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Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Kindle Single) (Pottermore Presents) Read online

  The digital heart

  of the Wizarding World




  King’s Cross Station

  Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

  The Hogwarts Express


  The Sorting Hat



  Hufflepuff Common Room

  The Marauder’s Map

  The Great Lake


  Hogwarts School Subjects



  Hogwarts Ghosts


  The Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick

  Hogwarts Portraits

  Sir Cadogan


  Mirror of Erised


  The Philosopher’s Stone

  The Sword of Gryffindor

  The Chamber of Secrets


  We know quite a lot about Hogwarts. It’s a school for witches and wizards, who are invited to attend by an owl-delivered letter. It has a hundred and forty-two staircases, which move as though they have minds of their own. It was founded by Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Salazar Slytherin, after whom the school’s houses were named.

  There’s even a secret passageway under a one-eyed witch statue that allows a fairly thin person to escape into the cellar of Honeydukes. But if Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore says even he doesn’t know all of Hogwarts’ secrets, well, neither do we.

  There’s only one person who knows everything about Hogwarts. In this collection of writing, J.K. Rowling divulges hidden secrets and strange lore from Britain’s school for witchcraft and wizardry.


  We begin just as any witch or wizard on his or her way to Hogwarts would – at London’s King’s Cross. It’s a bustling, cavernous train station filled with busy commuters – so busy that they don’t notice people laden with trunks, owls, cats and robes run at a ticket barrier and disappear.




  When Ottaline Gambol commandeered a Muggle train to serve as the new mode of transport for Hogwarts students, she also had constructed a small station in the wizarding village of Hogsmeade: a necessary adjunct to the train. The Ministry of Magic felt strongly, however, that to construct an additional wizarding station in the middle of London would stretch even the Muggles’ notorious determination not to notice magic when it was exploding in front of their faces.

  It was Evangeline Orpington, Minister from 1849–1855, who hit upon the solution of adding a concealed platform at the newly (Muggle) built King’s Cross station, which would be accessible only to witches and wizards. On the whole, this has worked well, although there have been minor problems over the ensuing years, such as witches and wizards who have dropped suitcases full of biting spellbooks or newt spleens all over the polished station floor, or else disappeared through the solid barrier a little too loudly. There are usually a number of plain-clothed Ministry of Magic employees on hand to deal with any inconvenient Muggle memories that may need altering at the start and end of each Hogwarts term.

  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  King’s Cross, which is one of London’s main railway stations, has a very personal significance for me, because my parents met on a train to Scotland which departed from King’s Cross station. For this reason, and because it has such an evocative and symbolic name, and because it is actually the right station to leave from if you were heading to Caledonia, I never knew the slightest indecision about the location of the portal that would take Harry to Hogwarts, or the means of transport that would take him there.

  It is said (though where the story originated I could not tell you; it is suspiciously vague) that King’s Cross Station was built either on the site of Boudicca’s last battle (Boudicca was an ancient British queen who led a rebellion against the Romans) or on the site of her tomb. Legend has it that her grave is situated somewhere in the region of platforms eight to ten. I did not know this when I gave the wizards’ platform its number. King’s Cross station takes its name from a now-demolished monument to King George IV.

  There is a real trolley stuck halfway out of a wall in King’s Cross now, and it makes me beam proudly every time I pass...

  There is no doubt that a train from King’s Cross is the most reliable way to get a young witch or wizard to Hogwarts (flying cars are strongly discouraged). But why platform nine and three-quarters? And what other hidden platforms might be tucked away behind those walls?




  J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

  In choosing the number of the concealed platform that would take young witches and wizards to boarding school, I decided that it would have to be a number between those of the Muggle platforms – therefore, it was clearly a fraction. This raised the interesting question of how many other fractional platforms lay between the whole-numbered platforms at King’s Cross, and I concluded that there were probably quite a few. Although these are never mentioned in the book, I like to think that it is possible to take a version of the Orient Express off to wizard-only villages in continental Europe (try platform seven and a half), and that other platforms may be opened on an as-required-basis, for instance for large, one-off events such as Celestina Warbeck concerts (see your ticket for details).

  The number nine and three-quarters presented itself without much conscious thought, and I liked it so much that I took it at once. It is the ‘three-quarters’ that makes it, of course.

  Next, it’s only logical to jump onto the Hogwarts Express, which fills with new and returning students of witchcraft and wizardry each year and drops them off at school.




  As we know from early historical accounts, and from the evidence of early woodcuts and engravings, Hogwarts students used to arrive at school in any manner that caught their fancy. Some rode broomsticks (a difficult feat when carrying trunks and pets); others commandeered enchanted carts and, later, carriages; some attempted to Apparate (often with disastrous effects, as the castle and grounds have always been protected with Anti-Apparition Charms); others rode a variety of magical creatures.

  (Indeed, it is believed that the Thestrals currently living in the Forbidden Forest, and trained to pull the school carriages from Hogsmeade Station, are descendants of those ridden by students to school long ago.)

  In spite of the accidents attendant on these various modes of magical transport, not to mention the annual Muggle sightings of vast numbers of airborne wizards travelling northwards, it remained the responsibility of parents to convey their children to school, right up until the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692. At this point, it became a matter of urgency to find some more discreet method of transporting hundreds of wizarding children from all over Britain to their secret school in the Highlands of Scotland.

  Portkeys were therefore arranged at collecting points all over Britain. The logistics caused problems from the start. Up to a third of students would fail to arrive every year, having missed their time slot, or been unable to find the unobtrusive enchanted object that would transport them