Harry James Potter: Profile
"I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."
-- Harry Potter
"Oh, it's you, is it? I suppose you've been doing something dangerous again?"
-- Poppy Pomfrey to Harry Potter
"Listen to me, Harry. You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students. His own very rare gift, Parseltongue -- resourcefulness -- determination -- a certain disregard for rules. Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think ... It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
-- Albus Dumbledore
"Wow, I wonder what it'd be like to have a difficult life?"
-- Harry, sarcastically
Profile by Steve Vander Ark
Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the hero of the Wizarding world. He grew up with Muggles, and then came to Hogwarts where he faced dangers and terrors beyond his years. He, along with his friends Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom, destroyed Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Harry faced Voldemort at the end of a climactic battle in Hogwarts castle and defeated him.
Early years: 1980-1981
Harry James Potter was born on July 31, 1980, in Godric’s Hollow (DH16, 35) to Lily and James Potter. James Potter's best friend, Sirius Black, was named Harry's godfather (PA10). Sirius, James, and Lily were all part of the Order of the Phoenix, a group of witches and wizards who were desperately fighting against Voldemort. They were outnumbered and many of them were killed, but they fought on. James and Lily had narrowly escaped Voldemort three times during this time.
Before Harry was born, a prophecy had been made about a boy to be born at the end of July which indicated that this person would be able to defeat the Dark Lord (OP37). Lord Voldemort heard part of this prophecy because one of his Death Eaters, Severus Snape, was eavesdropping (DH33). The Dark Lord resolved to destroy the child. Both Harry and another child, Neville Longbottom, would have fit the prophecy, but Voldemort decided that Harry must be the one and went after him. James and Lily knew that Voldemort was trying to kill Harry, and by October of 1981, they had used the Fidelius Charm to hide themselves away. Unfortunately, the person they chose as Secret Keeper for the Charm, Peter Pettigrew, turned out to be a double agent who revealed their location to Voldemort (PA19).
On the evening of October 31, 1981, the Dark Lord came to Godric's Hollow, the town where James and Lily were living as Muggles, and attacked. James tried to hold Voldemort off at the door but failed; he was killed there. Lily tried to run with Harry but Voldemort caught her (DH17). Because of a promise he’d made to Snape (DH33), he offered to spare her life, but she stood in his way and he killed her to get to Harry. This sacrifice turned out to be vitally important, for it was the ancient magic of this act that protected the child. When Voldemort's Killing Curse hit Harry, the protection of Lily's sacrifice made the curse rebound onto Voldemort, who was all but killed. The curse left a curse scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on Harry's forehead (PS1).
The battle between the Potters and Voldemort left the house in ruins. Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore dispatched Hagrid to go to Godric's Hollow and retrieve Harry. Hagrid managed to rescue Harry before the Muggles had a chance to investigate and interfere. While he was there, Hagrid encountered Sirius Black, who asked that Harry be given to him, since he was the boy's godfather. Hagrid refused, since he was following Dumbledore's orders to retrieve the boy. Sirius lent Hagrid his flying motorcycle to fly Harry to safety.
It is unclear where Hagrid and Harry were for the next twenty-four hours. Dumbledore apparently spent the time arranging for Harry's safe keeping in Privet Drive, but even McGonagall didn't know what was going on. The next evening, she met Dumbledore in Privet Drive and shortly thereafter Hagrid arrived on the flying motorcycle with Harry. The three of them left Harry in a bundle of blankets on the doorstep of number four, the home of Harry's last surviving blood relatives, the Dursleys (PS1).
A Decade of Abuse (1981-1991)
For the next ten years, Harry lived a life of emotional abuse and physical deprivation. His Aunt Petunia, Lily's sister, and his Uncle Vernon were determined to squash any magic out of him. They never told him about his true identity. They told him that his parents had died in a car crash, which was also how he got the scar on his head (PS2). They doted on their son Dudley, who was a spoiled bully, while making Harry sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. The number one rule in the Dursley household was "Don't ask questions." Their goal was to keep him oppressed and downtrodden in the hopes that he wouldn't develop what they considered to be abnormal tendencies toward magic. They sent him to the same school as Dudley, who picked on Harry mercilessly. The other kids at school tended to avoid Harry because they didn't want to be nice to someone Dudley picked on or they'd attract his bullying on themselves. Harry was made to wear Dudley's old clothes, which were much too large for Harry.
the efforts of the Dursleys, Harry did exhibit some magic tendencies during
his years at the Dursleys. At one point, when Aunt Petunia had become so
frustrated with Harry's untidy hair that he cut it all off, Harry turned
up at the breakfast table the next morning with hair all grown back. Another
time, Harry was being chased by Dudley and his gang when Harry found himself
unexpectedly up on the school roof. Harry had turned a teacher's wig blue
and also shrunk a particularly ugly jumper of
Dudley's so that he wouldn't have to wear it (PS2).
Periodically during these years, Uncle Vernon's sister Marge would visit the Dursleys. She took great delight in tormenting Harry. She would give expensive presents to Dudley and either something horrible or nothing at all to Harry. She brought her pet bulldog, Ripper, to visit and when Harry was nine, she actually allowed the dog to chase Harry up a tree, where he had to remain until she called the dog off after midnight (PA2).
By the time he was ten years old, Harry had grown into a skinny, knobbly-kneed boy with untidy black hair and a narrow face. He wore glasses which were broken and taped from repeated blows aimed at him by Dudley. He was surprisingly quick, a skill developed over years of getting out of the way of his bullying cousin. He still lived in the cupboard under the stairs. His eyes, which were the same as his mother's, were brilliant green (PS2, 4).
His life changed abruptly during the summer of 1991. Strange letters began arriving (PS3) which frightened his aunt and uncle into fleeing the house and running to hide in a hut on a rock out at sea. In the midst of a huge storm, with waves crashing on the rock, just after midnight, Hagrid arrived on the rock where he discovered that Harry had no idea that he was a wizard (PS4). Hagrid did his best to explain to the boy all about his past, and when morning came on July 31, 1991, Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley to shop for the things he would need for school (PS5). A few weeks later, on September 1, Harry boarded the Hogwarts Express and was taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (PS6).
Harry’s years at Hogwarts were in some ways typical of any young wizard. He made friends with Ron Weasley while still on the train ride to school (PS6). It took a little longer for him and Ron to warm up to Hermione Granger, but after a shared experience with a troll over Halloween, the three became inseparable (PS10). This three-way friendship was destined to change the world for the better.
During his first year, Harry discovered that Voldemort had possessed Professor Quirrell and was trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone to attain immortality. Harry at first suspected another teacher, Professor Snape (PS11), who seemed to hate Harry for no reason at all. In the end, Harry defeated Voldemort and the Dark Lord fled (PS17).
Voldemort did not return in Harry’s second year, but a strange phantom version of the Dark Lord emerged from an old diary and almost killed Ron’s sister Ginny. Harry managed to save Ginny and destroy the diary (CS17). At the time, he didn’t understand what the implications of this were, but Dumbledore began to suspect that Voldemort had used the book as a Horcrux. Dumbledore began to investigate this possibility (HBP17).
The hatred aimed at him by Professor Snape was explained to some extent during Harry’s third year. His new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin, turned out to have been a close friend of James Potter. Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, was suspected of trying to kill Harry, but was in fact trying to protect him from Peter Pettigrew, in disguise as a rat. In a dramatic confrontation, Pettigrew was revealed and nearly executed by Lupin and Sirius, but Harry spared his life (PA18, 19). The story of his father’s friendship with Sirius and Lupin and his hatred of Snape came out. Snape, it appeared, had transferred his hatred of James to Harry.
In his fourth year, Harry found himself part of a nefarious plan aimed at getting him away from the protection of Dumbledore; Voldemort thought he needed Harry’s blood to regain his body. Harry was startled to find himself the unwilling fourth champion in the Triwizard tournament (GF16), the last prize of which had been transformed into a Portkey. He was whisked away to a lonely graveyard where he was tied up and his blood used in a ritual that resulted in Voldemort's rebirth (GF32). The Dark Lord called his Death Eaters to him and then dueled Harry. Unexpectedly, Harry and Voldemort found that their wands, when used against each other, created a strange effect where phantom forms of the people Voldemort had killed appeared. These included James and Lily, and they gave Harry the strength he needed to break the effect and run. He managed to grab the Portkey and return to Hogwarts, where he revealed that Voldemort had returned (GF33, 34).
When he came back to Hogwarts for his fifth year, Harry discovered that no one believed him about Voldemort's rebirth. In fact, the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge was actively trying to discredit Harry by making it seem that he was mad or seeking glory. Fudge assigned his assistant, Dolores Umbridge, to Hogwarts (OP12) and Harry quickly ran afoul of her. She stopped him playing Quidditch, she tried to force him to admit that he was lying about Voldemort, and refused to allow students to learn to use offensive and defensive spells, preferring them to simply read about the theory. Harry gathered a group of students called Dumbledore’s Army and trained them himself (OP18). All through that year, Harry found that his scar was giving him a painful connection to Voldemort’s thoughts. Voldemort realized this as well, and used that connection to invade his dreams and draw Harry to the Ministry of Magic to retrieve a recording of the Prophecy about the two of them which was stored there (OP34). Voldemort had only heard part of it and wanted to know the rest to try to understand what went wrong in the graveyard battle. Harry went to the Ministry and fought with the Death Eaters there, but in the end it is Dumbledore who battled Voldemort, and the Dark Lord fled once again (OP37).
Harry had to face the reality of his situation. Because of various circumstances, he and he alone could defeat Voldemort. He came out of his horrible fifth year determined to do whatever he had to do to make that happen. Dumbledore began to teach Harry more about Voldemort’s past (HBP9). Together they learned that Voldemort had created a series of Horcruxes to split his soul into seven parts and thereby gain immortality. Harry would have to destroy the Horcruxes before he tried to kill Voldemort. Harry accompanied Dumbledore on a quest to find one of the Horcruxes and Dumbledore was seriously injured by a potion (HBP26). When they returned, the found a battle underway as Death Eaters had infiltrated the castle. Dumbledore flew to the topmost tower where a Dark Mark was burning and was killed there by Snape (HBP27). Harry prepared himself for what was to come.
The Horcrux hunt and the Deathly Hallows
Harry never returned to Hogwarts for his seventh year; the Ministry fell to Voldemort during the summer, and Dumbledore had told him that he urgently needed to find the four remaining Horcruxes. Ron and Hermione spent next nine months in hiding trying to locate and destroy the Horcruxes. First they found the locket Horcrux by infiltrating the Ministry (destroyed by Ron with Gryffindor's Sword) (DH13, 19). The second, Hufflepuff’s cup, was obtained by breaking into a vault in Gringotts (DH26). The remaining Horcruxes were Voldemort's snake Nagini, and some unknown object possibly associated with Ravenclaw. Along the way they learned about the Deathly Hallows, three powerful magic items which would supposedly make a person the master of death (DH21). The thought of all that power within reach threatened to distract Harry from the Horcrux quest, but after Dobby died, Harry was able to see what needed to be done more clearly. The trio left for Hogwarts.
But time was running out. Voldemort had finally discovered that Harry was seeking his Horcruxes, and decided to trap Harry at the school (DH31). As the battle began, Harry searched for and found the unknown Horcrux, the Diadem of Ravenclaw (DH30, 31). With Ron and Hermione’s help (and inadvertently Crabbe’s), he destroyed the Cup and the Diadem (DH31); only the snake was left. Harry sought Voldemort, knowing Nagini would be nearby, and arrived in time to witness Voldemort's murder of Severus Snape and collect the memories Snape released to him. Snape's memories were shocking. Harry learned of Snape's unrequited love for his mother Lily, his reason for his loyalty to Dumbledore, and that he himself contained a Horcrux. Harry realized that he had to die if Voldemort was ever to be killed, and so willingly went into the Forest to sacrifice himself (DH34) where he stepped in front of Voldemort and was killed.
But he didn’t die (DH35), because of the blood they shared during Voldemort's rebirthing three years ago. Voldemort had unknowingly protected the one person who could kill him. Voldemort also did not realize that his attempt to become the master of the Elder wand was still unsuccessful. Unbeknownst to the Dark Lord, it was Harry who was now the master of that wand.
Voldemort approached the castle with Harry’s supposedly dead body and demanded that all surrender. Not surprisingly, no one did. Neville Longbottom, who at one time it seemed the prophecy may have been referring to, stood boldly in front of Voldemort and defied him, then killed the snake. That was the last Horcrux to go. The battle raged into the Entrance Hall and from there to the Great Hall, where Harry finally faced Voldemort. Harry offered him one last chance, that he feel some remorse. Voldemort refused and tried once again to kill Harry. Harry cast a disarming charm and the Elder wand, recognizing its master, flew to him. Voldemort’s spell rebounded back on himself, and he was killed (DH35).
Harry married Ginny Weasley and they had three children; James, Albus Severus, and Lily (DH/e). Harry became an Auror at the age of 17 and eventually became head of the Auror Office in 2007 (BLC, JKR).
Other pages on Harry
Lexicon Essays on Harry:
Primary editor: Lisa Waite Bunker. Previous editor(s): Steve Vander Ark,
Original artwork of the Potter family © Clio Chiang, used with permission.
Original artwork of Harry in the Cupboard, and Dumbledore Holding Harry, and Arrival at Hogwarts ©2004 Hala Zabaneh, used with permission.
Original artwork of "Sunlit Days" ©2006 Marta T.; used with permission.
Original page date 18 March, 2001; Last page update 6 October, 2007.