Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Remembering the Magic of Harry Potter

This is a guest post from my friend Elizabeth, one of the few people who can give me a run for my money in Harry Potter trivia!

I discovered Harry Potter in Walmart.  It was the summer between freshman and sophomore years of high school and I was bored, so while my mother was roaming the aisles in search of everything on her three-page-long list, I slipped away to the book aisle.  I didn't quite pick up the book at random.  I had heard about the series, but I didn't really know anything about it. I knew that it seemed to be causing a whole lot of ruckus in both the book world and the conservation Christian world, which, being from Alabama, I had generous exposure to, but that was about it.

I knew very little about the story, only that it was about magic, was apparently awesome, and a movie was in the works.  I knew that people had camped out at bookstores to get copies of the fourth book the summer before and that adults were fanatical enough to dress up in costumes.  But I didn't know of anyone who had read the books, nor had it really gained any popularity in my hometown.  But something about the cover struck me as interesting, so much to my mother's dismay, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone landed in our buggy. 

I started the book that night, and sometime around midnight, I had to force myself to stop reading and go to sleep.  I bought Chamber of Secrets a few weeks later and enjoyed it just as much.  But it wasn't until Christmas and being gifted books 3 and 4 that I really got bitten by the HP bug.  I devoured both of those in record time and was impatient for more.  I started being much more vocal about how much I liked the books and encouraged a few friends to read them as well.  I clearly remember spending a good chunk of my sophomore lunch times discussing Harry Potter and what might be coming in book 5.

And then I discovered fan sites.  That summer, not quite a year after I picked up the first book, while I was supposed to doing health homework for summer school, I went in search of a trailer for Chamber of Secrets(set to release that fall).  I stumbled upon the WB's official site and realized there was some sort of fan section that included message boards.  Well there went any sort of productivity I could ever hope to have.  I spent hours that summer reading and posting on the message boards, swapping theories and ideas, rereading the books for clues that others were pointing out, and even reading (and writing!) fan fiction.  

It was official.  I was obsessed with Harry Potter.  My obsession carried me through most of high school, through the discovery of MuggleNet (where I spent hours and hours and hours) and HP-themed RPG games, through creating my own HP character and crafting several stories around her, to the release of two movies and the long awaited (and heart breaking) release of Order of the Phoenix.  I became those people I had seen in the newspaper, standing in line for hours to see midnight premieres and getting the book at exactly 12:01 while dressed in costume.

I found a community in my fellow HP fans.  I've made it no secret that high school was a difficult time for me.  But I always had a comfortable space in the online fan community.  No one ever made me feel uncomfortable or unwanted and I truly valued all the time I spent on the message boards.  

I lost a bit of my fervor when I went to college.  Not because I loved the books any less (I was still anxiously awaiting the arrival of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the summer after my freshman year in college), but because college proved to be much more entertaining and welcoming than high school did.  But Harry was still there for me when I needed him to be.  My sophomore year in college was especially difficult.  I suffered from fairly severe depression and often closed myself in my dorm room for days at a time.  I turned to Harry Potter and the online community during this time.  It was one of the few things that kept me going and kept me focused on something other than how awful I felt all the time.  It's a bit of a stretch to say that Harry Potter saved my life, but I owe him a big credit.  It gave me great pleasure during the darkest period of my life when I had very little to be happy about.  

It's been a long time since I've visited the fan sites.  I know what a time suck (although an enjoyable one!) they can be, and frankly, there are better things I would rather do with my time.  But you better believe that I'll be standing outside my local movie theater by 10:00 on July 14 with a group of my friends.  We'll be dress in costume (I like to go as Madam Pince) and I guarantee we will either start or join in on a rendition of"Harry Potter and the Mysterious Ticking Noise".  I may be 25, but Harry has been in my life for 10 years and I expect he'll be around even longer than that.  Because when you discover something as special as Harry Potter and the incredible community and experience it has become for me, you stand in line to see the midnight premier even though you have to work the next day.  You reread all the books.  You wear a costume.  You shed a tear (or many) to see it finally come to an end.  You see it through "until the very end" (James Potter, DH).  And you reveal in the magic.

{Don't forget to enter my giveaway that ends Sunday, July 17!}

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