Harry finds out he will be Quidditch Captain this year. Mrs. Weasley arranges a trip to Diagon Alley to buy school supplies, and the usually bustling area is desolate. The group splits, with Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Hagrid, who has come along for added security, headed to Madam Malkin’s for robes. Hagrid waits outside as the students enter Madam Malkin’s, where they find Draco Malfoy being fitted. Malfoy accuses Hermione of being a Mudblood, or a wizard born to Muggle parents. Eventually Malfoy storms out, and Ron, Hermione, and Harry finish their fittings and meet back up with the rest of the Weasleys. When they arrive at Fred and George’s joke shop, the store is packed with customers. Harry spots Draco scurrying up the street alone. He pulls Ron and Hermione under his Invisibility Cloak, and they follow Draco into Borgin and Burkes, a store stocked with Dark objects.
Harry and his friends eavesdrop on Draco’s conversation with Borgin. Draco asks Borgin if he can fix something, threatening the shop owner with something Harry cannot see, and reminding him that his family is friends with Fenir Greyback. Draco suggests that there are two objects, and one needs to be kept safe in the shop. Borgin swears secrecy, and Draco leaves. Hermione ducks out from under the coat, attempting to see what Draco was talking about, but Borgin is suspicious. Hermione asks about a necklace, but Borgin orders Hermione out. Before they board the Hogwarts Express, Harry tells Mr. Weasley his suspicions about Draco being a Death Eater. On board, students stare at Harry. Harry spots Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom and sits down.
Ron and Hermione enter the compartment, finished with their prefect duties. A young woman hands scrolls to Harry and Neville, inviting them to join Professor Slughorn for lunch. Harry sees that Ginny has also been invited. Slughorn has gathered together what he hopes is a group of influential students he would like to cultivate relationships with, and repeatedly asks the students about their family connections. When they finally escape, Harry asks Ginny how she got tangled up with Slughorn, given that the Weasleys are not an especially influential family. Ginny tells Harry that Slughorn saw her hex Zacharias Smith and was impressed with her skills. Harry has an idea and excuses himself, pulling out his invisibility cloak and following Zabini, a Slytherin who had also been at lunch with Slughorn.
Harry sneaks into the Slytherin compartment as Zabini enters, then he dives into the luggage rack. Harry fears that one of his sneakers slid out from under the cloak as he dove out of the way and sees Draco’s eyes scanning the racks. Draco boasts that he might not even bother returning to Hogwarts next year, having moved on to bigger things. Draco’s goons, Crabbe and Goyle, look dumbfounded. Draco continues to talk about how things will be different when Voldemort finally takes over. The train approaches Hogwarts, and the Slytherins begin pulling their trunks down. Goyle’s trunk smacks Harry on the head, and he lets out a gasp of pain. Malfoy stares up at the luggage racks. After his classmates file out, Draco turns around and, without warning, casts a paralyzing spell at the luggage rack. Harry tumbles down, frozen. Draco kicks Harry’s face and throws the invisibility cloak over his frozen body.
Harry is certain that Draco Malfoy is involved with Voldemort and will go to any length to prove Draco’s guilt. Since Rowling has made us privy to Snape’s meeting with Narcissa Malfoy, we are sympathetic to Harry’s cause. Still, Harry’s friends seem to be growing increasingly skeptical of Harry’s convictions while Harry’s confidence continues to swell. Clearly, Ron and Hermione are not yet ready to believe that Draco is actually a Death Eater like his father Lucius. Throughout the Harry Potter series, we often see Harry trying his best to convince his friends of something he thinks is amiss or incorrect, or to alert them of someone whom he considers suspicious or under the influence of Voldemort. Sometimes Harry is right, and sometimes he’s wrong. Like most people, he is not perfect, and his assumptions do not always prove true. Ron and Hermione’s reluctance to believe everything Harry thinks, without questioning his conclusions, is indicative of the strength of their relationship. Rather than accepting Harry’s ideas, Ron and Hermione ask questions and challenge Harry, trying to help him rather than agreeing with whatever he says.
The meaning of what Harry overheard at Borgin and Burkes is completely unclear at this point in the novel. Harry, Ron, and Hermione know that Draco is attempting to fix something, and that whatever it is he needs fixed is part of a pair—but they have no idea what the object might be. Once again, Rowling purposefully keeps her readers guessing. We know that Draco is up to no good, but we, like Harry and his friends, are still unclear on the specifics of his scheme. Because of all this uncertainty, Rowling is able to create and maintain suspense, which, in turn, keeps readers invested in her story. From here on out, we learn of Draco’s mischief only as Harry pieces together his plot, and we find ourselves inadvertently aligned with his point of view. It’s impossible not to root for Harry, because readers begin to feel as if they’re a part of his team. Rowling is careful to make sure her readers understand that while Harry is imperfect, his intentions are always good.
Slughorn gathers in his cabin those students whom he believes to be the most potentially influential at Hogwarts, and we quickly learn that this doesn’t necessarily mean those with impressive parentage. Like Dumbledore, Slughorn does not believe that Pureblood students are, by default, the most desirable, and by inviting Ginny Weasley, whom he catches performing a particularly impressive hex, we see that Slughorn is genuinely interested in the skills and talents of his picks. Although Harry never enjoys being singled out for his differences, being in Slughorn’s car for lunch gives him a special opportunity to sneak into the Slytherin compartment and continue his private investigation of Draco Malfoy. While Dumbledore has often cautioned his students against becoming too divided and failing to unify as a school, the four Houses at Hogwarts are nonetheless fairly segregated, and the Slytherins would have never allowed Harry inside of their car, nor would he have been able to attempt such an act without the help of his cloak. When Draco catches Harry, readers begin to understand that Draco is a challenging opponent to Harry, and not just the dumb bully that Harry and his friends like to believe he is.