You may remember that I was somewhat violently crestfallen when Harry still hadn’t made it to Hogwarts by the end of the last chapter. For that reason I advise everybody not to get their hopes up about this chapter, in case they are similarly dashed; for all we know Rowling will spend the next 25 pages on Harry buying his ticket for “The Journey From Platform Nine And Three Quarters” and chapter seven will cover the unwrapping of a stick of gum to chew on the train.
Harry is back at the Dursleys, waiting as impatiently as I am for September and the start of his new life. The Dursleys steer clear of him for that final month and basically act as though he doesn’t exist. Harry decides that this is “an improvement in many ways,” but it’s still a little depressing that the only person he has to talk to is not so much a person as an owl.
He’s named her Hedwig, by the way, something he plucked from the pages of his brand new wizardy tomes. Not the prettiest of names for a snowy, white owl. I would have gone with ‘Daphne.’
Rin says: I can’t believe you just said a bad word about Hedwig and her name. There goes half our readers.
Sophy says: Okay fine. Hedwig is a gorgeous-sounding name, and owls make the very best of conversationalists. Sheesh.
Harry sulks and skulks and crosses off the days till he’ll be going to Hogwarts, and so do I Boy Wonder, SO DO I.
Heather says: I hope everyone knows by now to scroll over your illustrations on account of the file names. “gtfowithyourgum” is one of my favorites.
Sophy says: That’s the image filename. We normally change them before posting, but we’ll leave that one so you don’t look a fool
The night before the big day Harry braces himself, heads downstairs and asks Uncle V if he would mind giving him a lift to the station. Uncle V agrees with a bit of guarded ribbing about all the magic carpets having holes in them, he supposes. He makes sure Harry doesn’t feel too cared-for by emphasizing that he’s going up to London anyway – he has to take Dudley to get the pig tail removed before he goes to Smeltings.
Wait a minute what? It’s been a month. A MONTH. They’re just now taking care of the little matter of a porcine appendage having been magically grafted onto their only son’s bottom? I find previously unhinged Uncle V to be a little too blasé about all this.
Anyway he drops Harry off at the station on September first, laughing at his bewilderment as he leaves – see little Harry’s after a ‘platform nine and three quarters’ right? Well the trouble is there is no platform nine and three quarters, only a nine and a ten and passing guard who gets annoyed with him when he tries to ask for help.
And so Harry is “stranded in the middle of a station with a trunk he [can] hardly lift, a pocket full of wizard money, and a large owl.” Aw. He thinks Hagrid must have forgotten to tell him something, and I think he might be right, and gosh, Hagrid, useless much? We’d never get to Hogwarts with that oaf at the wheel.
Luckily, help is at hand! Harry spies a group of people hurrying along, overhears the words “packed with Muggles of course”, sees that they have an owl amongst their numbers.
As he approaches them he notes that they all have flaming red hair and I think to myself how there is totally a ranga kid in those movie posters and could it therefore be that among the group Harry is now following is his new BFF???
The first person singled out is Ginny, a small girl who is bemoaning the fact that she’s not going to Hogwarts with all of her siblings because she’s still too young. Also mentioned are one Percy and a pair of cheeky twins called Fred and George.
Harry watches as, one by one, the group walk up to the barrier between the two platforms, and seem to vanish just as they reach it.
The last one mentioned is Ron and I think to myself how I totally know that name! It turns out that Ron is new to Hogwarts too and there, done and dusted, ranga, same class, not reminding him of Dudley, this is the BFF.
He’s described as “tall, thin and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet and a long nose.” Not the most attractive visual, but he’ll probably be funny or something to compensate.
Ron and his mother explain to Harry that he simply has to walk briskly through the barrier to get to the right platform, and so he does, and they do too, and so does little Ginny, and then they are all on platform 9 ¾, which is packed with Non-Muggles, most of whom are accompanied by unusual and/or slimy creatures.
The twins, being rather lovely, help Harry get his trunk into the train, and in all the exertion, Harry gets a little sweaty, wipes his brow, in doing so wipes his hair back and TRUTH BOOM. Everyone sees the scar and knows who he is.
I can’t really remember what happens at that point, but I’m guessing everyone gasps and talks about being honoured, and possibly a couple of people faint?
The aforementioned Percy shows up, having changed into his billowing black Hogwarts robes, to which he has pinned a shiny badge with the letter P, and I guess stands for… Percy? No wait, it’s prefect. Apparently he’s a bit of a knob. His siblings tease him mercilessly, his mother is very proud.
What is it with mothers and knobs, anyway?
Rin says: …Yeah, that’s not disturbing at all.
Before the mum leaves, her ranga brood excitedly fill her in on the identity of the boy she helped onto the platform, and Harry can hear little Ginny get her fangirl on – she’s begging to go on the train and take another look at him.
“The poor boy isn’t something you goggle at in a zoo,” chides Mrs Ranga.
Heather says: Okay, so I didn’t know what “ranga” means. I kind of thought it was some kind of slang from Oz that really means “kanga” (like “roo”), but then when you said it four times I looked it up on Urban Dictionary, and “ranga” does not mean “kanga” at all.
Rin says: Why would we be referring to the Weasleys as kangaroos? That doesn’t even make sense. I thought you were clever.
Sophy says: Heather and her fixation on Australian fauna. I don’t even know.
The twins, again being rather lovely, tell a very dejected Ginny not to worry because they’ll send her loads of owls – and maybe a toilet seat – and right now this family is so full of warmth and functiony goodness it hurts. And maybe that’s the point. I certainly think we’re supposed to feel wistful, along with Harry, as the train pulls out of the station…
“Harry saw the boys’ mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then she fell back and waved.”
Rin says: Don’t you dare start.
Sophy says: Whoa, touchy. What did these books do to you, Rin???
Just so as we don’t get too sentimental – it seems like Rin might axe-murder me if we did – I’m going to whine about something.
Harry’s going to Hogwarts on a steam train. Why is Harry going to Hogwarts on a steam train? Because it’s cute. Don’t ask questions. And this is where Rowling starts to lose cool points for me, because I am beginning to see that she is not, as I had previously hoped, interested in rethinking the trope of the magical world as charmingly antiquated.
Harry winds up sharing a carriage with Ron Weasley – of course! – who immediately quizzes him about that shit that went down with Voldemort, even though his mother told him five minutes ago not to be an insensitive jerk that way.
Harry answers his questions as best he can, and in turn asks Ron if everyone in his family are wizards and witches. Ron’s answer is amusing: “Yes, I think so. I think Mum’s got a second cousin who’s an accountant, but we never talk about him.”
Perspective. It’s a beautiful thing.
Meanwhile I’ve decided that Mrs Weasley’s second cousin is in fact female, and is, in fact, Heather Anne Hogan, and that if these jerks had cared to look her up once in a while they would have found that she has moved on to being awesome for a living, thank you very much.
Heather says: Accio Naomi! I totally ordered my Kwik Spell kit from jeanshorts.com!
Rin says: Or maybe you’ve been getting tips directly from the source! And now I’m really worried. Magic in the hands of Sophia? I tremble.
Sophy says: You Know Who would tremble.
Rin says: Who?
Sophy says: You Know Who.
Rin says: FINE. Be like that.
Ron talks about how gloom-inducingly fantastic all his elder brothers are – they’ve all been prefects, Quidditch captains, academic achievers etc. As for him? He outlines a bitter little catch 22: everyone expects him to do as fantastically as the others, but if he actually does manage it, it’ll be no big deal, because they did it first.
He also lets slip, much to his subsequent embarrassment, that the Weasleys are not exactly wealthy, saying he never gets anything new – he has Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.
On that note he pulls said fat, grey, perpetually sleepy rat out of his pocket and informs Harry that “his name’s Scabbers and he’s useless,” and I think of Pandora from Skins and am immediately a bit in love with Scabbers.
They keep talking and eventually Harry says the name ‘Voldemort’ out loud. Ron is dazzled, but Harry insists that he’s not brave for saying it, just ignorant.
Basically, Rowling is saying EVERYBODY, HARRY IS REALLY BRAVE BUT HE DOESN’T KNOW IT, IF HE WAS A GIRL HE WOULD BE PRETTY AND HE WOULDN’T KNOW IT.
Basically he would be Jenna from 30 Rock, but not a joke.
It gets more nauseating a second later when Harry says, yes, actually says out loud – “I bet I’m the worst in the class.”
Okay seriously, Harry. You’re lucky I wasn’t given the job of being your new BFF, because I would have rolled my eyes right about now and gone to find a Mary Sue-free carriage. Ron is vastly more tolerant than I am, and simply reassures Harry that there are loads of kids at Hogwarts who come from Muggle families, he’ll pick things up quick enough.
Heather says: Soph, I love you, but you would be the worst lesbian ever. Actually saying out loud “I’m the worst in the class” is half of the lesbian mating ritual. (The other half is bouncy castles, obvs.)
Rin says: Really? Since when? Do I need to watch more TV? OR IS THIS A PLL THING? And if it is a PLL thing, how dare you bring that into this household!
Sophy says: WHATVER. I could outgay you all if I put my mind to it. There’s a reason I got Effy on that Skins personality test.
The sandwich cart comes around and Ron is forced to let his poor show again – he’s the kid with the packed lunch when everybody else is buying Thursday mini-pizzas up at the senior school canteen.
I was that kid once. Peanut butter sandwiches and a half an apple cut on the star. I’VE SUFFERED TOO, YOU GUYS.
Harry is excited to actually have money for the first time in his life and buys up big on the weird selection of sweets and such. Harry offers Ron a pastie, and it’s a nice experience for him because “he [has] never had anything to share before, or, indeed, anyone to share it with.” This is very sweet. I am quite moved. I’ll forgive Harry his earlier Sue-ness… for now.
The chocolate frogs Harry has bought come with trading cards, and the first one he pulls out says ‘Albus Dumbledore, currently headmaster of Hogwarts’. The blurb on the back rambles on about how he’s the greatest wizard of modern times, listing his achievements and rounding up with “Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.” Hee!
When Harry turns the card over the picture has changed – in that Dumbledore’s not in it anymore. Ron casually explains that “you can’t expect him to hang around all day” and is amazed when Harry informs him that in the Muggle world people stay still in photos.
What, so, wait a minute. Photo!Dumbledore has business to attend to? How does this work? Is a wizard photo basically a surveillance camera trained on a particular spot? What if the person moves house and never goes back to that place? What if the building gets bombed?
I think I prefer Muggle photos. Nice and staying-the-same-which-is-the-point.
Next up, we are introduced to Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, which apparently literally do come in every flavour, including spinach, liver, tripe and bogey.
Yeah, I’m not sure how much fun they would be, really. I may not be quite as neurotic about the predictability of my food as Heather is, but still… it feels a bit like Russian Roulette when ‘tastes like actual faeces’ is a possibility.
At this point a very sad looking little boy pops his head in the carriage door and asks if anybody has seen a toad. They say they haven’t and he continues on his search. Ron scoffs at his choice of pet, then realizes it’s all a bit pot/kettle on account of how useless Scabbers is.
He looks down at the snoozing rat in his lap and says “He might have died and you wouldn’t know the difference.” He’s about to try to make him more interesting by turning him yellow when the carriage door opens.
“The toadless boy” is back and he’s brought a friend.
She has “a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth.”
I know instantly that this is Hermione Granger and prepare to have my heart stolen as promised.
She sees Ron’s wand is raised and says “Oh, are you doing magic? Let’s see it, then.”
Ron waves his wand and talks some crap about sunshine and daisies. Nothing happens.
“Are you sure that’s a real spell?” Hermione says. “Well, it’s not very good is it.”
There’s more deliciously superior and swotty stuff after that, but if I start quoting everything Hermione says that’s awesome, I have a feeling I’ll never finish this book.
She ends her monologue, the gist of which is that her parents may be not have any magic in them but she certainly does thank you very much, by introducing herself – “I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”
Ron and Harry introduce themselves right back, and she ignores Ron, seizes on Harry’s famous name and proceeds to tell him which books she’s read that he is mentioned in.
When she and toady leave, they leave the subject of school houses and which one is best behind them.
“Whatever House I’m in, I hope she’s not in it,” Ron says, and immediately afterwards he mentions the “stupid spell” and how it’s his brother who told him about it and he probably knew all along it was a dud and it’s so painfully clear that Ron doesn’t want to be in the same house as the little girl with the bushy brown hair because that was about the most embarrassed he’s been ever. I guess it stands to reason; being fail always feels failier when you’re in the presence of win.
Harry asks what house Ron’s brothers are in. They’re all in Gryffindor, and apparently it’s going to be A Problem if Ron is not. And being in Slytherin would be far, far worse than just A Problem.
They chat some more and Ron winds up revealing there there’s been a break-in at Gringotts – you know that bank, the one that’s like so, so, sooo safe? The one you’d have to be crazy to try to, I don’t know, break into? Yeah, that’s the one.
Harry is all and Ron goes on to say that the really weird part is that apparently the robber didn’t take anything.
Ron starts rabbiting on about Quidditch and I am just preparing to be really, really bored for a while when the carriage door opens for the third time.
It’s the pointy-faced boy from the robes shop, and he has a couple of cronies with him named Crabbe and Goyle. His name, we are finally told, is Draco Malfoy.
I’m sorry Malfoy? MALFOY???
Ron sniggers at the introduction and Malfoy is all “Think my name’s funny do you?” and I’m all, no, I’m pretty sure Ron’s not clever enough to know it means ‘Bad Faith’, but clearly your reputation precedes you, pointy-face.
Malfoy bites back at Ron with “No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.”
Whoa, that’s some sophisticated nasty.
He then gets his Cordelia Chase on and attempts to do the right thing by offering to help Harry choose the right friends ie. him.
Rin says: Oh Harry! We can be like brothers!!! WITHREALLYDIFFERENTHAIR.
Sophy says: ROFL OMG. I don’t blame Cordy. Buffy’s hair was pretty naff in that episode.
He holds his hand out, Harry refuses to shake it.
Malfoy is not pleased. He goes like, a thousand bridges too far, and starts implying that Harry will wind up dead like his “riffraff” parents.
Both Harry and Ron stand up and a physical confrontation seems imminent, and then, suddenly, just as Goyle reaches out to steal their chocolate frogs, he lets out a “horrible yell.”
Scabbers has totally bitten him. Goyle hurls the rat at the window, and the three of them run away. Ron hurriedly picks Scabbers up, worrying that he may have been knocked out – but no, he’s just gone right back to sleep again.
AND OH MAN I LOVE SCABBERS. He totally reminds me of my small, fat, vaguely rat-shaped dachshund, whose hobbies include sleeping, eating, occasional valiant barking, and sleeping.
Rin says: She’s not kidding you guys. After Hermione, Scabbers is the one Sophy would talk to me about the most.
Sophy says: Don’t you dare start.
Ron is busy explaining that the Malfoys used to be Voldy-lovers back when he had the power, when Hermione pops her head back in the door to chastise the boys for spilling sweets/fighting/not having their robes on yet/not being as awesome as she is.
Ron scowls at her and asks her to leave while they change, Hermione obliges, but not before saying in a “sniffy” voice “And you’ve got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know?”
OH HERMIONE, YOU’RE THE BEST.
AND OKAY, OKAY OMG.
“A voice echoed through the train: “We will be reaching Hogwarts in five minutes’ time.”
I am so excited till I realize that there is a page and a half left in this chapter and it’s going to be filled with Hagrid and boats, and for the love of God, we already did Hagrid and boats in the last chapter! Turn the page, Rowling!
Thankfully I’m distracted from my ire by the fact that Neville, for that is the toadless boy’s name, has just been reunited with said toad.
“Trevor!” he cries “blissfully.”
I like Neville. And I love Scabbers.
And as I finish this chapter I’m not even bitter that we didn’t quite make it into Hogwarts. See the rest of the book could be set in the cupboard under the stairs for all I care, as long as Hermione Granger was in it.
Heather says: I cannot. stop. laughing. Rin, you have TRULY out-Rinned yourself. I can’t even choose a favorite thing about this. I could make a list. It would be 50 items long, starting with “Sophy’s moustache.” And our smiles! It’s like Sophia’s School of Stalking meets The Bible! And that spider on Sophy’s head! Oh my Hermione!
Rin says: Look at the shoe-etiquette! LOOK! We’re soulmates, Hermione and I. And I have to say Sophy, I really love how into the costumes you got. Some may say overboard, I say, just right.
Sophy says: Christ. I don’t remember saying anything about a moustache. And yet… I can’t pretend I’m surprised.
Till next time folks, when the doors to the hoggy, warty castle actually open! (Or… they’d better.)