I signed up for Ashley’s Harry Potter reread immediately because A) I will use any excuse to reread these books and B) I love hearing about how people discovered Harry Potter. Hold old they were. Who their favorite character was. Whether they fell in love right away, like I did, or if it took a couple of books for Rowling to reel them in.
I’d wager I came to Harry Potter a bit later in life than some of the other contributors here. I was in high school when they came out and, as luck would have it, working at a library at the time. One Saturday, I was the only one of my friends working and, during my lonely break, noticed that someone had left a book on the break room table. There was a picture of a bespectacled young boy on the front cover, riding a broomstick and trying to catch a golden ball with wings, and JUST BECAUSE, there was a unicorn running in the background.
“What the fuck?” I thought.
The children’s librarian happened to come in while I was staring at this strange book. She was an older woman, always fluttering about, her hands waving this way and that, adjusting her messy hair, her numerous layers of clothing, or the thick glasses that always seemed to be slipping down her nose. Had I already read Harry Potter at the time (and, you know, had Prisoner of Azkaban existed yet), I would have said she reminded me of Professor Trelawney.
I will be forever grateful to this librarian for pushing me to read this book. If she hadn’t, I would have missed out on the hours of enjoyment (and, sure, heartache) this series has given me and (maybe worst of all?) never would have gotten to experience this batshit project with you crazy nutbags.
Ashley covered the first two chapters in the last post, chapters in which we meet some important characters and are given but a glimpse of the magical world we’re about to become immersed in. Even in the chapters I’m about to cover, we’re really only beginning to see what Rowling has in store for us.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
CHAPTER THREE: THE LETTERS FROM NO ONE
Harry is in mondo big trouble because he set that snake loose on Dudley and, you guys, I still get super pissed about how illogical the Dursleys are about blaming Harry for everything. Yes, I realize they’re supposed to be horrible people but COME ON how is it Harry’s fault that the glass disappeared?
(OK, YES, I realize it really IS his fault but he didn’t mean to and the Dursleys don’t want to believe in magic ANYWAY so why would they just assume Harry could make glass disappear DURSLEYS YOU MAKE NO SENSE AND YES I UNDERSTAND THAT IS THE POINT OF THE DURSLEYS WHY AM I SO MAD ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW? I should calm down. I still have two chapters to go.)
Harry and Dudley are preparing to return to school, Dudley to a private school called Smeltings, where they wear actual knickerbockers and smack one another with sticks, and Harry to public school. You guys, I’m so excited for Harry that I can’t stand it. I just want him to be at Hogwarts already. I always want to skip over these setup chapters when I read these books because I just want to get to the Hogwarty goodness. It’s like when I used to read The Babysitter’s Club and I’d skim over the part in the beginning of every book that introduced all the girls. Kristy is a tomboy! Claudia has dyslexia and wears funky clothes! Dawn is from California! Mary Anne is SHY! Stacey has diabetes! With their powers combined, THEY ARE CAPTAIN BABYSITTER! (Just don’t feed Captain Babysitter any candy.)
Anyway, the important thing about this chapter is right in the chapter title. Harry gets a letter addressed not only to him, but to his cupboard. It was this exact detail that made me fall head over heels for this book:
Mr H Potter
The Cupboard Under the Stairs
Fuck. Stop being so damn perfect, Rowling, let the rest of humanity try to catch up.
This chapter is a goddamn delight, y’all. The first letter arrives, which unnerves the Dursleys so much that they move Harry out of the cupboard and into Dudley’s second bedroom. Then another letter arrives. More and more letters are delivered, until Uncle Vernon loses his shit and takes the family to a ramshackle, um, shack in the middle of nowhere and still that doesn’t stop the letters. As the chapter ends, there’s a knock at the door. ROWLING, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD.
CHAPTER FOUR: THE KEEPER OF THE KEYS
IT’S HAPPENING, YOU GUYS. IT’S HAPPENING.
This is the chapter where Harry meets Hagrid and my heart grows three sizes because finally someone is nice to Harry Potter. This chapter also holds the honor of being the first in which a character tells Harry he has his mother’s eyes. EVERYBODY DRINK.
Anyway. Hagrid shows up and all hell breaks loose. Hagrid doesn’t listen to anything Uncle Vernon says, he calls Dudley a great lump (love it), and best of all, gives him a pig’s tail. In the midst of the chaos, he explains to Harry that he is, in fact, a wizard and gives him his welcome letter to Hogwarts.
This is also the moment I become incredibly jealous of an 11-year-old boy. When I was a kid, I used to assume that, at some point in my life, I’d start to manifest some sort of magical ability. I didn’t know if this would be in the form of flight, reading minds, telekinesis, whatever, all I knew was it had to happen eventually. This is what you get when you encourage a child with an overactive imagination to read all the damn time. You guys. I once jumped off of the jungle gym at recess with an umbrella because I thought I’d fly like Mary Poppins and I legitimately thought that if I could just find the right happy thought, I’d float into the air like Peter Pan. (I used to practice in the room I shared with my sister, crouching on the top bunk, waiting to take flight, while she waited for me to come crashing to the floor.)
So. I can’t fly. I can’t read minds. And my damn Hogwarts letter never came. But blah blah, isn’t Harry so lucky, oh happy happy day.
Still, not everything is all unicorns and three-headed puppies for Harry. Hagrid also explains that Harry’s parents didn’t die in a car crash. They were actually killed by Voldemort (Wizard Hitler), who then tried to kill Harry but ended up vanquishing himself to…who the fuck knows. Even though Voldemort’s been gone for 11 years, people are still afraid to say his name, I guess because if you say his name three times, he appears.
CHAPTER FIVE: DIAGON ALLEY
MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC!
I should probably write more than that, huh? FINE. In this chapter, we’re introduced to several more important characters. Like, really important. Rowling doesn’t mess around with this shit. This chapter is fascinating, even knowing all we do now about the wizarding world. It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t know how to play Quidditch or what a Hufflepuff was. Now so much wizardy stuff is taking up residence in my brain, it’s a wonder I can fit anything else in there.
Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley to buy his school supplies. They begin at The Leaky Cauldron, where they meet some of Harry’s adoring fans, as well as the first of many new Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, Professor Quirrell. He’s twitchy but we don’t really know why yet, and he doesn’t stick around long enough for us to get to know much about him.
Next stop is Gringotts, so Harry can get money for supplies and Hagrid can pick up a mysterious package. The goblin who accompanies them is named Griphook. GRIPHOOK YOU GUYS. HE’LL BE IMPORTANT LATER. (Spoilers removed because I’ve reach my all caps quota for this post HA HA JUST KIDDING.)
Harry meets Malfoy while he’s buying his robes. Ugh, Malfoy. A Malfoy, as you may recall, is 1/12th of a Longbottom. Everyone knows that Malfoy is the worst, right? Great, we’re all caught up.
Then. YOU GUYS. HAGRID BUYS HARRY AN OWL AND IT’S HEDWIG AND EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL EXCEPT I WANT TO CRY. This is the first reread where I’ve realized that Harry and Hagrid are both there when Hedwig comes into and exits Harry’s life and now I want to kill myself THANKS A LOT, BOOKS.
Ahem. That got weird. Their last stop is Ollivanders, so Harry can buy his wand. Ollivander, like Griphook, will play an important role in the final novel of the series but SHH we don’t know that yet. Ollivander is also the second person who tells Harry he has his mother’s eyes. Can we start keeping a tally? Please?
Harry finally finds a wand but things get super awkward when he learns that his wand is totally BFFs with Voldemort’s wand. Yikes. OH WELL NO WORRIES I’M SURE THAT WILL ALL COME TO NOTHING.
Harry heads back home with all of his goodies and the happy knowledge that, come September 1st, he’ll be on his way to Hogwarts. And thanks to book magic, we get to go with him.