HARRY POTTER: It’s his world, we’re all just living in it. If there’s trouble, Harry, the teen wizard now entering his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, will find it. The son of Lily and James Potter, Harry was sent to stay with his aunt and uncle after his parents were murdered by the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Voldemort tried to kill Harry as well, but failed, leaving him with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead to go with his green eyes and black hair. At Hogwarts, Harry is a member of Gryffindor house, where he plays on the Quidditch team. He’s constantly threatened by Voldemort and his minions, and knows that a big showdown is imminent. Should he manage to live past Hogwarts, he thinks he’d like to be an Auror, a wizard who fights against the dark arts. He’s currently reeling from the sudden killing of his godfather, Sirius Black.

RON WEASLEY: Ron is one of Harry’s two best friends at Hogwarts, and a Gryffindor. Tall, with red hair and freckles, he is sometimes envious of Harry’s fame, and is embarrassed by his family’s lack of wealth. He and Harry stopped speaking for a while after Harry was entered into a magical competition in Book 4, but they made up after Ron realized that Harry was in danger. Ron is deathly afraid of spiders, ever since his older brother turned his teddy bear into one when Ron was a toddler. He’s now a Gryffindor prefect, on the Quidditch team, and as always, right there in the thick of things with Harry. There also seems to be a thing developing between him and Hermione Granger.

HERMIONE GRANGER: This Gryffindor, Harry’s other best friend, is by far the smartest student of her year. With bushy hair and formerly large teeth (she had them shrunk in Book 4), Hermione can sometimes be a know-it-all but is always a good friend to Harry. She’s despised by some – especially Hogwarts student Draco Malfoy, who dislikes Hermione because her parents are Muggles (nonmagical). She tends toward the rule-abiding, and wishes Harry wouldn’t be quite so willing to court trouble, but she’s always got her wand out, ready to do her part when the time comes.

ALBUS DUMBLEDORE: Head of Hogwarts. Dumbledore is reputed to be the only wizard Voldemort actually fears. Tall, with a long white beard, bright blue eyes and a long, crooked nose, Dumbledore has been involved in Harry’s life from the beginning. It was Dumbledore who decided that Harry should live with his horrible aunt and uncle after his parents died; since Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, Dumbledore has always kept an eye on him.

LORD VOLDEMORT: The most heinous wizard of recent time, Voldemort had instituted a reign of terror in the magical world. He and his supporters, the Death-Eaters, were responsible for torturing and killing many wizards, which stopped the night he went after the Potters. He killed Lily and James, but when he attempted to curse Harry, the curse bounced back and severely weakened him. He fled, his hold over magical society gone. Most believed (or wanted to believe) that he was gone for good. But he has returned to physical form, sending the magical world into a state of panic.

MINERVA MCGONAGALL: A professor at Hogwarts, she teaches transfiguration and is the head of Gryffindor House. She started Harry on his Quidditch career when she saw him fly a broomstick for the first time. A severe-looking woman, she keeps her hair in a bun and wears glasses that look just like the markings around the eyes of the tabby cat into which she transfigures.

SEVERUS SNAPE: Head of Slytherin House, Snape is professor of potions. But he really wants to be the defense-against-the-dark-arts teacher. From the minute Harry arrives at Hogwarts, Snape detests him. But while he does many things to make Harry’s life difficult, he’s also something of a contradictory character. The first year, he kept Harry safe – an act of honor since James Potter once saved his life. A former Death-Eater, he left Voldemort’s service and went to work for good. That makes Dumbledore trust him, even though others don’t.

RUBEUS HAGRID: Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts and recently a professor of the care of magical creatures. It was Hagrid, larger-than-life thanks to his giant mother, who turned up on Harry’s 11th birthday to tell him about his past. A former Hogwarts student, he had been kicked out after he had been framed for crimes committed by Tom Riddle, who later became Lord Voldemort. He’s besotted by dangerous animals, the more terrifying, the better. In Harry’s first year, Hagrid kept an illegal dragon, a menacing little Norwegian Ridgeback named Norbert. He’s also brought his wild giant half brother to Hogwarts (secretly) and is thinking about finding him a lady friend.

DRACO MALFOY: The pale, blond Malfoy is Harry’s most detested enemy, at least among Hogwarts students. He’s a member of Slytherin House, which generated many of Voldemort’s followers. Malfoy considers himself superior to many students, because he comes from one of the oldest pureblood wizard families. He constantly makes fun of Ron for his family’s poverty. Harry has disliked him from the moment they first met. Malfoy hangs out with the oafish Crabbe and Goyle.

THE DURSLEYS: Vernon, Petunia and son Dudley are Harry’s nasty, nonmagical relatives. Petunia was Lily’s sister. The Dursleys, who hate anything abnormal, have spent years mistreating Harry. They keep him during his summer breaks, but are extremely glad that he spends all his other holidays at school. Vernon, a big man with no neck, and Petunia, a thin woman with a lot of neck, think the world revolves around their overweight, bullying clod of a son, Dudley. But there’s more to Petunia – she’s not as unaware of the magical world as we think.

THE WEASLEYS: Ron’s parents, Arthur and Molly, have six other children – Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George and Ginny. Extremely loving and extremely poor, the family lives in a ramshackle house in Ottery St. Catchpole. They’ve almost adopted Harry, and are all very fond of him. Molly especially has a soft spot for Harry, sending him Christmas presents during his first year at Hogwarts. The Weasleys sit in for the Dursleys and root for Harry during the extremely dangerous Triwizard Tournament. Arthur works in the Ministry of Magic. Ginny, the youngest and only girl, is becoming a strong witch. She had a crush on Harry, but has since gotten over it.

LUCIUS MALFOY: Draco’s father, a man more evil than his son. Lucius is a Voldemort supporter. He hates Muggles and all those descended from nonmagical families. Using his money and power, he tries to influence many things; he attempted to get Dumbledore fired from Hogwarts, but lost. He’s now in prison for being a Death-Eater.

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