"'I suppose you wanted to make an entrance, did you?' [...] 'And with no flying car available you decided that bursting into the Great Hall halfway through the feast ought to create a dramatic effect.'"
-- Severus Snape
Before the Hogwarts Express leaves, Tonks rescues Harry from the Full-Body Bind Curse put on him by Malfoy. She escorts him to the castle, but Snape come to collect him and he leads Harry into the feast, criticizing Harry all the way. Once inside, Harry discusses his status as ‘The Chosen One’ with those around him and Dumbledore gives his opening speech, announcing that Slughorn will be teaching Potions and Snape teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. On the way out of the hall, Harry and Ron discuss Malfoy and run into Hagrid, who tells them about Grawp and he leaves them feeling guilty for not taking his class.
Calendar and Dates
The entire chapter takes place the night students arrive at Hogwarts, which is Sunday, 1 September for two reasons: first, this is the case in every book in the series; second, this aligns with the first hardfast date we have - Ron's birthday on Saturday, 1 March the following year (HBP18).
Interesting facts and notes
The floor began to vibrate as the engine roared into life. The Express was leaving and nobody knew he was still on it...
We've only seen two employees on the train, the conductor and the trolley woman. Do either of them--or someone we haven't met--check for anyone or anything left behind? What happens to those items or people that are?
How did, for instance, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle get off the train when they were hexed by Harry and friends (GF37) (OP38)? What if, as Harry contemplates at the end of OP, "he simply refused to get off, but remained stubbornly sitting there until the first of September?"
For those items left behind by students, would they just be considered lost and have to be replaced? Or would they be sent to Hogwarts upon discovery, perhaps by owl mail?
We see that students have to load everything onto and off the train themselves each trip, so the probability for lost and misplaced items is high enough that it is surprising we haven't heard any mention of the process thus far:
"Hermione and Ron dragged their trunks, Crookshanks and a caged Pigwidgeon off towards the engine end of the train..." (OP10)
"'Right,' said Harry, picking up Hedwig's cage in one hand and the handle of his trunk in the other. They struggled off down the corridor...Harry and Neville stowed the three trunks and Hedwig's cage in the luggage rack and sat down." (OP10)
"everyone scrambled to get their luggage and pets assembled, ready to get off. As Ron and Hermione were supposed to supervise all this, they disappeared from the carriage again..." (OP10)
"when it finally puffed to a standstill, however, he lifted down Hedwig's cage and prepared to drag his trunk from the train as usual." (OP )
On a related note, there is no mention of how the luggage travels between Hogsmeade Station and Hogwarts. Do the students have to bring their items into the carriages? Is there a luggage rack like there is on the train? Do first-years bring it on the boats with them? Where do students of any year store their luggage during the Start-of-Term Feast, especially first years that don't know yet which dorm they will be living in? Or is the luggage of all students save the first-years sent ahead to their dorms directly from Hogsmeade, in which case by whom and how? --KT
“You'd better put that cloak back on, and we can walk up to the school," said Tonks, still unsmiling....
"Yes, I'm sending word to the castle that I've got you or they'll worry. Come on, we'd better not dawdle."
Most likely Tonks has Harry cover up to maintain a ruse, should anyone be watching, that Harry is already safe and sound at the castle. --KT
"How did you find me?"
"I noticed you hadn't left the train--"
"Two grim-faced, bearded Aurors" (HBP7) escorted Harry into King's Cross and Platform 9 3/4, and an Auror (Tonks) was at the Hogsmeade Station checking that Harry arrived. Wonder why none were assigned to sit with Harry during the train ride itself? The train hasn't proved completely safe or invulnerable from attack--recall the Dementors coming aboard three years ago. If anything should have happened to him, it would have been up to nine hours too late for the Aurors to find out. --KT
Now she seemed older and much more serious and purposeful. Was this all the effect of what had happened at the Ministry?
It is full-out war now with the Death Eaters. She's probably received a lot more Auror experience than ever before, including losing her cousin in battle. That kind of job could definitely change a person.
Of course, we discover an additional reason for her demeanor at a later date. --KT
Having always traveled there by carriage, Harry had never before appreciated just how far Hogwarts was from Hogsmeade Station.
What that distance is in mathematical terms we don't know for sure, although several people, including Rowling herself, have at least given us a visual aid. --KT
"I think you were better off with the old one," said Snape, the malice in his voice unmistakeable. "The new one looks weak."
On a first reading, if the reader takes Tonks' Patronus to be an image of Sirius, this dovetails with Snape's malice towards Sirius' memory - and suggests that it carries over onto anyone close to him. The same holds true for Remus Lupin, of course, with an even nastier suggestion of anti-werewolf bigotry (see Snape's behaviour toward Lupin in PA19, and various remarks throughout the series about Lupin's characteristic appearance of being tired and ill).
Snape had placed himself forever and irrevocably beyond the possibility of Harry's forgiveness by his attitude toward Sirius.
This, of course, changes by the end of the seventh book.
....had concluded that Snape's snide remarks to Sirius about remaining safely hidden while the rest of the Order of the Phoenix were off fighting Voldemort had probably been a powerful factor in Sirius rushing off to the Ministry the night that he had died.
Harry is probably correct that Sirius felt compelled into action partly out of eagerness to and feeling guilty for not having earlier contributed to the Order. However, Snape was not the only one who had said something derisive to him:
"We don't care about the dumb Order!" shouted Fred.
"It's our dad dying we're talking about!" yelled George.
"Your father knew what he was getting into and he won't thank you for messing things up for the Order!" said Sirius, equally angry. "This is how it is--this is why you're not in the Order--you don't understand--there are things worth dying for!"
"Easy for you to say, stuck here!" bellowed Fred. "I don't see you risking your neck!"
The little colour remaining in Sirius' face drained from it. (OP22) --KT
the long Gryffindor table (which, inconveniently, was the furthest from the Entrance Hall)
A nice tidbit of information to supplement our floor plans for the layout of the Great Hall.
Harry was surprised to see the Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney, sitting on Hagrid's other side; she rarely left her tower room, and he had never seen her at the start-of-term feast before.
Another interesting tidbit of information.
"I am considered something of a Potter authority; it is widely known that we are friendly..."
Harry's only talked with Nearly-Headless Nick a few times. Curious that this has ballooned into Nick becoming an expert on our protagonist. --KT
"Those wishing to play for their House Quidditch teams should give their names to their Heads of House as usual. We are also looking for new Quidditch commentators, who should do likewise."
How does this process, of names being given to the Head of House, reconcile with the tryouts that the team captains have held? Were Angelina's open tryouts last year an exemption to the usual rule? Or are tryouts usually open, with names being submitted to the Heads as merely a notification of interest? We saw McGonagall's involvement in Harry's becoming Seeker; are Heads allowed to watch tryouts and/or override the captain's team picks as well? What happens in the unlikely event of there not being anyone interested in trying out or qualified to fill a certain team position?
On a related note, is there a tryout process for Quidditch commentators as well? Or does each Head of House get to select them? Did Lee Jordan have anyone he was competing against for the job? --KT
“How d'you know Voldemort doesn't need someone at Hogwarts? It wouldn't be the first —"
We discover how on-the-nose Ron's statement is later on.
Come early an' yeh can say hello ter Buck — I mean, Witherwings!”
Exceptional character moments
Tonks, whose Patronus has changed due to great emotional upheaval.
Snape's spiteful crack about Tonks' Patronus looking weaker than her previous one.
"You know, I don't believe any House has ever been in negative figures this early in the term: We haven't even started pudding. You might have set a record, Potter."
He hoped very much that they would all assume he had been involved in something heroic, preferably involving a couple of Death Eaters and a Dementor.
"'Harry Potter knows that he can confide in me with complete confidence,' I told them. 'I would rather die than betray his trust.'"
"That's not saying much, seeing as you're already dead," Ron observed.
"...and Mr. Filch, our caretaker, has asked me to say that there is a blanket ban on any joke items bought at the shop called Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes."
The last time he had met Hagrid's half-brother, a vicious giant with a talent for ripping up trees by the roots, his vocabulary had comprised five words, two of which he was unable to pronounce properly.