At Flourish and Blotts

chapter four of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

En route to Diagon Alley, Harry takes the Floo to Knockturn Alley by mistake and runs into the Malfoys. He soon ends up in the right place, though, where he and his friends cap a memorable shopping excursion by meeting Gilderoy Lockhart (their new teacher) and watching a fight between Arthur and Lucius before heading home.

Knockturn Alley, by Snapesforte

An old wooden street sign… told him he was in Knockturn Alley.


Weasleys Meet the Grangers, by Heather Campbell

“But you’re Muggles!” said Mr. Weasley delightedly. “We must have a drink!”


Gilderoy Lockhart, by Edgar Torné

“We can actually meet him!” Hermione squealed. “I mean, he’s written almost the whole booklist!”


Gilderoy Lockhart, by Felicia Cano

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said loudly, waving for quiet. “What an extraordinary moment this is! The perfect moment for me to make a little announcement I’ve been sitting on for some time!”


At Flourish and Blotts, by NicoPony

“We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy.”


Arthur vs Lucius, by glockgal

Dozens of heavy spellbooks came thundering down on all their heads….


about the chapter


I always wonder what the backstory is on the relationship between Arthur Weasley and Lucius Malfoy. They certainly have plenty of animosity for each other long before this day, and it’s never really clear why. Arthur is at least a few years older than Lucius, so it probably doesn’t stem from a relationship at Hogwarts. Perhaps it’s simply that each seems to be something of a spokesman in the wizarding world for his respective viewpoint on Muggle relations; either way, I wish we could hear more about it.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

This chapter is the first time we’ve ever heard the phrase “Dark Lord” used to describe Voldemort. The fact that Lucius Malfoy is the one speaking it, along with his context, makes it pretty clear that the title is used primarily by his supporters. I’ve always thought it was interesting that they continue to use this phrase (although here Lucius is in private) – wouldn’t it be something of a giveaway? But we’ll see some evidence down the road that there might be other reasons for it, too.

The Wizarding World

Wizards don’t seem to place as high a premium on privacy as we Muggles are used to (or at least as high as I’m used to). For example, I find it a bit disconcerting that Dumbledore knows Harry is staying at the Burrow – how does he know? Some kind of magical surveillance? Isn’t that a little Big Brother-ey? But none of the Weasleys seem to think twice about it. To the contrary, Molly is genuinely impressed. Perhaps the cultural distinction stems from wizards being such a tight-knit society, or from the wide uses of magic; either way it gives a bit more insight into the closeness of the wizarding world, and how incredibly disruptive Voldemort’s reign of terror must have been for those used to living in it.

Something to Remember

There are lots of great tidbits in this chapter that hint at things we’ll see later on:

  • The Weasleys don’t think twice when they hear explosions from Fred and George’s room. But they also don’t seem to ask, what the heck are those two doing in there?
  • The Dark objects that Harry sees on display in Borgin and Burkes are worth remembering; knowledge of several will prove useful in future years.
  • Finally, another interesting thing to note about Lucius’s visit to Borgin and Burkes is the fact that he’s in a hurry because he has “important business elsewhere.” But an hour later we see he’s still shopping, this time at Flourish and Blotts. So what important thing is he attending to?


The Final Word

“Gilderoy Lockhart is a great example. I knew his name had to have an impressive ring to it. I was looking through the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – a great source for names – and came across Gilderoy, a handsome Scottish highwayman. Exactly what I wanted. And then I found Lockhart on a war memorial to the First World War. The two together said everything I wanted about the character. “–J.K. Rowling, on how she finds names for her characters, November 2002

32 Responses to “At Flourish and Blotts”

  1. Perhaps Lucius just doesn’t want to spend much time in B&B as it seems like the sort of place that would make any wizard feel uncomfortable even if they’re one of the “dark side”!

  2. I always assumed his “important business” was to “casually meet” the Weasleys at some store and slip Riddle’s diary in between Ginny’s school things.

  3. Lola, that’s my assumption too – I was just saving the spoiler until a later chapter, but I’ll definitely get back to it!

  4. The explosions coming out of the twins room might have to do with Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.

  5. Something i’ve wondered when i re-read the chapter, when harry is hiding from the malfoys in Borgin and Burkes, he hides in a cabinet. Could it possibly be the vanishing cabinet we see later on in the series?

  6. Soraya, I thought about that too, but would he not have vanished while in it? Or does it require some form of magic that Harry didn’t use, because he was simply hiding?
    Though, it does seem strange that a small dark arts shop would have more than one cabinet large enough to hold a twelve (and later, seventeen) year old boy.

  7. Soraya and Shea, I think it is the vanishing cabinet, but the reason Harry didn’t vanish is because they’re broken, and neither has been fixed yet. But now that I think about it, in the fifth book, Montague was shoved into a vanishing cabinet and dissapeared, apparently in limbo between the broken cabinets. That’s a really interesting side note… just might look into that.

  8. Also, I didn’t mention this in my comment above, but I would like to say that I am in love with NicoPony’s artwork. The detain in them is astounding.

  9. Another point to note about the Vanishing Cabinet: Harry doesn’t shut himself in, but rather leaves the door open a crack in order to spy on Malfoy. So assuming it is the cabinet, he could have had a very interesting experience if he’d shut the door….

  10. That’s true, I didn’t think about that. Hmmm

  11. A sentence that always stands out to me at the start of this chapter is: “What Harry found most unusual about his life at Ron’s, however, wasn’t the talking mirror or the clanking ghoul: it was the fact that everyone there seemed to like him.” Poor Harry… it’s so sad that he’s twelve years old and just experienciong what it’s like to be in a loving and accepting family for the first time.

  12. With regard to the privacy or lack thereof – wouldn’t Dumbledore be keeping a very close eye on Harry, given that Voldemort had already tried to kill him once (as a baby) and Dumbledore suspected that he would be back to try again at some stage? I would say that his surveillance on Harry would have been protective rather than “nosy”.

  13. I’ve wondered how is it that Fred and George can carry on with small explosions from their bedroom when they’re not allowed to do magic outside of school, especially with Molly as a mother. Dumbledore later on told Harry that the Ministry can detect magic, but not who does the magic, which is why the Ministry accused Harry of a Hover Charm, though it was really Dobby performing the magic. It gets unclear, though, because then later on there’s the “Trace” which does specifically detect underage magic, so if that is true, why aren’t Fred in George in trouble from the Ministry for their small explosions?

  14. I agree with Electa. Also, it would seem that Dumbledore would want to know if Harry leaves the Dursley’s as he would no longer be under the magical protection of his aunt. Right? Because, if Voldemort were strong enough, he could come after Harry at the Burrow (or any other place).

  15. One other thing about Dumbledore: he seems to have a preexisting relationship with the Weasleys – maybe through Molly’s brother’s and/or the First Order of the Phoenix? (I know Molly wasn’t in the 1st order, but we don’t know how much she and/or Arthur knew about it.) Perhaps he has even encouraged the relationship by talking to the Weasley’s about Harry and knows Harry is going to the Burrow. Maybe that is another reason Molly made sure to send Harry presents at Christmas. Something to think about…

  16. Actually, Dobby describes Voldemort as “Dark Lord” a couple of chapters back when we meet him. It’s like a hint about what type of people his owners are, and with the introduction of Lucius here, it’s also a hint to specifically who those owners are.

  17. Electa/Laura, I see what you’re saying – what seemed remarkable to me wasn’t so much the fact that Dumbledore was keeping such close watch on Harry, so much as the fact that it seemed so ho-hum to the Weasleys.

    Pam, your idea is interesting, but I don’t see much evidence that Dumbledore is chatting with the Weasleys about Harry at this point in his life. To the contrary, two and a half years after this, when he’s assembling the Order, Dumbledore asks Molly, “am I right in thinking that I can count on you and Arthur?” which would lead me to believe this relationship hasn’t been established yet.

  18. @Erica. It wasn’t broken though. I was just reading the chapter on the Deathday Party, and was reminded that the vanishing cabinet in Hogwarts didn’t actually get broken until later that year when Peeves dropped it above Filch’s office. I think it was described that the two form a kind of passage between the two, so maybe if Harry had turned around while he was in there he would have seen a strange sight.

  19. So I have been wrong for years about how J. K. Rowling came up with Lockhearts name. I learned in college that there was a memory psychologist named Lockheart and I was sure (due to Gilderoy’s speciality) that she had to have gotten the name from the psychologist. It’s still a neat fact, even if it isn’t where the name came from.

  20. @BestSeriesEver :

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I remember, the trace does detect underage magic, it’s just that there is so much magic that goes on in a wizarding household, from cleaning to repairs to accidental magic that the kids may do, that they really can’t distinguish who is responsible for what in that setting.

    Also, I was under the impression that the ministry only punished kids when the magic was performed intentionally and/or in the presence of muggles, thereby violation the Wizard Privacy Act(?).

    So, if I am correct, the only reason Harry was punished was because it was in front of Muggles AND intentional.

    However, this doesn’t explain why Harry was blamed when, in fact, it was Dobby, who wasn’t even supposed to be there. The only real explanation that I can think of is that either, A) The trace simply detects magic, weather or not it was intentional, and which wizards were there, so, Harry, being the only wizard, was blamed, or B) Dobby did some form of deep, house-elf magic (like we will see him do later on in the series), that tricked the trace.

    The second option is the one that I personally subscribe to, just because Dobby was trying to keep out of serious trouble and get Harry expelled at the same time.

  21. Josie, I know we can’t trust JKR‘s arithmetic, but I think Arthur is only about four years older than Lucius, so they probably did overlap at Hogwarts. (Lucius is 41 in autumn 1995, suggesting he was born between September 1953 and August 1954. Arthur and Molly were married “suddenly” in February 1970, although they had been a couple since school. This suggests they had not been out of school very long when they eloped. I will therefore tentatively suggest that they were born in 1950, and that Arthur (born February) was only just 20 and Molly (born October) still 19 when they married.

    Arthur and Narcissa are second cousins once removed. That’s a sufficiently distant relationship should they wish to avoid one another, but they probably did have some acquaintance in common and move in the same circles occasionally.

    BestSeriesEver, it seems to me that the Trace detects all magic performed in the vicinity. The Ministry doesn’t worry about it if an adult wizard lives in the household, but if a school-aged child is the only wizard inhabitant, or if it happens in a public Muggle area, that’s when the law is considered to have been broken.

    But Fred & George? It’s possible you can do a certain amount of potions without strictly doing “magic”, in the same way you can use a magical gadget without casting a spell yourself. I think Molly just hoped that was the sort of thing they were doing and didn’t ask too many questions.

  22. Personally, I always thought that the owls magically found whomever the letter was addressed to. I mean, I know Arthur says “Dumbledore already knows you’re here, Harry” but isn’t Hedwig able to find Sirius in GoF, while he’s constantly on the move? I suppose it could depend on the bird, but I’ve always thought that the different pets in the Wizarding World were supposed to have certain magical abilities, mundane or not. Perhaps what Arthur said is a faux pas on JKR’s part, for it being early in the series? Sometimes I really wish she would come on this site and clear up some of these questions for us!

    And about the vanishing cabinet, I always assumed it teleported one from one cabinet to the next, not actually forming a literal passage. But I agree with you, Josie, I think the cabinet would have to be closed all the way for it to send Harry, either between the two, or into Limbo, depending on whether the cabinet in B&B was broken or not. It’s also plausible that there would need to be some kind of magic used to activate them, however I doubt when Montague was shoved in, that whoever did the shoving (I think Fred & George?) would know of these words. Although (and I hate to use the movies as a point of reference, but) in the movie for HBP, Malfoy uses the term “Harmonia Nocterne Passus” to activate the cabinets. Though, this is the movie, so it can’t exactly be called accurate to the universe 100%.

  23. I know this is some two years after the original comments, but I don’t believe Lucius’ ‘important business’ was the Weasleys, keeping in mind the fact that the Weasleys had arrived in the Leaky Cauldron just seconds before Harry appeared in Borgin and Bourkes. Lucius could not have known that the Weasleys were even in Diagon Alley that day.

  24. Lewis, this isn’t the most popular thing I’ve ever written, but I tried to take this question on in an essay:

    Some food for thought, at least. I do think that it’s unlikely Lucius just happened to have the diary on him, and just happened to decide to give it to Ginny. He had a plan for that diary that day, the question is just whether giving it to Ginny specifically *was* that plan.

  25. @Andrea I was just going to quote the same sentence. It breaks my heart every time I read it.

  26. Re: the privacy issue–Remember, Molly keeps tabs on her family in a similar way. She’s got that charmed “clock” that indicates where each Weasly is, more or less. I think that, to her, the fact that Dumbledore is keeping track of Harry’s location is an indication that D’dore feels as protective of him as she does of her husband and children. Other wizzards may not have reacted as warmly to that information, for all we know.

  27. It just occurred to me – the Weasleys are buying Ginny’s textbooks secondhand, and purchase “a very old, very battered copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration”. Shouldn’t she be able to use one of her brothers’ old books? Even if Ron is still using his copy (we didn’t see a second year guide to Transfiguration on the book list this year), surely Percy has moved on to a more advanced textbook by now! It can’t be an editions issue, because the book they buy is described as very old anyway.
    Anyway, not a big deal, but since the Weasleys are trying to save where they can, you’d think they’d be passing textbooks down the line…

  28. Something to Remember: Percy’s attitude can be inferred as suspicious in this chapter. Even his brothers notice something odd about him – he didn’t gloat as much about his twelve OWLs, he locks himself up in his room all day, and he keeps on writing letters. Of course, the real reason for his behavior is, in fact, nothing worrisome at all. ;)

  29. This is a very minor point, but as to Lucius’s “important business”: I would venture to guess that he had to go to Gringotts’ first and retrieve the diary from his vault. After all, the other Horcrux that is guarded by a Death Eater resides in a Gringotts’ vault.

  30. I always thought it was a given that the vanishing cabinet in B&B matched up with the same one that Malfoy spent most of his sixth year trying to fix. I thought all the Death Eaters came in through B&B. (But I don’t claim to be an HP expert, so maybe I’m wrong there.)

  31. Lucius’ hatred of Arthur stems from the redhead’s proposing of the muggle protection act, which was to protect muggles from potentially harmful magical objects. Lucius’ house was raided as a result of this law (which was passed sometime during the year which ended harry’s first year and saw the beginning of his second, but was proposed before then) as was some of his allies, which would have lead to their meeting I imagine. The two families are also polar opposites, and effectively figureheads for their beliefs (the families I mean)
    I do think that Lucius meant to give it to ginny. It is probable that he believed that they would be at flourish and blotts to see lockhart, given how obsessed the rest of the wizarding world seemed to be with the guy, lucius’ prejudices would probably have seen the weasleys as the sort of people who would worship such a champion to fighting the dark forces.

  32. In relation to the ‘How does Dumbledore know where Harry goes?’ question, I think Mrs Figg was keeping an eye on Harry. In Order of The Phoenix she reveals she Is a squib and always made Harry’s visits to her house terrible when he was younger so the Dursleys would keep sending him there. She probably heard the commotion of the flying car and sent an owl straight to Dumbledore, as I think she does all through the summer to tell Dumbledore of any notable movements. But this is just my theory :)

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