It’s strange to imagine myself before Harry Potter. It’s as integral to my identity as is the day I penned my first short story and felt suddenly spiritual, or the moment I learned I was accepted to Arts & Science, or the days I spent with my brother building forts out of sheets and play-wrestling until he was strong enough to win within seconds. I received Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for my eighth birthday. It was slick and shiny and crisp and perfect. The book has got significantly fatter since then – as though I left a small part of myself behind with each read. Flipping through it now, I sometimes find a slightly different, slightly younger version of myself, like a forgotten bookmark hidden between the pages.
When I felt homesick in my first year of university, Harry was there to reassure me that home will always be there for those who seek it. When my family received some difficult news, Dumbledore was there to remind me that death is but the next big adventure. When I had my heart broken for the first time, Hermione made me see that knowledge and cleverness have little bearing when it comes to relationships. When I felt somehow misunderstood, Luna showed me how truly wonderful weirdness can be. When I felt weak, Neville helped me understand how to draw strength from within myself. When I feared change, Fred’s death made me accept that there are those things in life that can never be whole again.
Perhaps the intangible, incomparable connection I feel with the Harry Potter series is the memories and experiences I’ve shared with the characters. Perhaps it serves as a kind of universal diary, a coming of age story that somehow mirrors my own so well. Perhaps it gives me a means of making sense of everything that’s around me – in a way that’s subtle and cliché and unpredictable and powerful and humorous all at the same time.
When I finished the last page of the last novel during the wee hours of the morning several years ago, and I slowly closed the book and clutched it to my chest, I was mourning the end of the story as well as the end of my childhood. I had closed a chapter of my life that would shape everything that was to come. I find it difficult sometimes to reread certain parts because I am reminded of how swiftly time is slipping through my fingers, as swiftly as each page passed between them. I am left with all the lessons I learned from Harry – left to face a world as dark and as confusing and as potentially lovely as his own. I find kindred spirits in those who have read the series – and for those who have not, I hope that you too will pick up a Harry Potter book and discover something even half as moving as I did.