Once they board the train, Ron and Hermione go off to the Prefect’s carriage together leaving Harry to find a place to sit with a less familiar group of students.
As I mentioned when talking about chapter one, the whole point of book five is the transformation of Harry Potter. All the things that are most important to him, the things that he sees as his strengths, will be taken away from him. At the end of this book, he will be starting down a new path, a path which will allow him to defeat Voldemort.
Starting in the last chapter, Harry’s friendship with Ron and Hermione is being broken. This isn’t to say that they are not still friends through it all. In fact, they emerge from this process as stronger friends than ever. But this friendship is one thing which Harry has come to rely on more than anything in his life. He has come to see himself as the leader, the hero, the most important of their little band.
Here’s what he told himself in the last chapter:
Well, Ron and Hermione were with me most of the time, said the voice in Harry’s head.
Not all the time, though, Harry argued with himself. They didn’t fight Quirrell with me. They didn’t take on Riddle and the Basilisk. They didn’t get rid of all those Dementors the night Sirius escaped. They weren’t in that graveyard with me, the night Voldemort returned…
And the same feeling of ill-usage that had overwhelmed him on the night he had arrived rose again. I’ve definitely done more, Harry thought indignantly. I’ve done more than either of them!
Harry talks sense to himself immediately after that, and he genuinely celebrates Ron’s good fortune. But it isn’t until he hears from Sirius that his father hadn’t been a Prefect either that he comes to terms with his not being chosen.
And then comes chapter ten, and the trip on the Hogwarts Express. Once they board the train, Ron and Hermione go off to the Prefect’s carriage together leaving Harry to find a place to sit with a less familiar group of students. And it’s very clear how he feels about this new group. When Neville’s new plant squirts Stinksap all over everyone just before Cho Chang opens the door, Harry thinks this:
He would have liked Cho to discover him sitting with a group of very cool people laughing their heads off at a joke he had just told; he would not have chosen to be sitting with Neville and Loony Lovegood, clutching a toad and dripping in Stinksap.
His friends are gone, his hopes for being seen as a leader and hero are washed away in Stinksap. The first painful steps of his transformation are underway.
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