Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the place where Harry and many others found their home. Today, we reflect on the moment we fell in love with the iconic school at the very heart of Harry Potter’s story…

Before the chapter

Growing up, Harry had always felt out of place. Odd things seemed to happen around him – like the glass in front of the boa constrictor at the zoo vanishing. So, when Hagrid broke down the door at the Hut-on-the-Rock and revealed that Harry was a wizard with a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, things finally began to make sense.

Yet, before this chapter Hogwarts was still only an idea in Harry’s mind. He still had one foot in the Muggle world and only had brief moments in the wizarding one – like his trip to Diagon Alley to pick up school supplies. He had never seen the magical school and only had scraps of information which were not always from the most reliable of sources… we mean Malfoy.

So, by the time 1st September finally arrived, and we took that journey with Harry on the Hogwarts Express, we couldn’t wait to see the iconic castle and finally be fully immersed in the magical world. It certainly didn’t disappoint and that first evening at Hogwarts made us fall in love with it.

‘The Sorting Hat’

Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place. It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles which were floating in mid-air over four long tables, where the rest of the students were sitting. These tables were laid with glittering golden plates and goblets. At the top of the Hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting. Professor McGonagall led the first-years up here, so that they came to a halt in a line facing the other students, with the teachers behind them. The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there among the students, the ghosts shone misty silver. Mainly to avoid all the staring eyes, Harry looked upwards and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars. He heard Hermione whisper, ‘It’s bewitched to look like the sky outside, I read about it in Hogwarts: A History.’ It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to the heavens.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Following a trip across the Lake with Hagrid and the other first-years, Harry had finally arrived at Hogwarts. The castle was completely different to anything that he had encountered in the Muggle world – there were ghosts for starters!

And after a few minutes nervously waiting in an antechamber while wondering what scary test might be facing him and his fellow first-years, Harry finally walked into the Great Hall for the very first time. Filled with floating candles and a ceiling that looked like the night sky, it was truly magnificent. It was then that we realised that everything had truly changed for Harry, and this was where his real story would begin.

But first things first, Harry had to find out which house he would be placed into courtesy of the Sorting Hat (whose song gave us an insight into the traits that each Hogwarts house represented). When he was finally sorted into Gryffindor – after a brief battle of wills with said magical hat – it was an incredibly important moment. This was the house that he would belong to for the rest of his time at school and beyond. It was arguably one of the first places that Harry had truly fitted in. We also enjoyed the enthusiastic welcome he received from his fellow Gryffindors.

Albus Dumbledore had got to his feet. He was beaming at the students, his arms opened wide, as if nothing could have pleased him more than to see them all there. ‘Welcome!’ he said. ‘Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

This chapter was where we also got to see Albus Dumbledore again – nearly ten years after he dropped Harry off at the Dursleys. His brief opening speech gave us a glimpse into the whimsicality of Hogwarts and the wizarding world (not forgetting a glance at his own eccentricity). Yes, Harry might have questioned Dumbledore’s sanity in this moment, but we found the whole thing endearing.

Finally, after an evening of magic, excellent food and good company, Harry was able to fall into his brand-new four-poster bed in the place that was now his home – much more comfortable than the cupboard under the stairs…

Why it matters

Harry Potter had a miserable childhood with the Dursleys who treated him abysmally. Despite the fact that Privet Drive was where he grew up, it never felt like home. He had only ever been an afterthought – shoved in a cupboard and forgotten about as much as possible. However, in this chapter he had escaped the Dursleys and arrived at a place that was better than his wildest dreams. He was finally alongside people that were just like him. He wasn’t the oddball who made weird things happen, he was a wizard just like his fellow classmates. If there was a place where Harry could finally find people that cared about him, it would be Hogwarts – which is exactly what happened. From Ron and Hermione to Neville, Luna, Ginny and the DA, Hogwarts was where Harry found his family.

Harry’s mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup and, for some strange reason, mint humbugs. The Dursleys had never exactly starved Harry, but he’d never been allowed to eat as much as he liked. Dudley had always taken anything that Harry really wanted, even if it made him sick. Harry piled his plate with a bit of everything except the humbugs and began to eat. It was all delicious.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

We also wanted to draw attention to the importance of Harry’s reaction to the start-of-term banquet. It was the perfect example of Harry discovering a freedom that he had never had before. For once he didn’t have to go hungry – he could eat what he liked and not be afraid that it would be taken from him. That must have been a revelation to him, the fact that while he was at Hogwarts, he would never go hungry again. Despite his nerves, we think it would have given him a sense of security and safety that had previously eluded him.

This chapter also marked the moment where Harry could start to discover himself thanks to the boundless opportunities Hogwarts presented. With magic flowing through its very core, we knew that Harry was going to get up to all sorts of adventures. This chapter alone mentioned Quidditch, ghosts, the Forbidden Forest and the third-floor corridor on the right-hand side which was most definitely out of bounds. It was the starting point for Harry, the moment where he would begin to grow as a person and a wizard and live up to his true potential.

Finally, even though Harry was nervous throughout this chapter – starting a new school whether it’s magical or Muggle is always a big deal – we know that Harry was exactly where he needed to be. Everything from Dumbledore’s speech to the reception he received from his fellow Gryffindors to the warn embrace of his bed was welcoming. Harry had finally come home and that is why we fell in love with Hogwarts.