Mr. H. Potter
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
Harry Potter’s acceptance letter into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 20 years ago was also our acceptance letter into the magical world that was previously unknown to us. I was introduced to Harry and the wizarding world about six years later, shortly after the release of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
I was one of the last in my group of friends to jump into the books but I was already familiar with the series because of the films (which I had seen up to that point) and the popularity already surrounding the franchise. My first memory of Harry Potter was during The Philosopher’s Stone’s book release and the controversy caused by popularizing “wizards and witchcraft” to children. Thankfully this never got in my way of exploring Harry’s adventures.
When I dove into the series I was hooked right away. These characters, this unknown world, the magic and all of possibilities were almost too unbelievable! He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a terrifying man; I mean… we couldn’t even say his name! Harry was as just naïve as us, no insight into anything around him; it was like we were like Harry’s shadow following along as wide-eyed as him.
I found myself completely immersed in Harry’s life. Daydreaming about what my best spell would be, or how much I hated Snape and just how badly I longed for someone like Dumbledore or Sirius to be in my life. Though tragic, in my eyes Harry was living the best life. Magic! He could use magic, he had friends who could use magic and they could magic themselves from one place to another!
Harry also had the best group of friends surrounding him. Hermione was smart and stubborn yet supportive and understanding. Ron was the dedicated, protective and kind ally. Fred and George always had his back and always had the best pick-me-ups. And then there was Neville. He’s so pure, innocent and loyal, and he tries his absolute hardest but can never seem to get things right. He keeps trying, never quits and he never gives up on his friends. Neville also had a rough childhood, something I could relate to (unlike Harry’s abusive family forcing him to live beneath a staircase).
During the height of Voldemort’s power, Neville’s parents were cursed with insanity and forced to live in St. Mungo’s, the wizarding hospital. Growing up my mum was quite sick and spent what felt like months on end in the hospital. We were pen pals, we would visit and when she was home I was her nurse, bathing her and bringing her twenty something medications (literally). I understood and connected with Neville more than Harry because I knew his pain and I knew exactly who he was as a person. I saw myself in Neville.
So why do I love this series so much? It’s hard to put it into words. There’s nothing like the imagination of a child, everything is real. I was no longer just a Muggle in my room, in my book fort or sitting in a theatre or the living room. I was at Hogwarts; I was with Harry and company, playing Quidditch, or taking my O.W.L.’s. I fit in and I was happy. Harry says throughout the series that Hogwarts is his home, and that remains the same for me.
Though I missed the hype of the first five book releases with the midnight waits, the giant line-ups and the crowd counting down the seconds, I did get to experience that for the final two. And my God what an atmosphere! I was a part of the Potterverse and we were all a family waiting to see our old friends at school again. The orphan, the nerd, the poor kid, the weird girl, the naïve boy (and the werewolf): all of us waited in that line together.
I saw all of the films except the first two in the theatre and they are a very rare case (possibly standing alone) that they are exceptionally loyal to the books. Of course Hollywood made some changes-they always do-but not so horrifically that it caused outrage at every corner. Unless we’re talking about Dobby. Or S.P.E.W. Or Peeves. Well, you can’t take every detail of an 800 page book (I’m looking at you Order of the Phoenix! The film with the most offences in my opinion) and stick it into two hours on screen.
I adore the films as equally as the books. To see the wizarding world in front of my eyes just made it so much more real. Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography in The Half- Blood Prince is by far the best of the series and even earned an Oscar nomination.
There is nothing in the Harry Potter universe that I would change. I’ve loved every second of my life and every dollar I’ve spent on it. I still laugh and I still cry (Dammit Fred and Dobby, I wish I was looking at you).
20 years ago we met The Boy Who Lived. 20 years later he’s changed not only the wizarding world, but he’s also changed our world. The franchise has branched from book and film, to endless pieces of merchandise, theme parks, travelling displays and fan experiences. These are as close as it’s going to get for us to “be in” Harry’s world and I’ll take every minute this franchise has to give me.
“Live your life so that Professor McGonagall would be both proud and exasperated by you.” I don’t know who on the Internet wrote this, but it is one of the most inspiring words I’ve ever read.
Thank you Ms. Rowling. Because of you, I don’t have to be a Muggle. I can open a book or put on a DVD and be Harry and back in Hogwarts, because Hogwarts is my home.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Check out your local Chapters or Indigo bookstore for events and games celebrating the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter’s first time I print. Indigo’s Harry Potter Night is Monday, June 26th and begins at 7 pm.