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Since 1st March, 1999
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Magical tour for muggles
Managed to get through the past 10 years or so without reading any of Harry Potter's escapades' If you are this strange strain of muggle, get smart before the sixth instalment comes calling. Metro on Sunday gives you a glossary of sorts to bring you up to speed before 10 am, July 16

Book basics

There have been five books in the series so far: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix. The sixth ' Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ' is to hit the eagerly-awaiting shelves next Saturday morning.

who's who

Harry Potter: He started out sweet, now he is angry, but so would you be if the fate of the magical world rested on your 15-year-old shoulders. He can't get away from his destiny, which seems to be inseparably linked with that of Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents James and Lily in a bid to murder him when he was only an infant, believing the boy was prophesied to kill him.

But the evil wizard failed, as Harry gained protection when his mother sacrificed her own life to save his, acting as a counter-curse. The attack left Harry's forehead famously scarred in the shape of a lightning bolt, an injury that throbs even now when Voldemort's powers are on the rise. Since then, there have been numerous confrontations between the two, and Harry has had some close shaves. The battle that started in Book V will only get more intense in the last two chapters of the seven-book series.

Voldemort: The Dark Lord, Tom Riddle, He who must not be named' Whatever you want to call him, Lord Voldemort is the most dastardly villain the magical world has ever seen. And he has had it out for Harry since he was just a baby. The vicious vendetta worsened when the fatal Avara Kedavra curse he tried to use on Harry backfired, nearly killing himself.

Harry too is no mood to let bygones be bygones. Voldemort killed his parents, hurt almost everyone he knows and intends to destroy all that is good in a world he has only just discovered. But the Dark Lord's powers are growing and the second war with the Death Eaters ' Voldemort's dark supporters ' had already begun by the end of Book V.

Ron Weasley: Ron's family almost adopts Harry, one of his closest pals at school since day one. Harry's 15-year-old classmate hails from a rambunctious family of wizards and one young witch, and always sticks by him through the tough times. Though they have had their share of spats, without Ron's loyal support, it is unlikely that Harry would have made it to HPB (Book VI) alive.

Hermione Granger: She is the brightest, most hard-working student in class and is fast friends with Harry and Ron. The 16-year-old muggle-born girl may be a know-it-all, but she always pulls through with the right spells and is wise to just what kind of magic will work on which kind of villain. There are definite stirrings of romance between her and Ron.

Albus Dumbledore: At least 150 years old, Dumbledore is still the most powerful wizard of his time. He is also the headmaster of Hogwarts, where Harry and gang are being educated. He has become something of a mentor to Harry, keeping him on track. He also started the Order of the Phoenix in the 1970s in order to keep Voldemort in check, a group that is now back in action.

Sirius Black: One of Harry's father's best friends, Sirius was wrongly implicated in a mass murder when the dark forces were at their peak. Thought to have betrayed James Potter, leading to his death, he was imprisoned at the dreaded Azkaban. He escaped after 12 years, just in time to play crucial roles in Books III, IV and V. Just when Harry and he became very close, and the young orphaned boy thought he had finally found something akin to a father, Sirius is killed in battle (Book V).

Hagrid: The half-giant was once a student at Hogwarts, but a series of unfortunate events ended that. Now he is gamekeeper, sometimes Care of Magical Creatures teacher, and always Harry's pal, who quite often gets himself, and those around him, in a fix.

The Dursleys: Aunt Petunia (Lily Potter's sister) and Uncle Vernon didn't want to take Harry in after his parents were killed but were compelled to by Dumbledore. The result was a decade of near torture and misery ' much of it at the pudgy hands of insufferable cousin Dudley ' till Hogwart's came calling in Book I.

Severus Snape: Is he evil or isn't he' He is no fan of Harry, though he has come to his aid in the past in the most unexpected ways. The professor with a dark history as a Death Eater is also in charge of Slytherin house, which has an eerie habit of producing the darkest of wizards and witches around ' including Voldemort.

Draco Malfoy: Harry's bully classmate, this slimy character is Snape's understudy of sorts. The Slytherin boy's father Lucius is one of Voldemort's followers and is now in jail, thanks to Harry. The enduring rivalry can only get worse.

what's what

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: This premier Scottish institution is one of the schools to go to if you are a young witch or wizard. Most students get there by taking a train from Platform Nine and Three Quarters at King's Cross station.

Once there, students are divided into four houses ' Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw ' much like any other school, except, here the selection is done by the Sorting Hat, which best assesses kids' strengths and weaknesses.

This crucial decision determines where students will live, at which table they eat, with whom they play sport, amongst a host of other things. The competition is fierce, and of course Harry's house Gryffindor is on top of the ratings, with Slytherin snapping at its heels.

Privet Drive: This is where Harry is forced to live during the summers with the Dursleys.

Diagon Alley: The bustling marketplace for all things magical, Harry and the rest of the Hogwarts team pay regular visits to this lane to buy books, broomsticks, wands and all other magical necessities and luxuries.

Quidditch: This is a key element in Harry's world. The sport can best be described as a cross between American football and basketball, except the whole business is conducted on broomsticks, with seven players to a team. There is a big ball called the quaffle, two smaller bludgers and the critical snitch, a tiny golden ball that flies around at rocket speed. It is the seeker's job to catch it, win points and bring the game to an end. Harry is the youngest seeker Hogwarts has seen in a century. And he is very, very good at it.

Muggle: Ordinary folk, like you and me, without magical powers of any kind.

Mudblood: Powers are not necessarily hereditary. The Weasley family, for instance, is full of magically gifted people (purebloods), and Harry's parents were powerful in their time, but Hermione's parents are muggles. In the caste system (yes, sadly, the magical world has one too), half-bloods ' a mix of muggle and magical stock also known as mudbloods ' are considered by some to be inferior.

Ministry of Magic: In charge of administration of the magical world, just like any government.

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