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The Dursleys often spoke about Harry like this, as though he wasn't there - or rather, as though he was something very nasty that couldn't understand them, like a slug. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

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A slug is a creature like a snail but without a shell. It is wet and slimy and considered rather repulsive.

Some pictures here:

The author is expressing that the family find him repulsive, treat him like he is stupid, and wish he wasn't there. But, much like slugs in the garden, is something that they have to live with.

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  • Most of the time, when you refer to a person as a "slug", that means they are slow and lazy, for example: Martha always says, "I'm a slug in the morning." In this Harry Potter excerpt, though, Adam is right, the meaning of the metaphor is different; it means unnoticed or disregarded.
    – J.R.
    Mar 2 '13 at 22:06
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    Poor little slugs! I don't consider them repulsive. I think they're cute :-)
    – user230
    Mar 17 '13 at 8:21

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