1

Sorcerer's Stone:

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. 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. 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. The weirdest thing about all these people was the way they seemed to vanish the second Harry tried to get a closer look.

Why in the world would those wizards vanish? As far as I'm aware, there is no spell to disguise a wizard as a Muggle or that makes them disappear when looked at by Muggles. (We only see such spells on buildings.) And if it's Apparation, why would they all disappear the second Harry tried to get a closer look? (Bit convenient, no?)

So what caused those wizards to vanish when Harry looked at them?

  • 4
    Seemed to vanish. They were not literally vanishing. Probably Harry just lost them in the crowd after the Durselys removed him from the situations. – Skooba Oct 30 '17 at 13:05
  • @Skooba The second Harry saw them? Very convenient. Also from the context it's clear that JKR wanted to imply something magical. – TheAsh Oct 30 '17 at 13:06
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    Apparating (or however it's spelled in English) is vanishing, isn't it? But I don't think they would do it in a crowded area. Maybe that sentence is just a way to say that they became inconspicuous again. – Fabian Röling Oct 30 '17 at 13:49
7

They could have used a spell like a Disillusionment Charm.

Disillusionment Charms can conceal a wizard or make them unnoticeable. This particular Charm works to hide wizards from other wizards as well, so Harry wouldn't notice them despite not being a Muggle. It makes wizards effectively invisible, even from themselves, so if the wizards Harry saw cast them, they'd certainly disappear from Harry's view, without actually going anywhere else or Disapparating.

“Disillusionment Charm,’ said Moody, raising his wand. ‘Lupin says you’ve got an Invisibility Cloak, but it won’t stay on while we’re flying; this’ll disguise you better. Here you go –’

He rapped him hard on the top of the head and Harry felt a curious sensation as though Moody had just smashed an egg there; cold trickles seemed to be running down his body from the point the wand had struck. ‘Nice one, Mad-Eye,’ said Tonks appreciatively, staring at Harry’s midriff.

Harry looked down at his body, or rather, what had been his body, for it didn’t look anything like his any more. It was not invisible; it had simply taken on the exact colour and texture of the kitchen unit behind him. He seemed to have become a human chameleon.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 3 (The Advance Guard)

The Disillusionment Charm is probably only one way that a wizard could disappear in a blink. There are possibly other methods, as this would be very useful in concealment. It's unclear exactly how difficult the Disillusionment Charm is, and whether Hagrid, who was expelled in his third year, would have been capable of performing one when he disappeared in front of Harry's eyes. If he wouldn't be, he could used some other method. He's capable of simple magic, so if there's a simple enough spell, he'd be able to do it. There may also be magical products, similar to Invisibility Cloaks and Peruvian Darkness Powder, that would enable him to suddenly disappear or become invisible.

  • What about non-wizard Hagrid disappearing (quoted in my answer above)? – TheAsh Oct 30 '17 at 16:16
  • @TheAsh It's possible he used some other method. He's capable of simple magic, so if there's a simple enough spell, he'd be able to do it. There may also be magical products, similar to Invisibility Cloaks and Peruvian Darkness Powder, that would enable him to suddenly disappear or become invisible. – Bellatrix Oct 30 '17 at 16:20
  • Can you include that in your answer? – TheAsh Oct 30 '17 at 16:23
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    @Bellatrix It just seems like a stretch.... why would they need to avoid Muggle notice? They walked up to Harry in the crowd, surely their interaction with Harry doesn't arouse suspicion (beyond the Durselys). /shrug – Skooba Oct 30 '17 at 16:51
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    The thing is if they cast it silently and they just vanish - who is going to report that they saw someone vanish? Where's the evidence? Only those who saw it would think they're not mental. That's brought up in HBP between the two Ministers (Muggle and Magic). And if it's a large crowd they might just think it was an illusion if they notice at all (different from hallucination in that there is external stimuli) - or they were extra tired or they imagined it or... But of course these things could apply to Harry too - or he simply looked and they had vanished figuratively (quite possible). – Pryftan Jan 9 '18 at 22:08
3

They didn't disappear nor disapperate nor use any magical spell. Harry just didn't notice them.

This is evidenced from another case missing from the question where magical skill could not have been used:

The train pulled out of the station. Harry wanted to watch Hagrid until he was out of sight; he rose in his seat and pressed his nose against the window, but he blinked and Hagrid had gone.

And since we know that Hagrid, as a non-wandbearing wizard, cannot disapparate, it seems that Harry's observational skills isn't that great.

EDIT: This answer is contradicted by the books:

Sorcerers Stone:

Not for nothing, though, was Harry the youngest Seeker in a century. He had a knack for spotting things other people didn't.

  • 1
    This seems to be a very weak conclusion to reach. – Edlothiad Oct 30 '17 at 14:48
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    @Edlothiad I brought his example because its exactly like the cases described in the question: – TheAsh Oct 30 '17 at 14:51
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    I understand, but "Harry's observational skills aren't great" seems like a weak conclusion. Considering JKR is specific in saying "but he blinked and Hagrid had gone" implying he was looking exactly where he was a split second before. How could he miss someone after a mere blink, people take less than half a step in the time someone blinks. He would've been in almost the exact same spot. – Edlothiad Oct 30 '17 at 14:53
  • @Edlothiad I know, but in that case magic could not have been used (edited my answer to show that.) – TheAsh Oct 30 '17 at 14:54
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    @Edlothiad Hagrid was expelled.and thus likely did not know advanced magic. If you have a better answer please add it! – TheAsh Oct 30 '17 at 14:55
0

They left him alone because they knew he lived with his Muggle family, and they just ran into him by accident, recognized him, and left.

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