Knockturn Alley is a shopping area for dark objects and the dark arts. It is located off of Diagon Alley in London.
Borgin and Burkes is the primary shop devoted to the dark arts, which sold and maintained several cursed objects, magical cabinets, glow-in-the-dark hands, and necklaces. Untoward and sometimes dangerous individuals loitered in the area and conducted informal, dark business.
Knockturn Alley Quick Facts
|Location||Diagon Alley, London|
|Permanent Residents||Borin and Burke|
|Affiliation||Dark Arts and Dark Artifacts|
Knockturn Alley Access
Knockturn Alley was first introduced when Harry Potter stumbled into it by accident. His first time using Floo powder, he coughed on the ashes and accidentally said “diagonally” instead of Diagon Alley. Though it is never confirmed in the books how one would enter using Floo powder, it seems that one could get there by traveling diagonally instead of straight.
This would indicate that the things going on in Diagon Alley were for those on the straight and narrow path, but the things going on in Knockturn Alley were for those who were not. However, the location of Knockturn Alley was around the corner from Diagon Alley. There was a twisting alley akin to any back alley in London.
When Harry Potter was rescued by Hagrid, his first accidental time to Knockturn Alley, they exited the shopping area and landed right back in Diagon Alley by taking this same path. The Weasley twins were supremely jealous as none of the Weasley children were allowed there.
Other access would include apparitions and the vanishing cabinet that was maintained at Hogwarts for a year.
Knockturn Alley Business
The only store that was known to operate by name in Knockturn Alley was Borgin and Burkes. This was the store where Tom Riddle worked after graduating from Hogwarts and where Tom Riddle sought powerful, dark objects on behalf of the owner and, eventually, himself.
Other street vendors were selling poisonous candles, human-looking fingernails, and stores selling flesh-eating slug repellent (which, my childhood experiences tell me, could just as easily be table salt).
The majority of people described there were unpleasant, suspicious people. It was also a place where former (and eventually current) death eaters would shop or sell their dark objects. However, despite the reputation, it also seems to be where people simply get things that might not be particularly pleasant, like the flesh-eating slug repellent that Hagrid was getting on behalf of the school.
The fact that Hagrid shopped there means anyone can go to the area. In fact, Ron, Harry, and Hermione followed Draco and his mother there at one point.
Knockturn Alley Items for Sale
- The “Hand of Glory” which only gives light to the holder. Lucius said he did not want his son to amount to a mere thief, yet Malcoy purchased it at some point because he used it during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower.
- Hangman’s rope.
- Poisonous candles.
- Flesh-eating slug repellent, which can be used on oversized slugs in your garden.
- The cursed Opal necklace, which had previously killed 19 muggles and was given to Katie Bell with instructions to give it to Dumbledore, but she touched it through a pinhole in her glove and was severely injured.
- Shrunken heads
- Slytherin’s locket was maintained for several years before being sold to Hepzibah Smith.
- Giant black spiders
- A Vanishing Cabinet, which seems to be where Harry was sent when he used the floo powder, for he described being inside a large cabinet, but was otherwise kept secret.
Knockturn Alley History
Caractacus Burke had already opened the store by the 1920s when Merope Gaunt sold Slytherin’s locket for ten galleons, not realizing what it was. Burke was not a generous man and could tell that she was disheveled, likely homeless, and very pregnant, and still did not give her much money.
He later sold the pocket to Hapzihab Smith for a hefty fee. When Tom Riddle worked for Burke, he murdered her, stole the necklace, and resigned from his job.
Harry Potter first discovered Knockturn Alley when he used floo powder and accidentally ended up there. When he was there, he was transported directly to Borgin and Burkes, where he saw Draco and his father talking about selling some of the Malfoy’s dark artifacts.
He was able to sneak out of the store when he encountered a very old witch who had Mossy covered teeth selling fingernails on a tray. In the movie, several suspicious-looking witches and wizards Converge on Harry before Hagrid says him, but in the book, it’s merely the mossy-tooth witch.
Hagrid is horrified to find Harry in such a place, describing it as dodgy and escorting him back to Diagon Alley.
4 years later, Ron, Harry, and Hermione follow Draco Malfoy into Diagon Alley based on Harry Potter’s suspicions that Draco has been made into a death eater (I still can’t believe that for an entire year, Hermione and Ron called him crazy and when he was proved right he didn’t do a single victory dance or rub it in their face nor did they apologize).
They watched from outside the store as Draco and several other Death Eaters had a meeting. It turned out that Draco was fixing a Vanishing cabinet.
One of them remained at the store, and one of them was inside the school. After fixing the cabinet, Draco was able to allow several Death Eaters to enter Hogwarts and start a huge battle.
Knockturn Alley Name
I won’t say how long it took me to realize the name was a play on “nocturne,” as in things that happen in the night/darkness, but now that I know, I love the name even more. J.K. Rowling wrote so many facets with double meanings (“floo” powder instead of “flue” to travel through a fireplace, haha) without making them too obvious, and that takes profound talent.
Knockturn Alley Appearances in Books
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Knockturn Alley Appearances in Films
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (mention only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (mentioned only in a deleted scene)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Knockturn Alley Quotes
Harry Potter arriving in Knockturn Alley:
“He fell, face forward, on the Cold Stone and felt the bridge of his glasses snap.
Dizzy and bruised, covered in soot, he got gingerly to his feet, holding his broken glasses up to his eyes. He was quite alone, but where he was, he had no idea. All he could tell was that he was standing in the stone fireplace of what looked like a large, dimly lit Wizard’s shop— but nothing in here was ever likely to be on a Hogwarts school list.
A glass case nearby held a withering hand on a cushion, a blood-stained pack of cards, and a staring glass eye. Evil-looking masks stared down from the walls, an assortment of human bones lay upon the counter, and rusty, spiked instruments hung from the ceiling. Even worse, the dark, narrow street Harry could see through the dusty shop window was definitely not Diagon Alley.
The sooner he got out of here, the better. Nose still stinging where he had hit the hearth, Harry made his way swiftly and silently toward the door, but before he’d got halfway toward it, two people appeared on the other side of the glass— and one of them was the very last person Harry wanted to meet when he was lost, covered in soot, and wearing broken glasses: Draco Malfoy.
Harry looked quickly around and spotted a large black cabinet to his left; he shot inside it and pulled the doors closed, leaving a small crack to peer through. Seconds later, a bell clanged, and Malfoy stepped into the shop.”
Mr. Borgin explaining a dark object to Draco:
“Ah, the Hand of Glory!” said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy’s list and scurrying over to Draco. “Insert a candle, and it gives light only to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir.”
Harry, trying to find Diagon Alley:
“He had emerged into a dingy alleyway that seemed to be made up entirely of shops devoted to the dark arts. The one he just left, Borgin and Burkes, looked like the largest, but the opposite was a nasty window display of shrunken heads, and two doors down, a large cage was alive with gigantic black spiders. Two shabby-looking Wizards were watching him from the shadow of a doorway, muttering to each other. Feeling jumpy, Harry set off, trying to hold his glasses on straight and hoping against hope he’d be able to find a way out of here.
An old wooden sign hanging over a shop selling poisonous candles told him he was in Knockturn Alley.”
Hagrid, after finding Harry Potter there:
“Skulkin’ around Knockturn Alley, I dunno — dodgy place, Harry — don’ want no one ter see yeh down there —”
Answer: He says that Harry shouldn’t be hanging around that place because it is dodgy. He also explained that he was there himself to fetch a specific product.
Answer: It is meant to be a place where dark things take place. It is a play on the word “nocturnally” or “nocturne,” which implies darkness, which is why it is a place for dark arts.
Answer: Knockturn Alley sells dark items. Admittedly some dark items can be used for good purposes, like flesh-eating slug repellent. Even a “Hand of Glory” could be used for good purposes depending on the owner. However, it is juxtaposed with Diagon Alley, which sells good things for the–light arts? We never got a name for the opposite of dark arts–like ice cream, clothes, owls, school supplies, and the like.