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The novels revolve around Harry Potter, an orphan who discovers at the age of eleven that he is a wizard, though he lives in the ordinary world of non-magical people known as Muggles. The wizarding world exists alongside the Muggle world, albeit hidden and in secrecy. His magical ability is inborn, and children with such abilities are invited to attend exclusive magic schools that teach the necessary skills to succeed in the wizarding world. Harry becomes a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the wizarding school in Scotland, and it is here where most of the events in the series take place. As Harry develops through his adolescence, he learns to overcome the problems that face him: magical, social and emotional, including ordinary teenage challenges such as friendships, infatuation, romantic relationships, schoolwork and exams, anxiety, depression, stress, and the greater test of preparing himself for the confrontation in the real world that lies ahead, in wizarding Britain's increasingly-violent second wizarding war. Each novel chronicles one year in Harry's life during the period of 1991–98. The books also contain many flashbacks, which are frequently experienced by Harry viewing the memories of other characters in a device called a Pensieve. The environment Rowling created is intimately connected to reality. The British magical community of the Harry Potter books is inspired by 1990s British culture, European folklore, classical mythology and alchemy, incorporating objects and wildlife such as magic wands, magic plants, potions, and spells, flying broomsticks, centaurs and other magical creatures, the Deathly Hallows, and the Philosopher's Stone, beside others invented by Rowling. While the fantasy land of Narnia is an alternative universe and the Lord of the Rings' Middle-earth a mythic past, the wizarding world of Harry Potter exists in parallel within the real world and contains magical versions of the ordinary elements of everyday life, with the books being mostly set in Scotland (Hogwarts), the West Country, Devon, London and Surrey in south-east England. The world only accessible to wizards and magical beings comprises a fragmented collection of overlooked hidden streets, ancient pubs, lonely country manors and secluded castles invisible to the Muggle population. Early years When the first novel of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published in America and other countries as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) opens, it is apparent that some significant event has taken place in the wizarding world – an event so very remarkable, even the Muggles (non-magical people) notice signs of it. The full background to this event and Harry Potter's past is revealed gradually through the series. After the introductory chapter, the book leaps forward to a time shortly before Harry Potter's eleventh birthday, and it is at this point that his magical background begins to be revealed. Harry's first contact with the wizarding world is through a half-giant, Rubeus Hagrid, keeper of grounds and keys at Hogwarts. Hagrid reveals some of Harry's history. Harry learns that, as a baby, he witnessed his parents' murder by the power-obsessed Dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who subsequently attempted to kill him as well. For reasons not revealed until the fifth book, the spell with which Voldemort tried to kill Harry rebounded. Harry survived with only a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead as a memento of the attack, and Voldemort disappeared afterwards. As its inadvertent saviour from Voldemort's reign of terror, Harry has become a living legend in the wizarding world. However, at the orders of the venerable and well-known wizard Albus Dumbledore, the orphaned Harry had been placed in the home of his unpleasant Muggle relatives, the Dursleys, who kept him safe, but treated him poorly, having him live in a cupboard and do chores, rather than having their son Dudley, whom they spoiled, do anything. Petunia Dursley was jealous of her sister's magical abilities as a child at first, and, later, progressed onto simply believing that all wizards were freaks. Therefore, the Dursleys hated wizards, so they hid Harry's true heritage from him, saying his parents died in a car crash in hopes that he would grow up "normal". With Hagrid's help, Harry prepares for and undertakes his first year of study at Hogwarts. As Harry begins to explore the magical world, the reader is introduced to many of the primary locations used throughout the series. Harry meets most of the main characters and gains his two closest friends: Ron Weasley, a fun-loving member of an ancient, large, happy, but poor wizarding family, and Hermione Granger, a gifted and very hardworking witch of non-magical parentage. Harry also encounters the school's potions master, Severus Snape, who displays a conspicuously deep and abiding dislike for him, and the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Quirinus Quirrell, who later turns out to be controlled by Lord Voldemort. The first book concludes with Harry's second confrontation with Lord Voldemort, who, in his quest for immortality, yearns to gain the power of the Philosopher's Stone, a substance that bestows everlasting life. The series continues with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, describing Harry's second year at Hogwarts. He and his friends investigate a 50-year-old mystery that appears uncannily related to recent sinister events at the school. Ron's younger sister, Ginny Weasley, enrolls in her first year at Hogwarts, and finds an old notebook which turns out to be Voldemort's diary from his school days. Ginny becomes possessed by Voldemort through the diary and unconsciously opens the "Chamber of Secrets", unleashing an ancient monster, later revealed to be a basilisk, which begins attacking students at Hogwarts. The novel delves into the history of Hogwarts and a legend revolving around the Chamber that soon frightened everyone in the school. The book also introduces a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart, a highly cheerful, self-conceited wizard who goes around as if he is the most wonderful person who ever existed, who knows absolutely every single thing there is to know about everything, who later turns out to be a fraud. Harry discovers that prejudice exists in the wizarding world, and learns that Voldemort's reign of terror was often directed at wizards who were descended from Muggles. Harry also learns that his ability to speak the snake language Parseltongue is rare and often associated with the Dark Arts. The novel ends after Harry saves Ginny's life by destroying the basilisk and the enchanted diary which has been the source of the problems.