Professor McGonagall arrives and demonstrates magic to Harry by levitating his father. She further demonstrates magic by turning into a cat, startling Harry and leading him to beleive that everything he knows about physics and the universe is false, and that he'll have to start all over in the March of Reason. McGonagall tells Harry that she will return shortly before school begins to escort him to get his books and equipment.
Everything I Believe is False
“Of course it was my fault. There’s no one else here who could be responsible for anything.”
Detailed chapter synopsisEdit
Professor McGonagall arrives at the Verres home and an experiment is set up where McGonagall will magically levitate Professor Verres-Evans in the air. Harry makes it clear that his father knows he has not been attached to wires or anything like that, that the experiment will be sufficient evidence. Professor Verres-Evans rolls his eyes but agrees.
Harry’s initial evaluation of McGonagall’s appearance was that she should be cackling as she put babies into cauldrons, but her formal, Scottish accent ruined that impression. She then cast Wingardium Leviosa, levitating Professor Verres-Evans. Both Harry and Mr. Verres-Evans were surprised, but Harry didn’t feel as shocked as he thought he should; it should have been more dramatic. He felt he should be flushing his entire stock of hypotheses about the universe, none of which allowed for magical levitation.
McGonagall then asked if Harry would like a further demonstration and Harry demurred at first, but then decided he should ask what else she could do. And McGonagall turned into a cat.
Harry was much more shocked by this. What he’d seen seemed to violate Conservation of Energy, and cat biology and neurology were so different from humans that he couldn’t imagine her still thinking using a cat-sized brain, and wondered how she could. She told him, “Magic.”
For Harry, this demonstration signaled the end of a unified universe as he saw it, with mathematically regular laws—all that had been flushed down the toilet. Everything that man had learned in three thousand years, the understanding of physics and the biology of the brain and its relation to the mind…then a woman turned into a cat, so much for all of that!
The subject of Harry’s problem with attending school next came up. Harry explained that his sleep cycle was 26 hours long; every night he went to sleep two hours later than the previous night, until it went around the clock, and he couldn’t get up any earlier without being a wreck the rest of the day. McGonagall told him she was sure she could solve that problem, one way or another, but didn’t elaborate. The other reason Harry hadn’t attended school regularly was, he explained, that he was a conscientious objector to the child draft, that he should not have to suffer because of a continually disintegrating school system and its failure to provide adequate teachers or school materials.
Harry’s parents had other views, citing his biting of a math teacher in third grade. When Harry pointed out that she didn’t know what a logarithm was, both his parents made sarcastic comments that it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. McGonagall advised Harry that there was to be no biting of teachers at Hogwarts, and Harry agreed that he would bite no teacher who didn’t bite him first.
After that detail was sorted out, McGonagall said she would return a day or two before school started to take him to get his study materials. Harry objected, on the grounds that the other children already knew magic and he had to catch up. McGonagall assured him that Hogwarts was quite capable of teaching the basics. She also suggested that if she were to leave Harry alone with his schoolbooks for two months, even without a wand, she suspected that she would return to find a crater of billowing purple smoke where it had been, a depopulated city surrounding it, and a plague of flaming zebras terrorizing what remained of England.
Harry’s parents both agreed with this assessment, upsetting Harry.
The solution to Harry's sleeping disorder becomes very important to the novel.
- Verres house
- Wingardium Leviosa
- Animagus Transfiguration
Rationality and scienceEdit
- Conservation of Energy
This is written in the language of the C preprocessor, and means roughly "the standard disclaimer goes here".
1 July 1991, continuing from Chapter 1. McGonagall remarks that she will return a day or two before school begins to escort him to purchase his study materials. When Harry protests that he has to start catching up to the other children who already know magic, McGongall tells him that if she left him for two months with his school books, even without a wand, that she suspects she would return to find a crater where the Verres house is, a depopulated city, and a plague of flaming zebras terrorizing what remained of England.
School begins on 1 September, so two months earlier would be 1 July.