What Do You Find Funniest in CoS Chapter 1?

Chapter 1 of CoS is full of slapstick (“the magic word”), farcicle similes (“like a winded rhinoceros”), a parody of business-meeting itineraries (“We should all be in position at eight o’clock”), and even multiple “magic” attacks on poor Dudley Dursley (“Jiggery pokery!”, “Hocus pocus”, “squiggly wiggly”).

This, I think, is one of the funniest opening chapters in the HP series. So I’m wondering what you think are some of its funniest moments.

Please let us know in the Comments thread.

Like a Winded Rhinoceros… and a bit of scar tissue

Dursley-centric chapters are often great fun, and the first chapter of CoS (filled as it is with absurdity and slapstic) is no exception.

When Harry uses a common cliche (“You’ve forgotten the magic word”),

Dudley gasped and fell off his chair with a crash that shook the whole kitchen; Mrs. Dursley gave a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth; Mr. Dursley jumped to his feet, veins throbbing in his temples.

For all this reaction, Harry may as well have arrived in black gloves wearing a mask and wielding a butcher’s knife!

But the absurdity doesn’t stop there!

“I meant ‘please’!” said Harry quickly. “I didn’t mean – ”

“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU, thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, “ABOUT SAYING THE ‘M’ WORD IN OUR HOUSE?”

The “M” word? Siriusly?

Do the Dursleys have no sense of proportion? (well, the answer to that question should be obvious, shouldn’t it?).

“HOW DARE YOU THREATEN DUDLEY!” roared Uncle Vernon, pounding the table with his fist.”

OUCH! In the HP world, magic is not inherently threatening, but after the “pig’s tail” incident from Harry’s last birthday, any suggestion of magic may certainly seem like a threat.

Finally, Uncle Vernon screams:

“I WARNED YOU! I WILL NOT TOLERATE MENTION OF YOUR ABNORMALITY UNDER THIS ROOF!”

And this is the real issue, isn’t it? The Dursleys, as we saw in our previous re-read post, pride themselves on their normality – so much so that shortly after Petunia accepted Vernon’s proposal of marriage, she realized that she needed to confront the issue of her sister’s “abnormality”:

She confessed the truth during a tear-stained date, in Vernon’s dark car as they sat overlooking the chip shop where Vernon had just bought them a post-cinema snack. Vernon, as Petunia had expected, was deeply shocked; however, he told Petunia solemnly that he would never hold it against her that she had a freak for a sister, and Petunia threw herself upon him in such violent gratitude that he dropped his battered sausage.

Absurd as the Dursley reaction to the “M” word is, it is quintessentially Dursley-esque!

When Vernon sits down, he is “breathing like a winded rhinocerous” – one of several amusing similes found in this chapter. What’s a simile, you might ask? In a simile, the author compares one thing to another by using “as” or “like.”

JKR seems to prefer “like”:

Not only does Vernon breathe “like a winded rhinocerous,” but the Dursleys treat Harry “like a bomb that might go off at any moment” and “like a dog that had rolled in something smelly.”

And it’s all because, for Harry, “magic” is more than just a word. It is part of who he is.

In the first chapter of CoS, JKR repeats for the audience the requisite background information – reminding us of Harry’s experience during the previous year at Hogwarts and the fact that Uncle Vernon has padlocked his school books and supplies in the cupboard under the stairs. In fact, Vernon has even padlocked Hedwig’s cage – leading to the chapter’s initial confrontation (in which Uncle Vernon asks if he looks stupid – all while “a bit of fried egg dangl[es] from his bushy mustache!).

But probably the most significant point that JKR emphasizes is Harry’s scar. Harry, she reminds us,

…wore rounded glasses, and on his forehead was a thin, lightning-shaped scar.

It was this scar that made Harry so particularly unusual, even for a wizard.

At one year of age, as we all know, Harry survived an attack by Voldemort. He had

…escaped with his lightning scar, and somehow – nobody understood why – Voldemort’s powers had been destroyed the instant he had failed to kill Harry.

And then, when Harry goes to Hogwarts, he learns that

he and his scar were famous

… because he is the only person who ever survived a killing curse – and he survived the Avada Kedavra from its most proficient practitioner.

When I first read the the early chapters of PS/SS, Harry’s scar seemed somewhat cosmetic – a distinguishing mark that really looked cool – though it was clearly foreshadowing something of significance.

What I like here in the first chapter of CoS is that JKR reminds us of Harry’s scar several times, just to remind us that it distinguishes him from other Wizards. And later – as the books continue – she builds on what Harry experiences via the scar (first, pain in proximity to Voldermort, then later an ability to see into Voldemort’s mind). She puts all the clues she needs in even these early books so that when the big reveal about the scar comes in “The Prince’s Tale,” we should not be surprised.

But of course, I was – given that (unlike the pre-DH fandom), I had only about three days between discovering in HBP that Voldemort sought to split his soul and reading the endgame in Deathly Hallows. I had to do a double-take, a triple-take, a quadruple-take when I came across that passage in TPT.

No matter what I experienced though. Nobody can say that JKR did not give the reader fair warning! She told us – again and again and again – the significance of the scar, just as she does here.

So… what are some things that have jumped out at you in reading through the first part of the first chapter of CoS?

Privets and Whingings and Dursleys… oh my!

I actually did start something of a CoS re-read a couple of years ago. In fact, I wrote preliminary posts on the first couple of chapters of the book, but I never got in to the in-depth over-analysis that typically characterizes this blog. ;)

If you’d like to take a look at those original re-read posts, here you go:

Like the first CoS scene on Pottermore, my old post on chapter 1 put some emphasis on “the magic word.” So let’s take a look at Pottermore’s view of that scene.

Number 4, Privet Drive

At Zoom 1 (original zoom level), we see the exterior to Number 4, Privet Drive. According to JKR, she chose the name of the Dursley street after

that most suburban plant, the privet bush, which makes neat hedges around many English gardens.

She chose the name of their town because it

sounds appropriately parochial and sniffy, ‘whinging’ being a colloquial term for ‘complaining or whining’ in British English.

She chose the number 4 because she has

never been fond of the number four, which has always struck [her] as a rather hard and unforgiving number.

These little bits of information show the degree to which JKR thought about what she was doing. I may not share her take on the number 4 (I rather like the number myself) – and I’m not quite clear on why she created 4 Houses if she has such a dislike of the number – but I do think it’s obvious that even in the details of the Dursley address, JKR was attempting to create a composite of the Dursley family. And that’s just a little bit of wonderful!

When we look at the scene on Pottermore (Zoom 1), we see the pastel hues of the Dursley home, hints of the flowery wallpaper on the home’s interior, and the trim surburban plants set against the house. And through the window, there’s a picture on the wall that appears to portray somebody in a Smelting’s uniform. Young Vernon? Dudley? It’s certainly not Harry!

Oddly, though, on the Dursley’s front porch, there appear to be some wear-and-tear flaws in the plaster near the lamp. Is that nothing more than an artist’s rendering? Or is it part of JKR’s own conception? Is the exterior of their house not quite the exemplar of suburban perfection that Petunia would have it be?

At Zoom 2, we go through the door… to find a Smelting’s straw hat on the staircase (this must be Dudley’s!) and the door to the cupboard under the stairs padlocked. The padlock will be explained when we get to the argument in the kitchen.

And at Zoom 3, we reach the kitchen… just in time to see Dudley about to fall out of his chair when Harry tells him he forgot to say “the magic word.”

Just as we have three levels of zoom, the first part of the chapter is broken up into three parts (which do not actually correspond to Pottermore’s three levels of zoom):

  • An argument at breakfast
  • A summation of Harry’s background (and the fact that it’s his 12th birthday)
  • A rehearsal of everyone’s roles for that night’s dinner party

We’ll take a look at these in the next re-read post. But for now, I’d like to go back to some Pottermore material that sets the stage. I’m speaking, of course, of that lovely exclusive JKR content on the Dursleys.

Vernon and Petunia Dursley

We know from the first chapter of PS/SS that Vernon values normalcy and that Petunia thinks her sister is a freak. The Pottermore info fills in the gaps.

One of the most sought-after pieces of information, actually, is the name of the town that the Evans girls – and, by extension, Severus Snape – grew up in. Based on Snape’s speech patterns, fans have speculated that he grew up in the north of England, perhaps even in a large industrial city like Birmingham. Actually, though, he and Lily and Petunia grew up in the fictional town of Cokeworth. This is the town that Petunia left in order to make her way in London.

And actually, we’ve been in Cokeworth before! In fact, I described the Cokeworth incident in an ancient Expecto Patronum! post concerning the Flight of the Dursleys:

On this 7th day of letters from no one, the Dursleys find that none of their previous attempts to outrun the letters have succeeded. 100 or so letters await Harry at the hotel desk.

The next morning, at breakfast, they discover Hogwarts letters addressed to:

Mr. H. Potter
Room 17
Railview Hotel
Cokeworth

The text tells us that Cokeworth is a big city, and we know that it’s within a day’s drive of Little Whinging, Surrey – even if the driver is continuously changing course. I don’t know enough about driving in the UK to know how far a driver can get under these conditions. I’ll leave it to my UK friends to tell me whether or not it is plausible that Cokeworth is in the north.

But whatever the case, the “gloomy-looking hotel” where the Hogwarts letters hunt them down is on the outskirts of the same town in which Petunia, Lily, and Severus all grew up. Curiously, Petunia says nothing.

The Pottermore info also contains tidbits of information that have been alluded to before in the text:

  • That Petunia wanted to retreat as far into normalcy as possible in order not to be “tainted” by her sister
  • That she did not attend her sister’s wedding
  • That she did not congratulate her sister on either her wedding or the birth of her son. (In a particularly callous move, she threw the birth announcement in the bin – though she did register the name of her sister’s child, even if Vernon did not)
  • That she thought that she could “squash the magic out of Harry”

The truly new information focuses on Vernon and Petunia’s courtship and interactions with James and Lily. And this courtship info is often written in the same mocking tone that we find in the Dursley passages in the books. (Remember that wonderful Dursley intro in PS/SS: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much”?).

In the Dursley courtship, the “deliciously normal” junior executive “seemed a model of manliness to young Petunia.” {{{GAG! RETCH!!!}}}

He had a perfectly correct car, and wanted to do completely ordinary things, and by the time he had taken her on a series of dull dates, during which he talked mainly about himself and his predictable ideas on the world, Petunia was dreaming of the moment when he would place a ring on her finger.

When, in due course, Vernon Dursley proposed marriage, very correctly, on one knee in his mother’s sitting room, Petunia accepted at once.

It’s almost like something out of a romance made in hell! For those of you who have read A Game of Thrones, here’s an analogy: Rather than dream of true knights to rescue her from her peril, Sansa Stark instead dreams of a big beefy dullard to give her a “completely ordinary” and utterly predictable life. Petunia’s “true knight,” in other words, rescues her from anything faintly resembling romance.

And with that, I’d say we’ve had enough for our first post back on the re-read. Next time, we’ll focus more on the book itself and less on the Pottermore experience of it. :)

Here’s Your Deathly Hallows on IMAX

Click to see Severus Snape walking through the AWESOME gate

“These are dark times, there’s no denying”

I saw it this morning, in the IMAX theater at Tyson’s Corner. And, in a word, it was AWESOME!!! (like the WB promo shown above)

It’s hardly a secret that Deathly Hallows is my favorite Harry Potter book. It’s also not a secret that I found the Half-Blood Prince movie… disappointing.

In HPB, the filmmakers wasted precious time burning the Burrow, when they could have been giving us another Pensieve memory of Tom Riddle’s family background or some additional face time with the Half-Blood Prince’s Potions book.

I feared that, given the complexity of the DH narrative, director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves would trash the story, chop it up, render it incomprehensible in an attempt to simplify it for movie-only viewers. I wondered if, in the end, moviegoers would understand who Dumbledore was, who Snape was, and how the twin themes of redemption and remorse that play out in these men’s lives ultimately help Harry confront Voldemort with the things the Dark Lord doesn’t understand.

Well, we won’t know the answer to that question until we reach the end of DH2. But DH1 gives me good reason to hope that the filmmakers will capture much of the richness of this narrative… and offer up a successful resolution to the Harry Potter saga.

For me, the DH movies carry the biggest stakes because they also carry the most profound part of Harry Potter’s story. I already knew going in to DH1 that the split would occur at Dumbledore’s tomb. And I knew just from watching the trailers that DH1 would include both Malfoy Manor sequences, the 7 Potters, Bill and Fleur’s wedding, the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, the splinching scene, Ron’s confrontation with Harry, at least some of the visit to Godric’s Hollow, the destruction of the locket horcrux, the visit to Xenophilius Lovegood, and Voldemort’s retrieval of the wand.

Here are some other elements that I was hoping to see in DH1:

  • Dudley’s attempt to reconcile with Harry
  • Kreacher’s Tale (including a flashback to the Cave and Regulus’ heroism)
  • Some of Dumbledore’s backstory (and Harry’s struggle to come to grips with it)
  • Hermione’s conversations with the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black (including a flashback of Snape catching Neville, Ginny, and Luna trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor)
  • Harry’s dialogue with Ron after Ron confronts his fears and destroys the locket horcrux
  • Grindelwald’s refusal to betray Dumbledore’s possession of the Elder Wand to Voldemort
  • The Tale of the Three Brothers

Okay, so one of those wishes came true. But we missed Dudley, most of Kreacher’s Tale, nearly all of Dumbledore’s backstory, Phineas’ portrait, and (alas) Harry’s awesome “I thought you knew.”

I understand some of those decisions. Really, I do. Flashbacks would have dragged out the film (no matter how gratifying I find those strands of plot to be). And Dumbledore’s backstory can be covered more fully in DH2 at the Hogs Head and in King’s Cross.

But why not include the Dudley scene or Phineas’ portrait or Harry’s dialogue with Ron? And why, WHY, WHY violate the character of Gellert Grindelwald? (more on that in another post).

Regardless, the movie overall does about as fine a job with DH1 as I could have hoped. Here are some of the highlights:

  • An absolutely wrenching scene (told, not shown, in the book) in which Hermione obliviates her parents
  • Nearly the entire opening sequence at Malfoy Manor – with stunning performances by Alan Rickman, Jason Isaacs, and – really – the whole Death Eater cast
  • A truly creepy Bathilda Bagshot sequence
  • A beautiful Silver Doe/Retrieval of the Sword sequence – almost exactly as I had pictured it
  • The Tale of the Three Brothers – an EPIC WIN animation – including a narrative containing, I think, every word in the story

And of course, it sure didn’t hurt to be viewing all of this on an IMAX screen. I’ll be back later with a bit more analysis. But for now, I’ll just say that, overall, this film is TEH AWESOME!!! (And I wasn’t saying that after the last one).

Torn Pillowcase

Back in the 1960s, Irish novelist Brian Moore published a Cold War thriller called Torn Curtain – later turned into a Major Motion Picture by Alfred Hitchcock. I don’t know what that really has to do with Dobby’s torn pillowcase except to say that both refer to torn fabrics, and both deal with undercover spy work.

Yes, little Dobby the House Elf is something of an undercover spy.

Nobody asked him to go undercover (and he’s going to have to punish himself something fierce for it), but he has spied on his own master and is working at cross-purposes to his master’s will. To use Cold War lingo, Dobby has defected to Harry – at least in his affections. And his unsought (and unappreciated) efforts come at great danger to himself.

After Dobby learns of the threat to Harry Potter (the hope, apparently, not only of the Wizarding World but even of the House Elves) he cannot keep silent. He must warn the Boy Who Lived. His warning, though, is unwelcome. After all, he’s telling Harry that he must not return to Hogwarts… and Dobby resorts to extreme measures to prevent Harry’s return – even to the point of stealing letters from Ron and Hermione and wrecking the Dursleys’ dinner party by splatting the pudding on the floor.

I don’t know how anybody else reacted, but my first encounter with Dobby came in the CoS movie… and I found him really annoying. It was shocking and uncomfortable to watch him punish himself – and make so much racket that Harry was bound to get into trouble. And then, of course, there were the really unscrupulous matters of the letters and the pudding.

But Dobby’s punishments and his tears on being treated as an equal also gave me some measure of sympathy for him. And in the end, when we find out who Dobby’s master is and the dimensions of the plot endangering Hogwarts, Harry’s final act of compassion towards Dobby becomes quite gratifying.

So… what do we learn from Dobby’s warning?

  • For months, Dobby has known that there is a plot to make “most terrible things” happen at Hogwarts, and that these terrible events will endanger Harry. (Judging by Dobby’s remarks, Harry is not the specific target, but he could still become a victim.)
  • Dobby believes that Harry is too important for the future of the Wizarding World to be allowed to endanger himself
  • The plot, Dobby claims, does not derive from Voldemort – but the Elf’s inability to speak against his master and his simultaneous inability to tell the dimensions of the plot lead us to infer that the plot derives from Dobby’s (currently unknown) master
  • Dobby speaks of “powers Dumbledore doesn’t… powers no decent wizard….” Horcruxes!!! Yes, the first unnamed reference to Horcruxes comes from Dobby.
  • Dobby believes the danger is grave enough that he levitates the Dursleys’ pudding to the ceiling and drops it on the floor in order to bring down the wrath of the Dursleys on Harry

The end result is that Harry is imprisoned in his room as Hedwig has been imprisoned in her cage! He’s being starved, and things are looking pretty bleak, when the Weasleys arrive with a deus ex machina. And yes, it literally is a machine!

Here’s how the kitteh’s LiveTweeted Cos, Chapter 2.

Snakes on a Train

Rather than deal with Draco Malfoy in short spurts, I’ve carved out a little bit of space where we can talk a bit more expansively about our snaky Slytherin’s pre-Hogwarts encounters with Harry Potter.

I mentioned in Beyond the Leaky Cauldron that Draco is “a bit of a blood-prejudiced prat (and more than a little like Dudley Dursley)” – to which arithmancer replied:

I had some sympathy for Draco from the start. To me it seemed clear his approach to Harry in the robe shop was friendly. Since he did not know Harry’s mother was Muggleborn, or Hagrid was his first wizard friend, the things he said were, while revealing of the prejudices he had obviously already acquired, not intended to put off Harry in any way. He was just trying to start up a conversation with another boy who would be going to Hogwarts.

Okay. She’s got a point. The conversation in Madam Malkin’s opens with the pale, pointy-faced boy’s “Hello. Hogwarts too?” and continues with the boy rattling on about racing brooms, Quidditch, school Houses, Hagrid, and Wizarding blood. Draco (the boy) is not, at any point, intending to put Harry off. He’s just carrying on what he considers to be light conversation. The problem lies in what Draco considers to be light conversation.

As arithmancer mentions, Draco’s conversation shows the “prejudices he had obviously already acquired.” We don’t know it yet, but the parents Draco mentions (the father who is buying his books and the mother who is looking at wands) both come from wealthy pureblood families – the Malfoys and the Blacks.

Though not all purebloods engage in blood prejudice (witness the Weasleys!), both the Malfoy and Black families boast long lines of blood supremacy ideologues with long histories of despising Muggles and Muggle-borns. In fact, in Dumbledore’s notes to Beedle the Bard we find that Brutus Malfoy, one of Lucius’ ancestors, edited an anti-Muggle periodical dating back at least to 1675, when Brutus wrote:

This we may state with certainty: Any wizard who shows fondness for the society of Muggles is of low intelligence, with magic so feeble and pitiful that he can only feel himself superior if surrounded by Muggle pig-men.

Nothing is a surer sign of weak magic than a weakness for non-magical company.

In addition to inheriting a most virulent strain of blood prejudice from his ancestors, Draco’s father is an impenitent Death Eater who continues to practice Dark Magic in secret. Draco, in other words, starts from a deficit of character and empathy – despite his family wealth.

Inside Madam Malkin’s

In his first discussion with Harry Potter, here are some of the ways Draco manages not to win friends and influence people:

On the question of racing brooms:
“I don’t see why first years can’t have their own. I think I’ll bully father into getting me one and I’ll smuggle it in somehow.”

On the question of playing Quidditch:
“I [play] – Father says it’s a crime if I’m not picked to play for my house, and I must say, I agree.”

On the question of school Houses:
“Imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?”

On the question of Hagrid:
“Oh… I’ve heard of him. He’s sort of a servant, isn’t he?…. I heard he’s sort of savage – lives in a hut on the school grounds and every now and then he gets drunk, tries to do magic, and ends up setting fire to his bed.”

On the question of Harry’s parents being dead:
“Oh, sorry,” said [Draco], not sounding sorry at all. “But they were our kind, weren’t they?”

On the question of Muggle-borns:
“I really don’t think they should let the other sort in, do you? They’re just not the same, they’ve never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What’s your surname, anyway?”

Does Draco have any clue at all on how to make friends with strangers?

As arithmancer pointed out, none of this is intended to be rude. But much of it is rude. And what’s not rude is often disturbing.

From the moment Draco brags about bullying his father and smuggling in a broom, Harry is reminded of Dudley, and that is emphatically not a good thing. Draco is full of himself, bragging about his Quidditch-playing ability, emphasizing his social superiority over those he deems servants, expressly showing a lack of empathy over the fact the boy he’s speaking with is orphaned, and (of course) demonstrating the blood prejudice that he has absorbed from his parents – all without bothering once to find out the actual views of the boy he’s talking with, or anything else about the boy. Had he bothered, he might have had a better idea about how to proceed, but Draco just starts talking. Only when he realizes that he needs to find out whether or not this boy is from one of the old Wizarding families does he bother to ask Harry for any relevant information about himself.

Now, it’s not really possible to determine whether his narcissistic behavior is an innate character flaw or a sort of self-absorption that he has had ingrained in him as a result of his upbringing. But regardless, Harry is hardly impressed.

On the Hogwarts Express

Things get worse, though, on the Hogwarts Express – so bad, in fact, that by the time Harry puts the Sorting Hat on his head, he is begging to be put into any House besides Draco’s.

It all starts when Draco comes into the famous Harry Potter’s compartment and (in excellent Slughorn style!) starts trying to “collect” him, perhaps even bask a little in Harry’s reflected glory. But in a remark aimed precisely at Ron Weasley, Draco makes his fatal mistake… if he wishes to create a positive impression on the famous boy:

“You’ll soon find some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”

Oh, the arrogance! The unutterable arrogance! Harry has spent the last several hours forming a bond with Ron Weasly. What could possess young Malfoy to think that Harry would favor Draco over this new friend?

Perhaps we could say, charitably, that Draco is still something of an extension of his parents. He is only 11. He has not really reached an age where kids start to separate their own beliefs from their parents’ beliefs. But when Harry rebuffs the offer, this young extension of parental prejudice gives a positively chilling reply:

“I’d be careful if I were you, Potter,” he said slowly. “Unless you’re a bit politer, you’ll go the same way as your parents. They didn’t know what was good for them, either. You hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid, and it’ll rub off on you.”

You have just been introduced to a Death Eater perspective of James’ and Lily’s deaths. Significantly, Draco is accompanied by foils Crabbe and Goyle (both sons of Death Eaters), who will go with him into Slytherin – the House that has had a blood prejudice bent since Salazar Slytherin left a Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, the House that has become Death Eater Central since Voldemort began to raise an army.

By filling their son with such venom, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy have inflicted  damage on this “unfortunate boy” as appalling as any of the damage Dumbledore later sees in Dudley.

Yet just as there is hope for Dudley, there is hope for Draco. The wand that chose “the poor Malfoy boy” has a unicorn hair core. Somewhere deep down, there is still a core of innocence and purity in Draco, despite external appearances. We shall see if he fulfills that promise.

The Flight of the Dursleys, Part 3

We last left off with the Dursleys about to make a run for it, after the great letter-down-the-chimney assault. Let’s join them…

On the Lam

Sunday, Day 6: On Day 6 (the day “one less than perfection”), the Dursleys make a run for it, attempting to escape the letters…

Dudley was sniffling in the back seat; his father had hit him round the head for holding them up while he tried to pack his television, VCR, and computer in his sports bag.

They drove. And they drove. Even Petunia didn’t dare ask where they were going. Every now and then Uncle Vernon would take a sharp turn and drive in the opposite direction for a while.

“Shake ’em off… shake ’em off,” he would mutter whenever he did this.

Best moments: Dudley’s packing sense, Uncle Vernon’s muttering. And it just keeps getting better!

Monday, Day 7: Harry is a bit disoriented by the week’s events, so he doesn’t really realize it yet, but this 7th day of letters is also the day before the last day of the 7th month – the day of his 11th birthday. Keep in mind the dying days of the 7th month. It will become important later in the series.

And there are many other 7s in this series: 7 years, 7 Weasley children, 7 players in Quidditch, 7 Potters, 7 intended parts to Voldemort’s soul. And of course, 7 is said to be the most magically powerful number. But of course, all of that is yet to come. Right now, Harry has not even been introduced to the Wizarding World… though the Wizarding World is doing its best to introduce itself to him!

On this 7th day of letters from no one, the Dursleys find that none of their previous attempts to outrun the letters have succeeded. 100 or so letters await Harry at the hotel desk. After hours of driving aimlessly, Petunia sensibly asks Vernon if it might not be a good idea to go home. Instead, Uncle Vernon…

… drove them into the middle of a forest, got out, looked around, shook his head, got back in his car, and off they went again. The same thing happened in the middle of a plowed field, halfway across a suspension bridge, and at the top of a multilevel parking garage.

“Daddy’s gone mad, hasn’t he?” Dudley asked Aunt Petunia dully late that afternoon.

Finally, he finds a wave-crashed island offshore with a damp and battered shack. Certainly, no post can arrive there. Yet in what Daggerstone has called “Decidedly THE funniest Deus ex machina,” with less than one second to go to Harry’s birthday, Harry hears a…

BOOM.

The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the door. Someone was outside, knocking to come in.

The Wizarding World will not be dissuaded.

Best moment: Dudley inquiring after his father’s sanity.

Next time: “Harry – Yer a Wizard”