A Newbie's Guide to Harry Potter

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Here at LR, we're not a bunch of snobs when it comes to having to know absolutely everything about Harry Potter. There's so much to learn and know that even those of us who grew up with us surely could learn something new about it most days. However, Harry Potter does have its own lore and information concerning certain things, so if you've never read or watched Harry Potter, please take the time to read our guide. Remember, you can always ask us questions! We love them. ~Jen, AC, and Orion

The Lowdown

The basic premise of Harry Potter is surrounded around a unique perspective on the wizarding world, and the books focus around the story of a particular young half-blood wizard named Harry Potter who was orphaned at a young age when the Dark Lord Vol--he-who-must-not-be-named killed his parents. The only reason he survived, we learn, is that his mother's love was strong enough to protect him from the killing curse. We learn more and more about Harry, his parents, and his adventures to defeat Vo--you-know-who. Eventually, (spoiler alert!) Harry defeats Voldemort and all is well in the wizarding world.

At least, that's how the books end.

LR takes a detour from the books about a book before that ending, but we won't get into that here. Please see A Newbie's Guide to Last Resort for that information.

So, why would anyone love HP enough to spend nine years of their lives developing characters and stories within the wizarding world? Trust me, my basic plot summary was very basic. If you ask me, I'd say it's the story of camaraderie that the story is focused on. The power (or, if you believe Voldemort, weakness) of love; the concept of good triumphing over evil; and the unlikely hero, the little orphan boy who is raised by his awful, prejudiced aunt and uncle and basically abused until he turns eleven are only a few other things that add to it.

On top of that, the world lore is very developed, which is why we created this guide for you guys.

Terms to Live By

Typically a person of pureblood magical descent who displays no magical affinity at all. He cannot perform spells, use a wand, and is generally shunned by the pureblood community. In current LR times, he would definitely be shunned by all of wizarding society, though may not face the punishment of slavery due only to his bloodline. More liberally, a non magical person of any magical descent. .
A person whose parents were both of wizarding descent without any muggle blood to muddy up the bloodline.
A person with one pureblood parent and a muggle parent.
A person with two muggle parents who is actually a witch or wizard despite their lineage. Pureblood supremacists sometimes refer to muggle-borns as "mudbloods."
A person with no wizarding lineage or magical ability. Generally aloof to the existence of anything outside of the ordinary.
A person who is of pureblood descent but sides against pureblood supremacy, even by so little an offense as befriending a muggle or muggle-born.

Aside from "blood traitor," the terms above are technically all that are recognized as blood statuses. The law is simply that black and white. You can get technical and use math skills to calculate less than/in between blood statuses, however.

Types of Spells

At a general level, you can sort spells into offensive and defensive spells, which the HPL gives a general idea of here. The HPL also provides an alphabetized list of spells here, though if I go for a quick reference, I'll sometimes consult this list here as it's ctrl + f friendly. (Side note: We generally refer to the HPL over anything on the HP Wiki should any questions arise.)

Charms involve causing an object to behave in an manner not usual for that object. The HPL does a good job of providing information here.
Curses cause some sort of harm or hindrance to their target. Curses can be so innocent as the babbling curse or so horrible as the killing curse and anything in between. Curses can be placed on objects for dark purposes. Perhaps related to curses are hexes (i.e., bat bogey hex, stinging hex, hurling hex) and jinxes (i.e., stretching jinx), which tend to be somewhat more minor.
There are three unforgivable curses which will without a doubt lead to imprisonment in Azkaban. These are the killing curse (incantation: Avada Kedavra), the torture curse (incantation: Crucio), and the imperius curse (incantation: Imperio). The killing curse emits a green jet of light from the spellcaster's wand and, as expected, kills its target. It is only acknowledged that one person has survived the killing curse: Harry Potter. The torture curse tortures its target and causes a pain like no other. The Imperius Curse allows the caster to control his target. This one can be resisted or eventually thrown off by one of strong enough mental caliber.

Ways to Cast Spells

With a wand
By far the most common way. The caster uses a series of wand movements and typically a verbal incantation to cast a spell.
This requires experience and takes some time to manage. Most people can't manage more than some basic things wandlessly, if anything at all.
Verbal casting is more common than nonverbal casting.
Nonverbal casting is harder than verbal casting but is easier with a wand than wandless.

Magical Abilities

Here at LR we have five magical abilities available to witches and wizards, which are as follows: Occlumency, Legilimency, Metamorphmagus, Animagus, and Seeing. Of the five, two are something you are either born with or you're not: Metamorphmagus and the gift of sight or Seeing.

Modes of Travel

Floo Powder
To use floo powder, one must have a fireplace connected to the floo network and be going to a place that has a fireplace also connected to the floo network. If these requirements are met, simply grab a handful of the powder, step into the fireplace, and drop it while stating the location you are traveling to. Remember! Speak clearly. "Diagon Alley" and "diagonally" will get you very different places.
Witches and wizards learn to apparate during their fifth year at Hogwarts. Once mastered, the witch or wizard can transport themselves anywhere with application of the three Ds: Destination, Determination, and Deliberation. Side-along apparation involves holding onto another person and taking them with you. The sensation of apparation is not very comfortable. It is compared much to being squeezed through a too-small tube but has the benefit of being fast and allows you to avoid being covered in soot upon arrival. However, it is the most dangerous mode of transportation as you can splice yourself if apparating in a hurry or improperly. The results can be disastrous at best. There are charms that can be set in place to prevent people from apparating into or disapparating out of a location.
Shadow Powder (LR exclusive)
Shadow powder operates much like floo powder but is used by those allowed free travel within the Syndicate.

Growing up a Wizard/Witch

Witches and wizards in the magical UK and Ireland attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry starting at age eleven (twelve, if you happen to be the unlucky fellow who turns eleven after September 1st). Students attend the school for seven years. After their seventh year, they graduate and are sent out into the world to do their thing.

Once upon a time, muggle-borns were extended invitations to Hogwarts, but this stopped in the 2009-2010 school year due to the takeover.

One of the first things students undergo after starting Hogwarts is rowing across the Black Lake to Hogwarts from Hogsmeade and then the sorting ceremony. During the sorting ceremony, a hat known as the sorting hat (see picture and info here) is seated on a stool and lets out its rhyme for the year about each of the four houses. Then, the name calling begins. The deputy headmaster (or mistress) calls out each first year student in alphabetical order until each student has been sorted into Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin. These houses are permanent once a student is sorted and determine the color of their uniform ties.

Courses covered at Hogwarts include charms, divination, arithmancy, transfiguration, potions, ancient runes, defense against the dark arts, dark arts, care of magical creatures, herbology, and astronomy. A dueling club and quidditch are a couple extracurriculars the students can participate in. Other past times might include wizarding chess, trying to catch a glimpse of the Giant Squid in the Black Lake, talking with one of the many ghosts, or dodging Peeves the Poltergeist.

The students attend classes according to their year until their sixth year where classes are determined by OWL (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) scores from the end of the fifth year and the chosen area of focus. (For instance, becoming an Imperium Guard or a healer.) There is no ceremony following graduation from Hogwarts as is typical for this part of the world.

Starting fifth year and up, students can be awarded status of prefect. There is a male and a female prefect for each year. Seventh year, you can be awarded Head Boy or Head Girl.

After graduation, the student goes into training for their chosen field, which is more hands on as there is no wizarding university.

Do note that witches and wizards are considered to be of age at 17 and can drink at that time.

Vampires, Werewolves, and Ghosts! Oh My!

In Harry Potter, supernatural creatures are really of no consequence. Unless you're a muggle, you know they exist. In our world, muggles are starting to learn about their existence except for a select few. Vampires tend to be fairly isolated from society due to their bloodlust, werewolves have been on both sides of the neutral line, and ghosts typically remain in one place save for rare occasions such as the Ghost Ball.

Werewolves are given the opportunity to drink a wolfsbane potion to avoid the monthly transformation, though other side effects are not entirely gone.

Ghosts are something everyone can see and talk to. Seeing one is not really a scary experience for the most part, and they are created when a witch or wizard (never a muggle) chooses not to move on at death as they have unfinished business. Some examples in canon roam the very halls of Hogwarts. Nearly Headless Nick is the ghost of Gryffindor, and the other three houses each have their own ghosts. Moaning Myrtle likes to haunt the bathrooms and is arguably one of the more annoying ghosts. Peeves the Poltergeist likes to wreak havoc in the halls if he can get away with it. There are at least 20 ghosts at Hogwarts. For further information on ghosts in the HP lore, see this article on the HPL.

Thank you for taking the time to read! Let us know if you have any questions or need any clarification.