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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapter One

12 Oct

A note before we start: these posts are written by myself, Loten, using notes assembled during discussions between Mitchell and me. So ‘I’ and ‘we’ are used pretty interchangeably. It’s highly unlikely that we’re going to remember which of us made each specific point.


Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived

Chapter One opens at Number 4 Privet Drive in an imaginary small town in Surrey, which for non-Brits is a small semi-rural county in the south of England that’s mostly upper-middle-class. Here we meet the Dursleys; Vernon, his wife Petunia, and their young son Dudley. The narrative will spend all seven books insisting that you hate them. They’re very ordinary people, not very attractive (this shouldn’t matter, but these books are very clear: UGLY=EVIL. You’ll see this later) and not very observant, proud of being ordinary. As Vernon leaves for work and goes about his day he starts to see odd things, there is weird stuff going on involving owls and people in funny cloaks; something strange has happened that they don’t know about. There’s a cat reading a map at the end of their street, and he keeps overhearing conversations containing funny words he doesn’t recognise.

We’re given very unflattering, exaggerated descriptions for both Vernon and Petunia. This can work as a stylistic thing in some kinds of children’s literature, as a sort of absurdist humour (particularly authors like Roald Dahl, who is going to crop up as an example a lot), when applied with equal opportunity to most if not all characters. Here it mostly comes across as judgemental, though.

It’s interesting that the narrative hates Vernon for being fat, while simultaneously hating Petunia for being thin. (I’m not sure whether to praise it for at least not being solely fat-hating, as much of the series will be later, or to wonder how there’s any way to win at all in Rowling’s world other than being ‘normal’ – which is nicely ironic since we’re talking about the Dursleys here, and the narrative simultaneously hates them for their supposed normality and here is carping on about the abnormality of their appearances…) It’s also worth noting that there’s a gendered aspect to this as well – Petunia’s long neck, in particular, is used to shame her because it supposedly aids her in spying on her neighbours for gossipy purposes (a typically feminised pursuit).

Vernon’s pretty observant for someone who’s explicitly described as being unobservant and dim, paying attention to all the things the narrative wants him to (such as where a cat is looking). It’s not necessarily implausible that a person would notice such things, and I think the narrative’s goal here is to present a sort of uncanny atmosphere – here are a bunch of things that are maybe a little weird but not noteworthy in themselves, but taken together something weird is going on and it’s unnerving him – except after the cat it goes immediately into ludicrous things like him just happening to overhear the exact snippet of a conversation in which someone name-drops Harry Potter and nothing else, wizards behaving as if there are no laws about secrecy at all (someone calls him a Muggle, and loads of people are wearing cloaks for no explicable reason), and it just gets more ludicrous from there. Convenient name-drops are one of the main ways the plot is prodded into lumbering on a few steps in this series. Over the course of all these little revelations we learn that there’s something mysterious and not right about Petunia’s sister Lily and her husband James Potter, that they have a son Dudley’s age named Harry, and that the Dursleys don’t see them or speak to them.

Then a wizard named Albus Dumbledore shows up outside the Dursley house that night, and the plot instantly derails.

His first action is to put the street lights out via a magic cigarette lighter. This is neat. If only there was ever any more magic like this in the entire series. And if only it didn’t have such a stupid name as the Put-Outer. Still, he looks like a proper wizard, he wears robes and has a long beard. We approve. He speaks to the map-reading cat Vernon saw earlier, who changes shape into a witch named Minerva McGonagall (the first of many alliterative names we’re going to encounter) and starts talking to him. We approve of this, too, but despite shape-changing being a) very useful and b) bloody awesome she’s one of only five minor characters who bother to do it throughout the series, mostly offscreen and never for a sensible helpful reason. Throughout their conversation we learn that Lily and James are dead under nasty circumstances and that Harry’s being brought to live here by someone called Hagrid, because he’s somehow going to be very famous for… not dying… and will be better off being raised by ordinary people for a while. There are vague references to someone known only as You-Know-Who (we’ll find out later his real name is Voldemort), who is apparently dead but might not be. Ah, that new-plot smell…

Hagrid shows up very subtly and stealthily on a giant flying motorbike, carrying the aforementioned Harry. There’s a lot of circular discussion that ends with them dumping baby Harry on his relatives’ doorstep and wandering off to wait for Chapter Two.


The major problem here, one I didn’t notice throughout my years of reading these books until starting this spork and one I’ve never seen discussed before, is that the timeline just makes no sense. Vernon Dursley has just experienced the first day after Voldemort’s fall, November 1st 1981, when the wizarding world is in chaos. Harry isn’t delivered to the Dursleys until later that night, or possibly early in the morning on November 2nd. So where the hell is he while Vernon’s at work wondering what’s going on? Voldy snuffed it on Halloween. He must be with Hagrid, presumably, but does Hagrid know what to feed a one year old, or how to change a nappy? I doubt it. We’re missing a day here, anyway.

Also, how does the wizarding world know Harry has survived? He was apparently picked up from the wreckage of the Potters’ house before anyone showed up and according to Hagrid the Muggles got there first. McGonagall clearly knows of Dumbledore’s ‘leave Harry with the Muggles’ plan (for new readers, a Muggle is someone without magic; fun fact, it’s also 1970s slang for someone who uses marjiuana) since she spent an entire day sitting on their wall watching Petunia, but how? We have to conclude Dumbles knew the Potters wouldn’t make it but that the boy would, because there simply wasn’t time to make this plan before McGonagall showed up on Privet Drive only a few hours after Voldy exploded. She must have known in advance.

Assuming for the sake of argument that she didn’t, that she’s so blindly devoted to Dumbles that when he proposed this plan she just went along with it, how did she know where the Dursleys were? How did anyone? Dumbles knew Petunia existed but he had no reason to keep track of her, she was just a random Muggle to him. Even when he learned something would probably happen to Lily, he had no reason to think her son would survive, so Harry wouldn’t need a relative to look after him. Incidentally, I find it somewhat unlikely that every single other relative on both sides is dead, given how old Lily and James are at this point, particularly since most pureblood families seem to be interrelated. I’m 27 and three of my four grandparents are still alive and well and likely to stay that way for a few years yet; James and Lily are six years younger than me and very young to inexplicably both be orphans, especially since James’ parents are a witch and a wizard and thus should be very long-lived anyway. No other relatives will ever be mentioned, though, because Fantasyland protagonists aren’t allowed families until after their Happy Ending.

Scratch all that. Reading on, it’s clear that McGonagall has no idea what’s happened. She asks Dumbledore if all the rumours are true, it’s her first line of the series. So why the hell is she there? Dumbles says Hagrid told her he’d be there, but when? Why? She’s spent all day watching Harry’s relatives without knowing that’s necessary, she didn’t know for sure he’d been attacked, let alone that he’d survived. As far as she’s concerned, Hagrid told her Dumbles would be outside a random Muggle’s house at some point, so she sat there all day instead of trying to find out if these rumours were true or doing something useful.

(Also it’s a Tuesday at the end of October. At least, the text says it’s a Tuesday, though Halloween 1981 was actually on a weekend. She should be teaching. The wizarding world doesn’t have the half-term holidays that Muggle British schools do.)

The Doylist explanation is that Rowling needs an infodump and couldn’t be bothered to justify it. But the only Watsonian explanation is that McGonagall’s had her memory modified or something. Her behaviour makes no sense on any level.

Anyway. There’s some oddly flirtatious dialogue between Dumbledore and McGonagall (well, it’s hardly flirtatious, but I think we’re meant to see it that way), which aside from being rather inappropriate for the circumstances makes you wonder exactly when Rowling decided that he was gay. Incidentally, no, that doesn’t count. You can’t declare once a series is over that “oh by the way everyone this character was totally gay, look how progressive and inclusive I am!” in a story where that character is completely asexual and where there’s not even a hint of homosexuality, aside from various inexplicable encounters in bathrooms. It’s also weird because this conversation comes across as being between two people who don’t know each other that well – they’re calling each other ‘Professor’, etc., rather than using first names – and we’ve already remarked on how little McGonagall knows of things she really ought to be aware of. It’s pretty obvious that Rowling hadn’t really hammered out the characters’ roles yet, at the very least McGonagall’s.

It’s interesting to contrast that with the name-drop of Sirius Black, when Hagrid says where he got the motorcycle; it’s not clear whether that was just something she randomly dropped in and later decided to turn into a major plot point, or whether she’d already had an idea of who Black was and that he’d play a significant role in later books. (For new readers, feel free to forget all about him since he won’t be showing up for several books. Be thankful.) That said, the motorcycle’s size also makes very little sense (are we supposed to believe Hagrid was capable of enlarging the thing, or are we instead to suppose that it’s either always been of a size for Hagrid to ride – in which case, what was Black thinking, compensating for something? – or that Black took the time to enlarge it for Hagrid before he buggered off?). Speaking of which, I’m also left wondering how Hagrid got to the crime scene in the first place and how he was planning to transport Harry if he hadn’t conveniently encountered Black.

Apropos of nothing much, Harry’s cousin Dudley is a really precocious child. He’s only a month or so older than Harry and yet he’s described as

“kicking his mother up the street, screaming for sweets.”

Yet we observe that Harry is clearly incapable of even crawling away from his doorstep, let alone getting up and walking. He’s clearly backward.

Despite having her memory scrambled, McGonagall is sensible and objects to Dumbles dumping the child and running away leaving a note to explain. Bloody persuasive note, I must say; Petunia Dursley has apparently had no contact with the wizarding world for years, it’s doubtful she knew anything about the war, and then she finds her baby nephew on her doorstep. Let’s imagine for a moment what that note might say:

Dear Mrs Dursley
Hope you are well. Here is your nephew Harry who you’ve never seen. Your sister and her husband are dead, they were killed by some evil wizard guy you’ve never heard of who may or may not also be dead, it’s complicated. You now have to adopt this kid because reasons. No really monsters will get him if he doesn’t live with you. They might get him anyway, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. By the way, we’ll be watching to make sure you keep him, though naturally we won’t help with child support in any way or help you deal with it when his magic starts causing problems that you have no way of coping with.
Yours sincerely, some wizard that at this point in the narrative we have no reason to believe you’ve ever heard of.

Yet nobody really seriously objects to leaving the baby on a doorstep in November to die of exposure – I don’t know how long it would take a baby to freeze to death, but I suspect not very long. Seriously, someone at least ring the damned doorbell before you leave.

Hagrid then breaks down because a) the Potters are dead, and b) Harry has to live with Muggles. These tragedies are apparently equal. Have you all grasped the notion that Muggles are scum yet? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t, the point will be beaten into you at great length throughout the series.

Legally there’s no way Petunia would be able to just adopt Harry like this, anyway. As far as the Muggles know, James and Lily had heart attacks when their house exploded and Harry vanished. He then somehow shows up a few days later with his aunt, and… that’s not a legal basis for an adoption. Especially when said aunt clearly doesn’t want him and has a letter (probably) threatening her with gruesome and scary things if she doesn’t do it.

As an aside, for Hagrid to have been flying over Bristol on the way to Surrey as he claims, he’d have to be coming via South Wales, which is… not where Godric’s Hollow is, I don’t think. (We’re not given an actual location, true, but there’s no indication it’s outside England.) I suppose since he’s apparently spent a day with Harry at this point it’s not unreasonable, they could have been anywhere, but you’d think Hogwarts might make more sense.

We also note the Muggles apparently didn’t hear a giant-sized motorbike suddenly landing in the street in the middle of the night. Which Hagrid couldn’t steer due to holding the baby in both arms, instead of a sling like a sensible person. He also couldn’t see to land it, since Dumbles put out the street lights when he first showed up and this entire scene has taken place in pitch blackness. (There could theoretically have been a decent moon, I can’t be bothered to look up the full moon dates, but Britain in November? It’s much, much more likely to be raining and overcast.)

Anyway. We have now met the Dursleys and three others. Dumbledore is apparently a clever eccentric who doesn’t mean any harm but also doesn’t seem to think things through very clearly; this is not really true. McGonagall is apparently somewhat flaky and panicky but basically sensible if we overlook her Muggle-stalking; this is more or less true. And Hagrid is… apparently some kind of mutant. Seriously. His description:

“almost twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide… hands the size of dustbin lids and his feet… were like baby dolphins.”

He’ll change sizes – frequently – later, but right now he is literally a huge sphere with a beard, sitting on top of two baby dolphins. I picture him looking something like Kirby. And I’m begging someone to draw it.

Let’s do some maths, shall we? Let’s assume an average human is something like 5’6″ tall and 2′ wide. This would make Hagrid roughly eleven feet tall… and for his width, well, that sentence is ambiguously worded and I see two ways of interpreting it. Either he’s “five times as wide [as an average human]”, in which case he’s around 10-11 feet wide also and is essentially spherical, or he’s “five times as wide [as he is tall]”, in which case he most resembles an enormous disc (and I am imagining him as a sort of flying saucer). The first interpretation is probably what’s meant here, admittedly, but all that suggests is that it’s a good time to break out the spherical cow jokes. (Or he’s just been eaten by Kirby.)

We don’t know who any of these people are, either. Dumbledore and McGonagall address one another as ‘Professor’ but there’s no mention of the school, or their respective titles. They could just be random people in academia as far as the reader knows; we don’t know what their connection is to anything.

And the cool magical devices here? Dumbles’ nifty watch with multiple hands and small planets never shows up again and we never learn what it does. Unfortunately, the Put-Outer does reappear – and we’ll wish it hadn’t. But that’s another story.

The chapter concludes with Harry falling asleep on the doorstep, which is the first sign that hypothermia is setting in,

“not knowing that he was special.”

Oh, he’s special all right…


Now to try to rewrite this chapter to fix these problems:

James and Lily do not live anywhere where Muggles can find out what happened, for a start. (In an ideal world they don’t live anywhere Voldemort can find them, but there wouldn’t be much plot that way, and as we’ll see later Dumbles made absolutely no actual effort to protect them. Frankly James and Lily could have done a lot more to protect themselves, too.)

Anyway, start with Dumbles and McGonagall (and Hagrid I suppose, though losing him wouldn’t affect the narrative at all) at James and Lily’s house in the direct aftermath of the attack. They rescue Harry from the wreckage and have a discussion about what’s happened and what they’re going to do with Harry, more or less as it is in the book. They walk away while they’re talking about it because other wizards are showing up and finding out what’s happened. The conversation ends with Dumbles saying Harry’s better off growing up away from the fame until he’s ready.

Then cut to Vernon going about his day and noticing all the strange things going on, experiencing the wizarding world reacting to Voldemort’s apparent death. The same as the book, but in a way that makes more sense chronologically. When he gets home from work, Petunia meets him at the door looking very upset and holding two kids instead of one.

Alternatively, frame it as being “the last ‘normal’ day of the Dursleys’ life”, or something, as the initial hook to get the reader’s interest, then have the weird events pick up in intensity as Vernon’s day goes on until he gets home from work to find baby Harry on his doorstep (if we have to keep that silliness – it is something of a trope, especially in fairy tales, so I can kind of understand why Rowling wanted to use it; I’ll also admit it shouts Moses imagery to me and it’s one of the reasons I suspect the series of having religious subtext). At least let’s not have the stupidity of leaving him there all night when he’s already ambulatory, dropping him off shortly before he’d be likely to be found makes much more sense. We can then have some kind of flashback to the midnight meeting (which would make much more sense to have happened the night before) in which the wizards are discussing what happened and making plans, explaining why they’re leaving Harry and so on.

I’m not sure either of these options are that much better, really, but at least it avoids the mysterious missing day and doesn’t make any character come across as either brain-damaged or brainwashed…

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47 Comments

Posted by on October 12, 2014 in loten, mitchell

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

47 responses to “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Chapter One

  1. liminal fruitbat

    October 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    The missing day is as good an explanation as any for how Dumbledore knew Harry was a Horcrux and that Lily’s super-special love was in his blood… though still doesn’t explain why Hagrid had to transport him.

     
    • Tanzenlicht

      October 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      Hagrid has a lot of experience with the handling of dangerous magical infants of various species. Harry just killed a Dark Lord so he obviously matches that description and Dumbles really only deals with children once they’re old enough that he can just confuse them and order them around. Of available options Hagrid is clearly the best for baby handling. You can’t expect Dumbledore to actually carry a smelly baby around with him, can you?

       
  2. Alanis

    October 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Well squee! I’m so pleased that you’ve started, I’ve really been looking forward to this.

     
  3. Kazavan

    October 12, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    The best explanation for people finding out about it could be hagrid going to a pub and crying about it. Which would be in character. That however begs the question of what he did with Harry.
    The point about Mcgonangal is interesting, I’d ever really thought about it, but Dumbledore demands a lot from her without ever seeming to give her much in return. I mean, at least twice he dissappears off and leaves the school in her already overful hands with no warning, and doesn’t even tell her he’s dying.

     
    • Loten

      October 13, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Oh yes, McGonagall gets treated pretty poorly over the series. I’m really starting to lean towards brainwashing as a theory because her character as described would never put up with it normally. The brainwashing lapsing after Dumbles died clearly caused some lasting damage based on her terrible moments in the final book…

       
      • Kazavan

        October 13, 2014 at 10:11 pm

        Having just read an article someone linked below, the explanation could be that he doesn’t fully trust her. But she in any case is never the most pleasant character, especially as she could have done more to control the boys in her house. Possibly its overwork (three posts!), possibly brainwashing by dumbledore, probably bad writing.

         
  4. DawnM

    October 13, 2014 at 12:55 am

    As with you, I never realized how weird the timeline is until I reread this last week. I tried to work out what happened based on what is in the assorted books:

    1. Voldemort kills Lily and James, destroys their house and disappears on the evening of Hallowe’en. It’s not very late – small children are still out on the streets and Lily is just about to put Harry to bed. (Deathly Hallows Ch. 17)
    2. Somehow, no muggles notice that the house has been destroyed at this time.
    3. Somehow, word gets to Hagrid and/or Dumbledore about the situation. Somehow they know that Harry is still alive and needs to be removed from the house. Together they make plans that Hagrid will travel to Godric’s Hollow to get Harry and bring him to the Dursley’s.
    4. Hagrid takes time out from his important mission to inform McGonagall of the details of the plan.
    5. Hagrid travels to Godric’s Hollow. How? He’s not allowed to do magic (Philosopher’s Stone Chapter 4) so he can’t apparate. Does he take the Knight Bus? I’m not sure, but I think that takes a proper wand (Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 3) which Hagrid doesn’t have (Philosopher’s Stone, chapter 5). Maybe he uses a Thestral or a Hippogriff? I don’t think either of those can carry Hagrid. Does he take the train from Hogsmeade down to London and then another train out to GH?
    6. Somehow, word also gets out to Sirius Black. Sirius Black travels to GH on his (enormous) motorcycle.
    7. Hagrid arrives at the Potter house “before the muggles start swarming around” and retrieves Harry from the “almost destroyed” house. It is unclear what time of day this is and how long Harry has been trapped in the house.
    8. Black arrives just after Hagrid has removed Harry from the house (Prisoner of Azkaban, Ch. 10). Black either lends (Philosopher’s Stone Ch. 1) or gives (Prizoner of Azkaban, Ch. 10) the motorcycle to Hagrid.
    9. Hagrid flies the motorcyle to Surrey via Bristol. It is unclear how fast the motorcycle travels and how long this journey takes.
    10. Hagrid arrives, more than 24 hours after Harry was attacked, in Privet Drive.

    Watsonian-type questions I have about this include: Why the hell send Hagrid, who has no reasonable means of travel? Why can’t Dumbledore just apparate there instantly and grab Harry? If there was another wizard there who saw the destruction and passed word to Dumbledore, why didn’t that wizard rescue Harry? Why did it take so long for Muggles to notice that the house was destroyed? How did the word about the attack first get out?

     
    • Loten

      October 13, 2014 at 7:39 am

      That timeline could work out if we accept that somehow nobody discovered what had happened for most of a day, yes. Since we have no other explanation, sure, let’s go with it. As for why send Hagrid instead of literally any other wizard… laziness? For the lulz? As part of some sinister very well planned plot? Or just the fact that literally any other wizard would have asked at least a couple of questions whereas Hagrid just does whatever Dumbles tells him.

      Good point about the Evans sisters and their names, though I suspect Petunia was chosen for its closeness to ‘petty’ and Lily was chosen because Rowling likes lilies/because of the tragic funeral association.

       
      • SoxyOutfoxing

        October 14, 2014 at 9:22 am

        They’ve discussed this timeline problem on TvTropes in the headscratchers section. I’d link but linking to TvTropes is a form of cruelty. I remember one offered theory, though, was that Hagrid spent most of the day walking across the country and happened to randomly bump into Sirius somewhere along the way, late in the day. Of course, this does fall under the umbrella of fan-made explanations that involve barely plausible coincidence, Dumbledore being wildly impractical, (it’s brilliant because no one would expect him to be wildly impractical, they cry) and failure to adequately explain all of the problems; I just thought I’d share it because I find the mental image of some bearded giant trudging across England carrying a baby amusing, and it’s even better now Hagrid is some terrifying spheroid.

         
  5. DawnM

    October 13, 2014 at 1:10 am

    I was also musing about the sisters’ names: Petunia vs Lily.
    To me, petunias evoke “suburbia”; this seems very apt from a characterisation point of view.
    When I think of lilies, either I think of funeral homes or I think of bright, bold patches of daylilies growing out in the countryside. The first may be appropriate for poor murdered Lily but it seems unlikely that’s what Rowling would be going for as a point of characterisation.

     
  6. Derived Absurdity

    October 13, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    You know, considering how relentlessly, aggressively boring the first ten pages or so of this book are, it’s a mystery to me how it got in any way popular, especially among children. One of the best rules for book introductions – especially children’s books – is to make some kind of hook to keep the reader interested. There is no hook here. Rowling keeps reminding us how boring, ugly, and awful these people are and then inexplicably forces us to follow them around for almost a dozen pages. I’ve come across many people who said they couldn’t read this book because of how awful and boring the beginning is. I think a nice hook would have been just one sentence, like “this is the last normal day the Dursleys will ever have” or something near the beginning, so we actually have some reason to be interested in what’s going on. (Of course the best decision would have been just to skip this crap altogether, but whatever.) As it is the first half of the chapter seems almost purposefully designed to drive away as many people as possible. Odd considering how many kids loved this book (including me, once upon a time).

    There’s something I just now thought of, reading Vernon and Petunia’s conversation in their living room. How, exactly, did these two people manage to stay together after they met? It’s clear that Vernon is perfectly aware of Petunia’s intimate connection with the wizard world, which means at some point Petunia must have told him about it. Considering how bizarrely antagonistic he is to anything approaching abnormality, it’s quite a wonder why he didn’t simply run away from her at that point. I mean, if she just told him – “hey, I know this is going to sound weird, but there’s a secret wizard community hiding just under our noses and my sister is part of it” – then he would have thought she was insane and would have left her. This means that she must have shown him somehow, offered some proof. So he must have stayed with her, even after she demonstrated *magic* to him – that thing he hates above everything else. This leads to two questions: 1) why in the name of God would Petunia do that and not just keep it a secret, especially considering that she probably married someone like Vernon to run away from her past, and 2) why would someone like Vernon decide to stay with her and marry her after he found about that?

    Well, I can only think of one explanation: that they actually do love each other very, very, very much. Especially Vernon. I mean, what other explanation is there? He would have to have an almost incomprehensible level of devotion to willingly stay with her after he found out what she was. And not only that, have a child with her. That is a level of devotion by these two ugly, awful, irredeemably awful people which is completely unsurpassed by anyone else in the entire series. And you can bet no one would ever acknowledge or appreciate this, let alone Rowling.

    “The major problem here, one I didn’t notice throughout my years of reading these books until starting this spork and one I’ve never seen discussed before, is that the timeline just makes no sense.”

    Ah yes, the infamous 24-hour-problem. Or whatever it’s called. It’s been discussed before. There are lots of theories about it. I guess the most charitable theory is that Dumbledore/Hagrid wanted to keep Harry safe for a while, as there were still dangerous Death Eaters roaming about, some of whom would want revenge, and also they wanted to figure out just what happened. So maybe Harry spent the day safely locked up at Madam Mafalda’s Magical Menagerie for Mysterious Maladies, or whatever the hell it’s called, so Dumbles could run some experiments on him. Which might explain why he knew Harry was a Horcrux, that Lily’s Power of Love! was in his blood, what exactly happened that night (he might have pulled it out of Harry’s memories or something, which is the only explanation I can think of) and would also give him time to add his second layer of protection on him. That’s the only theory I know, I don’t particularly care enough to look up all the ones others have, since they’re all obvious attempts to fix deficient writing.

    “Also, how does the wizarding world know Harry has survived?”

    Another good question is how the world knows Voldy is gone. Just because he disappeared for a day doesn’t mean he’s gone. For all they know this could all have been a part of his plan. I mean, it’s not as though they know anything about him, or what his goals are, or what kind of creature he is, or anything. He’s wrapped in mystery, his goals and intentions enigmatic, his power unknowable – that’s partly why he’s so feared. So why is it off the table that Voldy planned all this happen – for J/L to die, for Harry to get a mysterious scar, for him to disappear for a while? Considering Voly’s fearsome reputation I would be more to willing to believe that than to believe a baby kicked his ass and now he’s dead forever.

    Also Voldy seems to be “gone” a lot. We learn in OotP that one of his main strategies is to stay in secret and let an aura of fear and mystery grow around him. So regular people don’t see him very often. So why is the fact that Voldy is “gone” for a day after some completely inexplicable event happened such a significant thing? Like I said, if I was a regular person I would think all this was a trap or something. The reaction of the WW basically just makes no sense. A motif we’ll run into continuously.

    “Her behaviour makes no sense on any level.”

    True… unless McGonagall is SECRETLY A DEATHER IN DISGUISE!!

    http://unplottables.livejournal.com/46684.html?thread=694364

    ^ Read and have YOUR MIND BLOWN.

    “Yet nobody really seriously objects to leaving the baby on a doorstep in November to die of exposure – I don’t know how long it would take a baby to freeze to death, but I suspect not very long.”

    An especially stupid decision, considering people like Barty Crouch and Bellatrix Lestrange are still running around. Oh wait, they haven’t been invented yet, nevermind. In fact I don’t think Death Eaters were invented at this point at all. Apparently Voldy was completely alone at this point in this story.

    Your comments about Hagrid are perfect. That’s one of the funniest things anyone’s said about this series.

    There are so, so, so many other things wrong with this chapter (and this book… and this series…) that I could mention, but this comment is already far too long.

    Obviously I liked this post a lot. The blatant irony of Rowling judging the Dursleys for hating everything abnormal and yet judging them for looking abnormal is something I never thought of before. Oh boy. The fans are right about one thing – this series is always full of surprises.

     
    • Derived Absurdity

      October 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Wow, I didn’t even read your fix at the end of the post, I just kind of stopped at the line for some reason. Sorry for accidentally stealing your ‘hook’ thing. Ugh.

       
    • Gowan

      October 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      To be fair, Rowling never claimed that Petunia and Vernon don’t love each other. They are portrayed as loving Dudley, too, misguided as their attempts to keep him happy and healthy may be.
      Vernons uglyness worked for me, because kids at school were mean to me, and it is surprisingly often the overweight boys who are bullies. They may have something to compensate for, I don’t know. I guess Rowling had similar experiences, as Molly Weasley is described in much more affectionate terms.

      For me, the first chapter of the first book worked, because I was sure something not normal was going to happen to the very normal Dursleys, otherwise, why tell us how normal they are? (Okay, there was also the title and cover and so on)
      If you have been bullied for years because you weren’t normal enough, the first chapter is very appealing. As a child I didn’t care whether it was fat-shaming to make fun of Vernon, or thin-shaming to make fun of Petunia – they were normal, just like the people who bully others for not being normal, and the author hated them just as much as I did. I think that’s part of the reason for the success of the books.

       
      • Derived Absurdity

        October 13, 2014 at 9:02 pm

        That’s true. I can grant that. But from what I can tell she’s portraying their love for Dudley as a bad thing. They let him grow up to be a bully and a punk because they overindulge him, they let him get morbidly obese because they can’t see any negative qualities in him… it just seems that the tone the narrative takes with their relationship is relentlessly judgmental and condescending. I honestly don’t think Rowling portrays their love for Dudley in a positive way at all. It’s a bit different than Vernon’s love for Petunia, which is unquestionably positive. (I do think Rowling makes some sharp divisions on what she sees as “good” kinds of love and “bad” kinds. For instance, Cho’s heartbroken reaction to Cedric’s death, in my opinion, is portrayed very negatively, like she’s overreacting or something. And Lavender is presented as simply an obstacle for Ron to overcome.)

        I also just thought of something. Didn’t Voldemort leave his cloak and wand behind in the wreckage? I forgot about that. So maybe they had more to go on with Voldy’s disappearance. Still, I would have thought it was a complicated trap of some sort. This guy is so fearsome that people can’t even say his name. I would not be willing to believe that he got his butt kicked by a baby so easily, is all I’m saying.

         
    • Kazavan

      October 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Ok, that blog has just screwed with my mind. Yikes. I kind of wish the writer was right: they obviously worked out the snape not evil bit.

       
    • mcbender

      October 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I really appreciate your point about the Dursleys’ devotion to each other. That said, my pet theory (which I seem to recall having come across in fanfic before) was that Vernon hadn’t always hated magic, but learned to do so as a result of some kind of encounter with his brother-in-law. (Pottermore contradicts this, of course, saying they only met once, but that’s Pottermore; it contradicts quite a lot of canon anyway…)

      As for the lack of a hook in the opening chapter; yes, this is a problem (as we both seem to have independently pointed out, and honestly there’s no need for you to apologise). That said, I think for some kinds of people there probably is a hook in there, just a bit more subtly… for a person who’s grown up being told they’re not “normal” and should aspire to be (as my parents often said to me), the book’s dripping disdain for this can be a kind of reassurance. “This story hates the same people you do, and is willing to say it openly! The narrator (and presumably the guiding principles of this fictional world) are on your side!” I doubt I’m the only person to have experienced it this way, but without that context the opening of the book is definitely a lot less compelling. It’s all the more ironic because Rowling herself (and the HP narration) seems to exemplify those kind of status-quo-apologist attitudes while purporting to decry them, so she may well have done all of that accidentally or without really understanding what it was she was doing.

      The conspiracy-theorist post on McGonagall was quite interesting, though it required a bit of effort to proceed past the author’s initial paean to Rowling’s supposed brilliance 😉

       
      • Derived Absurdity

        October 15, 2014 at 5:23 pm

        This is pure speculation, but I always thought Vernon was always the way he was, and Petunia married someone like him precisely because she wanted someone relentlessly normal to spend her life with, as a means of escaping or turning her back on the wizarding world as much as possible. But I of course have no evidence of that.

        I can appreciate the reaction to the chapter of someone who’s been told to be “normal” all their life and how it can be attractive to them. I admit I didn’t go through that, and in fact I went through the exact opposite – I needed to be smarter, to be more ambitious, to stand out more, etc. “Normal” was something to be despised. So it didn’t have much of an effect on me. Still, I have always thought it was strange that the HP series, especially the later books, seemed to express the exact same attitudes she’s making fun of the Dursleys’ for, so she doesn’t even deserve that much credit for the subtle opening hook… sigh. I do try to be fair and give Rowling credit when it’s due, but she makes it difficult.

        The McGonagall theory is hilarious IMO because its biggest piece of evidence is the author’s absolute refusal to believe that Rowling could have created a bad character. To be fair, the author is pretty perceptive – unlike most HP fans she can see perfectly well that McGonagall as written is an awful character, yet for some reason she can’t just admit it and has to cook up some insane conspiracy theory to explain it.

         
    • JoWrites

      October 18, 2014 at 1:35 am

      Oh, I read that post you linked to before, and I loved it!

      About Vernon: I always thought it was more a he hates magic for Petunia. She has a good backstory for a reason to hate magic: her sister. Vernon has no reason to be so emotionally invested in his hatred of all things abnormal other than it bothers his wife he loves so much. He might have wanted to be normal just like her and that might have been what drew them together, but it is normal to use your imagination or to dream about flying. So without knowing about magic, he’d have no reason to consider those things abnormal to begin with, and since he would have grown up without knowing about magic if he was so invested in being “normal” on his own, those would be things he’d have to be in favor of to be normal.

      But yes. Like Luicus and Narcissa, I always thought their love for each other was unappreciated. Though the Dursley’s in general are more under-appreciated, as all Muggles tend to be, even in fandom.

       
    • SarahTheEntwife

      November 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Just now getting to these after bookmarking and then forgetting back when you mentioned it was upcoming on your fanfic page.

      * Timeline! I had also not noticed this before, but indeed, it makes no sense.

      * I had assumed the elder Potters had died nobly and/or tragically in the first war, due to their association with James or as Aurors in their own right, but apparently that isn’t the case. Which seems weird, as it’s such an obvious way to kill them off. But yeah, once you go out more than about two degrees of cousins you run into actual minor (or even major) characters who are clearly not dead, given how interconnected the pureblood families are.

      * I’m still not clear why Dumbledore even uses the Putter-Outer in the first place other than as an excuse to be Mysterious and Wizarding. Two people showing up at night (just how middle-of-the-night is this? Are we talking 10pm or 3am?) and stopping briefly by the neighbors’ door doesn’t seem likely to raise all that much suspicion. Petunia’s vague paranoia aside, her neighbors probably aren’t actually watching her through the windows at all hours. But all the streetlights mysteriously going out at once will probably get a call or two to the power company and possibly people actually at least sticking their noses outside to see what’s going on and then seeing the flying motorbike and people dressed in weird clothing dropping off a mysteriously-silent baby.

      * Huh, I had totally missed that Dudley is so close in age to Harry. I had assumed he was about a year older, possibly because that made sense. :-b

       
  7. Anodyne

    October 14, 2014 at 1:58 am

    Wow. When I originally read the book – and on later re-readings – I admit I didn’t catch the fact that Dudley’s only a month or so older than Harry, yet clearly further along developmentally. In fact, if I remember right, Harry’s supposed to be roughly a year old at this point. Checking harrypotterwikia, he’s actually 15 months old at this point (“Lord Voldemort attempted to murder him when he was a year and three months old…” from the article on Harry himself), which means that, according to the resources I could find (including babycenter.com and the NHS’s site), Harry should not only be actively mobile by this point (crawling, pulling himself up and cruising, or actually walking, and probably combining all three), he should be saying at least a few words and responding to speech if he isn’t distracted, and – perhaps most importantly – this is the point at which separation anxiety generally peaks, which means that we shouldn’t be presented with a docile baby who falls asleep during the trip; we should be seeing a screaming, exhausted toddler who is frantic for his parents.

    Considering that Rowling herself is a parent and *should* know the milestones, the Doylist explanation is that she’s forgotten how old Harry’s supposed to be at this point and is writing him as younger than he actually is. The Watsonian explanation is that something’s pretty wrong with Harry, and that he should be getting medical attention to make sure there wasn’t some kind of brain damage or magically-induced trauma.
    Which just makes this whole thing with dropping Harry on the doorstep, on a cold November evening, not to be found until his aunt comes out for the milk, even more irresponsible of Dumbledore. But I don’t think anyone’s surprised by that, at this point.

     
    • Loten

      October 14, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Thanks for the clarification 🙂 I have zero experience with small children and plan to keep it that way, so this is far from my area of expertise!

       
      • Anodyne

        October 15, 2014 at 5:23 am

        I’ve got a bare minimum of experience with small children, I admit – pretty much all of my knowledge here came from looking it up and checking what the usual milestones for that age are. 🙂

         
    • mcbender

      October 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      On the child development issue – I find myself wondering whether the inconsistency is as simple as her forgetting from time to time which particular July 31 he was born on (though that doesn’t explain the discrepancy with Dudley here, admittedly), and writing different scenes with different assumptions in mind. We have scenes like this, which would make significantly more sense if he were three months old (as opposed to fifteen), and then on the other hand we have things like the photo they find in Deathly Hallows which shows a toddler Harry flying on a toy broomstick. And this is Rowling, after all, who hates rereading her own work.

      Of course, a three-month-old would be much more likely to die of exposure/hypothermia when left on a doorstep overnight. I’m not sure which version has Dumbledore being more irresponsible; the older Harry, while more likely to survive through the night (though that’s still not a guarantee), is also ambulatory (in canon! given the DH photo) and may well just wander off.

       
      • JoWrites

        October 18, 2014 at 1:49 am

        I thought this as well, because I kept going back and forth with “wasn’t he only 3 months old?” while reading it.

         
      • janach

        October 18, 2014 at 2:10 am

        I think you’re right about JKR being vague in her own mind about Harry’s age at this time. The “leaving a child on the doorstep” routine really only works with a babe in arms. JKR seems to have had the events of the first four books planned out reasonably well in advance, but she had not gone into the background in any detail. The events at Godric’s Hollow and immediately afterwards don’t make sense, and the Werewolf Prank doesn’t make sense. The former is necessary to understand Harry’s home life and his relationship with Voldemort, while the latter is necessary to understand Snape, who is the central character of the story. Harry is the Hero who has the adventures and through whose eyes we see events, but it is around Snape that the entire saga pivots.

         
  8. Tanzenlicht

    October 14, 2014 at 2:31 am

    I have no explanation for the why of the delay but Hagrid isn’t actually bad at taking care of his various disastrous pets. He’s bad at keeping them from eating the students. The care and feeding of a baby human is probably in his general skill set. I mean, you can’t leave him with a pet baby long term because one of the other pets is bound to eat it. But I’m willing to buy Harry’s survival in Hagrid’s care for one day.

    Obviously it is a magical size-changing motorcycle with auto-pilot. Geeze.

    Could they have been keeping an eye on the Dursleys in case Voldie and the Deatheaters found out about them? This seems like entirely too sensible and kind a thing for anyone in the series to have thought of. McGonagall was doing her shift and then suddenly there are tourists and Dumbles himself shows up to put out the street lights (that won’t attract any attention or like a million calls to the power company and maybe the police).

    I don’t recall the details of the attack on James and Lily but since they were doing a terrible job of hiding out and protecting themselves maybe the neighbors just watched it all happen. And then told everyone. Then tourists at the Dursleys’s place because…reasons.

    I keep ending up trying to defend Rowling’s poor authorial decisions. I used to fanfic in this universe, though, and explaining all the things that don’t make any sense was like three quarters of the fun.

     
    • Loten

      October 14, 2014 at 8:48 am

      The Dursleys were just random Muggles. Nobody in the wizarding world would have bothered guarding them. Lily hadn’t seen her sister in… well, we don’t know how long, but at least a year and a half since they hadn’t spoken since before their sons were born. James only met them once according to Pottermore. Given that Hermione has to resort to brainwashing her parents later in the series because there was apparently no possibility of getting someone in the Order to watch over them, I can’t imagine they would bother about the Dursleys.

      By all means keep trying to defend her decisions! We like being persuaded that these books aren’t dreadful 🙂

       
      • Tanzenlicht

        October 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm

        Dumbledore knew about them, and Dumbledore can’t keep secrets from eleven year olds.

        If I were an evil racist wizard and one of my most hated enemy’s wives had a muggle sister, even an estranged one, I might keep that in mind for a scare tactic. I mean Lily went to school with a bunch of kids who became Death Eaters (we know of two between Snape and Lucius). She didn’t get along with Petunia, but Petunia wasn’t a secret as far as I know.

        James and Lily were important enough to set up a secret keeper and for the Dork Lord to go after personally, so if I were a secret Order I might set up a rotation of less useful witches and wizards to keep an eye on the Dursleys, especially if I had any kind of intelligence about specific efforts against James and Lily. (This says different less than complimentary things about McGonagall I suppose). No one did the right things to protect the Potters, but they did try some stuff. Preventing anyone from being lured out to protect family (there are members of my family I don’t care for, but I would probably try to prevent them from dying if I had expertise in the area of preventing them from dying, magic school for instance) might have been something they thought of.

        But I also seriously doubt Rowling put that much thought into it. She had characters to introduce and exposition to exposit.

        I also seem to have left out the part where I think this sporking is wonderful and the only thing about it I dislike even a little bit is that you have to spend time writing it and I cannot just have it immediately. I skipped straight to the part where I argue about details. Because that’s how I am.

         
  9. Fayth

    October 14, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    Ah yes the first chapter, where the Dursleys are normal, which is a sin apparently, Dumbledore likes to appear and cause havoc wherever he goes ’cause… reasons, Hagrid is as subtle as he is small and poor Minerva McGonagall is either brainwashed, Imperioused, or Dumbledore is so omniscient that even the Headmaster’s right hand doesn’t ask questions.

    Seriously Though

    You guys brought up the two big plot points I was looking at initially, Vernon Dursley being far to observant for being an unobservant idiot, and Minerva McGonagall being…… weird.

    The put-outer imo wouldn’t be so …dorky… if it had gone by the deluminator name it was tagged with at the end of the series and as you guys said if there were more of these, or magical gadgets in general, in the series proper.

    Also this may sound really, really, nit-picky but in the narrative there is a lot of sight descriptions that the characters are doing while waiting for Hagrid, but if Dumbles puts out all the lights for the street and then, according to the book, “If anyone looked out the window now, even beady eyed Mrs. Dursley, they wouldn’t be able to see anything that was happening down on the pavement.”… This is all fair and fine but how the hell are any of the characters able to see anything? They should be bumbling around blind because all the lights are out, and there’s no ambient moonlight ’cause its cloudy.

    …The lack of relatives is bothersome wizarding or otherwise. And I think it bothers me more that I didn’t catch it the first time… (especially considering the Sirius subplot she introduces later….it would have mooted a plot point but I’m operating under the premise as of chap 1 that JK’s only got the outline of book 2 planned at this point but it means she could have had a pseudo-antagonist to work with for book 3 and had a parental figure she could have worked with from the get go.)

    Dumbledore and McGonagall’s argument kinda bugged me the first time a read it, but re-reading the entire dialogue between Minerva and Dumbles is both really stilted and is decidedly odd, I don’t know if it is a cultural thing but at least where I live teachers eschew calling their colleagues by their surnames or by title (unless talking to a student about another teacher) and it seriously sounds like after Minerva started arguing Dumbledore did a wandless non verbal imperious curse because she goes from “Are you bloody nuts? to, “Yeah everything will be fine, I agree with you entirely.” and I’m left making odd faces and wondering why and how she changed her mind so quickly.

    I never thought about the enlargement issue for the motorcycle…unless Sirius rides a super-sized chopper…
    And how does no one hear a word of this entire exchange, on a quiet night in a quiet neighborhood or the motorcycle? McGonagall, Dumbledore and Hagrid aren’t exactly being quiet here.

    So this is just a theory I’m putting out there and I’m not at all saying this could have happened…but if the day in the first chapter isn’t Nov 1st but Oct 31st, then the events that killed Voldemort could have happened in the extremely early morning (and as a mum to a currently 5 year old boy I can tell you at 15 months, with morning feedings, were not a time that either myself or my husband even remotely resembled awake and coherent …the Apocalypse could have happened and I would have been only marginally aware…just sayin’) which would be an ideal time to get the drop in on the Potters because they were not with it enough to defend themselves…and if its early morning it would tie (kinda) the fact that all and sundry knew Voldemort was dead and that Harry survived…so, instead of a missing day it makes for a few missing hours (which may make everything more confusing here but…)
    (This is all moot Anyway cause Oct 31 was a Saturday in 1981 and November 1st was a Sunday (*rant* seriously if your going to make things date and year specific use a bloody calendar…..*endrant*) although I guess that McGonagall can be waiting all day this way and it wouldn’t cause much of a fuss than if she were to arbitrarily disappear during the week day.)

    So is it Kirby that looks like Hagrid or, having a Hagrid that looks like Kirby or both that you want? (I cannot as of yet guarantee WHEN I’ll do this but it will be done)

     
    • Loten

      October 15, 2014 at 8:25 am

      It’s all a bit of a mess really, isn’t it? Your timeline fix has possibilities though. I’m amused at Rowling getting the days wrong when she was so specific with the date, too, I was too lazy to look that one up.

      As for the Hagrid/Kirby, whichever one looks silliest, I feel! Looking forward to that 🙂

       
  10. DawnM

    October 15, 2014 at 1:40 am

    A few other thoughts.

    This chapter establishes that Petunia wants to pretend that she doesn’t have a sister. That makes me sad – it makes me think of other situations where people pretend that they don’t have a sister who is mentally ill, or where people pretend that they don’t have a sister who is gay. Don’t do this, Petunia!

    I don’t think that you should try to fix this chapter. I believe that this chapter could be dropped outright. I suspect every piece of infodump in this chapter is re-revealed later in the book in a much more natural way (except for a couple of points that are not necessary for this present book). I have not gone off and done the work prove my suspicion 100%, but I do recall that pretty much all the main points get revealed by Hagrid in chapters 4 and 5. Also, a chapter that’s not from Harry’s point of view is really rare in these books. I feel like this chapter was written after the fact and tacked on the front for some purpose that eludes me.

    Spouse has been reading over my shoulder, and spouse suggests that Hagrid’s changing size might not be a bug but rather a feature – a literary device on the part of the author. I have no idea if this will bear out, but if Hagrids’s apparent size changes to reflect the situation or the character’s mood then that might make some sense. e.g. in this scene, perhaps Hagrid is not meant to be literally 5 people wide, it’s just that the sight of him on a mundane suburban street exaggerates his extraordinariness to the point where he “feels” like he’s 5 people wide. Not sure if this notion will hold up as the chapters go by…

     
    • Loten

      October 15, 2014 at 8:30 am

      Given what we see of Lily’s personality, I suspect anyone would want to pretend they weren’t related to her from time to time. I wish we’d seen more of Petunia’s story, growing up the non-magical sister of a witch who obviously gets ALL THE THINGS and all the attention would really, really suck. Also if you can’t do magic yourself, magic is SCARY, as we’ll see very shortly.

      The chapter could be dropped without losing any plot points, true, but it’s standard Chosen One tropes, the orphan being established in lowly and pitiful settings. I think Rowling wanted something dramatic and wizardly to hint at the delights to come, and she does pile on the foreshadowing here. I don’t think I’d have included it myself but I don’t blame her for doing so, just for doing it badly.

      Spouse has an interesting theory! I like it. Hagrid’s not the only item or entity that changes size throughout the series though (wait until we get to the Magical Size-changing Secret Passage in book 3) so I suspect it’s just Rowling failing again.

       
  11. Anodyne

    October 15, 2014 at 5:44 am

    The lack of relatives is never properly explained, either: James’ parents died at around the point where he became an adult, allegedly of natural causes (implied to be an illness of some sort). I believe there was an interview which stated that James’ parents were just really old, so it wasn’t surprising that they died when they did – but interview-derived info is sketchy at best, because Rowling isn’t consistent about what she says from one interview to the next. And the timeline just doesn’t fit, if you use the tapestry (which is a whole mess in itself, due to Rowling’s attitude of “oh, /maths/” – nothing at all lines up properly).

    Likewise, we don’t even know WHEN Lily and Petunia’s parents died. The HP Wikia states that they died sometime between when Lily got her letter and when Lily died, “presumably of natural causes” (if I’m remembering right; it is late and I do not feel like going to check the wiki right now). That’s an awfully wide gap, and most of it leaves Lily and Petunia as orphaned kids raised by…whom? We aren’t told; it’s plausible – since Lily is a young witch – that they got two guardians: one for Lily, from the wizarding world, and one for Petunia, presumably a relative or someone from the state if they had no relatives.
    And losing both parents at a young age (and possibly getting tossed into the system on top of it) might add some further explanation to Petunia’s rather frantic desire to be as normal as possible.

    Harry could have plausibly been sent to the Blacks to be raised – according to the tapestry, he’s related closely enough. But we never hear anything of that, either; presumably, just because Dumbledore rushed things so much that he made sure that no one in the wizarding world could claim him. (I wonder why that is – it couldn’t possibly be that it’ll make him easier to manipulate when the time comes, could it?)

    @ DawnM: the loathing Petunia feels for Lily goes both ways. Lily (allegedly) had no fond feelings for Petunia either (although we don’t find this out until much later). So it’s a bit “I have no magically-talented sister”, true – but there’s a heavy dose of plain old sibling feud in the mix there.

     
  12. Loten

    October 15, 2014 at 8:37 am

    The lack of relatives is one part convenience and one part trope, I suspect. It really doesn’t make sense. I like the idea that Lily’s parents died young enough for them to be thrown into the system, that would have been an interesting story and would have explained both their life patterns, but there’s no mention of it in any of the Pottermore or interview bonus stuff because things that make sense aren’t allowed in this series. I’m going to say here that their parents died recently and Petunia is still grieving; losing her parents plus losing her sister gives her even less reason to want a random kid dumped on her.

    To be fair Harry being raised by the Blacks would have been a terrible, terrible disaster. Andromeda seems the only one capable of raising a non-unbalanced child, though Narcissa is always portrayed as being sensible enough that she should have been able to as well. I can kind of understand Dumbles’ thinking, Harry being raised away from the wizarding world should keep him neutral and uninfluenced by any of the various factions (and honestly there are very few witches or wizards in this series that I’d trust to bring up any child) but obviously his primary reason was future manipulation. ‘Blood protection’ be damned.

     
  13. All-I-need

    October 16, 2014 at 12:40 am

    Wow I was so caught up in uni work I didn’t even see the first chapter as up until now!
    Your observations and the comments are amazing and the article on McGonagall did blow my mind, though not in the way the author intended, I’m afraid.

    But back to the matter at hand – the crazy events surrounding these initial 24 hours “after”. Here is my (ridiculously long) take on what might have happened:

    I suppose it is possible that Dumbledore, McGonagall and Co. were informed of the attack on the Potters because Snape realised it was going to happen (clearly Voldemort going off to kill his most dangerous enemy would be mentioned to at least SOME of his followers – he doesn’t really strike me as someone who went around without an entourage while the war was in full swing). Obviously Severus would have a) warned Dumbledore who then b) proceeded to do absolutely nothing, perhaps putting all his faith in that stupid prophecy and not at all bothered by the fact that he was just abandoning two people he had promised to protect, so c) Severus, worried about Lily, went to Godric’s Hollow on his own and found the house destroyed – we know he was actually the first on the scene, even before Hagrid arrived. Presumably, he lurked around and waited to see if someone would come to get Lily’s son to safety but did not interfere himself because, well, it’s a) a baby and b) James’ son.

    Dumbledore, aware of the warning and the high possibility of an attack, sent Hagrid to go and have a look (who knows, maybe he can hail the Knight Bus with his umbrella? His wand is still in there, right?) or perhaps Dumbledore himself hailed the bus for him. Hagrid was to go check if there was anything out of the ordinary going on in GH (the Fidelius Charm would prevent him from finding the actual house, after all) and send an owl to report back (we know he carries one in his coat). Instead, Hagrid found the house destroyed and Harry in the debris (how exactly half the house got destroyed by a backfiring Avada Kedavra is beyond me). He left the house with an unexpected baby and the shock of just having seen two dear friends dead and encountered Sirius Black in the front yard, who – as Harry’s godfather and James’ best friend – was probably coming by to visit them every day or so and was in a particular hurry that day because he had heard rumours of a planned attack on the Potters and had gone to check on Pettigrew to find him gone, this raising his alarm. Sirius, being described in the books as having been a clever student, enlarged his motorcycle for Hagrid to get Harry out and away. Hagrid told him he was acting on Dumbledore’s orders (true, though not explicit) and gladly accepted the motorcycle since he had no other means of transport.

    While Sirius went off to hunt down Peter, a task where his motorcycle would only attract attention, Hagrid took Harry back to Hogwarts (I assume) and handed him to the care of Madame Pomfrey or some other healer in charge at the time. At least that’s what I hope happened. While baby Harry was examined and his initial course wound treated (I’m being very optimistic here, can you tell?), Hagrid reported to Dumbledore, who then decided to leave the child with a muggle family far removed from the wizarding world. But logic dictates it needs to be a muggle family that already knows about magic, so as not to break the secrecy act and to ensure they won’t freak out when the child they took in suddenly starts levitating stuff. He then remembered that Lily’s sister once asked to be accepted to Hogwarts but has no magic of her own -> perfect.

    Since wizards can somehow address mail down to the precise room a person is in, I assume it was little trouble to find out where she lived and tell Hagrid to take baby Harry there that night. Perhaps he even ordered him not to fly over the British main land, which would take Hagrid in an arch over the sea and over Wales before ending up in Little Whinging.

    It is now approximately early morning on Nov. 1.
    As news of Voldemort’s death spread (no idea how they concluded he was dead, I always assumed that since avada kedavra kills without damaging the body, there was an actual corpse in the house), classes for the day were cancelled. While preparing for the trip back across England on the motorbike and waiting for Harry, Hagrid encountered McGonagall and told her the whole sad thing. But, since you can’t take Hagrid’s words at face value, McGonagall won’t believe him unless Dumbledore confirms his statement. Since Dumbledore himself is by now locked up in his office with a distraught Snape and far too busy to bother with her, Hagrid informs her Dumbledore will be at the Dursley’s house that night. Curious as to what the hell he could possibly be doing in a muggle neighbourhood at such a time, McGonagalls leaves for Privet Drive to investigate these muggles, perhaps suspecting they may be allies in the war effort or something. To her disappointment, they are ordinary muggles. In the evening, Dumbledore arrives and confirms Hagrid’s statement about the Potters, then informs her of his intentions regarding the Dursleys and Harry. Hagrid arrives with Harry. They leave the baby on the door step. You know the rest.

    The only thing I have never been quite clear on is the whole milk bottles thing. If I remember correctly, Petunia discovers Harry while putting the milkbottles OUT, right? So that would mean she gets up early (I don’t know when the milkman usually arrives in the UK) and puts out the bottles and goes back to bed, yes? Otherwise, she might have put them out in the evening and the person to actually discover the baby would be the poor milkman.

    I would like to point out that I was basically making this up as I typed, particularly the second half.
    Any thoughts?

     
    • All-I-need

      October 16, 2014 at 12:51 am

      I just realised I should make myself clearer on two points:
      1. Hagrid being ordered not to fly over the main land: people are lighting fireworks and other celebratory stuff, the motorcycle might be hit in a freak accident or seen by muggles. Best to avoid that.
      2. If Petunia put out the milk bottles early in the morning, Harry might not actually have been out on the doorstep for longer than two hours, depending on when exactly he was placed there and when she took the bottles out. Or whatever. If she was taking them IN, that suggests the milkman had already arrived and either did not think a baby on the doorstep was something he should ring the doorbell or call the police about, or Harry was not yet there when the milkman arrived, which I assume would have happened in the early morning hours (say between 5 and 7 am).

       
      • Loten

        October 16, 2014 at 8:48 am

        That timeline more or less makes sense. It makes about as much sense as anything could, I think 🙂 Nice fix.

        As for the milk bottles, I can’t comment on modern milkmen but back when we used to get milk delivered he tended to show up at ridiculous o’clock, certainly long before anyone else was up. I think we have to assume Dudley woke Petunia up in the middle of the night and she ended up putting the bottles out and other random household chores, which is very definitely a thing people do (I’ve been known to start doing housework in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep).

        In any case, I think two hours is still long enough for a one year old to be at serious risk of hypothermia and dying of exposure. We don’t often get the spectacular snowy winters that most of northern Europe and the US enjoy, but it gets plenty cold.

        Alternatively Dumbles stuck concealing charms on Harry to make sure only the Dursleys could see him and do anything about him, which is perfectly in character for him. Though I’m not sure if he’d know about milkmen and postmen and the like, since for all that he pretends to be Muggle-savvy he really really isn’t.

         
    • janach

      October 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Do the books specify that Severus was first on the scene at Godric’s Hollow, or is that film canon? I don’t remember anything about Severus going to the Potters’ house at all, but I could be forgetting something. It’s a reasonable part of your speculation, but I don’t think it’s canon.

       
      • Loten

        October 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

        That’s film canon.

        Most of the scenes I like tend to be, sadly.

        Though if I remember right the books don’t say that he /didn’t/… 😛

         
  14. Only Some Stardust

    October 17, 2014 at 12:26 am

    The Flying Motorcycle is most certainly charmed to be like a broom. Brooms have padding/sticking charms on them, since a normal human being can’t exactly sit comfortably on one of those; I imagine the motorcycle would as well, so even if it wasn’t enlarged Hagrid could still use it. Well, if his giant hands don’t crush it, maybe.

    And I think without Dumbledore meddling, the Malfoys probably would have taken Harry in due to his black relation. The Wizarding World is small, almost everyone is related to each other, so he’s prolly got other relatives too.

    No, it smells of Dumbledore.

    And I always interpreted (maybe falsely) that Minerva’s question wasn’t out of ignorance but more disbelief. ‘Voldemort really got defeated? Really?’ In her situation I’d be feeling dubious too.

     
  15. ncfan

    October 20, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Another nitpick about Hagrid being the one to take Harry from Godric’s Hollow? Why did Dumbledore send someone he knew to be incapable of effectively defending himself with magic to go get the kid who had to be at the top of every Death Eater’s hitlist? It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to assume that, since news of Voldemort’s defeat got out so (unrealistically) quickly, his followers would descend upon the house en masse to try and rescue him, or at least recover his body.

    Without the motorbike, Hagrid has no quick means of escape–he can’t fit on a broomstick and, given the age at which he was expelled, was likely never taught how to Apparate. Maybe he can flag down the Knight Bus with his umbrella, I don’t know–somehow I doubt it, which makes me wonder how on earth he got to Godric’s Hollow in the first place? Did somebody else get him there? Who was that person, then? What happened to them? (Questions for another post, I guess.)

    Anyways, if it comes down to a fight, Hagrid has no effective means of defending himself against the Death Eaters’ attacks. He can do small stuff with his umbrella, but somehow I doubt he can summon an efficacious shield charm or perform duelling spells with it. Since he’s part-Giant, he’s naturally a bit resistant to magical attacks, but even Hagrid has to have his limit, and somehow I doubt that even he could survive a Killing Curse. There’s also the fact that he’d be fending off his attackers while holding Harry in his arms. Given how strong Hagrid is, he could have easily accidentally crushed and killed the kid in the heat of the moment by squeezing him too tightly, or by falling on him.

    This was not well-planned out, is what I’m saying, and if I was Dumbledore I would have either gone and gotten Harry myself, or sent the Wizarding equivalent of a SWAT team to Godric’s Hollow to recover him.

     
    • Loten

      October 20, 2014 at 7:58 am

      My theory is that 1) since the bad guys are obviously all stupid and weak-willed, roll your eyes here, they’d be so stunned in the wake of Voldy’s death that they would be unable to attack anyone, and that sending the one person who can’t do magic was a subtle mockery; and 2) Hagrid’s the only one of Dumbles’ minions who will never ask questions and do exactly as he’s told without hesitation. Good thoughtless doormats are hard to find and train.

      As for how he got there, well, mine and Mitchell’s pet catchphrase for this series is “Fuck It, It’s Magic”. That’s all the explanation we get for 90% of the series.

       
    • DawnM

      October 20, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      One suggestion for “why Hagrid”…

      I’m thinking about “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” as a comparison. Smiley, the lead character, was in a position where he couldn’t trust any of his former friends and allies. He only had a couple of people he could work with who he was sure would not betray him.

      Dumbledore would be in a similar position. Anyone, even members of the order, even McGonagall, could be working as a spy or could be controlled by an imperius curse. Hagrid, however, has the advantage that he is a) a terrible liar and b) almost impossible to curse. Hagrid may be the only person that Dumbledore can completely trust.

       
      • Loten

        October 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

        Oh, that’s actually a very good point. Though it is a bit of a moot point given that Voldy’s just poofed. And he does go on to tell McGonagall (almost) everything anyway. Still, in another book that would be a great explanation 🙂

        (I keep trying to read John le Carré, he is the acknowledged master of spy fiction. I just can’t get along with his writing style, I find it very hard to get invested in the book because everything is so detached and emotionless.)

         
      • DawnM

        October 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm

        It’s probably best not to get invested in LeCarre – In my experience it’s really excellent writing about things going horribly, miserably, wrong.

         
  16. maryj59 (@maryj59)

    October 25, 2014 at 4:09 am

    Nice sporking! I don’t – quite – believe the evil McGonagall theory, but we can see exactly how evil Dumbledore is if we’re paying attention. As to the missing 24 hours, it has been much discussed. I actually wrote a fic called “All Hallows Eve” in which Severus goes to Godric’s Hollow to try to warn James that Voldemort is coming. He fails, of course, and after the disaster pulls the baby from the rubble and brings him to Hogwarts.* So Hagrid isn’t flying from the west country; he’s flying from Scotland. AFTER Dumbledore examines the baby, of course, and after he interrogates young Severus. That’s what took so long.

    As to child development – yes, most kids at 15 months are cruising and crawling. All are sitting, rolling, and wriggling. It’s very unlikely that Harry would have simply lain still all night on that doorstep. Then there’s the dying-of-exposure problem, and some British readers have pointed out that there might also be urban predators such as foxes. Very, very irresponsible of Dumbledore to do this to the little saviour of the wizarding world!

    As I said, nice job. I look forward to your future installments.

    *Harry, btw, screaming all the way.

     
  17. Brittany

    December 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I’m really enjoying your assessment of the chapters. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read the first book, so there were several things that I hadn’t really considered until I read through your points. I too questioned why such young people would be parentless already, though I believe JKR mentioned at some point that James Potter’s parents were older when they had him (I believe it was either mentioned or implied that he was a pampered little prince). In the wizarding world, older parents could mean ages implausible for Muggles (Muggle women at any rate). 70s or 80s?

    As for Harry not leaving his basket overnight, I can’t remember when it is mentioned that he was a year old when his parents were killed. My guess is either JKR forgot these things when she wrote the book or he was supposed to have been sedated somehow to keep him in the basket. I remember when my daughter was 15 months old–keeping her in anything was a challenge.

    You are also correct about the strange formality that seems to exist between Dumbledore and McGonagall, though I guess we don’t really know at this point how long McGonagall has been working at Hogwarts or how long she’s been a part of the Order (though later we learn she would have been a 35+ year colleague of Dumbledore’s at this point).

    I’ve always thought the first book really showed JKR’s amateur status as a writer while she grappled to find her writing voice (these inconsistencies included). While PS got me hooked on the series, I’ve never much looked back at it as a whole book. I really started enjoying the books more after PoA. I can’t wait to keep reading your analysis. As a long-time fan of Loten’s writing, I especially look forward to the Snape analysis.

     

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