Harry realizes the full scope of his situation. He's got nowhere to run, and he thinks that he's most likely been expelled from Hogwarts. After getting his thoughts straight, he realizes he might be able to disguise his trunk and fly to London. He goes to get his Invisibility Cloak, but realizes that he's being watched by something big that has gleaming eyes. Harry falls out of shock, and moments later, a bus shows up — as we know, the Knight Bus.
Stan Shunpike asks why Harry was sitting on the ground, and Harry says he fell, which Stan finds hilarious. Harry tells Stan there was something "like a dog, but massive", but Stan is staring at his scar. Harry quickly says his name is Neville Longbottom.
Somehow the Knight Bus ends up in Wales, even though Harry was trying to get to London. From Surrey. I guess if you're magic, bus routes don't need to make sense. Of course, some could argue they don't make much sense anyway. Stan has to wake up a Madam Marsh (do we see her again? I swear we do), and she is described as being green and holding a handkerchief to her mouth.
Sirius is in the Daily Prophet, which surprises Harry as he'd only seen him on the Muggle news. The Prophet describes a gun as "a kind of metal wand that Muggles use to kill each other." That's… depressingly accurate. Harry thinks that Sirius looks just like a vampire because of how gaunt and pale he is. I don't think vampires are sexy in this 'verse.
Ernie explains that Sirius was a big supporter of You-Know-Who, though he says "You-Know-'Oo" because JKR loves writing regional accents. Thank God she never gives Seamus an Irish accent.
Harry says "Voldemort", which of course causes panic. We learn the Ballad of Sirius, and Harry is understandably horrified.
Then something I find interesting happens: Harry wonders whether or not they'll ever be talking about him. He imagines the conversation as follows: "'Ear about that 'Arry Potter? Blew up 'is aunt! We 'ad 'im 'here on the Knight Bus, di'n't we, Ern? 'E was tryin' to run for it…" Harry isn't trying to sympathize with Sirius, but he does know how it feels to be the possible subject of dismay. It is also a distortion of what really happened — Harry actually did blow up his aunt, but there was still more to the story, as there was with Sirius's — if on a much, much larger scale.
Harry finally ends up at his intended destination, and a voice says, "There you are, Harry." Stan and Ernie realize they've been driving Harry Potter, and Harry realizes the Minister of Magic is waiting for him.
Fudge takes Harry to the Leaky Cauldron, and introduces himself properly. Is the wizarding world so repressed that its own inhabitants don't recognize their Minister? Creepy. (Harry does recognize him, but plays dumb.) Fudge offers Harry tea and crumpets, assuring him that "Marjorie Dursley" will be fine and has been Obliviated. Harry isn't sure why he's not in more trouble, but Fudge continues to talk about Harry's family, having no idea that the kid might be worried that he's in trouble for, you know, blowing someone up.
Harry asks why he's not being punished. Fudge acts like Harry stepped on a bug and hand-waves it as a minor accident. "We don't send people to Azkaban just for blowing up their aunts!" Not now, you don't…
Harry isn't buying it, but is pooh-pooh'd more. He's then bought away with a free room, and told to stay in Diagon Alley. Harry asks if the Minister can sign his permission slip. I can't tell if this is a mark of how young he still is — it makes me think of when kids will write the Mayor asking them to do their Social Studies homework for them — or if he's tuned into the fact that Fudge seems more than eager to please him, and willing to take advantage of that. I'm inclined to think it's a little bit of both.
It's funny because before book five, I didn't really like Harry. Yes, you read that right — in the book that made most people hate Harry, I liked him more because I felt he was finally showing really responding to the screwed up world around him. Now I'd argue that Harry's defiance actually began the last two chapters. Harry DOES notice the wrongs around him, and he IS going to play the system before it plays him.
Hedwig is already in Harry's room, having found him five minutes after Harry arrived. Aw. Harry strokes Hedwig and says, "It's been a very weird night, Hedwig."
Chapter Four: The Leaky Cauldron
Harry is enjoying his freedom, which includes watching dwarves and hags, as well as exploring shops at Diagon Alley and eating under umbrellas outside cafes. I have to admit, the last part doesn't fit my image of DA at all — I'd always seen it as a very Victorian-esque village, but the image she describes sounds quite modern. On the other hand, I like the juxtaposition. Harry goes into Quality Quidditch Supplies one day, and spots the Firebolt, which is supposed to be state of the art and incredibly fast. Harry doesn't want to spend the money, so he just goes by it every day, staring at it sadly. Aww.
Harry also learns that the Monster Book of Monsters is a required book for Care of Magical Creatures. Harry is relieved because he'd been worried that Hagrid had "wanted help with some terrifying new pet." Little does he know…
Harry then sees another book, one about death omens. The cover has a picture of a Grim, which Harry realizes looks just like the dog he saw. He keeps telling himself that it was just a coincidence, but later, when trying to fix his hair, the mirror remarks that he's fighting a losing battle. Which also refers to his insistence that he's not in danger.
A few days pass, and while Harry sees various classmates (including poor Neville, who's being scolded by his grandmother), it isn't until the last day that he sees the people he's really been looking for: Ron and Hermione, who are sitting together eating ice cream. Apparently they've been looking for him as much as the reverse. Arthur knew where Harry was because he works for the Ministry. Hermione is offended that Harry blew up his aunt, whereas Ron finds it a laugh riot.
The Weasleys and Hermione are staying at the Leaky Cauldron, so the trio all get to go to King's Cross together. Hermione talks about all of the classes she's taking, including Muggle Studies (even though, as Ron points out, she's Muggle-born) because "it'll be fascinating to study them from the Wizarding point of view." I always wondered whether or not that class was actually a little patronizing. Given the wizarding view of Muggles, I'm not sure I'd want to take it.
Hermione's parents also gave her money to get herself a birthday present, so she's trying to decide what to buy herself. Isn't that something grandparents and distant aunts do, not parents?
Ron takes Scabbers to the Magical Menagerie, where we learn wizards keep the following as pets: purple toads, poisonous orange snails, rabbits that turn into top hats (ha!), ravens, and black rats that skip. We learn that Scabbers is "quite old" (foreshadowing!) has a toe missing from his front paw (everybody: foreshadowing!), and has no powers. The witch at the counter informs Ron that garden rats don't usually live more than three years.
Ron's given some tonic, but before they can leave, a huge orange cat tries to eat Scabbers. (And we've met Crookshanks.) Scabbers runs out the door, Harry and Ron behind him. Naturally Hermione soon follows them, with Crookshanks in tow. She insists that Crookshanks didn't mean to hurt anyone.
The trio join Arthur, and Harry sees he was reading about Sirius in the paper. Ron asks if they'd get a reward for catching him. Arthur tells him that "Black's not going to be caught by a thirteen- year-old wizard." Where has Arthur been the past two years? Just saying.
Ginny shows up with the others and goes red at the sight of Harry, muttering a greeting. Puppy love!
Percy is very pleased with having been appointed Head Boy, and greets them in a rather standoffish manner. Harry remarks that "it was rather like being introduced to the mayor." The twins make fun of Percy, but of course Molly just emphasizes that Percy got the Head Boy badge. Percy actually reminds me of Wesley in the third season of Buffy. "Hello, Buffy. My name is Percival Ignatius Weasley, and I am your new Watcher."
Molly points out that the twins haven't been made Prefect, and George is offended by the idea. (Interestingly, Fred remains mum on the subject.) She goes on to state that Ginny needs a better example. No mention is made of Ron. Poor Ron… poor everyone, really. Could you imagine if Percy had been The Boy Who Lived?
Molly: Why can't you be more like Percy? He survived You-Know-Who!
Everyone but Percy: …
Tom hosts the Weasleys and friends to a dinner of five courses. Did Arthur do Tom a favor or something? That sounds rather excessive. The Ministry is providing cars, and George says it's for Percy, with flags that have "HB" on them. Fred adds that "HB" stands for Humongous Bighead. Molly says it's because of all their luggage. Percy takes the opportunity to mention that Ron dumped his things on Percy's bed. No one likes a tattle-tale, Percy.
When everyone goes to bed, Percy and Ron get into an argument. It seems Percy's Head Boy badge has disappeared, as has Scabbers' rat tonic. Harry heads downstairs to see if it's there when he overhears the Weasleys talking. To keep it short:
Arthur: Yeah, we've kinda got to tell him. (Wait, someone has common sense here?)
Molly: But he'll be scared! (As opposed to if the guy starts chasing him and Harry has no idea why?)
Arthur: He could've been killed!
Molly: But he wasn't!
Arthur: But he could be!
Molly: He won't be!
Arthur: He could be!
Molly: *Drops the bombshell* Do we even know Sirius Black is really after Harry?
Dun dun dun.
They go on like this for a while. Harry grabs the tonic, learns from the twins that they changed Percy's badge to "Bighead Boy", and lays in his bed. He realizes that Hogwarts is safe because of Dumbledore. I miss when Harry actually had reasons to trust Dumbledore, even if Dumbledore was more interesting when he became morally ambiguous.
Harry also figures the Azkaban guards would be helpful. (That won't last long.) Harry's more annoyed that they thought him incapable of looking after himself, since he has escaped Voldemort three times. Harry then remembers the beast, but just tells himself he's not going to be murdered. The mirror chimes in, "That's the spirit, dear."
Next installment: Just who are these Azkaban guards, and why are they the ultimate Debbie Downers?