Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Places/Diagon Alley

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Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Place
Diagon Alley
Location London
Permanent Residents
First Appearance Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

General Overview[edit]

Diagon Alley is the main wizarding shopping street in London. On this street we can find any number of shops specifically for wizards, including an apothecary, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor (which actually sounds like a nice place for Muggles as well), Flourish and Blott's bookstore, Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, The Magical Menagerie pet store, Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, and Quality Quidditch Supplies. The Leaky Cauldron pub backs onto this street, and the entrance to Knockturn Alley lies in this street as well. The merchants of Diagon Alley are well prepared for the annual influx of students needing to buy supplies for their year at Hogwarts.

Extended Description[edit]

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Located behind the Leaky Cauldron pub, open to the sky, but somehow invisible to Muggles, Diagon Alley is an old-fashioned street lined with quaint buildings that house traditional shops serving the wizarding community. There are many more stores than are named; for instance, the first time he enters Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry sees a shop selling cauldrons. The shop is never named, but presumably Harry does buy his cauldron there. Likewise, the store where he buys his telescope is unnamed.

Many of the stores in Diagon Alley have some significance to the series and some are visited repeatedly.

The Apothecary is never named, but presumably Harry must visit it each year for potion ingredients. He is initially quite intrigued by the available supplies, but apparently these become commonplace to him, as there is only one other time it is mentioned, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where it doesn't even merit a full sentence.

Eeylops' Owl Emporium is a store specializing in owls and supplies for them, which of course serve both as pets and as as a means of communications in the Wizarding world. In the first book, Harry receives an owl from Hagrid as a birthday present; this owl, Hedwig, remains Harry's companion through much of the series.

Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour plays a relatively minor role. Hagrid, on Harry's first visit to Diagon Alley, presents him with a large ice cream, which one supposes must have come from Fortescue's establishment. Harry spends a fortnight in Diagon Alley at the start of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, during which time he spends nearly every afternoon in Fortescue's. In the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we hear that Fortescue has vanished, and damage to his store indicates that he didn't leave willingly. It is assumed that he has been captured by Death Eaters.

Flourish and Blott's Bookstore is so overloaded with Spell books that it apparently takes magic to keep its shelves from tipping over. This is where Harry, Ron, and Hermione buy their school books most years. This is also the scene of a confrontation between Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley which escalates to physical violence, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank is the one place where Wizards keep their money. Harry visits Gringotts in the first book, where he is astonished to find that his parents have left a large amount of money in the vaults for him, and further that quite a lot of it is actually in gold. Visiting again later, in company with the Weasley family, he is rather embarrassed to see how very little is in their vault, compared to what is in his. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry determines that one of the Horcruxes is, in fact, stored in a deep vault at Gringotts. Harry and Professor Dumbledore between them have decided that the places where Voldemort had hidden his Horcruxes were all places of deep significance to Voldemort; while one would think that putting it away in a bank would be relatively pedestrian, the deep vaults are all used only by the very oldest of Wizarding families, so having possessions stored in one of them would be a clear indication of the age of the family. As we see throughout the series, Voldemort values ancestry more than nearly anything else; use of a deep vault serves to prove his claim of descent from an ancient Wizarding family.

The Leaky Cauldron pub backs onto Diagon Alley, and is the main connection between Diagon Alley and Muggle London. When Harry first sees the Muggle-side entrance, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, he has a feeling that only he and Hagrid, among all those passing by, can actually see it. The Leaky Cauldron is apparently the destination grate associated with the address "Diagon Alley" on the Floo network; naming Diagon Alley as your destination, according to Mrs. Weasley in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, brings you to the Leaky Cauldron. Harry stays in the Leaky Cauldron for a fortnight before school starts in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and overhears a rather important conversation there between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Most of the remaining visits, however, are quite abbreviated.

Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions is a shop selling wizard's robes, school uniforms, and general wizard wear. Harry meets Draco for the first time here, though we don't learn Draco's name until later. Harry and Hermione also have a run-in with Narcissa Malfoy and Draco in this store, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The Magical Menagerie pet store, like Eeylops', offers pets and pet-related services tailored to the needs of wizards, but rather than centering on owls, has a much more varied selection. It is here that Ron looks for information about his rat, Scabbers, who has been looking poorly since they returned from Egypt in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and it is here that Hermione buys her cat, Crookshanks. While we do see a number of interesting creatures in this store, we only visit it in this one book.

Ollivander's: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, where Harry buys his first wand, is run by Mr. Ollivander. It is here that Harry learns that the core of his wand is a tail feather from the same phoenix that provided the core of Voldemort's wand, a revelation that leaves him feeling not a little uneasy. Ron's wand, in his fourth year, and Neville's, in his sixth, apparently come from Ollivander's store as well, though as Harry has no further need to visit the store, we don't see the inside of it again. We do hear, in the sixth book, that Ollivander himself has vanished, but that his store has not been damaged, leading to questions concerning his fate.

Quality Quidditch Supplies, a store that provides Quidditch supplies and racing brooms, plays a large part in Harry's imagination as it is the source of the racing brooms that he covets, particularly after he learns that he is a natural flyer. Harry first sees the Nimbus 2000 broom here, and the Firebolt; and it is from this store, we learn later, that the Firebolt Harry receives at Christmas in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was purchased.

Analysis[edit]

Diagon Alley is the place to be for someone who wants to sell to the wizarding population. To a lesser extent, Hogsmeade, with Hogwarts School in close proximity, is a center of Wizarding commerce as well; but it is a sign that you have arrived as a retailer if you have a store front in Diagon Alley. Thus it is an indication of great things that the Weasley twins, having left school in the middle of their seventh year under rather a large cloud, were able to immediately open a shop in Diagon Alley. Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is mentioned in passing in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and in some detail during the next year.

In the information box at the top of this article, we do not name any permanent residents of Diagon Alley. Through the course of the first five books, if there are permanent residents, none are named, although we suspect Florean Fortescue and possibly Mr. Ollivander live over their shops. We learn at the start of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, however, that the Twins are living in an apartment over Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. While this nominally makes them permanent residents, they don't stay there long; and as their residence constitutes something of a spoiler, we have elected not to place that in the info box.

In passing, we note that the film version of Diagon Alley was apparently inspired by a Muggle neighbourhood in York, called The Shambles.

Questions[edit]

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.


Greater Picture[edit]

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

To a surprisingly large extent, Diagon Alley is a gauge of the health of the Wizarding world as a whole. As times get tense, it can be seen immediately in the actions of the crowds in the street (for instance, during Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince); and as Voldemort gains power, stores in Diagon Alley are shuttered or boarded up, and their occupants (notably Florean Fortescue and Mr. Ollivander) depart for places unknown. The same effect is seen in Hogsmeade, where some stores, like Zonko's Joke Shop, are suddenly and inexplicably vacant.