Uncle Vernon dashes to the door with a rifle in his hands in time for another deafening knock. The door finally swings off its hinges and reveals a giant man standing in the doorway: Hagrid, the Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts. Uncle Vernon threatens Hagrid with his rifle, but Hagrid simply takes the gun away from him and bends it into a knot. He presents Harry with a slightly squashed birthday cake and officially introduces himself. He is shocked to discover that Harry has no knowledge of Hogwarts or his own magical background, particularly in terms of his parent’s deaths. He scolds the Dursleys for keeping Harry from reading his letter and for treating him miserably throughout his life.
Aunt Petunia erupts at Hagrid’s accusations and reveals that they lied to Harry to make sure that he would not become a magical freak like her sister. Realizing that Harry has absolutely no idea what is going on, Hagrid tells Harry the truth about his birth, wizard heritage, and unexpected survival of Voldemort’s killing curse. Instead of dying in a car crash, Lily and James Potter had been murdered by the dark wizard; this explains the bright green light that Harry remembers. Harry tries to absorb all of this information but decides that Hagrid must be mistaken; how could he, of all people, be a wizard? Hagrid chuckles and then asks if any strange things had ever happened to him. Harry thinks hard and realizes that the bizarre occurrences in his life – growing back his hair overnight and setting the boa constrictor free – had been evidence of magical power.
Uncle Vernon finally interrupts the conversation and informs Hagrid that he will not allow Harry to attend Hogwarts and become a crackpot freak like Dumbledore. At this insult, Hagrid loses his temper and gives Dudley a pig’s tail. He is quickly abashed at his action and asks Harry not to tell anyone: he was expelled from Hogwarts as a student and is not supposed to use magic.
The next morning, Harry wakes up slowly, convinced that he had been having a wonderful dream. He is thrilled when he sees Hagrid asleep on the sofa because it means that he wasn’t dreaming and is actually a wizard. After a quick breakfast, Harry and Hagrid head off to Diagon Alley in London to buy Harry’s school supplies. Harry is suddenly concerned because he has no money to pay for Hogwarts or magical books, and he knows that the Dursleys will not help him. Hagrid informs him that his parents left him a comfortable inheritance at the wizard’s bank, Gringotts, and the Potter vault will be their first stop in Diagon Alley.
On their way, Harry goes over the list of things that he must bring to Hogwarts, including three sets of black work robes, a black pointed had, a wand, a cauldron, one pair of dragon hide gloves, and several standard magical school books. In order to access Diagon Alley, Harry and Hagrid must enter the Leaky Cauldron, a famous pub that serves as the Alley’s entrance point. All of the customers in the pub are ecstatic to meet Harry when they recognize him, and he begins to realize how famous he is in the wizarding world. Harry also meets Professor Quirrell, a meek wizard with a stammer who teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
In the back alley of the pub, Hagrid taps against the brick wall with his wand, and the archway to Diagon Alley suddenly appears. First, they go to Gringotts, where Harry and Hagrid are escorted to Harry’s vault by a goblin named Griphook. As Harry piles some of the money into a bag, Hagrid explains wizard money, which is made up of gold Galleons, silver Sickles, and bronze Knuts. They go to another vault, Vault 713, where Hagrid picks up a mysterious little package and conceals it in his robe. When Harry asks about the package, Hagrid is gives a vague answer, explaining that he is doing official Hogwarts business and Harry shouldn’t ask about it.
After Gringotts, Hagrid takes Harry to Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions to be fitted for his school robes. During his fitting, Harry meets an unpleasant boy who is also going to be a first-year student at Hogwarts. The boy talks about the importance of pure wizarding blood and mentions Slytherin and Quidditch. Feeling insecure about his ignorance, Harry asks Hagrid about all of the things that the boy mentioned. Hagrid explains that Quidditch is a wizard sport and Slytherin is one of the four houses of Hogwarts, in which Voldemort was a student. He assures Harry that he will learn everything that he needs to know at Hogwarts.
Harry and Hagrid continue to shop for the things that he needs for Hogwarts and go to the Apothecary for potion ingredients and a shop called Flourish and Blotts for his schoolbooks. Hagrid also buys Harry a snowy owl from Eeylops Owl Emporium as a birthday present; Harry decides to name her Hedwig. Their last stop is Ollivander’s, the wand shop in Diagon Alley. Mr. Ollivander has Harry test several wands, informing him that the wand chooses the wizard, rather than the other way around. Finally, Harry tries a wand made of holly wood and phoenix feather, and red sparks shoot out of the tip – clearly, the wand has chosen Harry. As Mr. Ollivander is wrapping of the wand, he tells Harry that the only other wand containing a feather from the same phoenix belonged to Voldemort and had given him his scar.
Hagrid’s arrival is Harry’s first face-to-face encounter with a member of the magical world that he left behind as an infant. Not only does Hagrid provide Harry with his first introduction to his wizard background, he tells him the truth about his parent’s death. This knowledge of Voldemort and the curse that killed his parents will become a crucial aspect of Harry’s character and a large part of his determination to face Voldemort later in the book.
Harry suddenly realizes that his entire life would have been different without Voldemort’s inference. Not only would he have grown up in the wizarding world, but the unpleasant and neglectful Durlseys would have been replaced by his parents, two individuals who loved him and actually understood the transition that he is going through. With Aunt Petunia’s revelation about her sister, Harry also understands his aunt and uncle for the first time. Their neglect and cruelty toward him was not simply personal hatred for him, but rather hatred for his parents and what their life represented.
Still, Harry’s first instinct is that Hagrid must be mistaken. Despite the strange events that have happened in his life, Harry does not believe that he is special enough to be a wizard. He is completely ordinary, doomed forever to wear Dudley’s hand-me-downs and be a social pariah at school. The modesty and humility that Harry displays in this scene are constant aspects of his character in this book and the rest of his series. He never believes that he is worthy of the constant attention that he receives as “the boy-who-lived,” and, as a result, he takes additional steps to try to prove himself and live up to expectations.
This is another way in which Dumbledore’s decision to leave Harry with the Dursleys becomes an advantage. Because of Harry’s fame in the wizarding world for removing Voldemort from power, there was the possibility that he would become egocentric and arrogant as a wizard and as a man. Instead, the Dursleys’ treatment of him over the past ten years have convinced Harry that he is completely ordinary. His defeat of Voldemort as a baby was unusual, for certain, but he does not attribute it to any skill or power of his own. Still, with the arrival of the letter and Hagrid, Harry is able to escape the Dursleys for the first time and finally begin the journey toward his true potential as a wizard.
Harry’s experiences in Diagon Alley continue to develop his awareness of the wizarding world. For the first time in his life, he feels that he actually belongs somewhere. He is not an outsider as he was in Little Whinging, but rather one of many wizards, a part of a select club in which he is free to develop and succeed on his own terms. Rowling also uses Diagon Alley to introduce an important theme of the book: Harry’s close connection to Voldemort. Rowling had already presented the two characters in opposition to each other in Chapter 1, and it is clear to the reader that Harry will face Voldemort at some point in the future. During Harry’s visit to Mr. Ollivander’s shop, however, Rowling suggests that the relationship between Harry and Voldemort is more than just hero versus villain.