Beware of spoilers across the Harry Potter books and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
‘A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, 11 o’clock.’
Harry arrives at King’s Cross to start his first year at Hogwarts doubting whether platform nine and three-quarters even exists. It took a nudge from Mrs Weasley to get him through the barrier, and he didn’t say a word to Ron until the youngest Weasley brother came to sit in his compartment. Neither of the boys exactly warmed to Hermione either. Little did they know they’d be fighting off a mountain troll together by Hallowe’en.
‘‘We’re going to miss the train,’ Ron whispered. ‘I don’t understand why the gateway’s sealed itself...’ Harry looked up at the giant clock with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. Ten seconds ... nine seconds ...’
Chamber of Secrets is the only book where we don’t see platform nine and three-quarters at all – Dobby “helpfully” seals it shut to try to protect Harry from harm. Harry and Ron, now firm friends and partners in crime, recklessly decide to get themselves to Hogwarts in Mr Weasley’s illegal flying car. Given the dodgy Invisibility Booster and the painful encounter with the Whomping Willow that follow, we have to say we’re with Professor McGonagall on this one: why in the name of Merlin didn’t they just send an owl?
‘There was a loud whistle. Guards were walking along the train, slamming all the doors shut. ‘Promise me, Harry,’ said Mr Weasley, talking more quickly still, ‘that whatever happens –’ ‘Why would I go looking for someone I know wants to kill me?’ said Harry blankly.’
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys are taken to King’s Cross in Ministry of Magic cars. Harry’s calm reaction to finding out that Sirius Black – notorious mass-murderer – might be out to get him demonstrates just how much the Boy Who Lived has grown-up since his first time on platform nine and three-quarters. Mr Weasley seems to think so too, as he is determined to tell Harry the truth about Black before the Hogwarts Express departs, ignoring Mrs Weasley’s protests.
‘You’re going to have an interesting year,’ said Bill, his eyes twinkling. ‘I might even get time off to come and watch a bit of it ...’
We can see that by their fourth year, Harry, Ron and Hermione are very used to the magical barrier between platforms nine and ten – this time they lean casually against it, way too cool to take it at a run nowadays. As well as a place the wizarding students reunite after a long summer holiday, platform nine and three-quarters is always alive with gossip about the year ahead – and no more so than the year the Triwizard Tournament comes to Hogwarts.
‘The figures of Tonks, Lupin, Moody and Mr and Mrs Weasley shrank rapidly but the black dog was bounding alongside the window, wagging its tail; blurred people on the platform were laughing to see it chasing the train, then they rounded a bend, and Sirius was gone.’
This return to platform nine and three-quarters marks the dawning of a new chapter in the wizarding world. Lord Voldemort is back, and as a result Harry is forced to have an Order of the Phoenix guard escorting him to King’s Cross. It is also the first time that Harry is accompanied onto the platform by the closest person he has to a parent. His godfather might come along as Padfoot the black dog, but that doesn’t make it any less special.
‘Now, dear, you’re coming to us for Christmas, it’s all fixed with Dumbledore, so we’ll see you quite soon,’ said Mrs Weasley through the window, as Harry slammed the door shut behind him and the train began to move.’
As Harry begins his sixth year, Chosen One rumours are rife and people stare out of their train compartment windows at him, just like Fred and George gawped at his scar the first time they met him. Despite this, Mrs Weasley’s casual Christmas invite shows how he really is a beloved honorary member of the Weasley clan by this point. Mr Weasley even hears out Harry’s theory about Draco Malfoy being up to something. If only he’d taken it more seriously…
‘The train began to move, and Harry walked alongside it, watching his son’s thin face, already ablaze with excitement. Harry kept smiling, and waving, even though it was like a little bereavement, watching his son glide away from him ...’
Everything comes full circle nineteen years after the defeat of Lord Voldemort. Albus Severus Potter boards the train at platform nine and three-quarters, just as Harry did all those years before. Accompanying his children through that barrier between the Muggle and magical worlds must have meant so much to Harry, when he started his own journey alone, with a very confusing ticket clutched in his hand.
We’ve come to the end of our trip down memory lane, but your adventure at platform nine and three-quarters is only just beginning. And remember, don’t forget to take the barrier at a bit of a run if you’re nervous…