Recap / Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone C 1 The Boy Who Lived

And so the famous literary phenomenon opens with the line, "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

Are they ever. The Dursleys, we learn, are the most dull, boring people who ever lived and proud of it. Vernon Dursley is a blustering, overweight White Collar Worker who lives in Stepford Suburbia with his gossipy wife Petunia, and their infant son Dudley, whom they've already managed to turn into a Spoiled Brat. To the Dursleys, this is the ideal family life. The only thorn in their side are the mysterious Potters, whom they are related to, but have severed ties with.

The story follows Vernon as he goes to work one day. Unfortunately for him, strange things are happening around town. A cat is reading a map outside their house, there are clusters of whispering people wearing cloaks, and flocks of owls are shooting through the sky in broad daylight. Being such a pedantic, unimaginative fellow, Vernon is alarmed at anything out of the ordinary and tries to keep his mind on work. But then he hears the whispering people mention someone named Harry Potter. Vernon is horrified at first, but then he convinces himself that Harry isn't likely to be the son of the Potters they know. "Potter", he reasons, is a common name after all and he isn't even completely sure what his nephew's name is anyway. After he gets home from work, Vernon watches the news only to learn that the day's strange events were not contained to their neighborhood, but have been happening all over Britain. He choses to confront his wife. She is snippy, as they usually pretend her sister, Mrs. Potter, does not exist. Vernon decides to end the conversation without mentioning he actually heard someone speak the name "Potter".

After night falls, a white-bearded, wizardy-looking dude named Albus Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive and the cat from before transforms into a woman he greets as Professor McGonagall. They talk about various things we don't yet have the context to fully understand. At the very least, it's made clear that Dumbledore and McGonagall are part of some sort of other world hidden from "Muggles" like the Dursleys. They talk about an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort, who has caused much terror and killed many people. It appears that Voldemort is "gone", having mysteriously vanished after failing to kill the infant Harry Potter, but has nevertheless orphaned him.

Dumbledore has decided to leave Harry with the Dursleys, as they are his only living relatives. McGonagall objects, but Dumbledore convinces her that Harry should grow up away from the fame and glory he will undoubtedly amass. At this point, a Gentle Giant named Hagrid arrives on a flying motorbike. There is a throwaway mention of Sirius Black, the bike's owner, but it's one of many details which will be missed by all but the most astute first-time readers. Anyway, Hagrid has brought Harry. Baby Harry has been left with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead, which Dumbledore says is permanent.

After Harry is left to the Dursleys as a Doorstop Baby, Hagrid flies away on the motorbike, McGonagall turns back into a cat, and Dumbledore disappears with a swish of his cloak.

Chekhov's Guns:

  • Dumbledore is seen using the device that turns lights on and off, called a "Put-Outer" here but is more properly called the "Deluminator". It ends up playing an important role in ''Deathly Hallows''.
  • McGonagall's Animagus ability. Animagi play an important role in Prisoner of Azkaban.
  • The flying motorbike that brings Harry to Privet Drive for the first time will one day take him away from the place.
  • We also get the first mention of Sirius Black, who did Hagrid a favour by lending him the motorbike.

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