Harry James Potter is the title character and primary protagonist of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The majority of the books' plot covers seven years in the life of the orphan Potter who, on his eleventh birthday, learns he is a wizard. Thus, he attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to practice magic under the guidance of the kindly headmaster Albus Dumbledore and other school professors. Harry also discovers that he is already famous throughout the novel's magical community, and that his fate is tied with that of Lord Voldemort, the nationally feared Dark Wizard and murderer of his mother and father.
Harry first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) as the novel's main protagonist. Starting in 1981, when Harry was just one year old, his parents were murdered by the most powerful Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort (frequently called "You-Know-Who" and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" by those too superstitious to use his actual name); although only his soul remained after his body was destroyed.
According to Rowling, fleshing out this back story was a matter of reverse planning: "The basic idea [is that] Harry ... didn't know he was a wizard ... and so then I kind of worked backwards from that position to find out how that could be, that he wouldn't know what he was... That's... When he was one year old, the most evil wizard for hundreds and hundreds of years attempted to kill him. He killed Harry's parents, and then he tried to kill Harry - he tried to curse him.... Harry has to find out, before we find out. And for some mysterious reason, the curse didn't work on Harry. So he's left with this lightning-bolt shaped scar on his forehead, and the curse rebounded upon the evil wizard who has been in hiding ever since".
As a result, Harry is written as an orphan living with his only remaining family, the Dursleys. On his eleventh birthday, Harry learns he is a wizard when Rubeus Hagrid arrives to tell him that he is to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he learns about the wizarding world, his parents, and his connection to the Dark Lord. When he is sorted into Gryffindor House, he becomes fast friends with classmates Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and foils Voldemort's attempt to steal the Philosopher's Stone. He also forms a rivalry with characters Draco Malfoy, a classmate from an elitist wizarding family, and the cold, condescending Potions master, Severus Snape, Draco's mentor and the head of Slytherin House. Both feuds continue throughout the series. In a 1999 interview, Rowling stated that Draco is based on several prototypical schoolyard bullies she encountered and Snape on a sadistic teacher of hers who abused his power.
Rowling has stated that the Mirror of Erised chapter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is her favourite; the mirror reflects Harry's deepest desire, namely to see his dead parents. Her favourite funny scene is when Harry inadvertently sets a boa constrictor free from the zoo in the horrified Dursleys' presence.