Harry spends a final month with Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley. They no longer torment Harry, but they have also stopped acknowledging his existence altogether. Thus, Harry keeps primarily to his room, with his new owl keeping him company. He calls her Hedwig—a name he finds in one of his new books, A History of Magic. Harry’s schoolbooks are very interesting, and he reads late into the night.
Harry’s relationship with the Dursleys has changed significantly. Now that he has his own world outside of theirs, he no longer feels so excluded. Instead, he devotes himself to learning as much as he can about his new world because it makes him feel like less of an outsider.
The day that Harry leaves for school, the Dursleys drive him to King’s Cross station, where he is meant to take an eleven o’clock train from platform nine and three-quarters. Vernon dumps Harry’s trunk on a cart and helps him roll it to the platforms. Vernon snickers, noting that there’s no platform nine and three-quarters, and leaves laughing. Harry gets nervous; he stops a passing guard and tries to ask about the train to Hogwarts, but the guard doesn’t know anything about it. Harry tries not to panic, but the train is leaving in ten minutes.
Even though Harry has found a new world, there are still barriers to his sense of belonging. Hagrid has clearly forgotten to tell Harry a key piece of information, and this plays into Harry’s continued insecurity that he may not actually belong in his new world because he doesn’t know all of the customs and traditions that it seems like many other wizards automatically know.
Just then Harry hears a woman talking about Muggles. He turns to find a plump, red-haired woman (Molly Weasley) talking to four boys and a small girl, all with equally red hair. He watches as the oldest boy in the group, Percy, marches towards the dividing barrier between platforms nine and ten and disappears. The next two boys, twins named Fred and George, follow the same path.
Despite the fact that Harry still feels like an outsider, the knowledge that he has gained from Hagrid allows him to spot other wizards like him.
Harry approaches Molly, and she assumes that he must be a first year, like her youngest son Ron. She kindly teaches Harry how to get to the platform: walk straight at the barrier between platforms nine and ten (and not to be afraid while doing so). He starts to run towards the barrier, closing his eyes as he nears it, awaiting a crash. But when he opens his eyes, a scarlet steam engine waits in front of him, packed with people: he has found the Hogwarts Express.
It is important to note that the Weasleys enter Harry’s life at a time of need. When Harry is feeling vulnerable, the Weasleys often resurface to give Harry an understanding of family that he has been missing up to this point. The Weasleys often give Harry a sense of support and protection, as Molly does here, essentially standing in for his own mother.
Harry pushes his cart past the first few train cars, already packed with students. He presses on until he finds an empty compartment near the end. He tries to push his cart onto the train, and Ron appears, offering to help him lift it onto the train (with some aid from Fred and George). When they get a closer look at Harry, they notice his scar, and realize who he is. Harry gets embarrassed and hastily boards the train.
Harry’s fame becomes more and more of a part of his life as he enters school and meets other students who know who he is. But, having grown up away from all of that, Harry again remains humble and actually grows embarrassed at the attention, hoping simply to fit in with his peers rather than to stand out.
Harry watches Fred, George, Ron, and Percy say goodbye to their mother, Molly. Percy says he can’t stay long, as he’s a prefect; Molly kisses him on the cheek goodbye. She warns Fred and George to behave themselves and to look after Ron. They then tell her with excitement that the boy they met on the platform is Harry Potter. The young girl, Ginny, asks to see him, but Molly says that he’s not something to “goggle at in a zoo,” and tells the boys not to ask any invasive questions. They all say a final goodbye and board the train.
Again, in a moment of vulnerability for Harry, Molly puts Harry’s feelings above all else as she attempts to protect his privacy. Her phrase “goggle at in a zoo” is also notable because it further connects Harry to the snake earlier in the novel, as he is someone who feels simultaneously isolated and observed by others like a spectacle or rarity.
The train pulls out of the station and Harry feels a “leap of excitement” about the future. Then, the youngest red-headed boy, Ron, enters the compartment, asking to sit with Harry because all of the other cars are full. Ron asks if he’s really Harry Potter, and if he has the scar. When Harry shows him, Ron stares. Harry confesses that he can’t remember anything about what happened, though.
Despite the fact that his journey has been rather fraught up to this point, Harry’s excitement and hope for the future stems from the possibilities that lay ahead of him in the magical world, and the fact that he may no longer feel different from everyone else.
Harry, in turn, asks Ron if all his family are wizards. When Ron says yes, Harry says he must know loads of magic. Harry wishes that he had three wizard brothers. Ron explains that he actually has five brothers, and they’re a lot to live up to. Bill and Charlie, the two oldest boys, were head boy and captain of the Quidditch team, respectively. Percy’s a prefect, and everyone likes Fred and George because they’re funny.
Harry’s willingness to turn the conversation to Ron’s family is a testament both to his humility (in wanting to steer the conversation away from himself), and to the fact that he continues to long for any kind of love that stems from familial bonds, which he has not gotten from the Dursleys.
Ron goes on to say that any of his accomplishments at school would be “no big deal” because his brothers did them first. Additionally, most of his things are hand-me-downs: he has Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat, Scabbers. Ron says that Percy got an owl for being made a prefect, and Ron starts to say that they couldn’t afford one for him but stops himself.
Ron’s anxiety about his own accomplishments in the face of his brothers’ will later fuel what is revealed to be his deepest desire: to outshine all of them. But Ron doesn’t seem to dwell on this wish nearly as much as Harry dwells on his own, and thus his is not treated as a dangerous desire.
Harry comforts Ron, saying that he had never had any money or gifts or clothes of his own until about a month ago. And he hadn’t known anything about being a wizard or his parents or Voldemort. Ron gasps when he hears Harry use Voldemort’s name. Harry simply says he didn’t grow up knowing he shouldn’t use it—he doesn’t really know anything about wizard culture. Ron comforts Harry in turn, saying that there are lots of people from Muggle families and they learn quickly.
Harry and Ron take an important first step toward friendship, as Rowling demonstrates the mutual comfort that friends can provide in the face of each other’s insecurities—like Harry’s worry over not knowing basic wizarding knowledge, and Ron’s worry over his family’s economic status.
A woman passes by with a cart, offering candy. The candies are all new to Harry, and so he buys a bit of everything. Ron declines, saying he has sandwiches. Harry offers to share his candy, happy to have something to share and someone to share it with. They start to open the Chocolate Frogs, which have collectible cards inside. Harry gets a card with Albus Dumbledore on it. The card says that Dumbledore is the Hogwarts headmaster, most notable for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald and his work on alchemy with Nicolas Flamel, among other things.
Harry and Ron’s friendship continues to bloom, as Harry is excited finally to have someone who wants to share his company. This relationship is very different from Harry’s relationship with Hagrid. Though both friendships are valuable and both help Harry learn about the wizarding world, Ron’s is particularly important because he and Harry are peers.
As Harry and Ron eat more candy, a boy named Neville asks if they’ve seen a toad he’s lost. When they say no, he leaves miserably. Ron turns back to look at Scabbers, confessing that having a rat isn’t much better than having a toad. He raises his wand to show Harry a spell he learned to turn Scabbers yellow, when a girl with “a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth” (Hermione) knocks and asks if they’ve seen a lost toad.
Both Neville’s and Hermione’s introductions are less than flattering, but in time both will become key friends for Harry. Hermione will eventually complete the trio, but initially her defining characteristics are being a know-it-all and dutifully following the rules.
When Hermione sees Ron about to do magic, she grows excited and asks to see it. Ron recites a quick rhyme and waves his wand, but nothing happens. Hermione wonders if it’s a real spell, rattling on quickly that it’s not a very good spell, that she’s tried a few spells and they’ve all worked, that her whole family are Muggles, that she was very surprised to get her letter, and that she’s memorized all of the course books. Ron and Harry are both stunned.
While at first Harry and Ron are somewhat aggravated by Hermione’s studiousness, ultimately her intelligence becomes a key factor in helping their trio of friends overcome a number of obstacles.
Ron and Harry introduce themselves, and Hermione is amazed to meet Harry (she’s learned about him from a few books on modern magical history and the dark arts). She asks about what Houses they think they’ll be in, saying she hopes she’s in Gryffindor. She then leaves, saying she ought to go look for Neville’s toad, and that they ought to change into their school robes because they’ve almost arrived at Hogwarts.
In addition to her intelligence, Hermione is deeply concerned with order and the rules. Eventually, however, she overcomes this concern, prioritizing their friendship and doing what is right over the obsessive need to obey every rule that Hogwarts lays down.
After Hermione leaves, Ron comments that he hopes he’s not in whatever house she’s in. Ron’s whole family is in Gryffindor, and he is nervous that he might be put in another house. Harry, seeing how concerned Ron is, asks what his older brothers do. Ron replies that Charlie studies dragons, and Bill works in some capacity for Gringotts.
Harry is not the only one who suffers from a fear that he may not belong. Being placed into different Houses induces some anxiety for Ron, who hopes that he belongs with the rest of his family in Gryffindor.
This sparks Ron’s memory: someone just tried to rob a high security vault at Gringotts and didn’t get caught. His dad says that it must have been a very powerful dark wizard. They don’t think the person took anything, but everyone worries when things like this happen because they think You-Know-Who might be behind it.
Rowling begins to hint at the dark magic lurking at the edge of this book, and how it is fueled by the desire for greed and power.
A little while later, three boys enter Harry and Ron’s compartment: Draco Malfoy, the boy from Madame Malkin’s shop, and two mean-looking, “thickset” boys Draco introduces as Crabbe and Goyle, Draco asks if Harry is in fact the Harry Potter, before turning to Ron and saying there’s no need to ask Ron’s name—“all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.” Draco turns his attention to Harry and says that there are some wizarding families that are “better than others,” and he can help Harry make the right friends, holding out his hand.
Just as Harry is starting to make friends, he is also starting to make foes. Draco plays into Harry’s insecurity and his desire to belong rather than to be different from those around him. Draco offers him friendship and an immediate gateway to that belonging. But it is also notable to see how Draco is a foil for Harry. While Harry is humble, Draco is all ego, which is one of the reasons why Draco repels rather than attracts Harry.
Harry refuses to shake Draco’s hand, and Draco warns him to be more polite, or else he will “go the same way as [his] parents.” Harry and Ron stand up, ready to fight. But before they can start to fight, Scabbers bites Goyle’s finger. Goyle howls, throwing Scabbers off, and the three boys immediately disappear into the corridor. Hermione returns, wondering what’s going on and saying that they are going to get in trouble before they even get there.
While Draco’s offer is tempting, Harry is unfalteringly loyal to Ron, just as he was to Hagrid when Draco insulted him in Madame Malkin’s shop. Thus, just as Harry feels protected by the friendship and love that others offer, he in turn tries to protect his own friends and gains a sense of bravery from them, courageously standing up to Draco here.
A short time later, the train arrives. Harry and Ron join the crowd on the platform, where Hagrid is calling for first years to follow him. He leads them down a “steep, narrow path” in the darkness of night. The narrow path leads to “the edge of a great black lake,” and “perched atop a high mountain on the other side” is a “vast castle with many turrets and towers": Hogwarts. The students are in awe. They take boats to the other side, arriving at the front door of the castle. Once there, Hagrid finds Neville’s toad in one of the boats, and Neville is overjoyed. Hagrid then knocks on the enormous oak door.
The first glimpse of Hogwarts inspires in Harry a great sense of excitement. As Harry will note many times over the novel, Hogwarts is magical because it is so unique. It is a school for those who are different, and that distinction is what makes Harry feel like he truly belongs there. It is also notable that the other students are just as excited by this glimpse of Hogwarts. None of them have been to the school before, and so, despite Harry’s fears that he might be behind his classmates, in this regard he is just like everyone else.