An A to Z of Harry Potter

There are many audacious claims made within movie publicity that I hold little sway with – I maintain whichever critic submitted the word ‘Fantastic!’ to be splashed across the poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull should be forcibly barred from ever entering a cinema again. Yet it’s pretty hard to argue with the use of the sentence ‘the motion picture event of a generation’ midway through the trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Like Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy before it, there’s a whole generation for who Harry Potter is fantasy cinema. Even I’m excited to see the two concluding parts, and it took me a half-decade before I decided that I was a fan of the films. I live much of my life by the motto, ‘if it’s good enough for Jarvis Cocker, it’s good enough for me’ (hiding in wardrobes and watching people shag not withstanding). Come to mention it, speaking of Jarvis Cocker, here’s that man’s Wyrd Sisters to rock some wizard butt. ALRIGHT!

Yet such is the hum of excitement around the conclusion to the saga, chances are that there will be many for whom Deathly Hallows will be their first ever Harry Potter movie. If you’re one of those people, I feel for you, I was one of you once – you’re probably wondering what a Muggle is, right? That’s why I’ve pulled together this ‘A to Z of Harry Potter’ for latecomers – a sort of beginners guide to the world of Hogwarts and Quidditch and your guide to navigating a lexicon that contains many silly sounding words.

No need to thank me. No really! But if anyone wants to return the favour and knock me one up for Star Trek it would be very much appreciated. Okay, let’s go…

A is for Albus Dumbledore: Albus Percival Wilfric Brian Dumbledore is Headmaster of Hogwarts, leader of the Order Of The Phoenix (sort of like the wizard U.N.), Harry Potters mentor and, also, as of the last film, dead. He may or may not be gay too, which sort of makes him like a kindly, bearded member of a boyband.

B is for Bellatrix Lestrange: Played by Helena Bonham Carter in the films (because there’s a clause in all British productions that she’s contractually bound to play all these kinds of roles), evil Bellatrix Lestrange is a Death Eater and one of Voldemort’s inner circle. What’s a Death Eater? Who’s Voldemort? Read on…

C is for Chamber Of Secrets: The Chamber Of Secrets is the name of the second Harry Potter film, and also a cave found somewhere beneath Hogwarts. A huge Basilisk (a talking snake, basically) used to live in it, which Harry Potter killed at the send of the second movie. Take this number and write it down: 0300 1234 998. That’s the number of the R.S.P.C.A. Call it. Potter needs to be taken to task for his crimes.

D is for Death Eaters: Pure-blood supremacists, led by the dark wizard Voldemort – a man so evil he doesn’t even have a nose – who seek to purify the Wizarding community by eliminating Muggle-borns (Muggles being non-magical people, Death Eaters being Nazis in all but name).

E is for Elixir of Life: A potion produced by using the Philosopher’s Stone that grants the user an extended life, for as long as they keep drinking it. Fun fact: Katie Waissel drinks a pint of the Elixir Of Life before every X Factor performance.

F is for Firebolt: Every wizard needs a broomstick, and none are better than the Firebolt, the fastest and best model of broomstick in the world. Harry Potter was given his as a gift by the wizard Sirius Black. As presents go, I have to concede it’s better than a Scalextric.

G is for Gryffindor: One of the four ‘houses’ of Hogwarts (the others being Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff) and the house that Harry Potter and his best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley belong to. When I was at school, my house was the ‘green’ house, but then Armthorpe Comprehensive was no Hogwarts, that’s for sure.

H is for Hogwarts: Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a British boarding school of magic located in Scotland, hidden by powerful spells (to non-wizards the school appears as an old ruin with a sign that says ‘Danger, Keep Out’). Not wanting to draw further parallels with Armthorpe Comprehensive and Hogwarts, but magic spells or not, my school really should have sported a similar sign.

I is for the Imperius Curse: One of the three Unforgivable Curses (the three most powerful spells known in the Wizarding world), when the Imperius is cast successfully, it places the victim completely under the caster’s control. Katie ‘Jordan’ Price is a known master of Imperius.

J is for James Potter: Also known as Prongs, which is the sort of rubbish nickname only people who’ve ever been to boarding school have, James Potter is Harry Potter’s dad. He was killed along with his wife Lily Evans by Voldemort, a fact which is basically at the core of the entire Harry Potter tale.

K is for Knight Bus: A triple-decker, purple bus that serves as a sort of night taxi for wizards. It’s very fast, reckless, driven by a doddery old man called Ernie Prang and sports a shrunken head hanging from the dashboard. Yeah, I know it sounds like London’s 29 Night Bus, but it’s really not…

L is for Lucious Malfoy: A pureblood wizard, sometime Death Eater and father to Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy. Sounds pretty badass, right? Yeah, well I thought that until a house elf called Dobby basically kicked his ass.

M is for Muggle: As outlined prior, a Muggle is a person who is born into a non-magical family and is incapable of magic. Unless you’re Gandalf, Merlin or Derren Brown, you are a Muggle. Being the proud owner of a Paul Daniels Magic Set, I however, am not.

N is for Platform Nine and three quarters: 9 and ¾ is the platform at London’s Kings Cross station that wizards can use to pass to and from the Muggle world. Other Kings Cross legends include the supposed body of Queen Boudica being buried between Platforms 9 and 10, and the time I missed a train to Doncaster and got really cross.

O is for Owls: Owls serve many purposes in the wizarding world, but principally they deliver post. Harry Potters owl was called Hedwig. She’s dead now. She tasted a bit like chicken.

P is for Philosopher’s Stone: The Philosopher’s Stone is a compilation album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison that he released in 1998. It’s got Bright Side Of The Road on it. Tune!

Q is for Quidditch: A popular wizarding sport played on broomsticks, Quidditch is a game played by two teams of seven (three Chasers, two Beaters, one Keeper, and one Seeker) and involves four balls (a Quaffle, two Bludgers, and a Golden Snitch). The object of the game is to score more points than your opponents. Each goal is worth ten points and catching the Snitch is worth one hundred fifty points. The game ends when the Snitch is caught or an agreement is reached between the captains of both teams. Games can go on for months. Still with me? No? I don’t blame you, compared to Quidditch, Gridiron is as complicated as Snap.

R is for Rubeus Hagrid: Known more often as just ‘Hagrid’, this Half-giant was charged by Dumbledore with introducing Harry Potter to the wizarding world. Although never acknowledged in the films, Hagrid also has an alcoholic twin brother called Fitz, who works as a criminal psychologist in Manchester.

S is for Scabbers: More than just Ron Weasley’s pet rat, Scabbers is also the rodent disguise of the double-crossing Peter Pettigrew, aka Wormtail. I was pretty stoked when Scabbers true identity was revealed, mainly because I thought it was a pretty neat plot device, but also because it meant Rupert Grint would finally shut up shrieking “oh, Scabbers!” all the time.

T is for Tom Riddle: The outstanding student of Hogwarts who went on to become Voldemort. No word on what happened to his nose.

U is for Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley: The nasty Aunt and Uncle of Harry Potter, who detest magic and keep the young wizard locked up in a cupboard beneath the stairs and Hedwig in a cage. Respect to Harry Potter for getting into magic, then, and not My Chemical Romance.

V is for Voldemort: The big bad, He Who Must Not Be Named and the reason Harry can’t spend all his time at Hogwarts trying to get off with Hermione. Lord Voldemort is unquestionably the most powerful Dark Wizard of all time. He’s rubbish at smelling stuff tho.

W is for Wand: Tools used by wizards and witches to channel magical powers. Harry Potter had four wands in total – and you can buy one on eBay for the very reasonable price of $3.99! (If you never want a member of the opposite sex ever to speak to you again).

X is for…

It’s a little known fact that J.K. Rowling doesn’t know any words beginning with X. Consequently, here’s a clip of Ian Brown in The Prisoner Of Azkaban instead.

Y is for Yaxley: Another Death Eater. Yes, another one. Being evil: it’s a tough job, but loads and loads and loads and loads and loads of people have got to do it.

Z is for Zonko’s Joke Shop: A favourite place for Hogwarts students to shop… yeah, I’m struggling, okay? You find something better to file under Z. Go on…