Harry wakes the next morning thinking that he dreamed the whole episode—until he sees Hagrid next to him in the shack. Hagrid tells Harry they’d better depart for London, where they’ll buy his school supplies. As they row back to shore, Harry says that he’s worried about affording his tuition and supplies because Vernon won’t pay for it. Hagrid tells Harry that his parents left him money in Gringotts, the wizarding bank run by Goblins. Hagrid mentions the bank is impossible to rob because there are spells and dragons guarding the vaults. Plus, the bank extends hundreds of miles, and thieves often get lost.
This chapter marks Harry’s real initiation into the magical world and its customs, as Hagrid explains some of the most basic aspects of Hogwarts and the wizarding world more generally. This begins to transform the world from something completely alien to Harry into something that he feels like he is a part of—although he continues to have doubts throughout the chapter.
As the boat magically propels itself to shore, Hagrid reads the Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper. Hagrid then explains the Ministry of Magic to Harry, whose main job is to keep magic a secret from the Muggles, otherwise everyone would want magic solutions to their problems. The boat arrives on the shore, and they walk through the town to the train station. Passersby stare at Hagrid, as he comments loudly on “ordinary” things like parking meters. When Harry turns the conversation back to Gringotts and dragons, Hagrid comments tenderly that he’s always wanted a dragon.
In the early chapters, Harry and the reader learn about magic and the wizarding world alongside each other. Thus, while Harry is beginning to enjoy a sense of belonging, readers are able to start to grasp the magic and mystery of the story as well.
Harry and Hagrid take a train to London, and Harry reviews the list of things he has to buy, including black robes, a pointed black hat, spell books, a wand, and a cauldron. In London, Harry follows Hagrid through the streets. He looks for a place that might look like a wizard shop, but can’t imagine where they might be going. Hagrid finds a “tiny, grubby-looking pub” called the Leaky Cauldron, and Harry notices that most people walking by don’t even glance at it. He gets the feeling that those people actually can’t see it.
Rowling’s description of where to find the Leaky Cauldron introduces another key idea about the wizarding world: it has always been there, if one has the knowledge to find it. This can be interpreted more broadly to apply to anyone who feels different: that they can find the place where they belong, as long as they know where to look.
When Harry and Hagrid enter the pub, people greet Hagrid warmly. When they get a closer look at Harry, they quickly realize who he is. The bartender shakes Harry’s hand, saying “Welcome back, Mr. Potter.” Others tell him that they can’t believe they’re meeting him and that they have always wanted to shake his hand. Harry doesn’t know what to say. Hagrid then notices Professor Quirrell, the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. He is very pale, has a noticeable stutter, and says that he’s very pleased to meet Harry.
This is the first moment in which Harry gets a real taste of his fame. But as a testament to Harry’s humility, he does not let the fame go to his head. Instead, he graciously shakes their hands and greets them, but is uncomfortable. As per Dumbledore’s wish, Harry is able to retain his humility because he grew up away from this fame.
Hagrid takes Harry out into the alley, where he taps a particular brick in the wall three times. The bricks pull away to form an archway, leading them to a large bustling street. Harry is in awe, wanting to take in everything: the shops selling owls, cauldrons, and dragon liver; boys marveling over new broomsticks; people buying robes and telescopes; windows containing bat spleens and eel eyes.
Harry and Hagrid then reach Gringotts. The first words engraved upon the doors read “Enter, stranger, but take heed / Of what awaits the sin of greed.” Goblins staff the bank; they are short, with pointed beards and very long fingers and feet. Hagrid tells a goblin that they are going to take some money from Harry’s safe, handing him a key. Hagrid adds that he has a letter from Dumbledore about the “You-Know-What” in vault 713. Harry asks what it is, but Hagrid only says it’s secret business for Hogwarts.
Gringotts’ doors are engraved with a warning for thieves, outlining the negative consequences for “the sin of greed,” once again associating greed with evil.
A goblin named Griphook takes Harry and Hagrid on a cart through “a maze of twisting passages.” They arrive at Harry’s vault; inside are mounds of gold, silver, and bronze coins. Harry marvels, knowing that there is no way the Dursleys know about it or they would have stolen it all from him. Hagrid helps pile a heap of coins into a bag to get Harry through a few terms.
Harry’s vault demonstrates another reflection of Harry’s parents care for him. They leave him their fortune and hide it from the Dursleys (or perhaps Dumbledore does), knowing that if the Dursley’s found out, they would greedily take advantage of Harry.
Next, Harry and Hagrid go even deeper into the bank, until they reach vault 713. The vault has no keyhole; the goblin simply runs a finger across the door and it melts away. The goblin explains that if anyone else tried that, they’d be sucked through the door and trapped. Inside is simply a “grubby little package.” Hagrid tucks it into his coat, and they set off for the ground level.
The fact that this vault is more heavily guarded imbues the mysterious object with a sense of power, which is juxtaposed by the unassuming appearance of the package. The extra security measures also demonstrate that some wizards might bear a great deal of greed or desire for that power, as Voldemort and Quirrell later do.
Next, Hagrid takes Harry to Madam Malkin’s to buy robes. Hagrid feels a little motion sick following the cart ride and so excuses himself back to the Leaky Cauldron, leaving Harry alone. Inside, Madame Malkin starts to fit him for robes next to another boy (later revealed as Draco Malfoy). The boy says his father is buying his books, and his mother is buying his wand. Then he’s going to go buy a racing broom, saying that he wants to try and smuggle one into school and complaining that first years can’t have their own. Harry is strongly reminded of Dudley.
Harry’s comparison of Draco and Dudley is apt: both feel very comfortable in the world in which they belong, and both feel completely entitled. Like Dudley, Draco expects that his parents will do everything and buy everything for him, while Harry, who has always lived under the humblest of circumstances, has no such expectation, putting the two boys immediately at odds.
Draco asks if Harry has a broom, or if he plays Quidditch. Harry says no, wondering what Quidditch could possibly be. Draco then asks if Harry knows what House he’ll be in. Harry says no, feeling “more stupid by the minute.” Draco says he thinks he’ll be in Slytherin, as his whole family has been. Draco then notices Hagrid out the window, and Harry tells him who he is, pleased to know something Draco doesn’t. Draco says that he’s heard of Hagrid—that he’s the “servant at Hogwarts.” He goes on to say that he’s heard Hagrid is kind of “savage.” Harry counters, saying he thinks Hagrid is “brilliant.”
Although Harry starts to feel a semblance of a connection with the wizarding world, this conversation deals a serious blow to his confidence. In speaking with Draco, whose confidence is derived from his ego and family reputation, Harry again feels like he may not actually belong in this world. And in insulting Hagrid—the one person who has showed Harry any affection—Draco immediately makes an enemy of Harry.
Draco then asks Harry where his parents are; Harry says shortly that they’re dead. Draco asks Harry whether they were “our kind,” and Harry replies yes, they were a witch and wizard. Draco says that he doesn’t think that they should let “the other sort in,” because they aren’t brought up the same way. They haven’t even heard of Hogwarts before getting their letter, Draco says. Draco asks Harry his name, but before he can respond, Madam Malkin says that Harry is finished.
The prejudice Draco exhibits here becomes a running theme across the seven books. But even though Harry does not belong to this Muggle-born class of wizards, he feels that he does relate to them in that he was raised by Muggles, again adding to his growing sense that he may not belong in the wizarding world, either.
Harry leaps up, eager to escape the conversation. Outside, he tells Hagrid about what Draco said—that people from Muggle families shouldn’t be allowed at Hogwarts. Hagrid assures Harry that he’s not from a Muggle family, but even if he were, some of the best witches and wizards had Muggle parents—like Lily.
Hagrid sustains the kind of fatherly role he’s taken in Harry’s life by offering him comfort and wisdom in the wake of Draco’s words, and invoking his mother to do so. In addition, he affirms Harry’s sense of belonging in his newfound world.
Harry asks Hagrid what Quidditch is, and Hagrid explains it’s a wizard sport played on flying broomsticks with four balls. Harry then asks about Houses; Hagrid says there are four of them at Hogwarts, into which students are placed. He tells Harry that “there’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin,” and that You-Know-Who was one of them.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Slytherin is linked to bad people in Rowling’s world is because of its association with ambition. Ambition is in a sense a desire for power, which Rowling displays time and time again as something that can easily bleed into evil territory.
Harry and Hagrid then go to buy his school books, and Harry has to be dragged away from a book that would allow him to curse Dudley. Hagrid tells Harry that he’s not supposed to use magic in the Muggle world except under special circumstances—and anyway, that he would need to study a lot before he can use spells like that. They move on to buy supplies for Harry’s Potions class at the Apothecary.
As Harry finds his way in this new magical world, he must also grapple with the newfound power that he has which allows him for the first time to have the upper hand over his cousin, and would enable him to get revenge. As Hagrid counsels, instead he must learn to use it justly.
Hagrid then sets out to buy Harry a birthday present: a beautiful snowy owl. Finally, all Harry has left to buy is his wand. Harry visits Ollivander’s wand shop, very excited to get a wand. Inside, Harry feels the very air “tingle with some secret magic.” Ollivander greets Harry, immediately noticing that he has Lily’s eyes—and that he still remembers when she was in his shop buying her first wand. Ollivander also notes Harry’s scar, confessing with dismay that he made the wand that did it.
Gaining a wand makes Harry most excited for several reasons: first, it literally enables him to practice magic and thus gives him a true sense of belonging in this new magical world; second, it also gives him a sense of power that he has never had; and third, it represents a connection to his parents.
Ollivander gives Harry three wands to try, but takes each one back immediately. He then hands Harry a final wand. Harry feels a warmth in his fingers; when he swishes it in the air, a stream of red and gold sparks shoots from the end like fireworks. Ollivander cries “bravo!” but then realizes something “curious” about the wand. The phoenix whose tail feather is in Harry’s wand gave only a single other feather—to the wand which gave Harry his scar. Ollivander comments that people should “expect great things” from Harry, because after all, You-Know-Who did “great things—terrible, yes, but great.” Harry shivers. He nervously pays for the wand and leaves the shop.
Ollivander draws the first connection between Harry and Voldemort, a connection that will grow over the series as their fates become inextricably linked. Yet in this moment, readers are simply reminded that wands and magic can come not only with a sense of great excitement, but also a power that can quickly get out of hand if the one wielding it has bad intentions or is greedy for more power.
In the late afternoon, Harry and Hagrid make their way back to the train station. They eat before Harry’s train home, but Harry is very quiet. Harry has had the best birthday of his life, but he confesses to Hagrid what’s worrying him: everyone thinks he’s special, but he doesn’t know anything about magic. Hagrid assures him that he’ll learn quickly—"everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts”—and that he’ll have a wonderful time. Hagrid gives Harry his ticket to Hogwarts, and sees him off on the train home.
In contrast to Ollivander’s warning, power is not what concerns Harry in this moment. In a testament to his humility, he worries about not living up to others’ expectations and again is concerned that he may not truly belong with the other students in his class. And Hagrid, who has kindly taught Harry so much already, gives him a final friendly assurance that he will find his place at Hogwarts, just like anyone else.