Chapter 5: Diagon Alley
I am going to keep doing this, I promise! Sure, it’s been a bit sporadic, but I’m trying to get better. My goal is to do this on Fridays now. We’ll see how that goes.
We last left young Harry after being completely shocked that a gigantic man came to hand deliver the letter that Harry’s uncle had refused to let him see. The next day when he wakes up:
“It was a dream,” he told himself firmly. “I dreamed a giant called Hagrid came to tell me I was going to a school for wizards. When I open my eyes I’ll be at home in my cupboard.”
Aw, sweetie. It’s not a dream. It’s only beginning.
Harry discovers quickly that it wasn’t a dream and he and Hagrid set off, but not before Hagrid drops the bomb that Harry actually has money that his parents left for him, and it’s at a wizarding bank run by goblins. It’s really a wonder that this poor kid didn’t drop dead from the shock of it all.
They travel to London, which of course leads them to the Leaky Cauldron, and soon to Diagon Alley. Harry is in for another shock when all the people in the Leaky Cauldron pub not only recognize him, but are thrilled and honored to finally meet him. For a kid who’s always been treated like dirt, suddenly being the center of adoration must have been completely foreign and slightly uncomfortable. Harry also meets a character who I like to call “J.K.-Rowling’s-First-Masterful-Misdirection.” Also known as Professor Quirrell, the current Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
“D-Defense Against the D-D-Dark Arts,” muttered Professor Quirrell, as though he’d rather not think about it. “N-not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter?” He laughed nervously. “You’ll be g-getting all your equipment, I suppose? I’ve g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself.” He looked terrified at the very thought.
Who, when the first read this book, pegged this guy as the villain? Anyone? I sure didn’t. Although, to be fair, my introduction with the Harry Potter world started with the Sorcerer’s Stone movie, which was immediately followed by the book, but even in the movie – I never suspected Quirrell of anything at first. It wasn’t until the end when he was revealed that she BLEW MY MIND.
Harry and Hagrid make their way to Diagon Alley, which I have to say, is one of the things I wish I had seen in the movie after reading the book instead of before. I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been to see this magical wonderful place brought to life. I had no expectations of it, so it was still really cool, but not something I had been waiting and waiting to see. I want to visit Diagon Alley so much, especially Flourish and Blotts (the bookstore, naturally).
While at Diagon Alley, we do meet another character who becomes slightly important later on, and unlike Quirrell, I had this one pegged as a pain in the butt from the start.
In the back of the shop, a boy with a pale, pointed face was standing on a footstool while a second witch pinned up his long black robes.
Enter Draco Malfoy, snobby rich kid and bigot extraordinaire. We don’t learn his name here, but it’s obvious that we aren’t done with him.
“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 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?”
Yeah, he’s a real peach, isn’t he. And I have to wait two more books before Hermione slaps him upside his stupid face. Darn.
Harry and Hagrid continue their shopping, including a stop at Ollivander’s to buy Harry his wand. Mr. Ollivander is creepy as can be, but finds the perfect wand for Harry, a wand that has a very unique property. Each wand has a special substance in the core: unicorn hair, dragon heartstring, phoenix feather. The wand that chooses Harry has a phoenix feather inside it and, according to Ollivander, the phoenix that gave that feather gave one other feather – which happened to be the core of Voldemort’s wand. That’s not traumatic to drop on the kid, no not at all.
Have I mentioned again how amazed I am that Harry is such a well-adjusted child?
Once they are done with their shopping, Hagrid takes Harry back to the train station to send him back to the Dursleys for the rest of the summer. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Harry arrived back home again, after all the insanity that happened in the house on the rocks. Harry is feeling, understandably, overwhelmed
“Everyone thinks I’m special,” he said at last. “All those people in the Leaky Cauldron, Professor Quirrell, Mr. Ollivander . . . but I don’t know anything about magic at all. How can they expect great things? I’m famous and I can’t even remember what I’m famous for.”
I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go from being the house pariah to being hailed as the greatest wizard boy in the world. Harry’s head must be spinning. Hagrid is quick to reassure him that everyone starts from the beginning at Hogwarts and that Harry will be absolutely fine. He gives Harry is train ticket to get to school and, as Harry heads back to the Dursley’s, Hagrid disappears.
Whew! So many things happen to Harry so fast, but he’s nothing if not a survivor. Next chapter, we meet more important characters and get on the train to Hogwarts!