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Living in Harry's world

In folklore, fiction and fantasy, there have always been wizards, magic wands and flying broomsticks. But in illuminating Harry Potter's world, J.K. Rowling's fabulous imagination has brought us dozens of creatures and images that have entered popular culture in an enduring way.

Here, in homage to Platform 9 3/4 , where students board the Hogwarts Express, are 9 3/4 of the brilliant new images and concepts Harry Potter's creator brought us:

>Muggles

Most nonmagical folks are simply ignorant of the alternate universe of magic and struggle going on in their midst. But some, like Harry's relatives, the Dursleys -- Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia and their despicable, spoiled son, Dudley -- are aware of magical goings-on and despise them. If non-Muggles happen to observe magical events, a charm is cast upon them to erase that memory.

>Hogwarts

This castle boarding school of witchcraft and wizardry is the happiest place in young Harry's life. Here he and his friends learn spells, potions, how to change shapes and transport themselves, and how to defend against the ever-growing threat of the Dark Arts.

>The Sorting Hat

This pointed cap is held over the head of each new Hogwarts student and determines which of the school's four houses he or she will join, based on the student's personality. First it sings a song. In "The Sorcerer's Stone," some of the lines are:

"There's nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be."

>Quidditch

This complicated game is played on flying broomsticks. Three Chasers on each team try to score 10 points by hitting the Quaffle past the other team's Keeper. Two Beaters on each team keep the Bludgers, balls that are charmed to knock players off their broomsticks, from their team. A Seeker on each team chases the winged Golden Snitch; catching this is worth 150 points and ends the game.

>Dementors

These tall, wispy, wraithlike creatures possess strong evil that allows them to suck out and consume people's souls, leaving the victims living shells. Dementors thrive in dank environments and evoke a fog or cold dread; people who are exposed to them for a long time will feel hopeless and eventually go insane. Muggles cannot see them but can feel their chilling, baleful influence. Harry is especially affected by them.

>Azkaban

This prison for wizards who violate the laws of the Ministry of Magic is on a remote island north of Britain. Many of the inmates were supporters of Lord Voldemort, but others have been sentenced to the prison for casting a curse or attacking a Muggle or the Ministry of Magic. Azkaban is guarded by the Dementors, whose malign influence drives the prisoners mad. Hagrid was once sent there temporarily, an experience he is still too traumatized to discuss.

>Howler

A Howler is a letter sent from an angry person that contains the sender's voice. When opened, it bellows, howls or screams the message at the recipient and then shreds itself; if the recipient tries to duck the scolding by not opening the howler, it explodes and is heard anyway.

>Pensieve

Sounding like the word "pensive," meaning thoughtful, the Pensieve is a device that stores memories. A witch or wizard can store his or her own memories (either keeping a copy in their brains or storing the entire memory) or another person's in the Pensieve and experience them at a later time from a broader perspective, seeing things the person who stored the memory may not have been able to see.

>Parseltongue

The language of snakes. Wizards and witches who can speak it are rare and are called parselmouths. Harry is a parselmouth, a skill he may have acquired when Lord Voldemort attempted to kill him when Harry was a baby.

>And the 3/4 because they are small: House elves

These small, magical humanoids are bound to serve one family or house. They seem to be happy and proud of service, though they can be tormented or oppressed by families that practice dark magic. In "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Hermione Granger founds the one-member Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (SPEW).

e-mail: aneville@buffnews.com

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