Onwards we go. No trigger warnings this time, which is nice. The picture for this chapter isn’t worth commenting on, just a pile of sticks on a chair. This is a very long post, there was a lot to comment on this time.
Chapter Five: Diagon Alley
Harry has a peaceful and untroubled sleep for what’s left of the night, and despite having only gone to bed sometime after one in the morning at the earliest he wakes up early. At first he refuses to open his eyes, telling himself it was all a dream, which is a pretty reasonable reaction. It would be nice if he’d ever been so dismissive of the other weird crap that’s been happening to him his entire life, but better late than never. It would also be nice if this wasn’t the only time for the whole series that he’s reluctant to accept something good happening to him (assuming you believe the canon message that a psycho stalker arriving to assault your relatives is ‘good’, anyway).
A tapping noise he thinks is his aunt knocking on his door to wake him up persuades him to open his eyes. It’s a lovely sunny day and Hagrid’s asleep nearby; it was real after all. Hurrah. The tapping noise is an owl knocking on the window – with its talon, which isn’t very likely – and holding a newspaper, the Daily Prophet, in its beak (also not very likely). This is a fun mental image, but there’s no way the Prophet has one owl per every paper delivered, surely. Incidentally, I’m not sure why the paper is called that; they don’t prophesy anything (it could be a play on the Daily Mail, but if that were so you’d think it’d be something like the ‘Daily Owl’). Happy that he wasn’t dreaming, Harry lets it in, and it drops the paper and starts attacking Hagrid’s coat, waking him up.
I expect some of you are wondering where the Dursleys are. Honestly, I have no idea. You won’t be seeing them this chapter. Their boat is still outside, as we’ll see shortly, so I imagine they’re cowering in the next room, too scared to sleep, wondering what the hell they can do about Dudley’s new tail. I wish they’d sneaked out and run away overnight.
Anyway, Hagrid says the owl wants paying, thus introducing us to wizard currency. Money is going to be a major theme this chapter, and this is actually a pretty good way to bring up the subject. Harry digs through Hagrid’s weird pockets full of crap and finds some strange coins, and while he’s paying the owl Hagrid says they have to go to London to buy his school things. Harry promptly starts feeling unhappy and ill, because he doesn’t have any money. I like this reaction, but sadly it doesn’t last, since Hagrid immediately tells him not to worry, his parents left him plenty of money and their first stop will be Gringotts, the wizard bank, which is run by goblins and therefore really really secure, because he needs to pick up something for Hogwarts anyway. This is called foreshadowing, kids, are you paying attention? He adds proudly that Dumbledore often chooses him for important things like that, which is pretty in character for him and a nice touch.
It would be nice if someone had arranged for some of this money to be paid to the Dursleys for Harry’s upkeep, wouldn’t it? They’re not poor and don’t need it, but it’s the principle of the thing, and we’ll see shortly that Harry’s absolutely not going to miss it.
I like most of their conversations in this chapter. Hagrid takes all these things for granted, and Harry literally knows nothing, so their communications tend to be awkward and disjointed. It’s done pretty realistically.
They bugger off outside and steal the boat, thus leaving the Dursleys completely stranded. We’ll never learn how they get back to the mainland. Bear in mind they have no phone, no signal flare, (or food or water, come to that) and the only person who knows they’re there is the old guy who owned the boat, who will get his boat back and assume everyone’s left. I suppose they ended up swimming.
Harry asks how Hagrid got there in the first place, and Hagrid says he flew. Okay, this is a very magical thing to do, but it’s also WAY above Hagrid’s power level. He can’t be referring to the flying bike, since it’s not there now. He doesn’t have a broom with him, and we’re never told he knows how to use one anyway. So that only leaves unassisted flight, which in the rest of the series will only ever performed by Voldemort and Snape. Given Hagrid’s behaviour since showing up, and the fact that he never does magic again after this chapter, I’m beginning to suspect he just might be a certain twinkly old wizard utilising some Polyjuice Potion (we know it doesn’t work with animals, but half-humans are probably okay). Alternatively, given that quite a few of the conversations with Harry this chapter are designed to lead him into a certain way of thinking, it’s possible Dumbles has recruited someone else to do it. A shapeshifter, skilled at manipulation, perhaps…
This is Kyubey. Do not make a contract with him. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
Source: Puella Magi Madoka Magica wiki
Worryingly, nothing’s going to happen to contradict either of these batshit theories. Aside from anything else, it being Kyubey in disguise would explain why he can’t talk properly; aliens can’t get everything absolutely right.
Moving on. Hagrid uses magic to speed up the boat (telling Harry to keep it a secret, which seems like an early start on making him feel like an insider and one of the reasons he comes off like Kyubey), which is helpful since clearly neither of them would know how to row it. We’re also told the boat was full of water, so let’s hope one of them understands the concept of bailing, even though we never see them do so. While they hurtle towards land and the boat starts to come apart under the strain (not really, but it ought to), Hagrid tells us a bit more about Gringotts and how secure it is; it’s protected by spells, and maybe dragons, and it’s ‘hundreds of miles under London‘ so any thief would starve to death trying to get out even if none of that got them.
The Earth’s crust is only about 25 miles thick on average, so if this is true then Gringotts is floating around in the mantle of boiling magma. We can’t tell if this is Hagrid being a moron (or whoever’s sockpuppeting him exaggerating for comic effect), wizards in general not knowing how to measure distances, Rowling utterly failing at distances (which she does many, many times over the course of the series), some combination thereof, or whether Gringotts actually is literally in Hell. It’s fun to imagine it’s the latter, but for now let’s just point out that if it was so far underground people can starve trying to get out, implying that it takes several weeks (though if they have time to starve there’s clearly a lot of clean water available for some reason), nobody would ever visit it.
Hagrid starts reading his paper instead of steering the boat, and mutters something about the Ministry of Magic screwing things up as usual. Harry promptly asks about this, because any eleven year old would really want to know about government and politics, right? At least he’s asking questions; the wizarding world will break him of that habit soon enough. Perhaps realising that this doesn’t belong in a children’s book – who am I kidding, Pottermore’s shown us Rowling just never thought it through – all Hagrid says is that of course they do before telling us that everyone wanted Dumbledore to be Minister, because he’s so awesome, but Dumbles would never leave Hogwarts so it was given to an idiot called Cornelius Fudge, who sends owls to Dumbledore every morning asking for advice because Dumbledore is so awesome, did I mention how awesome he is? You see what I mean about manipulation? Harry has no idea who these people are yet and it doesn’t mean anything to him, but he’s being programmed already to believe that Dumbles is the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom and just super-duper amazing in every way. (We’ll meet Fudge in later books, and while he’s very reluctant to believe anything uncomfortable or inconvenient, he’s not completely stupid or incompetent. Besides, although everyone loves complaining about how useless politicians are, no society anywhere is going to elect someone who is literally 100% incapable of doing the job.)
Harry asks what a Minister for Magic actually does, and Hagrid blithely tells us that the main job of the ruler of wizarding Britain is to make sure everyone hides from Muggles. If wizards really think that is more important than, you know, actually governing, then you can understand why their society is such a mess. Harry asks why, and Hagrid says it’s because otherwise all the useless silly Muggles would be begging for magic to help them, and that sounds awfully like hard work, so it’s
easier better if wizards pretend not to exist.
Conveniently, this is the moment when the boat crashes into the harbour wall to interrupt the conversation, and they get out and start walking to the train station. Harry apparently can’t walk and talk at the same time, so he stops asking questions for a while and watches everyone staring at Hagrid. Hagrid has literally just said it’s important to keep secret, so he’s now stomping around pointing at things and yelling about how inventive Muggles are for coming up with them (the example given is a parking meter, which at first glance just looks weird; you can’t tell by sight what it does unless you go and read the notice on it, and we’re not told that Hagrid does so), and his current description still has him at twice the size of any other adult. Whoever’s sockpuppeting him is doing a good job of keeping in character, I must say. Harry asks if there are really dragons at Gringotts – well done, Harry, something a normal child would be interested in and keep asking about, dragons are awesome – and Hagrid says it’s a rumour, adding that he really wants a dragon. Named Foreshadowing, presumably. Harry seems to find this weird, when any other child would immediately reply with “me too, can I get one, is that a thing that can happen in Magicland?”
Hagrid doesn’t understand Muggle money, so he gives it to Harry to buy their train tickets. This is stupid. The exchange rate between different countries is often very confusing, the relative worth of the currencies can be hard to understand, but actual money itself isn’t complicated at all and British sterling helpfully prints the value on each note and coin, as do most other currencies worldwide. If someone tells you that your train ticket costs, say, £18 (how optimistic of me, train tickets are bloody expensive), you look at your money and find a piece of paper that says £20 on it and realise that will be enough, or you find two pieces of paper that say £10 on them, or two pieces saying £10 and £5 and some coins with ONE POUND stamped on them. You don’t need to know what the equivalent would be in your money to work that out. Arthur Weasley will struggle with this in a later book too and it will be just as stupid then.
On the train, Hagrid starts knitting. He’ll never do this again either, for the record, but there just so happens to be one other wizard who later admits to an interest in knitting – actually there are a few, but I’m not referring to Weasley jumpers or elf hats here. Dear old Dumbledore confirms in a later book that he likes knitting patterns. Just something to ponder. Anyway, Hagrid – if it is really Hagrid – asks Harry if he’s still got his letter, and we learn that despite being desperate to read said letter the previous night and apparently fascinated by its contents, Harry somehow failed to notice there was a second page. Let’s break that page into sections and take a look at it.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
4. One winter cloak (black, silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupils’ clothes should carry name tags
Nothing much to say here, school uniform is never very interesting. They never actually wear their pointy hats in the books and only wear them for one scene in the first film, as far as I remember, but okay. No mention of a uniform to wear under those robes, and certainly in the Marauders era they didn’t seem to wear anything under them, or at least Snape didn’t (which is out of character, but I’m getting way ahead of myself here) but I’d assume there’s something similar to the uniforms they get in the films, and there should definitely be a school tie – which admittedly they can’t get until they’ve been Sorted.
[Mitchell adds: I don’t think the school uniform had to be uninteresting; it could have been a good opportunity to make the magical culture seem different. Rowling seems to have made a minor nod in that direction with the robes and hats, but since she seems to have forgotten about them later they never really mattered.]
I would expect protective gloves to be supplied by the school, too, and their being made of dragon hide is a bit of an issue. Dragons are allegedly pretty rare. We meet one obtained on the black market and one obtained from… er… somewhere, and all others are occasionally supplied from one reserve in Romania (aren’t you surprised it’s not Albania? Everything seems to be related to Albania somehow in this series) where they’re apparently a protected species. But every student has at least one pair of dragon hide gloves, so does every adult working with Potions or dangerous plants. One of the three possible wand cores for British wands is dragon heartstring (whatever that is). Boots and jackets can be made from dragon hide. And lots of bits of dragon are sold as Potions ingredients, and they’re not that expensive: someone will be heard discussing the price of dragon liver in just a few pages. Dragon meat steaks are common enough to be used to soothe black eyes.
There’s also a disease called dragon pox, which is just a slightly worse version of chickenpox. Based on this, I’m declaring all Potterverse dragons to be some form of Transfigured chicken. This alleged nature reserve is just a farm. You heard it here first, folks.
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble
Most of these names are pretty stupid, aren’t they? And most of them are far too aptly related to the subject. I assume there’s an academic publisher somewhere who churns out all these dozens of textbooks, and they make up pen names for them. Two of these authors – Bathilda Bagshot and Newt Scamander – actually exist; for my own sanity I’m going to assume the others are imaginary. I’m also not sure why Harry needs a bestiary when he won’t be taking a Magical Creatures class until third year, and there’s no Astronomy textbook here even though that’s a first-year class.
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 set brass scales
Again, I would expect most of this – except the wand – to be supplied by the school, though given the Potions teacher’s attitude towards his students I wouldn’t be surprised if he refused. And what idiot thinks it’s a good idea to get children to buy and transport glass? Also, aside from the wands and cauldrons I don’t think we ever see the students make use of these items…
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad
Unless they’re a main character with a plot-significant pet. Honestly, Rowling, the boy (unfortunately) shows up next chapter, is there any reason at all why you couldn’t have just added, “OR a rat” to this list? Besides, it’s actually a stupid idea. I assume most children would want pets; the owls all live in the Owlery, and apparently toads are really unpopular, but the cats would get out and run amok. The school would be overrun, half of them would get lost or eaten by something in the Forbidden Forest or possibly killed by psychotic students, and the rest would be having kittens like there’s no tomorrow since I highly doubt that wizards have heard of the concept of neutering animals. And who feeds them? I also feel sorry for the minority who are allergic to cat hair, and it’s possible for people to be scared of cats, though I find it hard to understand why personally.
I love animals, I am completely behind the notion of awesome animal familiars, and a certain kitty who shows up in later books is actually a favourite character of mine in his own right, but it just doesn’t make sense in a school. Maybe this should read, “students may also bring an owl, and may request permission to bring other pets in certain circumstances” or something.
PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST-YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS
Ha. Ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha.
Hark, it’s the sound of the Foreshadowing Fairy again.
Frankly students shouldn’t be allowed their own brooms no matter what year they’re in, but it’s not as if the sole sports-based reason for them having brooms makes any sense at all, and we’ll be discussing it at greater length than we really want to once it shows up to become the Sub-Plot That Just Won’t Die.
‘Can we buy all this in London?’ Harry wondered aloud.
‘If yeh know where to go,’ said Hagrid.
Now that is genuinely a good line. If you ignore Kyubey’s awkward attempt to mimic human speech properly without telepathy.
We don’t know where they set out from, and we’re not told how long this train journey takes; the next scene opens in London, where Harry’s never been before. Apparently Hagrid knows where he’s going, but obviously doesn’t know how to use Muggle travel, since the Underground seems difficult for him. I’m not sure how they manage here, given those circumstances, since Harry’s quite possibly never been anywhere larger than his home town and has certainly never had to figure out trains and such on his own. The Underground isn’t very hard to use, but he’s only eleven, and frankly I’m amazed Hagrid knows the street address of their destination. Luckily they’re going to Charing Cross Road (not that we’re told this in the books, of course), and the closest Underground station is actually called Charing Cross; there’s quite a few stops where the name of the station gives you absolutely no indication of where they are.
After complaining a lot about how rubbish the trains are (they’re not; the overland trains here are total crap, but the Tube mostly runs very well), Hagrid leads Harry out of the Underground and they wander along a busy road. It’s full of Muggle shops and things – obviously – and Harry starts getting confused, because it certainly doesn’t look like you can buy magic stuff here. He starts wondering if maybe this is all an elaborate sadistic joke by the Dursleys, then dismisses this idea because apparently they don’t have a sense of humour. I wonder how he thinks they could have faked what happened to poor Dudley? Or where they found Hagrid, who is clearly not actually fully human? Or why they would have bothered? Nonetheless, I like this paragraph purely because it’s the only time in the entire series where the narrative admits that not all jokes are funny and that jokes at someone’s expense are cruel. Sadly, this rule only applies if Harry is the victim.
Our narrator then states that “somehow, even though everything Hagrid had told him so far was unbelievable, Harry couldn’t help trusting him“. Most children do tend to be trusting by nature, but given Harry’s apparently neglectful quasi-abusive upbringing, his lack of caring adults in his life and the fact that only a few hours ago he witnessed this man terrorising his family and assaulting his cousin, there is simply no way he would blindly trust Hagrid when he admits there is no reason to do so. I wonder what the sockpuppet put in those sausages he cooked last night? Or is there a spell at work here?
Hagrid takes him to a tiny, shabby pub called the Leaky Cauldron. Somehow, by the power of authorial fiat, Harry magically just knows that he and Hagrid are the only people who can see it. Apparently he’s basing this on ‘a peculiar feeling‘, but also the fact that nobody else is looking at it. Harry, it’s the middle of the day; unless it serves food most people aren’t going to be looking at a pub, they’re busy. Anyway, they go inside, because as it turns out the main entrance to the wizarding world is outside the back door of a pub. I hope wizards are better trained than Muggles, because generally speaking outside the back door of a pub is a really disgusting place.
A pub is a bit of a strange choice, but to a young child pubs are usually seen as grown-up and secret places, so I suppose it’s not too weird. The real question is why there’s a hidden entrance at all, since it doesn’t really seem to fit with what we’ve seen so far. It’s been pointed out (I forget exactly by whom) that Rowling seems to be trying to do two contradictory things at once. The magical world is simultaneously hidden in plain sight in two different ways. You have the idea that wizards live alongside Muggles and could be your neighbours etc, and then you have the “secret magical world that can be entered via special portals” of Diagon Alley and Platform 9 3/4 etc. Those really don’t make sense at all when you try to do them at the same time.
Plus, of course, that I’ve never quite managed to figure out how all of these hidden areas work – what would you see if you flew over Diagon Alley, for instance? And how on earth does the train station work? I can only make sense of the train station if it’s actually some kind of surreptitious teleportation and Platform 9 3/4 isn’t actually in the same physical location as the rest of Kings Cross, because otherwise where on earth is the train/track/etc and how does it not interfere with the workings of the Muggle station? Also, Apparition/Floo/Portkeys rather do make the secret entrances obsolete. It’d really make a lot more sense if, say, the Leaky Cauldron were just a designated Portkey location to get into Diagon Alley or something like that (of course, we know why it isn’t – she hadn’t invented Portkeys at the time).
Incidentally, the barman of this pub – here described rather oddly as looking like ‘a gummy walnut‘, whatever that’s meant to look like (wrinkly and toothless, we guess? Though that applies to all walnuts, not just gummy ones, if gummy walnuts actually existed…) – may well be immortal. He shows up later in flashbacks dating back sixty-odd years looking exactly the same. He greets Hagrid as a regular, asking if he wants his usual, as half the rest of the pub call out greetings. Now, the civilised parts of the wizarding world seem to have a total of three pubs in the whole of Britain (which is nonsense in itself, there are over seven thousand Muggle pubs in London alone, and small though the wizarding world is it’s not that small), and this seems to be the only one in Diagon Alley. Hagrid is very distinctive and would be somewhat well known, but I don’t buy that he’s an established regular at a pub that’s at the other end of Britain from where he actually lives when he can’t travel by magic most of the time. Hagrid says no, because he’s on Hogwarts business, and indicates Harry.
And everyone freaks out.
Somehow, in a pub specifically described as very dark and gloomy, where I would imagine Hogwarts staff come through with new students all the time, especially at this time of year, there’s enough light and everyone is interested enough to magically spot Harry’s special My Little Pony mark through his hair. And somehow they all know what it means. And somehow they all care. Harry is literally mobbed by everyone in the pub, all fighting to get close to him and say hello and shake his hand repeatedly and generally act like insane One Direction fangirls. Some of them are even crying.
As if this wasn’t ridiculous enough in and of itself, Harry doesn’t actually care. He’s perhaps a little puzzled, but this doesn’t make him uncomfortable or embarrassed or nervous, despite the fact that he shouldn’t have any real social skills at all and the fact that sudden fame ought to be overwhelming and scary. He’s perfectly calm, chatting to the crowd, telling a little old man in a top hat named Dedalus Diggle that he remembers meeting him in a shop once, as though he’s been doing meet-and-greets with fans his entire life. (Incidentally, Dedalus Diggle seems to be mentioned quite often throughout the rest of the series considering he’s not a real character.)
Among the crowd of mad fans is a pale, nervous young man with a tic under one eye and a severe stammer (speech impediments are funny, kids!), who Hagrid introduces as Professor Quirrell, Harry’s soon-to-be-teacher. Continuing to be friendly and calm, Harry asks him what subject he teaches, and we learn this poor nervous wreck who seems terrified of his own subject somehow teaches Defence Against The Dark Arts. We’ll learn later that this is his first year teaching it and that he used to teach something else, but Rowling hadn’t thought of that at this point. I believe he was actually the Muggle Studies teacher originally, but we’re not told that in the books. The way it’s discussed here makes it sound like he’d been teaching the subject for a while before “going off to get some experience” and coming back traumatised.
Finally Hagrid drags Harry away from his legion of adoring fans and out of the back door to the yard where the dustbins are. Why a magic pub needs dustbins, I don’t know. He grins at Harry and says he told him he was famous, even his teachers will be fangirls! Continuing to be totally okay with his status, Harry accepts this as his due and asks why Quirrell’s so weird, which Hagrid indifferently dismisses as it being his usual state now, he went off to get some real-life experience of his subject and something bad happened and now he’s terrified of everything. For future reference, yes, post-traumatic stress of any kind will always be treated this sensitively, when it exists at all, which is rare. I would like to think even Dumbledore wouldn’t retain a teacher clearly not capable of teaching, but this is Hogwarts and most of the staff are dangerous, incompetent or dangerously incompetent.
Hagrid taps a certain brick in the wall three times with his umbrella/wand, and a magic archway opens up. As discussed previously, this makes no sense, but I like it anyway. One thing Rowling is good at is describing scenery and magical effects. She can’t explain them, but she does describe them well. The arch leads onto a cobbled street; this is Diagon Alley, one of the few cutesy naming conventions I actually like. How many readthroughs did it take you to realise it’s “Diagonally” and that Knockturn Alley is “Nocturnally”? I bet none of you got it first time… I know I didn’t. [Mitchell adds: I’m pretty sure I picked up on Knockturn Alley right away, but Diagon Alley eluded me for a long time. I think child-me thought she’d misspelled ‘dragon’ and kept it because it sounded cool.]
Related question for foreign readers, how did that joke translate? Was it just left as Diagon Alley and you missed the joke, or did they try to translate it?
We notice here that suddenly nobody can recognise Harry any more. He will remain totally anonymous and ordinary for the rest of the chapter despite the reactions of everyone in the pub. We also notice that, in total defiance of fangirl behaviour, nobody from the pub has tried to follow them on their shopping trip, nor did anyone nip through to tip off everyone in Diagon Alley that HEY HARRY FREAKING POTTER’S COMING! or contact the newspaper. Anyway, Harry and Hagrid are now standing outside a cauldron shop, which is advertising a collapsible cauldron. I don’t know why this would be necessary or useful, or how you’d do it with metal, but I picture something like those folding paper lampshades and lanterns. They also have self-stirring cauldrons – otherwise known as blenders, presumably.
Reacting normally for once, Harry tries to stare at absolutely everything as they head for the bank (passing someone carping about the price of dragon liver; it’s just a chicken, lady). One of the shops they walk past is Eeylop’s Owl Emporium, which unsurprisingly sells owls – specifically “Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown and Snowy”. Hello, biology fail, I didn’t really miss you. First and most important fail: tawny and brown owls are the same thing, and screech owls and barn owls are the same thing. Now, before anyone jumps on me, I know technically speaking screech owls are in fact a separate order of owl species. But in Britain, screech owl and barn owl are used interchangeably for the same bird. Also, true screech owls are only found in America. Snowy owls are also not native to Britain, there are a few in the very far north but they don’t breed here. Native British owls: Tawny, Barn, Little, Long-eared and Short-eared. Rowling only managed two of them. Okay, nothing says the shop can only sell native species, but given how important secrecy supposedly is, it seems logical there would be a law against using conspicuous foreign owls. We see eagle owls later too; like snowy owls, we have some, but they’re not native. There’s also another owl I think is meant to be a Scops, and we definitely don’t have those.
Ten seconds on Google, Rowling. Research won’t kill you, I promise.
They move on past another shop that sells brooms. There are several boys Harry’s age outside pressing their faces against the window, which in my experience real children only do to pull faces at people on the other side or to make marks on the glass. If they actually are Harry’s age I assume they’re also new Hogwarts students, but we never learn who they were. They’re talking about the new Nimbus Two Thousand, the fastest broom ever, and is that the Foreshadowing Fairy I hear again? Spoiler: almost everything Harry notices or overhears, ever, will be plot-significant later. By the power of Special Snowflake-ness. He almost never hears or pays attention to anything not relevant. And people congratulate Rowling on how well she does foreshadowing. Anyway, I’m not clear on why brooms have brand names in this universe. I can’t imagine there are really so many ways to put magic on a stick that any of them are really different from one another, nor that there’s such an enormous market to justify them being standardised and mass-produced.
Walking past lots of other cool-sounding shops without pausing to notice individual plot-significant features, they finally get to the bank. There’s a goblin outside, described as swarthy – in most books that tends to mean black, or at least not-white – with a beard and very long fingers and toes. He’s also extremely short since he’s apparently a head shorter than a small eleven year old. On the whole I prefer this vague description to the very poorly disguised Jewish caricature they went for in the films, but that’s a discussion for another time.
There’s a long and theatrical very bad poem on the door saying how silly it would be to steal from them. I don’t know why they bother. Most people won’t try to rob a bank anyway, and in the Potterverse those that do will succeed or fail depending on the plot’s requirements regardless of any warnings and defences in place. Inside the bank there are apparently around a hundred goblins hard at work, which seems highly unlikely because there just aren’t that many people.
Hagrid grabs the first goblin who doesn’t seem busy and mentions Harry’s vault, and the goblin asks for the key, which is apparently in Hagrid’s possession (did someone take ‘Keeper of the Keys’ a bit too literally?). Seriously, why would he have it? I would assume Gringotts would have recovered it from the Potter house and be holding it in trust until Harry showed up. While Hagrid’s looking for it, Harry watches another goblin weighing out ‘rubies as big as glowing coals’. Are those bigger than non-glowing coals? How often has Harry seen coal anyway?
Hagrid finds the key, and adds that he’s got a letter from Dumbledore saying they need to get something mysterious out of Vault 713. Who does this vault belong to? Dumbledore? Hogwarts? The guy we haven’t encountered yet who owns the mysterious object? It doesn’t really matter because there is absolutely no reason to remove said mysterious object from the bank, except to set up the plot. It seems pretty likely that Dumbledore has planned this all along, let’s be honest. We also don’t learn whether all vaults have numbers, and if so what number Harry’s is, or anything else interesting.
The goblin takes them further into the bank, and Harry finally picks up on the leaden hints Hagrid’s been dropping and asks what the mysterious object is. Hagrid really enjoys declaring that he can’t say. I like this whole bit, actually, I shouldn’t think Hagrid ever gets to feel important most of the time. If he hadn’t assaulted a young child last chapter I’d really like him as a character by this point.
Then they get on board a magic rollercoaster. Yes, really. The bank is so huge and extends so far that they travel around it by rollercoaster. Because that’s a thing. That they know how to do. I don’t know, I get that it’s a fun image for a children’s book, but seriously, it’s stupid. They travel for ages, past lots of caves and random passageways, and I fail to see why the bank would be this big, there really aren’t this many people. Of all the questions Harry could possibly ask at this point, the one he chooses is to ask Hagrid what the difference is between stalactites and stalagmites. Realising that this is a really stupid question he couldn’t possibly actually care about, Hagrid tells him that stalagmite has an M in it, now shut up. For some reason the rollercoaster is making Hagrid ill, even though he can travel on flying motorbikes and in small boats at high speed with no trouble.
The goblin – his name is Griphook, by the way; any non-human you meet with an actual name will reappear later – opens Harry’s vault once they arrive, and for some reason a lot of green smoke billows out of it. Because reasons. Harry looks inside and gasps, because it’s piled high with shiny coins. Rowling has admitted that she gave Harry a lot of money purely because she couldn’t be arsed to figure out how he could pay for his education, which is a shit reason to do anything and is also handled very badly. Harry’s parents could have set up a trust fund for his schooling. Hogwarts could have a bursary fund, or just be free and government-funded. His legions of fans could sponsor him. Dumbles could cough up. But no, she chose to make Harry insanely, stupidly rich – we don’t really get a sense of how much he has here, but throughout the series he will from this point onwards forget all about his poor little penniless orphan state and will permanently behave as though he’s always been filthy rich. Money will never mean a thing to him and he’ll think nothing of it.
Hagrid piles an indeterminate amount of money into a sack for him and explains the system.
‘The gold ones are Galleons,’ he explained. ‘Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine [bronze] Knuts to a Sickle, it’s easy enough.’
Don’t try and figure out the exchange rate, it will give you a headache. Let’s just say for the sake of sanity that the coins are gold and silver coloured and not literally made from gold and silver, because otherwise any Muggleborn with half a brain could break the economy in a week. I’m also amused by the mental image of Harry staggering as he tries to carry this sack full of gold. Coins are heavier than people realise. [Mitchell adds: also, I always wondered why she used such large prime numbers here, because we’re never given any in-universe explanation. Presumably just to make it feel bizarre, because there’s no sensible reason to set things up that way.]
Back on the magic rollercoaster, and off even deeper underground. They’re probably into the molten ocean of magma by this point, but somehow the air is getting colder, because physics eludes Rowling just like most other subjects. Vault 713 has no keyhole. Griphook opens it by touching it, and explains that anyone except a goblin who pokes the mystery door gets sucked in and trapped, and they check for captives about once a decade. It’s almost completely empty except for one small thing on the floor wrapped in brown paper. Maybe it’s porn. Hagrid puts it in his pocket and they get back on the magic rollercoaster again (referred to by Hagrid as an ‘infernal cart‘; they really must be literally in Hell now), and back to Diagon Alley.
Harry then demonstrates why it’s a stupid idea to hand children sacks of money by thinking dizzily that he doesn’t know where to run first and has never had so much money before. This is a good realistic reaction that vanishes completely since he doesn’t actually go mad and buy everything in sight, even though Hagrid chooses this point to leave him on his own to go buy his robes while he slopes off to the pub. (He had a bottle of spirits in his coat last night, so I doubt that’s where he’s really going… maybe Dumbles’ potion is wearing off.)
The woman in the robe shop also fails to recognise or care about Harry, treating him as a normal Hogwarts student and starting to take his measurements next to another new first year, a boy with a pale, pointed face. Hello, Draco. Your life’s going to really suck for seven books; I’m sorry Rowling hates blond boys. We’re not told his name yet, though he and Harry have a bit of a conversation. I don’t know why Draco’s family are getting his school things so late, or why his parents are off buying things for him personally. If they’d been written in-character here I’m sure they’d have done it all via mail-order or sent servants or something, but I suppose it’s because Rowling doesn’t want us to meet them yet while still wanting to insert Draco for us to hate. The boy tells us he’s going to bully his father into buying him a broom to smuggle to school – yeah, good luck with that, kid; your father is pretty bully-proof. This is also not what a child would say, but Rowling was desperate to use the word ‘bully’ here to reinforce the message that you’re not meant to like this boy.
Despite this, their conversation is pretty good. The boy’s asking questions and talking about the school, and actually being pretty friendly. Harry can’t answer most of the questions and is starting to feel stupid and uncomfortable (though he never reacted that way when talking to Hagrid, and won’t react that way later when talking to other people who also know things he doesn’t), and meanwhile we get a few scraps of information – Hogwarts has houses, apparently, including Slytherin and Hufflepuff, and there’s something called Quidditch.
Hagrid shows up outside the shop with ice cream, because the only food you can buy in Diagon Alley is ice cream, just as all you can buy in Hogsmeade is candy, and the boy notices him. Harry explains who he is and he says, oh, yes, I’ve heard of him, he’s a servant. ‘I heard he’s a sort of savage – lives in a hut in the school grounds and every now and then he gets drunk, tries to do magic and ends up setting fire to his bed.’ Incidentally, we will learn in later books that this description is completely, scarily accurate.
In an ideal world Harry would reply, “Oh, yes, he’s a lunatic; he turned my cousin into a pigman yesterday!” and they could start bonding ready to go on adventures. Sadly, no, he’s eager to defend him instead, so the boy shrugs and asks why Hagrid’s with him, where are Harry’s parents? (Er, Draco, you’re a rich aristocratic boy, why are you confused that someone’s out with a servant rather than relatives?) On hearing that they’re dead, he apologises, but Harry decides he doesn’t sound sorry. Sometimes people do dislike each other instantly for no reason, but honestly, Draco hasn’t done anything wrong here. Apparently realising this, Rowling inserts some words into his mouth and he starts talking about how he hopes Harry’s parents were magical because the school really shouldn’t let Muggleborns in, they’re not the same and they don’t know anything. He’s really, really not speaking like an eleven year old and is obviously parroting things he’s heard adults say, and if blood status was actually that important to him he’d have asked Harry’s name and blood status immediately before deciding whether or not to be friendly.
Incidentally, there’s no way Draco has never heard about Harry Potter and his famous pony-scar, but somehow he’s failed to notice this entire time. Conveniently, just as he asks Harry’s name (literally “what’s your surname“; Rowling, people do not talk like this), the tailor interrupts and says Harry’s done and Harry promptly runs for it while the boy politely says he’ll see him at Hogwarts. (I wonder why only Slytherins address one another and are addressed by their surnames?)
This conversation has understandably made Harry very uncomfortable, because he knows he doesn’t know anything and he’s scared of being really far behind everyone else. Unfortunately for him his only source of reassurance is Hagrid, who brushes it off by replying that Harry’s not one of those useless Muggles and haha if only Draco had known who he really was. And anyway not every Muggleborn is useless because Lily was amazing despite having an awful sister. (If we thought it were the slightest bit deliberate, and if the narrative made it clear it didn’t approve, we’d probably compliment this as a very good portrayal of unexamined and internalised bigotry.) They’re shopping for parchment and quills by this point (imagine first year essays written by kids who’ve never used a quill before… poor teachers) and Harry’s very impressed by some ink that changes colour as you write. That actually exists, you know; it’s cool, but not magical.
They move on to discussing some of the other things Draco said, and we learn that Quidditch is a sport played on brooms; Hagrid compares it to football in terms of popularity, despite not knowing what football is (we did check out of curiosity, and it’s changed to soccer in the US edition). We also learn that Slytherin and Hufflepuff are two out of four possible houses. Hufflepuff are apparently mostly idiots; Harry assumes he’ll be in Hufflepuff, then. This is nicely realistic, but not in character for him.
‘Better Hufflepuff than Slytherin,’ said Hagrid darkly. ‘There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.’
Except we’ll find out in two books’ time that not only is this definitely not true, but Hagrid has been extremely aware that it’s not true for at least the past decade. In fact, we’ll find out that it’s not true at the end of this book, if you can find it amongst all the whitewash that’s going to be thrown around. I believe it’s Ron who says this in the film, and it’s slightly more forgiveable because he’d have no way of knowing otherwise. This is just racism by another name, and Hagrid – or the puppet master – is just trying to make Harry anti-Slytherin because Rowling likes prejudice. Harry will faithfully believe from this moment until the end of the series, and probably until the end of time, that all Slytherins are completely evil. Hagrid goes on to say that Voldy was a Slytherin when he was at Hogwarts, and the Foreshadowing Fairy jingles her little bell again. I hope you’re all impressed that I was able to contain my absolute rage over what I consider one of, if not the, worst lines in the entire series.
We don’t get an explanation of why the school has houses, or what they mean. School houses aren’t a concept you’d encounter in primary school, and I doubt Harry’s read many school stories, but he doesn’t seem puzzled by the idea.
The next stop is the bookstore, which only gets a brief paragraph, mostly so Harry can simultaneously mock and threaten Dudley. He finds a book of nasty curses and ‘jokes’ to attack your friends and enemies with and thinks that even Dudley would like it although he never reads anything, then tells Hagrid he wants to be able to curse his cousin, forgetting that it’s already been done only a few hours ago. The Dursleys may have swum back to the mainland by this point, by the way, but it’s not likely. Hagrid says that’s a great idea, but sadly Harry’s not allowed to do magic outside school now, and he’s not strong enough yet anyway but he’ll learn how to hurt innocent people soon enough. Thanks for reminding me why I don’t like you, Hagrid.
They go to the apothecary to buy his Potions things, and even though Harry is surprisingly interested in this, it only gets a brief paragraph too. Hagrid says all they need now is the wand, and he hasn’t given Harry a birthday present yet either, how about a pet? He’ll buy him an owl, because cats make him sneeze and toads have gone out of fashion and he’d be laughed at. How Hagrid knows this, why he cares and why he thinks anyone would laugh at Special Snowflake Scar-boy for anything will never be explained. So they go and buy a snowy owl, and I am further amused by Harry now struggling to carry a full-grown owl in a cage. They’re big birds. Less amused that they don’t appear to have bought food, or instructions on how to look after her, or a falconry glove, or anything else. I really hate businesses who sell pets to idiots who can’t look after them.
Finally they reach the wand shop, Ollivanders, which according to the sign has been making wands since 382 BC. I don’t think Britain was really advanced enough or civilised enough to be using magic wands by then, we’d only just discovered iron tools and were sitting around in huts raising animals, so I can’t think they did much business. We were quite good at farming and building castles, I suppose. Anyway, the shop is empty, just a small room stacked with a lot of boxes and one small ‘spindly‘ chair (which Hagrid is able to sit on, albeit with creaking noises, despite having required two chairs everywhere else they’ve been), and Harry has an odd reaction to the atmosphere:
For some reason, the back of his neck prickled. The very dust and silence in here seemed to tingle with some secret magic.
He’ll never sense magic in this way again, for the record, and it doesn’t seem like anyone else ever does it either. You can get away with using this sort of thing as imagery in most books, but in a series with literal magic people will expect an explanation for it. Then an old man is suddenly standing there, since Harry’s apparently too focused on magic dust to notice him walking in, or he was using invisibility for the lulz. This is Mr Ollivander, whose “wide, pale eyes [were] shining like moons through the gloom of the shop.” Yes, the wandmaker has glowing eyes. This is a little unnerving. Ollivander recognises Harry, unlike everyone since they left the pub, though he doesn’t seem very impressed; he also immediately comments that, yes, Harry has his mother’s eyes. I think we got that when Hagrid said it last chapter, but this is far from the last time we’ll hear it. Ollivander then rambles about the wands Harry’s mother and father had, demonstrating that he remembers every single one he’s ever sold, which is interesting enough in its way but turns out to be completely unimportant. Most wands in this series are meaningless twigs. He adds that the wands tend to choose the people, rather than the other way around, which is good exposition for the audience but also not something he would actually say since he already knows it (I suppose he could be saying it for their benefit, but just dropping that into an otherwise rambling monologue seems an odd decision if so).
Harry finds Ollivander creepy; the old man stands a little too close, and doesn’t blink much, and is a little too intense. This is fair enough (I went to an optician like that who majorly weirded me out), but given that Harry hasn’t turned a hair at far creepier stuff so far it seems a bit strange that he’s suddenly started now. Ollivander then escalates the creepiness by reaching out to touch Harry’s scar, and talks about how he sold the wand that did it; he says he’s sorry about it, which seems odd since we assume he’s sold a lot of wands that have done a lot of bad things, and given everything Voldy did with that wand causing a small scar is really not a big deal. He moves out of Harry’s personal space a bit and talks to Hagrid, because he remembers Hagrid’s wand too, and for some reason seems keen to make sure Hagrid’s not using the pieces of his wand that was broken when he was expelled. I have no idea why Ollivander pretends to care about this, but he clearly isn’t too concerned since he ignores Hagrid’s obvious lie that no of course he isn’t please pay no attention to this very conspicuous pink umbrella I’m carrying around with me in August.
Ollivander starts taking a lot of very odd measurements. I think this scene is meant to be analogous to going to get your first pair of school shoes, and the overly complicated fittings and trying on and all the other fun aspects, but there really is no reason why your choice of wand would be dependent on the length of your arm when you have most of a decade of growth ahead of you, or the distance between your nostrils, or whatever else he’s measuring (especially when most wizards in these books use the same wand all their lives). Harry continues to find this a bit weird, understandably, but while it’s happening Ollivander provides us with some more natural-sounding exposition that’s actually aimed at explaining things to Harry instead of to thin air. He says every Ollivander wand has a core of a magical substance.
This is interesting. We will only encounter three non-Ollivander wands, and all of those also have magical cores, but it does rather imply that not all wands do. Not that we’ll ever find out.
Ollivander only uses dragon heartstring, unicorn tail hair or phoenix feathers for his wand cores. We don’t get an explanation why, or what’s so special about those particular bits of dragon or unicorn as opposed to other muscle fibres or other hairs. Apparently no two wands are alike, and you don’t get good results using someone else’s wand. And if dragon heartstring really is what it sounds like, what stops it from rotting? You don’t really want fibres of raw meat inside something you’re going to be using daily for the rest of your life.
He starts picking boxes off the shelves, and I don’t really understand this. Why are there so many premade wands in here if each one is unique to the witch or wizard? A more sensible system would be that the measurements and other tests let him work out what’s needed in each case so each wand would be custom made. Wands in the series seem to range from around 9 to 16 inches long and are measured down to the quarter inch, in varying widths, with one of three cores, and can apparently be made from pretty much any wood in existence. I refuse to try to do the maths here, but that must mean literally millions if not billions of possible wands, and he clearly can’t have every single one pre-made, so why have any? Why does he think certain wands will be needed and others won’t? What happens if none of the ones he has in stock are right for a customer? Do they just have to put up with an ineffective wand, and maybe try back next year to see if he happens to have made one that likes them more?
Of course, this never happens, sooner or later a wand will react and that’s the one they get. I do wonder if there are different reactions, maybe there might be a better wand somewhere in the stack that they never get to. In any case, it apparently takes a long time to find one for Harry, and he’s left waving a lot of different sticks around, thus proving that despite all the weird measurements it’s pretty much random chance. He feels foolish right from the first attempt, which is odd because apparently the wand is the thing he’s most been looking forward to and also it’s a freaking magic wand, why aren’t you excited? Yes, when nothing happens you’d feel stupid, but until then, show a bit of enthusiasm, kid, you’re learning magic.
Finally Ollivander decides to try something that from his random muttering is a strange idea, and hands Harry yet another wand. This one feels warm, and gives off sparks when he waves it (or, as Mitchell put it, it ejaculates fire!) so apparently that’s the one he gets. We’re never told what that reaction means. Ollivander continues muttering about how that’s curious, and Harry obligingly asks what’s so curious about it.
‘I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr Potter. Every single wand. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather – just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother – why, its brother gave you that scar.’
Disregarding the comma that really shouldn’t be there between ‘wand’ and ‘gave’ – which is still there in the US edition – this is a good paragraph. It’s nicely dramatic without being melodramatic, and it sounds interesting, and it’s obviously going to be significant later.
But it doesn’t really make sense. Why would they only use two feathers from a phoenix? It’s not as if they’re common enough to be picky. Dragon-chickens are apparently extremely common, so I suppose they could only use a single ‘heartstring’ from each one if they wanted to, but that’s a bit wasteful. And unicorns are presumably fairly rare too, why limit yourself to only one tail hair per unicorn? And if they don’t do that, if they’re sensible and use all the wand cores they can get hold of, then wands with shared cores ought to be common. One unicorn or one dragon-chicken could provide cores for at least a dozen wands, and although we have no information on the moulting rates of phoenixes I imagine they lose more than one feather over a lifetime. Does it apply if two wands are made with wood from the same tree too?
We’ll never know. Spoiler: Harry is the only person who encounters his wand’s brother. Because of course he is. Though they do at least have the decency to imply that it has happened before.
Ollivander says this means Harry’s destined for great things – this amuses me; apparently everything Special Snowflake here does from now on is purely because of his wand – because Voldy did great things too. “Terrible, yes, but great.” Harry finds this creepy and decides he doesn’t like Ollivander. Fair enough.
Anyway, Harry now has all his magic school supplies, so off he and Hagrid trot, back through the pub – which for some reason is now completely empty; if your pub empties out as it gets later in the day, you’re going to go bankrupt, you know – and back through Muggle London to the train station. People stare because they’re carrying a freaking owl around, but nobody comes up to ask why they’ve got an owl, is it for charity, can I take a photograph of it/hold it/feed it crisps, are you from London Zoo, or anything else. They don’t even get a mad person from PETA coming up to scream at them about animal rights, which would have been hilarious.
They stop for a hamburger in the station. It’s an odd word choice, we don’t really say ‘hamburger’ here (because they’re not made from ham, silly Americans). They’re just burgers. Harry suddenly remembers that a few pages ago after speaking to the boy in the robe shop he was worried about not knowing enough and being rubbish in school, and tells Hagrid he’s going to suck at everything and why does everyone think he’s wonderful. Surprisingly, Hagrid refrains from anti-Muggle racism and answers really well, telling him that everyone starts at the beginning and although it’s hard being singled out he’ll love it at Hogwarts. This is a nice conversation, but it should have happened earlier, when the subject first came up. Again, if Hagrid hadn’t attacked a child last chapter and been racist scum I’d really like him here.
Hagrid then sticks Harry onto a train and gives him a ticket to catch the train to school on the first of September from King’s Cross. We’ll talk next chapter about how that makes no sense; right now I want to talk about the train Harry’s just got on. May I remind everyone that the Dursleys are still stranded on an island in the middle of the sea? Even assuming that somehow they’ve made it back to the mainland, and somehow had enough time to drive all the way back home, there are two problems. One, they have zero reason to want to come and pick Harry up from the station and will never want to see him again. Two, they have no idea Harry’s going to be coming back at all, let alone what time and where to. As far as they’re concerned he’s just vanished with Hagrid to go to magic school. Petunia knows term won’t start for another month but she probably assumes Hagrid’s going to be looking after Harry until then, or she would assume that if she wasn’t far too busy worrying about her traumatised and mutilated son to give a flying fuck about her nephew.
I doubt Little Whinging is big enough to have a train station, but I suppose it might do, in which case all Harry has to do is walk home carrying an owl, a cauldron, a trunk full of textbooks and a sack of gold and then persuade his petrified relatives to let him back into the house, assuming they made it back there themselves. Otherwise he’s going to get off the train somewhere in Surrey and have no means of contacting them. He has no Muggle money unless he stole some off Hagrid, so he can’t get a taxi or even use a pay phone – these days there’s an easy-to-remember number to dial to make reverse-charge calls, but that’s a recent thing and I highly doubt Harry knows whatever the procedure was to do it before then. Mobile phones weren’t common back then and he wouldn’t have one even if they were. He’s fucked, basically, and Hagrid’s just left him stranded with enough very heavy baggage to need a pack mule.
Speaking of Hagrid, Harry wants to watch him out of the train window until he’s out of sight, but he blinks and Hagrid vanishes. Which means Apparition, which Hagrid never learned because he was expelled years before he would have been taught how. It’s worth noting here that Dumbles happens to own a shiny plot coupon that turns you invisible; it wouldn’t be big enough to cover Hagrid, but it would certainly hide someone who was just pretending to be him…
Things I would change about this chapter: not very much, really. In my version Hagrid would never have attacked Dudley in the first place and wouldn’t have chased the Dursleys to the arse end of nowhere, so there would be no need to address that and instead he and Harry could depart from Privet Drive like normal people. They go to London, they go to the pub because why not. People in the pub do not notice who Harry is and do not freak out. Hagrid spots Quirrell and goes over to him because it would be nice for Harry to meet one of his teachers, they chat for a minute, then Hagrid and Harry go into Diagon Alley and go shopping.
Tweak a couple of the shops so they’re not stupid. Tweak some details about the bank – the vaults just being underground is fine, no need for magic rollercoasters to travel miles into apparently cold molten rock, and they have Harry’s key and just need a drop of blood or something to verify his identity. Harry’s vault contains seven boxes of non-economy-breaking non-precious-metal money that’s enough for seven years of school supplies and fees, which is legally bound by the Potters’ will so Harry can only use it for that, plus a little bit of spare spending money that he’s warned has to last him until he leaves school and starts earning so he has to be careful with it. Since he’s never had money before and isn’t used to spending anything on a whim, he’s fine with this and might even split that into seven chunks so he knows how much he has to play with per year.
I can’t do anything about the mystery object without breaking the plot, so sure, I suppose they have to take that too. [Mitchell adds: personally, I’d much rather just eliminate the mystery object and every aspect of the plot related to it, but if we can’t do that then I agree.]
Harry meets Draco. They swap first names, not surnames, and Draco looks suspicious because this boy just might be Harry Potter, you never know. He’s too well-bred to ask or to try and spot the scar, and after all this Harry kid doesn’t seem to know anything, so it can’t be him. He makes some snobby comments about children who weren’t brought up in the wizarding world obviously not knowing what they’re doing when they get to school, and since he’s a normal boy he giggles at this idea and is happy that it means he’ll do well; this isn’t racist but it’s not very pleasant, so Harry doesn’t want to keep trying to be friendly – especially since the other boy has insulted the nice non-cousin-attacking man who’s been treating him so well – and he’s also worried because does that mean he’ll screw up when he gets there?
After they leave he and Hagrid talk about this properly, and Hagrid offers to buy him an owl to cheer him up. He will take the owl to Hogwarts for Harry, since she’s just going to be a glorified postman anyway and this way Harry doesn’t have to carry her around, figure out what to feed her or keep her locked in a small cage for a month before going to school. Hagrid also explains all four houses, not just the two we’re meant to dislike or laugh at, and isn’t racist about it.
They go and get Harry’s wand, which requires various weird measurements and tests before being built for him from parts kept in the shop. By sheer coincidence the feather Ollivander picks up for it just happens to have come from the same bird as the feather in Voldy’s wand; Ollivander recognises this because magic senses, and asks if Harry wants a different one and since Harry has no idea what brother wands do he tries to be brave and not creeped out and says it doesn’t matter, it’s just a feather. Then Hagrid takes him all the way back to Privet Drive to make sure he gets there safely because he is only eleven years old, and tells him to be at King’s Cross on September 1st. (Or, rather, to be at a location that makes more sense than that; more on that next time.)