Uncle Vernon takes Harry to King’s Cross station and leaves him there. Harry meets the Weasleys who help him get to Platform Nine and Three Quarters and settled on the train. Here he gets to know Ron and meets Hermione as the train rumbles to Hogwarts. Upon reaching the school they are met by Hagrid and the First Years are taken by boat to the castle.
Calendar and Dates
The action of this chapter covers the entire month of August, but the first 30 days are summarized in the first two paragraphs. The remainder of the first scene occurs on the night of 31 August, while the rest of the chapter - the bulk of it - takes place on 1 September 1991.
Interesting facts and notes
The long train journey from King's Cross Station in London to Hogwarts in Scotland gives the kids plenty of time to make friends -- and enemies.
He had decided to call her Hedwig, a name he had found in A History of Magic.
Hedwig is the name of a Roman Catholic saint. Hedwig's name was taken from St. Hedwig, who was a Medieval saint (JKR). This was probably St. Hedwig of Andechs (1174-1243) who was a Polish duchess and is the patron saint of brides, death of children, difficult marriages, and widows (Catholic Encyclopedia).
There was a big plastic number nine over one platform and a big plastic number ten over the one next to it, and in the middle, nothing at all.
Rowling mentions that Muggle things are made of plastic in contrast to the kinds of materials from which things in the Wizarding World are made: wood, leather, parchment, stone, and so on. Here the mysterious Platform will be found between two plastic signs. When Harry does make it onto the platform, he sees "a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it." Not a trace of plastic anywhere.
The speaker was a plump woman who was talking to four boys, all with flaming red hair.
So does this mean that Molly's hair is flaming red or just that the boys' hair is? (SVA)
Now it's Michele's turn to enter the affray - although actually Steve and I have jointly been providing the commentary up to this point and will continue to do so, and usually we don't bother to distinguish very much which of the two of us is speaking at any given point. In the interests of extreme accuracy, Steve tends to question the idea that whenever "all" of the Weasleys are mentioned as having red hair - such as in this scene or in the Daily Prophet photograph of all nine Weasleys taken two years from now - that just 1) because Molly is in the scene, 2) is a Weasley, and 3) is one of the people being described, that doesn't necessarily mean that she's included in the list of "all" the Weasleys having red hair. My (Michele's) opinion is that "all" - means "all", particularly in the Daily Prophet photograph in (PA1), but I understand Steve's passion for certainty. Someday, perhaps, we can settle this as an open-letter question to JKR, if canon doesn't settle it for us first.
This commentary was written many, many years ago by Michele Whorley and Steve VanderArk. As of summer 2020, this question still hasn't been answered definitively.
"Now, what's the platform number?" said the boys' mother.
"Nine and three-quarters!" piped a small girl, also red-headed, who was holding her hand, "Mom, can't I go... "
Doesn't Molly know the number by now? For goodness' sake, she's been coming here every September 1 for the last ten years, since Bill started Hogwarts back in 1982. At this point, Ginny has just turned ten on August 11, but her behavior in this scene is a bit immature. She is the baby of the family, after all, and the first girl in several generations (JKR).
Now the third brother was walking briskly toward the barrier he was almost there -- and then, quite suddenly, he wasn't anywhere.
Harry is still seeing with Muggle eyes. He's partially aware, so he knows that something has happened, but his disbelief is keeping him from seeing how the barrier really works. It is this same disbelief that makes it so that Muggles "don't see nuffink," as Stan Shunpike says. Harry is getting past it very quickly now.
Don't stop and don't be scared you'll crash into it, that's very important.
Molly is instructing Harry to set aside his disbelief, and surprisingly enough, he manages it. He's seen enough magic at this point that he is able to honestly believe that he can pass through solid stone.
He passed a round-faced boy who was saying, "Gran, I've lost my toad again."
"Oh, Neville," he heard the old woman sigh.
Here we find our initial introduction to Neville and his grandmother...
A boy with dreadlocks was surrounded by a small crowd.
...and Lee Jordan.
He tried to lift it up the steps but could hardly raise one end and twice he dropped it painfully on his foot.
Two years from now, Harry will have grown up enough to be able to handle his trunk with ease as he runs away from the Dursley's home after inflating Aunt Marge. At this point, however, he is not only small for his age but also malnourished. A few years eating the kind of food found at the Burrow and at Hogwarts will make quite a difference in the boy.
Harry noticed a shiny silver badge on his chest with the letter P on it.
According to the corrections released by Bloomsbury in 2004, this line now reads "Harry noticed a shiny red and gold badge on his chest with the letter P on it." The change made the text agree with the the following reference in book five:
George leapt forwards, seized the envelope in Ron's other hand and turned it upside-down. Harry saw something scarlet and gold fall into George's palm ... Harry took it. A large 'P' was superimposed on the Gryffindor lion. He had seen a badge just like this on Percy's chest on his very first day at Hogwarts. (OP9)
And thus begins a wonderful friendship.
Sherlock Holmes fans have placed a plaque on the wall of St. Bartholomew's Hospital on the spot where Holmes first met Dr. Watson, saying to him "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive." If we could manage it, we would certainly be happy to place a plaque over the door of this simple railway compartment where Harry and Ron meet and become friends over a pile of sweets.
The importance of this meeting cannot be underestimated. If Harry and Ron had never become friends, how would the saga have played out?
"Are all your family wizards?" asked Harry, who found Ron just as interesting as Ron found him.
This fact is key to the start of the friendship. They're on equal footing from the beginning, although Ron wouldn't have thought so.
"I think Mom's got a second cousin who's an accountant, but we never talk about him."
There was some speculation a few years ago that this accountant might be Vernon Dursley. On her website, Rowling revealed that this accountant was actually to be the father of Mafalda, the Weasley cousin whose character was edited out from book four. Rowling is being very clever here. She has Ron refer to someone who is similar to Uncle Vernon as being a person that the family is a bit embarrassed of ... and she has him say it in a way that assumes that anyone would think that way of a family member who was an accountant. This is another subtle way of telling Harry (and us) that he has entered a different world. Unfortunately, as we learn in later books, there are people in the pureblood families related to the Weasleys who would speak of Arthur and his family in the same disparaging way.
"We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy," [Arthur] said.
"Clearly," said Mr. Malfoy, his pale eyes straying to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, who were watching apprehensively. "The company you keep, Weasley ... and I thought your family could sink no lower" (CS4).
"Percy got an owl from my dad for being made a prefect, but they couldn't aff -- I mean, I got Scabbers instead."
They bought Percy new robes, too. Meanwhile, poor Ron is stuck with hand-me-downs, even including Charlie's old wand, which is going to make his schoolwork more difficult. The fact that Ron inherits Scabbers from Percy is all well and good, but where did Percy get him from? Considering who Scabbers turns out to be in book three, the story of his coming to live with the Weasleys in the first place must be an interesting one. So far, Rowling hasn't let on how it happened.
What she did have were Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life.
Harry had been hoping to purchase a Mars Bar. Although it's a fairly ordinary candy bar, we get the distinct impression that it would have been quite a treat for him. How many Mars Bars could he have had in the past ten years? Not many. Instead he discovers a vast treasure trove of amazing and magical sweets...and to top it all off, he can afford to buy everything--and enough to share.
Of course, most of this candy has been recreated for the Muggle market, along with some of the sweets mentioned in book three during the visit to Honeyduke's. I personally have tried Ice Mice, Jelly Slugs, Chocolate Frogs, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, and other treats. I'm also a huge fan of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (especially grass and pepper). As for the rest of them, most of these sweets are really just rather boring candy in Potter-themed packages.
One doesn't have to visit Honeyduke's or ride the Hogwarts Express to find unusual sweets, however. At Sela Sweets, a company in the UK, one used to be able to find Doctor Windbreakers (stinky candy), Deadly Dye-Bombs, Frenzied Foamers, and other treats worthy of the Wizarding World. Sadly, the company appears to have folded.
eleven silver Sickles and seven bronze Knuts
Rowling has stated that a Galleon is worth about five pounds (CR). On the first of September, 1991, a pound was worth US$8.41. That makes this cost of this hoard of sweets to be US$5.56. That's pretty cheap for all that! Nowadays, a box of Bertie Botts at Honeydukes in Universal's Islands of Adventure costs around US$25.00. Granted, that's at a theme park and not on a trolley on a train intended for kids. It would seem that the prices are kept really low on the train.
"What are these?" Harry asked Ron, holding up a pack of Chocolate Frogs. "They're not really frogs, are they?"
Chocolate Frogs are almost certainly a take-off on Crunchy Frogs of Monty Python fame. In that hilarious sketch, a police detective is investigating a box of chocolates produced by the Whizzio Chocolate Company.
He asks about the Crunchy Frog and is informed that "We use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose."
The detective shouts, "Don't you even take the bones out?" to which the proprietor replies, "If we took the bones out, they wouldn't be crunchy, would they?"
"...I haven't got Agrippa or Ptolemy."
Both of these people are historical figures. Agrippa is Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, 1486-1535, German mystic and alchemist. Ptolemy is Claudius Ptolemy, born c. 85 AD. Geographer and astronomer.
CURRENTLY HEADMASTER OF HOGWARTS
Did this text change on every card all over the Wizarding World when Dumbledore was temporarily removed from his post in books two and five, and when he died at the end of book six?
...defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945...
The fact that 1945 coincides with the end of World War II was not lost on fans. Before we learned more details of the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald in books seven, fans speculated that Grindelwald might have been Hitler's Reichemage, or perhaps even Hitler himself.
...the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood...
...one of which, according to JKR, is as an oven cleaner (SFC).
...his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel...
Some have wondered how this could be, since Flamel must have made his Philosopher's Stone over six hundred years ago. However, the quote doesn't say that Dumbledore worked on Flamel's Philosopher's Stone with him, only that he worked on alchemy. Of course, "real" alchemy's only goal was to find the Stone, so what else would they be working on?
...enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.
Dumbledore's interests are varied indeed. Chamber music is a form of classical music written for a small group of performers and indicates rather high-class tastes. Tenpin bowling, on the other hand, is considered a rather middle- or even low-class recreation. It involved rolling a heavy ball down a wooden alley, trying to knock down as many pins as possible. It's a bit hard to imagine Dumbledore at his advanced age going bowling ...
Exceptional character moments
Mrs. Weasley's first reaction to being told who Harry was: "Poor dear. No wonder he was alone."
He cleared his throat to let them know he was there, and Dudley screamed and ran from the room.
"Funny way to get to a wizards' school, the train. Magic carpets all got punctures, have they?"
"Oh, are you a prefect, Percy?" said one of the twins, with an air of great surprise. "You should have said something, we had no idea."
"Hang on, I think I remember him saying something about it," said the other twin. "Once - "
"Or twice -"
"A minute -"
"All summer -"
"Oh, shut up," said Percy the prefect.
"Wish I'd had three wizard brothers."
"Five," said Ron. For some reason, he was looking gloomy.
Harry didn't think there was anything wrong with not being able to afford an owl.
Words and phrases
- Ron Weasley
- Alberic Grunnion
- second cousin, the accountant
- Vincent Crabbe
- Gregory Goyle
- Hermione Granger
- Lee Jordan
- Neville Longbottom
- Augusta “Gran” Longbottom
- Fred Weasley
- George Weasley
- Ginny Weasley
- Percy Weasley
- Food Trolley Lady aboard Hogwarts Express
- Molly Weasley
- Weasley family
- Gellert Grindelwald
- Cornelius Agrippa
- Hengist of Woodcroft
- Morgana / Morgan le Fay
- Bertie Bott
- Crabbe family
From the Web
"The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters" from Wikibooks