Writing this Harry Potter guide was quite an undertaking. It was a difficult task, not only because there’s so much information to gather and share, but also because I’m so emotionally attached to Harry Potter and the wizarding world.
Unlike most die-hard Harry Potter fans who started reading the books when they were children, I was an adult. However, much like those children grew up with Harry Potter, he came with me on a journey that was just as difficult. I was a newlywed, and then a new mother, and then a mother for the second time.
Harry Potter got me through many long nights of breastfeeding my children. And I looked forward to having each new book arrive on my doorstep just as much as any kid. I can remember trying to prop up my infant son just after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix arrived. We were sleep training him so no one was in a good mood, including him. I tried to keep him occupied so I could devour the book. Finishing it was painstaking, but it was worth it.
The next leg of my Harry Potter journey began when I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone out loud to my son. By then, he was about 8 years-old, the right age, according to J.K. Rowling, to read her books.
Now my children are teenagers. They’re still fond of Harry Potter, but I don’t know if they’ll ever have the same attachment to the wizarding world that I do.
That’s my story. Here’s the story of the boy wizard and his creator.
Disclosure: The links in this blog post are affiliate links, which means Media Medusa earns a small commission when you buy something using these links.
In this Harry Potter guide:
- J.K. Rowling
- Wizarding Schools
- Hogwarts Houses
- Hogwarts Faculty
- Diagon Alley
- Death Eaters
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” That’s the first line of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Who knew that such a simple line would kick off a worldwide phenomenon that will last decades?
J.K. Rowling’s story if just as famous as the boy wizard’s. She was a single mother with a newborn living on assistance in Edinburgh, Scotland. She would feed her infant daughter, then push her in a pram to a local coffee shop, where she wrote the first Harry Potter book in longhand.
I’ve seen her interviewed many times. As she says, it’s easy to forget that she had no idea whatsoever that she would every sell her book, let alone become one of the richest people on the planet.
In one TV special, they took her back to that one-room flat. She cried, reiterating how desperate she was, how depressed. The J.K. Rowling from the past could just have easily slipped into obscurity, never earning enough for luxuries. The fact that she remains humble is one of the reasons her fans adore her.
After several publishers passed her book over, she finally snagged a small publisher in England who produced a small number of copies. It wasn’t until Scholastic bought the U.S. rights to her book that Harry Potter mania took off. The initial print run was only 50,000. Compare that to 8.3 million – the number of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows books old in just 24 hours.
Fun Fact: J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter share the same birthday, July 31.
J.K. Rowling started a charity, Lumos, in 2004. The organization’s mission is to “influence the world’s decision makers to support children in families and not orphanages.” Learn more about her charity.
Here are the books in the Harry Potter series and the extended universe. I’ve included their original U.S. publishing date.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (September 1998) – Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard and leaves his miserable home life to enroll in wizarding school.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (June 2, 1999) – Someone is tormenting Hogwarts, and then things get dangerous.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (September 8, 1999) – Harry’s life is in danger (as usual), but his pursuer is also a tantalizing link to his parents’ lives.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (July 8, 2000) – Harry is unwillingly enrolled in a dangerous tournament by someone with dark magic. Will he survive to find out why?
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (June 21, 2003) – Lord Voldemort has returned, whether the Ministry likes it or not. But no one believes Harry and Dumbledore except their close friends.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 16, 2005) – Dumbledore reveals scant little about why he keeps leaving the castle. And Harry finds a textbook that seems to be a boon, but turns out to be a curse.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (July 21, 2007) – The final year of Harry’s journey to meet the Dark Lord in battle.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (March, 12, 2001) – An encyclopedia of magical creatures in the wizarding world.
Quidditch Through the Ages (March, 12, 2001) – A history of the wizarding world’s favorite sport.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard (December 3, 2008) – Like Muggle children have fairy tales, little wizards and witches listen to these terrible tales.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents, Book 1) (September 6, 2016) – Self-explanatory.
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore Presents, Book 2) (September 6, 2016) – Self-explanatory.
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore Presents, Book 3) (September 6, 2016) – The opposite of Hermione’s favorite tome, Hogwarts: A History.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Screenplay) (July 31, 2016) – Harry is all grown-up and has a family of his own, but danger still trails them.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) (November 18, 2016) – Pre-Harry Potter, Newt Scamander travels to New York City to capture lost magical creatures.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Screenplay) (November 16, 2018)
Fun Fact: Look at the dates of publication for both Fantastic Beasts screenplays. The dates and the years switch places.
Did you know? The Harry Potter series of books is free if you’re a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone premiered on November 16, 2001. J.K. Rowling had worked closely with Steve Kloves, the screenwriter. The movie was directed by Christopher Columbus, whose production design decisions informed the entire rest of the series.
The trio continued working together on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. But when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban began production, Columbus stepped down and Alfonso Cuarón took the reins. Prisoner of Azkaban was a turning point in both the books and the movies, because they began to tell a darker story.
Director Mike Newell stepped in for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, all the while with Rowling and Kloves continuing to write the screenplays.
Director David Yates, who took the helm for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is credited with giving the movies and even darker, more sophisticated tone. This time, however, Rowling worked with Michael Goldenberg on the screenplay.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince saw the dream team of Rowling, Kloves and Yates brought together. These three took the movies across the finish line with both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows movies.
Nearly five years later, Rowling introduced the eighth official Harry Potter story to the world. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is an original play in two parts, written by Jack Thorne, who collaborated with Rowling. The play bowed in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.
See also: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review
Also that year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them premiered in movie theaters. Fantastic Beasts was the first wizarding world film that wasn’t adapted from a book, but was written as an original screenplay.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will premiere in movie theaters on November 16, 2018.
Here is a list of live-action performances, listed as they would occur chronologically in the wizarding world story. Their premiere dates are also included.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18, 2016)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (November 16, 2018)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (November 16, 2001)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (November 15, 2002)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (June 4, 2004)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (November 18, 2005)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 11, 2007)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15, 2009)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (November 19, 2010)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (July 15, 2001)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2 (July 30, 2016)
The cast of the Harry Potter movies grew up on screen. Much has been written about them, so I won’t write anything in-depth here. Needless to say, they were swept up in the phenomenon and forever changed (and rich).
Instead, I will simply group characters as I see fit. First is the character name / followed by the name of the actor or actress who portrayed said character.
- Harry Potter / Daniel Radcliffe
- Hermione Granger / Emma Watson
- Ron Weasley / Rupert Grint
- Hannah Abbott / Charlotte Skeoch
- Katie Bell / Georgina Leonidas
- Susan Bones / Eleanor Columbus
- Terry Boot / Kevin Lee Yi
- Lavender Brown / Jessie Cave
- Cho Chang / Katie Leung
- Michael Corner / Niall Galvin
- Colin Creevey / Hugh Mitchell
- Dennis Creevey
- Marietta Edgecombe
- Justin Fitch Fletchley / Edward Randell
- Seamus Finnigan / Devon Murray
- Anthony Goldstein
- Angelina Johnson / Danielle Tabor
- Lee Jordan / Luke Youngblood
- Neville Longbottom / Matthew Lewis
- Luna Lovegood / Evanna Lynch
- Ernie Macmillan / Louis Doyle
- Padma Patil / Afshan Azad
- Parvati Patil / Shefali Chowdhury
- Zacharias Smith / Nick Shirm
- Alicia Spinnet / Leilah Sutherland
- Dean Thomas / Alfred Enoch
- Fred Weasley / James Phelps
- George Weasley / Oliver Phelps
- Ginny Weasley / Bonnie Wright
Order of the Phoenix
- Sirius Black / Gary Oldman
- Edgar Bones
- Caradoc Dearborn
- Dedalus Diggle
- Elphias Doge / David Ryall
- Aberforth Dumbledore / Ciarán Hinds
- Albus Dumbledore / Michael Gambon
- Benjy Fenwick
- Arabella Figg / Kathryn Hunter
- Mundungus Fletcher / Andy Linden
- Rubeus Hagrid / Robbie Coltrane
- Hestia Jones
- Alice Longbottom
- Frank Longbottom / James Payton
- Remus Lupin / David Thewlis
- Minerva McGonagall / Maggie Smith
- Marlene McKinnon
- Dorcas Meadowes
- Alastor Moody / Brendan Gleeson
- Peter Pettigrew / Timothy Spall
- Sturgis Podmore
- James Potter / Adrian Rawlins
- Lily Potter / Geraldine Somerville
- Fabian Prewett
- Gideon Prewett
- Kingsley Shacklebolt / George Harris
- Severus Snape / Alan Rickman
- Nymphadora Tonks / Natalia Tena
- Emmeline Vance / Brigitte Millar
- Arthur Weasley / Mark Williams
- Molly Weasley / Julie Walters
Weasleys (Eldest to Youngest)
- Arthur Weasley / Mark Williams
- Molly Weasley / Julie Walters
- Bill Weasley / Domhnall Gleeson
- Charlie Weasley
- Percy Weasley / Chris Rankin
- Fred and George Weasley / James Phelps and Oliver Phelps
- Ron Weasley / Rupert Grint
- Ginny Weasley / Bonnie Wright
Fantastic Beasts Cast
- Newt Scamander / Eddie Redmayne
- Graves / Colin Farrell
- Tina / Katherine Waterston
- Mary Lou / Samantha Morton
- Jacob Kowalski / Dan Fogler
- Credence Barebone / Ezra Miller
- Faith Wood-Blagrove / Modesty Barebone
- Chastity Barebone / Jenn Murray
- Seraphina Picquery / Carmen Ejogo
- Queenie / Alison Sudol
- Leta Lestrange / Zoë Kravitz
- Gellert Grindelwald / Johnny Depp
- Albus Dumbledore / Jude Law
- Maledictus / Claudia Kim
- Theseus Scamander / Callum Turner
- Vinda Rosier / Poppy Corby-Tuech
- Torquil Travers / Derek Riddell
- Mrs. Lestrange / Sabine Crossen
- Nicolas Flamel / Brontis Jodorowsky
Harry Potter always assumed that Hogwarts was the only wizarding school on the planet. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, however, he discovered that there were other schools. Thanks to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we’re now aware of schools in North America, as well.
Although the locations of these wizarding schools is a well-guarded secret, and mere Muggles are jinxed into not seeing them, Pottermore has revealed the location of all seven wizarding schools. (According to Pottermore, there are 11 total, but only these seven locations are listed.)
- Beauxbatons Academy of Magic (Somewhere in the Pyrenees)
- Castelobruxo (Brazil)
- Durmstrang Institute (Far North of Europe)
- Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Scotland)
- Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Mount Greylock, Massachusetts)
- Mahoutokoro (Japan)
- Uagadou (Africa)
See also: Finding Harry Potter in Lancaster County
- Headmaster: Professor McGonagall
- Mascot: Lion
- Colors: Scarlet and gold
- Sorting Hat: “You might belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart. Their daring, nerve and chivalry set Gryffindors apart.”
- Ghost: Nearly Headless Nick
- Founder: Helga Hufflepuff
- Headmaster: Professor Sprout
- Mascot: Badger
- Colors: Black and yellow
- Sorting Hat: “You might belong in Hufflepuff, where they are just and loyal. Those patient Hufflepuffs are true, and unafraid of toil.”
- Ghost: The Fat Friar
- Founder: Rowena Ravenclaw
- Headmaster: Professor Flitwick
- Mascot: Eagle
- Colors: Blue and bronze
- Sorting Hat: “Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw, if you’ve a ready mind, where those of wit and learning will always find their kind.”
- Ghost: The Grey Lady
- Founder: Salazar Slytherin
- Headmaster: Professor Snape
- Mascot: Serpent
- Colors: Green and silver
- Sorting Hat: “Or perhaps in Slytherin you’ll make your real friends.
Those cunning folk use any means to achieve their ends.”
- Ghost: The Bloody Baron
Where would the students of Hogwarts be without their faculty? Probably off drinking a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. However, lessons must be learned. This list has the faculty member / their subject / and the actor who played said faculty member.
- Cuthbert Binns / History of Magic
- Charity Burbage / Muggle Studies / Carolyn Pickles
- Albus Dumbledore / Headmaster / Michael Gambon
- Argus Filch / Caretaker / David Bradley
- Firenze / Divination
- Filius Flitwick / Charms / Warwick Davis
- Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank / Care of Magical Creatures / Apple Brook
- Rubeus Hagrid / Caretaker and Care of Magical Creatures / Robbie Coltrane
- Rolanda Hooch / Flying and Quidditch referee / Zoë Wanamaker
- Silvanus Kettleburn / Care of Magical Creatures
- Gilderoy Lockhart / Defense Against the Dark Arts / Kenneth Branagh
- Remus Lupin / Defense Against the Dark Arts / David Thewlis
- Minerva McGonagall / Transfiguration / Maggie Smith
- Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody / Defense Against the Dark Arts / Brendan Gleeson
- Irma Pince / Librarian / Sally Mortemore
- Poppy Pomfrey / Hospital / Gemma Jones
- Quirinus Quirrell / Defense Against the Dark Arts / Ian Hart
- Aurora Sinistra / Astronomy
- Horace Slughorn / Potions / Jim Broadbent
- Severus Snape / Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts / Alan Rickman
- Pomona Sprout / Herbology / Miriam Margolyes
- Sybill Trelawney / Divination / Emma Thompson
- Dolores Umbridge / Defense Against the Dark Arts / Imelda Staunton
- Septima Vector / Arithmancy
The shops at Diagon Alley, which lies just off Charing Cross Road in London, are hidden from Muggle eyes. You can only access Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron. There, students can get supplies for their school year, and wizards and witches can deposit or withdraw from Gringotts bank. It is fairly obvious what most of these establishments sell simply by looking at their names. However, if nothing is obvious, I have included their merchandise after.
- Cranville Quincey’s Magical Junkshop
- Eeylops Owl Emporium
- Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor
- Flourish & Blott’s (books)
- Gambol & Jape’s Jokeshop
- The Leaky Cauldron (pub)
- Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions
- The Magical Menagerie
- Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary
- Ollivander’s Wand Shop
- Potage’s Cauldron Shop
- Quality Quidditch Supplies
- Scribulus Writing Instruments
- Second-hand Bookshop
- Slug & Jigger’s Apothecary
- Sugarplum’s Sweetshop
- Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (joke shop)
- Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment
Hogsmeade is the only entirely non-Muggle settlement in Britain. Therefore, every shop, restaurant and tourist attraction is full of magic. Witches and wizards are free to use magic, as well. Beginning in their third year, students at Hogwarts are allowed to visit Hogsmeade on specific weekends, as long as their guardian signed their permission slip.
It is fairly obvious what most of these establishments sell simply by looking at their names. However, if nothing is obvious, I have included their merchandise after.
- Dervish and Banges (sells and repairs magical instruments)
- Gladrags Wizardwear
- The Hog’s Head (dodgy pub)
- Hogsmeade Station
- Honeydukes (sweetshop)
- Madam Puddifoot’s (teashop)
- Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop
- The Shrieking Shack (deserted house)
- The Three Broomsticks (pub)
- Zonko’s Joke Shop
Pets play an important role in the lives of Hogwarts students, as well as some adults. Students are allowed to bring an owl, a cat, a toad or a rat to school. Some of the “pets” listed here were not allowed in Hogwarts, however.
- Aragog – Hagrid’s spider
- Arnold – Ginny’s pygmy puff
- Buckbeak – Hagrid’s, and then Sirius’s, Hippogriff
- Crookshanks – Hermione’s cat
- Errol – Weasley family owl
- Fang – Hagrid’s hound
- Fluffy – Hagrid’s three-headed dog
- Hedwig – Harry’s owl
- Hermes – Percy’s owl
- Nagini – Lord Voldemort’s snake
- Norbert – Hagrid’s dragon
- Pigwidgeon – Ron’s owl
The Death Eaters were Lord Voldemort’s followers. Some did time in Azkaban Prison, while others denounced the Dark Lord and avoided punishment. This is a list of known Death Eaters / and the actor or actress who plays said Death Eater.
- Mr. Avery, Jr.
- Mr. Avery, Sr.
- Alecto Carrow / Suzanne Toase
- Amycus Carrow / Ralph Ineson
- Mr. Crabbe, Sr.
- Barty Crouch, Jr. / David Tennant
- Antonin Dolohov / Arben Bajraktaraj
- Bellatrix Lestrange / Helena Bonham Carter
- Augustus Rookwood / Richard Trinder
- Albert Runcorn / David O’Hara
- Corban Yaxley / Peter Mullan
This is not a complete list of spells. Being a mere Muggle, I couldn’t possibly know every charm, hex and jinx available to witches and wizards. However, I have compiled as many as I could.
Accio – Call forth
Aguamenti – Release water
Alohomora – Unlock
Avada Kedavra – The Killing Curse; one of the three Unforgivable Curses
Confundo – Disorient and confuse
Crucio – Cause agonizing pain; one of the three Unforgivable Curses
Diffindo – Severing charm
Dissendium – Reveal a secret passage
Expecto Patronum – Call forth a Patronus
Expelliarmus – Flick an object from an opponent’s grasp
Finestra – Shatter glass
Homenum Revelio – Reveal a human presence
Impedimenta – Stop or slow someone down
Imperio – Can control another’s actions; one of the three Unforgivable Curses
Incendio – Set aflame
Legilimens – Look into another person’s mind
Levicorpus – Life someone into the air
Lumos – Light your wand
Morsmordre – Cast a Dark Mark into the sky
Muffliato – Fills another’s ears with buzzing noise
Nox – Extinguish your wand
Obliviate – Erase another’s memories
Petrificus Totalus – Paralyze another
Priori Incantatem – See spells that a wand has previously cast, in reverse order
Protego – Defend against a spell
Protego Totalum – Defends a large area
Relashio – Forces another to release their hold on something
Reparo – Fixes
Revelio – Reveal secrets
Riddikulus – Defensive spell against Boggarts
Sectumsempra – Produces bloody gashes in your opponent
Stupefy – Knock out
Unbreakable Vow – Make a vow that, if broken, you die
Wingardium Leviosa – Levitate items
These online stores are the best I have found for their selection of Harry Potter merchandise, their customer service and their prices.
- Official Warner Bros. Shop
- Hot Topic
- Best of Orlando (discount theme park tickets)
Feel free to download this Harry Potter cheat sheet on .PDF.
I hope this Harry Potter guide is a handy reference for you. What did I miss? Tell me in the comments!
All photos and images courtesy of Scholastic and Warner Bros.