Mar 27 2014 9:00am

The Harry Potter Reread: The Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 5

Harry Potter and the Socerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPreThe Harry Potter Reread is inside your house. I mean, if you’re reading it inside your house. So it’s totally not weird. Ahem.

Today is a big ol’ chapter that gives us our first look into the wizarding world proper! We’re heading into Chapter 5, Diagon Alley. I am expecting everyone to give me their wand specifications in the comments.

Index to the reread can be located here! Other Harry Potter and Potter-related pieces can be found under their appropriate tag. And of course, since we know this is a reread, all posts might contain spoilers for the entire series. If you haven’t read all the Potter books, be warned.

A quick note before we begin this one: For anyone confused/annoyed that I’m using background given in Pottermore and interviews as canon, I’m going with Rowling’s stated facts as gospel. Most of the extra information given in Pottermore comes directly from the meticulous notes Rowling kept as she was writing the series. We know she initially intended to put a lot of this information into an encyclopedia, but it looks as though Pottermore was a easier place to keep it. Therefore, I don’t have a problem using the information, and I don’t see it as revisionist; a lot of it is merely expansions on what we knew previously anyway.

Chapter 5—Diagon Alley


Hagrid and Harry head in to London to buy Harry’s school supplies. They make for a pub called the Leaky Cauldron (that no one seems to be able to see from the outside but them), where Harry is instantly spotted and admired by all patrons. Then they head out back to the secret entrance to Diagon Alley.

This wizarding area of London includes shops and places to eat and the wizard bank, Gringotts. Hagrid says you’d be crazy to rob Gringotts because it’s run by goblins and the vaults are miles underground surrounded by things like dragons and spells, and you’d never make it out. Harry finds out that he has a small fortune left to him by his parents, and loads up on some wizard cash to get his school things. Hagrid gets him an owl for his birthday (Hi Hedwig!), and Harry goes on a spending spree that is full of wonder. While he is being fitted for his robes, he meets a snobby young boy who is suffering from a serious superiority complex—we’ve all just met Draco Malfoy.

Harry goes to get his wand and meets Mr. Ollivander, the shop’s owner who remembers literally every wand he’s ever sold. He combs the store trying to find a match for Harry. Wands have three distinctive traits they can be identified by: length, type of wood, and magical core (Ollivander only uses phoenix feathers, dragon heartstrings, and unicorn hairs). It turns out that the core of Harry’s wand is the feather of a phoenix who only gave one other feather for wand-making. That feather resides in the core of Voldemort’s wand. Ollivander expects great things from Harry as a result… since Voldemort did terrible but great things.

Harry asks Hagrid quite a few questions about his fame and Draco’s lovely viewpoints on the wizarding world, which Hagrid does his best to diffuse. Then he sends Harry back on a train to the Dursleys, where Harry will wait until the start of term at Hogwarts.


Lotta world-building here, so let’s get right on it:

First off, how do kids with Muggle families find their way to Diagon Alley? Is there a field trip for them led by a few professors? I dearly hope so. Otherwise, it’s just Hermione standing in front of the Leaky Cauldron and insisting to her parents that there’s a pub right in from of them, how can they not see it? Which is hilarious, but doesn’t seem all that effective.

I understand that Hagrid is very proud to be taking Harry out, and that he wants Harry to realize he was telling the truth about the fame thing, but wizard people need to get it together—I don’t care who Harry defeated, it is super uncool to crowd a child and demand that he shake hands with every single person he comes across. Silence, fine. Awe, acceptable. Lots of adult strangers pressing in on a kid who they’ve never met before? Weirdness. Good thing Hagrid is big enough to eventually beat back the crowd.

First glimpse of Professor Quirrell! This time around, I almost feel like his stammering’s overdone, just in how it’s written (practically every other word gets hit, which seems unnecessary)—it kind of interfered with my reading. I’d also forgotten that he was supposed to be completely fine, and a brilliant scholar, until his trip out into the field.

This chapter kind of makes me wish I understood economics better, but even without that particular expertise, I’m pretty sure that you can’t have a mostly capitalist society and a single bank handling all your money. I’m also curious as to why the goblins are handling so much “treasure” in their bank—are most wizard fortunes in precious gems? I’ll believe what you tell me, I’m just curious about the specifics.

Hagrid goes through all this trouble to explain to Harry how impossible it is to rob Gringotts. (A lot of this will be important later; Griphook shows up in Deathly Hallows, as does the bank in greater detail, and the treatment of magical beings who are not human becomes very important as we go on.) But apparently it’s not difficult to rob Gringotts in the slightest because all you need is the key to someone’s vault who you know by name. Seriously, Hagrid walks up with Harry’s key and the goblin’s all like, “Peace, see you on your way out.” He doesn’t ask Harry for ID or a birth certificate or even something a bit less document-y like a thumbprint or a spell that confirms who he is. We know some vaults have more specific protections, but it seems likely that most of them use the key method.

So it’s really easy to rob Gringotts if you’ve got rich friends, or you’re a smart pickpocket who knows faces of the well-off and famous. Which can’t be too hard in such an insular community.

Here’s another thing I wonder about: in an effort to save time, Rowling basically gives us all the shops Harry needs in one location with no mention of any kind of competition. Are there other “alleys” like Diagon through London, or are there far more shops available to get supplies in Diagon Alley that we simply never hear about? I find it hard to believe that there’s only one apothecary in London, but we see no other examples by and large.

This chapter is full of adorable touches that drive home just how young Harry is; his excitement at finding ink that changes color as he writes, wanting to get a gold cauldron instead of a pewter one (me too, Harry), his fear of sounding like an idiot because he knows nothing about the world. Poor Hagrid is eager to be kind and clearly feels an attachment to the boy, but he’s not the most tactful guy in the world, which sometimes makes it worse. Still, he gives Harry the best birthday he’s ever had, and that makes up for a hell of a lot.

Some background on Garrick Ollivander—it turns out that he is responsible for changing how wands are made in the wizarding world. Before he took over his father’s business, most wizards would come to a wand maker with a magical core they had selected themselves, and asked the wand maker to seal it into wood for them. Ollivander believed that doing this resulted in tetchy wands; he changed the business model so that he hand-selected the cores himself and paired them with a wood that he found most complimentary. Then his “wand choses the wizard” mode of selection began. Most of the wizard community was against it from the start, but once it became clear that Ollivander’s wands were simply better than everyone else’s, he became the new standard bearer for wand-making.

Which is a long-winded way of saying—dude know what he’s doing.

It is fun (to me, at least) how the wood of the wand does give an indication of the wizard—yew is associated with death and poison, so it works for Voldemort. Harry’s is holly, which is associated with protection. James Potter’s wand was made of mahogany, probably because that’s what most of the furniture in his fancy house was made of (haha). This is what Ollivander specifically had to say about holly wands according to his guide on Pottermore that can be found here:

Holly is one of the rarer kinds of wand woods; traditionally considered protective, it works most happily for those who may need help overcoming a tendency to anger and impetuosity. At the same time, holly wands often choose owners who are engaged in some dangerous and often spiritual quest. Holly is one of those woods that varies most dramatically in performance depending on the wand core, and it is a notoriously difficult wood to team with phoenix feather, as the wood’s volatility conflicts strangely with the phoenix’s detachment. In the unusual event of such a pairing finding its ideal match, however, nothing and nobody should stand in their way.

Harry? Impetuous? GET OUTTA TOWN.

Interestingly, Harry’s wand having a phoenix feather core is not common for holly, denoting his more singular qualities right off the bat. And of course, there’s the whole spiritual quest thing, which we all know about. What’s even more fun is looking at Ollivander’s list and noting who has the same type of wood for their wand. Interestingly, both Cedric Diggory and Charlie Weasley have ash wands, which are said to be used by courageous people who are not arrogant. Ron has Charlie’s old wand for some time, but eventually switches to willow, like Harry’s mother; Ollivander claims that these wands are good for owners with unwarranted insecurities, those with great potential. Hermione’s wand is vine, which suggests she seeks greater purpose (like elf rights crusades, perhaps?) and has extraordinary vision.

Sorry, I justreallylikewandsokay. Erm.

The best treat of all—I had completely forgotten that we were introduced to Draco this early in. Hi, Draco. Wow, you just move to odious right from the get-go, don’t you? I kind of love you. Draco Malfoy is like Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls, but he’s eleven and a wizard. His hair is probably insured for 1000 Galleons. I just, I can’t even begin to take him seriously, everything about him is so affected and put on. (Which I understand is actually incredibly sad, considering that he’s just spewing hateful babble that his parents taught him, but in this opening context it’s really very funny.) Poor Harry, stuck giving him the side-eye with no real ability to hold the conversation. Considering that Draco’s robes seem to take a lot longer to fit than Harry’s, we have to assume that Draco is fidgeting like a jerk, or that everyone knows Narcissa Malfoy will lose her mind if her boy’s uniform isn’t perfect. Ugh, rich people.

That aside, this is the first glimpse we get of the pureblood mentality touted by Voldemort and his followers, and it comes from the mouth of a child who has been raised to believe it. Which is chilling. We get a firsthand taste of just how ugly things can get in the wizarding world—and we’ve only just arrived there. Our wonder gets cut off by shock. Rowling is very clever in how she choses to slip these things in, brought up in casual conversation with no weight placed on it whatsoever. It is exactly what it’s like to hear bigoted conversations on the streets every day. You can’t believe you’re hearing it, but it’s present and it comes from the most unlikely sources. Like a kid getting fitted for his school uniform.

And then Harry’s birthday is over and Hagrid lets him head back to the Dursley’s alone, with a mountain of equipment and a new pet. We’re not even sure that the Dursleys are home yet, considering that Hagrid left them on that rock out at sea after taking their boat, and we have no idea how else they were going to get back. I understand that these are sort of trivial things to care about after the whole wide magical world has opened up before me, but I’m really struggling imagining tiny, bony Harry dragging all of his school stuff down the streets of Little Whinging.

And next week’s adventure takes us to: Platform 9 and ¾...

Emily Asher-Perrin’s wand is lignum vitae, 12 inches and quite whippy. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Chris Meadows
1. Robotech_Master
As this is the first place we really deal with wizard money, this seems like the ideal place to mention that you can actually work out how much it's worth in real world terms. The Harry Potter Schoolbooks have prices given in both dollars and sickles/knuts. You just have to cross multiply.

I seem to recall a galleon came out to just short of $5.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
2. Lisamarie
I also would like to know how the Dursleys get home. I also think it's a bit dodgy of Hagrid to just leave Harry with the Dursleys after all that happened. What if Vernon flat out refused to take him to London?

I don't remember the specifics of my wand from Pottermore, except that it was dogwood and I felt the description didn't match me at all, so I was a bit dissapointed by that. I was happy with my sorting though :)

I love Pottermore, I just wish there was a more concise place for the information that didn't require going online. It would be nice of that encylopedia did happen.

I also was thinking about banks and currency. Are their wizarding credit unions, heh? Also, they literally just keep piles of gold in the vault, do they get interest on it? Do coins just magically appear?

I actually wouldn't be surprised if Diagon Alley (and we know that there is at least Knockturn Alley, and Hogsmeade village) was one of the few places in London. I always thought the wizarding community was relatively small, so it seems like it would make sense for them to consoldiate in a few easy to hide places, although there would perhaps be similar Alleys in other parts of England or the world. I assumed there were possibly more shops in Diagon Alley than we see though.
David Levinson
3. DemetriosX
There probably are other wizard shopping districts and maybe even other shops in Diagon Alley (not to mention whatever is in Knockturn Alley), but this is undoubtedly the premier district and we see the premier shops. The Malfoys certainly wouldn't shop anywhere else, and Hagrid will want the very best for Harry (who can afford it). The small scale also eases us into the wizarding world. It still seems fairly small and self-contained, so we and Harry aren't overwhelmed with the actual size of everything.

I wonder about getting into Diagon Alley. Does everybody go in through the Cauldron. For some reason Hagrid's approach seems a little less than above-board to me. Note that even after going through the Cauldron, he has to open a secret door with a special code. I suppose a lot of wizards just apparate there, but I bet there are other, more savory entrances as well. Muggle-born children and their parents probably get somebody from the Ministry to accompany them in their first year. But where do they get their money?

The background on Ollivander is interesting and also explains a lot about the interrogation of a muggle-born wizard we see in DH. If traditional wizards collect their own cores, obviously a muggle with a wand was given it by someone else. Also, does this mean that Voldemort pinched a tail feather from Fawkes? Was Ollivander already in business that early? (I've always felt like some of the early timeline was a bit kludgey.)

Gringotts isn't quite that easy to rob, as we eventually see. Harry & Co. essentially try exactly the method you propose here and it doesn't go all that well. There are other safeguards. I think here we have a case of easy recognition (both Harry and Hagrid) and either Hagrid is down as an acceptable guardian with access rights to the Potter vault or the bank has received proper notification from someone who is (Dumbledore) that Hagrid is authorized for this transaction. Probably the latter, since he's there to pick up another item from the bank as well.

Hagrid putting Harry on the train back to Little Whinging by himself is a very Hagrid thing to do. Clearly believing in the best possible outcome and blithely unaware of the potential dangers.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
Ollivander says he sold the wand to Voldemore, so I assume he was.

And I think Hermione mentions at one point her parents changing money. I wonder what the exchange rate is and what they do with the Muggle money :)
Emily Asher-Perrin
5. EmilyAP
How interesting--five dollars to a galleon does not seem like enough money at all. Just to put in perspective:

If Harry's wand costs 7 galleons, that's $35? Even remembering that this is 25 years ago (so inflation), it's an extremely specialized piece of magical equipment that you'll only typically buy once or twice in your entire life. How would Ollivander make a living, considering that he probably sells, at most... several hundred a year? Probably fewer?

It probably wasn't considered all that closely, of course, but if that were actually true than wizard money wouldn't be worth much overall.
Valerie Varner
6. valerieness
If we are going to talk about details that have us scratching our heads, can you all let me know if I am the only one baffled by the fact that witches and wizards don't know how to dress in muggle clothes in the books? I was always baffled by Mr. Weasley's inability to wear muggle clothes correctly.

We see so many examples of "muggles" like Hermione who come to the wizarding world. And isn't it Seamus who says his Dad was a muggle and his mum was a witch? If we have so many muggles intergrated into wizarding society, why do they not know how to wear blue jeans and muggle clothes? I don't even understand why they all wear robes... You would think there would be more of a mix.

Sorry - that is just my rant, but I AM curious to know if I was the only one who thought that? I prefer how they handle it in the movies...
7. tariqata
"If we have so many muggles intergrated into wizarding society, why do
they not know how to wear blue jeans and muggle clothes? I don't even
understand why they all wear robes... You would think there would be
more of a mix."

My vague recollection from Pottermore is that some of the reluctance to wear muggle clothes and use muggle stuff is intended to reflect a deliberate attempt by the wizarding world differentiate themselves from muggle society, and it's tied up with the "wizards are superior" strain of thought. Using muggle tools - especially after industrialization - was seen as an indication that one lacked sufficient magical ability to accomplish the task. It makes sense to me that in the face of that attitude, plenty of muggle-born wizards *would* do their best to conform to wizard preferences in clothing as well.

On the other hand, though, it also seems like a generational change is happening. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley may have trouble figuring out modern clothes, but the Weasley children don't seem to share it, thinking of how their clothes are described when they're not in school uniform.
Matt Hamilton
8. MattHamilton
As far as how many other shops there are for wizarding supplies and the like, I assume there are others in and around London and in other cities and towns in the UK. But, aren't all Wizarding societies very nation-like? Don't we see that in HP4, where each nation had, pretty much, one school? It is evidenced at Hogwartz, being in England, having English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish students (and in the movies, ONE American teacher). I think that the societies are pretty closed by each nation, but are pretty opened up within that nation...except for knowing how to wear clothes or drive a car.
9. DanielB
I'm sorry we have gone back to one chapter per week. It goes too slowly this way, or at least that's what it seems to me.

Anyway, this is the chapter of Harry's (and our) introduction to the wizarding world. All the wide-eyed wonder and fanciful descriptions is what we noticed when we first read this. We also have the confirmation that Harry is regarded as a celebrity. We already knew this, but a lot of time has passed and we lacked perspective to understand just how important this Voldemort issue was. Here we see he is still very famous. The connection between Harry's and Voldemort's wands, which will be important, is also established here.

In hindsight, another very important thing that happens here is the introduction of Draco Malfoy. Of course, Harry's ultimate rival is Voldemort, but for most if not all of the series Voldemort is in a different level altogether, and Draco is a rival that Harry can actually compete against on equal footing. He is therefore a major character in the series.

Speaking about Draco, I feel that JKR kind of wastes his potential as a character. He could have been an important character in the resolution of the series, either for good or for bad. He had a lot of potential and dramatism in his family situation. His could have been a great story of personal redemption, or a tragic story of a bright young man broken by the destiny set for him by his family. Instead it was just kind of anticlimatic. Still interesting and human, but in a pathetic instead of epic way. Contrast it with Severus Snape, who gets a truly memorable tragic role.
Bill Reamy
10. BillinHI
Yeah, how people like Hermione got into Diagon Alley and how they changed their money always kind of bothered me too. Not to mention what the Dursleys (Vernon at least) would say when Harry brought his school supplies and an owl into their so normal home on Privet Drive!

And the hypocrisy of some in the wizard world on Pure Bloods! I don't think we know from the books whether the Malfoys were actually Pure Bloods but Voldemort had a muggle parent!! (Am I remembering correctly that it was his father?)
Chris Nelly
11. Aeryl
Hagrid was not trying to access the Potter vault, Harry was, Hagrid was just in keeping of the key for Dumbledore(he is Keeper of the Keys), and has now passed it on to Harry, who is instantly recognizable.

And as was pointed out, you learn more about the security later, but there are methods to determine the reality of the people they are taking to the vaults.

Again, Rowling demonstrates her ability to construct a mystery as Quirrell and his problems interacting with Harry have been established, and Hagrid picks up the package Quirrell is there to steal.

Who believes Dumbledore did this deliberately? The other mysteries come together pretty organically IMO, but too much of this one is left out purposefully for Harry to find.
Kelly LeBourveau
12. Kikuo
@Emily "Sorry, I justreallylikewandsokay. Erm."

Me too! My wand is: Hazel, 10 in, Phoenix Feather core, reasonably supple. I even looked up on Pottermore the characteristics of this wand.

The following is directly quoted from Pottermore, I'm not plagiarizing! If you're not interested in wand stuff, skip the next 3 paragraphs.

"Hazel – A sensitive wand, hazel often reflects its owners’ emotional state, and works best for a master who understands and can manage their own feelings. Others should be very careful handling a hazel wand if its owner has recently lost their temper, or suffered a serious disappointment, because the wand will absorb such energy and discharge it unpredictably. The positive aspect of a hazel wand more than makes up for such minor discomforts, however, for it is capable of outstanding magic in the hands of the skillful, and is so devoted to its owner that it often wilts (which is to say, it expels all its magic and refuses to perfeorm…) at the end of its master’s life. … Hazel wands also have the unique ability to detect water underground, and will emit silvery, tear-shaped puffs of smoke if passing over concealed wells and springs.

Phoenix – This is the rarest core type. Phoenix feathers are capable of the greatest rang e of magic, though they may take longer than either unicorn or dragon cores to reveal this. They show the most initiative, sometimes acting of their own accord, a quality that many witches and wizards dislike. Phoenix feather wands are always the pickiest when it comes to potential owners, for the creature from which they are taken is one of the most independent and detached in the world. These wands are the hardest to tame and personalize, and their allegiance is usually hard won."

Umm how cool is it that Hazel can detect water sources? And that the wand is very devoted to it's owner? I just like the whole description of the Hazel wand and it's characteristics. And Phoenix feather is awesome. That is all on the wand topic. But I highly recommend if you're interested, signing up on Pottermore and visiting Ollivander's to take the quiz and see what your wand is!

On Ch. 5: I wanna go to the Leaky Cauldron! Sounds like the place where all the cool witches and wizards hang out.

Also, I just love the whole phase of innocent amazement Harry is in during this chapter. He finds out he's rich, gets spellbooks and potions supplies and an OWL for a pet, I mean, this is just amazing! I love his sense of wonder. I think I was reading the book (the first time) with the same sense of wonder. What would it be like to be chosen, to find out you were magical? I think every kid in the world has probably wished they had magic powers. Hell, probably every adult has too! I know I have!

I had forgotten, though, that Harry has to go back to the Dursleys for a while before proceeding to school. Aaaand I'll leave it there so I don't mention anything about our next chapter ...
Emily Asher-Perrin
13. EmilyAP
@DanielB - As stated earlier in the first reread post, some of these will tackle two chapters if I feel they're short enough and say less. For a chapter like this, which has a lot piled in, I'm going one at a time. It will vary week to week.

@BillHI - The Malfoy's certainly believe they're purebloods, though it is stated later in the books that practically no wizards are truly "pureblooded" anymore, since lines got all mixed up over the centuries. Voldemort absolutely had a muggle father, which plays into the Voldemort-as-Hitler analogy Rowling plays at the whole time.
14. DanielB
@ 10: My understanding is that the Malfoys are definitely "pure bloods". Voldemort having a muggle parent is indeed ironic, and it resonates with readers because it kind of brings to mind the speculation about whether Hitler might have had a Jewish origin. Snape is also a "half-blood", of course.

Regarding the details about wizarding money and other practical details about how the wizarding world works, I do not really feel the need for every detail like that being explained explicitly to us. There's no need and would make for a worse story. Of course, we can strongly suspect that JKR has not thought all those details through, but as long as they don't have a blatant importance in the story I do not mind, just like in the Lord of the Rings I do not particularly care how Mordor's economy works.
15. DanielB
@12 (Kikuo): What you say about the sense of wonder is very true. This first book, when Harry is seeing everything with fresh and innocent eyes, is filled with sense of wonder. I think this is one of the reasons it was also so successful among adults. It's very good at reminding us of the sense of wonder we had as children.

In that sense, it reminds me of The Neverending Story, another fantasy story that filled me with wonder when I read it as a child. I don't know how that one would hold now, read as an adult.
Chris Lough
16. TorChris
Emily, your question about the economics got me so, so curious. Is the wizarding world a self-contained economy? Surely there must be some parallel for it in history.

I mean, from a cursory glance it looks like the wizarding world is literally on a gold standard. You don't get inflation (too much) but you also don't get any economic growth. That kind of stability means it can just run for a good long while, and while there must be money going in and out of the economy thanks to Muggle-borns entering the wizarding world, the money they put in and take out of the system is probably negligible in comparison to the piles of gold that some wizarding families have tucked away.

Actually, having rich wizarding families pool their money and make Voldy the gatekeepr would have been an extremely effective takeover tactic for Voldemort. Have Death Eaters outright steal the rest and threaten to take it out of circulation by buying property or transferring it to Muggle banks. I mean...avada kedavra-ing people is scary and all, but being in charge of their paychecks is real power.

I wish I knew an economist so I could ask them about all of this!
Emily Asher-Perrin
17. EmilyAP
@TorChris - CEO Voldemort, head of DeathEater Enterprises. I WANT THIS.
18. DanielB
@16 and 17: Original as the concept is, I do not think "Harry Potter and the Credit Crisis" would have captured people's imaginations in the same way. ;)
Birgit F
19. birgit
It is strange that Voldemort has a feather from Dumbledore's phoenix in his wand when Dumbledore is the only one he fears. Does he know where the feather in his wand comes from?
20. Michael J. D'Auben
@ 1.Robotech_Master

Regarding the exchange rate of the Galleon, I thought it had been stated somewhere that it was supposed to be 1 galleon = 5 pounds (not dollars). In either case, this is one of those number things that just doesn't hold up, IMO. For example, the Weasley's take a family vacation to Egypt for 700 galleons, which is sort of reasonable if we assume that unlike muggle airline tickets that wizarding portkey's are relativly cheap or even free. On the other hand, the twins were able to rent a store in Diagon Alley, decorate the store, and fully stock it for 1000 galleons, which to me seems totally inadequate in real world finances.

@ 8.MattHamilton

I'm not sure that *every* country had even one school. In particular, JKR has said that Durmstrang is actually located in one of the Scandiavilan countries (Norway or Sweden), while Viktor Krum is Bulgarian. Doesn't Bulgaria or even one of the other baltic states have a magic school? Given its stated location, England is closer to Durmstrang than Bulgaria is.

@ 15. DanielB

I totally agree with you. The sense of wonder we enjoy in The Sorcerer's Stone make both the first book and first movie in a lot of ways my favorites. Even though their are a few dark notes before the story is over, for the most part the magic world is still bright and shinny and a place I'd love to live in.
Valerie Varner
21. valerieness
@ 7. tariqata

I can understand and agree with your point about the stigma of not having enough magic if you use muggle tools, but the idea that wizards think they are superior to muggles confuses me. You would have to wonder why they would they marry them then...

I probably should go look this up on pottermore...
Emily Asher-Perrin
22. EmilyAP
@birgit - I doubt Voldemort does know where the feather comes from, since Ollivander is not always so specific in the details of the animal the core comes from. I think he's being more detailed with Harry because the situation is so surprising to him. Also, don't forget that when Voldemort got his wand he was a child--before he was frightened of Dumbledore.
23. mintow
re: size of diagon alley and one wizarding bank seeming really weird - assuming that the 10 children per house per year at hogwarts thing stands true, generally (5 girls, 5 boys - definitely that way in gryffindor and never exceeds that in other houses, as far as the books say), there are only about 280 students at hogwarts IN TOTAL (how are there so few wizarding children if this is true???). and hogwarts is the only wizarding school we know of in all of britain, so. wizarding population might be WAYYYYY tinier than we would think!
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
Actually, it's only 8 students in Harry's year.

Harry, Ron, Seamus, Dean, Neville, Hermione, Lavendar and Parvati.

In Slytherin, there is Draco, Crabbe, Goyle, Zabini, Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bullstrode.

IMO, the ratio to girls over boys is probably larger in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, because tolerance and scholarship tend to be more feminized traits. Plus, it would almost have to be, as women tend to outnumber men in all populations(unless there's artificial control), and we are never told how big those houses are. But my guess is that Hufflepuff, with it's open mindset is probably the largest house.
Emily Asher-Perrin
25. EmilyAP
Numbers of students! Okay, this is actually a terrible botch in the series:

According to interview with J.K. Rowling in 2000, she intended about 1000 kids at Hogwarts. It's clear that she realized that was impossible and later amended it to say about 600.

That still doesn't work, even if we say that she's not making us aware of every kid in Harry's year (I would understand why she needed to do that from an organizational standpoint in writing the books), because one teacher per subject could not possibly teach that many kids in a week. So... there is no answer. Or rather, there is how many kids she wanted it to be (1000), how many she thought might work (600), and how many we can discern based on who we hear about at the school (which would be about 280). That works based on how many kids there are per class: 20, ten each from two different houses.

Which isn't consistent within the series. For example, the Yule Ball has seats for 1200 people, and Beauxbaton and Durmstrang didn't bring anywhere near their entire student populations; just seventh years who they thought might make it into the tournament. So that's at most 200 seats set aside for the other schools and a few guests, and about 1000 for the Hogwarts kids. It's a numbers mess. Personally, though I know we hear about far fewer kids and teachers, I want to go with the initial 1000 students and more staff who we don't meet--or I cannot believe that the wizard community could possibly sustain itself.
Chris Nelly
26. Aeryl
Well, we can inflate the numbers up a bit, if we assume that the reason Gryffindors pair with Hufflepuff and Slytherin with Ravenclaw, is because those houses are twice as big(let's say 15-20 in each year). And then Gryffindor pairs with Slytherin, while Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw each have classes solo.

That would put 45-50 students per year, which bumps it up to 315-350.
David Levinson
27. DemetriosX
A couple of things re student numbers. JKR has said that wizards tend to marry late and, the Weasleys notwithstanding, have rather small families. This would seem to support the small class sizes.

Another factor to remember is that right up until the time most of the kids in Harry's class were born the wizarding world was in the midst of a pretty nasty war. That may have further depressed birth rates. A baby boom in the decade between Voldemort's apparent death and his reemergence in 1991 is possible, but it may well have tailed off again after that. At least until Harry's ultimate victory at the Battle of Hogwarts. Both Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione have several children in the epilogue, though that could be influence from the Weasley side of the family. But IIRC, didn't Draco also have more than one child?
Ursula L
28. Ursula
The thing to remember about what wizards think of muggles is that wizard culture is not a monolith.

Some wizards clearly consider themselves vastly superior to Muggles, and would scorn to use any Muggle technology.

Others just see Muggles as different, not better or worse, and perhaps find Muggles interesting (e.g. Arthur Weasley.)

The one thing all wizards have in common is having to live with the Statute of Secrecy. The creates a huge obsticle to wizards learning about Muggles or forming lasting friendships with Muggles.

It's hard to develop a healthy friendship when you have to keep a huge secret from someone, and where you know that they will be mentally assaulted, via a memory charm, should you ever slip up.

There are obviously exceptions to the requirement of secrecy, for the immediate family of muggle-born witches and wizards, and for when a witch or wizard marries a Muggle. But these seem to be limited exceptions, and conditional on the Muggle keeping the secret of magic. There are no disgruntled ex's of magical people writing tell-all books in Muggle society.

(This might add to the Dursely's anxiety. If they let the secret of magic slip to their family, friends and neighbors, they'll be mind-wiped. There is a good reason why Vernon Dudley demanded that Harry keep his magical secret from Aunt Marge. Vernon doesn't want his sister to suffer an attack on her mind in the form of a memory charm. Which is exactly what happens, when Harry performs magic on her.)

Social interaction between magical people and Muggles doesn't seem to be something that is encouraged. The fact that Hogworts is an exclusively magical boarding school means that magical children will likely loose contact with any Muggle children they were friends with in primary school. And when a magical person marries a Muggle, it isn't clear when they can confide their secret, although some episodes in the book suggest that it is fairly far along in the relationship, either after engagement or after marriage. It certainly creates a crisis in any magical/muggle relationship, or even a relationship between a muggle relative of a magical person and the muggle's significant other. They are required to keep this huge secret, but then, at some point, they must confess that they've kept this secret, and bring their loved one in on the secret, and demand that the loved one also maintain the secret. And if the secret breaks, it's memory charms all around, until the secret is safe.

The fact that magical people, a tiny minority within Britain, use a separate currency provides another layer of isolation. Even if magical society relies on Muggle infrastructure for areas of the economy such as agriculture, for most magical people, they don't go to Muggle shops directly but rather do business with shops run by magical people who get things from Muggle sources in some sort of officially approved way that keeps Muggles ignorant of the fact that they're doing business with magical people.

Which explains why even the most pro-Muggle wizard, such as Arthur Weasely, is largely ignorant of Muggle culture and Muggle ways. He may be curious, but he is economically and socially kept in isolation from Muggles. And if he approaches Muggles in friendship or out of curiousity, he puts them in danger of memory charms and mental assault.
29. Dr. Thanatos
@15 The economics of Mordor? I suspect they took a tip from Buffy and use kittens as currency...
Chris Meadows
30. Robotech_Master
One other thing on the subject of money: Where did Harry's parents get all of it? They were barely even out of Hogwarts when they had Harry and got offed. Inheritance from their own parents? Has Rowling ever said?
Adam S.
31. MDNY
I so want to go to Diagon Alley. Harry's best birthday ever is a great introduction to the wizarding world, letting us see it through his lens of pure wonder. Hagrid continues to be as loveable as ever, and we get an early introduction to Harry's childhood nemesis (well, other than You-Know-Who, his real nemesis). Draco Malfoy is actually a character who fits with the whole Roald-Dahl feeling in the series, especially the early books.He's like the Wizarding World version of the obnoxious spoiled children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Kit Case
32. wiredog
On the economy... There's a fan fic called "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.
"one competent hedge fundie could probably own the whole wizarding world within a week. Harry filed away this notion in case he ever ran out of money, or had a week free."
Amanda Martino
33. isismaat
@30 Robotech_Master I think it's mostly James's family money. Like Sirius and the Malfoys, he comes from a very old, very rich pureblood family.
Drake Stephens
34. MynameisDrake
I always assumed that a represenative from the school met with Muggle-raised children, filled them in on everything, and if need be escorted them to Diagon Alley. We see it here with Hagrid, and we know that Dumbledore, before he was Head Master, also met with Muggle-raised young wizards, in the flashback scenes from The Half-Blood Prince when he meets a young Tom Riddle for the first time.
Pirmin Schanne
35. Torvald_Nom
TorChris: I mean, from a cursory glance it looks like the wizarding world is literally on a gold standard. You don't get inflation (too much) but you also don't get any economic growth.
Whatever makes you believe that? European economy has been run on precious metal standards (often silver, IIRC) for hundreds of years, and we had plenty of economic growth, as well as inflation. The standard simply doesn't matter all that much once you introduce credit systems.
Valerie Varner
36. valerieness
Thanks! That really makes a lot of sense and explains a lot...
Emily Asher-Perrin
37. EmilyAP
@Robotech_Master - The money does come from James Potter's family. He had a small fortune leftover from his parents, who had passed on before Harry was born.
Ursula L
38. Ursula
@35 -

The wizarding world doesn't seem to have a credit system, however. Harry's money is just coins in a vault. The bank isn't making loans, collecting interest, and paying interest to depositors.

Also, the comparative value of gold, silver and bronze doesn't seem to be the same in the wizarding world versus the Muggle world. With the set proportional value of gold, silver and bronze it would be problematic to have people buying metals on the Muggle market, and having them struck into magical currency.

I'm not sure how the magical world gets its precious metals. Bill Weasely is described as working as a treasure hunter for Gringotts, but they don't seem to be playing the Muggle commodities markets.
Matthew Glover
39. themightysven
How Gringott's Security Works
Book 1 Hagrid is reconizable figure (that can not be reproduced by Polyjuice) escourting a minor at the request of the guardian (while the Dursleys are the legal Muggle guardians, I would be surprised if Dumbledore was not listed as an advocate guardian under Ministry rules )

Book 2/3 Harry is recognizable figure, in Chamber one of the Weasleys (probably Mrs.) takes Hagrid's position and does whatever security is needed off screen (as Dumbledore sends Harry's School Letter to the Burrow it can be assumed that he knows of the change of location), in Prisoner Harry is being watched extensively by all that surrond him (whether he knows it or not)

Book 4/5 Mrs. Weasley does the shopping, normal security applies (she is still listed as someone who has the rights to access Harry's vault.

How Wizard Economy Works

Yes you can have a small, closed economy (most town's early bartering system falls under this, as money is really just an IOU for future goods and services)

Whatever the exchange rate is fine because when the Statute of Secrecy went into effect it did shrink their market which lessens inflation. 35 pounds/wand times 40 wands is 1400 pounds which is rolling in money in 1689 money (even 1900's money it's pretty good)

And, due to the amount of Magic going on at a typical wizard home, I would be shocked if it wasn't standard practise to slap Muggle-repelling charms on every wizard house (which would have the unintentional side effect of making them unnoticed by Muggle Tax assayers, which would further slow down their inflation. (this is important in two instances, 1 Marvolo's Shack is noticeable by Muggles, this reflects his anti-SoS stance, and 2 Muggles notice Moody's Trashcan defensive perimeter in Goblet, why would Moody of all people not have a Muggle-repeling charm on his house? Because Wormtail and Barty Crouch Jr. had to break through his defensive spells to get to him)

So they have low inflation because of having a small population, how does Gringott's make money? They take investment capital from wealthier vaults, and fund treasure hunting and curse-breaking excursions. (remember the Goblins have their own economy too, the treasure incoming there supports the gold interest for the wizards) Because so few wizards can afford to be part of the curse-breaking scheme, prices as a whole will remain relatively flat.

1 wizard bank seems weird to us because Gringott's gets their income from lost and abandoned vaults, and our banks get their income from our vaults.

Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is at 93 Diagon Alley, so it can be assumed that there are at least 92 other storefronts, which is bigger than many shopping districts.

How Muggle-Borns get to Diagon Alley
It's explained in later books that for muggle-borns a instructor (in Voldy's case Dumbledore) meets with them (and their parents/guardians) and explains the situation. Remember that Dumbledore offered to escourt Tom Riddle to Diagon Alley, but Riddle wanted to do it himself.
As for getting Muggles into Diagon Alley, I always assumed there was a separate, permanent entrance that perhaps Hagrid is too big to get through.

Apologies for the Wall of Text, as an Economist there are some quite interesting things here, and as a writer, Rowling's adherence to Chekov's Gun is a thing to Marvel at.
Chris Nelly
40. Aeryl
You want more confusion about Gringotts. Sirius orders Harry's Firebolt while a fugitive. He sends the order anonymously, but tells them to deduct it from the Black's vault.

Ursula L
41. Ursula
Gringotts doesn't seem to work closely with the wizarding government. Goblins are clearly treated as second-class compared to human wizards. They have their own laws, an their own agenda.

So the goblins running Gringotts might well be willing to allow Sirius access to his vault, by mail, even if the wizarding government was looking for him.

Human/wizard legal complications are of limited interest to goblins, and some of them may well find it amusing to allow depositors access to their vaults and accounts, even if the wizarding government thinks they're fugatives.
Chris Nelly
42. Aeryl
@41, Well yeah, but the order was anonymous! They didn't know it was Sirius ordering the broom! Somebody just sent a letter, "Send a Firebolt to Harry Potter and have Sirius Black pay for it" the Broom shop sent a request for payment and Gringotts honored it!

So wierd!
Ursula L
43. Ursula
Perhaps Sirius sends a letter to his goblin agent at Gringotts, not anonymous, instructing that money be taken from the Black vault in Gringotts and taken to the Quidditch supplies shop to buy and ship the broom anonymously.

I could see the goblins providing such services for their most valuable clients. And refusing to comment should someone make inquiries about who was behind the anonymous purchace. Affording the richest pureblood families services akin to money laundering and tax shelters, with great discretion and anonnymity.
44. Dr. Cox
From Sirius' letter to Harry brought to him by the owl later called Pigwidgeon on the train as they were heading back to King's Cross: "Crookshanks took the order to the Owl Office for me. I used your name but told them to take the gold from Gringotts vault number seven hundred and eleven -- my own. Please consider it as thirteen birthdays' worth of presents from your godfather" (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
But the goblins didn't question it :).
Sydo Zandstra
45. Fiddler
LisaMarie @2:

I love Pottermore, I just wish there was a more concise place for the information that didn't require going online. It would be nice of that encylopedia did happen.

You can save a website offline, on your harddisk. No need to go online then. I have done that with the WOTFAQ in the past :)
Chris Meadows
46. Robotech_Master
I imagine the goblins could teach Swiss banks a thing or two about confidentiality. What do they care about human laws? All that matters to them is money. And if they let a little thing like a criminal conviction get in the way of doing business, they might lose that part of their business that happens to be made up of criminals. :)
47. Antoniemey
It's next to impossible to rob Gringott's, yes. But to charge an account? All you need is the vault number and a passcode, I assume. That would work similarly to a muggle debit card. Supply the merchant with the vault number to request the funds from along with some passcode that is changed on some system that only you and the bank know. Poof. Anonymous order as far as anyone is concerned. Just like you sending a friend to the store with your debit card to buy a gallon of milk. Unless the store has reason to question the order, the card will be swiped, the payment tendered, and the milk bought without anyone knowing who exactly was holding the card.

As far as wand characteristics...

Length: 14 1/2 in
Wood: Hawthorn
Core: Unicorn
Flexibility: Slightly Yielding

It's an interesting mix, based on the Pottermore information... but it does fit me.
48. Purnima
@18 DanielB- "Harry Potter and the Credit Crisis" I cannot tell you how hilarious that was!
Amanda Martino
49. isismaat
I'm sure we'll cover this more when we get there, but in HBP after Riddle refuses Dumbledore's offer to go to Diagon Alley with him, Dumbledore does tell him how to get to (and recognize) the Leaky Cauldron and to ask for Tom. Presumably Tom then opens the wall to let Tom Riddle through (since Riddle doesn't have a wand yet); he probably does the same for other Muggle-borns coming to buy their own supplies.

My wand:
Wood - Ebony
Core - Unicorn
Length - 11 in
Flexibility - Slightly Springy
William McDaniel
50. willmcd
I love this chapter for a couple of reasons: the sense of wonder (already mentioned by DanielB @15 and Michael J. D'Auben @20) which characterizes the early HP books,and specifically the idea that Harry has escaped from a loathsome day-to-day life into something new and infinitely better when no escape seemed possible. I've had a similar experience personally in working a horrible job (long hours with no extra pay, a boss who was never anything but critical) for three years, all attempts at finding other employment failing, and then one day getting promoted to another department with reasonable hours and good management, and realizing that the nightmare was over. I imagine that Harry feels something like that here; life with the Dursleys will not be the totality of his existence any longer; he is going to have a life of his own.

Secondly, specifically as to the Diagon Alley location (our first full-blown look at the wizarding world), I am reminded of a dream that I had as a young child, in which one day I discovered that there were other rooms inside the walls of my house. In the dream, my parents had known about these rooms and used them (they were fully furnished), but somehow hadn’t ever gotten around to telling me about them. All of sudden, my world had doubled in size. One could describe the entire wizarding society of HP in this way; they exist “inside the walls” of normal society, and nothing captures this as well as Diagon Alley, which is quite literally “inside a wall” of what Conrad called “the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth”; hidden right under the Muggles’ noses.

There was no other location in the HP universe that I'd more like to visit; I'm excited to hear they're now building a Diagon Alley area at Universal Studios in Orlando. The most similar location I've found in the "real world" is the narrow, twisting streets of the monastery of Mont St. Michel off the northwest coast of France. Awesome place to visit if you've never been there.
Rich Bennett
51. Neuralnet
I love this chapter... it really emphasized how there is this whole other world right below our world. Rowling has such a great sense of humor too... lots of funny little details in the shops etc.
52. L A Moody
Dragons, gems and gold coins: a staple combination in fantasy fiction. With that in mind, goblins counting out rubies as currency didn’t strike me as remotely unusual. In its simplest terms, wizarding currency seems to be based upon the relative value of metals, i.e. gold galleons being the most valuable, followed by silver sickles and the copper knuts. Even if one looks at the volatile nature of these commodities in Muggle markets, I content that this relative relationship remains.

And while there are no instances of wizarding credit or magical mortgages (doesn't that have a Rowlingesque ring?), we do learn that the Weasley twins are looking for investors for their joke shop. So it is likely that wizards can invest their galleons to optain dividends in this manner at least.

Lots of travel issues in this chapter that are completely glossed over. Admittedly, they are more peripheral to the main story, but on reread they seem to be obvious omissions. Firstly, the Dursleys’ return from the Hut-on-the-Rock, a farce in the making to be sure. I can just see Vernon turning bright purple as he berates the boat owner for allowing “his juvenile delinquent of a nephew” to run off with the sole means of transportation. Boat owner escalating matters when he stammers that from a distance, he thought the “larger gentleman” in the boat was Vernon himself. Petunia squealing in horror as Dudley finds the mangy boot (or whatever) that Hagrid used as a Portkey. (He wouldn’t want to leave the motorbike behind and I just can’t see Hagrid arriving by Side-along Apparition; all other methods of magical travel require wizarding skills.) Unless, of course, he rode astride a thestral or hippogriff who could find its own way home, assuming such a creature was not overwhlemed by Hagrid’s size. In that case, substitute “magical poo” for Dudley finding the Portkey. (lol)

Admittedly, since this book is told almost exclusively from Harry’s point-of-view, we are not privy to the Dursley’s actions once he’s out of the picture. The obvious solution is to have the POV character (Harry) ask directly, but it’s already been established that the Dursleys don’t tolerate questions. And you really can’t blame the lad for not wanting to pry too deeply as he’s already having to contend with their silent contempt at the “magical contraband” he’s brought into their home.

Which brings us to another issue: Harry’s return from Diagon Alley (in London) to Little Whinging (in Surrey). We are told that Hagrid helps him onto a train traveling to Surrey (thus establishing that someone was able to obtain Muggle currency for the ticket, from Gringott’s perhaps?). How does Harry make his way from the Surrey train station to Privet Drive? He can’t have been left stranded or the Knight Bus would’ve made a premature appearance. We know that Harry hadn’t any Muggle money of his own, so did Hagrid also leave him pound notes for a cab? Or bus fare? Surely Harry is old enough at eleven to navigate either of those options on his own.
Chris Nelly
53. Aeryl
They had Muggle money, Hagrid hands it to Harry as the head into London, and Hagrid also states in Deathly Hallows he can't ride thestrals or hippogriffs.
54. Carolyn H.
I always loved this chapter--such fun! What bothered me was not the adults looking to shake Harry's hand but the idea that Harry was weathy. How did his parents get so much money at such a young age? That always bothered me for some reason--not that I mind, necessarily. It just seemed a bit overdone.
Chris Nelly
55. Aeryl
@54, Harry is descended from the oldest wizarding families. It's all from James wealthy family.

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