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The Knight Bus

- Chapter 3

"It's been a very weird night, Hedwig."
-- Harry Potter

PA3: The Knight Bus

Harry tries to decide what to do, the Knight Bus arrives, and he asks to be taken to London. En route Harry learns about Sirius Black. He is met by Cornelius Fudge at Diagon Alley and installed in a room at the Leaky Cauldron.

Calendar and Dates

We are given no hint of the days of the week, so we'll go with the dates from the actual calendar of the summer of 1993.

Aug 1 Aug 2 Aug 3 Aug 4 Aug 5
Aug 6
Harry flees number four Privet Drive, is picked up by the Knight Bus
Aug 7
early morning, just before dawn, the Knight Bus deposits Harry outside of The Leaky Cauldron

August 6, 1993 (Evening) to early morning of August 7th

All in one night: Harry leaves Privet Drive, dragging his trunk, broom and Hedwig's cage with him, and then panics as he has nowhere to go, no money and is likely to be expelled from school for performing magic. As he opens his trunk, he senses something in the dark, and lighting his wand reveals a large gleaming-eyed dark creature. Harry trips over and, having accidentally stuck out his wand as he falls, a giant triple-decker bus for stranded wizards arrives. Harry pretends to be Neville Longbottom, buys a fare to London and converses with Stan Shunpike (the conductor) and Ernie Prang (the driver who doesn't say much) during the trip. Stan's copy of the Daily Prophet features a story about Sirius Black, who is a wizard rather than a Muggle fugitive. As he gets off the bus in front of the Leaky Cauldron, Harry runs into the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Instead of being punished, Harry will be allowed to stay there until school starts, as long has he doesn't go outside of Diagon Alley. He is given a room, where he is greeted by Hedwig.

Interesting facts and notes

Harry is on the run. He makes it a couple of streets away from the Dursleys before ending up, exhausted and scared, in Magnolia Crescent. Not for the first time, Harry wonders if he will be expelled and what will become of him. This flight down darkened streets parallels his adventure in the same neighborhood at the beginning of the fifth book. Then the streets are familiar, not frightening, but the dangers are much more real. In that instance, he is being watched over by the Order of the Phoenix. Now he is being watched over by Sirius in the form of a huge black dog. In book five, the most immediate danger comes from the Minister for Magic, the very person who appears at the end of this chapter to rescue Harry from his predicament. How things change in the wizarding world over the next two years...

Harry was several streets away before he collapsed onto a low wall in Magnolia Crescent

A very detailed and accurate map of the streets around Privet Drive is available here in the Lexicon. The artist, Nik, actually visited a neighborhood which matches the descriptions in the book and walked the streets as it describes in this chapter and in the first chapter of OP. Of course, since Little Whinging doesn't actually exist, no map can be considered canon. However, this is undoubtedly the best representation we can hope for. The street names of Little Whinging are somewhat similar to street names in Chipping Sodbury, where JKR grew up.

What if he bewitched the trunk to make it feather-light, tied it to his broomstick, covered himself in the cloak, and flew to London?

Little Whinging is located approximately 12 miles from the Leaky Cauldron, which we'll see in a few moments is to be found along Charing Cross Road. In OP3, this trip is accomplished by Harry and the members of the Advance Guard. We don't hear Tonks use a feather-light spell, but it makes sense that she would have. Perhaps the harness she used to carry his trunk has a feather-light charm already cast on it. At any rate, the trip turns out to be a long one, although this may have been because Moody kept taking them off course to throw off any pursuers.

A funny prickling on the back of his neck had made Harry feel he was being watched...He had sensed rather than heard it

This is one of our first clues that Harry will become a powerful wizard, strong in Defence Against the Dark Arts. Here we glimpse his "sixth sense" ability to detect the presence of others. We see it again in book four when he senses the presence of Winky and Barty Crouch Jr. in the dark woods, just before Crouch casts the Dark Mark spell. Rowling is extremely talented at developing these kinds of things naturally over time, so that when we learn that Harry is becoming good at Defence Against the Dark Arts, it feels completely natural, that we've been realizing that all along.

"Lumos," Harry muttered

Harry does more magic here. He has decided that it doesn't matter, and he's right. It's also possible that some magic is becoming so natural for Harry that he casts the spell automatically without giving the legality any thought.

Harry saw, quite distinctly, the hulking outline of something very big, with wide, gleaming eyes.

Sirius Black is watching Harry. Let's trace his movements to this point. He left Azkaban, which according to Rowling is on an island in the north of the North Sea, and swam to shore as a dog. Logically, he came ashore on the closest land, which would be Scotland. Some have argued that he wouldn't have gone to Little Whinging when he was already in Scotland, but of course, Ron and Scabbers aren't in Scotland at this point, so it's perfectly reasonable that he would have headed south. Traveling as a dog and avoiding Dementors who were out looking for him, Sirius headed for Little Whinging to check up on Harry. It's reasonable to assume that Snuffles, which is what Sirius calls himself when he's a dog, was hanging around Little Whinging for at least part of the week that Harry was dealing with Aunt Marge. As Harry ran away, Sirius must have seen him go and followed, which is why he's two streets away. Although Harry doesn't realize it, he's actually in very good hands at that moment. If the Knight Bus wouldn't have turned up, one wonders what might have happened.

His wand flew out of his hand as he flung out an arm to break his fall

It was apparently this action which summoned the Knight Bus, but this cannot be the whole story. Can you imagine what it would be like if the Knight Bus turned up whenever someone happened to fling out their wand arm? This is actually yet another example of the power of intention in magic. Not only did Harry happen to make the correct hand gesture (quite by coincidence) but also he was in the correct frame of mind to need emergency transport. That combination is what summons the Knight Bus.

Another slight possibility is that someone besides Harry summoned the Bus. Sirius is a logical candidate, although he is in dog form and therefore probably couldn't make the required gesture--to say nothing of the fact that he likely doesn't have a wand. Another possibility is Mrs. Figg, but that seems unlikely because Mrs. Figg would have had to have been in exactly the right place at the right time and it also assumes that Squibs are capable of calling the Knight Bus.

A triple-decker, violently purple bus, which had appeared out of thin air. Gold lettering over the windshield spelled The Knight Bus.

The name "Knight Bus" is a play on words. You can actually catch a "night bus" in London, although they are much harder to come by than the magical version. There aren't a lot of them, but they do rumble around London all night. If you are ever stranded, seeing that bus come along is just about as welcome a sight as the Knight Bus was to Harry.

My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor

Stan is a very interesting character in the books. He seems to be the type of fellow who hasn't a lot of schooling. Did Stan go to Hogwarts? If he's 18 or 19, he would have been there in Harry's first year. It seems more likely that Stan got what schooling he could at home and then went directly into a trade, in this case magical transportation. Perhaps he is apprenticed to Ernie. We do meet Stan again in book four in the woods trying to impress the Veela. Stan is named for one of Rowling's grandfathers, Stan Volant. Shunpike is a term which refers to a side road which avoids a major highway.

"Neville Longbottom," said Harry, saying the first name that came into his head

The connection between Harry and Neville was completely unknown to readers when this book was released. Now that we know more about the prophecy, about Neville's parents, and about the fact that it could well have been Neville that these books were about, it is interesting that his is the first name that comes into Harry's head in a pinch.

"Eleven Sickles," said Stan, "but for firteen you get 'ot chocolate, and for fifteen you get an 'ot water bottle an' a toofbrush in the color of your choice."

We'll do the conversions here. The fare to London is 11 Sickles, which works out to about US $4.75 or £3.25. Add the hot water bottle, hot chocolate, and toothbrush and the fare jumps to 15 Sickles, which is US $6.50 or £4.40. (If you're curious about these conversions, check out the Galleons Converter in the Lexicon).

and shoved some gold into Stan's hand

Yes, it's possible that Harry overpaid Stan in his hurry, since 15 Sickles would have been silver not gold. More likely, the term "gold" is being used as synonymous with "coins," so it's merely indicating that Harry gave some money to Stan. In chapter four, Harry notices the new Firebolt broom and sees that the price is given on request. "Harry didn't like to think how much gold the Firebolt would cost," it says in the book, which could easily be interpreted as "how much money." Later, at Zonko's, the book says "Harry gave Ron whispered orders and passed him some gold from under the cloak." Since a Galleon is worth over seven dollars, Harry must have been handing other types of coins besides just gold ones. Even more to the point, when Harry tells Hagrid in the Hut on the Rock that his parents hadn't left him anything, Hagrid replies: "They didn' keep their gold in the house, boy!" We know that their holdings in the vault in Gringotts included plenty of silver and bronze along with the gold.

There were no seats; instead, half a dozen brass bedsteads stood beside the curtained windows.

The Knight Bus is bedecked with beds at night, but during the day the beds are replaced with armchairs, as Harry learns on the trip back to Hogwarts after Christmas break in his fifth year.

This is our driver, Ernie Prang.

Ernie, like Stan, is named for one of Rowling's grandfathers. Ernie Rowling was married to Kathleen, the grandmother whose name Jo "borrowed" when she needed a middle initial. Prang is a slang term for crash, used as a verb, so one might say "I pranged the car" (or the bus, as the case may be).

"Them!" said Stan contemptuously. "Don' listen properly, do they? Don' look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don'."

How does the wizarding world stay hidden? Because Muggles don't see what they don't believe in. As long as Muggles know that magic is nothing but the stuff of fairy tales, they will be blind to evidence to the contrary. Of course, there is a limit to this kind of belief-induced blindness. If a Muggle sees a dragon, for example, their unbelief will become broken. The danger in that case is not just that they see a dragon but that then they will see other things. In a way, this fabric of unbelief is what the wizarding world must constantly be trying to maintain, what all the rules and regulations are intended to preserve, and it's a tenuous fabric indeed. Still, you'd think that the Muggles would notice the Knight Bus, what with the way it climbs the verges and shoves houses out of its way. Maybe they do see it, but to them it loses its magic sheen and they see only a standard double-decker, driving a bit wildly but otherwise normal.

"Where are we, Ern? Somewhere in Wales?"... "We'll be in Abergavenny in a minute."...the bus moved abruptly from Anglesea to Aberdeen

Ah, the wonders of wizarding geography. The Knight Bus can apparently be anywhere in Britain within seconds, even Anglesea (a misspelling of "Anglesey", corrected in later editions), which is an island (so the bus can go over water, just not UNDERwater). The logic, however, is completely non-Muggle. The bus seems for all the world to be traveling alphabetically, when it's following a prearranged route at all. And why not, since space and distance don't matter a bit to the Knight Bus.

lines of lampposts, mailboxes, and trash cans jumped out of its way as it approached and back into position once it had passed.

We will see this same effect when Harry rides in the Ministry cars in a few chapters. This is similar to the way that Number 12 Grimmauld Place squeezes itself into and out of existence between number 11 and number 13.

Stan came back downstairs, followed by a faintly green witch wrapped in a traveling cloak.

Madam Marsh turns up again on the Knight Bus in OP24, poor woman. The phrase "slightly green" refers to the fact that she's rather badly off with motion sickness, not that her natural coloring is greenish. In the OP incident, she actually vomits all over the second deck of the bus. Madam Marsh is, according to Rowling, simply an "extra" with no further part to play in the saga (JKR).

Sirius Black, possibly the most infamous prisoner ever to be held in Azkaban fortress

So why is Black so infamous? There are Death Eaters imprisoned there who killed many people, magical and Muggle. There are traitors there who spied for Voldemort. Why is Black so well known? The tale of his relationship to the Potters and his supposed betrayal of them is not well known, since Madam Rosmerta doesn't know anything about it and must be told (chapter ten). It must be that killing thirteen people with one curse is so unusual that he is known as the worst of the lot. If that is such an amazing feat, it's really quite surprising that Peter Pettigrew could manage to do it.

Fudge has been criticized by some members of the International Federation of Warlocks for informing the Muggle Prime Minister of the crisis.

We learn a lot from this short sentence. First of all, Fudge is under criticism by members of the International Federation of Warlocks. This is actually the only mention of this organisation in canon. We can probably assume that it is a typo on the part of the Daily Prophet reporter, and is actually intended to reference the International Confederation of Wizards, which is a body consisting of representatives from all over the world, led by none other than Albus Dumbledore. Did Dumbledore himself question Fudge's wisdom in talking to the Muggle prime minister about Black's escape? If so, this could represent one of the first cracks in the alliance between the two. Back when Fudge was just starting his term as Minister for Magic, in 1990, Dumbledore was his close adviser. Could this incident represent a change in that relationship, where Fudge is going against the advice of the Headmaster of Hogwarts? Shortly hereafter, Fudge will station Dementors around Hogwarts against Dumbledore's wishes. Second, we learn that the Muggle prime minister knows about the wizarding world. That's an interesting notion. I think it's safe to assume that the President of the United States is also in on this secret. The Muggle Prime Minister in 1993 was John Major and the President of the U.S. was Bill Clinton.

Incidentally, elsewhere in canon, we also hear mention of the International Confederation of Warlocks (CS2OP2OP8) but it is likely that these various names all refer to the same governing body. We know there was an International Warlock Convention in 1289 (CS9), so it's possible that the International Confederation of Warlocks was formed around that time, and later changed the Warlock part of its title to Wizards sometime before 1692 when the International Statute of Secrecy was passed by the ICW. It's also possible that J.K.Rowling made a mistake and simply forgot which name she had chosen for this magical authority.

Harry had never met a vampire, but he had seen pictures of them in his Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, and Black, with his waxy white skin, looked just like one.

Harry will not knowingly meet a vampire for another three years: the vampire Sanguini at Slughorn's Christmas party during his sixth year (HBP15).

"You outta your tree?" yelped Stan. "'Choo say 'is name for?"

"It happens many times in history... having a taboo on a name is quite common in certain civilizations... On a more prosaic note, in the 1950s in London there were a pair of gangsters called the Kray twins. The story goes that people didn't speak the name Kray. You just didn't mention it. You didn't talk about them, because retribution was so brutal and bloody. I think this is an impressive demonstration of strength, that you can convince someone not to use your name. Impressive in the sense that demonstrates how deep the level of fear is that you can inspire. It's not something to be admired." (TLC)

"Anyway, they cornered Black in the middle of a street full of Muggles an' Black took out 'is wand and 'e blasted 'alf the street apart, an' a wizard got it, an' so did a dozen Muggles what got in the way."

Our first mention of Peter Pettigrew, though not yet by name. As of book six we don't know the names of any of the Muggles who were killed in this incident.

I'd blow meself up before I set foot in that place.

In fact, three years from now Stan (though not Ernie, as far as we know) will be in Azkaban.

"Gas explosion," grunted Ernie.

Apparently the personnel of the Department of Magical Catastrophes are more adept than most wizarding folk at understanding Muggle culture.

"Laughed," said Stan. "Jus' stood there an' laughed.

"The laughter - he was absolutely unhinged by James' death... He knew what he'd lost. It was a humourless laugh. Pettigrew, who they, in a slightly patronizing way, James and Sirius at least, who they allowed to hang around with them, it turned out that he was a better wizard than they knew. Turned out he was better at hiding secrets than they knew." (TLC)

An' when reinforcements from the Ministry of Magic

Who included Fudge, long before he became Minister for Magic, as we shall learn later (PA10).

Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, had spent two months there only last year.

The mention here that Hagrid's imprisonment lasted two months helps clarify the date of Hagrid's arrest in (CS14), because we can now work backwards from the date of Hagrid's release on May 30th of that year to say that he was collected - one hesitates to say "arrested", given the lack of due process - either at the very end of March or very early in April of that year.

They were thundering along Charing Cross Road....Knight Bus skidded to a halt in front of a small and shabby-looking pub, the Leaky Cauldron

This has been reflected in the Lexicon's maps.

A stooping figure bearing a lantern appeared through the door behind the bar. It was Tom, the wizened, toothless landlord.

Note that Tom in the films, particularly PA/f, differs noticeably from Tom as shown in canon.

Tom clicked his fingers, a fire burst into life in the grate, and he bowed himself out of the room.

This non-verbal fire spell may have been Incendio, but we can't say for certain.

"I am Cornelius Fudge, Harry. The Minister for Magic."

While Harry witnessed Fudge's "collection" of Hagrid the previous year, Fudge didn't know it (CS14).

Two members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Department were dispatched to Privet Drive a few hours ago. Miss Dursley has been punctured and her memory has been modified. She has no recollection of the incident at all. So that's that, and no harm done."

Contrast this with Fudge's attitude about this very same incident two years from now, during Harry's disciplinary hearing on another charge (OP8).

Fudge smiled at Harry over the rim of his teacup, rather like an uncle surveying a favorite nephew.

Fudge's attitude will change dramatically after the Third Task, when Harry is no longer a media darling. We also know that he ignored the magical misdemeanours of his nephew Rufus when it suited him (DP2).

but they are prepared to take you back next summer

Some guardians the Dursleys are.

"So all that remains," said Fudge, now buttering himself a second crumpet, "is to decide where you're going to spend the last three weeks of your holiday."

....and that he was now facing three completely Dursley-free weeks.

Early editions of the book read "two" instead of three, but that doesn't tally with the dates of Marge's visit (the first week of August) and of the beginning of term (the first of September), so the text was officially corrected to read "three", and three weeks is now canon.

"The Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry!"

And indeed this will come back to torment Harry later (OP8).

"Oh, my dear boy, we're not going to punish you for a little thing like that!"...But this didn't tally at all with Harry's past dealings with the Ministry of Magic.

Or future dealings, unfortunately.

Tom will be keeping an eye on you for me.

In fact, we don't see much of Tom after this, but Tom may have passed the word to the other shopkeepers of Diagon Alley, such as Florean Fortescue, to make the supervision of Harry's holiday unobtrusive.

The Azkaban guards have never yet failed

In fact, this isn't true, but since the Crouch family managed to arrange an escape without the guards ever even finding out that an escape had occurred, Fudge doesn't know that it's not true.

Very smart owl you've got there

So Hedwig is unusually intelligent even for a post owl.

It's been a very weird night, Hedwig.

In a few short hours Harry has gone from blowing up his aunt, fleeing the Dursleys, being a fugitive from the law, possibly being expelled from Hogwarts, to having a Dursley-free holiday at the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley - what a day he has had!

Exceptional character moments

Harry feels that he is now an outcast and a fugitive for breaking wizard laws. He is fleeing the Dursleys which in a sense has always been a kind of "prison" to him. So, Harry in some aspects is somewhat like Sirius Black who is also a fugitive from Azkaban prison and considered an outcast by most of the wizarding world. A bit ironic-

The Knight Bus suddenly comes to Harry's rescue like a knight in shining armor saving a damsel in distress, and due to the fact that it comes at night makes this an extended pun.

Of all the names Harry could have chosen for the alias that he gives Stan Shunpike, he chooses Neville Longbottom. As we learn in GF and OP, Harry and Neville have many traits in common: both were born at the end of July, both had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents narrowly escaped Voldemort three times, and in the end Voldemort was directly or indirectly responsible for causing both Harry and Neville to be reared by people other than their parents. Harry does not learn any of these facts until the end of his fifth year at Hogwarts making this a very ironic choice for Harry to use Neville as his alias.

Harry first learns details about Sirius Black from a photo and article in Stan's copy of the Daily Prophet. Sirius first discovers that Wormtail is still alive and a possible danger to Harry at Hogwarts from a photo and article in a copy of the Daily Prophet that Cornelius Fudge gave to him during a visit to Azkaban. Coincidence?

Harry's room at the Leaky Cauldron is number eleven, and Harry had just turned eleven-years-old at midnight on July 31st when Hagrid comes to rescue Harry from the Dursleys at the hut on the rock. The first place Hagrid takes Harry is to the Leaky Cauldron. Hmmm...

Cornelius Fudge informs Harry that he is not going to punished for breaking The Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry or for blowing up Aunt Marge. Fudge does not appear to mind that Harry has once again broken wizard rules. But, when Harry asks Fudge to sign his Hogmeade parent permission form he says, "No, I'm sorry, Harry, but rules are rules." It seems that there are some wizard rules that even Harry cannot break.

Memorable lines

"Black woz a big supporter of You-Know-Oo." Stan Shunpike

"Anyway, they cornered Black in the middle of a street full of Muggles an' Black took out 'is wand and 'e blasted 'alf the street apart, an' a wizard got it, an' so did a dozen Muggles what got in the way." Stan Shunpike

"Them Azkaban guards give me the collywobbles." Ernie Prang

"He, Harry had broken wizard law just like Sirius Black" Description of Harry

"We don't send people to Azkaban just for blowing up their aunts!" Cornelius Fudge

"The Azkaban guards have never yet failed. . .and they are angrier than I've ever seen them." Cornelius Fudge

Characters Introduced


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MInister for Magic Cornelius Fudge.     

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