It’s hard to believe anyone out there hasn’t at least heard of Harry Potter. If you’re new to the wizarding world you have no doubt been pushed in by all the recent hype. With the fifth movie about to hit movie theatres and the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series coming to a book store near you there is no way you can escape Harry Potter mania. For those who haven’t so much as cracked a Harry Potter book but can’t help getting caught up in it all this article is for you. Find out what happened in the first six books or refresh your memory for those of you who have been along for the ride the whole time.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (known as The Philosopher’s Stone in London) we meet young Harry Potter. His parents died when he was a baby and since then he’s been left in the care of his hateful Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley. Their son, Dudley, is a spoiled, fat brat and loves nothing more then to pick on poor Harry, who’s room is a cupboard under the stairs. Harry discovers he’s a bit ‘different’ when at the zoo with his family he talks to a snake and then sets it free without doing anything that he’s aware of. Suddenly he’s getting letters addressed to him and it specifically states that he lives under the stairs! And they’re being delivered by owls! Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon know something is up and take the boys as far away as possible, but not far enough away for magic to reach him. Hagrid, a giant with magical powers, finds Harry on his eleventh birthday and tells him that he is a wizard! Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon forbid Hagrid to take Harry to Hogwarts School of Magic but they are no match for the giant.
Suddenly Harry is whisked away to London where he enters into a magical world, meets his best friends Ron and Hermione and begins to learn who he is. He is, in short, the boy who lived. When he was a baby an evil wizard, Lord Voldemort, tried to kill him. His father James Potter was killed and his mother, Lily Potter stood in front of her young son to protect him from the deadly blast. Voldemort’s curse failed to kill Harry, leaving him only with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead and reducing Voldemort to dust. Some say Voldemort was killed, some say he wasn’t. At school Harry learns which of his peers to stay away from – Draco Malfoy and his minions Crabbe and Goyle. He meets his professors – Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, Potions master Severus Snape and the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, poor stuttering Professor Quirrell. He’s is quick to find out that Snape has always coveted the role as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher but has never been given the position by Dumbledore. It is also revealed that Snape used to be a Death Eater – a loyal follower of Voldemort until he defected. There are four houses at Hogwarts named after the founding wizards – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. Harry gets assigned to Gryffindor, by an odd magical entity – the Sorting Hat. The hat is just that – a sorting hat, as it sorts all the first year students into their houses. Draco Malfoy and his buddies Crabbe and Goyle get assigned to Slytherin House, where the evil Lord Voldemort lived many years ago as a student of Hogwarts.
Harry learns of his innate magical ability when he excels at broomstick flying. His quick reflexes earn him a spot on the Quidditch team, something that hasn’t been achieved by a first year student in at least a century! Harry, Ron and Hermione soon find out a magical rock, the Sorcerer’s Stone, is residing in the Hogwarts castle. It turns out this rock provides it’s owner with the magical elixir of life, a potion that will keep him alive as long as he has it. It can also bring someone so close to death that they no longer have human shape back into existence. Harry finds out that Professor Quirrell has been taken over by Lord Voldemort and had been trying to steal the stone. With the help of his two best friends, Harry defeats him with the pure love that his mother bestowed upon him when she gave her life to save his. The stone is quickly destroyed by Dumbledore and as the school year comes to an end, Harry is faced with going home to live with the Dursleys for the summer.
Harry’s second year at Hogwarts takes place in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The Dursleys have been bullied into giving Harry a proper room and bed to sleep in but still want him out of sight. When a house elf named Dobby shows up and gets Harry in trouble Uncle Vernon puts bars on Harry’s bedroom window and refuses to let him go back to school. Ron and his twin brothers Fred and George steal their father’s flying car and rescue Harry. Ron’s little sister Ginny begins her first year at Hogwarts this year. Harry and Ron find themselves having to steal the flying car again to get themselves to Hogwarts when the magical gateway to the Hogwarts Express train platform suddenly closes on them, refusing to let them pass. After a deadly brush with a Whomping Willow tree the car spits Harry and Ron out and crawls off into the forbidden forest on it’s own.
A new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher is needed so Dumbledore employs Guildroy Lockhart. Lockhart is very impressed with himself and boasts the capture of many evil wizards. Harry, Ron and Hermione find themselves once again deeply involved in another Hogwarts mystery. Students are being petrified and there are bloody writings on the wall about a Chamber of Secrets being opened. Harry learns that his ability to talk to snakes is a trait the Voldemort shares with him and it’s a bit of a dark gift. They find a blank diary that seems to talk to them from the hands of someone named Tom Riddle. Hermione becomes petrified and Ron’s sister Ginny is taken into the chamber and it becomes Ron and Harry’s mission to find out how to stop the madness and save Ginny.
Lockhart, as it turns out, is not as gifted in the Dark Arts as he would have everyone believe. He is, however, very good with a memory charm and has taken the memories of a many great wizards who fought dark wizards as his own. His memory charm backfires when he tries to put the spell on Ron and Harry and Lockhart himself loses his own mind. Harry goes into the chamber and sees Tom Riddle standing over Ginny’s weak and pale body. Tom Riddle summons up a basilisk, a giant magical snake with the power to kill if you look directly in his eyes and with a bite that kills quickly. The sword of Goddrick Gryffindor is delivered to Harry by Dumbledore’s magical phoenix, Fawkes. With it he kills the basilisk, but not before getting bitten. Realizing that Tom Riddle is a 50 year old memory of Lord Voldemort he stabs the diary that contains his memory with a basilisk tooth, thereby destroying Tom Riddle and releasing Ginny from the curse she was under. Fawkes uses his magical curing tears to heal Harry’s wounds from fighting the basilisk and he flies the lot of them out of the chamber.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban covers Harry’s third year at Hogwarts. In this book we start to learn a bit more history. Azkaban prison is the wizard jail. It is governed over by Dementors, large black figures who suck the joy out of anything they meet and replace all your memories with your worst fears. The only way to ward one of these creatures off effectively is with a Patronus Charm. We find out that a terrible inmate has escaped Azkaban, something rarely heard of. Sirius Black is on the loose and word is he’s after Harry. It’s reported that he’s the one that told Voldemort where James and Lily were the night they were killed.
Once again Hogwarts finds itself in need of a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. This time it’s Remus Lupin, the first teacher of this class that actually teaches the students something useful. He coaches Harry in the art of casting a Patronus Charm to cast off Dementors. A great teacher, yes, but as it turns out he’s a werewolf. He’s also old friend with Sirius Black and has been hiding him in a place called the Shrieking Shack. Ron’s old pet rat is revealed to be Peter Petigrew, a man reported to have been killed by Sirius in order to reveal the whereabouts of the Potters. The truth of the matter is Sirius was James and Lily’s good friend and in fact is Harry’s Godfather. Peter Petigrew was a trusted friend but is actually the one who told Voldemort where the Potters were and has been working for him all this time.
Snape shows up, who has a bit of history with Lupin and Sirius when they were all students at Hogwarts together. Let’s just say Snape was their favorite person to pick on and his wounds are deep. Harry knocks Snape out before he can attack Sirius and they decide to turn Peter in to Azkaban. As the full moon rises Lupin turns into a werewolf, Peter escapes and Harry saves Sirius from the Dementors that have come to take him back to Azkaban. With Dumbledore’s help, Hermione and Harry find a way to help Sirius escape and Lupin, having returned to his human form decides to resign from his position as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire things start to get really dark. Harry has dreams of a graveyard at the old Riddle house and of Barty Crouch, Jr tending to a barely human Voldemort. Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament this year where two other wizard schools come to compete in a series of events in an attempt to win the Triwizard Cup. Students who are at least 17 years of age are to put their names into the Goblet of Fire in consideration for one of the three spots to compete. Three challengers are picked, one from each school, but then Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet. According to the Ministry of Magic Harry is locked in a binding magical agreement and must participate even though he doesn’t meet the age requirements. It’s clear someone has hoodwinked the Goblet by getting Harry’s name in and having it get drawn.
Harry ends up having to fight a dragon and then saving his best friend Ron from the creepy lake outside of the school. And as you may have guessed – we’re short one Defense Against the Dark Art teacher once again. Dumbledore employs Alistair “Mad Eye” Moody, an auror (dark wizard catcher) as the new teacher. Moody coaches Harry through all of his challenges as instructed by Dumbledore. The final event is a magical maze that ends up at the Triwizard Cup. The first one to touch the cup is declared the winner. The two contestants from the other schools are counted out and it’s just Harry’s own classmate Cedric and himself. They run for the cup together and find themselves transported to the Riddle graveyard. Peter Petigrew kills Cedric on Voldemort’s command and then uses Harry’s blood to bring Voldemort back into human form. Harry and Voldemort have a brief dual and then Harry’s parents in ghost form stave off Voldemort long enough for Harry to grab Cedric’s body and transport back to Hogwarts.
Moody takes Harry away from the crowd to his office to question him. In the knick of time Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape arrive and reveal that Moody is really Barty Crouch, Jr. It was he who put Harry’s name in the Goblet and turned the Triwizard Cup into a portkey – a magical device that transports whoever touches it to another location. It was Barty’s job to get Harry to that graveyard so Voldemort could take his blood and become human again. They haul Barty off to Azkaban and find the real Moody imprisoned in a magical chest in Moody’s office. This time we end with the knowledge that not only is Voldemort really alive but he’s out there and he’s plotting.
As Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix begins we see the Dementors make an unexpected attack on Harry and his cousin Dudley while he is at home for the summer. When Harry uses magic to defend himself and Dudley he is immediately whisked away to Sirius Black’s house, also the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. The Order is a group of wizards, led by Dumbledore to fight Lord Voldemort. Harry is reunited with Ron and Hermione again and when they return to school they are faced with their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge. Umbridge is an employee of the new Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, who simply does not believe Voldemort is back. Umbridge refuses to teach her students how to perform defense spells and is soon Fudge appoints her High Inquisitor of Hogwarts which means she’s allowed to evaluate all faculty members at Hogwarts.
Harry, Ron and Hermione form their own Defense group to train called the DA for Dumbledore’s Army. Twenty-five other students sign up and soon they are meeting as often as they can to practice Defense skills. Harry keeps having dreams about walking down the dark corridors of the Ministry of Magic to a room with lots of glass spheres but always wakes up before he knows what they are. He has a dream that he turns into a snake and kills Ron’s dad so Dumbledore has him rescued by two members of the Order for safe keeping. Then he has Harry take Occulmency lessons from Snape to prevent Voldemort from invading his mind. The scar on Harry’s head burns whenever Voldemort is experiencing any sort of high emotion. Umbridge catches the kids in a DA meeting and Dumbledore takes full responsibility for them. Dumbledore resigns and Umbridge takes over as Headmistress.
Harry has a dream that Voldemort is holding Sirius at the Ministry of Magic and torturing him and despite the fact that Hermione warns him it could be a trick by Voldemort, they have Umbridge lured into the dark forest and hauled off by centaurs and the kids fly to the Ministry on flying horses called thestrals. Once there they realize Hermione was right but Harry sees the glass spheres from his dream and one of them has his name on it, as well as Voldemort’s. Harry grabs the sphere and then Voldemort’s Death Eaters come in for the attack demanding that Harry hand over the glass sphere that contains the Prophecy. Members of the Order show up to help fight off the Death Eaters and during the fighting Harry drops the sphere with the Prophecy in it and it shatters. Sirius fights a Death Eater named Bellatrix LeStrange who just so happens to be his cousin and in the end she kills him. Harry is absolutely devastated.
Finally Dumbledore appears and corners the Death Eaters but Voldemort and Bellatrix escape just before Fudge, the Minister of Magic arrives. Dumbledore sends Harry back to Hogwarts and then tells him that the Prophecy says Harry has a power that Voldemort does not know about – that power is love. It further states that Harry is the one that can destroy Voldemort or he will be destroyed by him. He goes on to explain that since he was saved by his mother’s love he must remain with his mother’s sister, Aunt Petunia, because the bond of love can only be sealed by blood. As long as he is with his aunt he is safe. So Harry goes home for another miserable summer with the Dursleys.
This brings us to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the series and the one that sets us up for the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In this book Snape’s loyalties are tested and under great suspicion. Draco Malfoy’s mother Narcissa comes to Snape. Her husband is now an imprisoned Death Eater having been captured at the end of Order of the Phoenix. Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco. The thing about an Unbreakable Vow is – if you break it – you die. Simple as that. Snape is still employed at Hogwarts, still believed to be a reformed Death Eater and yet here he is making Unbreakable Vows with the bad guys!
At the end of the summer Dumbledore personally sees Harry safely from his aunt and uncle’s house to Ron’s house where he can be looked after until it’s time to go back to Hogwarts. While shopping for school supplies Harry overhears Draco threatening someone to fix an unknown object. Since Harry believes Draco is a Death Eater just like his father he grows very suspicious. When they return to Hogwarts for the start of classes everyone is stunned to find out that Snape will be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts!
Horace Slughorn takes over as the new Potions master. Slughorn is obsessed with meeting influential young wizards and therefore holds parties in his office, inviting only a select few. He also hold an important memory of Voldemort’s having been the one to tell him what a Horcrux is – but more about what a Horcrux is in a bit. Harry receives a used potions book that belonged to someone named “The Half-Blood Prince”. In the margins there are notes added that Harry uses to excel at Potions. Dumbledore decides to hold regular meetings with Harry in which he has him looking into a magical object called a pensieve. In this they look at memories of those who had direct contact with Voldemort – the theory being that the more Harry knows about Voldemort, the more capable he’ll be in fighting him when the inevitable moment comes.
Harry learns that Voldemort had a miserable childhood and became a very angry and aggressive boy. He learns that Voldemort has divided his soul into seven Horcruxes – simply stated Voldemort can never die unless all seven parts of his soul dies too. The diary from Chamber of Secrets was one and Harry destroyed it. Another is Voldemort’s father’s ring, which has also been destroyed. Another one is in Voldemort himself, one is in his pet snake and one is in his mother’s locket. The remaining two are suspected to be residing in an objects belonging to Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw.
For years Ron and Hermione have been at each other’s throats, masking their true feelings – the really like each other. This year Ron takes on a new girlfriend, which drives Hermione nuts. Harry can’t take his best friends fighting and eventually falls in love with Ron’s sister Ginny. Soon Ron breaks up with his girlfriend and Hermione is happy again. Harry tries to keep up with Draco’s movements using a magical map called the Maruader’s Map. It tracks everyone inside the Hogwarts castle. When Draco keeps disappearing Harry tracks him down and realizes he’s been using the Room of Requirement – a magical room that transforms into whatever the user needs it to be. As long as someone is using it nobody else can get in so Harry cannot find out what Draco is up to in there.
Dumbledore takes Harry off to find and destroy the locket Horcrux, which is hidden in the basin of a poisonous concoction. Dumbledore drinks the poison until they can reach the locket and Harry gets them back to Hogwarts, where they see the Dark Mark above the astronomy tower. When they get to the roof Dumbledore freezes Harry under his invisibility cloak as Draco comes in with the intent to kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore stalls him. Harry can hear members of the Order fighting off Death Eaters down below. Snape, who as it turns out is the Half-Blood Prince, comes in and kills Dumbledore, his body flying off the roof and onto the ground below. When Dumbledore dies the spell on Harry is lifted and he takes off after Snape in retaliation for killing his beloved Headmaster. Snape escapes with Draco and Harry retreats, devastated. When Harry looks at the locket he realizes it’s not a Horcrux after all! Inside it there is a note to Voldemort from someone named “R.A.B.” who claims to have taken the real Horcrux with intent to destroy it. Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he won’t be coming back to Hogwarts for his final year but instead hunting down the remaining Horcruxes. He breaks up with Ginny telling her that Voldemort would come after those he loved and he couldn’t bear it if something happened to her. Ron, Hermione and Ginny all vow to help Harry find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes as our story comes to an end.
There are numerous theories on what will happen next and end the series. Everything from Dumbledore faking his death to Harry dying in a battle between good and evil. Who lives, who dies – all things that will be answered in the seventh and final book. One thing is certain – Harry Potter is the stuff of legends.