But at these words of Uncle Vernon’s, Harry’s exhausted brain ground back into action. Why had the dementors come to Little Whinging? How could it be coincidence that they had arrived in the alleyway where Harry was? Had they been sent? Had the Ministry of Magic lost control of the dementors, had they deserted Azkaban and joined Voldemort, as Dumbledore had predicted they would? “These demembers guard some weirdos’ prison?” said Uncle Vernon, lumbering in the wake of Harry’s train of thought.

Does it mean those words of Uncle Vernon was turned into kind of slow-mo way as a result(compared to) of the fast thinking in Harry head?

in the wake of

1.(idiomatic) Following

2.(idiomatic) As a result of

3.In the noticeable disturbance of water behind (a maritime vessel).


  • It might be worth noting that Meaning #1 is just a figurative application of Meaning #3. Uncle Vernon is trying to follow what Harry is saying, much like a wake "follows" a motorboat.
    – J.R.
    Jun 16, 2014 at 9:35

3 Answers 3


The wake of a boat is the triangular shaped wave that follows after it ((The wake doesn't always have to be a white-water cresting wave. Even slow moving boats generate a gentle wake):

enter image description here

Lumbering means "moving in a slow, heavy, awkward way." (Google: https://www.google.com/search?q=define+lumbering)

So lumbering in the wake of his thoughts means that Uncle Vernon's thoughts are following in the same line (in the wake of) of Harry's thoughts, but doing so behind him (in time, in realization, in conclusions), slowly and awkwardly (in a lumbering manner).

  • The meaning of "following" sounds more suitable now. But there's a bit ambiguity to the sentence in the way how Rowling wrote it: Did she mean "What Vernon said" or "Vernon himself(his train of thought)" lumber behind Harry's thought?
    – user49119
    Jun 16, 2014 at 9:03
  • @user49119 You can read it as either what Vernon said or Vernon's train of thought (as expressed in his speech). Vernon's dialogue ends with a question mark, but Rowling has written that he said it, which indicates that he's making a statement or suggestion, but unsure of its accuracy. This implies that Vernon is thinking out loud. Jun 16, 2014 at 9:07

The meaning is simple, "in the wake" means "something that will happen after some event fades away or or somebody moves on"

Example: "Legions will come in my wake!" -cried out the Roman officer right before being executed.


Hurricane Katrina left widespread floods and destruction in its wake.

  • These are valid uses of the word wake, but how would this answer help the O.P. understand the quoted paragraph? Somebody's train of thought doesn't exactly leave the swath of physical destruction as a Roman army or a hurricane.
    – J.R.
    Jun 16, 2014 at 9:38

It does indeed mean "as a result of".

I would also interpret it as being an intentional use to create the mental image of Uncle Vernon being physically staggered by a wake like that of an actual boat.

  • 1
    I don't think Uncle Vernon is saying that as a result of Harry's train of thought.
    – jimsug
    Jun 16, 2014 at 7:50
  • No, but he is lumbering - saying it in a particular way or with a particular attitude - as a result of Harry's train of thought. Jun 19, 2014 at 11:47
  • Really? I'm not sure how easy it is for Harry to cause Uncle Vernon by doing something just by thinking it - of course, we're talking about a wizard here, so I can't really say. But when was the last time you caused something to happen purely by thinking it, as opposed to making facial expressions, grunts/groans, gestures, and so on?
    – jimsug
    Jun 19, 2014 at 11:50
  • Hmm. You're completely right. I'd assumed, based on pretty much the basis for this entire question, that prior to this extract Harry had said something, detailing a train of thought, to which Uncle Vernon was responding. On re-reading it, that's clearly not the case, and I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking. My bad. Jun 19, 2014 at 12:16

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