"Password?" she said.

"Caput Draconis," said Percy, and the portrait swung forward to reveal a round hole in the wall. They all scrambled through it -- Neville needed a leg up -- and found themselves in the Gryffindor common room, a cozy, round room full of squashy armchairs.

[1] Percy directed the girls through one door to their dormitory and the boys through another. At the top of a spiral staircase -- they were obviously in one of the towers -- they found their beds at last: five four-posters hung with deep red, velvet curtains. Their trunks had already been brought up. Too tired to talk much, they pulled on their pajamas and fell into bed.

. . . . . .

[2] A pair of goblins bowed them through the silver doors and they were in a vast marble hall.

–– Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

[1] and [2] has the same structure and gets me puzzled. In [2], there obviously seems that the goblins are not going to move along with their guests. But in [1]. does Percy move along with the girls and then boys? It’s very likely he doesn’t move but just tell them the way they have to pass through. Is this right? If yes, is there no chance this expression be used when he moves along with the guided?

  • I'm not sure about [1], but generally direct doesn't imply lead them by walking with them. I think you can direct people, by giving people their directions orally. As for [2], I think bow here means paying respect, not bending oneself down while walking. The way I see it, those goblins just paid some respect from the other side of the silver doors, while those they in the context walking into the marble hall. Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 12:09
  • Reading [1] once again, as I think that in this specific, Percy can't move along with either the girls or the boys. It would be impossible physically to get through two doors at the same time. (Or if it is possible, he must need to use a special magic of some sort, maybe?) Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 12:41
  • @DamkerngT. Mr.StoneyB and snailboat's accounts on 2 would be very helpful.
    – Listenever
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 12:52
  • Ah, I think I can now understand [2A] properly. It's similar to those nods of the doorkeepers that signify the permission (and maybe welcoming at the same time) while someone is passing through the door. Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 13:02
  • Possible duplicate of this question
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


Your understanding of both passages is correct.

In [1], Percy is understood to give direction to the girls, presumably with a point of the finger, wave of the hand, nod of the head, verbal instruction, or some combination of these. He does not accompany them through the inner doorway to their quarters, and probably doesn't even move towards it himself. Similarly, though allowed by his gender, I doubt he accompanies the boys up the stairs. (Although he is a Gryffindor, he sleeps downstairs with the other heads.)

In [2], the “pair of goblins” is most likely positioned with one on either side of the door, perhaps as functional guards, perhaps primarily for ceremony. In any case, they bow to convey respect and welcome Hagrid and Harry into Gringotts as valued clientele. As you correctly surmise, they stay rooted in position and do not pass through the doorway themselves.

If you wanted to communicate that someone would be both guiding and accompanying other people through a doorway, you could use one of the following phrasings:

  1. Percy led the girls through the doorway.
  2. Percy ushered the girls through the doorway.1
  3. Percy accompanied the girls through the doorway.
  4. Percy herded the girls through the doorway.2

1 This one is ambiguous in a new way. It would not be possible to determine from this sentence alone whether Percy actually entered the girls’ dormitory, but the reader would know that he went at least as far as the doorway, either guiding the girls in front of him or leading them up to the door and then waving them through.

2 This one is sort of tongue-in-cheek. As a verb, “herd” generally refers to the movement of livestock by blocking their egress. Similar to note 1, it is not completely certain from this alone whether Percy would follow them in or stop once they had all entered.

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