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''Harry Potter'' F.A.Q.

”Harry Potter” F.A.Q. — A quick primer on J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world

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Who is VOLDEMORT (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) and why does he want to kill Harry?
Voldemort, a wizard gone to the Dark Side, realizes Harry’s power may one day exceed his own. He killed Harry’s parents but has fumbled Harry’s death several times, even when aided by his servants, the malevolent DEATH EATERS.

What’s HOGWARTS?
A top-notch boarding school for sorcerers. The four residence towers of the millennium-old castle are GRYFFINDOR (this is Harry’s), HUFFLEPUFF, SLYTHERIN, and RAVENCLAW. There’s only one way to get to Hogwarts, and that’s via the THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS, which leaves at 11 a.m. sharp from platform nine and three-quarters in London’s King’s Cross station. MUGGLES, or non-wizards, can’t actually see the school; to them it looks like an ancient, rubble-filled ruin.

What’s QUIDDITCH?
The ultimate flying-broomstick sport and the most popular game in the wizard world (Quidditch World Cup tickets are nearly impossible to come by). Three Chasers per team try to sink one red, soccer-size Quaffle ball into six 50-foot-high, Keeper-guarded hoops; team Beaters protect other players from the attacking black Bludger balls; and each team’s Seeker strives to catch the tiny, game-ending Golden Snitch ball for an extra 150 points. Harry, a Seeker on his school team, rides a state-of-the-art FIREBOLT broom that’s capable of hitting 150 miles an hour in 10 seconds.

Who are NEARLY HEADLESS NICK, BLOODY BARREN, FAT FRIAR, and PEEVES?
They’re just a few of the motley crew of ghosts and poltergeists who reside at Hogwarts.

What on earth is the WHOMPING WILLOW?
It’s an appropriately named, very violent tree on the Hogwarts grounds.

What happens to criminal wizards?
They get shipped off to AZKABAN, an isolated prison-fortress. The guards, called DEMENTORS, are terrifying Grim Reaper types who literally suck the happiness out of you. The useful PATRONUS CHARM is an anti-dementor spell that, with experience, can sometimes be performed to shield yourself from their chilly grasp.

How do wizards get their mail?
By owl, natch (Harry’s is named HEDWIG). For all other necessities, they patronize DIAGON ALLEY, a non-Muggle shopping mall that includes a bookstore (FLOURISH AND BLOTTS), a wand shop (OLLIVANDERS — Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 B.C.), and the goblin-run bank, GRINGOTTS. Diagon Alley is accessed via the LEAKY CAULDRON pub (exit into back courtyard, tap the third brick on the left above the trash can, and duck through the archway that materializes).

Who’s FLUFFY?
The vicious three-headed guard of the sorcerer’s stone, easily pacified with music.

What are COMMON WELSH GREENS, HEBRIDEAN BLACKS, NORWEGIAN RIDGEBACKS, HUNGARIAN HORNTAILS, SWEDISH SHORT-SNOUTS, and CHINESE FIREBALLS?
Species of wild dragons alive and well in Harry’s Britain.

What do you use FLOO POWDER and POLYJUICE POTION for?
Floo powder beams you to wherever you want to go. Just throw some on the fire, shout your destination, and Bob’s your uncle. (Possible side effects: tends to leave a spinning, just-gone-though-a-cyclone sensation in your head.) Polyjuice Potion has transformative powers that allow you to masquerade as someone you know (unfortunate side effect: tastes just like overcooked cabbage).

What are the deadliest spells in the wizard world?
The IMPERIUS CURSE allows you to control another’s actions; with the CRUCIATUS CURSE, you can inflict excruciating, unbearable pain; and with the Killing Curse, or AVADA KEDAVRA, you can kill someone in an instant flash of blinding green light. All three, known as the Unforgivable Curses, are highly illegal; executing them gets you a lifetime sentence in Azkaban. (Warning to wizard wannabes: Do not try these at home.)