The Knight Bus

chapter three of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

On the run from the Dursleys, Harry is picked up by the Knight Bus, and after a wild ride, is dropped off at the Leaky Cauldron – where the Minister for Magic is waiting for him. Cornelius Fudge declines to punish Harry, though, and tired and confused, Harry passes out for the night.

by Tealin Raintree

He had sensed rather than heard it: someone or something was standing in the narrow gap between the garage and the fence behind him.


Padfooooot, by Agatha Macpie

The pebble-dashed walls of number two suddenly sparkled; the garage door gleamed, and between them Harry saw, quite distinctly, the hulking outline of something very big, with wide, gleaming eyes….


A Ride on the Knight Bus, by Ditraveler

The Knight Bus kept mounting the pavement, but it didn’t hit anything; lines of lampposts, mailboxes, and trash cans jumped out of its way as it approached and back into position once it had passed.


Sirius Black, by pojypojy

Harry looked into the shadowed eyes of Sirius Black, the only part of the sunken face that seemed alive.


Cornelius Fudge, by Edgar Torné

Harry felt a bucketful of ice cascade into his stomach – he had walked right into Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic himself.


about the chapter


It’s always bothered me that every place the Knight Bus visits seems to begin with the letter A. Abergavenny, Anglesea, Aberdeen. And what do they talk about while Harry’s riding the bus? Azkaban. The bus isn’t moving alphabetically – it doesn’t go to those towns in alphabetical order, plus that wouldn’t make much sense anyway – so why would this be the case? Maybe it’s just a strange coincidence, or maybe Rowling is trying to slip something in there that I’ve never caught. But I’d love an explanation. ;)

Something You May Not Have Noticed

I keep thinking about the fact that mailboxes, streetlights, farmhouses, and so forth jump out of the way of the Knight Bus as it approaches – yet it very nearly ran over Harry when he unwittingly hailed it. I kind of wish he hadn’t had time to get out of the way, just to see if he magically jumped out of the Knight Bus’s way as well. Surely the bus’s magic applies to people too, right?

The Wizarding World

If Stan Shunpike is only eighteen or nineteen at most, as Harry guesses, then he would have been sixteen or seventeen when Harry started Hogwarts – and thus a student at Hogwarts along with Harry. But if that were the case, surely Stan would recognize Harry, the school’s most famous student? Perhaps Stan left after his O.W.L.s, or Harry’s estimate of his age is off by a year or two.

The Boy Who Lived

When Harry runs into Cornelius Fudge, it becomes clear in an instant that his protection is one of the Ministry’s top, top priorities, no matter the circumstances. Between Fudge and Dumbledore, Harry has only just begun to get an inkling of how seriously they take his safety, and of the type of surveillance he’s probably been under ever since the night he was dumped on the Dursleys’ doorstep.

Something to Remember

Harry tells Fudge that he was warned about using magic because a house-elf performed magic in his house. Fudge doesn’t seem to register what he says (surely he’d react somehow, as a house-elf at Privet Drive makes no sense at all), but Harry has no idea that a few years from now he’ll wish he’d done more to clear up that misunderstanding when he had the chance.

34 Responses to “The Knight Bus”

  1. Regarding Stan Shunpike, I think he just never bothered to attend Hogwarts. Attendance doesn’t become mandatory until DH and Stan could’ve been homeschooled – I’m guessing he doesn’t need that much magical prowess to conduct the Knight Bus.

  2. Since Stan´s age was given as 21, as he was arrested in Harry´s 6th, he must have been actually 18, as Harry had summuned the Knight bus.

  3. It is also possible that Stan was just not very magical? After all, Neville states in CS that his family was afraid he might not be magical enough to attend Hogwarts. Maybe it is possible to have a very low level of magic, not quite a squib, but not fully wizard?

  4. At least Stan was able to handle a broomstick, as he did at The Battle of the 7 Potters.

  5. Stan doesn’t seem like the sort who’d do too well academically. Perhaps he left early without too many qualifications. That’s always been my theory at least. Marcus Flint had to re-do a year, perhaps Stan just left after failing his exams!

  6. Well! We know for sure, that Stan Shunpike was 21 in autumn 1996, as Harry was 16. So Stan was 16 and should have started his 6th year, as Harry came to Hogwarts in 1991. But we know also for sure, that Harry and Stan have never met at Hogwarts. So Stan must have left Hogwarts after taking his OWL, if he was at Hogwarts at all. But after all, Stan must be a wizard.

  7. JKR stated that some wizards like Stan do not attend Hogwarts, but all can. Nevilles family was worried that he was a squib.

  8. Great chapter. A lot of things happens. We met the “real” Sirius, and not he one Harry watched on TV… We also met Cornelius, I mean, face to face, actually talking to Harry and not Harry looking at him from his cloak or anything… And Harry is free! That’s great.

  9. I was always confused by part of this- Stan and Ernie were calling the dementors “Azkaban guards” instead of naming them outright. Whenever I’d re-read it, I’d try to wonder why. But I just realized- they don’t sound like the most intelligent people in the world, do they? So they might not even know the name for the dementors, they just know they guard Azkaban.

  10. Erica,
    Mr. Weasley doesn’t name the Azkaban guards in the next chapter either. It’s JKR’s way of not throwing too much at the reader right off the bat.

  11. I have a question. Did anyone hate this chapter? ‘Cause I know I really did. Harry’s thinking all the way through was really annoying to me.

  12. Hmm, Phoebe. I kind of don’t like it either. For me, it’s something about the Bus. It just annoys me. Maybe because Ern and Stan are sooooo bad at running it. Though, as far as we know, everyone arrives safely at their destinations. Whatever. It bugs me. A lot. =)

  13. What was annoying about Harry’s thinking? I love this chapter. Things jumping out of the way of the Knight Bus is funny to me because I do sometimes wonder how it is that real buses manage to not hit things.

    I think someone needs to flip Ditraveler’s picture of the bus, they seem to have forgotten that the book takes place in Britain. :)

  14. I may be incorrect, but I think I remember reading something that said that the cities were supposed to be in alphabetical order and got mixed up in the editing process.

  15. when stan asks harry while moving “where to”?
    harrs says diagon alley.
    harry is last so probably its by a way that the order of people getting into the bus and maybe JKR addad all names with a to arouse a readers interest??
    stan cant be a squib coz the death eaters control him in DH and give him a broom. or was it coz they knew that harry wont kill him?

  16. The issue of the lumos spell comes up in this chapter. I seem to remember that Harry uses it all the time, without worrying about underage magic (like when he is studying under the covers?). Is it an exception, maybe because muggles have flashlights and it wouldn’t give away that someone was a wizard?

  17. @ Anna1

    Harry only uses ‘lumos’ to study under the covers in the film version of PoA (an inconsistency that’s never explained). Meanwhile, in the book, Rowling describes Harry in the first chapter as working under the covers with a “torch in one hand.” I have the British version of the books, so ‘torch’ may have been changed to ‘flashlight’ in Chapter 1 for American readers. Harry doesn’t use the spell ‘lumos’ in PoA until this chapter after he’s already left the Dursleys.

  18. Concerning all the towns that begin with the letter ‘A’ that are visited by the Knight Bus, I wonder if Rowling chose these locations due to their historical incidences of witchcraft. A quick Google search shows:

    Abergavenny – In 1827, Mary Nicholas, a woman of over 90 years of age, was assaulted by a mob after being accused of being a witch.
    Anglesey (this is how my book spells the place name) – An Island off the north coast of Wales, which was a major Druidic centre at the peak of Celtic domination in Britain. The small village of Llanddona on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales is famous for its tales about witches.
    Aberdeen – The Aberdeen witch-hunt has been called Scotland’s answer to the Salem witch trials.

    Maybe Rowling had a book of places known for witchcraft in Britain and started in the ‘A’ section. Or maybe these details are just coincidence. Maybe Jo just chose to have the bus stop in towns that begin with ‘A’ to add alliteration and tie together the ridiculous route the Knight bus travels, taking Harry to Wales and northern Scotland (and who knows what other places) before dropping him off in London. I listened to a Potter Pundits podcast in the fall that talked about the importance of alliteration and reduplication in the novels. The crazy route does make one wonder though about the fare Harry is charged as he boards the bus in Little Whinging, Surrey, as he shouldn’t be all that far from London in the first place.

    It also seems odd, considering that the Knight Bus is able to jump hundreds of kilometres at once with a BANG, that it then needs to drive a for bit along streets to reach a passenger’s final destination. Is it not possible for the bus to simply jump immediately to the stop desired by the passenger?

    In this chapter, I also like how Harry thinks “…surely it wasn’t usual for the Minister for Magic himself to get involved in matters of underage magic.” Of course, this isn’t the last time Fudge will get involved in Harry’s use of magic outside of school.

  19. Ah, whoops about that lumos mixup!

  20. I’ve never thought about the alliterative Knight Bus stops before, but I’d like to make a quick point. Having lived in Birmingham, I remember being very excited to hear that the bus stopped once somewhere “on the outskirts of Birmingham.” This may have been in the fifth book rather than here in the third, but I do think it was here. Still, even Birmingham is barely into the “B’s” if we were going alphabetically…

  21. @ AnneGoble
    I just looked it up and Birmingham isn’t mentioned in this chapter, although you’re right that Stan says they are “Just outside Birmingham” when the gang takes the Knight Bus in OoTP Chapter 24. I’m not sure what the signficance of Birmingham might be… maybe just a nod to the second largest city in Britain!

  22. i like this chapter because i like how sirius is introduced. it shows that from the very begining, he was watching harry. and harry seems to have a sixth sense that he is being watched. plus harry starts to feel like an outcast and on the run from the ministry. alot like his godfather and a taste of what he will go through in book 7. i also like that he feels all alone and stranded in the dark muggle world, a world he had belonged to for his whole entire life. without magic, he feels vulnerable.
    the part of it that i still don’t quite understand is how the knight bus knows that when a wizard sticks out his wand hand, it knows exactly where hie/she is and pretty much apparates right to the spot. kinda how the ministry can detect magic via the Trace and react so quitkly (except of course in this chapter). do they receive a distress signal (from a rather normal hand movement with no incantation needed) and does ern automatically apparate to each destination and the rest of the bus and its’ passengers follow by side-along apparition?

  23. One of the things I caught while reading this chapter was another point of how ludicrous Fudge and the Ministry and all those that control Harry’s life can be. When Harry is talking to Fudge, he’s surprised that Fudge isn’t punishing him at all. Fudge is basically breaking the rules of the Ministry on Harry’s account, however, when Harry asks Fudge if he’ll sign the Hogsmeade slip for him, Fudge gets uncomfortable and states, “rules are rules.” I’m aware that this is because they all want to keep Harry at Hogwarts for his safety (and they’re all probably pretty happy knowing that the Dursley’s will most likely never sign Harry’s slip for him, which is why they thought it would be safe to send him the slip in the first place), but when I was a teenager, I always felt so betrayed by adults in my life when they would say one thing and then do something completely different later on. I suppose it’s because Harry’s so young that he doesn’t recognize this obvious trample on his wishes (as well as feeling happy that he isn’t being punished), but I was a little surprised he never thought of that after Fudge says this to him. This is just another example of how unfair the adults in Harry’s life can be to him in the name of “keeping him safe.”

  24. Also, about the cities that start with A, I never really got very bothered by it. As we see throughout the series, JKR really enjoys her alliteration, from characters, to certain books, to locations. Whenever I see a new alliteration example come up in the books, I always crack a little smile =]

  25. Casey, in terms of the permission slip, I think it’d be a bit rich of Harry to basically expect Fudge to break any rule he wants for him just because he’s willing to break one. He doesn’t have any reason to be angry at Fudge for his unwillingness to break rules – to the contrary, he should be quite *grateful* that Fudge is *willing* to break one particular rule that will keep him out of a heap of trouble. Fudge’s inconsistencies aren’t working against Harry, they’re working in his favor.

    Of course, the opposite will be true later on, and Harry will then justifiably be angry at Fudge. But one could also argue this is an inconsistency on Harry’s part – accept the rule-breaking when it’s in his favor, get angry when it isn’t. It’s all in how you look at it.

  26. I’m a little confused about why the Knight Bus drives at all… It can apparate wherever it needs to go, and Muggles obviously don’t notice it. I guess it could be trying to avoid apparating directly onto a client, but still…

  27. Maybe there are only a couple of specific places throughout Britain the nightbus can apparate to, and the bus has to drive from there on?

  28. Back to Stan Shunpike… He is exactly five years older than Harry, so he ought to have overlapped with Harry at Hogwarts for the last two years. But clearly he didn’t, as he doesn’t recognise Harry, who is known to everyone at Hogwarts.

    This is easily explained if Stan left school immediately after his O.W.L.s. It is very common for Muggles to leave school at this stage. While wizards seem far less likely to do this, there is no apparent wizarding law that they must remain at Hogwarts; their parents are presumably free to remove them at any time. Since Stan does not seem the type to benefit from higher education, he might well have swapped the tedium of N.E.W.T.s for the excitement of conducting the Knight Bus back in July 1991.

  29. Regarding the summary you wrote above, Josie, shouldn’t it be “Minister of Magic”, not “Minister for Magic”?

    So, seriously. You just need to thrust your wand hand out and the Knight Bus arrives immediately? Flinging out one’s hand is sort of a common gesture; you’d ludicrously have the Knight Bus at your side the moment you thrust your hand out, is that it?

    I do like how Neville was the first name that came to Harry’s mind, given the similarities they both have, which Harry will later learn at OoTP. Sort of a coincidence on Harry’s part, I suppose.

    So Fudge has been criticized by members of the International Federation of Warlocks, which was then led by Dumbledore, wasn’t it? So does that mean Fudge is now going against Dumbledore’s advice? This certainly shows hints of the tension that will soon brew between both leaders in later books.

    Re: Something You May Not Have Noticed. The bus’ magic doesn’t apply to people in the film. Just a point. ;)

    Re: The Wizarding World. I rather thought Stan was homeschooled. He doesn’t seem like the formally-educated type to me.

  30. May, ‘Minister of Magic’ is the American way of saying it; in the British books it’s ‘Minister for Magic.’ As I own copies of the books from both publishers, I’ve sadly never been very consistent with which versions of things like this I use on this site, and tend to flip flop back and forth.

  31. It’s been mentioned that the places the Knight bus stopped at began with an A and later on it stops outside Birmingham. I was just wondering if it stops anywhere that doesn’t begin with an A or a B. I was just thinking of the common phrase “it gets me from A to B” i.e. it’s not very comfortable but it does the job which pretty much sums up the Knight bus. Oh but it stops at the Leaky Cauldron in this chapter and at Hogwarts in OotP which obviously don’t start with an A or a B. Maybe JKR intended the unimportant places to begin with an A or a B as a little joke to herself.

  32. As others have pointed out, Fudge’s comment that “Rules are rules” is very interesting in the light of his later attitude toward rules. Because what he’s really saying here is that “HOGWARTS rules are rules.” He’s willing to bend a few Ministry rules or laws to keep Harry safe. But when it comes to bending a school rule (just to give Harry a bit of fun), he refuses–which is appropriate, I might add; Harry’s pretty out-of-bounds to ask the Minister of Magic to sign a school permission form. Of course, refusing to allow Harry to visit Hogsmeade does have the effect of further ensuring Harry’s safety. But the fact that Fudge chooses to explain this by referring to the authority of “rules”–when he’s just shown that he doesn’t mind violating any number of rules when it comes to Harry–shows something pretty important about his mindset. At this point, he still sees school rules as something outside his authority. Sadly, he loses this healthy sense of a limit to his authority in a couple of years…

  33. I think you have to want to Knight Bus to come for it to appear, sort of like the Room of Requirement. That’s what makes the most sense.

  34. Of course the Knight Bus stops at other places. The Bus makes stops in London, at the very least, as we learn in a later book. And recall, Harry picks it up in Little Whinging, Surrey. (What an appropriate name for the home town of the Dursleys.)

    By the way, isn’t it cool that a magical bus CAN go places based on alphabet rather than geography? Aberdeen and Anglesea are not exactly on the way toward each other by motor route!

    I read once over on the Lexicon site that for Londoners out late at night, it has been a special help to have the night bus (geddit?) come by when they were unable to drive (I assume at closing time). Also, quite funny even if you don’t know about the night busses, that a bus will go up on sidewalks and so on, and the ‘obstacles’ move out of its way! And that the driver is named Ernie Prang. I don’t think that name for a driver is intended to instill confidence in his abilities operating the bus. This is a very funny chapter, I found it so on first reading. I get a bit disturbed by the vomiting passengers, though. Obviously, some take it because the must, not because they desire it. Lack of a broom, lack of Floo Powder (or a flue), going someplace where Apparition is not encouraged, or lacking a license to Apparate?

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