The following passage is quoted from the fifth chapter "Diagon Alley" of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. What does the word "them" in bold refer to? I think that grammatically speaking, it should refer to Harry and Doris, but contextually speaking, it should refer to Hagrid and Harry. Can the word "them", not the word "themselves", include the subject "Hagrid"?

But the others wouldn't let Professor Quirrell keep Harry to himself. It took almost ten minutes to get away from them all. At last, Hagrid managed to make himself heard over the babble. "Must get on -- lots ter buy. Come on, Harry." Doris Crockford shook Harry's hand one last time and Hagrid led them through the bar and out into a small, walled courtyard, where there was nothing but a dustbin and a few weeds.

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    There is nothing but context in most English sentences to disambiguate whom exactly a third-person pronoun refers to. If you're going by the axiom that proximity is the main factor (which isn't quite true, though it is an important factor), them ought perhaps to refer to Harry and Doris Crockford, or to “the others” mentioned further up. But context always wins out, and the context makes it quite clear that Hagrid leads himself and Harry out into the courtyard that leads to Diagon Alley. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 5 '16 at 17:04

I have corrected my answer based on the comments below, which I thankfully acknowledge and greatly appreciate.

Hagrid and Harry are the only two people involved.

The author could have said any of the following, each of which is correct:

"... Hagrid led Harry through the bar ..."

"... Hagrid led him (Harry) through the bar ..."

"... Hagrid led himself and Harry through the bar ..."

"... Hagrid led them (Hagrid himself and Harry) through the bar ..." (the author's choice)

In the last option, them can and in this case does include the subject "Hagrid" himself.

With regard to themselves, the author could have said:

"... Hagrid and Harry led themselves through the bar ..."

There are undoubtedly other possibilities.

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    It does refer to Harry and Hagrid, no one else. There's nothing wrong with a third-person subject being included in the referents of the pronoun them. What other pronoun would you use? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 5 '16 at 17:00
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I would say, "Doris Crockford shook Harry's hand one last time, and Hagrid led him (or Harry) through the bar and out into a small, walled courtyard, where there was nothing but a dustbin and a few weeds." – Richard Kayser Sep 5 '16 at 17:12
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    So "seventy-six trombones led the big parade" is incorrect? You have to say "seventy-six trombones led the rest of the big parade"? I would disagree. – Peter Shor Sep 5 '16 at 18:09
  • Let's say Janus visited Peter's office, and after an hour, he needed to leave. Which of the following would be correct? "Peter led Janus out of the office to the exit," "Peter led him out of the office to the exit," or "Peter led them out of the office to the exit"? Looking at it this way, I can see that all three options, including the third option, are correct. The best option is a matter of context and taste. In any event, I'm going to delete my answer ... after I think about it over a drink. Actually, that may be what got me into trouble in the first place. – Richard Kayser Sep 5 '16 at 19:47

I've never sat down and read a Harry Potter book, but I hear snippets of various books in the series being read out loud around the house frequently (older son reading to younger son). In general they and them refer to Harry and his two sidekicks, I believe they're called Ron Weasley and Hermione. Hagrid, a colorful adult character in the series, tends to take them here and there and the three young people have a symbiotic relationship with him. In some ways he takes care of them, and in some ways they take care of him.

Although Harry, Ron and Hermione are generally the small "them" in the books, and probably are who is meant in your bold text, I will note that there is probably a larger group of people meant in the earlier "them" of your passage ("It took almost ten minutes to get away from them all"). "Babble" is one of the things that give me this idea. I would guess that in this case, the narrator is talking about a bunch of noisy people in some public or semi-public place, such as a big hallway or dining hall at the school Harry attends. Or it might be a bar or café in the nearby village. From what I've seen of Hagrid's movements I think the latter is more likely.

I imagine the bunch of noisy people includes fellow students.

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    In this scene, Harry is the only person following Hagrid. – Peter Shor Sep 5 '16 at 18:12

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