I recently wrote about how my husband and I named our son Jasper and it turned out a vampire in "Twilight" had the same name. I also shamelessly used this post as an opportunity to make a few somewhat snide remarks about the "Twilight" franchise and to also add in the oh-so brill “HARRY POTTER FOR EVS” toward the end, because I love taking opportunities to insult "Twilight" AND elevate "Harry Potter" at the same time. It's one of the many things that I do often. That particular bit of the post was noticed and discussed.
I very closely read but didn't engage in the fairly long back-and-forth, but it stirred something up! Inspired me! Made me want to whip out my imitation holly and phoenix feather wand, all nice and supple eleven inches of it and represent for my Harry Potter people! Because that's also one of the many things that I do often.
Because you guys? Harry Potter is my jam, and going back in time to the first moment we met is something I'll happily do anytime, anyplace.
I first picked up "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 1999. I was 14, and my family had just moved from a small Alabama town to a much larger (to us) city. I went from a graduating class of maaaaybe 150 to a graduating class of more than 900 students basically overnight. I know that's not huge by some standards, but I was very seriously and very clearly lost.
I owe all of my Harry Potter fandom to my younger brother. He was 9 when he brought the book into our home. I have this habit of always reading something while I dry my hair. His Harry Potter book was sitting around while I was getting ready for school, so I picked it up. I was HOOKED. I have always had a voracious appetite for books, but the description of Harry combined with the timing combined with my affinity for the Young Adult Fiction genre was the greatest math equation that's ever been part of my life. I sped through the book, reading the first five or six chapters in between hair drying and eating breakfast, taking it to school and sneaking readings during class. All of the sudden it didn't matter that I felt homely and lost in this new, huge school –- I had Harry Potter.
I remember having countless discussions with whichever family member would listen to me about the books, and my first forays online all included searches for fellow Harry Potter fans. I found forums, chat rooms, websites, and really thought I had found them: the golden shrine of high school. Friends. I distinctly remember the day I found out they were making a film version of the books –- we (and by we, I mean the fans) were all rabid at the bit for the fourth book, and the movie news was perfectly timed. I obsessed about how they might cast, and also mused aloud about how a 15-year-old American living in Alabama would be the PERFECT choice for Hermione Granger, if someone would just give me a chance. (Emma Watson: I take it all back. You are the best.)
I scooped up "Goblet of Fire," read it in a matter of days, and went back to anxiously scouring the internet for news – casting news, filming news, location news. Would Hogwarts look right? Would Dumbledore be perfect? What about Snape? Ron? Harry? WHAT ABOUT HARRY?!
The first film was released, and for the first time in my then-few years as a movie snob, I didn't care at all if it was perfect because it didn't have to be. I didn't mind if what I saw on the screen didn't match what was in my head because I knew it could never do that anyway. I was somehow magically able to enjoy the film for what it was –- an instantly beloved adaptation of a book that had forever changed my life and the lives of millions of people around the world. I didn't expect everything to be included and frankly, I was happy that everything wasn't because it meant I still had sacred Harry Potter space in my head. The movie existed, and soon the whole batch would follow, but I was still able to retreat into that part of my brain where I felt safe, where I felt secure, where I could hang out with the first friends I made in a new city.
I happily and rabidly consumed the rest of the books and films, all of this culminating in one day and one night I'll never forget. The day was July 21, 2007, when my I waited all day for my pre-ordered copy of "Deathly Hallows" to arrive. I paced the living room, looked out the window, and half-walked half-ran down the driveway to greet the delivery man, and immediately locked myself in the bedroom and gave my husband strict instructions to only get my attention if he really, really needed it. I came out of the room exactly twice –- once for water and once to go to the bathroom -– and finished the book in four hours. I had to go there –- I had to know what was going to happen. It was as simple as that.
I wandered around in a daze for a few days after, catching up with similarly obsessed and impacted friends as they each finished the book, still checking out my favorite online spots for Harry Potter news and reactions, and processing. It was phenomenal to me how much processing the final book took. If I had not had the knowledge that the final films would still be coming I'm not sure I could have handled it as well as I did. "Deathly Hallows" represented more than the conclusion of a book series I cherished: It represented my venture into adulthood. At that point, I was 22 and had been a legal adult for four years, but when I finished the last page of the last book I felt a shift. Like, Hey: we did it. We became grown-ups.
When the final film came out, my husband and I attended a midnight party at a book store, oohed and aahed over everyone's costumes, and drank celebratory butterbeer. I didn't dress up and I didn't feel like I needed to: I was there to see my oldest friends, to watch them fight their most epic battle, and to love them for always being there –- even if they were really characters in a series and never actually existed in the first place.
A few months ago I had a 9 ¾ tattooed on my inner ankle after months of contemplation about what the most perfect Harry Potter tattoo would be for me. I chose this because it represented both the beginning and the end -– Platform 9 ¾ is Harry's access to Hogwarts and the wizarding world he loves so much, and the last scene of the final film is the platform sign -– and to me that dual representation meant that Harry Potter and his crew are there, forever. They were there when my son was in the NICU and I needed a book to read to him that I felt like would comfort us both, and they'll be there when he's six and old enough to sit through and engage in at least the first two books. They'll still be there when he's 16 and hopefully rediscovers the series on his own, after it's been sitting on the bookshelf for years.
And they'll be there anytime I need them, anyplace.