them because I won’t get you a spare.” Harry gingerly opened the case and saw the black round spectacles shining up at him. He picked them up with slightly trembling hands and closed his eyes as he put them on. He waited a beat before opening his eyes, and had to take a sharp breath at what he saw: Everything was different. He could make out the different colors clearly, and he could see the buttons on the bald man’s shirt. He now saw that the door had a little fingerprint smudge by the handle and that the ceiling had little holes in it. The small bell rang again and he was so mesmerized looking at it swinging, that he almost missed his aunt and uncle walking out of the shop. He turned around to see the bald man smiling at him. He could clearly count his teeth from here. Harry waved at him.
“Thanks!”, he shouted as he hurried out of the shop to the car before the Dursleys left him there. During the car ride home, he marveled at how the landscape had changed and wondered how people got anything done with all the beauty that was around them. He could see the leaves on the trees and the different shaped clouds in the sky. He could see people’s facial expressions as they walked by and the dents and scruffs in other cars in traffic. Harry could hardly believe his luck at being able to witness it all and even though two weeks later Dudley would punch him and break his glasses for the first time and he’d have to tape them back with spell tape, he didn’t care. The world had edges and corners and figures and shapes for the first time ever. And that night, lying on his bed counting the spiders in the ceiling of his cupboard, Harry allowed himself to dream of a better, sharper future.