So you can't quite get to the village of Hogsmeade, but you can chill with Harry Potter and his crew in some rather magical places online.
Like Harry's, your first stop at a wizard hang-out should be http://the-leaky-cauldron.org. There you'll find news of the upcoming movie, to open Nov. 16. The Leaky Cauldron links to http://www.hpgalleries.com, which leads to a number of interesting places. Some might call it a virtual Platform 93/4. One place it leads, appropriately enough, is http://www.hpgalleries.com/hol, where you'll find a Hogwarts-like wizard school. Virtual students try to collect points individually and for their house. The winning house gets the House Cup.
If you're the sporting type, check out http://wql.50g.com. Grab your broomstick. The World Quidditch League offers a chance at the Golden Snitch. (Translation for non-wizards or muggles: Quidditch, a wizard pastime, is basically baseball, basketball and soccer rolled into one.)
For a more cerebral challenge,try http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/challenge. The questions, submitted by site visitors, range from the obvious to the obscure. You're out after the first wrong answer. The Scholastic site overall is rather tame, offering screen savers, book details and a discussion forum.
If a graphics-pumped, eye-widening site is what you want, the movie's site (http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com) is what you're looking for. Often, such sites offer just a trailer and are weighted down by promotional chaff. The Warner Bros. site does have the requisite promos, but there's enough cool stuff to balance that for fans. (Broadband users would have the most success seeing the intro.)
You can enroll at Hogwarts and be placed in a house by the Sorting Hat. (Cross your fingers to get into Harry's house, Gryffindor.) After you've been sorted, you can pick up your student wizard items.
Drop by Diagon Alley, where you'll find the Owl Post to e-mail a postcard or a howler. The howlers will send a slam of your choice, such as "A disgrace to Wizards and Witches everywhere!!!" The Daily Prophet gives you news of Harry Potter--and the movie.
So many fans are spellbound by the Harry Potter series, salivating for the next installment. Get the scoop on what's said to be in store in upcoming books five through seven at http://www.harrypotterrealm.com.
Along the same lines, http://thehpn.rupture.net gives you what's swirling around the rumor mill. It also boasts a book-by-book breakdown, screen savers and teachers' lounge.
At http://www.topsitelists.com/bestsites/Liyana/topsites.html, you'll find links to many more Harry Potter-themed sites. There's even one (http://www.potterwar.org.uk) that chronicles a now-resolved battle between fans and Warner Bros.
Among other things, you can boost "spelling" skills at http://harrypotterfansonline.com. It lists what various incantations do. For example, the target of a Rictusempra curse will be tickled.
Uninitiated muggles, take note: If you can't understand a beloved's Potter mouth, stop by http://www.i2k.com/~svderark/lexicon for translations.
Teachers can get in on the magic at http://www.angelfire.com/co3/teachhpotter. There are printable, book-specific classroom tools. Lesson plans for the series also can be found at http://www.connectingstudents.com/lessonplans/potter.
Michelle Maltais is a broadcast producer and copy editor at The Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.