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This may come off as a silly question if I may have missed something blatantly obvious in the first book, but do the Muggles of King's Cross station suspect anything weird about the Hogwarts students especially about how they drag their luggage around whilst carrying around their pets?

Wouldn't people on the Muggle side of the station question why students would bring pets aboard trains? I'm not aware of the rules when boarding trains in England but isn't it a common rule for animals/pets to be left off trains?

  • The simplest observations are the most awkward ones. – Voldemort Oct 19 '13 at 11:44
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    I think they changed the starting platform near 2000 when Rowling's book brought too much suspicion to that place. In 2017, thousands of dressed up Muggle fans will wait in King's Cross to meet the real Harry Potter while he himself quietly takes his kids to a different station. – b_jonas Oct 19 '13 at 13:17
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    Before that time, an S.E.P. field was enough to make Muggles ignore the platform. – b_jonas Oct 19 '13 at 18:31
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Animals on British railways

To tackle the legal question first, animals were allowed on British trains when the books take place (1991–97).

The May 1991 edition of the Ticket Examiners’ Handbook [1] states that passengers were subject to additional charges for:

Dogs, cats and other small inoffensive animals or birds

Since Harry first goes to Hogwarts in 1991, these rules would have been in effect throughout the books. [2] Broadly similar guidelines are still in force today.

This means that it wouldn't have been flagged by a stationmaster. A member of the public might have been curious, but the British have a long tradition of tutting about such things and then never saying or doing anything about it.

That was the easy bit.


[1]: This was written by the British Railways Board, who governed British railway services until 2001. I remembered the vague details from old conversations with my grandfather (a rail enthusiast), and found the quote from Wikipedia.

[2]: I'm not certain that a new edition wasn't published between 1991 and 1997, but I'm fairly sure any such edition would have had broadly similar rules about animals.

Why didn't anybody notice?

This is a bit fuzzier.

Obviously, there are enchantments in place to stop Muggles accidentally finding Platform 9¾. You don't want a Muggle to lean on the barrier and accidentally fall through. (Or, for that matter, to stand in its general vicinity and prevent people going through.) Perhaps these extend to the students.

As for why nobody noticed the hundreds of students milling around with animals and trunks and goodness knows what else, there's a very simple answer: people are idiots. Stan Shunpike pointed this out in Prisoner of Azkaban, referring to the Knight Bus:

“[Muggles]!” said Stan contemptuously. “Don’ listen properly, do they? Don’ look properly either. Never notice nuffink, they don’.”

Other pointed references to Muggle ignorance are made throughout the books (St. Mungo’s, Muggle baiting, etc.). Chances are, most of them are too wrapped up in their own little world to notice another commuter with some strange luggage. Animals are not the strangest thing you'll see on the railway.

Some other suggestions:

  • Plenty of people at King's Cross would be commuting around London. This is a journey they take every working day. A lot of them will be on autopilot as they move around the station, and strange things won't cross their gaze.
  • When you see something strange, it's often easier to assume that you're mistaken than to accept the truth of what happened. Our minds will work against us to avoid telling us impossible things. (cf. Harry releasing the snake in the zoo, the Dursleys)
  • Hogwarts terms run for months at a time. Even if a Muggle noticed something strange one day, the next day things would be back to normal. It's easy to forget it as a one-off, and by the time it happens again, you've forgotten about the last time.

Finally, our ignorance of strange things around us is corroborated by science; it's not just HP. I won't find any studies, but just state that it's well known that we miss things if we're not looking for them (such as a pack of kids in funny clothes carrying animals). If you haven't seen this before, go watch this British cycling ad and try it on yourself.

And today? All the Muggles would be glued to their phones, and walk straight past them. ;-)


ETA: that explains why most Muggles don’t notice anything unusually, especially if the students are careful. But the Pottermore article about King’s Cross Station (transcript) confirms that occasionally somebody slips up and gets noticed, and explains what’s done to preserve secrecy:

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.

  • Neat stuff! didnt know that – sight ward Oct 19 '13 at 19:44
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    Not confident enough in this to post as an answer, but thought I'd add: As this issue mainly arises on only a few days per year (day before school starts, day after it ends, plus going home for Christmas etc), there could be additional enchantments to the Platform 9 3/4 one which only occur on those specific dates and "mask" the students. Actual invisibility or making all Muggles just ignore them etc. is improbable, but maybe something that causes a general air of nonchalance, aloofness or "tunnel vision"? Or even just confusion or distraction (e.g. suddenly thinking they've left the oven on)? – RuthP27 Oct 29 '13 at 6:21
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In HP Canon, Muggles tend to ignore anything out of the ordinary.

To quote Stan Shunpike,

[while hurtling through London in the Knight Bus]

Harry: But the Muggles! Can't they see us?

Stan Shunpike: Muggles? They don't see nothing, do they?

Shrunken Head: No, but if you jab them with a fork, they feel it! [laughs]

This isn't the only time a character has remarked that Muggles tend to ignore anything out of the ordinary. Elsewhere in the books, there's a reference stating that Muggles tend to go out of their way to not notice anything unusual.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Chapter Three

"Why would anyone bother making door keys shrink?" said George.

"Just Muggle-baiting," sighed Mr. Weasley. "Sell them a key that keeps shrinking to nothing so they can never find it when they need it...Of course, it's very hard to convict anyone because no Muggle would admit their key keeps shrinking--they'll insist they just keep losing it. Bless them, they'll go to any lengths to ignore magic, even if it's staring them in the face...But the things our lot have taken to enchanting, you wouldn't believe--"

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