Picture C/O Roushan Tabassum
As Welcome Week wound down at McMaster University, the students of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry were getting fired up to leave for another year of school. They grabbed their trunks and went down to King’s Cross for a train ride from platform nine and three quarters. The September sentiments at the wizarding school are in many ways parallel to the experiences of the Muggles of McMaster.
The first-years talked anxiously about what house they would be sorted into while upper years excitedly reconnected with friends and peers while practicing a few spells. In its own way, the first week of school has a magical charm and I found it hard to go back to school without thinking about what it must be like at Hogwarts.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the second Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Since the series debuted, the thought of a boy wizard has expanded into a series of seven volumes that has been interpreted through film, exhibition, theme park, studio tour, merchandise, play and so much more.
Though the original ink has dried, the story is kept alive by the legions of devoted Potterheads in the fandom.
I first read Harry Potter in the fourth grade when I received a boxed set of the first three books for free. At that point in my life, I was mostly reading mysteries and trashy teen dramas. It was the first time that I can recall reading about magic and it entranced me.
I could barely put the books down. I have a fond memory of getting towards the big reveal at the end of the first book as my family was driving home one night. As soon as I got home, I ran upstairs and threw myself on my bedroom floor. I didn’t get up until I finished it.
After reading the entire series, I still find myself returning to it. I have thumbed through Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix on days where nothing seemed to be going my way. I have opened to a funny passage in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when I needed to laugh. I have rediscovered my favourite chapters in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I needed a distraction. My love for the series has forged connections between myself and others I have met in every stage of my life, including university.
However, the Harry Potter experience doesn’t end with the books and films. I have seen Harry Potter: The Exhibition and the Potted Potter play. I have been to opening nights, a studio tour and to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, twice. I have Hermione’s wand, a copy of The Tales of Beetle the Bard, a quill, a sweater and jewellery all branded with Harry Potter insignia.
When I read the books the first time, I was blown away by the web that was being spun under my nose, ready to catch me off guard at every twist and turn. It made me think a lot about storytelling and it has contributed to making me a better writer.
Countless others have been moved by Harry Potter in such a way that they will continuously return to celebrate the book and movies in any capacity. This ongoing loyalty made it possible for The Zoetic Theatre & Creative Arts Company to host a monthly event entitled “Epic Harry Potter” throughout this year, which culminates on Sept. 7.
This historic Hamilton theatre has been playing each of the eight movies since February, each screening being accompanied by prop bags, cocktails and other surprises. The creation and success of this event demonstrates the staying power of the boy wizard in the hearts of those who have embraced his story.
It is worth noting that the Harry Potter universe is not perfect and has in some cases let down its fans. There was the poor characterization and plot in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling’s appropriation of Indigenous culture on Pottermore, as well as issues that exist within the original story itself.
The fans that have held the fandom accountable for its actions show that Potter loyalty is not static and frozen like the original story. Our love for Harry Potter grows up with us and it evolves as we mature with more critical eyes on the series we loved as children.
At the same time, it is sometimes nice to know that, even through transitions, some things, like the presence of the sweets trolley on the Hogwarts Express, will never change. Whether you’re a first-year experiencing university life for the first time or stepping into your final September on campus, there is magic in hanging onto the stories that were formative for us and still bring us comfort. Perhaps if we all do that, all will be well.