The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters
Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters
Back at the Dursleys', Harry must wait out the month before leaving for Hogwarts. Uncle Vernon agrees to take him to London only because Dudley also has an appointment with a surgeon to have his pig's tail removed. The Dursleys leave Harry at the station, unable to find Platform 9¾ where his train is supposed to leave.
Spotting another apparent wizard family, Harry tags along to the Hogwarts Express platform. This family, who recognize him, are the Weasleys, and Harry meets three of the four Weasley children currently attending Hogwarts: Fred, George, and Ron, also a first-year, who shares a compartment with Harry. (Percy Weasley is a Prefect and so rides in the prefects' compartment.) Ron tells him about Chocolate Frogs, and the enclosed Famous Wizard cards in each package; Harry gets Albus Dumbledore's card, among others. Ron also mentions that there was a break-in at Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Diagon Alley; Harry is interested after his own recent trip there.
During the train ride, various other students stop by the compartment to introduce themselves to the famous Harry Potter. A shy boy named Neville Longbottom comes by, searching for his toad, Trevor; Hermione Granger, a rather bossy girl, arrives shortly after, helping Neville search for Trevor. She appears disdainful when Ron's attempt to cast a spell fails, causing the two boys to take a dislike to her. Later, Draco Malfoy, the boy Harry met in Madam Malkin's shop in Diagon Alley, stops by, flanked by his two friends, Crabbe and Goyle. Malfoy attempts to coerce Harry into an alliance; that fails, partially because Malfoy bad-mouths the Weasley family, who are poor. The three try to steal the snacks Harry bought, but Scabbers, Ron's pet rat, stops them by attacking Goyle. Finally, Hermione returns, saying the train is about to arrive at Hogwarts, and they should change into their school robes.
Harry's journey to a new life and an unknown future officially begins aboard the Hogwarts Express. Although he is required to periodically return to the Dursleys' home until he is of legal age, Harry's emotional ties to his erstwhile family and the Muggle world are now forever severed; it is likely that Harry will rarely, if ever, completely re-enter his former Muggle life once he becomes an adult (at age 17), permanently leaving it, and his family, behind. On the train, Harry makes many new friends, though most seem drawn by their curiosity to meet someone so famous, and likely leaving Harry a little uncomfortable that everyone already knows so much about him, while he knows nothing about them. Ron and Harry, being the same age, immediately bond, and Ron, generally unimpressed by Harry's celebrity, provides information about wizards, while Harry is able to share much about Muggles. Harry, feeling insecure and stressed, confides in Ron his worries of being the worst in the class, but Ron helps ease his misgivings. Ron will continually guide Harry (and later Hermione) about general wizard society. Harry is also reacquainted with Draco Malfoy, the snobbish boy from Diagon Alley, and meets his equally unpleasant companions, Crabbe and Goyle. By spurning Draco's offer of friendship, if it can be considered that, Harry becomes Draco's primary enemy at Hogwarts. Draco's condescending manner toward Ron and his family also gives us a closer glimpse into the lineage-related prejudice which plagues the Wizard world, and is an obsession to Voldemort and many of his followers.
Hermione Granger, making her first appearance in the series, is portrayed as a true grind – a girl whose "know-it-all" attitude is off-putting and winning her few, if any, friends, though she is likely far less confident than she hopes to appear. Harry and Ron instantly dislike her... though not as they dislike the anti-Trio—Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle—who they immediately despise for good reason.
- How was Harry able to tell that the Weasleys were also wizards? How do they recognize him?
- How do the students on the train react to Harry?
- Why is Harry interested in the break-in at Gringotts Bank?
- Why would Ron's rat, Scabbers, attack Goyle?
- Why would Draco attempt to befriend Harry?
- Why does Harry rebuff Draco's offer of friendship? Why does Draco react the way he does?
- Describe Hermione's character, and explain why Harry and Ron have taken a dislike to her. Are they being fair, and can their feelings about her change?
- How can Uncle Vernon convincingly explain to the surgeon how Dudley got his tail?
- Why do most students want to befriend Harry? How does Harry feel about it?
- How is Harry's budding relationship with Ron apparently different from the other students who want to befriend him?
Hermione's rigid, rule-abiding personality gradually mellows during the series; little do Harry and Ron realize how integral she will soon become to their lives, particularly Ron's. The characters' ongoing maturation, especially Hermione and Ron, and to a slightly lesser extent, Harry, significantly helps make the overall story so compelling and realistic. And while Ron finds Hermione extremely annoying and about as opposite from his personality as anyone could be, he has little idea that he has just met his one true love; their road to romance will be difficult, however.
Albus Dumbledore's "Famous Wizards" card is the key that provides a crucial clue to the riddle that needs to be solved during this book. While much of what Harry reads on Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog card will prove important to this book, it becomes even more significant in book 7. In an almost stunning amount of interconnection between the first book and the last, we discover that Grindelwald, mentioned on Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog card, was an influence on the young Dumbledore, and has a pivotal, though not central, role in the series' final book.
It is a little curious as to just why Draco Malfoy attempted to befriend Harry. Draco is already well versed in his family's "pure-blood" ethos, and presumably knows that Lord Voldemort was somehow felled by the famous Harry Potter. Whatever Draco's true motive was, it is never revealed, though it is interesting to consider what might have transpired had Harry accepted Draco's offer of friendship, and whether this would have affected his decision not to be sorted into Slytherin.
Harry's interest in the break-in at Gringotts Bank may foreshadow the episode where he, Ron, and Hermione successfully break into that very bank in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to steal one of Voldemort's Horcruxes that is stored in the Lestrange's vault.
Also, Ron's beloved pet, Scabbers, will turn out to be something quite different than a mere rat, but readers should perhaps note here how he acts to prevent Draco and his companions from stealing Harry's and Ron's snacks.
- Later in this book, Hagrid will mention that the "small, grubby parcel" that he had taken out of Gringotts was the business only of Dumbledore and "Nicolas Flamel". Dumbledore's Famous Wizards card mentions that Dumbledore and Flamel had been working on the Philosopher's Stone. Harry will make this connection when Neville Longbottom gives him another copy of Dumbledore's Famous Wizards card later still.
- The connection between Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, who is also mentioned on Dumbledore's Famous Wizards card, will be expanded in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The duel with Grindelwald, and Dumbledore's treatise on the twelve uses of dragon's blood, will be mentioned in passing also.
- The break-in mentioned here will be expanded upon in a later chapter of this book. It will be mentioned again as Harry plans to break into Gringotts himself, in the final book. It will be partly because of this earlier break in that the goblin Griphook will agree to help them.
- This is our first view of Scabbers, who will be a pivotal character in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.