I was 11 years old when the first Harry Potter movie came out. I sat in the reading corner provided by my teacher, multicolored pillows thrown into a giant pile in the back left corner of the classroom, pretending to read a Nancy Drew book while I listened to my classmates talk about the film. Two summers previously my father had attempted to entice me into reading the books, but after the first chapter all I wanted to do was get back to The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. I was bored and couldn’t believe so many people really wanted to read those books when there were much more thrilling adventures. However, I wasn’t very popular and had very few people I called friend by the time fifth grade came around, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to go see the movie everyone was talking about. I wasn’t allowed to though, not until I had read the book, or so my friend Gianna told me when I suggested we do it when we hung out that weekend. I explained to her my feelings about the book when I tried to read it previously, but she stood firm. I begrudgingly picked up the book from our school library and vowed to force myself to read it.
It’s been 11 years since I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Since then I have read the entire seven book series at least ten times, and the first five books at least 35 times each, the first 3 at least 47 times and the third one, my favorite in the series, around 65 times. I went to the final 3 book release parties in full, homemade costumes. I sat in movie theater’s at 12am for every movie that came out after the first one. I had an entire wall dedicated to Harry Potter memorabilia, magazine articles and a giant four foot tall poster for my 7th and 8th grade years of school. I decided to brave the crowds and tried to help as my mother pushed me through a sea of people for the grand opening of Hogsmeade in Universal Studios Florida in June of 2010. I’m a proud editor of the quarterly newsletter and Ravenclaw Prefect for the Central Florida Slug Club, and in two weeks I will be attending my second, of many more to come, Harry Potter conventions. I have little shame when it comes to admitting not only was I wrong about the series, but it has become a major contributing factor to my life today. It is why I got into writing, why I fell in love with reading so much, and how I made countless friends who I know will be by me for the long haul.
There are also times I need to explain my obsession to those less involved in the fandom and I always preface it by saying “Nerd Moment”. Yet, I would not be who I am without that nerd moment and while some roll their eyes at me, I proudly don my robes on September 1st and make my way to Hogwarts. Yes, I’m referring to the castle in Orlando and yes, I am referring to real robes. However, while there are times that my face turns redder then normal, there are also times that this fandom, this family, brings me to tears with their kindness and how far we reach in our caring to others.
A few weeks ago a tragedy struck and a 15 year old girl was left the lone survivor of a horrible home invasion. Her siblings and parents were all killed in front of her and the only way she survived was by pretending to be dead. A few days later, in a press conference to speak about what had happened, young Cassidy Stay quoted Albus Dumbledore and stated that “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times; if one only remembers to turn on the light”. When I read that story, I began sobbing. Deep breaths because it’s hard to breath through the tears, red puffy eyes sobbing because a book series, a movie series, a fantastical group of characters, a passionate range of fans from all over the world….a fandom, could give this girl enough strength to even stand in front of people and talk about it. I know I would not have been able to do it.
I’m proud to say that I’m a part of the Harry Potter generation. They say “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”, but the truth is, we Potterheads will always be at Hogwarts to welcome others and teach the next generation about Harry Potter. The Theme Park world continues to expand, but this fandom is so much larger than that. It spans chat boards, websites, clubs, and even an international quidditch association, which in many colleges and universities is now being considered a true contact sport.
Words have an impact. Everything we say, everything we write, has meaning and can help lift someone up or slam them down. When I was young, the thing to say was “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’ve learned that’s a lie as the years have gone on. In fact, there have been many times that I wished for sticks and stones over the harsh reality that words can bring because most of the time, the healing time is a lot faster. But these words, these pages, have brought together a community that cares for each other beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed before. When I truly think of the impact that Harry Potter has had on the world, I’m left shaking and realizing how small a role I play. My heart is filled with joy everytime I see my fandom reaching out and helping others. Everything from a community service organization, to books for underprivileged children, to creating a care package for a girl who has lost her whole family, filled with material things that are coated in love and caring. We can’t always be there in person to support those of us who are hurting, but this community will always be there to greet and welcome people into the fold not matter how small or large their passion for it is.
I’m proud to be a Potterhead. Proud to be Ravenclawsome. Proud to be part of the Harry Potter Generation.