Harry shares a tearful goodbye with his parents, although their parting is delayed by the small matter that locating Platform 9-3/4 is a bit more troublesome than they anticipated. Fortunately, they meet the Weasleys, who recognize Harry and are willing to help him get onto the platform. Unfortunately, they also mention that Harry is the hero that defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort, which confounds and frightens his parents. Harry panics and flees through the barrier.
Harry arrives at the platform, and Ron follows close behind. He asks if he's really Harry Potter. Harry tries to dodge the question, but Ron's a bit too dim-witted to follow his conspiracy theory explanation.
To prevent more people from identifying him, Harry dons a makeshift disguise by wrapping a winter scarf around his head, and insists that he be called by an alias from now on. Ron suggests Mr. Cannon, a reference to the Quidditch team. This leads to Harry asking what Quidditch is.
Following Ron's explanation, Harry concludes that it sounds like an okay sport, except for the fact that the Snitch completely destroys the game balance and literally makes the rest of the game pointless. Ron is horrified that Harry would even suggest getting rid of the Snitch. Harry finds himself becoming increasingly frustrated with Ron's dim-wittedness.
It's at this point that Draco shows up. He and Ron have a spat revolving around what to call the disguised Harry, which Harry breaks up by settling on Mr. Bronze. Ron gives Harry an ultimatum: tell Draco to go away, or he won't be Harry's friend. Harry simply responds that Draco is welcome to stay with him, and that he won't let anyone dictate who he should be friends with. Defeated, Ron leaves. Draco advises Harry to learn how to avoid talking to people like him in the future, which Harry acknowledges.
Harry asks how Draco saw through his disguise. Draco simply says that he saw a boy with a scarf wrapped around his head, and concluded that the only boy who could be so eccentric was the one he met at Madam Malkin's. On that topic, he thanks Harry for saving his hide from his father, and Harry thanks him in turn for helping him save face with McGonagall.
Draco reveals his penchant for social manipulation when he tells of what happened after the incident. Draco's father had been pushing him to make friends at Hogwarts (mainly for the social benefits, of course), and so when Draco explained that that was what he was doing, his father rewards him with an ice-cream. Amazed, Harry commends Draco's ability to spin a bad situation into a favorable outcome. Draco clarifies that in actuality, his father didn't really believe him; he was actually rewarding him for bluffing so skillfully. As it turns out, Draco actually gets lessons on how to manipulate people.
The topic turns to Lucius Malfoy himself. Harry asks Draco if he's really certain that his father loves him, or if he merely sees him as a means. He asks this because word on the street is that Lucius is evil with a capital E. Draco merely responds with an anecdote: he once fell off a broom and cracked his ribs, and Lucius missed a Wizengamot vote to be at his bedside. Harry is surprised that Draco would share something so private, until Draco expects him to open up to him in turn.
Harry points out that he's sees through Draco's social manipulation, and yet he can't bring himself to decline. Cautiously (albeit clumsily) deciding on what private tidbit to offer to Draco, he settles on admitting that he wishes his own father took him as seriously as Lucius does Draco.
Draco suggests that he and Harry get a drink. They come across a vendor selling a curious canned beverage called Comed-Tea. As the vendor demonstrates, when you drink it, something unexpected happens in front of you, causing you to spit it out. (And it leaves no mess afterward.) Draco dismisses it as a childish prank, but Harry is flabbergasted; the effects of the drink seem to suggest that it has reality-warping properties, and yet such a powerful product is being sold for a mere five Knuts.
Harry buys twenty-five cans of Comed-Tea, determined to discover the properties behind it. Harry and Draco each take a can and start drinking. Nothing happens at first; the vendor clarifies that it works once per can. Harry is doubtful that anything will make him do a spit-take at this point, since he's anticipating the effect. But sure enough, something surprises them both: a copy of The Quibbler with the front-page headline BOY-WHO-LIVED GETS DRACO MALFOY PREGNANT. The only thing that keeps Harry from screaming in pure, existential terror is the fact that he's stumbled upon a truly important scientific problem.
After they calm down, and Draco expresses newfound admiration for the beverage, Harry opens another can and demands to know who wrote the headline. A girl named Luna Lovegood, Draco answers; apparently she went crazy after her mother died, and her father, who owns The Quibbler, frequently consults her for headlines because he's convinced she's a seer.
- Draco: She has some sort of perverse obsession with the Malfoys, too, and her father is politically opposed to us so he prints every word. As soon as I'm old enough I'm going to rape her.
Spitting out his Comed-Tea, and only just now realizing what sort of twisted individual he's been associating with, Harry frantically attempts to defuse the situation, claiming he was merely surprised that Draco admitted such a thing in public. Draco answers that he's not worried; it'd be her word against his. After all, he's the son of a Noble House, so the case would go to the highest court, where his father has the votes.
It's right about at this point that Harry stops seeing Draco as a potential friend. But the sad thing, Harry realizes, is that Draco isn't evil; he's simply been raised to believe that his enemies are less than human. He briefly wonders if he could fix this sort of thinking by lining up and killing all the blood purists, before remembering that it's been tried.
Harry takes this opportunity to ask exactly what blood purity is. In Draco's explanation, the greatest achievement of wizardkind lies in the past, with the four founders of Hogwarts. As time passes, and wizards interbreed with Muggles, the magic fades. If things continue as they are, the pure bloodline will be lost, the magic will disappear, and everyone will be living in squalor like Muggles.
The description is perfectly engineered to persuade listeners, Harry notes. Except, he rebuts, Muggles are far, far more advanced than Draco realizes. He counters with the Enlightenment bloodline; that Muggles have developed their own incredible powers, independent of wizards, and that through these powers civilization will still stand, magic or no.
Draco doesn't believe him, so Harry asks if wizards have ever been to the Moon. Draco finds the concept of space travel inconceivable, exactly the reaction he was hoping for. After a quick trip into his trunk, Harry presents Draco with a textbook which proves that Muggles have gone to the Moon. He shows him a photograph of the Earth as seen from the Moon. He shows them the rocket they used to get there. He explains that it was a monumental effort that took more people than live in Magical Britain.
With each page and each photograph, Draco's sheltered worldview crumbles.
Harry explains that they can do all this without magic, because they use The Scientific Method. It's more difficult and more tedious than magic, but it has greater application and potential, and the knowledge accumulates over the generations. In fact, Harry says, the fading of magic isn't a problem at all; in a few more decades, science will be able to find out what makes a wizard, and ensure that the capacity for magic passes on to the new generation.
Suddenly overcome with humility, Draco fears that wizards don't even have a place in the world. Harry assures him that magic and science are not mutually exclusive. Even Draco, a pure-blooded wizard, can train himself to think rationally and scientifically. If he starts to think of himself as a human instead of a wizard, he can use the human art to enhance his magic.
Draco takes the bait. He wonders aloud if the combined powers of science and magic would allow them to take over Magical Britain. Harry tells him that he's thinking too small; there's a whole universe out there to conquer. But, warns Harry, to use this power, Draco must be prepared to pay a great cost:
- Harry: Learning to admit you're wrong... you have to learn how to admit you're wrong, over and over and over again... Always questioning yourself, always taking another look at things you've always taken for granted... and every time you change your mind, you change yourself.
Harry tells Draco that he will share the knowledge of Muggles with Draco, on the condition that he leave his father out of it. He wants this to be an exchange of minds between himself and Draco, not between himself and Lucius.
Draco says he needs some time to consider Harry's offer, and walks off. With the conversation finally over, Harry finally allows himself to relax.
Tropes present in this chapter:
- Kick the Dog: Draco Malfoy.