Hey! Whoa! Hi! That was quite a little break I took, right? I had some Real Life happenings that needed taking care of, and also some Feelings, but shut up, Feelings, am I right? SHUT RIGHT UP. These books are not going to re-read themselves and I am #literally not getting any younger, so I need to get moving or risk a Robert Jordan type situation. Trying out a new thing where I make little mini-footnotes for my digressions, in case you don’t want to geek out SUPER hard with me, you can skip them.
Hoo boy, chapter 5. WOWIE. Lotta stuff happening up here in chapter 5. Chapter 5 is when we get our first glimpse of the wizarding world and it is freaking AWESOME. Harry spends most of the chapter in a perpetual state of “!!!!!” which is 100% justified, especially given how dramatically it differs from his previous awful, drab, over-sized, Cellotaped, bullcrap life with the Dursleys. HP is straight up living the dream he never even dared to dream. We learn so many facts about that world. It’s easy, as a person who has read/listened to these books a squabillion times, to take for granted all the details that come together to create the wizarding world that feels so familiar to us, but then we reread this chapter, when it’s all new, and our heads just spin because it is SO MUCH, but not too much. Enough general talk. Let’s get specific as HECK.
Oh, man, just be cool, guys!
When we ended chapter 4, Harry was falling asleep under Hagrid’s rad giant coat, which may or may not have some dormice in a pocket (!!!). When Harry wakes up to the sound of tapping in chapter 5, he’s almost certain he was dreaming and the tapping is Mrs. Dursley knocking on his cupboard to wake him up but SURPRISE, BRO. NOPE. That crazy stuff happened for real last night. YEAH. And the tapping sound you hear? Is an owl. Tapping? To be let in to the shack? Huh. Hagrid tells him to let the owl in, so it can deliver the paper (!), and tells Harry how to pay the owl (!!) by putting crazy wizard coinage (!!!) into a pouch tied to the owl’s ankle (!!!!). (Hope the dormice kept a low profile while that owl was in the shack because that could’ve been a disaster!)
As Harry and Hagrid wake up, and the Dursleys presumably hide in the locked bedroom, they discuss their plan for the day over some leftover cold sausages from last night and some of Harry’s birthday cake. Hagrid says they’re going to London to buy supplies for Harry’s school year, and I think it’s rude they didn’t invite me to come along but WHATEVER. Harry’s brain-melting excitement over how rad his life has become is squashed by the realization that he has zero money and the Dursleys definitely wouldn’t pay a single cent to help Harry go to wizard school but Hagrid’s like, “Dude. Shut up. You have money. We’ll withdraw it from your parents’ vault at Gringott’s, the goblin-run wizard bank, NO DUH” and Harry is like, “?!?!?!?!!!!!” Hagrid also mentions casually that he has to run an errand for Professor Dumbledore and humblebrags that Professor Dumbledore has Hagrid do important stuff for him all the time, which is SUPER cute and VERY Hagrid in the best and worst ways. Hagrid: huge dude, huge heart, huge mouth.
Probably a picture from Gringott's.
After that bonkers storm from the night before, the weather is lovely for Harry and Hagrid’s trip from the Shack-On-The-Rock to the mainland. (1) During their boat ride back to the shore (which Hagrid expedites using magic even though HE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO), Hagrid reads the paper, and we learn a bit more about the ins and outs of the wizarding world. (Always the wizarding world, never the witching world. PATRIARCHY.) Here are some things we learn about:
- Gringott’s – protected by spells and enchantments; dragons guard the high security vaults??; the vaults are hundreds of miles below London, so anyone who managed to steal anything would basically die under there while trying to get out with their booty. Yikes!
- Ministry of Magic – Cornelius Fudge is the Minister of Magic; the Ministry asked Professor Dumbledore to be the Minister of Magic (M.o.M.) but he said no; the primary responsibility of the Ministry is to keep the existence of magic a secret from the Muggles (2); why keep it a secret? Because then Muggles would want magical solutions to all their problems.
They get into town to catch the train to London and Harry asks Hagrid about dragons. Hagrid says they’re super cool and he’d sure love to have one, which probably won’t come up again later on in the series. Hagrid does some knitting on the train ride (his knitting is described as looking like “a canary yellow circus tent” <3333) and Harry looks over his list of school supplies, which includes a veritable Who’s Who of J.K. Rowling’s AMAZING names.
All students are to 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 (ed. note: !)
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling (ed. note: !!)
A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore (ed note: !!!)
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger (ed. note: !!!!)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (ed. note: !!!!!)
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection by Quentin Trimble
HI THOSE ARE ALL THE BEST NAMES.
The guys take the Underground (LOL at imagining Hagrid on a subway!) and end up on a busy, very non-magical seeming street in London. (Also, P.S. Harry has never been to London until today. ) The street seems SO normal and SO non-magical that Harry worries for a second that this has all been an elaborate cruel practical joke by the Dursleys, aside from the fact that the Dursleys have no discernible sense of humor, and then they come upon this little, cruddy looking pub called The Leaky Cauldron and head inside. (Interesting note that Harry feels like his eyes have a hard time focusing on the pub’s exterior, and like he and Hagrid are the only people on the street who even see it. We’ll see more of that kind of magic later in the books.) Please forgive me for using another large block quote, but this is a great description of The Leaky Cauldron and our first time seeing people respond to Harry, which is pretty important because it sets us up for what Harry’s life is going to be like from now on.
For a famous place, it was very dark and shabby. A few old women were sitting in a corner, drinking tiny glasses of sherry. One of them was smoking a long pipe. A little man in a top hat was talking to the old bartender, who was quite bald and looked like a toothless walnut. (ed. note: SO GOOD, SHOW NOT TELL) The low buzz of chatter stopped when they walked in. Everyone seemed to know Hagrid; they waved and smiled at him, and the bartender reached for a glass, saying, “The usual, Hagrid?”
“Can’t, Tom, I’m on Hogwarts business,” said Hagrid, clapping a great hand on Harry’s shoulder and making Harry’s knees buckle.
“Good Lord,” said the bartender, peering at Harry, “is this – can this be -?”
The Leaky Cauldron had suddenly gone completely still and silent.
“Bless my soul,” whispered the old bartender, ” Harry Potter…what an honor.”
He hurried out from behind the bar, rushed towards Harry and seized his hand, tears in his eyes.
“Welcome back, Mr. Potter, welcome back.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. Everyone was looking at him. The old woman with the pipe was puffing on it without realizing it had gone out. Hagrid was beaming.
Then there was a great scraping of chairs and the next moment, Harry found himself shaking hands with everyone in the Leaky Cauldron.
“Doris Crockford, Mr. Potter, can’t believe I’m meeting you at last.”
“So proud, Mr. Potter, I’m just so proud.”
“Always wanted to shake your hand – I’m all of a flutter.”
“Delighted, Mr. Potter, just can’t tell you, Diggle’s the name, Dedalus Diggle.”
“I’ve seen you before!” said Harry, as Dedalus Diggle’s top hat fell off in his excitement. “You bowed at me once in a shop.”
“He remembers!” cried Dedalus Diggle, looking around at everyone. “Did you hear that? He remembers me!” (3)
In da pub, they also run into Harry’s teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Quirrell, who seems pretty nervous for a master of dark arts defense. Hagrid mentions that Quirrell took a year off from teaching to do some field work and got into all sorts of scary scrapes and came back super jumpy and anxious. HUH. They finally make their way out of the Leaky Cauldron and into the backyard, where Hagrid uses his magical umbrella to open the doorway to the wizard street, Diagon Alley. (FYI, it took me easily 4 readings of the books to get the joke of Diagon Alley, because I always pronounced it dye-gone in my head.)
Harry’s eyes pop out of his head like a cartoon character at all the cuh-ray-zee cool shops on Diagon Alley. Cauldrons! Apothecary! Owlery?! It’s all extremely exciting for HP, of course. Before they can shop, though, they have to go to Gringott’s to get HP’s money. As one would expect from a goblin bank, lots of goblins! Goblin doorguy, goblin guards, goblin bankers! Hagrid produces a tiny golden key to the Potters’ vault and tells the banker goblin that he has a letter from Professor Dumbledore about the YOU-KNOW-WHAT in vault 713, and it’s like “shut up, Hagrid! It’s supposed to be a secret, I’m sure!” Hagrid is NO DUH the best but he’s also the worst secret keeper IN THE WORLD, especially when it comes to the trust Professor Dumbledore put in him. When Harry asks for more information about this mysterious thing in vault 713, Hagrid does nothing to quell Harry’s curiosity and OF COURSE makes it seem even more tantalizing. That probably won’t come up again later, though.
Griphook the goblin is assigned to take them to their vaults, and they go on a crazy rollercoaster ride in a tiny railway cart through the underground caverns. Harry is like “WHEEEEEE!” and Hagrid is like, “::barf sound::.” Their first stop is the Potter vault, which is straight up full of money. Harry can’t even believe it since he’s spent his entire life dressed like a pile of dirty dishrags, eating kitchen scraps, basically. We also learn about the (needlessly confusing) wizarding money system which is 29 copper Knuts to a Sickle, 17 silver Sickles to a golden Galleon. Also they don’t appear to have paper money, which seems REALLY inconvenient to me, but I bet they probably have wizard money pouches that are bottomless and also silent, because otherwise I feel like you’d just be a walking target for cutpurses. Harry grabs some money for his supplies and maybe more, but obviously he has no idea how money works because he’s never had any, so he’s just guessing. They get back in the cart and Hagrid pre-barfs as they go deeper and deeper under Gringott’s. At vault 713, which is definitely higher security and is opened by Griphook swiping his finger across the door, Harry is expecting to see some crazy cool wizard stuff, but he just sees a little paper package, small enough that Hagrid picks it up and puts it in his coat pocket. Weird! That probably will be the end of the mysterious package, so who cares?
After the cart rides, Hagrid is still feeling puhretty barfy, so he asks if Harry will be okay getting his robes alone so Hagrid can get a drink to take the edge off. (Pretty irresponsible, but I guess Harry isn’t THAT young…) At the robe shop (Madame Malkin’s!) there’s another kid getting his school robes, too, so Harry and this new kid chat a bit while they’re being measured. Harry immediately thinks this new kid is a huge jerky ahole, reminding him a lot of Dudley because is a spoiled braggart. The jerky kid, by way of making conversation, asks Harry a bunch of fairly standard questions about things any kid in the wizarding world would know, but Harry, so new to it all, doesn’t know what any of it means and starts feeling really stupid and upset. Plus, the kid really is a spoiled jerk. Hagrid taps on the window, his hands full with huge melty ice cream cones for him and Harry (<3) and OF COURSE that kid is a snotty jerk about HAGRID. (We also get our first glimpse into what will eventually be one of the most fundamental Good vs. Evil elements of the series, so let’s check out the end of their conversation, shall we?)
“That’s Hagrid,” said Harry, pleased to know something the boy didn’t. “He works at Hogwarts.”
“Oh,” said the boy, “I’ve heard of him. He’s sort of a servant, isn’t he?”
“He’s the gamekeeper,” said Harry. He was liking the boy less and less every second.
“Yes, exactly. I heard he’s a sort of savage – lives in a hut on the school grounds and every now and then he gets drunk, tries to do magic, and ends up setting fire to his bed.”
“I think he’s brilliant,” said Harry coldly.
“Do you?” said the boy, with a slight sneer. “Why is he with you? Where are your parents?”
“They’re dead,” said Harry shortly. He didn’t feel much like going into the matter with this boy.
“Oh, sorry,” said the other, not sounding sorry at all. “But they were our kind, weren’t they?”
“They were a witch and a wizard, if that’s what you mean.”
“I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What’s your surname, anyway?”
So, this kid is kind of a magical racist, basically. This will be helpful for us to remember, because as the series progresses we will see this theme pop up again and again – pure vs. mixed blood magic users. Harry obviously wasn’t raised by a wizard family, so he feels yucky and confused, and he is VERY relieved to see Hagrid and be done with his robes and leave that racist jerk behind. While Hagrid and Harry eat their ice cream and do some more shopping, Harry stews and eventually tells Hagrid about his conversation with that kid and Hagrid makes him feel better about everything because no duh. Hagrid reminds Harry that he’s definitely full-blood and even if he wasn’t, a lot of rad wizards are born into Muggle families – like his mom was! He also reminds Harry that this jerky kid would’ve probably crapped his robes if he’d known who Harry was because Harry is so famous. Hagrid also answers Harry’s questions about the confusing terms that jerk mentioned (Quidditch = wizarding world’s football; Hufflepuff and Slytherin = school houses at Hogwarts.) (4) I know I talk all the time about how great Hagrid is, but this scene is a perfect illustration of it because Harry feels comfortable enough with Hagrid to ask him all the questions that Harry has been stewing over, and Hagrid is totally 100% judgment free and infinitely patient. Professor Dumbledore chose so well when he asked Hagrid to handle this particular task, as opposed to other types of tasks for which he’s less well-suited.
After this talk Harry feels a lot more light-hearted. Harry is so mature for his age, and has endured so much emotional hardship, it’s easy to forget that he’s just a very little dude but we get to see it some during the shopping scene when Harry, drunk on all the wizard money he has, tries to talk Hagrid into letting him get a solid gold cauldron and a book of curses for jinxing Dudley. Hagrid nixes those ideas but Harry does get some nifty color changing ink.
On the way to buy Harry’s wand, Hagrid takes Harry to buy him a birthday present, which obviously makes me die of warm soft heart feelings. Harry tries to tell Hagrid he doesn’t have to, but Hagrid’s like, “shut up, I’m gonna.” He also says that he doubts the Dursleys have ever given Harry a very good present before, which is very empathetic of him. Hagrid suggests that he buy Harry an owl, and Harry says yes yes yes! Off and on throughout the books I get super mad at Harry for being such an ungrateful little poophead to the people around him (which I recognize is totally typical teenager behavior BUT STILL) but this scene is not one of those. Harry kind of loses his mind with gratitude and is REALLY hyped about having an owl buddy, as well he should be because owls are cool as heck.
After that, they head to Ollivander’s to get Harry his wand. Gonna interject that Mr. Ollivander is another of my favorite recurring characters in the series, even though he’s really not in it very often. I think wand lore in this universe is SO cool, how they’re made and how they work, and if J.K. Rowling wrote an entire off-shoot book/series about the Ollivander family and their wand craft I would read the heck out of it instantaneously. Hagrid says Ollivander’s is the only place for wands, which is surprising because the shop itself is tiny and creepy and doesn’t scream PROSPERITY. The gold paint on the sign is peeling, the window has a single wand on a sun-bleached purple cushion. The sign outside says they’ve been making wands since 382 BC! That’s a VERY long time! Inside the store is empty except for a single chair and thin boxes stacked floor to ceiling. It’s really quiet and still inside. Harry feels like “the very dust and silence in here seemed to tingle with some secret magic.” Oooooooh!
Then out comes weird Mr. Ollivander! The only thing we really know about what Mr. Ollivander looks like is that he’s old and has really pale, silvery eyes. The silvery eyes are what we hear about the most, because he doesn’t blink enough and he’s a big starer. He also remembers every single wand he’s ever sold, which is VERY impressive to me. I made notes about what types of wands every character has because I think it’s so interesting, but I won’t put them in here because maybe you don’t. Mr. Ollivander talks a bit about wand making, and how the wand chooses the wizard, not vice versa, which is hard to imagine until we see it in practice. (5) Harry is measured very thoroughly to see what wand will be the best fit for him, while Mr. Ollivander monologues for a sec about wands and how they’re made.
“Every Ollivander wand has a core of a powerful magical substance, Mr. Potter. We use unicorn hairs, phoenix tail feathers, and the heartstrings of dragons. No two Ollivander wands are the same, just as no two unicorns, dragons, or phoenixes are quite the same. And of course, you will never get such good results with another wizard’s wand.”
"I choose you, bro!"
Cooooool. So cool. Harry tries a bunch of wands but nothing seems to work. Mr. Ollivander gets excited about the process, bringing out box after box. Finally, Harry picks up a wand that immediately feels warm in his hand, and when he swishes his arm down it shoots out a stream of red and gold sparkles! So, I am assuming that is what it means that the wand chooses the wizard. As Mr. O wraps up Harry’s purchase, he’s kind of tripping out about something so Harry asks him what’s up. Mr. Ollivander says the phoenix whose tail feather is the core of Harry’s wand only gave one other tail feather, and that feather is the core of Lord Voldemort’s wand!!!!!! Yeah, that’s pretty trippy/creepy/cool. Harry is justifiably freaked out. Mr. Ollivander says that this is a powerful wand, and that great things can be expected from Harry, adding an aside that while Lord Voldemort was a terrible person, he did achieve great things. Like Hitler, I guess. Harry feels queasy about it all. Mr. Ollivander is a creepy dude.
Harry and Hagrid leave Diagon Alley with all Harry’s purchases, and probably look super normal and cool on the train trip back to Privet Drive with their trunks and an owl. (Isn’t there some kind of magical delivery service that could bring this stuff to Harry? This seems like exactly the sort of situation magic would be useful for.) Harry is really quiet the whole time, brooding. They stop for a burger before Harry’s last train leaves, and Hagrid, after giving Harry some space to have his thoughts, checks in with him about how he’s doing, because Hagrid is the best. Harry is feeling afraid about being unable to live up to everyone’s expectations of him, with his legacy and everyone knowing who he is. Hagrid is OF COURSE super reassuring and reminds Harry that everyone at Hogwarts is a beginner, and that it’s hard to be the object of so much attention, but he’s gonna do just great and have so much fun. Harry feels a little heartened after that. Hagrid helps Harry get his stuff on the train, and gives Harry his ticket to Hogwarts, which leaves in one month. His parting words to Harry are that if Harry needs anything or has Dursley trouble, he can send a message to Hagrid with Hedwig and she’ll know how to find him, which sounds very simple, and raises the question of why Professor Dumbledore couldn’t at least have left Harry an owl when he was little, so Harry could let him know if he was being LITERALLY LOCKED IN A CUPBOARD AND FED SCRAPS. But okay.
Next chapter is Harry’s trip to Hogwarts! Yay!
SOME ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION OR WHATEVER:
-Pros and cons of keeping the existence of magic a secret
-If the Dursleys had been sent a monthly or yearly stipend for Harry’s care, do you think they would’ve been less resentful about having to raise him? Probably not, and obviously they shouldn’t ever have control of all Harry’s money, but maybe getting compensated a bit might’ve evened the power balance.
(1) Wait, how are the Dursleys supposed to get back to the mainland now? We already know they don’t have any more food there, probably Hagrid and Harry are the only other people who know they’re there, and once the rowboat is returned, won’t the dude they rented it from assume they’ve left?!!! They could DIE!
(2) I was genuinely surprised to read that the PRIMARY role of the Ministry of Magic was to keep magic a secret. Not provide aid to the magical community? Not collecting wizard taxes to pay for wizard infrastructure? Wait, do wizards pay taxes to help support the Muggle infrastructure they use??? Or do they even use any Muggle infrastructure? They don’t drive, they don’t use Muggle public schools or medical benefits, they have their own law enforcement agency…the Ministry of Magic must collect taxes for maintaining the Floo network (WHICH WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YET) and St. Mungo’s (DITTO) and paying the Aurors (DITTO DITTO).
(3) Aside from having another EXCELLENT name, Dedalus Diggle illustrates several things of note. Firstly, he perfectly illustrates how huge a deal Harry is to the wizarding community. We’ve been told, but now we’re seeing it. You know how when you have a hero or a celebrity that you’re really into, and you meet them, the details of it are a HUGE deal to you, and feel really important, but probably aren’t because that famous person probably is the object of hundreds or thousands of people’s fandom and you just kind of melt into the crowd? Dedalus Diggle is living the dream now, because Harry totally remembers him and Harry is a HUGE celebrity! Another thing that Dedalus Diggle illustrates nicely is the way that J.K. Rowling has recurring peripheral characters, which is a really lovely way to make the book’s universe feel real and kind of snug. You might not remember, but Professor McGonagall gripes about Dedalus Diggle’s over-the-top celebrations of Voldemort’s downfall in the first chapter, and J.K. Rowling mentions Harry being bowed to by a tiny dude in a top hat, AND Mr. Dursley knocks over a tiny dude in a top hat on his way out of his office. HOW MANY TINY DUDES IN TOP HATS CAN THE MAGICAL WORLD REALLY HOLD?! They’re probably all Dedalus! So fun!
(4) Earlier on, that mysterious jerky kid said that he knew he’d be in Slytherin, because his whole family was, and then Hagrid tells Harry later on that every single wizard and witch who “went bad” with Voldemort was in Slytherin – including Voldemort himself! – which seems like kind of a dead giveaway and a little obvious, but at least we’re clear who the villains will be to a certain extent. Something I was wondering, like the very cool lady I am, is what house Barty Crouch, Jr. was in. Don’t even worry because I definitely checked the HP wiki and they don’t have an answer.
(5) There’s a little exchange between Mr. Ollivander and Hagrid about how Hagrid’s wand was snapped in half when he got expelled from Hogwarts. Mr. O is concerned that Hagrid definitely doesn’t try to use the wand, since it’s broken and will act unpredictably, and Hagrid says of course he doesn’t, even though we know he definitely hid his wand pieces in his umbrella and uses it not infrequently.