A Boy Wizard in a Muggle World
World, meet Harry Potter: At the start of the first movie in J.K. Rowling's series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, baby Harry has survived the murder of his parents by the most powerful dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, and in the process of becoming a boy-wizard legend, acquired a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. But he knows none of this: Harry has been living in the crawlspace under a stairwell in the home of his unforgiving muggle—non-magical—uncle and aunt, Vernon and Petunia Dursley. Everything changes for Harry on the eve of his 11th birthday, when he receives an invitation to go to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Harry vs. Voldemort: Round Two
In Harry's first year at Hogwarts, he becomes best friends with the gawky, ginger-haired Ron Weasley and the brainiac Hermione Granger, and finds allies in Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore and half man-half giant groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid. But he also makes a few enemies in potions professor Severus Snape, one of Voldemort's former allies, and Draco Malfoy, another first-year student and rival player at Quidditch, the wizarding world's favorite sport, played on broomsticks. Early in the year, Hagrid brings a package to Hogwarts, the Sorcerer's Stone, which grants immortality. The real magic happens when Harry, Ron, and Hermione search for the stone when they believe it is in peril.
Tom Riddle's Diary Spells Trouble
While Harry, Ron, and Hermione successfully stop "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," aka Voldemort, from getting the Sorcerer's Stone, shortly after they begin their second year at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, cryptic messages appear on the walls of Hogwarts' hallways, saying the Chamber of Secrets has been reopened. Hogwarts has long been inhabited by ghosts and elves, and Harry meets Moaning Myrtle, a weeping ghost who inhabits a stall in the girls' bathroom. Myrtle gives Harry a talking diary that belonged to a student 50 years earlier that shows Harry a scene of its previous owner and Hagrid when they were students themselves.
What Do You Call a Basilisk, a Sword, and a Phoenix?
An excursion into the Chamber of Secrets, of course! Before Harry can learn more about Tom Riddle, the diary goes missing, and students are being petrified—scared frozen—by a serpent-like creature that travels through Hogwarts' pipes and enters and exits the Chamber through Moaning Myrtle's stall. No sooner does Hermione discover that the creature is a basilisk when Ginny Weasley, Ron's little sister, goes missing. Harry enters the Chamber of Secrets to save her and confronts Tom Riddle, almost in the flesh.
The Prisoner of Azkaban Escapes
After the Chamber fiasco is settled and all the petrified students cured, the students return to Hogwarts for their third year in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Life at Hogwarts has taken a dark turn: The grounds of Hogwarts are guarded by Dementors, creatures that suck out the souls of humans, because Sirius Black, once Harry's father's best friend, has escaped from the prison known as Azkaban. If that isn't enough, Ron's beloved pet rat, Scabbers, has disappeared—though Harry, Ron, and Hermione soon discover that Scabbers isn't a rat at all.
The Time-Turner Saves the Day
After Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover that Sirius Black is innocent, they learn that Black began transforming into a dog to assuage Remus Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, who is a werewolf. They attempt to bring Sirius back to Hogwarts to proclaim his innocence, but along the way all magic breaks lose, and Harry uses Hermione's Time-Turner—a device that allows her to attend multiple classes at once—to save the day.
The Quidditch World Cup
What's a good summer break without a little sport? In between their third and fourth years at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione manage to score tickets to the Quidditch world cup, leaving us muggles wishing we could fly on broomsticks. But like any good intention in the Potter series, a day at the Quidditch stadium goes awry in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, signaling that Voldemort is back and gaining power.
The Triwizard Tournament
Back at school, Dumbledore announces a tournament between Hogwarts and two other wizarding schools, inviting students submit their names into the Goblet of Fire, which selects one student from each school to compete. Suspicions arise when Harry is selected along with fellow Hogwarts student Cedric Diggory. For the first two rounds of the tournament, the contestants have to retrieve a golden egg from a dragon and rescue something important to them from the Hogwarts lake. In the final round of the tournament, Harry and Cedric join forces to find the Triwizard cup in a maze, and decide to grab the cup together. The cup turns out to be a Portkey, an object that transports those who touch it, and Harry and Cedric are transported to a graveyard with Voldemort.
The Wrath of Dolores Umbridge
At the start of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry thwarts off an attack from Dementors at the Dursleys', prompting the Ministry of Magic, the wizarding world's governing body, to put him on trial for using magic outside Hogwarts. After narrowly avoiding being expelled, Harry is taken to the Order of the Phoenix, a secret organization founded by Dumbledore to fight Voldemort, and warned that the Dark Lord is trying to obtain something he did not have before. When Harry returns to Hogwarts, the Ministry has appointed the treacherous Dolores Umbridge to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, where she vehemently denies that Voldemort has returned.
Face-Off in the Department of Mysteries
As Umbridge's influence over Hogwarts grows, Harry, Ron, and Hermione start Dumbledore's Army to teach other students useful spells against dark magic. Umbridge discovers the group, ousts Dumbledore, and is appointed the new headmaster. When Harry has a vision of Sirius Black being tortured, he travels with members of Dumbledore's Army to the Department of Mysteries, where his vision comes true. Voldemort has been after a prophecy stored in the department that tells of his and Harry's fate.
Harry and Ginny's First Kiss
At the outset of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Voldemort and his loyal Death Eaters have descended on London, and Draco Malfoy has promised to kill Dumbledore. In Potions class, Harry receives a textbook full of dark magic spells that once belonged to a student who called himself the Half-Blood Prince. Harry suspects Draco is trying to hurt Dumbledore and seriously injures his rival with one of the Prince's spells. In an effort to ensure no one else gets hold of the textbook, Harry and Ginny hide it in the magical Room of Requirement, where they find some time for puppy love.
Dumbledore and Harry Go Horcrux Hunting
In an effort to guarantee his immortality, Voldemort has divided his soul into seven pieces and stored it in seven objects, called Horcruxes. Two of the Horcruxes have already been destroyed—Tom Riddle's journal, which Harry destroyed in the Chamber of Secrets, and Voldemort's grandfather's ring, which Dumbledore destroyed. Dumbledore asks Harry to come with him to destroy another Horcrux, signaling the beginning of the end.
R.I.P. Albus Dumbledore
When Harry and Dumbledore return to Hogwarts, the castle is overrun with Death Eaters, and Dumbledore and Draco come face to face. Draco ultimately can't bring himself to kill Dumbledore, prompting professor Severus Snape to step in and murder Dumbledore with the Avada Kedavra curse. If that's not bad enough, Harry learns that the Horcrux he and Dumbledore got from the cave is a fake, and has a message from someone with the initials "R.A.B.," saying he destroyed it. Harry's mission is set: He must find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes.
Alex Berg is an assistant video editor at The Daily Beast. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and iVillage. She holds an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. from Cornell University. You can see more of her work here.