Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 3127
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. There exists a magical world of carrier owls and robed witches and wizards, much unlike the Muggle, or nonmagical, world. A dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, has murdered Harry Potter’s parents, so the boy is left with the Dursleys, his Muggle aunt, uncle, and cousin. He is eleven years old when he learns that he is a wizard, but some of his peculiar abilities, such as communicating with snakes, had given him clues earlier that he is unusual.
Harry is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His uncle tries to prevent his enrollment, but Harry is fetched by gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid, who takes him to London’s Diagon Alley for money and supplies (including his wand), and put on the train to Hogwarts. During the journey, Harry meets Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, soon to become his best friends. Ron recognizes Harry by a lightning-shaped scar on Harry’s forehead, the result of Voldemort’s attack.
At Hogwarts, children are sorted into four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Harry and his friends are sorted into Gryffindor, famed for its courage, while another new student, Draco Malfoy, is assigned to Slytherin. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore introduces the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Quirrell.
Professors Minerva McGonagall (head of Gryffindor) allows Harry to play Quidditch, a game like aerial soccer on broomsticks, although first-year students are generally prohibited from playing the game. Severus Snape, the head of Slytherin, appears to despise Harry; in turn, Harry and Ron hate Snape. The friendship of Harry, Ron, and Hermione is cemented at Halloween, as they defeat a troll.
Harry and his friends discover a gigantic three-headed dog guarding a forbidden corridor. After they learn that the dog guards the Sorcerer’s Stone, which grants immortality to its owner, the three friends target Snape, who they surmise plans to steal it. They calm the dog with music and solve a series of challenges, before Harry confronts and defeats Quirrell, who hosts the weakened Voldemort in his body and who had been seeking the stone to resurrect his master. The stone is destroyed.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Dobby, a house elf, tries to prevent Harry’s return to Hogwarts because he fears danger. However, Harry does return, thanks to a flying car rigged by Ron’s father, Arthur, and driven by Ron. Ginny Weasley joins Ron and her brothers at Hogwarts. Narcissistic Gilderoy Lockhart, who writes fictionalized tales of his own adventures, is the teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts.
A rash of petrifications, including that of Hermione, raises suspicion that Harry has cursed the victims and that either he or Hagrid has opened the Chamber of Secrets. Harry learns the chamber was last opened fifty years before, a violation for which gamekeeper Hagrid had been expelled from the school. Many believe Harry to be the heir of Hogwarts cofounder Salazar Slytherin. Hagrid is arrested and then sends Ron and Harry into the forest to find a giant spider named Aragog, who reveals that Hagrid is innocent.
Harry also finds the diary of a former Hogwarts student, Tom Riddle, from fifty years before, and communicates with young Riddle by writing in the diary. A series of clues leads the boys to believe the Chamber holds a basilisk, a serpent that can kill with only its look.
Ginny Weasley disappears one day, and Harry and Ron descend through bathroom pipes into the Chamber to find her. Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, brings Harry the sword of Godric Gryffindor and blinds the basilisk. Harry defeats the serpent and uses its fang to destroy the diary. He then saves Ginny and learns that the diary had bewitched her. He also confronts Riddle, who reveals himself as Voldemort. Meanwhile, Dobby, the house-elf, is freed, and the herbology teacher’s mandrakes cure the petrified victims.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Sirius Black is an alleged murderer who has escaped from the wizarding prison, Azkaban. On the train to Hogwarts, the children meet the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus Lupin. They also encounter dementors, Azkaban guards who inhale souls.
Lupin teaches the children to summon a patronus, a protective creature. Harry’s patronus is a stag, his father’s Animagus shape. Draco Malfoy taunts a hippogriff and is nipped; he pretends to be severely injured to get Hagrid fired. The creature, Buckbeak, is sentenced to death.
Chasing his rat, Ron is assaulted by a large black dog and dragged through a secret tunnel toward the village of Hogsmeade. Harry and Hermione follow, only to learn that the dog is Sirius Black’s Animagus. Harry accuses Black of killing his parents and contemplates killing him, but Lupin arrives and disarms Harry. To the friends’ great surprise, Lupin embraces Black. Ron learns that the rat is the Animagus of Peter Pettigrew, and that Black, Lupin, Pettigrew, and James Potter had formed a clique of marauders during their Hogwarts years. The rat appears, and Lupin prevents Black from attacking it, arguing that Harry deserves an explanation.
The explanation reveals startling facts: James Potter once saved Severus Snape’s life, and the debt has fueled Snape’s grudge. Remus Lupin is a werewolf, as Hermione has surmised. Pettigrew had betrayed James and Lily’s Potter’s location to Voldemort the night they died. Black, enraged, had attempted to kill Pettigrew, who escaped, but Black was sentenced to Azkaban for Pettigrew’s murder. When Black lets Harry choose whether Pettigrew lives or dies, Harry reasons that his father would not have wanted his friends to kill anyone and that Azkaban will be sufficient for Pettigrew. Harry also learns that Sirius Black is his godfather.
Dementors appear as the group returns to the castle. Lupin transforms and, in the chaos, Pettigrew escapes. Across the lake, Harry sees the hippogriff executed. He thinks he sees his father, then watches a stag drive the dementors away. Dumbledore allows Harry, Ron, and Hermione to use a rare device to turn back time and save both Buckbeak and Sirius, who rides to freedom on the hippogriff’s back. Once he understands the time shift, Harry realizes that he saw himself, not his father, across the lake.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry begins a trip to the international Quidditch tournament, where he and his friends see in the sky a symbol signifying the presence of Death Eaters, Voldemort’s followers. Students from two other wizarding schools, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, arrive at Hogwarts for the Tri-Wizard Tournament, whose challenges will include stealing eggs from dragons, rescuing loved ones from the lake, and negotiating a perilous maze. Customarily, the name of one participant from each school is drawn from the Goblet of Fire, but this time the goblet adds a fourth name: Harry. Harry steals his dragon’s egg, saves Ron from the lake by eating a plant that gives him gills, and saves the sister of the Beauxbatons champion, Fleur Delacour.
In the maze, Harry and Cedric Diggory, the other Hogwarts contestant, grab the prize together, but the prize is a portkey, an object that transports them to a graveyard where Voldemort waits. Voldemort kills Cedric and attacks Harry, hoping to use the boy’s blood to reinvigorate himself. The wands duel, and spirits of Voldemort’s victims pour out of his wand. Harry sees his parents, and the sight gives him the courage to defeat Voldemort. He also learns that Voldemort set up their meeting by having Harry’s name planted in the goblet by Barty Crouch, Jr., using the Polyjuice potion to impersonate Mad-Eye Moody. Crouch, son of a famous politician, is exposed; he kills his father at Hogwarts and is condemned to receive the dementor’s kiss before he can confirm Voldemort’s return.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Countless witches and wizards oppose Voldemort and the Death Eaters. The order includes Sirius Black, Ron Weasley’s parents, Albus Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, and a number of others. Ironically, they meet in Sirius’s home, despite his family’s allegiance to Voldemort. Sirius’s cousin, Narcissa, is married to Lucius Malfoy, and Narcissa’s sister, Bellatrix Lestrange, had tortured Neville Longbottom’s parents.
A dementor attacks Harry’s cousin, Dudley; Harry protects him but must then answer to the ominous Ministry of Magic for using magic outside Hogwarts. Harry is acquitted and then returns to Hogwarts, where the ministry has installed the simpering and cruel Delores Umbridge as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. She is later the school’s headmaster.
A number of students form Dumbledore’s Army meet in a secret room for self-defense lessons from Harry. The group includes Cho Chung, who is Cedric Diggory’s former girlfriend and now Harry’s love interest. Hagrid, who has been missing for quite some time, returns with his strong but dim-witted half-brother, Grawp, from the land of the giants, whose help he has solicited in the conflict with Voldemort.
One horrible development follows another: Harry discovers that he sometimes sees and hears what Voldemort sees and hears, so he knows when Voldemort, in the form of a snake, attacks Ron Weasley’s father. Bellatrix Lestrange escapes Azkaban. Harry and the children learn that Voldemort has captured Sirius Black, and Headmaster Umbridge continues to torment all of Hogwarts, forcing Harry to write lines with a pen that etches the words into his skin. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are caught in Umbridge’s office trying to communicate with Sirius through her fireplace. On pretense, Hermione leads Umbridge into the forest, where Umbridge insults the centaurs and is captured by them.
Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and their friend Luna Lovegood go to the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic to try to rescue Sirius Black. During a fight between members of the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters, Sirius is killed by Bellatrix Lestrange, and an archived prophecy concerning Harry and Voldemort is destroyed. Harry returns to Hogwarts, devastated at the loss of Sirius. Dumbledore finally tells him why Voldemort wants him dead: Divination teacher Sibyl Trelawny has prophesied that a boy born near Harry’s birth date will try to destroy Voldemort, and “neither can live while the other survives.”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The prime minister of the United Kingdom meets the Minister of Magic to discuss recent disasters caused by Voldemort. Dumbledore tells Harry that Sirius had left his godson everything he owned, including his house and house-elf.
Severus Snape has finally become Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and Horace Slughorn replaces Snape as potions master. Slughorn is impressed with Harry, both because Lily Potter was one of the professor’s favorite students and because Harry excels at potions, thanks to a textbook with mysterious annotations that once had belonged to someone called the Half-Blood Prince. Harry’s success in Slughorn’s class earns him a bottle of liquid luck.
Using a Pensieve, a bowl of liquid through which people enter memories, Harry and Dumbledore investigate Voldemort’s past, including his Slytherin-descended mother and his Muggle father. Finding a corrupted memory, Dumbledore tells Harry to find a way to get Slughorn to give him the true memory. Harry uses the liquid luck and learns that, while a student at Hogwarts, Slughorn had told Tom Riddle about Horcruxes, objects that can store bits of the soul and that are created through the commission of murder. Dumbledore has figured out that Voldemort seeks immortality through the creation of Horcruxes, probably seven of them. He believes that one of these Horcruxes is Riddle’s diary, which Harry had destroyed, and one is a family ring that Dumbledore had destroyed. The seventh Horcrux is inside Voldemort, so there are four more to be found and destroyed.
Dumbledore and Harry go to a cave to find a Horcrux, and Dumbledore drinks a potion there that greatly weakens him, only to find that the Horcrux is gone. The two return to Hogwarts, which has been invaded by Death Eaters. Draco Malfoy tries to kill the headmaster, but he cannot. Instead, Snape kills Dumbledore with the Avada Kedavra curse. As Snape escapes, he reveals himself to Harry as the Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore’s funeral is held on the Hogwarts grounds.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is now seventeen years old, and is no longer protected by his dead mother’s love. Chased by Death Eaters, he is evacuated by the Order of the Phoenix to the Weasleys’ for Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour’s wedding. In the chase, Hedwig is killed.
In his will, Dumbledore leaves Hermione a book of folk tales, Ron a Deluminator, and Harry the first snitch he had caught in a Quidditch match. Dumbledore’s death raises controversy about his past.
Kreacher, now Harry’s house-elf, describes going with Sirius’s brother Romulus to get the Horcrux that Harry and Dumbledore sought in the cave. Harry also learns that Delores Umbridge has the locket.
Severus Snape is now headmaster at Hogwarts. The Ministry of Magic has launched a racial purity inquisition. Using Polyjuice potion, Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter the ministry to get the Horcrux from Umbridge, and they barely escape. In their attempt to reenter the Black house, they let a Death Eater in and then flee.
In Godric’s Hollow, the three friends find the graves of James and Lily Potter and of Dumbledore’s mother and sister. They visit Bathilda Bagshot, author of a book on Dumbledore. Harry is attacked by a snake harbored in Bagshot’s body. Hermione rescues him but destroys his wand in the process. They all learn that as young men, Dumbledore and his friend Gellert Grindewald had wanted wizards to dominate Muggles. Dumbledore had rejected that idea and fought the Dark Arts, but Grindewald had persisted.
Frustrated with the hiding and searching for Horcruxes, Ron leaves briefly. He reappears when Harry dives into a lake to retrieve the sword of Godric Gryffindor, shown to him by a silver doe. Because the locket Horcrux weighs Harry down, Ron must retrieve the sword and save his friend.
The three friends read the book that Dumbledore left for Hermione and search for a triangular mark they find in it, one worn by Luna Lovegood’s father at Bill Weasley’s wedding. When they visit the Lovegoods, the father asks Hermione to read the story of three brothers who trick Death and are awarded one wish each. They receive the powerful Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and an Invisibility Cloak. The three objects are known as the Deathly Hallows. Harry, Ron, and Hermione realize that they might already have two of the Hallows: Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and the Resurrection Stone, concealed by Dumbledore in Harry’s first snitch.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione are arrested and taken to Malfoy Manor, where they find Luna and other captives. Dobby is killed attempting their rescue. They go to Bill and Fleur’s cottage to recover, and then plan to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes.
A goblin trades a Horcrux in Gringott’s for Gryffindor’s sword, which Harry promises but does not intend to give. From the Blacks’ vault, they get Helga Hufflepuff’s cup and escape on a dragon, who takes them to Hogsmeade, where they are saved by Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione return to Hogwarts, which is now infiltrated by Death Eaters. Neville, Luna, and Ginny have been leading Dumbeldore’s Army in the counterattack. Ron and Hermione destroy the Hufflepuff cup with a basilisk’s fang from the Chamber of Secrets. In the Room of Requirement, they two and Harry search for Ramona Ravenclaw’s diadem, another Horcrux. Draco Malfoy and his lackeys, Crabbe and Goyle, plan to deliver Harry to Voldemort. They attack with fire, nearly destroying them all. Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape, taking Malfoy and Goyle with them; they cannot save Crabbe. The Fiendfyre destroys the diadem.
After a long estrangement, Percy Weasley resigns from the Ministry of Magic and rejoins his family to fight the Death Eaters; Fred Weasley is killed. Ron, Harry, and Hermione go to the Shrieking Shack to confront Voldemort. They arrive in time to see Voldemort use the snake, Nagani, to kill Snape and secure the Elder Wand, which Snape had taken after Dumbledore’s death. Voldemort sends the young people back to the castle to stop the battle and tells Harry to meet him in the forest.
In Dumbledore’s office, Harry looks in the Pensieve and sees answers to several mysteries. Dumbledore had trusted Snape’s loyalty because from childhood, Snape had loved Harry’s mother and had deserted Voldemort for killing her. He had promised to help protect Harry for her sake. The Silver Doe who showed Harry Gryffindor’s sword was Snape’s patronus. Dumbledore had asked Snape to kill him to spare Draco Malfoy the responsibility. A part of Voldemort is in Harry, and destroying it would mean destroying Harry.
Harry realizes he must die to destroy Voldemort. He asks Neville to kill Nagani and then goes to meet his nemesis. Remembering the Snitch, he tells it he is going to die and then acquires the Resurrection Stone. It gives him back all the dead he has loved, not in the flesh but in forms that reassure him that death is not painful. Still, he realizes how precious life is.
Voldemort’s attack does not kill Harry but instead destroys the part of Harry that is Voldemort. Dumbledore appears to Harry, explaining that as an adult he had seen the folly in the obsession he and Grindewald once had with the Deathly Hallows. Harry can now choose to die or return to the living. He awakens with Narcissa Malfoy asking him her son’s fate; when Harry replies that Draco lives, she tells Voldemort that Harry is dead, saving his life.
Hagrid carries Harry back to Hogwarts, where his friends grieve. Neville kills Nagani, triggering an attack by Dumbledore’s Army. Even house-elves attack the Death Eaters. Molly Weasley kills Bellatrix Lestrange, and Harry, under the Invisibility Cloak, moves toward Voldemort. When Harry reveals himself, great rejoicing greets him. He explains to Voldemort that the Elder Wand is rightfully his own, as he had taken it from Draco Malfoy after Malfoy had taken it from Dumbledore. Voldemort attacks Harry, but his curse rebounds and kills him. Harry gives up the Elder Wand after using it to repair his own wand.
Nineteen years later, Harry and Ginny, and Ron and Hermione, are married. The couples send their own children to Hogwarts. Harry’s scar has not hurt since Voldemort’s death.
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