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A Tribute To The Boy Who Lived
Where It All Began
For me it started in eighth grade. I was wandering around my school's library during lunch and I saw a book abandoned on the floor. As I picked it up and read the title, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, I knew I had to get it. I didn't know at the time that there were two books before it, but that didn't seem to matter. I brought it home covertly, because while I'd never read the series, I'd heard my mom talking about how it was filled with magic and that she didn't want it in her house. I read at night when she'd gone to bed, huddling close to a dimmed light and stashing the book under my blankets any time I heard the floor boards creak, suggesting that she might be getting up. I don't remember much of how I felt after reading the book, but I know that I got Goblet Of Fire shortly afterwards and by the summer of my freshman year in high school I was openly toting around Order Of The Phoenix. My mom learned to accept my reading of the books, though not without swearing they were the works of the devil.
Eventually I read the first two, but not until after I'd finished Half Blood Prince and was waiting for Deathly Hallows to come out. I remember the day my mom brought the sixth book home from work, where a coworker had lent it to her because she knew I wanted to read it. I spent all night devouring that book, not quite understanding what a horcrux was and feeling saddened when, at the end, Snape killed Dumbledore. How long would it be until the seventh book came out? I asked myself that questions for weeks afterwards. I had a yearning for the series that I'd never quite felt for any other book. Something about those novels kick started my love of reading, because before Prisoner Of Azkaban I never finished a book that wasn't thrusted upon me by eager English teachers trying to shove classic literature down my throat.
When the seventh book finally did come out I had to wait a week before I finally got my hands on it. I took my time instead of rushing through it, enjoying every part of Harry's final journey. I cried when Dobby died, when J.K. Rowling told the story of Snape's love for Lily, and when Harry's family rose up around him as he headed into the Forbidden Forest to accept his fate of death. The book truly touched home for me. I laughed, I gasped, I cheered. The series, while finished, didn't end there for me though. It wasn't until the final movie came out last month that it truly hit me: Harry Potter is over.
What It Meant To Me
While I would never live in a world filled with magic and spells, dark wizards and flying cars, something about Harry Potter drew me in. Over the years I would reread the books, sometimes in order, sometimes not. They transported me to another world and during high school it was the best form of therapy I could find. The drama in my life would disappear when I cracked the spine, getting lost in this place that could never have existed in my wildest dreams. I admired J.K. Rowling for what she'd created for the masses. As my own desire to become a writer grew I yearned to publish something that would change someone's life the way Harry Potter had changed mine.
Where everything in my world was transitioning Harry Potter remained the same. The series never broke up with me, never told my secrets to anyone, never yelled at me for wanting to grow up. It was there despite my sister's arrest, my parents fighting, my heart getting broken, the loss of friends and the painful realization that I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Harry Potter never judged me for the choices I made or the things I did when no one was looking. And like the series was there through the bad times, it was there in the good as well. Graduation, finding love, getting married, moving to a different state, finding out I was pregnant - the novels remained a constant as everything in my life seemed to be rushing by.
When I try to explain this to people they ask how a few books could possibly mean so much to someone and I honestly don't know how to explain it to them. How do I tell them that diving into a Harry Potter novel was like a mini-vacation? If life was overwhelming, I would just open which ever book I could reach first and let it all melt away. They became a comfort to me over time. The same way a child needs a security blanket, I need Harry Potter. I had read those books through so many good and bad times in my life that they held memories as well as stories. To other people who read books it wasn't a hard concept to grasp, but for those who didn't it seemed like an eternity of explaining wouldn't help them make sense of it. In some ways Casey Winters explains it best when he talks about the power of a story. He said that he was an escapist and that's how I try to portray it to other people. Harry Potter wasn't just another story to me, it was another part of me.
Now That It's Over
I haven't picked up the books since watching Deathly Hallows, Part II. Maybe that's because for days before my husband and I spent hours watching the movies over and over again, so the stories were fresh in my mind. Still I look at my bookshelf and see them all lined up and know they're there for me. Nothing will ever be new about this series, I know all that there is to know about it. Harry won't suddenly get a divorce and marry Hannah Abbott and Draco's son won't grow up to be the next dark lord. J.K. Rowling said that she wasn't going to write anymore Harry Potter books and while it's a crushing blow to those of us who would love to know what happens next, at the same time it's a relief. We can only imagine what the lives of Teddy Lupin and Rose Weasley will be like. We can write fanfiction detailing their adventures, knowing that anything is possible.
I miss the anticipation of all things Harry Potter and the series will always have a place in my heart. I will read these books to my kids and hope that they love them as much as I have, but if they don't, that's ok. The best thing about this series is that they brought my generation together. Harry Potter transcended race, gender, sexuality, culture, religion and hundreds of other identifiers and united us all under the cause of defeating the dark lord. My kids could hate these books for all I care, it won't change what it did for me or the millions of other fans.