Harry wakes up the next morning and doesn’t want to open his eyes. He’s scared the whole ‘You’re a wizard and you’re going where the Dursleys are not’ thing was all a dream and that when he opens his eyes he’ll just be “at home in [his] cupboard.”
He hears a tapping noise and tells himself miserably that it’s Aunt Petunia knocking on the door…
But it’s not! It’s an owl rapping at the window with a newspaper, and he’s still under the big black coat and Hagrid is there with him and it was not a dream!
Meanwhile as I was reading this through before posting I saw ‘it’s an owl rapping at the window’, had really weird visuals, randomly googled ‘rapper’ and ‘owl’ and find this far too easily.
The owl pecks at Hagrid and Hagrid sleepily tells Harry to pay him. We’re introduced to wizard money – differently shaped and coloured coins called ‘knuts’ and ‘galleons’ – basically the same as muggle money except that the wizarding world appears not to have moved on to notes or cards.
Harry stuffs five knuts into a pouch tied to the paperowl’s leg and it flies off merrily and it’s all rather sweet… I’d rather a nice little tawny owl delivered my paper than the asshole who likes to lob it variously under the house amongst spiders, in the fishpond amongst fish and wet, or out on the verge where it is invariably pilfered by unscrupulous people who couldn’t be bothered buying a subscription but suddenly think they need to know things.
Rin says: FFFFF I know exactly what you mean. There was a period of time when our paper got stolen daily, and we just KNEW it was this unsightly lady from up the road. Unsightly.
Heather says: Uh, do you guys not have news on the internet in Australia?
Sophy says: I don’t hold with this internet business. I use this baby to type my contributions to rophydoes and then Rin “uploads” the piece of paper. It’s all a bit fishy.
Hagrid yawns, says they’d better be off to London to buy Harry’s school stuff and as Harry looks at the wizard coins that are still in his hand his heart sinks. Uncle V was pretty adamant about not paying for this nonsense last night, and Harry, being an eleven year old boy who has never been deemed worthy of a pat on the back let alone pocket money, is basically penniless. So how on earth is he going to buy anything?
He tells Hagrid as much, and Hagrid tells him not to fret about that – apparently his parents left him plenty of money, and it’s been sitting in a wizard bank called ‘Gringotts’ all these years. Score! Potterella shall go to the ball!
Heather says: Yeah, he will. With a witch who totally doesn’t deserve his company!
Sophy says: WHICH WITCH? Wait don’t answer that.
Hagrid explains that Gingotts is super duper safe and run by goblins and mentions rather randomly that you’d be crazy to try and rob it. He says he’s going to visit it for Dumbledore actually, so Harry can get some knuts and galleons out then. He takes the opportunity to wax lyrical about his bb Dumbledore, saying how he “usually gets me ter do important stuff fer him. Fetchin’ you, gettin’ things from Gingotts – he knows he can trust me, see.”
TRUST! A STRONG RELATIONSHIP IS BUILT ON THAT STUFF! Oh Humbledore.
Meanwhile Hagrid has apparently learned nothing from the pig-tail debacle and tells Harry to turn a blind eye while he taps his magic umbrella against the side of the boat. They speed off, and I’m thinking how it was specifically mentioned that there was no other boat around, which basically means that Hagrid is just leaving the Durlseys stranded out at sea with a recently maimed son.
And so I say to Hagrid: BULLY! You stop waving your umbrella around! You’re not Mary Poppins and you never will be, no matter how many pockets you have!
Hagrid reads his newspaper and tells Harry about the Ministry of Magic, who are “messin’ things up as usual”. He and Uncle V might get along if they bonded over complaining about the council, I think.
Hagrid gets all googly-eyed about Dumbledore again and I’m like lol omg, it’s been, like, a paragraph, get a room Humbledore!. He tells Harry that Dumbledore should totally be running the Ministry, and that he would be, except he’s just so devoted to the kiddywinks at Hogwarts that he turned the job down… it went to one Cornelius Fudge, a silly duffer of course, because only silly duffers have names like that, who constantly bombards Dumbledore with owls, basically trying to get him to do his homework for him.
Hagrid explains to Harry that the Ministry’s main job is making sure the muggles don’t find out about witches and wizards. Harry asks why, and Hagrid is stunned that he would even ask such a ridiculous question. He explains that “Everyone’d be wantin’ magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we’re best left alone.”
Harry is nonplussed. I, in constrast, am extremely… plussed.
If I’d been in the that boat I would have launched into a tirade along the lines of: You’re best left alone, sure! Because it’s all about you! Those lowly muggles can just go about their business dying slowly of cancer and trying pathetically to stop famines and droughts and shit, while the wizards all sit there in their ivory towers solving all their problems with magic umbrellas, IS THAT IT HAGRID??? IS. THAT. IT???
I’m appalled, honestly. Someone needs to get this Fudge out of the Ministry and instate somebody who’s going to distribute these magical solutions fairly to all people, not just the chosen few! Revolution! REVOLUTION! POWER TO THE MUGGLES!
Heather says: Halfway through this rant, I was ready to call you Hermione, but then you took a turn toward Nutterville (hi, Effy!) and I started backing away slowly.
Sophy says: “Too far” is a Rophy specialty. You should know this by now, Heather.
Anyway, moving on. Harry and Hagrid have a chat about dragons, and Hagrid says how much he’d like one as though they’re akin to puppies or hamsters. Note to self: I predict a dragon in Hagrid’s future. A dragon for Hagrid and dragon-related hijinks for all!
They get on a train at the station and head for London. Everybody stares at Hagrid because he’s huge and also because he’s knitting what looks like “a canary-yellow circus tent.”
Harry gets out his school list, which describes all sorts of cloaky outfits and all sorts of cauldrony equipment, and a whole lot of funny books written by people with funny names.
Once off the train they walk up a broken-down escalator and Hagrid totally shows his jerk again, saying casually “I don’t know how the Muggles manage without magic.” THEY DON’T, HAGRID. THAT’S HOW. THEY. DON’T.
They finally get to their destination. It’s a grubby pub called ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ and Harry has a feeling only he and Hagrid can see it. Figures. Gotta keep those muggles in the dark, haven’t we? Wouldn’t want to have a beer with one of them, would we?
Rin says: You wouldn’t have a beer with anybody though, wizard or muggle. SO DOES THAT MAKE YOU THE SAME AS THEM? OR WORSE?
Sophy says: You’d have the beer. I’d have a port and lemonade.
Anyway, it’s like Cheers in there and everyone knows Harry’s name. They blether on about how honoured they are, a lady smoking a pipe continues puffing when she fails to notice it has gone out, and I think one of them actually starts weeping at some point and it’s all a bit nauseating, frankly, and I have to admit, this is totally how Rin and I would be if we ever met Tegan and Sara.
Heather says: I can’t see Tegan and Sara’s faces from this angle, but if I had to bet Galleons, I’d say they’re probably looking pretty plussed.
Rin says: I had trouble with Sara. I didn’t know what the back of her head looks like anymore (since she cut her hair), which is kind of weird since I’m married to her. Tegan was fun to do, considering her current love affair with that hat.
Sophy says: I want a hat. Why are Heather Hogan and Tegan the only ones who get hats?
We’ll discuss this later.
Among the adoring throng is a Professor Quirrell who will be one Harry’s teachers at Hogwarts. He stammers a lot, but initially I was hesitant to call it a character trait, since, you know, he is in the presence of the boy wonder and all, but a moment later we’re told that he’s actually always that nervous. Amusingly, this trembling wreck teaches a subject called ‘Defense against the dark arts,’ and the deal with his skittishness is that went off to get some experience in the field, rather than just sticking to book learning like sensible people, and got himself into some trouble with vampires and hags and whatnot. Now he’s “scared of the students, scared of his own subject.”
I’m also going to make a quick note of the bartender, purely because Rowling rather wonderfully describes him as looking like “a toothless walnut.”
Once they’ve extricated themselves from Harry’s fans, Hagrid taps his umbrella on a wall outside the pub, which opens into an archway onto what is known as Diagon Alley.
Harry is in bewildered awe at this street lined with magical shops. He’s trying to look everywhere at once and “wishes he had about eight more eyes.” Cute.
Rin says: He’s halfway there.
Sophy says: Hypocrite.
We get a whole lot of description about different varieties of owl, parchments and potions, dragon liver and bat spleen… A bunch of kids around Harry’s age are crowded at a shop window, pressing their noses against the glass, goggling at broomsticks, among them ‘the new Nimbus 200’, and I’m thinking ‘huh, these kids are way more into housework than your average muggle 11 year old’ but then oh, okay, of course, we already have pointed hats and cauldrons and long beards and robes so why on earth would broomsticks be about cleaning and why on earth wouldn’t they be about flight.
Gringotts is a snowy white building with fancy pants bronze doors, and, as promised, it’s guarded by little goblins all decked out in 5-star-hotel-porteresque finery.
There’s a cute little riddle about how awesome and safe the bank is on the door, and Hagrid again mentions how crazy you’d have to be to rob it, and frankly, I’m starting to think he thinks about that too much.
A bully and a thief, Hagrid? I have my eye on you.
Rin says: What happened to your other eye? Did someone run over you?
Sophy says: … What is it with you and optic bullying today???
Hagrid tells the clerk they’ve come to get some money out of Harry’s account and also to collect the you know what in vault seven hundred and thirteen. Harry, being a curious little thing, asks about that, but Hagrid says it’s secret Humbledore business, no dice.
They go through some twisty passages and it’s all very glamorous and exciting I’m sure, but we’re still not at Hogwarts and I’m getting a little miffed.
Finally they get to Harry’s vault and it turns out his parents were FILTHY RICH. Poterella shall go to EVERY BALL EVER!
Heather says: I love this reveal. It’s one of my favorite Potter reveals (and oh, there are many!). Like, Harry has never had anything. Aunt Petunia was going to make him wear those dyed grey hand-me-down track pants of Dudley’s to school, but — surprise! — he’s a wizard. And — double rainbow surprise! — he’s rich!
Rin says: Double rainbow. Oh Heather, you’re all up in the hip web!
Sophy says: Effy Stonem would like a double rainbow surprise.
The secret Humbledore business vault doesn’t have a lock, and the goblin just gives it a bit of a stroke to make it open. He tells them proudly that if anyone but a Gringotts goblin tried to initiate snuggles with this door they’d be sucked through itand trapped in there – and doubtless left there for ten long years before anyone bothered to take a look.
Once they’re done at Gringotts they pop over to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where Harry gets his school uniform and meets… could it be his first school chum?!!!
A boy with a pale pointed face introduces himself, and starts talking rather snottily in a “bored, drawling voice” about broomsticks and how it’s not fair that first-years aren’t allowed to have them. He says he thinks he’ll “bully father into getting me one and smuggle it in somehow.”
Harry is immediately reminded of Dudley, and yeah, it is possible I am not meeting Harry’s first school chum.
The kid starts talking about something called Quidditch, and Harry tries to pretend he knows what he’s on about. He moves on to ‘Slytherin’ and ‘Hufflepuff’, which I’m gathering are two of the school houses. He says wants to be in Slytherin because everyone in his family has been, and you know, pointy-face, if all of your family jumped off a cliff would you???
Heather says: Everything’s so fragile! Didn’t you realize that? :((((
Sophy says: I think she’s beyond reason at this point, Heather
Anyway, apparently it would be horribly humiliating to be chosen to be in Hufflepuff, and I gotta say, the name isn’t exactly dripping with dignity.
The boy sees Hagrid in the window and starts bitching about him, calling him a servant and a savage. Harry says he thinks Hagrid is “brilliant,” which elicits some careful sneering. He then proceeds to get his elitist on good and proper, telling Harry he doesn’t think they should let muggles into Hogwarts – they should “keep it in the old wizarding families”.
There’s a joke about incest in that, I think, but I’m fleeing it. Fleeing.
Heather says: Katie Fitch: “Do you love my girlfriend? Oh, er…”
Rin says: Oh man. Those bloopers, straight from the heavens.
Sophy says: One day we’ll do a recap of something without bringing Skins into it. What? It could happen.
The two kids manage to part ways before exchanging names, and Harry is quite relieved to be rid of this little snot.
He is reunited with Hagrid outside and they discuss the aforementioned Quidditch over icecream. Quidditch, it turns out, is the soccer of the wizarding world, which I guess means everybody will be nuts about it except for me. It’s played up in the air on broomsticks and there are all sorts of other complicated rules that Hagrid isn’t in the mood to go into right now and I’m not in the mood to listen to them either so that works out nicely doesn’t it?
He moves on to explaining about the school houses and turns what the pointy snot said on its head – Hufflepuff are duffers, but still better than Slytherin, which is totally worst and most onomatopoeically slimy ever! It is the only house that has produced dark wizards – Voldemort himself among them.
Next they buy Harry’s schoolbooks at a shop called Flourish and Blotts, which is full of the kind of tomes Harry reckons even bibliophobe Dudley would be into. Hagrid has to drag Harry away from a book by one aptly named Professor Vindictus Viridian called ‘Curses and Countercurses (Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying, And Much, Much More)’. He complains that he was trying to find out how to curse Dudley, and I giggle gleefully, because there it is again – the less than angelic side of Harry I so enjoy.
I also enjoy the fact that he likes shiny objects – he wants to buy a solid gold cauldron, but here again Hagrid is a stick-in-the-mud – “It says pewter on yer list.”
Hagrid says there’s just Harry’s wand left and… his birthday present.
Harry is all blushy and taken aback. He tells Hagrid that he doesn’t need to get him anything, but Hagrid insists. He buys Harry a beautiful snowy owl, who is “fast asleep with her head under her wing.” This is probably the only present Harry has ever received, unless you count the socks and the coathangers and whatnot, and moreover, it’s a damn good present. Understandable then, that he can’t stop stammering his thanks.
Okay Hagrid. You’ve earned a bunch of BFG points back.
Finally, they head to Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC – and hey, wow, I used to go to Ollivanders for all my wand needs back in the day.
Mr Ollivander instantly knows who Harry is, and reminisces about selling his parents their first wands. He gets all up in Harry’s face and touches the lightening scar on his forehead, saying softly “I’m sorry to say I sold the wand that did it.” Oooh.
He greets Hagrid, remembers selling him his first wand, remembers how it must have been snapped by the authorities when he was expelled. Hagrid says he still has the pieces and Mr Ollivander says sharply “But you don’t use them??” Hagrid says no, and he is clearly lying, and as he grips his pink umbrella I catch onto the fact that he’s built the pieces into it. Nice disguise, Hagrid, very gay and non-suspicious.
Ollivander starts measuring Harry’s “wand arm” and explains how all Ollivander wands are unique and how they are made of all sorts of lovely things, like unicorn hairs and phoenix feathers and the heartstrings of dragons and okay, I’m starting to detect another theme of injustice in these books, because in this chapter alone there has been dragon liver and dragon hide and now their heartstrings, really?
At this point I mentioned my concerns about social injustice and animal abuse in Harry Potter to Rin and this is the response I got: “Are you saying naomi wouldn’t like it?”
And then I said this:
to fix it
i had to pause the chapter
cos i was loling
sitting at her computer
with her lips pressed in a hard line
rewriting harry potter
And then this happened:
Heather says: Oh my giddy, giddy, giddy, giddy, giddy … the collision of the two things I love best in the whole entire WORLD. I’m going to need a minute.
Rin says: She was an absolute pleasure to draw.
Sophy says: Hm. I’m sure she was. And as a result I’m slightly creeped out by you right now, Rin.
Harry tries out a bunch of wands and Ollivander keeps going on about how many inches they are and what kind of wood they’re made of, and I’m not gonna lie, my mind is puerile enough that it starts to make me feel uncomfortable after a while.
Finally Harry finds the right fit, or rather the wand finds its right fit, for as Mr O has explained the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around. Harry’s wand is made from holly and phoenix feather, and is, excuse me whilst I cringe smuttily, “eleven inches, nice and supple.”
Rin says: It’s the best when JK starts describing a Patronus. Sorry, did I say ‘best’? I meant worst.
Sophy says: Oh dear. To be honest, I’m surprised the Americans didn’t ~translate this whole passage. Passage! Sounds a bit rude, doesn’t it!
Mr O is somewhat taken aback by the wand that has chosen Harry, muttering “Curious… curious.” Turns out the same phoenix gave a tail feather to another wand – just one other wand in all the world – and this very wand was many moons ago sold to VOLDEMORT. Dun dun dun!
Mr O seems to think Harry should be chuffed that the twin of the wand that Voldemort tried to kill him with has taken a shine to him, because okay so Voldemort was an evil, heartless, murdering, oppressing bastard, but he was also “great”. Harry is not chuffed and isn’t sure he likes Mr O too much.
So there we have it, the best birthday of Harry Potter’s little life… but now at the end of it, he’s feeling all kinds of emo. He and Hagrid have a bite to eat before his train home leaves, and Harry opines that he’s supposed to be famous and has all these great expectations on his shoulders… but how the heck is he meant to be some great wizard when he doesn’t even remember what happened that was so special?
Hagrid gives him a pep talk about how everyone starts from scratch at Hogwarts and says he will have a great time there, that he still does, even if he was expelled.
He puts Harry on the train back to the Dursleys, giving him his ticket for the train to Hogwarts which he will take on the first of September.
The train pulls out of the station, and this chapter ends so beautifully, with Harry, who wants to watch Hagrid until he is out of sight, rising in his seat and pressing his nose against the window.
He blinks and Hagrid is gone.
And on that note… WE’RE STILL NOT AT FUCKING HOGWARTS.
I need a drink.