|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Place|
|Location||Near Ottery St. Catchpole|
|Permanent Residents||Arthur Weasley, Molly Weasley, Bill Weasley, Charlie Weasley, Percy Weasley, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Ron Weasley, Ginny Weasley|
|First Appearance||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets|
The Burrow is the rural home of the Weasley family, located near the fictional town of Ottery St. Catchpole.
The Burrow is a wizard-built ramshackle multi-story dwelling that clearly needs magic to keep it from falling apart. It has a ghoul in the attic, gnomes in the garden and an adjacent pasture that has been pressed into use as a Quidditch pitch for years. There is a shed where Arthur Weasley, the head of the family, explores and tinkers with the Muggle artifacts he comes across, often with destructive results. Near Molly Weasley's kitchen is a grandfather clock with a hand for each family member and markings around the face for places they might be ("home", "traveling", "mortal peril").
With seven children in the family, there's not much money to go round, and a real spirit of "make-do" pervades the Burrow and its genteel poverty, but to Harry Potter, who grew up unloved and unwanted for ten years before he re-entered the Wizarding world at the age of eleven, the Burrow is his summer-holiday spot of choice, because it is filled with a family's love in enough abundance to welcome him within.
Harry stays at the Burrow for about a month in the summer before his second year at Hogwarts, two weeks before his fourth year, a month and a half before his sixth year, and over Christmas of that year, and a few days before what would have been his seventh year had he returned to Hogwarts. On his first visit there, he is treated as a guest, with little to do, though he does volunteer for the chore of de-Gnoming the garden. In his last two visits, we see that he has been assigned tasks, chopping and peeling sprouts alongside Ron at Christmas, and assisting with preparing the Burrow for Bill and Fleur's wedding in his final visit. Without the reader realizing it, this quite clearly shows how Harry is being integrated into the Weasley family, changing over the course of six years from being a guest in the house to being one of the family with associated duties. It may be instructive to note that despite his complaints, Harry does not seem particularly upset at being so included in the chores list.
The main purpose of The Burrow seems to be contrast. It is an overcrowded, cluttered, haphazard house held together with the wizarding equivalent of baling wire and bubble gum, and there is a very real shortage of money shown by the need to "make do". Set against this we have Harry's nominal home at Number 4, Privet Drive, a very neat and clean new house, squared at the corners, perfect in every way, with enough space that an entire room can be set aside for Dudley's broken birthday presents... and absolutely horrible to live in for anyone who has any real feeling at all. The contrast between the Weasley's physical poverty and spiritual richness, set against the Dursleys' physical financial stability and spiritual emptiness, mirrors the difference between Harry's sterile life in the Muggle world, and his almost overfull life in the Wizarding world.
The Burrow is also Harry's first exposure to a functional family, and will be a model for his own family, we suspect, later in his life. It is amazing to the adult reader that Harry, growing up in the horribly flawed and dysfunctional "family" unit that is the Dursley household, has turned out as well as he has, and the Weasley family, tied inseparably to The Burrow, provides the family warmth and unity that Harry has been longing for since he first arrived at Privet Drive.
One point that may be worth mention is that Molly Weasley's "excellent clock", as Dumbledore calls it in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is, when we first see it, "the grandfather clock in the corner," but later is a mantel clock. (Note that it should not be confused with another clock, seen on Harry's first visit to the Burrow, which is a wall clock. The wall clock actually does indicate the time to do things, while the clock Dumbledore refers to indicates the whereabouts of the Weasley family.) There is no explanation for this, or anything to indicate it is anything but an oversight by the author, but we can suggest a reason for the change. Dumbledore, as we know, is quite skilled with mechanical - magical hybrid devices, and has made rather a hobby of them. Clearly the clock is such a device, and as Dumbledore chooses to single it out in his speech, it certainly was something he found memorable, and thus it is possible that the clock is unique. As the fifth book ends, the Wizarding world abruptly becomes a much more dangerous place, and it is likely that Molly finds the grandfather clock somewhat less than useful; she clearly prefers to have the clock with her at all times, rather than leaving it in the parlour where it is out of her immediate view — in fact, when we see the clock in book six, it is being carried around with the laundry that Mrs. Weasley is then doing. It is not at all far fetched to guess that Mrs. Weasley has had the workings re-built into a smaller compass purely so she could keep it, and updates of her family's status, with her at all times.
It is noted in A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot that Ottery St. Catchpole "on the south coast of England" is one of a number of villages where wizards settled in relatively large numbers after the ratification of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1689. Apart from this description, we have little information about where the village is, except that it is close enough to London that it is reasonable to drive to King's Cross Station—Arthur Weasley drives them there in the Ford Anglia before Harry's second year, and Mrs. Weasley arranges a trio of taxicabs before Harry's fourth year.
Initially it may seem that The Burrow is not necessary to the story. In the first book, Harry discovers that he feels at home at Hogwarts, and his being away from the Dursleys is quite evidently enough for him. However, Hogwarts being a "home away from home" still leaves Harry without a true home, and without any exposure to a functional family. This exposure is necessary to drive Harry's development: at the start of the series, Harry quite plainly must stand on his own, nobody in the Dursley household will take his side in anything. As the series progresses, Harry learns that in order to succeed, he must accept help, and in fact ask for help, initially from Ron and Hermione, and later from many others. Harry is still fighting this internal propensity as late as the final book in the series, where he believes that he must find the final Horcrux on his own, and resists, at least initially, offers of help from the reformed Dumbledore's Army. How much of this willingness to accept help comes from his observation of, and integration into, the Weasley family unit? It is very hard to tell, but a large part of it could be Harry's observation of how the family survives its estrangement from Percy, and how Percy is weakened by the separation, in ways that Charlie and Bill are not. The Burrow clearly is necessary to that observation, being a place where the Weasley family are gathered for our, and Harry's, education.