Thoughts on Leaving Hogwarts

July 29, 2011
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To many people, July 14th, 2011 began as an ordinary day. I was not one of those people. July 14th was my last day of anticipation and giddy excitement before the premiere of a Harry Potter movie. That very night, a friend and I donned our robes and Hogwarts uniforms and waited in line for an hour to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 at midnight. It was an emotional evening, alternating between excitement and grief, delight and mourning, nostalgia and heartache.

While I will forever persist that any book is better than its movie, this final installment of the films was very well done indeed. It captured the magical atmosphere of the book almost too well, I realized at the end, as I sat in the theatre crying quietly with my friend and many others. This led me to wonder: why has the Harry Potter series meant so much to me? J.K. Rowling is not a supremely skilled writer, like Faulkner or Wharton. That wasn’t it; it wasn’t her original metaphors or lyrical diction that drew us in. It was her imagination. Ms. Rowling created a world so wondrous and beautiful and detailed and yes, magical, that we all fell in love with it and with its characters.

My journey with Harry began in kindergarten. Already a voracious reader, I stumbled upon Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and immediately devoured it. By the time I was in second grade, I had already worked my way through the fourth book—the last one published at the time. If anything, the three-year wait between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix fueled my desire for and love of the books, while at the same time encouraged me to branch out into other authors and genres.

Like me, many in my generation were roughly the same age as Harry and his companions, and we literally grew up with them. Harry was the like the brother I never had and always wanted as the only child of a single mother. Harry and I went to new schools together and made new friends. We battled Voldemort and bullying, Death Eaters and insecurity.

Interestingly, J.K. Rowling’s writing style seemed to “grow up” as well as the books progressed. The series began with a light-hearted and playful tone and subject matter (despite some darker undercurrents)—apropos for the eleven-year-old protagonist. But by the time the fourth book was published, I noticed that a shift had occurred. Harry and his friends now discussed not only their magical studies and love of Quidditch but politics, government corruption, prejudice, and discrimination—all this from the same mind that created Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans and the Jelly-Legs Jinx. As Harry began to see the darkness and suffering in the world, I did as well. Life can be painful and unfair. Adults cannot always be trusted; others will hate you just because you are different; people die. For some, it does not get better. But we can change that. I also saw that true friendship and love can grow from initial distrust; there will always be those willing to stand up for truth and goodness; people can change. You can fight back against the darkness. In spite of the evil that may surround us at times, the world still retains its magic.

Reading these books was an essential part of my childhood and adolescence, and now that the last movie has premiered, I feel like that part of my life is also coming to a close. I am at a turning point in my life: about to leave my friends and family of eighteen years to attend college across the country. This is a scary time for me. I don’t know what to expect in the future, but at the same time I don’t want to hold on too tightly to my past, for fear that it will be all the more painful when I do have to leave it.

Harry, in this last movie, I have finally caught up to you in age. We have lived through many years surrounded by familiar faces—you at Hogwarts, and I in the city I have lived my whole life. Now, it is time for both of us to move on from what we know and seek a new world, a better world. I know that I can overcome my fear of the unknown that awaits me at college—the same way I overcame teasing, shyness, and insecurity. Harry, you showed me how to do this with confidence, true friendship, and love.

I will not mourn my past. This is where the true magic of reading comes in, for through these books I can revisit my childhood whenever I need to: for a minute, an hour, a day. Thank you; Ms. Rowling and Mr. Potter, for leading me to Hogwarts, introducing me to the joy of literature, and being my heroes. I will never forget you, because it’s not over—not really. In the words of J.K. Rowling herself, “Whether you return by page or big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”





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