Well, just one more chapter, and we’ll be at Hogwarts! In the meantime, we’re still in the process of getting there.
Harry finds the platform thanks to Molly, gets his trunk onto the train thanks to Fred and George, and spends the time on the journey eating Chocolate Frogs and Bernie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans with Ron. It’s one big Weasley Fest, from King’s Cross to Harry’s new life at Hogwarts.
So what do we learn about Ron? As the fifth boy in the Weasley family, he goes to Hogwarts with “Bill’s old robes, Charlie’s old wand, and Percy’s old rat.” He doesn’t have enough money for the candy cart. He’s gloomy about his own prospects at Hogwarts, but reassuring when Harry thinks he himself will be a failure. And he’s from an old Wizarding family.
The conversation between Harry and Ron seems largely like something to pass the time. But in the larger context of the story, it introduces several pertinent points. Quidditch, of course, will become very important to Harry. But more important to the story are Ron’s knowledge of Chocolate Frog collectable cards, his pet rat Scabbers, and the break-in at Gringotts.
Currently Headmaster of Hogwarts
Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicholas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.
The info about Grindelwald will become important in DH, but the information about Nicholas Flamel is crucial for the story at-hand.
Nicholas Flamel is the only real-world character in the series. In real-life, he was suspected of having created Alchemy’s Philosopher’s Stone (in the Harry Potter series, this suspicion is fact). Why is this important? Well, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the actual title of the book. Scholastic didn’t think a title with “Philosopher” in it would sell in the U.S. market, so the title was changed. But elsewhere in the world – including the U.K. – publishing houses have gone with JKR’s original title.
In Alchemy, of course, there’s no such thing as a Sorcerer’s Stone. But creating the Philosopher’s Stone (i.e. turning lead into gold) is the ultimate goal of Alchemy. The reference to Nicholas Flamel is also pertinent to the Gringotts break-in that Harry and Ron discuss on the train. The Philospher’s Stone was the object of the break-in, and will later be the object of attempted theft at Hogwarts.
And let’s not forget that Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card introduces Harry to moving portraits. By the end of the day, he will be living in a House that you can’t enter without giving a password to a portrait!
And then, there’s Ron’s rat Scabbers. Ron doesn’t know it yet (in fact he won’t know it for nearly three more years), but Scabbers isn’t really a rat at all. He is actually the animagus form of Peter Pettigrew – a Hogwarts friend of James Potter’s who betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort and who will later help Voldemort regain a body.
As always, JKR is very economical, laying the groundwork for later elements early on when readers least expect it. I mean, seriously, did anyone really read the Chocolate Frog card the first time they read this chapter? But I’ll bet most re-readers took a close look at it the second time through! The card itself has a role to play, beyond the flat facts stated on its face.
Now, if only one of the boys can just collect Agrippa!
Next installment: Snakes on a Train…