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Things That Happen In Every Harry Potter Movie

After kicking off in the fall of 2001, the Harry Potter series became one of the most popular film franchises of all time, closing out its run after ten years and eight films in 2011. The movies told the story of a young boy, Harry Potter, who suddenly learns he's a wizard — and not just any wizard. As it turns out, when he was just a baby, Harry survived an attack by the Dark Lord Voldemort that killed Harry's parents ... and in the process, he took down Voldemort, seemingly for good.

Of course, that's not the last anybody sees of Voldemort, and as Harry heads off to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he sets out to learn everything he can for when the Dark Lord stages his return. This push and pull between Harry and Voldemort sets the standard for the entire series, and if you're familiar with the Potter movies, you probably know that each film, though it covers a different year in Harry's life, follows a fairly familiar rhythm. In fact, certain plot points pop up again and again. From rough summers and springtime surprises to plenty of drama and strife, here are the things that are sure to happen in every single Harry Potter movie. Spoilers for the Harry Potter movies to follow!

Harry always has a miserable summer

For most kids, the summertime is unequivocally positive — there's no school, the weather is warm, and there's always an excuse to hang out with friends or have a party. However, right off the bat, this isn't the case for Harry, who's spent his summers (and nearly his entire life) in the care of the awful, neglectful Dursleys. After his parents die, his mother's sister, Aunt Petunia, begrudgingly agrees to take in her orphaned nephew. But for years, her husband, Vernon, and son, Dudley, do nothing but torture Harry, even making him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs.

Hogwarts eventually provides a respite for Harry during the school year, but in order for his mother's blood sacrifice to protect him from Voldemort, he must return to the Dursley home each summer. Every year without fail, the Dursleys do their best to torment the least liked member of the household, whether they're locking him up in his room, forcing him to spend time with other unpleasant Dursley relatives, or avoiding him all together. Even in the final installment, Deathly Hallows, Harry sets off from the Dursley home of 4 Privet Drive one last time before he comes of age at 17, leaving behind several years and summer's worth of unpleasant memories.

Something shocking happens to start the school year

During Harry's time at Hogwarts, his school years are usually pretty dramatic overall, but they also consistently start off with a shocking announcement or surprise. Right from the beginning, Harry is set to attend Hogwarts — a fact the Dursleys are determined to hide from him — and as the school year approaches, the Hogwarts groundskeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, has to go on a hunt for him, eventually tracking down Harry and the Dursleys while they're on the run.

From there, the lead-up to a new school year only gets more involved, whether it's good news, bad news, or a complete mystery. In Harry's second year, Dobby the house elf warns him about "danger" at Hogwarts, and in his third year, he learns that the wizard convict Sirius Black may be hunting him. Year four brings news of the multi-school Triwizard Tournament, while in their fifth year, Harry and his friends are greeted with a Ministry official, Dolores Umbridge, who arrives at Hogwarts to "oversee" the institution. 

Harry's sixth year is marked with the official, acknowledged return of Voldemort, and even when Harry and his best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, leave Hogwarts behind in what would be their final year, there's still a final mic drop. Severus Snape, the alleged turncoat, has been named headmaster of Hogwarts at Voldemort's behest.

Harry finds himself at the center of some sort of controversy or mystery in every movie

Before he even arrives at Hogwarts, Harry is one of the most famous young wizards in the community thanks to his inexplicable defeat of Voldemort many years earlier. But unfortunately, his fame and notoriety typically get him into trouble ... as do his frequent out-of-bounds exploits. Arriving at the school for his first year makes a big enough splash as it is, and in Chamber of Secrets, rumors swirl throughout the school that Harry is the "Heir of Slytherin" who brought on the devastating attacks throughout Hogwarts. The mutterings continue in Prisoner of Azkaban, when the entire school knows that Sirius Black is, apparently, after Harry, and Goblet of Fire sees Hogwarts turn against Potter when he ends up competing in the Triwizard Tournament.

By Harry's fifth year, his new professor, Dolores Umbridge, is accusing him of spreading lies about Voldemort's return, and he's targeted by the Ministry simply for telling the truth. In his sixth year, Harry isn't a controversial figure — in fact, he's known as the "Chosen One" around school — but he's wrapped up in a mystery about whatever nefarious plan Draco Malfoy is trying to pull off throughout the term. Of course, both Deathly Hallows films center on Harry's search for Voldemort's Horcruxes — the parts of the Dark Lord's soul that need to be destroyed for him to die — and how to get rid of them.

Hermione is an excellent student — and begrudging support system

Labeled the brightest witch of her age by pretty much everyone she's ever met, Hermione is the best student Hogwarts has seen in years, largely thanks to all her hard work. Hermione is gifted with both incredible innate intelligence and a work ethic for the ages, and she constantly shows both off, excelling at every single one of her classes and remaining at the top of the academic pack throughout the first six films (before she leaves school with Ron and Harry to hunt Voldemort). Though some classmates and teachers express surprise that Hermione, a Muggle-born witch — meaning that she had no awareness of her magical abilities until she went to Hogwarts — could excel this much, she keeps her head down and works, besting naysayers at every turn.

Beyond her own school work, however, Hermione has another unexpected responsibility — Harry and Ron's homework. Though the two of them are perfectly capable students and certainly can do their own homework, they frequently just ask Hermione to take care of it, which makes the audience seriously wonder how Ron or Harry would get through Hogwarts without her help.

Draco Malfoy's behavior is always terrible

Every story set at a school needs a classic bully, and when it comes to Hogwarts, Slytherin student Draco Malfoy fills that role perfectly. Draco was raised by wealthy parents and conditioned to believe in "blood purity" (namely, the belief that only pure-blooded wizards are worthy), the Dark Arts, and other bigoted, prejudiced views. Though he initially tries to get Harry on his side due to the latter's fame in the wizarding world, Harry sees right through him, and from the very first film, the two stay at odds throughout their entire time at Hogwarts.

Though there may have been some fans who hoped that Draco would eventually get some sort of redemption arc by the end of the series, that's simply not the case. After tormenting Harry and his friends, Draco joins the Death Eaters in their sixth year and helps the storm the castle at the end of the school year, eventually escaping with Voldemort's cronies and officially joining the Dark Lord's service. Despite the fact that Harry, Ron, and Hermione even save Draco's life in the second Deathly Hallows film, he still only shows loyalty to two people — his parents. In the end, the three of them leave the Battle of Hogwarts behind, showing their cowardice as both sides fight on.

The tone gets darker with each Harry Potter movie

Most of Harry Potter's original fans were pretty young when Sorcerer's Stone was released, which explains the tone of the first two movies. With Chris Columbus of Home Alone fame at the helm, the movies were bright, cheery, and light-hearted, even during their darker moments. However, when Alfonso Cuarón took over for Prisoner of Azkaban, the tone shifted dramatically, which makes sense. In a story that involves a convicted murderer and the betrayal of Harry's parents, there's a little less room for jokes.

Goblet of Fire, which culminates in the senseless murder of teenager Cedric Diggory, gets darker still, and in Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, the tone gets even grimmer as Harry undergoes torture, battles Death Eaters, and experiences serious loss. For both Deathly Hallows movies, while the chase for Voldemort's Horcruxes rages on, the tone hits its most dismal level yet. And if you're looking for an easy indicator, pay special attention to the Warner Bros. logo that opens each Potter film, which gets darker and more decrepit as Voldemort gains more power.

Harry experiences a loss

Before Harry can even remember — when he's just an infant — he experiences the most tragic loss one could withstand when Voldemort brutally murders his parents, James and Lily Potter, in an attempt to kill Harry himself. Forced to live with his cruel Muggle relatives, Harry feels the loss of his parents acutely every single day of his childhood, and when he arrives at Hogwarts and causes a sensation as "the Boy who Lived," he's forced to realize that his fame comes at the cost of his parents' lives.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is finally reunited with one of his parental figures — his godfather, Sirius Black — only to lose him again, as Sirius must go on the run after escaping from wizard prison. Then, in Goblet of Fire, Harry watches as his classmate and Triwizard Tournament competitor, Cedric, is murdered by Voldemort simply for existing. He also witnesses Sirius getting killed during the Battle of the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix. 

Trapped and helpless, Harry is forced to watch while Severus Snape kills Harry's mentor and last father figure, Albus Dumbledore, in Half-Blood Prince. And in Deathly Hallows, Harry ends up losing a whole host of friends and loved ones before defeating Voldemort, including his pet owl, Hedwig, and his father's close friend, Remus Lupin, as well as Dobby the house elf and Ron's brother, Fred Weasley.

Okay, granted, Harry technically doesn't lose anyone in Chamber of Secrets ... not permanently, anyway. But the threat of loss hangs over the entire film. With the Basilisk haunting the school and petrifying students with its evil gaze, Harry temporarily loses several friends, including his BFF, Hermione. Fortunately, a bit of magic saves the day, but for a while there, things were looking grim.

Voldemort waits until the spring term to launch his attack on Harry

Voldemort might be a powerful overlord and master of the Dark Arts who can read people's minds, perform some of the rarest spells in the magical universe, and lead a group of Death Eaters in his attempt to dominate the wizarding world ... but at the very least, he's considerate. Over and over again, Voldemort's plan to best Harry, return to power, and overtake the wizarding world takes a full school year, which means Harry's academics have pretty much concluded by the time Voldemort or one of his henchmen finally decide to strike.

Whether he's using a teacher's body as a host in Sorcerer's Stone, appearing as a teenager in Chamber of Secrets, or invading Harry's mind in Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort is always up to no good, but he always waits for spring to bloom before carrying out his evil plans. Seriously, when seeks out Peter Pettigrew in Prisoner of Azkaban, uses the Triwizard Tournament for evil in Goblet of Fire, and orders Dumbledore's death in Half-Blood Prince, it's always at the most convenient time for Harry. Even Deathly Hallows, featuring the climactic battle between Harry and Voldemort, takes place in the spring, which leads one to wonder if Harry could've thwarted his nemesis by striking first during the fall or winter.

Ron and Hermione are the best friends around

Harry might have to bear the twin burdens of being the "Boy Who Lived" and the "Chosen One" — the second of which refers to a prophecy that marks him as the only person who can bring about Voldemort's downfall — all by himself, but for everything else, his best friends, Ron and Hermione, are always by his side. After meeting Ron on the Hogwarts Express, he and Harry immediately connect, and though they find Hermione's haughty attitude irritating at first, the three intensely bond after bringing down a grown mountain troll.

From then on, no matter what dangers Harry has to face, Ron and Hermione are along for the ride, no matter the personal risk or cost. Throughout their adventures at school, Ron and Hermione are always there to assist Harry in whatever he needs, and even when Harry tries to go off on his own to hunt Horcruxes, the two take huge steps to protect their families so that they can go with him ... and are prepared for the possibility that they won't return. Friends like Ron and Hermione are hard to come by, and without them, Harry would never survive half of his most frightening and dangerous trials.

Harry has a near-death experience in every movie

After narrowly escaping being murdered by Voldemort as a toddler, Harry is no stranger to death. In fact, in Order of the Phoenix, he makes the harrowing discovery that, in the aftermath of Cedric's murder, he can now see thestrals — magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe that are invisible to those who've not witnessed death. However, it's especially jarring for Harry that his own near-death experiences happen literally every year at school.

Whether he's fighting to save the Sorcerer's Stone, breaking into the Chamber of Secrets, saving his godfather from Azkaban, fighting Voldemort after the Triwizard Tournament, storming the Ministry of Magic, or hunting Horcruxes with Dumbledore, Harry's life is pretty much always on the line. Ultimately, in Deathly Hallows – Part 2, he actually gives his life to save his friends and allies, destroying the final Horcrux that lives inside of him. Harry chooses to return to the world of the living to kill Voldemort once and for all, and in doing so, he finally puts an end to his near-death experiences ... by actually briefly dying after years of putting himself in life-threatening situations.

Every Harry Potter movie circles back to love

There are a lot of different kinds of magic in the wizarding world, many of which are housed in the Department of Mysteries and studied intensely. But according to Dumbledore, few are as powerful as love itself. As Dumbledore ultimately explains to Harry, Lily's sacrifice — where she gave her life to protect her child — has stayed with Harry for years, protecting him every time he's with the Dursleys throughout his childhood.

Dumbledore also shares with Harry that, because Voldemort can't love or even conceive of the concept, he's weaker than Harry and many other wizards. In fact, Snape's love for Lily allows the Potions professor to trick his false master while living as a double agent, and when Harry sacrifices himself, his love for his friends protects them in kind. "Do not pity the dead, Harry," Dumbledore tells his student when the two briefly meet in the afterlife. "Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love." According to the Potter movies, there's nothing more powerful than love, and throughout the films, love saves the day time and time again, whether Harry is fully aware of it or not.