It happened with a birthday party. One day I was a stubborn 8-year-old, determined that I was too cool to be swept up in the literary craze that was captivating the nation. The next, I was at a roller rink, excitedly decorating my very own magic wand amid plates of pizza at a roller rink, itching to get home and start in on the first book of the Harry Potter series. (Tangentially, I was also suddenly a 9-year-old, as the birthday party happened to fall on my own birthday).
I don’t know what specifically convinced me. Maybe it was the enchanting aura of excitement that exuded from the themed cardboard Party City decorations. Maybe it was the sudden feeling that I was missing out on something big that all my classmates already knew about. Maybe I just had let my guard down after one too many slices of cake. All I know is from that day on, I was a Harry Potter Fan. I borrowed the first book from my childhood friend, but soon convinced my mom to get into the series as well and buy the rest of the books that were out at the time.
We became superfans, attending all of the next three midnight book releases and seven of the midnight movie releases (I sadly missed the last one due to my college orientation). When I got the new books, I would immediately start reading them in the car by the dim interior light, stay up well into the night, and keep devouring them until I was finished the next day, barely pausing to answer questions from my grandmother, who baby-sat me during the day those summers. After I was Hermione for Halloween one year, I wore the polyester black robe to every movie, long past the point where I had grown out of it. I was obsessed, along with everyone else in, it seemed, the entire world.
By the time the last movie had come out, it had been quite a few years since I had read a Harry Potter book – the last one came out in 2007 and the last movie came out in 2011. I had loved the series but I have little patience for re-reading, even books that I love. I believe there’s too much out there for me to read even once for me to be going back and re-examining things I’ve already read. Still, last year I read A Series of Unfortunate Events over and found I loved it even more than the first time. I had been considering going back to visit the magical boy with the scar on his forehead but I hadn’t given it too much thought. Then, last month, Alan Rickman (the actor who played Severus Snape) died, and I decided it was time.
I’ve been working my way through the series, this time in audiobook form, and I was frankly surprised to find that I am just as addicted this time as I was the first go-round. I haven’t seen the movies much either since the first time and many of the salient plot points are slowly trickling back to me as I listen, addicted to the story, hitting the play button every chance I get – in my car, before my library opens in the morning, in the shower, on lunch breaks…
I’ve sped through the first and second books and I already feel the familiar impending sense of dread all over again each time I realize I’m nearing the end of a book, knowing that eventually there won’t be any more to read about Hogwarts, magic and muggles. It’s a feeling I haven’t experienced in a long time, and one that I am relishing, flooded with a sense of contentment while lost within a whole other world so perfectly constructed and characters so easy to admire and identify with.
I have mixed feelings about the upcoming release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” While I love more information about Harry and his world, and trust J.K. Rowling to release only quality works that would further add to the series, I still worry. I believe there’s something to that gut nervousness I’ve been feeling as I read that is a reminder that J.K. told the story exactly as she intended, confining herself to the space where Harry’s story was supposed to live – within the seven years of his Hogwarts schooling. There’s a special area beyond those confines colored only by the small parcel of details Rowling allowed us regarding Harry’s life beyond school, with his own family, in the real wizarding world. Plotting out too much of this world alters our vision of the original books in ways that, yes, could be good, but also might not, and deprives us of our own imagining of Harry’s life and his children’s life.
At this point, I don’t know if I’ll read “…The Cursed Child.” Beyond my reservations, however, the continued publishing of new material, the fact that we still buy new copies of the original series at my library, the impending release of the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” movie, all these developments fill me with a happiness in the knowledge that The Boy Who Lived will continue to convert muggles into believers for a long, long time.