Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Pride and Prejudice.
It only seems right to discuss what Harry Potter means to me on September 1, 19 years later. I’m sure I’ll be writing more posts at some later date, discussing what the individual books mean to me, but for the moment I’ll focus on the series as a whole. And I’ll attempt to be brief, as I could probably talk about Harry Potter forever.
The series apparated into my life when I was in the hospital in 7th grade. My mother bought me a paperback box set of the first three books as something to keep me busy. If I recall correctly, I finished them in two days.
Then came the wait. You know, the horrible wait between books. I re-read the first three as I waited for the fourth book. When the publishers announced its release, I begged my mom to preorder it for me. She said no, not seeing the reasoning behind doing so, so I badgered her into going to a midnight release. I was determined to read it as soon as possible. She stood in line with me and all of the other kids and parents, desperately waiting for Barnes and Noble to let us buy it. Granted, I’m sure her eagerness had a different cause than mine.
I read Goblet of Fire by streetlight as we drove home, with my mom badgering me about how bad it was for my eyesight. I stayed up until I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore to read as much of it that night as I could. First thing in the morning, I went back to reading.
And when I was done, I had to wait again. I re-read the series during the wait. See a pattern here? I read them all so many times that Goblet of Fire fell apart. Do you remember the scandal with the bad batch of glue? Everyone’s book 4 fell apart. But at least large books are easier to carry in pieces.
Then came Order of the Phoenix. My mom had learned her lesson. She preordered it for me; I made sure we picked it up the afternoon it came out. It disappointed me, though. Order of the Phoenix was, and still is, my least favorite of the books. I can’t put a precise reason to it, but it didn’t speak to me in the way so many of the others did. Perhaps because Sirius dies. Maybe it’s just that bitch Umbridge. Or maybe it’s because I’d started to grow up, and had a new appreciation for what was going on in the books.
Regardless, I read it each time I re-read the series waiting for book 6. My mom also bought me a new copy of Goblet of Fire during the wait, as my original copy (that I still have) had degraded into about 8 pieces.
With Half Blood Prince, my mom bought me a special edition. It came in a box and had some full page illustrations. I devoured that book, as I had the others. It’s a good thing, too, because I avoided the spoiler scandal about Dumbledore dying. I already knew. I also knew that the last book was going to be hell. Each book got progressively darker, and I doubted the trend was going to stop.
Once again I re-read the series while I waited for the last book. I even read the side books – Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
And then came Deathly Hallows. The book that broke millions of hearts. I’d preordered it on Amazon, as had half of the apartment complex where I lived during college. I watched the DHL delivery people crisscross the paths in front of my apartment, pushing countless dollies laden with identically sized boxes. I was desperate to have my copy, and thinking I’d made a huge mistake by not going to a midnight release, or a bookstore first thing in the morning.
But finally, finally, there was a knock on the door, and my copy was delivered. I spared a brief moment of pity for my roommate who was also waiting for her copy before tearing open the box and plopping down to read. A reading marathon ensued. 10.5 hours straight. I didn’t stop reading to use the bathroom or to heat up food. I’d learned to multitask while reading as a young child, and it certainly came in handy that day. I laughed, cried, raged. I was bereft.
It was over. No more books. I wouldn’t ever go back to Hogwarts again. Of course, even then, us Potterheads had no idea what all we’d be blessed with over the next ten years. If I’d known there would be theme parks, studio tours, another whole movie series, etc. I might not have been so sad. But at the time it was like I’d finally finished childhood, and I didn’t want to let go.
Of course, over the years I’ve reread the books, watched all the movies, visited one of the theme parks (the one in Hollywood), been to the studio tour (and I’m going again in December), cosplayed, and made some of the treats from the universe (hot butterbeer is REALLY good). I have my own wand and a Marauder’s Map. I even read The Cursed Child (if you haven’t read it, don’t. Really. It’s not the 8th book, it’s a travesty.).
But today, 19 years later, it’s all ending again. And many of those same feelings I experienced ten years ago are back, accompanied by a sense of sadness that this time, this time it really is over. We’re here. We’re at the end of the series. It’s done.
But then this morning I saw a tweet from Ms. Rowling.
.@m_abs All these people saying they never got their Hogwarts letter: you got the letter. You went to Hogwarts. We were all there together.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 7, 2015
We went to Hogwarts. And that means we can go back again, whenever we want. So if you haven’t read the series, what better time to start then on the day it ends? If you have read it, go back to Hogwarts with the next generation, and relive the joy, wonder, tumult, sadness, bravery, and magic.
What does Harry Potter mean to you? Have you read all the books? Watched all the movies? Done all the things? What house are you in? Leave me a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.