It is with some justice, reader, that you come to this account ignorant not merely of the magical school Hogwarts, but of magic itself, for when I first arrived there, I myself shared your ignorance almost totally. This was not the usual condition for arrivals: of the 102 other students in my year, 95 had been aware their whole lives of the magical world I was entering. Even among those several who learned of it recently, the depth of my innocence was unusual. I prefer not to dwell on the early circumstances of my life, but I will appease your natural curiosity as far as saying that I was orphaned as an infant, raised in deprivation and abuse with no awareness of my birthright, and even when those styling themselves my guardians were informed that I had been called to attend Hogwarts—a call they could not, in the end, fully obstruct—they kept this knowledge from me as long as they were able. Suppress your sympathy. For our present purposes, this is a boon. You may now be introduced to the society I must describe by a narrator who remembers, all too well, what it was to come into it desperate for understanding.
Here, then, before the body of my tale, I will make you a present of some bare facts, ones I learned more gradually and without such stark presentation:
- Magic is real. Those who practice it are known as witches and wizards.
- I, Harry Potter, am a wizard myself, and an unusually powerful one.
- The reason the existence of magic surprises you is that the magical community has spent a great deal of effort on maintaining its secrecy.
- Those outside this community are, within it, termed Muggles.
- Magical Britain consists of a number of locations impossible for Muggles to enter or perceive, some surprisingly large.
- One such location is the castle Hogwarts, where children with the ability to perform magic are instructed in its use.
- Although even children of two Muggles can exhibit magical talent, my parents were a witch and a wizard.
- They were slain shortly after my birth by an individual infamous among wizarding society, feared to the extent that he is customarily referred to by the periphrastics “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
- At that same time, You-Know-Who endeavored to kill me as well.
- My seemingly miraculous survival made me famous to the magical community, and the unknowing object of considerable speculation.
- Though You-Know-Who was vanquished, he was not destroyed, and his followers, the Death Eaters, remained active in secret.
There. You now have sufficient pieces of knowledge that I feel no guilt delivering the remainder at a comfortable pace. As you learn more, do not reproach me for leaving one item or another off this list. It is the prerogative of the author to decide what to reveal and when; I will do so always with your pleasure and edification in mind, though I may err.
But having presented you this gift, I fear I must now ask a favor of you in return, one you may grant or withhold as you desire. My writing is likely not in the style current within Muggle literature. My upbringing provided me few opportunities either for cooperative conversational partners, or for reading as widely as I would have desired. I was fluent and literate, within the bare meaning of both but no further, until I came to Hogwarts and was finally allowed to immerse myself in the language into which I had previously been permitted only hesitant steps. My linguistic flourishing in this environment, full of ancient tomes and magical paintings centuries old—for in Hogwarts, men and women in paintings may speak just as they did in life—has instilled in me certain habits of writing that I realize can, to other Muggleborn, appear slightly old-fashioned. I apologize for this, but certain exigencies of my circumstances while writing this, which I will explain to you in due course, make the task of editing myself into what your people would consider modern style impossible. This work could not be delayed. I beg you, take pity on me and, despite this deficiency of mine, delay not in reading.