This is late and with good reason(s). Reading seven books instead of just one understandably took me a little longer than usual. And secondly, I put it off because I didn’t really want to finish this project. Which, appropriately enough, is how I read The Deathly Hallows.
Unless you followed Harry from his cupboard under the stairs to his greatest and final duel, and fell more in love with the story as you turned each page, I can’t explain to you the impact he had on my life. It will also likely sound rather strange to you that I am profoundly grateful to have been part of the generation that grew up with Harry. I was 10 years old when I first opened The Philosopher’s Stone, and 18 years old when I came to the end of his story. My life mirrored his almost perfectly (minus that whole magic thing). While kids now and in the future can and will indulge in the books, they will never know the glorious agony of waiting years to find out, for instance, whose side Snape is really on (for the record I always believed in him).
When I first entered the Harry Potter world I spent a few months clinging to a faint hope that I just might get that Hogwarts letter. By this time, the first three books had been released and to be frank I don’t remember my exact thoughts but must have thoroughly enjoyed them because I can recall the eagerness with which I waited to get my hands on Goblet of Fire.
I didn’t get a copy immediately, and finished a friend’s on her couch while ignoring her and others, because they’d already read it and surely understood how important it was that I find out Harry’s fate. The end of Order of the Phoenix came as I stretched out on my bed and reading Sirius’ death four times over, shifting each time as if somehow re-reading it in a new position would negate the tragedy. I waited for the midnight release of Half-Blood Prince in pyjamas at Chapters, then sobbed through Dumbledore’s funeral on the couch in my family room, tears streaming as Harry reiterates that he’s Dumbledore’s man through and through. I opened The Deathly Hallows with bated breath on the floor of the Stansted airport in London, England, and read the majority two days later on my flight home to Canada from Ireland, stopping only when Dobby’s death led to uncontrollable weeping that surely made my airplane neighbours uncomfortable. I put off reading the final chapters, not ready for the end of this fascination that had consumed, to that point, almost half my life.
Full disclosure: this is not the first time I’ve reread these books. In fact, it’s at least the fourth time I’ve visited Deathly Hallows, and I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone through some of the others. Yet this time, I still cried (one may say excessively) through the endings of the final four books, amazed again at the compassion and bravery and love shown by the characters who yes I rationally know are fictional but still somehow believe exist in their separate magical world.
They are so remarkably real to me. I’ve known them longer than I’ve known many of my closest friends. A lot longer. When Fred dies in the battle of Hogwarts, I didn’t shed a tear. The first time through, my heart stopped and all I could think was, George doesn’t know. Someone’s got to tell George. This time around I kept thinking about the characters as they live now, with their families, and wondering (being the sentimental nostalgist that I am) do they ever think back on their younger selves and laugh that Ginny was afraid to talk in front of Harry? Does Ron apologize for abandoning them while on their quest? Does he tease Hermione about her love affair with Krum or is that still a bit of a sore spot? He does none of these Andrea because he does not exist in real life but SHUT UP GUYS I don’t want to talk about it!
(Sidenote: Harry may have been the hero but a) obviously Hermione and Ron would end up together and anyone advocating otherwise until the end were fools, and b) I totally understand because I was (am?) a bit in love with Ron.)
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Hermione. A friend once passed on this article that expounds on Hermione’s fantastic qualities, and I think to me this stood out the most: “So often, female characters are allowed to be aggressive or rebellious, but in exchange are stripped of any traditionally feminine qualities and instead are forced to pick up traditionally masculine traits. However, Hermione is never made to do that. Most notably, she is written to be highly logical AND emotionally expressive, a combination not commonly afforded to most of today’s leading ladies.” Yes. And as the author points out, while Harry is the star of the show, Hermione’s not the only remarkable female in the litany of HP characters. For more on why that is awesome, read this.
I can’t tell you how much time in my life I’ve devoted to Harry Potter: reading the books (repeatedly), watching the movies (repeatedly), flying to London to stand in line and wait at the biggest bookstore in the city for the midnight release of Deathly Hallows (I was already in Ireland at the time so it wasn’t THAT crazy…), discussing at length theories and clues and characters in the years between book releases (but WHO sent Petunia that howler!), testing out recipes for butterbeer (success by the way)…the list goes on.
I also can’t tell you how much more I initially had planned to say while writing this. Seriously, 15 years of love for these characters and adventures and stories and lessons – I’m a little gushy. I really don’t think it’s too extreme to say I would have been a somewhat different person if it hadn’t all existed. Thank you JK.