The year was 2002. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone movie had only been released late the previous year and I was adamant that it was stupid. Rubbish! I'm so not interested in watching that. That was until my 6th grade teacher told the class we were going to watch it together before reading Chamber of Secrets. So I watched the movie. I read along with my classmates and so help me, I become obsessed. I rushed ahead of everyone else, I ran to the library and borrowed Prisoner of Azkaban and then hounded my librarian incessantly every single day because some horrible person still hadn't returned Goblet of Fire.
That year was one of my best years of schooling. We participated in so many awesome Harry Potter related activities and workbooks, played own version of Quidditch and even had a Hogwarts style Christmas Feast. When Chamber of Secrets was released in November that year, our school had a special screening at the cinema and I can still remember that air of excitement buzzing through the theatre. I cannot thank my teacher enough for fueling what has been an amazing decade and a love that will carry on throughout the rest of my life.
Order of the Phoenix was the first book I ever counted down the days in wait for and willingly woke super early during the school holidays just to line up and get my own copy. When I got my hands on Deathly Hallows, I did not sleep that night until I'd finished reading. I had to stop halfway through when Dobby died though - literally, I was crying too much. So many times while reading I closed the book and stared at the cover, lamenting that this is really it. I'll never have another day like this. Never go back to Hogwarts. Never ponder the fate of Harry and his friends. It was all I could do to not break down there and then before I even finished.
Not long after we first got the internet connected, my first ever discussion forum was, you guessed it, a Harry Potter one on the Bloomsbury website (sadly I can find no trace of it now). It was so exciting to talk to fans overseas. Overseas! I was pretty in awe over that fact back then. We theorised and gushed and shared all things Potter. And a few years later, 2004, is when I joined my first Harry Potter Role Play. I RPed for about 3-4 years and I met so many amazing people. That was such an awesome part of my life. I was not only inspired by this magnificent world to improve upon my writing, but formed incredible friendships with fellow fans. And while most of us eventually went separate ways; the memories stay with you forever. Our 3am MSN chats, the crazy, endearing characters we wrote and the hours spent discussing the books together, wailing over who died and pondering what would happen next.
Harry Potter has brought us all so much. We each have a different story to tell, amazing experiences these books have allowed us to be involved in. The release parties, the fansites, the people we've connected with because of this series. The world in which J.K Rowling has crafted is so well detailed, so impressive in it's scope and so, so beautiful. There are books where you think 'oh, how cool would it be to live inside that world?' and then there is Harry Potter, where that statement holds such a deeper meaning for fans. Because you really do wish it existed. To study at Hogwarts. Visit Hogsmeade. Play Quidditch. I'm still crushed that I'll never receive my Hogwarts letter.
It's been an incredible journey, Harry. Together, at the tender age of 11, we discovered a magical world living right beneath our noses. We made new friends, fought with old ones and lost some forever. We battled dragons and giant snakes, we wondered why such an awesome class could never hold the same teacher longer than a year, we watched as the power of Love conquered all and the man so evil to his core, finally met his downfall. And then came the day when we had to go our separate ways. You were 17, I was a few months short of turning 17 myself. We had reached the age of adulthood in the wizarding world. Our childhood adventures were over. Our mischief managed. You went off to marry Ginny and start a family, I was left holding onto the memories we shared, not ever wanting to let go. There were still movies to be seen, still plenty more life left in you. And I stupidly counted down the days in excitement as your final ever adventure on the big screen grew nearer. I watched all the trailers, bounced out of my seat in awe over the amazing clips. And then less than 24 hours before I was set to see it, it really hit me that this was it. No more new adventures for us, no more counting down days or hosting a week in your honour because the next new Potter craze was hitting the world, no more, no more, no more.
I'm still not ready to leave you, Harry. And I realise I don't have to. We still have countless rereads, rewatches, a theme park and Pottermore to look forward to. So there's still that air of excitement and wonder and surprise at what we'll discover. While it was heartbreaking to have the books come to an end, and now the movies, it will never truly be over. Not for us, or our children, or our great-grandchildren, for as long as we humans remain literate. You will become The Boy Who Lived Forever. That's how you gain true immortality. You didn't need a Philosopher's Stone or Horcruxes or Hallows, just two loyal friends, a courageous heart and a world of loyal readers who supported you every step of the way.
J.K Rowling dedicated the final book to us all. "And to you, if you have stuck with Harry until the very end" - I stuck with him until the end and will continue to until my own journey comes to an end. And hell, even then I'll come back as a ghost and haunt the S-bend of a toilet with Moaning Myrtle just so my Potter love will continue on in the afterlife.
So this isn't goodbye, Harry. It's just the end of one decade and the beginning of another in our very long lives together. We are all apart of an iconic generation. Those who had the amazing opportunity to grow up beside Harry Potter and we will treasure the memories made forever. Future fans will never know what it was like to spend months debating whether Snape was good or bad, whether R.A.B was really Regulas, if Harry would live or die in the end. They won't have release parties or movie trailers or counting down the days until the next new book or film. There will be millions of new fans born in the coming years, but we were there for the original journey. We are apart of history.
Thank you, J.K Rowling, for the best ten years of my life.
"No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back page by page or by the big screen. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."
J.K Rowling - 7th July 2011.
J.K Rowling - 7th July 2011.